Monday, December 28, 2015

CCC December

I took a much longer than expected break from blogging, but I missed this cookbook and this group, so here I am.  I'm more behind than I thought I was (I have draft posts from May and June that I never finished!), but I thought I'd just jump in where I am and maybe I'll catch up later.  On a similar note, instead of my ambitious attempts to make all of the recipes every month, my new goal is to make one recipe a month with the group for the rest of the time.

Our second daughter was born on Halloween, and I'm still struggling to figure out how to make dinner with two kids around.  I selected the Blue Cheese and Chive Tart to make this month because it sounded so quick and easy.  It was.  I love this technique.  I defrosted some frozen puff pastry (I actually think I made it myself, embarrassingly I can't remember when) in the afternoon, and in the evening I was able to prep the rest of the recipe in the time it took the oven to heat.  I even had time to steam string beans and feed Miriam while the tart baked.  In the spirit of being seasonal (and maybe inspired by my laziness) I skipped buying tomatoes and replaced them with some roasted red peppers that I made and froze this fall.  The tart was delicious.  Paul and I loved it.

(Amusing side note:  I didn't think Charlotte would like the red peppers, so I left them off of one corner of the tart and just put blue cheese, which I know Charlotte likes.  She tasted the tart and liked it--she definitely lets us know when she doesn't like something--but for some reason after two bites only wanted to eat green beans for the rest of her dinner.  Paul and I were sitting there begging her to eat some puff pastry as well, and laughing about how most kids would happily eat the puff pastry while their parents begged them to eat green beans.)

UPDATE:  Andrea was nice enough to ask for a photo of Miriam.  (Who doesn't love being asked about their kids?)  Here's one of Miriam and another one of both girls.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

FFWD Wrap-Up Post

First, a thank you to anyone who reads this post.  It's now almost two weeks late but, at least for my own benefit, I wanted to finish out this FFWD journey.  I'll start with the make-up recipes, and then post a few thoughts on some of the celebration week themes that I missed.

I didn't really make the Cabbage and Foie Gras Bundles at all.  I don't do offal, and when the group made these I was in the middle of first-trimester food aversions and wasn't in the mood for doing anything creative.  So I made my favorite cabbage bundles instead.  You cook leeks and cabbage in butter, add some juniper berries and heavy cream for flavor, and then add blue cheese along with some filling to each bundle.  Not what Dorie intended (it's actually an old Deborah Madison recipe), but I'm a fan.

It seemed like most--if not all--of you had no trouble with the Waffles and Cream recipe, so I'm going to go ahead and blame myself for this one, but it was a total failure.  I followed the recipe exactly (or at least I intended to, maybe I mis-measured something?) and used our Belgian waffle iron (the only waffle iron that we own), but these were a mess.  Every time I opened the iron the waffle had split in half, with one half sticking to the top and the other to the bottom.  I could not get them to stay together.  I tried different timing, different iron temperatures, spraying the iron, and nothing seemed to help.  These also seemed way too buttery for me.  I just couldn't bring myself to add any adornments.  We ate these--Paul ate most of them--but they won't be a repeater in our house.

We don't do pork, but I really wanted to try the combination of mango and lychee, so instead of Pork Roast with Mangoes and Lychees I did grilled salmon and asparagus with rice, and combined the mangoes, lychees, and other ingredients into a quick topping for the salmon.  This sauce really was excellent.  I imagine it would go well on all kinds of fish, and maybe even chicken.

I made Shrimp Escabeche instead of the Sardine Escabeche, but can't seem to find a picture.  (Likely because I forgot to take one!)  This was another first-trimester recipe that I just couldn't stomach.  The vinegar was too much for me.  Paul didn't seem to mind this, and Charlotte even ate a couple of shrimp, but neither one of them seemed especially thrilled about it.  I doubt I'll be making it again.

Last, the Cheesecake Tart.  When I was a kid I hated when my mom added raisins to anything cooked.  There was no worse way to ruin a rice pudding or custard!  I'm now generally okay with cooked raisins, but I found myself feeling my old childhood sentiments while eating this tart.  It was good, but would have been so much better without the raisins!  Next time.

I actually started writing a Food Revolution Day post, but sadly never got around to finishing it.  I have learned many important tips and techniques from Dorie, but--for me--I would say that roasting a chicken is one that everybody should know.  I know I keep writing about the Lazy Roast Chicken but really, it's so easy anyone can do it, with potatoes and vegetables in the pot it's a complete meal, and the leftovers are delicious.  You can even make chicken stock from the bones.  I certainly roasted chicken before this group, and I'm sure I will try other recipes from time-to-time, but I think everyone (or at least everyone who likes chicken!) should have a "go to" roast chicken recipe and I'm very glad that I've found mine

I'm not sure that I'd say I will Never-Doubt-Dorie again (I still remember the fish aspic!), but there are definitely recipes that I was very skeptical about and turned out to love.  One that comes to mind is the Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India.  Vegetable barley soup sounded totally boring to me, and I just wasn't sure about an "Indian-style" recipe in a French cookbook, but we absolutely loved this one.  I'll definitely be making it again this fall and winter.

