I’m a little late to report on my latest trials for Cook the Book Fridays. I have a reasonable excuse. I was away on a grand adventure to Mexico for a family wedding. We were staying near Cancun in Riviera Maya. It was wonderful. Other than the wedding, the highlight was visiting the ruins at Chichen Itza. We also tasted some authentic Mexican fare from the Yucatan peninsula which I’m looking forward to trying to replicate at home.
First up, I made the Comté and Ham Wafers from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. These are a savory version of slice-and-bake cookies, one of my favorite things to have on hand for nearly instant gratification. The wafers are more cheese than flour, making them very crispy and light (though not low calorie). The ham is prosciutto that is baked until crispy and then crumbled, high-end bacon bits. I used recently dried thyme from my garden rather than fresh herbs, but I think they tasted just fine.
I sliced-and-baked one log, which we nibbled alongside the evening’s cocktails –Corpse Reviver #2 – a pre-Prohibition cocktail we discovered during last year’s trip to Florida. It’s one of our favorite house cocktails now. I thought I’d freeze and save the other log for another night, but we scarfed them up. The other log is baking in the oven now.
I loved these wafers and will make them again. The type of cheese and herbs and ham (or absence of) can easily be changed for different combinations to suit your mood.
I must have made my logs thinner than intended because the recipe gives the yield as about 55 wafers and slicing at the stated ¼-inch thickness, I got about that many from each 1¼-inch diameter log.
The other recipe I made was Tabbouleh also from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. . I’m a big fan of tabbouleh, though the way I make it uses way more bulgur. This version is typical of authentic tabbouleh from Lebanon. It’s more of an herb salad. Chopped parsley and mint leaves are the main ingredients, accented with some chopped tomato and scallion. Just a touch of bulgur is added for some texture. The salad is moistened with some olive oil and lemon juice. Finally, a sprinkle of cinnamon and allspice give this a definite Lebanese spin. A touch of pomegranate molasses adds some extra tang. Years ago, I learned to add cinnamon and allspice to tabbouleh from our dear cooking friend Kathy, who was part Lebanese. Enjoying this salad for lunch, I thought of Kathy and how I miss her.
The tabbouleh was delicious, though I would enjoy it more in the summer. This time of year, I crave hot foods, not herbaceous salad.
You can find these recipes in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. The wafers are on page 45 and the tabbouleh is on page 95. I recommend them both. If you are interested in what the other members of Cook the Book Fridays have to say about these recipes, check out links to thoughts on the wafers here and the tabbouleh here.
Here are a few shots from Mexico.
The end of the year is coming fast, and November has been crazy! I had a quick visit to Philadelphia to meet up with my sisters for a happy family event. We packed in the activities, as we always do. Our mother was not one to sit still, and she trained us to be the same way.
I really like cake, plain simple unfrosted cakes. I could take or leave birthday cakes or other layered cakes, but I always enjoy a pound cake, a Bundt cake, or any kind of one layer cake. A simple glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar makes them complete, no fussing required. For Howard, I think it’s all about the frosting as he never gets excited when I make a cake, so they are usually relegated to occasions where I’m having just my friends over or bake something to bring somewhere else.
My favorite bakery cake is the Vanilla Bean Pound Cake made by Hi-Rise Bakery in Cambridge. They are regulars at the Lexington Farmers’ Market and, in season, I treat myself to a slice about once a month. The genius of their cake is that it’s soaked in vanilla-infused simple syrup, making the outside crust magical. Eating an end piece with its extra crust is just heaven. I’ve never made it myself, but here’s the recipe.
Right before I left, I made David Lebovitz’s Bay Leaf Pound Cake, the first November challenge recipe for Cook the Book Fridays. I did NOT need a whole cake. I had nowhere to bring it that week. So, I minified it. I made one-third of the recipe (dividing by the eggs, of course) to fill one small loaf pan – a personal pound cake.
This cake is a little different than a traditional pound cake recipe because rather than creaming the butter, the butter is melted. In this case, the butter is then infused with bay leaves to add some depth of flavor. A couple of bay leaves are also set on the bottom of the pan to add more bay flavoring.
We are also instructed to squeeze a line of soft butter on top of the cake to enhance a decorative crack. It could be because of my smaller pan, but that didn’t happen on my cake.
The final touch was an orange glaze. The cake’s predominant flavor was orange. Even with the infused butter and extra leaves, I didn’t notice the bay flavoring at all. Overall, this was a lovely cake, small enough for me to eat a daily slice for a few days. It wasn’t interesting enough to make again, though I did enjoy it while it lasted.
The second recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is Panade de Butternut (Butternut Squash Bread Soup). To read the C&C (comments and concerns) post for this recipe, it wasn’t getting a lot of love, so I was a bit wary.
The recipe took a bit of advanced planning. David recommends homemade stock for this one. We were finishing up a whole chicken, so that was easy enough with a carcass on hand. I’ve been making stock in the slow cooker for the past few years which is so simple. Sourdough bread was also required. My sourdough starter needed a workout this week, so I managed to bake my own loaf to use. Stock? Check! Bread? Check! I was ready to go.
This panade is a layering of caramelized onions, toasted sourdough bread, sliced butternut squash, chopped thyme and sage, and grated cheese doused with the homemade chicken stock. I halved the recipe for our household. I must have sliced the bread too thickly because there wasn’t nearly enough to fully cover the pan for even two layers, and the recipe called for three. That means I had three layers of squash and just two of bread, which was fine.
As the panade baked, the bread absorbed all the stock, so the result was more like bread pudding than soup. It also reminded me of a lighter version of the filling for a stuffed pumpkin I’ve made. Whatever it was, it was delicious! All the flavors of fall combined into one hearty dish. It would be a wonderful alternative to stuffing for the Thanksgiving table. On the downside, if I’m being honest, even though I really liked it, in my opinion, it was a lot more work than it was worth.
Judge for yourself! Recipes for both the pound cake (page 296) and the panade (page 163) can be found in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. My friends from Cook the Book Fridays made these too. You can find their reviews for the cake here and the panade here.