My mother never went out of the house without lipstick, yet she was not a “girly girl” either. This always presented a special challenge on Mother’s Day. She really didn’t like flowers…or candy…or perfume. So every year I faced a dilemma, but somehow I always found something she was thrilled with (or at least she pretended to be thrilled, like all good mamas do).
Every since I was allowed to turn on the gas burner, I could charm my mom with dinner, so that’s what my Mother’s Day gift became…a simple card and a lovingly prepared meal. I’m sure that my eager, first attempts weren’t noteworthy, but that was OK by her. I remember sitting at home reading cookbooks as if they were a required reading assignment to find just the right recipe that would make her smile. Then rummaging around in the pantry to see if we had most/some of the ingredients. We lived on a tight budget, so nothing too extravagant was going to work. Sitting on the top shelf would be flour, sugar and modest group of spices…there was always a something to be made out of that. Below the shelves was a vegetable bin and I would find potatoes and onions peeking out…add a bit of meat and a carrot or two and you had a roast or a stew. Since my mother worked every day, a slow cooked meal was one of the best gifts in the world. I have to say…it still is, isn’t it?
Oh, I know that it’s easier to ask mom to brunch and have her join the legions of other moms being scooted around to various restaurants. After all, there’s no work involved…just a reservation to be made and a car ride. I know that many of you have crazy, hectic schedules and it’s probably your Mother’s Day as well. But for those of you that might have time, think about inviting your mom over for a heartfelt, “spent all day on it” Sunday supper, which is just what my family is going to be doing for me today. I so wish that my mother was still with us because she dearly loved this tradition.
Have I mentioned how much I like champagne…especially for special occasions? Well, my family knows this, and one of my favorite things to start a celebration with is a champagne cocktail. So that’s how we are going to start my special Mother’s Day Sunday supper. Thought I’d pass along this classic recipe.
Classic Champagne Cocktail
Yield: 1 serving
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
A festive drink, perfect for holidays!
1 glass of champagne (I like to use a Brut champagne)
1 sugar cube
10 dashs (approximate) Angostura aromatic bitters (can be found in most grocery stores)
1 Lemon curl
Peel as many curls off of an organic lemon as you are going to need. Saturate the sugar cubes with Angostura bitters. Place one saturated cube in bottom each champagne flute. Add champagne and lemon curl. Cheers!
Happy Mother’s Day!
I remember my Aunt Mary’s kitchen on warm summer days. No air conditioning, just a slight breeze that pushed and pulled the curtains at her window back and forth like waves coming onto the shore and receding back into the ocean. Her kitchen always smelled like heaven, sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, but in summer, always like cantaloupe.
Her garden lay beyond, the acre that always held the promise of goodness, planted lovingly in the spring…tended in the early summer and harvested when ready. First, the tender peas and early lettuces, then the carrots and green onions, finally her brood that took a bit longer to mature…the beans, zucchini and the ever present cantaloupe. I inherited a few things from her that I hold dear, this is her original garden layout, scribbled on the back of an old campaign poster.
On the days that Aunt Mary was canning, her steamy kitchen was a whirlwind of activity…prepping, scalding, sealing and soon her kitchen was filled with jars full of the bounty from her garden that we would enjoy for the rest of the year…especially on Thanksgiving (her special holiday).
What was always a constant was her infectious laughter and her willingness to administer Brewer’s Yeast for anything that might ail you. Aunt Mary was an original. She was organic before it was cool. Stacks of Prevention magazine grew in the corner. When everyone else was adding chemical fertilizer to their garden, Aunt Mary was finding manure that could be delivered…she eventually had enough livestock to keep her in plentiful supply!
Sunday suppers from her kitchen were simple, straightforward and delicious, reflecting her rural Indiana roots. Her garden was the same way, no pretense, just an honest acre freshly tilled each spring and lovingly planted and nurtured.
