Monday, January 27, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/27-Jan-14: We went to a movie late this afternoon, then ate dinner in Angoulême. Not much happened in the kitchen today.

Tuesday/28-Jan-14: Went to bed last night thinking I was finally over the new year's crud. Woke up this morning feeling like s***. Sigh. Cancelled today's appointments (a drawing get-together and a candlewicking class).

Tonight's planned dinner was a bit more work than I felt like, so instead I made a half dose of Goat Cheese, Chive, and Chili Pepper Sauce (MarCuc, p167) for spaghetti. And a big salad. And some double chocolate mini Magnums for dessert. Now about ready for an early bedtime.

Wednesday/29-Jan-14: Yogurt on overday. Curious that since I started "cooking" my yogurt for shorter times, the starter is lasting longer. I don't think I've replaced it since last summer, and it's still fine. Doing 8 or 9 hours now, assuming the gadget stays on for the time I set it.

Skipped Pilates, but got myself together for shopping.

Dinner was a double dose of Black Pepper Salmon with Olives and Tomatoes (web). Pretty good, and very easy. Served with orzo and steamed broccoli. Split a magnum classic for after.

Thursday/30-Jan-14: For dinner, I made a full dose of Marsala Chicken Stew (web; cookbooker); we ate half and I froze the rest for another meal. It's funny that I actually collected this recipe twice from Eating Well and only discovered it when I went to enter the new copy into my spreadsheet. They resent recipe, as I notice they do sometimes. They suggested serving with whole-wheat noodles, so I bought some spaghetti, but then ended up using the mushroom-flavored chanterelle-like pasta I keep on hand. Simple and pretty tasty; might do with some veg, maybe peas. Two squares of chocolate and hazelnuts for afters.

Friday/31-Jan-14: Well, it's the last day of the month and I meant to sneak some home-made pasta in here, but lost track of time this afternoon, so ended up with dried tagliatelle instead. Too bad. Dinner was Ruth's Chris New Orleans-Style BBQ Shrimp (not sure where I collected this, but found the same recipe here). This is really easy and tasty. I sort of made a half recipe, half the shrimp and half the worcestershire sauce, just a dab of the butter (which really helped to bring the sauce together), but all of the rest of the spices. Then a big salad. Then two more squares of chocolate and hazelnuts.

On Facebook a month of so ago, there went around a post about naming the top ten books that have affected your life. I never answered this, but have thought about it a bit. As a child, I loved and read several times the Burgess Bird Book for Children and the Burgess Animal Book for Children, both with illustrations by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, whom I would have thought was dead long before these books were first published (1919 and 1920 respectively). I have no idea who gave these to me or when. I've written my name in very young cursive on the flyleaf. On the list of illustrations I checked off most of the birds; I'm not sure if they were ones I'd seen or ones I wanted to see. Hard to believe I hadn't seen an English sparrow, but also hard to believe I didn't want to see a bald eagle. I've started reading the bird book again. Charming children's stories of birds. Now I see you're actually being given lots of information about the lives of these common birds, nesting, feeding,  habitat, migration, identification, etc.

Saturday/1-Feb-14: Yogurt on overday.

We ate out tonight we the Trois Coins group plus spouses. A nice time, but nothing happened in the kitchen.

Sunday/2-Feb-14: Another Time-Life meal, this time rösti from Switzerland (TLQuint, p95). I made a halfish recipe (a short 2# of potatoes probably), which fit nicely in my smaller cast iron skillet. Added the layer of sautéed onions as suggested in the note. If you prepared the potatoes (parboiling, peeling, chilling) the night before, this would be a pretty good weeknight meal. The poached egg was my addition, but went quite well. We split a classic magnum for dessert.

