Friday, December 30, 2016

Cookbook Countdown: Bistecca alla Fiorentina

One more dish from Time-Life Foods of the World: The Cooking of Italy this month. Tonight's main course was Bisstecca alla Fiorentina—Broiled Marinated Steak (p69). We had this dish when we visited Lucca last year. (Yes, we had it in Lucca, not in Florence.)

This is basically a broiled chunk of beef, that's been marinated in a brew of olive oil, wine vinegar, parsley, garlic, and oregano. It should be a substantial chunk of beef, 2.5-3 pounds of T-bone, porterhouse, or sirloin steak, 1" thick, for four people. I bought two small, thickly cut chunks of beef for two people, not even a pound. Because my broiler pan got used earlier in the day and the clean-up crew hadn't yet taken care of that, I heated up a grill pan, and grilled the meat on that. Four minutes on one side and two-ish minutes on the other gave steaks not quite medium (a bit too done for me, but Ed liked it).


This is probably about as inauthentic a version of Bistecca all Fiorentina as you could get, but it tasted quite nice nevertheless.

December at Cookbook Countdown means folks can cook from books they've used during the year, or start with a new one. Why don't you choose a cookbook from your shelf and join in?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Cookbook Countdown: Polenta Pasticciata—Polenta with Cream and Mushrooms

More from Time-Life Foods of the World: The Cooking of Italy. Tonight's main course was Polenta Pasticciata—Polenta with Cream and Mushrooms (p22). For polenta lovers, this dish really falls in the realm of Comfort Food. The recipe is says it serves six, but it's unclear if this meant as a main dish or as a side dish. I served a half recipe as the main course for dinner, followed by a salad. We finished our portions, but thought it could have served 3 easily.

Early in the day, make the required amount of polenta and spread it in an 8" by 16" baking dish or sheet. (I used a 8" by 8" square dish for my half recipe.) Put this in fridge to set.

Make a bechamel (bescimella) sauce with butter, flour, milk, and cream. When this is thick, season with salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Meanwhile, sauté some sliced mushrooms. I used about half and half pleurote gris/oesterzwammen/oyster mushrooms and shiitakes.

Now cut the slab of polenta in half. The larger size would be cut in half, giving two 8" by 8" squares. I cut my 8" square on the diagonal. Put one of the pieces in a casserole dish; top with half the mushrooms, then half the bechamel. Put the remaining bit on polenta on that, add the remaining mushrooms and bechamel. Top with a bit more grated Parmesan, then bake for 375F for 25-30 minutes. Cut into pieces are serve at once. Yum, a very pleasing dish. Even though it was very good, we thought it might be quite nice with some lardons (or chopped bacon, perhaps) sautéed with the mushrooms.


December at Cookbook Countdown means folks can cook from books they've used during the year, or start with a new one. Why don't you choose a cookbook from your shelf and join in?

Monday, December 26, 2016

Cookbook Countdown: Scaloppine al Marsala&Pere Ripene

More from Time-Life Foods of the World: The Cooking of Italy. Tonight's main course included Scallopine al Marsala—Sautéed Veal Scallops with Marsala Sauce (p65) and the Broccoli alla Romana—Broccoli Braised with White Wine (p35) that I've made before. For dessert, there were Pere Ripiene—Pears Stuffed with Gorgonzola Cheese (p89).

Veal Marsala is a classic dish and quite simple to make. The scallops are salt-and-peppered, dredged in flour then sautéed briefly in a mix of butter and olive oil. When they are brown, they're put aside; the fat is drained from the pan, which is then deglazed with dry marsala and chicken stock. The scallops are returned to the pan, then simmered in the sauce over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Put the scallops on hot plates or a platter, then boil the remaining sauce down until it's syrupy. Finish off with some soft butter, pour over the scallops, and serve. We don't have veal often, and this is a a favorite sort of way to do it.


The Gorgonzola Pears were good, but not a big hit. I really think I'd rather have slices of the fresh fruit with a chunk of cheese on the plate. For this dish, you peel the pears, then half them, hollow them out, and rub with lemon juice inside and out. (You are instructed to leave the stem on one of the halves, but one of my pears was a bit soft on the end, so I decapitated both of them.) The filling is a  mixture of Gorgonzola and butter. Stuff that in the hollows, put the halves back together, then roll in crushed walnuts (or pistachios or pine nuts). Chill, then serve.


