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Friday, May 10, 2013

COUPÉTADE - French Fridays with Dorie

I actually read ahead for this week's French Fridays with Dorie and knew that I needed to make challah.  OK, I am sure that I could have bought challah, but I love making challah.  I love the way that it makes my kitchen smell, and how it feels when you braid it.   And youtube is filled with wonderful examples of bread braiding.

I had never made challah before I baked along with the group of bakers making the breads in The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  As with any bread that you have grown up on, there was some discussion on which challah was the favorite challah.  A couple of the bakers preferred a recipe a book called in the  Second Helpings Please, put out by the Mt. Sinai Chapter of Montreal of the Jewish Women's International of Canada in 1968.  GrongarBlog recently posted a most beautiful post on this challah recipe.  The pictures alone will make you run to make a loaf.

Early into the process, my camera died.  The battery will not accept a charge.  It will take a little investigating to see how serious a situation this is but I had my cell phone.

The challah was sliced and dipped into a combination of eggs, milk and sugar and cooked in some butter in a griddle.   French Toast.

The french toast soaked in eggy custard of eggs, sugar, vanilla, milk.  We were supposed to add some dried fruit.  Adding dried fruit would guarantee that I would be the only one eating this.  So, I added some strawberries and bananas and a touch of cinnamon and put it into a water bath to bake.

We served this with a little whipped cream and everyone loved it.  I think it would have been too sweet for us to eat for breakfast.

Murphy was quite excited by all the egg cracking that went into this recipe.  Eggs for challah, eggs to brush the challah, eggs to make the french toast, eggs to make the custard.  A definite egg fest, perhaps I shared with the hopeful puppy.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs - FFwD

Do you ever have a day when you know that you will be unable to complete Friday's assignment for French Fridays with Dorie without extreme effort on your part? 

I confess that we are weekend only egg people.  During the week we eat oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, fruit.  Nothing that requires effort.

But, I am back in the saddle and once I realized that I should have been cooking this weekend,  I decided to forge on.

I went in search of mushrooms. 

I am lucky to be able to find some interesting mushrooms.  While I was getting the mushrooms, I picked up some fresh farm eggs and lovely loaf of bread.  Not brioche.  Not a huge brioche fan. 

And then, I got myself out of bed and made my husband some eggs before work.  first time in 26 years.  They were delicious.  They'd be better on a weekend day.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Swiss chard pancakes - FFwD

Leave it to the French to come up with a delicious, thick crepe recipe called farçous.  Very simple to make.  Milk, flour, eggs, garlic, chives, chard, shallots and some salt & pepper were combined in a food processor.

I made these with last week fish and when gradschool son came home, he used them like a taco.  A pancake, some fish, some sauce he declared it one of the best meals to date.

These swiss chard pancakes will be on our go to recipes when the swiss chard in the garden is ready to be harvested.  They were easy to make and delicious.   There are some in the freezer waiting to make their sunny green appearance at a moment's notice.  These are one of the reasons that I am glad that I am cooking along with French Fridays with Dorie. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spinach and Cod Roulades - FFwD

While I was making the spinach and cod roulades for French Fridays with Dorie, there were  a few things that I knew for certain.  I just knew that someone would love these, would put them into their repertoire of fun and tasty things to cook.  I knew that someone would take a wonderful photograph.  And I knew that I wouldn't be doing these things. 

While I was making them, I was annoyed.  I was annoyed when I pureed the perfect cod.  I was annoyed when I smeared the mix on plastic wrap.  I'm not sure that I enjoy cooking with plastic wrap.  I was annoyed when I formed the sausage shapes.  My attitude was all wrong going into this challenge. 

I started by making some preserved lemons.  We use a Cooking Light recipe and really enjoy having these in the refrigerator. 

I decided to served the fish with the tomato sauce.  It was quite tasty and easy to make.

I cracked the eggs and ever hopeful Murphy in her spring hair cut came running.  She loves the sound of eggs cracking.

I pureed the lovely cod and made the spinach stuffing and formed the roulades.  We liked them, however my husband and I both felt that sauteing the cod and steaming the spinach would have been just as tasty. 

Sometimes I feel like I am running a flophouse.  Our gradschool engrossed overspring sometimes shows up to eat leftovers.  He put the fish in next week's swiss chard pancakes (which I will make again and again)  and covered them with the tomato sauce and declared it one of the best things I've made so far. 

