Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cottage Cooking Club - December 2014

This month's Cottage Cooking Club had me delving into my freezer pantry for vegetables to make some of the recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg cookbook, something I'd yet to do. I have no prejudice against frozen vegetables; they're picked and frozen at their peak and are far better quality than some of the "fresh" produce in my grocery store that's come from thousands of kilometres away. I do find that the texture of some is compromised by the process so I don't buy very many, but the few that were needed this month are staples for me: spinach and corn. Other ingredients that came from my frozen pantry were: puff pastry, pine nuts, chickpeas (that I cooked from dry and froze), and chickpea flour. Now on to the recipes.....

Corner Shop Spanakopita (page 54)
Spanakopita is a favourite around here. My go to recipe hails from the book The Olive and the Caper and is flavoured with green onions, parsley and lots of fresh dill, and made with phyllo dough. But I was game to try any variation, including one that used the rather non-traditional puff pastry. I cooked off the defrosted spinach in the pan with the onions rather than steaming it and went with the fennel seeds and feta to flavour the filling. I made this on a day of crazy family schedules where a sit down dinner wasn't going to happen so I baked them as turnovers, an easy grab-and-go meal with a salad, Greek of course, packed separately. 

These were really good - not as fresh tasting as the recipe I use with all of those herbs, but still perfectly delicious. I'd love to see how it turned out baked as a pastry-topped pie.
Brussels Sprouts, Apple, and Cheddar (page 108)
Cabbage/Brussels sprouts + apple = delicious; apple + cheddar = delicious; the three ingredients combined with toasted hazelnuts and lemon vinaigrette = fantastic! This was a great lettuce-free salad that fulfilled my craving for fresh and crisp foods with bright flavours, one that doesn't go away even though the weather is cold and snowy and slow-roasted and braised foods are the order of the day. I will definitely be making this again.

Bruschetta with Curly Kale (page 200)
The kale lovers including myself really enjoyed this quick open-faced sandwich of toasted garlic bread topped with barely cooked garlicky kale and cheese. We so enjoyed the kale and cheddar pizza topping from October's CCC, that that became our cheese of choice. But that ingredient was secondary; this was a recipe where the kale was allowed to shine. I used curly since that's much more readily available here than Tuscan/lacinato, and good though this was prepared as per the recipe, it was fabulous after a stint under the broiler that crisped the kale and melted the cheese! 

Quick Chickpea Pasta (page 246)
A dish that definitely lived up to it's name in that it was very quick, not taking much longer than it did to bring water to a boil and cook pasta. It was a little dry but some pasta cooking water I had rescued from the pot before draining the pasta and chickpeas solved that issue, and combined with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, Thai bird chile and Parmesan, made a light but flavourful sauce for the dish. This was tasty and quite satisfying and something I would definitely make again.

Leek Risotto with Chestnuts (page 270)
This was a lovely seasonal risotto flavoured primarily with leeks, some wine and good vegetable stock finished with the crunch of some crumbled, fried chestnuts. I used the author's method of adding one-quarter of the stock at a time, one that seemed less fiddly than adding it by the ladle-full but still produced good results. This was a simple, comforting dish which I quite enjoyed...for family who complained that it was too sweet, there was a bowl of grated Parmesan on the table!

Sweet Corn Fritters with Cilantro Raita (page 325)
These crispy fritters reminded me of the cauliflower pakoras we made in September with a similar spice profile and the rather distinctive flavour of chickpea flour. A little hot, spiced with warm earthy flavours, and pops of sweetness from the corn, they were a taste of summer in the depths of winter. The dipping sauce of yogurt and goat's cheese had lots of flavour and tang to complement the fritters.......the perfect accompaniment.

This was a very delicious month at Cottage Cooking Club and I'm just sorry I didn't have time to try more of the dishes (especially the salsify!). I can't wait to see what everyone else made! Visit here to find out....

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gingerbread Bûche de Noël - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week's TWD choice from Baking Chez Moi was a recipe I approached with some trepidation; there were multiple components to this dessert, some involving some rather tricky (for me) techniques. But at the same time, I looked forward to the challenge...improving my baking skills was one of my reasons for joining this group after all so I forged ahead.

