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Cottage Cooking Club: February

Potato Rosti

I know, it’s March, not February. So I’m a little late. I cooked my selections for Cottage Cooking Club in February, but didn’t plan my time well enough to write my recap post until today. For the past seven months, I’ve joined Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness and a bevy of other home cooks to try out recipes from British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook, River Cottage Veg, under the umbrella of the Cottage Cooking Club.

I tried out three recipes in February, though many of Andrea’s choice of recipes looked tempting. These were all I could fit in.

First, I made Potato Rösti, the Swiss version of potato pancakes. I actually made them twice because my first attempt failed. This is really the simplest of recipes with just four ingredients: potatoes, salt, pepper, and the cooking oil. The potatoes are parboiled, cooled, then shredded.

How could I mess this up, you might wonder. Well, I think the instructions are a little misleading. I quartered large baking potatoes. The recipe says that after boiling for 5 minutes, they should be just underdone. After 5 minutes, they were much closer to raw than to done, so I decided to cook them a little longer. At 10 minutes, they fit my description of just underdone. I set them aside to cool. Later, when I tried to grate them, they fell apart in my hand. I ended up turning them into mashed potatoes and calling it a night.

On my second attempt, I drained and cooled the potatoes after they cooked for 5 minutes. I didn’t make a judgment call as to how done or underdone they were. In reality, the residual heat keeps on cooking the potatoes. Once cooled, they are much more cooked than when they come out of the pot, perfectly “just underdone”.

This time, the potatoes grated easily. Shredded potatoes are tossed with salt and pepper. Then, handfuls of the potato mixture are fried in oil to make the laciest and crispiest potato pancakes. We loved them!

Potato Rösti served as a side to our Valentine's Day lobster dinner

Potato Rösti served as a side to our Valentine’s Day lobster dinner

I am more accustomed to the potato latkes I make once a year for Hanukkah which start with raw potatoes and also include eggs and flour to bind them together. I enjoyed the lighter texture and pure potato flavor of the rösti. Like the latkes, these aren’t everyday fare, but rösti is definitely a new side dish I’ll add to my repertoire.

Next up was Roasted Squash and Shallots with Merguez Chickpeas which makes an easy and hearty winter weeknight meal. Merguez is a heavily spiced North African sausage, usually made with lamb. This is a vegetarian cookbook, so sausage wasn’t an ingredient. For this recipe, the spice mixture takes its inspiration from merguez. Coriander, cumin, fennel, and caraway seeds plus peppercorns are toasted in a skillet, then coarsely ground. The spice mixture is warmed rosemary, garlic, smoked paprika, cayenne, and salt in oil. Your house will fill with a wonderful aroma.

Can you smell this?

Can you smell this toasting?

In the meantime, cubes of butternut squash and halved shallots are roasted until tender. I didn’t have time to cook my own chickpeas, but canned worked out fine. To emulate drained freshly cooked chickpeas, I warmed the canned ones in some boiling water for a minute or two. To finish the dish, warm chickpeas are tossed in the spiced oil, then served over a bed of roasted squash and shallots sprinkled with chopped parsley. This is a winning dish. Both components of the dish (the roasted vegetables and the spiced chickpeas) could be prepared and served independently, making it versatile as well.

Merguez Chickpeas with Squash and Shallots

This month has been a trip around the world, starting in Switzerland, moving on to North Africa, and ending in Mexico. For the last recipe I tried, I made Magic Bread Dough and formed it into flatbreads for Refried Beans Foldovers. The dough was easy to prepare, though too messy to get a photo because my hands weren’t clean enough to pick up the camera. After stirring water into the dry ingredients, there was still a lot of flour that didn’t incorporate. On faith, I dumped it all onto the counter and started kneading. After a few minutes, all the loose flour disappeared into the dough. Perhaps that’s why this is called Magic bread dough.

