About Jennifer

Jennifer Ever Larsen

Pickled Radishes and Easter Lunch

When the local radishes hit the market stands in Paris, you know that spring is finally (gastronomically) here. Next come the fresh bulbs of green garlic, the asparagus, and eventually, the fresh peas.

Radishes - pink and red

Radishes – pink and red

With a couple of good friends (Frances and Marie,) I started a sort of “cooking club,” or an excuse to get together and cook elaborate meals. Frances has donned us the “Grape Leaf Club,” since our first mission together was to make a large quantity of stuffed grape leaves. The name has stuck, and to celebrate spring, we decided to make an Easter meal a couple weekends ago.

In charge of the starter, I concocted a dish similar to something Marie and I had created together last winter. A green pea purée serves as a base for smoked herring, pickled radishes, and dill. Final touch: a dollop of horseradish crème fraîche, and a bit of lemon juice.

Pea purée with smoked herring and pickled radishes

Pea purée with smoked herring and pickled radishes

Marie tackled the main dish: a pâté de Pacques or Easter paté, meat paté adorned with hard-boiled eggs and baked in a puff pastry shell.

Paté de Pacques: a masterpiece

Paté de Pacques: a masterpiece

Frances, the baker, designed our dessert. Maple-sugar flavoured meringes (with a dash of salt,) served with passionfruit cream, lime zest, and orange wedges.

Springtime merinque with passionfruit and orange

Springtime merinque with passionfruit and orange

For my dish, I did some research on pickled radishes and finally used a method I found on a site called Garden Therapy. My version, modified a bit, is here below.

Pickled Radishes

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch thinly sliced radishes (red and round or pink and long)
  • 8 whole black peppercorns lightly broken with a mortar and pestle
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed open with the side of your knife
  • Equal parts water and vinegar – enough to fill your jar (I used white cooking vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Method:

Neatly stack the radishes, garlic, and peppercorns in a clean jar.

Heat all other ingredients in a saucepan until dissolved (but not boiling.) Pour the warm liquid over the radishes and allow to cool.

Radishes, pickling

Radishes, pickling

Once cool, cover and keep in the refrigerator. The radishes will be ready after spending one night in the fridge, and keep up to 3-4 weeks. They are great on salads, sandwiches, or served as a happy hour snack.

Note that the white parts of the radishes (and the liquid) will take on the pink color of the skin.

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The one-egg wonder: Lavender Orange Blossom Cake

A quiet Saturday afternoon in my apartment. A lull between birthday parties, between seasons. Springtime is coming, or it’s here – the raspberry plants are growing. The jasmine has buds and will bloom any second now. The mosquitoes are back, bit by bit.

Springtime looms

Springtime looms

When you cook a lot, you feel this pressure to always bring something homemade and fabulous. Showing up with just wine is better than bringing a store-bought cake. And when there’s a party, well, it’s just another excuse to test recipes on people.

The lone egg

The lone egg

There was only one egg left in the pantry, and the supermarket (half a block away) was too much of a bother. I decided to let the pantry inspire me, to come up with something unexpected. With springtime imminent, I thought of the bright flavors of the orange blossom water hiding in the back of the garde-manger, of the lavender flowers I bought years ago to make a delicious cocktail, of the violette liquer in the liquor cabinet.

Lavender flowers, orang blossom water

Lavender flowers, orang blossom water

The internet revealed a plethora of options, and I used this one to loosely base my experiment: One Egg Lemon Pound Cake. Most friends thought it was delicious, but one with a particularly keen palate asked me discreetly: “Are you sure this is fully cooked?” “It only has one egg,” I smiled, glad that somebody was there to keep me in check. The verdict: delicious, but a bit dense. Try for yourself!

Lavender flowers

Lavender flowers

Lavender Orange Blossom Cake

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An Ode to: Ottolenghi

For my birthday, about four years ago, one of my best friends handed me a large package wrapped in brown paper. She squirmed with excitement, her shoulders scrunched up towards her earrings, her grin spread from ear to ear.

“I hope you don’t have it already!” she was practically bouncing as I considered the heavy gift, which was obviously a book.

Roasted Sweet Potato with Orange Bitters

Roasted Sweet Potato with Orange Bitters

The brown gift-wrap revealed a masterpiece that would end up changing my life. “Plenty,” by a man whose name I had never laid eyes on and could barely pronounce – Yotam Ottolenghi.

