Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve dinner 2009
Scallop Sauce with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Hot Pepper

Cooking Italy Assignment
Scallop Sauce with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Hot Pepper, p185


After being otherwise occupied for the greater part of the last eight weeks, now I need to start getting caught up with the Cooking Italy curriculum. Only after making our xmas dinner did I realize that risotto with porcini was on the Cooking Italy schedule. I could have made that instead of the truffled risotto and ticked another off the list. Oh well. Instead I got started again with the scallop sauce since it's simple and the kind of thing we eat frequently, one of the few kinds of things I might make without even looking at a book.

Our new year's eve dinner as planned was simple, but turned out even simpler than planned. I scurried around making a fig flan without thinking that it would need hours in the fridge to cool properly. So that will be eaten later.

For a starter we again had slices of the foie gras wrapped with dried magret that we got at the cancelled marché de Noël, accompanied by a small salad with vinaigrette. Rich, but yum! No doubt we'll repeat this until we've used up what we bought.


(Ed set the table unsupervised, thus the mismatched and incomplete cutlery.:-)

For the main course, I served a half recipe of the scallop sauce over spaghettini. I had thought to make fresh pasta, but ran out of time. This sauce was probably better with dried pasta though. Since it's really fast cooking, I had the water at a boil and everything chopped and measured, then finished it up when I took the starter plates to the kitchen.

Preparation for the sauce begins by sautéing a pile of garlic until golden:


Then you add aromatics and sauté a bit more. I didn't have a fresh chili, so I added a shot of chili flakes instead. Here's an action shot, with a spurtle-ghost:


Finally, you add the scallops, sauté till they're done, toss with the spaghetti, and serve. I used small (frozen, defrosted) scallops that are about the size of mini-marshmallows:


The most interesting thing about this particular recipe is the topping of toasted bread crumbs. A little extra effort and a very nice effect. The crumbs soaked up some of the extra sauce and were quite delicious.


Without the fig flan, we skipped dessert, but had plenty of munchies to while away the time waiting for the new year to appear.

Monday, December 28, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday/28-Dec-09: For lunch we had the leftover lamb vindaoo. For dinner there was Penne with Green Cabbage, Lemon, and Goat Cheese (MC), using up most of the green cabbage.

Tuesday/29-Dec-09: Shopping in the morning. For dinner, we had Salmon Steaks with Lemon-Mustard Sauce(MC), some steam-sautéed potatoes, and a salad with lots of trimmings. Pretty plain, but tasty.

Wednesday/30-Dec-09: No cooking tonight. We had dinner in Limoges, prior to seeing Carmina Burana at the Opera Theatre. Put on Jody's mixed chili beans gift package to soak.

Thursday/31-Dec-09: Made another batch of yogurt with UHT milk. Went to should at Leclerc, rather than at our local market. Got a chunk of palette du porc, demi-sel for the beans. Added this with the spices in the packet when the beans were about halfway cooked and simmered till the meat was pretty close to was falling apart. Quite tasty, looking forward to this for tomorrow's dinner. Meanwhile, I cooked and puréed some broccoli stems in the quail broth and froze that up for soup sometime.

For new year's dinner, I made a fig flan (to use up some of the dried figs on-hand), but started too late, so it didn't have time to cool. That will be tomorrow's dessert. Boring starter, same as xmas dinner but without the foie-gras-stuffed figs. For the main, Cooking Italy's Scallop Sauce with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Hot Pepper with spaghettini. Having lots of munchies on hand, we skipped a proper dessert and adjourned to watch to the TV to watch The Shadow of the Thin Man. Accompanied by camembert, olives, smoked salmon on toast, prunes stuffed with prune cream, and whatever else I've forgotten.

Friday/1-Jan-10: During the day I made (in the bread machine) some cayenne cornbread to go with the beans. Warmed up the beans and pork for dinner. They were very good. As was the fig flan for dessert. It was very creamy; with 4 eggs, cream cheese, and half-and-half, it should be. There were fig seeds at the bottom, which turned into the top when the flan was inverted, but the crunch was a pleasant contrast to the smooth of the flan. And the fig flavor was a nice surprise. This isn't the same wonderful texture as crème caramel or a proper Mexican flan, but still quite a nice, rich dessert.

Saturday/2-Jan-10: Started the Spicy Guinness Mustard today. Very simple, just stir together the ingredients. Now it has to sit around a couple of days before it's finished off and we can get it a taste test.

A dinner of leftovers tonight, made while Ed read The Tell-Tale Heart aloud to me (we watched a short film on it on new year's evening). I made (more-or-less) the sauce from Chicken in a butter sauce (MJ1, p70), cut the leftover tandoori/roast chicken into pieces, and warmed them in the sauce. I made some of the onion bhaji batter (Q&E, p20), dipped balls of leftover Indian Mashed Potatoes in this, and fried them up. Pretty good, they were. Some rice and leftover cauliflower. Not a bad dinner for leftovers. Fig flan for dessert.

Sunday/3-Jan-10: After have the rest of the chili beans for lunch, neither of us were really hungry at dinner time. I made some guacamole that we munched with corn chips while some veggies (a carrot, some broc, and a leek) steamed. We sauced the veggies with the leftover quasi-raita from the BH&G tandoori chicken. We skipped the fig flan tonight.

The mustard seeds have absorbed all the liquid! Tomorrow I'll finish this off and see how it tastes.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas dinner 2009

We had a very small xmas this year, just the two of us, and not very elaborate. Well, it seemed like a simple meal, but I certainly kept the stove busy and generated lots of dirty dishes! Here's the stove, with the main course and dessert in progress:


For starters, we had slices of the foie gras wrapped with dried magret (oh, my, is this good!) and the foie-gras-stuffed figs, both bought at the marché de Noël last Sunday. This was dressed up with a simple salad of feuilles de chêne and vinaigrette. Here's the starter on the table, ready to dig in:


We enjoyed this course and were amused with Sophie's close attention at the table:


After we polished off the starter, Ed finished off the extra salad while I finished the preparation of the main course:


and brought the plates for the main course to the table:


That's Roasted Quail with Port Wine Sauce, a recipe I collected from the web in 2000, using the cailles chaponées also bought at the marché de Noël. (Had to cut the heads off the poor babies.) Quail capons are bigger than regular quail, so we had one each. The recipe called for "partly boned" quail, which I realized after a bit of web-searching, should have the bones out of the chest. I didn't bother to do this and just roasted them a bit longer. They came out fine, and the stuffing and sauce (port and dried figs) were really tasty. Here they are, ready for the oven:


These were accompanied by truffled risotto (using up the last of the arborio rice stored in the freezer with Jody's truffle from her visit a year ago) and some sautéed veg (red onion, carrot, broccoli, and zucchini — clean out the bottom of the fridge stuff).

For dessert we had Bill Hatcher's Amaretto Poached Pears (MC) over vanilla ice cream, seriously yummy, although it makes an enormous amount. We forgot to take a picture of it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday (21-Dec-09) the weather warmed up and melted some of the ice on the roads. We took ourselves to Montemboeuf to do a bit of shopping. Spar had boudins blancs on sale, so that turned into dinner, with some roasted potatoes and steamed cabbage. The accompaniments would have gone well with a German sausage like bratwurst, but weren't quite the thing with these. Good, but not quite right. We now know that we both prefer boudins blancs to boudin noirs.

For lunch on Monday, I made a little soup with chicken stock from the freezer, a batch of frozen) spinach gnocchi, and a handful of small farfelle, farfellini, I think they're called, all topped with some grated Parmesan. Wasn't half bad. Next time I might halve the gnocchi while they're cooking.

Tuesday (22-Dec-09) was gray and drippy. I used some defrosted lamb bits to make Lamb Vindaloo (Q&E, p33). Made it nicely hot with 4 tsps cayenne. Really tasty for very little effort.

Wednesdsay (23-Dec-09) was drippy again in the afternoon. We did a monster grocery shopping. For dinner we had some yummy Oven-Baked Catfish (MC) with panga, orzo with parsley and lemon, and steamed broccoli and carrots. Not the best go-togethers, but it was all good. Panga is only €.89 per 100g here; in NL it was about €1.75 as I remember.

