Monday, September 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club - September 2015

Blissfully surrounded by beautiful end of summer vegetables and early fall produce, I found it difficult to narrow my choice of recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Veg for September's Cottage Cooking Club make-up month, when members have an opportunity to make dishes featured in previous months. I finally settled on five:

Peperonata (page 20) from July 2015 
I love peperonata, the Italian dish of stewed vegetables starring sweet bell peppers highlighted by tomatoes, onions and garlic. Cooked slowly until the ingredients are silky in texture and the flavours are perfectly melded, it's lovely as a side dish but seeing the photo of chachouka in the book, I couldn't resist baking it with eggs and serving it as a main. And for daughter who won't eat baked eggs, it was the topping of a flatbread pizza. A delicious version of the classic.

Belgian Endive (Radicchio), Pears, and Salty-Sweet Roasted Almonds (page 118) from November 2014
This salad was a fine marriage of salty, sweet and bitter flavours, and crisp and crunchy textures. Andrea, the lovely founder of this group, encouraged us to use whatever produce was in season in our area of the world so Belgian endive was replaced with the last of the summer radicchio and combined with the first Bartlett pears of the season. This made a delicious starter that perked up the taste buds but my advice is to make double the almonds because they're sooo good, half of them won't make it into the salad!

Tomato, Rosemary, and Pecorino Tart (page 216) from July 2014  
I'd intended to make the tomato, thyme and goat's cheese tart only to discover I was out of goat's cheese. Instead I made this variation.
Tomatoes at their peak really don't need anything to make them shine and this minimalist tart respected that, using small amounts of select ingredients that drew attention to the fruit. With a crisp puff pastry base, a little garlic, rosemary and sprinkling of sharp cheese, this was easy to make and enjoy.

Beet "Pizza" with Cheddar (page 180) from January 2015
With a half package of puff pastry remaining from the tomato tart, and this pizza recipe at the top of my "to-make" list since it was first chosen last January, this tart became my take on it. The combination of beets and goat's cheese is a classic but I found that the salty and tangy sharp cheddar was just as good a foil for the sweet vegetable and fried onions. There was mozzarella on there as well, cheese that should have been added part-way through baking rather than at the start since it over-browned (and could actually have been omitted since it didn't add much). Delicious nonetheless! An excellent topping for either a tart or a pizza. 

Quinoa with Zucchini and Onions (page 279) from May 2014
I am not a fan of quinoa. It really doesn't have any interesting flavour or texture to commend it, but it's an easy way to add a complete protein to a meatless dish, something I always consider when cooking for my vegetarian daughter. So I'm always on the lookout for delicious recipes that feature this seed.
Unfortunately, this wasn't one. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I changed the recipe - isn't it annoying when someone changes a recipe and then complains that it didn't turn out well? ;)

With three onions for four servings, this was an onion lover's dish. I am not an onion lover. I used only one but grilled the zucchini for added flavour. It didn't work. The dish was quite bland with the topping of toasted almonds and drizzle of lemon juice its saving grace. Daughter's suggestions for improvement included garlic and some hot chile peppers, both of which would add much needed flavour. But do try it yourself....it's probably delicious made as written.

Next month, we'll be cooking up new recipes from this wonderful cookbook focusing on fall vegetables. In the meantime, visit here to see what the other members chose to make this month.

Chocolate Roulade - IHCC Au Revoir Chef Pépin!

This is our last week at I Heart Cooking Clubs with Jacques Pépin as our featured chef. To bid him farewell, I made Jacques's Chocolate Roulade from the book Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, one Julia Child described as the best chocolate roulade she ever had.
The airy flourless cake was essentially a soufflé comprising a chocolate ganache (chocolate melted with hot whipping cream) and whipped egg whites, baked on a sheet pan. The filling was chantilly cream, sweetened whipped cream flavoured with vanilla.
The cake was delicate, almost ethereal in texture, and the whipped cream filling echoed its lightness and provided a cool, creamy contrast to the rich chocolate flavour. The perfect ending to a meal or a culinary journey with a master of French cuisine. Who could resist a slice of this?

Next month, Ellie Krieger becomes IHCC's featured chef. Stay tuned for some "delicious meets healthy" cooking. In the meantime, check out the other farewell posts for Jacques.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Apple Kuchen: A Tall Apple-Custard Tourte - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week's choice for Tuesdays with Dorie was a very majestic looking tourte. Not quite a cake, but not a tart either, it was essentially a mound of apple chunks bound by a creamy custard, wrapped in a lemony crust. I made a half recipe of each of the components and baked it in a 6" springform pan. Minifying it really didn't do it justice.
Powdered sugar can hide a multitude of sins....apparently blackened apples is not one of them! ;)
After almost a year of baking with TWD, multi-component desserts no longer faze me - something I never thought I would be saying! - they just need a little advance planning. For this recipe, that meant making Dorie's crème fraîche for the custard first, a mixture of heavy cream and buttermilk that needed almost 2 days before it could be used. The other components were: a tart crust flavoured with lemon zest; a graham cracker crumble, presumably to help absorb some of the fruit's juices; so many Gala apple chunks, they barely fit into the pan!; rum-soaked cranberries (in place of raisins); a final topping of sugar and melted butter (I omitted the latter).
Look at all of that fruit!
The tourte had a fairly long baking time and, surprisingly, my half-sized version required the full 70 minutes after the custard was added. This was followed by a stint under the broiler, a step I'll skip next time since it failed to brûlé the sugar but succeeded in blackening my already browned apples and creating chewy bits of my formerly plump and juicy cranberries!

