Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Cottage Cooking Club | January Recipes

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

My recipe selections for January:

 Kale and Mushroom Lasagna
 Spelt Salad with Squash and Fennel
Cauliflower with Toasted Seeds
 Curried Bubble and Squeak
 Pasta with Greens, Garlic, and Chile
 Artichoke and White Bean Dip
 Roasted Potatoes and Eggplants

To see the complete list of recipes offered for January, click here.

Kale and Mushroom Lasagna

We enjoyed this lasagna, aside from the few mishaps I encountered while prepping this recipe.

Mishap number one. Don't you hate it when this happens? I promptly texted my husband to pick up another onion on his way home from work. I would just continue on with the recipe. Not so. The onion was for the béchamel sauce, the first component to be made, and I wanted the sauce to have time to infuse the flavors of the onion, bay leaf and celery - so... I waited.

OK. Back in business. Béchamel sauce infusing, mushrooms sautéing, kale blanching. Not shown, is the noodles soaking.

This recipe calls for fresh noodles, which I love; if you have never tried fresh noodles, your missing out, they are melt-in-your-mouth soft and tender, however I did not have time to make my own, so I soaked dry noodles in hot water while I prepped the rest of the recipe.

Mishap number two. "Stir about half of the béchamel sauce into the kale; put to one side. Spread half the remaining béchamel sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 11-inch ovenproof dish." I read it as, spread the remaining sauce over the bottom of the dish - which to me, sounded like a lot. Hello! Red flag!!

This meant there was no sauce to top the final layer of the lasagna noodles, which would not have been a problem if I had fully cooked the noodles; without the sauce on top, there was no extra moisture to bring the noodles to an al a dente texture.

Mishap number three. Miscounted the noodles. One short. OK, not a big deal..

The lasagna noodles on top were a bit tough, but this dish had wonderful flavor - and how could it not? Béchamel sauce, sautéed mushrooms, kale. Yum!

I would make this one again, only with fresh homemade noodles, or at least fully cooked noodles, and of course, with the appropriate division of the sauce.

Note: As is the norm with me and the recipes in this book, I upped the amounts of the seasonings; four cloves of garlic, as opposed to two, and two teaspoons of chopped thyme, in place of a few sprigs of thyme.

[Farro] Salad with Squash and Fennel

Wholesome goodness. That was my thought of this salad, while chowing down. It was the perfect ending to a tiring day.

The recipe consists of spelt (which I could not find when I looked for it for a previous recipe, so I once again used farro* that I had left over from that same recipe), butternut squash, fennel, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice, Parmesan, and parsley.

The squash, fennel, garlic, and walnuts are roasted first, then tossed with the cooked spelt/farro, lemon juice, Parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper, and garnished with fennel fronds.

This salad can be served warm (which I preferred) or cold.

*Farro is not wheat, but a plant and grain all its own. A grain of farro looks and tastes somewhat like a lighter brown rice. It has a complex, nutty taste with undertones of oats and barley. But lacking the heaviness of many whole-wheat grains, farro tastes more elegant than earnest. - (source)

Cauliflower with Toasted Seeds 

Whether you artfully arrange the cauliflower..

..or toss it all together, it looks beautiful, and surprisingly has a lot of flavor thanks to the toasted seeds. 

I had it in mind that I would be cooking the cauliflower, not sure why. Andrea, our fearless leader of the CCC, lists the recipes along with what chapter they are from; this one being from "Raw Assemblies", so I was pleasantly surprised when I cracked open the book to find that no cooking was involved, other than a quick toasting of the seeds.

The recipe consists of thinly sliced cauliflower, generous amount of toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds, parsley (which I forgot, and did not miss it - I made this again, and intentionally omitted it) and a sprinkling of sumac, salt, and pepper. The cauliflower is dressed with a vinaigrette made from canola oil (I used olive oil), lemon, and sumac.  

The sliced cauliflower is tossed with the vinaigrette and toasted seeds, and sprinkled with some salt and pepper. After plating, it is topped with a squeeze of lemon, and a pinch more of sumac. 

I wasn't expecting to like this as much as we did. This will be making a few repeat appearances here for sure.

Curried Bubble and Squeak

Bubble and squeak? It is a traditional English dish made up of leftovers - generally made from potatoes and Brussels sprouts, though any vegetable can be used, and is mixed together and formed in a large, thick, pancake shape, and fried until crisp. Here, Hugh has changed it up slightly, he uses potatoes and cabbage, and tosses it all-together and sautés it - he calls it "a rough-and-tumble approach" on the traditional pancake style.

