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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!?

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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!

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

CCC – Cottage Cooking Club, July Edition

This month in the Cottage Cooking Club, we had another wonderful selection of recipes to make and enjoy, all out of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s lovely cookbook – River Cottage VEG. I committed to three, but then, well, I still had other meals to cook, so I ended up making a few more…

I wanted to be sure to have fresh ingredients for my recipes, but with my crazy schedule, I can’t always get to my favorite roadside stand. What makes it so? It’s a family affair. There are usually kids working the counter, and always adults harvesting something. You can pick produce that was on the vine or in the field literally moments before.

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I didn’t start out the month with vegetables from this stand, but I did find some fava beans at the market. I’ve never made anything with them, I’m not certain that I’ve ever eaten any, so I decided that I would try them out, making bruchetta with fava beans and asparagus. The vegetables are cooked separately, sautéed together, and then seasoned and goat cheese added – finally ending up on small toasted bread rounds.

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I prepared these after I’d been out of town for a number of days, returning home, craving vegetables! So along with, I thought that the marinated zucchini with mozzarella sounded delicious. I had some fresh mint from the garden, and decided to try that combination with the grilled zucchini – something light and refreshing.

The zucchini are sliced thinly, and the grilled until they get browned around the edges and are softened. They marinate in a light dressing of garlic, olive oil and lemon, along with some fresh pepper and the mint. Just before serving, the mozzarella is added.

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Around the same time, I found myself with day-old French bread, fresh tomatoes and garden basil on my hands – so what else? Panzanella! I’ve made other versions of this, though it’s not a typical recipe for me. This one sounded great with the addition of olives and cucumber.

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My “official” recipes for July were supposed to be the tomato, thyme and goat cheese tart, pasta with raw tomatoes and eggplant parmigiana. Full disclosure – I didn’t end up making the tart. Forgot the puff pastry… and another full disclosure, I probably don’t need any puff pastry, so I didn’t get there. I did, however, make this before, but with mozzarella and basil. totally worth making again.

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The pasta with raw tomatoes was quite good. Anything with capers always works for me. It’s very light and flavorful.  I did have a couple of different types of tomatoes from the farm stand, so that added a bit of nice color. The tomatoes are peeled and seeded, straining the seeds to capture the maximum juice, which gets mixed with fresh basil, capers, a bit of garlic and olive oil then tossed with the pasta. You can add some cheese if you like, but I took the suggestion and chose to go without.

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Finally, eggplant parmigiana. In this recipe, a simple tomato sauce simmers together, and gets layered with lightly fried eggplant slices and cheese. I decided to veer a bit away from the recipe with the sauce. It seemed like the flavors were intended to be delicate to let the eggplant shine through, but I still couldn’t resist adding some fresh oregano and basil – but I put in whole sprigs instead, that I could pull out after it simmered for a bit, imparting a subtle herby note. I almost always roast my eggplant, but decided to try the frying method in the book. But with my first batch, I started worrying about the oil content – so I combined methods – brushing each slice of eggplant with oil, then letting it cook in the pan until slightly browned and softened. This reduced the amount of oil that was absorbed by the eggplant, and it turned out quite well once I got the hang of it. All of this gets layered with parmesan and buffalo mozzarella and then baked until it’s bubbly and browned on top.

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As it turned out, all of the dishes were quite good. Maybe because I made it most recently, I’d say that the eggplant was my favorite. Fava beans… well, that dish was good, but I am guessing that they were not the early fresh beans that were called for. But very fun to try. The zucchini was delicious as well, and quite beautiful. I also liked the pasta, though I’m not sure that all of the straining and steps were worth the effort (who minds a few tomato seeds?), but super light and tasty. I’m not sure when I’ll make the panzanella again, but it was quite delectable as well. This ended up being (not at all surprisingly) a wonderful group of dishes to make – perfectly seasonal, and perfectly delightful.

If you’d like to see what others in the Cottage Cooking Club made this month, you can find their posts here.

 

 

 

ffwd – provençal vegetable soup

As one of our French Fridays recipes for the month of July, the conversation around this has been as much about the weather as anything else. Since I’d already been behind on recipes this month, I felt bad for not completing this one, so I went out and picked up the remaining ingredients I’d need. On my way home from my last appointment of the day, the temperature registered at 117 degrees! I talked myself into making some soup, reasoning that in Mexico and Southeast Asia, they often heat hot & spicy foods to keep cool…

This soup is a layering of flavors and textures, with each ingredient added based on amount of simmering required or where the flavor note should come in. I tried to keep myself to a half-recipe as I’ve found that soups in AMFT produce a bit more than expected.

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This starts with some olive oil and chopped onions, cooked until soft. Then some chopped garlic is added for a quick sauté.

Once that’s complete, some herbs are added – in this instance some thyme, rosemary and fresh oregano. Then layering over that: vegetable stock and carrots; mini potatoes (of course you can use chunks, but these multi-colored mini ones were irresistible). Pasta rounds out the longer-cooking ingredients.

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Next, come green beans. The recipe calls for canned cannellini beans as well, which I did not add this time. Then finally, the zucchini,  tomatoes and non-traditionally, fresh corn.

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While all of this simmering is happening, a fresh basil pesto is created for the iconic topping. It’s actually pistou in French, hence its real name soupe du pistou. I only had Thai and cinnamon basil available, but it still turned out nicely, and I didn’t think that it would matter. Maybe even add a bit of underlying flavor.

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For serving, all that’s required is a dollop of pesto, a drizzle of olive oil and a few basil leaves.

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I served mine with a nice white wine and some crusty French bread. Nothing more was needed. I have to say, this soup was divine! Easily the best “vegetable soup” I’ve ever had. I’m oh, so happy that I ignored the thermometer and made this. This is an absolute keeper, and one I’ll make again for sure.

If you’d like to see what the other Dorista’s thought, you can check out their posts here.