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Domaine de Marquiliani Corsican olive oil, the best oil you’ve never heard of

Corsican Olive Oil

I love it when I find something delightful no one else has heard of.  The thrill of discovery. That smug sense of satisfaction for being the first. And I bet you’ve never heard of this one, Corsican olive oil. Domaine de Marquiliani olive oil to be precise.

Ok, well I’m not exactly the first to have found this. Olive oil has been made and enjoyed on the beautiful island of Corsica since 3400 BC. Still, most people I know, even the most hardcore foodies, have never heard of it so I am going to keep the smug, thanks much.

The first time I encountered Corsican olive oil was at Casa Corse, a nice Corsican restaurant in Paris. I’m a bit vague on the meal
itself, but I remember the three baskets of bread I ate, as a mere conduit for that marvelous oil they served. I tried to ask the indifferent server what oil they use. Corsican oil, of course, he said, in that gruff reply that could only come from a discommoded French waiter. Not entirely in the mood to press him anymore, I left it at that.

The following weeks I went on a hunt for Corsican oil. I bought pretty much every kind I came across. That’s still not adding up to many, mind you, since Corsican oils are something of a rarity even in Paris.  I did a taste test in my little flat, and found one I loved themost. It was an oil from Domaine de Marquiliani, which I bought from the little Corsican épicerie near the Opera.

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Artichoke, by any other name


(If you are reading this post on a RSS reader, you might want to click through to Chez Pim for the slideshow.)

Thorny artichokes, l’artichauts épineux, épines, carciofi, these artichokes go by quite a few names around the Mediterranean. I was duly impressed the first time I saw them at the big market in San Remo a couple years ago. I’d never seen artichokes with such intimidating thorns before. They are vindictive little buggers too –and this I speak from first hand experience trimming them. I still go ouch every time I pick one up. You know, a little pre-emptive cry for the inevitable future.

According to many chefs and serious foodies I know –and the French Wikipedia even agrees- these thorny artichokes are perhaps the tastiest of all the artichoke varieties. Hence the thorns as a defensive measure, perhaps? In France they are found around Nice and the surrounding areas, whereas in Italy they appear to be everywhere –though the size (hence frightfulness) of the thorns varies some. Beside the deadly thorns, these artichokes are also marked by the gorgeous violet/lavender streaks and the shape that is more elongate and conical than the usual round Globe artichokes common in the US.

I’m not going to give you a primer on trimming an artichoke. Frankly I avoid that kitchen chore whenever I can. But my friend Sam at Becks and Posh did a lovely illustrated post on this very topic a while ago so go and check her out.

How do you cook these artichokes (or any artichoke) you wonder? When we were on our cooking vacation –is there a different kind?- in Mougins a while back, our friend Mikael did his take on the classic Provençale dish of Mediterraean Seabass and Artichokes for us. I’ve worked out a recipe here for you to try.

Seabass and poached artichokes in mandarin-olive oil emulsion
For 4

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Truth in advertising: a veggie version


Now that’s truth in advertising.

Dandelion is called Pissenlit in French. Dandelion leaves are known to be diuretic. And, so, what does piss-en-lit mean exactly? Ok I’ll give you one little hint, lit is bed in French. Piss-en-lit, see? Yeah, it means precisely what you think.

If this is not truth in advertising, I don’t know what is. Kraft could learn a thing or two.

What should you do with Dandelion? I love making a salad, dress with a strong shallot vinaigrette, toss into it some crisp bacon, and top with a softly poached egg. Eat enough of this salad and you might need to wear this stuff to bed though. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Chickens and Eggs, Haute Couture Style

An egg fairy gave me a baker’s dozen tray of colorful eggs the other day. The fairy, in fact, is our lovely gardener Cynthia, and the eggs came from the flock of fashionable hens we keep at the Manresa biodynamic garden.

I’m not kidding about the fashionable bit, really. As you can see from the pictures above, some of them apparently walked straight out of fashion week into our chicken coop. We have Araucana hens, with colors ranging from light brown to copper, accented with gorgeous black patterned feathers. We have the White-crested black Polish hens, sporting jet black feathers and a head of striking white plumage –David calls them the Chanel chicks. My favorites are the Buff-laced Polish hens, with the same billowing plume as the black Polish hens but in light brown and feathers intensifying in colors from beige to brown -the shades just perfect for the coming Spring fashion, Oscar de la Renta’s, I’d say. Plus, these are not only haute couture chickens but they are fed haute cuisine. They eat the surplus produce from the garden and scraps from the kitchen at Manresa, no all go into a compost pile for them to peck on to their heart’s content.

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Purple is the new brown

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