Well, it seems I needn't have worried since Dorie managed to guide me through the steps that concerned me most. I didn't burn the caramel for the pralines, I didn't deflate my sponge cake batter (too much) while trying to incorporate all of those pesky flour pockets and though it was perhaps a tad over baked at 13 minutes in my oven, the cake didn't break apart when I rolled it. Dorie told me not to worry about the cracks so I didn't, and armed with my trusty instant read thermometer, even the dreaded marshmallow frosting (that I made with only three egg whites) turned out. 
The result was a delicious Bûche de Noël made of a moist, lightly spiced cake, filled with a tangy, creamy filling and decorated with an ethereal whipped frosting studded with crunchy pecan pralines. I took a torch to the frosting since I think marshmallows are at their best toasted - actually just an excuse to play with one of my kitchen toys ;)!

This was my contribution to a dessert buffet and it was very well received, one of the first to disappear. Many commented that it wasn't overly sweet with the tangy filling a great counterpoint to the sweetness of the other elements and that it was quite light. Dorie says to serve it chilled, but it ended up served at room temperature. It held up well and I actually preferred it this way with the filling and cake a softer texture and the spice flavours a little more pronounced. I would definitely make this again.

Visit TWD to see everyone else's lovely cakes.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lemon-Soy Sauce Braised Chicken - IHCC Potluck

It's Mark Bittman's turn in my kitchen for this month's IHCC potluck with the very flavourful Chicken Braised in Soy Sauce and Lemon from his book How to Cook Everything.
Relatively quick to make, chicken pieces were braised in a mixture of soy sauce, water, lemon zest, garlic and cayenne pepper, or red pepper flakes as I used. You have the option of first browning the chicken pieces, but this step takes time and adds unnecessary fat to the dish; I used skinned chicken thighs and as you can see from the pictures, the soy sauce gave them a lovely burnished look without frying. 
Finished with some fresh lemon juice, the dish was quite lemony in flavour with the soy sauce doing what it does best, adding that indefinable umami flavour. Despite it not being particularly Asian, I served it with stir-fried Shanghai bok choy and mushrooms, and steamed brown rice for a weeknight meal that was easy on the cook and a hit with family.

I'm  also sharing this post with Cook-Your-Books hosted by Joyce. Visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and Kitchen Flavours to see what everyone else made this month!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Beet & Carrot Fritters with Dill-Yogurt Sauce - IHCC Party Pleasers

I've written before about the importance to me of beets during the holiday season with barszcz (Polish beet soup) the opening course of our family Christmas Eve feast. Potato pancakes, latkes, or placki kartoflane as I know them are also a family tradition, one of our favourite suppers on meatless Fridays growing up. It was a given that I would make a beet dish for this week's IHCC theme of "party pleasers" and in my search for one, I came across Beet and Carrot Fritters from A Change of Appetite, a recipe that combined these two important-to-me foods. A creative take on potato pancakes, they included shredded carrots and beets, with sautéed onion and garlic for added flavour.
With the help of a food processor that did the shredding for me, these were easy to put together. The cooking instructions seemed a little complicated with constant turning and heat adjustments required; I just patted the mixture of vegetables, aromatics and eggs out into thinner pancakes and cooked them a few minutes each side on medium-high. They were golden and crisp and fully cooked in the centre. Sour cream was a traditional accompaniment to the pancakes of my youth but I switched to Greek yogurt years ago - garlic and fresh dill were delicious additions.
These were fantastic! I was very pleased that the beets didn't overwhelm the other ingredients, allowing the flavour of the potatoes and carrots to come through. They would be perfect as a starter for a festive dinner party or as one of the offerings at a latke party during Hannukah!

Visit IHCC to see the rest of the party menu!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Rugelach That Won Over France - Tuesdays With Dorie

This week's TWD choice from Baking Chez Moi is rugelach, a popular Jewish cookie with a cream cheese-rich pastry rolled with a fruity, nutty and often chocolatey filling. 
The cookie is no stranger to me since it's graced my Christmas cookie trays for many years. In fact, Dorie's dough recipe is exactly the same as the one I've been using, but all resemblance to my recipe ends there. The differences are primarily in the techniques of making and shaping the dough, leaving pieces of butter and cream cheese in it and rolling it very thinly to help create flaky layers during baking, and shaping it into a cigar-shaped roll that's sliced and baked, producing cylinder-shaped cookies instead of the crescent shape I make.

I followed these instructions and the other tips provided, and having made them before, used a few tricks of my own, finely chopping the filling ingredients in the food processor which does it far more efficiently than I, and rolling the dough tightly around the filling to minimize filling loss during baking. I sliced the chilled rolls and froze the cookies before baking. 375F worked better than 400F in my oven, browning but not burning the exterior while cooking the dough all the way through.

