Monday, May 26, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/26-May-14: Still cleaning out the freezer. For a starter we had radishes with butter and salt. For a main, I grilled two kinds of merguez, one poultry, the other beef and lamb. Served with smashed sweet potatoes. Then a salad. Then some ice cream, using up the cream with marscapone and two other bits of cream in the fridge, served with a splash of crême de cacao.

Tuesday/27-May-14: Shopping today. And we visited a cave in La Roche. We asked for a wine that would go with spicy pork and he recommended one that was quite cheap, which we took. And, lo and behold it was very good with spicy meat.

Dinner was a double dose of Pork Vindaloo (Q&E, p33), served with rice and Carrot and Onion Salad (MJ1, p171). For afters we had some Haagen-Dasz vanilla ice cream, with a splash of crême de cacao again.

Wednesday/28-May-14: Yogurt on overday.

Out for lunch today. For dinner there was cheese, fruit, and cherry tomatoes with quiche, rillettes, and such from a charcuterie in Rochechouart. We're stuffed.

Thursday/29-May-14: We had intended to eat lunch out but couldn't find a place to do it that was handy, so we snacked again for lunch. While Ed had choir practice, Bill and I visited a pottery fair. Then we borrowed an electric knife and tackled the dried ham. With that and a hacksaw, Bill and Ed managed to get enough meat for our starter and dinner. One end of the joint with some meat in the freezer for beans or such, along with four 100g packets of slices. And more to come next time we have some time and energy for it.

For starters with had melon and, yes, sliced ham. For the main, there was Pour-Cousin Paella (Secrets, p249), which is an old favorite. For dessert, Ed and I split a Magnum Classic, while Bill had one to himself.

Friday/30-May-14: Saw Bill off at the train station today, then popped into the Victor Hugo market for a few things (tomatoes, cilantro, bread, and a head of lettuce). Then home to start getting things back to normal.

Dinner was Indian Scrambled Eggs (MJ@Home, p76), followed by a salad, then some strawberries with a dab of the marscapone-cream stuff.

Saturday/31-May-14: Yogurt on overday. Off to see the pottery with Ed this time.

Early dinner so we can go to a concert. It was an old favorite, Artichoke Spaghetti (Art, p59), followed by a salad. For dessert we chunked up our usual lunch fruit (currently apple, pear, and banana) and tossed with a bit of lemon juice and a tiny dab of honey; crumbled a ginger snap over each bowl to serve.

Sunday/1-Jun-14: Since we had pasta and salad for dinner last night, tonight we had the leftover paella mixed with a can of cannellini beans for dinner. (It will be pasta and salad again tomorrow.) For a go-with, I took the leftover polenta from a while ago, sliced it, sprayed it with olive oil, and toasted it under the broiler. Nice stuff. Then a big salad. We were full.

May's gone by, and I haven't finished reading the month's Time-Life book (Indian Cooking), let alone cooked anything from it. Have to get on that now.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: yes; #2 VEG/FISH: 2
This month: #3 PASTA: no for May, no for Jun; #4 FotW: no; #5 BREAD: 1

Saturday, May 24, 2014

American Cooking: Artichokes Stuffed with Shrimp and Green Goddess Dressing

A bit late for this cookbook, but today I made another not-so-typical American dish, Artichokes Stuffed with Shrimp and Green Goddess Dressing (p70). I made a half recipe with three artichokes, normalish in size for what I usually buy, but apparently large by American standards.

The instructions in the recipe for dealing with artichokes are fairly standard ones. Instead I used the method for Roasted Artichokes from a recent issue of Cook's Illustrated's. This meant I ended up with halved artichokes rather than hollowed out ones. Actually, this was a fine way to deal with the chokes, but we missed the "bowl" effect.

The Green Goddess Dressing was good enough that I was sorry I didn't make the mayo myself. (It was Hellman's instead.) Next time ...

The chokes are stuffed with small cooked shrimp mixed with the dressing. I didn't really have enough shrimp, but it was still quite edible. (We have extra dressing that's we'll probably use for a salad in the next days. This is not very closely related to store-bought green goddess dressing, much tastier.)

It's a little puzzling to me how this dish should be served and there are no clues in the text. I served it as a starter. One artichoke was slightly larger than the other two, so the two ladies at dinner had the bigger halves, while the gents each had two smaller halves. It's quite large for a starter, but seems a bit small for a main. And it's a bit rich for a main.

At table, we thought the shrimpy sauce might be good to stuff avocado halves, a lot less trouble, and then a nice size for a starter. A half recipe made a lot of filling, so maybe a quarter recipe would do for 4 avocados or 8 servings.

Unfortunately I didn't manage to get the pic of the final dishes properly focused.

IHCC: Veg Out!

