Recipe of the week: Cherry Clafoutis (Sweet Cherry Soufflé)

After a bit of a hiatus, I’ll be blogging with weekly favourite recipes this summer. Look out for book give-aways and fun competitions as well!

Clafoutis (Sweet Cherry Soufflé)

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 30 to 40 minutes
Servings: 6 generous pieces

Clafoutis is a version of the French flan that is traditionally made with cherries (or other moist fruit such as plums, prunes, raspberries, or blackberries), enveloped by a simple cake batter. The fruit is polka- dotted in the cake, giving it a playful look that children love. Even the name is fun to say: kla-foo-TEE. Traditionally, this dish is cooked with the pits left inside the cherries (purists believe that this intensifies the flavor of the dish). I pit the cherries (or, when I’m in a rush, use small plums instead, which are easier to pit).

Our source for the cherries is an old tree at Philippe’s aunt’s house. Tante Odette’s tree is the most productive I’ve ever encountered; the branches, weighed down with cherries, hang down almost to the ground. In late June and early July, the extended family is mobilized for cherry picking, cherry jam making, and (of course) cherry eating. Clafoutis is my daughters’ favorite recipe from this time of year.

2 cups pitted cherries or plums (or other moist fruit)
1/3 cup granulated sugar

1⁄2 cup flour

Pinch of salt
3 eggs
11⁄4 cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar (or brown sugar—I like muscovado)

1. Place the fruit in a bowl with half the granulated sugar, stir well, and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 ̊F. Grease a 9-inch baking dish.

3. In a large bowl, sift the flour with the salt and remaining sugar. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and milk to combine. Add the va- nilla. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and combine well. Spread the fruit evenly in the baking dish and pour the batter on top. The cherries may float to the surface now (or later, during baking).

4. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is firm and golden brown. Cool, then sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Serve immediately (but make sure the inside isn’t too hot for kids’ tender tongues!).

Note: Julia Child recommends baking this twice (briefly baking a thin layer in the bottom of the dish, then adding the fruit topped with the remaining batter and baking until done). But the French parents I know use this “express” method, with wonderful results!

Tip: Serve the clafoutis in the baking dish, as it is quite “wobbly” and won’t transfer well. Fresh out of the oven, the cake is puffed up and golden. It will settle and sag a little bit, but that’s exactly what it is supposed to do.

A French twist on Thanksgiving leftovers: Savory Sweet Potato Souffle

The feast is over, family and friends have come and gone, and you’re left with a smorgasbord of leftovers. What to do? If you’re looking for a change from turkey soup and turkey sandwiches, here’s a French twist on an American favorite. Note that the recipe is savory rather than sweet…a nice twist on an old favourite.

Savory Sweet Potato Souffle

Preparation: 20 minutes

Cooking: 30 minutes

Serves: 6 to 8

1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1 cup sweet potato puree
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheese (Gruyere or cheddar)
3 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375F.

Brush the inside of a large soufflé or deep casserole dish with 2 tablespoons of softened butter. Sprinkle the buttered surface evenly with Parmesan cheese and set aside the dish.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onions in the remaining butter until they turn translucent. Add flour and salt, and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add the milk, still stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Add the sweet potato puree, oregano, and pepper and stir well. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Set aside to cool.

In the meantime, beat egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form (adding a pinch of salt helps).

Stir egg yolk mixture into cooled hot sweet potatoes, and mix well.

Now add one-third of the egg whites into the sweet potatoes, and gently stir. Then, fold the remaining egg whites into the mixture.

Spoon into the prepared dish and bake for 30 minutes, until the sweet potato soufflé is puffed up and cooked through.

The soufflé will fall slightly as it cools, but this is normal! Allow to cool slightly, for better results when cutting. Serve warm, and enjoy.

Recipe of the Week: French White Bean Soup

‘White Beans’ are one of the most popular beans eaten in France. And one of the most popular ways to eat them is as a soup.

In France, they come in two varieties: coco variety is used in soups and the traditional cassoulet stew, and the longer michelet variety is more frequently eaten fresh. For this recipe, you can substitute cannellinni, great northern, or navy beans; but if you can find the rich, creamy French white cocos, this soup will be even more delicious.

Spread beans in a single layer on a large sheet tray; pick through to remove and discard any small stones or debris and then rinse well.

