Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nutty Eggplant and Potato Curry

The Spice of Vegetarian Cooking
Martha Rose Shulman
Healing Arts Press (1986)
ISBN 0892813997

Martha Rose Shulman is one of my favorite vegetarian cookbook authors. A friend introduced me with the gift of The Vegetarian Feast. Then I got Fast Vegetarian Feasts, which is certainly on the shortlist for my desert island cookbook list. Mediterranean Light, along with the beautiful little books Main-Dish Salads and Main-Dish Soups, are also on that list. The other two Main-Dish books, Grains and Tarts and Gratins are well thumbed but not as well used as the other two. I got this book expecting to like it a lot—vegetarian and spicy, "ethnic recipes from India, China, Mexico, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe"—these are things that are usually very popular round our house. But I've never found a recipe here that really appealed.

Having a bit of an Indian itch, I turned to this book for a curry dish. But I can't say we were very pleased with it. There's a similar sort of recipe, Neela's Eggplant and Potato, in Madhur Jaffrey's old World of the Easy Vegetarian Cooking that is lightyear's better.

Nutty Eggplant and Potato Curry begins by roasting an eggplant and steaming some diced potatoes while the eggplant roasts. Then you sauté some onion, garlic, and ginger in butter. After a few minutes, stir in some curry powder. (Of course, no matter how good your curry powder is, this is a clue that the recipe is going to be short on real flavor.) Continue sautéing for a good long time, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes total.

Now stir in the potato, the eggplant (removed from skin and chopped), some raisins, and some peanuts (Shulman also suggests almonds or sunflower seeds, but I think cashews should have be better still) and cook another 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, take off the heat , and stir in a cup of buttermilk or plain yogurt.

I'll give this book at least one more try, but I have a suspicion it might be one that ends up on the recycle stack when my cookbook shelf space becomes critical.

This is another post linked to this week's Cookbook Sundays. I'm having fun with my using-unused-cookbooks challenge!

Monday, February 27, 2012

This week in the kitchen

Monday/27-Feb-12: Nothing much happened in the kitchen today. Went to a movie tonight and ate Chinese/Vietnamese afterewards.

Tuesday/28-Feb-12: Dinner was Nutty Eggplant and Potato Curry (VegSpice, p83) over plain rice, plus some Potato and Pea Samosas (web, and many other places) and Raita (MJ1, p162). The curry was OK, but pretty boring as these things go. The samosas, wrapped in filo and baked, were very good. I made ten, but should have filled them a little less full and made a dozen.

Yogurt on overnight.

Wednesday/29-Feb-12: Made a dose of tagliatelle tonight to go with a half recipe of Tagliatelle with Chicken Livers (PastaCarluccio, p16). Even I, a non-chicken-liver-lover, liked it. Served with a salad. (Accidentally got a 200g sack of mixed lettuces, so saved some for tomorrow night.) Followed by frozen raspberries (thawed) over toasted frozen waffles topped with a bit of cream.

Thursday/1-Mar-12: Discovered today that the Type 65 flour that I bought at the mills on Sunday is high-gluten flour, so should be good for breads. The Type 45 flour that I buy ordinarily is equivalent to cake flour, although it's been making some pretty good bread. Wonder if we'll notice the difference when I make bread with the Type 65?

After some hits from this book, Chicken Patties with Rosemary and Pancetta (Diaries, p39) was not so successful. Tasted OK, but the ground chicken from breasts was dry in spite of being fatted up with lardons/pancetta and baked in broth. For serving, I thickened the broth a bit with potato starch. Served with smashed potatoes. Finished with a bit of lettuce and the rest of last week's Carrot Salad with Cumin, Cinnamon, and Sweet Paprika.

Friday/2-Mar-12: Dinner was a half recipe of Thai Shrimp Curry (KnowHow, p389; cookbooker), from the Thai Curry chapter, served over rice. Accompanied by a half recipe of Cucumber Salad (Delightful, p51; cookbooker), which is one of my standard side dishes for a southeast Asian-ish meal. For dessert, I defrosted some mango slices.

