Oh my goodness. My last post was a long time ago. Since that fateful June 6 date many miles have been traveled, much life has been lived, many nuts (and other delicious things) have been cooked, served, eaten, enjoyed.
And now we are staring the last week of school (my daughter’s) in the eye. Last Saturday, to celebrate the end of the year in English, I took them to the farmers’ market in the heart of Louviers. There we identified the produce, meats, cheeses and seafood we’ve been studying in the classroom all year (I help teach the kids English) by their English names. Merchants and customers alike were charmed by the kids piping up to say “Eet ees Pork!” or “strohberries” or “feesh” or “roast cheekine”. We ended our tour with a picnic in the garden around a platter of “roast cheekine” and a variety of salads the kids had brought with them.
While I was away in the U.S. during the early part of the month (Thank you, Texas, I love visiting you!), French MacDonalds released the Pistachio Frappé, what looks to be a very green version of a milk shake. I haven’t tried one and probably won’t, but I’m delighted to see they’ve harnessed the flavor of the pistachio (and, who knows, some of its nutritional virtues as well) and presented it to the general public. Pistachio is a wildly popular flavor here in France – would it fly in the U.S.?
While the frappé leaves me cold, I do love to sprinkle pistachios on everything from salad to dessert. Lately I’ve been dusting them atop an appetizer made with carrots and cardamom scented yogurt, and the dish has made everyone sigh with pleasure. The picutre is here, the recipe is below.
My favorite pistachios are from Turkey. As part of the research for Nuts in the Kitchen, I traveled to Eastern Anatolia where I set my feet on the germ plasm of the pistachio in an orchard outside the town of Gazientep. As cars and trucks thundered by on the highway bordering the orchard, I tasted a pistachio straight from the tree. It was not yet mature, its color vivid green, its flavor like brown butter. I learned there, standing amidst a group of burnished field workers as they put the finishing touches on the harvest, that this stage of pistachio is referred to as “green gold.” Most of the harvest goes to fine pastry shops like Orkide in the heart of Gazientep, where a crew of at least ten pastry chefs spend their days making the paper-thin layers of filo dough (which they throw heaven-ward time after time to get it thin enough) then cooking the pistachios with sheeps’ milk butter, sugar and spices for a transportingly exquisite filling.
Back here on earth I use my little frozen stash of green gold, a gift from Mustafa Ozguler who is a friend and part owner of Orkide, for very special dishes and moments. Green gold isn’t necessary to make the Carrot Verrine but do use Turkish pistachios which are easy to find online.For my money, they’re the best in the world. And Bon Appétit!
CARDAMOM CARROT “VERRINE”
VERRINE DE CARROTTES CARDAMOM
For the yogurt:
1-1/4 cups (310ml) plain yogurt
Scant ½ teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
Pinch fine sea salt, to taste
For the carrots:
1-1/2 pound (750g) carrots, peeled, trimmed, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces
Three 3 x 1/2-inch (8.75cm) strips of lemon zest
1-1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
3 fresh bay leaves from the Laurus nobilis, or dried, imported bay leaves
30 sprigs fresh thyme
Scant ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
For the garnish:
2 scant tablespoons (18g) raw pistachio nuts, finely ground
1. About one hour before you plan to make this, line a sieve with cheesecloth and place it over a medium-sized bowl. Pour the yogurt into the sieve and let it drain. When the yogurt has drained and become thicker, turn it into a small bowl, add the cardamom stir, and let sit for at least 1 hour, and up to 8 hours, refrigerated.
2. Place the carrots in a medium-sized saucepan and just cover them by 1-inch (2.5cm) with water. Add the lemon zest, the sugar, the bay leaves, the thyme, and the salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan and cook until the carrots are completely tender through, 20 to 25 minutes and most, but not all, of the water has been absorbed. Remove the carrots from the heat.
3. Remove the bay leaves and the thyme from the carrots. Transfer the carrots and the lemon zest, without the cooking liquid, to the work bowl of a food processor and puree. If the carrots won’t puree, add a bit of the cooking liquid to help them along. They won’t ever be silken smooth, but will be a fine blend. Taste the puree for seasoning and adjust with salt if necessary. Reserve.
4. Place equal amounts of carrot puree in four glasses. Top with equal amounts of the spiced yogurt. Garnish with equal amounts of pistachios, and serve while the carrots are warm, or at room temperature.