Wednesday, November 7, 2012

TWD Bagels

Even though I somehow managed to take another whole month off posting, I actually was keeping up with the recipes.  I'm going to try to get my thoughts/pictures from last month posted quickly this week, and then hopefully next week I'll be back on track with TWD and FFWD.  When I read this bagel recipe, I knew these weren't going to be my favorite.  My favorite bagels are dense and incredibly chewy, and so I was disappointed when these were described as more cake-like.  The good news was that it makes the dough much easier to work with.  These didn't take nearly as long as I was expecting to shape, and even I was able to make bagels that were reasonably circular.  The recipe was also forgiving.  I substituted about one-third of the flour with whole wheat flour, and thought they still rose beautifully.  As expected, these weren't the bagels of my dreams.  We certainly enjoyed them, but next time I'm going to look for a recipe that promises chewier bagels.  (Does anybody have a good one?)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

TWD Buttermilk Crumb Muffins

I've mentioned before that my husband, Paul, loves to garden and I've loved cooking with everything he's managed to grow over the past two summers.  I don't think I've mentioned that Paul actually loves house projects of any kind.  If it weren't for my insistence on a "tools budget", I think he would spend the better part of every weekend at Home Depot.  We live in a house that's one story plus a basement, and Paul loves to tell anyone who will listen about his very-detailed plan to build an entire second-story addition on his own.  It somehow involves building the walls outside in the backyard, but he's yet to explain to me convincingly how in the world he plans to get the walls to the top of our house!  Anyway, luckily for both of us, Paul decided to start on a smaller project this year: building us a patio.  I think Paul has secretly enjoyed much of the time he's spent on the patio, but it has been quite an ordeal.  Our house is high up on a hill and we have no driveway, so the fun really started the day he arrived home with hundreds of bricks to carry up the hill.  The fun continued with digging out a hole for the patio, and then a couple of weeks ago Paul informed me that he had ordered eight (8!) 1.5 ton bags of gravel and sand to be delivered to our house!

By now you're probably wondering what this has to do with muffins.  Well, I told Paul that I most definitely was not waking up at 7am on Saturday morning to help haul gravel up the hill, but when he convinced his (insanely nice) friend to come over and help, I decided that the least I could do was make them muffins.  When I (guiltily?) woke up at 9am and saw them outside hard at work, I decided it was time to get started.  Luckily, these might be the easiest muffins I've ever made.  I love that they used ingredients that I always have on hand, didn't require waiting for butter to come to room temperature, and didn't even require a hand mixer.  I did everything with my hands and a wooden spoon!  I had these ready to go in the oven by the time it was pre-heated, and soon after we were all inside enjoying the muffins.  I had a hard time not thinking about how unhealthy these are (at least with blueberry muffins I can tell myself I'm eating fruit!), but they tasted good and the boys really seemed to like them.  This is definitely a recipe I'd use again if I wanted muffins without a trip to the store!

This post participates in TWD.  For the (easy) recipe go to Alisa's site, and to see what everyone else thought go to the TWD site.

Friday, October 5, 2012

FFWD Hummus

Today is my 31st birthday.  Turning 30 felt like a semi-big deal, but 31 really doesn't feel like a very important birthday at all.  To be honest, 30 has been a really, really hard year.  Parts of it have been incredibly happy, but much of it has been a challenge.  I'm definitely ready to start a new year.  I'm (cautiously) optimistic that things are looking up, and that 31 will be a happy year...What does all of my rambling have to do with hummus?  Not much, I have yet to think of a great tie-in.  I do know that I love, and have come to rely on, the constancy of food.  When I was younger and unhappy, I would go through phases where I would eat nothing but cereal, bananas, and cookies (or brownies!) for long periods of time.  Now, no matter what happens, after a couple of days of wallowing I force myself back into the kitchen.  To actually make something from scratch.  Better than anything else I've found, cooking forces me out of my own head.  For the time it takes me to cook dinner I am focused on the act of cooking (this works best if I'm making something complicated, or making several dishes at once), and have a break from the constant thoughts that swirl through my mind.

This bring me back to hummus, and homemade hummus in particular.  You can certainly buy hummus at the store, and may brands are actually very good, but I love the act of making it.  I started with dried chickpeas this time and still, the hardest part was remembering to soak them the night before.  After I cooked the chickpeas and waited for them to cool, I processed them with the other ingredients and some sun-dried tomatoes that I added for color.  During halftime of the Redskins game, I started work on the rest of the dinner.  I made falafel with tahini sauce and a cucumber and tomato salad to go with the hummus.  After the game was over (the Redskins miraculously luckily manged to win!), I toasted pita bread and also put out some pickled eggplant and stuffed grape leaves.  (I wanted to make the grape leaves myself but I couldn't find the leaves, so I bought some canned pre-prepared ones which were actually pretty good.)  Paul and I enjoyed the dinner--I was unsure about a hummus recipe in a French cookbook but I actually thought it was very good hummus--and, more importantly, I enjoy the routine of sitting down together to eat.   