Saturday/3-Mar-12: Belated shopping again today. We still didn't try the scanner gadget; next time perhaps. Saw first fêves of the year, from Egypt, but didn't get any. Did buy some beautiful haricots verts from Morocco, a bit closer. Lots of nice-looking summer veg from Peru and such.

Planted a hedge of bird-friendly shrubs today, as well as three blueberry plants in big pots. Both of us with sore backs now. Sigh.

Dinner was a halfish recipe of Broccoli and Cashew Pilaf (VegSpice, p113) plus the left-over samosas. Forgot to make more raita, which was a shame, since there's yogurt to use up and I bought some fresh mint today (the mint pot isn't showing signs of life yet). I used half the rice and broccoli for the pilaf, but the full amount of spices and it wasn't bad, much better than the nutty eggplant thing earlier in the week. Think I might put the adapted version into Mastercook. The samosas reheated very well.

Yogurt on overnight with a new starter.

Sunday/4-Mar-12: Big lunch at the Fruits de Mer in Lèsignac-Durance today. Nothing happening around in our kitchen.

Hmm...never made any bread this week. What happened?

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: yes, #2 BREAD: no, #3 SOUP: no, #4 MIDDAY: yes, #5 VEG/FISH: 3
This month: #6 PASTA: February, yes; March, no

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Winter Squash and Leek Soup

Verdura: Vegtables Italian Style
Viana La Place
William Morrow (1991)
ISBN 0688087647

Our recent frigid weather has brought on a spate of soups, this one being the second from this book. The extreme weather is over, but momentum keeps those soups a-rolling in.

This one was very tasty, but we thought it didn't seem like a dinner soup somehow. Maybe because it was puréed to smoothness. The leftovers will appear in mugs with our lunchtime sandwiches, no doubt.

Boil up some chunks of peeled and diced winter squash in water just to cover. While that's cooking, sauté some sliced leeks and a chopped celery stalk. When the veggies are soft, add a pinch of ground cloves, 1 cup of milk, and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then add salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the cooked squash with its cooking water and simmer 15 minutes more. Put it through a food mill, or purée in a food processor, or get out that staff mixer and give it a good buzz. Stir in a bitter butter and some grated Parmesan. Serve. Tasty stuff; looking forward to the leftovers.

This post is linked to this week's Cookbook Sundays.

Monday, February 20, 2012

White Bread and Whole Wheat Bread

Bread Machine Cookbook
Better Homes and Garden (2001)
ISBN 0696213168

Here is a book that I bought by a mistake. I collected a good ABM recipe on a mailing list and liked it enough that I thought I'd get the book where it originally appeared. That's what this was supposed to be, but it wasn't. (It was Betty Crocker I meant to get, not Better Homes and Gardens.) The book itself is quite attractive; it has hardboard covers with a ring binding inside, so it lays flat and is easy to use. But I've never really found a recipe that said Make Me Now.

We were pretty well snowed in last week, making it difficult to get out to shop. One morning I missed the mobile boulanger who delivers bread — I met him while I was out walking Pogo, but had no change in my pockets, argh! — and we were pretty well out of bread, so I had the idea to make some whole wheat bread for our next day's breakfast.

Working on my project to try unused cookbooks, I picked up this book, found a promising whole wheat bread, and started assembling it. At one point I laid a measuring spoon down on the opposite page, and then started following that recipe. (I often use a measuring spoon to track ingredients in a printed recipe.) Result: white bread instead of whole wheat. Luckily the recipes are quite similar except for the flour and I could easily correct the difference.

That night, I set the ABM up in the living room, since the kitchen gets quite cold at night and I know that makes the machine unhappy. In the morning, we woke to the wonderful smell of baking bread.

ABM bread is not especially cool, but it's awfully handy when time and bread are short. And this was not at all a bad plain white bread. I might even make it again. But not before I make the bread I originally intended to make.

Having been diverted from the path towards a whole wheat bread, I went back a week later to try that. I made this bread using the Whole Wheat Rapid setting on my machine, so I'd be sure to have it out and cooling before bedtime.

