Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club | May Recipes

The CCC is cooking through River Cottage Veg 
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
  Click on the image to be taken to the Cottage Cooking Club.

I am so happy that Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness (one of my favorite bloggers) started this new online cooking group. We will be cooking our way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book, River Cottage Veg (River Cottage Veg Everyday, if you have the British version).

As you can guess by the title of the book, it's all about vegetables - and we can all use more vegetables on our plates, don't you agree?  I'm looking forward to making my way through this book, the recipes sound easy, healthy, and most of all delicious. It will be a nice change from the same-old-ho-hum steamed or roasted vegetables I'm used to making; don't get me wrong, I love roasted vegetables, it will just be nice to have a little variety.

This club works a bit differently than the other groups I'm in, where we all cook the same chosen recipe, and every recipe in the book, and post our results every other week.

The CCC will cook through the book as a group, though not individually - meaning you don't have to make every single recipe. There will be ten recipes to choose from each month, and you can cook as few, or as many as you like. You then write up one post with the recipes you have chosen and publish it by the end of the month - easy enough - don't you think?

OK - let's get started, shall we!

My choices for this month are:

Stir-Fried Cauliflower
Asparagus Pizza
Quinoa with Zucchini and Onions
Zucchini and Rice Filo Pie

Click here to see the full list of May's recipe options.

Stir-Fried Sesame Cauliflower:

Cauliflower, it doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Normally it gets thrown onto a platter with other raw vegetables to be dunked into a dip of some sort, steamed and slathered with butter, or in my case, served plain - no butter, salt or pepper, after steaming.

This is the second time I have stir-fried cauliflower, and it really does make for a tasty treat. This recipe consists of cauliflower, toasted sesame seeds, onion, garlic, chiles, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, and cilantro - drooling yet?

You start out by stir-frying your aromatics (onion, garlic, ginger, chile), then add the cauliflower and a half cup of water to the wok, this I was hesitant about doing - I have not stir-fried using water before, and was concerned it may deglaze the patina off my wok. I guess two years of stir-frying has given my wok a strong enough patina that adding the water did not effect it at all - whew. When the aromatics are done, you add the rest of the ingredients, which consists of sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce and cilantro.

I did not realize until later that I had forgotten to add the cilantro!! You think that adding the garnish of cilantro leaves, would have given me a clue - but no - I can only imagine how much better this would taste if I had not forgotten. I love cilantro. That's OK, I'll just have to make it again.

There was a little bit left over that I had for lunch the next day - I think it may have been even better. :)

Asparagus Pizza:

I had always been the odd man out when it came to pizza. Never really cared for it much; mostly due to the pool of tomato sauce that was swimming below the toppings. We would order pizza only because I would be too tired to cook or go out - and then, I would have only one slice, maybe two.

Topped with fresh, simple ingredients, this made for a really good pizza!

This recipe is made from a simple dough made from flour, salt, yeast, oil, and water; with toppings of caramelized onions, asparagus, mozzarella, and Parmesan. No tomato sauce here!

This recipe will make three generous size pizzas and calls for twelve ounces of asparagus to be divided among the three. I made only one pizza this evening (the other two dough balls are in the freezer) and used all of the asparagus, even wishing it had more, after being sliced. I also used one whole onion (the recipe calls for two) - when it comes to caramelized onions, you can never have too much in my opinion.

Even though I said it is a simple dough (which, really, it is), I did have a couple of issues. One being, my dough was not loose and wet, as described in the recipe. I had to add an extra three tablespoons water to get it to hold together, and it felt a bit dry and tough as I was kneading it. Also, it did not rise as much as I thought it would (this was a first for me using yeast without proofing it first). Normally when I make a yeast dough of any kind, I cover it with plastic wrap and a towel, and leave it to rise. The instructions in the book have you just cover it with a towel only. My dough formed a bit of a "skin", and this may have prevented it from rising more. Next time I will cover it with plastic wrap as well.

After the dough has risen, you roll it out as thin as you can, spread the caramelized onions on top, arrange the asparagus over the onions, scatter some mozzarella on top, and add a sprinkle of Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

Leave it to me to make this when we are having ninety plus degree weather; it was too hot to turn on the oven, thank goodness for gas barbeques.

It was a little tricky transferring the pizza to the cookie sheet (I don't have a peel) from the parchment paper I had rolled it out on. Initially I was thinking I would cook it on the parchment - slide it from one cookie sheet to another (one was on the bbq as it was preheating). Then I thought better of it, for it would be cooking at five hundred degrees, with an open flame - fire + paper - not a good idea.

