13 November 2009

Our cooking classes have begun - so much FUN!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there is nothing better than sharing food with friends. In this case, we were meeting some of the friends for the first time, but the old adage proved true, just the same. Jack's and my cooking classes
started this week, and we are having FUN! Here are some shots form a couple of different classes.

Sharing tantalizing aromas.

Assembling beet and
goat cheese Napoleons.

Chopping rosemary for the goat cheese filling.

Chef Jacques demonstrates pulverizing garlic and rosemary
into butter and olive oil.

Learning to massage the garlicky paste under the chicken skin.


Using a micro grater for zest.

The garlic/herb/butter paste, visible under the skin, will permeate and tenderize the meat as it cooks.

"Chicken Under a Brick" gets its name from being weighted down as it gets seared in hot oil.

Grating nutmeg.

The chicken is plated with creamy mushroom sauce.

The beet and herbed goat cheese napoleons on a bed of arugula,
with balsamic vinaigrette and toasted pecans.

At this time, only one of our classes is completely sold out, so if you'd like to join in the fun, look over our fall/winter class schedule, and sign up! We look forward to sharing what we know and love about food
with YOU!!

29 October 2009

Interlude, and coming soon...

I haven't posted in a while, as I've been working on the cooking classes Jack and I are offering for this fall and winter. It's a lot of work to write down detailed, easy to understand recipes which we have always just improvised, but a terrific exercise, as well, since it forces us to think about the steps we take and why, which is important when we're showing other people how to make the same creations at home.

I appreciate the emails and comments from readers around the world - the internet is an amazing thing! And I know you want more posts on decorating and living life well, so I'm working on them. Coming next... I have been inspired by Jennifer of the wonderful blog, The Peak of Chic, to write a post on one of my favorite fabric houses of all time, Braquenie. I hope to have it finished in a day or two, so stay tuned...

13 October 2009

Cooking Classes Chez Nous

French Country Cuisine Series
with Kate

8 hands-on classes November 10 - January 20
Tuesday afternoons Noon - 2:30
Wednesday mornings 9:30 - Noon

Individual class price: $48, Complete series: $360 (save $24)
All food, materials, recipes and menu suggestions included in price.

November 10/11 - Roasted Tomato Rosemary Clafoutis, Fresh Homemade Herbed Farmer Cheese, Roasted Garlic Toasts, Mesclun Salad with Lemon/Thyme Dressing, Apple Tarte Tatin
An autumn provencal meal with a classic dessert from Normandy.

November 17/18 - Soupe au Potiron et Moules (Pumpkin & Mussel Soup), Homemade Cheese Crackers, Mixed Green Salad with Warm Chevre, Toasted Pecans and Lavender Honey Dressing, Caramelized Apples with Housemade Creme Fraiche
While the French don't celebrate Halloween, pumpkins are a
popular food.

December 1/2 - Winter Soupe au Pistou (Vegetable Soup with Pesto), Pissaladiere (Provencal Onion Tarte), Celery Root Remoulade with Homemade Mayonnaise, Baked Apricot Clafoutis
Several dishes I fell in love with, when I lived in Nice. Pissaladiere is a
traditional Nicois dish.
December 8/9 - Poached Chicken in Calvados Cream Sauce with Apples, Courgettes Farcis (Stuffed Zucchini), Oven Roasted Plum Cakes with Homemade Ginger Ice Cream
This chicken dish is Northern French, while the zucchini is from
the South.
December 15/16 - Ratatouille, Riz Provencal, Spinach Salad with Warm Caramelized Shallot Dressing, Lemon Tarte with Raspberry Drizzle and Lemon Crisps
More typical offerings from the South of France, using autumn
and winter vegetables.

January 5/6 - Aromatic Chicken Stock, Caramelized Fennel, Smoked Bacon Rizotto, Warm Wild Mushroom and Arugula Salad with Anise Flavored Dressing, Poached Pears in White Wine with a Wine Reduction Sauce
Learn to make fabulous chicken stock, and then several ways to use it.

January 12/13 - Rich Beef and Veal Stock, Classic Boeuf Bourgignon, Mashed Celeriac Garlic Potatoes, Winter Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette, Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse
A meal in honor of Julia Child.

