Friday, May 30, 2014

FFWD Piperade Stir Fry

I love to cook, but sometimes it's great to have an easy week.  Our friend just gave us his gas smoker, so when I read this was a good side with anything grilled, I decided to have Paul smoke some fish and chicken to go with it.  The dinner was quick (in terms of hands-on time, smoking a chicken takes a few hours), easy, delicious, and relatively healthy.  We're on vacation in Oregon this week, so I'm going to keep this post short.  I'm going to try to read as many of your posts as I can while I'm away, and I'll catch up when I'm home.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

CCC May 2014

So...I went a little bit crazy and made all of the recipes this month.  I don't plan on making a habit of this, but we do eat a lot of vegetables and I was very excited to try out my new cookbook.  Overall, Paul and I both think that this cookbook is a winner.  One recipe didn't seem to work (likely my fault), but all of the other ones were relatively easy, came out well, and were interesting takes on vegetables.  I also find it so helpful that the recipes are written in weights.  I've owned a kitchen scale for a while now, and once you get used to it it feels so much easier than getting out the measuring cups and spoons.  It's less dishes to clean, too!  I do keep needing to look up the celsius-fahrenheit conversions for the oven temperatures, but I'm starting to know those by heart as well.  

The first recipe I made from the book was the Roasted Aubergine Boats.  We had them for a Friday night dinner along with cod in coconut curry sauce (I used this recipe but replaced with yogurt with coconut milk) and my very favorite Baked Spinach.  The boats were good, but nothing spectacular.  They were quick and easy, though, and I could see making them again later this summer when eggplants are in season.

Next, I made the Asparagus Pizza with some fresh asparagus that we got in our CSA share.  Paul is very particular about pizza and I knew that this one wouldn't live up to his very particular standards (his dough uses a combination of yeast and sourdough started and has to be made several days ahead of time), so I told him just to pretend that this was a flat bread.  This crust didn't live up to Paul's, but it was much easier, and made a delicious "flat bread."  The crust was thin and chewy, white pizza is my favorite, and I loved that the asparagus cooked directly on the pizza.

The pizza was good, but I think the Spring Onion Galette was better.  Just for fun, I made the rough puff pastry recipe that was in the book.  I think I rolled it too thin and it didn't puff quite as well as store-bought puff pastry, but it was still absolutely delicious and I like that I made it myself.  (Although I don't like that now I know just how much butter is in puff pastry.)  With a combination of red and white spring onions from our CSA share, and some hard goat's cheese, this galette was delicious.  If it was healthier, I could definitely see myself making it a lot more often.  As it is, this is definitely going to be a special treat in my kitchen.

I wanted to make sure that we had plenty of vegetables to go with all of the butter, so with the galette I made Stir-Fried Cauliflower and the Greek-style spinach from another one of my favorite vegetable cookbooks.  I LOVED this cauliflower.  I think I could have eaten the whole bowl myself.  I loved the spices, the jalapeno, and the sesame seeds.  It was also relatively quick and easy.  This is definitely something that I'll make again.

I usually try to avoid things that feel trendy, but I love the tapas/small plates/mezze style of eating this is so popular right now.  It can be a lot of work, but it's always fun and interesting to have a whole bunch of small things to eat.  One night I added some grilled asparagus, pita, and halloumi cheese to four of the smaller vegetable items and called it dinner.  The most substantial part of the meal was the Quinoa with Courgettes and Onion.  I've taken French and am familiar with a lot of the English vegetables names (like aubergine) but Courgette was one I had to look up.  I was pleased to see that it was zucchini.  We enjoy zucchini, and in the summer when Paul and our CSA both grow it, I'm always looking for more ways to use up zucchini.  This was a quick and easy dish that we both enjoyed.  I (stupidly) forgot the pine nuts in the toaster oven.

Next time I'll have to remember them!  On the side, I made the Lemony Guacamole and Carrot Hummus.  I think the Carrot Hummus was our favorite recipe of the month.  I wasn't expecting much from it, but we both thought the flavor was incredible, given the short list of simple ingredients.  I'll definitely be making this one again.  The guacamole I have less to say about.  It was good, but as far as I'm concerned any kind of simple, homemade guacamole is good. 

When I put the Radishes with Butter and Salt down on the table Paul asked if they were for the blog.  I asked Paul if he really thought I would make something like this on my own.  He laughed.  These were surprisingly good, but definitely nothing that I would put together for myself, and probably not something I would have selected from a cookbook on my own.  Paul mentioned that butter wasn't exactly the healthiest pairing for a radish.  I pointed out that radishes were a very health pairing for butter (much healthier than bread!).   