This is completely unoriginal, but my Play-It-Again-Dorie recipe is definitely the Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux.  It isn't the very-best roast chicken I've ever had, but it's my "go to" and definitely worth the price of the book.

Last, the Grand Finale.  I still remember writing my first post.  In what would become an ongoing theme for me, I joined the group a year late, and even my very first post was a day late.  I posted late on a Saturday evening before heading out to dinner with friends, and left my link.  I was sure that nobody would read my post except for possibly my mother.  I was shocked when I came home from dinner and there were already comments!  I really couldn't believe it.  You all have been such a welcoming group, right from the start, and a joy to cook with.  I've had a very busy few years, and my life has been turned upside down (kids seem to do that!), but I've loved having this group as a touchstone.  Even when I don't get my posts up on time--or ever--I almost always make the recipes, and love reading your posts every week and seeing your comments.  What fun.  I hope to keep up with many of you through TWD and CCC, and look forward to seeing what is in store for FFWD in the fall.

All the best.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

FFWD Celebration Week: The AHA Moment

This post didn't involve any cooking or even photographing, but was still probably the hardest to write.  Choose only 5 favorites?!?  First I went through the book and listed potentials.  My goal was to find recipes that I really thought were special to AMFT.  I absolutely love eclairs, but I've made excellent eclairs from several cookbooks, so those were out.  When I got through the book I had a list of 14 recipes.  Second, I cheated and looked ahead to the next celebratory weeks.  Roast Chicken for Les Parasseux was a definite contender, but I know it'll be my play-it-again recipe, so I decided to save it for later.  Then, I did the best I could to choose 5 from what was left.  Here they are:

#5) I remember when I made the Cheese-Topped Onion Soup that I was hoping not to like the recipe.  It's a lot more work than my usual onion soup recipe, and I was hoping it wouldn't be worth it.  It totally was!  We both absolutely loved it, agreeing that it was much better than my usual onion soup.  It's a little hot for soup in DC right now, but this is definitely a recipe I'll turn to again and again in the fall and winter months.

#4) Anybody who knows me shouldn't be surprised that two out of my five favorites are desserts.  (And it was hard to limit myself to just two!).  I've had a lot of apple cakes, and Marie-Helene's Apple Cake is definitely my favorite so far.  I loved that it really just tasted like apples, with enough butter and rum to hold it all together.  Another recipe that I'm looking forward to making this fall!

#3) The Deconstructed BLT and Eggs will always hold a soft spot in my heart because it's the first recipe I made with the group (and my first-ever blog post).  It's also one that I love.  Especially in the summer, this is my favorite way of eating.  It feels relatively light because it's a salad, but has delicious bacon and eggs on top.  At least in my book, it needs nothing else but bread or crackers to feel like a complete meal.

#2) I never would have predicted this, but I think the most revelatory dessert in the book for me was the Floating Islands.  We aren't big fans of meringue and I didn't expect to really like these, but they were absolutely delicious.  I just couldn't get enough of the contrasting textures.  I served these with poached figs, but I think they'd be good with absolutely anything.

#1)  My favorite recipe from AMFT is also the first one that I made, the Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.  I found this recipe online before I owned the book, I think it may have been my introduction to Dorie, and absolutely loved it.  It's one of the reasons I knew that buying the book and joining this group was a good idea.  I make it at least once a year, and love it every time.  I know part of it's beauty is that it's completely adaptable, but I usually stick pretty close to the original recipe.  I mean, how could you go wrong with bread, bacon, cheese, and heavy cream?  

This walk down memory lane has certainly made me hungry.  I'm sad that we're almost done cooking together, I do hope we'll stay in touch, but I know the AMFT cookbook will continue to get a lot of use in my kitchen.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

FFWD Chicken in a Pot

I was a little bit embarrassed to post my picture after I saw some of yours.  I don't know what happened with my flour and water "sausage."  I think I added way too much water.  I was feeling too lazy to measure, and stupidly decided to "eyeball" the water.  I clearly went overboard.  I added extra flour, but after seeing how neat and pretty yours are I'm pretty sure I wasn't near the right consistency.  Oh well, the good news is it worked.  When this came out of the oven I asked Paul to get a screwdriver to pry open the lid.  He came back with a crowbar.  That man certainly loves tools!
I also stupidly cut up the chicken and added it back to the pot before taking the photo.  It was so much prettier when it was whole!

