Monday, May 31, 2010

Soupe et salade

I know I said I needed to take a break from la cuisine française, but I just had to try Julia's Soupe á l'Alil aux Pommes de Terre, or saffron-flavored garlic soup with potatoes.

The recipe for Aїgo Bouїdo was the first recipe that caught my eye in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and it sounded simple enough; until I got to the part when Julia says "Beat the egg yolks in the soup tureen for a minute...Drop by drop, beat in the olive oil as for making a mayonnaise." No, it was not the word "mayonnaise" that deterred me, it was the instruction to "drop by drop beat in the olive oil."

Luckily, one of the beautiful things about this cookbook is that Mrs. Child provides a "basic" recipe, and then some variations. A variation of Aїgo Bouїdo is Soupe á l'Alil aux Pommes de Terre. Garlic soup is supposed to "be very good for the liver, blood circulation, general physical tone and spiritual health."

The soup is different, and is a nice change from the tomato-based soups I normally make. To go with the soup, I made a Baby Spinach Salad from the Food Network.

Overall, dinner was quite nice. It wasn't a heavy meal, but it was tasty. I forgot to say that the garlic soup, is not garlicky, and you can't really tell that it is the recipe's main ingredient.

Soupe á l'Ail aux Pommes de Terre
by Julia Child

1 separated head or about 16 cloves of garlic (whole, unpeeled)
2 tsp salt
Pinch of pepper
2 cloves*
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf
4 parsley sprigs*
3 T olive oil
3 cups diced potatoes
Pinch of saffron

Drop garlic cloves in boiling water, and boil 30 seconds. Drain, run cold water over them, and peel.

Place the garlic and the salt, pepper, cloves, sage, thyme, bay leaf, parsley and olive oil in 2 quarts of water. Boil slowly for 30 minutes.

After the soup has simmered for 30 minutes, strain it. Press the juice out of the garlic.* Return the strained soup to the pot. Simmer the potatoes in the soup with the saffron for about 20 minutes or until tender. Add seasoning to taste.

*The recipe calls for 2 cloves, but I only had ground cloves, so I used 1/8 tsp of the ground cloves.
*I can't seem to figure out if "parsley" means regular parsley or Italian parsley. I settled on regular parsley.
*Before I actually made the soup, I wasn't sure what to do with the garlic cloves once I "pressed the juice" out. It turns out that there isn't much left after you press the garlic in the strainer. Some of it falls back into the soup.

Baby Spinach Salad with Roasted Red Onions, Pecans, Dried Cranberries, Crumbled Goat Cheese, and Citrus Dressing
from The Food Network

1 medium red onion
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Citrus Dressing, recipe follows
8 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped*
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the onion into thin wedges, through the root end. Toss with the olive oil, season with salt, to taste, and spread out on a baking sheet. Roast until just soft and brown, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Put the spinach and onions in a large bowl. Drizzle with some of the dressing and toss. Add more dressing as needed; spinach should just be lightly coated. Divide salad among 4 chilled plates. Top with pecans, goat cheese, and dried cranberries. Serve immediately.

1 tsp lemon zest
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T freshly squeezed orange juice
1 T Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/4 tsp fine salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, orange juice, Dijon, honey, thyme, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined. Gradually whisk in the oil, starting with a few drops and then adding the rest in a steady stream, to make a smooth, slightly thick dressing.*

*I made a mistake with the dressing and added everything to the olive oil, rather than the other way around. It turned out just fine. Seth actually liked the salad; which is saying something since he always chooses to get Caesar Salad at restaurants.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Please Hold the Mayo

Some people love their mayonnaise. I tolerate it.

While I recognize the necessity for mayo in certain recipes, I tend to avoid it. There's just something about the smell and look of mayo that is completely unappetizing for me. I will eat potato salad, and I will overlook the use of mayo in spinach artichoke dip, but I steer clear of tuna sandwiches and secret sauce on hamburgers.

Sometimes, it's impossible to dodge this necessary evil. Last night I made Real Simple's Artichoke and Spinach Relish. Up until I added the mayonnaise, it sounded like addition to crackers. As I stirred the mayo in, I found myself suddenly disgusted by the relish. Then I started to panic a little and wondered if it would taste good. I knew I just couldn't make myself taste it, so I read the comments online, and they seemed positive, so I decided to bring the relish to the party I attended earlier today.

My cousin Mr. T. was the guinea pig, and he liked it. So, I bit the bullet and had a taste. Surprisingly, it was tasty. I'm not sure that I would make this again, but it's good and easy enough to make.

Artichoke and Spinach Relish
by Real Simple

1/4 cup walnuts
1 13.75-ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed and chopped
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (about 1 ounce)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 t kosher salt
1/8 t black pepper
crackers and cut-up vegetables, for serving

Heat oven to 400º F.

Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool, then roughly chop.*

In a small bowl, combine the artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan, mayonnaise, lemon juice, walnuts, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Serve with the crackers and vegetables.

