Friday, September 28, 2012

FFWD Endives, Apples, and Grapes

I've been making a lot of FFWD recipes the last few weeks.  When I joined FFWD in October of last year, my goal was to have made up all of the recipes that I missed during the first year by October of this year.  I'm not quite going to meet that goal (even with sharing with co-workers and the freezer it's just hard for a household of two to eat enough desserts), but I'm hoping to be all caught up with the recipes I want to make within the next couple of months....Anyway, on to this week's recipe.  I love endive and was excited about the recipe choice, but I was nervous about what Paul would think.  It didn't sound like the most substantial dinner.  I decided to pair it with whole wheat bread and cheese, because Paul could live and bread on cheese alone.  Luckily, he didn't have to.  We both actually really enjoyed the cooked endives.  I actually wish I had made more.  I was less excited about the grapes and apples for some reason (maybe just the variety that I bought), but all told I really liked this one.  I'm so glad I've discovered a new way to make endive, and would definitely make at least that component of the recipe again.

When I made the speculoos cookies a couple of weeks ago I froze the extras (I really do freeze everything), and I decided to use some to make the Cinnamon-Crunch chicken.  I know Dorie says it's better with store-bought, but I just couldn't bear to go out and buy speculoos when I had some perfectly good ones in the freezer.  I don't know if the chicken would have been better with store-bought cookies, but we really enjoyed it with the homemade ones.  We don't eat much boneless, skinless chicken--Paul always complains that it's too boring--but this was a surprisingly interesting, flavorful dish for how quick and easy it was.  This is definitely something I'd make again.

As I mentioned when we made the chicken basquaise, Paul's peppers have been growing very well this year.  They aren't nearly as big as the ones you buy at the store (do any gardeners know why that would be?), but we've been getting a lot of them, so I decided to take Dorie's bonne idee for Creamy, Cheesy, Garlicky Rice with Spinach recipe and stuff it into peppers.  We really liked this one as well.  As part of my constant quest to eat more whole grains I actually used bulgur instead of the rice, and Paul didn't even notice!  He just kept telling me how great the rice was.  I think the cheese is really what made this dish.  I used a strong robusto one that we both really like.

Last, I've been wanting to try this for a while and finally got around to making the Torteau de Chevre.  We both really love this one.  I've been eating leftovers for a couple of days now, and it seems to only get better with age.  I was worried it wouldn't be sweet enough, so I served it with a rhubarb compote.  It was very good, but I also think it's interesting enough to stand up on its own.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

FFWD Chicken Basquaise

Paul's pepper plants are doing amazingly this year.  Paul has already chopped and frozen 5+ pounds of them to use throughout the winter.  He also has more sweet peppers than I know what to do with, so I was thrilled when I saw this recipe was chosen.  The only problem was that I needed to make it before our trip to Chicago, and didn't have time to go to the store.  I was debating what to do when I remembered that I had a frozen stewing hen in the freezer.  I didn't really know what a stewing hen was--only that it was cheaper than a regular whole chicken--and had been planning on using it for stock, but I decided to give it a try.  Boy was that a mistake!!!  For reasons I can't remember (this was a couple of weeks ago now), I stewed the peppers at night but then woke up at 5AM the next morning to finish the dish.  With some practice, I have become pretty good at using kitchen shears and a sharp nice to cut a whole chicken into 8 pieces, but a stewing hen is a whole other story!  It was incredibly tough, and dense, and it took me almost an hour to get into 8 (completely mangled looking) pieces.  (Paul really wasn't happy with me because he was trying to sleep, and even though our kitchen and bedroom are pretty far away, this was very loud work).  The good news is that once I finally got the hen into pieces, finishing the rest of the dish was easy.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the meat was very tough--Paul said the dark meat was almost inedible--but I loved the flavor of the peppers and the tomatoes.  This is definitely a recipe I'll be making again, but next time I'll be sure to actually get a chicken!   Until then, I still have another stewing hen in my freezer.  Does anyone has any advice on what to do with it?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TWD Whole Wheat Bread

Does anybody have a great, 100% whole grain bread recipe?  I've been looking for one for a while now, and was really hoping that this would be it, but I was disappointed when I saw that this recipe actually calls for half white flour.  Maybe it's just impossible to get the right rise and texture with all whole grain.  The 100% whole grain bread recipes I've tried haven't been very good.  Most of the good ones have been like this--a mix of white and whole wheat flour.  Anyway, I recently bought some Red Fife Bread Flour (which is whole grain), so I decided to use 4.5 cups of that with 2 cups of white bread flour and hope for the best....And, the bread was about as expected.  It had a nice flavor--definitely more complex than white bread--but was denser than I was hoping for.  I think it'll make good toast and has a hearty texture that will stand up well to sandwiches, but it wasn't so great plain.  I served it for dinner with cheeses, sliced tomatoes (from the garden), and the endives, apples, and grapes (which I'll be posting about soon).

For the recipe (which I would recommend following more precisely than I did!), visit out hosts for the week Michele and Teresa.

Monday, September 17, 2012

FFWD Spiced-Poached Apples

I'm late posting because I spent last week in Chicago(!), but I had guests over for dinner on Saturday night and thought it would be the perfect time to try out the poached apples.  I wasn't that excited about them.  They sounded boring on their own, but none of the recommended toppings sounded that great to me either.  Saturday morning I looked through a bunch of your posts and loved the idea of pairing this with rice pudding, but didn't think I'd have time to make it.  Luckily, my guests (Ilana and Scott) insisted on bringing vanilla ice cream.  I'm so glad they did.  I really enjoyed the apples and ice cream together, much more than I thought I would.  It was like an apple pie, but missing the crust (which, admittedly, is probably my favorite part).  On the side, I served Dorie's Speculoos cookies.  These were excellent.  