Cooked potatoes and cabbage are mixed with onion, garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper, and sautéed till everything is heated through.

We really enjoyed this one; and I can see how this would be great topped with a poached egg as Hugh suggests, and I was going to do just that for breakfast the next morning with the leftovers - only there weren't any.

You'll want to file this one under comfort foods. So easy and delicious.

Pasta with Greens, Garlic, and Chile

Apparently I cooked my greens longer than Hugh did. The picture in the book - the greens look so fresh and alive; no matter, this pasta dish has wonderful flavor.

This has to be the most beautiful Swiss chard I have ever purchased at the store. The stalks were bright white and blemish free, the leaves such a lively, deep, dark green; I almost felt they were too pretty to eat.

The chard is roughly torn (I roughly chopped) and placed in the pot with the pasta in the last few minutes of cooking. The drained pasta and chard are mixed with sautéed onion, garlic, and fresh red chile, then topped with lots of grated Parmesan cheese.

This was pretty darn good. My husband even commented, "this can't be good for us it's so good; it tastes like it is made with a ton of butter." - which of course, it's not.

Artichoke and White Bean Dip

I chose to leave the dip on the chunkier side.

This dip consists of sautéed onion, artichoke hearts, garlic, fresh oregano, and cannellini beans. After everything is combined and heated through, it is transferred to a food processor, and some lemon juice, dried chile flakes, and yogurt are added and whirled until you have a course purée. Salt and pepper, and some reserved oil from the artichoke hearts (if needed to thin) are added and mixed until it achieves a texture to your liking. I finished by hand, to keep a rougher texture. 

Serve this dip topped with toasted walnuts and a drizzle of the reserved olive oil, alongside some warm flat bread, or as I did, with sliced baguette that has been trickled with some olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, and broiled until golden. Hugh also mentions this is good served on a bed of crisp lettuce leaves.  

At first, I thought this to be not so great. It did grow on me, bite after bite, and good thing; it ended up being my dinner for the evening.

Roasted Potatoes and Eggplants

When it comes to roasted vegetables, what is there not to like?

Hugh has an interesting way of doing things. This is the second recipe where he has you heat up the oil in a non-stick roasting pan (in the oven), then toss the vegetables in the hot oil before roasting. I don't see why you could not toss the vegetables in (cold) oil first, then roast.

The only non-stick roasting pan I have is the one I use for my TG turkey. I felt it was too large, and with the high sides, the potatoes may not have browned fully, so I used a half-sheet pan - the one I always use when I roast vegetables.

Cubed potatoes and eggplant are tossed with salt and pepper, I also added some hot pimentón (Spanish paprika), then tossed in hot oil and roasted for about half an hour, at which time sliced garlic is added and roasted for another fifteen minutes or so, just until the vegetables are browned all over.

After the vegetables are removed from the oven, they are drizzled with lemon juice, and then finishing touches of your choice are sprinkled on top. Hugh gives suggestions of lemon zest, hot smoked paprika, or chopped herbs. I sprinkled mine with parsley and chives.

This was another favorable dish. 

The following recipe was one of my choices from last month that was not included in my December  post:

Roasted Baby Beets with Walnuts and Yogurt Dressing

Beets. We love beets in this household.

First the beets are roasted with some thyme, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, until the beets are tender, about one hour, depending on the size of the beets.

After roasting, the beets are peeled, quartered, and tossed with some lemon juice, olive oil, and a sprinkling of pepper, and set aside to cool while the dressing is made.

The dressing consists of yogurt, sour cream, garlic, salt and pepper. The beets are tossed ever-so lightly with the dressing (to obtain a marbled look), along with some chives and toasted walnuts. The dressed beets are plated with some watercress and additional chives and walnuts.

I did not care for this recipe. I felt the dressing was too heavy for the beets to shine through. I prefer a light vinaigrette when I serve beets as a salad.

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the the CCC website and look for the January LYL post - you will be taken there directly 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, January 28, 2015

TWD | Baking Chez Moi | Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking Chez Moi
by Dorie Greenspan

Sorry to say, I am short on time - so this is going to be quick, as were the photos, taken just before I left for work, hence the poor lighting.

This loaf cake has a similar texture to pound cake, but not as heavy. It is made with the typical ingredients of flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, eggs, butter (which as been boiled until it turns a rich caramel color), vanilla (four teaspoons! if not using a vanilla bean), heavy cream, and optional rum.

Unfortunately, the brown butter and vanilla flavor was lost by the over-powering taste of the rum - partially my fault, for I'm sure I added too much rum - measuring over the bowl, the first tablespoon overflowed.

