Monday, August 25, 2008

White Bean Salad with Sausage and Fennel

White Bean Salad 3.JPG

Far too often we open the weekend by blowing the food budget at the wine store, and end up seeking creative ways to still eat well the rest of the week. This bean salad is just the ticket. Last summer we were doing it as a side dish, until our much healthier--and less gluttonous --friend Kara pointed out that it really is a meal in and of itself. Our arteries thank her.

One lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (and/or lime)
1/2 Fennel Bulb
One Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
Two 14oz. Cans Butter Beans
1/2 Pint Tomatoes (something small, like cherry or grape)
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Two Sausages (approx. 1/2 pound total)
One tablespoon minced shallot (approx. one small shallot)
One small clove of Garlic (minced)
1/4 Cup Dill

(Yields two full servings or four side dishes)

Cook the two sausages on a grill or in a sauté pan for about five minutes per side until done. (This is about the point when J decides he needs a beer to keep him company during the prep, but consider that optional.)

For the vinaigrette place the lemon juice in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the Dijon mustard until well combined. Pour in the olive oil and whisk vigorously for about a minute. Add garlic and shallot. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. (This can also be made up to a week ahead and refrigerated.)

Heat butter beans in a pan over medium heat until warm. (For extra flavor you can add rosemary, bay leaves or garlic as they heat. J likes to add truffle oil.)

Core the half fennel bulb and slice paper thin or use a mandolin. Add to a mixing bowl along with the dill. Slice tomatoes in half and add to the bowl. Add half the vinaigrette and gently combine ingredients.

Remove beans from heat and strain the liquid. Add beans and sliced sausage to the mixing bowl along with the remainder of the vinaigrette.

If you are local to the Salt Lake City area you can make this dish extra tasty by picking up Strianese Italian Butter Beans and Creminelli sausage from Tony Caputo's Market & Deli. At about $1.39 a can the beans are comparable in price to what you'd pay for your basic white beans at the grocery store, but much more flavorful. As for the sausage, the Creminelli family has been producing artisan meats in Italy as far back as the 1600's, but in June celebrated one year of making their fine meats available in America. Under the supervision of the oldest son, Christiano, the family legacy continues right here in our own backyard. Until the dollar improves it is about as close to Italy as we are going to get.

Bon Appetito!

- K

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Maison Lacour

Maison Lacour Exterior.JPG

There is something about the South that feels like home to me. Perhaps it is the fact that work has led me to spend so much time there over the years. Or maybe it is because Louisiana's fried oysters always take me back to the ones made by my father in the Pacific Northwest. Whatever the reason may be, my friend in Baton Rouge has graciously given me unofficial "Louisiana native" credentials. What that meant for me this week was the opportunity to be a fly on the wall at a Mardi Gras Krewe meeting, check out the New Orleans building behind the mysterious murder of Dr. Mary Sherman (as chronicled in Dr. Mary's Monkey) and dine at one of Baton Rouge's finest, Maison Lacour.

Opened in 1986 by John and Jacqueline Gréaud, the story of Maison Lacour is a romantic one. In 1991 a gentleman by the name of Michael Jetty went to the back door of Maison Lacour and asked if he could apprentice under Cordon Bleu-trained Jacqueline Gréaud. The chance experience would lead to more than a future chef position at the restaurant: while developing immense discipline and respect for classic French cooking, Jetty also fell in love with the restaurant's hostess, John and Jacqueline's daughter Eva. Now married, Michael and Eva keep the family's heritage alive at the cozy Baton Rouge restaurant.

Crawfish Bisque.JPG
Bisque a l'Orange - $7.50

This creamy crawfish bisque is lightly scented with orange. I love a good bisque but so often they are rich enough to equate an entire meal. This version was just the right dose of indulgence sans the weight in one's stomach aftermath. The orange was a perfect touch.