Dorie's method resulted in a superior cookie with each little bundle of deliciousness comprised of multiple layers of flaky pastry and sweet, chewy filling. And lets talk about that filling....who can resist chocolate and cherries with crunchy pecans and chewy coconut? Well, apparently the coconut-haters among my tasters can! 

I and many others thought they were fantastic and worth repeating, perhaps sans coconut next time! And while I did love the texture and flavour of the cookie, I really missed the crescent shape, so I'll definitely be returning to that.

Do visit the other TWD members' posts for these delicious Rugelach That Won Over France here.  

We're not publishing the recipes from the book but I encourage you to buy it, you won't be sorry.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Farro and Oat Porridge with Pomegranates and Pistachios - IHCC December Mystery Box Madness!

Mystery Box Madness at I Heart Cooking Clubs is here again! I love this theme where we're provided with a list of ten ingredients from which we are to use at least three in a dish from any of the featured chefs. The ingredients this month were: chocolate, cherries, cinnamon, oats, couscous, pomegranate, curry (powder/paste), coconut milk, lentils, hot peppers/chillies.
I needed a reprieve from all of the sweets and rich foods that have started to appear during this festive season (some of which I've been guilty of making!) and made Spelt and Oat Porridge with Pomegranates and Pistachios, from Diana Henry's book A Change of Appetite. This was a warming bowl of hot cereal made with farro used in place of spelt and oats, and topped with pomegranates and pistachios. Not included in the original recipe, and as my third "mystery box" ingredient, I added a cinnamon stick to the farro cooking water and again to the farro-oat-milk mixture so the porridge would be infused with its flavour.

The steel-cut oats* took twice as long to cook and needed twice as much liquid as the recipe indicated, which was actually more in keeping with the package directions, and I added a little salt to the porridge along with the sugar. Not a quick cooking cereal, I made it on a Sunday to enjoy during the week adding just a splash of milk while reheating it to restore its original creaminess.

Perked up with tart pomegranate arils and crunchy pistachios, who wouldn't want to start their day with this nourishing bowl of goodness. 

* in my North American edition, this ingredient is listed as "steel-cut rolled oats", a form that doesn't exist; the cooking instructions in the recipe would have worked for rolled oats

I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone else used the Mystery Box ingredients

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sugar-Crusted Lime Loaf Cake and Lime Curd - Gifts From the Heart IHCC

For this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs' theme "Gifts From The Heart", I turned to Diana Henry's book Plenty which provided me with the perfect recipe for gift-giving in the Sugar-Crusted Lemon Loaf Cake. I made the lime variation flavoured with both the zest and juice of the fruit and glazed with a zingy lime syrup, the source of the sugar crust. A moist, dense pound cake redolent with lime, it baked up beautifully tall and golden and lovely.
And what better to accompany it than Raj Nimboo Curd from the book Salt Sugar Smoke, a tart lime curd with just the right amount of sweetness and a very smooth finish. Silky in texture thanks to the butter (twice the amount of my regular recipe!) it was quite rich and luxurious and perfect for gift-giving. A special treat for someone's afternoon tea! 

Visit IHCC to read about the other gifts.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Dark Chocolate Éclairs - Avid Baker's Challenge

Our two years of baking from the King Arthur Flour website are at an end and for our final recipe, the Avid Baker's Challenge members have baked an über chocolatey treat, Dark Chocolate Éclairs!
Made from classic French Choux Pastry, the light, crisp shell of these delicious pastries was merely an excuse to indulge in a silky, rich chocolate pastry cream filling and a smooth, creamy, bittersweet chocolate ganache glaze. A chocoholic's dream dessert!

If you would like to give these decadent sweets a try, click on the recipe names for the links to KAF. And visit ABC to see the other bakers' creations. 

Next month ABC begins a new challenge, baking from the blog Scientifically Sweet. It looks as though there will be new, fun baking adventures ahead!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cottage Cooking Club - November 2014

November was a really busy month for me as I'm sure it was for many, but we did have to eat. One of the things I love about the recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Veg is that they fit in nicely with my regular meal plans; I'm usually buying the same ingredients I normally would, but doing something a little different and more exciting with them. This month, I made four recipes.