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

TWD Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf

I'm so glad I read the P&Qs early this week.  From the recipe title I was expecting a quick bread, so I was glad for the warning that it's actually a yeast bread with an overnight rise.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed--I find quick breads so rewarding and love eating cake for breakfast and calling it "bread"--but I was still curious to give this one a shot.   I substituted half of the white bread flour for whole wheat bread flour, but otherwise followed the recipe.  This came together quickly in my stand mixer while I was finishing dinner.  

After we ate and watched the Breaking Bad Season 3 finale, the bread was done rising.  I left it in the fridge to wait for Sunday.  On Sunday it took about 3.5 hours to come to temperature, at which point I shaped it and put it into pans.  I don't have mini loaf pans and wasn't ready to buy them yet, so I decided to go ahead with my standard loaf pans.  I'll be curious to see if this worked for others.  Even after 2 hours my bread wasn't very risen at all.  I'm not sure if there wasn't enough dough for the pans, or if I just got a bad rise. If it's the latter problem, I'm guessing that the flour substitution contributed.  Oh well.  My breads were a little flat, but they still tasted surprisingly good.  I liked that they had a lot of flavor and weren't too sweet.  I enjoyed some toasted with cream cheese for breakfast this morning, but I'm not sure what to do with the rest.  I'm excited to see what everyone else does.  I'm thinking it could make excellent french toast or bread pudding.  I'll report back if I give it a try.

Friday, September 28, 2012

FFWD Endives, Apples, and Grapes

I've been making a lot of FFWD recipes the last few weeks.  When I joined FFWD in October of last year, my goal was to have made up all of the recipes that I missed during the first year by October of this year.  I'm not quite going to meet that goal (even with sharing with co-workers and the freezer it's just hard for a household of two to eat enough desserts), but I'm hoping to be all caught up with the recipes I want to make within the next couple of months....Anyway, on to this week's recipe.  I love endive and was excited about the recipe choice, but I was nervous about what Paul would think.  It didn't sound like the most substantial dinner.  I decided to pair it with whole wheat bread and cheese, because Paul could live and bread on cheese alone.  Luckily, he didn't have to.  We both actually really enjoyed the cooked endives.  I actually wish I had made more.  I was less excited about the grapes and apples for some reason (maybe just the variety that I bought), but all told I really liked this one.  I'm so glad I've discovered a new way to make endive, and would definitely make at least that component of the recipe again.

When I made the speculoos cookies a couple of weeks ago I froze the extras (I really do freeze everything), and I decided to use some to make the Cinnamon-Crunch chicken.  I know Dorie says it's better with store-bought, but I just couldn't bear to go out and buy speculoos when I had some perfectly good ones in the freezer.  I don't know if the chicken would have been better with store-bought cookies, but we really enjoyed it with the homemade ones.  We don't eat much boneless, skinless chicken--Paul always complains that it's too boring--but this was a surprisingly interesting, flavorful dish for how quick and easy it was.  This is definitely something I'd make again.

As I mentioned when we made the chicken basquaise, Paul's peppers have been growing very well this year.  They aren't nearly as big as the ones you buy at the store (do any gardeners know why that would be?), but we've been getting a lot of them, so I decided to take Dorie's bonne idee for Creamy, Cheesy, Garlicky Rice with Spinach recipe and stuff it into peppers.  We really liked this one as well.  As part of my constant quest to eat more whole grains I actually used bulgur instead of the rice, and Paul didn't even notice!  He just kept telling me how great the rice was.  I think the cheese is really what made this dish.  I used a strong robusto one that we both really like.

Last, I've been wanting to try this for a while and finally got around to making the Torteau de Chevre.  We both really love this one.  I've been eating leftovers for a couple of days now, and it seems to only get better with age.  I was worried it wouldn't be sweet enough, so I served it with a rhubarb compote.  It was very good, but I also think it's interesting enough to stand up on its own.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

FFWD Chicken Basquaise

Paul's pepper plants are doing amazingly this year.  Paul has already chopped and frozen 5+ pounds of them to use throughout the winter.  He also has more sweet peppers than I know what to do with, so I was thrilled when I saw this recipe was chosen.  The only problem was that I needed to make it before our trip to Chicago, and didn't have time to go to the store.  I was debating what to do when I remembered that I had a frozen stewing hen in the freezer.  I didn't really know what a stewing hen was--only that it was cheaper than a regular whole chicken--and had been planning on using it for stock, but I decided to give it a try.  Boy was that a mistake!!!  For reasons I can't remember (this was a couple of weeks ago now), I stewed the peppers at night but then woke up at 5AM the next morning to finish the dish.  With some practice, I have become pretty good at using kitchen shears and a sharp nice to cut a whole chicken into 8 pieces, but a stewing hen is a whole other story!  It was incredibly tough, and dense, and it took me almost an hour to get into 8 (completely mangled looking) pieces.  (Paul really wasn't happy with me because he was trying to sleep, and even though our kitchen and bedroom are pretty far away, this was very loud work).  The good news is that once I finally got the hen into pieces, finishing the rest of the dish was easy.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the meat was very tough--Paul said the dark meat was almost inedible--but I loved the flavor of the peppers and the tomatoes.  This is definitely a recipe I'll be making again, but next time I'll be sure to actually get a chicken!   Until then, I still have another stewing hen in my freezer.  Does anyone has any advice on what to do with it?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TWD Whole Wheat Bread

