Friday, February 24, 2012

FFWD Cheese-Topped Onion Soup

What's there to say?  We absolutely loved this soup.  I'm a big fan of onion soup, but I rarely used to eat it because I don't eat red meat and many versions at restaurants (and most recipes that I've seen) call for beef broth.  So, I was thrilled when I found a recipe for vegetarian onion soup in my trusty Moosewood cookbook.  The recipe calls for very simple ingredients (I think just onions, water, soy sauce, and mustard powder), is very easy, and only takes about an hour.  Plus, most of that time is just for the onions to cook, so you can definitely do other things in the kitchen.  I started making the soup pretty often on Sunday afternoons, for us to enjoy later in the week.

A couple of Sundays ago, I was making my TWD Chocolate Tartlets and making some posole for dinner that night, and I decided to make Dorie's onion soup recipe to have for our dinner on Monday night.  It's certainly not difficult, but it is more involved than my usual recipe.  It requires more ingredients (chicken stock, white wine) and Dorie wants you to cook the onions on the lowest possible setting until they caramelize - at least an hour.  Well, luckily I was multi-tasking because after an hour on low my onions still hadn't gained any color at all.  I turned the heat up a bit, but I think it took me two hours (it was sometime after I had finished cooking and we had eaten dinner) until my onions had the color I wanted.  I told Paul that this darn soup better be worth it, and better be much better than my usual recipe.  Well, it was.  We loved it.  It had a more complex flavor, and we loved the sweetness of the onions combined with the good gruyere cheese.  I think this will definitely become our new go-to onion soup recipe.

* * * * * * * 

We got home from the Bahamas around noon this past Sunday, and were desperate for a home-cooked meal.  I decided to make it a FFWD catch-up night and made Potato Gratin, Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux, and Salted Butter Break-Ups for dessert.  All three of these recipes were winners.  The Potato Gratin is definitely going to be a special occasion food, but I can see this chicken becoming a frequent Sunday night dinner (it was almost too rich, but I just loved picking at the bread that baked underneath the chicken!), and the Salted Butter Break-Ups are the perfect easy dessert to make frequently  (buttery and delicious, but not too sweet).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TWD Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

Last Valentine's day Paul (the husband) cooked us an incredible four course dinner.  I tried to convince him to cook again this year, but I guess he thought making a reservation would be easier so we went out to dinner instead.  So, we enjoyed these the Sunday night before Valentine's day, although they definitely would have been a perfect Valentine's day dessert.  I made and chilled the dough for the crust on Saturday, and the rest of the recipe came together pretty easily on Sunday.  I had no idea how long to beat the egg whites (what does until they drip slowly from the beaters mean?), so I just kept beating until they looked pretty light, but it seemed to work.  Rolling out the crust was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and I ended up having a lot leftover so I sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on top and baked it off when I pre-baked the tarts. It made for a fun treat.

Warm from the oven, I thought those tarts were incredible.  I loved the rich, chocolate flavor.  They were like the richest, most fudge-like brownie I've ever had.  The only thing I didn't love was the crust.  It tasted good, but seemed almost unnecessary, and I couldn't stop myself from thinking about all of the extra calories it added.  I'm wondering if these could be made without the crust.  The only other thing I would do differently is to try leaving some of the pieces of white and milk chocolate, and some of the biscotti chunks (I actually used some left over chocolate mandel bread that I found in my freezer) out of the batter, and then placing them more decoratively on the top right before baking.  Maybe they would sink in anyway (did anybody try this?) but I think it would have made for a prettier picture and presentation.  These were incredibly rich, so after eating one the first night and sharing one the next couple of nights, I put two in the freezer.  I'm really looking forward to pulling them out sometime soon!

To see what all of the other TWD bakers thought of the tartlets, go here.  To see the recipe, visit the pages of our hosts for the week: hereherehere, and here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

FFWD Mussels and Chorizo (without pasta)

Mussels and Bread
When this posts I'll be in the Bahamas!  Last year we had a cold winter, and February always feels like a cold, long, boring month (I know it's actually a short month, but it doesn't have New Year's Eve like January and it isn't starting to warm up like March) so this fall I convinced Paul that we needed to go somewhere warm in February.  It turns out that it's barely been cold at all this year, but I'm still excited to get away and spend some time lying on the beach.  Anyway, on to the recipe.....

I just discovered this great seafood delivery service in the Washington area, and decided to test it out on this mussels recipe, and also on Dorie's Scallops with Caramel Orange Sauce (another catch-up recipe).  I loved the service.  It's relatively inexpensive (at least for fish/seafood), so convenient, and the mussels and scallops were both very fresh.  I wasn't quite as excited about the recipes.  I remember Sara Moulton once saying that the best thing about cooking clams is the amazing sauce/broth they give you.  In my opinion, the same thing applies to mussels.  I absolutely loved dipping my crusty, no-knead bread into the delicious broth, but was much less excited about eating the actual mussels.  The mussels only cost $10 for four pounds, though, so I didn't feel as bad about not finishing them.