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (page 38)
I regularly make Polish meat and rice stuffed cabbage rolls but I've failed in my attempts to develop a vegetarian version - the filling is often bland, too dry, over or undercooked...the list of problems goes on. I hoped this recipe would be the solution.
Stuffed with crunchy walnuts and chewy farro and barley (I omitted the fruit), and topped with a chunky tomato sauce, the flavour of these was really very good, and even better the next day. But I had issues with the cabbage. I used green cabbage since it looked far better than the savoy the day I went shopping, and more than just blanched the leaves before filling, cooking them until they were pliable. They didn't cook any further during baking. In my opinion, there's a time and place for crunchy cabbage, in a cabbage roll is not one of them. Perhaps the savoy cabbage called for in the recipe would have been better.

Couscous (Freekeh & Brown Calrose Rice) Salad with Herbs and Walnuts (page 89)
This hearty salad that I made with a mixture of freekeh and brown rice had wonderful texture: the grains were chewy, the walnuts crunchy and the vegetables still had a little bite to them after sautéing. My initial reaction to the flavour was very positive; I loved all the anise notes from the celery, fennel and fennel seed in the dish but after a few bites it didn't seem quite as exciting. I thought it was okay but not something I'd make again. Surprisingly, it was a hit with the carnivores (I've given up trying to predict what they'll like) who enjoyed it as a side to their grilled Italian sausages!

Patatas Bravas (page 322)
I didn't realize I was in a tomato sauce rut until making some of the River Cottage Veg recipes this month! First the cabbage rolls smothered in a chunky sauce flavoured with thyme and bay and now this one with paprika and hot chiles! Served with fried potatoes, which retained their crisp crust and flavour, this was a delicious dish, a little sweet and spicy and tangy. Traditionally served as tapas, Hugh mentions that it would go well with frittata so I served it as a side dish to the Cauliflower Cake from Yotam Ottolenghi's newest book, Plenty More, for a simple vegetarian meal.

Roasted Parsnip "Chips" (page 357)
As with some of the other roasted vegetable recipes in this book, this one was more a technique than an actual recipe, and it was a technique that worked. The parsnip spears did resemble "chips", crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and roasting brought out their sweet, earthy flavour. It was a great way to serve this vegetable that's often overlooked in my kitchen. Definitely something to make again.

I don't own another cookbook that I've wanted to cook from as much as this one or one with the same success rate: I've made over half the recipes chosen so far and enjoyed most of them (there are only a few I wouldn't repeat). So even in a month that wasn't quite as successful as some of the others, I still enjoyed cooking from the book and am looking forward to December's selections.

Visit the Cottage Cooking Club to see what everyone else made. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cranberry Crackle Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

One of the first things I did once I decided to join this group in baking through Baking Chez Moi was to invest in some mini baking pans for those weeks when a smaller version of the recipe would be more fitting. With baking to be done for my son's birthday and a bridal shower, this was one of those weeks. Initially considering skipping it altogether, I decided instead to make a half recipe in my new 6" pie plate.
And I'm so glad I did because this tart was absolutely wonderful. Dorie describes it as "homey" but I thought it very pretty with the red fruit and white meringue, like rubies in snow. The galette dough (page 420) provided the perfect flaky base for the mound of fluffy, sweet meringue with its crisp shell and tart fresh cranberries. A study in contrasting flavours and textures, this was one delicious tart. Everyone loved it and complained about the small portion!!! A full-sized version may be making an appearance at Christmas dinner.

We're not publishing the recipes from the book but I encourage you to buy it, you won't be sorry. And visit TWD to see everyone's gorgeous tarts.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chicken with Cilantro and Spinach Rice - 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 made chicken dishes for the last 2 potlucks and thought I would continue the theme with Tessa Kiros who took me to Peru with this fantastic chicken and rice pilaf from Falling Cloudberries.
She also took me a little outside of my comfort zone. The dish started with sautéed garlic, carrots, sweet bell peppers and peas...nothing unusual there. But then a purée of fresh cilantro and spinach was added which ultimately became the flavour base of the entire dish. Mixed with water, it formed the braising liquid for the chicken and the cooking liquid for the rice. The ingredients completely melded together during cooking to create a wonderfully complex flavour. 
The chicken was fall of the bone tender but it was the rice that was the star, absorbing the flavours of the vegetables, herbs and spices. A dollop of cumin-flavoured yogurt and drizzle of hot chilli oil finished the dish nicely. Definitely one to repeat.

Visit IHCC to see what everyone else brought to the potluck!

