Friday, April 19, 2013

FFwD: Cod (Perch) and Spinach Roulades

Fish: pureed, stuffed, and steamed. Sounds deliiiiicious, right?

I was fascinated by the idea of Cod and Spinach Roulades, this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, but really REALLY had no idea what to expect. Fish mousse? Huh? How can something sound simultaneously vile and promising? This recipe also excited me because I made preserved lemons when lemon season started here, but haven't had a use for them yet.

I used perch, because we had some in the freezer.

This recipe came together easily, which surprised me. Puree fish, heavy cream, and light spices (sorry, don't have the book in front of me. Was it just salt?) Sautee spinach, onions, and garlic, then add the preserved lemon, salt, pepper. Smear a rectangle of fish paste on plastic wrap. Make a strip of filling in the center. Use the plastic wrap to help roll it so it looks like a weiswurst. Steam rolled mystery food for 10 minutes.
That looks obscene. And hilarious.
I was a bit worried that the plastic wrap would melt, but it didn't. Worked perfectly. 

I topped with pesto a friend brought me from Genoa (birthplace of pesto), because I was too lazy to make the tomato sauce Dorie suggests.
It was good. It was shockingly good.

I'm surprised to say this, but this is one of my favorite recipes in the book. Definitely in the top 5. It was just as good as a salad topper the next day.

I've been a delinquent Dorista lately. I have several recipes to catch up on. I did make the Lemon Steamed Spinach --on time, no less-- but never posted about it. It was fine. I'd make it again. Not much more to say about it. I mean, it was lemon steamed spinach. No curveballs. Here's proof of its existence:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Holy Salt-Bags, Batman!

Woah. Jerusalem and I are having some problems. Tonight, I made Lemony Leek Meatballs (pg 44, 9 points, I think, though nothing about the recipe seemed right, so I make no promises.)

I couldn't help but feel, all the way through, that something was wrong. First of all, I was a little short on leeks. The recipe calls for 6. I had about 4. When the steamed, pulsed leeks were mixed together with ground beef, a cup of breadcrumbs, and eggs, this was still a big bowl of meat, given that it was only meant to make eight 2 3/4 by 3/4 inch flat patties. I don't understand. Mine were giant hamburger size, and would have been even bigger if I'd used the correct number of leeks.

As I added 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, I thought, "Hmm. That looks like a lot," but I forged ahead and followed instructions.

Once the patties are browned on both sides, you add chicken broth and lemon juice and simmer it for half an hour. Fortunately, I tasted a patty at this point, because the instructions say to add another half teaspoon of salt to the broth. I couldn't see why I would possibly want these patties any saltier than they already were, so I omitted that round of salt.

Again, the instructions seemed off. I needed to use more stock than specified to "almost, but not quite cover the patties."
After 30 minutes of gentle simmering, covered, you're supposed to remove the lid and cook for a few more minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated. There was nearly as much liquid in the pan as I started with, and I didn't feel like boiling away nearly 2 cups of stock, so I just plucked the patties out.
I meant to put this on top of a salad, but my lettuce was all moldy in its bag. Yuck.
The recipe intro says "what makes these fritters so special is how well the flavor of the leeks holds its own against the meat, while the latter is more in the background..The result is featherlight texture and a sharp lemony flavor."

Um. Okay. I didn't get any of that. I definitely found the beef to dominate the leeks. All the leeks seemed to contribute was a mushy, though not unpleasant, texture. There was no lemon flavor, much less a sharp one. Perhaps if I'd boiled away all that broth, some lemon flavor would have materialized. I don't know. What I expected from this dish did not in any way match the turnout. Definitely wish there was a photo of what these patties were supposed to look like.

My tongue is salt-swollen after eating 1 of 8 patties. What's left after Matt eats will likely dawdle in my fridge, then get tossed.

Conclusion: Like the idea, and maybe it would be good with major tweaking, but dislike how this turned out. Bummer. I will not be making these again.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Uneven Start

Remember when I said I wasn't going to "do" Weight Watchers? Nix that. haha. I signed up for the online plan. We'll see how it goes. I don't intend to talk about it much. However, I do think it's interesting (though annoyingly time-consuming) to figure out the points of real-world recipes that I want to be cooking. Should anyone care, I'll mention the point value of what I'm cooking, best I can figure it out, just in case it would spare someone else the aggravation of "the Recipe Builder."

