Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club | September Recipes

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

My September Choices

Pinto Bean Chili
Oven-Roasted Roots Frittata
Runner Beans with Tarragon and Lemon
Fennel and Goat Cheese
Mushroom "Risoniotto"
Fish-Free Salad Niçoise
Two Veggie Sandwiches (Sarnies)
Green (Puy) Lentil Soup with Spinach
Roasted Squash
Cauliflower Pakoras with Tamarind Raita

I pulled a Jora (of Jora Cooks) and made all ten recipe selections this month. I don't know how she does it with everything else she does; you are Superwoman, Jora!

Pinto Bean Chili:

This is the first chili I have made that does not call for chili powder. The recipe uses some of the same spices you find in chili powders - chili powders are like curry powders - the ingredients vary greatly between brands - there is no single recipe.

My favorite chili powder brand is Morton & Bassett; it contains paprika, cumin, cayenne, garlic, parsley, oregano, and black pepper. It's on the spicy side - adds a nice heat to whatever it is you are making.

The spices and herbs in this recipe consist of green chiles (I used a Thai red pepper), garlic, cumin, cayenne (omitted - the Thai pepper is really hot), allspice, parsley, cilantro, oregano, salt and pepper.

In addition to the above, three onions are called for - and we all know how much they vary in size. This sounded to be too much, and I used only two onions (weighing in at one and a quarter pounds before peeling/chopping). The onions are sautéed until they are soft and just starting to turn color. Then the spices are added and cooked for another minute longer.

To the onion mixture, zucchini and red bell pepper are added and stirred to combine - coating the vegetables with the spices. Tomato paste, canned tomatoes, pinto beans, red wine and the herbs are added next, along with some water, salt, and pepper. This is allowed to simmer for about thirty minutes until the vegetables are tender and the juices start to become thick and saucy looking.

We eat our chili plain - but you may want to top your chili with some shredded lettuce, sour cream, grated cheese, or even some lemony guacamole, as Hugh suggests in the book.

This chili was good - but I have two favorite go-to recipes (a vegetable chili and a meat based chili) that I will continue to use, that I like even more.

Oven-Roasted Roots (and some squash) Frittata:

This really is a good recipe to use up those unused portions of vegetables that you may have hanging out in the fridge as suggested in the book. The recipe calls for one and a third pounds of mixed winter vegetables. You can't buy just that amount in assorted vegetables - the squash alone weighed over a pound. And at my store, I could not buy just one or two beets, they are bunched three to four together (which is not a problem in this household, for we  l  o  v  e  beets).

Whatever vegetables you choose, you give them a rough chop, toss them (in the same dish you plan to cook them in - this is a one-dish meal!) with some oil, garlic (I added extra), salt, and pepper. They are roasted until the vegetables become tender and start to caramelize, about forty minutes.

Being I used red beets, I cooked them separately in foil - if you have ever worked with red beets, you know how they can "bleed" into anything they come in contact with.

 Doesn't this look beautiful?!!  I wished it looked this beautiful after baking.

Once the vegetables are roasted, you add the eggs that have been beaten, and mixed with a handful of herbs, salt and pepper; I used parsley, chives, thyme, and rosemary. You want to make sure your egg mixture is at room temperature before adding it to the hot vegetables (I'm assuming to avoid cracking of a glass or ceramic dish).

After pouring the egg mixture onto the vegetables, I added the cooked beets - hoping to minimize the "bleeding" of the beets into the rest of the dish. The vegetable/egg mixture is then topped with some grated Parmesan cheese. This is then baked for about fifteen minutes, just until the eggs are set and the top has some color to it. If your eggs are set, and wish to have more color on top, you can always turn on the broiler unit to help brown it faster. But do keep an eye on it!

 Not the prettiest after baking, but it sure was tasty!

The recipe advises to serve this warm or cold. I did not care for it cold, nor at room temperature. I think it best to be served warm. Warm, it was absolutely delicious!

Runner Beans with Tarragon and Lemon:

I was going to make the recipe Runner Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic, for Andy does not care for tarragon, or even lemon, when added at the end to a savory dish such as this. However, after re-reading the September recipe post on the CCC website, it was not an option for this month.

I opted for Roman beans (sometimes labeled as Romano). These are my favorite type of green bean. 

This is a tasty (if you like tarragon) and easy side-dish to prepare. The ingredients for this recipe are few: the beans, olive oil, shallot (or onion), garlic, lemon, tarragon, and some salt and pepper.

