Madame duBarry is much more famous now for cheesy cauliflower than for her celebrity lovemaking, arts patronage, or political influence, all of which made her famous during her day. A day cut short at age 50 by a beheading in the hot aftermath of La Revolution, the same year as Marie Antoinette, who was 12 years her junior.
The daughter of a monk and a dressmaker, the 26 year-old duBarry was brought to the court of Louis XV by the aristocratic gambler Jean du Barry, who eventually married her to his brother for convenience’ sake. King Louis had just
lost his last mistress, Madame de Pompadour, to cancer, and required a
replacement. Installed in his bedchambers, DuBarry cared for Louis until he died of smallpox, then went through the typical ex-monarch’s-girlfriend rigamarole: nunnery, exile, then final return to a sumptuous chateau the king had gifted her in the first place, along with a new lover.
Meanwhile, the duBarry name has been affixed to any food that combines cauliflower, white sauce or cream, egg yolks and cheese. Crème or Potage duBarry, for instance, is a luscious cream soup made of these. The classic duBarry garnish consists of cooked cauliflower sprigs,
reshaped into miniature cauliflowers and browned with a coating of
Mornay sauce and grated cheese.
She may have served cauliflower at dinner parties, since it had found favor in French court a generation earlier with Louis XIV who liked it cooked in stock, seasoned with nutmeg, and served with fresh butter. The French now eat an average of about 3-1/2 kilos of the vegetable per year. It is generally believed to have been introduced to Europe by the Arabs after the fall of the Roman Empire.
There has been somewhat of a move recently to eat cauliflower raw. Brooklyn’s Al di La Trattoria served a winter salad this past season that mixed thin slices with other winter veg, and dressed them with a cheesy dressing. And at the Tomato Estate, we love to chop it along with broccoli and red onion and marinate it in oil and red vinegar with seasalt.
Here at the Tomato Estate we have been craving cream of cauliflower but are still having our vegan moment. (See the book “Skinny Bitch” for backup here.) So we are skipping the cream, eggs, and cheese. That leaves us with Crème duBarry Lite, or perhaps in this case Crème duBarry aux Lait d'Amande, as we will employ almond milk instead of cow’s.
In ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine, almond is considered food for the brain and nervous system. Perhaps if Madame had made her cauliflower soup with almonds instead of dairy, she would have been sharp enough to reconsider leaving the safety of exile and, in epically bad timing, returning to Paris for a little visit, where she was denounced by her manservant and required to leave her head.
The photo above shows a pretty thick version of the soup, if you like it thinner simply add more almond milk. It's also quite subtle, like mommy food...if too subtle for you, sautee curry spice briefly in a
tablespoon of olive oil and add. Of course, its flavor
also benefits from shredded gruyère cheese if you are not enjoying a
Almond Cream of Cauliflower Soup (Vegan) serves 6
2 tablespoons olive oil 1-1/2 pound cauliflower, washed and rough chopped 1 leek, cleaned and chopped with an inch of green left on sea salt to taste white pepper to taste 2 cups vegetable broth 2 cups unsweetened almond milk freshly ground nutmeg OR finely chopped tarragon
Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan until it ripples and add the leek, cooking about 5 minutes to soften. Add the cauliflower with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cover with vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Simmer at low until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.
Add almond milk and bring to a simmer, remove from heat. Don't boil. Puree and return to pot. Add nutmeg or chopped tarragon. Adjust seasonings.
After a long winter deep in the Brooklyn cave we like to call the Tomato Estate, where fragrant sausages and late night snacks of goat cheese and olives were regularly washed down with delightful foreign and local vintages as no snowstorm raged outside, we have decided to go Vegan for a while.
Just how boring is this? After the initial shock of butterlessness and soy lattes, not so boring, truth be told. We may even start preaching the wonders of this kind of eating, and suggest to omnivores that a month or so of dairy-free, meat-free, and even wheat-free dining is just what the doctor should order. At the risk of being a bore -- we must say, this regime has quickly paid off in a trimmer waistline, brighter eyes, and softer, smoother skin.
Therefore, we offer this recipe for Quinoa Chickpea pancakes. The grated onion gives them the whif of potato latke, while the cumin conjures ever so subtle-like the rememberance of falafels gone by. They are best eaten right as they jump out of the fry-pan crisped up in olive oil, but can also be refrigerated or frozen, then oven or pan-crisped before plating.