We both agreed that this was a perfectly nice Sunday night dinner, but not amazing.  Given the herbs, lemon, and garlic, I was expecting it to have more flavor.  I also under-salted the chicken.  I'll take responsibility, but I really wish that recipes would give amounts for salt (or even ranges) when they involve raw meat.  It's not like I was going to taste the chicken to see if I had added enough salt.  I'm glad I make this, but I think Dorie's Lazy Chicken will still be my go-to roast chicken recipe in the future.

I can't believe that this is our last recipe as a group.  With the exception of a few that I skipped because I just don't eat the main ingredient, I've made all of the recipes except for the Waffles and Cream.  I'm hoping to make those soon, and also to write a catch-up post with all of the recipes that I've made and failed to write about in the last few months.  It's hard to believe that this journey is coming to an end, but I'm thrilled that we have a few more fun weeks ahead of us!

Friday, May 8, 2015

FFWD Seafood Pot-Au-Feu

(I cannot figure out how to get this picture to not be sideways.  It's rotated correctly on my computer, but then every time I upload it to blogger it rotates back.  I can't figure out how to rotate within blogger.  Grrrrr.)

I really, really enjoyed this recipe.  I was feeling kind of lazy so I used a piece of salmon (probably about half a pound) cut into large chunks, and a bag of the Trader Joe's seafood mix (it has small shrimp and scallops and calamari).  I also added extra potatoes and sugar snaps but skipped the mushrooms.  We had basil that was about to turn black, so I made a pesto for the side.  I liked the pesto, but definitely didn't think the dish needed it.  I wasn't sure about the gingered-chicken broth with seafood, but I loved the whole thing.  This definitely needs bread for dipping!

P.S. I feel bad that I've done such a bad job keeping up for the last couple of months, and now we're almost done.  I've actually made almost all of the recipes.  I'll try to get a catch-up post up this week or next.  My excuse is that I'm almost four months pregnant.  Food is finally starting to seem somewhat appealing, but I haven't had much of an appetite the last few months.  Anyway, I'm looking forward to finishing out the next few weeks with the group!  (So hard to believe we're really almost done.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

FFWD Salmon (Not) Tartare

I probably mentioned this last year, but despite not being very observant I do keep some semblance of Passover.  I don't change dishes or anything, but I do avoid a long list of foods for the full eight days.  I failed to plan ahead and make the waffles and cream before Passover started, so now I'm waiting until after Passover to make those.  Luckily, the salmon tartare was completely Passover friendly.  I wasn't in the mood for tartare this week (read: I wasn't in the mood to make Charlotte a separate dinner), so I decided to improvise.  I roasted the salmon with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a hot oven per the instructions in the roasted salmon with lentils recipe (I think it was 12 min at 475).  Since the oven was hot, I roasted asparagus as well.  I was too lazy to follow the precise instructions, but I used all of the remaining ingredients to make an avocado and tomato salad/salsa/relish(?) to go over the fish.  It was really delicious.  I was unsure about mint with avocado, but I thought the flavors were excellent, and Dorie's method for roasting fish worked perfectly.  I may try the tartare sometime, but this was so good I may not.  I served this with the matzoh I made for TWD (definitely not Kosher for Passover, but really, really good) and some cheeses.  A delicious, easy weeknight dinner.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

CCC March

(I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get these pictures rotated properly.  They look correct before I upload them, but then somehow the uploading rotates them, and once they're uploaded I can't seem to rotate them back.  Anyway...)

I think I'm basically caught up with all of the recipes we have made, so I decided to take it easy this month.  We're just starting to see asparagus here--it isn't local, that's still a while away, but at least it's from the US--and so I decided to use it atop the Asparagus Pizza.  We were so busy eating that I forgot to take pictures, so here's a picture of the leftovers I brought for lunch at my desk.  This is becoming a family favorite--Charlotte enjoyed it too.  I imagine I'll make it again before asparagus season runs out.

I just finished mixing the Pea and Mint Ice Cream.  It's chilling in the fridge to prepare for churning.  I'll try to post an addendum with a better review once I actually taste it.  I did want to say that I've made both ice creams now, and I really find the custard recipe in this book difficult.  Both times it's curdled long before even starting to get thick.  This means I end up settling for a runny custard, which turns into very ice-y ice cream.  I'm not very good at making custard, and certainly take full responsibility for my struggles, but I have had better luck with other custard recipes.  I'll probably go back to those in the future.

I'm looking forward to getting back in the swing of things next month.  We're finally starting to see some spring produce!