Thursday (24-Dec-09) drippy in the afternoon again. Went to the market in the morning. They had better looking dried figs than I got at Ecomarché. :-( For dinner, made Farfelle with Cauliflower and Turkey Sausage (now MC). Served with a big salad. A bit of Chaource after, and a chocolate-bottomed macaroon.

Christmas Day (25-Dec-09) we woke to sunshine after many gray and drippy days. Took a nice walk and made a nice dinner for the two of us while Ed set the table — the first time we've eaten at the dining table since we've moved. (The living/dining room is serving as a construction depot, with boxes and shelving waiting their fates, so it's not really an attractive place to be, but the dining corner is reasonably tidy.) For starters, we had a bit of feuilles de chêne and vinaigrette accompanying a slice of the foie gras wrapped with dried magret and the foie-gras-stuffed figs. Ed finished off the extra salad while I brought the main course to the table. I made Roasted Quail with Port Wine Sauce, a recipe I collected in 2000, using the cailles chaponées we bought at the marche de Noel last Sunday. The recipe called for "partly boned" quail, which I realized after a bit of web-searching, should have the bones out of the chest. I didn't bother to do this and just roasted them a bit longer. They came out fine, and the stuffing and sauce (port and dried figs) were really tasty. These were accompanied by the last of the truffled risotto and some sautéed veg (red onion, carrot, broccoli, and zucchini — clean out the bottom of the fridge stuff). For dessert we had Bill Hatcher's Amaretto Poached Pears (MC) over vanilla ice cream, seriously yummy, although it makes an enormous amount. Lots of dishes to wash, but a nice meal altogether.

In the evening, I started another batch of yogurt in my new yogurt maker, this time using full-fat UHT milk. Also order another set of jars for it.

During the day Saturday (26-Dec-09), I made a batch of apple-plum butter. Also put the chicken for tomorrow's dinner on to marinate. For today, we decided against a big meal, and I made a big salad instead. :-) For afters we watched the first episode of Civilisation while nibbling on a bit of chaource and bread.

The yogurt with UHT milk is fine. Now we can stock up on this to have it ready to make yogurt. I also ordered another set of pots, since it gets fiddly when you're needing to make more and have no spares.

We went to a concert Sunday (27-Dec-09) evening, so we had our main meal in the afternoon. I very loosely followed a recipe clipping from BH&G for Tandoori-Style Chicken. I butterflied the chick and cooked it at a very high temperature, as suggested in Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking. The chicken was quite nice, so I'd do this again. Served with Indian Mashed Potatoes (Q&E, p90; MC) and Cauliflower with Ginger, Garlic, and Green Chilies (Q&E, p83; MC). Have lots of nice leftovers now to use up.

Made some broth from the quail carcass; might cook up some broccoli stems and make a soup out of this. Also made a batch of herb salt. Didn't have dried celery, so used ground celery seed instead. Should be OK, I guess.

There are lots of leftovers and use-me-ups now, and I really ought to start on the Cooking Italy backlog next week. Need to think about new year's dinners (eve and day) too. Maybe some Cooking Italy things.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Thursday (17-Dec-09) evening, after returning home from a 3-week US visit, I made good old Artichoke Spaghetti (Art) and served with a salad.

Friday (18-Dec-09) Ed cooked: Simple pork chops, plus steamed veggies, potatoes, broccoli, and carrots. And a salad. An example of what he ate while I was away, he said.

Saturday (19-Dec-09) evening, while some brown rice was cooking, I sliced a defrosted kip filet into thin strips and browned them in the wok along with S&P and chili powder. Added a half a sliced onion and some frozen green bell pepper. When those were soft, I added the three grilled merguez (defrosted), sliced diagonally, and a small can of corn. Tossed with some flour and added chicken broth (AH's gevogelte fond, rather than some from the freezer). Some adobo sauce and chipotle powder to brighten the taste. Not too bad altogether, and used up some stuff from the freezer. Looks like we won't make it shopping until Monday or Tuesday, so trying to stretch the fresh veggies we have.

After missing Thanksgiving, I need to be thinking about what we'll have for xmas dinner(s). We probably won't have anyone over, but still I'd like to have a nice meal or two in here.

Sunday, we went to a marché de Noël in nearby Chassenon, only to find that it had been cancelled because of the weather. This was the first above-freezing day since I've returned, so it was actually not too bad. Fortunately some of the vendors were set up in a public building, but the olive seller wasn't there. We bought a chunk of the foie gras wrapped in dried duck breast; we'll be eating on this through new years. Got a pair of cailles chaponées and two figs stuffed with foie gras. The quail will be xmas dinner. We'll probably start with a small salad with warmed goat cheese on top; the stuff figs will either be part of the salad or served as an entremet. I'll serve the quail, fixed somehow, with truffle risotto, using the last of Jody' truffle from the freezer, and whatever veg looks good. Dessert? TBD.

Sunday (20-Dec-09) evening was an old favorite, Jaffrey's Lentils with Garlic and Onion (MJ1, p124) over Simple Buttery Rice with Onion (MJ1, p149). OD'd on cookies for dessert.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Oops, this should have been published on 25-November, before I went to the US.

Monday (16-Nov-09)I used some of Sally's cheddar to make a yummy mac&cheese. Served with a big salad. Comfort food at its best.

Tuesday (17-Nov-09) I made a recipe I collected a while ago, Spaghetti Carbornara with a Poached Egg. Good it was, although I wonder if you can call it "carbonara" when the the egg is poached, rather than mixed into the hot spaghetti. (This was from a book called Cooking for Two, by Jennifer Strand, which might be one to get.) Big salad to go with. Probably high fat, but tasty none the less.

Wednesday (18-Nov-09) I did a use-me-up dinner. Kip filets, smashed, coated with flour and Old Bay Blackening seasoning, and sauteed in butter and olive oil. A little pan sauce with the last bit of chicken stock. Reheated the last of the mac&cheese. Steamed some broc. Simple and satisfying.

Thursday (19-Nov-09) I made Creamy Cajun Shrimp Linguine (MC) again — no linguine, but polenta instead. Used up all my cajun spice so need to make some more

Friday (20-Nov-09) we went to a curry night at a English sort of "pub" in the Dordogne. A fun evening with reasonably good food (instant rice though?).

Saturday (21-Nov-09) I defrosted a varkenshaas/filet mignon du porc. Rubbed it with the Ancho- and Chipotle-Rubbed Pork Loin rub from the freezer. Set it on a bed of sliced onions, with a bit of chicken broth poured over them. In the oven at 350F for close to an hour. Served with mashed sweet potatoes and a huge rocket salad with beets and avocado.

Sunday (22-Nov-09) was a simple dinner of Oriental Spaghetti with Cucumber and Spicy Peanut Sauce (now MC). Pretty good, definitely needs more pepper flakes.

Monday (23-Nov-09) evening was another pre-trip dinner at La Bellone. Maybe this will become a tradition. :-)

Tuesday (24-Nov-09) evening with had pasta with goat cheese and a salad, all the better to sleep well.

Monday, November 9, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Got back from a grueling US trip on Monday. Stopped at the grocery on the way home and picked up some cêpe-filled half-moon pasta, along with other things. Made pasta à la panna and a big salad of rocket, beets, avocado, and cuke for an easy and satisfying dinner.

Tuesday was a late dinner with Grilled Salmon with Avocado Mousse (MC) served over tagliatelle, plus a big salad.

Wednesday was a holiday here. Up late, we made a dash for the grocery in the morning, but it was closed when we arrived. The fridge is getting low on veggies. Made, more or less, Curried Chicken and Broccoli Couscous (MC). Not feeling like cooking at all, wondering if we should do Thanksgiving, since I'll probably be leaving again on the next weekend.

Thursday we managed to get in a big shopping trip. Got a filet of flètan, halibut, and made a recipe from visrecepten.nl. The fish is cooked à la meuniére and served with a cucumber-dill sauce. Served with some steam-sauteed potatoes and peas. A nice dinner.

