croquants {ffwd}

croquants

Don’t you love a snow day? Even though you could choose on any day to be lazy and just stay at home and putter, a snow day gives you permission, absolving you of the guilty feeling a self-imposed lazy day might bring on. I also love the relative quiet that a travel ban brings on. The sound of our and our neighbors’ snow blowers might pepper the air, but no one is out driving around except the snow plows.

The Day After

I have a dog who loves (insists on) walks, so even the winter storm (blizzard?) called Juno didn’t keep us home. With no traffic, we can safely walk down our normally very busy street (it’s actually a state highway) to get to quiet side streets. I find it peaceful to walk in the solitude of a neighborhood where most people are sheltering indoors. My very furry dog Bella is in her element, except for her frustration when mountains of snow prevent us from walking on the unpaved parts of our usual routes.

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie offered the perfect activity for when I was back inside the warm house. I baked a batch of croquants, a meringue-y nut-filled cookie.

Calling for just four ingredients, these cookies couldn’t be easier. The nuts are barely chopped. The egg whites don’t even need to be whipped. The nuts are tossed with sugar before stirring in the egg whites and then the flour. I used my smallest cookie scoop to form small mounds on parchment-lined baking sheets.

nuts and sugar

The croquants puff up and transform into light and slightly chewy delights. I loved the big pieces of nuts glued together with the meringue-like dough. I used a half hazelnuts (cut in half) and almonds (cut in halves or thirds crosswise). I’m intrigued to try the cashews Dorie mentioned as well as pecans and maybe macadamia nuts. So many possibilities!

Dough

I’d never heard of croquants before. They were new to me, and yet familiar. Croquants remind me of several different confections I enjoy. The texture reminds me of the almond macaroons I get at the Italian bakery. I was also reminded of the divinity candy I was obsessed with making when I was in high school. Most of all, they remind me of the Forgotten Kisses my mother used to make with chocolate chips. Now that I think of it, I wonder how croquants would be with chocolate chips instead of the nuts or with a mix of half and half…

The review from the resident chocoholic was this: “They’re not my top choice (no chocolate), but they are really good cookies”. A backhanded compliment, but praise nonetheless, so I definitely plan on making croquants again!

Check out my French Fridays friends’ links at French Fridays with Dorie. We don’t post the recipes, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

And for anyone who missed it on Facebook, here’s a photo from our breakfast at Area Four with Tricia and Mr. Tricia when they were in town two weekends ago.

Tricia3

Cottage Cooking Club: January

Big Baked Mushrooms

Another month has gone by, and it’s time to share the recipes I chose to make for the Cottage Cooking Club. If you don’t already know, the Cottage Cooking Club was started by Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, with the goal of cooking all the recipes in River Cottage Veg, a cookbook by British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in one year. It’s a little more relaxing than other cooking groups because, in this group, all of the recipes are be cooked across the entire group, not by each individual participant.

I always find it hard to choose from Andrea’s selections for the month, but I try to pick recipes that I know I can work into the month’s cooking. This month, I made three of the ten possibilities, more than I’ve taken on in previous months.

Farro, Squash, Fennel Salad

First up, I made the Spelt Salad with Squash and Fennel. This is a warm salad combining chewy grains with roasted vegetables and toasted walnuts. Trader Joe’s sells a parboiled farro that can be cooked in 10 minutes, so I used that instead of spelt which takes much longer. There’s a lot of confusion about the differences (or similarities) of the available heirloom grains on the market. According to Wikipedia, the Italians call spelt farro grande but technically (and genetically) they are different heirloom grains. I’m not going to sweat the difference because what matters to me is the flavor and texture. The quick-cooking TJ farro works for me.

Roasting Squash and Fennel

While the farro cooked, I roasted chunks of butternut squash and slices of fennel until tender. A handful of walnuts are added to the pan for the last few minutes of cooking. Cooked farro and the roasted ingredients are tossed together with a lemony vinaigrette to create a hearty salad that could either be the centerpiece of a meal (large portion) or a satisfying side dish (smaller portion). We liked this, but felt it would have been even better with more walnuts.

Artichoke White Bean Dip

We had some friends over for a schnitzel and spaetzle dinner. I made the Artichoke and White Bean Dip for our guests to enjoy while I was frying the schnitzel. The dip came together quickly. Chopped marinated artichokes and canned white beans are heated up with sautéed onion and garlic. Then, the mixture is coarsely pureed in the food processor with a touch of yogurt, lemon juice and oil. It’s reminiscent of a hummus in texture, but without the strong tahini taste of hummus plus it’s served warm. I served the dip with pita chips and crudities. It got high marks from Howard and the guests.

Sauteeing Artichokes and Beans

Finally, I made the Big Baked Mushrooms. I do not like raw mushrooms, and I always forget how much I do like cooked ones. Portobello (aka “big”) mushrooms are dotted with butter and garlic and baked until tender. As a finishing touch, grated cheese is melted on top. I used an aged Gouda which added a nice nutty flavor. These mushrooms are so easy to put together that, in many ways, they make a nice side dish to round out a meal.

Dotted Mushrooms

I would make all of these recipes again, but the mushrooms is the one most likely to reappear on my table first.

You can find the recipes in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg. To get reviews of other recipes the Cottage Cooking Club made in January, check out other posts here.

For anyone who enjoys “snow pictures”, a little storm named Juno visited us on Tuesday. According to my snow gauge, she dropped about 2 feet of snow. As I always say, “If it’s going to be cold, it might as well be pretty!”

snow2feet

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