Monday, April 28, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/28-Apr-14: Clear on the fridge night. Roasted some asparagus, broccoli, and tomatoes and served them over the re-warmed spoon bread with a sauce of garlicky-lemony goat cheese. Pretty good it all was. The spoon bread reheated surprisiningly well

Tuesday/29-Apr-14: Shopping today.

Dinner was Fried Fish in the Moroccan Style (30MinCook, p120) with lieu noir, which is saithe or pollack, depending where you look. Tasty way to do fish, if a bit too fried for me. For sides there were half doses of Tunisian Potato Salad with Cumin (MedLight, p117) and Spicy Carrot Salad (MedLight, p114). A nice dinner.

Wednesday/30-Apr-14: Made some Oven-Dried Tomatoes (MC HandyBook). Wonder why I bought only 7 tomatoes instead of 8 to fill the tray?

Just under the wire, we had fresh pasta tonight, tagliatelle with Broccoli in "Hot" Pink Tomato Sauce with Basil (PeV, p63). Good it was. Making pasta isn't all that hard, it's the clean-up that's so boring. Flour all over the pasta maker, the counter, and the floor. (Pogo took care of the floor. Raw flour?) Served with a simple salad of the end of a sack of roquette, the end of a head of lettuce, and a few leaves off the new head of lettuce.

Yogurt on overnight. Tomatoes on a plate in the big freezer to freeze individually.

Thursday/1-May-14: Leftover Tandoori Turkey Roll from the freezer tonight, along with Green Beans with Mushrooms (Q&E, p86) and Turmeric Rice (Q&E, p100). Both of these I've made many times, although this is may be the first time with I've included the tomato (seeded) in the green beans; it's actually fine without this. We split a classic magnum for dessert.

Friday/2-May-14: Worked late on our French taxes this afternoon, so had to jiggle the schedule a bit. Ended up making tomorrow's planned dinner tonight, one for IHCC. Served the potatoes with a big salad. Nothing else needed.

Saturday/3-May-14: Dinner was a halfish recipe of Coconut Pecan Crusted Chicken served with Sweet and Spicy Apricot Sauce (web). Now, I couldn't find the sweet chili sauce from Thai Kitchen, of course, so I substituted sriracha mixed with a bit of confit de piment d'Esplette that I found hiding in the back of a cupboard waiting to be used (piment d'Esplette being a Basque chili with just a tickle of hot). I thought it was pretty good; Ed thought it was so-so. But, I like apricot and he doesn't, so that could be the difference. Served with coconut rice and some steamed broccoli topped with a dab of sesame oil, sesame seed, and garlic.

Sunday/4-May-14: Yogurt on overday. Today's major deal was defrosting the fridge. Why do I dislike this job so much?

Better weather tomorrow, so I postponed a bbq dinner. Instead I sautéed a pair of duck breast scallops, served with polenta and a little pan sauce of chicken stock (which is brewing on the stove) and balsamic vinegar. Then a big salad. Then some defrosted mixed berries over ice cream. That's all folks.

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

Saturday, April 26, 2014

American Cooking: Broiled Squab with Lemon-Soy Butter and Spoon Bread

This book provides a summary of what American cooking looked like, at least in restaurants and for important family meals, in the late 60s and early 70s. There are some things that I recognize here, but others that I find hard-pressed to place as American, for example, the Broiled Squab with Lemon-Soy Butter (p55) that I made for tonight's dinner. Soy sauce would be starting to be used for general cooking along about this time, having been adopted from Chinese restaurants, but squab?

A squab, for those of us who can't get further than "it's a small bird" is an unfledged pigeon (i.e., it hasn't yet flown from the nest). This translated to pigeonneau in my French food dictionary. When I asked at the butcher's counter for deux pigeonneaux s'il vous plaît, he gave me two pigeony bird, but judging by the weight—my two birds were about a pound each—I'd guess these were adult birds rather than babies. And, surprise, they came complete with heart and liver and other "scary bits," as my friend Hennie calls them. (It's not normal to get innards with your birds here.) I removed these, spatchcocked the birdies, flattened them, salted and peppered, dipped them in the butter, soy sauce, and lemon juice mixture, then broiled them, basting when they got turned. They took more than the advertised 6 minutes per side to cook, but I expect that was because of the extra size.

