CtBF – Potato, feta and basil tortilla

Not something I make often, but I did enjoy the versions I made with French Friday’s. I wasn’t sure about the basil. Well, and not the feta. I’ll admit I did look back at the other recipe, you know, “just in case”.

Easy enough! Potatoes diced. Cooked to barely tender in some good olive oil, and then the green onions added.

I used 8 eggs because they were very large, and my potato was just under a pound. These get whisked with the pimente de esplette, salt, and the chopped basil. Isn’t this so pretty out of the garden? Surprisingly the only basil still here are the purple varieties. Gardening?

The egg mixture gets poured over the top, and then gets topped with some feta crumbles. Cooked fairly gently on the stove for about 20 minutes to create a bottom crust and so that the tortilla is almost set.

Popped into the oven for about 5 minutes at a high temp or under the broiler to just get the top set. Once out of the oven, it gets flipped over (or alternatively slide out of the pan).

This can be served hot, warm, room temperature or cold. Though my preference is warm or room temperature. As part of a tapas spread, or with a glass of crisp rosé.

I’d forgotten how good this is. And makes for lovely leftovers as well.

You can find out what other cooks thought about the recipe here.

Garden Update

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So far, pretty much so good, here. It’s been a cool, windy, rainy spring. By Mid-May our overnight temperatures are supposed to not dip below 55, so safe to plant (per my Dad). That still hasn’t happened, but plant away, I have!

These are actually pictures from a week or two ago when I was going to post. I was excited to see the success of the plant shelters I bought. A true hit, though I wish I had purchased one more. They worked perfectly for the tomatoes, and pretty well for the peppers (one of my main goals was to keep varmints out of the plants!).

The tomatoes probably grew almost a couple of feet. I did open the tops when we had bees around so that they could get to the blossoms. There were even a few tomatoes setting by the time I opened them. I decided that even though it was breezy, they needed to be out in the open, and have their supports added.

For the rest of the garden, I hadn’t bought flowers yet. I’d concentrated on getting a good start for the edibles. Not a fabulous selection – and if I would either order online, or start seedlings, I could have a better variety. But this worked for the moment.

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Tucked in there was a 12-pack of marigolds to go around my edible plants to discourage those other rascals. As well, a little lobelia, which is a favorite – though it probably won’t last over the summer.

I did have a little help in the garden – Milo loves being outside.

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I was super-excited to see the little tomatoes forming! It’s always so much fun to see your efforts pay off (well, it will be!!)

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I’ve added a few plants, and had to replace a little basil (not warm enough when I started them). And I think I have the watering generally balanced out – though there’s still a bit to do. The garden continues to be a source of enjoyment. And the birds love it too, so more to come!

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CCC – The May Recipes: Salad and Spouffle

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Finally, the pasta is mixed in.100_4009

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.

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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!).

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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!

ffwd – lyonnaise garlic herb cheese

The stars aligned for me with this recipe. I was able to find something close to the fromage blanc called for in the recipe. I didn’t relish the idea of taking the time to drain ricotta. But there’s a fantastic market near my work, called Asiana Market. It’s an interesting mix of Asian (from Japanese to Indian) and Northern European. I always have fun going there, especially with friends because I always find new things to try! Amazing Hungarian sausages, seasonings in odd packages, fresh noodles, vegetables I can’t find anywhere else… the list goes on. It’s not fancy to look at,but it very much reminds me of markets I’ve been to in other parts of the world – so a great escape.

I thought that I’d remembered seeing some fresh cheeses, so when I stopped in, I bought some Farmer’s Cheese that’s actually made in PA. I guess that there are different  types, but this one seemed to be a soft consistency, so I thought I’d try it. The remaining ingredients are herbs (fresh from the garden up north), shallots, garlic, a bit of olive oil & vinegar and salt and pepper.

I usually just gather whatever herbs look good – I decided that it was in keeping with the general idea. I had winter savory, sage, rosemary, mint, parsley and chives. No tarragon, but I hoped that the others would be nice combination. And this is my new cool tool for garlic. It does a nice job of mincing and it’s super easy to use and clean.

Everything is simply mixed together and seasoned. Then it needs to chill for a bit. I did find that that made the flavors work together better. Also, the vinegar mellowed and really added to the combination.

Dorie suggests serving the cheese alongside vegetables, which turned out to be very good. Each type of vegetable brought out different flavors in the cheese. The same with crackers. And my friends thought that something simple, that had a bit of salt was perfect – though again, it just ended up tasting a bit different.

I will definitely make this again. Different herbs and seasonings would definitely change it up – I’m sure Dorie’s original tarragon would be great, but fresh basil… that would be good too. Plus, I felt a little virtuous, with the whole combination. Flavorful, but also good-for-you.