Does anybody have a great, 100% whole grain bread recipe?  I've been looking for one for a while now, and was really hoping that this would be it, but I was disappointed when I saw that this recipe actually calls for half white flour.  Maybe it's just impossible to get the right rise and texture with all whole grain.  The 100% whole grain bread recipes I've tried haven't been very good.  Most of the good ones have been like this--a mix of white and whole wheat flour.  Anyway, I recently bought some Red Fife Bread Flour (which is whole grain), so I decided to use 4.5 cups of that with 2 cups of white bread flour and hope for the best....And, the bread was about as expected.  It had a nice flavor--definitely more complex than white bread--but was denser than I was hoping for.  I think it'll make good toast and has a hearty texture that will stand up well to sandwiches, but it wasn't so great plain.  I served it for dinner with cheeses, sliced tomatoes (from the garden), and the endives, apples, and grapes (which I'll be posting about soon).

For the recipe (which I would recommend following more precisely than I did!), visit out hosts for the week Michele and Teresa.

Monday, September 17, 2012

FFWD Spiced-Poached Apples

I'm late posting because I spent last week in Chicago(!), but I had guests over for dinner on Saturday night and thought it would be the perfect time to try out the poached apples.  I wasn't that excited about them.  They sounded boring on their own, but none of the recommended toppings sounded that great to me either.  Saturday morning I looked through a bunch of your posts and loved the idea of pairing this with rice pudding, but didn't think I'd have time to make it.  Luckily, my guests (Ilana and Scott) insisted on bringing vanilla ice cream.  I'm so glad they did.  I really enjoyed the apples and ice cream together, much more than I thought I would.  It was like an apple pie, but missing the crust (which, admittedly, is probably my favorite part).  On the side, I served Dorie's Speculoos cookies.  These were excellent.  

The evening didn't quite go as planned.  In the afternoon I had prepared a corn and tomato pie, marinated a chicken, and had potatoes and vegetables already to grill.  I was baking the cookies and poaching the apples when I told Paul to go heat up the grill (he does all of the grilling in our house).  He "heated" the grill, but when he went out about 20 minutes later to put the food on the grill, he realized that he was completely out of propane!  We had about 10 minutes before our guests were supposed to arrive.  Paul ran to the store.  I probably should have worked to put together an appetizer (I didn't have one planned), but I was too angry to focus so I just finished the cookies and the apples and made a walnut dressing for the vegetables.  When our friends arrived they were starving.  Luckily, I had an entire drying rack full of little speculoos cookies.  We ate MANY of these while we waited for our food to grill.  I was a little bit worried about spoiling our dinner, but everybody seemed happy to eat when it was finally ready, and we all enjoyed the cookies after dinner as well.  All in all, it was a great night, and I enjoyed both the apples and the speculoos.

Friday, September 7, 2012

FFWD Eggplant Tartine

I've always loved eggplant.  Paul has been a tougher sell, but he's a great sport and has definitely learned to enjoy it, as long as it isn't too plain.  I have lots of favorite eggplant recipes--roasted with mustard vinaigrette, grilled with only olive oil, eggplant parmesan, eggplant stacks with feta, baba ghanoush, Marcella Hazan's eggplant salad, I could go on and on--but I'm always happy to try a new one.  I was very pleasantly surprised with this one.  It didn't sound that interesting, but I really liked the method for roasting the eggplant and the salad on top was very refreshing.  I normally slice my eggplant thinner and roast it for a shorter amount of time (about 20 minutes), turning it once.  I was surprised when this recipe called for thicker slices, roasting for twice as long, and no turning, but it was very easy and it worked.  The slices were perfectly cooked.  I served this as part of our Labor Day dinner with Dorie's corn soup and cheese and crackers, and was very happy with everything.  My favorite corn soup is still the No-Cream Creamy Corn Soup from here--it has a Chipotle-Lime drizzle that is just incredible--but this one was also very good.