December at Cookbook Countdown means folks can cook from books they've used during the year, or start with a new one. Why don't you choose a cookbook from your shelf and join in?

This week in the kitchen

Monday/26-Dec-16: Picked the leftover chicken, then froze the bones and the meat.

Didn't really feel like a fancy meal today, but we had one anyway. For a starter there was the terrine de pigenneau (squab) that we got at the marché de noël. Put a bit of arugula on the plate, topped with a vinaigrette, then some dried cranberries and walnut pieces. This was all very good. The main was veal marsala, broccoli alla romana, and the last of some nettle pasta I bought at a marché gourmand. Dessert was pears with gorgonzola. All tasted good.

Tuesday/27-Dec-16: Early dinner with a mix of leftovers. Shepherd's pie, the cauliflower curry, and a dab of orzo. The shepherd's pie held up quite well. And a slice of raspberry bûche to end it all.

Wednesday/28-Dec-16: Shopping today. Still disliking new Leclerc arrangement/design. Such a mess.

Dinner was unexpectedly good. I made a halfish recipes of Down by the Sea (Wraps, p61). The filling was lots of onions, softened in olive oil, then simmered with lemon juice, champagne vinegar (not—regular white wine vinegar did the job), and dried tarragon. This is mixed with chunks of grilled swordfish, chopped arugula, and chopped black olives. Wrapped in lavash tonight because there were some to use up. Very yummy.

Thursday/29-Dec-16: Dinner was a kind of polenta lasagna from Time-Life. Very delicious. Served with a salad. That was enough.

Friday/30-Dec-16: In the afternoon, I roasted some eggplants to use tomorrow.

Friends invited us for apèros this afternoon, so we had are rather small dinner. There was an Italian steak accompanied by some peas with shallots and some crozets mixed garlic butter-olive oil. That was all.

Saturday/31-Dec-16: Spend most of the day in the kitchen today.
  • Started yogurt, thinking I might use much of what's in the fridge to make tzatziki (but didn't in the end).
  • Used the roasted eggplants to make Baba Ghanoush (WofE, p334) for serving with veggies this evening.
  • Started the rabbit dish for tomorrow's meal. Left it in nature's refrigerator overnight.
  • For lunch, sautéed some onion, garlic, and leftover shiitakes, plopped this on slices of bread, topped with some blue cheese, and toasted to melt the cheese. Yum.
  • Stuffed two mini peppers in the fridge with a little filling of cream cheese, chives, onion flakes, black pepper.
Dinner was a half recipe of Scallop Sauce with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Hot Pepper (ClassicItal, p185). I've made this before on new year's eve. It's good. Then a salad. 

For our late-night munchies with had the baba ghanoush with carrots, cukes, and radishes, along with the stuffed mini pepper. Looked like a lot, but we ate all of the veggies; didn't quite finish the dip.

Sunday/1-Jan-16: Dinner was delicious. Rabbit Ragu with Pappardelle (Essential, p352). Made a full recipe and froze about half. Served over some wide tagliatelle, home-made!, but not wide enough to call it pappardelle. Then a salad. That was all

Progress on goals
This week: #1 BACKLOG: no; #2 VEG/FISH: 3
This month: #3 PASTA: no for December; yes for January; #4 BREAD: no; #5 FotW: yes for November/December

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas dinner 2016

Terrine de Saumon Fumé à Avocat Crème

Grilled Filet Mignon de Daim
Haricots Verts in Walnut Oil
Mushroom and Pea Orzo Risotto

ChantetBlanet St Emilion 2014

Raspberry Bûche de Noël

Not the cheeriest of holiday seasons, of course, but any excuse for a nice meal. Ed gathered green things from the neighborhood for the flower arrangement. (Look, he found holly berries. When I looked on Wednesday, I went to the bottom of our property and turned right. None to be found. He turned left, and there they were. Oh well.)


Smoked salmon is very much a French tradition for the holiday season. With nothing particular in mind, I found a package of two slices of smoked wild salmon. I lined two little dishes with the salmon, then made a filling of avocado, cream cheese, crème fraîche, dried dill (being too lazy to chop the stuff in the freezer), and frozen chives (potted chives being much past their prime). Chilled those overnight. Served with some avocado slices. Very tasty.


