I’ve been participating with another cooking group – French Fridays with Dorie for the past 4 (!) years. One of our members, the amazingly talented Andrea Mohr, invited some friends to cook along through a new book, River Cottage Veg, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and I asked to join in. In my family, I’m usually the one that can be counted on to bring the vegetable and/or salad to any event. And I try to, like so many others, to emphasize vegetables over other ingredients.
This group is set up a bit differently, which will make participation easier in many ways (you can flex down on the number of dishes if you don’t have a lot of time), but more difficult in others – there are so many amazing dishes in the book! The initial idea is to choose from a list of 10 recipes for the month, and then create a single post of the recipes chosen. Since I have a bit more time this month (and since everything looks so good), I’m making a few more than I might get to otherwise, so this post may become a bit unwieldy. We will see!
Because I can, I’ll start with one I didn’t commit to, and really, what is there to say about radishes with butter and salt? I have never been a radish fan, probably because they weren’t popular in my home growing up. But I’ve recently started adding them to salads, and they’re nice – I happened to have a bunch for something else – so, yes, I cut one up, spread on some butter and a sprinkling of salt and plopped it in my mouth! Does that count?
The next recipe from my list is pea and parsley soup. I’ve enjoyed other “fresh” pea soups, and this did not disappoint. It’s super simple to prepare, particularly since one of the options is to use frozen peas. This uses fresh herbs from the garden, and is finished with pea shoots. This was so good that I was required to leave the leftovers behind!
Which naturally leads to the next recipe, the spring onion galette. As you can see from the above photo, this was paired with the soup for a nice, light dinner. As well, this is super-easy to make, using purchased puff pastry. The only note I would have is that I didn’t use as many of the green onions as called for in the recipe – the wouldn’t fit on the pastry.
Quite frankly, it’s difficult to go wrong with anything with puff pastry. I used the other half of the dough for another version from the book – this time with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, and then made mini versions for Mothers Day.
Next on my list is asparagus pizza. I love roasted asparagus, and this looked like a lot of fun. I wanted to try out the “Magic bread dough”, so went ahead and made my own. The big challenge is that my brother now has 2 wood-fired pizza ovens. He decided to give up corporate life and bake pizzas for a living, and just finished having a mobile kitchen completed, including a wood-fired oven inside. The bar has been set amazingly high. His pizza (and dough) is amazing. But, it’s all a learning experience, right? Besides, I’ve set aside some of the dough in the freezer to test out how that works for the flat breads or bread sticks.
I have been baking bread for years (my grandmother first taught me to bake bread when I was like 9 or 11). I went to a King Arthur Flour demo earlier this year, and learned a few tricks, so I have more process photos to include here. Note that I use a plastic dough scraper to mix – this is a great tool for under $2. Since I’m fairly easily distracted, I add ingredients to the bowl in order, without mixing, so that I can see what’s there if I get side-tracked. I also get to a rough dough prior to putting it on the board to knead – I’m in AZ, so it took a bit more water to get here – about 1/4 c. Finally, I don’t put the dough into a clean bowl to rise – just use a cooking spray to coat the bowl, and a tiny bit on top, and cover with plastic wrap.
While the dough is rising, onions are sliced, then slowly sauteed to lightly caramelize them. The oven is also heated to 500 degrees with a pizza stone or cookie sheet in the oven to heat as well. Once the dough is rolled/patted/thrown (not me!) for the pizza base, it’s placed on a floured peel, to get the toppings of the onions, asparagus spears, fresh mozzarella and parmesan. The pizza is then quickly placed in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until the asparagus is roasted, and the cheese nicely toasted.
Unfortunately, mine wasn’t as good as my brother’s, though it was tasty, and a wonderful flavor combination. Next time I would use less dough (since the peel size dictates), and roll out the dough thinner – I think that might be a difference.
Lemony guacamole was my next effort. I love guacamole, and here in the southwest, it’s a perennial favorite, and something enjoyed often. I thought it would be fun to see what the Dorset, England version would be like. As always , the key is a perfectly ripe avocado. I ended up serving mine with some black bean dip and some nachos for a nice, light meal. And yes, instead of yogurt, I added a small dollop of mayonnaise – it adds some creaminess, but mainly I use it to keep the guacamole from turning brown quite so quickly.
My final recipe for May is roasted eggplant boats. I love roasted eggplant, and often will roast a tray of vegetables to have as lunch throughout the week with some lentils and a bit of pesto. I ended up sticking fairly closely to that idea, though it was so tempting to take this down a Cajun path – eggplant pirouges are a common vessel for any number of sauces, including creamy shrimp or other fiery fillings. In real life, a pirouge is a boat used in the bayou, and is similar in shape to many eggplants. In this recipe, eggplants are cut in half, scored so that the seasonings can reach throughout, and then baked. I used chile oil and crushed garlic, since I have some nice chile oil on hand – otherwise it was suggested to use olive oil, crushed garlic and red pepper flakes. These get baked for about 50 minutes until softened.
I make my own pesto most of the time, and did so here. I had some parsley I’d taken from the garden. I think that’s the key to a good pesto – using a combination of parsley and basil, along with the typical garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan. I typically throw everything together in the mini food processor, first the herbs, garlic and nuts, then the oil, and just whirl in the cheese at the last. I also use less than the full amount of oil so that I can add a layer on top of what I’m storing without it getting too oily. Since this was going to be dinner, I made a bit of pasta to go with. But the stand-out was the eggplant with it’s pleasant little “bite” from the chile oil.
1/2 c fresh parsley
1 c fresh basil
1-2 garlic cloves
1/4 c pine nuts
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
These were all such fun, tasty dishes to make, and none of those I chose were too difficult or took too long to prepare. I don’t even know if I could venture a choice of a favorite. Probably the dinner of the pea and parsley soup and the spring onion galette. But all were ones that I’d happily make again. And I’m sure that the few I did not make were wonderful too. You can find out how all of the others fared by checking out the Cottage Cooking Club site.
It will be interesting to see how others posted about their recipes, and whether this format works for me – it’s a bit different, but that’s part of the fun.