This made for a fine meal. We enjoyed our pizza served with an arugula strawberry salad, and ice cold beer. Ginger beer for me :) so friggin' good.

After dinner, as we sat and worked away at our computers, my husband looked up and said "that.. was a good dinner." I concur.

I must say, this is my favorite from this month's recipes.

Quinoa with Zucchini and Onions: 

How beautiful is this?!

You can have this dish on the table in about forty-five minutes - including prep time. I'm finding the recipes in this book are easy and fairly quick to make; even the zucchini & rice filo pie that follows, was easy, though a bit more time-consuming due to arranging the layers of filo.

We served this as a side dish to our grilled chicken, though this can easily be a meal in itself. It is made up of zucchini, onions, thyme, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, pine nuts, and the ever so nutritious superfood - quinoa.

While the quinoa is cooking in a separate pot, the zucchini, onions and thyme are sautéed for about twenty five minutes; then the garlic is added and cooked for a minute or two more before mixing in the quinoa, parsley, and lemon juice. Once all is mixed and tasted for more salt and pepper if needed, place in a decorative bowl and top with the pine nuts. Quick and easy.

Should I make this again (so many recipes, so little time), I would like to change out the parsley for cilantro (a favorite of mine), and the pine nuts for hazelnuts. The book also shows a variation on this recipe that I would like to try in the fall; replacing the zucchini and onions with squash and leeks -  another two favorites of mine.

Zucchini & Rice Filo Pie:

I chose this recipe to use up the rest of the filo (aka fillo or phyllo) from the beggar's purses I made a few weeks ago. However I ended up tossing the extra dough because it kept ripping apart, became rather dry, and later, I found that it had just expired.

After the difficulties with the purses, I was not sure if I still wanted to attempt this recipe. But I do like a challenge, and I was not about to be shown up by filo dough.. no way.

I did have better luck this time around. The sheets this time where smaller, which made for easier handling; I also kept the extra sheets covered with plastic wrap and a damp towel this time around, to keep them from drying out - last time, just a dry towel - as the box instructed - unless I misread it - which would not surprise me.

The filling is super easy to put together. Especially if you have a food processor with a shredding disc. I not only shredded the zucchini as instructed, but I also shredded the onion (called for finely chopped) and the cheese (called for grated).

You mix the above ingredients with eggs, olive oil, dill, parsley, salt, pepper, and long-grain white rice (uncooked). Yes, uncooked. I had to re-read the recipe over and over, looking to make sure it did not call for cooked rice. It's mentioned in a blurb at the top of the page, "that the rice steals the water from the grated zucchini and plumps up as the two cook together inside the pie." Yes, I was skeptical.

As I mentioned earlier, this was a bit more time consuming than the other recipes. It took me a half hour to butter, and place twenty sheets of filo, one at a time, into the pie plate. But it does make for an impressive looking dish.

After you have placed all but one sheet (I saved two, since these were smaller - 9x14) of the dough into the pie plate, add the filling and fold the over-hanging ends of the sheets over the filling. Using the last sheet(s) to crumple lightly to give a textured finish and place this on top.

The pie gets cooked for about forty-five minutes, or until the filo is golden.

I was right in being skeptical about using uncooked rice. The rice was still quite firm to the bite, and there was quite a bit of liquid in the bottom of the dish once the pie was cut into. If I were to make this again, I would use cooked rice and squeeze out as much moisture from the zucchini as possible.

Even though the rice was under-cooked, we ate it. It had good flavor. Andy even went back for seconds.

We had the leftovers the following evening for dinner. It holds up well, the filo does soften up overnight in the fridge (I had hoped the rice would too), but a reheat in a 350°F oven for about 25 minutes, covered, uncovering the last two minutes of cooking time, brings back the original crispness.

Aside from the rice mishap, we are off to a good start - can't wait for next month's recipes!

To see what recipes the other members chose, head over to the LYL post for May on the CCC website, by clicking here.

We have been asked not to publish the recipes here on our blogs. We encourage you to go out and purchase the book and join us on this fun and healthy adventure! 


WW: Cashew Chicken

Wok Wednesdays wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

This is a delightfully fresh stir-fry made up of chicken, carrots, celery, and cashews; using the freshest of ingredients makes all the difference in the world - you will be amazed at how much better this tastes than any take-out.