Originally I intended to do a Time-Life Italian dish for our main course, but at the marché de Noël last weekend, we found some filet mignon de daim (fallow deer). This corresponds to the filet mignon de porc (varkenshaas in Dutch, pork loin in English?). I marinated this for a couple of hours in my usual, easy meat marinade, and wrapped the pieces in bacon slices before cooking on a hot cast iron skillet after reading in Larousse that the filet mignon should be larded. Very tender and very tasty. Served with Haricots Verts in Walnut Oil (Lunch, p216), which I've made many times. And then there was, loosely, a half recipe of Mushroom and Pea Orzo Risotto (web), made with shiitakes rather than white button mushroom and chicken stock rather than vegetable broth. Also good.


For dessert there was Raspberry Bûche de Noël (web). This was very tasty, but not the easier jelly-roll sort of thing to make. There seemed to be not quite enough cake batter and it was quite fussy with the spreading. Tasty enough, but not pretty. The filling (fromage blanc and marscapone) was scrumptious. The whole thing was very good, if not very pretty.


Altogether a nice dinner.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cookbook Countdown: Riso al Limone & Broccoli alla Romana

This month and year, I'm finishing off my three-year project of reading and cooking from the Time-Life Foods of the World series. The last book is Time-Life Foods of the World: The Cooking of Italy. Several dishes are on the plan for the rest of this month.


Tonight I roasted a chicken. For sides, I made half recipes of Riso al Limone (p20) and Broccoli alla Romana (p35). Both of these were fairly easy, tasty, and likely to be made again.


For the Riso al Limone, you start by boiling arborio rice (or one of its relatives) in ample water. The book asks for six quarts of water for one cup of rice. When the rice is done, after about 15 minutes, drain it. Then melt butter in a flameproof casserole. (I used the same pan I cooked the rice in and served in a warmed bowl). Stir in the rice, then stir in beaten eggs that have been mixed with grated Parmesan and lemon juice. (The recipe asked three eggs for the whole recipe; I used one egg for my half recipe. It was plenty rich.) Cook this for several minutes, then serve while the rice is still creamy. Very nice.

This book asks for "imported Italian rice" for all the rice recipes. This is perfect for risottos and such, but I'm not really sure if it's needed for this dish. I'll try it with long-grain rice next time. It might even be good with brown rice.

The Broccoli all Romana was also very good. You start by infusing some olive oil with finely chopped garlic. Add broccoli florets and stir to coat till they're glistening. Add white wine, salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Cooking this uncovered for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Then cover and simmer for another 15 minutes until the broccoli is tender. Remove the broccoli to a bowl or platter. Boil down the liquid if there's too much, then pour it over the broccoli.

December at Cookbook Countdown means folks can cook from books they've used during the year, or start with a new one. Why don't you choose a cookbook from your shelf and join in?

Monday, December 19, 2016

This week in the kitchen

Monday/19-Dec-16: Christmas this week, feeling distinctly unholidayish. The situation in the US is sad beyond comprehension.

Dinner was a halfish recipe of Curried Cauliflower Soup (web). Distinctly boring, helped by a liberal application of sriracha. Glad I didn't make a whole recipe. Now I have a half of a cauliflower to do something with.

Tuesday/20-Dec-16: Finally getting onto the Time-Life Cooking of Italy book tonight. For the main, I very vaguely followed Ruhlman's Perfect Roasted Chicken (Twenty, p249). Instead of roasting it whole, I spatchcocked the bird, browned it skin-side down, then lined the cast iron pan with thick slices of onion and lemon, plopped the chickie skin-side up on those, and weighted it with another cast iron pan. Tasty birdie. There were Italian rice and broccoli for sides, both good.

Wednesday/21-Dec-16: Shopping today. Wanted chicken livers for our tweede kerstdag meal. None to be found. Leclerc's philosophy seems to be that you can have any two of livers, hearts, or gizzards. Today, livers were on the out. But there were lots of turkeys, those making frequent appearances at French xmas dinners.

We had a solstice dinner with friends tonight. We took the cheese platter. Nothing happened in the kitchen.

