Friday, January 30, 2015

FFWD Croquants

These were an absolute breeze.  They didn't even require an electronic mixer.  The hardest part for me was figuring out how to store them.  An airtight container that wasn't a plastic bag (my go-to)?  I thought about using glass, but Paul suggested a brown paper bag so we decided to try it.  It worked perfectly.  I made these on Sunday and they were still crunchy Thursday night.  I followed Dorie's suggestion and used salted cashews.  I think these would be perfect alongside hot chocolate, or as the base of an ice cream sandwich (I wish I had noticed that suggestion sooner!).  They were good on their own, but not especially exciting.  Charlotte enjoyed the idea of these--she asked for them every time she saw us eating them--but didn't actually like them very much.  I think nuts are still hard for her to chew.  Oh well.  More for us!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

CCC January

As far as I'm concerned, January through March are the worst months for cooking vegetables.  In April we start to get spring vegetables and summer is amazing.  By fall I'm usually excited to start cooking with kale, squash, and root vegetables again.  By January I'm starting to get sick of them.  So, it's really nice to have this group to remind me to cook lots of vegetables, and to cook them in new ways.  This month was a bit of a challenge for me, because mushrooms and fennel have always been the two vegetables that I just really didn't like.  I'm learning to like fennel so I made both of those recipes, but I skipped the baked mushrooms and modified lasagna.  This was another fun month.  Here's what I made, in (rough) order of most to least favorite.

#1) Cauliflower with toasted seeds

What a pleasant surprise!  Until now I've made cauliflower two ways: roasted and steamed.  When I have a bit more energy, I'll add spices (this recipe is excellent) to the roasted version.  I've never really liked raw cauliflower, so this was a revelation.  Very thinly sliced (I was too lazy to pull out my mandoline and just used a knife) with the seeds, lemon juice, and sumac, this was delicious.  I couldn't stop eating it.

#2) Kale and mushroom lasagne

I'm no stranger to vegetarian lasagna--spinach with tomato sauce and butternut squash with a bechamel are my favorites--but adding kale was a first for me.  I substituted zucchini for the mushrooms, but I think almost anything would work here.  I really enjoyed the bechamel, I thought the mustard added a lot of flavor, and liked that the cheese wasn't overpowering here.  This is obviously stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, but I appreciated how substantial the vegetables were.

#3) Pasta with greens, garlic, and chilli

I learned to make pasta with greens from Jacques Pepin.  His pasta with bitter greens is still a favorite of mine.  I usually make it with escarole and endive, so it was fun trying different greens here.  I took this as an opportunity to use the remainder of a napa cabbage and some kale that were hanging out in my fridge.  This came together quickly, and I appreciated the ratio of greens to pasta.  Charlotte did not.  She ate all of the pasta on her plate, then finished my pasta and Paul's pasta, then ate about a bite of greens before declaring she was "all done."  Oh well.  I try to tell myself there's value in just exposing her to different things.

#4) Curried bubble and squeak

My post was delayed because I just made this for dinner tonight.  I could eat eggs every night and be very happy.  The curried potatoes and greens made a delicious bed for my perfectly poached eggs (LOVE Hugh's technique!).  I had to plan to have leftover greens and potatoes for this dish, but I can definitely imagine making it again. 

#5) Beetroot pizza with cheddar

Every time we make a pizza recipe I have a hard time not ranking it number one for the month.  We just love pizza.  This isn't the best pizza I've ever had (Paul makes excellent pizza, but also has to remember to start his dough 3 days ahead of time), but it's very good.  I also love how flexible it is.  I made the dough in the morning when I had time and let it rise.  After it rose I punched it down and stashed it in the fridge.  Before dinner, I let it come back to room temperature while I preheated the oven and prepped the rest of the ingredients, and we were eating in less than an hour.  Delicious.  This was my first time eating beets on pizza.  I don't think it will be my last.

#6) Roasted potatoes and aubergines

I really wasn't sure about this one.  Potatoes and eggplant just seemed like an odd combination.  The method also seemed odd.  I roast a lot of potatoes and vegetables, but had never pre-heated the oil in the pan before.  Well, it worked.  These were nice and crispy, but tender on the inside.  I loved how the potato offset the smooth texture of the eggplant.  This is another one that I hope to repeat soon.

#7) Spelt salad with squash and fennel

Paul was nice enough to make this one for us, as he had a Monday off for MLK day and I did not.  I didn't have any spelt and didn't want to buy any, so I pulled out a bag of mystery whole grains and suggested he try it.  I thought it was farro, but in hindsight I should have realized it was a hot cereal (Kashi?).  I really liked the flavor of the grains, but they were not as distinct as you'd want them to be in a salad.  Also, I found myself wishing Paul had sliced the fennel a lot more finely.  He followed the directions perfectly, but while I'm learning to like fennel I find that I like it a lot better in small pieces, and when it's very caramelized.  We still enjoyed this one, though, and I would be up for trying it again.  

