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Cottage Cooking Club: January 2016

Dumpling Squash

In northern climes, cooking vegetables in the winter can get a little dull.  For someone who tries to keep to seasonal vegetables, in the months when nothing is growing outside, the choices are mainly root vegetables and various crucifers.  As much as I love most of these vegetables, especially roasted, I can also get bored.

One of the percs of cooking with the Cottage Cooking Club is finding inspiration in the seasonal selections made by our leader Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s vegetarian cookbook River Cottage Veg.  These ideas are helpful to making the dinner table more exciting, especially this time of year.

Because the other eater at my house doesn’t enjoy the flavor of curry, I limited by choices to two of the recipes.  I also threw in a makeup.  In no particular order, here’s my review.

The first thing I made was the Rutabaga (Swede) with Onion and Sage.  Cubes of rutabaga are slowly sautéed with onions, which caramelize during the long cook.  Once the rutabaga is tender, the dish is strewn with chopped fresh sage.  I’ll admit that I struggle to enjoy this particular vegetable (turnips, too).  Though the onions were sweet, the rutabaga itself didn’t sweeten quite enough for me.  Roasting does a better job of that.  I did like the flavor combination, so perhaps I would add onions when next roasting rutabaga and finish it with sage, being inspired by Hugh’s recipe even if I don’t repeat his version.

Rutabaga with Onion and Sage

Next I tried Squash Stuffed with Leeks.  The problem with winter squash is that sometimes it’s sweet and flavorful, and other times it’s bland and mealy.  There doesn’t seem to be any way to tell just by looking at the vegetable.  I had some dumpling squash that I’ve been storing since late fall.  Unfortunately, it fell in the bland and mealy category.  On the other hand, the leek filling was delicious!  It reminded me of the topping for leek and cheese toasties that we made back in August.  The filling didn’t turn the stuffed squash into a hit, but it did make the whole thing edible.  I was disappointed that the squash didn’t pull its weight.  I may try this again some time, or try to figure out something else to stuff.  I can’t blame Hugh’s recipe for my mealy squash.  Certainly, the presentation was pretty even if the overall taste didn’t match up.

Squash Stuffed with Leeks

Finally, I made the Pizza with New Potatoes and Blue Cheese, a choice from June 2014.  One of the supermarkets near me sells frozen wood-fired pizza crusts.  I used one of these rather than making my own crust.  If you plan ahead and have the ingredients on hand (cooking the potatoes ahead of time), this pizza accompanied by a green salad is a quick and delicious weeknight supper.  The caramelized onions with garlic and rosemary provided a sweet foundation for the bland potatoes and piquant blue cheese.  I enjoyed Hugh’s version of white pizza (i.e. no tomato sauce).

Pizza with Potatoes and Blue Cheese

February’s vegetables at the market won’t be much better than January, so I’m looking forward to Andrea’s choices for next month to liven things up.  In the meantime, check out my fellow Cottage Cooking Club member’s blogs to read their reviews of January’s recipes.  Maybe you will be inspired too! 

Cottage Cooking Club: December 2015

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I’ve been cooking with the Cottage Cooking Club since last summer as the group collectively makes their way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s vegetarian cookbook River Cottage Veg. This month, our “chief chef” Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, offered us half the number of selections to be sure we could fit some Cottage Cooking into the busy month of December.  I was up for the challenge and incorporated a few choices into the menu.

Every month (week, day, etc.), so many new recipes catch my eye.  The source is varied, perhaps one of the many cooking magazines that arrive in my mailbox each month, a cookbook on my shelf, a recipe card at the grocery store, an email newsletter in my inbox, a stack of torn out or printed out recipes in one of my numerous piles (my sisters better not laugh) or just browsing the internet.  I never lack inspiration, but I have a hard time keeping track of what I want to make.  This month, I’m trying a new tactic to help myself.  You might already do this, but it’s new for me.  I’m keeping a running list on the refrigerator.  At a glance, I can be reminded of appealing recipes and plan to make one.  The satisfaction of checking off what I’ve made helps me resist making the list pages and pages long!  Adding the Cottage Cooking recipes to the list ensured that I made them well before the end of the month deadline.  If you have a technique for keeping track of recipes you want to make, please share!  I’d love to improve on my organization.

This month, I chose two recipes from Andrea’s selection. The first one I made was Chachouka, a North African tomato and pepper stew served with eggs cooked right in the stew.  I had a nearly-full jar of roasted peppers in the refrigerator, so I used them instead of fresh ones – the tomatoes were canned – so this became a pantry meal as well.

Chachouka

I love eggs for any meal, and though this was suggested for an easy supper, I served it as a lazy weekend morning breakfast (two mornings in a row).  I made the stew the night before, then reheated it before adding the eggs and popping it in the oven.  I found that it took about 15 minutes for the egg whites to set.  My mother-in-law has made us the Israeli version (shashouka) before.  Once she adds the eggs, she just covers the pan and continues to cook it on the stovetop.  Honestly, that seems simpler.  As far as I remember, both recipes are equally delicious, the main difference being the toasted cumin seeds in Hugh’s.  I would make this again, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, though I would definitely double the stew base next time.

Pepper Sauce

My other choice this month was the Mushroom “Stoup” – stoup being something between a stew and a soup.  As much as we liked the chachouka, this was even better.  This “stoup” was a simple and hearty vegetable soup with the emphasis on mushrooms.  There are two kinds of mushrooms, fresh button mushrooms and dried porcinis.  The recipe called for 2 ounces of porcini.  At $6.50 per ounce, I opted to use just one ounce, and it was fine.  I used vegetable stock made from Hugh’s recipe, intending to add mushrooms to turn it into his mushroom stock variation, but I forgot to add them in.  I was surprised at the depth of flavor of the soup as the other ingredients (onion, garlic, carrot, celery) were the typical workhorse accompaniers, but nothing special.

Mushroom Stoup

Turning this into a meal were the herby dumplings that cooked in the soup.  I never made dumplings before.  They are similar to matzo balls, which I make often, though a tad more delicate.  I don’t know if that’s because I substituted vegetable oil for the shortening or for another reason.  Regardless, they tasted delicious, and I’ll continue to experiment with dumplings to get it right.

Dumplings

I hope all of my Cottage Cooking Club friends had a wonderful holiday season and Christmas.  To find out what they thought of their selections this month, follow their links here.

Happy New Year to all!  I hope 2016 will be filled with delicious food shared with those you love.