Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club | June 2014

The CCC is cooking their way through River Cottage Veg
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Here we are in our second month of cooking through this wonderful cookbook. As I mentioned in May's post, we get to choose to cook anywhere from one to ten recipes each month from the recipe list on the CCC website.

Reading through this month's recipes, it was hard to choose - they all sounded so wonderful. I was feeling quite ambitious as I read through the list, and decided on seven out of the ten choices. It makes for a long post, I know..

Here are my selections for June:
(Not necessarily cooked in order.)

New Potato, Tomato, and Boiled Egg Salad
Lettuce, Spring Onion, and Cheese Tart
Cucumber and Lettuce Vichyssoise
Pizza with New Potatoes and Blue Cheese
Vegetable Tempura with Chile Dipping Sauce
Honey Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Steamed Vegetables with a Hint of Garlic

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

New Potato, Tomato, and Boiled Egg Salad:

This is not your typical potato salad that has been slathered in mayo, and has the over-powering taste of vinegar that you get at your local deli.

I love finding recipes that have a new healthier spin on them, and are still delicious - like the one in Food to Live By, the California Waldorf salad  - it's made with fresh spinach, and no heavy dressing or marshmallows! Check it out, it's delicious!

This is quite the easy one to put together. You boil your potatoes and eggs (separately of course), let them cool, and give them a quick chop.

The vinaigrette for this salad is made up of either canola or olive oil (I used olive), cider vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. This is then poured over the chopped soft-boiled eggs; stirring, the yolks mix in with the vinaigrette, making for a slightly creamy dressing.

Add the tomatoes and potatoes, stir, taste for seasonings, and top with chives (I added extra chives and mixed them in as well). Viola! Done.

This salad has great potential. It was good, it just needs a little something extra. Maybe a bit more mustard, or a pinch of (insert your favorite herb or spice here). 

I also felt there was a bit too much dressing, and I even used about a half pound more potatoes than the recipe called for - the picture in the book looks a lot drier than mine - still I did enjoy this.

Pizza with New Potatoes and Blue Cheese:

This pizza is similar to the one I made last month.  It uses the same dough and caramelized onions (which you can never have too much of in my opinion). Only this time, he as you add garlic and rosemary to the onions - which makes it tastes a little bit like Thanksgiving.

Here we replace the asparagus with potatoes, and the mozzarella and Parmesan with blue cheese.

Caramelized onions and blue cheese?!! I'm in heaven here.

My new potatoes were huge! It took only eight slices to cover my pizza. If you don't have access to the smaller new potatoes, I would crumble the cooked slices and sprinkle them over the pizza.

You may be thinking, potatoes on pizza? Believe me, it works - just like it does in the roasted vegetable quesadillas I make.

I think this would make a wonderful appetizer cut in small slices, served alongside a glass of Champagne of course.

Cucumber and Lettuce Vichyssoise:

Vichyssoise is a chilled soup made up of leeks and potatoes. Hugh has upped the ante by adding cucumber and lettuce to the mix, giving this soup its green hue.

There was not much labor involved in this recipe, as I'm finding out with most of the recipes in this book - which is nice. 

You start out by "sweating" (cooked in a covered pan on low heat) your leeks in butter for about ten minutes, or until the leeks have softened. Then the potatoes and broth are added. Once the potatoes are almost cooked, Hugh has you add the cucumbers and lettuce, and cook for a bit longer, then he instructs you to remove the potatoes to be pressed through a ricer, sieve, or food mill (I just used my wooden spoon to mash them), for they will become gluey if put in the blender with the broth mixture. I recommend removing the potatoes before adding the vegetables, for it was quite tedious to fish out the potatoes bits amongst the cubed cucumbers and shredded lettuce.

After the potatoes are removed and have been mashed, the soup mixture is puréed in a blender and poured over the mashed potatoes, then some cream, salt, and pepper is added - combine this together and leave the soup to cool, then chill for a couple of hours (longer the better).

While the soup is chilling, you can make some quick croutons to top your soup with. Take a couple pieces of bread, cut the crusts off, cube the slices, and fry in oil until golden (watch carefully - they brown quickly!)

My croutons look dark, not only because I may have cooked them a tad too long, but I used a winter wheat bread, that is full of seeds and nuts - which, by the way, made for some tasty croutons.

I thought this soup was just OK. To bad too, for it makes for a beautiful presentation. I may start serving my split pea soup this way.

There was not a lot of flavor going on here. I'm thinking maybe a little tarragon would brighten things up a bit; or using spinach in place of the lettuce, as Hugh suggests as an alternative, which also would give the soup a darker green color.

