CCC – the delicious month of February

February in the Cottage Cooking Club brought one of my most-awaited recipes: Beet Soup! with horseradish cream! But it also brought a Cheesy Peasy Puff Turnover, and a Potato Rosti.

The beet soup is simplicity itself. I decided that this time I would actually roast the beets per the recipe, though I often pick them up pre-roasted and peeled. These were to roast with some fresh herbs, and whole garlic cloves that would then flavor the soup – so I thought I’d stick with the original, particularly as I was making this on a weekend.

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Once roasted, cooled a bit, and peeled, the beets, and soft roasted garlic are simmered with some stock, until the flavors are allowed to blend, and everything is soft. Then it gets blended to a lovely, smooth puree. It’s checked for thickness, adding more stock as necessary, as well as seasoning with salt and pepper as required.

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The soup is served with a simple horseradish cream – sour cream mixed with a good amount of either freshly grated horseradish, or prepared. This is such an amazingly gorgeous soup – and it’s delicious as well. Even quite good for you! I thought it would also be good with a dollop of whipped goat cheese, but the horseradish added another layer of flavor that was a great contrast to the sweetness of the beets.

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The Cheesy Peasy Puff Turnovers were a bit of fun (and deliciousness). They really are made from pantry staples – frozen puff pastry, some frozen peas, and then whatever cheese you might have on hand, though the suggestion is for aged cheddar. The original recipe calls to make one large turnover, but of course, individual pastry servings are always fun, so I decided to make 4 pastries. Simply – you cut the squares of pastry, top with peas and cheese. Brush the edges with egg, seal them, and then use the egg wash over the top. The puffs get baked in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

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I paired the cheesy puffs with the soup for a lovely, filling lunch. Delicious together – or separately.

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My final recipe of the month was Potato Rosti. This is something I’ve never made before and I thought they looked like they would be terrific. The recipe offered two options: the smaller ones as shown in the cookbook, or larger rosti that could be topped with a poached egg. That sounded too good to pass up! The trick to these is to lightly par-boil the potatoes and cool them before grating. The rest is pan-frying the shreds in clumps until crisp and brown.

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I’m afraid I should have stuck with the smaller ones – I think that as a beginner, I would have had more luck. Tricky to turn over, tricky to get brown all over without the outside too brown… I served mine with the poached egg – it was quite delicious!! Well worth the effort, and it didn’t matter at all that it wasn’t perfectly shaped!

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This was a very fun month of recipes, and I was thrilled that I was able to compete the three that I signed up for! Hurrah! Of course, the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club are often much more ambitious than I, and you can learn all about their recipe selections and success here.

BCM – butter cake and granola (bars)

I have been hopelessly behind on all of my cooking/blogging activities. But the latest previous recipes from Baking Chez Moi have looked so delicious!

First, I realized a bit late, that one of the recipes for this group was Granola Bars. I’ve been traveling a lot, and I thought “hey, I should make those and take them on my trips!”. Of course, as I thought this, I was in Sedona with 4 cookbooks, none of them BCM. But then, I realized that my friend Christie who has the amazing blog GoldenLifePHX, would maybe, just maybe, give me the recipe. I was in luck! And while I was at it, I looked at her post for granola bars, and got the gist of them. I even stole a couple of tips. Organic oats, a couple of kinds of raisins and some cranberries, slivered almonds, sweetened with maple syrup! I was ready.

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It all seemed to be going so well! But, not quite well enough. The bars came out of the oven. Were compressed as required, but I’m afraid they were destined more for granola than for granola bars. I could barely get one or two bars cut. Something went awry.

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All of that said, this was delicious granola!! Very tasty. I did also add a little cinnamon as I usually do with my typical granola. The fruit was a beautiful addition, and didn’t get over-done as I was worried it might. I will probably stick with my usual recipe, but it was fun to try.

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Next up| Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake.

I thought that this would be another wonderful treat. Weekends have been known to include ice cream – what would be better than this cake? And one that holds its own over a few days? Others have done a terrific job of demonstrating how this is made, and to be honest, I just kind of made it without taking pictures. I did go the route of using vanilla extract. I’m a huge (!) fan of Penzey’s Double-stregth. I decided that it was wonderful enough to just use that rather than the bean. The browned butter was fun to make and left satisfying specks in the batter. It baked up beautifully.

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Isn’t that gorgeous? But again, I wasn’t really thinking about this. Two fails: the dark pan – I always forget to reduce the heat a few degrees. Oh, and prepping the pan… well, I forgot the parchment.

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What a sad thing. But, it all turned around as we enjoyed this cake. It did live up to the promise of being even better the second day. I think this recipe would be fabulous when the family is around for the weekend, or to give to someone as a home-made treat. It’s not so fussy that it needs to be immediately consumed (though that might just happen!). This was delicious! So, next time I’ll make those adjustments – and there will be one too!

