Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club | August Recipes

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

My selections for August:

Caramelized Carrots with Gremolata
Asian-Inspired Coleslaw
  Chard and New Potato Curry
Tahini-Dressed Zucchini and Green Bean Salad

Click here for the complete list of August's recipe options.

Caramelized Carrots with Gremolata:

Carrots prepared this way is such a nice change from the old standard steamed carrots I have made in the past, and so easy (and pretty!) too.

The carrots are roasted in butter, oil, salt and pepper, in a foil covered roasting dish for about half an hour; then the foil is removed and the carrots are allowed to cook until they are brown and caramelized, about twenty minutes more; as you can see, my carrots never really caramelized, and I did not allow them to cook longer for fear of them turning to mush - I like my vegetables with some bite. 

Once the carrots are removed from the oven, they are sprinkled with gremolata - which is made up of minced garlic (I used about one and a half times the amount that was called for), parsley and lemon zest.

How easy is that?!!!

The carrots were deliciously sweet, with a little tangy zip from the gremolata.

Oh, and the scent while the carrots were baking away, was heavenly. You may want to give these a try yourself.


Whenever eggplant was the topic of conversation, I've always said I'm not a fan of eggplant. I guess I just never had it prepared in a way that it tastes delicious, as it does in this recipe, along with one other recipe I have made. I won't be saying I'm not a fan anymore! I've been converted.

Caponata is a Sicilian dish, a sweet and sour eggplant stew. Ingredients differ depending on the region.

This recipe consists of eggplant, onion, celery, garlic, tomatoes, vinegar, brown sugar, golden raisins (I used regular-everyday raisins), capers, olives, and parsley - along with some salt and pepper, olive oil, and even some dark chocolate - which was an optional ingredient, one of which I opted for. 

Wow! Was this ever delicious!! This coming from someone who never cared for eggplant before. Unfortunately, my husband did not care for this one; but that was OK, that meant more for me to devour. 

The day I made this I served it as an appetizer along with sliced sourdough bread. The following day (the caponata tasted even better), I had it on toasted sourdough - toasted is the way to go; and yet, two days later, I topped the remaining of this deliciousness with a poached egg - oh yeah - that was tasty.

Even if you are not a fan of eggplant, as I was once, make it sans the eggplant -  as I was tasting it along the way before the addition of the eggplant, I was thinking this would make a great sauce for pasta. 

This was the favorite of the month - hands down.

Asian-Inspired Coleslaw:


I've been cooking Asian (Chinese) cuisine for a couple of years now, and loving it. It's amazing how much better it is than take-out or dining out, so I was anxious to give this recipe a try.

This is a super quick and easy recipe. Made even quicker if you have the handy shredding tool (called a kinpira peeler) shown above, this shreds carrots in no time; and makes for quicker and easier clean up than a mandoline or food processor.

Typical coleslaw (that I grew up with) is usually made up of shredded cabbage and carrots that have been tossed with a mayo or buttermilk dressing.

Here, we have in addition to the carrot and cabbage, some sliced scallions; and the dressing is made up of rice vinegar, sesame oil, olive oil, soy sauce, honey, ginger and garlic, giving it that Asian flair. 

After tossing the vegetables together, the dressing is added and left to sit for about twenty minutes to let the vegetables soften slightly. The coleslaw is then served, topped with a sprinkling of lime juice and cilantro.

If you want to make this ahead of time, you may prep everything in advance, and store the vegetables and dressing separately in the refrigerator. Just remember to toss it together ten to twenty minutes before serving, to give it ample time to soften the vegetables a bit.

I served this alongside Spicy Dry-Fried Beef, which is all I could think about. I have little recollection of how this salad tasted. I was going to make it again, since I had some leftover cabbage, however, I did not get around to it before this post was due. I'm sure it was a lovely dish - I certainly don't remember not liking it.

Chard and New Potato Curry:

I love curry dishes - so I was excited to give this recipe a try.

Curries can be either "wet" or "dry" depending on the amount of liquid used and whether the liquid is allowed to evaporate or not.

I'm guessing Hugh's may have leaned toward the dry side, for the recipe called to cover the vegetables with water (about one and two-thirds cup). I halved the recipe, and had to use three cups of water to cover the vegetables - I'm sure the pan size had a bit to do with it.

This was not the time to forget to make rice! I also had no bread to soak up all this sauce... bummer.