Honey-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:

Well, it doesn't get much easier than this!

Slice a few tomatoes (cherry are called for, but I used a mixture of cherry and small tomatoes from our garden), top it with a mixture made up of garlic, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast till the tomatoes are juicy and bubbling.



My bounty. :)

 I had these tasty bites with the leftover soup - it made for a fine light meal.

I enjoyed the roasted tomatoes (I prefer them at room temp) over toasted baguette slices that were brushed lightly with olive oil and sprinkled with some salt and pepper before broiling. Make sure to spoon up the juices from the ramekin to spoon over the tomatoes - it's delish. I think the tomatoes would also be wonderful over scrambled eggs, or in an omelette the next day if you are lucky enough to have any left over.

Yep. The tomatoes were the favorite for this month.  

Vegetable Tempura with Chile Dipping Sauce:

Normally I would shy away from anything deep-fried; but the picture in the book looked so enticing, I had to give this a try, and I'm glad I did. :)

This is the beginning of the most tasty dipping sauce! At first taste, as it was cooling, I thought, ehhh. But after it sat for awhile, and the flavors melded, it was delicious!

To make the sauce, you combine red currant jelly, cider vinegar, soy sauce, fresh red chiles (my stores do not carry red chiles - I subbed serrano. I could have went to my local Asian grocery, but they sell them in a package of what seems like a hundred of 'em), garlic, and a bit of fresh ground pepper, and optional cilantro (I did not use cilantro [which I love] for I liked the look of the sauce on its own. The picture in the book, you really can only see a bunch of cilantro in sauce). I added some red pepper flakes, for I was disappointed with the heat factor of my serranos.

After simmering the sauce for a short time, remove it from the heat and bring it to room temp and it's ready to go. Easy peasy.

Like I said, the sauce develops a much better flavor after sitting for a time, so make it early on. Hugh says the sauce can be put into a sealed jar and kept refrigerated for up to a week.

In the not so distant future, I will have my own fresh Thai hot peppers!

I was a bit apprehensive making this in my flat-bottomed, carbon-steel wok (which is relatively light), the instructions say to use a heavy-bottomed saucepan (it would be safer). Seeing all that oil (about 24 oz., it only came up about an inch in the wok [which was plenty],  the instructions say to use about two inches of oil) in a not real sturdy pan, was a bit unnerving at first, but worked just fine - not to mention it did wonders for the patina on my wok.

The tempura batter is made up of flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and ice-cold mineral water. This is not prepared until you have your vegetables prepped, and the oil heated and ready to go.

Really any vegetable will work here. Hugh suggests asparagus, zucchini, broccoli/cauliflower florets, bell pepper, eggplant, scallions, red onion, mushrooms, or kale - is there much left?

He does not specify just how much vegetable to use. I went with about a pound of asparagus, and two zucchini and did not have enough batter to finish them all. I had about six slices zucchini and maybe five asparagus spears left. Oh, and I would double the sauce... it's that good.

I cannot remember the reason I did a quick search on tempura before getting started, but I found out that for a successful tempura, the batter needs to be very cold. This must be why the instructions say to mix the batter with an ice cube. I also read that all the ingredients should be cold before mixing. After mixing the ingredients, I kept a large ice-pack under the dish as well.

I used tongs to dip my vegetables in the batter and to transfer them to the hot oil. I would recommend having two sets of tongs (or one tong, and a slotted spoon) - one for dipping in the batter and one for removing the vegetables from the pan, for the batter will get caked on your tongs if you use them for both.

Once cooked, these need to be served immediately. Don't you hate it when a recipe says that - it always makes me nervous - and in the end, usually the food is just fine if not served asap. Here, you'll want to serve them immediately, or very soon, unless you don't mind a less crunchy coating; it becomes soggy after a short time, though still tasty.

These were fun to make, though not sure if I would make them again. It's a lot of oil wasted (I have read in the past that people reuse their oil - not me), and I did not care for the lingering scent of fried oil hours later - like when you come home from a Mexican restaurant, and your hair and clothes are permeated with the smell. Does that happen to you? Or should I be looking for a different eatery? Ha ha ha. 

These came in a close second to being the favorite of the month. :)

No fancy place settings here on Tuesday nights. Totally casual - it's puzzle night. My sis comes over and we eat, drink, puzzle, (or jumble, or scrabble, or watch a movie.. whatever we are in the mood for). This evening, it was relaxing in the backyard with good food (made the tomatoes again, and Laura brought stuffed mushrooms), good drink, and good company.

