ffwd – celery-celery soup

This post marks the 4th anniversary of our group – French Fridays with Dorie. Over the past several years, we have been cooking, sharing, enjoying each others’ company and becoming friends. I’m not one of the lucky Doristas who have met other members in person, though I hope that I will one of these days. One of the best things about technology today is that we can often become friends with people around the country and around the world in a way that was difficult pre-1995 (to give you a snapshot, Compuserve was the only real email provider, DOS was still very much in use, 512mb was considered a LOT or RAM and there was no high-speed anything). So while I occasionally dislike technology, I also know that I wouldn’t be able to stay in touch at this level if we didn’t have it. That’s the good side.

My friend Teri got me involved in this project. She had been participating in a different group that was baking through Bread Baker’s Apprentice. She thought it would be fun to participate in this group too, and after she served Gerard’s Mustard Tart to us, I had to agree. Alas, Teri’s been busy with lots of other things, but I’m still grateful that she provided the push I needed to join this group.

While I would still say that this group of people is the primary reason for my continued participation; I also have to say that I’ve learned a lot of things, and have tried quite a few that I would never have without the project. Celery root is one of them. In fact, I have also learned to like regular celery much more as well. I like the celery root puree that we made earlier (and I’ve made since), but I also have also learned to love it roasted – it’s amazing paired with French lentils, with other roasted vegetables or not, hot or cold. So, while I didn’t know that this was on the top of my list of most exciting recipes (forgetting the part that it was 100 degrees when I made this – if I waited until the timing was right, lots of things wouldn’t get done!), I wanted to make it and try it out. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty delicious.

100_3652This is a simple mixture of vegetables tossed with a little butter and softened. Then vegetable broth along with fresh thyme and bay leaf are added. All of this gets simmered until the celery root is soft enough to mash with a spoon.

100_3653

Once all of the vegetables are soft, the soup is either pureed with an immersion blender (my choice), or blended in a regular one, or pressed through a sieve. I imagine it could mean that it’s a silkier texture, but certainly not something I thought was necessary.

One of Dorie’s ideas is to serve this with some freshly-made, curry infused croutons. I thought that this sounded good, and to be honest, took advantage of someone else choosing that garnish as well.

Cubed bread, toasted in a mixture of butter and curry powder. This one happens to be a little sweet, which goes well with this sweet, slightly-spicy soup.

100_3658100_3661

This was a surprisingly tasty soup. It would make a great starter, and was certainly nice as a light lunch. Maybe not gorgeous, but I loved the color that the croutons provided, a dressy finish to something simple.

I’m looking forward to the following months as we work through the final recipes in this book, and share our stories. If you’d like to see what others thought of this soup, you can find your links here.

CCC – September recipes

September hasn’t been my best blogging month. To be sure, not a bad month all around, but I have missed out on more than I’ve participated in. And that’s not good. And maybe because I was so scattered, none of the recipes turned out as well as I expected. I know from experience, that “it’s not you, it’s me!”.

For me, this has typically been a busy time of year for the last 20 years. I am a construction manager in the retail industry – so everything has to be completed in the early fall. It can get a little stressful. I have two huge projects going live this coming week, and for a new company. The odd thing is, I totally love it. But. It does get in the way of my cooking right about now. A bit later in the year and through the holidays, I will be more relaxed than others, simply because I’m already kind of done! It all works out. But, alas, that means that my month has been a bit hectic – and I have fallen behind.

I love so many recipes in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg. It’s really encouraged me to think differently about the meals I put together. Though I am not a vegetarian, I know that it’s a good idea to have a more plant-based diet. With his meals, I never feel like I’ve been short-changed. And of course, The Cottage Cooking Club is a wonderful group of cooks who are learning and sharing together. What could be better?

On to the recipes! I only complete three of the recipes that I signed up for this month. The first – Roasted squash – is something that I often make, though not exactly per “Hugh”. I wished that I had remembered to bring some rosemary from my garden up north. I think it would have made this even more wonderful. Sage too. Those herbs mean fall to me, and while it was probably 100 degrees (F) at the time, well, it’s still September and our habits need to change. This is super-simple, something that I would do with any winter squash, or a combination of vegetables. In this instance, an acorn squash, some smashed garlic cloves, some fresh thyme and a bit of olive oil (along with some course salt and tellicherry pepper). This gets baked at a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes. I like my roasted vegetables a bit caramelized. This would be terrific with a combination of squash as well.