#8) Artichoke and white bean dip

Last month we made salsify puree.  I couldn't find salsify, so I substituted burdock root with so-so results.  Of course, the very next week I went to the same grocery store and they had salsify.  Paul thought I was crazy, but I bought some anyway.  I had to know how it tasted.  Well, I'm sure burdock root has its uses, but in this recipe salsify was much better.  To go with the salsify puree I had bread, the artichoke dip, and some leftover mango chatini for a quick and easy lunch.  I used some cooked white beans that I had in my freezer and the dip was very good, but honestly all it really did is made me crave my mother's hot artichoke dip.  I'm not sure what's in it--I know it can't be healthy--but man is it good.

#9) Fennel and celeriac soup with orange zest

This was really a very nice soup.  I'm sure that if I liked fennel more I would have ranked it a lot higher.  I enjoyed the creme fraiche topping, and thought that the orange zest was a really nice touch.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

TWD BCM Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

Have I told you all about Paul's fascination with the French language? I took 6 years of French in middle and high school and was a member of the National French Honors Society.  I was also told by my French teacher that I spoke French with the worst American accent of anybody she had ever tried to teach.  As soon as I finished high school, I decided to avoid the French language for as long as I possibly could.  Paul, on the other hand, absolutely loves the French language.  His ancestry is French Canadian, and he loved French in high school.  He continued French in college, and lived in France for a while after college.  He reads French books and listens to French radio for fun.  When Charlotte was born, he decided to try to speak to her mainly in French.  I wasn't thrilled about it (I thought she wouldn't learn English as quickly), but quickly gave in.  Her English is much better than her French, but she does understand many French words and uses some of them appropriately (which, in my unbiased opinion, is very cute!) .  I normally skim Dorie's recipe head notes to get right to the instructions.  Paul, on the other hand, loves hearing the background of the recipes and the other tidbits about life in France.  He was especially interested in this week's header.  Funny that with all of their precise expressions, the French steal "weekend" from English!

Anyway, on to the cake.  My favorite thing about this being a brown butter cake is that the butter doesn't need to be at room temperature to start.  For me, that's often the hardest step of making a cake.  I skipped the rum (we were out), and use vanilla paste instead of the vanilla bean.  I liked this cake plain, but liked it better with whipped cream and some brandied figs that I canned last year.  It was good fresh, but even better toasted.  This is a great basic cake, and I'm happy to have it in my repertoire.

Friday, January 23, 2015

FFWD Spice Crusted Tuna, Mango Chatini, and Curried Mussels

I love dishes like this one. They alone are certainly worth the price of the book.  I probably started dinner 15 minutes before Paul got home.  Chopping the mango for the chatini was the most time consuming part, and it wasn't bad at all.  (I was a bit disappointed by this mango salsa.  It was fine, but I didn't think the flavors added much to the fish.  I misread it as mango chianti, and for some reason was expecting alcohol.)  After that I pounded the spices with my mortar and pestle, patted it on the fish, and a few minutes later dinner was ready.  To round out our meal, I sauteed spinach while searing the fish and heated up a store-bought Challah.  I don't eat a ton of tuna these days, does anyone think this would work on a different kind of fish?  I wasn't brave enough to try it, but would love your ideas.

I also just realized that I totally forgot to post last week.  If this doesn't look anything like mussels it's because it isn't.  I think I just need to accept that--despite my attempts--I really don't like mussels.  I love dipping bread in broth enough that I'm willing to make them occasionally, but we just had them in the fish stew and I just couldn't make myself buy them again.  So I substituted shrimp and scallops in this recipe.  It was excellent.  More importantly (at least for my life at the moment) Charlotte inhaled this one!  These are both recipes I hope to pull out again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

TWD BWJ Eastern European Rye

I'm having trouble thinking of anything interesting to say about this one.  I love rye bread.  My favorite loaves have a chewy crust and soft interior.  I love it as the base of a turkey sandwich, but also toasted with butter next to my eggs.  I've even been known to eat peanut butter and jelly on rye in a pinch.  (It's better than it sounds.)  With the help of my stand mixer, this was easy to make.  The only scary moment was when I realized just how many caraway seeds were necessary to make 2 tbsp ground.  Luckily, after I finished my first jar of caraway seeds I located a second (also opened) jar of caraway seeds that was almost full in the back of my shelf.  (I was thrilled.  Paul rolled his eyes.  Sometimes being so disorganized definitely works out to my advantage.)  These were good, but not quite as spongy as the store-bought rye breads I'm used to eating.  I love that this is homemade and I recognize all of the ingredients, though, so it's definitely a recipe I would make again when I have a craving for rye.  That won't be anytime soon - this made two large loaves and I froze much of it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

