Monday, May 30, 2016

Lemony Roasted Shrimp and Fiddleheads - IHCC Local & Seasonal

It's fiddlehead season here in southern Ontario so for our "Local & Seasonal" theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs, I knew exactly what I was cooking with. I was just as certain Australian featured chef Curtis Stone wouldn't have a recipe that used them but they're an excellent substitute for asparagus so I adapted Oven-Roasted Shrimp and Asparagus with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette, switching out the asparagus for my little furled ostrich fern fronds.
Unlike asparagus which can be eaten raw, fiddleheads must be thoroughly cooked - steaming them for 10 minutes usually does it. I wasn't sure how that translated to roasting so to be safe, I steamed them for 5 minutes. After that, I followed the recipe as written.

And what a recipe....so easy, yet with such fantastic results. Both the shrimp and fiddleheads were tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper then blasted in a super hot oven for just a few minutes. A drizzle of a lemony shallot vinaigrette was the finishing touch.
Roasting brought out the sweetness of the shrimp and enhanced the delicate grassy flavour of the fiddleheads. Delicious! This was quick enough to prepare on a busy weeknight for family but I would not hesitate to serve it to guests.

The recipe can be found here if you'd like to try it. Visit here to see what other seasonal goodies IHCC members cooked up this week.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Rhubarb Clafoutis - Cookbook Countdown

I've been cooking from River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for Cookbook Countdown this month and for my final recipe made a wonderful dessert featuring a seasonal vegetable that's usually treated as a fruit: rhubarb. 
Clafoutis is a French tart of fruit baked in a sweet pancake-like batter traditionally made with cherries. There's a recipe for that version in the book but cherries aren't in season yet and I'm always looking for new ways to use rhubarb. It was paired with oranges in this, roasted with the juice of one and a pinch of cinnamon. Once it was cooled, drained and arranged in the baking dish, it was covered with a batter of milk, eggs, flour, orange zest and sugar and baked.
Too many recipes try to bury the rhubarb under mounds of sugar but its flavour was allowed to shine through in this one. Nestled in the sweet, custardy cake, it was tart and tangy with hints of orange and cinnamon. I served it with strawberries - another great pairing - and the reserved roasting liquid. The recipe for this delicious and easy dessert can be found here.

My introduction to this author was through vegetable cookery but with this book I've discovered that he has a way with breads, proteins and desserts as well. I've really enjoyed cooking from it and will revisit it often.
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tomatillo Chicken and Spinach Tacos - IHCC Potluck

It's potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs which means we can cook with any of the featured chefs, past or present. I had a craving for Mexican food and made a fun family dish from Rick Bayless, Tacos of Tomatillo Chicken with Wilted Greens and Fresh Cheese from his book Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen. Many of the recipes in this book rely on an "essential" sauce or salsa as their flavour base; this one starts with the Essential Simmered Tomatillo-Serrano Sauce. It's one of my favourites so I make it in bulk and freeze it.
With some of my freezer stash of sauce and boneless chicken breasts that poached in the time it took to prepare the rest of the ingredients, this was a breeze to put together. It was just a matter of combining the cooked chicken with the sauce, adding spinach strips (which wilted down to practically nothing so I stuffed each taco with extra raw spinach as I filled them!) and warming the tortillas. 

Tomatillos have such a sprightly flavour, they enliven whatever dish they're used in. The sauce captures and retains their essence so with moist chicken and lots of greens, this was light and bright. Loved it!

Visit here to see what everyone else brought to the IHCC potluck.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Herby BBQ Chicken with Tabula Kisir - Cookbook Countdown

It's been sunny and warm these last few days - perfect grilling weather and time to try out a new recipe, My Herby Barbecued Chicken from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Everyday, the book I'm cooking from this month for Cookbook Countdown

This recipe was all about the marinade. With a base of lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, garlic and mustard, you knew to expect great flavour. Add to that some fresh chopped herbs of your choice and it became a flavour explosion. Parsley and dill was what I had on hand and since I was using boneless, skinless chicken breasts I marinated them overnight to allow the flavours to penetrate and the acid of the lemon juice to work its tenderizing magic.
The chicken was tender and juicy, had a great crust (even without the skin!) and tasted fantastic. Some steamed Chinese long beans and a make-ahead grain salad rounded out the meal.
The Tabula Kisir, a cousin of tabbouleh made with steamed bulgur, tomatoes, toasted walnuts, bell peppers, fresh herbs and a spicy dressing was so good, I could have eaten it as a meal. So that's what I did the next day with a bit of leftover chicken:
And if there's one thing I've learned from this author having cooked quite a bit from his book River Cottage Veg, it's that a quick and delicious meal or snack is to be had simply by popping a toasted slice of good bread* topped with leftovers - more of that BBQ chicken, broccoli and Gruyère - under the broiler. 