January 19/20 - Grande Aioli with Poached Winter Vegetables, Bruschetta with Warm Tomates Confit and Housemade Olive Tapenade, Arugula Salad with Walnut Oil Vinaigrette, Almond Pear Tarte
Aioli and tapenade are typical of Provence as well as Italy and Spain,
along the Mediterranean. We will make them the old-fashioned way
with a mortar and pestle.

French Country Cuisine Series
with Jack

4 hands-on classes November 12 - December 11
Thursday afternoons Noon - 2:30
Friday mornings 9:30 - Noon

Individual class price: $48, Complete series: $182 (save $10)
All food, materials, recipes and menu suggestions included in price.

November 12/13 - Herbed "Poulet en Crapaudine" (aka Jack's Famous Chicken Under a Brick), Porcini Mushroom Sauce, Beets Roasted in a Bed of Sea Salt, Beet/Rosemary Chevre/Pecan Napoleon with Walnut Oil Vinaigrette, Corsican Lemon Cheesecake
Learn why this chicken dish is cooked "like a toad".

November 19/20 - Crab Cakes and Salmon Leek Terrine, Housemade Rouille, Simple Risotto with Homemade Fish Stock, Cranberry/Pecan Cake
In the South of France, fish dishes are often served with rouille, a spicy red pepper/garlic mayonnaise.

December 3/4 - Melt-In-Your-Mouth Braised Pork Shoulder with Sweet Winter Root Vegetables, Papeton of Eggplant, Plum Cake Jacquesson
Tasty pork that is incredibly tender and a classic baked eggplant dish.

December 10/11 - Chicken Roulade with Fresh Herbed Chevre, Ham and Roasted Yellow Pepper Stuffing, Homemade Fettucine with a Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Reduction Sauce, Peach and Honey Upside-Down Cake
This chicken dish is so fancy looking, when served, and yet so simple to make.

Saturday Seminar Series

6 hands-on classes, each focusing in depth on a single subject
in November 14 - January 16
Saturdays 9:30 - 1:00

Individual class price: $53, Complete series: $299 (save $19)
All food, materials, recipes and menu suggestions included in price.

November 14 with Kate - Making homemade jams and jellies, both sweet and savory
Jams and jellies are not hard to make, when you understand the concepts and techniques behind them. This class will include a traditional sweet fruit jam, as well as herbed jellies to accompany meats and cheeses. Every student will take home a jar of herbed jelly, after class.

November 21 with Kate - Four Autumn Pies: Pecan-Ginger-Chocolate Pie, Candied-Orange-Macadamia-Nut Tarte, Pumpkin-Apple-Graham Pie, and Cranberry-Lime -Meringue Tarte
After mastering foolproof pie crusts (it's easy as pie!), you will be able to serve these at your Thanksgiving feast.

December 5 with Kate - Holiday cookies: Italian Florentines, Swedish Krumkake, French Nutmeg Sables, Viennese Crescents, American Bourbon Balls and German Spritz Cookies
Butter is queen today (Christmas comes but once a year), as you learn to make six different cookies - all from different countries and all divinely good!
December 12 with Kate - Classic French Croquembouche (a pyramid tower of mini cream puffs, all glued together with caramelized sugar, and surrounded with spun sugar)
Learn to make this amazing dessert, which the French have served at weddings, baptisms, and other grand occasions since the early 18th century. It also adds glamour to a New Year's Eve party.

January 9 with Jack - Homemade Sausages, Pates and Terrines
Learn to assemble various presentations using ground meat, with spices, herbs, nuts, vegetables and cheese.

January 16 with Kate and Jack - Homemade Country Breads: Herbed, Garlic and Plain Sourdough as well as Carte di Musica (thin flatbreads). Various Condiments: Fresh Tapenade, Eggplant Tomato Confit, Lemon Garlic Aioli
In the cold of winter, there is nothing more heart-warming than the smell of freshly baking bread, wafting from the kitchen. We also show you how to make several spreads to accompany your warm bread or toast.

All classes will be limited to 8 students each. Instruction will include demonstrations by Kate and/or Jack, as well as hands-on student participation, with one-on-one assistance. Each class will finish with a tasting "meal" and discussion of what we have made. Please bring your own apron to class.
Registration policies:
1- To register, call 781.749.8899 or email kate@katedickerson.com
2- Registration is first come, first served.
3- Payment (cash or check) must be received to reserve your spot.
4- No refunds for cancellations less than 24 hours before a class (since we need to purchase ingredients.)
5- We reserve the right to cancel or reschedule a class if the minimum registration (3 students min. per class) is not met.
6- We reserve the right to slightly alter menus or ingredients, based upon what is available at market the day of each class.