The author recommends serving the birds with Spoon Bread (p89). Now, spoon bread really is an American tradition, southern, I think, but I've never had it or made it before. After dinner, I looked at other spoon bread recipes and found that most included either baking powder or soda (if buttermilk was called for) to raise the bread. This recipe depends only on the egg white for lift, making it really a kind of soufflé. But it's very good and was especially good for sopping up all the juices.

The lemon-soy butter was a very good basting sauce. I might use this on a plain old chicken one day. The pigeons were good, with lovely dark meat rather like duck but not so gamey in taste. A a bit pricey for everyday eating, though.

We both enjoyed the spoon bread. Part of the leftovers with get toasted for breakfast, I expect, and the rest used for some kind of soup or stew at lunch, whatever the freezer has to offer. (The pigeon bones went in the freezer sack with chicken bones and will get used for the next batch of stock that I make.)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

IHCC: What's in Your Picnic Basket?

Last week we were eating dinners al fresco. This week we're inside with the heating on again. But we can have a pretend picnic.

A couple of years ago, Santa brought me The Kitchen Diaries and I read Slater's diary throughout the next year, more or less on the same dates. The book ended up with a lot of stickies, and I've been very happy with most of the dishes I've made here.

(Dear Santa, if the paperback edition of Kitchen Diaries II is out this year, I'd really like to find one under the tree. Please.)

An especially nice feature of Slater's books is that he includes lots of recipes for leftovers. One of my do-me-soon stickies in this book was Chicken and Rice Salad (p187). This salad uses the remains of a  roast chicken. (Mine came from the freezer. We often eat half the chicken after roasting, then I pick the meat and freeze that and the carcass—separately, of course.) Fish sauce and sprouts make this salad only vaguely southeast Asian; there's nothing here that would offend non-adventurous eaters.

My grocery here in France rarely carries any kind of sprouts (in contrast to the Netherlands where these were regularly available) and I've been out of the sprouting business for years (although I admit I to thinking sometimes that it might be a good idea to start this up again). There have been sprouts to be had for the last few weeks, so I thought I'd give this recipe a try. But there were no sprouts to be found this week. On the other hand, they did have mangetouts, snow peas, and I thought those would be a good substitute for crunch and flavor.

The base of the salad is rice, sprouts (or snow peas as I made it), and leftover roast chicken. (The 200g of uncooked rice asked could be considered a bit on the much side; a bit less would be fine. Orzo might be a good substitution.) For extra flavor there's some minced red chilies and chopped mint. The dressing is nam pla (fish sauce), lime juice, and olive oil. Toss everything together and serve. It's that easy.

And very easy to eat also. This salad would be great at a picnic or a potluck or on a buffet table, since there's nothing here that would go off.

Visit this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what other folks have been cooking up for their picnics.

Monday, April 21, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/21-Apr-14: Dinner was Sticky Soy-Hoisin Chicken Thighs (web; cookbooker) which was pretty good. Used five thighs and all the the sauce for the two of us; there was plenty of sauce, but not a superabundance. Served with coconut rice and some yellow green beans from the freezer, cooked in sesame oil and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and amchoor at the end. For dessert, I used up a tub of ricotta that I defrosted for something that didn't get done and made my version of Coffee Ricotta Mousse (MW@Home, p307).

Tuesday/22-Apr-14: Shopping today. Bought some organic lemons to make preserved lemons. Picked up a pair of coquelets then asked at the butcher's counter if they had pigeonneaux. Yes they did, so I bought two and froze the coquelets. Them-thar pigeons were expensive! Stay tuned.

Dinner was Spiced Fried Fish (30MinCook, p120) made with swordfish, which was on sale today. Fish strips tossed with lime, spices, and besan, then deep fried. Yum. Served with Carrots with Mustard Seeds (30MinCook, p47) and Pan-Fried Potatoes with Browned Onions and Garam Masala (RealCook, p244). For dessert we had fresh strawberries with Old-Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream (TLAmer, p106). Forgot to take a picture till it was too late.

Wednesday/23-Apr-14: A lovely lunch out today, courtesy of Groupon. We didn't need to eat anything for the rest of the day.

Thursday/24-Apr-14: Yogurt on overday. Another IHCC dinner tonight, with Chicken and Rice Salad (Diaries, p187; cookbooker). We finished off the ice cream when I got back from line dancing.

