Friday, August 30, 2013

FFWD Floating Islands

Floating Islands are another thing that I know about because I've seen Ina make them on TV, but have never gotten around to trying.  Paul and I aren't normally big fans of meringue, so I was never too interested.  Boy was I wrong!  This was delicious.  Most of the meringue I've had has been hard and not very flavorful (a notable exception are the excellent chocolate meringue cookies that my mother makes for Passover!), but this was delicate, light, and airy.  I especially enjoyed the caramelized top, but the whole "island" was delicious.  I--stupidly--overcooked my creme anglaise and it didn't have the smooth consistency that it should, but it still tasted good.  I'm still unclear on how I managed to overcook it.  My instant-read thermometer said 174.9 when I took it off, but it was definitely curdled.  That happens to me almost half of the time when I make ice cream.  I guess I just need more practice making ice cream, creme anglaise, and other custards :-)  Creme anglaise is also something I first learned about watching the Food Network.  I can't remember what show, but I remember the host saying that you could make it yourself but that it was the same--and much easier--to just use melted vanilla ice cream instead.  I tried it once and was unimpressed.  Maybe the ice cream I bought just wasn't good enough, but i think a homemade creme anglaise is much better.  Last, I rarely turn down an opportunity for fudge sauce and chocolate ice cream, but since we're nearing the end of summer I couldn't bear not to add fruit to the dessert.  I served this with poached figs.  I thought they paired excellently with the simple vanilla flavors.

Another thing I loved about this dish was that the meringue calls for 6 egg whites and the creme anglaise for 6 egg yolks.  I wonder if that's why they're traditionally served together.  It made me so happy not to have to throw away (or freeze and then forget about) either whites or yolks.

Friday, August 23, 2013

FFWD Boulevard Raspail Corn on the Cob

As I was getting out my copy of AMFT to check the recipe for the week, I told Paul that I couldn't wait to read the story Dorie came up with to explain the presence of a corn on the cob recipe in a French cookbook.  Paul has spent some time in France and we have good friends who are French, and they had all told me that in France corn is only used for feeding pigs.  Well, Dorie did it again!  I love her creativity.  As much as we like French food, I think it's so fun that this book also has recipes for corn on the cob, tzatziki, Vietnamese chicken soup...It makes the group so much fun.  The story was very cute and she's right, this is the perfect method for cooking corn.  We normally grill corn, but roasting has definitely replaced boiling as my rainy day fall-back method.  I started with delicious, fresh corn that we got from our CSA the same day, and the roasting only intensified the flavor and made it even more delicious.  I served this with Ina's curried chicken salad (quick and easy since I already had some roasted chicken breast in the freezer) and her scalloped tomatoes.  The tomatoes were incredible.  It's hard to go wrong with fresh CSA tomatoes in August, and this recipe really highlighted their flavor.  I have her cookbook, but the recipe is also online here.  The only change I made is reducing the sugar to one scant tablespoon.  Our tomatoes were so delicious they really didn't need the extra sugar.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

TWD Johnny Cake Cobbler

This was cook's choice week for TWD.  We got to pick between a Johnny Cake Cobbler and Raspberry Fig Crostata.  We are very lucky to have two fig trees in our front yard.  Last year they produced very well and I made all kinds of things with figs, including the crostata.  I can't find any pictures of it to post (probably because I forgot to take them!), but I remember loving it.  Figs and raspberries are two of my favorite fruits, and I loved the addition of sesame seeds to the crust.  It made it crumbly to work with, but I thought the extra flavor made it well worth it.  This year we still don't have any figs.  I think some of it is the oddly cool weather we've been having (not that I'm complaining!) and some of it is the squirrels.  Poor Paul is fighting a hard battle, but the squirrels are definitely winning.  This weekend he carefully put baby socks on all of the figs that were close to ripening, and secured them with rubber bands.  On Monday the squirrels managed to get most of the socks off and eat the figs inside them.  We now have colorful baby socks all over the yard, and still no figs to eat!  He's going to keep trying (any tips are much appreciated!), but for now I decided to just make the cobbler.

I love fruit crisps and cobblers.  I think in terms of enjoyment relative to cooking time, they are the best possible dessert.  The fruit filling was quick and easy to put together (I used a combination of plums, peaches, and nectarines).  The biscuit topping came together in no time in the food processor.  My only regret was not making individual cobblers.  I have the dishes to do it, but was in a lazy mood.  In hindsight, the individual ones are much cuter and I love having my own dessert.  I was also annoyed by the baking times in the recipe.  The recipe said making a family sized color would only take a couple of extra minutes of baking.  Mine was golden after after 15 minutes, but I probably moved the cobbler in and out of the oven every 5 minutes for almost an hour, trying to get the inside to bake.  When it finally baked we definitely enjoyed it, especially with the addition of the optional ginger.  My only comment is that I wish there had been more filling for the amount of crust, and it definitely needed heavy cream or ice cream for serving.

