Monday, July 28, 2014

CCC July

For reasons I can't remember I hadn't made a single CCC recipe when we left for a week at the beach July 12th.  I was planning on making some of the recipes while I was there, but vacation laziness got the better of me.  It was so relaxing to let my mom and Laurie cook, eat out, and cook simple things without recipes.  So, when I get back from vacation I had a little more than a week to make the CCC recipes.  Luckily, I also had a double CSA share (because we missed a week while we were away) and Paul's garden is producing, so I had lots of vegetables to use up.  We had a largely meat-free week (we had chicken one night and trout another),  and managed to eat up all of our vegetables!

This was another great month for CCC recipes.  We're both big fans of this cookbook.  Summer was definitely the right time to start a vegetable cooking club.  There are just so many delicious produce options to choose from.  I wonder if I'll be quite as excited about this book in February, when I've grown quite bored of the seasonal vegetable options.  My favorite discovery this month was fava (broad) beans.  I once had a fava bean puree as a crostini topping at an Italian restaurant and loved the flavor, but I've never cooked them by myself.  They're expensive and a bit time consuming, but in small amounts they are completely worth it. 

The Bruschetta with Broad Beans and Asparagus was my favorite recipe this month.  I used the favas, gorgeous red spring onions from my CSA, green beans in place of the asparagus (asparagus season is long over around here), a delicious goat cheese with hot red pepper, and a whole grain sourdough bread that my mom bought at the farmer's market.  After the favas were prepared the recipe came together quickly and easily, and it was delicious.  This is definitely going to become an annual treat for me.

I served the Bruschetta as part of our welcome home from the beach celebratory meal on Sunday night.  It was a bit silly because it was after 9 o'clock and neither one of us was especially hungry, but there's just something so nice about spending the evening in the kitchen after having some time away.  We just ate small portions, and were happy to have left-overs for a few days.  Shaved summer veg was the second part of this meal.  This was relatively easy to prepare--thank goodness for my mandoline--and was quite refreshing.  As we continue to shift towards eating more seasonally we end up eating fewer lettuce salads in the hot summer months, and it's nice to have a crisp salad full of other seasonal vegetables.

The main course of our meal was the Aubergine Parmigiana.  As a child, eggplant parmesan was one of my very favorite meals.  I'm not sure if I'd still call it a favorite, but I do love it.  I've tried making many, many versions.  I've tried some that start by deep-frying the eggplant (Marcella Hazan's and Carmine's), some that start by breading and baking the eggplant (Moosewood's low-fat version), some that start with no instruction at all (my mother's!), and some that start with baking the eggplant (My Calabria).  I think this is the first version that I've tried that starts with pan-sauteing the eggplant.  I'd say that this version was good, but not great.  Taking time, health, and taste into account I think that My Calabria's version is my favorite.  The first step of baking the eggplant softens it nicely, is healthier than deep-frying, and is much quicker and easier than sauteing.  When I really feel like indulging, Marcella Hazan's is my favorite.  So, I don't regret making this at all, but I don't think it's a recipe that I'll be repeating.  

I made the Panzanella the second night we were home from the beach (Monday night), to accompany the Provencal Vegetable Soup that I made for FFWD.  This wasn't my favorite panzanella.   I liked the flavors, but it was pretty soggy.  I think there was probably too much dressing for the amount of bread that I used (which I weighed).

The Pasta with raw tomato, like the panzanella, was something that I liked just fine, but i think I've had better versions of.  Served with sliced cucumber it was a perfectly fine Tuesday night dinner, but I don't think I'll repeat this one either.

We love to grill in the summer (Paul has two grills and still tries to talk me into buying a third!).  When we grill vegetables I almost always just slice them, throw some olive oil, salt, and pepper on them, and hand them to Paul to grill.  This Chargrilled summer veg recipe wasn't much more complicated--just a lemon vinaigrette--and had really great flavor.  I also loved the suggestion of grilling spring onions.  They were absolutely delicious, and will definitely make a repeat appearance on our grill.  Served with grilled corn and trout, it was a delicious Wednesday dinner.

