Tuesday, December 16, 2014

TWD BWJ Chocolate-Mint Nightcaps

I really wanted to love these.  When I was growing up we’d go visit my grandparents in Chicago every summer.  One of the highlights was eating Frango mints, the chocolate mint truffles that used to only be available at Marshall Fields in Chicago.  (Now you can buy them at any Macy’s, which I have very mixed feelings about.)  I’ve loved the chocolate mint combination ever since.  I made these in stages.  One morning I made the ganache.  It was absolutely delicious (what’s not to like about chocolate and cream?), but I couldn’t really taste the mint. Paul says I’m crazy and that the mint flavor is very pronounced, but I really didn’t think so.  I thought the cookies could have used more.  Later that day I made the cookies.  They were only alright.  The chocolate flavor was pretty mild, and they just didn’t have anything very exciting about them.  The next day I assembled the cookies.  I was hoping that this would be a case where the whole was better than the sum of the parts.  For me, however, it wasn’t.  First, I had an absolutely impossible time piping the ganache.  After struggling, and struggling and the ganache not coming out of the piping bag at all, I finally gave up and just spooned it on.  It didn’t look like much, but it worked.  Afterward, when cleaning the piping bag, I realized that a piece of un-melted chocolate was stuck in the bag.  Lesson learned!  If you’re going to be piping a ganache, make sure the chocolate is melted very well.  Once I finally got the cookies made, though, I just thought they were underwhelming.  They were rich, but just not especially interesting.  In my book, these weren’t worth the time and effort.  Not when there are so many good cookies out there!

Friday, December 12, 2014

FFWD Chicken & Dried Apricot Tagine

I've never made a tagine before, but when I read this recipe I knew I would like it.  I love Moroccan food.  The combination of warm spices in a savory dish is such a welcome change from the way we usually eat.  We had a Moroccan restaurant that we liked in Chicago, but haven't found one here.  I guess I'll have to do more of this kind of cooking at home!  Anyway, the one problem with this recipe--for me--is that I don't eat lamb.  I substituted chicken, without making any other changes, and I thought it was great.  I also loved that, after the initial set-up, this spent a whole hour in the oven by itself.  It gave me plenty of time to complete the rest of our dinner (couscous, sauteed red peppers, and potato and celeriac mash for CCC) and to give Charlotte her dinner.  This would be great for a dinner party.  It's comforting yet exotic, and the time in the oven would give you lots of time to get everything else ready.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TWD BCM Rugelach

I've eaten a lot of rugelach in my life.  Some very good rugelach (my mother's, my great aunt's) and a lot of awful rugelach (the packaged kind they have at most synagogue kiddushes after services on Saturday mornings).  However, I  think the only other time that I've attempted to make it myself is with TWD BWJ.  Re-reading my post (my memory is not what it used to be!), I liked those rugelach, but preferred my mother's.   I have the exact same feeling about these rugelach.  They are good, but my mother's are better.  I seriously need to get her recipe.

As you can see from the photo above, my rugelach were an absolute mess.  I loved the dough (so flaky!) and love the combination of coconut and chocolate, but my rugelach didn't hold together at all.  I had a surprisingly easy time making the rolls (they were neat and surprisingly little filling spilled out), and froze them overnight, but cutting them was really hard.  Many of them broke when I tried to cut them, some more broke when I put them on the cookie sheets, and the rest seemed to break in the oven!  I think one mistake was cutting them too thin, but I don't know what else I did wrong.  I am looking forward to reading everyone else's posts, and would also appreciate any advice you all have.  I still have two rolls in the freezer, and am hoping to be able to make the next batch of cookies look good enough to serve to company.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

FFWD Tartine de Viande des Grisons (Except Not Really)

I was so glad when I saw the recipe for this week was a tartine.  I needed something easy.  I was less glad when I looked up "Viande des Grisons" and realized it was beef, which I don't eat.  I debated using turkey instead, but that sounded boring, so I settled on lox.  I made walnut bread the same day for TWD, and thought it would be perfect with this.  Because there were already so many walnuts in the bread I skipped the walnuts on top (even though judging by other people's photos they would have been very pretty), but did use a walnut oil.  Served with cheese, patatas bravas (a CCC recipe I'll write-up soon), and sauteed greens, this was a fun Sunday night dinner.  Although I can't comment on the actual recipe, I appreciate the reminder of tartines.  We all need more "quick and easy" options this time of year.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

TWD BWJ Walnut Bread

I wanted to make the recipe this weekend, but didn't read it carefully until Friday.  Luckily, I was already planning on making pizza Friday night, so it felt like plans were falling perfectly into place.  I'd save a piece of risen dough from the pizza, make the dough on Saturday, and we'd be eating fresh bread for dinner on Sunday.  Well, the plan worked right up until I completely forgot to save some pizza dough!  I was ready to scream.  So, I guessed at proportions, mixed up some sourdough starter, flour, salt, and water, and let it rise overnight.  The next day, I proceeded with the recipe.  It's very little work, but I was pretty annoyed by the number of steps and all of the lengthy wait times.  I was convinced the bread would never be worth it.  Well, I was completely wrong!  This has such a great flavor.  I love the walnuts--they add a very nice sweetness and crunch--but I also want to make the plain Mixed-Starter bread to taste its flavor on its own.  This is a delicious recipe, and we've loved having the bread around this week.

