CCC – October Madness

This month at the Cottage Cooking Club, we were to make dishes with seasonal fall produce – and particularly with an OKTOBERFEST flair. Well, if brioche from the market and fresh eggs count – I’m in there!

I love October. It’s my birth month. I think it is the best month for travel, no matter what hemisphere you visit. There are so many wonderful things about October – fall is in the air! Even in the desert southwest of the US, the air changes, the nights cool, and we even get some fall colors.

And it means that there will (someday) be time to slow down.

For the more than the past decade, I’ve worked as an owner rep for retailers – a Construction Manager if you will. Retail being retail, there are required dates for completion – always in time for the holiday shopping season. So that means that September through mid-November is a mad dash to the finish line. That timing hasn’t changed, though it’s even more hectic these days. Now I manage a team that completes projects, and we’re down to the last few to turn over, prior to taking a deep breath and starting on next year! 26! Yay!!

What does that mean for my cooking? Well, this month, it means that I only completed one of my dishes. It’s one I’ve made quite a few times – sometimes with this type of bread, sometimes with that. But it’s always delicious, sustaining and quick. Really, a perfect recipe for my schedule this year.

There is no particular recipe. Toast. With a poached egg on top. But who knew that something so simple would taste so good. It can be dressed up with a little truffle salt. And of course, some mushrooms or spinach would be heavenly. But simple as it is. it works.


I know that my friends in the Cottage Cooking Club will have done a much better job of highlighting the wonderful fall produce of the season. You can find the links to their posts here. There were so many delicious-sounding dishes, that my mouth is watering just thinking about reading their posts and looking at their photos!!

CCC – September – a month of make-ups and re-visits!

This month for the Cottage Cooking Club, we had another “make-up” or even “revisit” month. I ended up doing a little of both.

To start, I was so inspired by my fellow club members who raved about last month’s Summer garden lentils niçoise, that I decided I just had to make it. Well, I did. And it was fantastic. And I didn’t take a photo. Hmm. I loved the dressing on the lentils – and will definitely make that again.

Another recipe that I was supposed to make was the Tomato and mozzarella risotto. Others who made the recipe weren’t extremely excited about it, but I wondered if I could change the method just a little and make it a bit more interesting and less pizza in a bowl. I had just gone to the farmstand and purposely bought 3 lbs of tomatoes so that I could make the roasted tomato sauce again. This time – it turned out better – I think I roasted the tomatoes longer. But it still made all of 2-1/2 c of sauce. Not sure it was worth it. But we will see when it gets a bit later in the year and I pull out a bag from the freezer – it might just brighten up whatever I’m making.

Anyway – I decided that I would make the risotto without the tomato sauce, just adding fresh mozzarella at the end, and add the tomato sauce on top.


Well, it was tasty – but not even close to my favorite. Still and all, a fun process.

Another recipe that I wanted to try was the Leek and cheese toastie. This one was a huge hit with others, and I had every intention of making it before. But. Well. This is a super simple recipe. The leeks are cooked until tender, cream is added, then cheese. It all gets piled onto the top a substantial piece of toast, topped with a bit more cheese and broiled until browned and bubbly. Some fresh herbs are added – thyme in this case.


I also had some cherry tomatoes from the garden – a few of which were starting to be a little sad. So I also prepared the Honey-roasted cherry tomatoes – one of my favorites. I made a “toastie” with those as well and it turned into a very festive, colorful and flavorful lunch! I used a combination of swiss and gruyere for my cheese. I’m certain other cheeses would be terrific too. This is definitely one to make again (and again!).


Finally, I had a small dinner party. The goal was to serve vegan. As it turned out, the friend that practices a vegan diet isn’t all that strict, but it’s always a fun challenge. While the Mushroom “risoniotto” isn’t strictly vegan, I just eliminated the butter, didn’t add any cheese (just at the table), and would have left out the cream – but was told I should just go ahead and add it. I’ve made this before and it’s delicious! To go with that, I made the Grilled asparagus spears with lemon dressing. To be honest, this is a pretty typical offering, so instead of the skewers, I just used my grill pan.


The spears get “dresssed” with some lemon juice and a little shredded fresh mint.

