Friday, December 13, 2013

FFwD: Mme. Maman's Chopped Liver (as prepared by someone who can't deal with chicken liver)

The very idea of sourcing, preparing, and eating Mme. Maman's Chopped Liver (pg 32 of Around My French Table) made me want to hide under the table and weep. Then, Cher said that she was swapping the liver out for mushrooms. That's a switch that I could get behind, and the only possible way I was going to participate this week. I'm still trying to figure out how to "adjust" the chicken liver pate the group made several months ago so that I don't have to handle chicken liver. Haven't come up with a solution yet.

While I'm stealing ideas from Cher, I may as well steal from our resident Doristo, Trevor, too, and turn it into what he always calls "stuff on toast." 
Adding the optional hard boiled egg makes it sort of brave, right? No.
This was good. It came together quickly, and was a satisfying lunch. I don't regret using the mushrooms. It's still a list of ingredients--mushrooms, onions, hard boiled eggs, allspice--that I would never have thrown together on my own, so it counts as a recipe. I have declared it!

I've made up two additional recipes this week.

First up, Go-with-everything Celery Root Puree (pg 354). I've been on the prowl for a celery root since the group made this, and I finally spotted one at the supermarket. I've never eaten one before. It smells a lot like celery, but fortunately, doesn't taste much like it. It's a bit sweeter, and after boiling in milk and water with an onion, one potato, and then adding some butter and pureeing it, it was delicious. What does a celery root count as, diet-wise? Is it a carb like a potato, or is it a vegetable? Whatever it is, it's a great option to replace mashed potatoes.

I've tried three times to email this pic to myself, and it keeps not showing up. You'll have to take my word for it that it existed.

Lastly, I've been avoiding Vanilla Eclairs since the group baked them way back in April 2011. I think this was shortly before I joined the group. I've stayed away because I was pretty sure I would single-handedly demolish the entire tray. This is the reason why most of my remaining "make ups" are desserts. I have no off switch.

Matt's office was having a bake-off today. Perfect! I could make eclairs, taste one, then send the rest out of the house while, undoubtedly, winning bragging rights at a bake-off. (I mean, homemade eclairs HAVE to win, right?) I believe that these may not have been so difficult for other people to make, because they're basically gougeres, which I've made dozens of times. However, between the time sensitivity involved in the creation and baking of the pastry, the making and cooling of pastry cream, the piping, then the icing, this was a nightmare for me. Charlie wouldn't leave me alone long enough to just follow through on any part of it. He was asking to turn off the tv to play with me, so I felt like a wretch getting fed up with him. Then he wanted to help. Not a good recipe for 4-year-old intervention. Man, he made this a hard recipe to complete.
No doubt, these are tasty. Not worth the work and aggravation for me right now. Maybe I'll try them again when he goes to college.

Oh, and Matt forgot to bring them to work today. Grrrr.

Friday, December 6, 2013

FFwD: Orange-Almond Tuiles

Dorie says that tuiles are elegant little crispy cookies that offset creamy desserts beautifully.
Apparently, I don't do elegant.

I didn't realize until I was already mixing the batter together that I used up all my almonds last week, so I replaced the finely chopped almonds with almond meal. I guess this caused my problem, because I followed all the other directions.

I couldn't get them off the baking sheet without crumpling them completely. Then, they  molded around and through the bars of my cooling rack.
Hey! One looks normal!!
They weren't crispy. They were very chewy. Caramel chewy. Oy vey.

I only made a few, since Dorie stipulates that they don't keep more than a day once baked, but that the batter will last a few days in the fridge. I doubt I'll even bake the remainder. They tasted good, but not good enough to make them worth the effort.

On the flip side, I made up the Compote de Pommes, Two Ways from a few weeks ago. It's apple sauce, but what apple sauce! I tasted the mash at the appropriate time for the "first way." It was fine, but nothing special. I let the apples continue to cook down for another hour.
 That hour made all the difference in the world. The sauce became sweeter as it cooked. I didn't need to add any additional sugar, and omitted the butter Dorie adds at the end, because it was delicious just as it was. No need to add butter to apple sauce. I've been enjoying it in my yogurt all week.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

FFwD: Sugar-Coated French Toast

We celebrated Thanksgiving last Saturday. My in-laws are here, and we had big plans to go to Rome during Matt's 4-day weekend on actual Thanksgiving. Sunday, Charlie and I got sick. Tuesday, our dogsitter cancelled on us, and we couldn't find a replacement on such short notice. End result: Charlie and I are on the mend, though still congested, sitting around the house, staring at my dog, while Matt and his parents are eating awesome food and touring wonders of the world. Clearly, I win, since I don't have to get out of my pj's if I don't want to. Suckaaas.

At the supermarket yesterday (the humiliations of which you can read about here), I decided that I was going to get off my slacker butt and make this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, even if I had  no access to/no plans to make my own challah or brioche. I found these weird little rolls:
The bag says "Venezianina al burro." Burro means butter, so this was the closest I was going to come to a buttery bread. Italians don't bake with butter often, in case you were wondering. After a year of consideration, I've decided that butterless baked goods, and the fact that brown sugar doesn't exist here are the two key factors that drive Italians crazy for chocolate chip cookies. Want to feel good about your baking skills? Gift brownies or chocolate chip cookies to an Italian. They'll claim it's the greatest thing they've ever eaten. At first I thought they were making fun of me, but I now think they're sincere.

I downsized the recipe, since I was only making it for me and wee man. Even still, these rolls had plenty of cream, milk, and eggy goodness to soak in. The thing that makes this recipe really special is that you melt butter in the pan, sprinkle the butter with a good amount of sugar, and then add the drenched bread. This creates a creme brulee crispy sugar effect. Oh baby.
In the future, I may once in a while steal the sugar trick and just add it to my normal no-cream, no-extra-egg-yolks, less-of-a-heart-attack version of french toast. It would turn it into a treat, no cream necessary.

