Monday, February 22, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/22-Feb-10: Soup night tonight, Creamy Chickpea Soup with Garlic and Lemon (MC), really fast, simple, and tasty. For a starter we had toasts with tuna salad from a jar and carrot and ginger pickle. More of the Beaujolais cake for lunch.

Tuesday/23-Feb-10: Finished off the Beaujolais cake for breakfast. Disappointing dinner tonight, probably compounded with worry about my mother's craziness. :-( Started off with some more little toasts spread with tuna salad and topped with ... the end of the carrot and ginger pickle. This is a good munchy and would be a good finger food for a party. I made Chocolate & Zucchini's Galletes de Sarrasin (a half recipe), some filled with a fried egg (rather than an egg cooked right on the crêpe as she suggests) and comté, some with mored of the dried ham and comté. Maybe I used too much batter so that the crêpes were too thick? When I went to turn them, they tore in half or shredded. Tasted ok, but ugly on the plate. Salad afterwards was better. Better tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday/24-Feb-10: Garlic and Pepper Shrimp tonight, over basmati. I liked it, Ed thought the pepper was too strong for the shrimpers. To save or not to save, that is the question.

Thursday/25-Feb-10: Made it to the market today. There was one tiny eggplant (somebody bought the other five, leaving an orphan), so of course I got it. And some rutabagas for Rutabagas Anna, only to discover that it wants 300F in the oven, and ours will sometimes hold as low as 350F, but never 300F.

Another unsatisfactory dinner, Pork Chops with Garlicky Broccoli from Real Simple. Served with rice as they suggested. Boring.

While Ed was at choir practice, I made the old Honey Crunch Coffeecake recipe. We had that for dessert as we watched another episode of Civilization after dinner.

Friday/26-Feb-10: Shopping this afternoon. The chard was limp and ugly, so those Cooking Italy meals will be postponed. Next week radicchio? Fat chance. Maybe we should shop at Géant in Angoulême.

A better dinner tonight. Made Moroccan Spiced Fish (SimpSups, p157; soon to be MC) with cod from the market, Laura's Garlicky Lemon, Feta, and Couscous Salad (MC), and some (steamed) mini-eggplant halves with a stuffing of shallots, falafel crumbs, and chopped eggplant innards, held together with an egg. (This might have been enough for a main course, even though the eggplant was tiny.)

Saturday/27-Feb-10: More Honey Crunch Coffeecake for lunch; none for dinner. Dinner was Cauliflower-Leek Patties (MC 2BTried), another failure at patty-ness, even though I added an egg to try to glue it together. Made two of Anderson's fresh sauces as go-withs, Parsley Relish with Capers and Cornichons (HowTo, p172) and Pickled Pink Onions (HowTo, p173). Served with some buttered tagliatelle.

Seasonal tarts is the theme for new Vie Pratique Gourmand (20feb-10mar). A couple of interesting ones. The children's section is on making pasta, showing kids rolling pasta and chopping leeks for the soup.

Sunday/28-Feb-10: Attended the farci charentais meal in St. Adjutory today. It was good, but no further food needed today!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Amarone

Cooking Italy Assignment
Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Amarone Wine, p395
Mashed Potatoes with Milk and Parmesan, Bolognese Style, p518

This was pot roast week. The recipe assigned, Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Red Wine (p393) is full of tomatoes, so I made the pot roast braised in Amarone instead. But, oops, I got the two kilos of marcreuse for the red wine recipe, rather than the one kilo for the Amarone one. We're not big beef eaters, and that two kilos must be more beef than I've bought in the last five years altogether. No wonder there was so much left over!

This is another top-of-the-stove braised meat, cooked long and slow, easy to put together and good to eat. The meat is first browned with olive oil and pancetta, then set aside while you sauté some onions.

The meat is then added back to the pot with some celery, garlic, and wine, where it simmers gently, lid ajar, for hours till it's done.

The recipe calls for Amarone, an Italian wine made from dried grapes.There are no Italian wines in the shops we frequent, so I used a nice bordeaux instead. The notes say the wine should have an alcohol content of at least 14%; the highest I could find was 13.5%. The recipe calls for 1-3/4 cups wine, starting with 1/2 cup, and adding more as needed. I added another slog at some point, feeling like I should use a good portions of the amount called for, but I used only about 3/4 cups in total. The measuring cup served as a not-so-elegant carafe on the table.