For my Time-Life project, this month we start with Spain & Portugal, and we have two more weeks to cook from TLQuint. I have a few dishes scheduled for this week from TLQuint. I still need to read the Tunisia/Morocco section and I'm sure I'll come up with some things there to cook soon.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: yes, #2 VEG/FISH: 4
This month: #3 PASTA: no for Jan/no for Feb, #4 FotW: yes for Jan/no for Feb, #5 BREAD: 0 for Jan/0 for Feb

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Quintet of Cuisines: Erwtensoep

This year I'm starting a big kitchen project, to read and cook through the Time-Life Foods of the World series. This set of books, published in late 60s into the early 70s, covers most of the world's major cuisines. For each cuisine covered, there's a hardback book, written by a well-known foodie of the time, plus a spiral-bound recipe book. The series is a bit skewed toward (North) American cooking with eight of the 28 books covering different varieties of American cooking, but it is fairly representative of the expanding American view of food at the time.

I bought the series as it was published and have been toting the set of books around for close to 40 years now and, while I've dipped into a few occasionally, I haven't seriously looked at most of them. So my plan is that starting each month I'll have six weeks to read and cook from one of the books. This isn't a julie and Julia thing where I'm cooking every recipe; I just want to read each book and then make a meal or several recipes from it.

Clearly this is a project that will take some time to complete. To make it more fun, I started a little group on Facebook for people to cook along. If you'd like to join in, go here.

The first book I'm cooking from is A Quintet of Cuisines. This covers the food of Switzerland, the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, and North Africa (Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco). How's that for a mix? Of course, none of these cuisines are adequately covered; there's just a (very) quick dip into the possibilities.

In December, Ed requested that I make some erwtensoep (the Dutch split pea soup) before too long, so that is my first effort from this book. When I turned to the recipe, I was surprised to see that some time in the past, I had marked the recipe for cutting down by half. No indication that I actually made it, but I've made erwtensoep fairly frequently (it's kind of a a once-a-year thing), so I might have used this recipe at some point.

The soup starts off by boiling green split peas with pig's feet and salt pork for three hours. There were no pig's feet at the shop (I saw them a month ago, but not in the last two weeks) and salt pork I don't know in France, so I used a chunk poitrine fumé, which translates as smoked breast of pork. It looks like a chunk of (American) bacon. I don't suppose the exact cut of meat actually matters too much here, as long as it a part of a pig that wants to be simmered for a long while. (Now that I think of it, I don't recall ever seeing pig's feet in the Netherlands, not in the meat case, or at the butcher's, or in a jar. But maybe it's something I just ignored.) I had a bit of home-made chicken stock left from something else at one point and threw that in too.) Here we are a-simmering. 

When the long simmering is done, you add chopped up veggies, potatoes, leeks, celeriac, and celery leaves and simmer another 30 minutes. My celeriac, cut into 1/4" dice, was still not done at the end of this time. I think it would be better to add this first for 30 minutes, then add the rest of the veg for another 30 minutes.

Now you take out the meat (pig's feet and salt pork, or in my case the chunk of poitrine), remove any skin, gristle, and bones, then chop up the meat and add back to the soup with sliced sausage, summer savory, and black pepper. In this recipe, kielbasa is the recommended sausage, I'm thinking because they gave a recipe for this in the Polish section. In my experience, this is usually a (Dutch) smoked sausage, which for me is a good enough reason to make this soup. A couple of months ago there were some French smoked sausages on sale and we bought three links. One was plenty for my half recipe, but I'm not sure you can have too much sausage. (My French sausage was a bit coarser inside than a rookworst, but still worked quite well.) Simmer this all for a bit and serve.

Well, Ed said, it tastes like the real thing. And it did! I only missed the roggebrood met katenspek to go with it.

I made half of a recipe that says it serves 8-10. We'll have 3-4 servings from that. (One of us ate a huge second bowl; it wasn't me. :-)

Monday, January 20, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/20-Jan-14: Kind of a nothing day today, but a nice dinner. I made Creamy Broccoli Dal (web), definitely a keeper. Easy to assemble, stuff I usually have in-house, yum.

