Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club - July 2015

This month at The Cottage Cooking Club where we are cooking our way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Veg, our lovely leader Andrea of the blog The Kitchen Lioness chose recipes that took advantage of the beautiful fresh produce available at this time of year. The theme this month was "enjoy summer's bounty", and I certainly did!

Marinated Cucumber with Mint (page 122)
First up was a recipe from one of my favourite chapters in the book, "Raw Assemblies". I used an English cucumber for this, thin-skinned so there was no need to peel it, and white wine vinegar replaced cider vinegar in my version. With a simple dressing and some added mint, this was a very refreshing salad that would brighten any summer plate.

Mexican Tomato and Bean Soup (page 138)
I have a favourite Mexican bean soup recipe that produces a hearty meal in a bowl with robust flavours, a cold weather soup. My family and I enjoy soup in the summer too, albeit lighter versions, and this one, with its short cooking time and use of fresh tomatoes looked very appealing.
It started with the usual cooking of onions, garlic and jalapeño and was flavoured with cumin and oregano. The rest of the ingredients - stock, tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans - were added and simmered for a mere 10 minutes before it was ready to serve. In what I thought was a clever move that compensated for the lack of cooking time, Hugh included a well-flavoured, homemade tomato sauce among the ingredients, specifically his roasted tomato sauce. I had some of my homemade marinara in the freezer and used that instead. 

We really enjoyed this soup. It was zesty and tasted of fresh tomatoes and grassy chiles with the beans adding some heft, but not enough to weigh it down. But I must have cooked all of the heat out of the jalapeños because it wasn't very spicy so I made sure to include some with the other garnishes.

Green Beans, New (Sweet) Potatoes, and Olives (page 222)
Hugh describes this dish as a "sort of deconstructed tapenade" and with garlic, lemons, olives and olive oil to flavour the vegetables, I could understand the comparison. July is a great month for green beans here, and along with the new crop of starchy and waxy potatoes available now, is the sweet variety, so I thought I would switch up this recipe and use them instead.

This was a very pretty dish as well as a delicious one with the contrast of sweet potato with briny olive and zingy lemon juice particularly good. I'm going to have to remember this lemon and garlic-infused olive oil dressing for the next time I roast sweet potatoes to add some brightness to a winter meal. 

Summer Stir-Fry with Fried (Steamed) Rice (page 286)
Versatile and quick cooking, you can't really go wrong with a good, basic stir-fry recipe like this one.
I made a few substitutions, using gai lan (Chinese broccoli), enoki mushrooms and edamame but the recipe is one that can easily be adapted to whatever fresh produce is available. I thought it was a little unusual to add the chile, ginger and garlic at the end of cooking but their flavours seemed a little more pronounced as a result, which I enjoyed.

I would have liked the vegetables to have had a little more sauce and I didn't really care for the mint with the other ingredients, but it was still a very tasty dish. I served it with steamed brown rice as suggested in the head notes instead of the fried rice.

Charred Leeks (Cauliflower Steaks) with Romesco (page 336) 
It's a little early for baby leeks, but I figured this classic Catalan sauce would taste good with just about any grilled vegetable so in addition to the first field tomatoes of the season that I needed for the recipe, I picked up some beautiful cauliflower from the farmers' market.
I've made Romesco sauce before - quite delicious - but it was made with red peppers and almonds. This variation with tomatoes and hazelnuts was quite different but equally good. It was tangy and smoky, with sweetness from the tomatoes, (optional) bell pepper and toasted nuts, and a good bit of heat from some Thai bird chiles I added, and it had lots of great texture too. It went beautifully with the grilled cauliflower steaks, and some grilled fish I made to use up the extra.

Runner Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic (page 375)
I've always found runner beans to be a little tough and stringy. What's apparent from this recipe is that I've been cooking them all wrong!
Prepping the beans included de-stringing them. It was the work of just a few minutes done by running a vegetable peeler down the length of each long bean. (Who knew it was that easy?) Then, the beans were cooked slowly (the second "aha" moment) with grated fresh tomatoes, sautéed onion and garlic, basil and parsley until they were tender with just a hint of their original crunch. Having been cooked with an acid, their colour did suffer a bit, but that was easy to look past when they offered such wonderful flavour. This summery dish, with its incredible, fresh tasting tomato sauce, was so delicious I could have eaten a plate of it as a meal! 

That's all for this month. I'm now looking forward to August with its eggplants, zucchini, leeks, tomatoes, corn and more. Visit here to see what else was cooking in the group members' kitchens (or on their grills) this month.

Vanilla-Mango Panna Cotta - Tuesdays with Dorie

I can't believe I haven't made panna cotta until now! But discovering new and delicious recipes like this is just one of the things I enjoy about belonging to this group.
This lovely dessert comprised a layer of rich vanilla bean panna cotta, a cool and creamy, Italian, egg-free custard set with gelatin (though I used agar agar instead), balanced by a layer of tangy, fresh mango-lime purée. It was stress-free (no worry about curdled eggs, a common hazard for me with a traditional custard), required practically no cooking, perfect for the hot weather we've been having, and it looked and tasted wonderful. Definitely one I'll repeat.

Visit here to see the other pretty puddings from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Apricot-Raspberry Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

A delicious, fruity tart that required practically no effort to make was this week's Tuesdays with Dorie choice from the book Baking Chez Moi. 
The base was Dorie's Sweet Tart Dough, one the easiest, most foolproof recipes ever that I made ahead, froze and baked on serving day. All that was left was to arrange fresh apricots and raspberries on a bed of sweet cake crumbs I had in the freezer left over from this Twinkie Bundt Cake to absorb the fruits' juices, and bake again. 
Family and I loved this but I don't think you can go wrong with roasted summer fruit on a sweet cookie crust. 

Did anyone try the bonne idée and make the Apricot-Almond Cream Tart? Visit here to find out.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Grilled Herbed Tuna on Spinach Salad - Fast Food Jacques's Way IHCC

I don't think Jacques Pépin's book Simple and Healthy Cooking, published over 20 years ago, is among his better sellers, but I bought it for a steal so I could cook along with I Heart Cooking Clubs newest featured chef and have enjoyed the recipes I've made from it.
This week, I made a spinach salad with raw mushrooms, a simple sherry vinaigrette flavoured with minced shallots, and peppercorn-crusted tuna steaks (with a little herbes de Provençe French spin) seared until just rare, which like so many of the recipes in this book featured classic ingredient pairings with a little French flair.
As you can imagine, this delicious meal of dressed salad and seared tuna took only minutes to put together, perfect for this week's IHCC theme of Fast Food with Jacques Pépin.

Visit here to see what everyone else made with Jacques's help.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Pomelo Salad - IHCC Mystery Box Challenge

From Yotam Ottolenghi's book Plenty More comes this wonderfully refreshing salad that happens to fit the criteria for this month's I Heart Cooking Clubs' Mystery Box challenge. 
With chicken, seaweed, sesame seeds, parsley, mozzarella cheese, mango, brown sugar, mint and pasta the ingredients from which to choose, this recipe used sesame seeds, mango, mint, and brown sugar (in place of palm sugar).
Segmented pomelo was marinated in a mixture of gingery, sweetened rice wine vinegar, orange blossom water, hot chiles and warm spices, a mixture that was later used to dress slivers of green mango, peppery greens and fresh herbs. There was a fair bit of prep work with sectioning, chopping, slicing and leaf picking required, but the flavours were vibrant and the textures varied, well worth the effort. If you'd like to try it, a variation of the recipe can be found here.

Visit IHCC to see what everyone else made from this month's Mystery Box ingredients.