100_3615100_3623100_3624

I served mine with some lentils, other roasted vegetables and fresh pesto (including the honey-roasted tomatoes from the same book). (my ffwd friends will likely recognize this dish as presented with the French lentils!). Surprisingly, this wasn’t my favorite actual instance of roasting winter squash (though now that I think of it – using the same treatment for the squash as the tomatoes sounds pretty good!). But it was likely that actual squash – just not a particular flavorful specimen. But how pretty!

I have to come clean, I planned to use some of the same roasted vegetables for the Oven-roasted roots frittata. So, I gathered my roasted vegetables (the afore-mentioned squash and tomatoes along with red onions and celery root). The original recipe calls for root vegetables to be roasted in the pan that the frittata will later be cooked in. That ends up meaning that the eggs can be added and then just quickly baked for 10-15 minutes to get the eggs to set. The fact is, either method, it’s still a quick dish to prepare.

100_3627100_3628100_3629100_3630

This wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, mainly because the squash I’d roasted (see above) was surprisingly flavor-less. Not bad, just not as good as I know it could be. I need to make this again with the squash, but also some beets and maybe sweet potatoes. I could certainly have used more herbs as well. Poor execution, not the recipe. (again)

Finally, I made Mushroom “risoniotto”. I had a combination of shitake, crimini and white mushrooms. These get sautéed and caramelized. While all of that is going on, the orzo pasta is cooked. Once the mushrooms are browned, garlic, thyme and balsamic vinegar are added to cook for a minute or two. Next, a bit of white wine is added and reduced. Then, cream is added and the mixture is seasoned. Finally, the pasta is added, and fresh parsley is thrown into the mix.

100_3636100_3642100_3643100_3647

I served this dish with steamed artichokes, a perfect accompaniment. This was pretty tasty. I’m not sure that I’ve every had anything with too many mushrooms. This was getting close to that line. Since it already had cream, it wouldn’t have been too far of a departure to add some cheese. Parmesan would have been really good – though I’m sure others would have even better choices. But I did think it needed something else. I also enjoyed the leftovers (with a little cheese). This is a really good dish, just something that for my taste, could have used something else.

Alas, I did not get to the salad I’d chosen for this month. I hope to get to it soon. I’ve heard from my friend Andrea that it’s fabulous, and you can see her amazing writing and photography here.

So, all in all, I was a little disappointed this month – mostly in my execution of these recipes. But there was nothing that I wouldn’t make again, particularly if I had an extra 5 minutes to devote to the process. The truth is, none of the recipes that I made are difficult or time-consuming. Just not my best effort. But then again, there’s October? Right?

ffwd – french lentils – a basic recipe

French lentils have to be one of the handful of my very favorite recipes in Around My French Table. And one from which I learned the most. I had never been a fan of lentils. I like beans of most varieties, and love split pea soup – but lentils? Then the revelation of these wonderful small greenish-black lentils that Dorie introduced us to. This, along with Marie Helene’s Apple Cake, Hachis Parmentier, My Go-To Beef Daube, and the Roasted Salmon that is served with lentils are a few recipes that I’ve made several times. There are more, but these are a few of the ones that have really stayed with me.

100_3607

This is simple enough – the lentils are given a quick pre-boil and rinsed, just to make sure the flavors are clean. Then they are added with a number of vegetables and spices and set to simmer. I used the green tops of a celery root that I was going to roast to go with, carrot, bay leaf, garlic and a clove-studded small onion.

100_3609100_3610

This all gets simmered together along with some vegetable (or other) stock for about a half an hour total. Dorie suggests draining them, and reserving the water if they are going to be refrigerated (for re-heating). This would be a particularly good idea if you were using these for a lentil salad. You may also remove the vegetables, finely chop them and add them back in, or discard. I’ve done both – with good results. You may also add a splash of cognac, and even a bit of chopped shallot. Add depending on how you are using yours.

100_3618

While the lentils were simmering, I made some roasted vegetables. I had some cherry tomatoes that needed to be used, so I stirred them together with a bit of garlic, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. Anyone who is familiar with the other cooking group in which I participate (Cottage Cooking Club), might recognize these. And I’ve found that roasted celery root goes well with lentils – so I roasted a few along with some red onions. Other things I like to use are eggplant, multi-colored peppers, carrots, sweet potato and zucchini.

100_3613

Along with some home-made pesto, this turns into one of my favorite meals. It can be served hot, or room temperature (my typical), and is a perfect desk lunch at work – easily assembled to go, but can sit at your desk until it’s time to enjoy. I had something like this when I was in Texas a couple of years ago, and have been making it ever since. Infinitely variable, based on what’s fresh and available, and quite healthy too.

