Today is a special day for one of my favorite cookbook authors…it’s Dorie Greenspan’s birthday! Happy birthday, Dorie! A few TWDers and FFWDers have put together a sort of virtual progressive dinner party, all made from Dorie’s new book, Around my French Table, to celebrate.
I chose to take on a soup course, and made her Spiced Squash, Fennel and Pear Soup. I’m no stranger to squash soup, and usually I’ll use a butternut, but a crazy lumpy, bumpy golden hubbard caught my eye at the market and wound up coming home with me. I’ve never made squash soup with the additions of pear and fennel before…they brought a delicious sweetness to the pot. Don’t forget to toast up your squash seeds as garnish. This is a great, warming soup that gets even more flavorful the next day.
For the recipe for this delicious soup, see page 80 of Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan. Holly from Phe.MOM.enon worked hard to coordinate this party, and will have the whole round-up on her site!
I may have skipped last week’s French Fridays with Dorie, but there was no way I was going to skip this week’s. I crave soup went the weather gets cool, and this Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup is full of flavors I love– chiles, cilantro and coconut.
There’s a lot of flavor packed into this coconut broth, as it’s infused with ginger, cilantro stems or root, coriander, star anise and peppercorns. I threw in some lime leaves and a bashed lemongrass stalk, too. I went heavy on the lime juice and fish sauce to give it extra twang. This is the kind of soup where, when you’re almost to the bottom, you set down your spoon and pick up the bowl to slurp up the rest of the broth and noodles.
Oh, and by the way, my friend Lauren and I went to one of Dorie’s book events in NYC the other night. She’s so warm and she’s truly happy to meet us. If she’s on the road near you, don’t miss her! And she’s funny, too…if this cookbook thing doesn’t work out for her (ha!), there might be a career in stand-up waiting.
Yeah, that’s right– a new Dorie book means a new group! Laurie started up French Fridays with Dorie (which, for some reason, I keep calling “French Fries with Dorie”), a weekly celebration of the recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s gorgeous new book Around my French Table.
Things have been more than a little disorganized here…boxes are everywhere, butcher paper is tied and stacked like bales of hay, and the kitchen counter is pretty messy. I thought I might miss the first party, and have to skip making these gougères. Then I thought again, and realized I could really use a glass of wine and some snacks!
Gougères are little cheesey puffs made with a pâte à choux base. If you’ve never prepared choux paste before, it’s not hard (I even made this batch by hand), and in my opinion it’s one of the most fun things to make! I used gruyère cheese in mine, but you can use whatever grating cheese flots your boat. Salty and good!
It’s Fourth of July weekend! Long, warm days out in the yard, kids running around with sparklers, grown-ups grilling with a beer in one hand…ahhhh. Oh, wait, I don’t have a house in the country, or even a balcony, and alas, no sparklers. But I do have an oven, a six-pack and a jar of homemade barbecue sauce, so I can still do my thing…BTW, “my thing” this year is pulled chicken sandwiches.
I have been making this sauce recipe for years, and I just love it. It’s perfect for slathering on all types of meat and veg…and come Monday it will make for an amazing leftover barbecue chicken pizza! I’m fully aware that some people gag at the thought of liquid smoke…if that includes you (or if you are lucky enough to have a charcoal grill), leave it out. Another way to get good smokiness and a little heat is by replacing the liquid smoke, hot sauce and cayenne with a couple tablespoons of the sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo.
Happy Fourth, and happy grilling!
Simple Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce– makes 1 1/2 cups
adapted from Cooks Illustrated (July 2000)
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 c ketchup
2 T cider vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T Dijon mustard
5 T molasses
1 t hot pepper sauce , such as Tabasco
1/4 t ground black pepper
1 1/2 t liquid smoke (optional)
2 T vegetable oil
1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 t chili powder
1/4 t cayenne pepper
-Process onion and 1/4 cup water in workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade until pureed and mixture resembles slush, about 30 seconds. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer into liquid measuring cup, pressing on solids with rubber spatula to obtain 1/2 cup juice. Discard solids in strainer.
-Whisk onion juice, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, molasses, hot pepper sauce, black pepper, and liquid smoke (if using) in medium bowl.
-Heat oil in large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add garlic, chili powder, and cayenne pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in ketchup mixture and bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, until flavors meld and sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes. Cool sauce to room temperature before using. (Can be covered and refrigerated for up to 7 days.)
What is that?? Does seeing a salad here blow your mind just a little? Would you be surprised if I told you that I love veggies even more than sweets? My head is positively spinning seeing all things green popping up at the farmers’ market. I am snapping up asparagus while I can, and this raw salad is my favorite new thing to do with it. I know that raw asparagus sounds a little strange, but I have been eating up huge bowlfuls of this stuff all month long.
