Monday, September 24, 2012

This week in the kitchen

Monday/24-Sep-12: Another Monday with no bread in the house. Authentic French Bread in the ABM early. Yogurt on overday.

Are meal plans really good for anything? Most every week I make a plan for what we'll eat in the next week and use that to make the grocery list. I usually manage to follow the plan for a day or two or three, and then it falls to bits. We're eating leftovers or clean-the-fridge-ing or something that especially appeals that day or something that's a snap to make or ... anything but what's on the plan. And so, tonight, there was ravioli alla panna, using ravioli from the freezer (talk about a simple dinner) and a salad.

Tuesday/25-Sep-12: Nope, still haven't been out for bread. Buckwheat Bread (BigGerman, p38) in the ABM. My buckwheat flour is slightly out of date, but it smelled okay. And the bread is yummy.

Cold and wet today. Sounds like soup weather. Made Cauliflower and Bean Soup (with Fennel Seed & Parsley) (web). Used some garlic stock and some chicken stock from the freezer and didn't bother with the parsley. Good stuff, especially with a big slug of habañero sauce or sriracha, accompanied by Buckwheat Bread. Followed by crèmes brulées from the freezer.

Wednesday/26-Sep-12: Shopping today, not too much off piste. Dinner was a half recipe of Seared Salmon with Green Peppercorn Sauce (web); quite yummy, although the pan sauce was a bit too fat (butter, lemon juice, green peppercorns). Served with Haricots Verts in Walnut Oil (Lunch, p216), which is kind of becoming a household standard, and polenta. Then a salad, very simple with just some walnuts. Then some small slices of the hazelnut cake that was on sale last week, with some vanilla ice milk on the side. Good.

Thursday/27-Sep-12: Lunch out today with a friend from John Brown days, who was passing through on a whirlwind vacation through France and Spain. Only apples for dinner.

Friday/28-Sep-12: Dinner was Pork Tenderloin Diane (MC), an old favorite, during which the stove ran out of gas. So much for cooking over a hot flame; but the pork turned out quite well anyhow. Served with polenta and a carrot version of Broccoli Timbales (BEFCC, p58), which was very good. Double chocolate mini Magnums for after.

Saturday/29-Sep-12: Meant to make pasta (yet again) today, but was too tuckered after we unloaded the bits for the new woodshed. Luckily I'd figured this would be likely earlier in the day and defrosted some thighs for Chicken with Dates, Olives, and Cinnamon (CL/oct11, web). Made a third recipe with about half the spices. Served over couscous. Then a big salad. Not bad at-all.

Sunday/30-Sep-12: Yogurt on overday.

This was supposed to be the repeatedly postponed pasta night, but it didn't happen yet again. I made a half dose of Tagliatelle al Finocchio e Salmone (Tagliatelle with Fennel and Smoked Salmon) (Lorenza, p119), but served it over dried tagliatelle rather than fresh, which, no doubt, would have been better. Then a salad.

Meanwhile, I started on tomorrow night's company dinner, which started out to be one thing, but turned into an Indian dinner instead. Next week I'll be joining I Heart Cooking Clubs for six months of cooking with Madhur Jaffrey and this will be my first contribution. I have a bunch of Jaffrey's cookbooks, some of which are very well used.

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

Monday, September 17, 2012

This week in the kitchen

Monday/17-Sep-12: No bread in the house. Popped some Authentic French Bread in the ABM this morning when I got up.

Almost out of herb salt, so made a double dose of Herb Salt (Art, p172). Used maldon salt this time; wonder if we can tell the difference?

Froze up the Buttermilk Pineapple Sherbert. Tasty. Think I like this one better than Ed, unfortunately. 

Leftover Tamale Pie for dinner. And a salad. And some Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

Tuesday/18-Sep-12: Yogurt on overday. Shopping today. Found pineapple slices (big can) and chunks in juice—which seems to be a fairly new concept here.

For dinner, there was a half dose of Fish with Pineapple Chutney (MWLowFat, p292), making a dent in the leftover pineapple chunks. I blitzed the chutney with the staff mixer; it would have been better to use the food processor to keep more texture. Oh well. Side was a very loose version of Golden Basmati Rice (MWLowFat, p185), golden with turmeric and grated carrots. Ed suggested adding forgotten peas from Sunday's chicken salad, which was a good idea except that I threw them in at the beginning instead of letting them steam atop the rice at the end. They were kind of olive, rather than kelly, green in the end.

Wednesday/19-Sep-12: Dinner was a half dose of Warm Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese (VeryBest, p44). It was tasty enough, but not really successful, I think. Hard to serve it attractively, and I think it would have been better tepid, but then how do you melt the cheese?