I thought for sure Charlie would eat this dessert-for-breakfast. He was way more interested in the whipped cream I made to accompany it. At some point I told him that I was taking the bowl of whipped cream away if he didn't taste the french toast. He allowed a bite into his mouth, acted like I'd poisoned him, spit it back onto his plate, then carried on with the whipped cream. That's right, my kid had a bowl of whipped cream for breakfast. Don't judge. It's not like creamy buttery bread crusted in sugar really makes a complete meal.
"This tastes buono!" Gotta love his Austrian-run, Italian-teachered, also speaks English school.
Here are two catch-up recipes. I did actually cook these on time, with the group. I just never blogged about them. I didn't have much to say about them then, and I don't have much to say about them now. They were fine. More hassle than they were worth, and they're not the best versions of roast chicken or pot roast I've ever had. They're not even the best versions in this book. So, photographic evidence that I made:
Hurry-Up-And-Wait Roast Chicken
Boeuf a la Mode
I'm pleased to say that I finally, FINALLY found a celery root at the supermarket, so I'll be able to catch up on Dorie's celery root puree soon. I saw it, I nabbed it. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I'd also need potatoes until I got home and read the recipe. Eventually, all ingredients will be in my house simultaneously.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


My in-laws have come to visit, and are staying for a month, so I doubt I'll be updating the blog much while they're here. They're off on a tour of the National Archaeological Museum here in Naples right now, so I'm stealing five minutes to knock out a quick post.

I made (Bowties) al Ragu (pg 113 of Rome), because Charlie's revived his food-related stubbornness, and I thought surely he'd eat it, as he asks for "red spaghetti" all the time. I was wrong. Wouldn't taste it. This sauce took two hours to cook, and came out tasting exactly like my Grandma's. That's not a good thing. Grandma is German. Her red sauce comes out of a can. It's fine, but hers takes a whopping three minutes to make/heat up.
Conclusion: Just okay. Absolutely not worth the time, effort, or 1/4 cup of wine that could be put to better use in my glass.

The following night, I made Spaghetti alla Carbonara (pg 98), because it's one of Charlie's go-to restaurant orders, and I wanted to try it at home before my in-laws arrived. They both have assorted fat and carb-related dietary restrictions, so I didn't want to serve it to them. Not the greatest carbonara I've ever eaten, but very good, and Charlie INHALED it, exclaiming all the while, "This spaghetti is AMAZING." This has never happened before, for anything I've cooked. I wish more food made him happy. Despite the caloric consequences, carbonara may need to show up at my table a little more often.
Conclusion: Liked it, calories be damned.

My mother in law is a fan of biscotti, so I made Tozzetti (pg 173). I'm rarely totally happy with how my biscotti turns out. Either it's the wrong texture, falls apart when I'm slicing it, the chocolate melts all over the place, etc etc. This hazelnut biscotti recipe was a pain in the ass in dough form. It was super sticky and wet, and the directions ("using a spatula, transfer the rectangles to the prepared baking sheet") indicate that it was not supposed to be. There was no transference via spatula. I basically had to glop it over with my hands and form it into a mostly-oblong shape. However, once baked the first time, they sliced perfectly, and turned out exactly the way I expect a store-bought biscotti to be.
Conclusion: Loved them.

A few from Feast: 

Know how I'm always disappointed by "fast" Indian recipes by non-Indian people? Nigella's Keema (pg 234) is a wonderful, quick version of the minced meat and peas that I like to make when I have two hours. It's not as flavorful as Jaffrey's version, but it's got lots of spice and lots of flavor, and takes a third of the time. I can now eat Indian on a weeknight. Thank you, Nigella.

Conclusion: Loved it.

The Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake (pg 272) is moist and rich and delicious. This is one of my favorite things I've baked in a long time. My one complaint is that the recipe says to line the loaf pan with plastic wrap. Nigella puts your worries to rest, saying, "Don't panic, it won't melt." Lies, I tell you! Lies! It DID melt. It disappeared into my cake, so I cut thickly around the sides and bottom of the cake. According to the FAQ on her website, she has changed this instruction to line with buttered foil. Didn't help me last time, but it will help me next time.
I had to serve this to company. Good thing it tasted good.
Conclusion: Loved it.

Slime Soup (pg 350) is a nice, easy, more-filling (it's blitzed with mozzarella) pea soup made from frozen peas. It's from the Halloween section, thus the title. I served this to my in-laws, without sharing the name with them, and they liked it.
Conclusion: liked it.

Friday, October 25, 2013


On Monday, I went to Ipercoop, which is one of the larger Italian supermarkets around here, armed with my list of ingredients that I needed for this week's dinners. This was the first time since I've lived here that I was able to walk into an Italian supermarket and leave with everything on my list. Smoked scamorza? Got it. Fresh cakes of yeast? Right there, next to the butter. Veal cutlets? How thick do you want them? Prosciutto? Come on, challenge me. Gaeta olives? Don't need 'em. They're already in my fridge.

It was so refreshing. Maybe I need to cook all Italian food for the rest of my time here. It's a hell of a lot less stressful than trying to conjure pot roasts and duck breasts and exotic spices. It's tricky, though, because a) No diversity gets old fast and b) Italians cook better Italian food than I do. If I want good Italian, it's more satisfying to go out to eat. Well, first to hire a babysitter, then to go out and eat, because meals don't start until 8, and last for several hours here. I see myself getting much more invested in my Italian cookbooks once I'm stateside, as I try to reclaim the glorious food I ate here. And then I won't be able to find smoked scamorza or fresh yeast. Oy.

Last night I made La Tiella di Gaeta Con Le Cipolle (pg 86 of Rome). Technically, this beast is supposed to be an appetizer, but since I don't have a bar-full of people to feed, we had it for dinner. It's a mixture of ricotta and scamorza cheese, eggs, and herbs, wrapped up in a yeast dough.

This took a while to make, but really wasn't very difficult. The dough was easy to work with. The recipe is for a 12 inch cake pan. I don't own one that big, so I had lots of extra dough.
I made the top crust too thick, and it threw off the crust-to-filling ratio.
Matt kept asking why I baked him a cake for dinner. My glares did not dissuade him from calling it "Dinner Cake." Then he decided it tasted like bacon (from the smoked cheese) and eggs, and he started calling it "Breakfast Cake." I'm pretty sure what he meant was, "Wow, honey, this is beautiful. Thanks so much." Grumble, grumble.

Perhaps I shouldn't take issue with the fact that this book of Roman recipes keeps having recipes from other parts of Italy. Gaeta is closer to Naples than it is to Rome. Guess I shouldn't complain - wherever it's from, it tastes good. 

Conclusion: Liked it. It was nice to be able to cook the whole thing, start to finish, while Charlie was at school, and not have to worry about getting dinner ready later, since it's meant to be served cold or room temp. This thing is waaay too big for just two people to eat, though. This would be good for a brunch or a buffet table, to feed a horde of people. I dropped a big wedge off at a friend's house this morning. Waste not!

Earlier in the week, I made Saltimbocca alla Romana (pg 127). I'm a huge saltimbocca fan. If you don't know, it's veal (or I've also made it with chicken) wrapped in prosciutto and sage, then pan-fried. Toss some white wine into the drippings, cook it down, and enjoy.