Tuesday/21-Jan-14: Lunch out with the DORSOB group today. Dinner was fresh popcorn, apple chunks, and cherry tomatoes followed by ironing, all in front of the TV.

Wednesday/22-Jan-14: Shopping day today. The almost-out-of-date bin hasn't returned since the holiday sales. Too bad. There were fêves from Spain today ... January! ... they should be here till early summer.

Dinner was Grilled Masala Salmon (MJ@Home, p46), accompanied by Karhai Broccoli (MJ@Home, p148), which I've made before and liked, and Basmati Rice with Lentils (MJ@Home, p212), which was ok, but nothing special. Nice tastes afterwards.

Thursday/23-Jan-14: Ate the rest of the Chile Relleno Casserole tonight, along with another made-up salad of tomatoes, avocado, cilantro and other stuff. Then off to line dancing.

Friday/24-Jan-14: Started soup too late in the day for tonight's dinner; hadn't registered how long it took to cook.

Tonight we had Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Capers (BH&G; web; cookbooker). This is almost a vegetarian dish, except that the cauliflower sauce is cooked in chicken stock. (Reminding me of Ken Hom's Asian Vegetarian Feast which uses chicken stock in many dishes. Necessary for the taste he says. But then he should have retitled the book.) Then a salad. Then two of the delicious truffle bonbons that we'll probably finish off tomorrow.

Saturday/25-Jan-14: My first meal for the Foods of the World project, erwtensoep (TLQuint, p20).

Sunday/26-Jan-14: Yogurt on overday.

Forgot the half chicken I roasted last Sunday, and set outside so I could pick it on Monday. Since the weather has been fairly warm, I think that's a write-off. Silly, wasteful me.

Made Jamie Oliver's Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb (web) for dinner, and good it was. We started with Ratko's Zucchini-Mushroom Soup (MC), not really Ratko's recipe, but one that he got in an Italian cooking course. Then the scrumptious lamb accompanied by roasted potatoes and cauliflower. Finished (!) a bottle of wine that Ed got for repairing a church organ. We were happily sated.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: not really, #2 VEG/FISH: 3
This month: #3 PASTA: no, #4 FotW: yes, #5 BREAD: no

Monday, January 13, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/13-Jan-14: A busy day out and about today. Bought some lamps that may be our over-the-sink lamps, although not 100% sure yet. Not what we had in mind, but maybe they work. Visited Géant to get some pasta, not very successful in that area. Looks like they're cutting back selection. They used to have a huge produce section, with lots of "exotic" things and a large selection of lettuces and herbs and such with misters to keep them cool and moist. That's all gone. Produce selection down to ordinary, Too bad.

Dinner was Broccoli Mac and Cheese (web; cookbooker). Good stuff it was too. Except it was meant as a side dish, since two of us easily ate what should have been for four. A funny Cooking Light job; they want you to use low-fat cheese (yuck), then add bacon and butter. Huh?

Tuesday/14-Jan-14: Yogurt on overday. Turned off somewhat before the time set.

Having some brussels sprouts left, I found a recipe for Tortellini met Spruitjes (Allerhande, web) and manipulated it to suit what needed to be used up, mostly the magret séché I bought at a marché de noël and some mushroom ravioli from the freezer. Pretty good it was, although Ed thought the duck was too dry (well, yes). Then a big salad. Finished off with mini magnums.

Wednesday/15-Jan-14: Shopping today.

Dinner was Hoisin-Glazed Salmon Burgers with Pickled Cucumber (CL jun/12; web). Did this without the burger bits, just served all (two patties) per person; Ed wanted more. Very good. Bet it would work fine with canned salmon too, so you didn't have to chop up salmon fillet. Served with Mama's Garlic Coleslaw (Handybook, MC).

Thursday/16-Jan-14: Lunch out today, prior to going to a concert in Limoges this evening. Not much happened in the kitchen today.

