ffwd – baby bok choy, sugar snaps, and garlic en papillote

I’ve been wanting to make this recipe since I opened up Around My French Table for the first time. Just reading the title, I see everything I like. So it was fun to have this finally appear in the recipe line-up. What I really never thought about was the flavor combination of the seasonings: mint and orange. But it’s an interesting one. And I have learned (mostly) that Dorie can come up with some good, if unusual combinations. This method would work with any number of combinations of ingredients.

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All of the vegetables get prepped, and the orange grated. And then they get wrapped up in foil packets for the oven.

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These can be prepared ahead, and only take about 15 minutes at 400 degrees to emerge from the oven as some steaming vegetable goodness.

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I paired the veggies with some wild-caught coho salmon along with a bit of sauce. It turned out to be a light, delicious meal.

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Was it worth the wait? It was very good. But certainly a surprise in terms of the flavors. I kind of liked the mint, but still would have loved this more with more of an Asian twist: soy sauce, ginger, even fermented black beans or chili paste. It is a great technique, and so easy (with nothing much to clean up either). So it was definitely worth it to try this out.

Spinach and Pine Nut Pesto

This recipe just screams SPRING to me! With it’s fresh lemon and spinach flavors, it’s one of the things I love to make this time of year. And it couldn’t be more simple. I usually make a big batch of this because I use it for more than just pasta, but over vegetables, as a topping on a salad, a sauce for fish – I can even just eat it off of a spoon or a cracker! Also, even if I am using it for pasta, I use a lot more than I might if it were a regular basil pesto. After all, it’s vegetables!!

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Spinach and Pine Nut Pesto
6 oz fresh baby spinach leaves
3/4 c pine nuts (toasted or not)
1 T grated lemon zest – from about 2 small lemons
6 T lemon juice – from those same 2 lemons
1 c (+/-) olive oil
1 c fresh Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 t salt, or to taste
fresh black pepper

The spinach, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice all get whirled together in the food processor to create a rough paste. With this amount, it will take some pulses, and you may want to scrape down the sides to make sure everything gets incorporated.

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Once that’s accomplished, the olive oil is incorporated. To be honest, I just add it, and usually with a little less than called for. This gets processed into a smooth sauce, then seasoned with the salt and pepper, and finally, the Parmesan cheese is added.

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And that’s it! This makes a lovely green sauce that has a bit more body than other types of pesto. I used mine with pasta initially. This recipe is about right for 1 lb. of pasta, assuming you’d like a pretty good amount of sauce with it.

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This will keep for a few days, and any leftover pasta with sauce is delicious – either cold or re-heated. Served with another Spring vegetable favorite, artichokes, it makes a lovely meal.

ffwd – quiche maraichère

Typically, I follow the FFWD recipes quite closely. Sometimes with a bit of a minor twist, but often, I want to see what was so inspiring about the original. Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of recipes relying on carrots, celery and something from the onion family… and we’d just done that with our vegetable-barley soup from a couple of weeks ago. So I wasn’t overly excited about this recipe. Then, our friend Mary, showed us all up by cleaning out her refrigerator and making some amazing recipes. So, I got what I thought was an inspiration: I had some asparagus that really should have already been used, as well as some snap peas – what would make a more spring-like quiche?

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This particular quiche is designed to be filled with lots and lots of fresh vegetables, and just a bit of custard – oh and with a smattering of cheese on top. I diced up the vegetables and sauteed them until just barely tender. This quiche uses the tart shell from the book that would, quite frankly, make an old tire taste delicious.

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This all worked out because it was exactly the perfect amount of filling, even though the sides of the tart shell shrunk a bit (no, I did not stretch it!!). The vegetables and custard are added to the shell and baked for a bit.

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Finally, it’s topped with cheese, and baked for a bit more until it gets all melty. I decided to use Manchego because I really like it a lot, and thought it would pair with the vegetables nicely.

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I ended up serving this as a starter, and it was well-received, though honestly, anything in this pastry will be. It’s great because it’s sturdy enough to allow small pieces to be cut and picked up without making a mess.

