Friday, August 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club - August 2015

For this month's Cottage Cooking Club, our leader Andrea asked us to "showcase our personal favourite vegetable and/or herb and incorporate it into one of the recipes". I like too many to be able to name a favourite but this did make me consider what vegetables and herbs I cook with most often, and wonder if they are anyone's favourites or if they're just the ingredients that cause the least dissent among the family I cook for! So, I asked. The potato was the unanimous choice with parsley the favourite herb, both of which I cook with regularly. Good to know I've been on the right track ;)!

The second part of the challenge was to showcase these ingredients, something that required no effort on my part since they were already the stars of some of the recipes chosen for this month!

Tomatoes with Thai Dressing (page 121)
I love tomatoes and Thai flavours and I was so looking forward to this salad. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a disappointment. It had some of the hot, sour, sweet and salt elements of the cuisine, but it really didn't taste particularly Thai to me, especially the balsamic and rice vinegar-sesame oil dressing. However, I did enjoy the mint and chiles with the tomatoes - maybe all that was needed was a splash of lime juice.

Chickpea, Chard (kale) and Porcini Soup (page 149)
We loved this delicious, richly flavoured soup that had great mushroom flavour at its core. Given the choice of using canned tomatoes or tomato sauce, I opted for some of my homemade marinara that added tomato flavour without overwhelming the porcini mushrooms. I included a Parmesan rind for added oomph and used kale, one of the suggested chard substitutes. This one will definitely be made often once cooler weather arrives.

Leek and Cheese Toastie (page 202)
Have you ever had a Cheese Dream? I loved the open-faced broiled cheese sandwiches growing up and this recipe reminded me of them. Cheddar topped with broccoli was my favourite then but this variation, with leeks and thyme cooked in a little cream and an aged cheddar to balance the sweetness was just as good, if not better than the memory. This made a very quick and satisfying lunch that everyone enjoyed.

Dressed Green Lentils (Parsley salad variation) (Page 237)
Keeping in mind that we were to showcase favourite vegetables and herbs this month, I chose to make the parsley salad variation of the lentils. It used the same flavourful mustard dressing as the summer garden niçoise salad but had only spring onions and a good amount of parsley added. The lentils cooked with bay leaves and garlic had plenty of flavour on their own. The dressing and the parsley, which was treated almost like a salad green, made this a very bright tasting dish. Another keeper!

Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto (page 272)
Made with my homemade marinara (a reduced-fat version of Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Sautéed Vegetables and Olive Oil) instead of the book's roasted tomato sauce, this tasted like pizza and was a huge hit with family. I made a mistake early on in the recipe and added the tomato sauce to the stock instead of adding it to the rice towards the end of cooking but that didn't seem to harm the dish any since everyone loved it. I've already had requests to make this "pizza risotto" again.

Stuffed Peppers with New Potatoes, Feta, and Pesto (page 349)
This dish was a very pleasant surprise. I thought the filling ingredients of cooked potatoes and cubed feta dressed with pesto unusual but very flavourful and a wonderful contrast to the sweet bell peppers. I think its success depended on the quality of the pesto and I used Hugh's, made with both basil and parsley, which I quite like. This was very easy to make and included potatoes and parsley, the family favourites!

Cheat's Cauliflower Cheese (page 378)
A crisp and cheese-y toasted breadcrumb topping is an easy way to dress up any steamed vegetable, cauliflower in this case, especially made with panko crumbs for extra crunch. For the cheese, I used cheddar cheese curds, most commonly used here to top our famous - or perhaps infamous - almost-national dish (Canada doesn't actually have one), poutine. I preferred using the ones I picked up at the farmers' market, an artisanal brand made from goat's milk, on this dish of cauliflower rather than a dish of French fries and gravy!

Deep-Fried Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta and Herbs (page 313)
This wasn't one of this month's scheduled recipes but squash blossoms are only available here in the summer and when I saw them at the farmers' market, I decided to make it now. With a light, crisp, tempura batter coating and a creamy ricotta filling flavoured with basil, parsley and Parmesan, these were fun to make and delicious to eat. I followed the directions to twist the tops of the petals but I won't do that next time since the filling seemed to stay put and the flowers lost their pretty, elegant shape. This was a lovely summer treat I'll make again next year.

There were some delicious choices for the month of August. I can't wait to find out what we're cooking next month from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Veg. In the meantime, visit here to see what the other Club members made. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bubble Éclairs - Tuesdays with Dorie

Our project this week at Tuesdays with Dorie was one of the recipes for the very versatile choux pastry from Baking Chez Moi, Bubble Éclairs.
The recipe for the dough was no different from others I've made (there seems to be a standard ratio of liquid:butter:flour:eggs from which there's not much deviation), but the shaping was: 3 mini puffs placed close together so they joined as they baked, Dorie's twist on the éclair shape. I usually pipe the dough out but used a #70 cookie scoop to portion it this time. My yield was correct but the tops were a little craggy so I'll stick to piping next time.

Though there were myriad toppings and fillings suggested, I kept mine simple with pearl sugar topping and vanilla whipped cream filling (1.5 batches of the recipe on page 439) since cream puffs are a perennial favourite around here. These were as delicious as they usually are with their crisp shells and luscious filling and I quite liked the novelty shape, but everyone raved about them! Does cuter taste better?  

