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 -Raw vegetable slaw with creamy garlic dressing

Running a little behind – kind of the usual thing this time of year. I’ve probably explained before, but in any kind of retail construction, this is the busy season. We have to complete our construction so that the facilities can be in use on time, ensuring that all of our customers can fulfill all Christmas and Holiday wishes. I’m already worried about October and November, though also worrying about the heatwave in the west… there’s always something! But of course, it keeps me out of trouble – well, except it keeps me in trouble with my blogging. I get sidetracked on a regular basis.

For whatever reason, I didn’t get this salad made early. I did, however, make it on Friday – but then the weekend got away from me – mostly because we had a family get-together since one of my nieces was in town. Since I’d arranged it for someone else’s house, and I know she’d be craving Mexican food – that’s what I was up to on Saturday – with the festivities themselves on Sunday… so oh well!

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Back to the yummy slaw. Because I am often behind, and sometimes a little lazy, I decided to take advantage of the pre-prepped veggies at the store. Cue slaw mix and broccoli slaw mix – I did manage to cut up a crispy apple into matchsticks, however. I also added the chopped hard boiled egg – a new twist for me. I’m not sure that it was particularly essential – but then again, I haven’t made this recipe without it. You’ll need about 6 cups of veg for the dressing with 1 c mayo.

The dressing is simple to prepare. The recipe says to let it sit for a couple of hours if you have them. I didn’t, but we’ll get back to that. The creamy version is a simple mixture of mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, quite a bit of garlic, a bit of dijon and a fair amount of black pepper.

We had this with some grilled steak for dinner – oh, with some fresh corn, grilled alongside. This was very good, and we enjoyed it. I liked the apple – it was a nice crunch, and reminded me of slaws growing up – my mom would add crushed pineapple. The broccoli slaw added some additional crunch. And I think that the option of adding toasted almonds was a good one. Though didn’t this time.

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We ate this over a couple of days. And the flavors mellowed for the next day’s meal. That’s what made me remember that the dressing was supposed to sit longer. I thought both were good, and while some might be concerned about the high level of seasoning in the dressing – it both mellows with the wait, and gets calmed down a bit by all of the vegetables.

I may just make a bit more – and possibly try the vinaigrette option – it’s so nice to have a salad in the refrigerator to grab quickly on these busy summer days.

This is yet another great recipe from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. You can check out what our other Cook the Book Fridays bloggers thought about this recipe by following this link.

CtBF – Fattoush

This salad is described as “dressed with a pungent lemony garlic dressing and a jumble of ingredients”. The main differences are a sprinkling of ground sumac and shards of toasted pita. It was suggested that we would love it above all things.

As it so happened, I was in the Valley, and so could run to the Penzey’s to pick up said sumac. Little did I know until I got home that sumac is the #1 ingredient in Zatar. I might have just switched, but what the heck?

The dressing turns out to be very similar to the typical lemony vinaigrette that I make. Olive oil, lemon, salt, garlic, dijon. The jumble consisted of romaine, scallions, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley, fresh mint and some radishes. I skipped those because this is just not a radish household. The 2 or so that I would have needed for the scaled down recipe would have meant food waste for the remainder. I’m trying. Seriously! I absolutely adore when I get to go out to the garden to pick herbs fresh to use right then. What a great “farm to table” experience – when you really don’t happen to have a farm close by.

I did not make the pita shards either. I end up with too many different partially used bread items – again, skipping the food waste. But I did pick up some Naan  because I wanted to have it for hot dogs or other wraps. (One of the most inventive food trucks in the valley also has a small brick and mortar shop – well, probably 2 now. They make delicious and inventive hot dogs, wrapped in Naan instead of buns – genius!). Since I was grilling some chicken too – I thought that it might even be a good way to eat the meal – scooping the salad and chicken into a bite of Naan. I digress… In any event – no pita.

Super straightforward.

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It was good. It was particularly good with the chicken. And a nice start-of-the summer salad.

Did I really concentrate on the sumac? No. But I’m probably going to make David’s hummus today – and I can add some there! Maybe it will be amazing. Or it will become yet another jar of spice that I don’t use. But it’s all about trying new things. So, if you want to see how other CtBF members tried out the sumac (or not), please check them out here.

CCC – March Recipes (lentils, potatoes and another “spouffle”)

This month with the Cottage Cooking Club offered up some great recipes, none of the dishes I chose were completely new to me, but it still made for a great array of recipes.

