Monday, July 30, 2012

TwD: Blueberry Nectarine Pie, minus the pie.

I wasn't sure that I was going to participate in this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. The recipe, Blueberry Nectarine Pie, sounded deeelicious, except for one very important thing. The nectarines and peaches in my mother's supermarket are awful. 100% inedible. Horrid. Especially after coming from Texas, where they sold small, just-picked, juice-running-to-your-elbow peaches at the farmer's market.

My mother bought a crate of peaches at Cosco for $9. Their insides were dry cotton. Disgusting. We thought they'd improve a little with time, but they only molded over.

Every time I went food shopping, I bought one nectarine. Finally, I found an edible batch. Not great--a little hard, not a lot of flavor, but at least there was some juice. I went back to the store and bought a few more. The recipe has you boil the berries, nectarines, sugar, and lemon zest for a bit on the stovetop, which helped improve the fruit. That's as much of the recipe as I followed.

See, my mom shops at Cosco regularly. She lives alone, so it takes her a long time to get through the food. She asked me if I knew of any recipes that use goat cheese. I looked in her refrigerator drawer. She had one long 10 oz bar of goat cheese, and several 5 ounce bars. It's a lot of goat cheese. My thoughts instantly turned to the Tourteau de Chevre in Dorie's Around My French Table, which calls for 9 ounces of goat cheese. Perfect! An extra ounce of goat cheese never hurt anything. I served the fruit from the pie recipe alongside the tourteau, and it was absolutely delicious. (What's the difference between a tourteau and a tart? Beats me. Tourteau sounds snootier.)

My only minor complaint is that the fruit was a tad too sweet for me. I'd cut back on the sugar next time. Loved the nectarine/blueberry combo, though. YUM.

The hosts for this week are Hilary of Manchego's Kitchen  and Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake. Check out their blogs for the full pie recipe.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

FFwD: Lemon Barley Pilaf

I know I'm one of many who made this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe last week, to complement the salmon. I had no idea what to expect out of Lemon Barley Pilaf. I don't remember ever having barley, except for the one time I tried my dad's beef and barley soup. My hatred for the soup stemmed from my hatred for stewed beef. I barely touched it, and the barley made no impression on me.

I was confused by this recipe, because I thought that pilaf had to involve rice. There is no rice in this dish. The dictionary I looked in defined pilaf as a rice dish that is cooked in broth (is that all??), so if the broth is the only difference, then yes, I guess this qualifies as barley pilaf.
This needs some greenery. Bring on a zucchini!
I boosted the amount of vegetables called for in this recipe. It's a pet peeve of mine when a recipe calls for a half of a red pepper. Why not a whole red pepper? Why do I have to wrap up the remainder and forget about it in my fridge? These days, I automatically use the whole thing, no matter how much the recipe calls for. I also added extra carrots to this.

The premise of this dish is promising. It easily could have hosted even more vegetables. I loved the chewy little nubbins of barley. I could kick myself for never trying it before. It doesn't taste like anything, and it's just a nice texture. The dish lacked flavor, though. I couldn't tell there was any lemon zest in there, and I used twice as much as called for. If lemon is part of the title, I want to taste the lemon! Fresh herbs would improve things, too. It was good, but it could have been better. I'll make this again, with much tweaking.

Friday, July 20, 2012

FFwD: Salmon with Basil Tapenade

For anyone who's keeping track, I'm still at my Mom's house in NY. Her hip has healed nicely, and the doc gave her the okay today to lose the cane and start driving again. Woohoo! Matt is still back in Texas, where, today, movers packed up all our belongings and sent them off on their trans-Atlantic voyage. What, besides Matt and the dog, have I missed over the past few weeks? My cookbooks. Only my cookbooks. I need to seriously rethink the amount of crap I keep laying around. I should just get rid of it all and make room for more cookbooks, since they appear to be what I love most.

Because I'm hell-bent on ingesting as many bagels, Italian cookies, and slices of pizza as I can before I leave for Naples, I've been bloated and lazy and haven't felt like cooking, so I waited until the last minute to make this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe: Salmon with Basil Tapenade. (I recognize that it's ridiculous to cling to Italian cookies and pizza as if I'll never have them again when I'm in the process of moving to Italy, but they won't be these cookies, and it won't be this pizza. You know--the ones that taste like home.)

