Pain Perdu

Pain Perdu
Like most women, I need to have an oversized handbag slung over my shoulder before I head out the door. Even though my essentials don’t take up much space, I like to be prepared for spontaneous purchases that can happen during the course of the day. Usually this means a stop at a farmers market or a charming neighborhood grocery where I walk away with a baton of French bread peaking out from the top my purse.

The other day I picked up a baguette to go along with a simple salad for dinner. With half the loaf left, I could have cut it into cubes for croutons, but I ended up making pain perdu, French toast the way the French do it. I soaked the bread slices in an eggy milk mixture before they hit the griddle. I topped off this effortless but somehow fancy breakfast with strawberries tossed in sugar, slivered almonds and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Pain Perdu
Pan Perdu

Serves 4

1/2 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
1-1/2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/2 baguette, stale, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Maple syrup for serving
Slivered almonds for serving
Confectioners’ sugar for serving

In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries and 1-1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla extract, salt and remaining sugar. Pour over the baguette slices and soak for 15 minutes flipping over halfway through.

Heat the butter in a nonstick pan or on a griddle over medium high heat. Cook the baguette slices until they are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Top with maple syrup, slivered almonds and confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Grilled Romaine Salad

Grilled Romaine Salad
We have been using the grill so much lately that the other night our dinner plans were derailed when the tank ran out of gas. I quickly headed inside to preheat the oven. The meal was saved, but I was disappointed because I knew it would have been that much more delicious if it was cooked over an open flame like I had originally planned.

When the grill was fueled up again, I had the urge to cook everything outside on those grates including a salad. I sliced hearts of romaine lengthwise and brushed them with an herby vinaigrette. The leaves took on a slight char, and I even grilled bread for croutons. Cherry tomatoes, blue cheese and chives finished off the grilled romaine salad.

Grilled Romaine Salad
Grilled Romaine Salad

Serves 4

For vinaigrette
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons minced chives plus more for serving
2-1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

For salad
4 hearts of romaine
2 slices thick country bread
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium high heat.

For the vinaigrette, combine the garlic, chives, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.

Cut the hearts of romaine in half lengthwise leaving the root intact. Brush the romaine and bread with the vinaigrette. Grill until they are lightly charred about 1-2 minutes per side. Cut the bread into cubes.

Serve the romaine hearts drizzled with vinaigrette and topped with blue cheese, tomatoes and chives.

Chocolate Semifreddo

Chocolate Semifreddo
As ridiculous as this sounds for a family of 2 adults and a baby, I have thought about buying a freezer and keeping it in our small garage. What space we had in our side-by-side is now filled with ice cube trays and baggies full of frozen fruit and veggie purees for W. Unfortunately, there is no room for the freezer bowl for the ice cream maker, and with summer almost over, I felt desperate for a homemade frozen treat.

Instead of traditional ice cream, I made chocolate semifreddo, a dessert I would prepare when I didn’t have an ice cream maker. Whipping the heavy cream, eggs and other ingredients resulted in a very light, velvety smooth consistency. I even added bittersweet chocolate chips without the semifreddo ending up too rich. Frozen in a loaf pan, slices of this cool confection made for an elegant presentation on the plate.

Chocolate Semifreddo
Chocolate Semifreddo

Serves 6-8

Non-stick cooking spray
2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped, plus 4 ounces finely chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Line a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap leaving a generous overhang. Lightly grease with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Place the bowl in the refrigerator.

Melt 8 ounces roughly chopped chocolate in the microwave in 30-second blasts stirring to distribute the heat.

In a large saucepan, bring 1 inch of water to a low simmer. Place the eggs and sugar in a heatproof bowl on the saucepan and use an electric mixer to whisk until the mixture is pale yellow and has doubled in volume. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Fold the melted chocolate, heavy cream and 4 ounces finely chopped chocolate into the egg mixture. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze until firm.

Invert the semifreddo onto a platter and remove the plastic wrap. Dip a knife into hot water before cutting into 1-inch-wide slices.

Grilled Nectarine Proscuitto Pizza

Grilled Nectarine Proscuitto Pizza
Fresh mozzarella is one of my favorite cheeses to eat in the summer because of its delicate, milky flavor. This soft cheese is a natural pairing with tomatoes, another food I can’t eat enough of at the season’s peak. After last week’s caprese salad, I had extra mozzarella and balsamic syrup in the fridge, but I wanted to make something different and that involved the grill.

I decided to whip up a batch of dough for a gilled nectarine proscuitto pizza. The sweetness of the nectarines gently mellowed on the grill even taking on a subtle smokiness. They were the perfect match for the saltiness of the paper-thin prosciutto slices that melted into the hot mozzarella. The pizza was finished off with a drizzle of balsamic syrup adding a distinct tartness.

Grilled Nectarine Proscuitto Pizza
Grilled Nectarine Proscuitto Pizza

Makes one 12-inch pizza

1 pound homemade or store-bought pizza dough
Flour for rolling out dough
1 nectarine, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
4-6 proscuitto slices
1 handful arugula
Balsamic syrup for serving (optional)

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill on high heat. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pizza dough into a 12-inch diameter circle.

Toss the nectarine slices with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and salt. Grill the nectarines until they have slightly caramelized and have grill marks, about 2 minutes per side. Cut the nectarines into 1/2-inch pieces.

Place the dough directly on the grates and grill for 3-4 minutes with the lid closed until the crust has grill marks and has puffed up. Turn over the crust and grill for an additional 2 minutes.

Remove the crust from the grill and flip it over so the first side that was grilled is facing down. Brush with the remaining olive oil. Arrange the cheese on top leaving a 1/2-inch border. Return the pizza to the grill and cook until the cheese has melted, about 3 minutes. Remove the pizza from the grill.

Place the prosciutto slices on the melted cheese. Scatter the nectarines and arugula on top and drizzle with balsamic syrup, if using.

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