Argh! My blog is so neglected. It’s the time of year where I’m cooking all the time. I’ve even kept up with the Cook the Book Fridays assignments. Alas, I’ve become an expert procrastinator when it’s time to write a blog post. So, without further ado, here goes.
I was SO EXCITED to make Panisse Puffs. I can remember leafing through My Paris Kitchen when it first came out. That must have been around the time I made popovers for a rare participation in Tuesdays with Dorie because I had popovers on the brain. It’s this recipe that tempted me to buy My Paris Kitchen. Of course, I never made them. When this recipe was selected for the Cook the Book Friday schedule, I finally had the motivation I needed, no excuses allowed.
Again, I marveled at how simple popover batter is. A few staples whirred in the blender and it’s time to rock-and-roll. The pan preheats along with the oven, so the pan is buttered and then filled with batter when it’s blazing hot.
The puffs puffed. What they didn’t do is get all that brown. I’ll admit that the glass window in my oven is not very easy to see through. After 35 minutes, the puffs looked brown, but I think the baked-on splatters disguised the true color. They also were stubborn about coming out of the pan. I used a muffin tin because I don’t have a special popover pan, though I’m not sure it would have made a difference.
These looked much better in the pan. After prying them out, my puffs were rather disfigured and deflated, no longer “souffléed”. They tasted OK, but after years of anticipation, I was a little disappointed.
Soupe au Pistou
Typically, I don’t make hot soup in the summer. Gazpacho, sure, and the occasional “other” cold soup, but little compels me to heat up the kitchen with or hang around to watch a simmering pot of soup. For these reasons, I was ambivalent about making vegetable soup with pesto. Trying to stay on schedule with the Cook the Book Fridays gang, I forced myself to soak white beans overnight and move ahead.
As crazy as it seemed to me, this really is a summer vegetable soup. All the vegetables called for were part of my CSA share that week: carrots, zucchini, fresh sugar snap peas, and loads of basil. The beans simmered while I chopped everything else up. Vegetables were added in stages, depending on how long they needed to cook to tender.
While the vegetables cooked, I made pistou (nut-less pesto) in my mortar and pestle. I’d never done that before, always using the power of the food processor instead of my own muscle. The result was much rougher but pleasing when dolloped on top of the soup.
So, I was wrong to doubt the delight of a hot summer soup. This one was delicious. I’d even make it again with the vegetables of the week if the weather isn’t too hot outside.
Herbed Fresh Pasta
Another first. Those of you familiar with tales of my bottomless (Mary Poppins-like) basement won’t be surprised to know that there’s a pasta machine down there. I bought it decades ago at a now-defunct discount store for the bargain price of $15. I must have made pasta a few times back when I first bought the machine, but I don’t think it’s left the basement since we moved to this house almost 25 years ago. (Packrat? Are you accusing me of being a packrat?)
Pasta is not something I ever think to make myself. It seems intimidating, especially when making the dough by hand rather than in the food processor. I was home alone the night I made this, so I made a smaller batch. Always divide by the eggs, so I made 1/3 of the recipe. I used a variety of herbs from my garden and just followed the recipe.
No tools required! I used my fingers to incorporate the eggs into the flour. Once the eggs were absorbed, not all the flour was incorporated, so I kept sprinkling the dough with water until it all came together.
It rested for about an hour before rolling it into sheets and then cutting the sheets into strands.
I was surprised that the process was so easier than I expected. I don’t intend to wait another quarter century before the next time I attempt my own fresh pasta.
I made a mélange of pea tendrils, sugar snap peas, and shell peas to top the pasta for a seasonal spring meal (at least, seasonal in June, when I made this). Delicious!
You can find all the recipes in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Panisse Puffs is on page 245, Soupe au Pistou on page 92, and Herbed Fresh Pasta on page 230. My friends at Cook the Book Fridays were more timely in their execution, but go back and check out their posts for Panisse Puffs, Soupe au Pistou, and Herbed Fresh Pasta.
It’s time again for a recipe review for the Cottage Cooking Club. This group has spent nearly two years collectively cooking through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg, a vegetarian cookbook filled with recipes for flavorful and relatively simple ways to enjoy your vegetables. For March, Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness and leader of the Cottage Cooking Club, selected an assortment of recipes to use up the last of the late-winter while getting ready to welcome the produce of early spring.
I’ll admit that I fell down on the job this month. I selected three different recipes to make, but was only able to manage two. I have ingredients for my remaining selection (vegetable biryani), so if I fit it into our menu, I will share the results next month.
The two recipes I made this month got top marks.
First up, I made “Vegiflette” Toastie! I love the toasties (open-faced sandwiches) in this book. The topping for this one is inspired by the French dish Tartiflette, a gratin of potatoes, onions, bacon, and Reblochon cheese, though in vegetarian form.
Reblochon is currently banned for import into the United States. As a result, I discovered a substitute that might become my new favorite cheese. Reblochon is a washed-rind raw milk cheese made in the French Alps. After a thoughtful discussion and some tasting with the cheesemonger at Whole Foods, I settled on her recommendation of Oma, a similarly pungent washed-rind raw milk made in Vermont. The cheese is made by the von Trapp family and aged at The Cellars at Jasper Hill. We had a little laugh about whether we’d sing better (think The Sound of Music –the same von Trapp family) after eating this cheese. In my case, it didn’t help.
The toastie topping was simple to throw together for a decadent lunch. You need a little advanced planning to have cold cooked potatoes on hand. While slices of rustic bread (I made a loaf of no-knead whole wheat) toast, thickly sliced cooked potatoes are pan-fried in some olive oil. Once they’re browned, slices of bitter Belgian endive are added until they soften up.
The vegetables are piled on top of the toast, sprinkled with a generous grind of black pepper, then covered with a few pieces of cheese. A few minutes under the broiler melts the cheese and you have lunch.
I loved this. I’m also intrigued to try the original dish, with bacon or without, though with the cold weather on its way out, that kitchen experiment might need to wait until next year.
I also made zucchini penne spoufflé. I’d been wanting to try this recipe ever since the group made the spinach version last May.
Spoufflé is a cross between mac-and-cheese and a soufflé. It starts with a roux made from milk infused with onion, bay, and peppercorns. I loved learning this infused milk trick when making the fennel and squash lasagna last month. It’s amazing how something so simple adds an unexpected dimension to the finished dish. The roux is enriched with grated cheddar cheese and a healthy dose of nutmeg. Then egg yolks are whisked in to further thicken up the sauce. It wouldn’t be mac-and-cheese without some pasta, plus a chunky puree of sautéed zucchini adds color. Finally, it wouldn’t be soufflé without folding in some stiff egg whites to lighten it up.
The whole concoction is transferred to a buttered dish and baked until it’s puffy and golden. My soufflé dish was a smaller than I expected, so I made a mini-one with what didn’t fit in the larger vessel.
I ate this hot from the oven, but the leftovers, slightly deflated, are good too.
The toastie was my favorite this month, but I’d definitely make both of these recipes again. I would like try the spinach version of the spoufflé too.
Next month will be the final month devoted to this cookbook. Andrea has plans in the works for the group to continue the adventure, cooking through more of Hugh’s books.
This month, check out my fellow Cottage Cooking Club member’s blogs to read their reviews of March’s recipe selections.