The second part of the challenge was to showcase these ingredients, something that required no effort on my part since they were already the stars of some of the recipes chosen for this month!
Tomatoes with Thai Dressing (page 121)
I love tomatoes and Thai flavours and I was so looking forward to this salad. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a disappointment. It had some of the hot, sour, sweet and salt elements of the cuisine, but it really didn't taste particularly Thai to me, especially the balsamic and rice vinegar-sesame oil dressing. However, I did enjoy the mint and chiles with the tomatoes - maybe all that was needed was a splash of lime juice.
Chickpea, Chard (kale) and Porcini Soup (page 149)
We loved this delicious, richly flavoured soup that had great mushroom flavour at its core. Given the choice of using canned tomatoes or tomato sauce, I opted for some of my homemade marinara that added tomato flavour without overwhelming the porcini mushrooms. I included a Parmesan rind for added oomph and used kale, one of the suggested chard substitutes. This one will definitely be made often once cooler weather arrives.
Leek and Cheese Toastie (page 202)
Have you ever had a Cheese Dream? I loved the open-faced broiled cheese sandwiches growing up and this recipe reminded me of them. Cheddar topped with broccoli was my favourite then but this variation, with leeks and thyme cooked in a little cream and an aged cheddar to balance the sweetness was just as good, if not better than the memory. This made a very quick and satisfying lunch that everyone enjoyed.
Dressed Green Lentils (Parsley salad variation) (Page 237)
Keeping in mind that we were to showcase favourite vegetables and herbs this month, I chose to make the parsley salad variation of the lentils. It used the same flavourful mustard dressing as the summer garden niçoise salad but had only spring onions and a good amount of parsley added. The lentils cooked with bay leaves and garlic had plenty of flavour on their own. The dressing and the parsley, which was treated almost like a salad green, made this a very bright tasting dish. Another keeper!
Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto (page 272)
Made with my homemade marinara (a reduced-fat version of Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Sautéed Vegetables and Olive Oil) instead of the book's roasted tomato sauce, this tasted like pizza and was a huge hit with family. I made a mistake early on in the recipe and added the tomato sauce to the stock instead of adding it to the rice towards the end of cooking but that didn't seem to harm the dish any since everyone loved it. I've already had requests to make this "pizza risotto" again.
Stuffed Peppers with New Potatoes, Feta, and Pesto (page 349)
This dish was a very pleasant surprise. I thought the filling ingredients of cooked potatoes and cubed feta dressed with pesto unusual but very flavourful and a wonderful contrast to the sweet bell peppers. I think its success depended on the quality of the pesto and I used Hugh's, made with both basil and parsley, which I quite like. This was very easy to make and included potatoes and parsley, the family favourites!
Cheat's Cauliflower Cheese (page 378)
A crisp and cheese-y toasted breadcrumb topping is an easy way to dress up any steamed vegetable, cauliflower in this case, especially made with panko crumbs for extra crunch. For the cheese, I used cheddar cheese curds, most commonly used here to top our famous - or perhaps infamous - almost-national dish (Canada doesn't actually have one), poutine. I preferred using the ones I picked up at the farmers' market, an artisanal brand made from goat's milk, on this dish of cauliflower rather than a dish of French fries and gravy!
There were some delicious choices for the month of August. I can't wait to find out what we're cooking next month from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Veg. In the meantime, visit here to see what the other Club members made.