Monday, May 31, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/31-May-10: Our mid-afternoon meal was Spinach-Stuffed Anchos (JumpUp, p146), my second entry for the CookbooksEtc ingredient contest. Not entirely successful, I must say, and I'm irritated that it used up most of my ancho stash. (The link above goes to my review.) Followed by a salad and then the last of the store-bought creme caramels.

Tuesday/1-Jun-10: A really easy lunch today. From the freezer, slices of Pot Roast (not) Braised in Amarone, some mashed potatoes, and the last bit of some frozen peas and carrots. Followed by a bit of chaource, yum!

Wednesday/2-Jun-10: Added some simple syrup to the in-progress limoncello today. Another wait to see how it is.

Our main meal was in the evening today. Started with an old favorite, Grated Carrots with Lime and Sesame (MC); this is so good and so easy to make. The main was a dish from Vie Pratique Gourmand, Pavé de Saumon au Curry et Betteraves, Curry Salmon with Beets (soon to be MC), grilled salmon rubbed with curry powder, served with beets and a sauce of yogurt, mint, and lemon juice. Quite good and simple. It should have been served with rocket/arugula, but I forgot to buy this, so used some lettuce leaves from the garden.

Thursday/3-Jun-10: At noontime we had a Leek Omelet with Feta, one of the recipes that was lost a long time ago when I accidently deleted a MasterCook file. I recently re-entered this, and had all the ingredients ready to use, so tried it again. It was not much of a success as an omelet, being more like scrambled eggs, but it was quite tasty. Followed by a salad, using the rest of yesterday's yogurt sauce as a dressing.

Friday/4-Jun-10: Lunched in Roumazières with Sally&Mike at a newly re-opened restaurant. Later, intending to use up strawberries in the fridge, I made a Love Cake (maybe soon to be MC), only to find the strawberries were past their use-by date, so used a couple of nectarines instead. It was pretty good, a bit of a strange texture, maybe because I didn't mix the batter long enough.

Saturday/5-Jun-10: Excellent lunch at Le Lavalette in Villebois-Lavalette today on our way to a concert in Chalais. A keeper restaurant.

Sunday/6-Jun-10: For a late lunch following our visit to Chalais, there was Pasta Carbonara with Asparagus (MC) and more Love Cake.

CookbooksEtc Ingredient Contest 2010
  1. 23-May/28-May: strawberries — Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula and Goat Cheese
  2. 29-May/4-Jun: cheese — Spinach-Stuffed Anchos
  3. 5-Jun/11-Jun: whole wheat flour
  4. 12-Jun/18-Jun: ground pork or pork sausage
  5. 19-Jun/25-Jun: blueberries
  6. 26-Jun/2-Jul: salmon

Monday, May 24, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/24-May-10: For our midday meal I did up the rest of Cooking Italy's Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi this time with Sage-Butter Sauce (ClassicItal, p192), followed by a big salad.

Tuesday/25-May-10: We did a big shopping today with lots of off-piste purchases, including things like asparagus and souris d'agneau (an unknown cut of lamb, maybe the end of the leg, looking very meaty and at a very good price).

Dinner started off with Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula and Goat Cheese (H2CEV, p42, soon to be MC) for the CookbooksEtc ingredient contest. The same strawberries (with balsamic and black pepper, but no arugula or cheese) are offered as a dessert in SWFrance, but I opted to do this one for a starter. Unusual and surprisingly good. This would make a very easy and pretty company starter. We'll probably have it again before long.

The main course was Farfalle al Salmone e Zucchini (Lorenza, p123). It was tagliatelli instead of farfelle, but at least it was the black (squid ink) kind, unlike the last time I made this. I used smoked salmon; my notes don't really say I did this last time, and the ingredient list says only fresh salmon, so this may be wrong, but it was good anyhow. Ed raved about both parts of the meal.

For afters there was a bit of St. Nectaire, and quite good it was.

Wednesday/26-May-10: Made two lots of pâte brisée this morning, one for tonight's dinner and one for the freezer. Dinner was a tart with asparagus (first green ones of the season), goat cheese and tarragon, loosely based on a web find. I made it in my biggest round tart dish, 30cm, so it was quite thin. This meant that it cooked rather quickly, though. It was quite delicious. Followed by a big salad and a barely passable store-bought flan (good idea, didn't work, don't buy those again).

Thursday/27-May-10: Jamaican dinner at Chez Cisseen tonight.

