keito potato

February 26, 2012, 10:27 pm
Filed under: recipes, starters | Tags: , , ,

Pissaladiere is a French onion tart essentially made from pizza crust topped with caramelized onions and good black olives.  The rich and sweet caramelized onions are slowly cooked with fresh thyme, and are perfectly paired here with the salty olives.  On a trip to Portland, Oregon a few years ago, my friend Annarie made this for me…. actually, I think she made it twice on that visit.  She’s seriously addicted to caramelized onions, and has a hard time keeping herself from eating them straight out of the skillet.

This recipe comes from Joanne Harris’ cookbook My French Kitchen.  During my Portland visit, Annarie sung the praises of this cookbook, and used several of its recipes.  I was compelled to pick up a copy for myself.  It’s full of simple and rustic French dishes, including the basic salad dressing I used for the raw brussels sprout salad.

This is best served for a crowd, and has become one of my favorite party appetizers, as of late.  I made it this year for an Oscar party, as well as for New Year’s Eve.


For the onions:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

bunch of thyme

3  1/2 pounds onions, very finely sliced

sea salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the dough:

4  1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2/3 cup lukewarm water

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing

about 1 cup black Mediterranean olives, pitted


Prepare the onions by slicing them very thinly.  Warm the 2 TBS olive oil and 2 TBS butter in a large heavy skillet or saucepan over low heat.  Strip the thyme leaves from the stalks and add about half to the pan.  Add the onions, and cook over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent browning.  They should be soft and slightly caramelized.  Season with salt and pepper and let cool.

While the onions are slowly cooking, make the dough.  Mix the yeast with the lukewarm water and sugar.  Leave for 10 minutes in a warm place until the mixture becomes frothy.

Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, add the yeast mixture and the olive oil, and mix until you have a dough ball.  Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and soft.  Brush the inside of the bowl with a little olive oil, put the dough in, and cover with a cloth.  Leave in a warm place to rise until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Brush a baking sheet with a little olive oil.

Knock the air out of the dough on a lightly floured surface and kneed for 2 minutes.  Roll the dough out to a 12 x 10-inch rectangle, place on the baking sheet, and brush the surface of the dough with a little more olive oil.  Cover with the cooked onions.  Arrange the olives.  I usually cut the olives in half after pitting, but you can leave them whole if you choose.  Sprinkle with the remaining thyme.

Leave somewhere warm to rise again, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 425F.  Bake the pissaladiere for 20-25 minutes, and serve warm.

French Mushroom Soup
January 24, 2012, 12:10 pm
Filed under: recipes, soups | Tags: , , , , ,

Yesterday’s rainy weather inspired me to make a pot of soup to warm up.  My mom has been making my Aunt Marty’s French Mushroom Soup for as long as I can remember.  Aunt Marty and her branch of the family have lived on communes over the decades, including the Hutterite variety, so it’s possible that this is a Hutterite soup.  Hutterites make fruit and grape wines, so I imagine they must cook with it as well.  This soup is quite similar to a French onion soup, except that it centers around mushrooms instead of onions.  Since I am a vegetarian, I have substituted vegetable broth for the other, and I like to make the vegetable broth from scratch when I have time, as I did today.  Yes, it’s indeed possible to make rich, dark, French-style soups totally vegetarian.   How could a soup made from white wine, meltingly-soft onions, mushrooms, parmesan, and herbs not be delicious?

I have improved on my aunt’s recipe by adding fresh herbs from my garden, as well as increasing the amount of white wine and garlic.  Aunt Marty’s recipe calls for white button mushrooms.  That’s what I used today, but I often substitute crimini mushroom instead, or use half-and-half.  It’s really quite easy to pull together, as long as you have an hour for simmering.


2 lbs. (4 blue boxes) fresh mushrooms (button or crimini, or a combination)

1 large onion

3 garlic cloves

4 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons tomato paste

8 cups vegetable broth (here is my recipe, but you can use broth from the store)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup fresh parsley

3 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus more for garnish

croutons are optional for garnish


Slice the mushrooms thinly.  Cut the onion in half, then slice it thinly.  Mince the garlic.

Melt the butter in a large soup pot.  Add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic.  Saute until tender, about 10 minutes.

During this time, chop the parsley and remove the thyme leaves from the stems.  When the mushrooms are tender, add the herbs and tomato paste.  Simmer about 1 minute.  Add the white wine, broth, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer 1 hour, then serve with more parmesan as garnish, plus croutons if you like.

Julia Child’s Mediterranean Tomato Rice Soup with Basil and Leeks
August 19, 2011, 3:04 pm
Filed under: recipes, soups | Tags: , , , , ,

My mom has been making this classic Julia Child soup for ages, so I have nostalgic summer memories of it.  My friend and I made it last week alongside a quiche, and I made another batch last night to welcome my parents home from  a long trip.  My mom was astonished, saying she had been craving this particular soup during her travels and had planned to make it once she got home.  This recipe comes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol 2. (the one with the blue cover).  On the first page I see my Grandma Erna’s handwritten note to my dad: “for Rick, to add to your knowledge of the good things in life – Love, Mom.”  What a treasure.

It’s a simple peasant soup, a breeze to make with basic ingredients.  Since I am finally experimenting with growing herbs, I was delighted to use basil and parsley from my backyard.

Julia tells us to chop the tomatoes to make a chunky soup, but my mom always purees the tomatoes smooth before adding them to the kettle.  I’m including both versions here.  If you don’t have a cheesecloth for the herbs, you can simply stir the herbs into the soup and let them be.  Chop the parsley and basil first, if you’re not using a cheesecloth.




3/4 cup leeks, or a combination of leeks and onions

3 tablespoons olive oil

1  1/2 lb tomatoes (fresh or good-quality canned whole plum tomatoes)

4 large garlic cloves

5 cups light vegetable broth

1/4 Cup raw white rice

The following tied in a cheesecloth:

6 parsley sprigs

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon thyme

4 fennel seeds

6 large basil leaves

a large pinch of saffron threads

salt and pepper

few pinches of sugar

1 teaspoon or more tomato paste

salt and pepper

2 or more tablespoons fresh basil, minced or sliced


Thinly slice the leeks.  Heat the oil slowly in a large heavy-bottomed pot.  Cook the leeks slowly in the olive oil until the leeks are tender but not browned. 

Meanwhile, either chop the tomatoes or puree them in a medium bowl with a hand-held immersion blender.  Mince or mash the garlic.  When the leeks are tender, add the tomatoes and garlic and stir over moderate heat for 3 minutes.

Then add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, and then add the rice.  Add the herbs and saffron.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Carefully taste for seasoning, adding pinches of sugar to bring out flavor and counteract acidity, and small amounts of tomato paste if needed for color and taste.  Remove the herb bouquet if using a cheesecloth.

Julia recommends serving the soup either hot or chilled (I’ve only had it hot), sprinkled with fresh basil.