I'm also sharing this post with Cook-Your-Books, a monthly cooking/baking event hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Grilled Fish and Saffron Broth with Corfu Garlic Sauce - IHCC Sweet Cloves & Liquid Gold

Cooking with sweet cloves of garlic and liquid gold olive oil is the theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Grilled Fish and Saffron Broth with Corfu Garlic Sauce, a recipe from Diana Henry's book A Change of Appetite was my choice to celebrate these two ingredients.
This was a dish of pan grilled fish served atop shallots, leeks and fennel that had simmered in saffron infused fish stock with cooked potatoes added at the end. Golden in colour and laced with the earthy flavour of saffron, the vegetables went beautifully with mild Pacific "snapper" (actually not snapper at all but a sustainable variety of Pacific sea bass) to create a delicately flavoured dish.
It was the Corfu sauce featuring the "sweet cloves" and "liquid gold", as well as toasted walnuts, bread and red wine vinegar that added a spark. The pungent sauce, which you may know as Greek bread skordalia or Turkish tarator sauce, was very strongly flavoured and just a little stirred into the broth went a long way.

Family and I enjoyed it so I'll definitely make it again but I'll have to simplify the method next time since made as written, it produced piles of dirty pots and pans! Skipping the fish marinade that didn't seem to add much to the dish, and cooking the potatoes with the other vegetables may be a few places to start.

Visit IHCC to see other Diana Henry dishes using the featured ingredients.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Palets de Dames - Tuesdays with Dorie

I can say unequivocally that Dorie Greenspan taught me to bake. Years ago, my repertoire consisted only of muffins, quick breads and the occasional coffee cake. Then I discovered Tuesdays with Dorie. I followed the members' baking adventures as they worked their way through Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home To Yours and was finally convinced by their successes to buy the book and bake. I didn't have a blog then to be able to share my results, but I have one now, so it's a real pleasure to be joining this group in baking through this beauty of a book, Dorie's latest, Baking Chez Moi.
Palets de Dames, Lille Style, a pretty little iced vanilla cookie, was our first recipe. With a cake-like texture and tangy glaze (I used lemon juice only), these easy to make cookie buttons were a nice little treat with a cup of coffee.

We're not publishing the recipes from the book but I encourage you to buy it, or pick up a copy from your local library to give it a test run - you won't be sorry. Visit TWD to see everyone else's lovely cookies.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Roasted Tomatoes, Hummus, and Spinach on Pita - IHCC Mystery Box Madness

There's a fun new feature at IHCC this month, Mystery Box Madness. Our challenge was to make a dish from our current or a past featured cook that used at least three of the mystery box ingredients: harissa, eggs, saffron, pumpkin, maple syrup, dates, rose water, oranges, spinach and chickpeas.
I made Roasted Tomatoes, Hummus and Spinach on Toast from Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite, using harissa, spinach and chickpeas. This is a multi-component sandwich that at first seemed like it might be a bit of work, but as the author points out, the homemade hummus and roasted tomatoes are items you can make in advance and have on hand for other meals or snacks.

The hummus, made from canned chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and cumin went together quickly in the food processor. I couldn't get it as smooth and silky as my favourite recipe, but it tasted far better than store-bought.
The tomatoes available now aren't nearly as flavourful as they are in the summer, but roasting them with harissa and balsamic vinegar transformed them into something utterly delicious, and the highlight of the sandwich.

Assembly took only moments, piling a warm, multi-grain pita high with hummus, baby spinach leaves and harissa-roasted tomatoes, and it didn't take much longer than that to enjoy!

If you would like to try it, the recipe can be found here. Visit I Heart Cooking Clubs to see how others used the Mystery Box ingredients.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Strawberry and Passionfruit Jam - IHCC Stock Your Exotic Pantry!

Our theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs was to stock our pantry with exotic preserves, condiments, spice mixes, or whatever else suited our fancy using a recipe from our featured chef, Diana Henry. I went outside my little cooking box to make something I've never made before: jam!
For the Strawberry and Passionfruit Jam, I used part of the stash of local berries residing in my freezer, picked at their peak in June, and one of my favourite fruits, the exotic passionfruit, quite expensive here but needed in only a small amount. The challenge for me was figuring out the pectin: I know you need a specific ratio of sugar:acid:pectin for successful gel formation (that's the organic chemist coming out in me), but putting into practice in your kitchen what you know to be true on paper is often entirely different. I went with a "light" pectin product (12g) that required less sugar to set and 138g sugar to make up the weight of the "sugar with added pectin" ingredient in the recipe.
This was a perfect recipe for a jam-making novice: the batch was small, cooking time was very short (and I did achieve a soft set so I did something right!) and the flavour was fantastic. Sweet and tart, the strawberry and passionfruit flavours were perfectly balanced without one overpowering the other. And look at that colour!
To test it out, (and to stop me eating it out of the jar!!) I made the suggested Buttermilk Scones, a sweet treat that baked up tall and flaky, perfect with my newest creation!

