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Pantry Pleasures {CtBF}

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Sometimes we like something to nibble on while dinner is cooking.  It’s always something simple, typically a bowl of guacamole or some cheese and crackers.  When company comes over, I get a little fancier and often make some kind of dip.  I’m particularly fond of variations on white bean dips.  This week’s choice for Cook the Book Fridays from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen introduced a new option to our pre-weeknight dinner snacking:  Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil.

The first step is to make a batch of Rosemary Oil.  Rosemary and parsley leaves are blanched and drained, then steeped in warm olive oil for a while.  The herbs and oil go for a whirl in the food processor to puree the herbs, then the herbs are strained out of the oil.  The result is a jar of verdant fragrant herbaceous oil.  I’ll be drizzling this on everything that invites it in the weeks to come.

Rosemary Oil

The tapenade itself comes together quickly with pantry items: canned artichoke hearts, green olives, and capers along with olive oil, lemon juice and a couple of cloves of garlic.  It takes about 30 seconds.  A generous glug of rosemary oil adds an extra spark of flavor.  Served with crackers or baguette slices, this winning combination makes a perfect starter.

Tapenade

I also learned this tidbit from the vignette on the page opposite the recipe.  Did you know that while tapenade refer to an olive spread, the name tapenade is derived from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas?  According to David Lebovitz, it isn’t tapenade without capers!

I suspect my friends enjoyed tapenade as much as I did.  To validate my theory, follow their links here.  Due to copyright considerations, I don’t publish the recipes here.  You can find the tapenade on page 53 and the rosemary oil on page 332 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  Or feel free to drop me a line and I’ll share the recipe with you.

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!”

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