This is one of fun things about the challenge.  I did it, we ate it, we enjoyed it.  I won't be doing it again. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

CSA - Black Radishes

One of the things that I was looking forward to after moving to Pennsylvania was joining a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture.  If you go to LocalHarvest's web page you can find CSAs in your area.  Basically, you join up, pay some money and get something back from the farm.  What you get back depends on the farm or group that you join.  It is kind of a through good times and in bad relationship, drought or flood, you are supporting the farmers.  There are a couple in the Pittsburgh area, we joined Penn's Corner Farm Alliance for 32 weeks.  One of the things that appealed to us about Penn's Corner was that they are an alliance of more than 30 farms.  I would love to have been able to join two different ones or see what some one else gets in their weekly box. 

I had my concerns about my first box.  It was snowing here last week, nothing was green.  I assumed that the farmers would be relying on the greenhouses.  The box contained a variety of lettuce, an onion, a dozen eggs, a handful of rosemary, a bag of puffed corn, a quart of apple cider and some black radishes. 

 The black radish was a new one for us.  Used by the French and some Asian countries, it's flavor is a little more pronounced than your normal radish.  
 I cleaned them, sauteed them in olive oil for a little browning and then put them in a salad with grapefruit and celery and a citrus dressing.  We really enjoyed them.  I read a French recipe where they are grated and put in creme fraiche.  We may try that as well, sounds  a little rich. 
 We already used some of the eggs in spaghetti carbonara.   We are struggling with the honey puffed corn.  My husband tried it for breakfast, not his favorite.  I ground some up and put it in cookies, the kids liked them but there is more.

The little bag of rosemary made me sad.  I miss my Texas backyard.  I miss my bay tree, my rosemary, sage, parsley, oregano, chives that grew year round.  I don't miss the extreme drought.  But rosemary was practically a weed in Texas.  The little bag was a frank reminder of how different things are.

We are going to start some four squares in our small urban backyard.  Once we start gardening, this new backyard will start to feel like we own it.  I bet that it will be easier than gardening in Texas.  It actually rains here.  And one of my neighbors has had some luck keeping rosemary outside in a protected area. 

Here is a picture of my husband and one of my son's looking at the backyard on our last day in Texas.  The brown spot is where the summer drought death starts.  The rosemary wrapped around the beds.  It took us a couple years to get us to this point, let's see how our new backyard is next year.

I am going to put a link on In her Chucks What's in the Box? page.   It is a gathering of posts about what people found in their CSA boxes.  You can see that everyone has different growing seasons. 

We got a reminder email from our CSA telling us that our growing season is behind.  I think that I had figured that one out on my own.  Every time I walk out the door, I am pleasantly surprised not to see snow.

Financiers - FFwD

This week's French Friday's with Dorie was a delicious simple treat.  Designed originally in a small gold bar like pan to appeal to the Frenchman on the go in the financial district.  It was an easy batter made with browned butter and sugar, almond flour and all purpose flour and a lot of egg whites.  As instructed, I chilled it over night and then had difficulty filling the pans, the batter was so thick.  I really enjoyed these simple treats.

This is Murphy, looking especially large in her winter coat.  She is my son's Portuguese Water Dog.  She spent the first months of her life on a farm, eating fresh eggs.  When I begin to bake, she comes running when she hears the egg carton open, ever hopeful for the extra egg white or egg yolk.  She thinks that we should make financiers more often. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Olive Sables

I have been married a long time, 27 years.   Over those years I really have tried not to lie to my husband.  Now sometimes I might omit some details, some trivial points.  But I do not lie. 

As I was baking these cookies, I tasted the batter and I began to think about how I could even get him to try these.

Actually I was worried before the cookie even began.  When I went to choose the olives.  I wanted to make sure that I was getting the olive oil cured olives.  I asked the man behind the counter.  I didn't have the heart to tell him that I was putting these olives in a recipe with a cup of confectioners sugar.    "Excuse me sir could you tell me which of these olives you would pair with sugar"  never came out of my mouth.

When I went home, I cut the recipe in half.  We like savory, we tolerate some sweet.  But both, in the same mouthful.  Maybe in nuts. 

I got out the ingredients.

I made the cookies.  I didn't like the batter but I thought maybe the flavor would change after baking.  When they came out of the oven, I tried another one.  My last.  I put them on a tray and my husband said "is this a savory cookie"  and I pretended that I didn't hear because he would expect full disclosure.  Normally I've got his back.  But I wanted to see if maybe he'd like them without my input.

He tried one.  He hated it.  He asked me if it was an April fools joke.

I know that some people already have made and enjoyed this Friday's French Fridays with Dorie .  It is amazing how we all have different food preferences. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Spinach with a hint of lemon - FFwD

This was easy and delicious.  My husband thought I was making a salad because he walked in on this  at the beginning.  We make something similar with garlic.  I enjoyed this.  Perhaps I forgot to photography it after it was steamed...