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Since I’m late getting this posted, I already know how much everyone loved the original version – so maybe now I need to go back and try that one. But quiche is a weakness of mine, so I should probably wait a bit (lest I eat the entire thing!). My version was quite tasty, and there was not a crumb left. Now, to come up with an excuse to make another of the carrot, celery and onion variety.

ffwd – vistadine

This cake was a revelation. I didn’t really love the concept of a cake in a pie plate, and while the photo in the book looked yummy with the berries and cream – well, the berries and cream looked like they were the highlight. And then, it looked super easy – with just a few ingredients. But again, this was a revelation. As Dorie points out, if she had had this recipe when she started baking, here career might have been over because she would have stopped with just that recipe (thank goodness she didn’t!). Who knew that something so simple could be so delicious?

OK, so there are really just a few ingredients – and because of that, they really ought to be good-quality, particularly the butter and vanilla that are the main flavors here.

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Such a simple process: the dry ingredients are mixed together (flour, sugar, a touch of salt), then the butter is added, along with the vanilla. This comes together as kind of a rough mixture, but that’s all right!

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Egg whites get whipped until nice and soft (save the egg yolks for something else), and then incorporated into the batter. Dorie notes that not every baker whips their egg whites, so it would be interesting to see how the cake turns out that way, since it would be even faster/easier to make without that step.

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I was in a bit of a rush, so I used the pie plate (10″) as recommended. I think this would be delightful made as little fairy cakes, or in other shapes, but why not try something new? I did use the parchment as suggested (always a good idea with a cake!). It gets baked for a bit until browned, then turned out to cool.

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This cake can be served in many ways – I happened to have some organic strawberries, marscapone and lemon curd – which turned out to be really lovely. But I also brought the rest to the office and shared – just plain. But fabulous with a cup of coffee or tea. It would be wonderful with many different toppings as well. This was really just a wonderful, simple cake. I’m enamored!!

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ffwd – vegetable barley soup with the taste of little india

To me, the best thing about this soup was the spice mixture. I forget about some of the Indian spice combinations, so it was really fun to break out the garam masala for this. It smelled heavenly, and it’s a wonderful combination of sweet and warm spices. Along with the fresh ginger, it added wonderful flavor.

I suppose really, though, I should start at the beginning. This is (particularly if you already have the spices) a dead-easy recipe with ingredients many people have on hand. Many of Dorie’s soups rely on onions, garlic and carrots, and sometimes go a step further to something like a parsnip.I substituted a sweet potato, since the parsnips looked like they were picked last year – sad, shriveled things, that probably would have been delighted to find a home in my soup, but well, they didn’t. IMG_2314

I decided to add some lentils as well, for a little substance, and mainly because they’re good-for-you. They seemed in keeping with the theme.

Since there was no picture of this dish, I’m sure lots of different choices were made for how to “chop” the ingredients. Often in vegetable dishes, I’ll chop things so that they’re a similar size, often driven by the shape and size of some other ingredient. Here I chose a nice small dice for everything – easily accomplished with the onion, carrot and sweet potato – I thought they would look nice with the plumped up barley and lentils. The vegetables get coated with a tiny bit of oil, and then get started cooking until almost tender. The spices get added next, to allow their aromas and flavors to develop.

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Once that’s accomplished, broth, barley, and in my case lentils are added, then allowed to simmer until the barley is puffed up, the lentils are soft and the soup comes together.

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I decided to serve my soup with some bacon, cheddar and chive scones. As it turned out, I didn’t actually have bacon on hand, but one trick I learned earlier was to substitute chilled bacon grease for butter or shortening in biscuits (it’s off the hook!), so I did that instead, since I thought that the smokey flavor would go well with the soup.

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I served the soup with a nice sauvignon blanc, with the aforementioned scones. Really a nice, simply, but interesting meal.

