Friday, May 25, 2012

FFwD: Lyonnaise Garlic and Herb Cheese

It was pretty much a no-brainer that I'd love this week's French Friday's with Dorie recipe: Lyonnaise Garlic and Herb Cheese (pg 20 of Around My French Table). Mix oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and herbs into ricotta cheese. Smear on bread. Smile.

Thank goodness it was such a simple recipe, because my brain went wonky while I was shopping for the ingredients. Who knows what would have become of a recipe that involved work? I have a glitch where, 7 times out of 10, I see that a recipe calls for shallots, and think, "Oh good, I have those in the fridge." However, I don't have shallots. I have scallions. I see the word shallot, and I visualize a scallion. I read the word shallot, and I buy a scallion. I do it all the time. I did it this time. I have no explanation.

I used up all my tarragon on a chicken earlier this week, so I took Dorie's recipe as a guideline, and used the herbs I had on hand: basil, chives, thyme, and parsley. And extra garlic, because garlic makes the world better. Stinkier, but better.

This is one of those tasty, satisfying, simple ideas that make me kick myself for needing a recipe for it at all. Why haven't I been doing this my whole life? It's such a logical food combination.

Conclusion: Loved it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

FFwD: Double Chocolate Banana Tart

I stalled as long as I could before making Double Chocolate Banana Tart, not because I didn't want to eat it, but because I didn't want to make it. In my brain, a fully baked chocolate tart shell + caramelized bananas + chocolate ganache + sliced bananas + glaze = lots and lots of work. Fortunately, my brain was wrong.

The dough for the shell whirs together in no time in the food processor. Then it's pressed into the tart shell, which is waaaay easier than rolling one out and hoping it fits.

All you do to caramelize banana is to cook slices in sugar. Boom. Done.

Chocolate ganache? That's just boiling heavy cream mixed into chopped up chocolate, then stirred with butter.

Layer it, cool it in the fridge, and shortly before serving, slice some fresh banana on top and brush them with heated apricot jelly.
There may have been four layers, but this was the easiest tart I've ever thrown together. It tasted like all the best parts of a banana split.

I would make this again in a heartbeat, but only if I had company coming for dinner. It's pretty, for one, but more importantly, it's quite rich, and I don't think the top layer of bananas will last long enough for Matt and I to eat it on our own. We kept a slice each for tonight's dessert, and sent the remainder off to the USO. I may regret that decision tomorrow.

Conclusion: Loved it.

I made last week's Provencal Olive Fougasse on time, but, as is becoming my habit, I didn't blog about it. All I can say is OH MAH GOD. I'm addicted to it. One bread was the star of my favorite type of dinner--small plates of meats and cheese and veg to grab at and nibble on--and I brought the second to a friend's graduation part last Saturday, where it promptly vanished. One friend said, "I hate olives, but I LOVE this!" Dorie Greenspan: forcing people to reevaluate their tastes, one mouthful at a time. 

Conclusion: Loved it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

FFwD: Almond Flounder (ahem, Tilapia) Meuniere

Matt had to go to a conference in DC for the week, so, in the name of pantry-and-freezer-emptying, I seized the masochistic opportunity to eat a stockpile of Nutrisystem meals that have been sitting around for over a year. I look at those boxes and see dollar signs, and I just can't bring myself to throw them out. They're nasty, though. Really nasty.

I don't mean to come down too hard on Nutrisystem. For some reason--desperation? a less-refined palate?--I didn't gag on them in the past. NS served me well both times I used it, and helped me lose 20+ pounds pre-wedding, then post-baby. Also, it always slaps me in the face with how few fruits and vegetables I eat in a day, when left to my own devices. Maybe it's because I'm just eating the meals to eat them, rather than as a means to an end, but I'm having a really hard time swallowing them. They may start accidentally falling in the trash can. hehe. Anyway. What this all leads up to is that, after a few of these wretched meals, I was really, really looking forward to this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe: Almond Flounder Meuniere (pg 290 of Around My French Table.) I couldn't get my hands on flounder, so I used tilapia, for no reason other than that the cutlets were fairly flat, and I have it in my head, with no proof, that flounder is, too.

This fish couldn't be easier to prepare. Brush some egg yolk on one side of the fish, then dredge it in a mixture of ground almonds, flour, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. I had no lemons, so I took a chance and used orange zest. It was a delicious impulse. The fish is then cooked for a few minutes on each side in browned butter. YUM. I'm just sad that I haven't made this dish sooner. It's so easy and so tasty.

Conclusion: Loved it.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for a catch-up recipe that I made last week. My freezer-purge finally prompted me to cook Short Ribs in Red Wine and Port (pg 254). Months ago, I bought frozen short ribs from the grass-fed beef guy at my farmer's market. I came home, threw them in my freezer, and haven't touched them since.
Who wants a fat sandwich?
I won't get too involved with the preparation, since it's so far in the past for everyone else, but I hated the outcome. I must have skimmed six inches of grease off the surface of the broth, and there were still great globules of fat on the bones. My stomach lurched just looking at them, and then when they turned out to just taste like stew beef (my most loathed enemy), I gave up and ate a bowl of Cheerios for dinner instead. For the record, Matt liked it. I hope the memory stands by him, because he's never having it again. ha!

Conclusion: Hated it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TwD: Hungarian Shortbread

When I first tasted the Hungarian Shortbread (pg 237-238 of Baking with Julia) that we baked up this week for Tuesdays with Dorie, I thought it was okay, but nothing special. However, with each day that passed, it became more and more compulsively eatable. I only made half a batch, which was plenty.

This recipe employs a neat technique of freezing and then grating the dough directly into the pan. With the help of my trusty food processor, this was simple as could be. I couldn't find any rhubarb at the supermarket, so I couldn't make the recommended jam from it. I used a jar of tart lemon curd that I had in the fridge. It offset the sweet, buttery dough nicely. Too nicely. Nom nom nom!
Yep. Definitely glad I only baked half a batch.
I'm so glad that I read people's advice to bake the bottom layer for a while before adding the jam and top layer. I baked it for 15 minutes, and the end result still gave the effect of raw dough. I wish I left it in longer, because the best bits were the browned edges.

No one but me ate more than one piece of it, so this won't become one of my go-to recipes. In fact, I threw out what was left last night, because I didn't want to finish it all by my lonesome. I would have sent it to work with my husband, but he forgot to bring it on Monday, and today he flew off to a symposium in DC. Ah, well.

The hosts for this week's recipe are Lynette and Cher. You can find the full recipe on either of their blogs.