After the meat had simmered for quite a while, I made the Bolognese-style mashed potatoes. The technique for making these was very complicated and messy; lots of dirty dishes were generated. Even though this isn't the way I usually make mashed potatoes, I followed the instructions, just in case there was something to them. But for all that work they were just some mashed potatoes with some Parmesan added. I don't like to boil the potatoes whole because the outsides get too done while the insides are still hard, making it difficult to judge when they're done. What did melting butter in a double boiler achieve? Ricing the potatoes? Whisking it all together? Maybe ok, but I prefer my plain old hand-mashed potatoes. I have been known to warm the milk before adding it, but often don't bother. Throw in a handful of grated Parmesan? I might think to do that sometime. Nutmeg, never.

Altogether is was a nice meal. That's some steamed broccoli, tossed with garlic slices and pepper flakes that simmered a bit in some olive oil, on the side.

At the end of cooking the meat, there should have been just a small amount of sauce in the pot. I actually had quite a bit, and tasty it was. We'll have another dinner with more sliced beef with the sauce, and I'll make some beef pot pies with the rest of the sauce and some of the less attractive bits of meat, and there's still another sack of odd bits for something or other.

Monday, February 15, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/15-Feb-10: Sat outside in the afternoon sun to shuck the Moroccan fava beans I impulsively bought on Saturday. I parboiled and peeled them while Cooking Italy's Spinach Soup with Crostini (ClassicItal, p89-90) was cooking for this evening's dinner. Ed read more from Mayle's Bon Appetit while the cooking was going on, and was very skeptical that anyone could taste the difference in salts. I put my open jar of Il de Ré salt on the table and opened the jar of Camargue salt from the pantry. You can indeed taste the difference. Actually, the Camargue salt just tasted salty, while the Il de Ré had a more complex taste. Now I'll have to look for some others to taste.

Tuesday/15-Feb-10: Dinner at the pub quiz tonight. Further, not much action in the kitchen.

Wednesday/17-Feb-10: Made the West Indies Salmon Cakes (now MC) from 28cooks for dinner. Couldn't find canned salmon in the shops here, so I bought 2 cans when we were last in The Netherlands. These have gone back on the list. This was a winner of a recipe. I never like salmon croquettes or patties as a child, but these are really tasty. Froze three for another dinner. They went really well with Carrot and Ginger Quickie Pickle. Served withTurmeric Rice(Q&E, p100) and steamed broccoli. Meant to start some chickpeas soaking for falafel tomorrow night, but discovered I don't have any!

Was pleased to discover in Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian that he doesn't like canola oil. It was not available in The Netherlands, so I've only recently tried it. And don't like the taste. What's this stuff good for? I'd thought to use it as a neutral oil, finishing the first bottle and the backup on the shelf, but I won't buy it again. I'll stick with peanut and corn oils when I need neutral, thank you.

Thursday/18-Feb-10: Went to the market today and it was actually there. Got the usual sort of stuff plus some filets of rascasse/scorpionfish for tonight's dinner. Rascasse is apparently the most important fish in bouillabaise. At the butcher, I got a chuck steak (marcreuse) for the next Cooking Italy assignment.

For dinner we had Baked Fish with Shrimp (MC 2BTried) with the rascasse, which turned out to be quite boney. I used some medium shrimp, cut in half, and some small scallops for the topping. Probably less topping and the smaller shrimp would be better. Also, a dab of white wine in the white sauce topping might be nice. Served with the rest of the haricots verts and some pasta.

Friday/19-Feb-10: Today we had our late Valentine's Da y lunch at Le Roc du Boeuf near Chabanais, a very nice meal and restaurant. After lunch we shopped in St. Junien so we could get some of our favorite trio rice, which seems no longer to be available in the Charente. Also bought some eau de vie to make limoncello and some wine for the Coooking Italy pot roast. Strange that there is no Italian wine available here. There is a bit of German wine (Alsace and Riesling), but nothing Italian.

Neither of us feeling especially hungry near dinnertime, we made a plate with apples, carrots, radishes, tomatoes (for me), tuna rillettes on toasts topped with the carrot-ginger pickle. Good munchies.

Saturday/20-Feb-10: Felt like having falafels recently, so I made them today. Followed Bittman's recipe (H2CEV, p625). They were tasty, but most of them fell apart, so we've got several cups of falafel crumbs to use for something. Not sure what went wrong. Maybe I didn't grind it all finely enough? Disappointing. Accompanied by tahini sauce (Goldbeck, p200) and Fava Bean Hummus (MC) and Cream Cheese and Cucumber Salad (Michoteta) (Roden, p65). This salad is an old favorite which I've neglected for a long time.