The evening didn't quite go as planned.  In the afternoon I had prepared a corn and tomato pie, marinated a chicken, and had potatoes and vegetables already to grill.  I was baking the cookies and poaching the apples when I told Paul to go heat up the grill (he does all of the grilling in our house).  He "heated" the grill, but when he went out about 20 minutes later to put the food on the grill, he realized that he was completely out of propane!  We had about 10 minutes before our guests were supposed to arrive.  Paul ran to the store.  I probably should have worked to put together an appetizer (I didn't have one planned), but I was too angry to focus so I just finished the cookies and the apples and made a walnut dressing for the vegetables.  When our friends arrived they were starving.  Luckily, I had an entire drying rack full of little speculoos cookies.  We ate MANY of these while we waited for our food to grill.  I was a little bit worried about spoiling our dinner, but everybody seemed happy to eat when it was finally ready, and we all enjoyed the cookies after dinner as well.  All in all, it was a great night, and I enjoyed both the apples and the speculoos.

Friday, September 7, 2012

FFWD Eggplant Tartine

I've always loved eggplant.  Paul has been a tougher sell, but he's a great sport and has definitely learned to enjoy it, as long as it isn't too plain.  I have lots of favorite eggplant recipes--roasted with mustard vinaigrette, grilled with only olive oil, eggplant parmesan, eggplant stacks with feta, baba ghanoush, Marcella Hazan's eggplant salad, I could go on and on--but I'm always happy to try a new one.  I was very pleasantly surprised with this one.  It didn't sound that interesting, but I really liked the method for roasting the eggplant and the salad on top was very refreshing.  I normally slice my eggplant thinner and roast it for a shorter amount of time (about 20 minutes), turning it once.  I was surprised when this recipe called for thicker slices, roasting for twice as long, and no turning, but it was very easy and it worked.  The slices were perfectly cooked.  I served this as part of our Labor Day dinner with Dorie's corn soup and cheese and crackers, and was very happy with everything.  My favorite corn soup is still the No-Cream Creamy Corn Soup from here--it has a Chipotle-Lime drizzle that is just incredible--but this one was also very good.

My goal is to finish catching up on the recipes I missed before I joined the group in the next couple of months, and to that end I also made the Slow Roasted Tomatoes.  Paul's cherry tomatoes have been doing great this year, and they were absolutely delicious roasted.  I've been making them a lot this summer and adding them to eggs, pasta, stuffed zucchini blossoms, and anything else I can think of.  I have a bunch of fairly similar recipes for slow roasted tomatoes and this one wasn't my favorite, but it certainly wasn't bad.  When I posted about the carrot saladRose commented that some of the toughest FFWD recipes are the ones for which we already have good recipes.  Both the corn soup and the slow roasted tomatoes made me think of her comment.  They were perfectly good recipes, but I still like my old ones better.  The eggplant, on the other hand, was a definitely keeper.  I'll definitely be making it again.  I think it'd be a perfect appetizer for a summer dinner party.  It's easy to prepare ahead of time, pretty, and delicious.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

TWD Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

Despite this post being a couple of days late, I actually made this cake early.  I wanted to make the cake while I knew we'd still have good nectarines at the farmer's market, and a Sunday night dinner with my grandma and brother seemed like the perfect opportunity.  Of course, the afternoon got much busier than I was planning on (to be honest, there was a one day sale that I really didn't want to miss!), so I was pretty panicked about how I was going to get the cake baked in time.  I had no idea what a chiffon cake was, but it sounded fancy and time-consuming.  

Luckily, I was completely wrong.  This cake had three components--the fruit, the streusel, and the cake batter--but none of them was too hard to make.  I'm still not great at gently folding in whipped egg whites, but I took my time and I think it went better than the last time.  The cake had an excellent texture, and we all loved the flavor.  Paul thought it tasted like a coffee cake--because of the streusel, I think--but definitely in a good way.  My only problem with this cake was the presentation.  It's probably because my springform pan is pretty cheap, but a lot of the (delicious!) caramel leaked out of the bottom.  Some of the cake also stuck to the sides of the pan when I inverted it.  It obviously didn't affect the flavor, but the sides of the cake were not nearly as pretty and uniform as I was hoping they would be.  Oh well.  I definitely plan on making this cake again, with all different kinds of fruit, so I'll have lots of opportunities to perfect the presentation.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of the leftovers from my Sunday dinner.  I knew we'd eat well all weekend, so I wanted to to keep things (relatively) simple and rely on Paul's garden.  I made zucchini stuffed with homemade ricotta cheese, sliced tomatoes with basil, and pasta with pesto.  Followed by the chiffon cake, I was very happy with how the dinner turned out.  I was also thrilled to have such fun guests to share the dinner with.  Last, I couldn't resist taking a photo of the Fig and Almond tart (from Dorie's Baking) that I made a couple of weeks ago.  It was a delicious way to use figs from our tree, and another beautiful fruit dessert.  For the Nectarine Chiffon cake recipe, visit our hosts for the week Marlise and Susan.  Visit the TWD site to read what all of the other bloggers thought of the recipe.