FFWD Next-Day Beef Salad

I was tempted to skip this one since I don't eat beef, but the other ingredients sounded excellent to me so I decided to try it with chicken.  I roasted some bone-in chicken breasts the day before, so all I had to do was chop up the chicken and other ingredients and assemble.  Served over arugula, and with cheese and crackers alongside, I thought this made an excellent weeknight dinner.  I loved the combination of salty (olives and cornichons) and sweet (apple and red pepper) with the chicken.  I also used both kinds of mustard and thought that was a must (at least for this mustard-loving cook).  Only Charlotte was not a fan.  She choose to eat her chicken plain.  Oh well.  More salad for us!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

FFWD Côte d’Azur Cure-all Soup, Chicken Marengo, and Chicken Couscous

This week I have three recipes to post about.  The only one I still need to make up is the cabbage bundles.  I'm still on the fence about what to do with those.  It will definitely need to be creative.  I made the cure-all soup for dinner one night this week, along with cucumber, avocado, and cheese sandwiches.  Paul and Charlotte both really loved this soup.  I liked it, but did find it very rich.  One issue that I have with parmesan cheese is that one cup can be a totally different amount depending on how you grate the cheese.  I grated it in my food processor, so one cup was an awful lot of cheese.  I have a feeling I would have enjoyed the soup more of I had cut down on the cheese.  I really wish more recipes would give weight measurements for those types of ingredients.

I don't eat red meat, so I decided to use chicken in the veal marengo.  It was a work day, so I followed Diane's lead and cooked this in the slow cooker.  First I chopped the potatoes and put them in the bottom.  I followed them with about half a bag of frozen pearl onions (so much easier than peeling!).  Then, I coated the meat (three bone-in and skin-on chicken breast halves) in flour and browned it in a skillet.  Once the chicken was brown, I added it to the slow cooker.  In the same pan I melted the butter, cooked the onion for five minutes, and added the rest of the ingredients for the sauce.  I scraped all of the brown bits from the pan, and added it all to the slow cooker along with the herbs.  (I was too lazy for a bouquet garni, so they just got thrown in.)  I cooked it for 10 hours on low, and came home to a warm dinner.  I just had to steam some broccoli to go alongside.  Every time I use my slow cooker I wonder why I don't use it more often.

Last, the Chicken Couscous.  I really thought I already wrote this up, but I can't seem to find it.  I feel like I'm losing my mind.  We enjoyed this one a lot.  Perfect comfort food for a cold winter night, and not too complicated. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

CCC February

What can I say?  I'm almost two days late posting.  I apologize.  It's been a crazy few weeks around here.  Big changes at work, a sick kid, etc., etc...Anyway, the good news is that I really enjoyed all of the recipes this month.  I would happily make any of them again.  They were hard to rank, but I gave it a shot just for fun.

#1) Magic Bread dough 

I've made the magic bread dough as a base for pizza many times, but this was my first time making flatbreads.  Brilliant!  In the past I've made flatbreads in the oven.  Between the placing and the re-arranging and the multiple batches and the screaming hot oven I always manage to burn myself--usually multiple times.  The stove top was a revelation.  These were so much easier.  And Charlotte was excited because she thought we were having pancakes.

#2) Cheesey peasy puff turnover

I feel like a broken record, but I think that puff pastry is the answer to most cooking questions.  This was quick, easy, and delicious.  I loved the peas and cheddar combination, but I imagine spinach and feta, sundried tomato and goat cheese, and a host of other things would also be delicious.  The only problem?  I think the three of us could have eaten twice as much.

#3) Potato Rösti 

I am no stranger to potato pancakes, making potato latkes at least once a year, but I've never par-cooked the potatoes before.  Another brilliant idea.  It's generally to get crispy outsides but soft insides with potato pancakes.  These were perfect!

#4) Refried beans foldover

When we were first together Paul thought he hated refried beans. I think that's because he had never had homemade ones before.  Now he loves them.  I used some home cooked beans that I happened to have in the freezer, and these came together quiet quickly.  I loved the idea of halving and grating a tomato directly into the pan.  So much easier than peeling!

#5) Winter stir-fry with Chinese five-spice  

With the help of my food processor to shred everything, this was a relatively quick weeknight dinner.  While I made this, Paul made the grapefruit and avocado salad.  To give her something to do, we put some broken bits of dried pasta in a pot and asked Charlotte to "cook" pasta.  She loves to "cook,"  She had lots of fun stirring, and then adding "salt" to the pasta.  (I should probably be more concerned about how much she loves to add salt to everything!)  This kept her entertained for at least a few minutes while we managed to get the dinner on the table.  I definitely liked this pasta, but I bumped it in my rankings because Paul absolutely loved it, and he's not generally a fan of Chinese food.  It's nice to have a quick, Chinese-like option that he actually enjoys.

#6) Baba ganoush 

I think I would have rated this even higher if I had served it with some of the delicious homemade flatbread.  Unfortunately I didn't plan very well, and we just ate this with spoons.  The flavor was still great.  I loved the idea of broiling the eggplants.  It was easy, and gave the whole dish such a great smokey flavor.