IMG_4638For our salad, I decided to make the Tahini-dressed zucchini and green bean salad. I thought it was interesting that the dressing was at least inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi. Because of Andrea, our Lioness, I have his latest book on order. But aside from that, this just looked and sounded good to me.

The salad calls for grilled zucchini and oven-dried cherry tomatoes – I decided to just grill the tomatoes along with the zucchini on my grill pan – I’ve done them that way before and they are delicious. The green beans get blanched. And the dressing comes together easily. It has the juice of half of an orange in addition to the lemon – an interesting combination. And quite yummy too!

IMG_4640The dinner was a huge success. I had some fresh baked bread to go along with. A delicious, healthy evening!


And what better for dessert than an apple pie? IMG_4634

So despite being late to the party for posting (and only iPhone photos!), it was a delicious month with the Cottage Cooking Club

CCC – Thai Tomatoes in August

This month for the Cottage Cooking Club I made Tomatoes with Thai Dressing – I love Thai flavors, and I also love tomatoes – and fortunately had plenty from the garden.

Like many of the “raw assembly” recipes, this was simple to put together – designed to highlight the flavor of the tomatoes, while adding something a bit more interesting. The dressing is made first – with a bit of hot(ish) red chile, garlic, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, sesame oil and honey. The suggested herb was mint – but I forgot mine, so I went with one of my favorite herb combinations in Thai food – fresh basil and cilantro.


To this, I added my halved cherry tomatoes along with a little salt and pepper.


Alone, this is a gorgeous dish. The Thai tomatoes shared the table with a fresh/charred corn salad, a tian of summer vegetables and a cheese platter designed to compliment the nectarine cinnamon-basil nectar that I’d made the weekend before (we had cambazola and manchego – yum!).


Since all of the meals were made from farm/garden fresh vegetables and herbs picked that day – it was difficult to find a favorite – but I will certainly say that when I was offering “go-packages”, the tomatoes topped the list.

They were refreshing and the complex dressing complimented the sweetness of the tomatoes. If I were making this again, I would certainly want to add the mint to the mix. I would also probably either substitute the sesame oil with some fish sauce – or at least reduce it and add some. That would make this dish a bit more Thai to me – and I think would work well with the other flavors.

There were other recipes that I had planned to make this month, and others that I had on my short list as well. I hope to get back to those when things slow down a but. But until then – you and I can visit the Cottage Cooking Club, and find out how well the other dish choices went over with our members this month. Fortunately, members often make different recipes during the month – so you can see a preview of any recipes you missed.

Nectarine Cinnamon-Basil Nectar

One of my favorite things about summer is growing edible plants in the garden. For me, it is relaxing, and it also reminds me of my Dad. We always had some kind of a garden when I was growing up. Sometimes not such a big one because he was a busy man, but I think it brought back memories of growing up on a farm in New Mexico, and he would talk about truck-farmers with respect – folks whose lives revolved around growing food to support their families. Of course, my Mom’s Dad had the greenest thumb ever. He grew exotic orchids in his back yard in Southern California and sent them to us every year so that my mother could make spectacular corsages for my brothers’ prom dates. Of course, he grew lots of other things, though by the time I was old enough to participate, we would go pick boysenberries so that my Grandmother could make amazing boysenberry cobblers and all sorts of other delicious things. So, I guess I come from a wonderful tradition of people who love to grow (and cook) food for their families.

Living in northern Arizona (forget trying to grow anything in the valley of the sun!), it’s just wild enough and just hot enough that there are limits to what we can grow (oh, and that part about being a weekend-only gardener, among other things). So there are only a few things I grow. Sweet 100 tomatoes, and then a myriad of herbs. One of my favorites that I have found is cinnamon-basil. It has a beautiful aroma, and I just can’t get enough. Sure, there’s sweet basil, sometimes Thai basil, purple basil (when I can get it to grow), African purple basil – but it’s always a treat to find cinnamon basil and growing it in the garden.


