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.

Friday, November 21, 2014

FFWD Storzapretis

I saw Dorie in DC last night!  I didn't have time to wait in line to meet her in person, but I loved her talk.  She was just as I imagined her from her writing -- so likable!  She had this great, very Parisian outfit--all black but with a gorgeous, colorful scarf--and just seemed completely genuine, down-to-earth, eager to help, and cool.  She also tells great stories.  What a fun evening!  I'm very behind in posting here, even though I have made most of the recipes, and definitely need to do a big catch-up post soon, but I thought I'd at least get today's post up on time.  When I think I need to do tasks all at once is when I really start to procrastinate.

I'm almost embarrassed to say this, and am sure it was just dumb luck, but I didn't have any trouble with these at all.  I didn't strain my ricotta or do anything special (and it was just regular store-bought ricotta), shaped these minimally with my spoons, and they held together pretty well.  I did chill them all day--it worked better with my plans for the day.  Maybe that made a difference?  I chilled them on silpat, used a metal spatula to get them from the silpat to the simmering water, and then used a metal slotted spoon to get them from the simmering water to the ice water.  I was in a rush (hungry!) and just used my hands to take them out of the ice water.  It worked just fine.

As for the taste, I thought these were just okay.  They reminded me of the filling I use when I make spinach lasagna.  We enjoyed these, but I didn't think they were worth the extra trouble of shaping them.  Probably a one-time thing in our house.  I'm looking forward to being back with the group for the final 6 months :-(.  I'll try to post more regularly from here on out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TWD BCM Palets de Dames

I always love an opportunity to bake, but I'm still recovering from an insanely busy October, so I was pretty happy when I realized that I'd already made this month's selection for FFWD.  I was less happy when I realized that I still hadn't gotten around to posting about them.  I was hoping this could be an "insert link here" type of post, so this one's going to be brief.

Since I received BCM in the mail a couple of weeks ago I've been reading, and drooling over, the recipes almost every night.  So many of them sound absolutely delicious.  This one didn't sound especially interesting to me, and the actual cookies did nothing to change my mind.  They were sweet and cakey, "pleasant" comes to mind, but they definitely weren't anything special.  With so many interesting recipes to try, these won't be making a repeat appearance in our house.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

TWD BWJ Alsatian Onion Tart

I’m still hoping to get around to making my own puff pastry later this month, but this week I chose the easy version.   Paul, Charlotte, and I left our house Friday morning to spend a long weekend in West Virginia.  I was only expecting about a 3 hour drive, so I thought I’d have plenty of time to make this tart once we got there.  Well, as I continue to learn every day, things with a baby (toddler?) take a lot longer than they used to.  By the time we got out of the house, ran two errands, and took the “scenic route” to our destination (I never should have let Paul talk me in to the last one!) it was after five o’clock.  So, I had to make this as quickly as I could.

 I quickly scanned the recipe and determined that the hold-up would be the onions, so I got those started first.  Afterwards, I took out the puff pastry.  Luckily—both because I had no time and because the house we were staying in had no flour—the one I bought from Trader Joe’s was already quite thin, so I just unrolled it onto a sheet pan, docked it, and threw it in the refrigerator.  (I gave Charlotte a fork and tried to get her to help me dock the pastry, but she just kept trying to pick up the pastry with her fork.  I guess she was hungry!)   Next I took out the bacon.  Unfortunately it had gone bad.  (I didn’t know bacon went bad.)  It was late and we were in the middle of nowhere, so getting a replacement was out of the question.  I surveyed the options and decided to go with some chicken apple breakfast sausage as a replacement.  I browned it, cut it into small pieces, assembled, and baked the tart.  All told, it still took a little over an hour start-to-finish.  Not too bad, but by no means a quick dinner.

While the tart was baking, I roasted Jerusalem artichokes (a FFWD make-up recipe that I’m hoping to write up soon) and boiled some lima beans (I picked some up at our CSA on a whim).  I really enjoyed the entire dinner.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—almost anything would taste good on puff pastry.  I’m not sure that boiling the onions would be my first choice (I think it’s hard to beat onions that are slow-cooked in butter) but I did like the addition of heavy cream.  Bacon would have been better than the breakfast sausage I used, but I thought the sausage was a surprisingly good substitute.  Paul loved the tart, but wouldn’t eat the Jerusalem artichokes (stomach issues) and seemed to avoid the lima beans as well.  Charlotte only ate the lima beans.  She always keeps us guessing!  I doubt I’ll make the tart again—there are just too many good recipes to try—but we enjoyed it and I’m glad we tried it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

CCC October

October was an absolutely crazy month for me at work.  I made three separate trips to New York, and was generally swamped when I was home too.  Cooking definitely took a back seat to spending time with Charlotte (and sleeping).  Luckily, I made three of the recipes early in the month before work went nuts.  When we got home from New York on Sunday after having been in New York all week (Paul and Charlotte met me in New York mid-week, and we decided to extend our stay into a mini-vacation), we were all craving some light, fresh vegetable dishes (well, maybe not Charlotte!).  I took the opportunity to make a couple more of the recipes.  Again, we really enjoyed all of the recipes.  It was hard to rank the ones that I made, but I did, just for fun.  I'm looking forward to making the other recipes in time for our make-up month next spring.