#7) Avocado and ruby grapefruit with chilli 

This was delicious, but dropped in my rankings just because I've had very similar salads so many times before.  Citrus and avocado are a great combination.  Definitely to be repeated often.

#8) Roasted squash and shallots with merguez chickpeas 

This really was a great month.  This dish fell in my ranking, but it was definitely one that I enjoyed and would make again.  I soaked and cooked the chickpeas ahead of time, and chopped the squash before I went to work in the morning.  After I got home I threw the squash in the oven, and set to finishing the chickpeas and making a side dish.  This wasn't quite quick enough for a typical weeknight, but it was good.

#9)Celeriac with apple, raisins and parsley 

I'm going to attribute this one to user error.  I was too lazy to get out my mandoline and tried to cut the celery root by hand, and it really needed to be finer.  The big pieces were kind of awkward to chew, and didn't soften very much in the dressing.

#10) Roasted beetroot soup with horseradish cream

I forgot to take a picture!  I liked the soup, but the horseradish cream was definitely the take-away here for me.  It could spice up a lot of dishes.

Friday, February 27, 2015

FFWD Riviera Fish Soup

I don't know what to say about this soup.  On the one hand, the flavor really was great.  On the other hand, it was absolutely painful to push through a food mill, and then throw away, a 28 dollar red snapper.  I would have felt much better about this soup if my store had an inexpensive bin of "fish for soup," the way Dorie described.  In hindsight, I probably should have just skipped the food mill and served the soup with chunks of fish (although I'm not sure what I would have done with the skin and bones in that scenario).  I served this with salad, shrimp dumplings, salmon (was supposed to be for Charlotte, but we all shared), bread and quick-aoli (I was too tired to make my own, so I added lemon juice and garlic to store bought mayonnaise).  Paul was still hungry after.  Again, with a whole red snapper I was expecting more of a meal.  This soup felt like a delicious starter.  I'll be very curious to see what everyone else thought of the dish.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

TWD BCM Pink Grapefruit Tart

After seeing some of your photos, I'm almost embarrassed to show mine.  I'm definitely not going to win any awards for my decorating ability.  Luckily, the placement of the grapefruit segments in a pretty pattern does not affect the taste of the dessert and the taste of this dessert was excellent.  Was it worth the work or the calories?  I'm not sure.  I made this over a couple of days.  Luckily, Paul had made and frozen extra tart dough, so for the crust all I had to do was defrost, roll, freeze in pan, and bake.  On that same day I also made the almond-lemon cream and the grapefruit cremeux.  On the second day I segmented the grapefruits, and baked and assembled the tart.

Let me just start by saying that Paul's tart crust (from the Tartine book) was amazing--it's like puff pastry it's so buttery--and I absolutely loved the grapefruit cremeux.  Grapefruit is a favorite for me, and I thought Dorie balanced the sweet and tart flavors perfectly.  The almond-lemon cream?  I was unimpressed.  It was fine, but I barely noticed it with all of the other flavors going on.  It has done a nice job of protecting the shell--it's been in the fridge for a few days now and is still nice and crisp--so maybe that's reason enough for making it.  I'm glad I made this once, but in the future I could see myself making the grapefruit cremeux to serve in bowls and skipping the rest of the steps.

I try to avoid gelatin, so I substituted agar agar in the cremeux.  I totally guessed at the amount and the instructions, but it seemed to work perfectly.  In case anyone's interested, I used two tablespoons of agar agar.  I increased the amount of grapefruit juice by a few tablespoons (to account for the water used to soak the gelatin), and added the agar agar to the pan directly with the grapefruit juice.  I know agar agar sets up pretty quickly when it cools, so I also skipped letting the cremeux sit for 5 minutes before adding the butter.  I added the cremeux to the blender, and started adding butter and blending immediately.  As soon as it was all incorporated, I pored the cremeux into a bowl.  When it cooled, I covered it with plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge.  By the next day it was VERY thick and creamy.  It reached the perfect texture once whisked.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FFWD Vanilla-Butter Braised Lobster and Winter Ceviche

Again, traveling has gotten in the way of posting.  This month I had an aborted trip to New York and a trip to San Francisco for work, and we went on a family vacation to Florida.  Luckily, in between traveling I have been doing as much cooking as I can.  The Winter Ceviche was my favorite recipe of these two.  I have never had scallop ceviche, but I have had raw scallops at sushi restaurants so I had a feeling I would like this.  I was right.  The marinade was delicious, and the grapes and tarragon were nice accents.  I knew I would not need all of the marinade, so I saved some for Charlotte.  I seared some scallops in a fry pan (until cooked through) and then added the marinade and cooked until they were glazed.  They were delicious too, and she ate them happily.

