Friday, February 1, 2008

Quick dishes by Jacques Pepin: ideal recipes for Super Bowl diner

Quesadillas. I love quesadillas and often make them as an hors d'oeuvre. I
sprinkle some grated American, manchego, or Monterey Jack cheese on a
couple of flour tortillas, add some cilantro and hot salsa or Tabasco to taste,
and fold the tortillas in half. Then I cook them in a dash of canola oil in a
nonstick pan for a couple of minutes on each side, let them rest for a few
minutes, cut them into wedges, and serve.

Cheese crostini. I serve cheese crostini often as an hors d'oeuvre or salad
accompaniment. To make them, I arrange leftover slices of baguette on an
oiled cookie sheet and top with plum tomato slices, Gruyère, a dash of salt,
and plenty of black pepper. I bake them in a hot oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until
nicely browned, sprinkle them with a little chopped cilantro or parsley, and

Basil, cheese, fig, and nut bites. A plate of basil, nut meats, figs, and cheese
makes a good light lunch or cheese course at a fancy dinner party. I place a
few roasted nuts—pecans, walnuts, or almonds—in the center of each of
several large basil leaves and serve two per plate, with a slice of ripe
Camembert or Brie and a dried fig cut in half.

Baby mozzarella salad. As a first course, a baby mozzarella salad is great.
Make use of the bounty of your supermarket deli counter: small mozzarella
balls (bocconcini), diced red pimientos, pitted black and green olives, sun-
dried tomato halves, and capers, if available. Mix these ingredients with a
little extra-virgin olive oil, cracked pepper, and a dash of vinegar and serve
cupped in a leaf of radicchio on individual plates.

Prosciutto and figs. I like prosciutto sliced very thin. Cut one fresh fig in half
and wrap one or two slices of prosciutto around each half, so the flesh of the
fig is exposed. Sprinkle black pepper on top and serve with a fresh baguette
and a dollop of mascarpone for a treat as good as you will ever get in Italy.

Pico de gallo (the rooster's beak). A standard at any Mexican restaurant, this
spicy accompaniment is made with diced tomato, coarsely chopped onion,
chopped jalapeño pepper (the amount determined by your tolerance), a lot of
cilantro, a little ground cumin, and a dash of ketchup, which I like to add for
texture and taste. This is always a hit when served as a dip with tortilla chips.

Avocado halves in red sauce. Avocados are a great favorite of mine, and for a
quick first course I often cut them in half, remove the pits with a knife, and,
using a large spoon, scoop out the contents from each half. Place an
avocado half on each plate and sprinkle with a little coarse salt or fleur de
sel. In a small bowl, mix together a little mayonnaise with ketchup, Tabasco
to taste, and a little water until creamy. Spoon on top of or around the
avocado halves and sprinkle with some crushed spicy tortilla chips.

Smoked salmon plate. Smoked salmon (Scottish or Irish is best) is available
in most markets. For an elegant first course, arrange two or three slices
(depending on size) of good smoked salmon on individual plates. Sprinkle
some chopped red onion or scallions, a few capers, and, if you like, some
diced cucumber on top. Finish with a few dashes of extra-virgin olive oil and
serve with a lemon wedge, a few sprigs of dill or fennel, and buttered black

Smoked whitefish tartine. Gloria loves smoked fish, and I often make this
dish for her as a first course. I cover a large piece of pumpernickel or
multigrain bread with whipped cream cheese, place pieces of smoked
whitefish or trout on top, and sprinkle on some cracked pepper and a few
pitted black olives. I serve this open-faced sandwich on top of a bed of
watercress or baby spinach with a dash of olive oil on top.

Sardine rolls. Occasionally I make sardine rolls as a first course. I moisten
rice paper rounds (available in many markets) to soften them and place two
or three canned sardines on each paper, along with some chopped red onion,
a strip of pimiento, ground black pepper, and a dash of red wine vinegar. I
then roll the papers up tightly and serve two rolls per person on a bed of
mesclun salad.

Tuna tomatoes. In summer, when good tomatoes are available, mix a drained
can of tuna (preferably packed in oil) with some minced scallions, pitted
Kalamata olives, diced anchovy fillets, chopped parsley, and cracked pepper.
Cut off the tops of ripe tomatoes and hollow them out with a spoon, reserving
and lightly crushing the tomato pulp with a fork and mixing it with a little olive
oil, salt, and pepper to create a sauce. Fill the hollow tomatoes with the tuna
mixture and serve with some of the sauce for a first course.

Ham cornucopias. For a first course, roll up individual slices of ham into a
cornet or cornucopia shape and place each in a flat-bottomed rocks glass or
on a plate on top of baby spinach or watercress. Mix diced feta cheese,
pitted black olives, and marinated mushrooms—all from your supermarket
deli—with a dash of olive oil, cracked pepper, and salt. Spoon into the ham
cornucopias and serve.

Cannellini and chorizo soup. I always have the ingredients for this fast,
satisfying soup in my pantry and refrigerator. Puree a can of cannellini beans
in a blender with enough chicken stock to make a creamy soup. Transfer to a
saucepan, add diced chorizo sausage, bring to a boil, sprinkle with salt and
pepper to taste, and finish with a little heavy cream. Garnish with chopped
chives and croutons.

