Claude Monet described himself best.
“Color,” he once said, “is my daylong obsession, joy and torment.”
Turns out that obsession went all the way from his artist’s palette to the flowers and vegetables in his spectacular garden at Giverny, and to the plates in his well-appointed, color-coordinated dining room.
You’ve probably seen Monet’s signature, spectacular paintings of the waterlilies at Giverny — some of which are now on display at the Denver Art Museum’s comprehensive exhibit, “The Truth of Nature,” running through Feb. 2.
He was also scrupulous in designing the layout and colors in his vegetable garden, Monet expert and author Aileen Bordman said. Monet collected seeds from around the world and escorted his gardener through the rows of produce to pick the freshest food of the day for his table.
He often hosted several artists for lunch. They ate promptly at 11:30 a.m., because the midday light was the worst time for Monet to paint.
Monet’s tastes were influenced by his travels, Boardman said He developed a taste for salmon while he painted in Norway. After visiting the Mediterranean he fell in love with bananas, and made it a tradition to eat banana ice cream every Christmas.
Cucumber, Corn, Red Pepper and Fennel Salad with Fennel Frond Dressing
3 medium cucumbers, peeled and halved lengthwise
¾ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
¾ cut diced red pepper
¾ cup thinly sliced fennel
6 tablespoons chopped red onion
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more if desired
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if desired
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup coarsely chopped fennel fronds
Using a small spoon, remove seeds from cucumbers. Dice cucumbers,. Combine cucumbers, corn, red pepper, sliced fennel and onion in a large bowl. Add ¼ cup oil and 1½ tablespoons lemon juice and toss well. Add additional oil and lemon juice if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. Let salad stand at room temperature 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with fennel fronds. Serve immediately.
Smoked Salmon, Goat Cheese, Thyme and Chive Spread
1 ½ cups fresh goat cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons half-and-half
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon peel
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ pound Norwegian smoked salmon slices, roughly chopped
1 baguette, thinly sliced.
Place goat cheese, half-and-half, chives, thyme, lemon peel, salt and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Using a wooden spoon, mix well. Add salmon and fold in. Transfer to a serving bowl, place on a platter and surround with baguette slices. (Can be prepared one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Transfer to a serving bowl. Place on a platter. Surround with baguette slices.
Banana Ice Cream with Candied Orange Peel, Spices, Hazelnuts and Chocolate Sauce
Banana Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3 large ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
6 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
6 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
Place cream and milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add bananas and stir to incorporate them into the liquid. Meanwhile, place the yolks and sugar in a large heavy glass mixing bowl. Whisk until sugar is well dissolved into eggs. Using a ladle, add a little banana mixture to egg mixture and whisk well.
Pour entire mixture back into saucepan. Set over low heat and cook until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Pour mixture into a clean bowl. Cover and refrigerate until custard is chilled. Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and churn, following manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze. (Can be prepared one day ahead.)
Candied Orange Peel
1 pound oranges, washed
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Peel oranges, removing orange part of peel only. Reserve fruit for another use. Cut peel into ⅜-inch-thick slices. Place sliced peel in a medium-size heavy saucepan. Add enough water to cover, bring to boil and blanch 2 to 3 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain peel and pat dry. Place ¾ cup water, sugar and corn syrup in same saucepan and stir to dissolve sugar.
Add orange peel and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid has reduced by half and peel is candied, 30 to 45 minutes. Do not stir, or crystals will form. Transfer peel to cooling rack and let stir until firm. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead; store in an airtight container.)
¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed
12 tablespoons prepared chocolate sauce
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine sugar, butter, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add hazelnuts and toss to coat. Transfer hazelnuts to a large nonstick baking sheet. Bake until nuts are golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to plate and cool completely. (Can be prepared one day ahead. Store in an airtight container.)
Place two scoops of ice cream in each of six bowls.Drizzle each with two tablespoons chocolate sauce. Top each with 1⁄6th of hazelnuts and 1⁄6th of orange peel. Serve immediately. (Alternatively, ice cream can be layered with sauce, nuts and peel for sundaes.) Makes six servings.
Normandy French Apple Tart
4 squares or sheets of prepared puff pastry
4 large golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
Calvados or applejack
6 tablespoons powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut each square puff pastry into an 8-to-9-inch circle and set on non stick baking sheet; discard scraps or reserve for another use. Sprinkle apple slices with a little Calvados and toss to coat. Arrange apple slices on each pastry circle in concentric circles from outside edge of pastry to center. Bake 10 minutes.
Dust each tart with 1 ½ tablespoons powdered sugar and continue baking until apples are tender and gently browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Increase heat to broil and broil until apples are caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes; do not burn. Drizzle each tart with a little Calvados. Serve immediately with a dollop of créme fraiche.