Well I guess I was a bit over-ambitious. I was only able to complete five of the seven recipes I chose for this month. I'm thinking my limit is around four or five - that's going to make for difficult choosing in the future.

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the LYL post for June 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!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Hoisin Pork with Peppers

WW's  wokking through Stir-frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

Well, wouldn't you know it - a recipe that calls for red bell pepper (those of you that read my posts, know that I always sub out green for red), and my market was out of them! Go figure.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Pork, scallions, hoisin sauce, garlic, rice wine, ginger, soy sauce, salt, pepper, sesame oil
Bowl 2: Bell pepper, carrot
Bowl 3: Salt
Bowl 4: Scallions
Bowl 5: Rice vinegar

The amazing scent of the meat marinating was enticing, to say the least.

This was yet another super easy, super fast recipe. Prep was minimal - just slicing up a carrot, a bell pepper, shredding and mincing some scallions, and slicing up the pork. 

The pork gets mixed with the minced scallions, hoisin sauce, garlic, rice wine, ginger, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and sesame oil. Which reminds me, I need to remember to post a question on the WW Facebook page asking Grace (yes, the stir-fry guru herself answers our many questions) why the oil for the marinade(s) is added after mixing all the other ingredients - why not add it at the same time?

The pork only marinates for a short time; just long enough to finish prepping the rest of the ingredients; of course mine marinated a little longer, I had to gather just the right stuff for the photo shoot and get pics of the mise en place - important things, ya know?

The pork is cooked undisturbed in the wok for about one minute to add a nice sear, then stir-fried to brown the other side. The meat is removed, and the salt and vegetables get a quick toss until softened, the pork is added back along with shredded scallions and vinegar for another couple of minutes. Total cooking time.. maybe four to five minutes.

Like I said, super easy, super fast. You can't even order and pickup take-out that quick; hell, sometimes you get put on hold for longer than that. Besides, making it yourself is so much fresher, healthier, and better tasting.

by purchasing Grace Young's book Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, along with a 14" flat-bottom wok. 
 You'll be happy ecstatic that you did!

Both of these items can be purchased from The Wok Shop* in San Francisco, CA, in person or on-line.

* I have no connection with the Wok Shop, other than being an extremely satisfied customer!  I have purchased a couple of woks from them; one for myself, and others for family.

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 94 of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed. 
Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

TWD: Phylloccine Ice Cream Sandwiches

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Gale Gand

Phylloccine [fee-loh-chee-ne]. No, it's not an actual word - and before I read the recipe, I was pronouncing it with a long I and soft C - sounded to me like some kind of additive or something - doesn't it?

It's actually a combination of the words phyllo and fettuccine. You know, like "Brangelina" for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The phyllo dough is cut into fettuccine size ribbons to be made into "nests".

This recipe was super easy! After the phyllo is formed into the nests, they are sprinkled with butter and sugar. Once the nests are baked, you top them with ice cream, brown sugar whipped cream (which I omitted), a "salad" made up of raspberry purée, mint and whole raspberries (I went with just a purée), and more fresh fruit, and a sprinkle of powdered sugar if you wish. 

I sprinkled the nests with demerara sugar. I think I would have liked regular sugar better.

With strawberries being super sweet and delicious, I had to make my favorite ice cream - Strawberry-Basil Ice Cream, by David Lebovitz. You can not go wrong with his ice cream recipes.

Originally I was going to go with a mixture of berries for this dessert. In the end, I decided on only strawberries and blueberries.

Looking at this photo, fanned strawberries on the plate would have been prettier..

That said, this would make a beautiful dessert for the Fourth of July, don't you think?

If you are thinking it's too much work, really, it's not. The nests can be made a day ahead, as well as the purée, use your favorite store bought ice cream, and you can always put out the components, and let your guests build their own. :)

This is such a versatile dessert - how about coconut ice cream?!! adorned with tropical fruits like mango, kiwi, papaya, and pineapple!

The options are endless, use whatever floats your boat. 

Surprise your family and friends with this elegant and easy dessert. You can find the recipe on page 405 of Baking with Julia, or by clicking here.  

