Monday, March 28, 2016

Cottage Cooking Club - March 2016

I've slowly been cooking my way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Veg with a wonderful group of bloggers led by our lovely host Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness. It's been almost two years since The Cottage Cooking Club got its start and it's hard to believe the journey with this book is almost at an end. This month I tackled two recipes.... 

Three-Root Boulangère (page 64) 
I discovered potato boulangère, scalloped potatoes baked in broth instead of cream, not too long ago when I made Jacques Pépin's recipe. It was delicious. So my expectations were high for this version with its added celeriac and parsnips.
The flavour certainly didn't disappoint but I did have a few issues: it took much longer than the recipe indicated for all of the vegetables to cook through - I suspect it was the celeriac that was the hold out; there was far too much liquid in it, most of which I poured off; I never achieved a crisp, browned top (I hid it under a layer of melty cheese). In comparing it to the recipe I'd had success with, I saw that much less stock was used (only 720ml/3 cups) for the same amount of vegetables and the dish was baked uncovered the entire time, which I think allowed greater evaporation of the liquid and led to a less wet casserole and a crisped top.

We really enjoyed this in the end and I think it's a great alternative to an all-potato boulangère but next time I'll adopt some of M. Pépin's tricks to perfect it.

"Vegiflette" Toastie (page 206)
Tartiflette, the French dish of cheese, ham and potatoes that inspired this sandwich is unfamiliar to me but I'm a huge fan of Hugh's toasties and the combination of bitter greens and cheese sounded particularly good. It was also a great way to use up leftover cooked potatoes I had. The recipe didn't disappoint: the Gruyère I used went perfectly with the bitter radicchio and crisped potatoes and like all of the toasties in the book, was a quick but very satisfying meal.

Only one month to go!

Baked Custard Tarts - Cookbook Countdown

Thanks to lovely food bloggers Joyce and Emily and their Cookbook Countdown cooking challenge, I've been discovering some fabulous cookbooks that I already own but haven't yet cooked from. 

This past month, I've spent a little time exploring the food of Portugal through the recipes in The New Portuguese Table by David Leite. This book won't be going back on the shelf any time soon since there are too many recipes I'd still like to try and many I made have already become family favourites (Spinach with Toasted Breadcrumbs, Amped-Up Red Pepper Paste, Rice from the Pan combined with Black-Eyed Peas ....) but it's time to move on to a new book next month, so I'll finish now with a Portuguese classic, the famous custard tarts, Pastéis de Nata.
These decadent little pastries of cream and egg yolk-rich custard baked in a crisp puff pastry shell were delicately flavoured with lemon, vanilla and cinnamon: sweet and sublime. The recipe didn't produce the characteristic blistered surface but the sunny yellow tarts were perfect for an Easter Sunday celebration.
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Salt Cod Sandwiches - Cookbook Countdown

My introduction to Portuguese food - and salt cod - was in the form of pastéis de bacalhau, those fabulous crisp potato-cod fritters with the creamy interior. I'm cooking from The New Portuguese Table by David Leite this month, a cookbook I've owned for a while but haven't used much until recently, and there's a variation of this Portuguese favourite in it that includes shrimp - yum - but I wanted to try something different. Enter Mini Salt Cod Sandwiches, or the "o McSilva", a Portuguese chef's take on McDonald's Filet-O-Fish! I knew this would go over well with family.
For the patties, the salt cod, which was first soaked, cooked, boned and shredded, was bound by a batter of flour, egg and the cod's cooking water, and lightened with whipped egg white. Extra flavour came from garlic and cilantro. Fried in olive oil until crisp, the interior was moist and the fish flavour was quite mild.
Miraculous egg-free mayonnaise!
Next were the condiments: Sweet Red Pepper Jam, another recipe in the book, and tartar sauce. I cheated and used ketchup for the jam - the jam is for another day when red peppers are in season - but I did make the author's Milk Mayonnaise, a light, silky, egg-free, milk and oil emulsion that's an excellent canvas for whatever flavours you like. I combined it with sweet pickle relish and some capers for the tartar sauce.
Then came the bun. I used homemade buns that ended up larger than I intended so these weren't slider-sized but regular-sized sandwiches. If you like buns that have that soft, lofty white bread sort of crumb but are a little more wholesome, I highly recommend the King Arthur Flour recipe I used for Wheat-Oat-Flax Buns.

No surprise here but the o McSilva was a big hit!
I'm cooking from The New Portuguese Table this month in an effort to finally use some of the cookbooks I've collected over the years so I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown, the challenge that inspired it all, hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Odile's Fresh Orange Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

Poached Orange-Topped Cake, a variation of Odile's Fresh Orange Cake, was my baking project this week from Baking Chez Moi for Tuesdays with Dorie. Most of the group made this earlier in the month and it seemed to be a universal hit. I'm not surprised. It was light and moist and the layers of orange flavour from the cake, syrup and topping were wonderful.
This version involved arranging poached orange slices on top of the warm cake and pouring the poaching syrup over all, then allowing it to cool before serving.
Next time I'll dispense with the poached oranges and just serve fresh segments on the side since I had a few little issues: three oranges weren't enough and I had to slice up a few extra (unpoached) to cover the top of the cake; the poached oranges were very moist so the cake directly beneath them was a bit gummy. These were minor things that didn't take away from our enjoyment of this lovely dessert.

