Friday, April 27, 2012

FFWD Catch-Up: Quiche and Batons

Paul has been hard at work on our garden this year.  The great news is that the combination of his hard work (I helped at least once!), some starter plants from Home Depot, and the unseasonably warm weather mean that we already have lots of romaine and red leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, mustard greens, and radishes.  The bad news is that it's all ready at exactly the same time.  So, all of our meals for the last couple of weeks and the foreseeable future are very heavy on the greens.

I  really want to make as many of the recipes in the book as I can, and I'm so impressed by people who find guest-posters when the recipe is something they don't eat, but I've decided to give myself a pass on recipes that are mushroom or red meat based.  I don't have anything against either ingredient, but despite my recent attempts at learning to like mushrooms I've just never really enjoyed them, and my parents stopped eating red meat before I was born so I've just never eaten it.  So anyway, I decided that instead of making the navarin printanier this week, I would just catch up on a couple of recipes I missed.

I used up several arugula plants in making the Spinach and Bacon quiche.  Other than substituting arugula for the spinach and using turkey bacon, I followed this recipe exactly.  I made the crust and blanched the arugula on Sunday, and the rest was very easy to put together during the week.  The quiche came out beautifully and we both really enjoyed it.

My only complaint - and I've said this before - is that I wish there was more filling.  I just love eggs and custard, and this felt like more of a tart to me than a true quiche.  I think I just need to accept that this is how Dorie's quiches are, though.  Maybe I'll add some extra egg and cream the next time.  On the side, we had salad (used up some red leaf lettuce) with smoked trout (one of my favorites!) and some pickled radishes that I made over the weekend.  The pickled radishes aren't my favorite, but they are very pretty and a good use of radishes, and a relatively quick weekend canning project.

On Sunday I also prepared and froze the Mustard Batons, which I baked off for dinner later this week.  These were excellent.  I may be biased - mustard is one of my absolute favorite foods - but I loved the flavor.  It also gave me an excuse to use up some of the fancy Walnut Mustard I bought on Open Sky (I follow Dorie there, Paul complains that all of our money is going there...).  I'll definitely be using these as an appetizer for future dinner parties.  They're delicious, pretty, and I love anything that can be made ahead of time.  

This was a bit of a clean-out-the-fridge dinner, but I served the batons with some cheeses I needed to use up and a Cooking Light grilled salad (used a whole head of romaine!).  The salad had tomatoes, blue cheese, turkey bacon, and croutons, but for some reason it wasn't my favorite.  I was up for trying grilled lettuce, but definitely think I prefer my lettuce uncooked, although I'd be very happy to be persuaded otherwise if anybody has any favorite lettuce recipes.  We have so much more lettuce to use up!

Friday, April 20, 2012

FFWD Coconut Friands

In an otherwise bad week, baking these was a bright spot.  I used them as an excuse to finally purchase the mini-muffin tin I've been wanting (I have no clue why it took me so long to give in to this $16 purchase), and they came out absolutely beautifully.  The last time I tried to make friands (chocolate ones) I just put the mini-muffin liners on a sheet pan (the package insisted this would work!) and they tasted good but were way too flat and did not hold their shape at all.

These held together beautifully, had a lovely crumb, and still taste great a few days after making them.  They also were quick and easy, and used ingredients that I always have on hand.  I definitely understand that these aren't for everybody - my husband and I are, luckily, both coconut lovers - but these are definitely something I'll be making again and again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TWD Lemon Loaf Cake

I didn't have a lot of time to cook on Sunday, so I was thrilled when I read in the recipe header that this only takes five minutes to put together.  It probably took me a few extra minutes (I almost never bother with a mise en place), but I loved how quick and easy this recipe was.  My husband (the dish-washer) loved that it only took one bowl and a whisk, no beaters or stand mixer.

I noticed some nice looking Meyer lemons at the grocery store this week, so I bought those for the cake.  I really like the color they give the cake - the flecks of orange are so pretty - and the aroma while it was baking was incredible.  After the cake was baking for a while I - luckily - thought to check the kitchen timer and see how much time was left.  I realized that even though I set my timer for 50 minutes I forgot to hit the start button!  Oh well.  I actually think the cake turned out better because of it.  Once it started getting close I started checking it very frequently, and was able to pull it out of the oven when it was just baked.  I think sometimes I'm too reliant on my timer, and will overcook things because I don't pay enough attention, or I just don't trust myself.

The cake cooled while we ate dinner (grilled!  on our deck!  I'm really enjoying this unseasonably warm weather) and I was so anxious to cut into it that I forgot to take a picture right away.  I read in the P & Q that some people thought the cake was dry, so I also decided to macerate some strawberries to go along with it.  Except my strawberries didn't release any juices at all.  I'm not sure why.  I sliced them, tossed them with sugar, vanilla extract, and mint, and let them sit for a couple of hours.  That usually does the trick.  They still tasted good, though, and we actually didn't think the cake needed them.  It was on the dry side, but I think that's what I enjoy about pound cake.  It was really all about the flavor of the lemons.

For me, the most exciting part is that I now have most of a lemon cake in my freezer.  I'm planning on making it into a trifle - layered with blackberries, lemon curd, and whipped cream - I'm just waiting for the right occasion!  Our hosts for this week are Truc and Michelle, go to their sites to get the recipe, and here to see what the other TWD bloggers thought of the cake.

Friday, April 13, 2012

FFWD Sardine Rillettes

This was my first time trying sardines and I was pretty nervous.  My only comparison point is anchovies, which I like if they're chopped very fine and a very small component of a dish, but I don't like eating whole bites of them.  I've read about the great health benefits of sardines, though, and they're relatively inexpensive and environmentally sustainable, so I really wanted to like them.  

