Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cottage Cooking Club - July 2014

This was another great month at the Cottage Cooking Club, a virtual cooking group led by Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness whose members are cooking their way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes. From this month's selection of ten recipes, I made five.

Panzanella (page 86) 
This recipe for the classic Italian salad wasn't among the ones I'd planned to make originally but I realized I hadn't chosen one featuring tomatoes and I had most of the ingredients for this on hand including half of a stale baguette. The recipe was simple with the extraction of juice from the tomatoes for the dressing the most time consuming part. (I used a stick blender to help break them down before sieving them). I didn't have fresh basil so compensated by using basil infused olive oil in the dressing, and used red wine vinegar instead of cider vinegar. Since my bread was whole grain, I went the rustic route with the other ingredients, leaving the peel on the cucumber and the olives and cherry tomatoes whole. 

This was delicious! The salty and briny ingredients were a great foil for the sweet and tangy, and the stale bread took on new life, becoming moist on the outside and chewy in the centre. A great main dish salad.

Shaved Summer Vegetables (page 100)
I love that this book is encouraging me to make use of my neglected kitchen appliances and gadgets: this month, for this recipe, it was my mandoline.
With it, it took just minutes to transform almost 600g of vegetables into mountains of paper thin slices. I used most of the vegetables listed in the recipe but substituted carrots for beets. The lemony vinaigrette dressing was slightly sweet and very bright tasting and held its own against the more strongly flavoured vegetables, especially the cabbage-y kohlrabi. 

I loved this salad and will be making it often - it looked good and tasted even better. And because of it, my mandoline has earned the right to a more accessible spot in my kitchen!

River Cottage Summer Garden Soup (page 132)
I don't relish standing over a simmering pot of soup in hot weather but with a 20 minute cooking time, this one was perfectly suited to warm weather. Because the cooking time is so brief, there's no opportunity for the vegetables to flavour the stock so you do need to use a good one. I didn't make Hugh's recipe - that's for another day - I just used a store bought brand I like. There seemed to be a lot of vegetables in this recipe for the amount of stock so I reduced the quantity of fennel and zucchini by half (and still needed extra stock!). I made some substitutions as well: baby spinach for chard, (frozen) edamame for fava beans, and escarole was my lettuce of choice. 

In the end, the soup tasted fine but considering all of the beautiful produce that went into it, wasn't very exciting. A squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan gave it a much needed lift.

Bruschetta with Fava Beans and Asparagus (page196)
I chose this recipe because local asparagus was still available but sadly, baby fava beans weren't to be found so I ended up using more mature beans that required peeling. This meant that preparation was a little more time consuming but it was definitely worth it. I was very pleasantly surprised by just how much flavour the topping had: fresh and green with just a subtle hint of onion, and with the tangy goat's cheese a nice complement to the sweet vegetables. I did rub the toasted whole grain baguette slices with garlic, an optional step but one I thought added to the overall flavour. It made a wonderful light lunch. I'll definitely be making this again.

Chocolate-Beet Ice Cream (page 397)
I love beets. My family thinks they taste like dirt. I made this anyway ;)!
This custard-based ice cream flavoured with dark chocolate and roasted beet purée had a smooth, rich and creamy texture and was a pretty shade of burgundy. The recipe called for dark chocolate but I wasn't sure just how "dark" to go. The puréed beets were very sweet and the beet flavour quite strong so I decided to use a fairly intense chocolate with 70% cacao to balance it. The ice cream tasted primarily of rich, bittersweet chocolate with the earthy beets a secondary flavour. Fans of dark chocolate (like me) really enjoyed it but it wasn't for everyone. Strangely, no one noticed or commented on the beet flavour!
It definitely held more appeal when it was sandwiched between Chocolate Pecan Cookies (The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle, by Tom Douglas). No one complained about the bittersweet chocolate flavour then!

I really enjoyed the recipes I made this month and am looking forward to next month's selection! Visit here to see how the other members fared with their choices.


  1. Dear Zosia, absolutely dlightful post! Love all your pictures of all your beautiful creations! The panzanella is definitely a recipe I will have to make up, yours sounds fabulous. The shaved veg are certainly a cinch to put together and I agree the dressing adds a wonderful tangyness. The garden soup was delightfully light and your looks wonderful, I am sure that some parmesan was perfect with the soup. The bruschetta is fabulous - isn´t it?! Although I had to go with French beans as well as broad beans - no asparagus to be had around here anymore. Your version is so pretty and I agree with you, garlic worked some magic here - rubbed on the bread or slightly sautéed. And onto your lovely looking beet ice cream - beautiful presentation as ice cream sandwiches - I will have to make that one, I went green instead!
    Thank you very much for participating in the CCC and sharing your wonderful photos and helpful comments! Loved your post!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I spaced and thought I was commenting on Andrea's blog. I do plan on trying the shaved summer vegetables after your review of the recipe Zosia.

  4. Zosia, What a nice collection of recipes you've presented. Your beet ice cream was really pretty and it looks like an interesting pick to try. Thanks for sharing an enjoyable Post!

  5. Z, my mouth is watering as I review all the beautiful choices you made! Lovely post!

  6. Hi Zosia, wow! you went all out, great job on all your selections. Wonderful presentation! Nice getting to know you.

  7. What a wide variety of good choices, Zosia. I didn't make the Bruschetta with Fava Beans and Asparagus because I couldn't find lava beans. I have to think there is a good bean substitute because you seemed to love this recipe. I definitely will give the Chocolate-Beet Ice Cream a try. It looks beautiful. Love the color. I think I just needed someone else to try it first. I have used my mandoline often because of French Friday's recipes. In fact I made two huge dishes of Pommes Dauphinois for an anniversary party last month and sliced 5 pounds of potatoes without shedding any blood. I made Panzanella, as you know. Just loved his technique of soaking the bread in tomato juice. Am enjoying CCC. Nice job.

    1. Hi Mary,
      Frozen fava/broad beans would work - they're one of the few frozen vegetables that retain the integrity of fresh - they would just need a quick blanch before popping them out of their skins. Edamame might work in a pinch too, though they're not as flavourful.

  8. Wow. I can't believe nobody commented on the beets in the ice cream. My husband noticed them immediately. The ice cream does look delicious sandwiched between two cookies! I've been wanting to make ice cream sandwiches all summer...All of your dishes look lovely. I love your presentation of the shaved summer vegetables.

  9. Your dishes all look so beautiful!! I think it's so fun that you made the beet ice cream. I happen to love beets, so that's quite fun, and it looks wonderful!

    All of your recipes do, and it's really interesting to see some of the ones that I did not make. I did make the panzanella and the bruschetta (I didn't know that you could/should peel larger fava beans!) and thought they were good, as well as my other selections. Thanks so much for your fabulous post!!

    1. Thank you, Candy. You only need to peel the fava beans if the skins are tough - and mine were!

  10. All your photos look so enticing! The bruschetta looks delicious - I must try this at a later date. Great idea to make ice cream sandwiches! How fun. You mentioned on my post you wish you had the time for the marinated zucchini - if you get a chance do make it - it was wonderful.

  11. I love your choices for the month, Zosia, and it seems like almost all of them were a hit! I especially love your ice cream sandwiches. The rich red of the beet ice cream against the dark chocolate cookies is beautiful. I just got the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook from the library - I'll have a look for those cookies first, I think!


Thank you for visiting. I'd love to hear from you.