Linguini fini with braised leeks and fresh goat cheese-cured olive caviar

Leeks, like all members of the onion family, have the wonderful attribute of acquiring a sweet, delicate flavor when cooked… especially when gently cooked, as in this pasta. Here the leeks are braised along with red onions to create the most succulent base for the linguini. The garnish of the creamy, slightly tangy fresh goat cheese and the salty cured olives brings a marvelous contrast to all that sweetness.

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Bite–size cucumber rolls with ricotta Olivade

Tapenade, made with either black or green olives, is one of Provence’s most celebrated dishes. Olivade, though it has never reached such fame, is nonetheless superb. Olivade is usually made with Fromage Blanc and black olives (Niçoise or Kalamata). But in this version, I use homemade ricotta and cured olives. This makes for a lighter, yet richly-flavored, spread.

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Leek tart with cured olives and aged Gruyère
Making savory tarts requires a bit of patience and an unhurried stint in the kitchen, but they are well worth the effort. To me tarts are a sophisticated comfort food that’s totally irresistible and one that I love spending time crafting.

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Food and Style - Quinoa with piquillo peppers and cured olivesThe first time I tasted quinoa was in the mid-1980′s. I’d just moved to Vermont and was discovering all kinds of new foods. It was a thrill.

I remember eagerly looking for recipes for it, but in those pre-Google times, the only thing I had to go on were the directions on the package.

So I started experimenting on my own. Before long, quinoa was a favorite in our household; it was on the menu at least once a week, in one form or another.

For me, the most seductive thing about quinoa is its texture — it is so refined! And although I often serve it in place of rice, I also love creating more sophisticated recipes for it.

That’s how I came up with today’s dish. I wanted to make an elegant appetizer, something I could serve at dinner parties — something that would highlight this little seed’s delicate shape and subtle flavor.

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Maccheroni alla Chitarra with Herbes de Provence and cured olivesWhen it comes to cooking, my focus is always on seasonal produce. But now and then, I like to make a dish that is truly seasonless. I always have a box of pasta, olive oil and fresh garlic in my pantry… And I certainly always have cured olives in my refrigerator.

Ever since my first trip to Provence, when I discovered olives de Nyons,* cured olives have become a staple in my kitchen. I simply couldn’t live without them.

Authentic olives de Nyons are so exceptional that they boast their own AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). Harvested late in the season, their skins become a bit shriveled and their flesh packed with concentrated flavors. Then they are salted and dry-cured, a process that removes any bitterness and intensifies their inherent sweetness. They’re just sublime!

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