This has been a month of reflection for another group I cook with, and Zosia’s idea of April/May being “transitional” is one that resonates – on many different levels. Certainly, the seasons are changing (or are supposed to be!), but graduations, beginnings, and endings are all happening around us. This marks the first month of the second (!) year of the Cottage Cooking Club. The group, the book, the recipes and fellow bloggers have all conspired to make this an amazing effort – one I eagerly look forward to each month, even if I often fall short of my goals.
Each month, I anxiously await the list of recipes that our leader, Andrea The Kitchen Lioness, selects for us to choose from. I can’t think of a month when at least one of the selections was not something I was impatiently anticipating. This month was no exception.
I was planning what to have for “Sunday Dinner”, I was hosting, it was getting hot, and I’m the one of this particular portion of our family that always concentrates on making vegetables. I was also running behind as usual, since this particular version of SD happens in Scottsdale on Sunday afternoons at the request of my darling neice Kelsey (a couple of years ago – newly graduated from college at 21, she declared that we really need to get back into having “Sunday Dinner” – who can argue with that sentiment?). I was in Sedona, but had my copy of River Cottage Veg with me, and decided to make Herby, peanutty, noddly salad with herbs from the garden that I could pick and take back to the valley. I’d been looking at it for some time, wanting to make it. So – that was the plan. As it turned out, it was one of Andrea’s plans as well, since I learned that weekend that it was on “our list”. Kismet.
This is an Asian-inspired cold-ish salad that uses lime juice, lime zest, herbs, a bit of chile, sesame oil, garlic and soy to brighten up quickly cooked Asian noodles, and crisp-cooked vegetables. It all gets tossed together to create a great meal!
I zested the lime, and then used my trusy Mexican Lime squeezer to get all of the juice out (which also helps get some of the oils as well). I used some Sriracha for the chile note, and a bit of brown sugar to balance the flavors.
The noodles get cooked and cooled with the dressing, while the veggies are prepared.
I used snow peas, Persian cucumber and green onions, along with the full compliment of fresh herbs: mint, cilantro and basil (love this combination). Peanuts are the final component.
I served mine alongside another beet salad with a lime dressing, and some home made bread. You really can’t go wrong if you have home made bread!
I would definitely make this again, though I might use even more vegetables, and fewer noodles. This did make a lot, though I probably used more vegetables than called for. Also, I would make the noodles just a few minutes before serving, and serve warm, or room temperature. I let mine sit in the dressing too long, and it lost it’s zing. The recipe suggests green beans as an option – they would be great too.
The other recipe I made this month is the Spinach, penne and chesse “spouffle”. I have to say I was a bit proud of myself for getting this in under the wire. My MO is that I try to make my recipes as close to immediately after the choices are published so that time doesn’t get away from me. This was the opposite of that!
This is generally a sturdy souffle with pasta added to it. Building on my learnings from last month, I made sure to measure my pasta first so that I didn’t get too much – I was a bit worried that it could get too heavy and pasta-y if I didn’t!
Souffles are based on a bechamel sauce to which flavorings are added (as simple as just cheese, to a variety of vegetables, and whatever else inspires). I started making the bechamel (or white sauce as it was known in the midwest when I grew up – one of the first things I learned to make, and the basis of many “stuff on toast” dinners – as a friend coined them), and really wondered at the proportions. In this recipe, the flour was about double the butter. If you haven’t made one before, the basic idea is that you cook (usually nearly equal) amounts of flour and butter together, ensuring that the flour granuals are completely coated with butter, and then add milk (and/or other liquids depending on your sauce), stirring constantly to create a smooth sauce. If there’s too much flour, it’s nearly impossible to get the sauce smooth, as the flour granuals are not actually separated by the butter, so they clump together – creating dreaded lumps!
I did try my hand blender, but decided to just move forward. One new thing is that in this recipe, you are to simmer the milk along with some peppercorns, bay leaf and half an onion to make the mixture more flavorful. I usually skip that step, but wanted to try it here.
The spinach is also cooked until wilted – just with the water on the leaves from washing. Spinach, cheese and seasonings are added to the sauce. And then the egg yolks.
Finally, the pasta is mixed in.
Egg whites are whipped just until they hold peaks (don’t whip them too long, they will end up breaking into chunks and you can’t fold them in), and then added to the sauce/veg/pasta. Typically, you lighten that part with some of the whites – then fold in the remainder. The whole thing is placed in a buttered baking dish. It gets baked for only 25-30 minutes and comes out puffed and browned.
This was declared a huge hit! I made this for my Mom, and she kept exclaiming about how good it was, and how much she enjoyed it. Not a crumb left on the plate!!
I thought that it was really quite good, and would definitely make it again. There is also a zucchini version in the book that sounds great. I think that it would be a wonderful way to use up bits and pieces of cheese – especially some strongly flavored ones. I liked the bit of pasta in the dish too – and it did make it a bit more substantial (and indestructible). Still wonder about the flour/butter ratio – and would likely do something about that – but a wonderful recipe nonetheless!
Since we were only having the “spouflle”, I thought I’d make a quick summery cake. I had picked up some strawberries and blueberries at the market, and then found this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Kismet again. The strawberries are placed on top, and a sprinkling of sugar goes over – to make a bit of jammy goodness. Even better the next day once thoroughly cooled and set. One piece remains – it won’t last the day. As it turned out with that combination of berries, it makes for a festive all-American look, so I will likely bring that version back over the summer (I can never really fall in love with the contrived red, white & blue desserts – but this was a happy accident!).
So, the month of May was a great success! Even if I did bookend my efforts at the beginning and end of the month. I loved both recipes, and am now awaiting the next months selections. Until then, I will be looking forward to reading about how other members of the Cottage Cooking Club found their recipes. I’m sure there will be some delicous successes to be shared!