Panzanella (page 86)
This recipe for the classic Italian salad wasn't among the ones I'd planned to make originally but I realized I hadn't chosen one featuring tomatoes and I had most of the ingredients for this on hand including half of a stale baguette. The recipe was simple with the extraction of juice from the tomatoes for the dressing the most time consuming part. (I used a stick blender to help break them down before sieving them). I didn't have fresh basil so compensated by using basil infused olive oil in the dressing, and used red wine vinegar instead of cider vinegar. Since my bread was whole grain, I went the rustic route with the other ingredients, leaving the peel on the cucumber and the olives and cherry tomatoes whole.
This was delicious! The salty and briny ingredients were a great foil for the sweet and tangy, and the stale bread took on new life, becoming moist on the outside and chewy in the centre. A great main dish salad.
Shaved Summer Vegetables (page 100)
With it, it took just minutes to transform almost 600g of vegetables into mountains of paper thin slices. I used most of the vegetables listed in the recipe but substituted carrots for beets. The lemony vinaigrette dressing was slightly sweet and very bright tasting and held its own against the more strongly flavoured vegetables, especially the cabbage-y kohlrabi.
I loved this salad and will be making it often - it looked good and tasted even better. And because of it, my mandoline has earned the right to a more accessible spot in my kitchen!
River Cottage Summer Garden Soup (page 132)
I don't relish standing over a simmering pot of soup in hot weather but with a 20 minute cooking time, this one was perfectly suited to warm weather. Because the cooking time is so brief, there's no opportunity for the vegetables to flavour the stock so you do need to use a good one. I didn't make Hugh's recipe - that's for another day - I just used a store bought brand I like. There seemed to be a lot of vegetables in this recipe for the amount of stock so I reduced the quantity of fennel and zucchini by half (and still needed extra stock!). I made some substitutions as well: baby spinach for chard, (frozen) edamame for fava beans, and escarole was my lettuce of choice.
In the end, the soup tasted fine but considering all of the beautiful produce that went into it, wasn't very exciting. A squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan gave it a much needed lift.
Bruschetta with Fava Beans and Asparagus (page196)
I chose this recipe because local asparagus was still available but sadly, baby fava beans weren't to be found so I ended up using more mature beans that required peeling. This meant that preparation was a little more time consuming but it was definitely worth it. I was very pleasantly surprised by just how much flavour the topping had: fresh and green with just a subtle hint of onion, and with the tangy goat's cheese a nice complement to the sweet vegetables. I did rub the toasted whole grain baguette slices with garlic, an optional step but one I thought added to the overall flavour. It made a wonderful light lunch. I'll definitely be making this again.
Chocolate-Beet Ice Cream (page 397)
This custard-based ice cream flavoured with dark chocolate and roasted beet purée had a smooth, rich and creamy texture and was a pretty shade of burgundy. The recipe called for dark chocolate but I wasn't sure just how "dark" to go. The puréed beets were very sweet and the beet flavour quite strong so I decided to use a fairly intense chocolate with 70% cacao to balance it. The ice cream tasted primarily of rich, bittersweet chocolate with the earthy beets a secondary flavour. Fans of dark chocolate (like me) really enjoyed it but it wasn't for everyone. Strangely, no one noticed or commented on the beet flavour!
I really enjoyed the recipes I made this month and am looking forward to next month's selection! Visit here to see how the other members fared with their choices.