I could not quite bear to use six sticks of butter, and I could not find lobster (fresh or frozen) the day I went to the store, so I made a much smaller version of this recipe with prawns.  I clarified and flavored two sticks of butter with a vanilla bean, and poached about half a pound of prawns in the clarified butter.  This was fun to try, good, and different, but I was not "wowed" enough to make this again. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

FFWD Croquants

These were an absolute breeze.  They didn't even require an electronic mixer.  The hardest part for me was figuring out how to store them.  An airtight container that wasn't a plastic bag (my go-to)?  I thought about using glass, but Paul suggested a brown paper bag so we decided to try it.  It worked perfectly.  I made these on Sunday and they were still crunchy Thursday night.  I followed Dorie's suggestion and used salted cashews.  I think these would be perfect alongside hot chocolate, or as the base of an ice cream sandwich (I wish I had noticed that suggestion sooner!).  They were good on their own, but not especially exciting.  Charlotte enjoyed the idea of these--she asked for them every time she saw us eating them--but didn't actually like them very much.  I think nuts are still hard for her to chew.  Oh well.  More for us!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

CCC January

As far as I'm concerned, January through March are the worst months for cooking vegetables.  In April we start to get spring vegetables and summer is amazing.  By fall I'm usually excited to start cooking with kale, squash, and root vegetables again.  By January I'm starting to get sick of them.  So, it's really nice to have this group to remind me to cook lots of vegetables, and to cook them in new ways.  This month was a bit of a challenge for me, because mushrooms and fennel have always been the two vegetables that I just really didn't like.  I'm learning to like fennel so I made both of those recipes, but I skipped the baked mushrooms and modified lasagna.  This was another fun month.  Here's what I made, in (rough) order of most to least favorite.

#1) Cauliflower with toasted seeds

What a pleasant surprise!  Until now I've made cauliflower two ways: roasted and steamed.  When I have a bit more energy, I'll add spices (this recipe is excellent) to the roasted version.  I've never really liked raw cauliflower, so this was a revelation.  Very thinly sliced (I was too lazy to pull out my mandoline and just used a knife) with the seeds, lemon juice, and sumac, this was delicious.  I couldn't stop eating it.

#2) Kale and mushroom lasagne

I'm no stranger to vegetarian lasagna--spinach with tomato sauce and butternut squash with a bechamel are my favorites--but adding kale was a first for me.  I substituted zucchini for the mushrooms, but I think almost anything would work here.  I really enjoyed the bechamel, I thought the mustard added a lot of flavor, and liked that the cheese wasn't overpowering here.  This is obviously stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, but I appreciated how substantial the vegetables were.

#3) Pasta with greens, garlic, and chilli

I learned to make pasta with greens from Jacques Pepin.  His pasta with bitter greens is still a favorite of mine.  I usually make it with escarole and endive, so it was fun trying different greens here.  I took this as an opportunity to use the remainder of a napa cabbage and some kale that were hanging out in my fridge.  This came together quickly, and I appreciated the ratio of greens to pasta.  Charlotte did not.  She ate all of the pasta on her plate, then finished my pasta and Paul's pasta, then ate about a bite of greens before declaring she was "all done."  Oh well.  I try to tell myself there's value in just exposing her to different things.

#4) Curried bubble and squeak

My post was delayed because I just made this for dinner tonight.  I could eat eggs every night and be very happy.  The curried potatoes and greens made a delicious bed for my perfectly poached eggs (LOVE Hugh's technique!).  I had to plan to have leftover greens and potatoes for this dish, but I can definitely imagine making it again. 

#5) Beetroot pizza with cheddar

Every time we make a pizza recipe I have a hard time not ranking it number one for the month.  We just love pizza.  This isn't the best pizza I've ever had (Paul makes excellent pizza, but also has to remember to start his dough 3 days ahead of time), but it's very good.  I also love how flexible it is.  I made the dough in the morning when I had time and let it rise.  After it rose I punched it down and stashed it in the fridge.  Before dinner, I let it come back to room temperature while I preheated the oven and prepped the rest of the ingredients, and we were eating in less than an hour.  Delicious.  This was my first time eating beets on pizza.  I don't think it will be my last.

#6) Roasted potatoes and aubergines

I really wasn't sure about this one.  Potatoes and eggplant just seemed like an odd combination.  The method also seemed odd.  I roast a lot of potatoes and vegetables, but had never pre-heated the oil in the pan before.  Well, it worked.  These were nice and crispy, but tender on the inside.  I loved how the potato offset the smooth texture of the eggplant.  This is another one that I hope to repeat soon.