Friday evening I made Baked Cajun Chicken, a 2BTried recipe in MC, now a Keeper. This turned out to be an easy and tasty way to cook chicken thighs, rubbed with a spicy mix and baked for a while. Served with rice and broccoli. Ed brought some apple tarts from the bakery for dessert.

Saturday dinner we ate in Ste Alvère. Sunday we had an outstanding lunch at Auberge Lou Peyrol.

The holiday season is coming. The shops are full of foie gras and various terrines, pâtés, and other treats. Too bad this is all so delicious and high fat!

Monday, October 19, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday we got home late, so made Angel Hair Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Dill (MC), fast and tasty, with a salad. Had some rice puddings from the grocery for dessert.

Tuesday I made the Lentils with Merguez, from the New York Times, to take to Sally and Mike's for dinner before line dancing. Used merguez de volaille and 500g of lentilles de puy. Recipe called for vegetable stock, which seems very wimpy considering the whole dish. I used chicken stock and the chili-soaking liquid that I froze last week. It was good, and there are nice leftovers.

Wednesday I roasted a chicken with some potatoes and carrots. We had the leftover roasted eggplant salad and potatoes with mushrooms from our last Cooking Italy dinner. Ended with some Tendre Coeur camembert.
Thursday I ate at the pub quiz, while poorly Ed stayed home, ate some leftover roast chicken, and cleaned the carcass.

Friday I started some chicken stock with the roast chicken remainders. For dinner, we had fish, a new recipe from Cooking Light, Blackened Cumin-Cayenne Tilapia (a keeper, now MC), using panga rather than tilapia. Side of dressed up orechetti, followed by a salad of mâche and veggies, all followed by the rest of the Tendre Coeur camembert.

Saturday's dinner was Creamy Cucumber with Worst (MC), using saucisses de volaille. Followed by a salad with avocado. Topped off with some brownie-cookies from the shops. Defatted and froze the the chicken stock.
Sunday I made Apple-Plum Butter (MC) with found apples, tiny red ones and bigger yellow ones, and four plums. Cooled the jar, then froze. For dinner we had Pasta with Broccoli, Blue Cheese, and Basil (MC), more or less, plus a salad.

Monday, we had dinner out, at Ed's suggestion, bless his heart. Ate at La Bellone. Starter was witlof, chopped up and tossed in a vinaigrette, piled into a disk, held in place with strips of cured, dried ham (like Serrano or Parma, but probably a local one); this sounded odd but worked surprisingly well. The main was a brandade of morue, cooked cod, shredded and mushed up with mashed potatoes, with a nice sauce. Creme brulée for desert was quite nice.

Tuesday eve we'll have escalaopes de canard some steamed broccoli and some orzo or rice. Will take remaining perishables to neighbors in anticipation of leaving tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries; Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style

Cooking Italy Assignment
Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries, p411

Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style, p522


This assignment had two parts, the lamb and the potatoes. I thought about doing the September bonus chocolate mousse also, but that's going to have to wait for another day. The menu looked like this:
  • Starter
    • Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Cucumber, p55
  • Main
    • Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries, p411
    • Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style, p522
  • Dessert
    • Tiramisu
Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Cucumber

This wasn't part of the assignment, but I felt the meal needed some fresh veg and we really liked this when I made it before. It's a lovely balance of color, texture, and taste. I neglected to prick my eggplant before I put it in to roast and it exploded with a pop! Since it's hunting season, my first thought was that there was a shot nearby the house — not. The explosion didn't do too much damage to the eggplant, though, but I did neglect to turn it over in the excitement, so it didn't get thoroughly roasted. I ended up steaming it a bit to finish off the cooking.

Last time I made this, we felt the shape of the eggplant pieces was not quite right. This time, I cut the peeled eggplant in half lengthwise, then laid each half on its flat side and cut thick (about 1/2") slices. At the skinny end of the eggplant the strips were a good width; for the thicker parts, I cut those in half again. Much better. Very nice salad.

Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries


Aside: I wonder why this recipe is titled "roasted" rather than "braised," since this is about as braised as you can get.

On market day, I went by the butcher and explained what I wanted in my best French and came away with eight chunks of bone-in lamb shoulder.


This is another really simple recipe. Dump everything in the pot and simmer away. Every half hour you have a look and turn the bits over. A lot of clock-time elapses, but there's very little real effort. An ideal dish when you're in the kitchen anyway. After the first two hours, the meat was unappetizingly gray, but well on its way to being very tender. (The grayness doesn't really show in the photo from the yellow light from the light on the stove, but it was seriously do-I-really-want-to-eat-this looking.)



A bit of liquid accumulates in the pot, so the remaining time it simmers at a slightly higher temperature with the lid ajar. As the liquid reduces, the meat takes on a better color. Just before serving, you tilt the pan and try to scoop off the fat, but I didn't seem to have much fat to scoop off.



I worried about the meat being horribly overcooked after three and a half hours and was pleasantly surprised that there was still rosé flesh when we cut into the meat.

Serving size: This amount of meat (2.25#/1.1kg) is supposed to serve four people, that's two chunks per person. The two of us wanted three chunks each and ended up eating it all, since I didn't think it would keep well. (I expect the juniper berries would turn a bit nasty tasting after a night in the fridge.) I suspect now that Hazan's number of servings works only when this is part of a proper Italian meal, with antipasti, pasta, meat, etc. Note to self: Since I rarely (ever?) serve a meal like this, I should keep this in mind if I were to make this for company.

Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style

I made this recipe a couple of weeks ago, but found that the potatoes didn't get done in the advertised time when the were sliced 1/4" thick as instructed. This time I used the thinnest cutter on the mandoline and there were done properly.

I also followed Hazan's instructions for soaking the dried cêpes/porcini in tepid water and then boiling the reconstituted 'shrooms in the filtered soaking water. I can't really say this step added anything very noticeable to the flavor and it takes quite a while to boil off all that liquid. Also, using all cêpes, rather that the "forest melange" that I used last time wasn't that big a difference.

This is an appealing dish because of the high proportion of mushrooms to potatoes, and there's not too much fat involved. It would be a good company dish, since it could be assembled ahead of time and popped in the oven half an hour before you want to serve it; halfway through it needs salting and a stir and that's it.



Dessert

Ok, I cheated. I bought two little cups of tiramisu at the grocery store. They were quite good, lighter than I expected.

Monday, October 12, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday was Spinach-Ricotta Gnocchi. Served with butter and Parmesan. Leaden they were. I cut back a recipe that I used once before (maybe 30 years ago!), since I had only 250g ricotta in the house. Mixed all in the food processor. It was incredibly soupy. I had to add lots and lots of flour to make it rollable. Very strange. And I've got gnocchi to feed an army. I cooked about half, and we couldn't finish them off. I'll make a batch of "pizza sauce" of roasted red bell peppers and use some of that for a topping and serve them as a side dish.

Tuesday we ate at Sally and Mike's before going off line dancing.

Wednesday was Shrimp Fried Rice (MC). The rest of the Coeur Tendre camembert for after, plus some Afrikas.

Thursday we had lunch for our anniversary at La Grange aux Oies, four courses, and I didn't feel like eating dinner at all. Made some ersatz pizza sauce with a jar of roasted red bell peppers, spread some of it over the leftover gnocchi and warmed it in the oven for Ed's dinner. It went together quite well. I froze the rest of the sauce for pizza one of these days.

Friday we started with Cold Beetroot with Cream (Pomiane, p180), a favorite. More or less made a third recipe of Kingklip Stroganoff (MC 2BTried). No kingklip available and cod was a bit pricey; used lieu noir, which is cheap, but uninteresting. Won't save this recipe. Served with steamed haricots verts.

Saturday was Cooking Italy day: For starters, Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Cucumber (ClassicItal, p55). For main, Pan-Roasted Lamb with Juniper Berries (ClassicItal, p411) and Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style (ClassicItal, p522). For dessert, a store-bought tiramisu. While the meat was cooking, I made the marinated for tomorrow's pork.