Until recently fennel was one of the very few vegetables that I refused to eat.  I still don't love fennel (and still can't stand black licorice), but I'm slowly learning to eat it.  I still like it much better when it's cooked, though.  Raw fennel has a very strong flavor to me.  As raw fennel goes, though, I thought the Fennel and Goat's Cheese was a very nice recipe.   Marinating the fennel in lemon juice really helped the flavor.  I served this with some of the smoked sablefish that we made, and the Pea and Parsley Soup.  I was very pleasantly surprised by the soup.  I used homemade chicken stock which helped a lot, but I thought it was great flavor from just frozen peas and parsley.  I'll definitely make this one next winter, when we need a touch of spring.

Right before we left on vacation I made the Courgette and Rice Filo Pie and the Rocket, Fennel, and Puy Lentil Salad for our dinner.  I had a really  busy day planned, so I mixed the filling ahead of time and then quickly made the filo crust, filled it, and put it in the oven before dinner.  I think this was a major mistake.  After sitting for a few hours the salt had drawn a lot of moisture out of the zucchini.  I probably should have just drained off the water, but I thought  the extra liquid might be necessary to cook the rice so I just stirred it all together and put it into the crust.  It didn't really work at all.  After the pie baked the rice had barely cooked at all, and there was tons of liquid left on the bottom of the dish.  The flavor of this was alright, but barely-cooked rice does not have a great texture or flavor!  I'm also not sure if I would have liked this even if the rice had cooked.  It just seemed to need more flavor.  I'll be very curious to see if you all had better luck with this recipe.  The salad, on the other hand, we liked.  Lentils are inexpensive, quick, and healthy, and every time I make them I wonder why I don't make them more.  I liked the idea of using them in vegetable salad, especially since Paul had arugula ready in the garden.

Friday, May 23, 2014

FFWD Smoked Salmon Waffles

My parents have a wonderful, close group of friends that I've known since I can remember.  We spend holidays together, and they feel like family.  When Paul and I got married we registered for a slow cooker and a waffle iron.  At the wedding shower, one friend gave us the slow cooker and the other the waffle iron.  (I honestly can't remember which was which anymore.)  They then proceeded to argue (in a quasi-joking manner) about which was the better gift.  One insisted that you can't be married and young and not be having weekend waffle breakfasts, the other kept detailing all of the practical uses of a slow cooker.  I think of these dear friends every time we use either appliance.  I honestly do use them both a lot, and would be hard-pressed to choose just one of them.  Some months, especially in the winter, I'll get really into the slow cooker and use it every week.  It can be so convenient on days that I work.  However, a good waffle is hard to beat, and as far as I know you really can't make one without an iron.

Anyway, I was glad when this recipe got chosen.  I love recipes that are small twists on familiar favorites.  My photos certainly can't compete with the one in the book--our waffle iron is for Belgian waffles so they weren't as thin and crispy as they could have been, I was too lazy to cut them into quarters, and I totally forgot to buy salmon roe--but these sure did taste good!  We rarely have time for appetizers around here, so we just ate full waffles (sour cream on the side) with salad for dinner.  These were a fun, quick weeknight dinner.  I could definitely see myself making them again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TWD Tropical Napoleons

I have better photos, but the baby monitor in the background perfectly represents my life these days!

This book reminds me, time and time again, that I am really a very novice baker.  My poor meringue layers.  They were an absolute mess.  The first time I made the meringue I didn't separate the eggs as nicely as I probably needed to (there was some yolk in my whites) and I tried substituting coconut sugar for white sugar.  I'm not sure which was the bigger mistake (probably both!) but sometime between soft peaks and medium peaks, my whites turned into a soupy mess that could not be revived.  I didn't want to waste them so I whisked them with the yolks (which luckily I had saved) and some milk and made a quick custard--which was really quite good--and then started over.  The second time I separated my eggs more carefully, and used raw sugar.  That seemed to do the trick.  I had lovely glossy peaks, and a beautiful meringue.  My rounds certainly didn't look professional when they went into the oven, but they didn't look bad either.  When they came out of the oven they still looked beautiful.  Then, I started trying to get them off of the sheet pans.  It was impossible!  I tried a big flexible spatula, several smaller spatulas, the open oven door trick, and each one looked worse than the last.  None of my rounds remained the least bit round.  I needed to make these in batches, so for the next batch I used what seemed like tons of butter and flour, hoping that it would help.  It didn't!  They still looked awful.

The good news?  Layered with sweetened whipped cream (I used almond extract and a lot of vanilla extract instead of the rum) and fruit these didn't look too terrible, and they were absolutely delicious.  I think the next time I won't worry so much about getting pretty rounds, but this is definitely a flavor combination that I'm going to repeat!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Food Revolution Day (FFWD Deconstructed BLT with Eggs, Take 3!)