This is not a 100% whole wheat bread, but half and half with regular flour. It's probably one of the best plain whole wheat breads I've made with the machine. It slices easily and tastes good. Another keeper. Looks like this book is rescued from the Recycle stack.

This post is linked to this week's Cookbook Sundays.

This week in the kitchen

Monday/20-Feb-12: Today's pubs, the weekly batch of advertising supplements that comes with the post, brought a flyer from Leclerc, the grocery where we shop most often, thanking all their local suppliers. Merci à Tous nos Producteurs Locaux! it says, with pictures of the suppliers and descriptions of their local products, Limousin beef, sausages or all kinds, rabbits, birds, fish, oysters, melons, asparagus, endives, mushrooms, fruits, nuts, bio milk, raw milk, cheeses, ice cream (I've never noticed locally produced ice cream, will have to look for this), spring water, pineau, wine, etc. Fun to read. Can't think of seeing this in the U.S., even at someplace like Whole Foods.

The evening quiz from two weeks ago was postponed till midday today, so that was our main meal. In the evening we made a tray of nibbles, fruit, carrots, almond-stuffed green olives, black olive tapenade, and some St Maure (a chèvre from Poitou), finished off by some of the chocolates we got as a booby prize at the quiz (fourth of four teams).

Made some Whole Wheat Bread (BHGBread, p9), for tomorrow's breakfast, the one I intended to make last week.

Tuesday/21-Feb-12: Now that was some darn good whole wheat bread!

Yogurt on overday. Started up another batch of Preserved Lemons (Morocco, p21) in anticipation of a Cookbooker challenge on this book.

Dinner was a half dose of Linguine with Lemon, Garlic, and Thyme Mushrooms (web), a really simple, really tasty dish. Served with a salad. Followed by the rest of the booby prize chocolates.

Wednesday/22-Feb-12: Shook up my preserving lemons this morning, first of thirty daily shakes. Made Oatmeal Cake (green book; MC), a recipe I've had for, oh, pushing fifty years (can you believe that?!). Instead of raisins, I used dried cranberries that we got from a Canadian choir we saw last year. The cake was largely devoured when we sat outside with friends for tea after a walk. (About this time last week, it was -15C overnight; today it was 15C in the afternoon.)

Did some Garlic-Herb Bread (Basic/Rapid/M/d) (MC), which was one of our favorites when I was ABM-ing regularly. Another more-ish bread, a bit wonder-bread-ish in texture, but oh so tasty. This accompanied Winter Squash and Leek Soup (Verdura, p170). A nice soup, but maybe not the best as a main-dish soup since it's fairly light and smooth. Only one more butternut squash in the cupboard!

Thursday/23-Feb-12: Dinner was a half dose of Chicken with Fennel, Preserved Lemon, and Olives (Morocco, p302; cookbooker), using up my last preserved lemon. (Thus, another batch on the way.) Served over basmati rice, with a side of Carrot Salad with Cumin, Cinnamon, and Sweet Paprika (Morocco, p79; cookbooker).

Friday/24-Feb-12: Last night my RSS reader delivered the recipe for tonight's dinner. I made a half dose of Creamy Chipotle Shrimp with Mushroom (web; cookbooker). Really tasty, an Ed favorite now.

Saturday/25-Feb-12: Impulse buy at the grocery ... I've been having an urge for ribs, so saw a poitrine de porc (in two pieces). This is the side/belly on a pig. The front half is like ribs with the stuff we'd call bacon still attached. The back half is just bacon. Unless I discover something new in the meantime, the front bit I'll just cook like ribs and give it a meaty gnaw. (The recipe I learned for cooking ribs: Oven on as low, about 250F. Sprinkle your ribs with a ton of salt and a half ton of cayenne. In the oven till them smell good, hours later. If you like you can finish off with a short stay on the bbq grill or under the broiler. Yum.)

Fish-and-chips (with mushy peas) at a local restaurant tonight. Nothing much happening in the kitchen beyond putting away the groceries.