Matt thought that this version was too salty, and said he preferred Virginia Willis' chicken recipe from Bon Appetit, Y'all. There isn't any salt added to this, so I'm curious to try Virginia's recipe with the ingredients available here, and see if he still thinks its too salty. Maybe it's the prosciutto. Matt claimed that veal is inherently saltier than chicken, but that sounds silly to me. Maybe I'm wrong.

I prefer Virginia's recipe, because she layers it as chicken, sage, then wraps prosciutto around it. It magically adheres after dredged in flour. I worried the first time I made it that it would all fall apart, but it didn't. This recipe has the sage on the outside, and everything needs to be sewn together with a toothpick. It also says to trim the prosciutto to the size of the veal. Yeah, right. Much fussier.

Conclusion: Liked it, but I'll stick with my normal recipe, because it's more straightforward.

Lastly, Insalata Di Finocchio (pg 78). Shaved fennel, topped with orange slices, olives, and olive oil doesn't sound like that intriguing of a mixture, but it was quite refreshing. Not something I'd crave, but if I had all these ingredients laying around, I'd make this again.

Conclusion: Just okay. Better than I expected. It doesn't have enough salty or enough sweet to provide that delicious sweet/salty contrast. It could use some oomph, but I'm not sure how to provide it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Clearing the Slate

I've accrued a backlog of recipes from Rome that I've cooked, but haven't posted about. None were exceptional, so I'm just going to blast 'em out.

Conchiglie alla Caprese (pg 105) takes all the delicious elements of a caprese salad, adds capers, olives, and anchovies, then dilutes the whole thing with pasta. The best part of a caprese salad is the flavor union of mozzarella, basil, and tomato. It may not be impossible to get all three of those things in one forkful once pasta is thrown into the mix, but it doesn't happen organically.
Conclusion: Just okay. Bland. I bought the cute little trulli house-shaped pasta during my Columbus Day trip to Alberobello, which you can read about here.

Insalata Rossa (pg 151): snoozefest. Tomatoes, carrots, green onions, basil, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil do not come together as more than its individual pieces.
Conclusion: Just okay.

Pollo alla Romana con i Peperoni (pg 144), or Chicken with Tomatoes and Sweet Peppers, is the standout. The drumsticks didn't take on much flavor, so they were just normal drumsticks, but the sauce and the peppers were out of this world. I could have eaten a giant bowl of rice drowned in sauce (crisped prosciutto, a glug of white wine, tomatoes, oregano, with the soft peppers added in at the end), and been perfectly happy. No chicken necessary
Conclusion: Really liked the sauce and peppers.

I saw some parsnips (a rarity) at the Commissary last week, so I snagged them, without a plan. Feast has a recipe for Maple-Roast Parsnips (pg 25). Holy mother of God. These things are candy. Nigella says in her intro that she used to use honey and has changed it to maple syrup because it's "sweetness (is) less cloying." I can't even imagine how sweet the honey ones must have been, because I could barely make myself eat these. I am sure Charlie would have liked them, but he refused to put one in his mouth. I gave up after an hour and a half. He informed me he wanted to go to bed hungry, and so that is what he did. Grrrr.
Conclusion: Disliked. If Charlie had eaten them, I'd make them again in the future, but since he didn't, I won't. Too sweet.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Worth Shredding a Cabbage For

My brain works pretty slowly sometimes. Feast includes a bunch of recipes for ways to use up leftover turkey. I always hover over these recipes, and then move on, as leftover turkey is not something I generally have around the house (and frankly, I can't get enough stuffing-turkey-cranberry sauce-sweet potato sandwiches, so it's unlikely I'd ever need to turn to this section for its intended purpose.)

The last time I flipped through the book, the thought finally came to me that, oh yeah, I could just use a rotisserie chicken.

Took me long enough to figure that one out.

Because it would use up the head of red cabbage I had in my fridge, as well as some old (and mostly gone-bad) radishes, and the last of my Tropean red onions, I immediately settled upon Red Seasonal Salad (pg 59).

Shredding cabbage is the hardest part of this recipe. It's one of the tasks that I hate most in this world. I threw many a teenaged hissy fit when my mom would tell me to shred a cabbage for cole slaw. I hate cole slaw. It felt like punishment to stand over a bowl with a vegetable peeler, paring that big honkin' cabbage down. That said, if one must eat shredded cabbage, I agree with my mother that it should be shredded with a vegetable peeler. No one wants to chew on thick shreds of cabbage. The only way to get them to a nice, graceful thickness is to do it by hand.

Perhaps it's because I'm totally deprived of Asian food, but I loved this recipe. Red onion, red chilis, and garlic take a bath in rice vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice, oil, and sugar for a bit. Add shredded chicken, let it sit some more. Add the cabbage, then radishes and cilantro. Boom.

Because I didn't think my bedroom would be stinky enough after this meal, I also added a can of white beans.

For the record, Matt wasn't nearly as impressed by this as I was, so it could well be that my addiction to crunchy things, and the fact that I haven't eaten fish sauce in a long time prompted my undying love for this dish.

Conclusion: Loved it.

Also, several weeks ago, I made Ritzy Chicken Nuggets (pg 238), from the "Kiddie Feast" section. It's chicken breadcrumbed with crushed Ritz crackers. It's exactly what you would expect: aka, pretty tasty. My one complaint is that the instructions say to take the chicken from a buttermilk bath, shake off the excess, and put them in the Ritz crackers. They didn't stick to the chicken well, once in the pan. I much prefer my standard flour-->egg-->bread crumb method. The buttermilk DID make the chicken nice and juicy, though.
Charlie loves breadcrumbed chicken. It's the only way I can get him to eat chicken. He ate this, too, but didn't seem any more enthusiastic than normal, so I think I'll stick with my usual recipe, because I prefer it.

Conclusion: Liked it.

FFwD: Boeuf a la Mode: Thwarted

I had every intention of cooking this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe on time. The weather is turning slightly chilly here, and some sort of pot-roastey thing sounded pretty good. I went to the Commissary on Monday to buy any of the three cuts of beef that Dorie suggests, but...
Empty. The meat section was completely bare. I think it's funny that there are rows of barbeque sauce lined up sporadically. Here, put some bbq sauce on your...nothing.

Beef is exorbitantly expensive at Italian supermarkets, and does not come in the cuts we Americans would expect. There are a lot of very thin-cut slabs of beef. Nothing roastable. Cows aren't really local here, which I suppose explains the high prices. When I want beef, I rely on the Commissary. "Rely on" may be too strong a word. When I want beef, I drive 40 minutes to the Commissary and hope that they're in stock.