Here we serve them with a dollop of Romesco Sauce and Cilantro Pesto, both vegan recipes available on this site if you do a little search under "Eating In" to the left here. If you are not feeling hard-core in the vegan department, they would also go great with tzaziki, that garlicky Greek yogurt concoction that enhances almost everything savory.
Quinoa Chickpea Pancakes (makes 8 pancakes for 4 servings)
1 cup chickpea flour 1 cup water 2 tbsp. tamari soy sauce or Bragg's ¼ tsp. cayenne 1 tsp. cumin ground 3 tbsp. red onion, grated 1 cup cooked red quinoa ¼ cup olive oil, for cooking
Whisk together chickpea flour, water, tamari, cayenne, cumin, and onion. Stir in the cooked quinoa and let stand 10 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan and add pancakes in 1/4 cup measures. Cook until dark golden brown, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes each side. Add more oil as needed.
Drain on paper towels. Makes about eight 4" pancakes.
A recent poll among living-alone friends has revealed a ghastly truth we've suspected all along...single people survive on sandwiches. Sometimes cocktails or Chinese take-out. But it doesn't have to be that way--dinner at home for one can be easy, delicious, warming and fast.
This recipe for fish soup is a weekly staple at the Tomato Estate. It takes about 20 minutes from beginning to end and is cooked in one pot with pretty common ingredients. We swirl a generous spoonful of cilantro pesto (recipe April 1. 2007) on top...but then we swirl a generous spoonful of cilantro pesto on just about everything, from cold salmon to steamed cauliflower.
You can use any white, flakey fish, but we suggest U.S.-farmed tilapia. Ocean's Alive includes them on their Eco-Best list of fish to eat because in the U.S. they are raised in closed tank systems, where the
risk of escape is reduced and water pollution is minimized. This fish is hardy and a fast grower, and can out-compete other species and devastate non-native eco-systems should they flee their little pens, and we don't want that.
Fish Soup Serves One in About 20 Minutes
1 tbsp olive oil 1 small leek, washed well, whites only chopped fine 1 garlic clove, chopped fine 1/2 yellow, orange or red bell pepper, chopped fine 1 small yellow or red tomato, chopped fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 1/4 tsp hot or sweet pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) 1 pinch saffron threads 2 tbsp white wine (only if you want) 1 cup fresh water or fish stock 1 filet tilapia (about 1/3 pound) 1 tbsp fresh herbs of any kind (only if you want)
Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and add the leek, garlic, bell pepper, tomato, salt and pepper. Sweat the vegetables over low to medium heat until they are soft and release their fragrance, about 5 minutes.
Add the pimentón and saffron and stir. Add the wine if you are using it and bring to a boil. Add the water or fish stock and bring to a boil, immediately turn the broth down to low. Simmer for 5 minutes and taste for seasoning. It should taste good on its own.
Cut the fish into rough one-inch cubes and add to the simmering broth. Cook about another 5 minutes, until you can cut the pieces with a spoon. Throw in a few herbs and serve.
Cilantro--you either love it or you hate it, and here at the Tomato Estate we haven't a clue how the latter is even remotely possible.
We first discovered the herb in a favorite childhood restaurant, floating about in their Chinese Green
Soup, a gentle broth dressed with bok choy and shredded chicken. Sometimes it is called Chinese parsley or fresh coriander leaf. We crave it...and even more so since leaving California for New York where it's shockingly a.w.o.l. from even Mexican dishes.
In fairness, we present the opinion of the Other Side: Cilantro Haters. I Hate Cilantro.com boasts over 1300 members and growing, some of whom liken the flavor to doll hair, soap, or stink bugs. They wax poetic with their disdain--in haikus, even, such as this one by "Jag": "a soup, delicious i spy skulking floating flakes bleach is for washing".
Point taken. We would never thought of comparing cilantro and stink bugs, but the name "coriander" may actually come from the Greek "koris", which means "bedbug". Some believe the two items share an odor. Cilantro-disgust is thought to occur because of enzymes only certain people have, due to simple genetics, that alter the herb's flavor.
