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Cottage Cooking Club: April

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It’s another month in the Cottage Cooking Club, a project led by Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, that is a combined effort of several bloggers to cook all the recipes in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook, River Cottage Veg. This vegetarian cookbook contains a variety of recipes ranging from the simple to the complicated, all meant to encourage your palate and your kitchen to embrace more vegetables in your daily life. Andrea’s sensibilities follow the season, so when she chooses the recipes each month, she tries match up to what’s growing in the typical Northern clime.

April is a hard month for local produce in my neck of the woods. Happily, winter has departed, but it’s still early in the season. In my home garden, early herbs (chives and tarragon) are thriving. The radish, arugula and pea seeds we planted have germinated, but it will be weeks before anything is ready for harvest. The local farms are in the same boat. I volunteer weekly at the local community farm and the past month I’ve been in the greenhouse, transplanting seedlings from tiny to larger cell packs. The farmer just planted the first seeds and seedlings in the ground the past weekend.

With no hope of local vegetables, I limited my selections for this month to recipes that use vegetables that I typically buy at the supermarket all year round: celery and mushrooms.

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First up was a Celery Gratin. This was a much different presentation of celery than I’ve seen. Usually, celery is just a bit player in the sautéed aromatics for a dish or chopped into a stock. Usually the only time celery plays a starring role is cut up as a crudité for dipping or snacking. For the gratin, the celery is roasted with herbs and butter until tender, then topped with breadcrumbs and cheese. It was a beautiful looking dish, but to be honest, this is my least favorite recipe I’ve tried from the book so far. The celery, while tender, still required a knife to cut through the strings. Also, it was bland. It didn’t even taste all that celery-y. We finished it, but were not fans.

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On the other hand, the Creamy Mushroom Soup is one of the best mushroom soup recipes I’ve ever made. Leeks and a variety of mushrooms (shiitake, cremini, and Portobello) are sautéed and then simmered in homemade Vegetable Stock with a sprig of thyme. This fragrant soup is then pureed in the blender. To round out the flavors, some heavy cream, sherry, and nutmeg are added, giving the soup deeper flavor without making it too heavy. I was excited to garnish the soup with snipped chives from my backyard herb garden (yay, spring is here). The only change I might make next time is to add additional dried thyme when sauteeing the vegetables for a more pronounced herbal tone (and thyme is my favorite herb). The mushroom soup is definitely a winner!

Chives in My Herb Garden!

Chives in My Herb Garden!

If you’d like to check out the recipe reviews for April from the other Cottage Cooking Club participants, check out their links here.

celery-celery soup {ffwd}

Soup Again

As if on cue, now that it’s October, the leaves started changing color and falling off the trees. It’s soup season! I love soup, but don’t make more than cold gazpacho over the summer. I’m excited that it’s time to put it back in the repertoire.

Changing colors on my walk this morning with Bella.

Changing colors on my walk this morning with Bella.

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is for a Celery-Celery Soup. This week we start the fifth and final year of cooking through Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. We’re down to the last 30 or so recipes. I’ll admit that some of what’s left doesn’t excite me. That’s what I felt when I read through this recipe.

Into the pot

Celery and celery root (ugliest vegetable ever) cooked with onions and apples sounded simple but boring. Wasn’t it nice to be surprised at how well this worked for me off the page.

Hidden GarnishThe soup itself tasted good. I liked the smooth and creamy (though cream-less) texture. It was sweet and not sweet at the same time. However, it was the extras that made this so wonderful. The first bonne idée was to sauté tiny apple cubes in butter and curry powder. This “garnish” hid in the bottom of the bowl, covered by the ivory-colored innocuous-looking soup.

The second bonne idée was to make croutons with the same treatment. These went on top, so weren’t a secret. I LOVED it. It might have been the curry powder that made the flavors pop for me. I would consider adding a touch of curry powder right into the soup if I was short on time and wanted to skip the croutons and/or curried apples, though it will probably change the soup’s color. (Note I used only 4 cups of chicken broth as I’ve learned otherwise Dorie’s soup are too thin for me.)

Howard was away so he didn’t try this yet. I’m not sure whether he will (apples in savory food, you know). I did give half the batch to my neighbor, would will probably enjoy it more than he would.

To see what the other Doristas thought of their double-celery soup, check their links here. The recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table or online here.

(P.S. Happy Anniversary to my Dorista friends! It’s been a great journey together so far, full of so many unexpected friendships. I look forward to finishing up the book together plus whatever’s next.)