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If I were making this again, I think I’d go farther afield with the vegetables. I considered eggplant, or even green beans. Perhaps some greens thrown in at the end. I don’t know that this is something that I’d want all of the time, since it isn’t a flavor combo I’d naturally tend towards (I’d rather have Thai curry any day over Indian). But this was good, and filling, and tasty.

If you’d like to check out the recipe, or learn about cooking groups like ours, this is a terrific article. As well, you can find out how the other Doristas liked this recipe (and others) by checking out their posts here.

ffwd – sausage-stuffed cornish hens

It was kind of fun to make a game hen again. I’ve probably made them once in the last couple of years, but probably not for quite a few years prior to that. When I saw them already thawed at Whole Foods though, it made this a lot more do-able. No defrosting! Then it becomes a quick meal, that looks pretty fancy. In fact, I picked up my ingredients on my way home, and still had dinner on the table by 7:00!

I decided that I needed to mix Dorie’s flavors up a bit, and probably could have gone a bit farther – but decided on an andouille sausage, and instead of bread, some sweet potato biscuits (if only I had a cornbread muffin!). I also added a fair amount of thyme, some chopped sweet pepper and was generous with the black pepper and garlic.

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This is a fairly simple, typical preparation – vegetables, sausage and seasonings get browned together. Then an egg (for the full recipe) and “bread” gets added as well, and seasoned again.

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And about 40 minutes later in a 425 degree oven – it goes from this… to this.
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I served halves with some mashed sweet potatoes to round out the Southern vibe of the meal.
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This was a fun, and surprisingly quick recipe. Quick, easy, delicious, even a bit elegant. There was good flavor from the organic bird, so that worked out well. And this is a nice way to get both light and dark meat in reasonable serving sizes as well. Altogether a hit.

Note to Doristas: I did not flip the bird around – I just worked to get it out of the oven when it was perfectly done, so that it was juicy throughout. 

ffwd – two tartines

Dorie’s recipe recalls a favorite cafe of hers in Paris, La Croix Rouge. The recipe is for “tartines”, or open-faced sandwiches – in this case two different combinations: rare roast beef and cornichons (the saint germain), and the other smoked salmon with capers (the norvegienne). Of course, on some beautiful bread.

In Phoenix, we have our own fantastic cafe Postino (or winecafe as they like to describe themselves) that offers what are termed “bruschetta”, but are very similar to Dorie’s version – not on crisply toasted bread, and with a variety of toppings – none of which has ever disappointed. I’ve offered a sampling here – just as a reminder of where you can take these (to myself as well, I forget what a great idea this is for lunch or dinner).

Postinos Takeaway

  • Brie & Apples with Fig Spread
  • Fresh Mozzarella with Tomato & Basil
  • Prosciutto with Figs & Mascarpone
  • Warm Artichoke Spread
  • Smoked Salmon with Pesto
  • Tomato Jam & Fresh Sheeps Milk Cheese
  • Burrata, Bacon, Arugula & Tomato
  • Ricotta with Dates & Pistachios
  • White Bean with Chopped Tomato
  • Roasted Peppers with Goat Cheese
  • Salami with Pesto

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I’ve actually made the roast beef version before – to go with one of Dorie’s soups. For this time, I wanted to make both types, and serve them a la Postino – in smaller pieces, so that we could enjoy both kinds. 

These are incredibly easy to put together, it’s more of a shopping experience – having great ingredients on hand. Both start with the bread toasted on one side – mine was some artisan sourdough. I’d thought about making my own, but this was here so… why not? I just toasted it in a clean pan on one side – that’s the side that gets the spread. Mayo for the beef, butter for the salmon. Hidden under the beef are slices of cornichons, fabulous little gherkin pickles from France.

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The beef in that case, and the salmon over the buttered toast in the other, are then seasoned as necessary. The salmon gets topped with capers and a garnish of lemon.

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I served these with small, chilled artichokes. Along with a glass of wine, a perfect meal.

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I was happy to have Dorie’s inspiration – to remind me how good a simple little bit of bread with some toppings could be. You can find out how others fared with this little recipe here.