I love No-Knead bread
As for the scallops, I usually like sweet-savory combinations, but the caramel sauce was pretty sweet, even for my tastes.  I liked Dorie's instructions for cooking the scallops, though, they came out perfectly.  I'd definitely use them again, but switch up the sauce.  I served the scallops with swiss chard and roasted squash.  I think my favorite part of this dinner was actually the roasted squash (yes, I'm more than a little bit strange).  It's a Sara Moulton recipe.  You halve acorn squash (I actually used some Carnival Squash I bought at a farm-stand this fall), fill it with a mixture of butter, honey, and mustard, and bake it until soft.  It's excellent.

Scallops, roasted squash, and chard

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Brioche Bread Pudding + Quinoa, Fruit and Nut Salad

Valentine's Day Breakfast
Thank you so much for your comments on my last post.  I decided to go with the group consensus, and make the rest of my leftover brioche into a bread pudding.  When we lived in Chicago (back when I was still in graduate school and we seemed to have a lot more free time), Paul and I went out to brunch almost every weekend.  One of our favorite places was M. Henry.  They have the most amazing breakfast bread pudding.    I've been wanting to re-create it ever since.  This didn't come out nearly as good as theirs (I have a feeling they use more heavy cream than I want to think about it), but it was still delicious.  I started with a David Lebovitz recipe for dessert bread pudding which I've made before and is excellent (from Ready for Dessert).  I was going to follow the proportions, but it seemed like a lot of liquid and I couldn't bare to make another recipe that only used egg yolks (I already have eight frozen egg whites from making the chocolate truffle tartlet for TWD), so I basically winged it.  

I sliced up my last 7 bubble top brioche (a little more than 12 ounces), and chopped about a handful of ginger.  This summer we picked our own peaches and canned them in water, and I'm absolutely loving them right now.  It's amazing, but the liquid is thick, sweet, and syrupy and I didn't use any sugar at all.  I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't canned them  myself.  So, I opened a pint of peaches, drained them, and chopped them up.  I combined the peach liquid with some milk and a little bit of heavy cream I had left in the fridge, to make about 2.5 cups of liquid.  Then I added three whole eggs, vanilla, and honey, and whisked everything together.  I layered the bread, peaches, and ginger in a casserole dish, and poured the milk-eggs mixture on the top.  I let this sit in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, I put some raw sugar on top, and followed David's instructions to bake it in a water both (about an hour at 350).  I very rarely cook without much of a recipe, but I was thrilled with how this came out.  I think it's almost impossible to mess anything up that relies on brioche and cream!

Bread Pudding out of the oven
I also made the Quinoa, Fruit and Nut Salad for dinner one night this week.  I was very pleasantly surprised.  I thought it had great flavor for something so simple.  Paul was much less impressed.  He really doesn't like quinoa.  He'll eat it at my mother's house (he's a smart man!) but he's never happy when I make it.  Oh well.  He was a good sport and gave it a try!
Quinoa Salad, Greek Yogurt, and Pickled Cauliflower

Friday, February 10, 2012

FFWD Nutella Tartine

I need to learn how to drizzle

When I saw that the recipe for this week was Nutella Tartine I was worried it was going to be a long and complicated recipe.  So I was thrilled when I looked at the recipe and saw how easy it was.  I was also excited because I love anything chocolate and orange, I just made Meyer Lemon-Cara Cara Orange Marmalade a couple of weeks ago, and I had some left-over Bubble-Top Brioche in the freezer that I wanted to use up.

After assembling the ingredients, the recipe came together easily.  We both liked the tartines (definitely didn't love them), and it was nice to have a dessert that wasn't too heavy feeling.  I found myself wondering, though, if all of those steps were really necessary.  After assembling the very simple dessert I (I mean, Paul) had a pot, a glass bowl, and a baking tray to wash.  So, the next night I decided to simplify the recipe by just toasting the bread (skipping the butter) and spreading on some nutella (that hadn't been warmed) and marmalade.  I did a terrible job drizzling the nutella the first night, so this simplified version looked and tasted very similar, was quicker, and made no dishes.  I won't go out of my way to make this again, but it might be a great way to use up the rest of my frozen brioche (although brioche bread pudding is also sounding like an excellent option).  Go here to see what everybody else thought of the recipe.

We had some friends over for dinner after work last Friday, and since I knew I'd still be cooking when they got here I wanted to have a small appetizer.  I decided it was a perfect time to make the  Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts recipe that I missed.  I woke up early on Friday morning to make these and was pretty annoyed by the instruction to lift the nuts out of the coating and shake off the excess egg whites one-by-one.  I don't have that much patience (especially at 5:30 in the morning!) so I did this in small batches, and then got the nuts into the oven.  Despite the annoyance, we all loved these.  They are strangely addictive.  I'm still partial to Ina Garten's Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts, however.  They were easier to make and everyone who tried them raved about the flavor combination.  I think nuts are a great appetizer, though, and you can never have too many great recipes.