About two ago, I made some peach-basil jam. I had found a recipe for nectarine-basil a few years ago, but of course I didn’t have time to do the whole process – and didn’t really want the texture it described. But  when I made the peach-basil a couple of years ago, the version I made was great! One of my friends’ favorites. So, this year, I decided that I would take advantage of the bountiful basil I was growing – and thought why not go back to the original – OK, with a tweak!

I wanted to end up with some slices of nectarine, suspended in a fragrant, jewel-like jelly.

I have learned that basil, when left in the jam as it cooks gets brittle – so decided I would go with macerating the basil with the sugar and nectarines. I used 2-3 large branches of basil, and bruised the basil – leaving in the stems, since I’d be removing them and they would impart fairly strong flavor..


I used just over 4 cups of nectarines sliced very thinly, the basil, 1/3 c lemon juice and 7.5 cups of sugar. Usually I’m a fast canner (I can make a batch of jam in 30 minutes if I try – and that includes clean-up), since I most-often use pectin. This time, I decided to take others’ advice and let the fruit, herbs and sugar sit – infusing the sugar and juice with the cinnamon-basil flavor. (note: this is the process for liquid pectin – I don’t often use it for jams, but makes wonderful jelly – and allowed me to have the sugar, fruit and herbs sit and combine flavors)


As it turned out, this left me some time to run some errands and go pick up some corn and other vegetables from my favorite vegetable stand. So, this mixture sat for around 5 hours or so (this can be left for up to 8 hours, but after that, must be refrigerated). Before I could finish up my nectar, I had to remove the basil in the mix. Already it had started to toughen and get brittle. I took some time because there were some small pieces from getting this all mixed up. I strained the herbs as well.


Finally, ready to go – all of the jars, rings, lids simmering away. All of the other tools ready too – and a few fresh basil leaves – one for each jar, ready for the process. The packets of pectin, cut open and propped up, ready for the quick action of completing the recipe. One note: I always use the tip of adding just a 1/2 teaspoon of butter to keep the foam down from the pectin – and I also find that Ball brand creates less foam as well.



The process is easy – and I followed the directions on the box. The fruit mixture is heated to boiling (one that is hard enough that you can’t stir it down), then 2 packages of liquid pectin are added. The mixture is brought back to a full rolling boil for one minute. This is the trickiest part – it can boil over, and it can also bubble drops of molten sugar out of the pan – so just be forewarned. Stir the entire time – and I usually partially move the pan on and off of the high heat to maintain the boil, but keep it safe!


Finally, the jars are filled and capped off. As noted, I added one basil leaf to each jar (it’s pretty and reminds me that’s what’s in there until I get the labels on!). Process per the directions. This is easy/not dangerous canning – since there is so much sugar, and the acid from the lemon juice.


I ended up with a couple of extra jars – supposed to be 7 jars, I ended up with 9. A nice problem to have. I think the color is gorgeous, and what I tasted was delicious!

So, what will I use it for? I actually love this kind of thing on good toast, or a bagel. But what I really think is divine is to pair with cheese. This will pair so well with so many delicious options. Manchego, burratta, brie, a soft goat cheese… or even simple cream cheese. I also think it will be fabulous drizzled in lieu of honey over crostini with a soft gorgonzola. So many options! Of course, this would also make a wonderful glaze for grilled salmon or chicken.


Nectarine Cinnamon-Basil Nectar

4 – 1/4 cups thinly sliced nectarines
2 large bunches of cinnamon-basil (or any other basil – purple would be lovely)
1/3 c lemon juice
7 1/2 cups sugar
(1/2 teaspoon butter)
2 packets liquid pectin

CCC – It’s the end of July already?

I’m not certain where the month of July has gone,IMG_4352 but it surely has. This has been known as the “silly season” in my field. Too many projects, too short of timelines – and well, too much in general. The month did start off with a bang! Literally. I spent the 4th of July weekend in the San Diego area. A small-town parade and barbecue on Coronado Island, Beautiful fireworks lighting up the beautiful sky, and of course, great friends to spend time with…

This month for the Cottage Cooking Club, I was planning on making 4 recipes. And really, who couldn’t fit in a little stir-fry and some sliced cucumbers with mint? Who? Me, that’s who. But I did complete two recipes. Though I’m embarrassed to show one of them. Not because the vegetables are not beautiful, but because, well, so very easy! Might as well start there!

