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. 


  1. Hi Zosia, we all loved the soup too, I subbed crimini mushrooms in mine but I thought it was a pretty hearty meal. Love your zucchini blossoms, sometimes I stuff mine with goat cheese and cherry tomatoes, yours look perfectly cooked.

  2. Hi Zosia, what a appetizing round up with each of your dishes so well presented. The lentil salad looks lovely and around here both my family and neighbors enjoyed the potato and pesto stuffed peppers, a unique idea that was so very good. Cheat's Cauliflower Cheese was my favorite of the month and I love how you incorporated cheddar cheese curds. My daughters boss is from Canada and each time he returns with the curds for her and sauce mix so we recently enjoyed poutine over fries. Your risotto looks very good using your homemade sauce and the squash blossoms are quite beautiful, I prepared these as a post over the summer from my garden stuffing with seafood- quite good. Can't wait to try the leek and cheese toastie! Fantastic month Zosia, thanks for sharing! See you soon.

  3. Zosia, all of your dishes look so fabulous!! I only made the Thai Tomatoes - and thought kind of the same thing - though the concept was good (in the event that I don't just eat them all out of hand!). I was interested to read your comments about the risotto - that was one of the recipes I was "supposed" to have made - but I picked it without looking at the book - it just didn't end up as something where the timing worked. Oh well. The toasties and the cauliflower cheese seem to be the top recipes this month - looking forward to making both soon.

    Wonderful post!!! Thank you!

  4. Zosia, what a gorgeous bounty depicted in all your photos! Sounds like over all the month was a winner. I love stuffed squash blossoms and yours look great--herbed goat cheese is also excellent as a stuffing if you've never done it. My favorite is raw shrimp (gets cooked during the frying). For the thai tomatoes, I made that too and had luckily run out of balsamic vinegar (how did that even happen?!?) and used all rice vinegar instead. It felt a bit more in the asian realm that way, but you're right that it's a bit vaguely connected to Thai cuisine. Enjoy these last weeks of summer produce!

  5. Love all your delicious results from CCC list of recipes, and those fried zucchini flowers! I am seriously going to make those stuffed peppers soon!

  6. Dear Zosia, you certainly put together a most wonderful post with all those lovely pictures and helpful comments - and you made me smile because you actually read through the "challenge" and incorporated it into this month´s post (you get extra points for that because you were the only one...)
    All of the dishes obviously were delicious and from you comments I gather that they all received great reviews - how wonderful. Btw I like the expression of the "pizza risotto" and I did add freshly grated ginger to the Thai-style salad dressing to up the flavor a bit - but I agree the dressing leaves some room for interpretation. The pesto from Hugh is a nice recipe and I agree that the mix of basil and parsley is nice and a bit more robust than the usual pesto. The squah blossoms sound too good to resist - I had thought about including them in the August post but thought the season was already over for most participants!
    Have a great Sunday and thank you for your participation in The Cottage Cooking Club!

  7. Wow, what a post. First, your Deep-Fried Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta and Herbs are gorgeous. Not easy to pull off. Thank you for posting. I am impressed with your Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto which looks delicious. Homemade rocks and rolls, right? The Leeks Toasties are something I did not get made. Have all the ingredients in the fridge and am determined to make it tomorrow. And, the Cheat's Cauliflower. I love cauliflower in every way, shape and form so am sorry I didn't get to it either. It's a will-do.(My list is long.) I also thought the soup was amazing. I used a Parmesan rind also. The peppers and lentils, I made them both and, like you, loved them. Nice post, Zosia, as usual. Your photo is beautiful-looking. Nice photos.

  8. Lovely photos as usual, Zosia! I used to eat sliced tomato and cheese open-faced sandwiches all the time. Haven't had them in awhile. The leek and cheese toasties look fab, can't wait to try them soon. I did not care for the tomatoes with Thai dressing either. For homegrown tomatoes, I prefer them with very little adornment. And wow! the zucchini blossoms - gorgeous!

  9. Beautiful photos and a great post! I wish I had one of those toasties tonight. It's a little bit chilly tonight and some comfort food would be perfect. My favourite veggies right now are beet tops. I can't get enough of them when they're tender and fresh.


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