Friday/17-Jan-14: Crockpot dinner tonight, Chipotle Lentil Soup (SWCrock*, p24), which filled my old crockpot very full. The lentils didn't quite get done, so I simmered it for a bit on the stove. Have lots left, some for lunch and more in the freezer for another dinner. Made Cayenne Cornbread (BigGerman, p182) as a go-with, and ate most of it.

Saturday/18-Jan-14: Yogurt on overday. Timer definitely flakey.

Lamps over the sink installed. Much brighter now. Not 100% sure about them yet.

Didn't feel like roasting the chicken I've got thawed; instead made Chiles Rellenos Casserole (CL90, p147). Used a big can of poblanos and a 250g package of mozzarella; add a teaspoon of chile powder to the batter. Pretty good for fairly easy. Made a salad of tomatoes, avocado, shallot and other stuff. We split a Magnum classic for dessert.

Sunday/19-Jan-14: Dinner was Spiced-Rubbed Lemon Chicken (web); it was pretty good. I used 1 teaspoon for peppercorns (instead of 1/4) and spatchcocked the chickie so it would cook faster. Put in the pan on top of some chunked potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. These weren't done when the chicken was, so I cooked them in a pot while the chickie rested. For a salad, I roasted the rest of the brussels sprouts and tossed with a lemon vinaigrette and some shredded lemon peel. All very good.

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

Monday, January 6, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/6-Jan-14: Leftover night tonight, the asparagus quiche and a salad. We split a banana for dessert. Exciting eating, eh?

Tuesday/7-Jan-14: Yogurt on overday. Set the timer for nine hours; it turned off after eight. Seemed to be done, so I put it up. Last time it didn't turn off after nine hours. Replace or not to replace, that is the question.

Dinner was supposed to be Yolanda's Famous Chicken from a magazine clipping but I've lost the clipping since yesterday. I'd only intended to use the flavors, rather than follow the recipe but couldn't. Oh well. I flattened some kip filets, dredged them in flour and spices and sautéed them in grapeseed oil. Then made a little pan sauce with chicken stock and crushed green peppercorns and a bit of dijon mustard. For as side there was some garlicky sautéed/steamed shiitakes and broccoli; and some mushroom pasta. For dessert we had half of the three kings' cake we bought this afternoon, but didn't find the fêve.

Wednesday/8-Jan-14: Shopping today. Parking lot was empty but the lines were long long long. The post-holiday sales were pretty weak. In fact there were lots of sales on holiday food (chocolates, pâtés, etc.) before the days, which I think is a sign of a bad economy. Oh well.

Dinner was Seared Salmon with Green Peppercorn Sauce (web), ok but surprisingly boring. Served with some steam/sautéed veggies (potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic) and some Baked Eggplant Slices (TooMany, p114), done under the broiler. Then we finished the three king's cake. Found the fêve on the cut; it wasn't a very interesting one, one to recycle. A miniature copy of a movie poster for The Ten Commandments with a dopey question and the answer on the bottom. Very full, I am.

Thursday/9-Jan-14: Dinner was a half dose of Quinoa with Cabbage and Green Beans (web). Edible, but nothing special. Very bland, which is fairly typical of Nava Atlas recipes; even when she adds something zingy, the quantity is very tiny. We dosed it up with various hot sauces (chipotle tabasco was the winner), but now I wonder if some curry powder earlier on might have been nice. Then a big salad. Then two little Lindt chocolates.

Friday/10-Jan-14: Dinner was Roasted Chicken Thighs with Brussels Sprouts (CL/dec13, web). I made a half recipe with five thighs (used up the stash in the freezer) which weighed half of what the four asked by the recipe did. We must have tiny birds here. I put the brussels sprouts in with the thighs to roast rather than sautéing them. Serve with some trio rice. We split a classic magnum for dessert.

Saturday/11-Jan-14: Yogurt on overday. And it turned off at the right time. Nothing like consistency.