I did not bother with making rice, even though it did have a fair amount of sauce - a light sauce as you can see from the picture, not the heavy gravy-type sauce that Grace mentions in the book, that is often served in Chinese restaurants today to satisfy our western culture. I found this was quite satisfying on its own, sans rice.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1:  Ginger
Bowl 2:  Chicken, garlic, soy sauce, cornstarch, dry sherry, salt, sugar
Bowl 3:  Celery, carrots, sugar snap peas, cashews
Bowl 4:  Salt
Bowl 5:  Chicken broth, soy sauce, dry sherry, cornstarch

The vegetables in this dish added a wonderful crunchy texture to the ever so tender chicken. The flavor is rather mild, even with a whole two tablespoons of fresh ginger, and a tablespoon of fresh garlic. If you like a bit of spice, Grace mentioned (on the WW Facebook page) that you can add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes or sliced jalapeño with the minced garlic. I will definitely do that next time, for I do like my food on the spicy side.

Oh, and once again, this was hit with the hubs. :) 

If you would like to make this easy stir-fry yourself, grab Grace's book and turn to page 123, for we have agreed not to publish the recipes on our blog.

Wok on!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Book 113: The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook | Sunny Baked Eggs

by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

We've been pretty stagnant in the breakfast arena; eggs on winter wheat toast or English muffin, with some fruit on the side a few times a week, and oatmeal and fruit on the other days. Mornings I do not get up early to make breakfast, Andy will make himself toast and peanut butter and I'll have cereal. It has been this way for the  l o n g e s t  time.

I'm always on the look out for something new for breakfast, and was excited to come across this recipe.

I gave this a trial run when I was on my own for breakfast. It's super easy to make - you can even make them on your busy weekday mornings if you have the (very little) prep work done the night before - chopping some parsley, mincing a little ham, and cubing a little Brie; and feel free to change up the ingredients to your liking - your favorite herb or cheese, and if you don't eat meat, omit it. This is a very versatile dish.

It only takes about twenty minutes in the oven to bake - actually less in my oven. I meant to check on them at about fifteen minutes in, and I got busy on the computer, and well, you know how that goes... and my eggs were overcooked - they were fine... I just prefer my yolks on the runny side, not firm.

This recipe is similar to the one I made years ago for Mother's Day brunch, a little more work, but very impressive to say the least.

These will have rerun in our house. I think Andy will like them - especially if I replace the ham with mushrooms, and switch out the Brie with maybe some smoked cheddar or Gruyère.. oh the possibilities.

Friday, May 9, 2014

TWD: Scallop & Pesto Purses (sans the scallops & pesto..)

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan

Scallop and Pesto Purses were chosen for this weeks recipe.

My husband loves scallops, I have been wanting to make these for him for the longest time. I had nominated this recipe several times in the past, and it was finally chosen!

Unfortunately, the scallop version would not fit into my schedule. Every time I was ready to make these, he was either at class, a meeting, or out of town.  So as not to be any later in posting this recipe (again, out of town..), I changed the filling to something more of my liking (scallops - meh) - since it would only be me eating them.

I filled my purses with goat cheese, onion confit, and dried figs - the same ingredients I used to top this pizza - which I loved, and thought it would make a great filling for these cute little purses.

Today, phyllo was not my friend. You need to work quickly with phyllo so it does not dry out and tear. Well, mine was tearing the minute I unrolled it from the package; frustrating to say the least. I was supposed to get six squares from the sheets of phyllo. A good portion had torn, so I was only able to get four squares per sheet. This was not a big deal, being it was only me that would be enjoying these little tidbits.

Make sure your phyllo is well buttered or oiled, it makes for easier handling. The recipe instructs you to to tie the bundles with buttered string to hold the tops closed. I skipped this - the oiled phyllo held together quite well on its own.

I began wondering why my phyllo was tearing so easy when I unrolled it. I had just purchased it two weeks ago, and the package had not been opened yet (kept in the freezer till the day before). I had never thought to check for an expiration date. It reads, best used by May 2, 2014. Today is the 9th.  Hmmm.. maybe that was the problem?

I'll find out, for I have another recipe I will be making this month that calls for phyllo (which I was hoping to use up the rest from this box). You can be sure I will be checking the date before I purchase my next box.

If my next try with phyllo turns out well, I'll revisit this recipe using the original ingredients called for in the recipe. They were fun to make, frustrations aside, and are impressive looking.

To see other takes on this recipe, as well as the original version, check out my fellow bakers' links over on the Tuesdays with Dorie site.