We have a visitor this week who isn't really keen on eating his vegetables, so I try a bit to make them a featured part of our meals. In The 30-Minute Cook, I found Escalope of Pork with Asparagus and Cheese, which sounded especially promising because I recently bought some pork scallops on sale and they were in the freezer wanting to be used.

Slater apparently has a soft spot for canned asparagus, which I find pretty disgusting. I couldn't see what the big deal was about asparagus until I was served some fresh from the garden. There's a world of difference, and all for the better. This week at the shop there were only white asparagus. We usually prefer green and they would certainly make this a more colorful dish.

The pork scallops are beaten out to about 1/4" (if they're not already that thin), then dipped in flour and fried in olive oil and butter for a few minutes on each side. They're then laid on a baking sheet, topped with the asparagus (canned ones drained or fresh ones steamed) and some grated cheese (your choice—I used comté, which I usually have in the freezer), then popped under the grill for a few minutes. While the cheese in melting, make a bit of pan sauce by deglazing the pan with Marsala. (I didn't have any so used the evening's red wine.)

I didn't have as much cheese as Slater asks, but it was more than enough. He definitely likes his cheese.

Check this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what veggie treats other folks are cooking up.

Monday, May 19, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/19-May-14: Potatoes to use up? Broccoli to use up? The go-to recipe is Warm Broccoli and Potato Salad (MDSalads, p15). Since there was lots to use up, two of us ate a whole recipe. That's all.

Tuesday/20-May-14: Tamale Pie from the freezer for dinner, along with a little salad of avocado, tomato, and cilantro. That was all.

Wednesday/21-May-14: Yogurt on overday.

BIll arrived this afternoon. For dinner we had chicken noodle soup from the freezer, "enhanced" with some potatoes. Then a salad. Then a chunk of nameless cheese (I've forgotten the name) that I got at the market in Angoulême on Saturday. Then some eclairs that Ed and Bill bought at a boulanger on the way back from the train station.

Thursday/22-May-14: Lunch out with Bill today before Ed went to choir practice and Bill and I went shopping. For our evening meal we had fruit, cheese, and rillettes, followed by cream puffs Ed bought at our local boulanger.

Friday/23-May-14: Dinner out before a concert this evening. Not much happened in the kitchen.

Saturday/24-May-14: Yogurt on overday.

For a starter tonight we had Artichokes Stuffed with Shrimp and Green Goddess Dressing (TLAmer, p70). Then there was Escalope of Pork with Asparagus and Cheese (30MinCook, p187) for next week's IHCC, accompanied by boiled potatoes, buttered and parslied. (We were all full afterwards.

Sunday/25-May-14: For dinner Ed barbecued chicken thighs that had been stewing for a day in a marinade from the freezer, then basted with pomegranate molasses just before serving. For sides there was polenta and Green Beans with Garlic and Preserved Lemon (WorldVeg, p205), me declaring my preserved lemons "done" a few days before the appointed time. None of us felt like anything afterwards.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: yes; #2 VEG/FISH: 2
This month: #3 PASTA: no; #4 FotW: no; #5 BREAD: 1

Thursday, May 15, 2014

IHCC: May Potluck!

What's this? It's time for a potluck and it's not Madhur Jaffrey? No, it's Nigel Slater this time around. I've really been cooking a lot from his books of late. A few days ago, I made (for the second time) Slow-Roast Lamb from The Kitchen Diaries. Since then we've been eating bits of lamb and there's at least one more meal in the freezer. Meanwhile we used a goodly portion of the leg for Shepherd's Pie with Spiced Parsnip Mash from Real Cooking (p119).

This is a nice variation on a plain shepherd's pie. The topping is parsnips (there were some leftover potatoes, too) mashed with sautéed onions and warm spices—ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, butter, salt, and pepper.

For the filling, chopped leeks and carrots are slowly sautéed in drippings or butter. Sliced mushrooms are added, followed by chopped lamb. (You could, of course, use raw ground lamb, but a shepherd's pie is traditionally made with leftovers.) When the lamb is cooked and bits of brown appear, stir in some flour and a bit of tomato purée. Add stock (a bit of leftover sauce from the lamb roast was supplemented with chicken stock from the freezer), a bay leaf, and some sprigs of thyme if you've got it. Simmer for a good long while. ("The mixture should not really bubble, just occasionally 'bloop' at you'," writes Slater.) Somewhere along the way, season with salt and pepper, and a tablespoon or so of Worcestershire sauce.

Pour the meat mixture into a casserole, spoon the topping over it all, and bake the top is golden and browning on the peaks.

This recipe is supposed to serve four generously. Three of us ate it all. Very more-ish it was. Even though we had a starter, we still ate it all. The sweetish parsnips made a good topping, but sweet potatoes might work just as well.

Visit this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what other folks are making for their potluck meal.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

IHCC: A Little Cheese, PLEASE!