My Herby BBQ Chicken & Broccoli Toastie:
* That's a slice of New Yorker Rye from one of my newest cookbooks, The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook - I just can't stop buying them!

I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray. Do stop by to see what everyone else is cooking this month.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tarte Tropézienne - Tuesdays with Dorie

The second "Fancy Cake" I made this month for Tuesdays with Dorie was an elegant dessert of vanilla diplomat cream sandwiched between layers of tender brioche. 
With only two components it wasn't difficult but did need some advance planning since the parts required time to chill, rest, proof etc...I did most of the work the day before, making the brioche dough (next time I may try it with this no-knead recipe) and the pastry cream. Proofing and baking the bread, finishing the filling with some whipped cream and assembling the dessert was all that remained to do next day, apart from enjoying it, that is.
And enjoy it we did. It was quite rich but not overly sweet and I loved the contrasting textures of the cool creamy filling and crunchy topping.

Visit here to see which cake everyone else baked from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi this week.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

No-Knead Brioche - Avid Baker's Challenge

It's been a while since I've participated in the ABC baking group but when I saw this month's challenge, I couldn't resist. I've made no-knead breads before but always with lean doughs consisting only of flour, water, yeast and salt. Would the method work with a dough enriched with all of that butter, sugar and egg? I was especially intrigued since I recently made a traditional brioche for a Tarte Tropézienne using a method that involved upwards of 20 minutes hard labour by my stand mixer.
This dough took only a few minutes to make, used only a whisk, and relied on the stretch and fold technique and time to develop the gluten. The recipe is from Weekend Bakery and can be found here. The site has very good photos and an even better video that shows the process clearly. I shaped the dough after 36 hours of refrigeration.
And 3 hours after that, it was ready for baking. I gave it an egg wash for a little sheen. After the allotted baking time, it looked done but needed an extra 10 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 88°C/190°F.
The loaf had an open, porous texture, much like that of highly hydrated bread (70% or more water relative to the weight of the flour) instead of the closer, more finely wrought crumb that's typical. Of course, if you take into account the water in the eggs, butter and honey in this recipe, that's exactly what this bread was.
But the texture and flavour were all brioche......airy, tender, rich and buttery. I'll definitely be making this again.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Baked Fish and Fennel with Carrot-Orange Salad - Cookbook Countdown

This month I'm cooking from the book River Cottage Everyday by Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall for Cookbook Countdown hosted by food bloggers Emily and Joyce. Having cooked extensively from River Cottage Veg, another of this author's books, I've come to expect certain things from his recipes: simplicity, enough of a twist to set it apart from similar recipes, great flavour.
Foil-Baked Fish Fillets with Fennel, Ginger and Chilli and Carrot, Orange and Chervil Salad didn't let me down.
For the first recipe, grouper fillets were baked in a foil package perched atop a bed of sautéed fennel. I'd never cooked fennel, the vegetable, with Asian flavours before but the garlic, ginger, chiles and soy sauce went beautifully with it and together with the fish juices formed a delicious sauce that was a little sweet, a little salty and thanks to the Thai bird chiles I used, a little spicy. I included snow peas in the packages and served everything over cellophane noodles.
The fish dish brought the heat to this meal so I cooled things down with this refreshing salad. I took a few liberties with the recipe and dressed the prepared oranges and carrots with lime instead of lemon juice and used coriander instead of chervil. Hugh has a way with salads and this one was no exception....so good.
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray. Make sure to visit to see what everyone else is cooking this month.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mediterranean Crêpes - IHCC Sunny Side Up!

