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 :-(