For what it's worth, this has nothing to do with the government shutdown. This is the worst I've seen it, but the meat section has been pretty poorly stocked whenever I've gone for the past few weeks.

A friend tells me the shelves were in decent shape when she went yesterday, so hopefully I'll be able to make Dorie's beef next week.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chicken and Zukes

Everything sounds so much more exciting in Italian. Last night, I made Zucchine a Scapece (pg 74 of Rome). Fry thin rounds of zucchini in olive oil until they're golden and soft. Mix them with raw garlic, salt, red wine vinegar, and mint leaves (though i used basil, because I didn't have mint), then let them sit in the fridge to cool for half an hour.

These missed the mark for me. Italians are very good at frying vegetables (I'm thinking of  you, eggplant) so that they're creamy and perfect, and you don't feel like you're eating three cups of olive oil, even if you are. As I ate these zucchini, I felt like I was eating three cups of olive oil. It lubed up the whole inside of my mouth and throat. Ew.

Conclusion: Just okay. I wouldn't make this again.
That chicken tastes better than it looks.
However, Petti di Pollo in Padella was both excellent and easy. Score! There are some overly fussy instructions that I ignored. "Remove the small fillet (tender) from the chicken breast and save it for another use." For real? I don't think so. I left my breasts intact (that sounds wrong). I also used a box of chicken broth, rather than making it from scratch.

Marinate the chicken in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, bay leaf, salt, and pepper, for two hours. In my case, they marinated for two days, with no detrimental effects. The instructions say to use a bit of the marinade to oil the pan you'll cook the chicken in, but mine turned to blood clot consistency as soon as it hit the hotness. Ew. I wiped it off, used a swirl of olive oil, and carried on. After five minutes per side and a few minutes of sitting, I had perfectly salted, juicy, rosemary-flavored chicken breasts. Add chicken broth to the pan, scrape up the browned bits, then pour over the sliced chicken breasts.

Conclusion: Loved it. Perfetto! Matt rarely comments on dinner, but he went out of his way to compliment this.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

FFwD: Salad Nicoise

Unfortunately for purposes of writing an interesting post about the Salad Nicoise that I prepared this week for French Fridays with Dorie, nothing about it was especially dramatic. 

The only thought running through my head as I prepared the salad was, "Oh man. Matt is not going to be happy when he gets home and sees what's for dinner." I mean, he'll eat salads, but he generally considers it to be part of a larger meal, not the meal itself. And this one looked so boring. At least, it looked boring to me. I found myself apologizing for the lameness of the dinner when Matt got home. He shrugged and said, "Eh. It's salad. With tuna." And he was right. It was salad. With tuna.
The lettuce is topped with green beans (groan. I hate them, but I ate them), capers, olives, anchovies (double groan. I omitted them), potatoes (watching my carbs. I omitted them), tomatoes, shallots, and oil-packed tuna. I drizzled some balsamic reduction on top, because why not? I expected the tuna to be gussied up in some way, but it wasn't. Out of the can and onto my plate.

Maybe it lost all it's Nicoise magic when I omitted the anchovies and potatoes. The salad was dull, but I'm happy it prompted me to try oil-packed tuna. As far as I could tell, that's the only style they sell at my Italian supermarket, and it is not the cheapo lunch item that I'm used to. My can cost me nearly 4 euro (5.5 dollars), but it was worth it. It was much fresher smelling than Bumblebee or Chicken of the Sea. I never knew that a can of tuna didn't have to smell like a can of tuna. I'm a convert.

I doubt I'll make this salad again, but I'm going to load up my cabinet with my new pricey canned fishies.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Who and the Whatsit?

We've been home from France for a week and a half now, and I've been sick the whole time. Charlie caught it (not as bad as me), and it was only yesterday that we both felt well enough to get dressed and leave the house--him to school, and me to the supermarket. Prior to that, we (and by "we," I mostly mean Matt) have been throwing meals together with what's available in the house. It's been a vegetable-free existence.

Anyway, on Sunday, I told Matt that we had all the ingredients for Rigatoni con Guanciale e Cipolla (pg 101 of Rome). He'd cooked the recipe earlier in September, the night we got home from Tropea. I'd mentally flagged it prior to our trip, because it specifically calls for Tropean red onions. Let me tell you, Tropeans are very proud of their onions. They even use them to flavor ice cream.
If a torrential thunderstorm didn't chase us back to our car after lunch, I definitely would have tried some.
Anyway, we stopped at a roadside stand to buy a bag of onions on our way back to Naples. Know what Tropean red onions taste like? Red onions. Somewhat milder, but it's really not that big of a difference. (Sorry, Tropeans. No offense.) Matt says he thinks it's like a mix between a red onion and a shallot. I don't really know what that means. Point is, you could totally make this with normal red onions, and it would be just fine.
I accidentally deleted my pic of the food, so here's one of Tropea instead.
I haven't personally made this, but Matt has now made it twice. He does it fairly quickly (within a half hour), so it must not be too complicated.

The onions are wilted with a good amount of white wine vinegar, olive oil, sugar, and salt, then set aside. Crisp pancetta, then add the onion glop, and set aside. Add cooked pasta, then a pile of pecorino romano, and what you've got is a delicious salty, sour, sweet bowl of carbohydrate goodness. It's addictive.

Why is a recipe that calls for Tropean onions present in a book of Roman recipes? I have no idea. Tropea is a solid seven hours south of Rome, and I've never seen their onions in Naples. Maybe Rome has a Tropean onion pipeline.

Conclusion: Love it. I've eaten more than my fair share each time Matt's made this, and both times, I wanted more.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Wrapping Up and Up Next

My favorite recipe that I cooked from Meatless is the first recipe that I cooked from Meatless: Maltagliatti with Marinated Heirloom Tomatoes. Looking back, most of the recipes that I liked best were Italian-inspired--either pasta, or simple preparations of standard Italian vegetables (primarily zucchini and tomatoes). Recipes that wandered into any other ethnic realm fell flat from lack of spice. Call me crazy, but if I'm eating Indian food, I want it to taste like Indian food, not like dirt.

I don't feel a ton of excitement when thinking back upon the food I cooked from this book. Stats are only slightly in favor of the Liked it/Loved it camp (8/2) over the Hated It/Disliked/Just Okay camp (3/1/4). A nearly 50% disappointment rate is substantial, however, I'm going to consider Meatless to be a keeper, because I'm always on the prowl for different ways to prepare vegetables. It's definitely not a must-buy, though.

