Saturday, March 21, 2015

FFWD Côte d’Azur Cure-all Soup, Chicken Marengo, and Chicken Couscous

This week I have three recipes to post about.  The only one I still need to make up is the cabbage bundles.  I'm still on the fence about what to do with those.  It will definitely need to be creative.  I made the cure-all soup for dinner one night this week, along with cucumber, avocado, and cheese sandwiches.  Paul and Charlotte both really loved this soup.  I liked it, but did find it very rich.  One issue that I have with parmesan cheese is that one cup can be a totally different amount depending on how you grate the cheese.  I grated it in my food processor, so one cup was an awful lot of cheese.  I have a feeling I would have enjoyed the soup more of I had cut down on the cheese.  I really wish more recipes would give weight measurements for those types of ingredients.

I don't eat red meat, so I decided to use chicken in the veal marengo.  It was a work day, so I followed Diane's lead and cooked this in the slow cooker.  First I chopped the potatoes and put them in the bottom.  I followed them with about half a bag of frozen pearl onions (so much easier than peeling!).  Then, I coated the meat (three bone-in and skin-on chicken breast halves) in flour and browned it in a skillet.  Once the chicken was brown, I added it to the slow cooker.  In the same pan I melted the butter, cooked the onion for five minutes, and added the rest of the ingredients for the sauce.  I scraped all of the brown bits from the pan, and added it all to the slow cooker along with the herbs.  (I was too lazy for a bouquet garni, so they just got thrown in.)  I cooked it for 10 hours on low, and came home to a warm dinner.  I just had to steam some broccoli to go alongside.  Every time I use my slow cooker I wonder why I don't use it more often.

Last, the Chicken Couscous.  I really thought I already wrote this up, but I can't seem to find it.  I feel like I'm losing my mind.  We enjoyed this one a lot.  Perfect comfort food for a cold winter night, and not too complicated. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

CCC February

What can I say?  I'm almost two days late posting.  I apologize.  It's been a crazy few weeks around here.  Big changes at work, a sick kid, etc., etc...Anyway, the good news is that I really enjoyed all of the recipes this month.  I would happily make any of them again.  They were hard to rank, but I gave it a shot just for fun.

#1) Magic Bread dough 

I've made the magic bread dough as a base for pizza many times, but this was my first time making flatbreads.  Brilliant!  In the past I've made flatbreads in the oven.  Between the placing and the re-arranging and the multiple batches and the screaming hot oven I always manage to burn myself--usually multiple times.  The stove top was a revelation.  These were so much easier.  And Charlotte was excited because she thought we were having pancakes.

#2) Cheesey peasy puff turnover

I feel like a broken record, but I think that puff pastry is the answer to most cooking questions.  This was quick, easy, and delicious.  I loved the peas and cheddar combination, but I imagine spinach and feta, sundried tomato and goat cheese, and a host of other things would also be delicious.  The only problem?  I think the three of us could have eaten twice as much.

#3) Potato Rösti 

I am no stranger to potato pancakes, making potato latkes at least once a year, but I've never par-cooked the potatoes before.  Another brilliant idea.  It's generally to get crispy outsides but soft insides with potato pancakes.  These were perfect!

#4) Refried beans foldover

When we were first together Paul thought he hated refried beans. I think that's because he had never had homemade ones before.  Now he loves them.  I used some home cooked beans that I happened to have in the freezer, and these came together quiet quickly.  I loved the idea of halving and grating a tomato directly into the pan.  So much easier than peeling!

#5) Winter stir-fry with Chinese five-spice  

With the help of my food processor to shred everything, this was a relatively quick weeknight dinner.  While I made this, Paul made the grapefruit and avocado salad.  To give her something to do, we put some broken bits of dried pasta in a pot and asked Charlotte to "cook" pasta.  She loves to "cook,"  She had lots of fun stirring, and then adding "salt" to the pasta.  (I should probably be more concerned about how much she loves to add salt to everything!)  This kept her entertained for at least a few minutes while we managed to get the dinner on the table.  I definitely liked this pasta, but I bumped it in my rankings because Paul absolutely loved it, and he's not generally a fan of Chinese food.  It's nice to have a quick, Chinese-like option that he actually enjoys.

#6) Baba ganoush 

I think I would have rated this even higher if I had served it with some of the delicious homemade flatbread.  Unfortunately I didn't plan very well, and we just ate this with spoons.  The flavor was still great.  I loved the idea of broiling the eggplants.  It was easy, and gave the whole dish such a great smokey flavor.

#7) Avocado and ruby grapefruit with chilli 

This was delicious, but dropped in my rankings just because I've had very similar salads so many times before.  Citrus and avocado are a great combination.  Definitely to be repeated often.

#8) Roasted squash and shallots with merguez chickpeas 

This really was a great month.  This dish fell in my ranking, but it was definitely one that I enjoyed and would make again.  I soaked and cooked the chickpeas ahead of time, and chopped the squash before I went to work in the morning.  After I got home I threw the squash in the oven, and set to finishing the chickpeas and making a side dish.  This wasn't quite quick enough for a typical weeknight, but it was good.