100_3621

ffwd – chanterelles with napa and nuts

The photo of the chanterelle mushrooms is one of the enticing things about this recipe. They are indeed beautiful. I was even able to find some. Of course, they are wildly expensive, so I decided to make this more of a mixed wild mushroom dish. I opted to use some fresh shitakes and a few crimini to replace a few of the chanterelles. This dish also requires napa cabbage and toasted hazelnuts.

100_3592100_3594
 

To be honest, there are a couple of things I don’t like here – I hate organic napa cabbage because there are always bugs and things (this time no exception, bugs and a worm even, yuk!); and I really dislike the mess from toasting hazelnuts and removing their skins. I don’t know why, just one of those things. But, still, I moved forward. I have to say, the chanterelles are lovely mushooms though, aren’t they?

Once everything is prepped, the shallot is sautéed in a bit of olive oil, then the mushrooms are added for a short period of time – they finish off cooking in a bit of broth and a dash of soy sauce.

100_3595100_3596
 

Finally the finely shredded napa cabbage is tossed in along with the chopped hazelnuts. It’s supposed to be finished with a bit of parsley as well..oh well.

100_3599

This certainly makes for a lovely dish. It really reminds me of fall, and there’s an earthiness about it that is appealing. It was interesting too, because I actually had this as a main course, to really taste the different mushrooms.

So – the verdict? Despite using Penzey’s beef base in place of a bouillon cube, the sauce had a “packaged” taste to it that I didn’t really love. Also, I have to say that the $30.00/lb. chanterelles weren’t even my favorite in the dish, though certainly good. But the fresh shitakes were very good. Will I make it again? I don’t know, but the idea was really good, and something like this would certainly be fabulous served along side a perfectly cooked roast or steak. If you would like to see what other cooks thought of this recipe, you can check out their posts via our French Fridays with Dorie website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CCC – Cottage Cooking Club – August Recipes

100_3542This month’s recipes at the Cottage Cooking Club were perfect for summer. Plenty of tomatoes, and other summer produce. I stopped by my favorite farm stand, knowing that I had some interesting, great sounding recipes to make.

We have great corn here, which wasn’t really on this particular menu, but also a couple of kinds of eggplant, onions and a small spaghetti squash. Oh, and some fresh tortillas and tamales…

My first recipe this month is Caponata. I’ve seen this eggplant relish many times in books, but I’d never eaten it, let alone made it. I decided to use my favorite method for cooking eggplant, and actually roasted mine. Of course, I also kind of forgot about it, so it was a bit more done than planned, but I knew it would be combined with other ingredients and simmered for a bit, so I didn’t worry too much. The eggplant then gets combined with a number of savory and sweet components and is simmered so it can blend together. Onion, celery, garlic, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, chocolate (!), raisins, capers and olives. What a combination! I did use the chocolate, despite wondering a bit about it – but I do make a braised short-rib dish that has chocolate too – so why not try it!?

100_3546100_3552100_3556

I first served this for my book club where I also prepared a tomato and corn pie with a biscuit crust. It’s one of my indulgences in the summer to make it once – and this was perfect because I could share leftovers with my friends!

100_3555

My next recipe was the Roasted tomato ketchup. This is really the tale of two recipes. To make the ketchup, you must make a roasted tomato sauce first. I liked the idea of this, because I was able to use what is now an antique food mill. It was my grandmother’s, and so that brought a bit of nostalgia to the project. To make the sauce, tomatoes are halved, drizzled with a bit of olive oil and strewn with fresh herbs. Then they are roasted to soften and enhance their flavor. Finally, sieved to remove the seeds and skins. 

100_3543100_3545100_3548

100_3567In the book, it’s mentioned that this sauce can be used for many things. It doesn’t make all that much, but I was able to tuck away a bit for later in the freezer. If I had access to a lot of tomatoes, I think this would be a fabulous way to save their summery fresh flavor for later in the year. It produces a light sauce, but one that could find plenty of uses. 

For the actual Roasted tomato ketchup, the tomato sauce is cooked down with a combination of sugar, vinegar and a number of warm spices. This can sit on the stove on low for a long time, so it’s ideal for a busy day when you can swing by for a bit of a stir, but don’t really need to be actively involved.

100_3570

I’m not sure exactly why I wanted to make this other than it sounded fun. I don’t tend to use a lot of ketchup, but this was really quite good, and a fun project to make, though after all of that effort, my half-recipe produced about 3/4 of a cup! But certainly something to make whatever its served with seem more special.

Next up, Tomato bruchetta. This is the perfect way to serve garden tomatoes, and I happened to have some freshly-picked cherry tomatoes, along with some fresh basil from the garden. The tomatoes get tossed with a bit of olive oil, a pinch of sugar, salt, pepper, and of course the basil. The toasts get rubbed with fresh garlic, and on some I added some melty Manchego cheese. I also decided I’d make some Caponata toasts to go with to round out the plate.

