Friday, November 28, 2014

FFWD Béatrix’s Red Kuri Soup

I ignored enough of the instructions here that I'm pretty sure I'm disqualified from commenting on the recipe, but I'll try anyway.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a Red Kuri squash, so I used a combination of butternut and a piece of kabocha that I happened to have leftover.  When I read the bonne idee more carefully I realized that I should have added chestnuts to mimic the flavor of Red Kuri, but I didn't have any at home and didn't have the time to go back to the store.  Then I didn't feel like peeling squash, so I skipped that part of the recipe too.  What I did was slice the squash in half, put it cut side down on a baking sheet, and bake until very sort (about 1.5 hours).  After it cooled it was easy to scoop out and discard the seeds, and then scoop the flesh into the pot.  I had already cooked the leeks in some butter in the bottom of the soup pot, so at that point all I did was add some milk and water, blend, and re-heat.  Quick and easy.  Since I didn't make the soup correctly, I decided to follow the directions and make the apple and hazelnut garnish.  I also did blue cheese croutons.  I'm still hopeful that one day I'll find a Red Kuri squash and get to actually try the soup, but this was an easy and very tasty substitute.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

CCC November

Last month I had an ambitious plan to make all 11 recipes, but things got busy and I only got about half of them made.  I had already purchased a lot of the ingredients, though, so this month I did a combination of 5 October recipes and 5 November recipes.  Over the next couple of months I'm hoping to finish out the rest of these recipes.  This was another fun month.  I'm especially excited about all of the new ideas for things to do with potatoes.  I tend to get stuck in a rut, always serving them either mashed or roasted.  In order of (weak, they were all good) preference, here are the recipes I made.

#1: Chicory, pears and salty-sweet roasted almonds

I'm still confused about what chicory is.  I thought it was frisee, but based on the picture in the book I decided it must be what I call (Belgian) endive.  I think I made the right choice, but I'll be curious to see what everyone else's dishes look like.  Frankly, I don't think it matters.  These salty-sweet nuts and the simple lemon vinaigrette would be delicious on anything.  This was a great winter salad.  One that I'll definitely be making again.

#2: Cannellini bean and leek soup

This was such a great surprise.  It seemed too simple to be very good, but I absolutely loved it.  I cooked the beans (from scratch) a couple of days ahead, made the chili oil early, and after that this was a relatively easy weeknight dinner.  I couldn't find red chilis, so I made a green chili oil.  Not nearly as pretty, but the flavor is great.  Another winner.

#3: Baby beet tarte tatin 

A few weekends ago I made "rough" puff pastry for this and "real" puff pastry for TWD (hopefully I'll get around to posting about it soon).  My technique on the "real" puff pastry was severely lacking, so this definitely wasn't a fair comparison, but given the time and effort I definitely think that "rough" puff pastry is the way too go.  It rose nicely and was buttery, flaky, and delicious.  I think anything would have tasted good on it, but it was a particularly nice way to serve beets.  I liked the vinaigrette--sometimes I find beets too sweet and it really cut through the sweetness--and added some blue cheese.

#4: Warm salad of mushrooms and roasted squash

(A quick digression.  When Paul and I were first dating he was not nearly the adventurous eater he is now, and used to spend a lot of time making fun of my "strange" eating habits--especially of all of the vegetables that I ate.  After reading about this warm squash salad I knew I just had to make it.  I waited for a night when Paul wasn't going to be around, and happily made my salad.  I was just sitting down to eat it--it was delicious--when he called.  His bus was caught in the snow (we were living in Chicago at the time) and he couldn't get home.  Could he come over?  I said okay.  I debated hiding the squash salad, but decided against it.  He ate it for dinner--with tuna fish that I made him so he could have more protein--and teased me about it for weeks.  Now, 9 years later, Paul doesn't even bat an eyelash when we have squash salad for dinner.)

I don't eat mushrooms, so I used some herbed tofu instead.  That probably disqualifies me from commenting on the recipe, but I will anyway.  It was delicious.  I loved the flavor the sage and garlic gave the squash (I used delicata and didn't even bother peeling), and loved the way the arugula cut through the richness of the blue cheese.  Paul didn't comment.  Probably not his favorite, but I also didn't hear any complaints.

#5: Crostini

I've made crostini many times, what a great way to use stale bread, but I liked the technique of this one.  The advice to slice them thinly was especially helpful.  I topped them with blue cheese, and put them on the squash soup I made for FFWD.  (Another one I'm hoping to finally have time to post about soon.)

#6: Twice baked potatoes

I haven't had twice-baked potatoes since I was a kid, but after this reminder we're definitely going to start eating them more often.  I love that most of the work can be done ahead of time, and they are definitely a lot more fun than plain baked potatoes.  Unless of course the baked potatoes have cheese sauce on them :-)

#7: Roasted brussels sprouts with shallots

I roast brussel sprouts often, but thought that the shallots were a very nice addition.  I'm not sure if I've ever had them roasted before, but they have a great sweetness.

#8: Pumpkin and raisin tea loaf 

I forgot to take a picture of this.  I told my mother I didn't really love it, so she tasted it.  She said the flavors were absolutely perfect, and it just wasn't what I was expecting.  She's probably right.  I think I didn't love the addition of lemon, and am more used to a pumpkin bread that uses pre-cooked pumpkin.  I might try this one again, though.  It was definitely interesting.