#9)Celeriac with apple, raisins and parsley 

I'm going to attribute this one to user error.  I was too lazy to get out my mandoline and tried to cut the celery root by hand, and it really needed to be finer.  The big pieces were kind of awkward to chew, and didn't soften very much in the dressing.

#10) Roasted beetroot soup with horseradish cream

I forgot to take a picture!  I liked the soup, but the horseradish cream was definitely the take-away here for me.  It could spice up a lot of dishes.

Friday, February 27, 2015

FFWD Riviera Fish Soup

I don't know what to say about this soup.  On the one hand, the flavor really was great.  On the other hand, it was absolutely painful to push through a food mill, and then throw away, a 28 dollar red snapper.  I would have felt much better about this soup if my store had an inexpensive bin of "fish for soup," the way Dorie described.  In hindsight, I probably should have just skipped the food mill and served the soup with chunks of fish (although I'm not sure what I would have done with the skin and bones in that scenario).  I served this with salad, shrimp dumplings, salmon (was supposed to be for Charlotte, but we all shared), bread and quick-aoli (I was too tired to make my own, so I added lemon juice and garlic to store bought mayonnaise).  Paul was still hungry after.  Again, with a whole red snapper I was expecting more of a meal.  This soup felt like a delicious starter.  I'll be very curious to see what everyone else thought of the dish.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

TWD BCM Pink Grapefruit Tart

After seeing some of your photos, I'm almost embarrassed to show mine.  I'm definitely not going to win any awards for my decorating ability.  Luckily, the placement of the grapefruit segments in a pretty pattern does not affect the taste of the dessert and the taste of this dessert was excellent.  Was it worth the work or the calories?  I'm not sure.  I made this over a couple of days.  Luckily, Paul had made and frozen extra tart dough, so for the crust all I had to do was defrost, roll, freeze in pan, and bake.  On that same day I also made the almond-lemon cream and the grapefruit cremeux.  On the second day I segmented the grapefruits, and baked and assembled the tart.

Let me just start by saying that Paul's tart crust (from the Tartine book) was amazing--it's like puff pastry it's so buttery--and I absolutely loved the grapefruit cremeux.  Grapefruit is a favorite for me, and I thought Dorie balanced the sweet and tart flavors perfectly.  The almond-lemon cream?  I was unimpressed.  It was fine, but I barely noticed it with all of the other flavors going on.  It has done a nice job of protecting the shell--it's been in the fridge for a few days now and is still nice and crisp--so maybe that's reason enough for making it.  I'm glad I made this once, but in the future I could see myself making the grapefruit cremeux to serve in bowls and skipping the rest of the steps.

I try to avoid gelatin, so I substituted agar agar in the cremeux.  I totally guessed at the amount and the instructions, but it seemed to work perfectly.  In case anyone's interested, I used two tablespoons of agar agar.  I increased the amount of grapefruit juice by a few tablespoons (to account for the water used to soak the gelatin), and added the agar agar to the pan directly with the grapefruit juice.  I know agar agar sets up pretty quickly when it cools, so I also skipped letting the cremeux sit for 5 minutes before adding the butter.  I added the cremeux to the blender, and started adding butter and blending immediately.  As soon as it was all incorporated, I pored the cremeux into a bowl.  When it cooled, I covered it with plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge.  By the next day it was VERY thick and creamy.  It reached the perfect texture once whisked.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FFWD Vanilla-Butter Braised Lobster and Winter Ceviche

Again, traveling has gotten in the way of posting.  This month I had an aborted trip to New York and a trip to San Francisco for work, and we went on a family vacation to Florida.  Luckily, in between traveling I have been doing as much cooking as I can.  The Winter Ceviche was my favorite recipe of these two.  I have never had scallop ceviche, but I have had raw scallops at sushi restaurants so I had a feeling I would like this.  I was right.  The marinade was delicious, and the grapes and tarragon were nice accents.  I knew I would not need all of the marinade, so I saved some for Charlotte.  I seared some scallops in a fry pan (until cooked through) and then added the marinade and cooked until they were glazed.  They were delicious too, and she ate them happily.

I could not quite bear to use six sticks of butter, and I could not find lobster (fresh or frozen) the day I went to the store, so I made a much smaller version of this recipe with prawns.  I clarified and flavored two sticks of butter with a vanilla bean, and poached about half a pound of prawns in the clarified butter.  This was fun to try, good, and different, but I was not "wowed" enough to make this again. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

FFWD Croquants

These were an absolute breeze.  They didn't even require an electronic mixer.  The hardest part for me was figuring out how to store them.  An airtight container that wasn't a plastic bag (my go-to)?  I thought about using glass, but Paul suggested a brown paper bag so we decided to try it.  It worked perfectly.  I made these on Sunday and they were still crunchy Thursday night.  I followed Dorie's suggestion and used salted cashews.  I think these would be perfect alongside hot chocolate, or as the base of an ice cream sandwich (I wish I had noticed that suggestion sooner!).  They were good on their own, but not especially exciting.  Charlotte enjoyed the idea of these--she asked for them every time she saw us eating them--but didn't actually like them very much.  I think nuts are still hard for her to chew.  Oh well.  More for us!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

CCC January

As far as I'm concerned, January through March are the worst months for cooking vegetables.  In April we start to get spring vegetables and summer is amazing.  By fall I'm usually excited to start cooking with kale, squash, and root vegetables again.  By January I'm starting to get sick of them.  So, it's really nice to have this group to remind me to cook lots of vegetables, and to cook them in new ways.  This month was a bit of a challenge for me, because mushrooms and fennel have always been the two vegetables that I just really didn't like.  I'm learning to like fennel so I made both of those recipes, but I skipped the baked mushrooms and modified lasagna.  This was another fun month.  Here's what I made, in (rough) order of most to least favorite.