Friday/28-May-10: For our midday meal, there was Shrimp-Stuffed Eggplant (MC), along with some polenta and a bit of rocket salad. Finished off the St. Nectaire for afters.

Saturday/29-May-10: Today we had an (unfinished) lunch in Villebois-Lavalette with Sally on our way to the orchid trip. Extremely slow service so that we had to leave before we were through, and the meal was not satisfying, the veal being very blah.

Sunday/30-May-10: For lunch with finished off the asparagus tart with our fruit. At dinnertime, both of us were still feeling unsettled in the stomach after yesterday's unpleasant lunch meal, so neither of us felt much like much like eating what I'd planned. In the end I quickly defrosted a pair of duck scallops, cooked those, and made a pan sauce of chicken stock and balsamic vinegar. For the veg there were steam/sautéed carrot strips and zucchini rounds with a dash of herbs de Provence. And, some orzo, which we always seem to have with duck for some reason.

CookbooksEtc Ingredient Contest 2010
  1. 23-May/28-May: strawberries — Balsamic Strawberries with Arugula and Goat Cheese
  2. 29-May/4-Jun: cheese
  3. 5-Jun/11-Jun: whole wheat flour

Friday, May 21, 2010

Grilled Chicken alla Diavola, Roman Style

Cooking Italy Assignment
Grilled Chicken alla Diavola, Roman Style, p336

Being enamored of roasting or grilling chickens that have been butterflied (aka spatchlocked), I first tried this recipe last fall, grilling it in the oven. This time, we grilled it on the bbq. I find spatchlocking a great way to treat a bird that will be grilled or roasted. For a small amount of effort there are several of advantages. The cooking time is shorter and the meat cooks more evenly, i.e., the legs and breast are done at the same time.

Hazan's description of the butterflying process seems to me to be over-complicated. Since I do this quite frequently I largely ignored her instructions. It's actually quite simple to do with a good pair of kitchen shears. You cut along one side of the backbone (I usually start from the tail end). You can use a knife, but the scissors seems easier to me. When you get to the hip joint, you kind of feel around so you can cut between the spine and the thighbone. (Of course you can cut right through whatever bone you happen upon, but this takes a lot more strength.) You can cut the backbone out entirely or you can leave it attached. I guess I'm fairly inconsistent about this; this time it stayed on. (I recently saw instructions that used the cut-out backbone to make a jus, really a bit of stock, while the chickie was roasting. If I run across this again, I'll try to remember to add a link here, since that was a good idea, I thought.)

With the backbone separated or removed, turn the chicken over, opening it out as best you can, and flatten the bird by pressing hard on the breastbone with the heel of your hand. You'll hear bones and cartilage snapping when you do this. Now you can tidy it up a bit, tuck the last wing joint behind the bird and be sure the legs are laying nice and flat.
Since my shears aren't very good with skin, I find it handy to have a small, sharp knife available for cutting any little bits that need cutting.

This recipe called for a tablespoon of black peppercorns to be crushed and spread over the skin of the bird. I put about half of this amount under the skin, directly on the breast, thigh, and leg meat. (This is a good way to get any seasoning close to the flesh. At the top of each breast half, there's a membrane that holds the skin to the meat. Gently break this and you can carefully get your fingers under the skin. Work your way down to the the leg, where you might need to break through another membrane. Distribute whatever herbs and seasonings you have as evenly as possible.) Here we are a-marinating with pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil:

After the chick marinated a good while, Ed grilled it on the barbecue.

On the right you can see the start of the flames that resulted from the oil content of the marinade. (On the left is a packet of sliced potatoes and onions, mixed with a strong lemon vinaigrette.) We didn't watch the clock, but I'd guess it took about 25 minutes to grill the chick (and the potatoes). The skin was quite burned from the flaring flame, but the flesh was delicious, tender and juicy.

This is definitely a do-again recipe, but I think I'll stick with grilling in the oven, since the oil content of the marinade is a bit difficult to control on the barbecue.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Piquant Green Sauce—Salsa Verde

Cooking Italy Assignment
Piquant Green Sauce—Salsa Verde, p42

This assignment is for a general-purpose, savory sauce that's as simple to make as it could be. Put all the ingredients in the pot:

buzz, and—voila!—there's your sauce:

Hazan uses a food processor to zap the salsa, but for small amounts like this I've been using my staff mixer. The narrow beaker makes it easier to blend thoroughly and the clean-up is much simpler too. (Staff mixers probably didn't exist when this book was published.)