Friday, August 16, 2013

FFWD Chef's Choice/Makeup Week

I'm sure it won't last, but I'm actually all caught up with FFWD at the moment.  I've made all of the recipes, except for the handful that I've skipped because the main ingredient is something I don't eat (i.e., red meat or mushrooms).  Since we also spent the last week at the beach, I decided to truly take the week off.  Instead, here are a couple of photos from our beach trip!

Note:  Although we were at the beach in Lewes, DE, you would never know from the pictures because Charlotte didn't love the beach.  Our first day there Paul accidentally kicked sand on her face, and she also hated when we tried dipping her toes in the ocean.  So we spent most of the week relaxing at the rental house and wandering around.  Oh well.  I know she'll learn to love the ocean!

Friday, August 9, 2013

FFWD Duck Breast with Fresh Peaches

It's 3:30 PM and Charlotte is finally napping in her own crib.  She's been awake since she woke up at 8 AM.  I don't mind having her awake all day but--just like her mom--she gets very fussy when she's tired.  I can't complain, she's an excellent sleeper at night, but we're having trouble convincing her that a nap every once in a while isn't such a bad idea.  Anyway, what does this have to do with food blogging?  Nothing, except that I'm worried she'll be awake any second now so I'm going to keep this post extra short.

This was the second time I cooked duck at home.  The first also was with FFWD.  I like duck--and Paul really likes it and was thrilled to see me making it--but I just never think to make it.  It's also a fortune!  I don't know if I'm just buying expensive duck, but I think the only brand they had at the store I went to cost $30 for 2 pounds.  Coupled with the $9 I spent on peaches (I love peaches and bought a lot of extras), this was a delicious, but very expensive dinner.  I would definitely make this again, but I'll probably save it for a night in which Charlotte actually lets us sit and enjoy our dinner for more than 3 minutes.  Maybe in a few years....I served it with roasted squashed topped with lemon and parsley.  Paul is growing so much squash we could eat it every night and still have leftovers.  I'd appreciate any recipe suggestions that use up LOTS of squash!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

TWD Eastern Mediterranean Pizzas

I enjoyed making this recipe.  Like the savarin, it had multiple components but none was too hard.  In the morning I quickly mixed up the sponge and left it to rise.  In the afternoon Charlotte "helped" me add the rest of the ingredients, kneed the dough, and start the second rise.  (By "helped", I mean she slept nicely in her carrier and allowed me to cook.)  When we were ready for dinner, all I had to do was make the filling (while the oven pre-heated), shape, and bake the breads.  (I totally forgot to mention that I don't eat lamb so I substituted ground turkey.  I make the substitution without even thinking about it!)  I wasn't quite sure whether this was an appetizer or a main course (I'll be very curious to how the other Doristas served this), but I decided to try serving it as a main with the leftover tzatziki and crudite from the previous night.  I set the table with candles and grape juice for Friday night, put a pizza on each of our plates, and put the tzatziki and crudite out as well.  Paul sat down, took one look at the table, and asked me what was for dinner.  He was less than thrilled when I told him that was dinner, and said that he didn't see a main course.  We each ate two pita pizzas along with our vegetables.  With cake for dessert I thought it was enough food, but I guess next time I would serve the pizzas as an appetizer or as part of an entree with some more substantial side dishes.  Oh well.  I did enjoy the dish.  Anything with fresh summer tomatoes is a winner in my book, and I really liked the flavors of cinnamon and allspice.

(Here is a phone shot of Charlotte and I cooking.  Paul laughed at me for taking a photo of the ceiling, but I was home alone and it isn't exactly easy to get a good angle with one hand :-) .)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

FFWD Tzatziki

I was surprised to see a recipe for Tzatziki in a French cookbook, but it's hard to argue with the results.  This was another quick, easy, and delicious recipe.  I wanted to serve it with the Eastern Mediterranean Pizza we're making for TWD, but by the time Charlotte and I finished our (very rare) afternoon nap it was too late to start the pizza.  So, pizza will wait until tomorrow (hopefully!) and we enjoyed the dip tonight with some plain cut vegetables.  The only thing that surprised me about this recipe was the portion size.  This makes a lot of Tzatziki.  We ate a lot tonight and hardly made a dent in it.  Luckily it's very versatile, so I'm hoping we'll find other ways to use it in the next couple of days.