Sunday, I used a large varkenshaas/pork tenderloin to make Ancho- and Chipotle-Rubbed Pork Loin (MC). (I froze half the rub, since I had about half the meat.) Served with polenta and steamed broccoli. Yum! Froze quite a bit of leftover meat. We're really meat-eaters in the last days. And tomorrow I'll roast a chicken — on sale at the grocery, couldn't resist.

Monday, October 5, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday, I made the broccoli version of Rigatoni with Cauliflower or Broccoli & Anchovy-Garlic Oil (MC). Too lazy to make a salad to accompany it. Sainte Maure for after, and some new chocolate cookies, an impulse buy. Ecomarche still had corn, so we got another pair of ears, and some nice-looking sweet potatoes, both for tomorrow's dinner.

Tuesday we had the corn on the cob with Pork Chops with Hot Garlic Sauce (MC) and sweet potatoes mashed with OJ and a bit of chipotle sauce.

Wednesday was Curried Orzo Salad with Hot Shrimp (MC). Used a small whole wheat shell pasta ipv orzo. The sauce for this has a yummy, strong curry flavor.

Thursday, we had leftover pot-gb salad and marinated veggies for a starter and then it was Eggy Potatoey (MC). I used some dried duck breast from the freezer instead of ham (cut all the fat off); topped with mimelotte for a bland cheddar-ish cheese.

Friday morning we started the apple-quince butter -- quite good. I need to look for a small batch quince jam or some such, since they seem to be in the shops right now. For dinner we had Balsamic Chicken with Thyme (MC 2BTried), definitely a keeper; served with orzo. Followed by Lamb's Lettuce and Beetroot Salad (BEFCC, p32), one of our favorite salads. For dessert, a slice each of apricot flan from the Montemboeuf boulanger.

Saturday, we had a Dutch stamppot with Riesling choucroûte and Morteau, a smoked sausage from the France-Comte. Good stuff, real comfort food. Made some Cinnamon Griddle Scones (MC 2BTried) which we also had for breakfast Sunday morning. Something probably wrong with this recipe; it needed much more flour to make a manageable dough. Edible, though.

Sunday, we had Hot and Spicy Eggplant (MC) with brown rice, followed by a big salad of mâche and whatever with the leftover dressing from the beet salad.

Monday, September 28, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday, I made the Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style (ClassicItal, p522), the recipe that I had intended to make with last week's pork loin for Cooking Italy. (Used a "forest mix" of dried 'shrooms, rather than only cêpes and didn't follow Hazan's instructions from cooking them in the soaking liquid. Next time ...) According to the book, it would need only about half an hour in the oven. Only after I started it did I realize that 1) there's no way that 1/4" thick potatoes will cook in 30 minutes and 2) it was too late to wait for these to be ready. So, I made a pot of trio rice while dealing with some turkey escalopes, and figured we'd have some flied lice if the potatoes should happen to get done. (Actually some flied lice sounds pretty good --> on the list.) The turkey escalopes I just S&P'd and floured and browned in butter and olive oil. When they were done, I made a sauce of some mushroom soaking liquid and cream and milk. And some peas on the side. Then we finished off the bread pudding. (Sometimes we make that go for six servings. Not this time.)

During the day Tuesday, I made pâte brisée (shortcrust pastry) for the freezer. For dinner, while yesterday's potatoes were warming in the oven, I sautéed some duck aiguillettes (comparable to chicken tenderloins), then made a nice pan sauce with vermouth and apple cider vinegar and chopped prunes. Shredded Zucchini (MW@Home), old standard, on the side. And some goat cheese for afters. Nice dinner.

Shopping Wednesday morning. Bought some plums to make apple-plum butter with the apples we found, then saw a quince. So I'll make two batches of apple-X butter soon, and freeze one of them. There was also sweet corn in the shop. And incredibly cheap salmon (500g for €4.50), so we'll have salmon two days in a row.

Wednesday evening Ed bbq'd the salmon for Grilled Salmon with Mustard-Yogurt Sauce (MC). We had corn-on-the-cob -- yum! -- and the leftover broccoli-feta pie. Pavé Affiné for afters. I made all the sauce, so we'll have that with something later in the week.

Thursday, more salmon, Salmon-Leek Soup (MC) and a big salad.

Friday morning, I made some apple-quince butter with our "found" apples (reinette-looking) and a quince from the store. It was quite hard and took a long time to soften. Sample tasted fine. Can't get in the mood for making the mousse somehow.

For dinner we had Tuna Spaghetti (MC) without the zucchini. And a salad of mâche and some of the leftover mustard-yogurt sauce. More Pavé Affiné, and then some fresh strawberries.

Saturday's dinner was Omelette with Cheese, Leeks, and Cauliflower (MC), sort of. Not enough leeks, so added a potato. Added some chopped red bell pepper from the freezer, so it wasn't such a white meal. Used pyramid chevre ipv cheddar. There was more filling than a proper omelette really needs, but it was quite tasty. Simple salad with the rest of the mâche and the rest of the mustard-yogurt sauce. A bit of St Maure, then used up the rest of the strawberries with Balsamic Strawberry Soup (MC).

Sunday we grilled merguez de volaille. Made Marinated Vegetable Salad (MC) to use up more of the cauliflower (Ed asks that the third night is not tomorrow!) and Potato and Green Bean Salad (MC) to use the haricots verts we bought impulsively and more of the potatoes. A very nice, summery dinner, and possibly the last bbq of the year.

Rumination #1: My way of cooking has changed a lot since we moved here. Although shopping in NL doesn't offer the variety that's available in the US, there's is still much more of a choice than we have here. Probably this is because we're living in the country, rather than in the Big City. Also I'm trying to by more "local" foods and skip the imported ones. (Like I skipped the lovely asparagus from Peru at the shop last week.) I'm cooking less "ethnic" foods because the ingredients are not available. Instead of making a menu plan for the week and buying to suit that, I tend to buy (or overbuy) whatever looks good at the shops and market and make up dinner from that. Cheap salmon this week meant two nights of salmon. Broccoli looked good. Cauliflower. Haricots verts. This more impromptu cooking style is a bit of a challenge for me, but I'm trying.

Rumination #2: I'm really feeling not much like cooking of late, not sure why. Can get excited about the Italian chocolate mousse at all. Well, it was the September bonus, so I guess I don't need to worry about it. Sahni's besan dumplings in yogurt sauce sounds good, and besan needs to be used up, having just passed its expiration date, but it all seems too much work. What's this about?

Rumination #3: I'm trying, but can't really get my head around the French way of serving a starter, main, and afters (cheese and/or dessert). This all makes a nice meal, and courses are typically smaller, so you're not stuffed, but a proper starter seems too much to manage. We often have salad as a second course, but somehow it's not the same.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pork Loin Braised in Milk Bolognese Style; Braised Finocchio with Butter and Parmesan

Cooking Italy Assignment
Pork Loin Braised in Milk, Bolognese Style, p417

Braised Finocchio with Butter and Parmesan, p504


This week I made two assignments in one meal (so next week I have a bit of a break with only the Italian chocolate mousse :-). I also included a potato dish, since I'm still working on the boxful that neighbors brought us from their garden. No starter and no dessert, the main course looked like this:
  • Pork Loin Braised in Milk, Bolognese Style, p417
  • Braised Finocchio with Butter and Parmesan, p504
  • Pan-Roasted Diced Potatoes, p520
This was definitely a can't-believe-we-ate-the-whole-thing meal! Oink, oink!

Pork Loin Braised in Milk, Bolognese Style

This pork recipe has gotten excellent reviews and some beautiful photos from other Cooking Italy members. (Angela, our fearless leader, posts the recipes for all the Cooking Italy assignments at her blog. You can also find the other blogs at Cooking Italy.) The photos here won't be as good, but the dish was also well liked here. Both the meat and the sauce were delicious. It's very simple to make, but takes quite some time and, while your constant attendance is not required, you do need to be around to check on things.

Since we're not big meat eaters, dealing with the butcher, particularly in a foreign language, is always a challenge. I gathered up my best French and described to the butcher what I wanted in the way of porc and how I wanted it prepared. And it worked! The rib loin was just over 1 kilogram (2.2#). He detached the bones and tied the roast very tidily, and he even trimmed the bones.