100_4042One of my chosen recipes was for Artichokes. Simple, steamed artichokes. They are one of my favorite vegetables, and often make their way to my table. I particularly like the medium sized ones – they are perfect for a quick meal, and small enough that you can actually eat the heart before you are completely full! To be honest, I followed my regular plan. I cut off the tops, and if I want to 100_4045be “fancy” or just make sure that no one gets stabbed with the little spikes at the end of the leaves, I will trim the leaves as well. It does make for a prettier presentation.

These then get steamed, cut side down for about 30 minutes. I have a couple of ways to check them. One is to pierce the bottom of the choke with a knife to see if it’s cooked through. Another that I’ve often seen (and sometimes do) is to pull off one of the leaves – so100_4046rt of near the middle – if it comes off easily, and the meat appears to be cooked, they are ready. I love the color of artichokes too! especially the combination of purple and green. So pretty!

I’m kind of a purist with artichokes. If I want to be fancy, I will sometimes pull out the center leaves, scrape out the choke itself (the little fibers in the middle), and place the leaves back to create a little cup. That can be filled with whatever you’re dipping the leave in. I used to use sour cream topped with caviar, but something like a shrimp salad would be wonderful too. But usually, I just opt for mayonnaise. I have some cute artichoke plates that I inherited. I can’t think of a better summer meal than a perfectly cooked artichoke – served hot or cold – just wonderful!


The other recipe I completed was Peperonata. This is another version of sauteed peppers, this time, with an egg baked on top. It can be used as a topping for crostini, or in plenty of other ways – but as I was planning on this for dinner – well, what isn’t good with an egg on top? This recipe uses multi-colored peppers and they really are beautiful!


Once the peperonata is made, for this presentation, it’s either placed into individual baking dishes, or it could remain in the pan. Eggs are broken on top, and baked for a few minutes. I topped mine with a bit of Parmesan cheese.


This was quite tasty. I think I like it better as just a topping, or alongside other things as a side dish, but this is a good example of this type of recipe.

Alas, I did not get to the other two recipes as promised. That does not mean that I didn’t take advantage of the fresh produce that July had to offer.

Grilled shrimp-stuffed mushrooms and asparagus

Grilled shrimp-stuffed mushrooms and asparagus

A repeat of last month's grilled houlumi and fresh-picked cherry tomatoes, along with some fresh grilled corn substituting for the potatoes

A repeat of last month’s grilled houlumi and fresh-picked cherry tomatoes, along with some fresh grilled corn substituting for the potatoes

Smitten Kitchen's tomato scallion shortcakes

Smitten Kitchen’s tomato scallion shortcakes

Beautiful squash blossoms

Beautiful squash blossoms

All in all, July was a great food month, even if I didn’t stick with the script the way I should have. I’m sure that all of the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club came up with wonderful dishes as well. You can find them here.

Squash blossoms - filled with shrimp or herb cheese, served with a cilantro serrano cream

Squash blossoms – filled with shrimp or herb cheese, served with a cilantro serrano cream

CCC – The wonderful month of June!

This month of June with the Cottage Cooking Club has been a great one! So many delicious recipes, and not nearly enough time. But! We were offered many great selections from Hugh Fearnely-Wittingstalls’s River Cottage Veg. I feel like I’ve fallen down on the job recently – but I’m really the one that misses out! IMG_4190

My recipe choices for June included a Beet Green and Ricotta Tart. I was fortunate enough to be able to find beet greens when so many of my fellow participants could not. They were, also, attached to beets! So that meant that I would also be making an earlier favorite – beet soup!

We were definitely looking forward to the tart. It has the same sturdy crusts as Hugh uses, which makes it both delicious, and a great casing for fillings, since once served, the slice can be picked up – no wimpy falling-apart crust here. I did decide to save time and try pressing it into the shell. Well, not the best idea I ever had. It looked great, even par-baked, but it leaked… Surprisingly, it still held together once cooked though – so good lesson learned! The filling is the sauteed greens along with onions, garlic and fresh herbs. Then with ricotta salata (delicious!) and an egg and cream custard. This was fantastic, and held up well as a leftover. I would maybe use more greens next time, but it turned out great – so maybe it was perfect as is!