#1: White beans with artichokes

I served this for dinner with the carrot salad, sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, cheese and crackers.  I was worried that Paul would complain about the lack of a "main course," and think that dinner wasn't substantial enough.  After a couple of bites of this he stopped and said it was "a perfect dish, perfectly balanced."  I was amazed.  It really was good, but I hadn't expected such a ringing endorsement.  I used some dried beans that I had cooked and stashed in the freezer, delicious grilled artichokes that I found in the refrigerator section of my grocery store, and a really nice Purple Haze goat cheese.  The mixture was served over fresh mizuna from our CSA.  Good ingredients really do make all of the difference.

#2: Roasted cauliflower with lemon and paprika

I love this spice-roasted cauliflower recipe, but most of the time when I make cauliflower I take the easy, olive oil, salt, pepper, and stick it in the oven approach.  This was such a nice change of pace.  The recipe didn't sound like much, but the lemon juice and paprika really make this something special.  Especially with my pretty purple cauliflower from my CSA.  This is definitely one that I'll make again.

#3: Carrot, orange and cashews   

I loved the flavors of this one.  The roasted cashews and cumin seeds are a great combination  It only dropped on my list because it's a bit fussy.  I hate segmenting oranges, and cutting the carrots into matchsticks also took some time.  I think next time I would just shred the carrots in the food processor, and peel and slice the oranges into rounds.

#4: Broccoli salad with Asian-style dressing

I almost always just steam broccoli, so it was fun to try something different.  I thought the sauce was delicious.  I found myself wishing I had made more of it, so I could eat it over rice.

#5: Vegeree

I thought this was a little bit boring, but Charlotte loved it.  Unfortunately she picked out all of the vegetables except the onions, but I'm happy whenever she eats what we're eating.  I do wish this had more flavor.  My vegetables were also dry, and I added extra oil.  I think to make this really delicious it probably would need some more fat, but it was a nice dish as is.

Monday, September 29, 2014

TWD Rewind Week

I managed to get a little bit behind with my baking over the summer.  Here is my catch-up post.  Hopefully I'll have an easier time staying on track this fall.

Savory Wheat Crackers

When the group made these, I was in the midst of preparing for Charlotte's first birthday party.  I had already selected a (slightly) different wheat cracker to bake for her party, and couldn't seem to convince myself to make these instead.  I planned to try to make both, but ran out of time.  I made them recently, to go with fish-free nicoise salad and French lentils.  These were fine, but nothing to write home about.  They weren't as good as the ones I made for Charlotte's party.  I'm willing to take responsibility, though.  I don't think I rolled them thinly enough.

Vanilla Pound Cake
I can't remember why I couldn't seem to make this one on time.  In the summer we do a lot of fruit desserts and ice cream, so I think I was just having trouble getting too excited about pound cake.  After reading everyone else's posts, however, I decided I had to give it a try.  I have to say, it was a good, plain pound cake.  The texture was delicious.  I think I have to admit that plain pound cake isn't really my thing, though.  I couldn't stop wishing it was Ina's orange or lemon pound cake.  I did turn the leftovers into a trifle with whipped cream and rhubarb compote.  I made the rhubarb compote with lime zest and juice, and a (relatively) small amount of honey so that it was quite tart.  It was a perfect complement to the sweet cake.

Poppy Seed Torte

For some reason I was picturing a quick-and-easy poppy seed filled breakfast danish (does anyone know what I'm talking about?), so I was pretty surprised when I read the recipe the day before the group made this and realized how involved this was.  I didn't have any cake crumbs around the house, and just couldn't bring myself to go out and buy a cake just so I'd have crumbs to make this one.  I had tons of leftover pound cake, however, so I decided it would be the perfect ingredient in this recipe.  Unfortunately, by the time I got around to it my grocery store wasn't carrying apricots any more.  I substituted Italian plums instead.  I normally prefer apricots to Italian plums (Paul would disagree), but I thought the poached plums were perfect in this dessert.  I love poppy seeds, and thought this cake was delicious.  The light, airy texture was a pleasant surprise.  Paul tasted it and told me that it was baked perfectly.  That's his nice way of telling me that it isn't my fault, but not his favorite dessert.  (I've had many years to train him!  He also still ate plenty of it.)  I also brought a slice to my co-worker who said it was good, but would be better with less poppy seeds.