When Aunt Mary died many years ago, the most palpable thing that I had to keep her memory alive to me was the two jars of green beans she gave me from that summer’s harvest. I’ve kept them all these years…they are the ones pictured here.
Maybe (probably) Aunt Mary was the mental force behind my labor of love last year…doing the prop styling for the wonderful new cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen from Chef Paul Virant and Kate Leahy.
Chef Paul Virant is an original as well. He brings big city flavor paired with down home canning for a very individual approach. New flavors are created when you pair canned, pickled and preserved ingredients with those fresh from the garden. He couldn’t have a better writer to express his vision than Kate Leahy. Working with both of them was a pleasure and an honor.
I love the recipes in their book, and Aunt Mary would have too.
I thought that it might be fun to have a giveaway so that you can start your own canning/preserving adventure along with me. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me your favorite Sunday supper memory…it doesn’t have to be long, just a few words will do. Please comment before midnight EST, May 12, 2012. I will print out all of your comments and draw one name and announce the winner next Sunday, May 13th.
Got to mention, I bought this book that I’m giving away and I’m not being given any compensation…I’m doing this because I believe in integrity of the recipes…working with Paul and Kate was a joy, they are the “real deal”…no pretense, just great recipes and great writing. Also, got to say that I was given permission from Paul, Kate and the folks at Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House.
It took me a long time to get to Paris…I was supposed to arrive as a student, breathless and excited at 17. Instead, I arrived breathless and excited at 28 because we almost missed getting off of the train since we lost track of time and had only 4 rushed minutes to gather our things and hop off. We were having so much fun we didn’t noticed that we’d arrived…talk about breathless!
By now, I have been to Paris many times…but every time is special and different. I am so blessed that we have come so many times as a family and enjoyed many Sunday suppers. This time we were welcomed as friends at the hotel where we always stay, Relais St. Germaine. We joked with the concierge and the waiters at the bistro located in the hotel, Le Comptoir which is our favorite for the food, service, people watching and (best of all) the proximity to our room.
By now, they know that Dana speaks French, I speak a tiny bit, and Jeff prefers to let us speak for him. In France, they like things to be predictable, and we are.
By now, we know where our favorite places are and how to get there…the Museums, the Seine, the Tuileries, Luxembourg Gardens, shops, galleries, bistros, the streets, narrow and crooked or vast and tree lined.
But now, I know that this will probably be our last visit for a long time. We start to think about saying a mental goodbye… and then we stop, we know that we HAVE to come back…maybe not as frequently as in the last few years, but we WILL return, because this city has become part of the best of our lives.
So, this is my tribute to a city that I’ve grown to love….and that I will always return to breathless and excited.
Do you remember the commercial with naturalist Euell Gibbons that began, “Ever eat a pine tree? Some parts are edible.”? I can’t remember exactly what product the commercial was hawking, but I do know that’s how it began. I could use a similar opening line for this post. “Ever eat a violet? “No,” you say? Well, I’m here to tell you that you can and you can eat other edible flowers as well.
I have a special place in my garden for violets because I love them so! This area is not sprayed with anything toxic and it is not fertilized. What grows in this special spot is totally natural, so I feel very good about serving these little purple lovelies on my salads in the springtime to surprise my family and friends when they come for Sunday supper.
There are many flowers that are edible. I bet that many of you have eaten squash blossoms, but did you know that you can snack on nasturtiums, pansies and roses? The first time I experienced flowers as an ingredient in a salad was when I lived in California. It’s a beautiful addition that I have added to salads ever since.
I was reminded of this salad while strolling in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris and seeing violets peeking out from their long winter’s rest. Violets are some of the first flowers to greet the spring with their tiny faces turning toward the sun. Their sweet nectar is a perfect addition to tender leaves of Bibb lettuce, bright orange slices and delicate herbs.
As much as I love extra virgin olive oil, I find that it is too heavy for this salad, so I use grape seed oil instead. I also have lightened the flavor further by using champagne vinegar. Please remember that I use wild violets that have not been sprayed with insecticide or fertilizer.