This week, our theme at IHCC is breakfast/brunch fare. We're currently cooking with Australian chef Curtis Stone; I chose his recipe for Mediterranean Crêpes Filled with Prosciutto, Feta, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives which can be found here.
I'm a big proponent of doing things in advance if I can so I made the crêpes the night before. This recipe included a fair bit of sugar and whipping cream which resulted in a really tender crêpe, but also one that was very fragile; I poked holes in a few trying to turn them over!
All that was left to do the next day was to fill them and pop them in the oven to heat through. I filled them with feta, olives, and roasted tomatoes and peppers I had frozen last summer. I don't often make savoury crêpes but this is a recipe I'll make again and again. The combination of sweet, salty and briny ingredients wrapped in a delicate package was fabulous.

Visit here to see all the other Curtis Stone dishes worth waking up for! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tupperware Mexican Chorizo - Cookbook Countdown

If there's one thing my family enjoys almost as much as chicken, it's a tasty meatball. The enticing photo of meatballs browning in a pan in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Everyday, the book I'm cooking from this month for Cookbook Countdown, drew me to this recipe only to discover that it's actually for a homemade sausage mix flavoured like Mexican chorizo with meatballs a suggested end use.
I went ahead and made it, a blend of ground pork, sweet and hot smoked paparikas, cayenne pepper, garlic, fennel, salt, pepper and a bit of red wine. After a 24 hour rest in the fridge that allowed it to cure, it was ready to use. I was impressed with the results: well-seasoned, spicy and smoky. The author suggests some ways to use it... 

....in meatballs:
Of course I had to make meatballs! 650g of the sausage mix, 3 eggs and 3 tbsp dried breadcrumbs, a stint under the broiler to brown and a slow simmer in some homemade marinara and they were ready to enjoy with pasta.

....as a salad topping:
I fried up the remainder and sprinkled it on the Seedy Spinach Salad adding some salty, spicy goodness to simply dressed spinach leaves tossed with an assortment of toasted seeds, a salad that's delicious with or without the chorizo. 

The recipes for Tupperware Mexican Chorizo and Seedy Spinach Salad are two that I will definitely be repeating. They can be found here and here respectively.
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray.      

Monday, May 9, 2016

Betty's Chocoholic Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

Two recipes from the "Fancy Cakes" chapter in Baking Chez Moi were selected for our Tuesdays with Dorie baking projects this month. Both were quite easy to make with only two components each yet the results made them deserving of the "fancy cake" moniker. Don't you love recipes like that?
This week I'm featuring Betty's Chocoholic Cake comprising layers of moist brownie-type cake and luxurious chocolate ganache. Dorie mentions filling, topping or serving the cake with whipped cream so I added a third component, cocoa whipped cream filling, cocoa-flavoured so it wouldn't interfere with the "totally chocolate" effect of the cake.

The varying textures and chocolate intensity of the components worked beautifully together to create this ultimate chocolate indulgence....one of the best things I've made so far from this book according to family.

Visit here to view the other "Fancy Cake" creations. 

Black Pepper Tofu - IHCC Featuring Yotam Ottolenghi

I joined I Heart Cooking Clubs when Yotam Ottolenghi was featured chef and even though I worked my way through several recipes, I didn't manage to get to his Black Pepper Tofu from the book Plenty. Since he's featured chef once again, at least for this month, I thought I would finally give it a try.
I had no great love for tofu but I experimented with it when one of my daughters became vegetarian. She had no great love for it either until one day I fried it, a game changer for us both. Baking replaced frying when I discovered this method that produces the same tender nuggets with crisp crust. I used that method here, without a marinade, and made a few modifications to the sauce in this dish as well, replacing the butter with just a few spoons of vegetable oil and using half the black peppercorns since the original recipe calls for more than a tablespoon per serving.

The first few bites were fantastic. The sticky sauce coating the crisp tofu was salty, sweet and caramel-y. And then the black pepper kicked in. Described as fiery in the headnotes, this dish was actually mouth-numbingly hot. I felt the level of heat totally overwhelmed all of the lovely flavours in it. Given how much promise it showed at the start and how much we like our baked tofu, I will make this again but I will totally wimp out and use even less pepper.