It's occurred to me that I haven't actually gotten rid of a book in quite a while (though I'm tempted to ditch Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book without actually testing it. That seems wrong, though, and so it sits on my shelf, because I can't bear the thought of devoting to it.) It's high time that I cover a book that may well suck, so I've chosen a book that I bought over a decade ago, and have never cooked from: Rome, by Williams Sonoma.
Another reason I want to cook from Rome is because I have more Italian cookbooks than any other ethnicity, and I wouldn't mind thinning them out to make room for other stuff. The problem is, Italian food is just so damn good, unless the recipes veer wildly off course, I can't imagine I won't like them.

A large chunk of Rome is text and photos talking about the city and the food/style of eating, so it's a pretty small, manageable set of recipes to cook from. Let's see how they hold up...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Salt Can Be Good or Bad

I was so intrigued by the weirdness of Vodka-Marinated Steak (pg 212 of Feast), that I had to make it. The fact that it's a simple recipe didn't hurt. I used a london broil, which cooked nicely in the timeline Nigella specifies. The steak is supposed to marinate for a few days in vodka, salt, peppercorns, parsley, thyme, garlic, and oil. I only did it for a few hours. Sear both sides, then cook on low heat, covered, for 3 minutes per side. Let it sit in foil for 15 minutes. My 15 minutes turned into 45, because I was waiting for Matt to get home from work, so it was on the cool side by the time we ate it. Still good. While the steak rests, use the marinade and some beef stock to deglaze the pan. Add steak drippings that have collected, whisk in some butter, and serve.

The steak turned out to be nicely salted. There wasn't a lot of other flavor, but that's  not really a complaint. It was the exact right amount of saltiness to make the beef delicious. It was tender and pinker than I expected it to be after such a long sit.

Conclusion: Liked it. Easiest cooking, for the biggest reward, that I've done in a while. I'd like to allow this to marinate for the recommended three days and see what impact that has, because Nigella says it "makes a really big difference."
I think my breadcrumb to tomato ratio is off.
I realized, pretty late in the game yesterday, that I had no vegetable planned for dinner, and no vegetables in the house, apart from our last crop of tomatoes of the season. I flipped to Meatless' index, and landed on Tomatoes Provencal (pg 328), because it was easy, with basic ingredients. All you do is slice tomatoes, overlap them in a baking vessel, then sprinkle a breadcrumb/parmigiano reggiano/thyme/salt/oil mixture on top, then bake.

This smelled unbelievable while it was in the oven. It tasted good, but I'd added too much salt. I hate when recipes don't specify an amount of salt. I always add more than I should.

Conclusion: Liked it. It's a good "ack! I forgot a veggie!" dish to keep in mind. If you have tomatoes, you probably have everything else you need, too.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Meatless: White-Cheddar Corn Chowder

Were I left to my own devices, White-Cheddar Corn Chowder (pg 117 of Meatless) would have been fairly easy and quick to make. I think. Can't be certain, though, because my son interrupted me so many times that the process dragged into eternity. It was one of those situations that makes you feel like a jerk for being aggravated, because he was being creative and really just wanted me to play with him. Over the course of my cooking, he discovered a piece of soft cardboard that was destined for trash, and decided to build a barnyard (I think he meant a pen). He was getting frustrated that the ends wouldn't stay put (like a circular fence). Taping, re-taping, re-re-taping, helping find his animal toys, marveling at the glory he had built, were just a few of the distractions that turned this chowder into a two hour process. Not the chowder's fault that it took so long, but I was hoping it would have more flavor. It's spiced with coriander, cumin, and cayenne, but you'd never know they were in there.
Other than those spices, the rest of the soup is pretty standard. Celery, onion, potatoes, milk, wine, corn. Two cups of the nearly-finished soup are blended, then poured back in. Cheese is added to the individual bowls.

I felt indifferent to this soup. It wasn't bad, but it didn't have a lot of flavor. The more cheese I loaded on top, the better it became. All that tells you is that I like cheese.

Conclusion: Just okay.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Never Had A Potato I Didn't Like

Grilled Potatoes with Garlic-Herb Oil (pg 313) were simple to prepare (despite the two-part cooking process) and mighty tasty. First, parboil the potatoes, then grill them for two minutes per side, until charred. If you're already planning to grill some meat for dinner, this hardly counts as an extra step. Once cooked, toss them with oil, garlic, and, according to Martha, parsley. According to me, rosemary, because that's what I had.

Conclusion: Liked it. Smokey, charred, grilled flavor makes everything better, right?
Sorry about the ghastly photo.
Unfortunately, I paired this with Mashed Carrots with Honey and Chili Powder (pg 355). Nasty. I couldn't get the carrots to mash into a nice smooth texture, despite the fact that they'd been cut up small and steamed for 25 minutes. They were watery, in flavor and mouth-feel, and the honey and chili powder only enhanced how flavorless the carrots were. No me gusta.

Conclusion: Hated it. The tiny glob you see in the picture was portioned as such because I'd already tasted it. I couldn't even make myself eat that little bit. Yick.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

FFwD: Fresh Tuna, Mozzarella, and Basil Pizza

Oh my word, I can't believe it! Not only am I posting on time for this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, but I've made up a few recipes, too. Wonders never cease.

I have nothing against raw tuna, in general, but I DO have a problem with raw tuna when the fish in question is purchased from my supermarket's freezer section and defrosted. If I'm eating it raw, it better be fresh. Or, at least, I don't want to know it's not fresh. So, tuna was out as a topping on my Fresh Tuna, Mozzarella, and Basil Pizza (pg 166-167 of Around My French Table). I swapped it for coppa stagionata (a salami type of thing), and never looked back.

Perhaps rounds of fresh mozzarella look nicer when layered with raw tuna, but I think it's more practical to tear it up. Fresh mozzarella doesn't melt easily. When baked for only two minutes, it barely even warmed up, so the whole slice was falling off the puffed pastry crust with each bite.

I really hoped Charlie would like this concept of the puff pastry crust, because that would make a simple last minute/no ingredient supper in the future, but he took one bite of a normal sauce and cheese version, brushed the crumbs off his lips, glared at me, and refused to touch it again. He asked me when he was getting his "real pizza." Napoli is turning him into a pizza snob. This does not bode well for his future acceptance of pizza stateside.
I have to say, the puff pastry crust was too greasy for me. It was fine for the first half of the meal, but by the end, my stomach wasn't feeling so well. I think these make a better small appetizer serving, rather than being the entire meal.

