Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cottage Cooking Club - August 2014

For this month's Cottage Cooking Club, a group led by Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness that's cooking their way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg, I made four of the selected recipes and included a make-up recipe from June.

Tahini-Dressed Zucchini and Green Bean Salad (page 74)
I’m always looking for new uses for that jar of tahini I buy to make hummus and this salad provided one.
From the hearty salad chapter, the components were ones that are popular with family: cooked zucchini slices (I grilled mine for extra flavour), blanched green beans, oven-dried tomatoes (I used honey-roasted cherry tomatoes, one of the June recipes), fresh chilli for a little heat and salad greens. The dressing was a blend of the sesame seed paste, lemon and orange juices, garlic, a little honey (agave), and olive oil, a combination that went a long way towards taming the strength of the tahini and producing a balanced flavour that was a little nutty and tangy with just a hint of sweetness. My dressing was quite thin after the juices were added so additional water wasn’t needed, but it was also a little grainy in appearance. I’m not sure if it was the brand of tahini I used or if it was because it was the last of a jar that perhaps I hadn’t mixed thoroughly enough, but no amount of whisking would smooth it out. Fortunately, it didn’t have a gritty texture and once tossed with the salad, wasn’t very noticeable. 

This was a really tasty dish: the robust flavour of the dressing complemented the salad ingredients well but I would have liked a little more texture.....some toasted pistachios or almonds would have been a nice addition.

Honey-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes (page 343)
The Zucchini and Green Bean Salad called for (optional) oven-dried tomatoes but in looking at the recipe for them and reading that it's a great method for dealing with less than perfect fruit, I decided to save it for when I had a batch of mediocre tomatoes that needed some help. Instead, I made this recipe from the June selection. With such a short roasting time, this was a perfect summertime treatment for the little tomatoes. The olive oil, garlic and sweetener (I used agave nectar so vegan daughter could enjoy) enhanced without masking their flavour and they emerged from the oven sweet and tangy, like little tomato candies. They added incredible flavour to the salad and were delicious as a side to grilled fish as well.

Asian-Inspired Coleslaw (page 115)
I've always preferred my cabbage salad with a vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing so this recipe, which uses ingredients that I usually use in stir-fries, looked like it might be a good alternative. I used rice vinegar, reduced the sesame oil to 1 tbsp since I find that it can often overpower other ingredients, and followed the rest of the recipe as written. This was a nice variation of coleslaw, with the sesame, ginger and garlic good complements to the cabbage-carrot mix. I'm glad I reduced the sesame oil since it was still quite noticeable, but I thought that the dressing wasn't acidic enough...the lime juice at the end made all the difference to the brightness of the flavour and definitely shouldn't be missed. If I were to make it again - still on the fence about that - I would add it directly to the dressing.

A pattern is beginning to emerge with the salad recipes in this book: I use only half the dressing for the full amount of salad. I always use up the extra, usually on another salad, but the tahini dressing was delicious on grilled eggplant slices the next day, and with this recipe, I used the extra in stir-fried vegetables - delicious!

Quick Couscous Salad with Peppers and Feta (page 231)
This recipe is all about using products from your dry and refrigerator pantries and leftovers so I used the Israeli couscous I had on hand and 2 bell peppers I had roasted on the grill earlier in the week. With chopped cucumbers, green onions, parsley and basil added, and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, the flavours were simple but the salad was quite tasty, especially with the feta for added oomph. It's a very easy and unfussy dish that's open to all sorts of combinations of ingredients, and can just as easily be made in the depths of winter as it can at the height of summer. Hugh's suggested variations sound particularly tasty - I think I may try the Middle Eastern one next.