Cilantro's origins are in China, Egypt, India and Southeast Europe. The Spanish conquistadors introduced it, along with ethnic cleansing, to Mexico and Peru, where both things flourished. The herb has antibacterial properties and is said to combat fungi, aid digestion, function as a diuretic, stimulate the sexual and food appetites, and draw unwanted metals out of the body. Both leaf and stem are equally beneficial and flavorful.
This pesto does not contain cheese, making it suitable for vegans and omnivores alike. Use it swirled in soup, spread on a sandwich wrap or soft tacos, drizzled on goat cheese, or tossed with cherry tomato halves.
Cilantro Pesto 2 cloves fresh garlic 1 small peeled shallot 1/2 cup raw pine nuts 1 large bunch cilantro, well washed 2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil seasalt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a food processor or really strong blender, drop the garlic and shallot in while the blade is running. Add the pinenuts. Turn off and add the cilantro, roughly chopped, and the vinegar. Process until chopped, then, with the blade running, add the olive oil in a stream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Store in fridge, lasts a couple of weeks if sealed properly. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.
The Sun-King, Louis XIV, was a gourmand and a bit of a naughty boy. By the end of his life, his royal doctor forbade him to eat anything but oatmeal, so abused was his digestive system with copious amounts of rich foods.
The strawberry was a favorite vice of his and, ignoring doctor’s orders, he consumed them steeped in red wine and sugar. Real men ate them thus in the 1700's, as cream on fruit was only for sissies and ladies. He then held a literary competition and dispatched the prize to a poet who found several ways to wax rapturously over their high color.
The strawberry of their day was a tiny, highly perfumed sweet fruit like the "fraise de bois” popular in contemporary France. Compared to the variety we are accustomed to in North America, where they can reach the size of an
apple, these little berries are petite, more like the size of a dime, and are packed with a candy-like flavor.
Like the raspberry, they belong to the rose family and, like the rose, boast a strong and seductive fragrance. They are of the genus "fragaria" which refers to their perfume, while the "straw" part indicates the way the plant "strays" along the ground. Strawberries cannot be mechanically picked, and to preserve their delicate nature must be harvested by hand.
The growing season in France is from May to the end of July. In America, we now have the fruit all year around due to the temperate climate of California, one of the largest strawberry-producing States in the country. Other countries that produce large crops are Poland, Romania, Italy, Spain, Israel, Morocco, the Netherlands, and Kenya.
StrawberryTiramisu serves 4
1 pint strawberries (1/2 pound) 1Tbsp honey 1Tbsp port wine 1 quick grind black pepper
8 oz mascarpone 2 Tbsp honey (warmed so it is liquid) 1 oz dark chocolate, small chop (1/4 cup chopped)
1/2 cup espresso 2 Tbsp port wine
12 ladyfingers, broken in half
Rinse and stem the berries, slice them in quarters. Toss with honey, port and pepper. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine mascarpone, honey and chocolate. Set aside.
Mix espresso with port in a small bowl. Have four wide champagne glasses ready, each with a one cup capacity.
Very quickly dunk each half-ladyfinger into the espresso mixture and line up in the glasses, six half-ladyfingers to a glass. Divid the mascarpone mixture among the glasses, in the center. Divide the strawberries over the top and drizzle any juice over. Eat immediately or refrigerate, covered in plastic wrap, until serving. Best eaten same day but not tragic if they sit overnight in the fridge.
Painting by Bernard Londinski, contemporary still-life painter, France.
Garlic - the cure for everything that ails you. This recipe makes good use of a LOT of garlic, but since it is gently cooked to sweet mellowness, it is wonderful as an experience as well as a tonic.
Garlic Soup 2 cups fresh peeled garlic cloves (approx. 5 large heads) 1/4 cup olive oil fresh crumbs from 2 slices bread, crusts removed, preferably spelt or whole wheat seasalt and freshly ground pepper 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón) 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
In a heavy-bottom saucepan, gently sauté the garlic cloves over low heat until they are soft and begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Add the fresh crumbs, salt, pepper, and pimentón. Bring the heat up to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is fragrant and well coated in the oil, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, bring to a boil. Immediately puree the mixture in a high-speed blender. Adjust seasoning. Serves 4-6 as a first course.