Cocktail Nuts
I also made the Basque Potato Tortilla recipe for dinner this week.  We really enjoyed this, and I got to check another recipe off of my list of recipes to catch up on.  The ingredients were simple, it was quick and easy, and I love eggs and potatoes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TWD White Loaves

This is my first post for Tuesdays with Dorie.  I have been following TWD for a while now - since my husband showed me a magazine article about it - and am so excited to be part of the group.  I paged through Baking with Julia when I bought the book a couple of months ago, and to be honest I'm excited but more than a little nervous.  I'm a pretty decent baker, but I'm always much more focused on taste than appearance, and I'm more than a little bit worried about the decorating skills that might be required to make some of these recipes, especially the fancy cakes!  

So, I was very glad that the first recipe was a relatively simple white bread.  I've been baking bread for 5+ years now, with mixed results.  My go-to cookbook for bread recipes is Secrets of a Jewish Baker.  The instructions are clear, he always gives you the option of making the bread by hand, in a food processor, or with a stand mixer, and the recipes always work.  Also, although the title sounds specific there are all kinds of recipes in there.  I make the challah often, but I also love the cinnamon raisin bread, the cheese bread, the potatonik...More recently, I've also been making a lot of no-knead bread from Jim Lahey's book.  I love that I can put it together on a Friday or Saturday night, and then - with almost no work - have a loaf of crusty bread for dinner the next night.

When I first started making bread I made some really awful loaves.  I had a lot of problems activating the yeast and often my bread wouldn't rise at all.  Now I'm much more careful with the water temperature, and always make sure that the yeast gets foamy before I start adding the flour.  My breads are still very far from perfectly consistent - especially in the winter - but they are much improved.  When I started this bread I fully intended to take photos of the entire process, but then soon forgot!  My only photos are from before the first rise.  Here's the foamy yeast in the stand mixer before I added the flour:

And here's the formed ball of dough ready for it's first rise:

After the bread cooled we were hungry for dinner so I started to cut some slices, and finally remembered that I was supposed to be taking pictures!  So here's one of the finished bread.

I felt like this was a solid, basic bread recipe.  The one thing I wasn't happy about - and I know this is my fault - is that when I sliced the bread there were visible swirls, and it didn't hold together perfectly.  I need to work on my technique of shaping the bread for the second rise.  Other than that, this bread got a nice rise and made good peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and toast.  I rarely make plain bread like this, and it was nice to have around.  I doubt I'll make this recipe again, though.  For a very plain bread, I think I prefer the Jewish Baker's buttermilk white bread.  It's still versatile, and I like the extra flavor that the buttermilk adds.

Laurie and Jules are hosting this week, so go here and here to see their posts (and the recipe) and here to see what everybody else thought of the bread!

Friday, February 3, 2012

FFWD Gorgonzola-Apple Quiche

Hoping salad will off-set the richness of the quiche

We spent last weekend at the beach in Lewes, DE.  I know January probably isn't the most popular time to go to the beach, but I loved it.  We went to a couple of good restaurants, walked on the beach and the boardwalk (the weather was actually gorgeous), and went outlet shopping.  But, that coupled with book club on Sunday night, meant that I didn't have the time to start the quiche last weekend.  Luckily, it requires almost no hands-on time, just a lot of waiting.  So on Monday night I made the dough for the crust, on Tuesday night I rolled it out and put it back in the fridge to chill, on Wednesday night I partially-baked the crust, and on Thursday night all I had to do was make the filling and bake the quiche.

Gorgonzola-Apple Quiche
This wasn't much to photograph (not enough color!), but I definitely enjoyed the combination of flavors.  I love blue cheese and apple together, and I added some toasted hazelnuts (as Dorie recommends) which added some nice texture and flavor.  I was surprised when I was making this that there were only two eggs, and I did find myself wishing that there was more custard here.  I like the crust, but I wished the filling-to-crust ratio had been higher in this one.  When I make this again, I think I'll try increasing the amounts for the filling ingredients, and baking it in a pie pan.

I also made Dorie's Leek and Potato soup this week, as part of my continuing effort to catch up with the group.  I love potato-leek soup.  It's one of the first things I remember Paul cooking for me when we were dating.  I don't think I'd ever had it before, and I remember being absolutely shocked by the amount of cream Paul put in the soup (I think it was a whole pint, and at the time I was pretty careful about watching what I ate), but boy was it good.  I definitely liked that Dorie's version didn't call for cream.  It felt healthier, and I didn't miss the richness at all.  I did add a small amount of truffle oil (also a great Dorie recommendation) for garnish.

Leek and Potato Soup

I was very frustrated with my stove the entire time I was making this soup.  I couldn't seem to get it at the right temperature for a slow simmer.  There were either no bubbles, or the soup was boiling way too hard, and I know you're not supposed to boil milk.  So, I spent most of the 40 minutes yelling and cursing at my stove while Paul (who picked the stove) insisted that the stove was perfect and this was all somehow my fault....I still don't think it was my fault, but I will say that I think I would've been much happier if the recipe waited to add the milk until the end.  It seems like you could boil the potatoes, leeks, and aromatics in the chicken broth, and then just add the milk at the end before pureeing the soup.  I think I will try it that way next time, this is definitely a soup I will return to!