Sunday/21-Feb-10: Mad the Beaujolais Buttermilk Coffee Cake again, prior to making the Cooking Italy pot roast. Since my replacement Pyrex dish won't arrive till next month, I made this in a bundt pan, putting the topping on the bottom. But the cake didn't want to turn out of the pan, so we're just cutting our slices directly from the pan. A very tasty cake.

Twas a Cooking Italy dinner tonight. We had Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Amarone (ClassicItal, p393), Mashed Potatoes with Milk and Parmesan, Bolognese Style (ClassicItal, p518), and some steamed broccoli. The mashed pots were a lot of foofaraw for nothing particularly special. Would be better to follow my normal smash potato procedure and add a bit of grated Parmesan while mashing away. And no nutmeg. What a chunk of beef that was! We had dinner. I froze up the same amount (slices and a bit of sauce) for a repeat. Plus more meat and sauce for beef pot pie. Plus almost 8 ounces of beef bits for who knows what.

Spinach Soup with Crostini

Cooking Italy Assignment
Spinach Soup with Crostini, p89-90

We've had a number of heavy meals lately, so a nice soup was just the thing for dinner. I used frozen spinach, which had sat out on the counter all day, but wasn't completely thaw. It was defrosted enough to chop very coarsely but not enough to squeeze water from. The cupboard being quite bare of beef broth, I used chicken stock from the freezer. Since the spinach wasn't squeezed and my broth is fairly reduced, I didn't use the complete amount. Instead of 1:1 for the broth and milk, it was more like 2/3:1.

When the soup was done, I didn't think it looked especially appealing, so I used my immersion blender to purée the potful. I then stirred in the Parmagiano and added additional salt. Even so, we both added quite a bit more salt at the table.

The crostini, of course, are simple croûtons with an Italian accent, but they are a nice addition to a soup like this.

I have an idea that if this soup were made with fresh spinach, it might be nice with just the broth, i.e., no milk added. The contrast between the broth and the spinach would be more attractive than the milky broth.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sausages and Cream Sauce

Cooking Italy Assignment
Sausages and Cream Sauce, p201

I made a fundamental error with this assignment. Not finding "sweet Italian sausage" in the shops, I decided to use a dried French sausage instead. I have made dishes that were quite good using strips of sautéed hard sausage, but this wasn't one of them. The sausage itself was quite good, but this dish should be kind of a comfort food, with pasta and cream sauce and some nice pork sausage. The sausage I chose just didn't work.

Dried sausage doesn't crumble, at least this one didn't, but it can be cut into chunks. These were added to the sautéing onion.

When the meat started looking a bit crispy around the edges, I poured off an enormous amount of rendered fat before adding the cream.

The sauce is mixed with the cooked pasta and topped with cheese. And served with lots of nice red wine to keep the cholesterol level down. :-)

Pogo seemed to enjoy it more than we did.

I will try this again with a home-made sausage. This will keep the fat level down and made for a tastier dish, I expect. If the sausage is already prepared or store-bought, this would be a very quick meal to make.


Cooking Italy Assignment
Ciambella—Grandmother's Pastry Ring, p592

Now, this was a nice assignment, an easy-to-make ... cake? pastry? Whatever it is, it's good, and we've been enjoying the last bits with our morning tea and coffee for several days now. My ciambella looks less ring-like than it ought, I guess, a bit more like a giant bagel instead.

There was a bit of discussion on the list about the amount of liquid (scalded milk) in the recipe. It seems like the 1/4 cup in the recipe is much too little, resulting in a dry, unmanageable dough. (I searched to see if there might be a published list of errata for this book somewhere online, but turned up nothing of interest.) I used the Pizza program on my bread machine to do the mixing. I added all the ingredients, and watched as it came together, adding milk until it seemed a good texture. I ended up using a little more than 1/2 cup, I think; maybe it could have taken a bit more milk, but the dough would have been quite soft and difficult to turn into a "sausage."

The dough is rolled out to make a long skinny piece which is formed into a ring, then anointed with an egg yolk wash before baking.

It took quite a bit longer to bake than the 35 minutes indicated in the book. This could be because this oven is so small and heat circulation limited by the baking sheet. I just kept adding time until it was done, probably close to an hour in total.

The result is really nice and will be made again, no doubt. It has a lovely lemony taste and a texture like shortcake, not the spongey kind, but the denser, chewy kind.