My goal is to finish catching up on the recipes I missed before I joined the group in the next couple of months, and to that end I also made the Slow Roasted Tomatoes.  Paul's cherry tomatoes have been doing great this year, and they were absolutely delicious roasted.  I've been making them a lot this summer and adding them to eggs, pasta, stuffed zucchini blossoms, and anything else I can think of.  I have a bunch of fairly similar recipes for slow roasted tomatoes and this one wasn't my favorite, but it certainly wasn't bad.  When I posted about the carrot saladRose commented that some of the toughest FFWD recipes are the ones for which we already have good recipes.  Both the corn soup and the slow roasted tomatoes made me think of her comment.  They were perfectly good recipes, but I still like my old ones better.  The eggplant, on the other hand, was a definitely keeper.  I'll definitely be making it again.  I think it'd be a perfect appetizer for a summer dinner party.  It's easy to prepare ahead of time, pretty, and delicious.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

TWD Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

Despite this post being a couple of days late, I actually made this cake early.  I wanted to make the cake while I knew we'd still have good nectarines at the farmer's market, and a Sunday night dinner with my grandma and brother seemed like the perfect opportunity.  Of course, the afternoon got much busier than I was planning on (to be honest, there was a one day sale that I really didn't want to miss!), so I was pretty panicked about how I was going to get the cake baked in time.  I had no idea what a chiffon cake was, but it sounded fancy and time-consuming.  

Luckily, I was completely wrong.  This cake had three components--the fruit, the streusel, and the cake batter--but none of them was too hard to make.  I'm still not great at gently folding in whipped egg whites, but I took my time and I think it went better than the last time.  The cake had an excellent texture, and we all loved the flavor.  Paul thought it tasted like a coffee cake--because of the streusel, I think--but definitely in a good way.  My only problem with this cake was the presentation.  It's probably because my springform pan is pretty cheap, but a lot of the (delicious!) caramel leaked out of the bottom.  Some of the cake also stuck to the sides of the pan when I inverted it.  It obviously didn't affect the flavor, but the sides of the cake were not nearly as pretty and uniform as I was hoping they would be.  Oh well.  I definitely plan on making this cake again, with all different kinds of fruit, so I'll have lots of opportunities to perfect the presentation.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of the leftovers from my Sunday dinner.  I knew we'd eat well all weekend, so I wanted to to keep things (relatively) simple and rely on Paul's garden.  I made zucchini stuffed with homemade ricotta cheese, sliced tomatoes with basil, and pasta with pesto.  Followed by the chiffon cake, I was very happy with how the dinner turned out.  I was also thrilled to have such fun guests to share the dinner with.  Last, I couldn't resist taking a photo of the Fig and Almond tart (from Dorie's Baking) that I made a couple of weeks ago.  It was a delicious way to use figs from our tree, and another beautiful fruit dessert.  For the Nectarine Chiffon cake recipe, visit our hosts for the week Marlise and Susan.  Visit the TWD site to read what all of the other bloggers thought of the recipe.

Friday, August 31, 2012

FFWD Minted Zucchini Tagliatelle

When I saw the title of title of this recipe I was pretty excited.  I make a pasta with (cooked) zucchini that's been julienned and pesto that I really like.  It's a great way to use up zucchini, and a little bit healthier than just eating pasta with pesto (although I do that frequently too!).  I was hoping this recipe would be similar to that one.  I was pretty disappointed when I opened the book and realized that this didn't actually include pasta, and that the zucchini remains raw.  I'm lucky that I really enjoy all vegetables (except for mushrooms), but I'm kind of picky about which ones I'll eat raw, and zucchini isn't really one of them.  But, it's for the blog so I tried to have an open mind and make it anyway.  I followed the recipe exactly, but substituted in half yellow squash for the zucchini.  For some reason Paul has grown an absurd amount of yellow squash this year, but almost no zucchini, and it just seemed crazy to go out and buy zucchini.

This recipe wasn't hard to put together (thanks to my mandoline), but the prep did take a while, and then the hour it requires in the fridge made it pretty slow for a weeknight.  It was okay, but not something I'd make again.  I just wasn't that excited about it.  To go with it I served pasta and another squash dish - I told you I had a lot to use up!  The second dish was another Canal House one with harissa, olives, and feta.  It was much more exciting.

I also made the Salmon in a Jar recipe last week; another catch-up from last summer.  I was really looking forward to it, and maybe set my expectations too high, but it wasn't as good as I hoped it would be.  It was definitely good, but I liked the potatoes better than the fish (and I normally love salmon), and felt completely overwhelmed by all of the leftover olive oil that I had to use up.  So, all in all, nothing was bad, but this hasn't been my favorite French Fridays week.