Visit here to see what everyone else chose to make.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lemon-Tarragon Haddock with Summer Vegetable Medley - IHCC Potluck

For this month's IHCC potluck, I cooked with featured chef Jacques Pépin, again drawing from his book Jacques Pépin's Simple and Healthy Cooking. On the menu was Broiled Red Snapper with Lemon-Tarragon Sauce with some modifications and Pea, Mushroom and Corn Medley.
The fish dish was much easier to make than one would think from its title with only the fish requiring any cooking. Since it was very hot and the vegetable side dish was a quick stir-fry prepared stove top, I decided not to turn on my oven and cooked the fish quickly in a lightly oiled non-stick pan instead of broiling it. I used economical frozen haddock fillets which worked perfectly in this recipe. The "sauce" was actually a balsamic vinegar dressing made with lemon zest, tarragon, shallots and garlic that was drizzled over the cooked fish, a zingy and flavourful addition.
I loved this! The locally grown, farm-fresh vegetables, quickly cooked with some shallots, were sweet and fresh tasting, a wonderful counterpoint to the tangy fish. That these dishes were healthy and very quick to prepare were just added bonuses. I would definitely make them again. 

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Cherry Crumb Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

I like my fruit desserts to be really fruity and I had hoped that this recipe, the latest Tuesdays with Dorie pick from Baking Chez Moi, would do my batch of beautiful Ontario cherries justice. Unfortunately, embedded in a sweet almond cream, sandwiched between a cookie crust and streusel topping, they were quite lost.
There was nothing wrong with the components of this tart. Dorie's foolproof sweet tart crust made with ground almonds this time, frangipane, and crunchy streusel topping that included orange zest and cardamom turned out well but I thought the tart too sweet, rich and buttery and was disappointed that it wasn't a great showcase for the gorgeous cherries that went into it. 

I was in the minority; my tasters had no problem polishing it off!

Visit here to see what everyone else thought of our latest baking project.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Surprise Tatin - IHCC Mystery Box Madness Challenge

When I saw this month's IHCC mystery box (MB) challenge ingredients, the baby potatoes and caramel in particular, I immediately knew what I would make. Yes, that's right, potatoes and caramel, two of the ingredients featured in Yotam Ottolenghi's Surprise Tatin from his book Plenty. It was one of the first recipes I tried when I received the book in 2011 and it made me an instant fan of this chef who takes familiar ingredients but uses them creatively, transforming them into something spectacular along the way.
Tarte tatin is a French upside-down tart traditionally made with caramelized apples. This version, flavoured with fresh oregano (a third MB ingredient) comprised layers of baby potatoes baked in a slick of caramel, roasted cherry tomatoes (a fourth MB ingredient), caramelized onions, and zingy goats cheese (a fifth MB ingredient) all nestled in a crisp puff pastry shell.
It was delicious hot or at room temperature, with the sweet balanced by the tangy. I definitely won't let another four years go by before I make it again.

The MB ingredients I didn't use were corn, tortillas, skirt/flank steak, heavy cream and pumpkin seeds. Visit here to see what the other group members made with them.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Food Day Canada 2015

Happy Food Day Canada!

Today marks the 12th anniversary of Food Day Canada, a celebration of Canadian produce and products, their producers, and the country's cuisine. Originally called "The World's Longest Barbeque", founded by Anita Stewart in response to the crisis faced by the Canadian beef industry in 2003, its goal now is to build a "strong culinary nation". 

Part of my haul from Sherway Farmers' Market
I decided to participate by putting together a family meal focusing on the locally grown and raised products picked up during my most recent trip to a farmers' market. Most came from farms just outside the city, the peaches, a little farther afield, from the Niagara region. 

My family feast
For recipe inspiration, I turned to some of my cookbooks authored by Canadian food writers, cooks, and chefs. 

What better way to start than with Chilled Fresh Tomato Soup from Anita Stewart's Canada. This twist on classic gazpacho, made with ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, garlic, green onions, and cider vinegar was vibrant and very refreshing in the steamy weather we've been having.

I was looking for mostly make ahead dishes so I wouldn't be standing over a hot stove for long (for the reason mentioned above). Grilled Corn Salad from More Heartsmart Cooking with Bonnie Stern was a great choice and really showcased the super sweet peaches 'n' cream corn. I chopped most of the ingredients and mixed the dressing beforehand, then grilled the corn and tossed everything together at the last minute. The salad had wonderful texture and balanced flavour. I particularly enjoyed the smokiness and heat from the chipotle peppers (I doubled those!).

Warm Potato and Arugula Salad from Rose Murray's A Taste of Canada: A Culinary Journey was slightly heartier fare but just as easy to put together. Pre-cooked new potatoes browned until crisp in rendered bacon fat, and dressed with garlicky white wine vinaigrette were tossed with arugula and spinach and topped with crunchy bacon bits. Delicious! I could eat a plate of this on its own.

My pork loin roast was transformed into Brined, Grilled Pork Chops from Rob Feenie's Casual Classics.  Soaked overnight in a solution of water, salt, sugar, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns, the chops were incredibly moist and flavourful and didn't require any other seasoning. It's one of the new family favourites.

Then there was dessert, a Free-Form Fruit Galette made with peaches from Home Baking: The Artful mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford using their recipe for Quick Pastry (I love that trick of grating frozen butter).

Frankly, the peaches were so luscious, I was loathe to donate any to a cooked dessert, but this simple, rustic ("rustic" being the new "ugly") tart with its tender, crumbly pastry allowed the fruit to shine, and it used only 4 peaches so the rest could be enjoyed as is!

I hope everyone had a wonderfully delicious day. I know I enjoyed planning, preparing and sharing this meal. My goal now is to make more days "Food Day Canada"-type days.

I'm linking this post to cook-your-books hosted by Joyce at Kitchen Flavours.