Spent the afternoon in the kitchen getting tomorrow's dinner started. Then made a half recipe of Skillet Kale Pizza (web) for dinner. Used a store-bought pizza crust which wasn't too bad. The package said to put the crust on its paper onto your pizza stone. The recipe said to put your crust into the skillet for cooking. The package was right in this case. But it was still good.

Sunday/12-Jan-14: Dinner was Slow-Cooked Adovada with Hominy (Artichoke, p185), cooked in the slow cooker rather than in the oven. Pretty good it was. Made some tortillas and some guacamole to go along.

Progress on goals
This week: #1 COOKBOOKS: yes, #2 VEG/FISH: 4
This month: #3 PASTA: no, #4 FotW: no, #5 BREAD: none

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Kitchen goals old and new

Kitchen goals for 2013

This was the year when the hardest of the kitchen renovation happened, so the kitchen was a bit of a mess during that time and cooking focused on getting food on the table rather than doing anything interesting. So how did I do?
  • IHCC/Cookbooks — During the year, IHCC moved from Madhur Jaffrey on to Ottolenghi and now to Donna Hay. Ottolenghi was pretty good. I don't know Donna Hay at all and have been a bit bored with writing posts like that every week, so I'm not participating this time around. I've also participated a bit in Cook Your Books, but not very consistently. I've done fairly well with this goal, 41 of 52 weeks, not great, not bad.
  • Veg/Fish — We averaged about 3.5 vegetarian or fish meals each week. 
  • Pasta — Missed two months this year and still haven't made a filled pasta. But I did made spinach pasta for the first time.
  • Bread — Got a book, got some gear, but still not doing well with this one. I managed to make bread only 6 of 12 months. Sigh.
Overall, not as bad as I thought I'd done. Getting going with baking bread is really a problem area.

Kitchen goals for 2014

Again, and every year it's a good idea to consider this, do I want to continue the game with goals? It does seem to keep me focused a bit, so I'll blunder on. The trick will be to not overreach.
  • Focusing on unused cookbooks is nice. I might find a new cooking friend, or I might find a book I can pass on (making more room for other books). 
  • If IHCC were to come up with a new challenge, someone I really want to cook with, then I might participate. That would start in April or October. (Nigel Slater is the only chef I think I'd do this for.)
  • I want to start cooking my way through the Time-Life Foods of the World series.  I thought this would be a fun thing to do with a group; to this end I've started a little Facebook group for interested people. There are about 20 people signed up right now, but I'd be surprised if there were more than ten who will be active. We'll have overlapping six week periods, starting on the first of each month, to read a book and cook a meal. I've already started reading the first book. This is a project that will stretch out well over two years. 
  • I want to continue counting the veg/fish meals, because it's nice to be sure I'm still on track with meal planning.
  • I want to continue with the monthly pasta making, just counting it off makes it more certain this doesn't fall to the wayside. And, yes, I'll aim yet again for making a filled pasta. 
  • I've enrolled in Peter Reinhardt's bread baking course at Craftsy. I will follow that, and hope that will be an inspiration to continue with baking. I'll still aim for baking once a month, but I think it might be an idea to count how many times per month I bake bread, just on the off chance that I might bake several times. 
  • We eat the most repetitive lunches in the world, ham sandwich anyone? Could I make a goal to have something else for lunch at least once a week?
  • Another thing I need to do is to clear out my stash of recipes to make. There are two big binders and stacks all over the house. This really needs to be reduced. Hard to think of a measure for this.
These are too many goals, so I need to narrow down a bit.
  • Unused and little used cookbooks, yes, posting for Cook Your Books if I feel like it. If IHCC should come up with a can't-refuse chef, that will take over this place.
  • Foods of the World, already underway.
  • Counting veg/fish meal. Just a count, not much action
  • Pasta once a month, and filled pasta. 
  • Bread. Think I'll give this another year and give it up next year, if I don't make some kind of improvement here.
  • Lunches? Maybe next year.
  • Stack clearing? How to measure. Maybe next year.
So, we're left with five goals, one more than last year. Will give this a try.