I received another gift-pile of fava from my landlord's uncle last week. Instead of once again making Marcella Hazan's crazy-delicious Roman Style fava been recipe, I decided to try Fava Bean Kuku (pg 39 of Jerusalem. Wasn't adhering to WW yet, so don't have points for you.) I was undeterred by the weirdness of the recipe, but perhaps I should have been. It's basically a frittata with fava beans, sugar, dried cherries (substituted for barberries, per the instructions), onion, garlic, saffron, and fresh mint. It's also supposed to have a full cup of dill, but I can't find dill here. I bought a seed packet and will try to grow my own, but that didn't help me now. I used some dried dill, instead.
Get out of my eggs, cherries.
This thing was really weird and unpleasant. For starters, it was very salty. The second major problem has to do with instructions. The chopped dried cherries, being the heaviest item in the bowl, sank to the bottom and dumped into the pre-heated pan unevenly. I didn't notice this problem as it happened, but I can't imagine I'm the first person it happened for. A quick instruction to stir the mixture one in the pan would have helped matters. As it was, my first slice of kuku had no cherries. My second had a thick layer that was so discordant with the other flavors that I have a visceral revulsion to the memory of it.

Conclusion: Disliked. The first, cherry-less slice wasn't terrible, but I can't get past how awful my second slice was.

This initiation into Jerusalem left me rattled. Would I be the only person who doesn't love this book?

Never fear.

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds (pg 30, 9 WW points) is one of the best things I've ever eaten, and sumac is my new favorite spice. How have I never come across it before? Why did my friend have to go all the way to Morocco to secure some for me? It smells like it belongs in the cinnamon/nutmeg/clove family, but the flavor packs some heat. Yum. I kinda want to throw some in gingerbread, just to see what happens.

So, the salad was easy enough. Soak dates and red onion in white wine vinegar. Toast torn up pita and chopped almonds in butter and oil, then mix with sumac, chile flakes, and salt. Mix the whole lot with spinach, lemon juice, and salt. I also added a shredded turkey cutlet.
Mmmm. I want more RIGHT NOW.
This is a diet worth starving all day for. (Sorry. I'm a dramatic dieter.)

Matt's response after one bite: "That was one amazing mouthful of food. I don't think I've ever said that about a salad before." I must agree.

Conclusion: Loved it. I want to hug this salad. Spicy, sweet, chewy, and crunchy. This one needs to become a regular. Until I run out of sumac, that is.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

To Keep Life Interesting...

I'm adding Jerusalem to the mix. I want to keep cooking from the WW book, for weight loss purposes, but am afraid I'll burn out if it's the only book I'm using.

A friend who recently visited Morroco brought me some spices that I needed in order to cook from this book. Through their bags, they're making my entire kitchen smell exotic and irresistible. I want in.  Now. Look at these beauties...
I don't even know what to say about Jerusalem, besides that I hope the recipes live up to their gorgeous presentation. I have to say, much of the internet hype that I can find about it comes from people who rave about the photography, stories, etc, but don't seem to have actually tried any of the recipes besides the hummus. Let's see, shall we?


I have two not-very-exciting recipes to report on.

Chicken and Black Bean Chili (pg 185) was not much different then the other chili recipe I cooked from the WW New Complete Cookbook. Especially because I had to sub ground beef for the ground chicken. Ground poultry doesn't seem to be available at the local supermarkets or commissary. I'm guessing I could ask a butcher to grind chicken, but that sounds like a lot of work for what would just end up being unremarkable old ground chicken. So I made this chili with beef.
Not a lot to say about it. It was fine. I think I prefer kidney beans in my chili. The black beans are so small that they blend into the background. The bean to tomato to beef ratio was unsatisfying.

Conclusion: Okay. Same spices and tomato base as the other chili. Really, I just made this because I had all the ingredients on-hand.

Last night, I made Pasta with Broccoli and Goat Cheese (pg 245), which is the recipe pictured on the book cover. You know what annoys me? When pictures in cookbooks show ingredients that aren't in the recipe. Unless those are supposed to be giant honkin' strips of lemon zest, the picture in the book clearly shows strips of yellow pepper in the pasta. Not that it actually matters, but peppers are not part of the recipe. It feels like inaccurate advertising.

Anyway. This dish came together really easily. I like that the broccoli is sauteed in oil, rather than boiled. It produced some brown, nutty-tasting edges. However, five minutes was not nearly enough time to cook three cups of broccoli until tender without burning the garlic. Maybe I didn't cut my florets small enough, but after the five minutes, I tossed a bit of water into the pan and let them finish cooking that way. Not a big problem, but it wasn't working as-written. Once the broccoli finishes cooking, you toss it and the pasta together with salt, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, reserved pasta water, and goat cheese. The goat cheese melts and coats the pasta.

One complaint. I attempted to measure out the serving according to the 1.5 cups stipulated in the book. Difficult to do. The pasta stuck together because of the goat cheese, and the broccoli hadn't mixed in well and was all on the bottom of the bowl, so my 1 cup was mostly a giant, tangled glob of pasta. Instead of adding another half cup, I picked a heap of broccoli out of the bowl and piled it on top. I suspect this would impact someone's points.

Conclusion: Liked it, though it quickly turned into a solid block. Charlie ate most of his pasta. I'd make this again.