I made a half recipe of the salsa and served it with broiled salmon filets for two, then froze the rest for another dinner. I'd guess 6-8 is a better serving estimate that the 4-6 Hazan suggests, since we served two generously and have about the same amount left.

Even though I'm really not an anchovy fan, I included these in the salsa. Anchovies are definitely not something I want on a pizza, but they do seem to add a good flavor to sauces. This sauce was quite tasty with the salmon and we both thought that it would be good on a steak.

Monday, May 17, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/17-May-10: Tonight I made a nice Broccoli and Blue Cheese Quiche (web) using a crust from the freezer. I'm making a pretty good crust nowadays, but still don't have the knack for making it pretty. Broc and blue cheese is a nice combination, the two strong flavors go well together. This was followed by a big salad, and a bit of chaource for afters.

Tuesday/18-May-10: I made Tequila Fajitas (old EAT-L collection, now MC) with two kip filets. Had meant to use shrimp, but the chicken seemed easier to defrost, and no cleaning necessary. Made some tortillas using the maseca I bought accidently instead of real masa the last time we were in Amsterdam. Worked OK. Making 8 tortillas while cooking something else works OK. Put the rest of the maseca in the freezer for further use. Finished off the last bit of avocado ice cream for dessert.

Wednesday/19-May-10: Another quiz&supper night, so no cooking here. The man from Gitem came to work on the oven. He verified the problem, asked to look at my instruction book, then said he'd have to order the part. And it might be the end of next week when it arrived. Good thing there's two ovens on this stove!

Thursday/20-May-10: For lunch, along with our plate of fruit, we had the rest of the broccoli and blue cheese quiche/tart, which was better warm, but still quite passable.

For dinner, I broiled some salmon and served it with Cooking Italy's Salsa Verde. Dusolier's Perfect Roast Potatoes and the old standard Shredded Zucchini (MW@Home, p87) completed the main. The salsa was quite good and I've frozen the rest for another meals.

Friday/21-May-10: Tonight's starter was Salade de Comcombre, Avocat, et Crevettes (Vie Pratique Gourmand clipping, soon to be MC), a salad of cucumber, avocado, and shrimp. I made a half recipe, which should have served two (and did, in fact), but it could have served three easily, and four if you stretched it a bit. Quite good.

For the main, it was another Cooking Italy assignment, Grilled Chicken alla Diavola, Roman Style. (I previously made this back in September.) Served with some sliced potatoes and onions that were tossed with a strong lemon vinaigrette, wrapped in foil, and cooked on the grill along with the chicken. All good. The last of the mini-Magnums for dessert.

Saturday/22-May-10: Our main meal was at lunch today, Chicken, Bacon, Broccoli, and Puy Lentils (web). In theory this should have been quite yummy; in practice, all the good flavors didn't quite go together. In the end we decided that it was the chicken (the rest of last night's grill chicken) that didn't fit with the rest. I might keep a modified version of this recipe, but haven't decided yet.

Lots of late-evening busy-ness in the kitchen today. I put tomorrow night's pork chops on to marinate, and froze two more lumps of marinade. Used the extra ancho-soaking liquid to rinse out the staff mixer's beaker and froze that to add to something. Started a batch of yogurt. Started some bread in the ABM, since we didn't make it to the boulanger today and neither of us will feel like going out in the morning.

Sunday/23-May-10: Midday lunch was an old favorite, Chili-Marinated Pork Chops (MC) — yum! Accompanied by some polenta, grilled slices of eggplant, and a salad of avocado, beet, and shallots with lime juice and olive oil. Lekker gegeten!

Monday, May 10, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/10-May-10: Our midday meal was Stir-Fried Ginger Shrimp (pby a Cooking Light clipping, soon to be MC). Served with rice and a broccoli dish loosely based on Tofu Hoisin with Broccoli, Red Peppers, and Walnuts (MC), sans tofu. Finished up with a mini-Magnum each.
I'm changing the way I make these posts, so that this week's post will be dated 10-May, and include days through 16-May. A small bit of confusion, but easier to maintain. And it matches the way I've been filing the extra posts. In the end it should be easier and less error prone. I hope.