TWD BCM Granola Energy Bars

I’ve eaten at least one of these every day since I made them.  I ate two today alone.  They are delicious.  After tasting one, Paul said I need to start making these every week.  At first I was annoyed—there are only so many hours in a day!—but then I took a breath and thought about how easy these were.  I really could make them every week.  They’re also infinitely adaptable.  I think I could make them every week and never get bored of them.  This week I stayed true to the recipe—coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, dried cherries, and mango.  Next I want to try crystallized ginger and chocolate chips.  I’m sure I won’t actually make these every week, but I do hope to start eating them a lot more often. 

(How many of you individually wrapped these after making them?  Paul laughed at me for doing it, so I hope I was not the only one!)   

Thursday, January 8, 2015

FFWD Arman's Caviar in Aspic

I want to reiterate that I love AMFT, FFWD, and blogging with all of you.  However, today I'm going to go for complete honesty.

Has anyone heard of Stitch Fix?  It's an online personal shopping service.  Upon request they send you five clothing items to your house.  You have three days to try them on and decide what to keep and what to return.  I think that it's a really fun treat, especially now that I rarely have time to shop for myself.  On the night I served the aspic, after we finished dinner, Paul said I could order one Stitch Fix box a month for the rest of my life if I ate the rest of the caviar and aspic.  I said no.  I told Paul he could have an unlimited budget for house projects (his favorite thing in the world!) for the next five years if he ate the rest of the caviar and aspic.  He said no.

Paul was skeptical the minute I told him about this dish.  I didn't think I'd like the aspic, but I thought I'd at least enjoy the caviar.  Paul gamely ate one of his squares.  I couldn't even finish a bite.  In hindsight, I think the primary problem was the caviar I bought.  It was salmon roe and incredibly salty.  I think this would have been much better with another (more expensive) caviar.  I also couldn't find fish bouillon so I substituted some fish stock that I had leftover from last week's soup.  I think the flavor was too strong.  On a better note, I used agar agar (vegan) instead of gelatin, and my aspic set absolutely beautiful.  I definitely won't be making this dish again, but I'm glad to have had the experience with the agar agar.  There are lots of sweet jello-like dishes that I would like to try.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

TWD BWJ Inside-Out, Upside-Down, Tirami Su

To be honest, I was a little disappointed when I opened up my book and realized this was not a classic tiramisu at all.  I have never made the classic one, and was looking forward to trying.  I know I should have realized from the title that it wouldn't be classic, but this seemed like such a huge departure from the original.  No lady fingers?  No alcohol?  Well, I still hope to try making classic tiramisu one day, but this was a fun, delicious dessert in its own right.  This had a few components, but each was relatively straightforward.  I froze the coffee mixture for the granita and made the sabayon on the first day.  On the second, I baked the phyllo and mixed the sabayon with the cream and mascarpone.  Dividing the work made this dessert quite doable.  I didn't notice until I actually started cooking that this required specialty pans.  (If I had more time, I would go through BWJ and make a list of all of the different pans required.  I'm not sure if I have enough space in my whole house--let alone the kitchen--for all of them.)  I didn't have the time or inclination to go out and buy the pans, and really didn't have anything to substitute, so I just made free-form disks like we did for the fruit napoleons.  They were kind of a mess (definitely "rustic"), but still tasted great.  This would be a fun dish to make for company.

Friday, January 2, 2015

FFWD Simplest Breton Fish Soup

New Year's Eve.  My best friend says that it's even worse than Valentine's Day.  There's so much pressure to have interesting plans.  Last year Paul's mom was in town so we actually went out to dinner (barely qualifies as exciting), but this year we had no such luck.  We both got off of work early (yay!) so we played with Charlotte and her friend at the park, cooked dinner, and the three of us ate together.  After Charlotte went to sleep Paul and I had dessert and went to bed early.  Everything was great until the midnight fireworks woke Charlotte.

For dinner, I made the fish soup, salad, and roasted butternut squash.  Paul really liked the soup.  Charlotte wouldn't touch the fish or potatoes but she loved drinking the broth, and loved opening mussels although she didn't actually eat any.  I'm kind of with Charlotte on this one, except I did like the potatoes.  I think I just need to accept that I'm not a big fan of sardines or mussels, and the cod I bought just wasn't very good at all.  Oh well.  The highlight of our meal was definitely the dessert.  I know Rachael Ray isn't popular, but I made her chocolate pots de creme and they really were excellent.  Quick, easy, used ingredients I always have on hand, and delicious.  I'll definitely be making those again.