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.


  1. Hi Jora, wow! what a busy bee you were, I loved the dishes this month, looks like the only one we both prepared together was the eggplant and potatoes, surprise this was my favorite, maybe I'm the only one. Anyway great post and pics!

  2. Hi Jora, an impressive collection over the month! Same as you, I quite enjoyed the Bubble and Squeak and Fennel and Celeriac soup, delicious! I've not tried the dip as yet but am seeing positive reviews and plan to prepare this in February. Like you, the idea of the potatoes and eggplant didn't provide a natural appeal but yet I'm also seeing some positive outcomes on this side dish, including yours, and so too may now give this a go. Great selections in January! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Everything looks so good! The cauliflower salad was a pleasant surprise for me as well and I think one of my daughters has had something like your mother's hot artichoke dip because Hugh's did not compare favorably at all (the rest of us liked it)!

  4. Your beetroot pizza sounds interesting!

  5. Dear Jora, another rather impressive month of veg cooking, dear friend - I am admiring all of them and I am reading all of your comments - the part about Charlotte munching on the pasta and not the greens sounds funny and very familiar - I always think that exposure to many different foods does tickle a child´s curiosity and eventually they will eat a lot of different things and healthy too, just keep offering! But I better get down off my soap box - I love the way you present all your dishes and all your helpful comments! The Beetroot Pizza was fabulous and I am not surprised you enjoyed it so much as well, the Cauliflower was terrific served this way and I am quite happy that you enjoyed it so much too - the White Bean Dip looks fabulous (loved it) and so does the Bubble & Squeak with your perfectly poached eggs - the Lasagna is going to be part of my make-up in March, so much kale to be had these days but I just could not manage it in January - cannot wait to make it!
    Dear friend, thank you so much for your amazing post, your dedication and your fabulous support - I truly appreciate it!
    Sending a big fat hug to Charlotte!
    Thank you, again, for everything,

  6. It sounds like it was a very successful month for you - no dishes that weren't at least liked. I especially like the way you combined several recipes into one plate. Dorie's mango chatini is so versatile. I love hearing about Charlotte's opinions about the food you make. I think she's got a great palate for a little one.

  7. Jora, I'm always impressed with how many of the recipes you try each month. You are obviously a better planner than I am. I also like how you just jump in and try the ones that have some potential challenge. I know that I skipped some that seemed odd or had something about it that I typically don't like. From your reviews, I'm going to try some that I intentionally skipped including the beet pizza, the raw cauliflower, the pasta and the lasagne. I too enjoy hearing what Charlotte thinks of your meals.

  8. Yet another amazing month for you! I loved the cauliflower salad too - quite pleasantly surprised by that one. The lasagne was a tasty one as well - even after the issues I experienced. Your eggs are perfect! I wanted to do that with the leftovers, but there were none. The dip was my least favorite. It really was a good month. Looking forward to next month!