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.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

TWD French Strawberry Cake

I made this on Memorial Day and I'm still late to post!  Oh well.  Better late than never, I hope.  I was very nervous after reading this recipe.  Although I bake a fair amount, I only actually make cakes a few times a year.  When I do they're usually very simple ones.  It's very rare that I make a frosted cake, and I've never tried to decorate a cake before.  But that's one of the great things about this group, it makes me try new things.  

I thought I did an okay job making the genoise, but after it came out of the oven I was shocked by how thin it was.  I think even my careful folding must have deflated the eggs way too much.  Does anybody have tips on this?  I'm going to have to look into it.  Paul laughed when I told him I was supposed to slice this cake into three layers, so I waited until he was gone to make an attempt.  Somehow, I managed to do it.  The cake held together exceptionally well.  He couldn't believe it when I came home and told him I sliced it with a regular serrated knife.

While the genoise was in the oven, I prepared the strawberries.  I actually got to use the strawberries that Paul grew, which is great, but this was a bad year for pests and there were a lot of holes in the strawberries, so it took forever to get them ready.  After dinner (while still finishing my wine), I whipped the cream and started to layer and decorate the cake.  I found frosting it very challenging.  It just didn't seem like there was enough frosting.  I'm sure I just need practice, though, it was very hard to get it as thin as I wanted it to be.  I think I also might need a flexible spatula, I only had a butter knife.  By the time I was ready to pipe the roses it was 10 o'clock and we were ready for cake!  I thought about leaving the roses off entirely, but decided to practice.  I know I should have practiced them on the cutting board before I piped onto the cake, but I didn't have the patience.  I know they look a little silly, but I'm pleased with my first attempt, and glad there's a lot more practice in my future!

When we finally sat down to eat the cake, the flavors were excellent.  This is definitely something I'd make again, although I'll wait for a special occasion and be sure to leave myself some more time.  Visit the blogs of our hosts for the week, Sophia and Allison, to get the recipe, and go here to see what all of the other TWD bloggers thought of the cake.

Friday, June 15, 2012

FFWD Lime Honey Beet Salad

Paul absolutely loves beets - they may be his favorite vegetable.  I definitely like them, so we eat them fairly often.  I typically just roast, peel, and cut them into chunks.  I liked that this recipe was a slight variation, but also not much more time consuming than my usual.  This came together very easily on a Sunday night (while I was cooking some other things).  I let it marinate in the fridge, and we enjoyed it for dinner on Monday.  We had some nice french feta that needed to get used up, and I'm always looking for ways to use our lettuce, so I served it together as a salad.  I really enjoyed the combination.  I really like french feta (or goat cheese) with beets.  The beet salad itself was good, but not amazing.  Dill and beets are a classic combination, but I'm not sure how much I could really taste the lime juice.  I served the corn pancakes on the side, but that's for another post.  I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else thought of the recipe!

Friday, June 8, 2012

FFWD Olive Oil Ice Cream

On our trip to Portland last month we were wandering around on a gorgeous Monday afternoon and noticed a long line outside of an ice cream shop.  We were shocked to see someplace so crowded in the middle of a workday, so we decided we had to try it.  I was glad the line was so long, because it gave us a chance to read all of the incredible flavors at Salt and Straw.  By the time we got to the front of the line, I really wanted to try one of everything.  Luckily, one of the two we picked was Arbequina Olive Oil.  It was incredible.  It was rich and creamy, but the olive oil and salt managed to cut the richness and give it a very interesting flavor.  

I was very excited when I got back from the trip and saw olive oil ice cream on our list of recipes for the month.  I've been making ice cream for a couple of years now, but I don't think I made this one as well as I could have.  I'm still mad at myself over it, but trying to learn to let go (on this, and many other things that are entirely out of my control....).  I let it cook too long - it didn't seem thick enough - and the eggs started to curdle.  I think this gave it a somewhat grainy texture.  That, combined with the oil, made this taste a little bit like Tofutti to me.  Not bad, but definitely not nearly as good as the one from Salt and Straw.  I also thought that it might have had more egg yolks than theirs.  It tasted a little too custardy to me.  Paul insisted that I'm crazy, it's all in my head, and the ice cream was in fact very good.  I'm not sure.  I'm definitely going to try making this one again, but maybe cut back on the eggs, and definitely try to focus better.  The two of us ate it all in 5 days, though, so I guess it wasn't too bad!  I served it sprinkled with salt, and with a seaweed sable on the side.  I thought the two made a nice pair.

