for the love of le bernardin

A week ago today, one of the most celebrated restaurants in New York City reopened after a five week remodel. Le Bernardin was beautiful before but the post remodel photos are stunning. Designed by Bentel & Bentel {who also designed Gramercy Tavern – my other favorite NYC restaurant}, the space is more contemporary, washed in beautiful wood which highlights the retained ceiling and features beautiful pieces of art and wall coverings. Since we’re here and not there, I decided to bring Le Bernardin to us by recreating two of Chef Eric Ripert’s recipes in his cookbook Avec Eric. Earlier this year I talked about my love for Chef Michael Mina. But anyone that truly knows me knows my first chef crush award goes to Chef Ripert. Really, what’s not to love? He’s an amazing chef who makes you rethink seafood and look at it in a different way. His food is meticulously conceptualized, composed and constructed to deliver wonderful flavor in the most beautiful presentations. He’s French, he’s a tall drink of water, one of his best friends is Anthony Bourdain {which always makes me chuckle}. So like I said, what’s not to love?

If you have ever been afraid to tackle seafood beyond simple roasting or pan searing, I highly recommend Avec Eric, based on the his PBS show of the same name. Chef Ripert’s recipes in this book are easy and simple, yet deliver incredible flavor perfect for weeknight dinners or the most elegant of dinner parties. The book also features cocktails, starters, meats and desserts, all organized in chapters that tell the story of a region and its local produce, fish and meats. The pictures are beautiful and the stories at the beginning of each chapter take you on a culinary adventure.
For our entree we had roasted halibut with tomatoes, zucchini and onions {page 98} – the recipe calls for striped bass but beautiful, fresh halibut was available so I went with that instead. You must get the cookbook and make this dish. It is so elegant and incredibly tasty featuring produce available now, and since it utilizes large filets of fish, would be perfect for an end of summer dinner party.  For our starter, I was inspired by Chef Ripert’s grilled calamari with quinoa, tomatoes and olives recipe.  I changed some of the ingredients – swapped Nicoise olives for green ones, used different acid for the vinaigrette, added capers and tossed in some arugula. It was great! Paired with some beautiful white wines, we had a wonderful dinner but now I must look at our calendars and figure out when we can get back to NYC for dinner at Le Bernardin.
Grilled Calamari Quinoa Salad
serves 4
1 cup quinoa
 1 pound calamari bodies/tubes
¼ cup + 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
1 small red bell pepper {I actually used a purple one because I was intrigued}
1 small yellow bell pepper
¼ cup Nicoise olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tbsp. capers, drained and chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, roughly copped
2 tbsp. fresh mint, julienned
2 cups baby arugula leaves 
In a medium, heavy saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to boil.  Add the quinoa, stir, reduce heat to a medium simmer and cook uncovered until the quinoa is tender, about 12 – 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, prepare the dressing: to the vinegar, slowly drizzle in ¼ cup of the olive oil, whisking to emulsify. Add the garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
Over high heat, prepare a grill pan or an outdoor grill. Toss the remaining olive oil with the calamari then season with salt and pepper. Grill the calamari until just opaque, turning once, about 2 ½ minutes per side depending on size. Transfer to a cutting board, let cool slightly to handle then slice into 1/3″ rings.

In a large bowl, add the tomatoes, bell peppers, quinoa, olives, capers, parsley, mint and arugula. Add vinaigrette and toss lightly. Distribute between four plates and top each with the calamari rings. 

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