goût de luxe: caviar taste. legume budget. perfect.

January 20th, 2011

goût de luxe:

caviar taste.  legume budget.  perfect.

Goût de luxe means “luxurious taste” or “taste of luxury.”   Sometimes you want to indulge your taste for luxury without paying the monetary price typically associated with it.   So what is easy to do that tastes expensive, but isn’t?  Beluga lentils and that is why a Beluga lentil hors-d’oeuvre is this week’s simple pleasure.

Lentils are a legume   (which is a fruit with edible seeds in a pod).  Other legumes include soybeans, green beans,  fava beans, garbanzo beans, and peanuts.  Legumes are full of dietary protein and fiber  (both soluble and insoluble) and are often used as a meat substitute.   Legumes are not only good for your health but a delight for your budget (compare one pound of organic aged beef which can cost around $22-24 per pound with a pound of heirloom beans for about $3-4).

When we think of lentils, generally most people think of the dark green Puy lentils from Velay, France (which admittedly are wonderful).  These green lentils are commonly prepared creamy-style or served in a salad (often with roasted red beets).  However, lentils come in a variety of sizes and colors, including red, orange, ivory, canary yellow, various shades of green and brown, and black.  The green, brown, and black varieties retain their shape better then the orange, red and canary colored varieties.  The orange, red and canary colored lentils are often found in Indian cuisine and take on a very creamy consistency when simmered.  Lentils (eaten out of the pod) do not need to be rehydrated and take only 20-30  minutes to simmer.

Beluga lentils look exactly like the famous caviar for which they are named.    They are shiny, dark black, small, and round.  Beluga lentils are delicate and mild-flavored.  They can be prepared al dente or simmered longer for a creamier texture.  They are wonderful additions to soups and salads and they pair well with fleshy white fish (i.e., Sea Bass or Cod) as well as with pork and game (including two of my favorites:  wild boar and crispy pork belly).   Beluga lentils are also good puréed.

This Beluga lentil hors -d’oeuvre is true to the caviar theme.  Beluga caviar is typically served with sour cream on top of halved boiled new potatoes (and accompanied by a bottle of ice-cold vodka encased in ice).  Here, instead of sour cream, we use crème fraîche with freshly grated horseradish.  Instead of potatoes or toast points, we use thinly sliced raw turnips.   Instead of water or vegetable stock (which is the typical fare in which to simmer lentils), we use white wine and fish stock, keeping with the caviar theme and giving the lentils a slightly salty, seafood boost.

This hors -d’oeuvre takes about 20 minutes active time.  It can be prepared in advance and tastes best when it has chilled overnight.  The crème fraîche and the turnips can also be prepared in advance.

So fancy, here is to your luxurious — budget and health conscious —  taste.   The chilled vodka is optional.

Je vous souhaite un bon appétit !


Read the rest of this entry »

start the new year with something good

December 31st, 2010

a new hors d’oeuvre for the New Year

2011 is almost here and I cannot wait.   I am ready to get past the large meals, stuffings, and the sugary treats that dominated my December 2010.  Seafood is a wonderful contrast but it seems like I see the same hors d’oeuvres over and over.   New year.  Time for something new.  So the issue is whether we can have a lighter hors d’oeuvre that is special enough for a New Year’s celebration but easy to prepare at the same time?  Of course we can.   This week’s simple pleasure is just that: shrimp saor cocktail.

The shrimp saor cocktail is my take on shrimp cocktail. Saor is a traditional dish from Venice, Italy.  It is thinly sliced onions (usually white or yellow) that have been marinated in a sweet and sour sauce made of wine, sometimes vinegar, and sugar.  Typically saor is served on top of steamed or grilled sardines (“sarde in saor”) although it can grace the likes of more expensive lean fish such as dover sole. Saor is served with raisins, currants, pine-nuts, and often polenta cakes.  It can also be served with a small green salad.

This dish is ideal for New Year’s because you can prepare the saor the day before (it actually tastes better if you let it refrigerate overnight) and it is served at room temperature.   While you can steam the shrimp, I think sautéing the shrimp and serving them warm is ideal for this cold weather.   Either way  the active time for this recipe is about 25 minutes.

The saor shrimp cocktail can be a passed hors d’oeuvre or served as a first course if you are having a sit-down dinner.  If you want to fancy it up a bit, you can serve it on a bed of creamy white, warm polenta or a squash purée (the sweetness of the squash pairs wonderfully with the tartness of saor).  If you have leftover saor, it is great on burgers or on a brie sandwich with green apple slices.  It will also keep in the refrigerator for at least a week.

A couple of notes on the ingredients.  Do not use expensive balsamic vinegar for the reduction.  Use good balsamic vinegar, but do not use balsamic vinegar that has been aged longer than you have been alive.  It is a waste.  Save the expensive vinegar for finishing salads or drizzling over other items.  With respect to the shrimp, you can use either prawns or smaller shrimp.  Make your choice depending upon your individual circumstances (whether these are passed hors d’oeuvres,  stationary at a buffet, or plated as a first course).  You will see that in the recipe in parenthesis there is a number next to the shrimp (i.e., “11/15” for the prawns).  That means that you will get 11-15 prawns per pound, just so you have an idea of how many to buy and the price.  Also, because the saor stores so well, you do not have to buy and make 24 prawns.  If you only need 12, make 12 and use the extra saor for something else delicious.

Je vous souhaite bon appétit, de joyeuses fêtes et une très bonne année (I wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year).



Read the rest of this entry »