Friday/25-Apr-14: The day got late, so what was on the plan (and defrosted) will move to tomorrow. Instead there were Zucchini Bread Pancakes (web). Good there were. I made a whole recipe, expecting leftovers to freeze, but we ate it all. A bit much, but oh so good.

Saturday/26-Apr-14: Made up some Preserved Lemons (Couscous, p31) which now need to get shaken daily for 30 days before using.

American food from TLAmer tonight. Served the squab and spoon bread with Grilled Asparagus (30MinCook, p31) and Cold Beetroot with Cream (Pomiane, p180). We were full. No dessert.

Sunday/27-Apr-14: Intended to make pasta today, but it looks like Ed finally managed to share his cold-crud with me, and I'm feeling like s***. So I made the sauce to go with the strangely named Whole Wheat Spaghetti (XSpecCP, p99). This isn't a crockpot dish (except to keep it warm) and all you do is cook some store-bought whole wheat spaghetti, but there's a nice sauce of sautéed leeks, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, olive, lemon zest, and lemon juice. I made a little salad of rocket and a chopped up beet and the rest of the dressing from Pomiane's beet dish. Split a Magnum classic for afters. Hoping to feel better tomorrow.

Yogurt on overnight.

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

Sunday, April 20, 2014

IHCC: April Potluck

This week has been full of Nigel Slater dishes, a potluck spread over several days, thanks to The 30-Minute Cook. This is my newest Slater cookbook and looks like it will be a favorite.

Tuesday was shopping day, which means fish for dinner. Herbed Salmon with Garlic Cream Sauce (p118) was this week's choice. Strips of salmon are rolled in chopped herbs (a mix of tarragon, chervil, dill, parsley, whatever you have) and sautéed in garlic butter. When this fish is done, crème fraîche or some other creamy thing is stirred in to make the sauce. Then a squeeze of lemon to brighten it all.

Could hardly be easier to make and very good to eat. I served the fish with roasted asparagus, the first from our garden, and orzo.

Then I addressed the on-going project of reducing the freezer backlog. This book has a great section on lamb, including things to do with cooked lamb. 

First there was Lamb Hash (p179). You need cooked lamb, shredded, and cooked potatoes, chopped. Fry an onion in drippings or butter, stir in a spoonful of flour, then add the lamb and potatoes with lots of salt and pepper. Pour some stock over it all, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or so. Stir and simmer a bit more. It's ready to eat when most of the liquid is gone. Ed asked what it was flavored with — nothing but salt and pepper. But good it was.

For the rest of the lamb, there was Lamb in Spiced Gravy (p179 again), a sort of Indian curry-ish dish. There's much more lamb in this than in the hash (350g vs 225g) which actually seemed like too much as i was serving, but nobody complained about the quantity. This again starts with frying an onion in butter; I used grapeseed oil instead to make it a bit lighter on the animal fat. Then add lots of garlic, cayenne, ground coriander, tomatoes (I used puréed tomatoes from last fall's harvest), and stock for a 10-minute simmer. Stir in some sour cream (crème fraîche again) and garam masala, then lay the sliced meat in the sauce to simmer longer.

I served this over basmati rice along with Green beans with Ginger from Madhur Jaffrey's An Invitation to Indian Cooking (p151), which could also be part of the potluck. 

Visit this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what other folks have made for this month's potluck.

Monday, April 14, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/14-Apr-14: Yogurt on overday with the lids on.

Dinner was a half dose of Emeril's Rigatoni with Broccoli and Sausage (web), using the last of my homemade Italian sausage from the freezer. And a big salad. That was all.

Yogurt didn't seem to be done after 11 hours, or maybe it was my imagination. Added two more hours then popped it in the fridge when done.

Tuesday/15-Apr-14: Yogurt was fine this morning. Yogurt with the lids on doesn't seem to have the skin on top that it does without the lids.

Shopping today. Bought strawberries and rhubarb off piste. Made Rhubarb Crumble (MC); it's good.

Dinner for Nigel Slater tonight, Herbed Salmon with Garlic Cream Sauce (p118, 30MinCook). Served with roasted asparagus (our first, and maybe last, harvest) and orzo. I went down to cut some asparagus only to find that Ed had been there first. He had over-enthusiastically cut every last spear, thick and thin, tall and short. Poor plant roots now have no way to gather energy for the rest of the season and the winter. With luck there are some spears just below the surface that he missed. Otherwise, this may be the beginning and end of our asparagus patch. We planted 20 and 18 took. How many will return?

