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January 2010 COTM: Patricia Wells APPETIZERS AND SALADS

Welcome to the APPETIZERS AND SALADS thread for the January 2010 Cookbook of the Month, featuring Bistro Cooking & Trattoria: Simple and Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy.

Please post your reviews of Appetizers, First Courses & Palate Teasers (BC), Salads(BC) and Antipasti, Starters, and Salads(T).

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    It is rare that my own version of this wonderful spread is not in the fridge. When I bought this book years ago, it was the first thing I made and I fell in love. It’s just wonderful. It was so good, I then dove into the book full force.

    My own adaptation is below… just adding a few ingredients: rosemary, lemon juice, black pepper. Everyone who comes to my house now expects it, with crackers, when they show up. It’s that good. And it keeps in the fridge a good week without going bad (I’ve gone longer). You can eat it as soon as you make it but the flavors get even better after a day or so. Just take it out about 15-30 minutes before you serve it to let it soften just a touch.

    3 cloves garlic
    Fresh Rosemary (about 1 or two springs)
    1 11-14oz log of quality unflavored goat cheese
    Juice of 1/2 lemon
    Olive oil
    Fresh black pepper

    - In the food processor, chop the cloves of garlic and the fronds
    off the rosemary springs.

    - Then add the goat cheese, in big crumbles, the lemon juice,
    and the black pepper. Add a couple of glugs of olive oil. Start
    the processor, and add olive oil as needed. You want it creamy
    but not too soft and smooth, not runny. Add more pepper to
    taste if you like.

    - I put it in small ramekins, this will usually fill 3-4 4 oz ramekins.
    Cover them with foil and put in the fridge.

    1. WALNUT AND PECORINO SALAD Trattoria p. 48

      This could be my favorite recipe in the book. It is so simple, yet the flavors are very complex... and it is so much fun to eat! This is a terrific appetizer to have sitting out on the counter. I have people just reach in like it is popcorn, but you can certainly serve it with utensils. It would also be a terrific end to a meal as a cheese course. Divine.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Tom P

        Thanks Tom, both of those sound great. Could you paraphrase the Walnut and Pecorino Salad recipe? I love pecorino and need to eat more walnuts, sounds perfect.

        1. re: yamalam

          It is very simple: toast some fresh walnut halves then, when cool, toss them with a little olive oil, some lemon juice, dried oregano, fresh flat least parsley, salt and pepper and cubed pecorino. (The harder the cheese, the better, for eating). As in such a simple dish, high quality ingredients really pay off. I imagine you could do it with sage and rosemary as well. But it was so good, I've never deviated from the recipe. Let us know what you think.

          1. re: Tom P

            By fresh walnuts you mean freshly cracked?

            1. re: LulusMom

              If possible, I guess! Or just the best you have.

        2. re: Tom P

          Tom P is absolutely right. This is divine. I had a stupid moment in the store and bought asiago instead of pecorino. Not a problem at all. This is such a simple and easy recipe, and it was just wonderful. Cube the cheese, toast the walnuts, cut the parsley, mix this, add lemon juice, olive oil, dried oregano, salt and pepper. Really really good. My husband couldn't stop talking about it all night. This will be going on the list of things to make for guests.

          1. re: LulusMom

            Did you serve this pre-dinner or as a course? I'm trying to think of a way of serving it with pre-dinner drinks w/o individual plates. Little endive or lettuce leaves into which everyone could spoon it? I love the idea of leaving it out and everyone reaching in with their hands as Tom P describes . . . but that might not happen till after a drink or two.

            1. re: cinnamon girl

              I served it as a salad on the side, which might seem weird but it was so good that no one was complaining. I think in lettuce or endive leaves is a wonderful idea for finger food. My issue with the hands thing (and I do trust both PW and Tom P that it is wonderful that way) is that there is oil and lemon juice in there, and so your hands are going to get at least a little grubby.

              My husband lucked out and got the leftovers. Still raving about it.

              1. re: LulusMom

                Ooohh . . . served as a side dish it would be a good way of fleshing out a meatless, or near-meatless, meal too. Thanks LM!

        3. Celery Salad with Anchovy Dressing (Trattoria, p. 34)

          Easy peasy (although I made it easier by not doing the fancy cutting she describes - I just sliced the celery). In a food processor combine 6 tablespoons olive oil, 2 cans anchovy fillets, and 3 garlic cloves. Cut the celery. Combine, add fresh pepper, serve. This is for those who like strong flavors, and it was hit in our house. I found the leftover a little too strong, but Lulu has been gobbling them for her lunches.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LulusMom

            I'm going to say that I'd really love this salad. I adore celery and crunchy food, and this paired with the anchovy fillets/garlic etc. would be sooooo good. I have everything I need.