*I used pre-chopped walnuts, so I toasted mine on the stove-top.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Harry Potter

It's hard to remember exactly when it happened, but sometime around 2001 or 2002, I discovered the amazing world of Harry Potter. I lived in Whittier at the time, in the little house on Santa Gertrudes with my college friends Ms. S. (who also happened to be my college roommate) and Ms. O., who is now Mrs. S. Through a book club of sorts, I bought the first three books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. What a wonderful world to discover.

Perhaps I waited anxiously for Book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, or maybe I found it newly released at the book store (which is why I think maybe I started reading in 2002). I do remember that after reading the fourth book, I anxiously waited for Book 5, then Book 6, and finally Book 7.

Waiting for the Deathly Hallows was the worst wait of them all. The agony was extended by the fact that we had a wedding to attend on July 21, 2007. My book was delivered to my doorstep on the appointed day, but I could not read it. I didn't even bother to open the box until we got home. It was tough to be at series end.

I still love the books, and can read them and listen to them over and over. Yes, I also own all seven audiobooks. Jim Dale reads them, and he is great. If you haven't listened to the audiobooks, give it a go. I actually just finished going through the entire audio version again.

It's still as magical now as it was in 2001/2002. My favorites in the series is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and my least favorite is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. What's strange is that my least favorite book is my favorite movie.

Speaking of the movies, I'm pretty into those as well. They're not as mesmerizing as the books, but I enjoy seeing things like Weasley's Wizard Wheezes come to life on the big screen. I cannot wait for November 19, 2010!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Râpée Morv Andelle

It's hard to believe, but after making Julia's boeuf bourguignon and pommes de terre sautées, I was still in mood for more French food. My next attempt was her râpée morv andelle, or gratin of shredded potatoes with ham, eggs and onion. Even though it's classified under "entrées and luncheon dishes" I made it for dinner.

The gratin smells delicious as it's cooking, but Seth could immediately tell that it would be "bad" for us. Between the whipping cream, Swiss cheese, and butter, it's a heavy meal. I tried to balance out the decadence by serving salad with the gratin. I also will not be cooking anymore French food for at least two weeks so we can take a break from all the butter.

Julia's gratin is a good dish, but I tend to prefer stronger cheeses (I make my quiche with white cheddar rather than Swiss), so this was a bit mild for my tastes.

Râpée Morv Andelle
by Julia Child

1/2 cup finely minced onions
2 Tb olive oil
4 Tb butter
1/2 Tb butter, cut into pea-sized dots
1/2 cup finely diced cooked ham
4 eggs
1/2 clove crushed garlic
2 Tb minced parsley and/or chives and chervil
2/3 cup grated Swiss cheese
4 Tb whipping cream, light cream, or milk
Pinch of pepper
1/4 tsp salt
3 medium-sized potatoes (about 10 oz.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the onions slowly in the oil and 2 Tb butter for about 5 minutes, until tender, but not browned.

Raise heat slightly, stir in ham, and cook a moment more.

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with the garlic, herbs, cheese, cream or milk and seasonings. Then blend in the ham and onions.

Peel the potatoes and grate them (use the grater's larger holes). A handful at a time, squeeze out their water. Stir potatoes into egg mixture. Check seasoning. The gratin may be prepared ahead to this point.

Heat 2 Tb butter in an 11 to 12-inch baking dish or ovenproof skillet about 2 inches deep, or 4 individual baking dishes about 6 inches in diameter. When the butter is foaming, pour in the potato and egg mixture. Dot with 1/2 Tb butter that has been cut into pea-sized dots. Set in upper third of preheated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until top is nicely browned.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cuisine Française

My sister gave me Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my birthday, and since April I have been trying to find the time to try out a recipe. Finally, I had a block of several hours to dedicate to the kitchen, and for Sunday dinner I made Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon and Pommes De Terre Sautées.

Neither recipe is exactly difficult, but there are many steps, and it is time consuming. My Boeuf Bourguignon was not as tasty as I have had in a restaurant, but it's the best version I've made so far. Even the sauce was a rich brown color. The Pommes De Terre Sautées were tasty, and they are similar to Alice Water's Braised Fingerling Potato Coins (or maybe the potato coins are similar to Pommes De Terre Sautées).

There were a couple of moments where I had to refer to the internet, or just make some guesses and/or adjustments on what Julia meant in her recipe:
  • I used a dutch oven rather than a 9 to 10-inch casserole dish.
  • After browning the sliced carrots and onions, it was not clear what to do with them. I decided to remove them from the dutch oven, and returned the beef and bacon to the dutch oven. This is when you sprinkle flour on the beef and bacon and put it in the oven for 4 minutes at a time (8 total). I added the vegetables back in when I added the wine, beef stock, etc.
  • I used Chianti rather than trying to find the other wines Julia suggested.