Used up Barbara's mirabelles to make another clafoutis from the web. Good it was. Made a half recipe, thinking we'd have it for two nights, but we ended up eating it all.

Ed kept hearing drip drip drip in the kitchen. (Me not hear.) At lunch he couldn't locate it. At dinner, he found it—the little water heater that provides hot water for the kitchen and the Tardis is leaking badly. Guess it's rusted out as these things do. :-( Finished up the dinner dishes and turned off the water outside. That means no water in the toilet in our bedroom also.

Thursday/20-Sep-12: Ed went out looking for a new water heater this morning, found one, did some preparatory work, went off to choir practice, came home, and installed the new thing. It's bigger than the old one, which means we'll have more hot water, but we also lose space for (at least) four mugs. Meanwhile, I washed breakfast and lunch dishes in the bathroom sink.

To console ourselves, we went out to dinner. Also it was the 30-year anniversary of when we arrived in the Netherlands and ended up staying forever.

Friday/21-Sep-12: Pineapple Fried Rice (MC) tonight, with shrimp rather than scallops, which are prettier. Finished off the last of the pineapple chunks, Got everything ready while Ed was out, then assembled quickly. And forgot to add the fish sauce, soy sauce, and cashews at the end. Oh well, it was good, better than last time because I actually had trassi (shrimp paste) around. One day I'll get this recipe right.

Saturday/22-Sep-12: For dinner there was a more or less half recipe of Spicy South Indian Cauliflower (VeryBest, p131; cookbooker), wherein we learn that an average-sized European cauliflower is about 75% bigger than an American one. (Mine was 3.5# vs 1.5-2# specified.) Not bad. Served with rice. And an oh-so-healthy dessert, providing protein and veg, Carrot Pudding with Cardamom and Pistachios (Gajar ki Kheer) (Sahni1, p456; cookbooker).

Sunday/23-Sep-12: Dinner was a half dose of Spicy Tunisian Carrot Frittata (VeryBest, p244), This was quite nice, my most successful frittata to date, maybe because of the cast iron skillet. Served with a big salad. Then double chocolate mini Magnums for dessert.

Thunderstorms forecast (and happening) overnight, so all computers unplugged.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: yes, #2 BREAD: yes, #3 SOUP: no, #4 MIDDAY: no, #5 VEG/FISH: 6
This month: #6 PASTA: no (it's on the menu plan, but just doesn't get done)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Home Cooking

Home CookingHome Cooking
Laurie Colwin
Perenniel (1993)
ISBN 0060975229

Home Cooking has been one of my favorites in the food-lit genre since I first read it, oh, it must be at least ten years ago now. How disappointed I was to learn that Colwin died too young, twenty years ago this fall. I'd already been thinking it was about time to re-read this book , when along it came on Cook the Books. Just the excuse I needed! And it's still a lovely book, rather like chatting with a good friend over a cup of tea in your own kitchen.

One of my kitchen goals for this year was to bake bread once a week. (Albeit a bit of strange goal for one living in France!) To this end, Santa brought me Peter Reinhardt's The Bread Baker's Apprentice, which I started reading in January, but have let fall to the wayside. For one reason or another, just about the only bread I've made this year has been the ABM kind. Running into Colwin's simple bread recipe again, which I'd marked to try the first time I read the book, inspired me to get more serious about baking bread. I thought I try both her loaf and the no-knead bread recipe that a friend gave me.

One Simple Loaf

Colwin's One Simple Loaf (p39) is derived from Elizabeth David's A Bloomer Loaf (1) in English Bread and Yeast Cookery (p280). I looked this recipe up in David's book, because Colwin has you baking the loaf first at 450F for 30 minutes and then at 425F for 20 minutes. When I first read the recipe, I corrected the second temperature to 325F, since I couldn't imagine that lowering the temperature a whole 25 degrees would make that much difference; depending on how well insulated your oven is, the temperature might not even fall to the lower temperature in that short time. David has you turning the oven down to 400F-425F, the same or slightly lower. I expect you need to bake the loaf several times to discover what works best for you.

One Simple Loaf turned out to be exactly what it says it is, a simple loaf. I used (French) type 65 (bread flour) and type 150 (whole wheat flour). I didn't add wheat germ (it's not called for in David's version), since my stash in the fridge seems to have gone a bit rancid. After I mixed the dough, I let it sit for a few minutes while I was distracted by another chore. When I returned, kneading seemed a simpler matter than it looked like it might be directly after mixing. (This makes me wonder if a little rest between mixing and kneading might be a Good Thing.) Here's the dough after the first knead, getting ready for its first rise. Note that it's floured, rather than greased.