Friday, August 24, 2012

FFWD Peach Melba

I had an impossible time photographing this dish.  The combination of the lighting (it was dark out), my dark table, and my dessert glass just didn't work at all.  Luckily, this was much easier to make - and to eat - than it was to photograph.  I decided to make the raspberry-cassis ice cream that Dorie recommends and was so glad I did.  It was quick to make, the consistency was perfect, and I loved the clean, fresh flavor.  A perfect summer ice cream, but I love that it can be made year-round with frozen berries.  The dessert as a whole was definitely good, but the ice cream really stole the show.  This would also be a perfect dinner party dessert.  It's pretty and tasty enough for company, and everything but the assembly can be done ahead of time.  We canned 12 quarts of peaches last month, and I'm looking forward to using them to make this dessert in the winter.  It's always fun to be reminded of summer!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

TWD Popovers

I've been meaning to make popovers for a while now, but have never gotten around to it.  I don't know what I've been waiting for.  These were incredibly easy.  I love recipes that involve nothing more than throwing simple ingredients into a blender and processing.  The only change I made to the recipe was replacing almost all of the white flour with whole grain flour.  I had only wanted to replace about half of the flour, but I actually ran out of white.  I thought it worked surprisingly well.  I'm sure they weren't quite as light and fluffy as they would have been otherwise, but I liked the additional flavor the multi-grain flour gave the popovers, and they still had a very nice texture.

My only complaint comment is that my popovers were not uniformly shaped at all.  I'm not exactly sure what I did wrong.  I poured the batter evenly into my muffin tins, only made five per 12 cup tin, and most of them still looked like they grew at an angle (the one in the photo on the right is representative).  I'm wondering if it's because my oven is uneven.  I'm curious to see if anyone else had this problem.  These were great on their own, and even better with the homemade blackberry jam that I canned a few weeks ago.

This post participates with Tuesdays with Dorie.  Visit our hosts Paula and Amy to get the recipe, and go here to see what everyone else thought of the recipe.

Friday, August 17, 2012

FFWD Cafe Style Grated Carrot Salad

Sometimes I worry that my blog reads like an advertisement for Sara Moulton, but I do absolutely love her.  Her Cooking Live show is my first memory of watching the Food Network, and still my favorite.  I just loved how calm, and real, she always seemed.  I also own - and love - all three of Sara's cookbooks.  Which gets me to my point.  I already have a carrot salad recipe.  It's Sara's.  It starts with cumin seeds and olive oil, adds paprika and lemon juice, and finishes with golden raisins and sliced green olives with pimentos.  It is my favorite carrot salad and one of my favorite salads, period.  Whenever I make it, I have to stop myself from eating the entire bowl.  I certainly didn't need another carrot salad recipe, and if it wasn't for the blog I probably wouldn't have tried this one, but here we are.  

Paul's carrots have been doing great this year, so to start my salad I just had to go out to the yard to pick some.  I love having carrots so readily-available (although I hate the 20 mosquito bites I acquired in the 5 minutes I spent in the yard!).  As I was making the salad, it was all I could do to stop myself from adding the green olives.  I continued to follow the recipe, using my fancy walnut mustard and adding golden raising and toasted walnuts.  (Dorie recommended the mustard on OpenSky.  It was a splurge but I absolutely love it).  Paul took a bite of the salad, and commented on how great it was.  I asked him if it was better than Sara's.  First he said yes, he thought it might be.  I gave him a look.  Then he said no, he thought they were both good, but appreciated having this one as a change.  I tried the salad.  It was surprisingly good.  Not as good as Sara's (at least in my opinion), but the walnut mustard and toasted walnuts did give it a nice flavor.  I'm actually considering making it again for a barbecue on Sunday.  I guess there might be room in my life for two carrot salad recipes!

Friday, August 10, 2012

FFWD Warm Scallop Salad with Corn, Nectarines, and Basil

Paul and I got into a little bit of an argument about this recipe.  When we sat down to eat I told him that Dorie had said (in the recipe headnotes) that it was a little bit of a stretch to put this in a French cookbook since it was really something she had made in Connecticut, but that she had made it once in France.  Paul started to argue that the recipe seemed to have more of a California than a New England influence.  I probably should have just smiled and nodded, but I wanted to defend Dorie.  I started to argue back that the combination of fresh seafood, corn, and tomatoes is very New England and that he shouldn't be arguing with Dorie, who clearly knows much more about this than he does!  Regardless of its origins, we both really enjoyed this salad.  It's hard to go wrong with summer produce that's this fresh.  I'm not totally sure how I feel about the nectarines - I think they might be better chopped up - they didn't feel like they really incorporated into the salad, but I definitely enjoyed all of the flavors and how easy this was to put together.

FFWD Tomato-Cheese Tartlets

I always laugh when people negatively review recipes, but then in their comments happen to mention that they made substitutions for half of the ingredients and didn't actually follow any of the instructions.  It cracks me up, but I doubt the recipe writers are quite as amused!  But this is my blog so I'll comment anyway, even though I don't think I've actually earned the right.  