          2. Wow! I'm so encouraged by the early positive feedback on Trattoria!


            2 Replies
            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I own bistro cooking but took Trattoria out of the library. Really glad I did, so far.

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Me too. Guess I'll have to check it out. Again.
                I have NO will power.

              2. La Salade et Vinaigrette de Tant Yvonne, Pg. 67, Bistro Cooking

                This should be titled Basic Salad 101. Talk about easy. Two heads of soft leaf lettuce leaves are torn into bite-sized pieces. I used 1/2 small head Boston and 1/2 head of Romaine, cuz that's what I had.
                The vinaigrette is: lemon juice, sherry vinegar, Dijon, S & P, and EVOO. Simplicity itself. As expected the salad was very nice. I resisted adding other VGs because I really wanted something light. This went nicely with a slice of crusty bread and a piece of Gorgonzola....and the lentil soup on pg. 34.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Gio

                  I do think the perfect salad is an underated thing. I made this dressing last night and served it with some frisée I had from the farmer's market. It was indeed very nice, and may become my "house" salad dressing.

                  1. re: Gio

                    I made Tante Yvonne's salad last night, using Boston lettuce and the dressing as prescribed. I wanted a simple salad to go along with the other Wells recipes on the menu (Lapin [Poulet for me] a la Moutarde, Gateau de Pommes de Terre, Quatre-Quarts aux Poires), and this was it.

                    As I often do, I undersalted the dressing when I added the salt and pepper, so the dressed salad was a bit bland. It's so critical to use enough salt in salad dressing: you'd think I'd have learned that lesson by now! But since the amount of dressing was much more than I could use for one salad for four, I have plenty of dressing left so I added salt before I put it away. I also ran out of my regular olive oil yesterday, so I used a super primo Spanish that I had in my pantry, one I normally wouldn't mix w/vinegar but use only for drizzling. I have a feeling its superior flavor was lost, overwhelmed by all the other flavors, which do make for a tasty dresssing. Next time I would use my everyday EVOO. And yes, I'll be using what's left of this and making more in the future.

                    I've always loved the simple salad dressings favored by the French; there's a French restaurant in town that uses a very simple vinaigrette on the humblest of ingredients to create a spectacular salad.

                  2. CHICK-PEA SALAD FROM THE AUBERGE D'AILLANE (Bistro) p. 39

                    I made this even easier than it is by using canned chickpeas. I thought it was interesting in that you heat the CPs and then add a vinaigrette and black olives and onions. We ate it warm but it's also good cold from the fridge. I used sherry vinegar (my new fave) as I don't have "good" red. It called for five cloves of minced garlice but I reduced it to two cause I don't like that much raw garlic. I had thyme and parsley on hand so that's what went in it. The Kalamata olives I had were pretty large so I cut them in half. I also reduced the onion by about half figuring one can of CPs wasn't nearly as much as 8oz. dried. The other ingredients I left in the called for amounts.

                    She keeps this on hand as appetizer as well as side dish to serve with grilled meat and fish. I'll do the same. Easy and good and able to do with ingredients on hand = my favorite dishes.

                    1. I just know I posted in the wrong place, so sorry! Are we able to post if we use the Paris cookbook? or should we go to another thread?

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        Hi Chef Chicklet, I think, technically, the Paris Cookbook is not part of this month, but I have that book (and I know others do, too), so I am very interested in your feedback. Maybe start a new thread for Paris Cookbook and then provide a link to it in the Master thread (the one stuck to the top of the Home Cooking forum) so others can find it? We did something similar for Indian month and it worked great.


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          How did we settled on two of Well's cookbooks, and leave the others out? Simply French is my go to cookbook, and I also love PW at home in Provence. Just wondering....(don't get me wrong, I am excited to try the two cookbooks that were selected).

                          1. re: dkennedy

                            I'm not sure, really, as I haven't following the nominations and voting that closely lately, but I think it started out that there was a lot of support for Bistro Cooking. Along the way, someone asked if we could throw Trattoria in, too. Then a lot of people either seconded that idea or responded that they didn't object to it. There never really was, as far as I can recall, much (if any) discussion about cooking from all of Wells' books this month.

                            We've done that in the past, with Julia Child for instance, where we said, "Let's cook from her entire ouvre" and, my understanding is that most people found it very unsatisfying and unfocused. Julia Child month was before my time COTM-wise, but I did participate in Spanish month, where we cooked from fouir of Penelope Cases books and, although I loved the three of the four books I cooked from that month, it was one of my least favorite COTM's because I felt like I was cooking alone, almost. Less fun.