Caramelized Carrots with Gremolata (page 355)
Gremolata, that simple but beautifully flavoured little mixture of fresh parsley, lemon zest and garlic, brightens just about any dish it's added to and these roasted carrots were no exception. They were nicely cooked after 50 minutes, (30 minutes covered with foil, 20 minutes without), tender but not too soft, but not as brown as I would have liked. I didn't roast them further at the risk of overcooking them. My oven's not known for its browning ability - great for some foods but not for others ;) - and I used only olive oil which in my experience doesn't help to brown foods as easily as butter, so I think I might have been better off if I'd omitted the foil altogether. Next time.......These were a big hit and are destined to become a regular item at the dinner table.

This was another great month with the Cottage Cooking Club, with several winning recipes. Visit here to see what everyone else made, or better yet, join us as we continue to cook our way through this book.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tuna, Pickled Ginger and Cucumber Salad - IHCC In Quite a Pickle

For this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs' theme of pickled foods, I made a recipe I've had bookmarked since I received my copy of Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries 2 almost two years ago, Tuna, Pickled Ginger and Cucumber Salad

The recipe calls for making tuna ceviche, allowing lime juice to "cook" the cubed, raw fish. I didn't think this would go over too well with family - which is why I've put off making this for so long - so decided to really cook the tuna, a first for me since I prefer to leave that to people who actually know what they're doing. The searing of my sesame seed crusted steaks didn't go too badly with the fish ending up just slightly more done than I had intended, but in my haste to slice it right out of the pan, I think I chose the worst possible knife in the kitchen for the job, so please excuse the mess I made of that beautiful fish.
Fortunately, the flavour wasn't affected. The dish was like deconstructed sushi (without the rice) with thinly sliced cucumbers, carrots and pickled ginger dressed with rice vinegar, a little sugar and the flavourful ginger pickling liquid. Since I didn't use the lime juice earlier, I included some in the dressing. Topped with the tuna slices, this was as light, fresh and bright tasting as Nigel promised in the headnotes to the recipe. And now that family has eaten - and enjoyed - medium-rare tuna, I think they're ready for ceviche!

Visit here to see what everyone else made with pickles at IHCC.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tangy Grilled Fish Tostadas - IHCC Potluck

For this week's I Heart Cooking Club's potluck, I turned to formerly featured chef Rick Bayless for a fresh tasting appetizer that couldn't be simpler to make. It starts with one of his easy salsas of tomatoes, serrano chiles, onion (I used spring onions) and cilantro.
Toss this with grilled mahimahi, avocado and fresh lime juice, and spoon it into "tostada" shells - or baked whole wheat tortilla triangles - and you have a light and delicious starter to any meal.
The recipe for Tangy Grilled Fish Tostadas is from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen.

Visit here to see what other chefs are featured this week at IHCC.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Big Burger Buns

Soft, fluffy and flavourful, these easy-to-make buns are perfect for your favourite burgers and sandwiches.
Big Burger Buns
(BLT Bread) adapted from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman
makes 10 large buns

260g/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
375-390g/2 7/8-3 cups bread flour
3 tsp instant dry yeast
2 tsp kosher salt
5 tsp granulated sugar
240ml/1 cup warm water (43C/110F)
120ml/1/2 cup warm milk (43C/110F)
56g/4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the unbleached flour, 375g/2 7/8 cups bread flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Whisk to combine well. Add the water, milk, melted butter and egg. Stir with a spoon to create a shaggy dough.
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Attach the bowl to the mixer and using the kneading hook, knead on #2 speed. This is a soft sticky dough that doesn't come free of the bottom of bowl but will come free of the sides. If the dough appears to be too wet, add the remaining flour, 1 tbsp at a time mixing after each addition. Scraping the bowl down periodically, knead for a total of 8-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, shiny and elastic (and passes the windowpane test). Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in volume.
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Lightly oil a large baking sheet (33cm x 46cm/13" x 18") or line with parchment. 