Both recipes can be found on the Telegraph website.....just click on the recipe name for the link.

I'm excited to see the other members' exotic pantry items at IHCC, aren't you!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Cranberry-Pumpkin Rolls - Avid Baker's Challenge

Sweet or savoury? I was initially confused by this month's Avid Baker's Challenge pick, a yeast-raised bread that contained quite a few sweet ingredients and some pumpkin-friendly spices. But in looking at the amounts, I decided it fell on the savoury side of the fence.
The recipe comes from King Arthur Flour, with whom we've been baking for almost two years, and I had intended to make it exactly as written; I knew I had all of the ingredients including the crystallized ginger, though I couldn't recall when I'd used it last - never a good sign - but when I finally located it, I found that it was rock hard, so omitted it :(!
As with most of the bread recipes I've made from this site, the dough was very easy to make with my stand mixer doing the work, and also easy to handle and shape after proofing. I did knead the cranberries in by hand for more even distribution and shaped the dough into 12 sandwich sized buns, approx. 105g each, that baked in 20 minutes. The bread was lovely and soft and the pumpkin and spice flavours were quite subtle.
They were perfect for our day after Thanksgiving roast turkey, back bacon and cheddar sandwiches!

The recipe for the Cranberry-Pumpkin Rolls can be found here, and do visit ABC to see the other members' variations.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cottage Cooking Club - October 2014

It's time again for the monthly round-up of recipes I made from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg cookbook for the Cottage Cooking Club, a group founded by Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness, determined to cook its way through this book. I must admit that I was a little distracted this month with lots of planning, cooking and baking for Thanksgiving (second Monday in October in Canada), but I did manage to make twelve recipes, including two of them as part of our holiday dinner.

Baby Beet Tarte Tatin (page 48) 
I thought I was being very clever when I chose lovely golden beets with their pretty autumn hue for this recipe, best described as an upside down tart, only to realize that they only look that good when they're raw. Cooked, they look like baked apples, don't they? Family wondered why I was making a vinaigrette as a dessert topping!
My beets were small, but not baby, so in pre-cooking them, they did take an extra 15 minutes to roast; covered with the pastry, my baking time was also longer by about 10 minutes before the pastry was puffed and browned. I missed the instructions to cool the tart for 15 minutes before inverting it and did this as soon as I removed it from the oven, but it seemed to work fine.

I had really high expectations for this dish and I wasn't disappointed; the sweet beets nestled on a crisp pastry bed and glazed with a sharp, mustardy dressing was a really spectacular way to serve this vegetable. My family aren't fans of beets so as you can see from the photo, I made a baby tarte tatin just for myself, baked in a brioche mould. I did roast the full amount of beets and enjoyed the rest of them warm with that delicious vinaigrette....excellent even without the pastry. 

For the tarte's puff pastry, rather than using store bought, I thought I'd try my hand at Hugh's Rough Puff Pastry (page 52). A simple mix of butter, flour and water, it's all about the rolling and folding of the dough, a step that's repeated several times to create the layers, something I've done before for this quick puff recipe. It's quite easy to do provided your kitchen, work surface and dough remain cool, and the weather was co-operating with me. I did need to refrigerate the dough after the 4th turn since it was becoming a little resistant to rolling; an hour in the fridge relaxed the gluten enough that the final 2 turns were very easy.  

You can't really see the layers in the tarte tatin photo, but I baked a scrap, so if you're wondering if Hugh's recipe works.... does

Warm Salad of Mushrooms and Roasted Squash (page 94) 
Caramelizing vegetables, whether it's by oven-roasting or sautéing stove-top, concentrates their flavour and brings out their natural sweetness. This recipe uses both of those techniques to help create a hearty fall salad.
Red kuri squash roasted with garlic and sage, combined with sautéed baby bellas made a worthy side dish on their own. The author's simple twists of serving them warm on a bed of peppery arugula, binding everything together with a balsamic vinegar dressing that echoed the sweet, caramel flavours of the cooked vegetables, and adding some cheese for extra tang (I used family-friendly goat's cheese) transformed them into a delicious meal.

Carrot, Orange, and Cashews (Almonds) (page 107)
This was a good take on a Moroccan raw carrot salad that relied on the naturally sweet-tart juice of the fresh oranges to dress it, and earthy toasted cumin seeds to keep it on the savoury side. It was perked up with a few drops of vinegar - though I may have added a little more than that of the white wine vinegar I used for more flavour. The finishing touch for added crunch was some toasted nuts but since cashews aren't a favourite here, I used whole almonds instead.