This curry dish is composed of Swiss chard, onion, garlic, green chile (I used a red chile from my little herb garden), ginger, new potatoes, plain yogurt, tomato paste, cilantro, nuts ( a choice of almonds, cashews or pistachios, toasted and chopped, which I forgot to add..) and a homemade curry mixture made of garam masala, mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric and cardamom pods.

I found the potatoes to have not much flavor, despite being fried in the pan along with the spices. There was no salt added other than "a pinch" added to the garlic, chile, and ginger to make a "paste." I am a firm believer in seasoning a dish along the way - not just at the beginning or end. I think if some additional salt was added to the cooking liquid, the potatoes would have absorbed this, and would have made them more flavorful. Aside from the potatoes tasting bland, this curry had decent flavor.

Hugh mentions you can make this ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze it, omitting the yogurt and adding it in at the last minute after re-heating. 

I had leftovers the following day; the flavor improved, but the vibrancy of the meal diminished. I also had no issues with the yogurt already being incorporated. 

This also can be made with spinach or kale - omitting the kale stems all together and using medium or large potatoes in place of the new potatoes.

Tahini-Dressed Zucchini and Green Bean Salad:

Just a few of the ingredients for this lovely salad.

First look at the picture in the book, I knew this was going to be tasty.

When I went to purchase the ingredients for this recipe, I had my doubts to finding the slender and flavorful green beans known as hericot verts, and conceded that I would be using your standard, larger green beans.

My heart sunk as I walked the produce aisle, seeing only, literally, a handful of green beans left - not looking very appetizing at all. My spirits were raised as I glanced a bit further down, to see packaged baby blue lake beans! More than I need of course, but I was ecstatic just the same.
I eagerly gathered the few remaining items I needed to purchase- zucchini, lemon, and salad greens.

In addition to the above mentioned ingredients, the recipe also calls for a fresh red chile (which I have growing in a pot on the back deck), and optional oven-dried tomatoes. I so wanted to make the oven-dried tomatoes, I'm sure they would have been divine in this salad, however, I did not have the five hours required to make them, so I used sliced fresh tomatoes, some of the last few from our plant.

The zucchini is pan-fried in a little oil until tender and browned, then tossed with a little salt and pepper, lemon juice and the finely chopped chile. After blanching the green beans, they are tossed with the zucchini as well.

The lovely dressing for this salad is made from garlic, tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon zest and juice, fresh squeezed orange juice, honey, salt and pepper, and olive oil.  

Beside the picture in the book, I chose this recipe to use some of the tahini I have had in my refrigerator for some time - apparently longer than I realized. I ended up not wanting to use it. Doing a quick internet search to see if I could quickly make up a small batch, I found that you can freeze tahini! Something I will do in the future for sure.

I ended up not making my own tahini (though simple as it may be), but substituting sunbutter (ground sunflower seeds) instead. I figured it would be close enough - it is more milder in taste than peanut butter, so I figured it should work - and it did.

Hugh assembles this salad by placing the greens on a shallow platter, and topping them with the zucchini/green bean mixture, and the tomatoes, then drizzling the dressing generously over the "whole lot".  Me, I prefer my salad greens to be tossed first with some of the dressing, then topped with the goods, and trickled with a little more dressing.

We have a tie for the favorite of the month! This salad was fabulous!

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the LYL post for August 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, August 20, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Spicy Dry-Fried Beef

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

This week's recipe is a little more time consuming in prep and cook time, than past recipes. This dish took a whole ten minutes to cook! Whereas the others take maybe half that time. Yet, you still won't get take-out that quick, or have it taste as fabulous as this stir-fry tasted.

Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Carrot, celery, dried red pepper
Bowl 2: Flank steak
Bowl 3: Soy Sauce
Bowl 4: Ginger, garlic
Bowl 5: Sesame oil
Bowl 6: Scallions
Bowl 7: Salt, pepper

To prep the meat for this recipe, you cut the flank steak in two-inch-wide strips along the grain. Then cut across the grain into quarter-inch-thick slices. Stack the slices, and give them one more cut.

Normally when we stir-fry beef dishes, the meat is mixed with some soy sauce and rice wine, and a few other ingredients - a marinade of sorts. Here we are using a technique called dry-frying; where the meat is cooked in a small amount of oil, but does not use any other liquids, such as stock or sauce, and is cooked for a longer period of time, which intensifies the flavor.