This week's I Heart Cooking Clubs has a cheesy theme and I found a promising idea in Real CookingPancetta and Blue Cheese Risotto (p169). Lots of good things here, creamy risotto, pancetta, blue cheese.

For the pancetta, a cooking friend who is visiting and I cut meat off a jambon sec (dried ham) that was recently donated to my kitchen. It's not the Spanish kind, but a local French one. The gadget for supporting the ham is a bit pricey for something I'm not likely to use again, so we struggled to hold it firm, cut off the skin , and make some fine slices for our melon and ham starter and some thicker bits to serve as pancetta. Then we put the ham back in its cheesecloth sack and hung it from the ceiling to be further attacked another day.

Slater's recipe calls for about 2 tablespoons of butter to soften the onion and pancetta and another walnut-sized lump to finish the risotto. This seemed like altogether too much butter, not to mention unnecessary. I used less olive oil for the sautéing and omitted the the finishing walnut altogether.

The start of the risotto is much the same as all risottos. First you soften some flavorful bits in oil, then stir in the rice, then add liquid. Slater suggests adding one-third of the stock at a time; we just did it the standard way, ladleful by ladleful.  When the rice is done, stir in a pile of crumbled blue cheese; I used Fourme d'Ambert, which is our favorite blue cheese right now. Slater suggests about 225g (about 8oz), which seemed too much in the end. This from all the cheese-lovers at table.

The recipe says it's for two. Since we were three at table, I increased the recipe by half. These turned out to be three pretty substantial servings. I think the recipe as stated could serve three people.

The verdict was that this was a good idea for a tasty risotto, especially nice for cool weather. But too much butter in the recipe as written and too much cheese. This didn't, of course, stop us from finishing our plates.

Visit this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs to check out the cheesy wonders contributed by other folks.

Monday, May 12, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/12-May-14: We lunched at La Bellone today. For dinner, we had small bits from the fridge and elsewhere. Finished off the soup, apple slices, sliced ham, the rest of the Mediterranean Lentil Salad, cheeses (Morbier, Fourme d'Ambert, Chabichou), membrillo, and probably some other things I've forgetten.

Yogurt on overday. Had an electric blip while we were out, so it was off when we returned. Restarted, guessing at how much time was left.

Tuesday/13-May-14: Yogurt was a bit on the runny side, but otherwise OK.

Another lovely lunch out, followed by a little bit of touristing, followed by grocery shopping (we know how to treat visitors here), then home for a rest. For dinner we had salad and cheese.

Wednesday/14-May-14: Yogurt on overday.

For dinner we started with ham and melon, the ham from neighbor Barbara's loto winning, laboriously cut by me and the visiting Barbara. As a main, there was a cheesy risotto (RealCook, p169); cookbooker) for this week's IHCC theme. Then a salad. Then a bit of ice cream with frais de bois (wild strawberries) from the potager.

Thursday/15-May-14: Lots of cooking today. While I was a physio, Barbara took the meat from the leg of lamb and made Shepherd's Pie with Spiced Parsnip Mash (RealCook, p119), which was my potluck dish for next week's IHCC. Later I made, Carrot and Onion Salad (MJ1, p171) for a starter and Strawberry Shortcake (TLAmer, p90) for an ender.

Friday/16-May-14: Lunch out today, in preparation for concert in evening. Not much action in the kitchen.

Saturday/17-May-14: Saw Barbara off in Angoulême after a look around and lunch. Ed had a hamburger and I had a salad. For our evening meal, Ed had a salad and I had a lamb sandwich.

Sunday/18-May-14: We had our main meal at lunch today since we went to an concert in the early evening. I made Scallops with Spicy Curry Sauce and Couscous (web), which was okay, but nothing special. Added fêves to the couscous. For a side, there was Gujerati Carrot Salad (MJ1, p170). We had our usual lunch for dinner when we got home.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: yes; #2 VEG/FISH: 2
This month: #3 PASTA: no; #4 FotW: no; #5 BREAD: 1

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

IHCC: Weeknight Favorites!

I'm getting the feeling that most everything I try in The 30-Minute Cook will turn into a weeknight favorite. Everything I've tried has been fast, by definition, and tasty. Today was shopping day, which means fish for dinner. This time we had Grilled Fish with Chermoula (p124).

Slater asks for you to cut some white fish fillets into 3cm cubes to marinate, then thread onto skewers for grilling. The best-looking white fish available looked like panga, which is too thin to cut into cubes and skewer. Instead I cut each fillet into half longways. The fish is marinated for as long as you can manage, overnight, a few hours, or even 20 minutes (which is the only option that makes it truly fast). I put my fillets on to marinate just after we got back from the shop, so they had two or three hours of sitting. The final cooking is just a few minutes under the grill.