Conclusion: Just okay. I'm sure the tuna provides more pizzazz than cured meat does, but wouldn't make up for the icky feeling I got from eating that much puff pastry.

Last night, I riffed off of Dorie's Wheat Berry and Tuna Salad to use what I had in the house. So, I made Barley and Chicken Salad. Personally, I think I prefer the chicken to the tuna.
Nom nom nom
Every time I cook barley, I wonder why I don't make it all the time. I love that chewy texture. Between the barley, the dijon mustard, the peppers, the apple, the avocado, and the tomatoes, this dish is a perfect blend of sweet and salty and chewy and crispy. I want to curl up on the couch with a book and a giant bowl and go to town on it. It's a combination of foods that I would never throw together, but they just seem right. Next time I'll add the boiled eggs. I skipped them this time, because I was already fed up from spending my afternoon making...

Floating Islands (pg 427). Sigh. Reading other Dorista's posts, consensus seemed to be that this was lots easier to make than you'd expect. That was not my experience. I felt like this took all day, I wasn't certain the results would turn out right, and somehow I coated my entire kitchen floor in sugary wetness that dried and turned black and I was sticking to by the time I was done. Nothing I like better than having to mop the floor before I cook dinner.

The meringue itself was easy to make, but then I ran into trouble with the baking part. First of all, my oven doesn't go down to 250 degrees. I went as low as I could. I triple-wrapped my springform pan with aluminum foil and put it in the water bath. Water got in. Lots of it. I had to bake this longer than specified for it to set, and about a half hour after it was out of the oven and cooling, I realized that my island was, indeed, floating. My tin foil did a much better job of keeping water in than out. I popped the springform pan, drained it (I suspect this was the step that coated my kitchen floor, though I wasn't aware of it at the time), and slid the meringue out onto a plate. Fortunately, I don't think the water had any ill effect on the outcome.

For the creme anglaise, I could have used some indication of how long the custard would take to get up to the correct temp. By the time I checked it, it was already well past Dorie's maximum temperature. My bad. There was some scrambled egg action going on, but fortunately the strainer took care of that. The creme was delicious. Best part of the whole dessert. I ate more than I'd like to admit with a spoon while it was cooling. You know, to make sure it was okay.

By then I was fed up and  not in the mood to make caramel. I'd bought a jar at Trader Joe's while I was home in July. I used that, and it was good enough for me.

I'm relegating Iles Flottantes to the realm of "restaurant food." It was too much of a hassle for me, and my kitchen had exploded at the end of it. It also made way too much dessert for Matt and I to eat, and I know meringue is not something that keeps more than a day or two before it starts breaking down. Don't worry, we'll finish it off tonight.

Hmmm. Computer's having trouble loading my photo. Oh well. I made it. I loved it. It was a pain in the butt. I'm never making it again. 

On a different note, I have a question from my many Francophile Doristas (and anyone else, too). We're taking a dream trip to Normandy, Brittany, and Paris later this month. The woman we're renting an apartment from in Paris has offered to babysit for us one night (YES!). If you had to pick ONE Parisian restaurant to have a blessedly childless dinner at, where would you go? We're staying in the St. Germain des Pres area (two minutes from Pierre Hermes. DOUBLE YES!), so preferably someplace that's not on the opposite side of town from there.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Feast: Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies

One very important lesson I've learned by traveling Europe with my three year old is that it is always a good idea to bake something easily transportable and fairly substantial for the road. Hungry, and there's nowhere to stop the car? Have an oatmeal cookie (perennial favorite). It's 8 pm, and you just got off a plane and checked into your apartment rental? I just happen to have a loaf of banana bread handy. Eat it and go to bed, child. Toddler needs breakfast before you're showered and ready? Refer back to the banana bread.

We drove to the Italian beach town of Tropea for Labor Day. (You can read about the trip here). Even though I don't think you can do better than the Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies recipe off of the Quaker Oats box, I baked Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies (pg 82 of Feast) instead. I expected them to taste like cinnamon, with an oatey texture, because that's what I'm used to with oatmeal cookies. Then I noticed that cinnamon wasn't an ingredient. I did not anticipate that swapping craisins for raisins, and adding white chocolate chips and pecans would totally change this cookie.

The oat ratio must be different from the Quaker Oats recipe, because I probably would not have guessed they were in there. They didn't attract attention, but did make the cookies filling and satisfying.

I'm guessing the white chocolate is to thank for this, but the bottoms of the cookies almost seem caramelized.

Another unexpected difference is that, no matter how lightly I baked them, they crisped up as they cooled. In a good way. Yum.

Conclusion: Loved them. I love every cookie, so that's not too remarkable, but I will, without a doubt, make these again. We planned to share with our friends, who were staying at the same place as us, but we kind of ate them all ourselves. They were gone before I ever thought to take a pic. Woops.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

FFwD Makeup: (Tuna) with Frilly Herb Salad

You gain one, you lose one. I fully intended to make this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe today. I mean, it's for Floating Islands. I've only eaten this dessert once, in Paris, but I lo-o-oved it. However, we're driving five hours south, to the town right next to Tropea, tomorrow, and I've run out of time and ingredients (didn't want to buy more eggs, milk, etc.) Mark my words, I will make this next week. Maybe mark my words in pencil. My track record with Dorie recipes these days is not great.

I did, however, catch up on a recently-missed recipe. I couldn't get my hands on swordfish, so I subbed it with tuna to make Tuna with Frilly Herb Salad. The marinade had a great flavor. I suspect that the caper juice is the ingredient that made the dish. I'd never think to use caper juice. Neat.
There's fish in there somewhere. I promise.
The supermarkets here sell Italian herbs. Period. Basil. Parsley. Sage. Rosemary. Now that I think about it, I haven't seen fresh oregano. Interesting. Anyway, my herb mixture was a lot less interesting than Dorie's. I stuck with Basil and Parsley, and laid the whole thing out on some arugula. I miss tarragon. I should plant some. Not that my efforts to grow herbs have gone so well. Cilantro and dill each grew one stalk, then died. Thyme died. Unsurprisingly, the only things thriving are basil, parsley, and mint. Maybe I should take that as a sign not to bother growing tarragon.

Anyway, this was a nice meal, and easy to throw together, since the fish needs to marinate for a while.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


One of the dishes that first caught my eye when I flipped through Meatless is an intriguing twist on a very familiar dish: Lentil and Cashew Hummus (pg 19). In this version, chickpeas are replaced with lentils, and tahini is replaced with cashew butter. Cashew butter is fricken delicious, if you've never tried it. Find it. Eat it. Send me presents to thank me. Apart from the two key elements, everything else is the same as normal hummus: lemon juice, garlic, a splash of hot sauce, salt, and olive oil.

