Monday, December 7, 2009

Paris on the Brain

I love a good night out on the town.

But, sometimes all a girl needs on a dreary Saturday is a little solo time in her crib.

Such was the case this weekend.

The Husband went out to a sports bar or some nonsense on Saturday afternoon with his boys, so The Jersey Girl held it down at home. My day included wrapping Christmas presents, chit-chatting with my sisters and watching reruns of “Sex and the City,” “The Office,” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

I’m such a girl.

Of course, my dream day also consisted of major cooking because Mark said adios to the beer, the wings, the camaraderie to be home in time for din. He's so sweet!

I was in a very French mood. So, my menu was Goat Cheese Tart with Winter Squash Soup.

Oooo la la. (You know, they really say that in Paris. Ooooo la la. So funny)

Both recipes are courtesy of Ina Garten a.k.a the Barefoot Contessa a.k.a one of the handful of chefs I can still tolerate on the Food Network. I served the dishes with a side of mesclun salad, dressed simply with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Anyway, the reason I was so reminiscent of the City of Lights is because I’ve recently been scouring our billions of photos from our spring vacay so that we can get prints made and frame them and hang them on our barren walls. (Actually, not all of our walls are empty. We just like to buy really good and/or meanigful art rather than plaster our happy home with generic pictures from Pottery Barn or T.J. Maxx or some other mass-produced art department.)

The Husband has many talents, one of which is taking an amazing photo – or 10,000. You see, when me and Mr. Jersey Girl get out of Dodge and go see the world, The Husband handles the photography. My photos (as you’ve seen from time to time on my blog. Hee!) are tragic. So, drinking and journal writing are usually my two tasks on vacay.

I thought I’d give you a glimmer of Mark’s gorgeous pics.

L'arc de Triomphe

The Eiffel Tower

The Husband and The Jersey Girl at Versailles.

Sacre Coeur

Monet's house in Giverny

 Monet's gardens

Monet's water lillies

Aren't those pics made of awesome!?!?!

In addition, I will share with you the Ina Garten recipes. Both appear in the “Barefoot in Paris” cookbook. I love this cookbook. I cook a lot of things from it.

You will also see pics, shot by my own Paul Child, of the food I rocked out.

The Winter Squash Soup is really dreamy. It makes a TON of soup. I’ve been eating it for like three straight days now. The Goat Cheese and Basil Tart is really awesome. My one complaint is that the recipe makes way too much filling for the tart. So, I ended up ditching the leftover filling. I guess when you’re as fabulous and loaded as Ina Garten, you don’t mind doing these things, but I will definitely be cutting down on the filling the next time I make this tart.

Please read my notes at the end of each recipe. I thought you would like some of my tips and/or variations. For instance, Ina uses a ton of salt, so I totally tone that down.

Bon appetit!

Winter Squash Soup
“Barefoot in Paris”
Ina Garten

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 ½ lbs. butternut squash, peeled and cut in chunks
3 cups chicken broth
2 tsp. kosher salt (I cut down on the salt)
1 cup half-and –half
Crème fraiche, grated Gruyere, or croutons for serving.

Heat butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add the onions, and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until translucent.

Add pumpkin puree, butternut squash, chicken stock, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over medium low heat for about 20 minutes, until the butternut squash is very tender.

Process the mixture through the medium blade of a food mill.

Return to the pot, add the half-and-half, and heat slowly. If the soup needs more flavor, add another teaspoon of salt. Serve hot with garnishes, if desired.

Please note: The Jersey Girl cut the salt down to a half teaspoon and served the soup with homemade croutons. You can make homemade croutons by cutting up stale bread and tossing in a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until toasted brown.

In addition, The Jersey Girl pureed the soup by using an immersion blender. Mine is the SmartStick by Cuisinart. Love it!

Goat Cheese Tart
“Barefoot in Paris”
Ina Garten

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board
Kosher salt
13 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, divided
2 to 4 Tbsp. ice water
¾ cup chopped shallots (3 to 4 shallots)
10 ½ ounces garlic-and-herb soft goat cheese, such as Montrachet
1 cup heavy cream
3 extra-large eggs
¼ cup chopped basil leaves
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

For the crust, put the flour and ¼ tsp. salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Cut 12 Tbsp. (1 ½ sticks) of the butter into large dice, add to the bowl, and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, add the ice water all at once and process until the dough becomes crumbly. Don’t overprocess. Dump the dough out on a floured board, gather it loosely into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough on a well-floured board and fit into a 9-inch tart pan with removable sides, rolling the pin over the top to cut off the excess dough. Butter one side of a square of aluminum foil and fit it, butter side down, into the tart pan. Fill the foil with rice or beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and foil from the tart shell, prick the bottom all over with a fork and bake for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small pan and sauté the shallots over low heat for 5 minutes or until tender. Place the goat cheese in the bowl of the food processor and process until crumbly. Add the cream, eggs, basil, ¼ tsp. salt and pepper and process until blended.

Scatter the cooked shallots over the bottom of the tart shell. Pour the goat cheese mixture over the shallots to fill the shell (if shell has shrunk, there may be leftover filling). Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the tart is firm when shaken and the top is lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve hot or at room temperature.

Please note: The Jersey Girl used plain goat cheese in this tart.

There was about a cup of leftover filling.


  1. This was a great post - your husband's photography skills are fab! I am loving all of them and am taking your advice for Chez Andre and have made a reservation for the hubby's birthday while we're there. Your pics make me want to leave like now. like right now. have a great week!

  2. I love the Paris pic. I've been to the Palace @ Versailles and recommend it to everyone. It's so beautiful. And do are hubby's pics. They're going to look so great -- and like you said, not generic art. Actually...I just remember I did the same thing with some Paris pics. I actually cut a couple in half and framed them in the 2-photo frames. Came out pretty cool.