Pork continues to get big press with the food media, but it’s been a basic food group in Central Europe for decades. In Budapest, Hungary, when Ms. Tomato was there some years ago cooking and avoiding the
inevitable return to California, butchers opened doors early with a three-foot mound of chilled, rendered pig fat on the counter, doled it out in slabs all day long, and sold out by dinner time.
Pork crackling scones, called pogácsa, (pronounced pogatchaw) were featured at every bar and cocktail party, often accompanied by chilled Tokai wine or killer apricot brandy called Palinka.
Some bakers add yeast and potato to the little buns, others skip the added leavening and follow an elaborate
process of folding and resting the dough several times, much like a croissant. In the end, the secret ingredient is the same. It’s all about the pork.
This recipe is not authentic, but a personal rendition of the real thing that is a little lighter and crunchier. We've also cut them in a bite-size format so they work as an appetizer. The true, Hungarian pogácsa is usually the size of a hockey puck and twice as tall, not allowing much room for further eating. And is really good with booze.
Pogácsa (Pork Crackling Scones) Makes about 4 dozen cocktail size scones
2 cups all purpose flour 2 tsp baking powder 3/4 tsp fine sea salt 3/4 tsp white pepper 2 oz pork crackling or crispy bacon, chopped fine (1/2# raw bacon) 6 Tbsp brick shortening, chilled 1/2 cup sour cream 1 egg, separated
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and pepper together. Mix in the crackling or bacon. Cut the shortening into the flour with a pastry cutter until it resembles a coarse meal.
In a separate bowl, mix sour cream and egg yolk together. Mix with the dry ingredients until barely combined and still crumbly.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured counter and, using the heel of the hand and a pastry scraper, push the dough away from you, scraping it back and pushing away until it just comes together in a ball.
Roll it out to 1/2” thick. Cut rounds with a very sharp 1” cookie cutter and place them on a baking sheet.
Mix the egg white with a tbsp water. Brush the tops of the scones lightly, being careful not to let any drip down the sides. Bake 16 to 20 minutes, until slightly golden on top. Best served warm or room temperature with cocktails.
On Good Friday, 1690, the Duc d’Orleans provided a feast of only root vegetables. It became the talk of the town, no doubt, because he was a rich aristocrat and slumming it with root vegetables instead of, say, cockscomb fricasée, was a revolutionary move. It was the punk rock of state dinners – a glimpse of what the poor classes ate, served in high style.
The Duke could afford to maintain a greenhouse and several employees, including hunter gatherers, whose days consisted of procuring wonderous foodstuffs for his table. Roots, however, were the mainstay of the oppressed classes, food that grew beneath the ground and lasted the entire winter if properly stored.
The gnarly root of the celery plant is of a particular variety - one that has a fat, tasty bulb and somewhat lackluster stalks. It can be the size of a turnip or grow the width of a cantaloupe and has a delightful, mild, celery scent, due to the essential oil called “apiol”.
In Europe this root, also called celeriac, is used much more than the stalks and is considered appropriate in the hautest cuisine. Kurt Gutenbrunner, the Austrian chef-owner of Manhattan's acclaimed Wallsé restaurant, says the vegetable even has sentimental value. "Celery root is a touchstone for people in Germany," he claims.
In France we find it grated raw and tossed with mayonnaise or crème fraiche and chives. But it can also be braised, sautéed, baked, sliced thin and deepfried, gratinéed and puréed, and probably even vaporized and flash-frozen in nitrogen if you like.
In some of the more archaic English botanical writings, the celery plant is referred to as “smallage”, which comes from “small ache”-- “ache” being an old French name for the vegetable. In Homer’s Odyssey it is called “selinon”, from which our modern name is derived. Used during his time as an herbal flavoring more than a vegetable, it also made appearances at funerals where the stalks were woven into garlands.
Celery-root is hard as a rock and best peeled before eating. Like potato or apple, it needs acid to prevent it from discoloring after it is cut. Irish chef Cathal Armstrong roasts the vegetable with his Christmas Rib Roast. His advice in dealing with the gnarled root is to "think of it like a pineapple--cut off the top and bottom and peel it with a big knife."