You start by heating some oil in a saucepan and sauté the shallots (or onion) until softened. Add the garlic and beans, cover and cook for about ten minutes. Add some water, about half cup, and cook, uncovered, for about ten minutes more, just until the beans are tender, still with some snap left to them, and a little water left in the pan. 

After removing the pan from the heat source, the lemon and tarragon are added, along with a dash of salt and pepper. Toss and serve!

Andy said these tasted interesting. I took that as - he does not like them. As I was eating the remnants of the beans from the serving dish (I did like them), he was waving his hand across his plate, shaking his head - I'm not into those, he says - the frittata though - I'll eat that for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

If you too are not a fan of tarragon, these beans would be just as tasty omitting it, or substituting it with your favorite herb.

Fennel and Goat Cheese:

How can anyone not like fresh fennel? And a lot of people don't, fresh or otherwise! Me, I love the crisp, refreshing, slight licorice flavor, fresh fennel has.

This was super fast to throw together. I had this made (includes a thirty minute rest), photographed, and eaten, all within an hour. 

It may not look like much, and really, there isn't much to it.

This recipe is comprised of thinly sliced fennel, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and goat cheese. After slicing the fennel, a mandoline works great for this if you have one, otherwise, slice it as thin as you can with a knife. Toss with the rest of the ingredients (except the cheese), and let rest for thirty minutes. I let mine rest in the refrigerator, so it would be nice and cold. Then serve topped with some goat cheese. 

This was so refreshing after a long (68.5 miles), hot, bike ride. It hit the spot. I wish I had more fennel, I would have made a second batch.

Mushroom "Risoniotto":

This is a faux risotto, if you will. It is made with the tiny rice shaped pasta called risoni (orzo). It's a lot quicker to make than risotto, that uses rice. This dish doesn't have the creamy consistency that true risottos have, but the orzo has a soft silky texture in itself, and made for a fine substitute. 

I used a mixture of cremini, button, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms. These are sautéed in oil and butter; after they have cooked down and caramelized, garlic is added along with some thyme, balsamic vinegar, white wine, heavy cream, salt and pepper. I think some sautéed onions would be nice as well, for an added depth of flavor.

The mushroom mixture is then combined with cooked orzo, and then topped with some minced parsley before serving.

There was a time, I would not have even looked at a recipe that called for mushrooms. I'm not sure what, or even when that changed for me; I'm just glad it did.

We had this as our main meal, served along with some steamed broccoli. There was a small amount left over, and was just as delicious the next day. This would also make for a nice side-dish to a tasty steak, or even grilled or baked chicken. 

Fish-Free Salad Niçoise:

A true nićoise salad contains tuna and anchovies, along with hard-boiled eggs, hericots verts, potatoes, niçoise olives, and tomatoes. Here we made a fish-free version.

I was excited for this salad as I was prepping it. I love all the ingredients that go into this dish. Hard-boiled eggs, green beans, new potatoes, basil and olives, set atop a bed of greens.

The recipe calls for small black olives, I assume would be niçoise olives. However, I used Kalamata, for niçoise olives are all pit, with very little flesh.

The salad is dressed with a vinaigrette made up of garlic (I have found Hugh to be quite shy on the use of garlic), olive oil, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and a bit of sugar, salt and pepper. I think the dressing would benefit with the addition of some fresh herbs and more garlic.

I have never had a niçoise salad, so I can't tell you how this compares to the classic version. I can tell you, that this version does not have much going for it.

From the looks of the empty plate, you would think it was a hit. Unfortunately it had very little flavor (except the occasional bite of fresh basil). This is probably why the classic version includes tuna and anchovies. This definitely has potential - just needs a bit more herbs and spices thrown in.

Two Veggie Sandwiches (Sarnies):

These sandwiches, or sarnies as the Brits say, surpassed my expectations. I had my doubts that I would enjoy the mushroom sandwich as much as I did, being I have a favorite portobello "burger" that I make quite often, that is the bomb in our house.

The Mushroom, Watercress, and Blue Cheese sandwich was the favorite of the two. This delicious sandwich is made with portobello mushrooms that have been sautéed with butter, oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, until nicely browned (slightly charred is even better).

On whole-grain bread (my favorite is Oroweat's - Master's Best Winter Wheat) that has been buttered, the mushrooms are placed on one slice and topped with some watercress, I used spinach for I had a bunch in the fridge. The second slice of buttered bread is spread with a mixture of yogurt and blue cheese. Personally, I would omit the butter; and spread both slices of bread with just the cheese mixture.