Sunday/26-Feb-12: Yogurt on overday. Visited two mills today as part of open mills day and lunched at one of them. So we weren't very hungry in the evening. For a little starter/salad, I sliced a beautiful (for winter) ripe tomato I got for something and didn't use. (Too bad I didn't think to defrost some mozzarella earlier in the day.) Then a salad of rucola. And a bit of cheese after.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: yes, #2 BREAD: yes, #3 SOUP: yes, #4 MIDDAY: yes, #5 VEG/FISH: 3
This month: #6 PASTA: not yet

Monday, February 13, 2012

This week in the kitchen

Monday/13-Feb-12: Last night's bread was White Bread (BHGBread, p8). Pretty good.

Yogurt on overday.

Made a broccoli-pasta thing for dinner using a recipe from the web. Didn't know I could make a broccoli-pasta thing I didn't like. A big squirt of sriracha helped. Chocolate tapioca pudding for dessert.

Tuesday/14-Feb-12: We had a lovely Valentine's lunch at La Bellone. Some fruit for dinner, followed by a bowl of salt- and butter-free air-popped popcorn.

Wednesday/15-Feb-12: Made some Buttermilk Bread (MC) this morning. On Rapid, which probably isn't the best thing to do when you're starting with cold milk. Not bad though. This is the bread that I thought came from BHGBread but didn't. (Do I need another ABM cookbook, I wonder?) Very more-ish, this bread.

Didn't feel like cooking at all today. Defrosted the Curried Zucchini Soup from August for dinner. It wasn't bad, but not great. Lots of bright flavors, and the apple was a nice touch, but the flavor lacked some "depth" or something. Not sure if I saved the recipe, but I'm wondering if it was made with water, rather than with chicken stock. It needs a bit of salt, so I might stir in a bit of chicken bouillon powder when I reheat.

Thursday/16-Feb-12: Dinner was a half dose of Spaghetti with Olives, Capers, and Anchovies (30MinPasta, p121), which I see from cookbooker that I made last April. Didn't leave a mark in the book and didn't remember. Oops. Oh well, it's good, and it's really fast.

Yogurt on overnight.

Friday/17-Feb-12: Shopping at Leclerc today, where we found a new feature being introduced. At the entrance, you can get a handheld scanner that allows you to scan your grocery items as you pick them up (and pack them directly), then exit via a special lane, handing in your scanner to pay. We didn't try this today and are not sure how will this will work with our "team shopping" approach. And how can you pack things away properly until you've gotten it all? Another plot to reduce the number of employees, is this good?

Lots of meat unexpectedly on sale today. Now I have another chunk of goat in the freezer now, a pair of varkenshaasjes, and a bunch of lamb chops.

For dinner I made some bbq-sauce-like stuff, very vaguely following a recipe from the web, and added the shredded pork from last week's pork roast. Pretty good pulled pork sandwiches there. Served with Mama's Garlic Coleslaw. For dessert there was some of the raspberry sorbet lingering in the freezer topped by some defrosted raspberries.

Saturday/18-Feb-12: My supply being almost gone, I made up some Herb Salt (Art, p172).

Dinner was some Curried Zucchini Soup (indeed the chicken bouillon helped the flavor) accompanied by pulled pork sandwiches and coleslaw. Good stuff.

Sunday/19-Feb-12: When I did my inventory prior to going to the Netherlands, I didn't find any green peppercorns in the pantry. This week, when I cleaned the cupboard, I found two little jars hiding way in the back. So now I have three jars. And, as a start to my use-up-some-green-peppercorns quest, tonight's dinner was Gemelli with Shrimp and Green Peppercorns (web; cookbooker). Followed by a salad. Then the last of the tiny squares of cheese.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: sort of, #2 BREAD: yes, #3 SOUP: yes, #4 MIDDAY: no, #5 VEG/FISH: 3
This month: #6 PASTA: no

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lentil Soup with Red Squash and Fennel

Verdura: Vegtables Italian Style
Viana La Place
William Morrow (1991)
ISBN 0688087647

This is another book I saw recommended somewhere, although I don't remember where. It looked like it might be interesting, Italian and vegetables both being Good Things, so I found a cheap second-hand copy. But it sits there on the shelf with other veggie books and I never seem to find anything suitable when I'm looking in that area.

