CtBF – eggplant caviar

When I was planning on making this, I hoped that my favorite farm stand would have eggplant. At first glance, no. But when it was mentioned, the guy immediately went out and picked a bucketful. Doesn't get fresher than that!!

When I read the recipe, I immediately thought use the grill! So I charred them, then roasted them over indirect heat. No heating up the kitchen!!!


It took a little longer than I thought it would, but was in no hurry.

Once roasted to softness (with a little olive oil and salt), the eggplant is allowed to cool. Then the flesh is scraped from the shells. Then whirred with lemon juice, smoked paprika, salt, I used roasted garlic and some fresh-picked basil. It was temping to use mint as well. I'd love to hear how that turned out if anyone used it. This was really dump and stir, I referenced the recipe, but didn't follow it (honestly not sure how much eggplant I had!). This makes for a very delicious, light spread. It gets a glue of olive oils and a little more smoked paprika for serving. As suggested, I served this with some crostini. A few pickles too. And, since I had a fresh fig from my new tree, I put together another version with ricotta, prosciutto and the fresh figs. All served with some sparkling rosé. It's difficult to beat this as a lovely summer repast. Totally enjoyable, and perfect for a summer afternoon.

You can check out what others thought about this simple but delicious dish, by checking out the Cook the Book Fridays site.

CtBF – herbed fresh pasta

A theme for me is finding – “oh, I have that, but it’s in storage… somewhere!”. And my storage space is not accessible except during the weekdays, regular work hours. Which makes it safe, but not super handy. In said storage unit. Somewhere. Lies a cool pasta attachment for my Kitchenaid. I bought it when I took an Italian cooking class at Sur la Table. And promptly never used it. Well, I actually schlepped it to UT on a visit because that brother thought it would be fun to make (it was). The challenge is that not only does it take up space, but the last thing I really need is a lot of homemade pasta. Another brother’s girlfriend hosted a surprise party at a different SLT where we made pasta as well – it was great. My niece thought it was so fun, so off went the manual one that used to reside in a cupboard somewhere around here – and now resides with her. Hopefully she uses it more than anyone else did. All of which left me pasta-maker-less.

Not getting a lot of encouragement from the recipe description – “the only people I know who are able to do that as well as a machine are Italian grandmothers”. I’m not an Italian grandmother. So my expectations were now fairly low.

I did have semolina available on the other hand, and a garden full of herbs. I decided to hedge my bets and make 1/3 of a recipe (since there were 3 eggs in the original one). As I look at the recipe again, and the photos, apparently I missed an egg yolk!

The missing yolk might have been why I needed to add so much water – that and the fact that I live in Arizona – where, if you didn’t know, it’s pretty dry. ;).

I’m pretty sure that my thickness was kind of like a credit card, as the recipe suggests, but really, not as see-through as the photos.

I was just going to serve it plainly – just some butter, cheese and pepper. Nice thing about fresh pasta is that it doesn’t take long to cook, so once it’s prepared, it’s fast!

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You can see what others thought of this pasta recipe by checking links to their posts here.

CtBF Salted olive crisps (the dog ate my homework)

I’ve been wanting to make this recipe for a while and was excited to try what seemed like a savory biscotti, or one of those yummy crispy crackers that are so good. 

I used some fabulous green olives that I love and some sliced almonds. The dough is simple to put together. I wasn’t really comparing at the time to any other recipes. I did sort of wonder about the batter, but hey!!

This was pretty fun! I baked the bread, and turned it out to cool just a bit before cutting. And that’s when things got a little sideways. I used my wonderful bread knife, and made what I thought were quite even, thin slices. These went back into the oven to crisp. I couldn’t get them to real crisp. Hmmmm… I’m sure not sliced thin enough. But even after sitting out. They looked so pretty! And then. It all went awry. Who knew that my sweet little puppy Milo had grown tall enough that he could steal things off the counter???

I returned from errands to find nothing on the counter and a few telltale crumbs. (It’s bad when you look up and there’s a stray half cracker at your feet! No amount of tail-wagging will make that disappear). Milo’s partner in crime, Molly, obviously helped. They “got” to skip dinner given the sheer quantity of crackers they ate! Needless to say they felt a lot better the next day. 

Truth be told, they weren’t my favorites. I kept trying them (until they were stolen of course), but they didn’t grab me. Might have been the olives I used. Still, the texture was off a bit. But what a great concept!!! I think they’d be fun to try again. Hopefully the dogs won’t get the homework again, though!! 

CtBF -green beans with snail butter

A day behind on this. But such is life. This was the “extra” recipe for the month. Essentially steamed green beans treated in the same way as escargot  – that is with butter and a lot of garlic. Ok, with a bit of parsley and some salt and pepper. 

I knew that it could be a challenging pairing, so I went with chicken roasted with some rosemary and lemon, and a lemon, garlic, honey and soy glaze. A degree or two of separation. 