As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I have grown to love the French green lentils (Puy). They are pretty, retain their shape and have a lovely substantial flavor that holds up with other flavorful ingredients, and also provide a great base. This particular recipe is the “basic” one in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book River Cottage Veg. There are variations offered for using the lentils in different salads as well. This recipe is a bit simpler than others, but essentially the same. Wash lentils, bring them to a boil, drain and rinse them, cook them with seasonings, enjoy!

These are delicious and easy. And even better when paired with other ingredients. I particularly like roasted vegetables and pesto, but very much enjoyed the optional Lentil and parsley salad which relies on a mustardy vinaigrette.

Next up was the Zucchini “Spouffle”. The spinach version is a favorite, and I was certain that this one would be as well. My only knock on this dish is that it takes a lot of different dishes, even if you combine steps. That said, it’s terrific. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures… until after we had eaten most of it.

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The final recipe was Potatoes dauphinoise. This classic French dish is essentially scalloped potatoes baked in cream. For such a rich, and even fancy, dish – this is incredibly easy, particularly when you have a mandoline. I have something like that. It’s French, and it slices… anyway! I made this to accompany a simple ham for Easter. It’s a great foil, since it’s rich, creamy and yummy – and a perfect accent to the smoked ham.

I actually put together the cream mixture before I left – cream, salt, crushed garlic and black pepper – oh and  bit of nutmeg. Once at my destination, I quickly peeled and sliced the potatoes, covered them with cream, dotted with butter – and into the oven they went. It was a double recipe, but still only took just a bit longer than the 1-1/2 hours at 325 degrees.

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Not at all surprisingly, these were a huge hit. A “feast” dish for sure. We enjoyed a wonderful day with family and friends. Gorgeous weather, great company and wonderful food on such a celebratory day!

I hope everyone enjoyed their dishes in March! If you’d like to see what others thought about their choices, you can find them here.

CCC -a ragout, a toastie, and a gratin

This month’s Cottage Cooking Club selections included quite a few yummy-sounding dishes. I have to say, I’m a bit proud of myself, since I committed to two, but made three. And I’m so happy I did!

Just as I am getting settled in to my house in Sedona, it’s the time of year when work starts ramping up as projects must get started – so that we can “deliver Christmas”! Of course, just when I thought things were cruising along at the beginning of the month, and I was enjoying the gorgeous snow storms that are so beautiful against the red rocks, I totally forgot about snow=cold=freezing temperatures=frozen sprinkler pipes. Oops!IMG_0113

The doorbell rang at 7am one morning, and my neighbor informed me that I had a huge water leak! Yikes. I also found out that my storage building had flooded – and it was completely stuffed, with stuff! Luckily, I have a good support system, and by 7:51, I had a crew arranged to come and completely pull everything out of the building, sort it out, clean it up and put it the remaining items back. They actually had it all done over the course of 2.5 days, with one day for the room to dry out a bit. Whew!

These guys were so awesome, that I ended up having them do a full clean-up of the yard, new sprinkler system, and a general overhaul! They are about to finish today, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Moral of the story – sometimes bad things happen and it turns out for the best. A couple of overly daunting projects behind me, and a new wonderful crew of guys that I know. Best disaster ever! (I am knocking on wood!)

A few other things went right this month too! The first recipe I made was the Mushroom ragout with soft polenta. This is the kind of warming, nice recipe that makes for a terrific vegetarian meal. I’ve made other versions. This was a bit simpler – the ragout is really some well-seasoned sautéed mushrooms in a wine reduction. And the soft polenta is a bit different version than I’ve made but delicious. I didn’t have quick polenta on hand, so it took a bit longer, but that really wasn’t a problem.

I used Parmesan and smoked gouda in the polenta, then topped the ragout with some additional shredded Parmesan. This was yummy, something that I liked pretty well, though other recipes I like a bit more. But for a quick dish, very tasty.

I also made the Apple and blue cheese toast. It was on my list of “want to makes”, though not on my actual list. But I found myself with some nice home-baked bread, some Stilton and apples, and since I needed a quick lunch this seemed to be the ticket.

This doesn’t look like much – I thought I had better photos. Not, but it was delicious, and I will make this again. Perfect for a quick meal. This happened to be the same day that I was first treated to a big family of deer making their way on the path outside my office window.

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My final recipe for the month of February was Sweet potato gratin. I happen to love sweet potatoes, and was looking forward to this recipe. I love Thai flavors too, so I was intrigued by the peanut and lime layer. But, then I went to the grocery store. And they had gorgeous poblano peppers… so to go with my grilled-corn & shrimp chile rellenos, I made the gratin sans peanut better, and used some chipotle chiles in place of the fresh red chiles. I’ve made a similar recipe before, and I was certain that it would be great.