Visit here to see more versions of this cake and the Matcha Financiers, the other March baking project.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rice From the Pan - Cookbook Countdown

If you're ever at a loss as to what to do with leftover cooked rice as I often am, Arroz da Panela, a recipe from The New Portuguese Table, is something you must try. Even more than the perfect pot of rice it produced, I loved the story and tradition of enriching it daily with the previous days leftovers, building flavour and never serving the same dish twice.

Day 1:
The base recipe was quite flavourful on its own with every grain infused with onion, garlic, bay leaf, tomato, smoky Spanish chorizo and chicken stock. A vegetarian version I made with vegetable stock and a little smoked paprika to replace the chorizo was just as good.

Day 2:
With over half the rice gone, I added what remained of the Black-Eyed Peas with Onions and Red Pepper. Both the rice and the pea dishes were very good but, cliché though it is, the combination was much more than the mere sum of its parts. This was my favourite.

Day 3:
There wasn't much left of the rice and peas, just enough for a tasty lunch for one with the last of the Quick Weekday Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Seared Broccoli Rabe with Garlic added.

All of these recipes are from David Leite's The New Portuguese Table, the cookbook I've spent a little time exploring this month for Cookbook Countdown. 
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Amped-Up Roast Chicken and Potatoes with Seared Broccoli Rabe - Cookbook Countdown

Knowing how much my family loves chicken, I cannot possibly cook from a new (or older but rarely used) cookbook without trying at least one chicken recipe. The New Portuguese Table by David Leite, the cookbook I'm cooking from this month for Cookbook Countdown, includes several mouthwatering recipes in its poultry chapter but I couldn't get past the photo of the Quick Weekday Roast Chicken with Potatoes that shows a bronzed, trussed chicken surrounded by crisp potato cubes. The promise of "quick weekday" was attractive as well.
The "amped-up" part of the recipe was an easily assembled smoky, garlicky paste that's rubbed over the bird and tossed with the potatoes as well. I followed the suggestion to prepare the chicken the night before so it was ready to pop into the oven the next day, and I spatchcocked it to reduce the roasting time. The fantastic aroma of the roasting chicken was matched by its flavour. Fortunately, a full batch of the paste made more than I needed for this recipe so I can repeat this one soon. Or maybe I'll make Amped-Up ribs....
In Seared Broccoli Rabe with Garlic, broccoli rabe steps in as a substitute for Portuguese turnip greens. I happen to love this vegetable but not everyone in my family shares my enthusiasm for it. I've found that blanching before sautéing it goes a long way towards taming its bitterness. Steaming was the method used here; it turned out to be more efficient than blanching since I could use the same skillet to both steam and sear with the same end result. The fried garlic chips and red pepper flakes added extra flavour and heat to this easy little dish; it would go well with just about any protein.
 A quick weekday family dinner.

I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Black-Eyed Peas with Onions and Red Peppers - Cookbook Countdown

This month for Cookbook Countdown, a cooking event challenging me to cook from my rarely or never used cookbooks, I'm cooking from The New Portuguese Table by David Leite, one of my (no longer) neglected cookbooks.

The book is a collection of new and classic Portuguese recipes but this black-eyed pea recipe, Feijão Frade com Cebolas e Pimento Vermelho, is from among the author's family favourites.
Black-eyed peas are one of my favourite legumes; they have an inherent sweetness to them and they take less time to prepare than most. For this recipe, the dried peas were soaked then simmered in stock (I used vegetable to keep it vegetarian) for an extra layer of flavour. Sautéed onions and sweet red bell peppers added texture and extra sweetness and there was some fresh parsley for a pop of colour.
Tasty hot or at room temperature, this would be a welcome side at any family meal or potluck but I tossed it with some peppery greens and a drizzle of lemon juice for a main course salad. This one's a keeper.
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sole with Fennel and Orange, and Spinach with Breadcrumbs - Cookbook Countdown

There's nothing like a bit of citrus to brighten up a meal on a dreary winter day. Sea Bass with Fennel and Orange, a simple recipe for pan-fried fish served with a reduction of chicken broth and orange juice, softened slivers of fennel, chopped tomatoes and orange segments was light and bright and did just that. I substituted my family's favourite fish for the sea bass in the recipe, but I think that the sauce, the highlight of this dish, would be wonderful with most white fish.
I wanted an equally simple side dish to complete this easy weeknight meal. I had some Portuguese corn bread in need of repurposing and Spinach with Toasted Bread Crumbs provided the perfect end use for it. Crumbled, dry toasted, then crisped in olive oil, it added a delicious twist to an old standby of garlicky sautéed greens (and the nutmeg was a nice touch too).
Both of these terrific recipes are from the book The New Portuguese Table by David Leite, a cookbook I've owned but neglected for some time and have chosen to cook from this month.