On Thursday night I made the Tomato, thyme, and goat cheese tart.  On the side we had romano beans with marjoram (does anyone else think marjoram tastes like soap?) and sliced cucumbers. I've said it before and I'll say it again, everything tastes better on puff pastry!!  This was delicious.  It was quick and easy and the flavors were outstanding.  Definitely a great use of summer tomatoes.  I only wish puff pastry had a couple fewer calories :-)

We got home last from our play date on Friday night so we made a meal of leftovers and some beans that I cooked up.  I had some time Saturday afternoon, so I roasted a chicken and made the Marinated zucchini with mozzarella.  This was another winner in my book.  I love when summer squash is grilled, roasted, or pan seared for long enough that it takes on some color.  I think it really improves the flavor.  The lemon marinade, basil, and mozzarella made this the perfect summer salad.  This would be perfect for a picnic, because it's so great at room temperature. 

On Saturday night we had (over-priced, delicious, bakery) cupcakes for dessert, so even though I churned the ice cream on Saturday we didn't taste it until Sunday.  The jury is still out on the Chocolate and beetroot ice cream.  We both agree that it's absolutely gorgeous, and that we liked it more than we thought we would.  We also both kind of wished that we were eating chocolate raspberry (or just plain chocolate) ice cream instead.  This would be very interesting in small portions for a dinner party, but as a stand-alone dessert it probably isn't something that I'd make again.

Last, I made the River Cottage summer garden soup on Sunday, but Paul and I went out (on a date!  a very rare occurrence) on Sunday night, so I brought some for my lunch on Monday so that I could taste it before writing my post.  I enjoyed this soup.  It had a nice simplicity to it, and was a good combination of vegetables.  I think, though, that I prefer the Provencal Vegetable Soup as far as summer vegetable soups go.

And that's it.  Ten River Cottage Veg recipes in ten days.

Friday, July 25, 2014

FFWD Provencal Vegetable Soup

We spent last week at the beach with my parents and god-parents.  It was a lot of fun, if not relaxing, and we ate well.  The kitchen at the rental house wasn't exactly nice, but it was sufficient and my mom cooked a lot of good meals.  We also had a couple of good meals out, and enjoyed our annual trip to Dairy Queen (and Charlotte's first ice cream!).  One of my favorite parts of going on vacation, though, is always coming back home and cooking in my own kitchen. I never quite realize how much I miss it until I'm back doing it again.  Because our meals tend to be on the heavier side when we're away, I usually plan some lighter, vegetable-heavy meals for our return.  This soup recipe and a panzanella (which I'll write about for CCC), seemed like the perfect summer meal for our return.

When I actually got out the book and read through this soup recipe I was underwhelmed, to say the least.  I like minestrone in the winter, but this sounded like an unexciting version of a summer minestrone.  It also sounded totally confused.  There were way too many ingredients.  But, like the good rules follower that I am, I made the recipe (almost) exactly as written.  The only changes I made were omitting the carrots (I forgot mine at the beach) and increasing the corn and green beans to compensate, using whole wheat pasta (it was all I had), and not bothering to peel and seed the tomatoes (I just don't see the point).  This came together easily, and as soon as we put Charlotte to bed Paul and I went out on the patio to eat our dinner.  He tasted the soup before I did and was like "wow, this is really good soup."  I took a bite.  It was really good.  Dorie was right again.  The vegetables are simple, but the homemade pesto (and chicken broth) really make the soup.  I loved the bright, clean flavors.  It really was the perfect welcome home meal.  The best news?  We gave it to Charlotte for lunch and she actually enjoyed it too!  This may even make a repeat appearance before summer is over.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