Maybe I expected too much from the cashew butter. I thought this would be sweeter and a bit more luscious. Honestly, if no one told me that it wasn't normal hummus, I would assume it was just a bland rendition of the chickpeas and tahini classic. It's not bad, but it seems like a waste of good cashew butter.

That said, CHARLIE LIKES IT. Whaaaaaat?? Kid won't eat normal hummus. Guess he's down with bland, as long as it comes on a pita chip.

Conclusion: Liked it well enough, but I prefer normal hummus. I guess I'll call this one a "Just Okay," since I'll never make it again.

Dinner tonight was Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew (pg 121). I added ground beef, because I knew this wouldn't fill Matt up, as written. Unfortunately, I wasn't working with the greatest sweet potatoes. They're not a local product, so I had to buy mine at the Commissary, which has terrible produce. God knows how old these were. I could tell as soon as I sliced them, and they were ringed with pale bands, that they wouldn't be the tastiest sweet potatoes ever. Once the stew was finished, my suspicions were confirmed. The sweet potatoes had no sweet potato flavor. I assume that greatly detracted from this recipe.
The stew is a good starting point. The only spice is one bay leaf and 1.5 teaspoons of curry powder. It needs more...something. I don't know what. I would make this again and play with it. Preferably with fresher sweet potatoes. And LOTS more spice.

Conclusion: Like it, with reservations. I really think good sweet potatoes would make a huge difference.

Because I Feel Like It

September is right around the corner, bringing with it the promise of Fall and cool temps and exhausting holiday fun. I'll likely moan about cooking/baking overload by mid-December (though I won't be done until after my son's birthday party in January), but for the moment, I'm excited about the whole season. Charlie is almost 4 (!!!), and I think this will be the year he'll finally be involved in Halloween and Santa and helping me bake cookies, etc. Yeee!

Anyway. I've made no secret that I love Nigella. I'm adding a long-term project to my roster. Feast: Food to Celebrate Life provides recipes for official and unofficial holidays throughout the year, and for that reason, lends itself as a project for a longer period of time.
She makes me grin.
Nigella, I can't stay away.

I am SO making hot cross buns this Easter.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Jerusalem Addendum: Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad

Jerusalem didn't work for me as a book I wanted to cook out of all in one shot, so I don't feel that I necessarily gave it a fair shake. I figure that I may as well write a brief post about it when I sporadically make a dinner here and there, in the interest of giving my complete impression.

Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad (pg 188) is unlike any other salad I've ever had. To start, you simmer a sectioned orange, skin on, with water, honey, white wine vinegar, and saffron for an hour, then puree it until it's a runny paste. Toss with chicken (I took a shortcut and just used a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket), fennel, basil, mint, and red chile. I also mixed in arugula, because it needed bulking up. It was supposed to include a bunch of cilantro, too, but I couldn't get my hands on any.

This salad tasted very orangey and sweet, with a nice soft heat from the red chile. The directions say to add lemon juice, if necessary. I think I should have added a bit, just to cut the sweetness. Next time, since there will be a next time.
Thank you for not sucking.
Conclusion: Liked it. Relatively easy, unique, and flavorful. I'm certain Matt will still be hungry after he eats it, though. It's not as bulky as one might like. The recipe says this would serve 6. I can't imagine how.

Sorry, Ricotta

Herbed Ricotta Souffle (pg 180 of Meatless) sounded like a suitably jazzy way to use up the remainder of my ricotta, but it didn't turn out as nicely as I'd hoped. The texture was weird. Kind of spongey, and it tasted way too salty. Matt said that if he were blindfolded, he'd have guessed that he was eating weisswurst (or however you spell that German white sausage.) That doesn't speak well for a souffle, does it? It didn't taste bad, but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy the ingredients to make this. If I had a heap of leftover ricotta, I'd make this again rather than allowing the cheese to go to waste. It needs more herbs and less salt, though.
My souffle dish was too big. Woops.

Conclusion: Just okay.

Last week, I also made Zucchini and Feta Chopped Salad (pg 319). It's impossible to come by fresh dill around here (and my efforts to grow it failed miserably), but I don't think that dill would have saved this recipe. It's basically just raw cubed zucchini mixed up with crumbled feta, some lemon, and olive oil. It tasted like raw zucchini and feta. Boring.
Conclusion: Just okay. Doubt I'd ever make it again. Something as a simple as grilling the zucchini would have made this more delicious.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cheese, Glorious Cheese

I compulsively bought fresh ricotta at the salumeria when I was in town this weekend, even though I had no real plan for it. The ricotta here is sweet and creamy and a totally different product from Polly-o or, God forbid, Sargento (why is it always sour, with the consistency of clay??), back in the states. I was so fed up with the state of available ricotta when we were stationed in Texas that I started making my own. It was better than Sargento, but nowhere near as good as what they sell here in Italy. The kind I made still turned out kind of gritty, and it smelled like the vinegar I used to separate the milk. It didn't taste like vinegar, but it did smell of it. Point is, I'm fully aware that these three years will be my Golden Age of Ricotta, and it will never be this good again. So now I'm trying to find recipes that will use my little block of splendor, because it would be a sin against all that is good in the world to allow this cheese to spoil in my fridge (it doesn't have a long shelf life.)

I threw together No-Bake Lasagna with Ricotta and Tomatoes (pg 289) for dinner last night. As an added bonus, this used up a box of no-boil lasagne noodles that's been in my cabinet since last Christmas. If you've ever wondered if you can boil no-boil lasagna noodles, the answer is yes. They would have stuck together if I hadn't immediately moved them from the water to the sauce, but otherwise they were fine.

Lasagne is sacred food in my house. We had it once a year, at Christmas, and my Dad would spend the whole day and evening on Christmas Eve stirring that pot of sauce, skimming sausage and meatball grease off the top, periodically bellowing, "Never again, Margaret! Never again!" Every year. Now that he's gone, lasagne has become my Christmas ritual.