(The 1 kilo weight included the weight of the bones. I'm wondering if Hazan didn't mean for the roast itself to be 2.5#, excluding the bones. If it includes the bones, then stretching about 2# of meat between six people seems a bit skimpy. Especially when it tastes so good!)

Although Hazan suggests that you cook the bones with the meat, she never actually tells you what to do with them. I added them to the browning roast and let them cook along with meat all the way through.



After the meat is browned, you add milk, simmer slowly until there are just brown clumpy bits remaining of the milk. Add more milk and repeat. The recipe asked for whole milk, but I used 2% and it seemed to work fine.


After the third addition and reduction of milk, the meat should be cooked at the sauce ready to finish off while the meat rests. Hazan has you deglaze the pan with a bit of water, but I wonder a splash of white wine or maybe apple cider wouldn't do the job just as well. Or maybe this would be gilding the lily?


Braised Finocchio with Butter and Parmesan

I went to the market on Thursday thinking I'd make this dish if there was fennel. And there was! I was sure I hadn't seen it before. But maybe it's been there and didn't register, since this isn't one of our favorite veggies. But, there stood a box of fenouil, from which I chose two to bring home.

This is quite simple to make, and not bad for fennel. Not much to look at though.

Pan-Roasted Diced Potatoes

I thought about making Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Cultivated Mushrooms, Riviera Style (which I now see is on the course list for October:-), but decided it was too "fussy" to go with the pork and fennel. So I chose this recipe, and made some very good pan-fried pots.

It is a bit peculiar that the recipe title calls these potatoes "pan-roasted," since they're about as fried as can be. The potatoes are first fried until they are soft, then removed from the oil and allowed to cool. Then the oil is reheated and the potatoes fried again until they get a crispy, brown crust. Kind of refried potatoes. And very good. Indeed, the potatoes had a crispy outside and a soft inside. Since the initial cooking can be done ahead and the potatoes finished near serving time, this could be good for a larger meal. The potatoes took 15-20 minutes to finish off, but don't require much attention during that time beyond an occasional stir.

I used canola (colza) oil for the frying. It's not available in The Netherlands, and I've just recently discovered it here. I've used it for bits of things, but I won't use it again for frying like this. We both thought it added an odd taste.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tagliatelle with Porcini-Style Shiitake Mushroom Pasta Sauce

Cooking Italy Assignment
Bolognese Meat Sauce, p203
Tagliatelle, p136


This week it's another tempting tomato-based assignment that's gotten excellent reviews from course-mates. But it's not for this tomato-less household, unfortunately. (Visit Cooking Italy to admire this dish on other blogs.) Instead, I looked for another sauce that would go with the tagliatelle. In both her books that I have, Hazan says that Bolognese is the sauce to go with tagliatelle itself . I haven't found that she ever recommends another sauce for this pasta. In several recipes she recommends both fettucine, narrower than tagliatelle, and pappardelle, wider, but not tagliatelle itself -- tradition is tradition, after all! I finally settled on Porcini-Style Shiitake Mushroom Pasta Sauce (recipe below), which we really liked when I last made it ... almost exactly 10 years ago! (It will definitely come around sooner next time.)

This pasta sauce recipe is handy because it can be made ahead almost to the end. To finish it's just a matter of reheating, adding cream, butter, and black pepper, and reducing the sauce a bit. Toss with pasta and cheese and you're done. The nice white mushrooms that I found at the market last Thursday were largely in good shape. At the grocery on Saturday I found some real cêpes/porcini, the first I've seen this year. I was still missing some 'shrooms, so I added some dried cêpes and shiitakes, the end of one jar and the start of another. I soaked these first in hot water, then drained. (The filtered soaking water is in the freezer to add to something that needs a bit of mushroom flavor.)

For the tagliatelle, I rolled the pasta sheets to 7 as for the fettucine. Having treated myself to a cutter for tagliatelle just before we moved, I cheated on this and didn't cut it by hand as Hazan directs. I'm pleased with myself that I can fairly consistently roll the pasta sheets to 7 now, but I can't say that I like the wider noodles done that thin. I think I'll stop at 6 the next time I make tagliatelle.



Porcini-Style Shiitake Mushroom Pasta Sauce

This recipe is from Marcella Cucina, by Marcella Hazan, p152.

3/4 pound fresh white cultivated mushrooms
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Suggested Pasta: homemade noodles: tonnarelli, pappardelle, fettucine

1. Rinse all the mushrooms quickly under fast-running water. Cut the white mushrooms from cap to stem into thing lengthwise slices. Detach and discard the hard shiitake stems, and slice the caps into thin crescents.

2. Put the olive oil and the chopped onion in a 12" saute pan, turn on the heat to medium high, and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until it becomes translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking stirring, just until the garlic begins to release its scent, without letting it become colored any darker than a pale old.

3. Add the parsely, stir quickly once or twice, then add all the mushrooms. Add salt--do not be salt-shy if you don't want a bland-tasting sauce--turn over all ingredients a few times, then cover the pan and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for about 10min or more until the liquid that the mushroom shed has simmered away.

4. Add the cream, butter, and liberal grindings of pepper to the pan, raise the heat to maximum force, and reduce the cream to half its original volume, stirring frequently.

5. When the pasta is tender but firm to the bite, drain it, and toss it immediately in a warm serving bowl with the mushroom sauce. Add the grated Parmesan, toss thoroughly to coat the pasta well, and serve at once.

Ahead-of-time Note: You can cook the sauce up to the end of step 3 sveveral hours in advance. Reaheat briefly before proceeding.

Making pasta. continued

This evening I made tagliatelle, again following Marcella Hazan's recipe. Some observations:
  • Other pasta recipes call for 1 cup flour, 1 egg, maybe 1 tablespoon of oil, and a bit of water as needed. Hazan has 1 cup flour and 2 eggs. How can this work with so much egg? Certainly it's not possible to make a "well" in 1 cup of flour that holds 2 large eggs. And I'm definitely adding quite a bit of flour, certainly over 1/2 cup and maybe pushing 1 whole cup, to make a dough that holds together and isn't too sticky. Puzzling.
  • Tonight I did the basic mixing and the start of the kneading in my largest stainless steel bowl. Once the dough was the right kind of texture I finished the kneading on the countertop. Although it's one extra dish to clean, the counter mess was much easier to clean up, since it was basically just loose flour.
  • I rolled the sheets to 7 again, using lots of flour to help out. After 6, I cut the sheets in half across, dredged in flour, then rolled at 7, feeding the cut edge in first. This worked quite well. Not sure I like the tagliatelle rolled so thin, though. The fettucine were better.
  • This was the first time I used my new tagliatelle cutter attachment for the pasta machine. It feels a bit different from the narrower ones. It seems to be more sensitive to the weight of the incoming pasta sheet, so you need to lift the sheet to keep the cutter from spinning its wheels.

This week in the kitchen

Monday was a Cooking Italy day. I made used my new cutters to make tagliatelle with Porcini-Style Shiitake Mushroom Sauce (MarCuc, p152; MC). Really shouldn't let this recipe go so long without making it. Served with a simple salad of mâche with the dressing left from Pomiane's beets (amplified with a bit of oil and red wine vinegar).

Tuesday's starter was Grated Carrots with Sesame Seeds (MC). The main was a variation on Chicken Avocado (MC) accompanied by a salad of the leftover roasted pots & broc. (For the oven part, I topped the chick and avocado with rounds of goat cheese, rather than monkey jack. This was tasty, but a bit rich. Would be better to melt a small bit of another cheese, more jack-like, and then a dollop of the pyramid goat cheese rather than sour cream, which I skipped altogether this time.) Made the quickie low-fat Cinnamon Fluff cake for dessert.

For Wednesday's dinner, I steamed a potato to add to the l/o eggplant-spinach curry. Worked quite well, might just do that always. There was quite a bit to eat, though, so we skipped dessert.

Thursday I made two small casserole dishes loosely following Broccoli and Feta Cheese Pie (MC). Those and salad made dinner.

Friday was another Cooking Italy day. I made the pork loin, accompanied by fennel and pan-fried potatoes. Yum.

