Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Age Gaspacho and Mild Tajine for Dan's birthday

June 20 was Dan's birthday and we decided to celebrate it at home with few friends. It was a sunny day in Paris, an instance of the new tropical French summer, humid and stormy.
I went to the Grande Epicerie of Le Bon Marché, my favourite place in Paris: my mind calms down as soon as I enter the store, and I have a feeling of perfection, of being in a perfect world (it reminds me of Audrey Hepburn's escapades to Tiffany's in New York, in Breakfast at Tiffany's).

I've opted for an Italian entry, I had in mind the classical prosciutto e melone, but I get nervous in preparing this sort of things. I don't know how to serve it: if you put the ham on the top of the melon, it gets moist and disgusting, and if you put it aside the presentation is shallow. Also, you need to cut the melon at the last minute, to keep it juicy and fresh. So I decided to transform the entry in a melon gaspacho with thin Parma ham slices on the top. For 8 persons:

In a blender, I've mixed 2 melons with four tomatoes, add some bread crumbs, half a scallion, some piment d'espelette (can't translate it, can't replace it: you MUST have it in your kitchen) and four large spoons of very good olive oil. Then I put the soup in the refrigerator. At the last minute, I poured it in 8 bowls and added some thin rectangular slices of very good Parma ham (5 cm. long and 1 cm. large), a sort of ham tagliatelle, no more than 5 for each bowl. I've added a leaf of fresh mint. The result was marvelous, tasty and refreshing, everybody loved it.

As for the main course, I prepared a chicken tajine with olives, lemon confit, cilantro and almonds. It was a very good organic chicken of the Grande Epicerie, and I had asked to the kind lady at the comptoir volaille to cut it in small pieces. I've started the preparation it in a soffritto of scallions, garlic, turmeric, ginger and curry, then added some water and a spoon of honey, let it cook for one hour, then added the olives, the lemon slices (not too many: half a lemon confit for almost 2 kilos of chicken, it's a very strong taste), let it for 20 minutes more and in the end the almonds and the cilantro. The color was so beautiful: a light, cadmium yellow, due to the turmeric, contrasted with the deep green of the cilantro.

The dessert was the unforgettable, unimaginable dreamy cake conceived by Pierre Hermé: the Ispahan, rose macaron biscuit, lytchees, rose petals cream and raspberries. Un régale as the locals say. Dan really deserved it this year.


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