Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club - July 2015

This month at The Cottage Cooking Club where we are cooking our way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Veg, our lovely leader Andrea of the blog The Kitchen Lioness chose recipes that took advantage of the beautiful fresh produce available at this time of year. The theme this month was "enjoy summer's bounty", and I certainly did!

Marinated Cucumber with Mint (page 122)
First up was a recipe from one of my favourite chapters in the book, "Raw Assemblies". I used an English cucumber for this, thin-skinned so there was no need to peel it, and white wine vinegar replaced cider vinegar in my version. With a simple dressing and some added mint, this was a very refreshing salad that would brighten any summer plate.

Mexican Tomato and Bean Soup (page 138)
I have a favourite Mexican bean soup recipe that produces a hearty meal in a bowl with robust flavours, a cold weather soup. My family and I enjoy soup in the summer too, albeit lighter versions, and this one, with its short cooking time and use of fresh tomatoes looked very appealing.
It started with the usual cooking of onions, garlic and jalapeño and was flavoured with cumin and oregano. The rest of the ingredients - stock, tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans - were added and simmered for a mere 10 minutes before it was ready to serve. In what I thought was a clever move that compensated for the lack of cooking time, Hugh included a well-flavoured, homemade tomato sauce among the ingredients, specifically his roasted tomato sauce. I had some of my homemade marinara in the freezer and used that instead. 

We really enjoyed this soup. It was zesty and tasted of fresh tomatoes and grassy chiles with the beans adding some heft, but not enough to weigh it down. But I must have cooked all of the heat out of the jalapeños because it wasn't very spicy so I made sure to include some with the other garnishes.

Green Beans, New (Sweet) Potatoes, and Olives (page 222)
Hugh describes this dish as a "sort of deconstructed tapenade" and with garlic, lemons, olives and olive oil to flavour the vegetables, I could understand the comparison. July is a great month for green beans here, and along with the new crop of starchy and waxy potatoes available now, is the sweet variety, so I thought I would switch up this recipe and use them instead.

This was a very pretty dish as well as a delicious one with the contrast of sweet potato with briny olive and zingy lemon juice particularly good. I'm going to have to remember this lemon and garlic-infused olive oil dressing for the next time I roast sweet potatoes to add some brightness to a winter meal. 

Summer Stir-Fry with Fried (Steamed) Rice (page 286)
Versatile and quick cooking, you can't really go wrong with a good, basic stir-fry recipe like this one.
I made a few substitutions, using gai lan (Chinese broccoli), enoki mushrooms and edamame but the recipe is one that can easily be adapted to whatever fresh produce is available. I thought it was a little unusual to add the chile, ginger and garlic at the end of cooking but their flavours seemed a little more pronounced as a result, which I enjoyed.

I would have liked the vegetables to have had a little more sauce and I didn't really care for the mint with the other ingredients, but it was still a very tasty dish. I served it with steamed brown rice as suggested in the head notes instead of the fried rice.

Charred Leeks (Cauliflower Steaks) with Romesco (page 336) 
It's a little early for baby leeks, but I figured this classic Catalan sauce would taste good with just about any grilled vegetable so in addition to the first field tomatoes of the season that I needed for the recipe, I picked up some beautiful cauliflower from the farmers' market.
I've made Romesco sauce before - quite delicious - but it was made with red peppers and almonds. This variation with tomatoes and hazelnuts was quite different but equally good. It was tangy and smoky, with sweetness from the tomatoes, (optional) bell pepper and toasted nuts, and a good bit of heat from some Thai bird chiles I added, and it had lots of great texture too. It went beautifully with the grilled cauliflower steaks, and some grilled fish I made to use up the extra.

Runner Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic (page 375)
I've always found runner beans to be a little tough and stringy. What's apparent from this recipe is that I've been cooking them all wrong!
Prepping the beans included de-stringing them. It was the work of just a few minutes done by running a vegetable peeler down the length of each long bean. (Who knew it was that easy?) Then, the beans were cooked slowly (the second "aha" moment) with grated fresh tomatoes, sautéed onion and garlic, basil and parsley until they were tender with just a hint of their original crunch. Having been cooked with an acid, their colour did suffer a bit, but that was easy to look past when they offered such wonderful flavour. This summery dish, with its incredible, fresh tasting tomato sauce, was so delicious I could have eaten a plate of it as a meal! 

That's all for this month. I'm now looking forward to August with its eggplants, zucchini, leeks, tomatoes, corn and more. Visit here to see what else was cooking in the group members' kitchens (or on their grills) this month.


  1. Lovely colors in all your dishes! Yumms! Enjoyed my own selection too, five similar to yours!

  2. Hi Zosia, Absolutely love your selections for the month. Creative use of the sweet potato in lieu of the new potato, it looks terrific but my absolute favorite is your Cauliflower Steaks with Romesco, wow, wow, wow!!! I am smitten on your combination and as well the color contrast, it looks so delicious. I too prepared the stir fry but did take the liberties of adding in some more soy sauce and a touch of sesame oil as wend like that in our family. Such a fun and upbeat post and enjoyable to read. Great month Zosia.

  3. Hi Zosia, this was a month of recipes that brought out the best of summer. We enjoyed the stir-fry very much but I did not add the mint and I thought the same thing about the green beans I always make them the same. Take care!

  4. Dear Zosia, wonderful pictures of all your delightful dishes - I am glad that you actually mentioned this month´s motto and liked it! And it makes my day to see that you so creatively switched some seasonal ingredients out for the ones in the recipes. Your sweet potatoes have a fabulous color and that dish must have been so delicious with them - you used cauliflower steaks with the Romesco sauce - grilled fennel is not bad either! Runner beans de-stringing is something that I learned the hard way too from the book (now I let the kids do the work) - but they were hard to find around here this month. The Mexican soup looks amazing (what a wonderful recipe) - I am quite sure that your family and especially your vegetarian daughter, were quite happy this month because you prepared amazing dishes this month!
    Thank you for your participation and "see" you soon with August recipe choices!

  5. Beautiful photos, Zosia! I love the Cauliflower with Romesco idea and the sweet potatoes with the green beans and olives are absolutely gorgeous. I, too, made the summer stir fry and enjoyed how versatile it would be with many veggies. I also was a bit surprised by when to add in the ginger/garlic but decided to trust in it: I agree that it helped retain just a little kick of flavor that would've been sorely missed. Finally, the shaved ribbons of cucumbers are not only beautiful but look really, really tasty!

  6. We made 3 of the same recipes. Liked them all. The cukes /mint combo was a unique recipe. Not for everyday, I think, the mint really makes a statement and takes over the meal. I still enjoyed it. The Stir-Fry, YES. I added plain white rice. What I like best about a stir-friy is that I can control portions. Using Sweet Potatoes with green beans and olives is a wonderful idea. I love sweet potatoes but just wouldn't think of substituting them for this recipe. Grilled cauliflower - great idea. One of my favorite vegetables. Both your runner beans dish and soup looked delicious. For some reason, the soup didn't appeal to me but all of you who made it, loved it. Great Post. Nice work. Isn't this fun? Like you, I am looking forward to next month's choices.

  7. What a great set of choices, Zosia. You even made the ones I made (and didn't love) look appealing. Based on your results, now that we finally have local tomatoes, I'm going to try the tomatoes with Thai dressing as well as the green bean/potato salad. Can't wait to see what's up for August. Stay cool!


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