IMG_4196I did make the beet soup again, this time roasting the beets attached to the greens. The ratio of greens to beets was high – lots of greens left over from the tart. But we decided that we liked the soup made with baby beets as I had before better than this time. I loved the roasted garlic, but the beets just weren’t as sweet – in fact a bit bitter. So. Note to self!

Another recipe I made this month was Macaroni Peas. A very simple macaroni pasta 100_4016recipe with a “sauce” made from green peas. There’s a little butter and Parmesan in there as well. Of course you can IMG_4206imagine the recipe. Cook Pasta, saute peas in butter, smash or blend some of them, add a bit of the pasta water and drained pasta – throw in cheese. Season with pepper (and herbs if you have them). This made for a quick dinner one evening after work. And it was ok. My peas ended up being a bit sweet for the dish, I thought. The Parmesan just didn’t add enough of a counterpoint. But I will likely make it again, since these ingredients are almost always on hand.

100_4023The New Potato Salad “Tartare” was one I made for a quick lunch one day. I am pretty sure that this was really popular with the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club. Not so much for me – which was a surprise because I love the New Potato, Tomato and Boiled Egg Salad. It was probably me. Too much of a hurry, oh who knows? But this one didn’t work for me. Maybe I had the wrong expectations.

Tomatoes with Herbs – another easy100_4027 assembly of wonderful ingredients. Cherry tomatoes, fresh chives, a bit of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Oh, and maybe a grind or two of fresh ground black pepper. This is always just shockingly good. The chives and balsamic really add to the dish. It really does scream summer!!

The final recipe I completed this month was Halloumi, New Potato and Tomato Kebabs.
Early in the month, I had despaired of nice grilling weather getting here (What was I thinking??), so didn’t know if I would be able to make these. But I love Halloumi cheese, so was looking forward to it. This recipe was a case of some things going spectacularly well, and a couple that I will change when I make this again (yes, it will happen!).

The marinade makes this recipe. I used meyer lemon olive 100_4030oil, lemon thyme and orange mint from my garden. That’s mixed along with a bit of honey, and I did add a splash of lemon juice. A few dried red chile flakes are added. The herbs of course get chopped up, and this is used to marinate the cheese, the tomatoes and boiled new potatoes prior to 100_4032grilling. That was the super-fantastic, never-to-be-forgotten part. The not-so-much part was the cooking of the potatoes. What was I thinking? When the recipe said slightly under done – I took it a bit too seriously. They needed to be cooked longer. And I forgot that the Halloumi that I get from Trader Joe’s is already “conveniently sliced”. That doesn’t work very well for skewering. Skewered it was, and marinated along with the potatoes and tomatoes. Knowing that the cheese would indeed melt a bit, I wanted to put something under the kebabs. Instead of using foil on the grill top, I used another handing screen that helps with veggies and other things falling through. Hmmm. Again, I should know better (but in truth, I was a little seduced by the photo in the book). So, it all started well, The cheese in places getting a bit brown, the tomatoes getting cooked and even the potatoes toasting in spots. But perfection was not to be. At least not in the grilling department.


Perfection of another kind was, however. I was told to put a huge star on the page! While the potatoes could have been cooked a bit more, and the cheese could have held together better (and in truth, like all kebabs, putting each ingredient on skewers themselves would likely work better), this was delicious!! The marinade was amazing. The tomatoes were perfect – just a fabulous flavor combination. I’m actually happy that there are corrections to be made – since that requires I make it again – and soon!

There were other recipes to be made this month – a total of 10 to be exact! You can find out what all the others thought of these recipes by visiting the Cottage Cooking Club.

ffwd – the grand finale

As I’ve thought about this post over the past few weeks, running up to our final FFWD post from Around My French Table, I’ve thought of creating a finale evening, with champagne toasts, cheese-it-ish crackers, and of course, gourgeres. That would have been fun. Or some kind of eloquent reminiscence of the journey.

