Cottage Cooking Club: August 2015

LentilSaladNicoise

Wow! I’ve definitely fallen out of the blogosphere. I haven’t posted since last month’s Cottage Cooking Club. I need to get with the program. There’s plenty of cooking happening in my kitchen, but clearly not a lot of writing at the computer. I am sorely out of practice. I will try to get back into the game this fall.

 

Fall? It’s the end of August, so that means that summer is almost over. I feel it in the air with slightly chilly mornings and gradually shortening days. Fortunately, the harvest is still going strong, and we’ve been enjoying wonderful local produce from the local farms and farmers markets, and a few things from our backyard garden. Tomatoes and corn are always at the table right now and will be until the season is over.

 

For this month’s Cottage Cooking Club, the on-line group cooking through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg, our inspiring leader Andrea from The Kitchen Lioness chose a menu of recipes that were hard to choose from. Here’s the rundown on what I picked, in the order I made them.

 

With the earliest of tomatoes, I threw together Tomatoes with Thai Dressing. This, like so many of the recipes in this book, showcases top-notch vegetables with just the simplest of accompaniments, here, a light Asian-flavored dressing. I wouldn’t say the dressing tasted very Thai to me, or all that Asian.  It was refreshing, and I did like the fresh mint sprinkled on top.  This quick salad was nice enough, though not interesting enough for me to make again.

 

Thai Tomatoes

 

Next up was the Leek and Cheese Toasties. This open-faced sandwich has the most amazing topping: sautéed leeks combined with thyme, cream, and Cheddar cheese. A lightly-toasted slice of bread is slathered with the cheesy leek spread, sprinkled with more cheese, and broiled until bubbling and browned. This was my favorite recipe this month. I made a double batch and ate it for lunch every day for a week. The topping is probably a bit too heavy for the hot dog days of summer, but I’ll remember this for the cooler weather and make this one again and again.  Plus it reminded of my mother’s special sandwich, a “Bunni special”, the lunch we often requested or she made without us asking because it was so good and easy to put together.  My mom’s sandwich was different, sliced cheese and tomato sprinkled with dried Italian herbs and broiled, but they were similar enough to make me smile.

 

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Finally, I made Summer Garden Lentils Niçoise. If I haven’t mentioned it before, lentils are my favorite of all beans and legumes. I’ve seldom met a lentil dish I didn’t like. This lentil salad, which can be served warm or cold, includes my favorite flavors of summer: cherry tomatoes, olives, green beans, and red onion, pulled together with a mustardy vinaigrette. The cherry tomatoes were from my garden and the green beans from a local farm.  Eggs transforms the salad to a meal. The first night, I chose to serve it warm with poached eggs on top. Yum! And, then the next day, eggless, this was the perfect side to the zucchini tart I had for lunch.  I also liked adding herb stems to the lentils as they cooked.  I threw in some basil because I picked too much from the garden.  I will definitely make this combination again.

 

LentilSaladWithEggs

 

My favorite part of this group is checking out everyone else’s posts to both compare notes on the recipes I made and to figure which other recipes to add to my “must make” list.  You can check out everyone’s links here.

 

Cottage Cooking Club: July 2015

Cucumber Salad

I can’t believe another month for Cottage Cooking Club has come and gone… This is the time of the month to share reviews of recipes I tried from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg in July. As in earlier months, I selected from the choices presented by our group’s leader, Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, which always reflect ways to enjoy the most seasonal ingredients. The other members of the group (there are about a dozen of us) also choose from Andrea’s lineup and at the end of the month, we compare notes.

I didn’t expect how hot July would turn out to be. In New England, we usually have about two weeks of unbearably hot and humid weather, typically one in July and another in August. Hazy hot and humid summers are the weather pattern that caused me to move away from my hometown in Maryland and never look back, at least not during the summer. It seems that with climate change, my childhood weather is catching up with me. Unlike in Maryland, here outside Boston, in our 150+ year old house, we are not equipped with central air. We suffer through with constantly whirring ceiling fans and floor fans, cold drinks, cubes of watermelon, ice cream, frequent showers, and visits to air-conditioned malls and restaurants. I’ll admit to spending my share of afternoons hanging out the public library too.

Summer Stir Fry

Fortunately, I cooked my chosen recipe before July’s heat wave hit. The brilliantly-green Summer Stir-Fry with Fried Rice was beautiful to look at! I picked this recipe because I don’t typically stir fry, and I’m not sure why that is. Our backyard sugar snap peas petered out at the end of June, so I headed to the Wayland Farmers’ Market to stock up on ingredients. At the stand for Two Field Farm in Wayland, MA, my friend Charlie introduced me to golden snow peas. I bought a pint to add to sugar snaps, shelled English peas, arugula and scallions (I omitted the zucchini to accommodate Howard). Stir-fried rice with an egg scrambled into it forms the base for the verdant stir-fried vegetables.

Golden Snow Peas

Golden Snow Peas

As lovely as this dish was on the plate, we found it “just OK”. Perhaps it needed more spice or we didn’t season it exactly to our taste. In any case, it was a fast weeknight meal, but not necessarily something I will make again.

I’m growing a small backyard vegetable this summer. Usually we grow peas for early summer and then cherry tomatoes and basil, but not much else. With my volunteer work at the local community farm and a new seed library launched this spring, I’ve been more inspired this year. In addition to our usual (albeit minimal) crops, I’ve added scallions, zucchini, and pickling cucumbers. (I also grew some Romaine lettuce, arugula, collards, and radishes, but they have grown, been eaten, and are gone.)

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When the first of my cucumbers ripened, I decided to also make the Marinated Cucumber with Mint. No cooking required! Because my cukes were fresh off the vine, I did not peel or seed them. Other than that, I followed the instructions. The result was a light, bright cucumber salad. The fresh mint was a fresh touch. Like the stir-fry, this one was good, but not great.

To date, my experience with Hugh’s recipes had been delightful, so I’ll admit that I was a tad disappointed this month to be underwhelmed by my choices. I will be interested in seeing what other Cottage Cooking Club members thought of their recipe choices (which you can see here). And, I’ll look forward to trying out another round of recipes from the August selections.

Happy Summer! Stay Cool!

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