Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Cottage Cooking Club | April Recipes

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

My selections for April:

Pasta with New Potatoes, Green Beans, and Pesto
Red Cabbage, Parsnip, Orange, and Dates
Chiles Stuffed with Beans
Upside-Down Onion Tart
Celery Gratin
Click here to see the complete list of recipes offered for April.

Pasta with New Potatoes, Green Beans, and Pesto

This is a quick and easy dish to toss together any night of the week. Made even easier if you use your favorite store bought pesto as I did, rather than make your own as the recipe instructs.

I just wasn't in the mood to make my own pesto - though it's relatively easy - and maybe I should have - it may have given this dish a brighter flavor. Along with the pesto, we have green beans, new potatoes, and green olives. At serving, the pasta gets a dusting of Parmesan cheese, and if you like, drizzled with a little olive oil to finish it off.

This wasn't a favorite of mine, though it was enjoyed by Andy.  (I did not care for the pesto; I used a different brand than I normally buy.)

Red Cabbage, Parsnip, Orange, and Dates

This is one of those dishes that grows on you. You take a bite, and think, ehh, Its OK. Then after a few more bites.. you're thinking it's pretty good.

It certainly is a pretty salad.

Super simple to make too. Shred some cabbage, grate or julienne a parsnip (I used a kinpira peeler), toss with olive oil, orange juice, salt, and pepper. Top with chopped dates, supremed* (sectioned) oranges, and a sprinkling of fresh thyme. 

I preferred my second helping over the first, where I put less thyme and added some cayenne. I think the cayenne definitely brought this up a notch.

*Supreme - learned a new word today! ;)

Chiles Stuffed with Beans

These peppers are stuffed with a mixture made up of shallots, garlic, grated fresh tomato (I used petite diced canned tomatoes), canned borlotti beans, cilantro (I grabbed parsley in error, used that, plus a teaspoon of ground coriander), cumin, hot smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. I added some grated cheddar cheese to the mix, and added a bit more cheese after the peppers were stuffed.

The recipe calls for six large peppers (I swear I placed six peppers in the bag). I had two small peppers, and three medium-to-large peppers, and I barely had enough stuffing to fill the last one.

The peppers are broiled until blackened and blistering.

The peppers are peeled and seeded (the skins slip off pretty easily - for stubborn spots, take a parring knife and gently scrape off). The tops are cut off, leaving a bit of flesh to form a "lid". I find that gently running the peppers under the faucet, helps remove the seeds easily. As you can see, one of my peppers split completely open - no worries.

Stuffed and ready for the oven.

The peppers are baked for about twenty minutes, just until heated through.

The split pepper I mentioned earlier, I stuffed and left open-faced (the way I normally make stuffed peppers). I placed another pepper snuggly against it to keep it from spreading out flat.


Certainly not as attractive as the red poblanos shown in the book - however, taste trumps appearance.

I really enjoyed these. My husband thought they were a bit on the spicy side, and they were, more so the following day I thought. Maybe I should have served it with the garlicky yogurt as suggested in the book, to help cool things down a bit.

I have made a similar recipe stuffed with chicken and rice (shown above), where you leave the pepper whole, and split it down the middle to remove the seeds, and to stuff it. If you are using green peppers, I would recommend serving them open-faced for a prettier appearance, should red peppers not be available.

Upside-Down Onion Tart

Oh man. This is good. Out of the ballpark good.

Caramelized onions, balsamic vinegar, puff pastry... how could it not be?

Whole onions are sliced into six or eight wedges, depending on the size of the onion, root left intact - I cut more off the root end than I probably should have. The wedges are placed in a decorative pattern over melted butter and oil, in an oven-proof pan. The onions are sprinkled with some salt and pepper (I also added a little bit of thyme), and cooked until they begin to caramelize.

The onions are then carefully turned over; not an easy task. My onions kept wanting to separate as I flipped them. This is where I knew I cut off too much of the stem end; but I really didn't want the hard stem end attached - it seems it would be unpleasant to bite into.

After all the onions have been turned over, they are allowed to caramelize on the other side, then some balsamic vinegar is drizzled over the top, and cooked just long enough for it to reduce slightly.


A round of puff pastry is placed over the cooked onions and baked until puffed and golden, then inverted onto a serving platter.

My most delicious tart looks a little misshapen. For some reason my puff pastry kept wanting to shrink down to more of a rectangular shape. So after placing it on top of the onions, I filled in two spots with extra dough. It does not quite work like pie dough, where you can piece it together. The extra dough pieces cooked up and stayed separate. No biggie. As I said earlier, taste trumps appearances. I still thought it was pretty.

Definitely company worthy!

Celery Gratin

Finally, a recipe that calls for more than a stalk or two (or less) of celery! I hate it when a recipe calls for like, two tablespoons of diced celery (a soup recipe, that I make often). I always end up tossing out a whole lot of celery.

