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.
I had more hits than misses this month. I tried out three of the choices offered by the group’s leader Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness. Here are my reviews.
The Apple and Blue Cheese Toasties caught my eye as something to enjoy for a quick lunch alongside a bowl of soup. I always fall for grilled cheese, in any form. Toasties, which are melted under the broiler, are a great alternative to breaking out the frying pan.
I went all the way and baked my own no-knead whole wheat bread to use for the rustic country bread base. The topping was a mixture of grated apple, crumbled blue cheese and a touch of mayonnaise to bind it together. I love apple and cheese together, but to be honest, I found the blue cheese a bit too sharp. I made these a second time with grated cheddar cheese instead of blue which was a more appealing combination for my taste buds. I usually have all the ingredients on hand for the cheddar version, so I’ll definitely make these toasties again.
The Squash and Fennel Lasagna was also a hit. I typically make tomato-sauce-based lasagna, but have enjoyed white-sauce-based versions in the past. I love when a recipe offers a takeaway tip or technique that I can add to my arsenal to use in other dishes. Here I learned to steep the aromatics (onion, celery, bay leaf, and peppercorns) in the milk and then strain them out before making the béchamel. The flavors infused the milk and hence the sauce for an extra depth that surprised me. This lasagna has one layer of roasted butternut squash cubes and one layer of a mixture of sliced fennel and crumbled goat cheese. I ended up using a little less sauce over each layer and adding a final layer of lasagna noodles on top of the fennel-goat cheese layer, then crowning it with the remaining sauce and the Parmesan cheese. I served the lasagna with a green salad to round out the meal. I always feel like white lasagna is a “dressier” version of the dish, so one that company would enjoy. This will appear on my table again too.
The final recipe I tried this month were the DIY Pot Noodles. These were fun to put together and beautiful to look at. A canning jar is filled with quick-cooking noodles and a colorful assortment of vegetables (grated carrots, shredded lettuce, sliced scallions, a handful of frozen peas) and aromatics (veggie bouillon cube, grated garlic and ginger, a pinch of brown sugar). To pull it all together, fill the canning jar with boiling water and wait for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. This is long enough to soften the noodles and vegetables. The final touch is a splash of soy sauce and fresh lime juice . Now, enjoy a delicious “bowl” of “instant” soup. This recipe offers a formula to play around. The combinations are endless.
I need to solve one challenge. When I put this together right before adding the water, it was a magical bowl of hot soup. I would love to be able to assemble these jars the night before for a quick meal, at work or at home. When I tried making them ahead and keeping them ready in the fridge overnight, pouring the boiling water into the jar didn’t have the quite same effect. The contents didn’t soften completely, and the soup was lukewarm. Any suggestions for perfect this for the lunchbox?
So, another month of delicious recipes down, and a couple more left to come. As always, I’m looking forward to the recipe reviews of the other Cottage Cooking Club bloggers, which you can read here.
Due to copyright considerations, I don’t share the recipes here, but you can find them in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook River Cottage Veg.