The Curried Egg, Lentils, and Flat Leaf Parsley sandwich was surprisingly tasty as well. I only wished I had fresh white bread, Wonderbread preferably, on hand. We don't eat white sandwich bread much anymore, if it all - and I did not want to go out and buy a loaf for half a sandwich. I did have some hamburger buns in the freezer (not sure just how long they have been in there..) and used that. 


This was a tasty spin on your typical egg salad sandwich. The hard-boiled egg is mixed with mayonnaise and curry powder (love curry!), then some cooked lentils (I used French-style green lentils) are stirred in along with some raisins, which were optional, and I was going to use, but forgot - next time. 

Again, the bread is buttered, but I'm sure mayo would be fine to use as well, if you prefer. The sandwich is topped with flat-leaf parsley - once again, I used spinach which I had on hand - and would not have used the parsley anyway, for I am not a fan of parsley.

Tasty concoctions these were - I'll definitely be making them again. 

Green (Puy) Lentil and Spinach Soup:

This is an uncomplicated and delicious soup to throw together. I was surprised that I would like it as much as my old favorite standby, which takes a bit more effort to make.

I have always used standard brown lentils in my recipes; here I used French-style green lentils, and I must say I like them better. In addition to the lentils, there is shallots, carrots, thyme, garlic, tomatoes, vegetable stock, parsley, and spinach in this soup.

I halved the recipe, and pretty much just eye-balled the amount of vegetables; but I did use the full amount of garlic (3 cloves) that was called for - as I said previously, Hugh is shy on his use of this wonderful... what is garlic exactly? It's not an herb, nor is it considered a spice. Hmm - something to ponder.

I did end up having to add more broth (one and a quarter cups); by the time the lentils were tender, the liquid had cooked down quite bit.

This is what you think of when you want something comforting on a cold winter day. It truly was a good-tasting, satisfying soup.

Roasted Squash: 

This recipe had me at "roasted". I love all things roasted - squashes, root vegetables, asparagus, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, tomatoes, chicken, just about anything you can think of.

The recipe calls for crown prince squash - one I have never seen, nor heard of. Substitutions in the book were for acorn, butternut, or any other winter squash or pumpkin.

I was going to use butternut when I came across this beauty, an Asian squash called a kabocha. Interesting enough, most of the crops grown in California, Colorado, Tonga, and New Zealand, are exported to Japan - an Asian squash - go figure. 

When I cut into this squash, it had the faint scent of cucumber and pumpkin. When baked, it tastes similar to a butternut, not as sweet though, and with a lighter texture - not quite as dense as the butternut.

The squash is sliced into wedges, with the skin left on. I think this makes for a pretty presentation if serving it on its own. If you will be using it in a soup or salad as I did, I would peel the squash before cooking.

The squash wedges are tossed (I drizzled) with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and sage. Whole, unpeeled, slightly crushed garlic cloves are strewn atop, and baked until the squash is tender and slightly caramelized on the edges.

You can serve the squash as is, use it to make a heavenly soup, or use in a tasty salad as I did.

It was an after-thought to include a picture of the salad - otherwise I would have chosen a less busy looking bowl.

This was a delicious Israeli couscous and [butternut] squash salad that I found on The Café Sucré Farine website. Chris and her husband Scott, have a beautiful blog with the most delectable recipes and photos. It certainly is worth a visit.

Cauliflower Pakoras with Tamarind Raita:

This recipe is similar to tempura, but is made with chickpea flour, which makes for a heavier coating, and is cooked in only a half-inch of oil - whereas the vegetable tempura some of us made back in June, had a depth of two inches of oil, and the vegetables had room to float and were able to be submerged if necessary.

The cauliflower is cut into small pieces, and then covered in a batter that is made from chickpea flour, baking powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and salt. The battered cauliflower is added to a saucepan (I used a wok) of hot oil and cooked until crisp and golden on one side and turned over and cooked for another minute or so. The pakoras are then drained on paper towels before serving.

The pakoras are served with a tamarind raita sauce. I did not find (did not look very diligently either) the tamarind paste the recipe called for, so I substituted mango chutney as suggested in the book - this I had on hand; also included in the sauce is yogurt, cilantro (optional) - (which I swear I had in the bin - but alas was not there when I went to reach for it) salt and pepper.

I had made only half a recipe, just so I could make them earlier in the day before the loss of light, and intended on making another batch to accompany our dinner that same evening. As I was writing up this post when my husband came home from work, he asked if I was making these. I had said I already did, and had planned on having them with our dinner tonight, however, in my words.. they were a dud.