The cake had a somewhat dense, spongy texture, with a sweet crispy crust (my favorite part). Dorie mentions that this is lovely toasted as well, should it last long enough to go stale.  Should I get the time, I would like to make this again, minus the rum altogether, for I think the vanilla and brown butter would lend a delightful flavor to this loaf cake.

Head over to the Tuesdays with Dorie website and look for the LYL link for this cake to see how the other bakers fared with this recipe.

It is the rule of TWD not to share the recipe on our blogs. You will find the recipe on page 6 of Baking Chez Moi; it is however, available on Google books.

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Bok Choy with Pancetta

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

Wow. How does one rave about another fabulous stir-fry from this awesome book, without sounding like a broken record? It's impossible, I tell ya.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Pancetta
Bowl 2: Garlic, ginger
Bowl 3: Bok choy
Bowl 4: Salt, sugar
Bowl 5: Chicken broth, dry sherry, soy sauce, cornstarch

Such an easy, and delicious side dish! 

The pancetta is first browned in the wok, then the aromatics are added and cooked until fragrant. The bok choy is added to the wok along with the salt and sugar, and stir-fried for a short time, then the broth mixture is swirled in and the wok is covered, and allowed to cook for about a minute, stirred, cooked for another minute, and, bam! done. 

To quote Ina Garten, how easy is that?!

And to think I almost passed on making this. I have not been a huge fan of bok choy. I like the flavor, I just find it awkward to eat; usually the stalks are left whole, sometimes, even the head is just halved. However, cut up in chunks as it is here, it is so much more pleasant to eat.

The preparation of the bok choy itself is not what changed my mind. It was the comment on the WW's Facebook page. Karen, of Karen's Kitchen Stories (if you have not visited her site, you are missing out) commented that this dish was "so good", and Grace mentioned she could not wait to read her post; Karen replied, "It's definitely a love letter for the dish!" How could one resist making it, after a comment like that?! Thank you, Karen!! So glad I did not miss out on this one.

Grace, your recipes continue to amaze me. So few ingredients, yet intense on flavor; if only all recipes could be so easy and have such an incredible outcome. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Come on. Go get the book already. You know you want it.

We have been asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 226, 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, January 20, 2015

Book Fifty-One: Baking with Julia

by Dorie Greenspan
Recipe contributed by Lauren Groveman
(Edited January 2015)

Note to TWD: This post published in 2011 before BWJ. This is not only the first recipe I made from the book, but my first try at bread making, aside from quick breads and rolls.

                                                                           Eastern European Rye

Ahhhh... Julia Child. Many cooks have been inspired by her. I do recall catching her a few times on PBS and she was always a kick to watch - and I have to admit I loved the movie Julie & Julia with Meryl Streep; I even have the DVD.

I have had a longing to make fresh homemade bread but have always shied away due to my fear of yeast which I am slowly overcoming. I have had recent success with Parker House rolls and knotted dinner rolls which have given me the confidence to give this a try.  I think it would be wonderful to have fresh bread to make sandwiches from. Andy always orders his sandwiches on rye so I chose the Eastern European Rye loaf.

Reading through the ingredient list I see that the recipe calls for solid vegetable shortening; something I usually steer away from or substitute butter for. Being that I am not an accomplished bread maker I did not want to do any substitutions on the first run. In regard to the caraway seeds needing to be finely ground, if you don't already have a coffee grinder go out and get one (to be used only for grinding spices). We just recently gave ours away to our daughter since we had not used it in I don't know how long. I tried grinding the seeds in a mini-processor and in a pestle & mortar to no avail - ended up having to make a quick run to Target.

I did it!! I'm so excited! The bread is soft and chewy and the crumb (the pattern of holes inside a loaf) is perfect - no large tunnels running through it.

I think everyone should try making bread from scratch at home at least once. I chose the old fashioned way, kneading by hand, not using a stand-mixer with a dough hook. The scent of the yeast is wonderful and the aroma of baked bread is amazing.

Success meter (1-3): 3


Still too seedy after running through
a mini-processor and pestle & mortar.

Much better after using a coffee grinder.

Yeast before proofing.

Yeast after proofing - a bit dome shapped
and creamier looking.

I like to place my dough in
the oven (turned off) to rise.

First rising.

To "punch down" the dough, flour the backside
of your hand and quickly "slap" the dough
with the back of your fingers.

"Pinch" the dough after each roll
by poking the edge with your fingers.

Too fun!
If you will be baking bread often
you  may want one of these.

Apparently, I did not know the trick at the time to making beautiful slashes.