Monday, June 30, 2014

France: Brittany - Summer Solstice and A Weekend of Food

     I am not typically a rule breaker...except when I am driving.   I always seem to be going over the speed limit; my picture has been snapped in numerous countries as I cruise down the road.  I haven't driven in the States in almost over two years and I think I may have a problem when I eventually return.
     I view recipes as rules for cooking.  I am not one of those intuitive cooks.  I cannot come up with recipes and ideas at the spur of the moment.  I make a pretty mean paella and have used the same recipe for years...never deviating from it.  So perhaps, I am not the most creative cook but my system works for me.  However, this past weekend, I stretched the out of my comfort zone and made some tasty, tasty food.
     It started on Friday night with something I didn't cook.  I brought back seafood from our trip to Brittany.  The typical Breton seafood platter must contain at least five different types of shellfish.  I managed to bring home four: briny shrimp, langoustines, bulots and an absolutely huge crab.  All were cooked and after the six hour drive, it made for the perfect, low key meal. 

    But, what to do with all of the leftovers?  There were a ton of shells and a lot of extra meat that could not go to waste.  So, I dumped the shells into the crockpot, added water, an onion, a carrot and a few spices and let it cook away all night long on low.  The house didn't smell particularly great but after a night of simmering and a few more additional hours the next morning, I had a very flavorful stock.  But, what to do with it?  I made a very simple seafood risotto.  I sautéed some onions in a combination of butter and olive oil and then added the rice.  I added the broth, one cup at a time until the rice was ready.  Then I added back the reserved shellfish meat and some parmesan.  Meal number two was delicious!  

     But, what to do with all of the leftovers?  With the threat of rain on Sunday, we decided to have a lazy Sunday brunch.  Very easily, I formed the leftover risotto into three patties, sautéed them in butter until they were crisp and then served them with a runny poached egg on the top!  I managed to get three dishes from my one seafood platter - and rarely had to consult a recipe.  What a daredevil I am!!!

     Here is my first batch of peas.  They are so tasty that I find myself just eating them straight from the bowl.  I thought about making a pea risotto with them but after having seafood risotto, that seemed a bit of overkill.  However, could I make an appetizer to go with the risotto consisting of my glorious sweet little peas?  You betcha!  I did follow a recipe on this one and the result was super.  

     I fanned some thinly cut prosciutto around a small plate.  In the center, I placed sliced burrata cheese (a kind of creamy mozzarella).  I blanched the peas for a quick two minutes, cooled them slightly under running cold water and added them to a bowl of dressing consisting of mint, salt and pepper, lemon juice and olive oil.  The peas were then spooned over the cheese and topped with shaved parmesan and a few pea shoots.  Not too shabby!

     But, what to do with the leftovers?  Why not another appetizer to accompany my Sunday brunch?  Taking the pea mixture, I added minced shallots, a tangy goat cheese and a bit more olive oil.  I served it on pieces of toasted bread (also a leftover) and voila!  Spring Pea Crostini.  Oops, no pictures!

     It was the end of a marvelous week.  We celebrated Summer Solstice on the coast of Brittany - hanging out on the cliffs looking out at the sea, having a picnic, playing music and taking goofy family photos.  We had Sunday lunch at our favorite restaurant, rediscovered beaches, flew kites, stayed up late, napped on the beach and played boules.  We ended the week back at home in Belgium, well rested, well fed and just...well.

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