I did not care for these at all. The sauce was good, but the pakoras were.. not so exciting. In my book, definitely not worth the fat and calories. Suffice to say, the second batch wasn't made. Now, the vegetable tempura we made back in June, was delish - I'll stick to that recipe. 

All in all I enjoyed this month's recipes. I'm happy to have tried each of them, though I know it made for a very long post. I can't wait to see what Andrea has chosen for us for October. 

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the September LYL post 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! (Some of the recipes from the book are posted on-line on Hugh's website [and others], just do a Google search.)


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Nyonya-Style Singapore Noodles

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

What is Nyonya-Style you ask?

It is a highly seasoned cuisine that was created by the Chinese that immigrated to Malaysia and Singapore in the nineteenth century.

"Nyonya, a term that refers to the female descendants of Chinese settlers who married local Malay women", Grace writes in her book.

In my words: Delish!!

Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Oil
Bowl 2: Eggs
Bowl 3: Oil
Bowl 4: Scallions, shallots, garlic
Bowl 5: Chicken broth, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, ketchup, curry powder, chili garlic sauce, sugar
Bowl 6: Rice stick noodles
Bowl 7: Baked tofu (Recipe calls for fried tofu.)
Bowl 8: Scallions, bean sprouts, bay shrimp (not pictured - oops.)
Bowl 9: Cilantro

This stir-fry is a little more involved than a lot of the recipes in the book. You start by soaking your noodles in hot water until the are soft and pliable, and then drained and shaken to remove as much water as possible.

While the noodles are soaking, you make an egg "pancake" by swirling in beaten eggs and tilting the wok to make the pancake as thin as possible. Mine cooked up really fast, and was unable to get it as thin as it should have been. The pancake is transferred to a cutting board to cool, and sliced in thin strips to be used as garnish before serving.

Now we are ready to stir-fry, which goes quickly from here. The aromatics (bowl 4) are stir-fried first, then the broth mixture (the highly seasoned part) is added along with the prepared noodles and stir-fried over medium heat (most stir-frying is done over high heat) for a short time. Next the tofu is added and stir-fried until all the liquid has been absorbed. The shrimp, sprouts, and the rest of the scallions are added, and stir-fried till heated through. This is served with the pancake pieces and cilantro sprinkled on top.

This stir-fry is full of flavor, and wonderfully delicious - not one to be missed.

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 278 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, September 3, 2014

Wok Wednesdays | Chinese Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken

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


 As the saying goes, less is more. Should have forwent the rice balls on the plate..

Mise in place.

Bowl 1: Chicken, cornstarch, salt, pepper, oil
Bowl 2: Lemongrass, garlic, Thai red pepper (recipe calls for jalapeño)
Bowl 3: Onion
Bowl 4: Chicken broth, fish sauce
Bowl 5: Brown sugar

Lemongrass. I have used it a couple of times - the light lemony flavor adds that perfect touch of citrus flavor, without the overpowering, sometimes bitter taste that you can get when you use lemon zest. It is becoming more widely available - found in most supermarkets today - albeit, tucked away in an obscure corner...

Grace mentions in the book, "Not to be alarmed if the chicken seems to be "dry" after marinating." 

The "marinade" consists of only cornstarch, salt, pepper, and a small amount (1 tsp.) of oil. In past recipes, there has also been some liquid of sort, such as soy sauce and rice wine. It's amazing how moist the chicken is without the extra moisture that the soy sauce and rice wine would lend.

Well, over on the Wok Wednesdays Facebook page, everyone has given this recipe high marks.

This recipe was not a complete success for me. I somehow must have used too much fish sauce - for that was pretty much the dominate flavor. I could taste in the background, a slight hint of the lemongrass, and the sweetness from the sugar, but mostly - fish sauce.

Even cleaning up after dinner, I could smell the scent of the fish sauce. Just was not a good thing for me.

Which brings up a question. Fish sauce, as you may know, has a very unpleasant odor, but once cooked, lends the most delicious flavor to foods normally. How do you know when your fish sauce has gone bad?

Putting away my bottle, I noticed it did have an expiration date of February... I wasn't too concerned after consulting a favorite site of mine, Still Tasty dot com. I did throw the rest out however, and will purchase a new bottle when a future recipe calls for it.

 Cucumber flower garnish found on Pinterest.

I have to thank Karen, of Karen's Kitchen Stories for the heads up that this stir-fry could use a splash of color. I was looking for a simple radish garnish, for I have a few radishes in the fridge that need to be used up, when I came across the pretty cucumber flower - not as intricate as the one I found on Pinterest - but a lot of fun to make just the same. 

Thanks Karen!!

We are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 143 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!