Sweet and savoury, and quite refreshing, I didn't think it had enough flavour or made enough impact to be a starter, but it made a very good side.

Cannellini Bean (White Kidney Bean) and Leek Soup with Chile Oil (page 165) 
This was a very herby, flavourful soup that came together quickly enough to be well suited for a busy weeknight's meal.
Simple to make, it started with cooking the leeks until they were meltingly soft then upping the flavour a couple of notches with thyme, a bay leaf, oregano and garlic. Canned or cooked beans (I used white kidney beans I'd cooked and frozen) added some heft to the soup and after a short time simmering in some vegetable stock, it was ready for the the final touch, a drizzle of chile oil. Hugh included a recipe for this but I had some store bought that I didn't use often enough to warrant making a new batch. The soup was good without it but I really enjoyed that little bit of heat with every spoonful. It was a great use of the product as are some of the other suggestions in the book....I may be out of it and ready to try Hugh's recipe soon.

Kale and Onion Pizza (page 186)
Roasted kale chips are a favourite snack around here (for some), so I was sure this pizza would be a hit. It required cooking the kale for the topping first with some caramelized onions (I used only one) and garlic. I made a point of under-seasoning the kale a little since I knew the flavours would concentrate during baking but apart from that one moment of clarity, I don't know what I was thinking when I made this: I had twice the required kale and I was using only half the dough to make one large pizza, yet I put all of the kale on the pizza! Sad math skills aside, Hugh's Magic Dough crust (recipe page 172) came through for me and even overloaded, was able to support the amount of topping, baking up with a crisp bottom as usual!

Only the surface layer of kale browned and crisped and acquired that salty, briny flavour you expect; it worked really well with the cheddar cheese, and the sweet onion was a good foil for the salty ingredients. This was even better than I expected and will be a topping I make again but maybe next time, I'll use the right proportion of ingredients!

White Beans with Artichokes (page 240)
Using canned beans (I used cooked white kidney beans I had in the freezer), and jarred grilled artichokes, this salad took about five minutes to put together and with the (optional) Parmesan cheese and a slice of crusty bread, made a delicious meal. Using the oil from the jar of grilled artichokes and warming the ingredients before topping the greens was a quick way to add great flavour and take the edge off the raw garlic at the same time. I included some of the bell peppers strips that were packed in the jar with the artichokes as well. 

This was excellent served warm as suggested but also very good at room temperature, and made a great boxed lunch with the salad greens packed separately and mixed in just before eating.

Broccoli Salad with Asian-Style Dressing (page 316)
Now this is what the Asian coleslaw (page 115) should have been: crisp and fresh and lively in flavour! Interestingly, the dressing of garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, sesame oil (which I reduced by half) and soy sauce was almost identical, but somehow, where it merely flavoured the cabbage a little in the other dish, it made the blanched broccoli come alive. Toasted sesame seeds were a nice, nutty addition. I had a 750g bunch of broccoli, which once trimmed barely served 4 so I suspect the recipe amount would only serve 2-3.

Broccoli is one of the family favourites so it's always fun to discover a new and delicious way to serve it. 

Roasted Squash (page 346) and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots (page 352)
I usually serve squash and brussels sprouts at our Thanksgiving dinner but I'm not attached to any particular recipe so I turned to this cookbook to provide some ideas for this year's side dishes. Since both the roasted squash (from last month) and roasted brussels sprouts could be prepped in advance and required just an occasional stir while cooking, distinct advantages when you have so many other dishes on the go, I added them to the menu.

I peeled and cubed the butternut squash so it would cook in the same amount of time as the brussels sprouts (and make serving easier). Though I had over twice the required amount of both vegetables, I used the recipe amount of oil and substituted olive for canola.
When the turkey came out to rest, I popped them into the oven. They seemed to take about the same time to roast as the recipe stated, about 35 minutes, though to be honest, with so much else going on, I really didn't notice....I was just happy that they were done at the same time as everything else!

Both were big hits! The roasted garlic and sage (my fresh herb of choice) perfectly complemented the squash and the brussels sprouts didn't have that cabbagey flavour and bitterness they sometimes do but instead were quite sweet and delicious.