Punch down the dough and divide into 10 equal pieces (approximately 115g each). Place them on a lightly floured work surface, cover with a tea towel and let rest for a few minutes. To shape, take one piece of dough and place it on the work surface. Gather and stretch the dough from opposite sides and pinch together at the top. Repeat this stretching and pinching action on the opposite side. It will look a little squarish at this point. Repeat, bringing the opposite "corners" together; you'll notice that the piece of dough is starting to resemble a ball. Pinch the edges together one last time, invert the ball or "boule" and place it pinched side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
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With a floured hand, press down on each boule to flatten slightly. If the first one bounces back, let the dough rest a few more minutes before trying again. If using the optional sesame seeds, brush each bun (or mist lightly) with water and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Cover the pan lightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30-40 minutes or until doubled in size. 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 180C(350F).
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Remove the plastic wrap and place the pan in the centre of the oven. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until top and bottom are golden and the buns sound hollow when the bottom is tapped (internal temp of 93C/200F).
Remove from the oven and transfer the buns to a rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Split them and use them as is or lightly toasted. They're perfect with these Big Beef Burgers or in this Prosciutto-Mozzarella Sandwich.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Stunning Orange Sorbet - IHCC Zest it Up

Citrus, regardless of its source, is a favourite flavour of mine in both sweet and savoury foods. So when this theme came up at I Heart Cooking Clubs, my dilemma was not in finding a recipe I wanted to make since our featured chef Nigel Slater uses citrus in a variety of dishes, but which one to choose. With temperatures hovering around 35C, A Stunning Orange Sorbet from The Kitchen Diaries won out over all of the others!
Freshly squeezed orange juice, lemon juice and a simple syrup of sugar and mineral water flavoured with orange zest was all that was needed to make it. The mixture was chilled then churned then frozen until ready to serve.
Lest you think this seems simply like frozen orange juice, let me enlighten you now. It is orange in flavour and made with juice but all resemblance ends there. Nigel doesn't use the word "stunning" for nothing. It's sweet and tart and zingy, and remarkably creamy despite being dairy free!
Wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer's day (or any day, really).

Visit IHCC to see what other zesty citrus dishes were made this week.

Big Beef Burgers

When my kids were much younger, they all seemed to go through a phase where they didn't like to see anything in or on their burgers. I needed to add flavour to them somehow so came up with this easy recipe using my mother's trick of including soy sauce to enhance the umami or savoury flavour of the meat without adding a lot of ingredients. Many years and evolved palates later, I'm still making them!

Big Beef Burgers
makes 4 burgers

500g/1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 tsp kosher salt*
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp sodium-reduced soy sauce
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg
2 tbsp plain dry breadcrumbs
* reduce this amount if using regular soy sauce

Preheat your grill/barbecue on high heat or set your oven to broil.

Put all ingredients into a medium bowl. Mix together, preferably with your hands, until just combined. Divide into 4 equal portions and form each into a rough ball. Press each ball into a disc. You can make the patties as thick or thin as you like...I make mine slightly larger than the bun they'll be served on so this batch was a little less than 2cm thick, and 13cm across (for a 10cm bun). Press down in the centre to make an indentation. They can be covered and refrigerated for several hours at this point, just remember to bring them to room temperature (about one hour) before cooking.
ground beef
Over-mixing leads to tough burgers
shaped meat ball
These are about the size of a tennis ball
shaped patty
The burgers will inflate as they cook - the depression ensures a flat burger
To grill the burgers, place the patties on the grill, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 4-5 minutes or until you see some juices collecting on the surface of the burgers. Flip the burgers (do this only once!), and continue cooking 3-5 minutes or until juices run clear. Transfer them to a plate and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

To broil the burgers, place the patties on a broiling tray and put them in the oven on a rack in the highest position. Cook for 5 minutes or until nicely browned and crusty and juices start to appear on the top. Flip the burgers and broil for an additional 2-3 minutes until juices run clear. Transfer them to a plate and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Cooking time will vary with thickness so do check the centre to make sure no pink remains. If using store bought ground meat, the burgers should be cooked until well done.
Serve with toppings of your choice on your favourite bun. Or try them with these Big Burger Buns. This Grated Carrot Salad makes the perfect side. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Grated Carrot Salad/Carottes Rapées