FFWD Coddled Eggs with Faux Gras

A few months ago, when there was a lot of talk among the FFWD group about making two foie gras recipes, I started looking into alternatives.  The varieties of meat I eat are very limited, and foie gras isn't one of them.  It turns out that there are lots of options on the internet, and for reasons I don't remember I settled on this one, which uses chickpeas as the base and relies on caramelized onion, more butter, tawny port, and capers for flavor.  I wanted to cook the chickpeas from scratch, so I started this recipe a couple of days ahead of time, but that was by far the hardest part.  Once I started it the faux gras was a breeze, and the coddled eggs were easy enough.  I accidentally ran out of cream so I used buttermilk instead, and I overcooked my eggs, but those were entirely my mistakes.  Just as the water came to a simmer and I set up the steamer for the eggs we lost power.  I checked the eggs (with a flashlight) at 5 minutes and the whites didn't seem like they had set at all so I let them keep going.  I kept checking every few minutes, but I think the flashlight may have been misleading because they never seemed set.  By the time I served the eggs, the yolks were set too.  Oh well.  We enjoyed these (in the dark!  we didn't get our power back until the next morning) with tomatoes and potato salad.  Paul said the faux gras didn't taste at all like the real thing, but it was good on its own.  This is definitely a recipe I could see myself making again.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

FFWD Shrimp-Filled Zucchini Blossoms

Our camera is broken so it's back to awful cell phone photos for a while
One of the great things about having a husband who gardens is having lots of squash blossoms to eat.  I've always enjoyed them, but even at farmer's markets they're hard to find and expensive.  Since Paul's been growing squash, we've had more than we know what to do this.  My favorite way to make them is stuffed with some type of cheese (and roasted cherry tomatoes if I happen to have them) and sauteed in olive oil.  We also made a grilled squash blossom pizza once which was excellent.  I didn't really want to make this recipe.  I usually avoid deep frying at home and I already made vegetable tempura for CCC last month, but we had the ingredients and it sounded relatively quick and easy so we gave it a try.....Well, we loved these.  They were absolutely delicious.  We ate them all in one sitting, accompanied by salad and some cold beet soup.  I can definitely imagine making these as an annual treat when squash blossoms are in season.

Friday, July 4, 2014

FFWD Tomatoes Provençal

With the exception of cherry tomatoes which I think are pretty good year-round, I save buying fresh tomatoes for the summer.  I am always so excited when I start seeing the first, truly ripe, tomatoes of the season.  I needed more than our CSA allotment of tomatoes to make the recipe this week, so I asked if I could purchase some extra.  The very nice woman helping me said they had some dark red ones back at the truck, and brought me over to get some.  They were delicious.  I loved them prepared in this recipe, and I'm sure I would have loved them just as much eaten plain.  It's hard to go wrong with tomatoes that good.  I served them with Leaf-shaped Fougasse, cheeses, salad, and beans.  A fun summer dinner!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

TWD Leaf-Shaped Fougasse

I wish I had more to say about this one.  The hardest part was remembering to start it more than 24 hours ahead of time.  After that it was a breeze (with a stand mixer!).  I put the ingredients in, my mixer did all the work, and I left it rise.  I punched it down and let it rise again.  During its second rise we went across the street to our neighbor's 5th birthday party.  After the party I knew the dough was done rising, but we were late for our other neighbor's 1st (plus 3 weeks) birthday party up the hill.  (I'm not sure if I've been to two parties back-to-back since college :-) ).  I raced inside, threw the dough in a gallon ziploc, threw it in the fridge, and ran up the hill to the party.  I remember noticing that it was supposed to be shaped and put into two or three ziploc bags, but I decided I could deal with that later.  When I got home I opened the fridge and the rising dough had burst the ziploc bag!  I was amazed.  It wasn't more than a couple of hours and our fridge is very cold, but I guess there's a reason the recipe said to divide the dough.  After that the baking was uneventful.  We enjoyed this and it was pretty, but it didn't "wow" me.  With so many delicious breads out there, I'll doubt I'll be pulling out this recipe again.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

CCC June

In my book, it really doesn't get better than summer produce.  Except for maybe summer fruits, and summer desserts, and ice cream, and chocolate...Well, I'm glad I don't have to pick a favorite!  I'm really enjoying this cookbook so far.  The recipes are relatively easy, they're worked, and I've learned some new methods for preparing common vegetables.  I'm in a rush, and late already, so here are my thoughts on the recipes that I've made.