I had already done my shopping for the week when the recipe was posted, so I decided just to wing it with whatever I had in the house.  This probably would have worked out okay, if my oven had chosen to cooperate.  When I got home I started to preheat the oven while I rolled out the puff pastry dough.  The oven still wasn't hot yet, so I worked on preparing the toppings.  It still wasn't hot, but I figured I was just hungry and being impatient, so I started working on the salad.  Luckily, I finally opened up the oven and realized it was completely cold.  Paul took a look and decided it must be the igniter (we're still waiting for the part to arrive to test this theory - I'm really hoping he's able to fix it!), so the oven was out.  Since it worked so well for other things we, stupidly, decided to try to cook the puff pastry on the grill.  These were obviously way too delicate for the completely uneven heat on the grill.  I was only going to share the top picture but, in the interest of honesty, here's how the "tartlets" turned out.

I ended up eating the only non-burned one and Paul ate the non-burnt halves of the other pieces (I decided it was his fault they were burnt because he was in charge of the grill).  The pastry definitely didn't puff, but it was cooked enough to be edible.  Topped with olive tapenade (that I actually had leftover in the fridge), a combination of fresh and sun-dried cherry tomatoes, and some good sharp cheese, they were actually pretty good.  This is definitely a recipe I'd try again, when I actually have a working oven!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

TWD Berry Galette

This recipe really is a keeper.  (My mom and I still say that.  I thought it was so funny to read in the recipe head-notes that it is an expression used by old-fashioned cookbooks.)  I was very excited to make this recipe and everything started out very well.  Paul and I went to a pick-your-own farm this weekend.  In addition to 50+ pounds of tomatoes and 20+ pounds of peaches to can, we picked blackberries and raspberries.  Combined with some store-bought blueberries, I had the perfect filling ready for the galette.

The trouble started when I started to make the dough.  I'm really curious to see if anyone else had problems with it.  I thought I followed the directions exactly, but I must have mis-read or mis-measured something, because after mixing it in the food processor I was left with a very wet, sticky mess.  It wouldn't even come close to forming a ball.  My only change was substituting half of the AP flour with whole grain flour, but that should have made the dough drier, if anything.  I didn't know what to do, so I just threw small handfuls of flour - trying to alternate between AP, whole grain, and cornmeal - into the dough and kept mixing with my hands until it was dry enough to form a (very sticky) ball.  I then threw it in the freezer (I didn't have the full two hours to refrigerate it) and tried to forget about it.  When I came back to it - after leaving it on the counter long enough for it to thaw - it was still very sticky, but with some AP flour for the board I was able to roll it into a circle.  

I was still worried about the texture of the crust, but continued on.  From there, the recipe came together very quickly.  I skipped the sugar and just drizzled honey on top of the berries.  The galette was ready to bake, but my oven is currently broken, so Paul offered to try grilling the galette.  I was nervous (especially after some mishaps over the weekend) but didn't have a better idea, so we went for it.  We checked the galette frequently, and after about 30 minutes it looked perfect.  We tasted it and it was just delicious.  I couldn't believe that the crust had come out so well.  I love the simplicity of it.  The star really is the fruit.  My only complaint was how small it is!  I wish I had made two!

Our hosts for the week are Lisa and Andrea.  Go to their sites for the recipe, and to the TWD site to see what everyone else thought.

Monday, August 6, 2012

TWD Blueberry Nectarine Pie (+ Semolina Bread)

Last weekend was my first weekend at home, with power, since June.  July was a very fun, but very busy month for me.  It's really nice to be back home cooking - especially with all of the incredible tomatoes, corn, peaches, and melons - and I'm looking forward to a relaxing month of August.  Paul (the husband) was just complaining that the summer is more than half-way over, and we still haven't had a single fruit pie or galette.  Eever since I made Martha Stewart's summer fruit galette 3 summers ago, Paul has been in love.  He was very happy when I told him that the week's TWD assignment was a fruit pie.  I figured that while I had the oven on, I'd also catch up on the Semolina Bread, and make a Teriyaki Roasted Chicken (from Canal House Vol. 1) for dinner.

Luckily, I remembered from reading the Semolina Bread P&Qs that the rise was a long one, so when we got home from the farmer's market around noon I got out the book and added up the hours.  8 hours until the bread would be ready to eat!  I started the bread right away, and started the pie crust after we finished our lunch.  I'm always trying to eat less refined flour and sugar (too often unsuccessfully), so I decided to make some changes to these recipes.  For the bread, I substituted half white whole wheat flour for the all purpose. For the pie, I substituted the Spelt Pie Dough from (Good to the Grain) for the pie dough called for in the recipe.  I also used turbinado sugar in the filling, and used less than the recipe called for.

I was very happy with how both recipes came out.  I really liked both the texture and flavor of the bread.  It was great fresh, and I also thought it made good toast the next day.  I was very frustrated while making the pie.  I (stupidly) used my 9" cake pan with 2" sides, and it didn't work at all.  The sides were too tall for the crust to hang over, and I could barely crimp it at all.  Next time, I will just use my common sense and use my pie pan.  Luckily, it didn't affect the taste at all, and we both loved the flavor of this pie.

