Impress your dinner guests with a French meal finished off with lemon macarons. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

The words “fancy” and “French” do not mean “difficult” and “time-consuming.” I don’t aspire to be Julia Child reincarnated, although I admire her greatly; I’m more like Marjorie Standish … on a good day.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

However, I recall sampling Poisson en Papillote (Fish in Parchment Paper) years ago and am still entranced with both the method and the presentation. A delicate, healthy way to serve any type of fish, season this however you like and enjoy a beautiful entree.

I’ve paired underrated barley with mushrooms and creamy goat cheese to make a memorable meal.

As for dessert, I’m all about finishing with a lemony tidbit when I serve fish. Don’t be intimidated by the instructions for these tiny bites of pleasure. My 13-year-old granddaughter made these pictured pastries ­– which can be concocted in multiple flavors and colors – all by herself. Just take your time, measure carefully and be sure to test your batter.

Homemade or store-bought lemon curd can be swirled into the buttercream or spooned onto the middle of the cookies with the frosting piped along the edges if you want to fancy these up further. They freeze well, too, so make them ahead, s’il vous plaît.

Poisson en Papillote

2 tablespoons butter
1 pound fresh thin green beans
4 (6-ounce) cod fillets
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay out 4, 12-inch squares of parchment paper. Place 1/2 tablespoon butter on each piece of paper just off the center and pile 1/4 of the green beans on top of the butter for each packet. Place cod on top and season. Divide the parsley and wine into quarters and sprinkle each packet with both.

Bring the left and right edges of the paper together, folding and crimping tightly. When you’re finished, the packet should stay closed.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Serve in the paper and open very carefully. Yield: 4 servings

Roasted Mushrooms with Barley and Goat Cheese

1 1/2 cups barley
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup butter, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds button mushrooms, cleaned
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup goat cheese crumbles
Leaves from 5 sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place mushrooms on baking sheet. Melt 4 tablespoons butter and combine with olive oil, pour over mushrooms and stir to coat, leaving them in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine barley, broth and remaining butter in a large saucepan and cook according to package directions, until broth is absorbed.

When barley is tender, stir in mushrooms, thyme and goat cheese, and season. Yield: 4-6 servings

Lemon Macarons


1 cup almond flour
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Zest of one lemon
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Trace a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to draw circles on the parchment paper then flip the paper over. Prepare a pastry bag with a round Wilton 2A tip.

Using a food processor, pulse the confectioner’s sugar, almond flour and zest into fine powder then thoroughly sift.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 5-7 minutes. Add lemon extract and whip for another minute.

Add dry ingredients to meringue and gently fold with a spatula to deflate the batter by pressing against the side of bowl and scooping from bottom until batter is smooth and shiny; about 20-25 folds. (To check consistency, drop a spoonful of batter on the baking sheet. It should have a peak that relaxes back into the batter.)

Transfer batter into pastry bag and pipe the batter into the pre-traced circles on the baking sheet. Tap baking sheet on counter to release any air bubbles trapped in the batter. Allow shells to sit on counter for 20-30 minutes to dry before baking.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until shells harden, rotating cookie sheets halfway through baking time. Cool completely on cookie sheets then remove.

Pipe buttercream on one shell using a pastry bag and large round or star tip. Place another shell on top to make a sandwich. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. Yield: 36 shells for 18 macarons


1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

Beat butter until light and creamy. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low until combined. Increase speed to medium and whip for 2-3 minutes.