Lettuce, spring onion and cheese tart definitely wins the award for the most pleasant surprise.  I was very nervous about cooking lettuce.  Paul tells awful stories of being served stir-fried lettuce in his college dormitory, and my only experience with cooking lettuce--grilled romaine--did not go well.  However, Paul's lettuce is growing at a very fast rate and I was thrilled to see a recipe that used up so much lettuce, so I decided to give this one a try.  I nervously tasted the cooked lettuce before placing it into the pie shell, and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was.  I waited until Paul tasted the pie, and told me how much he liked it, before I asked him to guess what was in it.  He was absolutely insistent that it was spinach, and couldn't believe it when I told him that it was lettuce.  This one is definitely a keeper.  I'll be making it again next spring when our garden is overflowing with lettuce.

This cookbook is two-for-two so far in the "cooked lettuce" recipes category.  Again, I was very nervous about making the Cucumber and lettuce vichyssoise, but excited about using up so much lettuce.  We were both pleasantly surprised by this soup.  I'm not normally a big fan of cold soup, but this one had a nice complexity.  I also loved the texture that the croutons brought the soup.  What's not to like about bread cooked in olive oil?

The Crudités with tarator sauce is another recipe that was different from anything I've ever tried before.  I'm still on the fence about it.  I love toasted walnuts, white bread, and olive oil separately, but I'm not sure how I feel about the combination.  I liked both the flavor and texture, but didn't  love them.  There are so many dips to try, I'm not sure if I'll make this again.  That said, we did happily finish the dip.

Are vegetables still healthy when they're battered and fried?  I guess they're healthier than when Oreos or Twinkies are battered and fried!  As I poured an entire bottle of oil into my cast iron pot I kept reminding myself that not all of it would be absorbed, but it was hard not to think about how much was being absorbed.  The Vegetable tempura with chilli dipping sauce was delicious.  The kale, especially, was a revelation.  It was crisp and shattered in my mouth.  I won't be making this again anytime soon, but I'm glad that the blog gave me an excuse to make it.

Speaking of health, my co-workers and I have a running debate about what counts as a vegetable.  In my book beans, corn, and potatoes, while delicious and healthy foods, are not vegetables.  My co-workers disagree.  They tend to be of the mindset that anything that isn't meat is a vegetable :-)  As I ate the Pizza with new potatoes and blue cheese I found myself wondering where the vegetable was!  I was very pleasantly surprised by the flavor, however.  It seemed like a lot of starch, but the potatoes really were delicious on the pizza dough, and I loved the saltiness of the warm blue cheese.

With the rest of my purple potatoes, I made the New potato, tomato and boiled egg salad.  I'll be curious to see if the eggs worked out for everyone else.  I knew that 7 minutes seemed too short, but decided to follow the directions anyway.  I should have trusted my instincts.  This was good, but the eggs were very runny.  The yolks were more like an additional sauce.  Next time I make this I'll try boiling the eggs for 8 minutes.

I used the rest of the cherry tomatoes to make Honey roasted cherry tomatoes.  I've never met a roasted tomato that I didn't like, and these were no exception, but I also didn't think they were anything to write home about.  The next time I roast tomatoes I'll probably try out a new recipe.

The last 3 recipes were just okay in my book.  They were all good, but not especially exciting, renditions of things that I've made many times before.  The Frittata with summer veg and goat´s cheese and the Baby carrot and broad bean risotto were both good entrees, and the Steamed veg with a hint of garlic was a perfectly fine way to prepare kale and peas, but I doubt I'll bother pulling out any of these recipes again.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

FFWD Guacamole with Tomatoes and Bell Peppers

My initial reaction to this recipe was "Seriously?  Guacamole from a French cookbook?"  Well I was wrong, again.  Leave it to Dorie to teach me how great guacamole tastes when made in a mortar and pestle.  I thought that I preferred chunky guacamole and almost used the second method, but then I decided I might as well try something different so I got out my mortar and pestle.  How delicious!  I love how well it combined the flavors.  I don't think I'd add the bell peppers again--and I'm on the fence about the addition of tomatoes--but I'll definitely use this method again.    

I served this with grilled mahi mahi and warmed corn tortillas for quick and easy fish tacos.  Salad with roasted beets, cheese, and pistachio pesto on the side.  We still have SO much lettuce to eat!