On numerous occasions I've stood in the grocery store aisle trying to decide what brand of something--granola bars and shampoo both come to mind--to buy.  I've spent way too much time debating the pros and cons and scrutinizing the prices and ingredients lists, only to make a decision, come home, and realize that I already own exactly the same thing.  Some might say I'm boring.  I like to think that I'm consistent (and also predictable).  So, I chuckled to myself when, after thinking about some different Dorie recipe options for Food Revolution Friday, I selected this one, only to then remember that this was my choice for last year's Food Revolution.  Including the time we made this as a group, that makes the third time I've made this recipe.  I think it stands out because it's the first recipe I made with the group, and because I just love it.  In my book a salad with many different, flavorful, components is the perfect kind of warm-weather dinner.  There's enough going on to be substantial, filling, and interesting, but it isn't too heavy.  I was worried that Paul wouldn't think it was enough, so I also made a simple bean soup on the side.  I thought this would be a  good one to teach kids because it has so many components that everyone should know how to make.  A homemade vinaigrette, homemade croutons, perfect hard-boiled eggs, and homemade mayonnaise (I didn't have time to make my own mayonnaise this time, and I know some people don't feed raw eggs to kids, but it is an amazing thing to watch come together).  With these components, you can put all kinds of delicious, and healthy, dinners together in no time.

Monday, May 12, 2014

TWD Scallop and Pesto Purses

A couple of months ago we went to Florida for a long weekend to visit my grandmother.  In one of my brighter moments, I noticed a big box of basil in the fridge that would certainly be black by the time we got home.  I was too rushed to make pesto, but I washed it, pulsed it in the food processor with some olive oil, and then froze it in ice cube trays.  I used some of the defrosted cubes in a delicious shrimp and white bean salad, some in this recipe, and also imagine they'll be great with some pasta and grated parmesan.  As for this recipe?  I loved the flavors.  The pesto, scallop, and phyllo wrapping went great together.  I also thought these were very pretty.  My only complaint is the soggy bottoms (I REALLY love Julia Child!).  These would work well as a plated appetizer, but I tried to pick one up and the scallop fell right through.

Unless we have company, I never bother with appetizers in our house.  I served these with some wilted spinach and a Greek salad vegetable stack.  It was a fun Friday night dinner.

FFWD Leeks Vinaigrette with Mimosa

Work deadline is over!  Now I get to catch up on the rest of my life, while waiting for the next crisis to hit.  I barely remember making this.  I think it was last Saturday night.  I thought it was okay, but probably not something I would make again.  Paul said the leeks were too stringy, and I agree that they were quite a challenge to eat.  I'm not quite sure what I did wrong.  I used the thinnest leeks I could find.  They weren't pencil thin (I might be inspired to try this again if I found very thin leeks), but they were quite thin and I cooked them until very soft.  Maybe I used too much of the green parts?  I never know what to make of instructions like "use only the white and pale green parts."  How does one define pale green?  It's all gradations!  I do much better with black-and-white instructions, I have no clue what to do with these shades of grey.  Anyway, I served these with wilted spinach and Giant Chipotle White Beans.  Does anybody else buy Rancho Gordo beans?  They're expensive for beans, but beans are still a relatively inexpensive dinner, and I really think that they're worth it.  They're absolutely delicious, the texture is so much better than canned, and this is one of my favorite ways to make them.  Anyway, onto the next FFWD recipe!

Friday, May 2, 2014

FFWD Tuna Rillettes

I'm seriously considering changing the name of my blog to "Paul Cooks, Jora Writes About It."  Or maybe just "Paul Cooks, Jora Eats."  Yesterday was another crazy day.  I was home with Charlotte but things at work were going insane and I kept being interrupted.  I made the *excellent* decision to ignore work from 4:45 until 7.  It was a gorgeous day outside, and Charlotte and I walked and met up with some other moms and babies at a nearby park.  We had a great time, and I almost stopped caring about all of the issues at work.  When I got home, however, I knew I had a lot to get done before I could go to sleep.  So Paul became in charge of dinner.  We knew the rillettes were supposed to chill in the fridge, but at 9pm we were both too tired and hungry to care. We ate these with crackers, apples, cucumbers, carrots, and cheese.  It was a nice, easy dinner on a crazy night.  I didn't think the rillettes were amazing (although maybe I'll like the chilled leftovers better today), but as I've said before I'm a big fan of canned tuna, and we certainly enjoyed these.  Next Wednesday is a big deadline at work, but I'm really hoping that afterward things will calm down and I'll get to make more of the recipes myself again.