Don’t let the photos fool you. Pretty much an epic fail. Maybe my beans weren’t that great. Dunno. But when your dining companion can hardly keep the beans down. Not so good! ( there is pie and ice cream – thank goodness!!). 


So, not a fan. And the reaction notwithstanding, I think that a fabulous vegetable doesn’t really need this treatment. Snails/escargot -sure! I’ve had lobster chunks served with this treatment. Fabulous!!! I’m a veggie fan, so this won’t get a nod from me. I’d rather have them prepared a bit more “naked”. Im actually happy with just a bit of grey salt, sand butter! 

I’m sure others have had better experiences. You can find them here

CtBF – Caramel pork ribs (plus)

Like several others of the CtBF tribe, I have fallen behind on my cooking from the book, and my posts. But here I am – on a Friday no less – the actual Friday that it was supposed to be posted – with my thoughts on the Caramel pork ribs.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take process pictures. Oh well. These are supposed to be a refined, French version of David’s memory of Texas ribs. They are actually quite popular around here, so I’ve kind of been perfecting my method, which is not much like these ones. But I felt the pressure to get these done – so here we go!

The basis of David’s sauce is caramel. With beer and bourbon, and a few of the typical suspects like mustard and ketchup and vinegar, plus some seasonings. I might have done my caramel just a bit too long, not sure – it’s usually designed to add just a little of that burned sugar note. I made mine in a separate pan, and then poured it over the ribs in a dutch oven. I made the full recipe, though had a bit fewer than half of the ribs.

I dutifully cooked the ribs, and uncovered them for the last. Somehow I think I got sidetracked, and let them cook just a bit long. They were not burned (though the picture looks suspiciously dark), but the sauce was more thick than saucy – not really right.

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The caramel sauce did give them a good hue, but while fairly tender, not my favorites. The method, of just putting the rib sections in a covered pot, with sauce, and baking for a while worked fairly well. The ribs get turned a few times, then for the last 30 minutes, the cover is off. Still easier to do my method on the grill (getting a nice brown on them, then into a pan and direct heat for the remainder and sauce at the end). But fun to try something new. I was pretty happy that I made a smaller quantity as well, but ribs are generally pretty good. I threw the additional sauce over the leftovers which I think will make them a bit nicer.

The other dish today? Coq au vin – or chicken in wine sauce. I made this the weekend after it was scheduled, and of course, didn’t get it posted. Bad Candy!

For this one – I do have a lot of progress photos. Everything from the purple coloring of the marinating chicken to the end product.

This was pretty good. I assume that this recipe was developed to use an older chicken and local wine to create something tasty. It was good. I also have made one using Riesling instead of the traditional burgundy.

I’ve been doing other cooking, and a bit of baking before it heats up too much. Lemon meringue pies, a lemon blueberry cake, cinnamon swirl bread… this list goes on a bit.

Happy to be back cooking with the crew! It will take me a bit of time to catch up on all of your posts, but I’ll get there! To find out what others thought of the caramel ribs, you can click here.

A Bread-baking Experiment

At the end of the year, Bon Appetit published a list of great recipes for using a Dutch Oven. One included in the group was called BA’s Best Bread.  I still had some time off from work and thought it would be fun to try. A classic 3-day bread starting with a poolish. In typical fashion, I really didn’t read the entire (4-page when printed) recipe, but thought it would be fun. I still had never used my Dutch oven for bread-baking, and thought I should try with a “real” recipe.

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Of course, I didn’t have any rye flour, but did have white-whole wheat, since I had taken advantage of a free-shipping offer from KAF prior to the holidays. I did also have some pumpernickel flavoring from there (the flavors really are great that they sell – pumpernickel in particular – since it’s all of those minor ingredients you need, but don’t have on hand unless you bake all the time) – the first ingredient is rye flour, so I just added a teaspoon or two and made up for the rye with a bit more white whole wheat. It added a LOT of color, but probably not more than if I had used regular whole wheat anyway. Also – if you look at the photo closely – very interesting weight measurements. I do actually bake a fair amount of bread, and so I’m kind of used to the “feel” of it – these are really exact! And yes – I did weigh all of the ingredients faithfully – also, who knew how little one gram of flour actually is!

Anyhoo, poolish made and left to ferment for a day – by timing made it such that it was going to sit longer than the 14-18 hours, but it was a test for me, so it worked out how it did – I mean my life can’t be driven by a loaf of bread (even if it’s supposed to be “BA’s Best”).

The next day a lot of slapping, dropping and a little bit of kneading ensued. There was making the initial dough; letting it rise for a couple of hours; a lot of dropping of the dough back onto the counter from a height – for a while; then slapping it around in the bowl; and finally forming. This was the “work day” and the recipe warns that if you’re not tired at one point – you are really not doing it right! It was kind of fun manhandling it and dropping the dough from a a couple of feet above the counter so that you could hear a good thwack! The dough was then supposed to be placed in a kitchen towel-lined colander that was dusted with rice flour – fortunately there was an alternate – but of course, it’s really hard to get that to stick uniformly. A round of parchment is placed on top – and then the whole thing is plopped into the refrigerator for a day or two. Since this wasn’t exactly a photo-shoot – no pictures – that’s probably a good thing because I think I looked fairly ridiculous for much of the time.