Brussels Sprouts with Pomelo and Star Anise

Brussels Sprouts with Pomelo and Star Anise

I received this book just before embarking on a weight loss journey that, in the course of nine months, would see me lose a third of my body weight and get me down to a “normal” weight for the first time in my adult life. My re-orientation to focusing my meals around vegetables, rather than pasta, rice, or cheese – was helped along by Plenty, which, although written by a carnivore, is a vegetarian cookbook.

Mixing things like maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and capers… adding coriander (cilantro) to typically Italian dishes… caramelizing garlic cloves in balsamic reduction. All of these things seem commonplace to me now, thanks to the East-meets-West cuisine of this Israeli chef living and working out of London.

Root Vegetable Mash with Wine Braised Shallots

Root Vegetable Mash with Wine Braised Shallots

The sequel to my favorite cookbook, called Plenty More, was released last autumn and served as holiday vacation bedside reading, as I devoured the new recipes from cover to cover.

Plenty. Plenty More.

Plenty. Plenty More.

Traveling to London a few weekends ago with a pack of French girlfriends, I took the opportunity to dine in the restaurant run by Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The experience managed to live up to my (admittedly very high) expectations – the kind of dining experience where literally everything is perfect. The server was flawless and kind, the dining room intimate and lively, the kitchen exposed and exciting, the bathrooms sublime and surprising.

Butternut Squash with Polenta and Tempura Lemon

Butternut Squash with Polenta and Tempura Lemon

As for the food, the things I can’t get out of my head, even two weeks later, are the small details. The chipotle syrup in my tequila and citrus cocktail. The oyster mayonnaise upon which my cabbage and poached mackerel rest, the salty flavor bringing me back to my New England origins.

A delicious hot mess: Brussels Sprout Risotto

A delicious hot mess: Brussels Sprout Risotto

The grande finale was the raspberry sorbet that crackled in my mouth – “What’s in this that makes that popping effect?”

“It’s poppy candy!” replied my waitress with certainty and a smile. I laughed, nodded, and was glad to learn the British term for Pop Rocks.

Nutty Winter White Soup

Two years ago, I took a vacation to India and spent two weeks at the Sivananda Ashram in Kerala. As someone who habitually reads cookbooks as bedtime stories, I was pleased to purchase “The Yoga Cookbook” in the ashram gift shop, and read through the (sattvic, i.e. very healthy) recipes between our evening meditation sessions and 10 p.m. lights-out curfew.

The Yoga Cookbook

The Yoga Cookbook

I pulled the book back off the shelf the other day to finally try making the infamous “Sivananda Cookies” they often sell at the yoga center. In turn, I ended up flipping through the recipes again, and found an interesting one: Nutty Parsnip Soup, which calls for 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter as its “nutty” element.

This got me thinking. What about tahini? Could it be any good in a white-vegetable winter soup? I do, of course, having a thing for celeriac. And I love the woodsy, surprising flavor of parsnips.

Tahini and sesame seeds

Tahini and sesame seeds

So here, I give you, a warming winter soup rounded out with tahini. Happy Sunday.

Nutty Winter White Soup

Nutty Winter White Soup

 

Nutty Winter White Soup

Serves 6-8

Ingredients
thick pat of unsalted butter (about 8 grams)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 parsnips, peeled, roughly chopped
750 grams (1.6 lbs) celeriac, skin removed, cut into cubes
6 cups hot water OR homemade stock
1.5 bouillon cubes (chicken or vegetable) – omit if using stock
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
3 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
black pepper (optional, for garnish)
1/3 cup chopped cashews or peanuts (optional, for garnish)

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened, 4-6 minutes. Add the parsnips and celeriac and let them heat up a bit in the pot, stirring, 2 minutes.

Pour hot water or stock over vegetables, add bouillon if using. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in salt and pepper. Allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.

Once vegetables are fully cooked, take the pot off the heat and mix the soup with an immersion blender. Stir in the tahini, and serve topped with salt and pepper, and chopped cashews or peanuts.

Nutty Winter White Soup

Nutty Winter White Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cardamom Coconut Rice Pudding

A new tart recipe is in the works. I tried to make it again last weekend, but I experienced piecrust failure:

Pie Crust Failure

Pie Crust Failure

I’d like to get to the point where I don’t need to think about pie crust. Don’t need to look it up exactly, every time – don’t need to re-check measurements. Advice from Frances is a big help, but I’m not there yet.

But no matter. There was still a dinner to go to, still a dessert to make – so I did what I always do when crusts fail. I made something with rice. As I like to say, when in doubt, just make risotto.

Round rice

Round rice

This time, it wasn’t risotto – but going with the coconut theme I’d laid out, I made a coconut rice pudding. Heavy on the coconut, with a bit of cardamom, served with sunny winter fruits. No photos this time of the finished product, but trust me, it’s delicious.