Thursday/22-Dec-16: Ed asked for a salad for dinner, so I made the one I'd planned for the night before xmas. That was Avocat au Magret Fumé (VPG), sort of. Basically a regular sort of salad with slices of magret and avocado. Good. Then we ate much of the cheese we brought home.

Yogurt on overnight.

Friday/23-Dec-16: Used the smashed potatoes leftover from last Sunday to make some Shepherd's Pie loosely based on Alton Brown's recipe (web) and using ground beef rather than ground lamb. Pretty good it was. Some mini magnums for after.

Saturday/24-Dec-16: Busy today, but little accomplished. I didn't get as much done for tomorrow's dinner as I meant to. Oh well. Discovered I'd neglected to get fromage blanc for the bûche, so made a dash to Spar for that. Made up some little smoked salmon terrine thingies, lined with salmon, filled with cream cheese, avocado, dill, and chives. Just recall that I meant to put a dab of crème fraîche in there, but that didn't happen. Also made up some English Muffin Bread (BigGerman, p15) in the bread machine. The machine had a hard time getting going, but got the job done in the end. Of course, I realized later that I meant to make the Authentic French Bread from the same book. Might do some of that tomorrow.

Used up the cauliflower to make Cauliflower, Red Lentil, and Potato Curry (web). Served over rice. It was ok, but nothing special.

Sunday/25-Dec-16: xxx

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

This week in the kitchen

Monday/12-Dec-16: Oops, neglected to notice that tonight's main course needed to marinate a while. So tonight's dinner was tomorrow's plan. That was Broccoli, White Bean, and Cheddar Soup, one that I got from EAT-L quite a while ago. For starters, I used some of my frozen artichoke bottoms, topped with a green tapenade and little goat cheese, under the grill. Good stuff. Then the soup, which was easy, a bit thick and good with a slog of hot sauce. Then some bits of tourteau fromagé that I got on sale last week. Rest of soup into the freezer.

Tuesday/13-Dec-16: Dinner was very tasty. The main was a halfish recipe of Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma (web), made with skinless, but not boneless, thighs. Cooked them atop thick slices of red onion, rather than quarters. Really tasty. Served with couscous, rehydrated in chicken stock and topped with the roasted onion slices. I made a salad very loosely based on Shalada Braniya (Moroccan Eggplant Salad) (web). I cut the eggplant into fingers, tossed with a tiny bit of oil and a Moroccan spice mix, then broiled. Unfortunately, I let the second side go a bit too long, so had to cut off some burnt bits. But it was tasty. No dessert for me, since I had lunch out today. A mini Magnum for Ed.

Wednesday/14-Dec-16: Rushed this morning to finish the meal plan and list, then shopping today.

Used the last of the Thanksgiving cranberries to make some Quick and Easy Cranberry Jam (web). We'll see how this tomorrow.

Dinner was Tamarind Fish (web). This was pretty good, although the tamarind taste was pretty muted. I wonder if it should be 1 tablespoon, rather than 1 teaspoon? Made a lot. As recommended, served with Bok Choy in Coconut Milk (web). What I had was chard rather than bok choy, but they're the same family and look rather alike, so I made do, bok choy not being often found at Leclerc. This was a really good taste combination. The two dishes together were more than we could eat. Store-bought desserts, chestnut pudding.

Yogurt on overnight.

Thursday/15-Dec-16: Dinner was Saag Chicken (web), which was good enough considering how easy it was. Served over rice. I finished the last of my Lime Pickle. Now I can get one out of the freezer to see if that helped soften the rind. Served over rice. For dessert, thee was Caramelized Cardamom Apples with Pistachio Cream (Q&E, p122). Good stuff.

Friday/16-Dec-16: Had a Groupon meal for lunch today. Indian it was. That makes three Indian dinners in a row. Good thing we Indian food.

Popcorn and a movie for dinner.

Saturday/17-Dec-16: Pizza after Ed's choir concert this evening. Nothing much happened in the kitchen today.

Sunday/18-Dec-16: Went to the Chassenon foire de noël today. Got a slice of a terrine of pigeanneau (squab, or baby pigeon) for a starter for our xmas dinner. Bought some filet mignons of daim (fallow deer), thinking about tweede kerstdag, but Ed wants that for xmas. Plan change. Actually, having a bit of a time getting inspired for cooking from the Time-Life Italian book, which I expected would be a really good one.