Saturday Salmon with Spicy Cilantro Pepper Sauce (MC) from the bbq grill, with some boiled potatoes and a salad.

Sunday I made used some stale bread to make Double-Boiler Bread Pudding, thinking we have a simple meal of soup and dessert. But neither of us were hungry and it got too late to make soup, so I whizzed up an avocado with the leftover cilantro sauce and we had corn chips and carrot sticks for the main course, followed by the bread pudding. Not especially healthy, but fun.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Baked Crespelle with Spinach, Prosciutto, and Parmesan Filling

Cooking Italy Assignment
Layered Crespelle with Tomato, Prosciutto, and Cheese, p270


This assignment looks really wonderful, a stack of crespelle (crêpes) interleaved with a simple tomato sauce, prosciutto, Parmesan, and mozzarella. Yum. But not for this tomato-less household, unfortunately. (See the other Cooking Italy blogs to be tantalized.) Instead I made the Baked Crespelle with Spinach, Prosciutto, and Parmesan Filling (ClassicItal, p269).

This recipe is more or less cannelloni, stuffed with a mixture of spinach, prosciutto, Parmesan, and béchamel sauce. The filling was quite good, and I'd use this again to fill cannelloni or manicotti. Or, I might consider using store-bought crêpes to do the same thing.

Aside #1: The difference in cannelloni and manicotti refuses to stick in my brain. One is pasta sheets rolled like flat enchiladas, the other is tubes. Wikipedia says cannelloni are the sheets. I remembered the other way, but who am I to argue with Wikipedia? This crespelle recipe is very like cannelloni (or is it manicotti)? I'm puzzled that Hazan mentions neither of these, at least they're not in the index, since they are (or used to be) very common in the US experience of Italian food.

Now I remember why I haven't made crêpes in a good, long while. They're a nice way to dress up dinner (leftovers in crêpes :-), and easy to make, but time-consuming, whew! Hazan's recipe purportedly makes 16-18. I might have had 14 or 15, not sure what went wrong there, since they were quite nicely thin ones. Eighteen crêpes at almost 10 minutes each, that's a long time! Might be nice to do this while other things were happening in the kitchen.

Hazan's instructions for béchamel sauce (p 39, Salsa Balsamella) are quite good. This is the first time I've read about there being a point where you can start adding the milk is large globs, rather than dribble by dribble. Something I'd discovered myself by doing, but never read in a book.

The Baked Crespelle recipe gives instructions for using either fresh or frozen spinach. Not finding any fresh spinach at the store, I bought some frozen and proceeded to cook it as instructed. Then added sautéed onions, prosiutto, a good dose of grated Parmesan, and some béchamel sauce, along with a dab of nutmeg and two dabs of salt. A tasty combination.

Aside #2: I'm always puzzled why recipes call 1) for cooking frozen spinach, which has already been cooked — why not just thaw it?, and 2) for using whole-leaf spinach and chopping it — what's wrong with frozen chopped spinach?

Once all the crespelle were made, filling, saucing, cheesing, and baking them was a snap (I omitted the dabs of butter), and dinner was just minutes away. The stuffing should have filled all (16-18) of the crespelle and served 4-6. I managed to fill only 9, and we ate them all. I'm sure that was because we were starving by the time they came from the oven, and I'd planned to serve only a salad with them.

A photo might phollow (sorry :-) whenever our primary system, with the photo software, is back in action. It's having a very unhappy day today. Wish it well.

Monday, September 14, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Monday, we went to get our new cat, Sophie, from Phoenix. Upon our return, I started a pot of chicken stock with the leftover roasted chicken bits. While that was simmering I did with my version of our latest Cooking Italy assignment. All with an inquisitive, new kitty underfoot.

Tuesday, I awoke to find the Mac out of disk and unable to boot following an attempt at a Mozy backup gone awry. We had lunch out (La Bellone) and sandwiches for dinner. I cooked broccoli stalks and a zucchini that wanted using in some of the chicken stock, puréed, and froze it for soup one of these days. Froze 2cups of chicken stock.

Wednesday, it was Lentils and Potatoes with Curry (H2CEV, p600). Not bad for the small amount of effort involved. Served with mango chutney and lime pickle. (Made it with chick stock ipv veg stock.) Never made it to the boulanger, so made bread overnight, Bran 1 (BigGerman, p23). A pretty good whole wheat bran bread.

Thursday, we picked up our new dog from Phoenix, so we had a fast dinner of 4-cheese ravioli and pesto from the freezer, along with a big salad.

Friday, a favorite, Cold Beetroot with Cream (Pomiane, p180) for a starter. Then some pork chops, with sautéed potatoes, and steamed broccoli (with garlic slices in butter). Pork chops were a bit thinner than I thought and turned out a bit dry on the grillpan.

Saturday we were busy, catching up on shopping, hanging out with the new dog and cat, and trying (still) to get the Mac going. Thus a quick dinner, Scallops with Black Pepper Sauce (MC) over rice. The end of a bit of Camembert was afters.

Sunday morning we got the Mac going again -- hooray! -- then spent all the day getting things to right and got started with dinner too late to make pasta and sauce for Cooking Italy. Instead made Eggplant, Red Pepper, and Spinach Curry (MWSunday, p303) served over rice, which used up the end of yesterday's red bell pepper, plus a green bell pepper, plus some frozen spinach. Again with mango chutney and lime pickle and some raita (MJ1).

Monday, September 7, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Sunday morning I defrosted some kip filets and put them to "marinate" for Delicious Chicken Bits (p14, Q&E x1/2). After the Langlais concert in Lesignac, I finished these off, serving with Green Beans with Mushrooms (p86, Q&E x1/2) andTurmeric Rice (p100, Q&E x1/4). Didn't have enough frozen green beans, so topped these up with frozen peas; worked fine.

Monday I defrosted the pie crust in the freezer and made a tart of use-me-ups (broccoli, mushrooms, onions) with two eggs and a soft goat cheese pyramid. Not bad at all. Served with salad.

Tuesday I made onion bhaji (p20 Q&E, more or less) and the Fresh Green Chutney (p113 Q&E) with mint from the garden and the rest of the first box of cilantro. Had planned to follow this with the leftover broc-shroom tart, but neither of us were that hungry. Instead we had some cheese and then a mini-Magnum while we walked in the garden.

Wednesday, shopping. Tuna on sale, oh boy. Grilled Tuna Steak with Nectarine-Red Onion Relish (p103, Thrill); served with buttered orechette. Then Camembert, followed by some "napoleon" cookie/cakes bought on sale today that turned out to be pretty good. (Then we went out see the ISS and shuttle fly by.)

Bought more cilantro, still have still have two boxes to use.

Thursday was an easy night. Made a mess of guacamole to go with the leftover enchiladas.

Having Hazan's book in the kitchen for Cooking Italy, means I'm using it for other stuff too. Friday was Grilled Chicken all Diavola, Roman Style (p337, ClassicItal). Lacking time I did it under the broiler. For the first bit, I had the rack too close to the flame and the skin was burnt. We don't generally eat the skin, so this wasn't a problem. I put as much as possible of the crushed peppercorns under the chickie's skin on the breast and legs. It wasn't notably pittig from the peppercorns, but one tablespoon for a whole bird isn't that much. Served with polenta and leftover nectarine-red onion relish; salad for starter. We'll probably do this again on the bbq.

Saturday, I picked the meat from the chicken and made a dinner salad with rucola and a dressing with mayo, cilantro, lime, and some sauce from a jar of chipotles in adobo. Yum.

Sunday, another easy dinner — the leftover broccoi-shroom tart and another rucola salad. The crust is still nice, flakey and tasty. Amazing. Made a batch of apple-plum butter, since we're down to the dregs on the current jar. Our neighbors left a big box of potatoes on our doorstep, so that needs to be eaten in the next week or so.

