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Cottage Cooking Club: November 2015

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I’ve really fallen down on the job as a blogger. I cook daily, delicious things, but so often I neglect to take photos and then it’s all gone, or I take photos, but don’t sit down to write about my latest favorite dish. I’m promising myself to get back to a more regular schedule of posts in the new year, or before. In the meantime, my participation in the Cottage Cooking Club provides an occasion for sharing my thoughts on a few new recipes I tried this month.

If you don’t already know, the Cottage Cooking Club is an on-line group of bloggers who, under the leadership of the lovely Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, has been cooking recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg. Each month, Andrea selects one recipe from each chapter, each participant chooses the ones she wants to try, and at the end of the month, we share our experiences. I usually pick the ones are the most appealing to my palette. It’s great fun to read everyone else’s posts, and based on their reviews, add additional recipes to the never-ending list of ones to try.

Here are my thoughts on the recipes I chose, in the order I prepared them.

Potatoes with Green Mojo Sauce

First up, I made the Roasted Potatoes with Two Mojo Sauces. I actually roasted potatoes on two separate occasions and each time served the potatoes with a different mojo sauce. Roasting potatoes is a straightforward thing, but these instructions resulted in a crispier exterior than I usually get, so I was delighted to have a new trick up my sleeve. I made a half batch of each sauce because I could tell each made a large quantity. We enjoyed both the red and the green sauce which had a (American) Southwest flavor profile – a bit surprising from a British cookbook. The sauces went well with the potatoes and also on top of simply roasted chicken. (Can I say that when this book is supposed to be about the vegetables?) This was my favorite of this month’s recipes.

Next, I made the Kale Speltotto, though it would be more accurate to say I made Kale Farrotto. This recipe is similar to risotto, using spelt (or in my case, farro) instead of Arborio rice. Hot broth is gradually added to the grain, letting it absorb completely between batches. I made a squash stock from seeds I’d scooped from a winter squash earlier in the week.

As for the grain, I had whole-grain spelt in the pantry, but was worried that, because it wasn’t pearled, it wouldn’t cook in time for dinner. I couldn’t find any pearled spelt at the store. After reading the package of the brand of farro I had at home, it seemed like its cooking time would work. Of course, when I got home, I found that I didn’t have nearly enough farro OR pearl barley on-hand. I did have plenty of parboiled farro, which typically cooks up in 10 minutes. I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but it was a success. It took longer than 10 minutes to cook, but was done when pearled spelt would have been. I used kale I had picked myself after a volunteer shift at the farm.

Kale Farrotto

The combination of kale and leek was delicious. I was also out of goat cheese (normally a staple), so I topped this with grated Parmesan.

Lesson learned: Take a better inventory of what you have before deciding what to make for dinner, though if you misjudge, it almost always works out with whatever you have.

The final recipe I prepared from this month’s choices was the Beet and Walnut Hummus. I love beets. Beet-Walnut Salad is one of my favorite ways to eat roasted beets. This dip had similar ingredients, but the final result wasn’t a favorite. The beets overpowered all the other flavors except the cumin. And it was extremely sweet – too sweet for our taste buds. The sesame flavor of the tahini didn’t stand out at all. We prefer either the creamy texture of hummus made with chickpeas or the chunkier texture of my usual beet salad.

BeetHummus

In addition, I finally made the Twice-Baked Potatoes the group made last November. They were fabulous. My mother used to make a simpler version of this, simply scooping out the potatoes, mashing the innards, refilling the potato shells, and generously sprinkling the top with paprika before rebaking. Hugh’s version is much more decadent. The filling is like a loaded baked potato, mixed with sour cream and cheddar cheese and studded with scallions. This is a vegetarian cookbook, but crumbled bacon would be at home in the filling. These are a new favorite, and they were perfect to serve to company!

Our Thanksgiving table wouldn’t be complete without roasted Brussels sprouts. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is Hugh’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots. Since the group first made this last October, I frequently revisit this recipe, and I baked a batch to bring to the Thanksgiving feast we attended with friends.

I hope all of my American Cottage Cooking Club friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, sharing good food and company with family and friends. I look forward to catching up with all of you again in December.

To find out what the other Cottage Cooking Club bloggers thought of their selections this month, follow their links here.

Cheers! (P.S. WordPress tells me this is my 500th post! Hard to believe…)

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Cottage Cooking Club: March

Beets

The Cottage Cooking Club is halfway through their journey of cooking through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook, River Cottage Veg. To mark the milestone, our fearless leader Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness declared March a makeup month. As a farewell to winter and storage vegetables, I chose a couple of recipes that looked very appealing when my colleagues made them during the cool-weather months.

First, I made Roasted beet soup with horseradish cream which was in the lineup last month. Beets are one of my favorite vegetable. I never ate them until I was an adult, but once we were introduced, the love affair never stopped. I nearly always roast them, which makes them extra sweet, and I was excited to learn a new trick for roasting beets with this recipe. A few crushed garlic cloves, sprigs of thyme, and a bay leaf are added to the roasting pan and everything is tossed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before covering the pan to go in the oven. I didn’t expect it to make much of a difference from my usual method (which is to just roast the beets plain), but let me tell you, the house smelled amazing while they cooked.

Beet Soup

Once cooked, cooled, and peeled, the soup practically makes itself. Coarsely chopped beets are processed in the blender with just enough stock to get a smooth puree. Then, more stock can be added to get the desired thickness. I left it on the thick side, adding only about half the liquid called for. Howard was very excited that we were starting our meal with “borscht”. Even though he looked up and read me the definition of borscht from Wikipedia, I’m not sure this simple soup fits the definition. Regardless, with very few ingredients, this soup tasted of pure beet. All it needed was a dollop of crème fraîche mixed with horseradish and a sprinkle of dill for a gorgeous starter. We loved it.

I still had a few random root vegetables from my farm shares languishing in the vegetable drawer since fall. With winter officially over, it seemed time to use them up and get ready for greener times. The Oven-roasted roots frittata that the group made back in September was the perfect vehicle. I chopped a daikon radish, a kohlrabi bulb, and some carrots, then added a sliced shallot and roasted them until they caramelized. Before adding the eggs, I added some leftover roasted broccoli. I also steamed and chopped the beet greens from the soup beets and added them to the mix along with thyme and rosemary. Topped with some grated gruyere, the frittata was ready to pop in the oven.

roasted vegs

Another success! I frequently make frittatas as a way to use up leftovers, but this recipe used a slightly different technique. I usually start it on the stovetop in a cast-iron skillet and finish it in the oven. Howard thinks the edges get too browned and take away from the dish. Cooking it entirely in the oven, as this recipe does, in a square pan, yielded an easier and more attractive result. This will be my new go-to technique! The only adjustment is added cooking time. Though it appeared the eggs were set, when I cut slices to serve, the middle was still a little runny. We were eating the outer pieces, so it was fine. For next time, I will raise the oven temperature, or it bake it longer, more like 30 minutes.

Frittata

To see what the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club chose to make this month, check out their links here.

It’s March 28 and snowing outside. I know it won’t stick around long but, please, bring on springtime!!!!!

My backyard this morning...

My backyard this morning (March 28)…