I've caught up on a few French Fridays with Dorie recipes.  We loved the cheezy crackers.

Only one family member likes seaweed in his sables.

I could eat the spread every day.

Around my French Table is indeed one of my favorite cookbooks.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Disaster - Ispahan Loaf Cake - FFWD

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe was for an Ispahan loaf cake.  Ispahan is a type of rose and famed French pastry chef Pierre Hermé made some inspiring combinations of rose, raspberries and lychees.  Does that appeal to you?  Apparently, people rave about them.  Not in my house, remember they prefer their fruit uncooked.  And their roses in vases.

I considered not making this dessert because I knew that I would end up with some unusual ingredients and probably wouldn't be using them frequently.   We are not drawn to desserts,   They will eat anchovies, garlic, parsnips, snails.  I cannot fault their desire to eat all fruit raw.

The Monin bottle of rose syrup is gorgeous.  Although I went to four Middle Eastern grocery stores without success and then ordered it on line. 

The recipe was easy to follow.

The loaf was easy to assemble.

It was a fairly simple recipe.  A loaf cake.  My results however made me ponder how long I had been baking.  My mother was willing to accept all help in the kitchen.   I can remember not being able to reach the temperature controls to turn on the oven in my early kitchen experiences.  So, maybe I have been baking for 40 years.  4 decades... 

Perhaps I was somewhat distracted.  I am doing a lot of that now, distracted baking.  It doesn't always work out.

Anyway  the loaf appeared baked.  I tested it.  I remember thinking that I thought that it might take longer.  I was surprised that it was done.  You can see the hole where the skewer went in in the shot above.

When I went to take it out, disaster struck.  Clearly, the middle level was still not cooked,  hot batter and berries oozed out.  I slapped it back in the pan and put it back in the oven.

People ate it.  I may make it again to show that I can bake.  I may not.  Anyone still looking for rose syrup?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Soup's On - French Fridays with Dorie

There are somethings that I want to taste simply because visually they appeal to me.  Fresh strawberries, autumn pears, a chunk of cheese, a beautifully browned baguette all would beckon to me with their beauty, even before I smelled them.  Taste me.

This orange scented lentil soup lacks visual appeal.  Mine looked like brown water.  But the smell was intoxicating.  And the taste was delicious.

It started out with onions, carrots and celery sauteing in olive oil.  I added brown vegetable broth, but I don't think the alternative chicken broth would have really perked things up.  French green lentils, coriander seeds, pepper corns, one clove , some orange peel and some ginger were simmered for an hours.  After seasoning with salt and pepper I so enjoyed this soup with a piece of crunchy bread.  I really enjoyed the hints of ginger in each spoonful.

I am glad that I made this week's French Fridays with Dorie.

Last week I made the cheesy crème brulee  but didn't post.  We were not wowed by it.  We are not custard fans.  It tasted good, but I'd rather eat the cheese by itself.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Chicken Breast Diable - FFwD

When I read that we were doing Chicken Breasts Diable for March's first French Fridays with Dorie I got a little excited.  My husband loves anything that the Italian's cook fra diavolo, however I quickly learned that the French and the Italians have different ideas of spicy.

The French use mustard.  We had been forced to throw out many of our condiments when we moved.  Luckily, I had picked up a bottle of my favorite Dijon, boasting 260 years of expertise.

This ended up being a delightful meal.  Easy to prepare and enjoyed by all.   

 I was very exited that the sauce needed some dry white wine.  I needed an excuse to leave the house on another wintery day to buy a bottle.  It was chilling in the fridge and missed the photo op.

Chicken breasts were pounded and sauteed in olive oil and butter.  Then they went into the oven to stay warm.    Garlic and shallots were sauteed in the pan, a little wine was added and the brown bits were scraped into the sauce.  Cream, mustard and Worcestershire sauce were combined to make a delicious sauce.  One that I am sure that we will return to again. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cheating on Winter Pea Soup - FFwD

This French Friday's with Dorie was a very easy soup to make, and that had me a little worried.  Generally, I enjoy a soup that takes some time to come together.

I started off by sauteing some bacon for the garnish.  Then, because it was there,  I sauteed onion in the bacon fat.  I added chicken broth and frozen peas.  I added romaine lettuce that I had chopped in order to avoid any immersion blender issues.  I should say right now that I really enjoy my immersion blender, hard working, fast and easy to clean.  When I read in P&Q section for the recipe that the lettuce was causing issues frankly I was surprised because usually lettuce is so well behaved.  But to assure that everyone continued to work well together, I veered away from sliced lettuce toward chopped lettuce.  Everything simmered happily away.