I didn't expect this free-form version of lasagne to compete with the real deal, but I hadn't quite realized how firmly I believe that lasagne is more than its individual components. Lasagne is lasagne because of the layers, the denseness, and the merging of cheese with sauce with meat, not because you happen to use a noodle that defines itself as lasagne. I think of this more as a pasta dish, and not as lasagne. It's not lasagne. It is, however, delicious.
The sauce is quick and easy, and I'd happily eat a big bowl of pasta with just the sauce if I had no cheese. Brown thin-sliced garlic in oil. Throw in a heap of halved cherry tomatoes. After they're soft, add stock and simmer. I totally overlooked the fact that the tomatoes were supposed to go in in two separate batches, presumably so that some would mush and some would remain firm. I dumped all of mine in at once. No harm done. Add pasta and basil to the sauce, plate, dollop with ricotta and shaved Romano cheese. I also added mozzarella, because what's a lasagne without mozzarella? Lesser, that's what.

Conclusion: Liked it. The sauce was really sweet and delicious. If you have garlic and some tomatoes, you can make this. No real shock, but Charlie DID eat his noodles and the cheese after carefully picking off each and every bit of basil. No tomatoes, but that also was not a surprise. He did pluck a raw tomato out of my fruit basket and eat it, unprompted, the other day. He only ate the one, but he didn't spit it out (or if he did, I haven't found it yet) or lick my leg to scrape the skin off of his tongue, so that gives me hope for the future.

Furthering my quest to use my ricotta, I had Fresh Ricotta with Lemon, Basil, and Honey Bruschetta (pg 63) for breakfast today. This is as easy as it comes. Mix lemon zest with ricotta. Smear on toast. Top with basil and a honey drizzle. I used whole wheat bread, because I didn't have anything more bruschetta-ey, but that's okay.
Mmmm...maybe you'll be my lunch, too.
Basil and honey is a delicious flavor combo. Who knew? The ricotta and lemon provided a very subtle background flavor. All in all, this was tasty and satisfying. I can't imagine eating it as a "starter for a larger meal," as Martha indicates. It screamed, "Breakfast!" to me. Or, it could also pass as an afternoon snack.

Conclusion: Liked it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

An Italian Plate of Joy

I tramped through my orchard, across a field, down a little road, and onto the main drag of my little town here to go buy some produce at my favorite fruit and vegetable guy, who unfortunately, is in a location with little parking (to this American. Italians pull right up onto the sidewalk and triple park in the road. I can't bring myself to do it.) If I want to shop from him, I need to hike it. He's my favorite because he always smiles when he sees me, and seems pleasantly amused by my butchery of his language. He also doesn't complain if I pay with a larger bill. I mean like a 20. I've had other fruit stands turn me away when I try to pay with a 20, or even a 10. He's never given me attitude. Also, when I say, "Come si dice.....?" and point, he tells me what things are called. Not to mention that his fruit is always delicious. I've never felt like he's trying to pull one over on me. It's worth the hike.

While I was at it, I stopped off at the salumeria and picked up prosciutto, fresh ricotta, and two balls of mozzarella di bufala. When I got back to my house, I found a pile of honey-sweet white figs that one of my neighbors (aka The Fruit Fairy) had left on my patio table for us.

I flipped through Meatless and saw that I'd be able to throw Zucchini "Pasta" with Tomatoes and Walnuts (pg 32) together without any trouble. Halve cherry tomatoes, and let them marinate for twenty minutes in olive oil, sliced garlic, chopped walnuts, and torn basil. (As a side note, Italians, and, apparently, Martha Stewart, are adamant that you must never take a knife to your basil, because you will bruise it. I'm unconvinced that it makes a difference, taste-wise, yet I find myself only tearing basil these days. If the Italians do it, that's a good enough reason for me).

After twenty minutes, mix in long skinny strips of zucchini. The picture in the book shows the zucchini looking like spaghetti. I must not have gone thin enough for that. Mine weren't bendy. Regardless, this salad was delicious. I was afraid the raw garlic would be too aggressive, but after it soaked with the rest of the ingredients, the flavor was evenly disbursed, and I never thought "Wow, that was a mouthful of raw garlic."
I should eat like this every day.
This lunch made me extremely happy. The only thing missing was a cold glass of Prosecco.

Conclusion: Loved it. The simple preparation made each ingredient taste even more like itself, if that makes sense.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


The Chilled Avocado Soup (pg 109) from Meatless suffers from the very description which initially interested me in the recipe: that it is "tangy with buttermilk." All you do to make this cold soup is whir avocado, walnuts, buttermilk, red onion, dill, vinegar, and salt in a blender. I just bought myself a new blender, so my desire to give it a go also attracted me to this soup.
Whatever else, I like the color.
It tastes like dip. If this was touted as a veggie dip, I might like it. As a soup, it's unbearable after a few spoonfuls. It has the thick texture and a buttermilk tang of ranch dip.

Conclusion: Dislike, as soup. I may dip some carrots in it with lunch tomorrow and see if that improves matters.

The other night I made Broiled Zucchini with Yogurt Sauce (pg 327) to go with the Indian Spiced Lamb Chops from Nigella Kitchen. I only mention its accompaniment because those lamb chops were awesome, and you should go make them. Anyway, this one was pretty straightforward. We often grill zucchini on the BBQ during the summer, and did so here instead of broiling. The yogurt sauce was spiced with coriander, ground mustard, and lemon juice, and it complemented the lamb nicely. It was a good little alteration on a standard recipe, and I can see myself making this one again.
Not a looker, but it tasted pretty good.
Conclusion: Liked it.

Friday, August 9, 2013


Perhaps I should have known better, but I didn't.

Last night I made two dishes from Meatless that seemed like they'd go together: Spiced Tofu with Wilted Spinach and Yogurt (aka Saag Paneer, pg 97) and Stewed Lentils (without yogurt and cucumbers) (aka daal, pg 114). Two of my absolute favorite thinks in the world are saag and daal.

Martha's version of saag includes tofu. I've never had any luck preparing tofu, and this dish was especially horrid. First of all, the tofu is not spiced, as the title would have you believe. Your fry it in a bit of oil, then sprinkle it with salt. I guess technically, salt is a spice, but not really. The tofu is added to the spinach and yogurt mixture, which is grossly underspiced. I ate my serving, but I didn't like it. Matt took one bite, spit it out, and reheated a 4 day old burger patty. That's how bad it was, even after I dumped extra spice in an attempt to rescue it.

Conclusion: Hated it.
Awful. So awful.
The daal was better, but not much. As written, this, too, was unbelievably bland. I added some ghee, because ghee makes everything better, and then dumped in a butt-load of extra spices. In the end, the daal turned out to be edible, and I'll probably work through the copious leftovers, but I will never make this recipe again.

Conclusion: Hated it (as written).

I'm sorry, Madhur Jaffrey. Next time I want Indian, I'll take the time to do it the right way. Your way.