For other inspiring ideas, check out my fellow baker's rendition of this recipe!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

WW: Singapore Noodles

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

This is the second recipe we have made that calls for "barbequed" pork (it is actually cooked in the oven, under the broiler). The pork is so friggin' good. The first time I made it, I cut the recipe in half and was so very sorry. This time around I tripled it - will have it the next evening for dinner, and freeze the rest for later.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes
Bowl 2: Shrimp
Bowl 3: Red bell pepper (recipe calls for green)
Bowl 4: Curry powder
Bowl 5: Chicken broth, soy sauce, dry sherry
Bowl 6: Rice stick noodles
Bowl 7: Salt, sugar, black pepper (recipe calls for white pepper)
Bowl 8: Barbequed pork
Bowl 9: Scallions

Don't let the number of bowls listed above scare you away, really, there is very little prep work. While the pork was broiling, I soaked the noodles (and roasted the asparagus at the same time I broiled the pork), minced the ginger and garlic, sliced the bell pepper and shredded the scallions (with this cool tool), and the rest was spices and condiments - no time at all, really.

Once the pork was done (it too is quick and easy to make - it just needs time to marinate overnight, and maybe twenty minutes under the broiler) it all went rather quickly - as stir-fries do.

This  would have been so much prettier (and even more tasty!) if I had not forgotten to add the shredded scallions! Dang!

Grace recommends using Madras curry powder. The label on my jar just reads "curry". Curry is a mixture of different spices - type and quality vary greatly. I read on one forum, "that there are as many curries as there are cooks." From what I could gather, Madras is on the spicier (heat) side. My jar listed cayenne pepper, so I used it. Between the curry and the red pepper flakes, this dish had the perfect balance of heat.

I really enjoyed this dish, it had good flavor, though I think I would have liked it even more with Chinese wheat noodles, rather than rice noodles - just a personal preference.

If you don't make anything else, at least make the barbequed pork - it is absolutely delicious! As I mentioned in an older post, this would make a great appetizer, sliced up and served with some spicy-hot mustard for dipping into.

I served the Singapore Noodles alongside the roasted asparagus and this tasty Tofanelli Zin. We were wine tasting in Calistoga, CA for our anniversary (28 years!) weekend, and the gentleman serving the wine gave us a (bullshit?) love story about the woman on the motorcycle - I could not find any articles backing up the story; not that this is why we bought the wine, we bought it for the label.. oh, and it tasted good too. :) I'm the same with cookbooks - a sucker for a beautiful cover.

In my search for the none-to-be-found love story, I did come across this interesting article on Tofanelli Vineyard.

Wok on my friends!

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 274 & 285 of  Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed. 

Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like information about joining us, click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to wok along with us!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book 114: The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook | Fresh Spring Rolls with Shrimp

When it's too hot to cook, or even to light up the grill, what does one make for dinner besides salad?

Spring rolls! Similar to a salad, but more fun to eat. :)

I thought these would be the perfect meal to have, with temps hitting the one-hundred degree mark - I so was not going to turn on the oven. I did however have to turn the stove on to boil the water to cook the shrimp and soak the noodles in; but it was on only long enough for the water to come to a boil, and I turned the exhaust fan on to suck up the extra heat, so it wasn't too bad.

A few of the ingredients.

This is a must have tool! Shreds carrots beautifully. You could use a food processor, but for one carrot, it's not worth the clean-up. 

Here is the rice-paper before softening in water - it feels like plastic - actually reminds me of the floor mats that you place under your office desk chair - ha ha ha.

The recipe instructs you to lay down a double thickness of paper towels and lay the softened rice-paper on top and to turn once to blot dry. I chose to just dab the top with an extra towel, this may have been the problem I experienced with the rice-paper tearing and sticking - sticking is an understatement - I was unable to remove it from the paper towel. The rice-paper did not seem to stick to my cutting board as much (which just so happened to be recently oiled and waxed).

You first place the noodles and vegetables, which consist of cabbage, cucumber, carrot, bean sprouts and cilantro, on the bottom half of the rice-paper, then give it a roll half way, then place the basil leaves and shrimp, and finish rolling up. To serve, cut the rolls in half on the diagonal and place decoratively on a plate.

As the photo shows, I did have some issues with the rice-paper tearing.

The dipping sauce.

Dipping the roll into the sauce did not work to well - the filling wanted to fall out - it is much easier to spoon the sauce into the roll itself. 

These were tasty, though I enjoyed the recipe my sister made even more - or maybe it was the sauce I liked better; I did like using carrots and cucumber from the recipe I followed. The one my sister used was from Fine Cooking, and you can never go wrong with a Fine Cooking recipe - my all-time favorite magazine.  

I looked up the FC recipe to compare ingredients, and saw that the recipe was contributed by none other than Nancie McDermott! Not only an author of several Asian style cookbooks, but she is also a member of Wok Wednesdays!, the on-line wokking group that I am in! How cool is that? 

Click here for the recipe!