The nice thing about this bread is that it's very easy with timing. The rises can be long or short, at your convenience. My dough sat around while I did some chores. At one point I punched it down and kneaded for a while before letting it start its second rise. After two rises, it got kneaded again and formed into an oblong loaf (David suggests 10" by 5") to rest a bit before getting popped in the oven. This isn't what I'd call a baguette shape, although Colwin does.

This baked up into a lovely oblong loaf. We found the crust a bit tough, maybe because the temperature didn't come down all that far for the second part of the baking. Nevertheless this is a very tasty bread that I'll likely make again.

No-Knead Bread

The other bread I wanted to try was one I got from a baker friend. When I did a big of research, I discovered it was Jim Lahey's now famous No-Knead Bread that was first (I think) published in the NY Times in November 2006. The same recipes can be found in many places on the web, either as originally published or slightly modified.

Since the stirred-together ingredients (including type 65 flour) need to sit under wraps for at least 12 hours, I mixed up the dough before bedtime. The dough was supposed to be shaggy and sticky. Those weren't really adjectives I'd have used to describe it, goopy would be better, but I thought I'd give it a go, since I'd measured everything pretty carefully.

When I got to the kitchen the next morning, I was greeted by a bowlful of bubbly dough, a bit thinner than it ought to have been.

This was poured onto the counter, folded after a fashion, and rested for 20 minutes. At this point, the dough was to be have been shaped into a ball and placed onto a floured tea towel. Not very ball-like was mine, more like a thick puddle. Which then rose for another two hours. Toward the end of this time, the oven and a cast iron pot were pre-heated. Then the dough got plopped into the hot pot, covered, and bake.

At the end of baking, it looked like this, a very nice-smelling frisbee sort of thing, rather than the boule that it should have been.

Not what I expected, but a very more-ish loaf, kind of like a round ciabatta, the kind of tasty bread I could easily eat up all by myself.

I'm guessing that 1-5/8 cups of water was a bit too much for my flour and my way of measuring. I found versions of this recipe that call for 1-1/2 cups. I might start even a bit lower than that and add water until something like "shaggy and sticky" occurs.

Finally ...

Neither of these loaves are going to beat the easy of tossing the ingredients into the bread machine and having a loaf ready in two hours. But both of these are nicer breads than anything that comes out of an ABM. Colwin's loaf is good to start in to morning to be baked in the afternoon. It also has a good portion of whole wheat flour, so we can feel virtuous while enjoying it. Lahey's loaf is easy to assemble the night before when you need it by lunchtime. Both are keepers.

Thanks to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for hosting this season's Cook the Books reading/cooking adventure.

Monday, September 10, 2012

This week in the kitchen

Monday/10-Sep-12: A late start to the morning, a visit with neighbors on a Pogo walk, and the day just flew. It got too late to make what was on the plan, so I made, embroidered a little, Black Bean Salad Santa Fe (365Veg, p54).

Today I finished off the bread I started last night (and forgot to note). This was Jim Lahey's now famous No-Knead Bread. I had the recipe from my friend Sam, but it's also all over the web, starting at the NY Times in November 2006.

Tuesday/11-Sep-12: Shopped this afternoon. No broccoli to be found, but lots of romaine, big and little, that wasn't there last week.

Dinner was a half recipe of Lemon Sole with Chipotle & Ancho Chilli Recado (Jamie, jul11), with panga. It's to be served with a Chunky Avocado & Cherry Tomato Salad (Jamie, jul11). And I added some trio rice to complete the plate. All was good. and easy enough. Double chocolate mini Magnums for after.

Wednesday/12-Sep-12: Dinner was Tom's Brick Chicken (CastIron, p63), a super way to cook a spatchcocked chicken! Very tender and moist. Served with Clotilde Dusolier's Perfect Roast Potatoes and some grilled eggplant from Barbara's garden. Double chocolate mini Magnums for after. (We're getting boring here.)

Thursday/13-Sep-12: Yogurt on overday. Lunch with the Ladies That Lunch; carrot sticks for dinner.

Friday/14-Sep-12: For dinner, there was Tamale Pie (OldLaurel, p299; NewLaurel, p307). Used black beans (rather than pinto or kidney) and tarted it up a bit with some ground oregano and chipotle powder. Pretty tasty stuff, really, if not all that tamale-ish. Then a salad. Then some more of those double chocolate mini Magnums. The dessert chef is really not doing her work around here!

The mobile boulanger is on vacation for a couple of weeks. A mobile epicier (a grocery store on wheels) came around late this afternoon and the neighborhood was out buying bread. Nobody was clear when he would come again. It seems like he may only come only once a week, whereas the regular boulanger comes four times.

Saturday/15-Sep-12: Off to Limoges for a forgettable (Groupon) lunch. Nothing happening in the kitchen.

Sunday/16-Sep-12: Yogurt on overday.