The carrots lent a sweetness to the slightly salty beef, and the chili peppers gave off the perfect amount of heat (you wouldn't think that three small red chili peppers tossed in whole, aside from a small snip at one end, would emit as much heat as they did); the flavor was incredible. 

This was one wokalicious stir-fry! 

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 70 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!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TWD: Baking Powder Biscuits

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham

Marion Cunningham - need I say more? I have her book, The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, from over thirty years ago - it was my first cookbook. The recipes are basic, no-frills, flawless, easy peasy, always turn out, kinda recipes. 

So, how can one one mess up such an easy recipe? Well, let me tell you:

1. Subbing butter for shortening - and we all know that shortening makes for flakier biscuits.
2. Subbing half & half for milk (either that, or non-fat milk)  - not detrimental, I'm sure.
3. Using expired baking powder - detrimental, if you want a little height to your biscuits.

I cut the recipe in half, and using a three-inch biscuit cutter, I came out with four biscuits, plenty for the two of us.

My biscuits were not as flaky as I had expected, and only rose to about an inch in height. They tasted OK. They are biscuits after all - not a whole lot going for them, other than what you top them with - gravy, jam, butter, honey - whatever floats your boat.

If I were to make these again, one, I would brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter, and give them a sprinkle of salt, before baking.

The biscuit with a bit of butter and honey. It was tasty this way.

The recipe can be found on page 211 - 212 of Baking with Julia, or by clicking here. Do visit my fellow baker's sites to see how they fared with this recipe.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Watermelon Rind and Tomatoes

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

Using watermelon rind may have come about from the Chinese being frugal, leaving nothing to waste; much like the Italians, using up stale bread, by creating the bread and tomato salad, Panzanella.

You may recall, that our last recipe was Stir-Fried Fuzzy Melon with Ginger Pork. It is said that you can substitute the fuzzy melon (which is not an actual melon, but part of the gourd family) with watermelon rind.

Grace and Matt, our fearless leaders of Wok Wednesdays, decided we should make that recipe once again using the watermelon rind, to see how it compares in taste and texture to the fuzzy melon version.

When I decided to make this, I really did not feel like making a trip to the grocery store for the pork that is called for in the recipe. So I decided to opt for the rind and tomato version that was mentioned in Grace's story in the book.

Mise en place.

1. Watermelon rind

2. Tomatoes

Grace says it is best to use seeded watermelons, as opposed to seedless for they have a thicker rind.

I had already purchased the watermelon (seedless) in the event I could not find fuzzy melon, before reading which type is best for this stir-fry. The rind of my melon was just over a quarter-inch thick, a little thicker in some areas - the seeded melons should have around a half-inch thick rind.

To prepare the rind, you need to remove the tough outer green skin, and cut away the red flesh - you just want to use the white portion of the melon - a little colored flesh is OK - you don't need to go crazy getting it all off, and it's actually very pretty when there is a little bit left on. 

As you may already know, watermelon is 92% water (source). As is mentioned in the book, I sprinkled the rind with salt, and let this sit for about thirty minutes to remove any excess water.

The rind, when eaten raw, was surprisingly similar to the fuzzy melon in texture. I can not really give a fair assessment in taste to the comparison to the fuzzy melon when cooked, for my watermelon was about two weeks old, and I did not make the same recipe as before. The rind (raw), had a barely discernible taste of cucumber (which the fuzzy melon tastes like to me) - I really had to taste and think about it for a minute, I'm sure it was because my melon was not fresh.

I know my fellow wokkers will have great success with substituting the rind for fuzzy melon in the original recipe. It's nice to know that when fuzzy melon is unavailable, there is a comparable alternative that mimics the original ingredient.

To see what this week's recipe is supposed to look like, click here.

I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of this stir-fry. I was not expecting a whole lot of flavor from just the rind, tomatoes, and a sprinkling of sugar. Apparently I am getting enough patina on my wok, that it is giving my foods that wok-hei* (pronounced wok-hay) flavor.

We eat a fair amount of watermelon in our household, so I'm sure I'll be stir-frying up another batch of this prepared the same way, or revisit the fuzzy melon recipe, or even try one of the recipes I came across on the website; there are recipes for pickles, slaw, and chutney, that call for the rind of the watermelon. Who knew?

*Grace describes wok-hei as "the taste or breath of the wok".

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 230 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!