Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cottage Cooking Club - August 2014

For this month's Cottage Cooking Club, a group led by Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness that's cooking their way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg, I made four of the selected recipes and included a make-up recipe from June.

Tahini-Dressed Zucchini and Green Bean Salad (page 74)
I’m always looking for new uses for that jar of tahini I buy to make hummus and this salad provided one.
From the hearty salad chapter, the components were ones that are popular with family: cooked zucchini slices (I grilled mine for extra flavour), blanched green beans, oven-dried tomatoes (I used honey-roasted cherry tomatoes, one of the June recipes), fresh chilli for a little heat and salad greens. The dressing was a blend of the sesame seed paste, lemon and orange juices, garlic, a little honey (agave), and olive oil, a combination that went a long way towards taming the strength of the tahini and producing a balanced flavour that was a little nutty and tangy with just a hint of sweetness. My dressing was quite thin after the juices were added so additional water wasn’t needed, but it was also a little grainy in appearance. I’m not sure if it was the brand of tahini I used or if it was because it was the last of a jar that perhaps I hadn’t mixed thoroughly enough, but no amount of whisking would smooth it out. Fortunately, it didn’t have a gritty texture and once tossed with the salad, wasn’t very noticeable. 

This was a really tasty dish: the robust flavour of the dressing complemented the salad ingredients well but I would have liked a little more texture.....some toasted pistachios or almonds would have been a nice addition.

Honey-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (page 343)
The Zucchini and Green Bean Salad called for (optional) oven-dried tomatoes but in looking at the recipe for them and reading that it's a great method for dealing with less than perfect fruit, I decided to save it for when I had a batch of mediocre tomatoes that needed some help. Instead, I made this recipe from the June selection. With such a short roasting time, this was a perfect summertime treatment for the little tomatoes. The olive oil, garlic and sweetener (I used agave nectar so vegan daughter could enjoy) enhanced without masking their flavour and they emerged from the oven sweet and tangy, like little tomato candies. They added incredible flavour to the salad and were delicious as a side to grilled fish as well.

Asian-Inspired Coleslaw (page 115)
I've always preferred my cabbage salad with a vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing so this recipe, which uses ingredients that I usually use in stir-fries, looked like it might be a good alternative. I used rice vinegar, reduced the sesame oil to 1 tbsp since I find that it can often overpower other ingredients, and followed the rest of the recipe as written. This was a nice variation of coleslaw, with the sesame, ginger and garlic good complements to the cabbage-carrot mix. I'm glad I reduced the sesame oil since it was still quite noticeable, but I thought that the dressing wasn't acidic enough...the lime juice at the end made all the difference to the brightness of the flavour and definitely shouldn't be missed. If I were to make it again - still on the fence about that - I would add it directly to the dressing.

A pattern is beginning to emerge with the salad recipes in this book: I use only half the dressing for the full amount of salad. I always use up the extra, usually on another salad, but the tahini dressing was delicious on grilled eggplant slices the next day, and with this recipe, I used the extra in stir-fried vegetables - delicious!

Quick Couscous Salad with Peppers and Feta (page 231)
This recipe is all about using products from your dry and refrigerator pantries and leftovers so I used the Israeli couscous I had on hand and 2 bell peppers I had roasted on the grill earlier in the week. With chopped cucumbers, green onions, parsley and basil added, and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, the flavours were simple but the salad was quite tasty, especially with the feta for added oomph. It's a very easy and unfussy dish that's open to all sorts of combinations of ingredients, and can just as easily be made in the depths of winter as it can at the height of summer. Hugh's suggested variations sound particularly tasty - I think I may try the Middle Eastern one next.

Caramelized Carrots with Gremolata (page 355)
Gremolata, that simple but beautifully flavoured little mixture of fresh parsley, lemon zest and garlic, brightens just about any dish it's added to and these roasted carrots were no exception. They were nicely cooked after 50 minutes, (30 minutes covered with foil, 20 minutes without), tender but not too soft, but not as brown as I would have liked. I didn't roast them further at the risk of overcooking them. My oven's not known for its browning ability - great for some foods but not for others ;) - and I used only olive oil which in my experience doesn't help to brown foods as easily as butter, so I think I might have been better off if I'd omitted the foil altogether. Next time.......These were a big hit and are destined to become a regular item at the dinner table.

This was another great month with the Cottage Cooking Club, with several winning recipes. Visit here to see what everyone else made, or better yet, join us as we continue to cook our way through this book.


  1. Hi Zosia, Wow! four recipes, and they all look so wonderful. Looks like we prepared the same salad, and I really enjoyed it, but your right some chopped nuts would of been great as well. The couscous looks so colorful and the carrots with the gremolata look and sound amazing!

  2. Dear Zosia, what a marvelous spread of dishes you prepared from the August selection - they all look so bright and fresh and perfectly prepared! I love the way you explain your dishes and each and every component - there is a lot of great tip and advice in your writing - thank you for sharing all your thoughts on the preparation of these - the couscous salad will have to make a rather late appearance at our house. The honey roasted tomatoes are always to die for and so are the caramelised carrots - we love that recipe so much! And I totally agree with you with respect to the vinaigrette for a slaw - so much better than a creamy one and, yes, the sesame oil can be overpowering at times!
    Thank you for participating again this month - have a fabulous weekend!

  3. Zosia, what a productive month you had with River Cottage veg everyday. The zucchini/green bean looks fabulous and loved your creative use of the honey roasted veg which I thought were delicious! I appreciate your discernment relative to sesame oil, which is very strong in scent and depth of flavor, it is meant to be used sparingly. I didn't end up preparing the caramelized carrots, and your photography design is lovely! Great Post, really enjoyable, thanks for sharing!

  4. Zozia, all of your dishes look lovely! I had planned on making the carrots, but haven't gotten to them yet - maybe this evening!! I liked the slaw too, and yours looks quite wonderful. Your couscous looks terrific too. I didn't make it, but it would be fun to try. Wonderful selection! Have a wonderful weekend!!

  5. Zosia, all your dishes look wonderful! This was a great month of recipes. My favorites were the salad, caponata, and the carrots. Aren't those tomatoes the best?!! Your couscous salad is so bright and flavorful looking as well.

  6. Looks like a wonderful assortment, though I think it's hard to go wrong with this book. I would like to try the zucchini salad. I love the flavor of tahini, though unfortunately I'm the only one at my house who eats zucchini It was fun to participate this month and test out CCC.

  7. Gorgeous photos! I made three of the same dishes as you and enjoyed them all. I agree with you, too. I tend to use only about half the dressing for the salad recipes I've tried from the book. It's nice to have extra on hand, though.

  8. Zosia, what a lovely selection you have prepared over the month, and your photography is so outstanding. I really enjoyed your layout providing a comprehensive overview on each of your selected choices making for a great read as well. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Gorgeous photos this month! I especially love the one of the carrots. I'm going to steal your tip on the dressing next time. You're right, many of the salads in this book have seemed over-dressed.


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