Lots of work in the kitchen today. A bit of stale bread became Croutons (Art, p173). I used olive oil rather than butter. Into the freezer with those.

Cleaning pantry shelves turned up some cans of fruit that ought to be used. Pineapple first, then peaches. Skillet or Upside Down Cake (Joy, p607). The sugar didn't want to melt completely in the skillet, but that didn't matter much in the end. I opened a flat can of pineapple slices; they didn't cover the bottom of the skillet, so I opened another flat can. Oops, that was crushed pineapple. I forgot we found this last time we were in the Netherlands. So I filled the skillet with pineapple chunks from another expired can. This recipe uses lots of bowls (which seems odd for an upside down cake cooked in a skillet). Trying to shortcut this, I made rather a mess of the dough part, but it worked OK in the end. 

Then I used the end of my buttermilk, the opened crushed pineapple, and some of the chunks to make the broth for Pineapple Buttermilk Sherbert (MWLowFat, p394).

Dinner was, more or less, Curried Chicken Salad (Rosie, p34), using the remains of the brick chicken. No red cabbage shreds, which I expected, but I forgot to add the defrosted peas. Oh well. They'll turn up in something next week.

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

Monday, September 3, 2012

This week in the kitchen

Monday/3-Sep-12: Yogurt on overday.

Dinner was a half-dose of Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Lemon Cream Sauce (web), with spaghettini instead of angel hair and crème fraîche instead of cream. (My cream was seriously sour and there wasn't any at the shop last week.) Then a salad. Then a double-chocolate mini Magnum and a dog walk.

Tuesday/4-Sep-12: For lunch I made a quickie soup with half a small kip filet, leftover chicken stock, cabbage shreds, and some pasta. Not great, but not bad.

Dinner was a half-ish dose of Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon (web), using green olives, and good it was. Served with couscous (made too much) and Moroccan Cooked Carrot Salad (VeryBest, p39). For dessert there was Clafoutis aux Mirabelles (web), using up the mirabelles that a neighbor gave us. Unfortunately quite a few of these had gone bad, but there were enough for this recipe. Used crème fraîche again instead of proper cream.

Wednesday/5-Sep-12: Shopping today, mostly on piste. Indian dinner: Methi Machchi (Fish in a Fenugreek-Flavored Curry) (from the web, forgettable), Matar Pulao (Green Pea Pilaf) (Sahni3, p61), and Pan-Roasted Green Beans with Five Spices (Sahni3, p143). The sauce for the fish was quite bitter, maybe the fenugreek? I bought julienne (ling) for the fish since it was on sale and substantially cheaper than cod. Very bony. Will try to remember to avoid that in the future. The rice was OK, but nothing special. The beans were a variation on a potato recipe, not bad, but very similar to the Jaffrey recipe that I frequently use, and I think I prefer that one. Altogether a so-so main course. For dessert we finished off the clafoutis.

Thursday/6-Sep-12: Yogurt on overday. Some bananas getting a bit too ripe turned into Banana Bread (OldLaurel, p308). Mixed all in food processor, how lazy can you get? Recipe asked three bananas, I only had two, so I added an egg. A slightly off taste makes me suspect my wheat germ might be getting rancid in spite of its life in the fridge. Except for that, this is a lovely textured banana bread, in spite of having only whole wheat flour. Found a bunch of old favorites thumbing through this cookbook, might have to put some of them on the plan.

Dinner was, more or less, a half recipe of Southwestern Chicken Salad (VeryBest, p324), using the last of last Thanksgiving turkey, just a bit belatedly. I chopped the chipotle in adobo (unseeded) and added it to the dressing. The recipe calls for quite a lot of chicken broth used to thin the dressing, but I thought it was plenty thin without that. Can't think why it would be too thick: olive oil, buttermilk, lime juice, and white wine vinegar, what's to get thick? Mixed the dressing and meat, along with radishes, cilantro, and avocado, with 100g of mâche+roquette, rather than romaine, of which there was none at the shop. It all tasted good, especially eating outside.

Friday/7-Sep-12: Dinner was Warm Broccoli and Chickpea Salad (VeryBest, p42). Pretty good it was.

Saturday/8-Sep-12: Made some real bread today, For One Loaf (Colwin1, p49), which is a recipe she borrowed from Elizabeth David, A Bloomer Loaf (1) (DavidBread, p280).

Off plan, dinner from the freezer: Perciatelli with Cauliflower, Tomato, Sausage, and Pine Nuts, made in March, over gemelli. And a big salad.

Sunday/9-Sep-12: Yogurt on overday.

Off-plan again. Defrosted some poultry sausages and grilled those.  Made up a big salad with all the leftover bits in the fridge, coucous, broccoli and chickpeas, corn, zucchini, carrots, etc. Good stuff. That was dinner.

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