Category Archives: Cook The Book Fridays

December: Rabbit, Rabbit {CtBF}

Wow!  It’s December already?  My mother always told us that the first words out of your mouth on the first of every month should be “Rabbit, rabbit” to bring you luck, so there it is.

This week’s choice for Cook the Book Fridays is Celeriac (aka Celery Root) again!  I enjoyed the Celery Root Soup we made in November, and this celery root gratin did not disappoint.  Fortunately, I still have a few bulbs left from last month’s supply, straight from the farm, so I was prepared for the task of making Celery Root Rémoulade.

The base is a tangy dressing made from mayonnaise, a combination of crème fraîche and sour cream, Dijon and whole-grain mustard and lemon juice.  Ooh-la-la!

The most challenging part is to peel and julienne the celery root.  Carefully peeling with a knife is not that hard.  Unfortunately, my celery roots had some woody parts inside, so the next step of slicing into tiny sticks was a bit tedious because I had to take time to cut out those woody sections.  I was in a bit of a hurry and just mixed all the celery root I’d cut into the full amount of dressing.  I used less celery root than called for which resulted in an overly creamy salad.  This could easily be remedied by adding more celery root or only mixing in the amount of dressing needed to coat.  I also forgot to add the parsley which would add an extra freshness and some color.

Despite my shortcomings in following the directions, the celery root rémoulade is a delicious salad, one that I would enjoy again and again.

It was the perfect foil to a grilled Cheddar, caramelized onion, and kale sandwich!  My new trick with grilled cheese is to lightly coat the OUTSIDE of the bread with mayonnaise instead of butter.  It’s much easier to spread and browns up beautifully.

Why was I in a hurry?  I was trying to mix up the salad before I headed out to meet Tricia (daughter of Chez Nana’s Ro) to attend a demo and tasting with David Tanis.  The event was part of the book tour for his newest cookbook David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient which was released in October.  The book is filled with straightforward recipes and ideas to prepare fresh seasonal produce from your local farmers’ market.  Most (maybe all) of the recipes are accompanied by photographs, so it is a beautiful book in addition to being inspiring.  For about two hours, he talked about cooking, his cooking life, as he demonstrated a selection of recipes from the book.

Students of Boston University’s culinary program had worked all day with Chef David to prepare the recipes, and as we watched and listened to the presentation, we were served tastings.  The menu included Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta, Onion and Bacon Tart, Cumin Lamb Pitas, and a Rustic French Apple Tart.  These recipes resonated with my own sensibilities about cooking, so I left inspired to try my hand at these and many other recipes in the book.  Check out this new book which has its own variation on celery root rémoulade!

If you want to try celery root salad yourself, the recipe is on page 105 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  My Cook the Book Fridays friends’ reviews of the same recipe can be found here.

Bon Appetit!

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The Polenta Puzzle with some extra pieces {CtBF}

I have mixed feelings about polenta.  It’s something I always hope I’ll like, but I’m never wowed.  I think it’s a texture thing, probably stemming from my mother’s strong distaste for hot cereal, which she passed along to her children.  I’ve been practicing with oatmeal for years.  I can manage toothy steel-cut oats but only when masked by dried fruit and a healthy dose of turbinado sugar and honey.

David Lebovitz considers polenta topped with bitter greens and an egg to be comfort food.  I would choose something hot, cheesy and gooey, like mac-and-cheese.  Comfort food is a personal thing, so he’s entitled to his opinion.  I’m also open to trying (and to some extent, retrying) new foods or new food combinations, so I added Buckwheat Polenta with Braised Greens, Sausage, and Poached Eggs to this week’s menu.

This version of polenta included some cracked buckwheat to add a bit of texture.  I love the bulk bins at Whole Foods where I can purchase the small quantities of polenta and buckwheat needed.  I started with whole buckwheat and slightly ground it in the mini-chopper.  When I’ve cooked polenta in the past, I remember it being tedious and temperamental like risotto.  I was pleasantly surprised that the polenta cooked easily with frequent but not obsessive stirring.

A mix of radicchio and escarole is braised until wilted. I was a little disappointed that the vibrant colored greens turned a shade of gray when cooked. Pan-fried slices of herby sausage and some slivered olives bulk up the topping.  The final bowl is sprinkled with some feta cheese and topped with a poached egg.

Escarole and Radicchio (Much Prettier Before)

This made a hearty meal on a cold winter’s night, but it also confirmed that polenta just isn’t a favorite in our house.

I completely skipped Cook the Book Fridays in October, so I made an effort to catch up.

I can’t give enough praise to the Individual Chocolate Cakes with Dulce de Leche and Fleur de Sel. We’re huge fans of molten chocolate cakes, and this was an excellent variation.  It’s nice to have a flourless (and gluten-free) option.  And the dulce de leche filling hiding inside pushed this version over the top.  I was happy to figure out that these little cakes can be assembled in advance and chilled until you’re ready to bake.  Great for entertaining or just having a weeknight treat ready to go.  There’s lots more dulce de leche in the fridge, so I’ll be making these again soon.

When the October recipe schedule was posted, I’ll admit that I was ambivalent about the Indian Cheese Bread (Naan au Fromage). I bought the Laughing Cow cheese, but never felt excited about preparing the recipe.  Laughing Cow cheese did make me feel nostalgic.  When I was growing up, this was most exotic cheese my mother bought.  At that time, I think it was made in France.  It was somewhat bland, but the individually wrapped wedges traveled well in my lunchbox.

Finally, I found a day where the timing would work to make these flatbreads to accompany soup for lunch.  Minimal work is required to prepare the dough, especially when using the stand mixer.  Most of the time is spent waiting for it to rise.  The dough was supple and glossy (from the butter) and rolled out easily.  I was skeptical after wrapping the first flatbread around the cheese.  Roll out this brick?  The cheese is so soft that it was no problem.  Surprise!

Though smoky, it only took a minute or two to toast the bread in a covered cast-iron skillet brushed with clarified butter.  The bread puffed up beautifully (though it flattened almost instantly).  The folding and rerolling created layers so the bread was subtly flaky.  I only had 8 wedges of cheese, so I made 4 with cheese and 2 plain.  I folded the plain ones too to ensure the flaky effect.  The flatbreads reheated nicely in the oven the next day.

When I try new recipes, after evaluating the results, they end up in one of the three categories: Will Make, Might, and Won’t Make Again.  The end results here is one of each.

Will Make Again: Individual Chocolate Cakes with Dulce de Leche and Fleur de Sel

Might Make Again: Indian Cheese Bread

Won’t Make Again: Buckwheat Polenta with Braised Greens, Sausage, and Poached Eggs

If you want to try any of these recipes, you can find them in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.

My friends at Cook the Book Fridays also share their reviews of the same recipes.  If you want more opinions, look at their comments on Buckwheat Polenta, Individual Chocolate Cakes, and Indian Cheese Bread.

Wishing all my American friends a Happy Thanksgiving!  It’s my favorite holiday, and I can’t wait to prepare and enjoy the feast.