FFWD Lemon Barley Pilaf + July Catch-Up

I was a good student all throughout school, but I did have a bad habit of falling asleep pretty frequently in class.  In some classes I could get away with it, but there was one of my high school English teachers who always noticed.  When she would catch me and tell me to wake up, I would always apologize.  Sometimes she would let it go, but when she was really mad she would say "Jora, don't bother apologizing.  Just don't do it again."  It's a line I've always liked, and one that I now use on my husband.  So, I won't bother trying to explain how I managed to miss posting for the entire month of July.  I was away (in Spain, France, and Europe!) for 12 days, and at the beach another weekend, but I have no excuse for the second half of the month.

Despite my lack of posting, I did manage to cook all of the July recipes, and even two catch-up recipes from last summer.  I thought I'd run them down from least to most favorite:

I take completely responsibility for this one.  It isn't the Citrus-Berry Terrine's fault. I avoid pork, but I don't always have a consistent relationship with gelatin.  I don't really use it when I'm cooking at home, but there are many times when I'm out when I'll just choose not to think about it.  For this recipe, though, I decided to try using Agar Agar (a vegetarian gelatin substitute) in its place.  In hindsight, the Agar Agar actually worked great, but I should have followed the instructions on the box instead of trying to follow the recipe, as the technique isn't quite the same.  I was also very tired when I made this (it was the night after we got back from Europe), and managed to completely forget the sugar!  So, I had an un-sweetened un-set-up citrus jello with berries.  It actually made a pretty good breakfast with Greek yogurt, but I didn't like it enough to bother trying to make it again correctly.

I'm always looking for excuses to use more whole grains (Paul isn't the biggest fan).  I love when they're assigned as blog recipes, because he can't argue when I make them.  The Lemon Barley Pilaf was a nice recipe.  I didn't think there was anything exciting about it, but it worked, was healthy, and tasted pretty good.  I wouldn't make it again in summer, but it is a recipe that I'll use again this winter (especially now that I own a whole box of barley!).  I served this as part of a -- somewhat confused -- dinner of yellow squash soup with pesto, white bean and shrimp salad with cherry tomatoes and pesto, marinated eggplants, and carrot sticks with honey mustard dip.  Not the most focused dinner, but we enjoyed it.

My favorite things about the Crunchy Ginger-Pickled Cucumbers are how easy they are, and that they have to be made ahead.  I made them in the early afternoon on what turned out to be a crazy cooking day for me (*), and I was so happy that I could just pull them out of the fridge when it was finally time for dinner.  I found these very refreshing, and would definitely make them again to accompany an Asian dinner.

I made the Eggplant Caviar right before we went on vacation, when I was still doing the cleanse.  The healthy ingredient list caught my eye.  I really like eggplant, and tend to make a couple of eggplant salad-type recipes a year.  This one wasn't my favorite (I think Marcella Hazan's or the one my mother makes would win that award), but it was very good.  Eating the leftovers as a snack (with more vegetables) helped me make it through the end of the cleanse.

This was my first attempt at making a jelly-roll style cake; it definitely won't be my last.  I had always thought these rolled cakes must be very hard to make, even though I had been told before that they actually weren't, so I'm thrilled the blog forced me just to try making one.  I should have trusted Dorie (and Ina Garten, and the others) who insisted that it really was easy.  I made the Blueberry Marscapone Roulade on a Sunday night after we got home from the beach, and it came together very quickly and easily.  I really enjoyed the flavors - it's hard to go wrong with fresh blueberries!  My one comment is that this cake didn't keep very well, so I'll probably save the recipe for times when we're having company.

My favorite recipe of the month was the Salmon with Basil Tapenade.  I made this the night after we got back from Europe (after the terrine failure), and we just loved it.  This is the kind of dish that's easy enough for a weeknight dinner, but also could definitely be served to company.  The flavors were excellent, and the fish was perfectly cooked (I only had to bake mine for about half the time that Dorie recommended).  Served with Lemon Spinach, salad, and gougeres from the freezer (I love having these ready in the freezer), this dinner made us happy to be home.

