Friday, April 18, 2014

FFWD Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps and Garlic en Papillote

One of the things I enjoy about Passover, aside from the 30+ person Seder that my mom hosts every year, is that it always brings friends and family into town.  This year, I was lucky to have two of my oldest friends come over to visit on Sunday.  I made a chicken and freekeh dish (from Jerusalem) before they came over and meant to assemble the vegetable packets as well, but I ran out of time.  We got to talking, and before I knew it it was 7:30, we were hungry and ready for dinner, and Charlotte was exhausted and needed to be put down.  Not wanting to put our guests to work, I asked Paul to make the vegetable packets while I put Charlotte to bed.  When I came out of Charlotte's room, Paul was outside doing yard-work (as I've documented, Paul is a very competent cook, but I think yard-work is his favorite activity in the entire world) and my friend Sarah was making the vegetables.  I pretended to be annoyed at Paul, but Sarah seemed happy to do it and is a much better cook than Paul anyway.  Unfortunately Sarah had to leave to catch her flight before the vegetables were done (I'm such a bad host!), but Paul, Ilana, and I enjoyed them.  I typically just steam bok choy and sugar snaps, so it was nice to learn a new (and easy) method of preparing them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

TWD Cantuccini

I've had a lot of bad biscotti.  Several of the diets I've tried have included biscotti recipes that have been hard and flavorless, and I've had way too many of the coffee shop biscotti that are way too soft, and also generally flavorless.  The first time I made biscotti from BWJ (the hazelnut one) was a revelation.  I absolutely loved it.  It turns out that, when done well, biscotti has a perfectly crisp texture (not too hard, but definitely not soft) and a delicious, concentrated flavor.  This almond biscotti was at least as good as the hazelnut one, if not better.  First, I loved the technique.  I made these after Charlotte went to bed and was worried about how I was going to get the almonds sliced without my food processor (using it would have worken her up), so I was thrilled when I realized that you just fold whole almonds into the dough, and they get cut into pretty pieces when the biscotti are sliced.  I also loved the simple ingredient list, and that the whole thing required nothing more than a bowl, a spatula, and a very quick knead.  Second, I loved the almond flavor and the crunchy texture.  I love having a bag of these on the counter, although it's very hard to walk past without stealing one (or two).  My taste tester even said that these were the best biscotti she's ever had!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

FFWD Quiche Maraichere

Some weeks I feel like I have things all figured out.  I'm keeping up with work, spending as much time as I can with Charlotte, cooking good food, keeping up with exercising, emails, the blog, the rest of my life....Other weeks I feel like throwing my hands in the air, lying down on the floor, and sleeping for a week.  Last week was the latter type of week.  Take a busy week at work, add in teething and a cold/allergies for Charlotte and some car trouble just for fun, and it starts to feel impossible to keep up with anything.  So, more than a week after I made the quiche, I'm finally sitting down to post about it.

Every time I make quiche I wonder I don't make it more often.  It's delicious, relatively quick (well, there's a lot of time, but almost all of it is just hands-off waiting time), and a great vehicle for any leftovers that might be hanging out in the refrigerator.  This wasn't my favorite quiche--the custard is my favorite part, and this one had less custard in favor of more vegetables and some cheese on top--but we still enjoyed it.  I don't normally serve such small portions of quiche, but we wanted a light dinner after a late afternoon birthday party, so here's the quiche with lots of salad and asparagus.  The next day we had larger pieces for lunch.  I love how well quiche reheats!

Friday, April 4, 2014

FFWD Visitandine and Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India

One of my grandmother's oldest friends, Mrs. Lazaar, made an incredible sponge cake.  Even the Kosher for Passover version was light, airy, and delicious.  I am no Mrs. Lazaar.  I seriously struggle with sponge cake.  I think I must not be folding in the eggs correctly.  I need to watch a video or something, or at least learn to be more patient.  They always deflate.  This time was particularly bad.  I didn't want to run the mixer after Charlotte was asleep (she's still an incredibly light sleeper), so I beat the eggs and then left them while I gave her a bath and put her to bed.  Big mistake.  When I came back the eggs had almost separated.  There were some very beaten whites (almost like snow) and then liquid on the bottom.  I also didn't do a great job of separating the eggs (no clue why), so that may have contributed.  So anyway, my cake was dense and didn't rise at all.  It still tasted good though.  I like the clean butter and sugar flavor.  I served it with whipped cream and some peaches that we canned over the summer, and we were both happy.  I'd like to make this one again.  My technique definitely needs practice.