This Grated Carrot Salad/Carottes Rapées recipe comes from one of my favourite new cookbooks, My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. Written in his characteristic style, filled with humorous anecdotes as well as delicious food, it's as good a read as it is a cookbook.
David claims that "if you're French, it's in your DNA to know how to make this salad." It's certainly easy enough, relying on just a few pantry staples to enliven a bowl of grated raw carrots: olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and some fresh herbs. The recipe also calls for a little honey or sugar, something I would consider adding come winter when they're a little starchier, but the young carrots I used didn't need any sweetening so I omitted it.
Simple and delicious...the perfect side for an easy summer meal and one that will brighten up any dinner plate during the winter months.
I'm sharing this post with Cook-Your-Books hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours. Come join us this month and cook from one of your books!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bruschetta with Lemon-Basil Grilled Zucchini - Moreish Meals IHCC

This week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs is "Moreish Meals", dishes you just can't get enough of. At this time of year, surrounded by all of the gorgeous summer produce, there's nothing I enjoy more than grilled vegetables, more specifically, young, sweet zucchini, of which there's plenty right now, with a lemon-basil dressing. 
I can easily eat a plate of this as a meal, a comment I've made about a few different vegetable recipes I've tried, but I realize it's not most people's idea of one. It occurred to me that it would make an excellent bruschetta topping, and an open-faced sandwich does qualify as a meal!
For that, I needed good bread. What could be more "moreish" after all than a homemade loaf, fresh from the oven, especially one made with whole grain spelt flour and hard cider. For the Cider Loaf from Kitchen Diaries 2, I used 7g (about 1 package) instant dried yeast instead of fresh, water instead of milk and brown sugar instead of honey (there's a vegan to feed now!). The dough was very wet and didn't need much kneading, just a little folding between rests. 
The finished loaf had a moist crumb, chewy texture and crisp crust. The cider was a nice alternative to beer, adding a little sweetness to the bread, and my kitchen didn't smell like a brewery while it was baking - though some people I know wouldn't have objected to that ;)! 
Thinly sliced, grilled until toasty, rubbed with garlic and sprinkled with a little sea salt, it was the perfect base for some fresh ricotta and the lemony grilled summer squash. There you have it, a moreish meal! 

The recipe for Grilled Zucchini with Basil and Lemon is from The Kitchen Diaries and can also be found here.  Visit IHCC to see what other members have cooked up with featured chef Nigel Slater this week.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Roasted Vegetable Focaccia - Avid Baker's Challenge

This month's Avid Baker's Challenge is Roasted Vegetable Focaccia, a flatbread topped with some of summer's bounty, zucchini and tomatoes. The choice of topping for this bread is designed to help use up the zucchini that abounds now, a vegetable I no longer need to grow myself since donations from my mother-in-law and friendly neighbours keep me well stocked!
You'll need to set aside a fair bit of time for this recipe, though most is inactive, since the dough requires a sponge that sits overnight first, then 2 proofs before it's even shaped, and once shaped, 2-3 hours for the final rise.  I replaced just over 1/3 (140g) of the all-purpose flour with multi-grain bread flour and omitted the milk powder since my usually lacto-ovo-vegetarian daughter is currently experimenting with veganism. 
The topping needs to be prepared far enough in advance that the roasted zucchini has cooled in time to arrange it on top of the shaped dough so I did this during the dough's first proof. I seasoned it simply with salt and pepper and a little dried basil. I omitted the onions from the recipe but added some minced garlic to the tomatoes towards the end of their roasting time.
The bread was quite tasty but not as holey as I thought it should have been, and it was strangely dry and lacking that chewy texture I associate with focaccia. I wonder if it would have benefited from an even slower rise overnight in the fridge after shaping, something I would have tried had I had the room for the sheet pan in the fridge - too many zucchini in there I think ;). Regardless, it worked as a base for the delicious roasted topping and the recipe did manage to put a dent in my zucchini stash!

The recipe can be found here if you'd like to try it. And do visit ABC to see everyone else's creations!