I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.   

Monday, March 7, 2016

Matcha Financiers - Tuesdays with Dorie

This month for Tuesdays with Dorie, one of the chosen recipes was Matcha Financiers on page 206 of Baking Chez Moi. These sweet, buttery confections had the usual crispy-chewy exterior and dense but moist interior that you expect in a financier, and, as you can tell by the name, included matcha.
I wasn't very optimistic about the outcome of this recipe when I saw that the batter was a very scary shade of green thanks to the tea. I thought perhaps baking them in a madeleine pan might pretty them up enough that the colour would be overlooked but they turned out to be a much more attractive hue once baked so there was no need for it - my doubt or the madeleine pan - in the end.

Seeing the colour, most tasters expected a pistachio cake and were pleasantly surprised by the matcha, which was noticeable but not too assertive. They made short work of the batch.

Visit here to see what the other TWD members made this week. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Broa de Milho (Portuguese Corn Bread) - Cookbook Countdown

This month, I'm cooking from David Leite's The New Portuguese Table for Cookbook Countdown, an opportunity to cook from a book that has languished on my shelves for far too long but more importantly, a chance to make and eat some great Portuguese food.

I decided to try my hand at Corn Bread, a rustic, everyday Portuguese bread commonly served with soup. Described as "dense, with a thick, crackly crust", it intrigued me most because it was yeast-raised and made with a high proportion of cornmeal.
The recipe was fairly basic and instructions were clear but things did not progress as smoothly as I'd hoped. First, there was the salt. The recipe called for an enormous amount (2 tbsp) that I felt certain was a typo. I used only half but was concerned that it was still too much.

Then there was the cornmeal. "Fine" was required. I pulled out the 4 (??) types I had in my pantry - why I have this many, I couldn't say - and settled on the grind that wasn't labelled but was somewhere between the "medium" and "extra fine". It also happened to be a Portuguese brand. My first inkling that all was not well was the cornmeal mush that resulted from mixing it with water rather than the dough I was expecting.

My next clue was the perpetual stickiness of the dough which never cleared the sides of the bowl regardless of the extra flour I added. But I still had hope: the dough was elastic, and the boules had good surface tension, proofed in the allotted time, had good oven spring and developed a crisp crust.
And then I sliced into a loaf. The bread was extremely dense, which wouldn't have been an issue if it hadn't also been quite dry. Comparing it to the photo in the book which shows a flatter loaf with a more open crumb, it was clear that the dough should have been much looser and more hydrated than the one I'd made. The extra flour had definitely been a mistake, and I think my "extra-fine" cornmeal might have been the better choice. It had a really nice corn flavour but it was a little too salty for me. It's such an interesting loaf, I'd like to try it again, correcting my errors and reducing the salt even further.

Until then, I had some to deal with: it wasn't good enough to serve with soup as I'd planned but if I've learned anything from my bread baking experience, it's that a failed loaf usually makes excellent croutons.

And the book offers an even better way to repurpose it:
More to come on this dish....

I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.   

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pumpkin Soup with Spicy Seeds - Cookbook Countdown

The start of a new month means that I'm cooking from a new book for Cookbook Countdown, a cooking event organized by Emily and Joyce of Emily's Cooking Foray and Kitchen Flavours respectively and a great way to dust off those underused or ignored cookbooks.
I chose The New Portuguese Table by David Leite of Leite's Culinaria. As much a travelogue as it is a cookbook - I dare anyone to view those gorgeous photos and not immediately want to plan a trip there - it makes for a great read. David explains that he wasn't particularly enamoured with Portuguese food as a child in America and didn't develop an appreciation for the cuisine until much later in life. This compilation of recipes for traditional dishes, modern food with its foundation in the traditional and some of his family favourites is a result of his eventual "journey of discovery". I'm quite unfamiliar with Portuguese cuisine, so cooking from this book will be a journey of discovery for me as well.
I started with a warming soup, Sopa de Abóbora com Pevides Picantes. Since the book is written for a North American audience, the ingredients are based on what's readily available here. The author explains that our butternut squash is the best substitute for Portuguese pumpkin.
I've made butternut squash soups before but never this easy or with such incredible flavour. Key to this was roasting all of the vegetables first. Puréed with stock, strained, heated and served, the soup was a velvety smooth bowl of savoury-sweet goodness with a splash of vinegar adding a tangy lift.
Good though it was, the author wasn't quite finished with it. David credits his father for the garnish of Spicy Pumpkin Seeds, a recipe in the "Little Bites" chapter. Smoky, salty and just a little bit sweet with a kick of heat from some cayenne, I could have eaten these by the handful. Actually, I did, but stopped myself in time to garnish the soup! They brought extra flavour and texture to an already delicious dish.
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.