Here are Julia's recipes:

Boeuf Bourguignon

6 oz. chunk of bacon (ask your butcher and make sure it has rind on it)
1 Tb olive oil or cooking oil
3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 Tb flour
3 cups of full-bodied, young red wine, or a Chianti
2-3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 Tb tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
A blanched bacon rind
18 to 24 small white onions brown-braised in stock (ingredients and directions follow)
1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms sautéed in butter (ingredients and directions follow)
Parsley sprigs

18 to 24 peeled white onions about 1 inch in diameter
1 1/2 Tb butter
1 1/2 Tb oil
1/2 cup brown beef stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine, or water
Salt and pepper to taste
A medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs (or 2 tsp dried parsley), 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp thyme tied in cheese cloth

2 Tb butter
1 Tb oil
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large
Optional: 1 to 2 Tb minced shallots or green onions, salt and pepper

9 to 10-inch ovenproof casserole dish 3 inches deep
A slotted spoon
A 9 to 10-inch enameled skillet

Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil (1 TB) over moderate (medium) heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté beef, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add the beef to the bacon. Do not drain oil/fat.

Brown the sliced carrots and onions in the oil/fat. Pour out the oil/fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole, uncovered, in the middle position of the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the mat and return to oven for 4 more minutes. This browns the flour and covers the meat in a light crust. Remove the casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done with a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim the fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Season to taste. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. The recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. They will not brown uniformly.

Pour in the liquid, season to taste and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove the herb bouquet.

Place the skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During their sauté, the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes, the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

Optional: Toss the shallots and green onions with the mushrooms. Sauté over moderate heat for 2 minutes.

Pommes de Terre Sautées

2 lbs boiling, fingerling or new potatoes
4 to 5 Tb butter
1 Tb oil
1/4 tsp salt
2 to 3 Tb minced parsley, chives or fresh tarragon, or a mixture of fresh green herbs
Big pinch of pepper

If you have fingerling potatoes, peel them neatly and sauté them whole. If you have boiling or new potatoes, peel them and cut them into elongated olive shapes, all the same size, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches long and 1 to 1 1/4 inches at their widest diameter. Do not wash, just dry them well in a towel.

Add enough butter and oil to a 10 or 11-inch skillet to film it by 1/16 inch and set over moderately high heat. When the butter foams and begins to subside, put the potatoes in the skillet. Leave them for 2 minutes, regulating heat so butter is always very hot, but not coloring. Then shake the skillet back and forth to roll the potatoes and to sear them on another side for 2 minutes. Continue for 4 to 5 minutes more until the potatoes are a pale golden color all over, indicating that a seared, protective film has formed over them, so that they do not stick to the pan.

Then sprinkle the potatoes with salt and roll them again in the skillet.

Lower heat, cover the skillet, and cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes, shaking them every 3 to 4 minutes to prevent them from sticking to the skillet, and to insure even coloring.

The potatoes are done when they yield slightly to the pressure of your finger, or a knife pierces them easily; they should be nice, fairly even, golden grown color. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Off the heat, add the butter (2Tb) and herbs, sprinkle on the pepper, and roll the potatoes in the skillet so they glisten with herbs and butter.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Throw-Size Quilt

May has been a crazy-busy month of work for me, so I am behind in my projects. Yesterday, I finally finished my best friend's birthday present, and it is about a month late. The pattern is from the Learn to Machine Quilt with Pat Sloan book, and is a throw-size quilt.

We love the Angels, and so she gets an Angels baseball-themed blanket. Luckily, I still have a small stash of Anaheim Angels fabric. Once again, I hand-tacked this using embroidery stitches. The crow's foot stitch is perfect for anything baseball related, and I think it's my favorite embroidery stitch.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spicy Salsa

Seth and I love spicy food, and we are always in search of spicy salsa. We don't usually care for the chunky, store-bought stuff, so I decided to try making my own salsa for Cinco de Mayo (May 5 also happens to be my dad's birthday and Boys'/Children's Day). I found a recipe on the Food Network site called Tay's Hot and Spicy Salsa, and it sounded like and turned out to be a good option.

It's not all that spicy, so it's more like medium for people who have high-tolerance for spicy foods. But, it's an easy recipe, and most importantly, Seth liked it.

Here's the recipe:

Tay's Hot and Spicy Salsa
by Taylor Veldhuis

2 fresh jalapenos
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves (Chinese parsley for my Hawaii peeps)
1 clove garlic
1 banana pepper (a.k.a. yellow pepper)
1 lime, juice
1 teaspoon House Seasoning (recipe included)
1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)

Put everything, but the tomatoes in a food processor. Chop until diced. Add the tomatoes*. Serve with tortilla chips.

House Seasoning
1 cup salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup black pepper

Combine ingredients and store in air-tight container for up to six months.

*I added the tomatoes to the food processor and chopped them for a less chunky salsa.