Crab Royale.JPG
Crâbe à la Royale - $26.95

I tend to shy away from cream-based dishes due to the richness-factor, but since the Crâbe à la Royale is a Maison Lacour specialty, I was compelled to venture outside of my comfort zone. The journey paid off with this baked dish of jumbo lump crab, white wine, shallots and cream. Somehow, the sauce was far from heavy, as was the case with the cream sauce on the shrimp ravioli my friend ordered. (Clearly I am no Annie Leibovitz, as my terrible photo confirms, but I had to show off this fabulous dish nonetheless.)

Tarte Tatin - $7, Crêpes Suzette - $7.50 and Lemon Soufflé - $8.95

No, I didn't eat all three by myself...but I would have. My victim was the soufflé which was refreshing, and only added to the "light" theme of the meal. In fact, when I was done with this thing, there wasn't a speck of powdered sugar to be found.

At the end of our meal Michael came out to say hello, and to fill my friends in on his recent month in Tahiti, where French expats cooked for him for a change, and it took only "48 hours" for him and the lovely Eva to let Maison Lacour slip from their mind in the spirit of vacation. His humility was charming, and his passion evident, especially as he talked about his effort to always end an evening with a clean apron, an ode to his teacher,

For me, this meal was significant on a much deeper level than just good food with good friends. It also happened to be my last business trip to the South--or anywhere else for that matter--for a while as I take a huge career leap and say goodbye to an incredible cause that has been an integral part of my being for the good part of eight years. Since making this decision I have been hoping for a "sign" from the universe to support my decision. When my friend appeared at the restaurant with a bottle of
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, one of my absolute favs, I was quickly reminded that the dear friendships I have made from this experience do not have to be turned back in to HR with the key to the building and Avis direct bill credit card. These are friendships I will have for the rest of my days, wherever my career path takes me. To call it a sign might be a bit of a stretch, but it most certainly was a gift, and it appropriately set my sights on the future.

Thank you for everything, KP and Bill...XOXO. Here's to new beginnings.

- K

Maison Lacour
11025 N Harrell's Ferry Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70816

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Mojito Shrimp & Arugula With Tomatoes, Crab & Avocado

Shrimp and Crab.JPG

With 100 degree temps in SLC and a moratorium on non-business travel thanks to skyrocketing fuel prices, The Gourmand Syndrome has been needing some serious reprieve from the heat. Enter this delicious shrimp dish, courtesy of the July 2007 issue of Sunset magazine, and J's own crab and veggie creation. The combo is so refreshing that if I close my eyes while eating it I can feel the sand of Miami Beach between my toes.

For us, this dish starts with a trip to Aquarius Fish Co., our local purveyors of fresh, quality fish. For about $25 we left with a pound of prawns and a container of Dungeness crab meat big enough to last us two days.

Clearly we aren't the only fans of Sunset's Mojito Shrimp concoction, as the recipe, including instructions for the mojito marinade, has been posted online.

As for J's Arugula with tomatoes, crab, and avocado:

3-4 Cups Unpacked Arugula
1 Pint Grape Tomatoes
1/2 Avocado
1/2 Pint Shelled Dungeness Crab Meat
2 Sprigs of Mint Leaves (Leaves Only)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
2 Teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Makes two servings.

Finely slice the arugula and mint, and add to a bowl. Add one teaspoon olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and mix well with your hands. Set aside.

Quarter the grape tomatoes and put them in a second bowl. Add one teaspoon of olive oil and lightly mix. Thinly slice the avocado.

Place a large biscuit cutter on a plate as a mold, stuff one half of the chopped arugula in the bottom, spread evenly. Add half the crab as the next layer, spread evenly. Next, add half the avocado and finally, one half of the quartered tomatoes. Gently press the layered ingredients and carefully remove the mold. Repeat with remaining ingredients for the second serving.

Pairs nicely with lawn chairs and some bubbly. Sunscreen optional.

- K

View Google Map for Aquarius Fish Company