My grocery store had some interesting types of tinned sardines, I chose ones that were lightly smoked, since I love smoked fish and thought it might hide some of the strong flavor.  They were, however, whole and needed to be de-boned.  I know Dorie said these would have more flavor, but I have a feeling I might have been happier with fillets, I did not enjoy de-boning them (even though it was fast).  I just wasn't a fan of the smell at all.  I went on and finished making the dip, though.  

In hindsight, I'm regretting not halving the recipe.  I'm not sure what I was thinking!  This makes a lot of rillettes for two people, and would have been hard to finish even if we had loved them!  I did not love them.  I nervously ate a small amount, spread thinly on matzoh, and was not a fan.  Maybe I just psyched myself out, but it was really fishy.  My husband is braver than I am, and ate a reasonable amount spread on matzoh, with manchego on top.  He said that the manchego helped hide some of the fishiness.  I was glad he ate some of it, but definitely don't think I'll be making this one again.  We'd both prefer to just eat plain manchego!

Luckily, I had a feeling we might not like this one too much, so in addition to matzoh and a cheese plate, I served it with Dorie's Bacon, Egg and Asparagus salad.  We loved this one!  It's definitely a dinner I'll be making often while asparagus is in season.

I also caught up on two other recipes.  Last week, before Passover, I made the Cardamom Rice Pilaf.  This was also a keeper.  It was quick and tasted great.  Next time I might try it using brown rice (I'm always half-trying to eat healthier), but I'll definitely make it again.

Our two year wedding anniversary was this week, and I wanted to stay home because of Passover, so I was thrilled when I realized Michel Rostang’s Double Chocolate Mousse Cake was Kosher for Passover.  I burnt the cake a little bit and was very mad at myself - I knew my pan was bigger than the one Dorie called for but still completely forgot to adjust the baking time - but the cake still had a great texture and flavor.  If I don't make it before then, I'll definitely be making it next year for Passover.  So, even with the Rillettes, it was still a good Dorie week.  Go here to see what everyone else thought of the Rillettes. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

FFWD Asparagus and Bits of Bacon

We love asparagus, but I normally don't do anything more interesting with it than toss it with olive oil, salt, and pepper (sometimes balsamic vinegar) and roast it in the oven.  It was fun to try a new asparagus side dish.  This was very easy (almost as easy as roasting) and faster than the usual method.  The only change I made was to cook the onions for a while before I added back the (turkey!) bacon.  I'm just not a big fan of raw onions.  This was a great change-of-pace.  It won't replace my usual, but I'm sure I'll make it again before asparagus season is over.

I served the asparagus as a side with Gnocchi a la Parisienne.  I've been meaning to catch up on the Gnocchi a la Parisienne for a while now, but kept putting it off because it's such an unhealthy dish. I finally decided that it wasn't going to get any healthier, and it was better to get it over with before it got any closer to swimsuit season.  I'm glad we tried it - we certainly enjoyed it - but it's probably not something I'll make again anytime soon.  For that many calories, I think I prefer macaroni and cheese, or au gratin potatoes, or just skipping straight to dessert....

For dessert this week I also made another Dorie catch-up recipe, the Orange-Almond tart.  I loved this.  I love almond and I love fruit tarts, but it would never have occurred to me to use oranges.  I never think of baking them, but I'm so glad I did.  This was delicious, and even though it wasn't exactly health food it didn't feel too heavy at all.  The perfect dessert.  This is definitely something I'll be making again.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

TWD Pizza Rustica

Paul (my husband) is really, really in to making homemade pizza.  So much so that I'm now completely afraid to even try to make pizza for him, knowing there's no way that it could measure up.  So, I was pretty nervous when I saw that the recipe for this week was Pizza Rustica, and felt very relieved when I realized that Pizza Rustica isn't really like a pizza at all.  It's just like making a savory pie.  The dough came together very easily in the food processor (I'm always trying to get more whole grains in, so I replaced some of the AP flour with whole grain flour), and the filling wasn't much harder to put together.  In an effort to clean up my refrigerator, I took some liberties with the filling.  I had about half of a container of ricotta left and couldn't bring myself to buy another, so I just used that.  When I was shopping I saw that smoked mozzarella (which I love!) was on sale, but plain wasn't, so I went with that and used the entire ball in the filling.  I don't eat red meat, so I used up some lox I found in the freezer in place of the meat.  

This dough was a pleasure to roll out.  I think it's the addition of egg that makes it so much easier to roll out than typical pie dough, but it was great.  I even got it (reasonably) neatly into the pie pan.

After that I added the filling and then started to work on the lattice top.

I'd never made a lattice top before, and quickly realized why.  They aren't very easy!  I tried to be patient and just do the best I could.  It looks very, very far from perfect, but for my first attempt I think it's okay.  And luckily, I knew it wouldn't affect the flavor at all.

The hardest part was waiting for the pie to cool once it came out of the oven.  I didn't realize until I started baking it that it was supposed to be served at room temperature, and I was very hungry waiting.

All told, I enjoyed the filling, but I didn't really love the sweet crust/savory filling combination.  I think if I were to make this again I'd use a more savory dough.  It is definitely something I'd make again, though, it'd be a great dish for a brunch.

To see the recipe, visit the sites of the TWD hosts for the week: here and here.  Go here to see what all of the other TWD bloggers thought of the recipe.

P.S.  I have to say that as I've eaten more of the leftovers, I think the salty-sweet combination is growing on me.  I observe Passover and can't eat pie now, but I'm really looking forward to eating the rest of this (it's frozen now) sometime soon.