I know, I can slice up the extra, slather it with peanut butter, or cream cheese, and send it with the hubby for a work-week snack, and I always think that I will, but never do. By the time I'm done with dinner and clean-up, I'm too tired to do anything else.

Here we use the whole bunch of celery! I will never need to toss out any unused celery again. So very exited to have this recipe.

You take the bunch of celery, trim it of its leaves (they will burn - save them for stock, if you make your own), place it in a shallow pan, add some water, fresh thyme, a bay leaf, salt, pepper, and dot with a bit of butter, cover with foil, and cook until the celery is tender.

The scent of this while baking, was so enticing. 

Once the celery is cooked, the thyme branches and bay leaf are removed, and the liquid that has accumulated in the pan is mixed with some heavy cream, and some additional salt and pepper if needed. I also added a bit of nutmeg, and some extra grated Gruyère cheese to the mix (unfortunately the cheese just clumped together), this is then poured over the celery.

A mixture of fresh bread crumbs and grated cheese (again, I used Gruyère) is sprinkled over the celery, and baked until the crumbs are golden brown and crispy. A grind of fresh black pepper is sprinkled over the top, just before serving.

This was amazing! I only wish I had gotten a better picture.

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the the CCC website and look for the April LYL post for a list of their links - or click here to be directed automatically.

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!


TWD | Baking Chez Moi | Coconut Tapioca

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking Chez Moi
by Dorie Greenspan

I knew tapioca as a type of pudding, which I have never had before this, but beyond that I knew nothing about it.

Just what is tapioca exactly? Well, it's a starchy tuberous root of all things, also known as cassava. It is one of the purest forms of starch food. Tapioca is also used as a thickening agent. Many refugees in Southeast Asia actually survived on tapioca during World War ll.

Did you know you can actually make your own tapioca pearls if you can not find them? A quick internet search will show you how.

Like I said, I never had tapioca pudding before. I was expecting it to be pudding like - smooth and creamy (aside from the little balls of tapioca). Which it was, until I refrigerated it. Then it turned gelatinous, Jell-O like, but firmer. So firm, that you would be able to cut it with a knife, and serve little squares of it - which could be fun. Maybe.

My sister was coming to dinner the following evening, and I asked it she ever had tapioca. Yes, she had, and she loves it! Couldn't wait to try mine. The consensus was, it had good flavor, but it is supposed to be soft and creamy, not firm.

Hmm. Maybe I overcooked it? I cooked it until it was the texture of (non-Greek) yogurt, as instructed. I have some tapioca pearls leftover, I'll give it another try, cooking it for a shorter time.

We have been asked not to post the recipes here on our blogs. You can find the recipe on page 382 of Baking Chez Moi, as well as on Google Books.

Do check out my fellow bakers results, by clicking here for a list of their links.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book 119 | Great Chefs of the Caribbean | Parmesan Basket with Polenta and Roasted Vegetables

Edited by Julia M. Pitkin

This was fun to make, and it was tasty too!

I have seen a few recipes for making Parmesan baskets, and have been wanting to do this for some time. 

And it is super easy! All you do is, take some grated cheese, place it on a baking sheet in a circular shape and bake until the cheese has fused itself together. Then take the melted cheese and place it over a bowl or cup to shape it. Instead of transferring the melted cheese by way of spatula to the bowl, I just cut the parchment paper between the cheese rounds, and placed the bowl on top of the cheese and flipped it over. Much easier. Not to mention, these babies are greasy, and the parchment paper keeps your hands grease-free while shaping them around the bowl.

I wanted a bit more color to the bowls, but I was afraid if I let them cook longer, they might have disintegrated.

This is supposed to be tomato sauce, to be placed in a squeeze bottle to drizzle on the plate. I ended up transferring it to the food processor and adding some vegetable broth and water (and a bit of cayenne to spice things up) to thin it out. As for the pesto oil, that turned out quite thick as well, more like pesto, then oil - also to be used for drizzling. 

Is there anyone who doesn't like roasted vegetables? You really can't go wrong with roasted veggies. I did not roast the tomatoes, I added them after, and placed the vegetables back in the turned-off oven, just to warm them up.

I love polenta, and felt it should have a decent amount underneath all those vegetables. Apparently the amount I thought was perfect, was more than the recipe called for. I halved the recipe, which should serve two, and I used almost all of the polenta for this one bowl. Their round of polenta must have been pretty thin. Good thing I was dining solo this evening!

This made for a tasty light dinner; it would even be good sans the basket, if you don't want to go to the trouble of making them. Speaking of the basket, it was a bit on the chewy side - I was expecting it to be crisp. I did read that if too much cheese is used, the baskets can turn out chewy - so there you go.

I'm confused as to where the Caribbean influence is in this dish. Must be the polenta. When I think Caribbean food, I think of rum, mango, coconut, rice, and foods with a spicy kick. Not that it really matters much, I enjoyed this just the same.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wok Wednesdays | Cantonese-Style Stir-Fried Pork with Chinese Broccoli

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

Let me start off by saying, this was CRAZY good!!

