Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gerard’s Mustard Tart

The lamb stew sounded interesting (I love stewed fruit and cardamom), but I don't eat lamb so I decided against making the recipe this week.  Since I joined the FFWD group a year late, I decided to make one of the recipes everyone else made this time last year.  I took a look at the list of completed recipes, and chose to try Gerard's Mustard Tart for dinner.  I absolutely LOVE mustard - I usually have at least three different kinds in my fridge - and thought this would make a nice Sunday night meal.

Sunday dinner
Unfortunately, even though I was home all afternoon on Sunday I didn't read the recipe ahead of time, so I was pretty worried when I read through the crust recipe about 5:30 and realized that it called for four hours of resting time.  Well, I knew that wasn't going to happen so I decided to try to improvise.  I did all of the chilling in the freezer instead of the refrigerator, cut the times, and completely skipped the step of letting the crust cool before I filled it.  The dough was a bit challenging to roll out and cracked in a couple of places when I pre-baked it, but I still thought it tasted great.  Next time I'll try to follow the instructions better, and I'll be curious to see if it changes the flavor and/or makes things easier, but it didn't seem to be a big deal at all and I did save myself a couple of hours of waiting.

Finished Tart
I wanted something fresh (and a bit healthy) to go with the tart, so I choose to make Dorie's Orange and Olive Salad, but to serve it over some lettuce I received from my CSA this week.  The salad was very lightly dressed, so it tasted a bit bland once I added all of the lettuce.  I think next time I would squeeze some of the oranges to make more of a vinaigrette, but we otherwise enjoyed the salad and thought it went well with the tart.

Orange and Olive Salad

Friday, November 11, 2011

FFWD Spiced Squash, Fennel, and Pear Soup

We've been eating a lot of squash this year.  Our CSA has been giving us one a week (sometimes more) since August, and Paul magically grew a couple in our garden (we think they must have been planted by the previous owner because they just appeared).  I've done grilled squash, an awful lot of roasted squash, and a squash soup with thai curry and coconut milk.  But there's still a lot more squash downstairs, so I was happy to see this recipe for a different take on squash soup.

I roasted the squash on Sunday and the soup was relatively easy to finish on a weeknight.  I followed the recipe exactly, using butternut squash (I certainly wasn't going to go out and buy a different variety of squash!) and some pressure cooker homemade chicken stock that I made last week and froze in portions.  I tasted the soup when it was finished and didn't think it needed cream (I also didn't want the extra calories after having been away at a conference last week...) but I also wanted Paul to like it so I let him decide.  He - to my surprise - also didn't think it needed cream, so we ate it as is.  I did finish it with some toasted pumpkin seeds.  I really liked the crunch, since the soup itself was so smooth.

Finished soup
We enjoyed this soup a lot.  As I mentioned last week I was worried about adding the fennel, but I added a relatively small bulb and actually kind of enjoyed it.  We thought it's flavor was very subtle.  I asked Paul to guess what was in the soup - this is one of our favorite dinner-time games, we're suck dorks! - and he couldn't really tell at all.  He got the butternut squash and chicken stock (mainly because he saw those!) but didn't guess the squash, pears, or any of the other ingredients.

As soon as I served the soup I took out our camera to take a photo, but the camera promptly died on me.  We were too hungry to wait for the camera to charge, so we just ate our dinner and I photographed our leftovers.  This soup made enough for lunch the next day, and also for me to freeze some.  My downstairs freezer is getting pretty full, but I love having food already prepared.

Soup for lunch
I also had some tomatoes and arugula I wanted to use up, and I was tired of the same arugula salad, so I made an arugula provencal recipe (New Basics, Rosso and Lukins) and served it over bread.  It didn't really go with the soup at all, but it did taste good!

Arugula provencal

Sunday, November 6, 2011

FFWD Honey Glazed Duck

Finished dish
I like to think that I'm not a very picky eater, but the FFWD choices for November seemed to hit on all of the foods that I don't like. I'm excited for chef's choice, but the other ones are all problematic. I don't eat red meat, so I'll be skipping the lamb recipe. (I have no real reason for this, my parents just stopped eating it before i was born and I've never been very interested in starting.)  Until a couple of years ago, fennel was on the VERY short list of of vegetables I don't like (the only other one that I can think of is mushrooms). I've been making a (somewhat successful) effort to learn to like fennel, though, so I will try the squash and fennel soup recipe next week and hope for the best.  I was also very nervous about trying the duck recipe.

I don't remember eating duck growing up.  I vaguely remember trying it a couple of times and not liking it, but it was definitely something I only saw in restaurants.  Last year I ordered a tasting menu at a restaurant and the main course was meat.  When I declined that they offered me something with mushrooms, and when I declined that again the waiter offered me duck.  I felt bad saying no three times in a row - especially when the waiter said "would the lady enjoy a duck?" in such a great french accent - so I agreed to the duck.  Maybe it was the wine, but I loved it.  It was served very rare, and much closer to red meat than anything I'd ever tasted, but it was delicious.  

Since then I've ordered duck a couple of other times at restaurants, but it had never occurred to me to cook it at home until this recipe was selected.  I read it over and it sounded straight forward enough, and twenty minutes sounded great for a weeknight, so I decided to give it a shot.  This was also my first time purchasing duck and I was shocked by how expensive it was.  The two pounds the recipe called for also seemed like a lot for four servings, but I decided to trust Dorie.

Once I made the decision to try it and purchased the duck, the cooking part was easy.  I found Dorie's precise instructions very helpful, and quickly realized why she called for two pounds of duck - so much of it is fat!  I saved the duck fat, though, and am pretty excited to cook something in it.  I'm thinking potatoes, but need to look for a recipe.

Duck cooking away
I wanted something healthy to serve with the rich duck, and also needed to use up all of the turnips and turnip greens I've been getting from my CSA, so I made a turnip soup recipe (from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food) to serve with the duck.  I was please with how the soup came out.  It wasn't the best soup I've ever had - probably because it was so healthy - but it did use up the turnips and nicely balanced the rich duck.  I don't think I'll be making the duck recipe too often because of the cost, but we definitely enjoyed it.  It's something I'd pull out again if I had company coming over and a short amount of time to cook.

Soup, homemade chicken broth, and duck