I’m pretty certain that there will be Doristas who do both of those things. And it will likely cause a few sniffles, if not actual tears (yep, I’ll have some). But this is really a graduation of sorts – so just like kids striking out on their own after the safe embrace of childhood and even university life – one of those “I’m an actual adult now!” moments. That’s both scary and exciting, and often bittersweet. Gone are the days when your mom or dad reminded you of your need to get out of bed, get a haircut, change the oil in your car (if you were lucky enough to have one), and even supplement your budget when things got short at the end of the month. So many responsibilities, now! But this is also a time when you can really choose what you want to work on, where you want to live, and learn how to do a lot of those little things that were taken care of for you for all those years. It’s a time of challenges – good and bad, and an opportunity to meet them and grow from them. I suppose that’s why graduations are often correctly referred to as commencements.

I’m trying to think of this as a sort of graduation too! We have become a close-knit group, and in advance of this inevitable graduation, among us we’ve come up with several ways to stay in touch, whether the Alumni group on FB, Andrea’s Cottage Cooking Club that several of us have been participating in for the last year, or the new group being sponsored by Alice, Emily and Christy, we’re pretty committed to staying in touch, and cheering each other on in the future. Of course, there may be other forays into groups either based on this one, the TWD group, or something else. Who knows! The future is bright, and we have ways to stay connected. I’ve thought of a few ideas of what other ways we might informally, or formally, challenge each other as well. We’ll see!

And like so many others in this group. I have other cookbooks. Lots of them. Really, lots. And that’s after sharing some with my nieces who have become good cooks, and sharing with strangers through book drives (yes, it’s true). Of course, I always add more, even though with this project I have tried to hold back. I’m looking forward to actually baking more from the beloved Baking Che Moi. But also I’m excited about cooking from The Slanted Door – Modern Vietnamese Food. I’ve also just purchased Teatime in Paris, and Food 52 Genius Recipes at the behest of our Dorista Family members (note to all who have the Food 52 book – the Carnitas recipe is genius indeed – the same recipe I’ve used for years. Diana Kennedy is to Mexican Food as Dorie Greenspan is to French). So, see, there are so many other things to cook. And bake. And enjoy. And share!

So, starting out in this new phase, I’m probably going to be looking to my “family” to help with the transition – maybe the occasional challenge or nudge. And of course for your inspiration! I am looking forward to seeing what cooking (and other) adventures people are endeavoring. What we will get up to. With a bit of trepidation, I’m hopeful and excited.

One of the things I’ve found most entertaining in putting together these last few posts is looking at all of the food pictures I’ve taken. Some are terrible, some not so much. Some food was amazing, some not so much. So I’m going to depart with a number of photos. In no particular order, certainly not preference. But what an amazing array from over the years!!

ffwd - salmon and tomatoes en papilloteffwd - tourteau de chevreP1020037100_1278IMG_1356100_2106100_3085100_3288100_3278IMG_2352100_3909100_1155100_0989100_0950100_0996100_1501100_1513100_1626100_1580100_1544100_1606100_1682100_1669100_1930100_1856100_2022100_1994100_1963IMG_1713IMG_1706100_2375100_2317100_2436100_2449IMG_2020IMG_1990IMG_2096100_3033crepes5100_3221100_3141100_0175100_0387100_0703100_3429IMG_2478c100_3521100_3536100_3713DSC00555100_3886100_3874100_3854100_0145000_0006100_0373100_0303\100_0269100_0252100_0218100_0196ffwd - spinach and sausage quicheffwd - bacon and eggs and asparagus saladffwd - roasted rhubarb ffwd - cola and jam spareribsffwd - vanilla eclairsffwd - orange-almond tartffwd - garlicky crumb-coated broccoli ffwd - basque potato tortillaffwd - chicken b'stilla ffwd - michel rostang's double chocolate mousse cakeffwd - gnocchi a la parisienne ffwd - spiced butter-glazed carrots

So with this, I bid a fond adieu! And look forward to the commencement of the next chapter in all of our journeys! You can find all of the final posts from my fellow bloggers at French Fridays with Dorie if you log onto the site. I’ll have my tissues ready for reading all of your posts! I am looking forward to all you have to say and share!