Monday, February 8, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/8-Feb-10: The new Jamie magazine arrived today and I haven't even finished the last one. Have to get busy with these. Sally and Mike gave us dinner prior to going to the gardening club.

Tuesday/9-Feb-10: Defrosting the refrigerator was the major task of the day today. Nothing much else got done. Dinner as Chicken-Peanut Pasta (MC), which really ought to be served on rice. Finished off with more of the tomme d'Auvergne from the market.

Wednesday/10-Feb-10: Didn't get as much done today as I'd wanted. For lunch we had Potato-Broccoli Salad (MDSalads); have some leftover for a side sometime soon. Still no ciambella. Tomorrow, I hope.

Dinner was sautéed duck escalopes with a pan sauce of cider and balsamic, simple and good. Served with orzo and stuffed globe zucchini. Made a stuffing with shallots, shrooms, garlic, and ham; this was good, but the ham contrasted too much with the duck.

Thursday/11-Feb-10: Went to Montemboeuf for the market today, only to find there was no market! Did I miss something last week? Luckily we weren't in real need of anything. Stopped at the boulanger for bread and walked Pogo.

Tonight, while I made fresh lemon-chive pasta, Ed reluctantly read to me from Peter Mayle's Bon Appetit, a nice go-with to meal preparation. The pasta went with salmon-egg sauce from Vie Pratique Gourmand. (It's the more affordable, orange kind of caviar.) The sauce was OK, a bit too thin and too lemony -- instructions that said juice of 3 lemons (for a whole recipe), rather than telling you the volume required. The pasta was good, but I wished I'd cut it wider, rather than narrower. Followed by a big salad of mâche with the leftover dressing from Sunday night. (Seems like just the other day!) Followed by flan from the boulanger.

Friday/12-Feb-10: A busy day in the kitchen. Made more Apple-Plum Butter (MC) this morning, this time actually with apples and plums. (Last time was apples and apricots, and good it was.) Made Chocolate and Zucchini's Carrot and Ginger Quickie Pickle. (I see she got this from Kitchen Scraps, p82, which just arrived today.) Curious to see how this turns out. Then made the Ciambella (ClassicItal, p592) from Cooking Italy, which was a winner. For dinner we had Cooking Italy's Sausages and Cream Sauce (ClassicItal, p201), which was not. Should do this one again with some homemade sausage.

Saturday/13-Feb-10: Shopped this morning. Made a quick lunch soup with frozen chicken stock, broccoli stems, and pasta. Had a Franco-Britanique repas at Lèsignac this evening; left at 23.00 before pudding was served.

Sunday/14-Feb-10: Yesterday was too late to reserve a restaurant for Valentine's Day, so I made a nice Indian meal instead. There was Tandoori Chicken from a strange recipe I picked up a long time ago (12 garlic flakes, 4 big pieces of ginger, etc.). Put it on to marinate in the morning and grilled in the evening. Pretty good, it was. Accompanied by Spiced Green Beans (IndLight, p174), Turmeric Rice (Q&E, p100), and the standard raita, Yoghurt with Cucumber and Mint (MJ1, p162), using a little bit of fresh mint just poking up. A bit of the Carrot and Ginger Quickie Pickle on the side was pretty good too.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ossobuco in Bianco

Cooking Italy Assignment
Ossobuco in Bianco—Tomato-Less Braised Veal Shanks, p358

Well, yes, the assignment was really the Ossobuco with Gremolada, but that has lots of tomatoes, so I made the next recipe instead. And, it's a winner.

I had only two veal shank slices, which the butcher assured me would be enough for two:

He didn't think it was necessary to tie a string around them, so I did this at home, but I'm not sure it was really needed.

The recipe calls for eight slices. Since I had only two slices, I used about half of the other ingredients. I probably could have done with a bit less olive oil and butter, but the rest was fine.

The recipe is really simple, as many Italian recipes actually are. You dredge the slices in flour, brown them, and then simmer slowly for a long time in some nice white wine. Check occasionally for the liquid level and add water as needed. I actually added another slog of wine at one point. When the meat is done, remove it from the pan, stir in lots of lemon peel (I microplaned mine) and chopped parsley, then return the meat to coat it, and serve.

Buon appetito!

Monday, February 1, 2010

This week in the kitchen

Monday/1-Feb-10: During the day I made up and froze some chicken stock with the remains of the chicken. Tonight was an easy leftover night, the bean sauce over cavatappi. And a big salad. And cups of store-bought rice pudding for dessert. And some chocolate cookies with milk to accompany the next episode of Civilization.