TWD Oasis Naan

On Memorial Day weekend, Paul and I spent Saturday and Sunday camping at the beach.  It was a great trip.  The water wasn't warm enough to swim yet, but the weather was gorgeous, and we had lots of fun reading, sleeping, and walking on the beach.  We came back early Monday morning so we could meet some friends for brunch.  This meant that when we got home Monday afternoon the house was a mess, we had a million things to put away from our camping trip, and I hadn't started on any of my usual weekend chores.  It was also over 90 degrees and extremely humid.  So, I decided this was a great time to ignore the cleaning and chores and sit down, plan our meals for the week, and make a grocery list.  

This is how I ended up at home at 3:30 - after a trip to the grocery store - ready to bake Oasis Naan and a French Strawberry Cake, roast rhubarb and broccoli, and make lentil salad and vegetable pot au feu.  Luckily, the naan recipe is very hands off.  I mixed and kneaded the dough, and left it to rise while I worked on the cake.

After about 2 hours (it was a little over because I wanted to get the cake in the oven), the dough had risen over the bowl and I was ready to shape the bread.

I did a terrible job of making it anywhere close to circular, but I had other cooking to do and was too hot to care about anything other than finishing my baking and getting out of the kitchen, so I put the scallions, cumin seed, and salt on top and baked these off.  Mine came out very puffy, and didn't taste very much like the naan I've had at restaurants.  I did substitute half whole grain flour for white flour, though, so that might have affected the texture.  Either way, they were very good on their own (as long as I didn't try to think of them as naan).  I really liked the flavor the cumin seeds and scallions added.  It went surprisingly well with some cheese I had, but was also definitely great on its own.  

I served this with vegetable pot au feu - another catch-up recipe for FFWD.  I really enjoyed all of the fresh vegetables, and absolutely love poached eggs.  I thought the herb sauce was pretty crucial, it added a lot of flavor.  This was a very nice dinner after a weekend of grilling at our campsite.

Our hosts for the week are Maggie and Phyl.  Go to their sites to get the recipe, and go here to see what the other bloggers thought of the naan.

Friday, June 1, 2012

FFWD Lentil, Lemon, and Tuna Salad

I'm very behind on everything in my life - and really want to use what free time I have this weekend to catch up on reading everyone else's posts - so this will be a short one.  I've always really like tuna salad - all kinds of it.  Rachel Ray has a great "everything but the kitchen sink" version with olives, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, herbs, lemon juice, olive oil, etc., but I also like the simple version with mayonnaise (and relish), and my mom makes a great pasta salad with tuna.  I don't make it that often, though, because I can't keep straight the latest information about mercury and whether the potential health benefits outweigh the risks.  When I do buy canned tuna I usually go for the one packed in olive oil and labeled as low mercury, and just really enjoy it.

This salad was very easy to put together.  I made it the night before while I had a million other things going on (making oasis naan, strawberry cake, vegetable pot au feu, roasted rhubarb, etc.), so I really appreciated that it took about 5 minutes of time, and is about impossible to mess up.  I made the lentils following Dorie's instructions to boil, strain, and boil again, but I couldn't tell a difference at all from my usual method of just bringing them to a boil and simmering.  Did anyone else notice a difference?  I think I'll just skip this step next time.  I couldn't bear to buy - or make - tapenade for just two teaspoons, so I just finely chopped some oil cured blacked olives and added those along with the rest of the ingredients.  I made my own preserved lemons when I accidentally bought way too many meyer lemons this winter, so it was great to have another place to use them.  I served the salad with some green salad - still using up lettuce from the garden - topped with dressing made with milk and the lyonnaise cheese from last week.  All in all, it was a good, quick weeknight dinner.  Definitely something I'd make again when I needed some quick and easy protein for a meal. 

Paul's rhubarb plant was finely ready to pick this weekend, so I made some of Dorie's roasted rhubarb.  I love roasted rhubarb - I make it often - but I really liked Dorie's recommended addition of orange zest.  It was excellent.  So good that I forgot to take the picture until most of it was gone and the rest was packed up to eat on top of yogurt for breakfast!