Tuesday/11-May-10: I lunched in Rochehouart with Sally, while Ed had chili from the freezer with Cayenne Cornbread (BigGerman, p182). In the evening, we had the rest of the chili over slices of cornbread.

Wednesday/12-May-10: Yvonne came to lunch. Twas Chicken Curry North Indian Style (MC/2BTried). A new recipe, this was quite good and fairly easy; the sauce that developed was yummy. Accompanied by Simple, Buttery Rice with Onions (MJ1, p149, although I haven't looked at this recipe in a long time) and Green Peas in a Creamy Sauce (Q&E, p87).

Thursday/13-May-10: Very nice lunch at a restaurant in Genouillac with Steve, his sister and mother, and Sally and Mike. Some fruit and a bit of bread for dinner.

Friday/14-May-10: Our main meal at midday was a new recipe Grilled Fish with Green Bean Salad (soon to be MC). Served with some trio rice. Mini-magnums for dessert. The green bean salad was quite nice. It could be served as a starter. For the main, including some krieltjes or chunks of boiled potatoes might be nice.

Saturday/15-May-10: A quickie midday meal today. Four-cheese raviolis a la panna with a big salad, followed by a bit of chaource.

Sunday/16-May-10: Yesterday we didn't really plan today well, and I ended up improvisng a lunch from what would thaw quickly or was in the fridge. Made a sort of broccoli Divan, very 50s, loosely based on Joy of Cooking's version (Joy, p236). Put some frozen turkey scallops in cold water for a couple of hours. Cooked them while some broccoli was steaming. Made a sort of Mornay sauce (Joy, p323) with half milk and half chicken stock. Assembled in individual dishes and popped in the oven while some tagliatelle was cooking. On the plates we ended up mixing all together. Tasty though.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

La Frittedda—Smothered Artichokes, Fava Beans, and Peas with Fennel, Palermo Style

Cooking Italy Assignment
La Frittedda—Smothered Artichokes, Fava Beans, and Peas with Fennel, Palermo Style, p454

La frittedda is a dish of fresh, young spring vegetables. Of course one can compromise with some frozen ones, but fresh would be best. I made about a half recipe with one globe artichoke, about 700g of fava beans, frozen peas, and wild fennel, which I realized that we have growing on the South Forty (still with last year's seed stalks).

Most of the work in this recipe comes in the preparation of the vegetables. I love favas but they are a lot of trouble. Peeling a batch is fairly pleasant when you can sit outside and enjoy the sun. Not today, though. Once that's done, you get to quickly parboil and then peel the beans, one by one, so that each bean has had your undivided attention. But they sure taste good. Hazan doesn't have you parboil and peel the fava beans, and I find this recommended in most places, except when you have very young, just-picked favas. Which I didn't.

I got carried away popping off the leaves of the artichoke, and we ended up with just the artichoke bottom, which I cut into eighths pieces. First the onions are sautéed in some olive oil. Then the artichokes and fennel are added and cooked till the chokes are almost done. Most of the way through, I checked the chokes and thought they were not cooking as quickly as I'd like, so I halved my eight pieces. Lastly the prepared favas and (frozen, defrosted) peas are added and cooked briefly.

Quite a pretty spring-green dish, and very tasty, too. We didn't much like the wild fennel to eat, and it's not all that attractive, lying stringy there in the dish. However, it did lend a nice flavor to the rest of the dish. If I should happen to find some smaller artichokes before long, I might try this again.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi

Cooking Italy Assignment
Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi, p262

Last fall I made some leaden spinach gnocchi from a recipe I collected years and years ago, so I wasn't especially looking forward to this assignment. But, based on other folks' positive comments, I pushed ahead with this assignment, if a bit late.

These gnocchi are quite easy to make. It takes a bit of clock time, but the work isn't difficult. The night before I moved some spinach, proscuitto, and ricotta from the freezer to the fridge. Hazan recommends using leaf spinach, if frozen, but you end up chopping it yourself, so I'm not sure why you couldn't use frozen chopped spinach instead. Also, when using frozen spinach in lasagna, for example, I don't bother to cook it; frozen veggies have been parboiled and that's quite enough for something as quick-cooking as spinach. Next time I won't bother with cooking the spinach first.

After sautéing a bit of onion and proscuitto, the cooked-then-chopped spinach is added. When this has cooled, you stir in ricotta and flour, then a pair of egg yolks, a haystack of grated Parmesan, and a dab of nutmeg, resulting in a sticky dough.