Tuesday/2-Feb-10: For lunch we had a soup/stew sort of thing with the rest of the sauce from the Yassa au Poulet, some pasta, and some cooked chicken from the freezer. It was good.

Re-reading this month in my Almanach du Gastronome this morning, I learned this interesting fact (and might remember it this time). February. the Roman month of purification, originally had 29/30 days. Then the Romans decided to honor Emperor Augustus by naming the eighth month for him. But the eighth month at that time had only 30 days, while the seventh month, named for Julius Caesar, had 31. And we couldn't have that kind of disparity, could we? So February was reduced to 28/29 days and the extra day was added to the eighth month, so that Julius and Augustus were equal.

Dinner was Lemon-Almond Pork Chops (MC). Roasted some potatoes following Chocolate & Zucchini's instructions—best I've ever made, I think. Sautéed some onions, shrooms, and zucchini for a side.

Wednesday/3-Feb-10: Last weekend when we shopped, I needed broccoli, but Leclerc had none. Instead I got one of those fractally weird lime-green Romanesco cauliflowers. Tonight I used most of it in an old Tuna-Cauliflower Casserole (MC) recipe. Actually the green cauliflower was prettier than white is. Followed by a big salad. And Afrikas for dessert.

Thursday/4-Feb-10: Actually made it to the market this morning. Shopped first at the boucherie to get some veal shanks for osso buco for Cooking Italy. And what are veal shanks called in French? Ossobuco. Too easy. He was out, but will order some for tomorrow afternoon. I wonder what these will cost?

Dinner was Seared Scallops with Orange and Vermouth (MC), served with spaetzle, and Avocado Corn Salad (MW@Home, MC). For dessert there was Double-Boiler Bread Pudding (MC). Yum.

Friday/5-Feb-10: Picked up the veal shanks this afternoon (they weren't painfully expensive), took Pogo for a walk, then started the Ossobuco in Bianco for Cooking Italy. Served this with polenta and Broccoli Strascicati (MC) made with broccoli and the rest of the Romanesco. And more bread pudding for dessert. Nice dinner.

Saturday/6-Feb-10: Shopped this morning, without much of a plan for the next week. Got another globe zucchini to play with.

Made up the batter for buckwheat crêpes for tomorrow night. Didn't beat for 8 minutes as the recipe said. Interesting that other buckwheat crêpe recipes I've run across in the last days have had some wheat flour added. But, this is Vegetarian Times. Also my buckwheat flour is a month out of date, but smelt OK. Not a very promising dinner, I fear.

A choucroute dinner at the restaurant in Lésignac in the evening. Not like the Dutch stamppot, just choucroute and chunks of meat. Not a potato in site, boiled or mashed. Tasty though.

Sunday/7-Feb-10: Seasoned my new crêpe pan this morning, boiling those potato peels. The water turned a really unappealing black, so I think the peels were "scrubbing" the pan. Oiled it per instructions rather than cooking it in the oven. Boiled the peeled potatoes and put them in the fridge to use for something.

Read through the 28Jan-10Feb issue of Vie Pratique Gourmand, with the theme of cheese. My arteries clogged up just looking at these recipes! I did find one starter sort of thing that I might try. It uses frozen artichoke bottoms, which are cooked, then spread with green tapenade, topped with a slice of goat cheese (cabécou, which also comes frozen apparently, I'll have to look for this), sprinkled with a bit of olive oil, freshly ground pepper, and chopped basil, then broiled. Served with a small rocket salad for a starter. Sounds good.

Also discovered there's a cookbook fair in Paris next weekend. That's something I ought to stay away from! And that mace is called macis in French. I always thought the Dutch foelie would be related to the French word, but clearly never looked it up.

The new crêpe pan is great. It did want a bit of oil wiped on with a paper towel between crêpes, but otherwise it was lovely. Can't say that for the crêpes, though. The flour was a bit off (can it be that long ago that I bought it?), and the crêpe s were stiff and cracked when folded (maybe the wheat flour would have helped this), which was the whole point of this recipe, Two-Cheese Buckwheat Galettes from Vegetarian Times magazine (Sep09). I couldn't find my gruyère either, so used parmesan instead. But, we ate 3-1/2 each, when 2 would have done, so they can't have been too bad. Followed by a favorite, beet and mâche salad (BEFCC), and then the rest of the bread pudding.