Celery Root Hashbrowns
1 celery root, approx 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound 1 russet potato, approx 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound 4 green onions, minced salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 2 tablespoons olive oil
Peel and grate the celery root and potato. Toss them with your hands, along with the green onion, salt and pepper. Preheat a 10" heavy skillet and add one tablespoon of the oil. Heat the oil until it ripples, about 1 minute, then add the celery root & potato mixture. Flatten it with the spatula, add a lid and let it cook over medium heat about 7 minutes.
Flip the mixture over and add more olive oil as needed - the mixture will be a little damp and may stick a little and break, but that is fine. Cook until the bottom gets color, about another 5-7 minutes. Great with eggs or on its own with crumbled goat cheese or thick Greek yogurt on top.
“He thinks he's the Pope's mustard maker”—old French saying.
There really was a Grand Moutardier du Pape, back in 14th Century Avignon. In those days, the Pope vied for power with the monarchy while his own court enjoyed lavish, pomp-filled dinners. With mistresses floating about, vast hordes of wealth in place as well as power over public opinion, the pontiff's was often a life of indulgence and political intrigue.
Pope John XXII “The Magnificent” desperate one day for the purple mustard of his hometown of Corrèze, summoned the maker, Monsieur Jaubertie, to his side . So pleased was he with the outcome that the man was thereafter called The Popes’ Mustard Maker.
There are basically three kinds of mustard, white, black and brown "Chinese". The plants themselves are part of the cabbage family and originally grew as weeds among cereal crops. All their greens are edible, but the yellow paste familiar to us is made with seeds, mostly white and brown. The black ones are very strong and commonly flavor Indian dishes. A prepared mustard condiment can have several ingredients, but it usually contains vinegar, oil, salt, and sugar as flavorings.
Mustard has many homeopathic uses--it will cause vomiting if poison has been ingested, and stirs up circulation when applied topically. Back in The Day, mothers were fond of mustard plasters. Powdered mustard is mixed with water and sandwiched between pieces of cotton, then placed on the chest of an unsuspecting, trusting child already miserable with a wretched cold.
The heat stirred up is quite remarkable, leaving the skin red and breaking up the offending congestion. In fact, in the 1200’s, the Earl of Conway tortured Viking prisoners by dipping their heads into barrels of mustard, virtually frying their sinuses and eyeballs.
The great cookbook writer Apicius (scowling man at left, perhaps due to lack of torso) created mustard sauces in ancient Rome, and thus the condiment spread throughout Europe, along with Roman militia. The French began a serious mustard commerce out of Dijon in the mid-14th century when production became state-regulated. King Louis XIV, The Sun King, subsequently travelled everywhere with his mustard pot , even favoring the color in his wardrobe.
It became legend, lauded, and made fun of in Europe as a symbol of overindulgence. The French writer Rabelais, in a satire of 16th Century social and religious hypocrisy, invented a character called Gargantua who required four servants to feed him spoonfuls of mustard in between enormous servings of meats.
In 1853, a steam-driven mustard mill was invented by a man named Maurice Grey. He called his company "Grey", which later became "Grey Poupon" for some unclear purpose. Located in Dijon, in the Burgundy region of France, to this day you will find the Grey Poupon Museum at the site of the original store. It is tiny, charming, and sells great mustard.
Of course, Grey Poupon is now owned by Kraft, the same people that have brought you boxed mac-cheese. For more sad mustard facts, visit the Mustard Museum located in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.
Pepper Gravlaax with Tarragon Mustard Cream Makes 6 appetizer portions
1 pound slab wild salmon filet (not near the tail) 2 tbsp white sugar 2 tbsp coarse grey seasalt 2 tbsp coarse freshly ground black pepper 1 tbsp aquavit or dry white vermouth 1/2 cup sour cream 2 tbsp good quality tarragon mustard 2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2-3 days before serving, mix the sugar and salt together and coat the fish with it. Sprinkle the black pepper on top and drizzle with the aquavit or vermouth. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and put in a deep dish in the fridge with a heavy cast iron pan or brick on top to weight it down.
When ready to serve, whisk the mustard into the sour cream with the tarragon leaves. Slice the gravlaax very thinly and fan out on individual plates. Serve each with a dollop of the mustard cream and baguette toasts.