Bowl 1: Ginger, garlic
Bowl 2: Pork, cornstarch, soy sauce, dry sherry, garlic, canola oil, oyster sauce, sesame oil, s&p
Bowl 3: Water chestnuts, bell pepper, snow peas, straw mushrooms
Bowl 4: Chicken broth, dark soy sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce
Bowl 5: Chicken broth, sesame oil, cornstarch
Bowl 6: Chinese broccoli

I have found a new favorite vegetable in Chinese broccoli (gai-lan or kai-lan is the Cantonese name for this vegetable). It looks more like giant spinach than it does western broccoli, that has little flower heads in the center. I loved the texture of the leaves, with the slight taste of "regular" broccoli.

If you make this dish, and are unable to find the Chinese broccoli, feel free to use regular broccoli, it will still be delicious. 

I had never heard of straw mushrooms before. They get their name from the way they are grown - on paddy rice straw. I thought I might have a hard time finding them. Not only did I easily find them at my Asian grocer, but I also saw them at my regular grocery store later that day.

They come labeled as peeled or unpeeled; I used the peeled mushrooms. I did a Google search as to what exactly you are to peel from a mushroom. It has nothing to do with peeling the skin like an apple say, but whether the "veil" has opened or not, exposing the gills. A closed cap is considered unpeeled, an open cap where you can see the gills, is peeled. I also read that the unpeeled are more nutritious and flavorful.

The flavor of this dish was beyond fabulous. Andy said to put this recipe on the A+ list - it's super good.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I made it. It's going to make a repeat appearance here for sure; and if I serve it to company, I'll plate it a little differently. I'll cut the stems and stir them in with the stir-fry and place the leaves in a circular pattern around the plate with the pork mixture in the middle.

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 77, 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.  

This recipe is on Grace's website, along with several of the other delicious recipes we have prepared. 

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, April 14, 2015

TWD | Baking Chez Moi | Limoncello Cupcakes

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking Chez Moi
by Dorie Greenspan


I was so excited to see the recipe I nominated was chosen. Love, love, love, all things lemon!

The cupcake batter consists of flour, baking powder, cardamom (love cardamom! though I did not detect it at all in the finished product), salt, sugar, lemon zest, yogurt, eggs, limoncello and oil. A small amount of batter is placed in the cupcake liner, then topped with a teaspoon of (optional) lemon marmalade, then covered with the additional batter.

All I could find was orange, lime, or a blended marmalade. I was going to use lemon curd in place of the marmalade, but I could not stop thinking of the marmalade blend, that was made up of orange, lemon, and grapefruit, so I went with that.

The baked cupcake is then brushed with a limoncello/simple syrup mixture while the cakes are still warm; I poked a few holes in the top of each cupcake to allow the syrup to really seep into the cakes.

The frosting is made up of butter, powdered sugar, limoncello, and lemon juice.

These really need a prettier cupcake liner. I have whole box of pretty wrappers that my daughter gifted to me; but I was rushed, and didn't even think about it, until I pulled them out of the oven. Grrr.

I so wished I went with the lemon curd filling... the marmalade was too bitter for my liking. I was also surprised, between the lemon zest, lemon juice, and limoncello, that these did not have a stronger lemon flavor.

This seems to be an issue with my quest for the perfect lemon cupcake. I want a lemon cupcake that makes you pucker up, literally; I want that intense lemon flavor, you know, the one that sends you to the moon and back.

Still searching for the ultimate lemon cupcake...

If you have such a recipe in your repertoire, please leave a link in the comments below! I would be forever grateful! :)

We have been asked not to post the recipes here on our blogs. You can find the recipe on page 194 of Baking Chez Moi.

Do check out my fellow bakers results, by clicking here for a list of their links.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Cilantro with Bean Sprouts and Shrimp

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

This is a simple stir-fry made up of garlic, ginger, shrimp, bean sprouts, carrots and cilantro. If you wanted a stronger, more pungent shrimp flavor, Grace mentions you could sub out the fresh shrimp for dried, as they do in the Hui Zhou village of China. The dried shrimp of course needs to be reconstituted in water first, and you would use less salt that is called for in the recipe.

Bowl 1: Garlic
Bowl 2: Ginger (I usually put the garlic and ginger in one bowl, I just spaced out this time.)
Bowl 3: Shrimp
Bowl 4: Bean Sprouts
Bowl 5: Carrots
Bowl 6: Cilantro
Bowl 7: Salt, sugar

If you are not a fan of cilantro, which I am, this dish may not be for you. The cilantro, really took center stage here (and I probably added a little more than the recipe called for).

The recipe states this serves four as a side dish, though I think this would make for a fine light meal on its own; you can even add a bit more shrimp if you like. 

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 224, 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.  

This recipe is on Grace's website, along with several of the other delicious recipes we have prepared. 

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!