Friday, May 31, 2013

FFWD Anne Le Blanc´s Pistachio Avocado

This might be my last post for a while (I'm due on Sunday, although I have a feeling I might go late), and I wish it was a better one.  I didn't want to spend the time or the money to track down the pistachio oil, and it never occurred to me that I could make it myself--after reading the P&Q I wish I had--so I decided to just use the hazelnut oil that I actually owned.  It tasted absolutely fine, but was definitely nothing to write home about.  A Memorial Day barbecue probably also wasn't the right time to test out this subtle dish.  Paul and our friends ended up just slicing the avocado and putting it on their burgers.  I don't think they even noticed the lemon or oil!  The rest of our barbecue, however, was great.  We had mixed nuts, turkey burgers, grilled vegetables with cilantro pesto, these potatoes, zucchini salad, and an excellent Burmese eggplant dish that our friend made.  For dessert we had brownies, 3 kinds of cookies, watermelon and fruit salad.  It will probably be our last barbecue for a bit, so I'm glad it was a good one!

Friday, May 24, 2013

FFWD Asparagus Soup

This recipe got the short end of the stick this week.  I love asparagus soup and make it often in the spring.  I usually use a very simple Moosewood recipe, although this year I also tried--and really enjoyed--this recipe with herbed goat cheese.  So, I was looking forward to making Dorie's recipe and seeing how it compared.  I was mildly annoyed when I saw that the Savory Brioche Pockets that were our TWD assignment for the week called only for the tips of 30 asparagus spears, so I was much happier when I realized I could use the rest of the asparagus for the soup.  So, at about 7:00 on Sunday night I finally got the Brioche Pockets in the oven and got the AMFT book off the shelf.  I knew I was in trouble when I decided to lie down to read the recipe.  It sounded exhausting!  I know it probably wasn't actually that much work, but it was just too much for me right then.  So, I just made asparagus soup using the ingredients Dorie called for, but my usual much simpler method.  I did add the chives and some sour cream (I didn't want to spend the money on creme fraiche just for a garnish) to try to "pretty it up" a bit.  We definitely enjoyed the soup, although it was overshadowed by the brioche, but I'm looking forward to actually trying Dorie's recipe sometime when I have more energy.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TWD Savory Brioche Pockets and Croissants

If cooking, or baking, and freezing count as nesting than I've definitely hit my stride.  I spent a lot of time this weekend trying to lie down and relax, but the rest of it was spent baking.  At the back of one of my favorite baking books (Jewish Baker) there are 12 plans for "Mornings of Baking."  The idea is that if you efficiently use the time while you're waiting for one bread to rise or bake, you can get many breads done in only a few hours.  I've done this a few times, and always love having homemade bread ready in the freezer.  As long as I wrap the bread well, one morning of baking will keep us in bread for a few months.  This time I chose a plan that makes four types of bread and sourdough pancakes to enjoy during the morning of baking.  I made French Sourdough, San Francisco Sourdough, Kashi bread, and a Cranberry-Orange quick bread.  Both of the sourdoughs required starters, so I started those on Friday along with the croissant dough.  On Saturday, I kept working on the starters while also adding the butter and doing the three turns for the croissants, and making the brioche dough.

On Sunday, I was ready to bake.  I started my morning with shaping croissants.  This was incredibly frustrating because I misread the instructions, and tried to cut my first half of dough into 10 triangles.  After my failed attempt (I could only get 9 and knew they were too small) I realized that they were going to be cut in half and that I only needed 5 triangles.  I was really frustrated, but couldn't figure out how to start over, so the first half became mini-croissants.  After the croissants were shaped, I started the first bread and made pancakes for breakfast brunch.  My ambitious plan involved getting all of the baking done in the morning, and then cooking some other stuff to freeze and organizing the house (still haven't gotten to the basement!) in the afternoon, but I'm learning that in this stage of pregnancy I need to slow down.  I took a lot more breaks than I normally do, and barely got my baking done before it was time to leave for pre-natal yoga.

After yoga, I started to make the brioche pockets.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but after a weekend of dealing with croissants the brioche pockets almost felt easy!  The filling was easy to put together, and the dough was much easier to roll out and handle than my croissant dough.  After the pockets were prepared I was about to throw away my leftover scraps of dough.  Luckily, at the last second I decided to make them into a ball instead and throw it on the baking sheet with the pockets.  It came out beautifully!  We really enjoyed having brioche toast for breakfast this morning.  The pockets were excellent too.  We both absolutely loved them.  I'm hoping they freeze well because there's no way we could eat them all at once.  And the croissants?  All morning I was saying, and Paul was agreeing, that they were about the most annoying invention in the world and that they were definitely something you made once and then continued purchasing.  I had visions of telling our future child about the crazy time I was 8.5 months pregnant and decided it was a good idea to try making croissants.  Then, I baked and cooled the croissants and invited Paul in to taste one.  After one bite, he was saying that I would have to make them again after all!  My technique needs a lot of work (I couldn't stretch the triangles to anywhere near twice their length without putting tons of holes in them), but these were absolutely delicious.  Unfortunately, they don't keep that well.  I may make them again eventually, but only if we have enough guests coming over to enjoy them fresh!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Food Revolution Day (FFWD Deconstructed BLT and Eggs)