                            Anyway, for Indian month, we had an "adjunct" thread for the books by Jaffrey and Sahni that people wanted to cook from that weren't "officially" part of COTM. Maybe those who are interested in cooking from Paris or Simply French, etc. can rally around an adjunct thread and post a link to it in the master thread?

                            Here's JoanN's Indian adjunct thread:



                            1. re: dkennedy

                              And I think we already did PW at home in Provence ... or something of hers very similar. I'm afraid I don't have the archive at my fingertips, but you can probably find it with a quick search.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                It was: September 2007 Vegetable Harvest Patricia Wells

                                1. re: Gio

                                  Ach, I knew something was wrong with what I wrote. Thanks for clearing it up Gio.

                              2. re: dkennedy

                                I absolutely adore "Simply French" and would love to see it as a stand-alone COTM one day. I know the relatively new paperback edition screams "Patricia Wells" and, rather shockingly to my mind, downplays Joel Robuchon. But when this book was first published, everyone knew who Joel Robuchon was and hardly anyone had heard of Patricia Wells. What Wells did was to take recipes from the restaurant Jamin and make them work for the home cook. No easy task, and she did it brilliantly. But still. The recipes are Robuchon's, not Wells's.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Huh. I've never even heard of Simply French, but now you gals have me all stirred up.


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    Thanks for clearing things up. I tagged at least 30 recipes in Bistro and more than that in Trattoria, so I think I am pretty well set to participate this month. I was reluctant to buy either, being that I have so many French and Italian cookbooks on my shelves, but now, having perused them, I think I have to have my own copies of both.

                                    I know what you mean about the discussion being unfocussed when we cover more than one book, I prefer the single selection myself.

                                    1. re: dkennedy

                                      One book is my preference too, but there were 2 months that was particularly successful that had 2 books - both the Fuscia Dunlop month and the Vietnamese month. All 4 of those books ended up bought and on my kitchen bookshelf, and I love them. But in theory, I think one book works the best.

                                  2. re: JoanN

                                    I think I have this book, but it's called Cuisine Actuelle (the cooking of Joel Robuchon) in the UK. And I definitely wouldn't call the recipes simple!

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      LOL! No, the recipes aren't what you'd call simple (but they sure are wonderful). Now that you mention it, it is an odd title for the US edition, isn't it? I'm guessing they must have meant "simply" in the sense of "purely" or "absolutely."

                                      1. re: JoanN

                                        It was also never reprinted since first issued in 1993 by Macmillan. I only have a copy because I used to work for the publishers.

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          Another LOL. I have a copy because I worked for the US publisher at the time. I have no recollection whether or not the hardbound was ever reprinted, but a paperback edition was issued in the US in 1995 and that edition is still in print. I'm surprised Macmillan didn't do the same in the UK.

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            Actually, I think it's the paperback that I've got.

                                    2. re: JoanN

                                      Weird, JoanN - I had never heard of Joel Robuchon and already had Wells' cookbooks. Call me Ms Rube.

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        Just for kicks, because it gives a good sense of who Robuchon is and because Johnny Apple is one of the best, here's a review of his in the NYTimes from '93.


                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          What a fun article to read, Joan. Thanks. It's not quite as old as you state, however, being from 2003 rather than 1993.

                              3. Salade Nicoise La Mere Besson, p 43 (La Mere Besson's Salade Nicoise)

                                I hesitate to report on this because I didn't make the dressing, which is probably the most important bit of this salad, because when it came to it I realised I didn't have any fresh basil, it being January and freezing cold and all. So I made a standard vinaigrette instead, using the olive oil from the tuna, mustard, garlic and sherry vinegar.

                                I did like the combination of ingredients, which is different from a "standard" salad nicoise. She has you add green and red peppers and celery to the lettuce. Then add anchovy fillets and tuna (I used oil-packed tuna rather than the water packed albacore she recommends). I also used meaty green Greek olives, because that's all I had to hand. No eggs or green beans.

                                I thought this was a really nice combination, and will probably make it again using fresh basil and black olives. I think it will also taste better in the summer than in the depths of a frozen and snowy January!

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  Wow, Wells recs tuna in water? Julia and Jacques would be on her case in a flash! Could it be that when Bistro was first published there was rarely any tuna in olive oil on hand in local supermarkets? I think it was within the past 5 years that it became widely available. My paperback Bistro was published in 1989. I'll bet she's using tuna in olive oil these days.