100_3559100_3560

100_3563

The tomatoes and olive oil create just enough juice to flavor the bread. This made for just a fabulous meal. Perfect!

Finally, I made the Asian-inspired coleslaw. I like coleslaws of any kind, but particularly ones with more Asian flavors. This is a recipe from the book that I had really wanted to try from my first look through. 

This is mainly a slicing and dicing kind of recipe, with a well-flavored dressing to go on top.

100_3571100_3573100_3576

Well, here’s the truth, at the last minute, I had guests come over, and I completely forgot to take a picture of the salad plated! Oh well, there are more important things than photos I suppose. I thought this was good, but when I served it, decided it needed a bit more crunch – so I served this topped with some peanuts. I thought that the next time I might add some wasabi to the dressing as well, to give it a bit more punch. I think I even did throw in a bit of jalapeno, and some diced Persian cucumbers as well. This was a great starting point, and enjoyable as it was. 

I didn’t get around to making my last recipe I had planned on. Some other time. I suspect that one of the other club members did make it, so it will be fun to read what they thought. And for me? The surprise of the month was the Caponata. But the real favorite was the Tomato bruschetta. I wish I had some now. Maybe I can make it to the farm stand this weekend!

The Cottage Cooking Club is cooking through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook River Cottage VegIf you’d like to see what others in our group created this month, you can check them out here

 

 

 

 

 

 

ffwd – couscous salad

This week’s French Friday challenge is another grain-based salad. I only have one rice salad that I make consistently, so these are always a bit different for me. This one is generously flavored with spices in the stock for the couscous. Cumin, tumeric, ginger and cinnamon are the warm spices used here, along with the flavoring of lemon, cilantro, and the added elements of bell pepper, carrot, snap peas, chick peas and raisins.

100_3578The broth is simmered with the spices, then the couscous added. Once the couscous has been added, the raisins are placed on top to allow them to plump a little as well. Meanwhile, all of the fresh ingredients are prepped.

100_3582A simple dressing is made with some olive oil and lemon juice. Once the couscous is ready and has been fluffed, it’s ready to be combined with the fresh ingredients and the dressing.

100_3583I served this alongside a simple almost caprese salad using fresh garden cherry tomatoes and ciliegini mozzarella.

100_3591100_3589

This was certainly pretty, but not the hit that I’d hoped for. And to be honest, it was way more salad than was reasonable. I suspect there are others in our group who adored this however. I’ll be interested to find out what they think. You can see what they thought on our French Fridays with Dorie site.

100_3590

ffwd – gâteau basque

Home made strawberry jam, wrapped in a crunchy, buttery cookie-like cake. An oh so elegant version of a simple jam cake. That said, this was really quite easy, split into 2 steps, with a chill in between, But it made for a dramatic presentation.

The dough was simple: butter; brown and white sugars; vanilla and a mixture of flour, baking powder and salt. Very similar to a cookie dough, that gets rolled out between plastic or paper and then chilled so it can be worked with. The filling can either be a jam (cherry is the traditional) or pastry cream. If filled with jam, there’s no worry about chilling the leftovers, and since I make my own jams, I decided on using some strawberry that I had on hand.

100_3532

I ended up using a 9″ pan, because my dough rounds were closer to that size. I sprayed the pan, then lined it with parchment to be sure to be able to remove the cake in case the jam filling made it’s way out.

This consists of 2 layers of dough, with about 3/4 c of jam spread in between. The top layer gets tucked in to make a neat package around the filling.

100_3533

This gets brushed with an egg wash, then scored with a fork to create a “grid” type pattern. Mine turned out to be more of a plaid, but that was ok. This goes into a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. I was doing other things so didn’t check on it until the timer went off. I think it could have used about 5 minutes less – oh, and this pan was black, so I probably should have dropped the temperature down. But it turned out to be a beautiful golden brown.

100_3535

I was pleased at how easy it was to turn out the cake – first on one side, then right-side up. It’s both tender and sturdy, so no mishaps here. I did end up with a funny bubble (maybe some air trapped under the top layer? But generally, I was pleased with how it turned out.

100_3536

 

This really is an elegant dessert. I think it would be wonderful for tea too, or tucked in a lunch box for a special surprise. Certainly some berries, custard or cream wouldn’t be amiss here to dress it up if desired, but it’s a terrific dessert as it is.

100_3540

If you’d like to see the beautiful desserts my friends at French Fridays with Dorie made, you can find them here.