You can see how the fabulous bakers at Tuesdays with Dorie made the granola bars and the vanilla cake by following these links.

ffwd – croquants

I had never heard of croquants, and not speaking French, the name of this little confection meant nothing to me. After reading the description of the cookie, the ingredients and method, I was intrigued. Yes, very.

You see, croquant means crunchy in French. And the method is crazy-simple. The idea that I might be able to put together a delicious cookie with 4 ingredients, well, I just had to try it. But then, it started to become overcast and then it started to rain. Now, living in the desert southwest, I love the rain, but I also know from years of making candy at Christmastime with my mom and then on my own, meringues and candies need to have a dry day. Alas – today was one!IMG_2622

(this is the view from my driveway in Sedona, I’m not actually there today, but it did look like a “nice day” photo)

The ingredients are: very coarsely chopped nuts (I used almonds and pecans), sugar, egg whites and flour.

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Sugar is added, then the whites, and finally, flour is incorporated into the mixture. Interestingly, the whites are not beaten or whipped, they are incorporated as is – which makes this an amazingly simple recipe.

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The recipe calls for the dough to be placed on parchment-lined baking sheets. And that they are supposed to be rounded/mounded. The perfect time to use my cookie scoop. This one turned out to be the perfect size.

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The cookies are baked in a 400 degree oven. Mine took 12 minutes (turning the sheet halfway through). Since it wasn’t a huge recipe, I baked one sheet at a time, which allowed me to have the (important) cooled sheet for the subsequent batch. Another important point is to ensure that the cookie dough is about 2″ apart. I cheated a little, but then only had to use 2 pans.

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The cookies are to be puffed up and cracked a little and a nice brown. It was nice to see some of the larger pieces of nutmeats showing through the tops. They cool on the pan for about 10 minutes until they can be lifted off. Then the croquants are left to cool completely. I would think that the parchment would be essential in this – or certainly a lining sheet of some kind.

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These are suggested to be served with ice cream, a strong cup of coffee, or even a cup of tea. They are very sweet (in a good way), so I decided for a first taste (or two!) that tea sounded perfect. And it was!

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These really are delicious confections. I loved the flavor of the nuts, and the crunch of the cookie – with just a hint of chewiness inside. I can see making these many times because while they are sweet, they are not particularly rich. And they would make a lovely addition to a cookie tray as well. Finally, they are supposed to keep well for a week or so, which makes them a bit more practical – hopefully they will last long enough so that I can test that theory!

There were many others in our French Fridays with Dorie group who made these as well. You can find their lovely posts here.

ffwd – spice-crusted tuna and scallops

Originally posted on dulceshome:

Spice crusted tuna… it sounded like a good recipe, and also a good choice for what has been a busy January. I broke my rule (since I was late making this) and read some of the others’ posts and comments about the recipe. This time it was totally encouraging, since I don’t make a lot of fish, and very rarely tuna. I picked some up frozen (as suggested by Betsy), and I happened to have a few scallops, so I thought they would be good too.

There is a spice mixture that is put together – coriander, white pepper, cardamom, and some fresh ginger. This is crushed (or processed) into a paste to put onto the fish.

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I didn’t seem to have as much as some others, maybe my math was off. This was also suggested to be paired with a mango chatini, which is generally a kind of salsa…

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CCC January – Beet and Cheddar Pizza

The Cottage Cooking Club is a group of bloggers working their way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book River Cottage Veg. Each month, the tremendously talented Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness, chooses 10 recipes from the book, based on seasonal ingredients and variety of choice. The members then choose between 1 and 10 recipes to prepare and blog about. There are choices from throughout the book, ranging from the simplest preparation to truly company-worthy projects – with a couple of desserts thrown in!

This month, I chose to make Beet Pizza. Love beets, love pizza… What a great option. Now, I have to say that there are many folks who love the recipe for Magic Bread Dough in the book – and it’s the suggested dough for the pizza. I have been incredibly spoiled, however, by my brother Clayton’s pizza dough. I happen to think it’s the best on the planet – and I’m not just saying that because he’s my favorite youngest brother. Really, it is! He has a wood-fired pizza business with two different ovens – one installed inside a custom trailer food kitchen, and the other as a stand-alone one. His business, Pyromaniacs Pizza does to food truck events, but also catering and also food service at BYU football and other events. It’s the best.

But I digress. Since I am not as much a fan of the dough from the book, I decided that I would try out (again) the prepared dough that I could get here locally. I hadn’t used it in a long time and thought it was worth a try. I also went with the prepared roasted beets I buy, and some shredded cheese I had on hand. Caramelized onions are the other main ingredient – tomato sauce is optional.

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Hugh uses a lot of caramelized onions – particularly for his pizza. I think they are fabulous, but often get too busy, or don’t think of them. I decided to make a big batch, even though I was only making one pizza at the moment. They are, of course, simplicity itself. Sliced onions slowly cooked until they are nicely browned. I often don’t quite take the time to get them as browned as I would like, but they are always delicious.