If it the weather forecast is right, we'll have been 2 weeks sub-0C when it finally warms up. Soup weather indeed. There are butternut squash in the cupboard still to be used, the bounty of a neighbor's garden. Lentils are a staple. A slippery trip to the grocery turned up a fennel bulb. And here I found a soup to pull them all together. It was a surprisingly good combination.

Maybe this isn't really a weeknight soup, since it take a good hour to cook, but it's a leisurely thing to put together. Chop an onion and sauté it. While that's going, chop the fennel. When the onion is soft, stir in the fennel. While that's going, measure the lentils, fennel seeds, salt, and water. After the fennel has cooked for five minutes, stir in the lentils and seeds, add the water, and bring to a boil. Let it simmer partly covered for 30 minutes while you peel and chop a chunk of squash. Stir in the squash and cook another 20 minutes until the lentils and squash are done. Grind in some black pepper and serve. A bit of time, but an easy, unrushed assembly. With very tasty results.

This post is linked to this week's Cookbook Sundays.

Monday, February 6, 2012

This week in the kitchen

Monday/6-Feb-12: Finished off the chicken stock this morning. Ended up with 11 cups in the freezer. Out of freezer containers now.

Simple dinner tonight. Defrosted some merguez de volaille and grilled them. Made mashed sweet potatoes from the enormous single pot that I bought last week. Then a salad with the marinated Brussels sprouts. These were better with just a dab of arugula and were rather overwhelmed by the plateful of mâche/arugula mix.

K's Sweet Potato Bread (MC, a smerge of two recipes) on overnight. Moved the ABM in by the pellet burner, since I know it's not happy baking in a cold room.

Tuesday/7-Feb-12: Wasn't it nice to awaken to the smell of fresh bread this morning! Ordinarily, when the ABM sits in the kitchen, the smell doesn't really reach us in the bedroom. It's a pretty golden color, but not especially sweet tasting.

Brought the frozen chicken half indoors this morning. In the afternoon, I picked the meat for tomorrow's dinner, then roasted the bones and popped them in the freezer.

For dinner I embellished a can of black beans, mashed it all up a bit, topped with bits of leftover polenta, then heated in the oven for a bit. Served with a salad of avocado, radish, and cuke, mixed with lime juice and crème fraîche. Pretty good for little effort.

Wednesday/8-Feb-12: Used the rest of the mashed sweet potato to make Southern Sweet Potato Pecan Bread (MC). That really was a big sweet potato! Good quick bread.

Somehow, when you eat lunch at 3pm, and have a quick bread snack after that, you just don't think about cooking dinner till too late in the day. So leftover pizza it was, warmed in the oven.

All our events are being cancelled, choir practice, line dancing, gardening club. I have a doctor's appointment in Angoulême in Tuesday, but think I'll call tomorrow to cancel that, since it doesn't look like the roads will be clear by then.

Thursday/9-Feb-12: Authentic French Bread from the ABM this morning, and never cut into it. It will still be good, but not great tomorrow.

A neighbor with a 4x4 braved the roads to go to the grocery. We got milk and lettuce; I forgot to ask for eggs, which we could run out of. Can't be too bad out there. Ed went to refill a prescription and it took him only two tries to get back up the hill in Mazerolles.

Repurposed leftovers for dinner tonight. Made a sort of hash/stew thing from the rest of the chicken, potatoes, and the bit of sauce remaining, with this and that thrown in. Served over the remains of the polenta. Not bad at all. A bit let from lunch in the next day. Then a salad.

Friday/10-Feb-12: We made a trip out today. Stopped at a grocery for eggs and a few other things, then picked up a load of sacks of pellets for the heating. Pretty scary driving on the little roads.