Lazy dinner. Beef slices in onion sauce from the freezer. Served with a whole lot of smashed potatoes, using up what was in the potato drawer, and some steamed broccoli.

Yogurt on overnight.
Progress on goals
This week: #1 BACKLOG: no; #2 VEG/FISH: 2
This month: #3 PASTA: no; #4 BREAD: no; #5 FotW: no for November/December

Monday, December 5, 2016

This week in the kitchen

Monday/5-Dec-16: Dinner was Pasta with Sardines (Everlasting, p185), which was easy and wasn't bad at all, considering I'm not overly fond of the strong taste of sardines. Then a salad. And we had mini magnums for dessert, Ed a classic, me a white.

Tuesday/6-Dec-16: Off to the vet this a.m. for Oscar's shots. Blood tests revealed failing kidneys (not unusual in 9yo). We have medicine and special food for him now.

For dinner, I turned the turkey chili sort of thing I made last week into a tamale pie, adding chopped black olive to the chili and using the cornmeal mush part from Tamale Pie (OldLaurel, p299). Served with a salad of avocado, tomato, shallot, lime juice, and cilantro. Pretty good, and especially good on the tamale pie. No dessert needed.

Wednesday/7-Dec-16: Shopping today, really late.

Dinner was Roasted Salmon with Thyme and Honey-Mustard Glaze (web). Pretty good even though I forgot and used plain Dijon mustard rather than "country Dijon", which I'm sure would have been better. The recipe calls for the fish to be cooked at 450F for 26 minutes? Twenty-six? That's more than twice too long. Yuck. Served with some boiled potatoes (rattes) and Pan-Grilled Zucchini (MJ@Home, p173), which I did under the broiler, with the rack in the lower position. Go the timing exactly right, not that I noted the time, but they were perfect. Some store-bought "rice cakes with caramel" for dessert. Yum.

Yogurt on overnight.

Thursday/8-Dec-16: Small chats with Sydney and Jody today. Leftover tamale pie for dinner, along with salad of avaocao, tomato, shallot, lime juice, cilantro, etc. No dessert needed.

Friday/9-Dec-16: Quick dinner tonight, but tasty: One Pot Parmesan Pasta (web). The pasta was kind of cooked risotto-style, with liquid being added by the ladleful along the way. A neat idea, but the cooking time for the pasta is way off; mine was ready about 12-13 minutes, where the recipe ask 18-20! Could add mushrooms, or other veggies to the mix. Served with a salad. A square of chocolate for after.

Saturday/10-Dec-16: We had our main meal early today, so we could go to a movie. We had Butternut Squash Tarte Tatin (web), which was pretty good, but I'm not sure what was gained by turning it upside down so the pastry was on the bottom when it was served. I've put the leftovers in pastry-side up. Then a big salad. I rolled out the extra pastry and lined a small tart dish. Then made a filling of a chopped up apple, some cinnamon and cardamon and a spoonful of brown sugar. Served with a dollop of crème fraîche. Not bad at all.

Sunday/11-Dec-16: Went to a couple of xmas markets today. Didn't buy anything. Lot of nice Stuff to buy, but we don't need any more Stuff. I'm trying to get rid of it!

Dinner was Pastasotto et Se Boulettes de Boeuf à la Moutarde Amora (VPG, web). Except this originally came from an Amora mustard ad, but I got it from VPG. Sh, don't tell, I used Maille Dijon instead of Amora. By sheer coincidence, this is the second pasta-cooked-in-a-risotto-fashion meal I've made this week. Pretty good, except that salt was nowhere an ingredient and it was needed. (I don't add salt to my chicken stock.) The meatballs were especially. Mustard, herbes de Provence, dried parsley flakes, one egg, and some chapelure (bread crumbs). (It was supposed to be two egg yolks, but I didn't want to deal with yet more extra whites, so I used a whole egg. Worked fine.)

Progress on goals
This week: #1 BACKLOG: no; #2 VEG/FISH: 4
This month: #3 PASTA: no; #4 BREAD: no; #5 FotW: no for November/December