Cardamom Coconut Rice Pudding

Adapted from this Bon Appétit recipe

Serves 6

Ingredients:

600 ml (20 ounces) coconut milk
600 ml (20 ounces) cow’s milk (whole or 1%)
2/3 cup fresh (or frozen, unsweetened) coconut
2/3 cup round rice
1/3 cup white sugar
6 cardamom pods
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Break open the cardamom pods just slightly, with a sharp knife, making sure the seed stays inside.

Using a large pot, bring all ingredients except vanilla extract to a simmer over medium heat.

Lower heat so the mixture is just barely simmering and let cook, stirring occasionally, about 45-60 minutes. You will need to stir and monitor more towards the end – you’ll know it’s done when the mixture resembles a clumpy oatmeal.

Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract, stirring through.

Let cool and then transfer to the refrigerator. Serve chilled, with seasonal fruits on top. This time, I used lime zest, kumquat slices, and pomegranate seeds.

Kumquats

Kumquats

Transatlantic Chowder

I read the Wikipedia article about Quahogs and I am transported to another place and time.

It is the summer of 2002 and I am 17 years old. I’ve just graduated from high school. In addition to my usual part-time job at an upscale local supermarket, I’ve taken another job at what people in my part of the world affectionately refer to as a “clam shack.”

The Cove Fish Market was a small store selling fresh fish and lobsters in the front, and a clam shack in the back. I’d spend hours every day spooning ladles of chowder into Styrofoam cups (the clear-broth, “Rhode Island style” was home made. The creamy-broth, “New England style” came in frozen.)

The team at the Cove was a mixture of fresh-faced, long-haired college girls home for the summer, and rough-edged, part-time alcoholic pot head townie guys who had started out as dishwashers.

Paul, who owned the Cove was at least 80 years old, made the best chowder I’d ever had. I didn’t care for “clear-broth” chowder one bit until I started working there. The soft blend of the broth with the cubed potatoes – the finely chopped Quahog clams – I asked my mother what she thought the secret was. “I hear he uses salt pork as a base.”

Only one guy on staff knew the recipe. The chowder needed to be prepared a day in advance, and Jay would start it on an outdoor gas hob behind the kitchen. Onions would sweat under the hot August sun in salt pork fat. I was too young to get a good sense of the recipe, and too busy spooning chowder and filling orders for lobster rolls and fried clams to ever get a good idea of his method – and for years I kept telling myself that clam chowder was one of those things I’d get around to making “one of these days.”

I was recently issued a cooking challenge to finally tackle clam chowder – albeit, involving goat’s cheese and chorizo. I give you this – which turned out smooth and silky, and will definitely be made again in this house before winter’s end.

Clam remnants

Transatlantic Chowder

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Grandma Joyce’s Christmas Bread

Every family has taste traditions around different holidays they celebrate together. Be it a particular aunt’s potato salad that always made it to a summer picnic, or even your mom’s awful overcooked, over-buttered green beans that no one ever said anything about at Thanksgiving – but for those who grew up celebrating Christmas, there is almost always an annual sweet treat kids and grownups alike look forward to when the days are at their shortest (speaking from the Northern hemisphere, of course.)

My family couldn’t possibly have imagined Christmas without our Grandmother Joyce’s Christmas Bread. It’s sort of like challah bread, sort of like Finnish pullah – but if you try to call it anything else to my cousins, aunts, and uncles – we don’t want to hear about it. Christmas Bread is just Christmas Bread.

Like snow that had fallen on the bread, she’d decorate the soft buttery loaves with a simple white icing. The chopped red and green candied cherries on top were like little elves’ sleds skiing down the slopes of the buttery braided bread. The bright red, white, and green holiday colors always showed through the wax paper bags that she packed them in, folded and sealed with care with a name tag for each family.

At the peak of her Christmas Bread baking career, Grandma Joyce would prepare over 25 loaves during the month of December. She’d photocopy her recipe and make a list on the back of all the people she planned on giving a loaf to. On the grease-stained and torn copy I have, the lists on the back are from 1991 and 1993.

Christmas Breads

Christmas Breads

The original recipe comes from a copy of Parade magazine from a December long gone – not sure which one – and Grandma modified it slightly over the years, I have modified it still.

I’ll be eating some tomorrow morning, as I always have on December 25, and as I always will.

Jen's Christmas Bread

Jen’s Christmas Bread

Grandma Joyce’s Christmas Bread

Makes three loaves

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