Visit here to see the other dishes from featured chef Yotam Ottolenghi.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Lentil-Caraway Soup with Parsnip-Thyme Bread - Cookbook Countdown

The calendar says it's spring but the weather isn't quite cooperating so warming soups and homemade bread are still on the menu. I'm cooking from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Everyday this month for Cookbook Countdown so that was the first place I looked for something new to make. This book is very much about everyday cooking with recipes that often rely on ingredients from your dry and refrigerator pantries. The Lentil Soup with Caraway and Minted Yoghurt was one of them.
Made with red lentils, onions, garlic and carrots and spiced with toasted coriander and caraway seeds, the soup was smooth and creamy and had a lot of flavour but I found the caraway a bit strong. I think I would have preferred cumin here instead. I opted for a hot chile oil garnish instead of the yogurt topping and added some lemon juice to brighten the flavours. If I were to make this again, I would change the spices and add some chiles directly to the soup for a little heat. I think it would be fabulous then with the mint yogurt.
I did love the Parsnip and Thyme Bread I served it with. It was a dense loaf that had the really lovely complementary flavours of parsnip, thyme and Parmesan cheese.
I replaced the self-raising flour with all-purpose flour and some baking powder so my substitution may have affected the density but it was so moist and delicious, it didn't matter. Unlike some baked goods where the vegetable ingredient is masked by others, the parsnip was a strong and obvious presence, sweet and earthy....for parsnip lovers only.
I'm linking this post to Cookbook Countdown hosted by Kitchen Flavours and Emily's Cooking (Makan2) Foray. Stop by to see what everyone else is cooking.      

Monday, May 2, 2016

Strawberry-Hibiscus Punch - Wet Your Whistle IHCC

Hibiscus sabdariffa, aka Jamaica flowers, sorrel, roselle, bissap..... is known for its fruity, tangy brightness and the gorgeous ruby colour it adds to food. It went perfectly with strawberries in a punch I made this week for I Heart Cooking Clubs' theme "Wet your whistle" with featured chef Curtis Stone.
It was incredibly easy to put together: you just had to steep the dried hibiscus flowers with strawberries (I used frozen) and ginger in a sugar syrup for a few hours, strain, add extra water and serve over ice. I used a bit less sugar (150g) than the recipe called for but it was still a little sweet so I added the juice of a lemon as well.
The flavour was as gorgeous as its colour, tart and sweet, with a little heat from the ginger. And so refreshing...it will be an excellent cooler in the warmer months.

The recipe can be found here. Visit here to see the other drinks on offer at I Heart Cooking Clubs.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars & A Rhubarb Smoothie - Cookbook Countdown

Cookbook Countdown is a cooking event organized by talented food bloggers Joyce and Emily to help cookbook collectors like myself finally take some of those cookbooks down from their shelves, dust them off and start cooking from them. For the past few months, that's what I've done. I'm taking a different approach this month with the book I've chosen. 
As some of you may know, I spent the last 2 years cooking through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Veg with the Cottage Cooking Club. The group is moving on to River Cottage Everyday, another of the author's books, and I'd purchased it a few months ago thinking I'd join in again, later changing my mind about that. The book may be new-to-me but it was published in 2009; it's been sitting on someone's shelf for 7 years so it counts, right?
My first picks were from the breakfast chapter of the book, something delicious to start your day with. My daughters and I love our smoothies and the Rhubarb and Orange Smoothie recipe really stood out as one I never would have thought of making. This one required a bit of planning since the rhubarb was poached first with honey and orange juice but once that was done it was just a matter of whizzing it with yogurt (and some extra juice). This was a hit, really tart and invigorating. I wouldn't necessarily poach rhubarb just for this recipe again but I frequently roast it as a dessert topping or make a Polish fruit punch called kompot with it; now, I'll be sure to cook extra just for these smoothies.
To go with was Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars, a granola bar of sorts, fairly high in sugar and fat but better than most store-bought. I tweaked it a bit and used only half the sugar, replaced the butter with coconut oil and omitted the final drizzle of honey at the end. Packed with oats, dried fruit and seeds, these were absolutely scrumptious and made a great little portable snack to eat on the run in the morning or have for an energy boost in the afternoon.
If you'd like to try either of these recipes, just click on the recipe name and it will link you to it. 

Some exciting news....Cookbook Countdown now has its own site! Be sure to visit it here to see the books everyone else is cooking from this month.

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