                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                    I'm embarrassed to have to ask, but what's wrong with tuna in water? I use it when I can because then I can control my oil content... I don't want to disappoint J&J--what am I missing out on by using the tuna in water?


                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      They said, on their old PBS show, that tuna in water became mealy and, I think Julia in particular, went off on it quite snippily. After I tried the olive oil tuna - actually I don't know if they said it HAD to be olive oil, or just oil - I didn't like tuna in water anymore. It did seem mealy.

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        Mealy sounds gross. I'll have to test that theory as I've not noticed it before.


                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          Tuna packed in olive oil is delicious - it has so much flavor and it's really satisfying to eat. Once you try it, I suspect you might have a hard time going back to the water packed stuff. I wonder if there is a huge caloric/fat difference though. If there is, I still think it's worth the extra calories - and, you can always just eat less of it and still feel satisfied.

                                    2. re: oakjoan

                                      Yes, that has to be it Oakjoan. Because in her At Home in Provence she's all about the olive oil packed tuna. She has a recipe for a dip in there that's delicious: oil-packed tuna, butter, lemon juice and zest - maybe some thyme or something. She makes a point of how superior it is in flavour. In the 80s everyone was so suspicious of tuna that was oil packed. Julia used to moan about the food police taking it away from us.

                                      EDIT: oops - I just noticed that it's actually on p. 8 of Trattoria. It's oregano not thyme and garlic.

                                      1. re: cinnamon girl

                                        Lemon and Oregano Seasoned Tuna Mousse (p. 8 Trattoria)

                                        Another winner. I liked this so much, and honestly, it couldn't be easier. The hardest part is making sure you have a fresh lemon around the house. Toss the can of tuna in olive oil, 4 tablespoons butter, grated lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano and 1 minced garlic clove into your cuisanart and zap. I loved it. Served it on thinly sliced baguette toasted in the oven with a little olive oil (and then today with crackers). No picture, but it really was mousse-like, very light in color and almost fluffy.

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          This sounds great. I esp. love things where I tend to have the ingredients on hand. If I weren't already doing an app with smoked salmon today, I'd be doing this one. Soon. Thanks.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            I love it too. I try to keep a pretty full pantry, but somehow one ingredient is always missing. But this one, with the addition of that fresh lemon, was perfect. I hope you like it.

                                          2. re: LulusMom

                                            LulusMom: I know now why I was confusing the source. She has another butter-based app in At Home in Provence (apologies for this being a different book). It's delicious and just as easy as the 'tuna butter: Rue de Levis "Caviar" (a bistro in Paris which serves it in ramekins w crusty whole wheat bread), p44, hardcover.

                                            Take equal parts by weight of butter and chopped black olives (she uses 2 oz)

                                            I mash the butter with a fork on one side of my cutting board. Finely chop the olives and pat dry on the other. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp sea salt (preferably a crunchy one - she uses grey salt from Brittany) over the butter . . . mash in a bit . . . softly mash in the olives but not so much that the butter turns grey. Put in a ramekin and serve with bread and apps.

                                            The only thing is that my other lovingly prepared apps were barely touched. No one could leave the butter alone. I guess they felt that since half of it was olives they had a license to indulge in butter. It's best made not long before guests arrive. Don't leave out the salt; the crunch makes a great contrast with the soft creaminess.

                                            1. re: cinnamon girl

                                              That sounds really good - we're big olive fans here. I think I have this book - must dig it out and try this one. Thanks for the heads up.

                                    3. Salade A L'Ail Chez Tatne Paulette (Chez Tante Paulette's Salad with Garlic), Pg. 40, Bistro Cooking

                                      This is the second time I made this salad the first being back in Jan. on the 22nd. It's actually all about the dressing. The recipe calls for 8 cups of mixed salad greens. The first time I added some arugula but last night I changed it a bit and used Boston lettuce, heart of escarole and heart of Romaine, a grated carrot and a small chopped tomato (hydroponic from Maine).
                                      The dressing:
                                      Dijon ( I used Maille grainy), red wine vinegar, a bit of salt (I've been using Maldon lately), and 1/2 c peanut oil...whisked together and set aside. Slab bacon cut into cubes and 2 thick slices country bread cut into similar cubes are browned in a skillet then poured over the salad. 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced, are sprinkled over top, the dressing added then the salad tossed. This is definitely not for the faint of heart. The dressing is Very flavorful...in a good way for us, but be forewarned, the garlic is really present. We thought is was terrific, though. We had made a trip to our local farm and all the vegetables were fresher than fresh. That makes such a difference!
                                      I served it as a base for chimichurri marinated grilled chicken breasts.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Gio

                                        Salade A L'Ail Chez Tatne Paulette (Chez Tante Paulette's Salad with Garlic), Pg. 40, Bistro Cooking

                                        Excited to find your review Gio. I will be trying this salad tonight along with the goat cheese spread and chocolate cake out of this book. Will report back.