Make it special, make it Sunday!
Spring Salad with Bibb Lettuce, Oranges, Herbs and Violets
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
A simple, pretty salad perfect for spring!
2 heads of Bibb lettuce, washed and dried
1 orange, peeled with a knife and sliced into clean segments
A few dozen violets or other edible flowers such as nasturtiums or pansies
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh herbs such as tarragon, thyme or marjoram, snipped
1/2 cup of grape seed oil
Salt and white pepper to taste
In a small bowl whisk vinegar,orange juice, salt, pepper and herbs together, slowly add the grape seed oil while you continue to whisk.
Compose lettuce and orange slices on plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with violets.
Every morning in Paris we set off to our makeshift studio in the 6th arrondissement by strolling down boulevards lined with budding chestnut trees glowing in the bright spring sun as sidewalks were being freshly scrubbed and shopkeepers were setting out their wares. This walk to work put smiles on our faces every single morning. We realized how lucky we were to be working in Paris! Sometimes I just wanted to pinch myself to make sure it was real. Luckily, work was finished by late afternoon and we got a chance to meander the streets doing what we love…taking pictures and eating! Along the way, we popped into shops, bistros and cafes.
Down a curving street with a romantic name, Rue de Reine (street of the queen) was a restaurant that we kept returning to, Fish La Boissonierie. Fish is a friendly, neighborhood place owned by Drew Harré and Juan Sanchez who opened the famous and original Cosi, which is across the street.
During our visits, Jeff and I ordered several different entrees, but Dana always ordered the same thing because she loved it so..the French lentil salad. That salad inspired what you see here. I never did get the recipe, but I tasted it and I (hopefully) replicated it here. I’ve found that quite a lot of French cooking is about letting the simple, subtle flavor of great ingredients shine through without a lot of pretense. I think that’s why this salad was so perfect as an entree for Dana.
She would just have this salad with slice after slice of their warm hearth baked bread, fresh from the stone ovens across the street at Cosi. You could serve this as a light entree, or as a starter salad. Now that the days are longer and the temperature is rising, it might be what you’d like to serve on the porch in the spring for Sunday supper for your family and friends.
If possible, make this salad using French green lentils, also called Lentilles du Puy. They cost a bit more, but I love their nutty, peppery taste. I also make sure to soak my lentils for a couple of hours then rinse them thoroughly. I find that this seems to eliminate any stomach distress that sometimes occurs with legumes.
Update: Tonight I made this and topped the entree portion with roasted tarragon chicken…drizzled the vinaigrette over the whole thing…dinner in a dish!
Make it special make it Sunday!
Warm, French Lentil Salad with Carrots and Arugula
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 - 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
A simple salad that can serve as an entree or side salad.
4 ounces French lentils
1 cup water
4 average carrots
12 - 16 stems of arugula
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Please note: This recipe is for a side salad. If you want to serve this as an entree, please double the recipe.
Carefully sort through the lentils to make sure that there are no pebbles or bits that need to be removed. Rinse, then cover lentils with an inch of water and let soak for 2 - 4 hours. Rinse again.
Add water and slowly simmer lentils till they are tender, but not mushy (about 15 - 20 minutes). Most of the water should be absorbed by the lentils, if not, drain them and put them in a bowl. Please note: Do not add salt while they are cooking because it tends to toughen the lentils.
While the lentils are simmering, make the vinaigrette. In a bowl, whisk the Dijon mustard and lemon juice together and slowly whisk in olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste.
Wash and trim carrots, then slice. (I used a mandoline to get these long narrow strips, but if you don't have a mandoline, you can cut them in thin slices with a vegetable peeler). Put the carrots in a bowl filled with cold water to keep them fresh. Wash and dry arugula.
Toss the lentils with 1/2 of the vinaigrette and spoon them onto 4 plates. Top with the carrots (that have been drained) and arugula. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over each of the salads. I like to serve this salad with the lentils warm or at room temperature.