Then I pureed it, seasoned it with S&P and served it.  So I should have payed more attention to the P&Q section and used less liquid.  This was a bright green soup, I think that the color is dependent on the influence of the the broth.  I kept on thinking about Wicked, the musical.  My soup could have been used for the Green Elixir. 

My husband liked it.  It is fun to come in from the freezing cold to a nice, bright, bowl of soup.  I thought that it was too thin and will use less broth next time. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Good bye old friend

 Here is Scout, man's best friends

She has been with us for almost 11 years.

Almost two and a half years ago our delightful yellow Labrador, had some swelling on the top of her head.

At first, I thought she had gotten stung by bee while exploring her backyard.  It didn't get any better.  When I took her to the Vet, he said that she had a tumor in her skull.  He thought that it was the worst of three possible types and she would probably be dead within the month.  A fellow lab owner, he seemed really saddened and concerned.  Then he called to see how she was doing, and he called again.  Eventually, I asked him not to call, every call was a reminder that the end was coming.  I told him that I would let him know if there were any changes.

All of us except for Scout were crushed.  Scout did not seem to know that she was on death's doorstep.  She continued to be her delightful self. Ready to head off at a moment's notice for an adventure.

Ready to do battle with squirrels, all kinds.

Ready to play with all of her puppies, her humans.

Ready to keep anyone company.
 Ready to help with relaxing.

The next year, our Vet was surprised but happy to see us when we showed up for a yearly exam.  The next time, he was even more surprised.  By this point half of Scout's skull was grotesquely swollen.  We told him that we were moving from Texas to Pennsylvania, he asked if we would let him know how things went.

Things went alright, it seemed.  Scout survived the drive from Texas to Pennsylvania.  She took over the back seat.

 She didn't enjoy hotels, moving from place to place unnerved her.  When we reached our new home, she was a bit chagrined to learn that #1 son had a new puppy, Murphy.

She was even more surprised when #1 son and #2 son's lease expired and they and Murphy moved into our new house's attic so I could help with the puppy while #1 son was at grad school and #2 son was at work.  She wasn't sure that she wanted to share.

Scout's closest mate, #1 daughter went away to college.

Scout worked at adapting to the new house.  Murphy worked hard at annoying Scout just enough to make her play with her.  The two of them settled into a routine, a brisk walk around the neighborhood, some tug-of-war, a long nap.  Longer for Scout.

She failed to be impressed by the snow.  

Last weekend, my husband and I were taking the dogs on our normal loop when Scout had a large, long seizure on the sidewalk.  As a nurse, I should tell you that I hate seizures, in humans and apparently in dogs as well.  We got her home and she perked up but I made an appointment with a Vet who comes to your house to euthanize your dog.  On Tuesday, he came by and was amazed at the size of the growth.  He said that once they have seizures, they quickly go down hill.  It was a little hard to believe him, because Scout was a lot better from the day of the seizure and because he was new to Scout.  He said that she had to be in pain, all the time, one continuous migraine.  This saddened me, Scout never showed pain but was starting to have difficulty sleeping.

I spoke with the children and my husband and made an appointment for him to come on Monday to euthanize Scout.  I figured if she was on the road to recovery, maybe years between incidents, I could cancel the appointment. 

Unfortunately, the Vet was right.  Scout rapidly declined.  She appeared disoriented at time, walking around in circles.  She had difficulty getting comfortable.  She couldn't get onto the bed, where we were finally letting her, without help or get down the stairs.  Murphy kept her company as she stayed on our bed. She did perk up whenever anyone said  walk.

 It was time.

#1 daughter caught the Megabus back home to say goodbye to her dog.  The two of them grew up together.  Scout always assumed that protecting #1daughter was her responsibility, no armadillos would attack when Scout was on duty.  They were inseparable.  I am so glad that she could come home for the end.  The vet came to the house and gently helped Scout go to sleep, surrounded by her family except for husband who said his goodbyes to our blessing before heading off to work.

What place does this have on a blog about cooking?  Would you be surprised to learn that Scout considered herself my sous chef?  She preferred to remain in the background, helping most when I wasn't looking.  She was superb taster.  She once checked an entire loaf of pumpkin bread for flaws.  She has eaten uncooked fresh pasta so there would be no waste.  She lapped out the insides of a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, she was concerned about how long it had been on the counter.  When my husband smoked pork, she patiently stayed by his side, making sure that the temperature stays constant.  Ready and willing to dispose of anything that didn't make the cut.

I will miss her ever hopeful eyes when I am in the kitchen.