Wednesday/16-Apr-14: Dinner was half of an Ottolenghi recipe of Gigli with Chickpeas and Za'atar (web). Good it was too. Not quite a vegetarian dish with anchovies and chicken stock, but close enough for our house. Then a salad. Then more of the yummy rhubarb cobbler. Since this is Potluck week, this could have been an IHCC dinner also, but I didn't think to take a picture.

Thursday/17-Apr-14: Nigel Slater again tonight with Lamb Hash (30MinCook, p179) using lamb from the freezer. Served with steamed broccoli dressed with olive oil, pepper flakes, and garlic slivers. I was too full for dessert; Ed ate the odd mini Magnum we have left from company.

Friday/18-Apr-14: Pizza night tonight. Grilled eggplant, zucchini, and broccoli, some chopped artichoke bottoms from a can, some chopped olives, mozzarella, and goat cheese. I'm thinking my non-tomato pizza sauce may actually be better than the tomato kind. We split a classic magnum for dessert.

Saturday/19-Apr-14: There's one fat asparagus coming up right now. Doesn't look too good for the asparagus patch.

Nigel Slater yet again, using up the cooked lamb from the freezer. Lamb in Spiced Gravy (30MinCook, p179). Served with Green Beans with Ginger (MJInvite, p151) and plain basmati rice. For afters we split a cornuelle I bought at the boulanger this afternoon.

Sunday/20-Apr-14: Yogurt on overday.

For lunch, using odds and ends from the fridge, I made pizza sort of things on halved pitas, with pyramid goat cheese, the remaining grilled veg and artichoke hearts from the proper pizza, a chopped tomato, and I forget what else. This turned out to be too similar to what was on the dinner plan, and neither of us were very hungry. So we had ravioli alla panna with some frozen spinach, pine nut, and raisin ravioli. And a salad. That was all.

Started ice cream for tomorrow.

The three Nigel Slater dinners got wrapped up in a single post for IHCC.

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

Monday, April 7, 2014

This week in the kitchen

Monday/7-Apr-14: Forgot that I had a doctor's appointment today (quarterly checkup on ears, nothing serious), so the list for tomorrow isn't finished. Maybe I can get it done in the morning.

Nigel Slater again tonight, intended for IHCC but didn't make it. Made A Chicken Roasted with New Garlic and a Fresh Pea Pilau (Diaries, p184), served with haricots verts. Regular garlic instead of new. Was a good chicken, but didn't much like the sauce with way too much vermouth. Here's Ed trying to convince Sophie to get out of his chair and away from the chicken.

Yogurt on overnight.

Tuesday/8-Apr-14: seems the yogurt problem hasn't been resolved. It wasn't cooked this morning, but was finally done after several two- and three-hour extensions. Happened to glance in the manual for the old yogurt maker and discovered the lids are supposed to be off for the cooking with that one too. I've always had them on. Wonder why they should be off? Current theory for the crummy yogurt is that something is not getting sufficiently clean. Since the jars and lids go through the dishwasher, I'm guessing that the tupperware 2-liter measure that I use might have gotten contaminated somehow and handwashing is not getting it sufficiently clean. Only a guess, but I've ordered a stainless steel bowl with a pouring lip to give that a try (thank you, Amazon France) after not finding anything while shopping today.

Shopping today. Broke down and bought some fêves from Spain.

Dinner was Fish Fillets in a 'Curry' Sauce (100Curries, p39), a not-quite-Indian dish with a curried bechamel for the fish. The fish was soaked in milk and spices, then dipped in bread crumbs (chapelure or paneermeel), then baked at a high temp. Meanwhile the sauce is made from the soaking milk. That's finished off with chopped coriander and lemon juice, which was a nice touch. For a side there was Diced Potatoes with Spinach (WofE, p53; 100Curries, p140), which was nice. No dessert needed.

Wednesday/9-Apr-14: Ate out tonight before going to a concert in Cognac.

Thursday/10-Apr-14: Picked the chicken and made (more or less) Curried Chicken Salad (MC; Rosie, p34). No cabbage on hand, so I shredded some broccoli stems. This is my "standard" curried chicken recipe, not that I follow it exactly, but it's an outline for possibilities. Ate our dinner outside for the first time this year.