#7) Spelt salad with squash and fennel

Paul was nice enough to make this one for us, as he had a Monday off for MLK day and I did not.  I didn't have any spelt and didn't want to buy any, so I pulled out a bag of mystery whole grains and suggested he try it.  I thought it was farro, but in hindsight I should have realized it was a hot cereal (Kashi?).  I really liked the flavor of the grains, but they were not as distinct as you'd want them to be in a salad.  Also, I found myself wishing Paul had sliced the fennel a lot more finely.  He followed the directions perfectly, but while I'm learning to like fennel I find that I like it a lot better in small pieces, and when it's very caramelized.  We still enjoyed this one, though, and I would be up for trying it again.  

#8) Artichoke and white bean dip

Last month we made salsify puree.  I couldn't find salsify, so I substituted burdock root with so-so results.  Of course, the very next week I went to the same grocery store and they had salsify.  Paul thought I was crazy, but I bought some anyway.  I had to know how it tasted.  Well, I'm sure burdock root has its uses, but in this recipe salsify was much better.  To go with the salsify puree I had bread, the artichoke dip, and some leftover mango chatini for a quick and easy lunch.  I used some cooked white beans that I had in my freezer and the dip was very good, but honestly all it really did is made me crave my mother's hot artichoke dip.  I'm not sure what's in it--I know it can't be healthy--but man is it good.

#9) Fennel and celeriac soup with orange zest

This was really a very nice soup.  I'm sure that if I liked fennel more I would have ranked it a lot higher.  I enjoyed the creme fraiche topping, and thought that the orange zest was a really nice touch.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

TWD BCM Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

Have I told you all about Paul's fascination with the French language? I took 6 years of French in middle and high school and was a member of the National French Honors Society.  I was also told by my French teacher that I spoke French with the worst American accent of anybody she had ever tried to teach.  As soon as I finished high school, I decided to avoid the French language for as long as I possibly could.  Paul, on the other hand, absolutely loves the French language.  His ancestry is French Canadian, and he loved French in high school.  He continued French in college, and lived in France for a while after college.  He reads French books and listens to French radio for fun.  When Charlotte was born, he decided to try to speak to her mainly in French.  I wasn't thrilled about it (I thought she wouldn't learn English as quickly), but quickly gave in.  Her English is much better than her French, but she does understand many French words and uses some of them appropriately (which, in my unbiased opinion, is very cute!) .  I normally skim Dorie's recipe head notes to get right to the instructions.  Paul, on the other hand, loves hearing the background of the recipes and the other tidbits about life in France.  He was especially interested in this week's header.  Funny that with all of their precise expressions, the French steal "weekend" from English!

Anyway, on to the cake.  My favorite thing about this being a brown butter cake is that the butter doesn't need to be at room temperature to start.  For me, that's often the hardest step of making a cake.  I skipped the rum (we were out), and use vanilla paste instead of the vanilla bean.  I liked this cake plain, but liked it better with whipped cream and some brandied figs that I canned last year.  It was good fresh, but even better toasted.  This is a great basic cake, and I'm happy to have it in my repertoire.

Friday, January 23, 2015

FFWD Spice Crusted Tuna, Mango Chatini, and Curried Mussels

I love dishes like this one. They alone are certainly worth the price of the book.  I probably started dinner 15 minutes before Paul got home.  Chopping the mango for the chatini was the most time consuming part, and it wasn't bad at all.  (I was a bit disappointed by this mango salsa.  It was fine, but I didn't think the flavors added much to the fish.  I misread it as mango chianti, and for some reason was expecting alcohol.)  After that I pounded the spices with my mortar and pestle, patted it on the fish, and a few minutes later dinner was ready.  To round out our meal, I sauteed spinach while searing the fish and heated up a store-bought Challah.  I don't eat a ton of tuna these days, does anyone think this would work on a different kind of fish?  I wasn't brave enough to try it, but would love your ideas.

I also just realized that I totally forgot to post last week.  If this doesn't look anything like mussels it's because it isn't.  I think I just need to accept that--despite my attempts--I really don't like mussels.  I love dipping bread in broth enough that I'm willing to make them occasionally, but we just had them in the fish stew and I just couldn't make myself buy them again.  So I substituted shrimp and scallops in this recipe.  It was excellent.  More importantly (at least for my life at the moment) Charlotte inhaled this one!  These are both recipes I hope to pull out again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

TWD BWJ Eastern European Rye

I'm having trouble thinking of anything interesting to say about this one.  I love rye bread.  My favorite loaves have a chewy crust and soft interior.  I love it as the base of a turkey sandwich, but also toasted with butter next to my eggs.  I've even been known to eat peanut butter and jelly on rye in a pinch.  (It's better than it sounds.)  With the help of my stand mixer, this was easy to make.  The only scary moment was when I realized just how many caraway seeds were necessary to make 2 tbsp ground.  Luckily, after I finished my first jar of caraway seeds I located a second (also opened) jar of caraway seeds that was almost full in the back of my shelf.  (I was thrilled.  Paul rolled his eyes.  Sometimes being so disorganized definitely works out to my advantage.)  These were good, but not quite as spongy as the store-bought rye breads I'm used to eating.  I love that this is homemade and I recognize all of the ingredients, though, so it's definitely a recipe I would make again when I have a craving for rye.  That won't be anytime soon - this made two large loaves and I froze much of it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