On another note, I'd like to post a correction to my last post.  I, mistakenly, wrote that "With some supervision/instruction on my part, Paul made these tartes along with a kale and wild rice gratin."   For probably the first time ever Paul actually read that post, and wanted me to clarify that he did not need any supervision or instruction.  He wants everyone to know that he made the tarts and the gratin all by himself!  I tried reminding him that I shopped, reviewed the ingredients with him, and rolled out and cut the puff pastry rounds, but I'm trying to learn to pick my battles, so I won't argue....The Vegetable Barley Soup, on the other hand, Paul actually did make all by himself.  We were both pretty skeptical, Indian flavored barley soup in a French cookbook just sounded confused, but we actually loved it.  I thought the flavors worked really nicely.  My one quibble is with the claim that the recipe serves six.  We ate almost the entire thing in one sitting!  This is definitely a recipe I'll make again.

Friday, March 21, 2014

FFWD Scallop and Onion Tartes Fines

I'm writing this from the airplane.  I was supposed to be in Bryan, Texas (sister city to College Station, the home of Texas A&M, for those who aren't up on their Texas geography) overnight for a work trip.  It's my first night away from Charlotte and I already wasn't very happy about it.  Last night we boarded the regional jet to take us from College Station to Dallas, but stopped after taxiing down the runway.  The pilot came on the intercom and told us that the plane's second engine was broken, and apparently you can't fly (or at least you can't take-off) with only one engine.  To make a long story somewhat shorter, we ended up having to wait for four hours in the gate-area until the next plane arrived, I missed my connection, had to spend the night in the airport hotel (at least it was a Grand Hyatt!) and am now anxiously counting the (3 more) hours until I get home to see Charlotte.  The whole experience was pretty surreal.  College Station is such a small airport that our original flight (at 6:15) was supposed to be the last flight out for the night.  That meant that TSA was headed home about the time that we found out our plane was broken.  Those of us who decided to wait for the next flight were locked in the gate-area, because once we exited security we wouldn't be able to get back in.  The gate area had nothing but one, single-person restroom, and a vending machine.  Nowhere to buy magazines, and no food of any kind.  At least our very nice flight crew ordered in Little Caesar's for all of us!

After the week I've had, Paul seriously deserves the husband of the year award.  Not only has he taken care of Charlotte all by himself for the past two nights, but he made these tarts as well.  On Monday I had a million things to take care of before leaving, wanted to spend as much time as possible with Charlotte, and had a work call scheduled from 7-8 PM (ugggh).  With some supervision/instruction on my part, Paul made these tartes along with a kale and wild rice gratin.  He also took the photos for the blog post, with much more patience than I ever manage.  He may have skipped making the salad I was planning on serving with the meal, and the scallops may not look anything like a petal or a flower or a pinwheel, but I'm certainly not complaining.  My first comment after making these was that they're good but, seriously, what wouldn't taste good on puff pastry?  Paul really loved these, he thought the scallops were perfectly cooked, so maybe I'll make them again to repay him sometime.

P.S.  When this posts I'll probably still be catching up on reading everyone's posts from last week.  I'm sorry!  I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone thought of the hens.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

TWD Mocha Brownie Cake

I'm on the plane and internet is slow, so this is going to be another quick post.  (I have to go to Texas overnight for work.  It will be my first night away from Charlotte.  I'm not the least bit happy about it.)  Here are the pros and cons of this cake, as I see them.

-- If I hadn't just run out of semisweet chocolate, I would already have had all of the ingredients on hand.
-- It gave me an excuse to make a pot of (decaf) coffee.
-- The cake batter came together quickly and easily.
-- I love just baking one layer and slicing it into thirds, instead of having to bake two or three layers.
-- The ganache was delicious, and the cake was surprisingly easy to frost.
-- Did I mention how delicious the ganache was?

-- Brown on brown does not make for a pretty photograph.  I'll be curious to see how everyone else fixed this problem.  The other members of the group are so creative!
-- Maybe I over-baked it, but I was pretty unimpressed by the actual cake layers.  They were kind of dry, and not as chocolate-y as I wanted them to be.

Friday, March 14, 2014

FFWD Sausage-Stuffed Cornish Hens

When we sat down to eat this I said to Paul that either Cornish Hen and duck must be an awful lot cheaper in France, or Dorie must have an awful lot of rich friends (or some of both).  One thing I've learned from blogging with this group is that they both make excellent weekend dinners in that they're fast, tasty, and more interesting than chicken, but wow are they expensive.  At 14 dollars a piece, I decided to make a couple of sides and stretch my two small hens into four servings.  I made a Jerusalem artichoke soup from Ottolenghi (except for the second week in a row I couldn't find Jerusalem artichokes, I think their season must be over, so it was really a potato soup) and salad.  I also pulled a Challah out of the freezer to round out the meal.  I really enjoyed the hens.  I did the side-side-back roasting method, and they were perfectly cooked.  The skin was crispy, and the meat was moist and flavorful.  I rarely like stuffing, but actually enjoyed this one, which I made with hot Italian turkey sausage and half a slice of Challah.  This is definitely a recipe I would make again, but definitely not too soon.