Friday/11-Apr-14: The stainless steel yogurt-mixing bowl arrived today, so I gave it a good hot wash and started  yogurt. We'll see how it is in the morning.

Sat outside and shelled the fêves this afternoon.

Dinner was Stir-Fried Crabmeat with Bean Curd (TLChina, p61). Relatively tasteless, but helped by liberal application of sambal. Recipe has the ingredients not in the order used, annoying. Since we have no scallions/green onions here, I used a shallot instead; the green of the tops would have been a nice addition of color. Somewhat less tofu would be fine too.

As a go-with, I made Cucumber Salad with Spicy Dressing (TLChina, p40). Spicy with one of our favorite Chinese ingredient, Tabasco. This was a hit. Would be good with any vaguely oriental dinner. Sorry picture is fuzzy, I only took one.

Saturday/12-Apr-14: May have licked the yogurt problem. I hope. At least this batch is good.

Dinner out tonight, so nothing much happened in our kitchen,

Sunday/13-Apr-14: Parboiled and peeled the favas. I do love these, but it is somewhat annoying that you've met each of those babies personally, once in the shelling, once in the peeling.

We had our main meal in the afternoon today, since we went to a  movie in the early evening. We had a half recipe of Fava Beans with Shallots, Fresh Herbs, and Goat Cheese (PeV, p132). Unfortunately there was no basil in the shop this week, fresh or frozen, so I had to use the dried kind. Still, it was quite a nice dish. Then a salad. Then some mini magnums.

Monday's meal was supposed to be for IHCC, but I haven't had time to write a post, so I'll have to skip it this week.

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

Friday, April 4, 2014

IHCC: A Welcome Toast to Nigel Slater!

So, I Heart Cooking Clubs is doing Nigel Slater this time around. And what I really don't need right now is yet another cooking project. (This year I started on a big one to read and cook from all the books of the Time-Life Foods of the World series. If you're interested, a few people have joined me in a little Facebook group.) But it's Nigel Slater, for pete's sake, who can resist.

Many years ago I found my first Slater book, Real Fast Food, on a sale table somewhere and picked it up on spec. I didn't know his name, but the book looked liked something I might like and be well worth the 20 guilders I paid for it. It definitely was.

To welcome Slater, I had a look to see what needed to be used in the freezer, found some lamb chops, and found the recipe for Lamb Sirloin Chops with Yogurt and Mint (p240) in my first Slater book. This is vaguely Indian, with the lamb rubbed with a mix of yogurt, garlic, fresh mint leaves, ground cumin, ground coriander, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Not sure if mine were sirloin chops as the recipe asks, but they did quite well. Following some of Slater's accompaniment suggestions, I served the chops with "a cucumber salad dressed with white wine vinegar and chopped fresh dill" (that's the whole recipe) and Fragrant Brown Basmati Rice (p203).

The lamb chops were good, and the same sauce could be used for grilling chunks of lamb on a skewer perhaps. The rice was disappointing, but I'll try it again before I write off the recipe. Interestingly, he has you parboil the rice, then drain it and add it to a pan of fried spices for the final cooking. A bit more complicated than similar recipes. But, he has you toast ground turmeric with whole spices (cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamon pods, and bay leaf), for the same time. I had burnt turmeric before the other spices were smelling brightly. I dumped the contents of the pan, gave it a swipe with a paper towel, then started again. This time I added the ground turmeric with the rice. The final dish had an odd taste, either there were remains of some burnt turmeric or the turmeric really wanted to be toasted for a little bit, just not as long as the whole spices. (The recipe says it serves four. I made a half recipe for two, but it was still too much. I think the recipe as written will serve six.)

I started by getting the lamb chops rubbed with the yogurt sauce and letting them sit to marinate. Then I made the cuke salad, which also didn't complain about a chance to marinate. Then I started the rice. When that was off the fire, I zapped the chops under the broiler. A nice meal, real food, pretty fast, even if the rice was a bit off.

Some people criticize Slater's books because the recipes are a bit vague, sometimes they are only ideas for dishes rather than a finished product. But I find that the whole point of the thing. It's up to me to match the idea with my own experience, taste, and pantry content. I'm looking forward to trying more of these ideas in the coming months.

Visit this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs to see how other people have welcomed Nigel Slater to their kitchen.