TWD BCM Granola Energy Bars

I’ve eaten at least one of these every day since I made them.  I ate two today alone.  They are delicious.  After tasting one, Paul said I need to start making these every week.  At first I was annoyed—there are only so many hours in a day!—but then I took a breath and thought about how easy these were.  I really could make them every week.  They’re also infinitely adaptable.  I think I could make them every week and never get bored of them.  This week I stayed true to the recipe—coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, dried cherries, and mango.  Next I want to try crystallized ginger and chocolate chips.  I’m sure I won’t actually make these every week, but I do hope to start eating them a lot more often. 

(How many of you individually wrapped these after making them?  Paul laughed at me for doing it, so I hope I was not the only one!)   

Thursday, January 8, 2015

FFWD Arman's Caviar in Aspic

I want to reiterate that I love AMFT, FFWD, and blogging with all of you.  However, today I'm going to go for complete honesty.

Has anyone heard of Stitch Fix?  It's an online personal shopping service.  Upon request they send you five clothing items to your house.  You have three days to try them on and decide what to keep and what to return.  I think that it's a really fun treat, especially now that I rarely have time to shop for myself.  On the night I served the aspic, after we finished dinner, Paul said I could order one Stitch Fix box a month for the rest of my life if I ate the rest of the caviar and aspic.  I said no.  I told Paul he could have an unlimited budget for house projects (his favorite thing in the world!) for the next five years if he ate the rest of the caviar and aspic.  He said no.

Paul was skeptical the minute I told him about this dish.  I didn't think I'd like the aspic, but I thought I'd at least enjoy the caviar.  Paul gamely ate one of his squares.  I couldn't even finish a bite.  In hindsight, I think the primary problem was the caviar I bought.  It was salmon roe and incredibly salty.  I think this would have been much better with another (more expensive) caviar.  I also couldn't find fish bouillon so I substituted some fish stock that I had leftover from last week's soup.  I think the flavor was too strong.  On a better note, I used agar agar (vegan) instead of gelatin, and my aspic set absolutely beautiful.  I definitely won't be making this dish again, but I'm glad to have had the experience with the agar agar.  There are lots of sweet jello-like dishes that I would like to try.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

TWD BWJ Inside-Out, Upside-Down, Tirami Su

To be honest, I was a little disappointed when I opened up my book and realized this was not a classic tiramisu at all.  I have never made the classic one, and was looking forward to trying.  I know I should have realized from the title that it wouldn't be classic, but this seemed like such a huge departure from the original.  No lady fingers?  No alcohol?  Well, I still hope to try making classic tiramisu one day, but this was a fun, delicious dessert in its own right.  This had a few components, but each was relatively straightforward.  I froze the coffee mixture for the granita and made the sabayon on the first day.  On the second, I baked the phyllo and mixed the sabayon with the cream and mascarpone.  Dividing the work made this dessert quite doable.  I didn't notice until I actually started cooking that this required specialty pans.  (If I had more time, I would go through BWJ and make a list of all of the different pans required.  I'm not sure if I have enough space in my whole house--let alone the kitchen--for all of them.)  I didn't have the time or inclination to go out and buy the pans, and really didn't have anything to substitute, so I just made free-form disks like we did for the fruit napoleons.  They were kind of a mess (definitely "rustic"), but still tasted great.  This would be a fun dish to make for company.

Friday, January 2, 2015

FFWD Simplest Breton Fish Soup

New Year's Eve.  My best friend says that it's even worse than Valentine's Day.  There's so much pressure to have interesting plans.  Last year Paul's mom was in town so we actually went out to dinner (barely qualifies as exciting), but this year we had no such luck.  We both got off of work early (yay!) so we played with Charlotte and her friend at the park, cooked dinner, and the three of us ate together.  After Charlotte went to sleep Paul and I had dessert and went to bed early.  Everything was great until the midnight fireworks woke Charlotte.

For dinner, I made the fish soup, salad, and roasted butternut squash.  Paul really liked the soup.  Charlotte wouldn't touch the fish or potatoes but she loved drinking the broth, and loved opening mussels although she didn't actually eat any.  I'm kind of with Charlotte on this one, except I did like the potatoes.  I think I just need to accept that I'm not a big fan of sardines or mussels, and the cod I bought just wasn't very good at all.  Oh well.  The highlight of our meal was definitely the dessert.  I know Rachael Ray isn't popular, but I made her chocolate pots de creme and they really were excellent.  Quick, easy, used ingredients I always have on hand, and delicious.  I'll definitely be making those again.