This is rolled into lots of little balls, as small as you can make them. I had to flour my hands several times to keep things going.

From a whole recipe, I ended up 56 gnocchi. I froze half and used the rest for dinner. Originally I planned to use the sage-butter sauce (since half of us can't eat the Tomato Sauce with Heavy Cream as assigned), but I didn't feel like dashing through the rain to pick the sage, so I decided to do the Gratinéed Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi (p264) instead. Hazan has you do the gratin in oven, but the oven took forever and ever to heat up. I finally realized that the gas was running out. (The old stove was pretty clear when the gas was getting low; the new one does it's best to keep going, but this ends up being confusing since there was flame, but nothing getting very hot.) By the time we changed to the new cylinder, I decided to heat up the broiler, rather than waiting for the oven, so we fairly quickly had dinner after that.

And a yummy dinner it was! The individual dishes that I used were really a bit too big, but that doesn't really affect the taste. We thought this might make a nice starter, with smaller individual dishes, but it made a quite nice dinner as it was, followed by a salad. For company, the gnocchi could be prepared in the morning and left to dry a bit. It takes just a few minutes to boil them, even though they have to be done in batches (unless you have an e-normous pot so they don't get crowded).

Monday, May 3, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/3-May-10: A busy kitchen day. This morning I started Hennie's super easy lamb dish; then started some yogurt; then made apple-pear butter; then set some spinach, ricotta, and proscuitto to defrosting for tomorrow's gnocchi; and then made Spicy Apricot Chutney (from a mag clipping). Froze up two bits of the chutney and left the rest in the fridge.

Lunch was Hennie's lamb, which was falling off the bone tender, with some tagliatelle and some frozen peas and carrots. Good stuff. Have lamb and gravy left for another meal, maybe a stew with the two small potatoes I've got left.

Neither of us having made it to the boulanger today, I put in a loaf of Buckwheat Bread to be ready in the morning.

Tuesday/4-May-10: Started some limoncello this morning. We'll see how this goes. Looked everywhere for extra seals for my canning jars, but couldn't find where I've stashed them. Onto the list, they go, although I know there are some around.

Cooking Italy tonight, Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi. Quite yummy. Followed by a salad. The gas ran out, but the stove did its best to struggle on, meaning that the oven never got hot. Oh well.

Wednesday/5-May-10: Time got away from me today, so there was a quickie dinner, an old favorite, Spaghetti with Zucchini and Lemon (MW@Home, p195). Followed by a small salad (there being only a small amount of lettuce left). For dessert, two sambalos that we got at the boulangerie this aftnoon, small tube-shaped cream puffs with clear caramel on top.

Thursday/6-May-10: Went to the market this morning. For our main meal at midday, I reheated the leftover lamb and gravy, added some potatoes, and then some frozen peas&carrots. Stuffed the bell peppers with a barley mixture (found on the web). This wasn't too successful, but probably healthy. The right oven seems not to be working properly. This might have been the problem with the pound cake. Have to call tomorrow and try to explain on the phone. Shook the limoncello today.

Friday/7-May-10: Evening dinner today, before going off to a concert. Reheated three (defrosted) tandoori kip filets in the oven with a bit of water in the dish and sealed in foil. Next time I might try reheating them under the broiler. They could hardly come out dryer. Nice taste, but unpleasant texture. Accompanied by Zucchini in a Yogurt Dressing(SpiceKitch, p58;,and MC) and Rice and Peas with Garam Masala (SpiceKitch, p65). Used a bit of the (non)Spicy Apricot Chutney. Strawberries and bananas for dessert.

Saturday/8-May-10: Went by Gitem today to see about getting the oven fixed, but they were closed for the holiday we had forgotten about. For dinner there was Brochettes de Canard au Sésame (soon to be MC), which were very good. The recipe recommended serving with 3-grain rice, so I did. Also made La Frittedda—Smothered Artichokes, Fava Beans, and Peas with Fennel, Palermo Style, a Cooking Italy assignment, using wild fennel from the South Forty. Strawberries and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Sunday/9-May-10: We had a meal at the randonnée today. Dinner was a bit salad with mâche, the last bit of tandoori chicken, avocado, radishes, and whatever else. And two raspberry tarts that I got at the boulanger this morning when we thought we're were going to skip the walk.

Since I got the limoncello started, it's time to think about another "project" for cooking. Cheese? Dog biscuits?