Baking Powder Biscuits

What's not to like about biscuits?  I substituted butter for the shortening, and still thought these were delicious.  We're big fans of biscuits.  Our favorites are angel biscuits, but I also make a low-fat one with buttermilk, cream biscuits, cream cheese biscuits, sweet potato biscuits, etc., etc.  I doubt I'll make these again--there are just too many good biscuit recipes out there--but we definitely ate them happily.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

CCC September

Another month, another round-up of great vegetable recipes.  I know I sound like a broken record, but I really love this cookbook.  I'm really looking forward to using it this fall and winter too, when it's harder to get interesting vegetable dishes on the table every night.  Some of these were close but, in order of preference, here are the dishes I made this month.

#1: Cauliflower pakors with tamarind raita

As much as I love vegetables, I think the deep-fried version would make it to the top of my list 9 times out of 10.  This wasn't the quickest recipe or the healthiest, but man was it good.  Despite not being quick (cutting the cauliflower into very small florets took a while, as did frying in small batches), this recipe was very easy.  The yogurt sauce was also a breeze to make.  (I couldn't believe I already had tamarind concentrate in the fridge.)  I won't let myself make these too often, but I'm already looking forward to making them again.

#2: Mushroom risoniotto 

I don't eat mushrooms, so I had to take some liberties with this one.  I was planning on replacing the mushrooms with zucchini but I ran out, so I used a mixture of zucchini and peas instead.  I also didn't have wine open, so I used a combination of pasta cooking water and port instead.  I thought the port added a really nice flavor, as did the creme fraiche.  I know I skipped the heart of the recipe (the mushrooms), but I like to think of this recipe as a great reminder to cook more orzo.  This was so quick and easy, and really delicious.  Charlotte sat and carefully picked out only the peas to eat (she's such a funny child!), but I have (delusional?) dreams of her enjoying orzo in the near future.

#3: Two veggie sarnies

I love sandwiches, but for some reason we don't eat many of them around here.  This was a nice reminder.  On the left is the curried egg and lentil sandwich.  I made this on some homemade sourdough bread, with leftover French lentils.  On the right is the mushroom, blue cheese, and watercress sandwich.  Again, I substituted patty pan squash sliced thinly for the mushrooms.  I served this one on the French bread that I made.  I liked both flavor combinations, and would definitely make them again.

#4: Oven-roasted roots frittata 

I wasn't planning on liking this recipe.  I know frittatas are quick, easy, healthy, and a great vehicle for leftovers.  In other words, the perfect weeknight dinner.  However, I've always found them to be boring.  I like root vegetables, but have never exactly found them exciting, so this combination didn't sound like it would do much for me at all.  For some reason I loved it.  I used a lot of different vegetables--potatoes, squash, and carrots--plenty of onion, garlic, parsley and thyme.  It was a delicious combination.  (Full disclosure:  My mom helped me make this one.  She was over at my house helping me with Charlotte so I could work, and she prepped the vegetables and got them in the oven for me.  Thanks Mom!)

#5: Fish-free salad nicoise 

We really enjoyed this salad, but it dropped to #5 on my list because I really do like tuna with my nicoise.  I've professed my love of canned (or bottled, I really do prefer the one packed in glass) tuna here before, and I do feel like it turns this salad into more of a substantial meal.  The eggs were perfectly cooked, though, and we ate this happily with lentils, crackers, and cheese.

#6: Runner beans with tarragon and lemon

Green beans are one of Charlotte's favorite foods these days--I think mainly because they're easy and fun for her to hold--so we've been eating a lot of them this summer.  Tarragon isn't my favorite flavor, but I did enjoy this different, interesting way of preparing them.  Speaking of, is there a difference between runner beans and green beans?  I don't think I've ever seen runner beans.

#7: Fennel and goat´s cheese

I made this one in May  I'm not a big fan of raw fennel, but as raw fennel goes I thought this was a nice salad.  Marinating in lemon really helped.

#8: Pinto bean chili

This was fine, but I have bean chili recipes that I've enjoyed more, so I doubt I'll be making this particular one again.  I just didn't think it had an especially interesting flavor.  It really need the sour cream, cheese, and guacamole that I served with it.

#9: Puy lentil and spinach soup 

Again, this was fine, but I have lentil soup recipes that I like better.  I wasn't a huge fan of the parsley in the soup.  I much prefer Jacques Pepin's version with cilantro stems from this book.

#10: Roasted squash

In the interest of full disclosure, I can't remember whether or not I over-baked these.  I thought these were way over done, but I'm not sure whether to blame the recipe or my own error.  I make a lot of roasted squash, though, and I know that I prefer 25-30 minutes in a very hot oven to the longer method used in this recipe.  I did like the idea of adding garlic to the roasting pan.  That's an idea I'll use again.