Gratin de Poivrons

5peppergratin1Though roasting peppers can be somewhat of a tedious and messy endeavor, the taste is something magical. Roasting intensifies their flavor and brings out their natural sweetness. In the following recipe, a great side dish to cod loin or grilled chicken, I combine roasted sweet peppers with the briny taste of black olives. A layer of breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese provide texture and make for a beautiful presentation. Note that it is essential to use coarse homemade breadcrumbs. Anything else will ruin the dish.

Gratin de Poivrons
Serves: 2

  • 6 sweet peppers, (red, yellow and orange)
  • 100g stoned kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 25g breadcrumbs (made from stale bread)
  • 2 tbsps grated Parmesan cheese
  • good olive oil
  • freshly-cracked pepper

Place your peppers on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and grill them under a 250°C grill for 20 minutes, flipping them over after 10 minutes. The skins should be charred in some places and the peppers soft. Place the hot peppers either in a large Ziploc bag or in a plastic bowl with tightly fitting lid. Allow the peppers to rest for about 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Carefully peel of the skins, remove all the seeds and cut the peppers into strips. Mix the pepper strips with the chopped kalamata olives and parsley. Transfer the mixture to a small, round oven dish of approximately 18cm. Scatter the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese over the dish and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a grinding of fresh pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is crisp and golden.

Lunch Date Saturday: La Cave, Bussum

img_1801One of the things I look forward to most during the weekend is going out for lunch with my husband. Though we usually stick with places that have become firm favorites, sometimes we like to try something new. So on Saturday morning, I installed myself on the couch with a cappuccino and went in search of places that have just opened nearby.
One of them was La Cave in Bussum, a French bistro and traiteur that opened late this past August. After one look at the menu online (classic French salads, soups, sandwiches, egg dishes, oysters, langoustines, cheese, charcuterie and more), my mind was made up — La Cave it was going to be!
Shortly before we left, hubby asked me for the address, and you wouldn’t believe our surprise when we both realized this was the exact location of Allegria, one of our favorite Italian restaurants which had closed down last February, much to our dismay. We really loved that place.
Eager to see if this new establishment would bring the location on Kapelstraat 11 back to life, we drove to Bussum in delicious anticipation. Though there was no wine list online, the name obviously meant there was good wine to be had!
When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by the very friendly and smiley waitress. We chose a table, ordered shrimp croquettes as our appetizer and were advised a fleshy Touraine sauvignon blanc to wash them down with. The crisp tiny, little croquettes promptly arrived, steaming hot, though perhaps a little too brown for our liking.
img_1800Looking around, I took notice of how much the place had changed. Whereas Allegria was homey and cozy, La Cave has an understated elegance with a modern edge. Simple, rustic wooden tables and chairs; minimalistic lamps; an open kitchen; and walls decorated with maps of wine regions, specials written on chalkboards in French, and crates filled with interesting wines. I even spotted a few handsome Givrys.
For our main, we both decided on the ‘Salade Lyonnaise’ paired with a jammy pinot noir (their best ‘by the glass’ choice). The salad was beautifully crisp, as were the diced potatoes and bacon. The egg was perfectly poached, and the baguette had a wonderful crust and a light, airy and chewy crumb.
img_1804 The serving size was just right — a good thing because that meant room for dessert. Hubby opted for the apple tart with vanilla ice cream, and I had mousse au chocolat with pears and an orange sabayon which was absolutely delightful.
img_1806The food, wine, service and ambience were excellent. Our only gripe was the espresso that ended our meal — way too watery, it may as well have been a minuscule coffee.
img_1807Nevertheless, we’ll be back, for dinner. There’s confit de canard to be had!
PS: Before leaving we purchased a 250g pack of butter made by renowned cheesemaker in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Philippe Olivier. Ten euros for the pack, but worth every penny. I did have a laugh though when the owner warned us it was going to be “very expensive”…
La Cave Bistro, Traiteur & Négociant, Kapelstraat 11, Bussum


Apple Crumble

unbaked-crumbleAutumn has really hit hard this past week, and although I am not a fan of rain, there is a certain beauty in intensely hued trees towering into dark skies. It is no longer raining today, but misty. The vivid yellows on the leaves of my cherry tree and the dusty pinks in my hydrangeas keep everything from looking all too gloomy. Nature always provides a perfect balance.
I harvested the last of my apples yesterday — a harvest which has been very generous. My tree has not only provided plenty of snack opportunities, but everything I’ve baked since early September has included freshly-picked apples. Like my apple muffins with confiture de lait, my apple-pecan bundt cakes with brown sugar-cinnamon glaze, the caramelized apple cake inspired by a Julie Andrieu recipe, and my Frenchified Dutch apple pie. Yesterday it was time to make a crumble, one of the easiest fruit recipes ever. What I love about this recipe is that it is relatively easy on the waistline (a good thing after last night’s meatloaf dinner!), and it calls for simple ingredients. I always like to serve my crumbles hot out of the oven with a tiny scoop of ice cream. The contrast is absolutely delightful. Here’s my recipe. Have a cozy, autumnal weekend!

Apple Crumble
Serves 3

  • 3 medium apples, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsps flour
  • 3 tbsps oatmeal
  • 1 tbsp ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1tbsp light brown sugar
  • 35g butter
  • ice cream (either cinnamon or vanilla), to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C and lightly butter a small, round oven dish of approximately 18cm. Put the apples in the buttered dish. Mix the flour, oatmeal, ground almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and sugar in a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips. Spread the mixture over the apples and bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve hot with a scoop of ice cream.

Lentil soup with saucisson à l’ail

lentil-soupLast Saturday at the Hilversum market, hubby and I were tempted by the Souvenirs de France stand where they were roasting thick, beautiful sausages. When we asked what they were, the answer was ‘saucisson à l’ail’, a thick, smoked sausage somewhat similar to the Dutch ‘rookworst‘, though coarser in texture and generously flavored with garlic. We were assured, however, that the garlic would not be overpowering and that the smokiness would have the leading role. The sausage can be cooked and served in a multitude of ways: grilled, boiled, sliced and eaten cold as part of an apéro, or used in many dishes.
We had one sliced with a little mustard on Sunday night and it was absolutely delightful.
Yesterday I decided to use the second one in a warming lentil soup, and it was so, SO good! My daughter commented that the soup was somewhat similar to one of her favorite soups, the Dutch pea soup (erwtensoep). Though I am not quite sure I agree, what I can tell you is that I will be making this soup many times in these cold months ahead.
Here’s the recipe!
Oh, and feel free to substitute any other smoked sausage. But, if you’re in Hilversum, you may want to stop by the Souvenirs de France stand for more than just sausage. Beware though — you may leave with more than you intended! PS: Nope. Not sponsored. My opinion is never for sale. 🙂

Lentil soup with saucisson à l’ail
Serves 4-6

  • 2 tbsps mild olive oil
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsps herbes de Provence
  • 250g brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1,2L strong, hot beef stock
  • 1 smoked sausage, sliced
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pan and gently sauté the onions and garlic for 6 minutes. Add in the carrots and herbes de Provence and cook for another 6 minutes. Stir in the lentils. Pour in the hot beef stock, bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Add in the sliced sausage and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the chopped parsley and serve.


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