Friday, November 28, 2014

FFWD BĂ©atrix’s Red Kuri Soup

I ignored enough of the instructions here that I'm pretty sure I'm disqualified from commenting on the recipe, but I'll try anyway.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a Red Kuri squash, so I used a combination of butternut and a piece of kabocha that I happened to have leftover.  When I read the bonne idee more carefully I realized that I should have added chestnuts to mimic the flavor of Red Kuri, but I didn't have any at home and didn't have the time to go back to the store.  Then I didn't feel like peeling squash, so I skipped that part of the recipe too.  What I did was slice the squash in half, put it cut side down on a baking sheet, and bake until very sort (about 1.5 hours).  After it cooled it was easy to scoop out and discard the seeds, and then scoop the flesh into the pot.  I had already cooked the leeks in some butter in the bottom of the soup pot, so at that point all I did was add some milk and water, blend, and re-heat.  Quick and easy.  Since I didn't make the soup correctly, I decided to follow the directions and make the apple and hazelnut garnish.  I also did blue cheese croutons.  I'm still hopeful that one day I'll find a Red Kuri squash and get to actually try the soup, but this was an easy and very tasty substitute.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

CCC November

Last month I had an ambitious plan to make all 11 recipes, but things got busy and I only got about half of them made.  I had already purchased a lot of the ingredients, though, so this month I did a combination of 5 October recipes and 5 November recipes.  Over the next couple of months I'm hoping to finish out the rest of these recipes.  This was another fun month.  I'm especially excited about all of the new ideas for things to do with potatoes.  I tend to get stuck in a rut, always serving them either mashed or roasted.  In order of (weak, they were all good) preference, here are the recipes I made.

#1: Chicory, pears and salty-sweet roasted almonds

I'm still confused about what chicory is.  I thought it was frisee, but based on the picture in the book I decided it must be what I call (Belgian) endive.  I think I made the right choice, but I'll be curious to see what everyone else's dishes look like.  Frankly, I don't think it matters.  These salty-sweet nuts and the simple lemon vinaigrette would be delicious on anything.  This was a great winter salad.  One that I'll definitely be making again.

#2: Cannellini bean and leek soup

This was such a great surprise.  It seemed too simple to be very good, but I absolutely loved it.  I cooked the beans (from scratch) a couple of days ahead, made the chili oil early, and after that this was a relatively easy weeknight dinner.  I couldn't find red chilis, so I made a green chili oil.  Not nearly as pretty, but the flavor is great.  Another winner.

#3: Baby beet tarte tatin 

A few weekends ago I made "rough" puff pastry for this and "real" puff pastry for TWD (hopefully I'll get around to posting about it soon).  My technique on the "real" puff pastry was severely lacking, so this definitely wasn't a fair comparison, but given the time and effort I definitely think that "rough" puff pastry is the way too go.  It rose nicely and was buttery, flaky, and delicious.  I think anything would have tasted good on it, but it was a particularly nice way to serve beets.  I liked the vinaigrette--sometimes I find beets too sweet and it really cut through the sweetness--and added some blue cheese.

#4: Warm salad of mushrooms and roasted squash

(A quick digression.  When Paul and I were first dating he was not nearly the adventurous eater he is now, and used to spend a lot of time making fun of my "strange" eating habits--especially of all of the vegetables that I ate.  After reading about this warm squash salad I knew I just had to make it.  I waited for a night when Paul wasn't going to be around, and happily made my salad.  I was just sitting down to eat it--it was delicious--when he called.  His bus was caught in the snow (we were living in Chicago at the time) and he couldn't get home.  Could he come over?  I said okay.  I debated hiding the squash salad, but decided against it.  He ate it for dinner--with tuna fish that I made him so he could have more protein--and teased me about it for weeks.  Now, 9 years later, Paul doesn't even bat an eyelash when we have squash salad for dinner.)

I don't eat mushrooms, so I used some herbed tofu instead.  That probably disqualifies me from commenting on the recipe, but I will anyway.  It was delicious.  I loved the flavor the sage and garlic gave the squash (I used delicata and didn't even bother peeling), and loved the way the arugula cut through the richness of the blue cheese.  Paul didn't comment.  Probably not his favorite, but I also didn't hear any complaints.

#5: Crostini

I've made crostini many times, what a great way to use stale bread, but I liked the technique of this one.  The advice to slice them thinly was especially helpful.  I topped them with blue cheese, and put them on the squash soup I made for FFWD.  (Another one I'm hoping to finally have time to post about soon.)

#6: Twice baked potatoes

I haven't had twice-baked potatoes since I was a kid, but after this reminder we're definitely going to start eating them more often.  I love that most of the work can be done ahead of time, and they are definitely a lot more fun than plain baked potatoes.  Unless of course the baked potatoes have cheese sauce on them :-)

#7: Roasted brussels sprouts with shallots

I roast brussel sprouts often, but thought that the shallots were a very nice addition.  I'm not sure if I've ever had them roasted before, but they have a great sweetness.

#8: Pumpkin and raisin tea loaf 

I forgot to take a picture of this.  I told my mother I didn't really love it, so she tasted it.  She said the flavors were absolutely perfect, and it just wasn't what I was expecting.  She's probably right.  I think I didn't love the addition of lemon, and am more used to a pumpkin bread that uses pre-cooked pumpkin.  I might try this one again, though.  It was definitely interesting.

#9: Couscous salad with herbs and walnuts

I normally don't buy whole grain couscous--Paul complains--but I thought it went really well with the hearty flavors in this dish.  I also liked the addition of walnuts.  Charlotte enjoyed her couscous plain with butter and cheese.  This was good, if not overly exciting.

#10: Roasted parsnip chips

I was a little disappointed by this one.  When I saw "chips" in the title I was hoping for something exciting, but these seemed just like plain roasted parsnips to me.  Not bad at all, just not especially interesting.