The chermuoula is easy to assemble but takes a bit of chop-chop-chopping; a small onion, flat-leaf parsley, coriander leaves are mixed with garlic cloves crushed with salt, some powdered saffron, paprika, chili flakes, lemon juice, and olive oil. Toss this with the fish bits and leave them to rest and absorb flavor.

If you have cubes of fish, you could thread them onto skewers. I just put my fillets under the broiler. They got done while I plated the rest of the meal, new potatoes (as suggested) and some haricots jaunes. And very tasty they were.

(I did not line the potatoes up in tidy rows on purpose. They aligned themselves as if by magic.)

Visit this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what other folks are making for their weeknight meals.

Monday, May 5, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/6-May-14: (Managed to loose what I wrote on Monday, so this bit is reimagined.) Working on the freezer inventory, we grilled some chicken sausages on the bbq. Served with Mediterranean Lentil Salad with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette (Essential, p288), a yummy side dish salad that could be a vegetarian main. For after there was Easy Berry Cobbler (HandyBook) fresh from the oven, served with ice cream.

Tuesday/7-May-14: Shopping today.

Dinner was fish from Nigel Slater for IHCC. Served with boiled new potatoes and some of the yellow beans from the freezer. Finished off the cobbler for dessert.

Wednesday/8-May-14: Yogurt on overday. Boiled up the the chicken&pigeon stock yet again and froze it.

Some 1970s American food for dinner. I made a half recipe of Deviled Crab (TLAmer, p71), served over some nouilles bouclées (curly noodles) along with some broccoli.

Thursday/9-May-14: Easy dinner tonight. Arroz con Pollo from the freezer, followed by a salad. The chicken was very good still. The rice was tasty enough, but pretty soggy. Not sure if that was from its time in the freezer, or being well covered in the oven for quite a while.

Friday/10-May-14: And a really easy dinner tonight. Some so-so broccoli sauce for pasta from the freezer, brightened up with a bit of lemon juice, over the rest of the nouilles bouclées, followed by a big salad.

Saturday/11-May-14: Picked up Barbara from the train today. There was a train broken down and all trains were delayed about 50 minutes. Hers was the first late one into the station. Stopped by Leclerc on the way home to do a bit of shopping.

For dinner we had Potaje de Vigilia from the freezer and a big salad. Then some cheese (morbier and camembert) with some of Barbara's homemade membrillo (which goes really nicely with cheese).

Sunday/12-May-14: Ed had a late afternoon choir concert today and restaurants aren't open Sunday evening. He went early for practice and Barbara and I went later, leaving a Slow-Roast Lamb (Diaries, p62) in the oven. When we got back, we smashed some potatoes and steamed some broccoli. The lamb was delicious. So were the cheeses (finished off yesterday's two). Then we had some little store-bought rice puddings.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: yes; #2 VEG/FISH: 4
This month: #3 PASTA: no; #4 FotW: no; #5 BREAD: 1

Friday, May 2, 2014

IHCC: Rootie Patootie!

Back to Real Fast Food for tonight's dinner. Several weeks ago, I ran into the recipe in this book for Broiled Potatoes (p173) and marked it to try since it's always nice to have a new way to do potatoes. When the root veggie them came around, I thought I'd give this a try as a side dish. But, when I read the recipe closer, I discovered the option for making the dish into a light supper by topping the potato slices with a soft blue cheese like Gorgonzola.

When we moved to the Netherlands, thirty-some-odd years ago now, neither of us were big cheese eaters. As American we grew up with Kraft American cheese slices, not an impressive start to our cheese eating careers. Velveeta and similar processed cheeses only made matters worse. Neither of us had a taste for any kind of blue cheese at all, rather we had a sort of antipathy towards them. As we settled into a more European style of life and eating, our cheese vocabulary widened and we enjoyed a much greater variety of cheeses, cow, goat, and sheep. Still, though, blue cheese wasn't really our thing. At some point, though, I figured that so many people whose taste I respected were enthusiastic about blue cheese that I there must be something there I'm missing. I started introducing bits of blue cheese into dinners and cheese plates. Ed remains a bit reluctant, but now I'll even ask for a blue cheese when the trolley comes around in a restaurant.

Slater's Broiled Potatoes start with thick slices of potato, one potato per person, boiled until till done, then scored, topped with garlicky oil, and, yes, broiled. As a side dish, these can be eaten plain or with any number of toppings that Slater suggests. (And I'm sure that two medium potatoes makes a very generous side dish.)

For a supper, he suggests topping the grilled slices with a blue cheese. I found some soft, Italian Gorgonzola to use. When the slices are done, you top with the cheese and put them back under the broiler to melt the cheese. Then serve.

A hit! With a big green salad, this made a lovely dinner. Ed said I could make this one often, just like this.

Visit this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs to see how other folks are rooting for Nigel Slater.