This was a great meal, and we loved the sweet potatoes along with the rellenos.

All of my dishes this month were terrific. I will certainly make some again when I get the chance. So February turned out a lot better than it started, all the way around!

I’ll be excited to see what the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club thought about their selections.

CtBF|Steak with mustard butter and French fries

Oh my goodness! This was a perfect selection for this past week. Of course it was Valentine’s Day, and it was also my mom’s 85th birthday. So a little festive dinner party was in order.

I loved reading the description – I was in total agreement. Rib-eye. Check. Thinner cut so that a nice crust would form. Check. And then, adding a little chipotle powder to give a little smokey flavor. Yum!

The other twist to this is a mustard butter (au beurre de moutarde). I wasn’t sure about that part, but why not?

I seasoned the steaks with salt and the chipotle as instructed. I missed the parsley or cilantro which would have been good. The steaks sit with the seasoning in the refrigerator from 1-8 hours. That worked with making the mustard butter. The softened butter is combined with dry mustard (I used Coleman’s) and some dijon. When I first mixed it together and tasted it – that worried me. It was terrible. I’m not the biggest mustard fan, but thought that I should trust the recipe. So into the refrigerator it went.

Fast forward, and I browned the steaks in a hot, heavy skillet. I have found that this method does work to create a nice medium-rare steak, particularly if they are bone-in.

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This produced a nice crust, and perfect temperature. The butter didn’t melt as much initially, since it really was chilled – next time I will take it out of the refrigerator earlier.

I didn’t make the frites. I had one of my guests go on a “run” to pick some up while I was finishing the steaks. They weren’t going to be the most important part as far as I was concerned. What was going to make a great side to this was Dorie Greenspan’s Cauliflower-Bacon Gratin. I’ve been wanting to make it again, it’s amazing! And perfect with the steak.

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Paired with 2010 Provenance Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Perfect!

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This was a terrific meal! The mustard butter really developed a fabulous flavor in the refrigerator – with a bite, but just a great counterpoint to the steak. The meal worked perfectly. I would absolutely make this again. It’s actually very easy and fast, for such a wonderful great result.

Since it was a special day – we did finish off with a cake. I don’t often make layer cakes anymore, but I really thought it would be fun. So a chocolate cake with a salted caramel frosting rounded out our evening’s festivities. Perfect!

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To see what the other members of the Cook the Book Fridays had to say about this recipe, you can check them out here.

 

 

 

CtBF: Winter Salad

  

This is my inaugural post for the new group Cook the Book Fridays.  Many of the participants were part of French Fridays with Dorie over the course of nearly 5 years. That experience kept us cooking and blogging, and ultimately may be best known for the friendships created – both in person and virtually. We’ve kept in touch, and now our friend, and talented (& organized) blogging friend Katie of Prof Who Cooks, has created this latest offering. We will be cooking through My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. 

Our first recipe is Winter Salad. My version is really one of those annoying I made it, but not really because I changed all of the ingredients… Not a fan of endive – bitter not topping my list. And these days, well, I have my mom to think of when I’m cooking – ok, so romaine. Next, as usual, I didn’t read all of the recipe prior to shopping. I did not realize that Roquefort was a necessity. Gorgonzola. But I did add the tart apple, and used the Greek yogurt! I felt like I should get credit!

The salad ingredients are supposed to be cut in a particular way. Um, I didn’t really do that either. But the dressing is easy to put together, and tasted great. A bit thick, so I was a little concerned. 

  

No need to worry however, the dressing did coat the greens and apple nicely. 
  

And what goes better with some blue cheese than a bit of steak? It actually made a very nice meal with the combination of flavors. I even cooked the steak “French Style” on the stovetop (it was snowing that night, I think! no grilling).

  

I was so happy that I included the apple. It was such a great contrast to the light lettuce and the bold dressing. And certainly, I could see why the addition of a bitter greens element would have been tasty. Maybe another time. Of course, the recipe made a lot of dressing. But I think it will be a good accompanyment with other things. And I thought it might make a nice presentation to have small lettuce spears, and even some apple slices to just dip into the dressing. It’s quite thick and would hold up nicely. 

This was a fun start to a  new adventure. I hope that I can keep up with the group. I also love my Cottage Cooking Club as well, so I’ll have to find some balance (and then there’s my love of Mexican and Thai food – none in either of these books!). But it’s so worth it to get to spend a little time each week with friends.  And many thanks to my blogging friends. Our goal was to stay connected. It seems we have another new way of doing just that!