Tonight, the pork roast I found in the freezer when I defrosted was on the menu. Best Crockpot Pork Roast Ever (web). Best? Well, maybe; good for a crockpot recipe anyhow. (Part 2 of the recipe to come—"bbq" pulled pork.) Accompanied by steam/sautéed potatoes and carrots and Baked Eggplant Slices (TooMany, p114), using up the eggplant in the fridge. This is still one of our favorite eggplant recipes. Finished off the last of the vanilla fromage frais. Curious that if I'd made something like this, our servings would have been twice as large. Think we need to practice some portion control here.

Saturday/11-Feb-12: Still cold, soup weather. Dinner was Lentil Soup with Red Squash and Fennel (Verdura, p171; cookbooker).

A couple of days ago a friend ventured out for some shopping and I asked her to bring us 3 liters of milk. Instead she came with 3 2-liter bottles. So we're starting a use-up-the-milk project. Tonight was Chocolate Tapioca Pudding (MC). Easy to make and good. This will last us several days.

Sunday/12-Feb-12: Late lunch today. Topped some stale baguette with the leftover chicken hash and let it sit under the broiler for a bit. That and our usual fruit plate was lunch.

Had thought about making pasta for dinner, but we weren't very hungry, so we had just a salad. Then a bit of St Maure. Then some Chocolate Tapioca Pudding, small servings like the fromage frais toetjes we've been eating. We're full.

Bread on overnight, sitting near the heater again. We'll awaken to the smell of cooking bread. I intended to make a whole wheat bread, but laid a measuring spoon on the opposite page and started following the recipe for White Bread (BHGBread, p8). Very similar recipes and I hadn't gotten to the part where they diverge. Should be OK.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: yes, #2 BREAD: yes, #3 SOUP: yes, #4 MIDDAY: no, #5 VEG/FISH: 3
This month: #6 PASTA: no

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fusilli with Cabbage and Tomato

Pasta Harvest
Janet Fletcher
Chronicle Books (1995)
ISBN 0811805670

After the encouraging results with the first recipe I made from this book, I decided the book would be good company for our little trip to Amsterdam. Good company, and I used more than one package of stickies marking promising recipes.

For my second outing with Pasta Harvest, I chose a recipe using cabbage, a really winter vegetable, and we were quite pleased with the results. This isn't a weeknight recipe since there's a lot of chopping, sautéing, and simmering time involved. But it's very tasty indeed, and I expect it would keep for a few days in the fridge, if you wanted to make it up on the weekend.

Like many Italian recipes, it starts with slowly sautéing minced onions, carrots, and celery until they are very soft, 15 minutes or more. Then lots of minced garlic is stirred in, followed by pepper flakes, strained tomatoes, chicken stock (which happened to be simmering away on the back burner prior to being strained and frozen), and oregano. (Fresh oregano? In February? You jest! It was dried Mexican oregano for me.) This mixture simmers for about 15 minutes. Then a big pile of finely shredded cabbage is stirred in and simmered again for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta and drain, saving some of the water in case the sauce needs thinning (it did). Toss the pasta with the sauce, some chopped parsley (I forgot), and some freshly grated Parmesan. Dish it up and serve with more Parmesan. Yum.

Aside: Pasta recipes frequently call for draining the pasta, then tossing it with the sauce in a large, warm bowl. Does anybody actually do this? The pot where the pasta cooked qualifies for large and warm, that's two out of three. The clean-up crew appreciates not having an extra dish to wash. I always serve pasta directly onto our plates (less messy at the table), so a serving bowl is superfluous.

This recipe calls for either fusilli or spaghetti as the pasta-of-choice. Spaghetti didn't seem right to me, and I didn't have enough fusilli (and didn't want to open another package). Having used gemelli/cascareccia a couple of times lately, I opted for my current second favorite pasta, one I haven't discovered a name for, a mini version of curly-edged lasagna noodles.

We've had two hits from this book now. Thinking that it will sit on the shelf with vegetable cookbooks, since this is one I'll want to pick up when I've found something good at the market.

This post is linked to this week's Cookbook Sundays.