Fast forward. Might even have been the 2nd day – over the holidays there are other priorities like making merry and such. I dutifully put the oven on (mine actually says it goes waaaay above 500 degrees, but I stopped there. No fear, my beautiful black Staub pot that I got last year has a metal handle on the top – no barriers or compromises. Typically, the pot gets heated for about 40 minutes, the bread is removed from the fridge, tuned over onto a plate or something so it can be slipped into said pot, and then… oh, my! there was a huge lump of flour on the top that had to be dusted off. There were also polkadots of a flour pattern due to the colander. Hmmm, but once dusted off, and a few slashes made, I successfully (ish) plopped it into the pan (parchment side down), covered it and back into the oven. 15 minutes or so covered, then another 35 or so uncovered. Guess what? it worked! with the exception of the two little spots that caught on the side of the pot when I was slipping it in – this was one beautiful loaf – if I do say so myself!

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Of course, we are always stridently cautioned to not cut the bread warm. Clearly anyone who enjoys a beautiful slice of warm bread just out of the oven, slathered with butter is a Philistine. Since this was an experiment, we waited. So that it would be perfect.

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We eventually did get to have some bread. And I have to say, I was pleased to see those tell-tale bubbles. The color was a little dark (drat that pumpernickel flavor!).

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The flavor was pretty good. The texture – like all of these, maybe a little moist for me. The crust was really, really good. Perfectly chewy and very satisfying. We’ve enjoyed it plain, and as a bruschetta with ricotta, caramelized onions and roasted butternut squash (yum!) and with leftover beef and horseradish sauce. I had it toasted with an omelette. Like all breads of this kind, it changes a little over time. The crust gets pretty durable… when toasted. We are probably about half-way through it. I suspect it won’t actually be consumed (particularly since I’m making some different bread as I type).

This really was a fun project. We liked it – but it was a huge loaf, and way too much for us to eat while it was/is at its prime. I don’t know that it lived up to it’s title (seriously? this is your very best bread at BA? that’s a bit sad). But I’m very happy to have tried it. I’ve always wanted to try baking a bread with a poolish, since my friend Teri had a baking blog years ago and we would get samples (she’s the reason I ever started myself!). I’m incredibly happy with using my Dutch oven for an artisan bread. No doubt, I will go back to my normal “5-minutes a day” recipe, where I can adjust the loaf size for our use. And see if the smaller quantities of dough will work in the Dutch oven – if not, I might just have to look for a smaller one! 😉

Now, back to finishing up my Walter Sands sandwich bread – oh and some cinnamon rolls with half of the dough. I’m quite contented to be pedestrian, if that’s what I am. It will suit just fine. I’m also excited that I finally got around to a project like this.

 

 

CtBF -Fresh herb omelet

(BTW, I had to double-check that spelling… yep, what’s in the book – not what I would normally type). This week’s recipe for a French-style omelette is accompanied by more text descriptions of David’s omelette experiences and ideas for accompaniments than there is for the recipe itself! That’s a good thing, because it makes for a simple lunch for a day like today, though of course, it could make for a lovely, quick meal at any time.

Ingredients are pretty much always on hand. And I was still able to use some fresh parsley from the garden.

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I’m usually not a home omelette person – sure, I like them at a restaurant, where they have myriad of filling and sauce options. This is a simple one, and I thought that it would be great to try. The eggs are beaten with a touch of cream, a bit of salt and a good grinding of pepper – the herbs are added as well.

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Instead of the 10″ pan suggested, I used an 8″ pan – happily – I thought it would have been  the thickness of a crêpe if I had. I shouldn’t have bothered with the trying to get runny egg to slip under the initial egg cooked in the pan – I could never get it straightened out.

I too thought that the idea of the cheese in one line down the center didn’t make sense – so mine spilled over. I don’t like uncooked whites, but enjoy softly-cooked scrambled eggs – I got over-worried and cooked mine a bit too long. BUT, still lovely nonetheless. img_1391

This was fun, fast – and I really need to remember to make these!!!! This was a delicious lunch – and perfect for me. I think if I didn’t fuss, this could be done in less than 5 minutes. There’s always a bit of cheese on hand, some herbs… and some leftover veggies would be great too. (I wouldn’t mind those duck-fat fries that David mentions – but that’s not going to happen!). This would allow me a nutritious, fast lunch that will stick with me for the afternoon.

And while this is a perfect quick lunch, I can see this being a nice meal for dinner as well – and obviously breakfast. There are tweaks I will make (a little less butter, don’t fuss with the eggs, cook it a little less – try different cheese/fillings), but this was fun, because it really did help me with something I don’t do – and should – so a perfect start to a new year!!!