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.

Friday, September 26, 2014

FFWD Vanilla Vegetable Salad + Tuna and Mango Ceviche

I know I've said this before, but we really aren't an appetizer family these days.  I love appetizer food, but we just don't have the time or energy to eat in courses.  So I served the starters from the last two weeks, with a fritatta on the side, as our dinner this Tuesday.  The hardest part of this dish was probably procuring the sushi-grade tuna.  The Whole Foods near my house didn't have any, but luckily I've noticed that the Whole Foods near my work has a special freezer case with sushi-grade fish.  I've never paid much attention to it before, but it was perfect for this week.  The fish is expensive, frozen at an unusually cold temperature, and only keeps in a home refrigerator for about a week, but  it was perfect for a special-occasion recipe like this.  We, Paul especially, loved the ceviche.  The mango and avocado really made the dish for me.  The Vanilla Vegetable salad, was okay.  I didn't dislike it, but the vanilla really didn't do anything for me.  I doubt it's one I'll be making again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TWD Classic French Bread

I've made French bread several times at home.  Each recipe that I've tried insists that it really is possible to make real French bread at home.  Each time it's very good bread, with great flavor and consistency, but just doesn't have the same thick, crackly crust that you get at a good bakery.  This recipe was no exception.  We enjoyed it, and using a stand mixer it was easy enough that I might make it again, but I wasn't overwhelmed.  I'm just not convinced that it's possible to bake true French bread in a home oven.  I used dry yeast instead of fresh, though, and wasn't as precise as I could have been with my rises (it was a busy day!), so maybe it was my fault.  I'll be very curious to see how everyone else's breads turned out.  One thing I do know is that Paul is a much better bread-shaper than I am (he does have experience as a semi-professional doughnut maker!) .  Neither one of us really understood the instructions--we probably should have watched the video--but you can guess which one is his and which is mine.  His looks about a million times better!

Friday, September 12, 2014

FFWD French Lentils

It may be just because I under-salted them (I'm consistently amazed by just how much salt really matters), but I thought these were kind of boring on their own.  Absolutely fine, and a nice healthy side dish, but definitely nothing to write home about.  They are, however, a great component in recipes.  The night I made them I served them with savory wheat crackers (a TWD make-up recipe that I'll write up soon), a fish-free nicoise salad (one of this month's CCC recipes which I'll also write up soon), and a hard goat cheese.  It was a satisfying meal, if not too exciting.  The next day I used them in a curried egg and lentil sandwich (another one of this month's CCC recipes).  The sandwich was a winner and a good reminder that, even if they're boring, it's nice to have cooked, relatively plain, lentils around the house.

For those keeping score, aka Paul and me, Charlotte is not a huge fan of lentils yet (or any beans except for green beans).  She entertained herself for a good while slowly picking up and eating one lentil at a time, but definitely didn't consume a lot of these.  We'll have to keep trying.

Friday, September 5, 2014

FFWD Curried Chicken, Peppers, and Peas en Papillote

Charlotte LOVED it!  That's really all I have to say.  I'll probably make it again in a week or two and she'll completely refuse to taste it, but for now it was a definite winner.  She even broke her "I don't eat leftovers" rule, and ate it again for lunch the next day.  The only problem was that we wished we had more.  I ignored Dorie's instruction not to prep it more than four hours ahead of time, and prepped this the night before so I could just bake it when I got home from work.  It turned out perfectly.  Served with rice (I love my rice cooker's timer setting), green beans, and sliced tomatoes, this was a healthy and delicious dinner.  I'll definitely make this one again soon.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

TWD Oven-Roasted Plum (Peach) Cakes

We spent the long weekend cabin-camping at the beach.  It was absolutely great.  We haven't taken many family vacation with just the three of us yet, but we definitely want to start taking more.  It was so fun to get away and to have a few uninterrupted days with Charlotte.  We got home late Monday afternoon, and my thoughts quickly turned to these cakes.  Around here it's too late in the season for plums.  I did find some Italian prune plums at a farmer's market, but they had gone bad.  I did have fresh peaches in the kitchen, so I decided those would have to do.  Next I saw that the recipe called for 12 custard cups.  I have 6 ramekins at most, but I figured that with only two tablespoons of batter this would work perfectly in muffin tins.  Wrong!  I couldn't believe it, but even with the small amount of batter once I added peaches and brown sugar these rose tremendously in the oven.  They were impossible to get out of the pan neatly.  I "had" to eat lots of the browned, carmel-y tops (the ones that didn't come out of the pan nicely) in the kitchen by myself.  Paul pointed out that I should have used ramekins for at least a couple, so at least I'd have a nice picture.  Oh well!  Maybe next time.  Looks aside, these were quick, easy, and delicious.  Definitely a recipe to make again.