#1) Cauliflower with toasted seeds

What a pleasant surprise!  Until now I've made cauliflower two ways: roasted and steamed.  When I have a bit more energy, I'll add spices (this recipe is excellent) to the roasted version.  I've never really liked raw cauliflower, so this was a revelation.  Very thinly sliced (I was too lazy to pull out my mandoline and just used a knife) with the seeds, lemon juice, and sumac, this was delicious.  I couldn't stop eating it.

#2) Kale and mushroom lasagne

I'm no stranger to vegetarian lasagna--spinach with tomato sauce and butternut squash with a bechamel are my favorites--but adding kale was a first for me.  I substituted zucchini for the mushrooms, but I think almost anything would work here.  I really enjoyed the bechamel, I thought the mustard added a lot of flavor, and liked that the cheese wasn't overpowering here.  This is obviously stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, but I appreciated how substantial the vegetables were.

#3) Pasta with greens, garlic, and chilli

I learned to make pasta with greens from Jacques Pepin.  His pasta with bitter greens is still a favorite of mine.  I usually make it with escarole and endive, so it was fun trying different greens here.  I took this as an opportunity to use the remainder of a napa cabbage and some kale that were hanging out in my fridge.  This came together quickly, and I appreciated the ratio of greens to pasta.  Charlotte did not.  She ate all of the pasta on her plate, then finished my pasta and Paul's pasta, then ate about a bite of greens before declaring she was "all done."  Oh well.  I try to tell myself there's value in just exposing her to different things.

#4) Curried bubble and squeak

My post was delayed because I just made this for dinner tonight.  I could eat eggs every night and be very happy.  The curried potatoes and greens made a delicious bed for my perfectly poached eggs (LOVE Hugh's technique!).  I had to plan to have leftover greens and potatoes for this dish, but I can definitely imagine making it again. 

#5) Beetroot pizza with cheddar

Every time we make a pizza recipe I have a hard time not ranking it number one for the month.  We just love pizza.  This isn't the best pizza I've ever had (Paul makes excellent pizza, but also has to remember to start his dough 3 days ahead of time), but it's very good.  I also love how flexible it is.  I made the dough in the morning when I had time and let it rise.  After it rose I punched it down and stashed it in the fridge.  Before dinner, I let it come back to room temperature while I preheated the oven and prepped the rest of the ingredients, and we were eating in less than an hour.  Delicious.  This was my first time eating beets on pizza.  I don't think it will be my last.

#6) Roasted potatoes and aubergines

I really wasn't sure about this one.  Potatoes and eggplant just seemed like an odd combination.  The method also seemed odd.  I roast a lot of potatoes and vegetables, but had never pre-heated the oil in the pan before.  Well, it worked.  These were nice and crispy, but tender on the inside.  I loved how the potato offset the smooth texture of the eggplant.  This is another one that I hope to repeat soon.

#7) Spelt salad with squash and fennel

Paul was nice enough to make this one for us, as he had a Monday off for MLK day and I did not.  I didn't have any spelt and didn't want to buy any, so I pulled out a bag of mystery whole grains and suggested he try it.  I thought it was farro, but in hindsight I should have realized it was a hot cereal (Kashi?).  I really liked the flavor of the grains, but they were not as distinct as you'd want them to be in a salad.  Also, I found myself wishing Paul had sliced the fennel a lot more finely.  He followed the directions perfectly, but while I'm learning to like fennel I find that I like it a lot better in small pieces, and when it's very caramelized.  We still enjoyed this one, though, and I would be up for trying it again.  

#8) Artichoke and white bean dip

Last month we made salsify puree.  I couldn't find salsify, so I substituted burdock root with so-so results.  Of course, the very next week I went to the same grocery store and they had salsify.  Paul thought I was crazy, but I bought some anyway.  I had to know how it tasted.  Well, I'm sure burdock root has its uses, but in this recipe salsify was much better.  To go with the salsify puree I had bread, the artichoke dip, and some leftover mango chatini for a quick and easy lunch.  I used some cooked white beans that I had in my freezer and the dip was very good, but honestly all it really did is made me crave my mother's hot artichoke dip.  I'm not sure what's in it--I know it can't be healthy--but man is it good.

#9) Fennel and celeriac soup with orange zest

This was really a very nice soup.  I'm sure that if I liked fennel more I would have ranked it a lot higher.  I enjoyed the creme fraiche topping, and thought that the orange zest was a really nice touch.