Didn't get my Cooking Italy assignment done this week. The spinach is defrosted, so it's crespelle for dinner tomorrow night.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Arrosticini Abruzzesi, Potato Gnocchi, Sgroppino

Cooking Italy Assignment
Arrosticini Abruzzesi, p83
Potato Gnocchi, p260
Sgroppino, p613


Playing catchup this week after vacation, so I combined several assignments into a Saturday's meal. This was the menu:
  • Starter
    • Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Cucumber, p55
    • Marinated Carrot Sticks, p56
  • Main
    • Arrosticini Abruzzesi - Skewered Marinated Lamb Tidbits, p83
    • Potato Gnocchi, p260
    • Butter and Sage Sauce, p192
  • Dessert
    • Sgroppino - Venetian Lemon and Strawberry "Slush" with Sparkling Wine, p613
Starter
The eggplant is the recipe I planned to make before when Ed threw away the draining eggplant strips. I made a half recipe and it very generously served two. The instructions for this recipe have one of my pet peeves in recipe writing — asking for "strips," but not giving enough dimensions — this time only asking for 1" wide strips. (Length? Depth?) I'd guess something like 1"x1/2"x2" would be OK. The strips I made were bigger and didn't seem to mesh well with the rest of the salad. Next time ... (Surprisingly, Hazan's instructions for roasting the eggplant were not especially good, odd since her instructions are generally quite clear. But I've done this fairly often, so it wasn't such a problem.) I seeded the cucumber, although the instructions don't specify this. Whatever, we liked the result. This would be a good veg dish for a potluck, a whole recipe or doubled, as needed, since it's not refrigeration-sensitive. You only need to stir in some salt just before it's served. Here it is served with the marinated carrots that I made again, just in case the eggplant didn't work:


Main: Arrosticini
Another winner of a recipe, easy and delicious. I bought a big hunk of lamb shoulder. Friday morning I cut off the strips for this recipe and chunked the rest for the freezer. This is yet another recipe asking for strips with a missing dimension — 1/2" wide and 2" long. And how thick should that be? My strips were as long as I could manage, in general, 1/2-3/4" wide, and as thin as I could manage. This worked out fine. In the end I used six short bamboo skewers and had about three strips of meat on each. (If you were serving these as munchies or as a starter, maybe two strips per skewer is fine.) The BBQ Chef had the night off, so I cooked these under the broiler. They were yummy!

Main: Potato Gnocchi and Butter and Sage Sauce
The assignment called for the gnocchi to be served with Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter (p152), which I can imagine is a wonderful combination. Since we don't do tomatoes here, I looked for other sauces. Thought about the Gorgonzola Sauce (p194), but Ed's not a big fan and I've inflicted gorgonzola on him recently, so decided against it. In the end I chose the Butter and Sage Sauce, since butter is a Charente speciality and the garden is full of sage. These was an easy-peasy sauce, but we didn't especially like it with the gnocchi. Gorgonzola Sauce next time.

I was a bit nervous about making the gnocchi. Planning a main course for two, I made about a half recipe, about 3/4# potatoes and 3/4 cup flour (long ingredient list, this one ;-). But it took much more flour that to make a dough that stuck together. I didn't measure this, but guess it was at least 1 full cup. Kneaded for quite a while to get a fairly smooth dough, then rolled out in sausages and cut into bits. The fun part was the fork-flipping bit to make the grooves.

I love these pasta-like things that sink when you put them in the water and bob to the surface when they're done. At least, spaetzle is done when it comes to the surface. Gnocchi need to cook a bit longer, mine more than the 10 seconds Hazan suggests. I forgot to add the Parmesan at the end, so we ended up salting at the table.


Dessert: Sgroppino
In The Netherlands, prosecco was all the rage. We were served it several times when visiting friends and it was in every grocery we visited. Did I think to buy a bottle there? No. Did I find one in the shop once we got back to France? No. So I used Clairette de Die instead, which is a similar, sparkling wine.

This is a bit of work, nothing too hard, but it takes a bit of time. It's essentially lemon ice cream mixed with strawberry purée and prosecco just before serving. I made half a recipe, since there are only two and we'll have dessert a second night.

The lemon ice cream is nice and I might made this again all by itself. Start the ice cream with a lemon syrup made of lemon peel, juice, water and sugar. Remove the strips of peel and cool before making the ice cream. To serve, you whisk together the ice cream, puréed strawberries, and prosecco. I didn't follow the instructions carefully and just dumped them all together to whisk rather than beating in half the purée, half the wine, then the remaining purée and wine. It worked OK though. I did expect it to be more granular, but it was just frothy, fruity ice cream. (That's a dribble of purée smiling at you.)


Followup
Having ducked out of his bbq job, the Head Dishwasher took over at this point. He certainly had a lot to do! But he enjoyed the dinner, so didn't complain. He's very in favor of my continuing with Cooking Italy. :-)

Next week we do a layered crespelle dish. The assigned dish has tomato sauce so I'll find another variation.

Monday, August 31, 2009

This week in the kitchen

Whew! Back from vacation and having a hard time getting back in the kitchen groove.

Friday, we returned with a sackful of chard, fresh from Hennie & Jefff's garden. For dinner, I sautéed that with lots of garlic and pepper flakes and served it over linguine, along with a big salad. Not great, but quite passable on a tired night.

Saturday I did a risotto with spinach and shrimp (from Cooking Light mag perhaps), OK but nothing special. Now I have a sack of frozen spinach to use up. Served this with a salad. Made the Riz au Lait au Chocolat (now MC) again. It was much better than the previous time when I misread the milk measurement. Still it seemed to need to cook longer than the recipe stated, or else I like my rice puddings with mushier rice than the French. ???

It got late on Sunday, so I didn't have time to roast the chickie as planned. Instead I made Lilian's Beijing-Style Sweet&Sour Fish (p65, HotWok) with panga. This is a really yummy, easy fish dish. I haven't been using this book much since we moved; need to get back to it since it has some really tasty recipes. Served the fish with rice and Broccoli in Fragrant Wine Sauce (p156, HotWok). More rice pudding after.

Monday we had a Zucchini-Tuna Tagliatelle (MC) and salad. Finished off the rice pudding.

Tuesday I roasted the chickie, more or less following Hazan's instructions in ClassicItal, only somewhat successful -- tasty, but it didn't seem to get done after a long time cooking. Ate about half and picked the rest of the meat from the bones.

Wednesday lunch, I made a little soup from broccoli stalks that I cooked in chick stock, puréed, and froze a while ago. (Need to do this again with current accumulation of stalks.) Added some broccoli florets and small pasta. Not half bad for something made of leftover bits. For dinner there was Curried Rice with Shrimp (from the web, now MC).

Found an herb bonanza when we shopped at Leclerc -- we now have two boxes of cilantro, one of basil (purple and green), and one of dill to use soon. Froze the dill as before. Looked for my cilantro pesto recipe, and couldn't find it. Google will turn up something I suppose. (Also noticed a sack of basil at the market on Thursday, but it was late and very busy -- all the last-minute shoppers, including me -- and only one of them there to serve. Will ask about this another day.)

Thursday, started chicken stock. No time for chicken enchiladas. Instead we had Salmon with Spicy Cilantro Pepper Sauce (MC) with polenta. (Starting on the first box of cilantro.)

Friday morning, I dealt with the lamb shoulder I got at Leclerc. Cut of the strips of the Cooking Italy lamb for Saturday's dinner. Cut the rest into for than enough cubes for MJ's lamb vindaloo (unless I find another recipe that looks more interesting) and froze it. Finished off the chick stock and froze 2x 2cups. Freezer is very full.

In the evening, I used the rest of the meat from the roast chick to make chicken enchiladas with our last dozen corn tortillas from the freezer: stuffing of cream cheese, chopped chilies, minced onion; topped with a can of salsa verde mixed with some crème fraîche and some grated tomme de chevre mixed with strange cheddar I found at Leclerc. Mama's Spanish rice. No good avocados at Leclerc on Wed, and I forgot to look at the market on Thursday, so no guacamole. :-( Maybe with the leftovers if we find a good avocado in the next days.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fried Zucchini Sauce with Garlic and Basil

Cooking Italy Assignment
Fried Zucchini Sauce with Garlic and Basil, p167
Homemade Fettucine, p134

Shopping

It's the season, so there's lot of zucchini in the markets now. I bought a net of four yesterday at the grocery and more again this morning at the market, where it looked very fresh. (We're going to be eating a lot of zucchini in the next days!) I used a goodly part of my Parmesan chunk with another meal this week and forgot to get more yesterday. Since I made only a half recipe there was just enough. Finding the basil was another trick altogether. Not at the grocery. Not at the garden center across the street. Not at the greengrocer. Not at another garden shop. Il n'y en a plus, everywhere I asked. On to another town. Not at the garden center there. Finally -- bingo -- at the grocery. (Plus the milk and salmon for last night's dinner that we'd missed at our regular grocery.) Now we're ready.

