Forley is one of America's fast-rising chefs and is known for her innovative approach to cooking. She co-owns a restaurant, Verbena, in New York City, with her husband, chef Michael Otsuka.
Forley says "The Anatomy Of A Dish" reflects her fascination with properties and groupings of fruits and vegetables - in the garden, in the kitchen and on the plate.
The first part of the book examines vegetables, one at a time, and features Forley's favorite ways to prepare them. The second part moves on to vegetable combinations, salads, soups, stews, pastas, tarts, souffles and breads. She then follows with fish, meat and poultry. She ends the book with dessert recipes.
Forley says she hopes her book will show readers how botanists classify plants and let readers marvel at such things as the notion that the potato, eggplant, tomato, petunia and tobacco have a lot in common - starting with a five-petaled star-shaped flower.
For her Chef on a Shoestring $30 three-course menu for four, Forley created endive and pear salad; halibut with preserved lemons; and for dessert, verbena madeleines.
Verbena: This is a potent herb that is native to South America. Lemon verbena, thought by some people to promote digestion, is the only member of the large Verbenaceae family used as a culinary herb. The long, slender leaves have an overpowering lemon-like flavor. For that reason, a light touch is necessary when adding verbena to food. It's available dried and sometimes fresh in specialty produce markets. Verbena is used to flavor fruit salads, sweet dishes and for tea. Forley writes in her book that she was drawn to this plant by "its intoxicating aroma."
Madeleine: Exalted by Proust in his "Rembrance of Things Past," the madeleine is a small, butter sponge cake that's eaten as a cookie. It's often dipped in coffee or tea. These feather-light cakes are baked in a special madeleine pan, which has 12 indentations that resemble elongated scallop shells.
Nage: The word nage comes from the French nager: to swim. In culinary terms, "a la nage" refer to cooking in an aromatic liquid.
Pear and Endive Salad with Pecan Vinaigrette
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
Juice of one lemon
2 large Bosc pears
3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 endives, outer leaves removed
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/4 cup 1/2 inch chive lengths
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Poaching the Pears:
Combine the sugar, rice wine vinegar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and add two cups water. Peel and seed the pears. Cut each pear into 8 pieces and immediately drop them into the liquid. Bring to a boil, cover the pears with a dish towel to keep them submerged, reduce the heat and simmer until the pears are completely soft, about 30 minutes to an hour. Remove from the poaching liquid and cool.
Making the Vinaigrette:
Combine the pecans and oil in a small saucepan and heat until the oil is hot but not bubbling. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the oil tastes like pecans, about 15 minutes. Allow the oil to cool.
Meanwhile, pour the balsamic into a small saucepan and reduce at a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes, until it is slightly thicker and reduced by about half. (Because of its high sugar content, the balsamic vinegar must be reduced. Take the pan off the stove to check the consistency. Add a little water if you fear the vinegar has reduced too much. If the vinegar reduces too much it will solidify when it cools. Check the consistency occasionally.) Remove it from the heat. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes, then add the pecan oil and season with salt and pepper.
Making the Salad and Finishing the Carpaccio:
Slice the endive into rounds, discarding the cores. Combine the endive, parsley and chives in a bowl and dress with a little vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper and mix well, adding only enough additional vinaigrette to coat the endive.
Place 3 to 4 pieces of pears on a large plate. Cover with plastic wrap and gently press down with the bottom of a glass or measuring cup, forming a single 1/8-inch thick layer. Season with pepper. Repeat with the remaining pears on 3 other plates. Place a small mound of salad on top of each, drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.
Halibut in Lemon Nage
Serves 4 as entrée
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, cored and sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons white peppercorn
1 1/2 dry white wine
6 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1 bunch tarragon
Four 1/2 pound halibut fillets (you can use sea bass or cod instead)
Freshly ground white pepper
8 slices Quick Preserved Lemon (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon for garnish (optional)
The nage, or broth, in this recipe is flavored with lemon and herbs. This is a quick recipe, except for the preserved lemon, which must be left to cure overnight. The extra flavor dimension is worth the effort.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the oil gently sizzles and the vegetables begin to soften but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf, coriander seeds, peppercorn, and 1/2 cup water and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes more.
Add the wine and simmer until the pan is almost dry, about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar, the remaining 6 tablespoons oil, and 3 cups water, bring to a simmer and cook very gently until the broth is flavorful, about 20 minutes. Add the tarragon, then remove the pan from the heat, and allow the broth to steep for 15 minutes; strain.
To serve, bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat in a pot or deep skillet large enough to hold the fish. Season the fish with salt and white pepper. Lower the fillets into the broth. Add the preserved lemon slices, cover, reduce the heat, and gently simmer until the fish is opaque at the center; about 5 minutes.
Spoon the fish and broth into bowls and serve garnished with the preserved lemon slices and freshly chopped tarragon.
Quick Preserved Lemons
Makes about 10 slices
1 lemon, scrubbed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
Cut the lemon in half crosswise, then slice it as thin as possible. Cover a plate with plastic wrap. Shingle the lemon in a single overlapping layer on the plate. Mix the salt and sugar together and sprinkle over the lemon. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, then transfer to a sealed container. Before using, lightly rinse the salt-sugar cure from the lemon slices.
Makes about 36
This batter can also be baked in small tea molds. The baking time will vary, depending on the size of the molds. Both verbena madeleines and tea cakes are wonderful to serve warm, while the herbal aroma is still strong.
12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 tablespoons crumbled dried lemon verbena
1 cup sliced almonds
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 egg whites
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter and flour a madeleine pan.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the verbena and continue cooking until the butter begins to brown, about 2 minutes more. Remove the butter from the heat and set it aside to steep for 15 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve.
Coarsely grind the almonds in a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of the confectioners' sugar and continue processing until the almonds are finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining sugar and flour.
Whisk the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until they are very frothy. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, then the infused butter, and then the honey, mixing just until the batter is smooth.
Working in batches, fill each mold about three-fourths full and bake until the madeleines are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.