It's a good thing that this recipe was simple. I was partially tempted to make Dorie's recipe for tapenade, because it's the freshest, most delicious tapenade I've ever eaten. But then I remembered that my mom has no food processor (she actually criticized me for requesting one on my bridal registry, saying that I'd never use it. WRONG! Score one point for Stubborn Daughter Syndrome). Given my lethargy, there was no chance I'd be chopping up all those olives by hand. I bought a jar of tapenade and never looked back.
The instructions say to make pockets in the salmon and smear some tapenade/basil/lemon zest and juice mixture in the pockets. Personally, I found this step to be unnecessary, because then you thin out the remaining mixture with olive oil and pour it on top of the salmon. The layer in the middle didn't contribute much. Most of it squished out, so the main hit of flavor came from the dressing on top. My lazy bones will ignore that step in the future. As a sauce, the tapenade mixture paired beautifully with the salmon. Following Dorie's instructions and timing, the fish cooked perfectly. My mom announced, "I love good food." Sounds like a ringing endorsement to me.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

FFwD: Blueberry Mascarpone Roulade

When I saw this month's French Fridays with Dorie recipes, I thought that Blueberry Mascarpone Roulade would make an excellent 4th of July cake, and from that moment on, my brain remembered the schedule as having this cake due this week instead of next. The recipe that was actually on the schedule for this friday is Ginger Pickled Cucumbers. Can you blame me for swapping? Where's the celebration in cucumber salad?

I'll make the cucumbers for next week. For now, roulade...
Hello, my Precious.
The cake took longer to make than I expected it to. Charlie kept interrupting me. I didn't have as much confectioner's sugar as I needed, and my mom had just used up the heavy cream, so cake construction was delayed by a trip to the store. Fortunately, the cake had to sit, rolled up in a towel, until it was room temp. Mine sat for several hours longer than that, and turned out just fine. I did not realize that, once assembled, the cake then has to sit for another two hours in the fridge. My bad.

I was worried at the outset, because the sponge cake does not include any flavoring. No vanilla, no lemon. Nothing. It turned out just right, though. It's the perfect texture and weight to stand up to the mascarpone/whipped cream/berry combo.

This cake was so, so delicious, and rich enough that one small slice was perfectly satisfying. I had no impulse to go back for seconds. After stubbornly refusing to taste it for a good fifteen minutes, Charlie snuck a bite, then inhaled the rest of his slice.

This cake has a fancy, dress-up occasion feel to it. I'm going to have to make it again in the future, because my husband, the berry fanatic, would have flipped over it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

TwD: Almond Biscotti

Technically, this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was for Hazelnut Biscotti, but my mom had a big, heaping bag of almonds in the fridge, so I used those, and swapped Disarrono for the Frangelico.

This was a trouble-free recipe. I always worry when I'm cooking in someone else's kitchen that I won't have everything I need, but in this case, I was actually better off baking at Mom's than I would have been at home. The instructions say to bake the sliced biscotti on wire racks, rather than baking sheets. The only racks I have at home are coated in black--I guess they're nonstick??--and there's no chance I'd put them in the oven.

I've made other biscotti recipes before, and none of them ever seem to work quite right. This recipe, on the other hand, did exactly what it was supposed to. The dough sliced easily into nice, thin slabs, without everything falling apart. They baked up crispy, and looked perfect.

And then I tasted one.

I MUST have used the wrong measuring spoon for the baking soda. It was all that I could taste. My mom says she doesn't know what I'm talking about, and that the biscotti are delicious. It's possible that my taste buds are just oversensitive to baking soda flavor, but I don't know how she can not taste it, and I truly think I added too much. I remember thinking, "Wow, those puffed up a lot" when I pulled the loaves out of the oven. None of the biscotti recipes I've made previously seemed to rise much in the oven. Part of me is kind of hoping that one other Dorista had the same experience, so that I feel less crazy.

Additionally, I don't think the amaretto added enough almond flavor. Next time I try this--and I will try it again, because I am so befuddled about that baking soda--I'll add some extract.

The texture was right. The workability of the dough was right. The ease of throwing it together was right. The look was right. The only thing wrong was the damn baking soda. Bummer. Hey, at least Mom likes them.

For the full recipe, check out our hosts for this week: Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina of Baking and Boys