The recipe for the squash was more of a technique than a recipe but worth revisiting for the serving suggestions, and the brussels sprouts will definitely be made again. (And no, I didn't hold up Thanksgiving dinner to take pictures...this was all that was left from a huge serving platter!)

Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Paprika (page 352)
More roasted veggies, this time cauliflower, both regular and golden.
Apart from fried in a pakora, roasted is one of the only ways most of my family will eat this vegetable. Though a departure from my usual cumin, I thought that the smoked paprika and fresh lemon juice in this recipe worked really well with it. Not everyone agreed, particularly in regards to the lemon. In addition to the juice that's tossed with the cauliflower before roasting, I squeezed the juice from the roasted wedges on it before serving. I enjoyed it, but everyone else thought it too astringent. It would have been better to serve those wedges on the side and allow everyone to add the juice to taste.

Pumpkin and Raisin Tea Loaf (page 394) 
I don't usually bake from UK books since our flour, a key ingredient upon which the success of the cake, tea loaf, etc often hinges, is not comparable to "plain flour", but this recipe, with no added fat and raw winter squash used as you would carrot or zucchini intrigued me.  

This loaf ended up being a little more work than most, with separate bowls needed for wet ingredients, dry ingredients, whipped egg whites......and then there was the grated raw butternut squash. 200g was such a small piece - deceptively so I soon discovered - so I turned to my box grater to grate it manually. That is one, dense vegetable! It took a while to work through that little piece producing a huge mound of shavings!
In place of the self-raising flour, I used 1 3/4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp table salt and made up the rest of the weight with a cake and pastry flour blend that's a better match than our high protein Canadian all-purpose. I must have done something right because the loaf rose nicely and had that lovely split on the top though it did take an extra fifteen minutes to bake. 

This was a sturdy little cake that was quite moist and sliced beautifully with a show of pretty little orange speckles in every piece. The flavour was wonderful, surprisingly fruity given the amount of spices, but they took a back seat to the raisins and the lemon zest. I'd make this again but I'd let the food processor do the work with the squash! I wonder if anyone tried the beet variation.....

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Soy Mushrooms with Egg Ribbons and Black Sesame - IHCC What came first? The chicken or the egg?

Cooking for a family of five that has varied likes and dislikes uses up most of my cooking mojo so it's very rare that I cook a dish just for myself. In reading Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite, Soy Mushrooms with Egg Ribbons and Black Sesame caught my attention and fit this week's I Heart Cooking Club's theme of chicken and/or eggs. The caveat: it was intended to serve only one. I considered making a larger batch to share. Alas, I had only enough mushrooms for a single serving ;).
For this recipe, sautéed mushrooms flavoured with soy sauce were made a little richer with a small amount of crème fraîche and were topped with strips of a one-egg omelette and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Diana describes this dish as a "lip-smacking serving of umami". I describe it as a delicious way to spoil oneself!
The recipe for this easy breakfast for one - or lunch/dinner with a salad - is from A Change of Appetite and can also be found here.

Check out IHCC to see the other chicken and/or egg themed dishes (what did come first??) from Diana Henry.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spicy Grilled Chicken with Cumin Carrots, Peas and Potatoes - IHCC Potluck

It's Madhur Jaffrey's turn in my kitchen for this month's I Heart Cooking Club's potluck theme. I made two dishes from her book Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cooking: Spicy Baked Chicken with Carrots, Peas, and Potatoes Flavoured with Cumin.
The weather was sunny and mild when I made this a few weeks ago so though the recipe for the main was for oven-roasted chicken pieces, I decided to grill it. I used 1kg boneless, skinless chicken breasts and about half of the marinade recipe, which was more of a paste really, made with cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, turmeric, garlic and lemon juice. I left it to marinate all day and cook in the evening. The meat was tender and juicy and very flavourful. Unfortunately, cooking it this way meant that the spice mixture wasn't able to mix with the pan juices to create a lovely sauce, so I will definitely make this again, roasting bone-in chicken pieces.
As a side, I made a colourful vegetable dish that was simple to put together and quite quick to cook provided you had some cooked potatoes on hand. I didn't so boiled some in the morning while I prepped the chicken and marinade. The carrots and peas were cooked with fried cumin seeds, hot red chiles, and sautéed onions (I used only 1), with the potatoes and some scallions added at the end to warm through. This was a great way to add some interest to the typical peas and carrot combination. The recipe says it serves six but that depends on what else is served - if it's the only vegetable on offer it serves 3-4.
With just a little advance preparation, this became an easy and tasty meal for a busy weeknight.

Visit IHCC to see the other chefs featured this month.