2 cups of white beans (cannellini, navy or great northern)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled (whole)
2 dried bay leaves
6 cups of water
4 tablespoons crème fraîche (or substitute sour cream)
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Optional: 2 strips of pancetta bacon, finely diced, for topping

Soak the beans using one of these two methods:
Traditional soaking method: In a bowl, cover beans with 4 inches of cold water, cover and set aside at room temperature for at least 8 hours.

Quick soaking method: In a large pot, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water, then bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then remove pot from heat, and allow to sit, covered, for 1 hour.

Drain soaked beans and transfer to a large pot (discarding the cooking water).

Add 6 cups of cold water, onions, and garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add bay leaves, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender (about 1 hour). Skim off and discard any foam on the surface.

When beans are tender, discard bay leaves, add the crème fraîche, and mix (I use a hand blender). Depending on how thick you like your soup, you may want to add more water.

Ladle into bowls, and sprinkle 1/2 tsp of lemon juice on the top of the soup. Optional: sprinkle with pancetta bacon just before serving.

Note: the French often add other things to the mix, like stalks of parsley (leaves removed!), celery sticks, or shallots. These can be added with the bay leaves, and removed at the same time. They add a subtle, wonderful flavor to this soup.

Bon Appétit!

Recipe of the Week: Savory Olive Muffins

Olive harvesting takes place in southern France at this time every year. Local villages hold olive festivals and tastings, and inventive olive dishes of all sorts are on offer.

Olives are often a favorite of French children, and my kids love them (especially my three year old, who can’t get enough of them). And I recently found out that they’re actually good for you: packed full of nutrients with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxident properties.

Not all North American children are used to the taste of olives. So how to introduce them? In our family, the popular French ‘savory muffins’ are a much-appreciated treat. Here’s an easy recipe that’s a fun twist on the usual North American sweet muffin.

3 cups flour (I do half each of whole wheat and white)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese
1 and 1/3 cups of whole milk or buttermilk (or 1 cup of milk, plus 1/3 cup of ricotta cheese, if you prefer a moister, denser muffin)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of pitted black olives, chopped
4 teaspoons of olive oil (or vegetable oil, or melted butter)
1/2 tablespoon of oregano (or Italian seasoning, if you prefer)
1/4 tablespoon of thyme (or Italian seasoning, if you prefer)
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (sea salt, if you have it)
handful of sun-dried tomatoes (optional)

If adding the tomatoes, soak them in hot water for at least 10 minutes. After soaking, you’ll chop them into small pieces, and add them to the muffin mix.

Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, herbs, salt, and stir well.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, and then add olive oil, cheese, and milk. Stir well. (Note that French muffins tend to use more eggs than North American ones–which makes them less crumbly).

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Add the olives, and stir until just combined. Optional: add chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or until the muffins are nicely browned. Serve warm.

Tip: You can add other veggies to these savory muffins, like finely diced bell pepper, or scallions, or even broccoli.

Recipe of the Week: Apple Kuchen

OK, I freely admit to borrowing this great recipe from another source: The Jolly Tomato (a great blog by Jeanne Fratello out of southern California).

Her Apple Kuchen is the dessert contribution to this week’s on-line virtual dinner party, hosted by several family food blogs to commemorate Food Day (October 24th). I love the idea of a progressive dinner party online, as it embodies so many of the positive aspects of the foodie movement: created shared communities around local food cultures. I hope this becomes a yearly tradition!

So, thanks for sharing Jeanne! 🙂

Apple-Cranberry Kuchen

For the crust:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. sugar (you can substitute turbinado sugar or brown sugar if you are staying unprocessed)
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 T. milk

Topping:

3 to 4 large, crisp apples, quartered, peeled, and sliced
1/3 cup fresh whole cranberries
1/2 cup brown (turbinado) sugar
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. butter

Preheat the oven to 350. Begin by making the crust: Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add sugar and mix. Using a pastry blender (see picture), cut in the butter until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Combine the egg and milk and add to the dry mixture, stirring until a soft dough forms. Press dough on the bottom of a greased 9-inch pie plate.

Arrange fruit slices on top of the dough. Prepare the topping by mixing sugar, flour, and cinnamon, and again cutting in the butter using a pastry blender until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit. Bake for 50 minutes, or until apples are soft when pricked with a fork.

Jeanne says to serve it warm with ice cream, if desired (but she likes it best on its own, and I think I would too). Serves 8.

Bon Appetit!

ps Kuchen, in case you were wondering, means cake (or cookie) in German. (Just thought I’d clarify because in Dutch, my heritage language, it means “cough” or “hack”!).