This dessert was a delicious way to celebrate the apple. The fruit was the star, and amazingly, even the scorched pieces were good, tasting of caramelized sugar. The filling reminded me of my family's favourite apple cake, Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake, another Dorie creation from her book, Around my French Table, which is really baked apples held together with a smidgen of cake batter. Both are homages to the apple and we love them!

The recipes for the kuchen and the crème fraîche are from the book Baking Chez Moi. Visit here to see everyone's lovely tourtes.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Early Autumn Feast with Jacques Pépin - IHCC Seasonal Specialties

I'm very fortunate to be living in an area where there's an abundance of varied, locally-produced ingredients. For this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs' theme "Seasonal Specialties", I chose some fairly common ones - apples, onions, carrots, potatoes - and counted on Jacques Pépin to help me transform them into something special. And he did. All of the recipes were from his book Jacques Pépin's Simple and Healthy Cooking.
Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Onions was a fairly simple dish to make but, oh, so flavourful. Onions, apples, caraway and thyme marry perfectly with pork and cooked with cider vinegar, created a delicious savoury, sweet and tangy accompaniment to the meat. I deviated a little from the recipe and instead of butterflying the tenderloin, left it whole, seared it, then pan-roasted it on the bed of apples and onions.
I wish I had discovered Pommes Boulangère sooner! This delicious alternative to scalloped potatoes was baked in the oven with broth, onions, garlic, bay leaves and thyme, (instead of cream, butter and cheese!). They were tender and flavourful but the crispy potato chip layer on the top was the best part!
Boiling vegetables is an efficient but not very exciting way of cooking them. Carottes Provençale used this method, with a twist. Only enough water was added to cook the vegetable so the pot was dry by the time the carrots were done. A pinch of sugar, salt and pepper, and some minced garlic added extra flavour to this simple preparation. It was the perfect side to complement the other dishes.
Thank you, Jacques Pépin, for three wonderful recipes that will be repeated often.

Visit here to see the seasonal dishes made by the other group members.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is one of my youngest daughter's favourite cakes and I make one every year for her birthday. This year, I made the Classic Carrot Cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, by Rose Levy Beranbaum.  

This recipe was very basic and had all of the ingredients you would expect to see as well as some you wouldn't - cocoa powder! It was simply spiced with cinnamon only, used lots of carrots (454g) and avoided the more polarizing ingredients like coconut and pineapple that you find in some carrot cakes.
There's a recipe for cream cheese frosting in the book as well, but I like to taste the tang of cream cheese so I used the one in Baked Occasions, which had a higher proportion of butter than some, and much less sugar than most. It also called for quite a bit of vanilla, which explained the ivory colour of the finished buttercream.
I've mentioned before that I'm not much of a cake decorator so I like to keep it simple. But for this cake, I wanted to try my hand at making fondant carrots, an idea that was immediately vetoed by my other daughter who claimed that "everyone does that!". I had to come up with an alternative plan. Since birthday girl is a talented musician and a fan of white chocolate, I made some white chocolate, music-themed decorations.
We loved this cake! It was subtly spiced and not too sweet, and was perfectly complemented by the tangy buttercream. It looked quite dense but was actually very light and moist and kept well in the fridge.

The cake was a real crowd-pleaser, but more importantly, birthday girl was very happy with it!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Jam-Filled Sandwich Cookies - Tuesdays with Dorie

Little pocket cookies with a jam surprise were this week's project for Tuesdays with Dorie from Dorie Greenspan's latest book, Baking Chez Moi.
In the midst of this seemingly never-ending heat wave, I was grateful that this recipe made a small batch - no need to have the oven on for very long. The cookie dough was easily rolled out between parchment sheets but softened very quickly, even with the air conditioning on, so I appreciated the author's directions to keep it chilled.

In the end, the shortbread-like cookies were tender and crumbly, and the rose hip jam I used for the filling was a tart and pleasant contrast to their sweetness. I may have been happy about the small batch size but my tasters weren't - they loved them and were looking for more!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Apple, Honey, and Rosemary Clafoutis - IHCC Mystery Box Madness

It's that time again when members of I Heart Cooking Clubs are challenged to make a recipe using at least three of the MBM ingredients. Last month was very easy for me; it was almost as if someone had been looking at Ottolenghi's Surprise Tatin when they chose the ingredients because five were represented. 

This month, with Salmon, Green Peas, Hazelnuts, Eggplant, Parmesan Cheese, Kale, Apples, Blue Cheese, Bread Rolls/Buns, and Rosemary, it was a little more of a challenge. But with the help of Eat Your Books, all I had to do was enter the ingredients I was interested in using and let it to do the work of searching my cookbook library. It came up with a winner: Diana Henry's Apple, Honey and Rosemary Clafoutis from her book Plenty.
I'm not sure why I don't make clafoutis more often. It's an easy and delicious way to serve seasonal fruit comprising a pancake-like batter made with milk, eggs, flour and sugar that's poured over chopped fruit and baked. 

Of course, Diana, being who she is, had a more creative approach with this version. The liquid was a mix of milk and cream and the sweetener was honey. This was heated, then steeped with a sprig of fresh rosemary. Eggs, sugar (which I omitted) and flour were then blended with the mixture and poured over sliced apples. I divvied the ingredients up amongst small ramekins. Once baked and cooled enough to serve, my mini clafoutis were topped with chopped, toasted hazelnuts and a dusting of powdered sugar.
With sweet-tart apples nestled in a custard, topped with crunchy, nutty goodness, it was absolutely delicious! The rosemary flavour was subtle but noticeable, an unusual but perfect complement to the fruit. Loved it!

I used apples, rosemary and hazelnuts from the Mystery Box. I wonder what ingredients the other members selected. Visit here to find out.