                                        1. re: dkennedy

                                          Oh good, DK. I forgot about this salad. We have a salad most nights so many times I simply rely on my basic oil & vinegar dressing. I'll have to consider using this recipe again during the Holidays.

                                          1. re: Gio

                                            Here is what I made:

                                            Salade A L'Ail Chez Tatne Paulette (Chez Tante Paulette's Salad with Garlic), p. 40, Bistro Cooking
                                            LeCachat (Herbed Goat Cheese Spread), p. 119, Bistro Cooking
                                            Aunt Rifka's Brisket (food network) - my go to recipe
                                            Mon Gateau au Chocolat (Marie-Claude Gracia's Chocolate Cake), p. 224, Bistro Cooking

                                            While trying to settle on a menu for my Supper Club (we set the theme as French, with Coq au Vin as the main course but no other recipes decided on), I'd been flipping through my French cookbooks for inspiration. That is what led me to this menu.

                                            The salad was wonderful. The bacon dripping, coupled with the mustard vinaigrette, really made a statement. My kids loved the bacon and croutons. Next time I think it will be even better when I serve it over baby romaine.

                                            The goat cheese spread was simplicity itself. Very understated. The perfect accompaniment for this salad. I made a large batch, as the recipe advised, so time will tell if it really keeps indefinitely.

                                            The cake was fantastic. It called for 1/3 cup of flour, I substituted William Sonoma's Cup for Cup gluten free flour mix. It came out perfectly. Paula is right that it is perfect with powdered sugar and nothing else.

                                            1. re: dkennedy

                                              The menu sounds delightful, DK. Now I'm going to have to make the goat cheese spread.

                                      2. Green Lentil Salad, p. 66

                                        I was inspired to make these lentils by reading the index for this months COTM, Bistro Cooking at Home, on EYB, which referenced a similar lentil salad. In the end, though, I decided to go with Patricia Wells insanely simple version of this dish.

                                        One pound of french green lentils are combined with an onion, halved and each half studded with a clove, a single clove of garlic, and a bay leaf. Cover with water by one inch and boil gently until tender. At this point the lentils are drained and tossed while still warm with a vinaigrette consisting of 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and salt. Freshly ground black pepper and additional salt are added to taste.

                                        This simple salad is both healthy and tasty and made a perfect accompaniment for a pan-seared wild salmon fillet. The recipe makes a large quantity, but the salad has been living happily in the fridge all week, where it has found its way into numerous lunches etc., and we are not tired of it yet. It seems happy to play along with many different foods. Would definitely make again.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Westminstress

                                          The Patricia Wells recipe I love for red cabbage is in her Bistro book --
                                          I see there is a sweet-sour red cabbage in this month's (Feb. 2013) Hamersley's bistro book too. I'm really not inclined to make one recipe of each to compare, but it would be interesting I'm sure.

                                        2. Salade Dauphinoise, Pg. 48, Bistro Cooking

                                          This is a Great salad! It could easily be a stand-alone main dish salad but I served it with an onion/anchovy/olive tart from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf cookbook.

                                          Make the dressing first: Dijon mustard (Fallot grainy), fresh lemon juice, red wine vinegar, creme fraiche or sour cream (ricotta mixed w yogurt), EVOO, S & P. The mustard, lemon jc, RWV, get whisked together first, the creme fraiche and EVOO are added and emulsified, season w S & P, set aside.

                                          The salad components are: "a bunch of salad greens" so I used the white and pale yellow heart of a head of escarole. Also, walnut pieces (omitted), cubes of Swiss Gruyere, slices of prosciutto, small bunch of chives (scallions) minced. Combine the salad components in the salad bowl, pour the vinaigrette over, toss and serve. Loved this... and, I love this book.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: Gio

                                            I like that book a lot too; also was crazy about Trattoria (which, sadly, I don't own).

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              Just ordered a "good" copy of Tratoria from an Amazon re-seller for the grand total of $0.01...! (+ 3.99 shipping)

                                              1. re: Gio

                                                Gio, you are an evil temptress.

                                              2. re: Gio

                                                This book is coming to France with me on Thursday!

                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  I'm always glad when this book gets a bump. Gotta pull it out soon.