I've been doing a lot of cooking and freezing lately.  I seem to have completely missed the nesting instinct that should be inspiring cleaning and organizing at this point (poor Paul keeps thinking it's going to set in any day now), but I have definitely been inspired to prepare food for us to eat for the next month or so.  I know this is irrational--my mom is close by and definitely won't let us starve--but I do feel more "prepared" knowing that at least we have some good food in the freezer.  Anyway, the point of all of this is that when deciding which recipe to make for Food Revolution Day, my main criteria was something that could be made quickly for dinner.  I had already spent enough time on my feet cooking, and just wanted something quick and easy.  The first thing that popped into my head was this Deconstructed BLT and Eggs.  It was actually the first recipe I made when I joined FFWD, and I remembered enjoying it.  Moreover, Paul's arugula is growing excellently and I've been looking for ways to use it up.  I made the hard boiled eggs earlier in the week (I use Sara Moulton's method and usually have better luck not getting the gray ring around the yolk, I'm not sure what happened this time) and the rest of the recipe came together in a snap.  I used turkey bacon so I think it's a reasonably healthy dinner entree (at least that's what I'll tell myself), and one that we both enjoyed.

As far as revolutions go, I have never been very politically active, but this is definitely one that I can see myself getting behind.  What we put in our bodies has a profound affect on both our own health, and the health of the planet.  Cooking at home is a major part of this, and I'm glad that public awareness of all of its benefits is growing.

Friday, May 10, 2013

FFWD Coupetade

I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, but it seemed easy enough and I had all of the ingredients on hand, so I was happy to give it a go.  One thing I never understand about French toast recipes--and this one is no exception--is why they suggest that the bread be soaked for such a short amount of time.  Maybe my bread is harder than most people's (isn't the point to use stale bread?), but I never get enough flavor or the consistency that I like unless I soak for a while.  For some reason, though, when making this I followed the recipe instead of trusting my instincts.  The result?  I absolutely love the custard layer, but think the bread part is only "ok".  It is a little hard and doesn't have quite enough flavor for my taste.  However, custard is one of my all-time favorite foods, so I've definitely been enjoying this one.  This is an incredibly exciting time in my life, but also a huge, scary, transition into the unknown, and for me custard is the ultimate comfort food.

Monday, May 6, 2013

TWD Upside Down Cake

I'm trying to learn to be just a little bit more flexible (Paul, Mom, anybody else who's reading this, you can stop laughing now!), and my cooking seems like a good place to start.  I'd much prefer to follow directions exactly, but getting rhubarb and baby cake pans was going to be expensive and kind of a pain, so I decided to make do with what I had.  Paul is growing rhubarb, but we had a very cold March and the rhubarb doesn't get much sun anyway, so it's nowhere near ready yet.  I read in the paper that rhubarb isn't even available at the farmer's market yet, and at Whole Foods it was $7.99/lb.  I did, however, have a bag of frozen figs from our tree that I've been meaning to use up.  The suggestion in the recipe head-notes that this could be made with any fruit gave me the confidence to substitute figs.  Although I'd love to buy baby cake pans (and now that I'm thinking about it I might actually have some in the basement somewhere) they weren't readily available, but I do have a nice cast iron skillet so I decided to follow the instructions for one big cake instead.  Once that was decided, the rest of the recipe was easy.  The most annoying part--by far--was nicely arranging all of my fig halves, only to realize (stupid me!) that when you're making an upside down cake you have to start with the pretty side down.  Oh well.  Flipping them all over wasn't actually that bad.  Once that was settled, the batter came together in no time.  I really like upside down cakes--they're pretty and so much easier than having to frost a cake--and this is definitely one that I'll make again.  Maybe when our rhubarb is ready!

Friday, May 3, 2013

FFWD Creamy Asparagus and Eggs

I substituted asparagus for the mushrooms, mascarpone for the heavy cream, and simmered my eggs until the yolks were firm, so I'm not sure if I'm allowed to comment on this recipe, but we definitely enjoyed our dinner!  When this recipe got picked I was a bit disappointed--mushrooms are one of the few things that I really don't eat and I've been avoiding poached eggs during my pregnancy--but I decided to "play along" as best I could.  I can't get enough asparagus this time of year, I literally think I buy two bunches of it every week, and I love how it goes with eggs, so I decided to substitute it for the mushrooms.  With some defrosted leftover Challah from my freezer, I thought this would be a quick and easy weeknight dinner.  I think the longest part of the recipe was bringing the water for the eggs up to a boil!  I was finishing up the asparagus when I noticed my heavy cream had gone rancid.  I wasn't sure what would happen, but I had some mascarpone in the fridge that I had been meaning to use up, so I added a few big spoonfuls of that instead.  I'm not sure how close it was to what Dorie intended, but it made a nice creamy filling.  Also, for the second week in a row we thought Dorie's serving sizes were not big enough.  (Although maybe the fact that I'm 8 months pregnant and hungry all of them time has something to do with it?)  I only used one piece of bread each, but made the entire rest of the recipe and served it to the two of us for dinner along with a simple arugula salad.  This was an enjoyable, satisfying dinner that still left us room for Upside Down Cake!