My house is really cold right now (55°F during the day) which made me doubt the dough would rise much at room temperature. I took advantage of my oven’s proofing setting which holds the oven at a constant 100°F temperature. I let the dough rise for about 2 hours. It probably could have gone a little longer, but I was impatient. Then, I punched it down and divided the dough into 8 pieces that I rolled out into circles. My circles about 6 inches across, though I wish they had been a little bit bigger. The rolled out dough rests for five minutes and then gets cooked in a dry, very hot skillet to brown both sides. The flatbreads reminded me of pocketless pitas. We weren’t going to eat all the flatbreads at one meal, so I wrapped each one in a dishtowel and let them cool. Once cooled, I stored them (without the dishtowels) in a plastic bag, reheating before using them later.

Refried Beans Foldover

The flatbreads were the base for Refried Bean Foldovers which resemble a cross between a burrito and a pizza. The refried bean filling starts with sautéed onions and garlic. It being the dead of winter, I added canned diced tomatoes with their juices instead of grating fresh ones. Finally, a can of pinto beans is added and mashed for a spreadable consistency. The foldover is assembled by spreading the refried beans on a warm flatbread then topping with sour cream and your choice of extra garnishes. I served with diced avocado, grated Cheddar cheese, diced scallions, and candied jalapenos. Fold and eat! This makes a tasty light dinner and an even better lunch. Now that I’m familiar with the foldover concept, I’m thinking that leftover Roasted Squash and Shallots with Merguez Chickpeas would make a delicious filling too.

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 February, check out other posts here. I always find these reviews inspiring and add more recipes to my ever-growing “must cook” list.

provençal vegetable soup {ffwd}

A Bowl of Provencal Veg Soup

Hot soup isn’t what I usually want to eat during the summer, especially when the weather is hot and humid. The things we do for French Fridays… Even though the temperature didn’t seem seasonal, the ingredient list certainly was, especially with tomato and corn. Between my farm share and a few things picked up at the farmers market, this soup turned out to be a masterpiece of local bounty. I also love anything with chickpeas.

Local Bounty

I made one modification when I read Dorie’s warning about the pasta getting mushy when reheating the soup. I made it the morning to serve for dinner that evening, so I knew reheating was in my soup’s future. I chose to cook the pasta separately, cool it down, and keep it in a separate container until later. I just stirred it in when I reheated the soup. It seems to have held up well, not just the night we had it with dinner, but also as leftovers.

Soup a-simmer

As I mentioned, the soup was a bit too hot for the weather, but it did taste delicious! It was amazing that just 3 minutes of simmering infused the vegetable broth with so much tomato flavor. I also enjoyed the drizzle of pesto (which I made sans Parmesan). Howard’s not a fan of zucchini, so he didn’t love it, but did pronounce it “OK”.

You can check out the other Doristas’ soups by following their links here. You can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

We have a double-header this week. The zucchini plant that I planted about three weeks ago offered up two male blossoms this week. I picked them early in the morning and stored them in the fridge for the evening, when I would make two fried shrimp-filled zucchini blossoms. Unexpectedly, when I stopped by the Belmont Farmers Market in the afternoon, one of the vendors had bunches of pumpkin blossoms for sale, just $4 for just over a dozen, so I bought a bunch to add to my homegrown couple and make it a meal.

I was worried it would be hard, but I was able to pull the stamens out without ripping the blossoms (using tweezers). I stuffed half with shrimp and half with goat cheese mixed with chopped olives and pesto. Other Doristas raved about the batter, and they were right. I loved how it bubbled up and stayed frothy. I’m not a big deep-fryer, but if I were frying stuff again, I’d use this batter recipe.

zuccBatter

I enjoyed the fried blossoms. I also liked that there were multiple fillings. Once cooked, I couldn’t remember which were which, so the surprise on the first bite of each was fun. I’d make these again, as a once-a-year treat, if I come across blossoms again next summer.

zuccBlossoms

As a final note, I spent last weekend hanging out in New York City with Kathy, Cher, and Diane. What a blast! Diane already posted about our adventures here, so I won’t repeat, but I will include a photo of the four of us getting ready to go into Chelsea Market (This is Kathy’s picture, I won’t take credit). Here’s to more Dorista meetups in the future.

Doristas at Chelsea Market