#9: Couscous salad with herbs and walnuts

I normally don't buy whole grain couscous--Paul complains--but I thought it went really well with the hearty flavors in this dish.  I also liked the addition of walnuts.  Charlotte enjoyed her couscous plain with butter and cheese.  This was good, if not overly exciting.

#10: Roasted parsnip chips

I was a little disappointed by this one.  When I saw "chips" in the title I was hoping for something exciting, but these seemed just like plain roasted parsnips to me.  Not bad at all, just not especially interesting.

Friday, November 21, 2014

FFWD Storzapretis

I saw Dorie in DC last night!  I didn't have time to wait in line to meet her in person, but I loved her talk.  She was just as I imagined her from her writing -- so likable!  She had this great, very Parisian outfit--all black but with a gorgeous, colorful scarf--and just seemed completely genuine, down-to-earth, eager to help, and cool.  She also tells great stories.  What a fun evening!  I'm very behind in posting here, even though I have made most of the recipes, and definitely need to do a big catch-up post soon, but I thought I'd at least get today's post up on time.  When I think I need to do tasks all at once is when I really start to procrastinate.

I'm almost embarrassed to say this, and am sure it was just dumb luck, but I didn't have any trouble with these at all.  I didn't strain my ricotta or do anything special (and it was just regular store-bought ricotta), shaped these minimally with my spoons, and they held together pretty well.  I did chill them all day--it worked better with my plans for the day.  Maybe that made a difference?  I chilled them on silpat, used a metal spatula to get them from the silpat to the simmering water, and then used a metal slotted spoon to get them from the simmering water to the ice water.  I was in a rush (hungry!) and just used my hands to take them out of the ice water.  It worked just fine.

As for the taste, I thought these were just okay.  They reminded me of the filling I use when I make spinach lasagna.  We enjoyed these, but I didn't think they were worth the extra trouble of shaping them.  Probably a one-time thing in our house.  I'm looking forward to being back with the group for the final 6 months :-(.  I'll try to post more regularly from here on out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TWD BCM Palets de Dames

I always love an opportunity to bake, but I'm still recovering from an insanely busy October, so I was pretty happy when I realized that I'd already made this month's selection for FFWD.  I was less happy when I realized that I still hadn't gotten around to posting about them.  I was hoping this could be an "insert link here" type of post, so this one's going to be brief.

Since I received BCM in the mail a couple of weeks ago I've been reading, and drooling over, the recipes almost every night.  So many of them sound absolutely delicious.  This one didn't sound especially interesting to me, and the actual cookies did nothing to change my mind.  They were sweet and cakey, "pleasant" comes to mind, but they definitely weren't anything special.  With so many interesting recipes to try, these won't be making a repeat appearance in our house.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

TWD BWJ Alsatian Onion Tart

I’m still hoping to get around to making my own puff pastry later this month, but this week I chose the easy version.   Paul, Charlotte, and I left our house Friday morning to spend a long weekend in West Virginia.  I was only expecting about a 3 hour drive, so I thought I’d have plenty of time to make this tart once we got there.  Well, as I continue to learn every day, things with a baby (toddler?) take a lot longer than they used to.  By the time we got out of the house, ran two errands, and took the “scenic route” to our destination (I never should have let Paul talk me in to the last one!) it was after five o’clock.  So, I had to make this as quickly as I could.

 I quickly scanned the recipe and determined that the hold-up would be the onions, so I got those started first.  Afterwards, I took out the puff pastry.  Luckily—both because I had no time and because the house we were staying in had no flour—the one I bought from Trader Joe’s was already quite thin, so I just unrolled it onto a sheet pan, docked it, and threw it in the refrigerator.  (I gave Charlotte a fork and tried to get her to help me dock the pastry, but she just kept trying to pick up the pastry with her fork.  I guess she was hungry!)   Next I took out the bacon.  Unfortunately it had gone bad.  (I didn’t know bacon went bad.)  It was late and we were in the middle of nowhere, so getting a replacement was out of the question.  I surveyed the options and decided to go with some chicken apple breakfast sausage as a replacement.  I browned it, cut it into small pieces, assembled, and baked the tart.  All told, it still took a little over an hour start-to-finish.  Not too bad, but by no means a quick dinner.

While the tart was baking, I roasted Jerusalem artichokes (a FFWD make-up recipe that I’m hoping to write up soon) and boiled some lima beans (I picked some up at our CSA on a whim).  I really enjoyed the entire dinner.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—almost anything would taste good on puff pastry.  I’m not sure that boiling the onions would be my first choice (I think it’s hard to beat onions that are slow-cooked in butter) but I did like the addition of heavy cream.  Bacon would have been better than the breakfast sausage I used, but I thought the sausage was a surprisingly good substitute.  Paul loved the tart, but wouldn’t eat the Jerusalem artichokes (stomach issues) and seemed to avoid the lima beans as well.  Charlotte only ate the lima beans.  She always keeps us guessing!  I doubt I’ll make the tart again—there are just too many good recipes to try—but we enjoyed it and I’m glad we tried it.