09 September 2009

My Recipe File - Part II - Organization

My recipe file is organized in a way that I have found makes the most sense for me - mostly in the order of the courses served at a meal; ie, the order in which foods should be eaten for maximum enjoyment.

This portion of my file begins with Amuses Bouches (little tidbits served before a meal to stimulate the palette), moves on to Opening Courses, then to Soups, to Pasta, and to Vegetables, followed by Fish, then Poultry, then Meat (since in a large traditional meal, these might all be eaten, and this is the order that is gastronomically logical - both physically and psychologically.)

I originally learned about the order of courses in a traditional meal when I was in fifth grade, in beginning French class, and I have never forgotten it, surely because this lesson spoke to my gastronomical soul.

Even at the tender age of 11 years old, I understood how important it was, also, to drink the correct beverage with each course. In this picture from my old textbook, by Mauger, the various wines are illustrated according to bottle shape - something every 11 year old needs to know! At a young age, the die was cast, and I would forever be enamored with the French sense of organization a table.

The desserts section of my file, has lots of subdivisions, as I love patisserie. I have separate categories for Christmas (huge in my family's culinary annals); Valentines Day, Easter & Tea Parties; what to serve at Weddings, etc. This way, I can find always what I need in no time.

Sometimes, I just spend an hour or so looking through these files, getting fresh ideas and tweaking my memory of forgotten recipes and pictures. It's like reading a book on decorating. After time, I have new ways of looking at and thinking about old ideas, so that even something I've seen several times before becomes suddenly new and interesting. Going through my files is a great way to stir up my brain and get my creativity flowing.

30 August 2009

My Recipe File - Part I - A Lifetime Collection of Memories

My recipe file contains years worth of food stained recipes I've collected from various cooking classes over the years, as well as restaurants I've worked in, magazine clippings, and best of all - treasured recipes handwritten by my mother, father, sisters, cousins, aunts, a great aunt, my husband, my brother's girlfriend who later became his wife, and various other family and friends, some of whom are no longer living. Every time I see any of these, it brings back memories of the person and situation it came from. Although I never intended it as such, this is my treasure trove!

A divine recipe from the first person who taught me to cook - my mom - in her handwriting.

My dad's Mediterranean Sour Dough Bread, in his handwriting.

Plating instructions with wine pairings, written by my husband, before a dinner party we gave, years ago.

Soup recipe written by a dear friend.

Dip instructions written by another dear friend.

Recipe given to me by my sister-in-law, before she married my brother. (It has her maiden name).

A recipe from one of my aunts, copied out in my sister's handwriting.

From another aunt, in my college handwriting.

A recipe from my dad's mother. My mom's mother was also a great cook, but she did everything from memory - never wrote her recipes down.

My mom's Florentine Cookie recipe, which I copied in grade school. I think I had just learned cursive handwriting!

I wrote out this recipe of my mom's, when I was in high school.

My great-grandmother's Blueberry Cake recipe, written for me by my great aunt (her daughter), when she was in her 80's.

Brownie recipes from a neighbor, my 7th grade home economics teacher (the purple mimeographed one), and the wife of our neighborhood grocer.

Menu and plating ideas from a class with Lydia Shire.

16 August 2009

Julie & Julia... & Me

If you have not yet seen the hit movie, "Julie & Julia" I highly recommend that you do....soon. In fact, I'd like to see it a second time....very soon! It is so inspirational on several levels. The French passion for food was clear and the French scenery and stage sets were a feast for the eyes. Julia's commitment to cooking techniques was first and foremost a goal to be admired, and Julie's commitment to learning and completing all of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking was admirable (more so in the movie than in the book, I thought. In fact, I didn't really like the book, Julie & Julia when it came out, a few years ago.)
Having also read Julia's biography, Appetite for Life, as well as My Life in France, (both great reads, by the way) and having watched Julia on TV so many years ago, I couldn't get over how well Meryl Streep matched my own image of Julia Child. Stanley Tucci was also stellar as Paul, Julia's husband. All around, the movie was superb fun!

Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci

One reason I liked the premise of the movie/blog/book is that, about fifteen years ago, I had made a New Year's resolution to go through Mastering the Art... from beginning to end, learning every technique in it. I was not as successful as Julie Powell, who did complete every single recipe in one year. (Yes, I had young kids at the time, which made it difficult, but excuses aside, mine went the way of most New Years' resolutions, I have to admit.) I had been inspired by Gordon Hamersley, whom I had heard in a panel discussion on Julia, when he said that he had learned to cook quite young by working his way through Mastering the Art... (This informative discussion about Julia had been held at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, where Julia's massive collection of papers is housed; but I digress...)

On one occasion, a few years back, I was incredibly lucky to have been able to cook with Julia Child. I had signed Jack and myself up for a hands-on seminar on EGGS with Julia, at the Boston University School of Culinary Arts. At the last minute, Jack was unable to go, so my mom came along instead. Anyone who imagines that cooking eggs would be an uninteresting subject - think again. As with all food preparation, technique and chemistry are so important to the end result. Julia Child was passionate about learning and understanding both. In truth, the art of cooking cannot succeed without knowledge of both technique and chemistry.

Working with Julia Child in BU's seminar kitchen

This week, I am putting together a list of recipes and class ideas for cooking lessons I'll be offering in my own kitchen, beginning this fall. The overall theme of the classes will be what I am most passionate about - French Country Cooking. I am so thankful to Julia Child for the work she did bringing French recipes to the American cook. Although I don't always follow her recipes verbatim, these days, I know that we would not even be able to purchase so many of the ingredients necessary for French cuisine, if she had not led the way in introducing Americans to their goodness.
In addition to Julia, I have been truly inspired by several other ex-pat Americans like our friend, Patricia Wells, with whom Jack and I cooked and reveled in Provencal food and wine for a full week, twelve years ago. (I know I've promised to write a whole post on cooking with Patricia - I just have to sort through our photos from that incredible week - it will be soon.) We use all of Patricia's books.

I also love the recipes and explanations of Susan Hermann Loomis, whose French Farmhouse Cooking is one of my bibles. Susan spent a lot of time traveling around France and talking with farmers and farm wives, to compile a great collection of "everyday" French recipes.

Stay tuned for my cooking class schedule, which I will publish by the end of next week. It will also include classes by Jack, and some we will teach together. We look forward to sharing what we know (and are still learning) with all of you. Thank you, Julia, for making it possible!

Julia et moi

10 August 2009

Cousins, Cousines et Nos Chers Amis

Ineke, Jack's darling cousin from Paris, was here visiting for the month of August and we had a lot of fun, mostly centered around cooking and eating (wow, big surprise, huh?) We started off the evening of her arrival, with a large block of fois gras, which Ineke had brought from France. I am just a huge fan of fois gras, which Ineke knows, so she very generously treated us to some of the best, procured from a chef friend of hers. When she unveiled it, I knew we were in for a fattening month.

Melt-in-your-mouth divine!

We planned a feast with friends for the following Saturday night. Giles, Mia and Taylor were coming from New York, so we would have a full house chez nous.

On Saturday, our kitchen was crowded with busy cooks, preparing various parts of the evening's meal. It never ceases to amaze me how many cooks we can fit in our kitchen, all doing different things at once: opening the refrigerator and the ovens, stirring pots on two stovetops, chopping and slicing on all the countertops, and generally making a huge mess. I mean, our kitchen is not that big, but it can host a lot of activity! Somehow it always works, with no one getting a paring knife in the ribs, or a black eye from bending down at the wrong moment.

My three iron chefs: Drake, Jack and Giles

Jack made bread, which he does frequently. He never measures anything, just goes by instinct. I will write a future post on his bread making, with step-by-step photos (and measurements).

The rising dough always emits a tantalizingly yeasty aroma!

Two loaves, dusted with fennel powder, ready for the oven

Giles and Mia had brought their Old Smokey meat smoker with them from New York (along with the baby, her stroller, portable crib, numerous bags, a guitar, and the dog.) About mid-day, Giles began preparing a dry rub for the ribs. The colors of this mixture, before the ingredients were mixed together, reminded me forcibly of the earth in Provence, especially in the area of Rousillon, where the soil is every shade of ochre - reds, oranges and yellows - spectacularly gorgeous.


Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Ground Cumin
Sweet Paprika
Hot Paprika
Kosher Salt
Cracked Black Pepper

(All amounts are to taste.)

Removing the membrane from the bone side of the rack eliminates the bitter flavor the membrane can have.

Step One - Rub the ribs.

Step Two - Put wood chips in the bottom of the smoker and start to heat.
These are Hickory chips.

Step Three - Ineke and Giles load the hot smoker.

You can smoke different kinds of meat on different tiers within the smoker. Of course, this alters the flavors of all of them.

Drake assembled fresh cut, juicy chunks of pineapple, wrapped in apple wood smoked, maple sugar cured bacon.

Drake's hors d'oeuvres ready for the grill

Ineke prepared dessert, a fruit soup invented by her son Brian, who is a pastry chef in Paris and Brusssels.

Preparing the fresh strawberries from the Hingham Farmers Market

Ineke simmering spices in simple syrup


Simmer in equal parts sugar and water (simple syrup):
Star Anis Pods
Seeds scraped from Half a Vanilla Bean
Cardamon Seeds
Whole cloves
Small Cinnamon Stick
Whole Black Peppercorns

After the spices have imparted their flavors to the simple syrup, strain well, through several layers of cheesecloth, so that the liquid is clear. Let cool.

When cool, add the syrup to Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice. Stir to blend. Then add sliced Strawberries. We also added halved Blueberries and chopped fresh Mint from our herb garden. (Every time we use this mint we think of our friend Renato, who brought the seeds back from one of his trips home to Italy, and gave us some - real Menta Triestina. I made a mental (no pun intended!) note to let Renato know later that evening, that we had used his mint, since he and Dolores would be joining us for the feast.

The finished soup would chill until later.

Meanwhile, as Giles's ribs smoked outside, he was back in the kitchen, stirring the makings for his barbeque sauce. He then let it simmer for several hours over low heat.


Cider Vinegar
Full Grain French Mustard
Worcestershire Sauce
Ground Cinnamon
Ground Cumin
Chile Powder
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Ground Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

(All amounts are to taste.)

It's worth making a lot of this sauce, as it keeps well in the refrigerator, and can be used to complement a variety of meats.
Hours later, the smoked ribs are ready for a dousing of barbeque sauce.
Just out of the smoker

Giles coating the ribs with sauce, as Ineke, Mia and Taylor look on.

Ready for presentation to the assembled party

Meanwhile, in the upper garden.....

Lisa looked happy, as Drake did some last minute assembly with toothpicks.

...then grilled his pineapple/bacon hors d'oeuvres, which were so incredibly juicy, they dripped profusely when we ate them. They were the perfect combination of sweet, salty, crispy, chewy and juicy.

A variety of sausages were grilling, topped with rosemary leaves.

Jack's bread had been baked, sliced and then toasted on the grill with garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese.

Yee haw!

Madeleine and Matt (I call them Maddie and Mattie)

Lisa, Drake, Ineke and Dan

Austin, Sam, Alec and Drake anticipating dinner

As the Italians say, a tavola.

Dolores and Renato

Ineke serving her dessert soup

After a feast that included roasted, marinated beets, and grilled eggplant, as well as various other veggies, olives and cheeses, we tasted Ineke's dessert, which was light and fruity with an almost elusive hint of spice. Both tangy and sweet, it was a perfect way to top off our meal.

And then the music started. We had four guitars going, with various singers entertaining us. Madeleine sang a lilting rendition of the Beatles' "Blackbird"; Cindy put in a superb imitation of Norah Jones; and the piece de resistance was Alec, rapping and ad lib-ing about all of us there - in both Spanish and English. I was laughing so hard, I barely got any photos of that.

Madeleine singing

The incredibly talented Joe, who plays numerous instruments

Alec the rapper, accompanied by Jack, Joe, Austin and Giles

Jack playing lone flamenco

Madeleine and Ineke share a hug

Suddenly, Ron has picked up a new talent... "Baby, I'm the guitar man."

End of a terrific evening. My three Iron Chefs, slightly looser than in the previous photo.

Ah...breakfast the next morning. What better way to start the day than with a slice of fois gras?
Ineke and Jack's sister, Anne
Share on Tumblr