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Once those are complete, the rest is easy. I heat my pizza stone in the oven (about 450 degrees for this) while I’m prepping the pizza. I’ve found that in my home oven, I really prefer to put the pizza on parchment and then on top of the stone. I don’t like the additional flour or cornmeal that (at least for me) is required to easily get the pizza in and out of the oven, so that’s what I did here too. The parchment gets really brown, but doesn’t seem to be a problem.

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The pizza looked terrific from the oven. I wish I’d made the trip back to the store to get a different cheese (and I also think that just a bit of goat cheese would have been great here in addition to the required cheddar). Mine was a blend of good cheeses, but just not the depth of flavor that would have been good.

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I tried mine with a drizzle of balsamic glaze to make a counterpoint to the sweet flavors of the beets, onions and cheese. It was good, but I think something like the vinaigrette we used for the beet tartine would have been even better. The tomato sauce might have done the same thing, I’m not sure.

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This was certainly fun to make. I’ve enjoyed all of the different pizza combinations in the book. I need to make that dough and get it into the freezer! Because this is an easy, delicious lunch, or a light dinner.

If you’d like to see what the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club made this month – you can find the links to their blogs here.

ffwd – spice-crusted tuna and scallops

Spice crusted tuna… it sounded like a good recipe, and also a good choice for what has been a busy January. I broke my rule (since I was late making this) and read some of the others’ posts and comments about the recipe. This time it was totally encouraging, since I don’t make a lot of fish, and very rarely tuna. I picked some up frozen (as suggested by Betsy), and I happened to have a few scallops, so I thought they would be good too.

There is a spice mixture that is put together – coriander, white pepper, cardamom, and some fresh ginger. This is crushed (or processed) into a paste to put onto the fish.

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I didn’t seem to have as much as some others, maybe my math was off. This was also suggested to be paired with a mango chatini, which is generally a kind of salsa. I didn’t have any nice mangos, so I went with a fresh pineapple salsa instead.

The fish is quickly browned in a pan over some fairly high heat to get a little caramelization. Still this takes only a few minutes. I cooked mine a bit too long for my taste.

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I served mine with some fresh asparagus and the pineapple salsa. And it made for a colorful, tasty dinner.

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I have to say, the spices were really, really good with the scallops. I think we actually enjoyed them a bit more than the tuna itself, but both were delicious!!

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If you would like to see how the other Doristas prepared their spice crusted tuna, you can find their links here!

ffwd – arman’s caviar in aspic

armanThis recipe must be one that is most-dreaded by Doristas of all of the offerings in Around My French Table. Upon reading the description, I had to go out and find examples of Arman’s work, since it was supposed to be the inspiration of the dish for a dinner party. Based on Dorie’s description, this should be reminiscent of his work. And some of his work is familiar. It was interesting to see the other works he’s produced as well – particularly the artfully displayed (…) drawer of old flatware. To be truthful, I did enjoy looking at the images, but couldn’t for the life of me quite get the connection. But I’m sure it’s just my provincial mind.

The dish is essentially cubes of seafood jelly with a divot in the top to hold some caviar. The jelled mixture is placed in a square pan, then cut into smaller squares… It seemed easy. I thought I’d use my new seafood stock, and some simple caviar.

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Now, I used to prepare a fair number of caviar presentations, but to be honest, I wasn’t the real caviar-lover in the bunch. I thought about what the typical accompaniments might be, and did a little research. Hard boiled eggs, sour cream, onion… I decided to make a couple of deviled eggs to encase in the aspic, and also a little chopped egg mixed with sour cream. I thought they would make for a fun presentation, and also make the dish a bit rounder, and what I’d typically be wanting to serve. Plus it would allow me to use some of my fancy molds!

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Some of these were actually my Grandmother’s, from the time when a dinner party required an individual molded salad for everyone!

I made the aspic. I was not initially thrilled with the flavor – the “1/2 cube for 2 c water” sounded very bland. I did add a bit of seasonings, but was afraid to add too much. I filled the molds with a bit of the aspic and chilled them, then added their filings, and covered with more aspic. The fun thing is all of this comes together quickly.

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I unmolded the jellies, then placed them on their plate. I did rinse my caviar as well (to rid it of a bit of salt, plus it’s less likely to “bleed” black on the food it’s placed on).

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They actually look pretty cute! And they are darling with the dainty black caviar on top, and served with champagne in a coupe – since this all felt so retro.

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At the end, this was more fun to think about and make than it was to eat. As I’ve said, while I don’t have a problem with caviar per se, it’s not really my thing. And I wished that the aspic itself had more flavor. I should have trusted that it wasn’t highly flavored enough, because it was totally overwhelmed by the caviar.

But. Still. Fun. I think it will be interesting to see what any of our other Doristas did with this recipe, if they tried it (and I know for a fact, some did).

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