(*) I can't remember everything I made that day - it was a lot.  I know it started with Semolina Bread and the cucumbers, in the middle there was Blueberry Nectarine Pie and Pickled Summer Squash, and it ended with Roast Chicken with Teriyaki sauce.  It was also the night of the stupidest thing I've ever done in the kitchen (I'm pretty sure I've topped this in other aspects of life).  For posterity, I'll record it.  The teriyaki sauce (another excellent Canal House recipe) started with boiling a cup of water with a cup of brown sugar.  I then added cups of soy sauce and Mirin, a lot of peeled and chopped ginger, coriander and black peppercorns, and simmered everything for at least an hour.  When the sauce had thickened (and I had reached the part in the recipe where I needed to use the sauce to baste the chicken) I was ready to finish it by straining it.  Brilliant me walks over to the sink, holds up my strainer, and proceeds to pour my entire sauce through the strainer and into the sink.  I was left with nothing but a strainer full of ginger and peppercorn remains!  Paul did think that the sink smelled excellent :-(

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

TWD Hazelnut Biscotti

I was happy when I saw this week's TWD selection.  Biscotti aren't my favorite dessert - they seem almost healthy - but I definitely enjoy them.  More importantly, I do secretly like that they're healthy, and they're easy to make.  They seemed like a great choice because I knew I'd only have a day to make them in between the end of my 3 week cleanse, and our trip to Spain and Italy tonight (!).  I bought the hazelnuts last weekend, and was all set to make them this Sunday.  The only problem was that the huge storm hit us Friday night, and we lost our power.  As I write this (Monday evening Tuesday morning), we still don't have power.  

I really wanted to make these, though, so we decided to improvise.  Luckily, preparing the dough doesn't require any electronic mixers.  Our stove works (another great thing about having a gas stove!) so I just toasted the hazelnuts on the stove instead of using the oven.  Then, Paul heated the grill to 300.  I was pretty worried about baking on the grill, but Paul was very confident and he was right.  Our grill has a thermometer on the outside, and it really was just like using an oven.

These came out excellently.  I really love the hazelnut flavor.  They're good plain - better with coffee - and I also served them with some rhubarb compote (just rhubarb that Paul grew heated with honey and cassis) and yogurt.

For the biscotti recipe, visit our hosts for the week: Jodi and Katrina.  I'll be out of town for the next 12 days, but I'm looking forward to reading everyone's posts when I get back from vacation!

Friday, June 29, 2012

FFWD Corn Pancakes + More Catch-Up

This is my 50th post.  I can hardly believe it's been almost a year since I started FFWD.  Time really does fly...

One of my favorite summer recipes is fresh corn cakes. It's a Sara Moulton recipe.  The cakes have both fresh corn and cornmeal, and they're topped with goat cheese and slices of fresh summer tomatoes.  They're incredible, but can only be made in a couple of months.  I was very curious when I saw this recipe.  As much as I love corn cakes, they just didn't sound like they could possibly be very good.  I eat frozen corn all of the time, but have never purchased canned corn (although I did used to love creamed corn as a kid).  The times I've had canned corn - on top of restaurant salads - it's always seemed incredibly sweet.  I debated substituting frozen corn, but decided that was missing the point, so I bought a can of corn (no salt or sugar added) and proceeded with the recipe.

It came together very quickly in the food processor, and within about 15 minutes we were sitting down to dinner: corn cakes and the beet salad.  I was very pleasantly surprised by the corn cakes.  They were nowhere near as good my fresh recipe, but if I didn't try to compare them they were definitely pretty good on their own.  I would make these again if I needed a quick and easy side dish and fresh corn wasn't available.

I've been on a three week cleanse - eliminating dairy, grains, refined sugar, coffee, and alcohol from my diet - so I decided to use this time to catch up on some of the healthier recipes I've missed.  I've never liked cold soup, but I really enjoyed having the Cold Melon-Berry Soup as my dessert when there weren't other options.  The ginger makes it very refreshing.  I also made the other beet salad - Chunky Beets and Icy Red Onions.  I really liked it.  Taking the time to soak and rinse the onions makes such a difference.  I definitely preferred it to the lime and honey beet salad.  Last, I made Salmon and Tomatoes en Papillote.  It was a really hot night, so we grilled the foil packets instead of turning on the oven.  This is definitely a recipe I'll make again.  It was quick, easy, healthy, and tasted great.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

FFWD David’s seaweed sablés

I'm a big fan of David Lebovitz.  I read his blog regularly, and his cookbooks are among the ones I turn to first when I want to make a dessert.  I was certainly surprised when I read the description and list of ingredients for these cookies, but I was also very curious.  Paul and I went to a play at an outdoor venue (Wolftrap) a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to pack these cookies as part of our picnic.  Happily, these cookies were very easy to make.  I made the dough after breakfast, put it in the fridge to chill while I ran to the grocery store, and had the cookies in the oven soon after I got back.

To go with the cookies, I made Mozzarella, Tomato and Strawberry Salad (another catch-up recipe!).  It used up some of the many strawberries Paul grew, and was quick and easy to put together.  The salad was a combination I never would have thought to put together, but we both really enjoyed it.  The cookies were very interesting.  I was wishing we had some white wine to go with them (per Dorie's suggestion), but they were still pretty good with water.  I'm not sure if I would make them again - they weren't very sweet for a dessert and I have so many appetizer recipes that I'd like to try - but they were fun to try once.  I also served them with Olive Oil Ice Cream, and thought that made a nice pairing.