Preparation

The zucchini is a plan-ahead recipe, easy to do, but with a long waiting period. Soaking the zucchini was strange, since I've never experienced any zucchini, homegrown or otherwise, that needed more than a good wash. But soak it did. And then sat, salted and draining liquid.


I love the instruction to rinse and dry the colander, after drying the zucchini, since you'll be needing it again. What a thoughtful remark. (Actually, we are extremely well-endowed with colanders here, since I had two at home in Amstelveen and one here. One of these days I really have to clean out all the duplicates and triplicates that resulted from combining two working kitchens.) Of course, you'll need to seriously clean the colander again to drain the pasta once it cooks.

After at least two hours (I'm sure mine waited longer), you dry the zucchini sticks -- some clean dish towels work just as well as paper towels -- then toss them with flour and fry. Of course, be sure to let the oil get really hot before adding the zucchini. I always hurry this and I'm sure the first batch was a bit greasier than it needed to be. In my 10" skillet, I did three batches for a half recipe. If I did a whole recipe, it would be better to use a bigger skillet to speed things up.

After you've drained the pasta (I blathered on about making pasta in a separate post), you toss it with some melted butter and then add the fried zucchini, fresh basil, and Parmesan. Yum!


We enjoyed this as part of a typical-at-our-house dinner of Pasta Somehow followed by salad. It would be a nice company dish, because all the real preparation can be done well ahead, so that you have only to cook the pasta and toss with the rest just before serving.

Making pasta

I haven't made pasta since we moved, so this Cooking Italty assignment is a treat. Don't know why I'd never really read the pasta-making instructions in this Hazan book before; it's quite a good discussion.

Hazan calls the little square strands cut by my basic cutter tonnarelli. It's nice to have a name for this. The box for the pasta maker (Atlas) says this cutter makes spaghetti, but the result is square in profile, so clearly not spaghetti as I know it. (The other cutters I bought myself also have strange names, but are essentially one for fettucine and one for tagliatelle.)

The flour discussion was interesting. She recommends not using semolina flour. I tried using it for a while, but gave it up. Pasta made with regular patent bloem (Dutch unbleached white flour) seemed to be just as tasty and the dough was much easier to handle. In France, I haven't yet discovered the equivalent of unbleached white flour. The flours here are numbered, and I'm using #45, which seems to work like all-purpose flour, but I doubt if it's unbleached. Hazan recommends Italian flour #00, doppio zero, which I'm sure I've seen in The Netherlands. I'll look for this when we visit.

I loved Hazan's description of rolling out pasta by hand, but doubt if I'll ever try that. This time I gathered up my courage and tried the volcano-on-the-counter method for mixing the dough, rather than using the food processor, but I can't say it was a success. Hazan's basic recipe is 1 cup flour with 2 large eggs, rather than the 1 cup flour, 1 large egg, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and water as needed that I've generally used before. One cup of flour does not make a well big enough to hold two eggs, so the mess did not remain very well contained. Also it seemed to want quite a bit of extra flour to make a dough that was not terrible sticky. I might do this again, but use my largest stainless steel bowl rather than the countertop, to contain the mess and make cleanup easier.

Hazan then has you divide the lump of dough into sixths (i.e., twice the number of pieces as there are eggs :-). She runs each piece through on a single setting and lays it out on a towel. Then each piece on the next setting. And so on, all the way through the settings. Not. One piece goes through all through all the settings, then off to hang on my nifty pasta rack (birthday gift, thank you, Tosca!) before cutting.


Although Hazan doesn't mention this, when running through the thicknesses, you can easily skip one of the early numbers. I usually skip 3 or 4. Also, after I've finished 1, I dip dredge the pasta sheet in a bit of flour, then proceed through the numbers. Just before or after the last thickness, I do this again. It seems to help the cut strands to stay separate if the sheet is a bit floury. This doesn't seem to affect the taste, since the extra flour boils off when the pasta is cooked.

Contrary to most instructions I've read, Hazan has you roll your pasta all the way through setting 7. Most books recommend stopping after 6. I went all the way this time ;-), and am ambivalent about the results. Because the pieces were rather long by the time, it was difficult to catch the start of the sheet coming through. As a result, where it folded upon itself, especially at the beginning of the sheet, the dough was often stuck together. Flouring before rolling at 7 helped this, but it was still an issue. Following 7, the pieces were really long and I cut them in half to make them easier to handle.


When the 7-rolled pasta was cooked there was a lot more pasta than when I stop at 6. This is why she says 1 cup of flour yields three standard portions. Stopping at 6, we serve only two people. Of course, it's the same amount in total, but the volume on the plate is much larger at 7. Two of us ate it all tonight anyway. I haven't had the nerve to serve fresh pasta to anyone else yet.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Poached shrimp with olive oil and lemon juice

Cooking Italy Assignment
Poached Shrimp with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice, p65


Ah yes, Ed said, if all the meals are going to be this good, you have to stay with this Cooking Italy group!

I'd planned to make this for dinner on Friday, but with a never-ending cough, I haven't felt like more than a minimal dinner in the last days. So Sunday, it was. Not that this shrimp is all that hard to make, but it does involve a bit of standing for preparation.

I had a 400g package of frozen wild shrimp from Madagascar, largish ones -- there were 15, which is more or less half of the amount asked in the recipe. I used the whole amount of water for boiling, though, and the pot was quite full of shrimp when the time came. After adding frozen shrimp* directly to the water, it took quite a while to come back to a boil, certainly longer than the 2-3 minutes suggested in the recipe. I guessed when they were done, drained them, and got busy deheading, peeling, deveining, and halving lengthwise. None of this is too hard, but it is a bit time-consuming. I know I'm fairly clunky at these things, but I worked fairly quickly and I'm puzzled how you can do this fast enough for the shrimp to still be luke-warm by the time you're through. Mine were pretty well cool/room-temp by the time I was done, and I was only doing a half recipe.

* I thought I read on the package that the shrimpers should be cooked frozen. However, a similar package of shrimp still in the freezer says they should be thawed first. (My reading of the French is verified by a hysterical English translation of the instructions.)

Here's what the shrimp looked like marinating:


(This is Ed's first experience photographing food with our flakey camera. Next time, better lighting, no doubt.)

Although this recipe is in the Appetizers section, I served them as a main with fettucine. Had an idea to make the fettucine fresh myself, but didn't have the oomph, so used some store-bought fresh stuff, not too bad really. Here they are served:


A half recipe was a generous dinner for two, so would probably be a starter for four, making the full recipe a starter for eight, rather than six as the recipe states. Did anyone else find this disparity? It would make a very nice starter for company, since the work is done well ahead of time and the shrimp sits to marinate for an hour. Also it tastes good.

For a starter, I'd planned to do the Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Cucumber (p55) and the Marinated Carrot Sticks (p56) from the same chapter on appetizers. In the morning, I roasted the eggplant and left it draining in a strainer. Following lunch, Ed, bless his heart, took it upon himself to leap in and wash the dishes. And threw away the eggplant! Hmm ... replan ... instead I made the lemon juice variation of the Boiled Zucchini Salad (p562) and served this with the carrot sticks. The carrots were a keeper; the zucchini kind of ho-hum. The time for boiling them was much too long, and I think it would have been better if the zucchini had been steamed instead. Oh well.

Here's the starter on the table:


Still have to make the eggplant another time; it looks promising.

The shrimp was really a hit, and I'm sure it will be on the menu at a dinner for company before too long. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to next week's fried zucchini and fettucine. I haven't made pasta since we moved here, so this is a good excuse to get back in the groove.