Cold black bean soup. When friends drop by in the summer, I like to make
cold soup. One combination that I love is made in a food processor. Puree a
can of black bean soup with a little olive oil, Tabasco, a couple of
tablespoons of chopped onion, a crushed clove of garlic, salt, and enough
chicken stock to make the mixture creamy. Serve in soup plates, topping
each serving with a ribbon of sour cream diluted with a bit of water. Garnish
with a few slices of banana and a couple of cilantro leaves.

Peasant soup. For this soup like one my mother used to make, prepare
croutons by baking slices of leftover bread in a conventional oven or toaster
oven until brown and crisp. Divide the toasted bread among soup bowls,
breaking the slices into pieces if they are too large, and grate a generous
amount of Gruyère or Jarlsberg on top. Bring a good homemade chicken
stock or canned broth to a boil and pour over the croutons and cheese in the
bowls. Sprinkle with cracked pepper and a few chopped chives and serve.

Sweet potato chowder. For this easy, delicious soup, pulse cooked fresh or
canned plain sweet potatoes (not in sweet syrup) in a food processor with
chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste until the consistency is to your
liking. Add some heavy cream and bring the soup to a boil in a saucepan.
Spoon into bowls and top each serving with oven-roasted pumpkin seeds and
a sprig of dill.

Lavash pizza. You can make homemade pizza in no time at all using flour
tortillas, pita bread, or—my favorite—lavash. After oiling a cookie sheet, I
press one of these large flatbread rectangles on the sheet, then turn it over,
so it is lightly oiled on both sides. Cover it with sliced tomatoes, some grated
mozzarella and Parmesan, cracked pepper, anchovies (optional), and a few
dashes of olive oil. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, then
sprinkle with lots of basil leaves torn into coarse pieces.

Shrimp burgers. I discovered these at Dr. Taco while vacationing at Playa del
Carmen in Mexico. Put a couple of slices of manchego or mozzarella in a
nonstick skillet and place over moderate heat. As the cheese begins to melt,
add a few small raw shrimp or pieces of shrimp, salt, some hot salsa or
cracked pepper, and some chopped scallions or chives. Cover and cook over
medium heat for a couple of minutes, then slide the cheese-shrimp burger
onto half a toasted bun topped with a lettuce leaf and tomato slices.

Red beets in sour cream. For a winter salad, drain a can of sliced red beets
and combine the slices with sour cream, cracked pepper, salt, and a dash of
red wine vinegar. Serve over endive leaves, with a sprinkling of flat-leaf
parsley, tarragon, or basil leaves on top.

Summer salad santé. I make this salad from ingredients directly out of my
garden. I pick a bunch each of basil, flat-leaf parsley, and arugula and collect
a handful of tarragon leaves and some chives, which I break into pieces. I mix
these in a large salad bowl with a little lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and
salt and pepper to taste. It's excellent with good country bread.

Apricot sherbet. For a quick dessert, puree a can of apricot halves in heavy
syrup in a blender for about 30 seconds to infuse the mixture with air.
Transfer the puree to a glass baking dish so it forms a fairly thin layer that
will cool quickly, and place it in the freezer until semisoft. (If making the
sherbet ahead, freeze the puree until solid, and then, several hours before
serving, soften it in the refrigerator until you can scoop it out of the dish. For
a creamier result, process for a few seconds in a food processor.) Spoon into
chilled glasses, top with pistachio nuts, and serve each dessert with a

Blueberries in raspberry sauce with ice cream. Any berries are great for a
summertime dessert. Mix some blueberries in a bowl with raspberry jam and
a little cognac or water. Spoon into cocktail glasses, top each with a small
scoop of vanilla ice cream, and serve with a cookie.

Guava delicioso. My wife loves guava, so I serve a simple dessert of little
chunks of canned guava paste on Ritz crackers with a dollop of cream
cheese on top. To finish, I push a basil leaf into the cream cheese and
sprinkle it with a few pistachio nuts.

Pineapple slices in kirsch with sherbet. A pineapple slice flavored with
kirschwasser (cherry brandy) is a classic combination from my years in the
great kitchens of Paris. Arrange a fresh or canned pineapple slice with some
of the syrup or a sprinkling of sugar on each dessert plate and pour a little
kirsch on top. Place a small scoop of fruit sherbet (lemon, orange, tangerine,
strawberry, or raspberry) in the hollow center of each slice. Garnish with mint
leaves and serve with a cookie.

Ricotta honey mix. For a fast and easy dessert, place a graham cracker on
each plate and put a large spoonful of ricotta on top. Pour a couple
tablespoons of honey over and around the ricotta and sprinkle on some diced
dried apricots and dark raisins. This dessert is better still with the addition of
a few drops of Grand Marnier.

Pineapple frosties. Ideal for hot summer nights at the beach, these tasty cold
drinks are a cinch to make. Emulsify a mixture of canned crushed pineapple
in syrup, crushed ice, a little lime juice, and dark rum in a food processor.
Spoon into glasses, garnish with mint sprigs, and serve.

Copyright © 2004 by Jacques Pépin. Reprinted by permission of Houghton
Mifflin Company.
Excerpted from

Jacques Pepin Fast Food My Way

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