Take those skinny-minny stalks of raw asparagus, add red onion, sharp pecorino and a quick dressing and you get something super fresh, crisp, and snappy. Not to mention so easy…my only real advice is to use a big cutting board for prep, because otherwise those little coins of asparagus will want to go mobile all over your counter.
Raw Asparagus, Pecorino and Red Onion Salad- makes 6 to 8 servings
from a recipe by Anne Burrell
1 bunch pencil (the skinny stuff) asparagus, tough bottom stems removed
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 cup coarsely grated aged pecorino
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
extra-virgin olive oil
-Cut the asparagus, including the tips into very thin slices, crosswise and place in a medium bowl. Add the red onion and pecorino and toss to combine.
-Dress with the vinegar, olive oil and salt and toss again. This salad should be fairly heavily dressed. The vinegar will sort of “cook” or tenderize the asparagus. It is best to do this about an hour or so in advance to let the flavors marry.
I was thrilled to see that Bungalow Barbara chose a recipe for TWD that can swing sweet or savory– Sablés. Between all the junk I munch on at the bakery, and all the desserts I make at home, these days I need a salt fix more often than a sugar fix. I went with a parmesan cheese sablé, and since I had heaps of fresh herbs left from Thanksgiving, I threw some thyme in there, too. Cheesy, buttery and salty…with that perfect crumbly texture– exactly what I wanted with a glass of white wine.
My friend Min from The Bad Girl’s Kitchen (we were Taste&Create partners awhile back) invited me to her virtual housewarming extravaganza. I love a good party and checking out a new house, and I can’t say no to great food either (did I hear there will be southwestern tapas and homemade sangria??).
Of course I am a well-mannered guest and will bring along something yummy myself. When I think of southwestern food, I immediately think of chiles…and when I think of tapas, I immediately think of gambas al ajillo. I knew that punching up traditional Spanish gambas with some chiplotle in adobo and cilantro would make a great party appetizer (although you do have to make it last minute, so hope Min won’t mind if I use her oven!). Below, I’ve just given a recipe for two servings, but I’m pretty sure it can be successfully multiplied to feed a few more. Don’t forget a little bread on the side to dip in the garlic oil….it’s just as tasty as the shrimp!
I’m also bringing along guac with spicy toasted squash seeds and oven baked tortilla chips. Truth be told, I could eat the whole bowl myself, but it’s more fun to share. Congratulations, Min and family! Now, where’s that sangria?
Southwestern-Style Garlic Shrimp Tapas- serves 2 as an appetizer
6-8 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined
chopped canned chipotle chile and adobo sauce to taste (I used 1/2 of a chile and 1 t sauce)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/4 c olive oil
1/8 t salt
1 bay leaf
1 T chopped cilantro
-Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 500°F. In a bowl, combine the shrimp with the chopped chipotle and adobo sauce, about one third of the minced garlic, one tablespoon of olive oil and salt. Let shrimp marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature (this should be long enough for your oven to preheat).
-Once the oven is hot, pour the remaining three tablespoons olive oil into a small, shallow casserole or baking dish (or a seasoned Spanish cazuela). Add the remaining minced garlic and the bay leaf and bake until sizzling, about 3-5 minutes.
-Add the shrimp and marinade to the sizzling oil, and return the dish to the oven. Bake (stirring once) for another 3-4 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through. Throw out the bay leaf, season with additional salt (if necessary) and sprinkle over the chopped cilantro. Serve immediately, straight from your baking dish or cazuela (keeping in mind that it’s super-hot before you set it on your table!) .
After more than two years as a Daring Baker (it all started with a mirror cake…), I’m so excited that Liz and Ivonne have asked me to host a challenge! Woo-hoo! But oh no–what to pick?? Looking over past challenges, I realized that we’ve covered a lot of territory! One thing we haven’t made since I’ve been in the group, though, is our own puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée). Puff is something most of us usually buy at the grocery store, but in order to be really daring, we should try to make our own at least once, right?
Puff pastry is in the “laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. (In fact, if you participated in the Danish Braid challenge back in June 2008, then you already know the general procedure for working with laminated dough.) A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the beurrage) that is enclosed in dough (called the détrempe). This dough/butter packet is called a paton, and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.
I picked a recipe for homemade puff pastry from Michel Richard, as it appears in the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. In order to showcase off the hundreds of flaky, golden, buttery layers in the homemade puff, we formed a portion of it into vols-au-vent– little puff pastry cases designed to hold a filling. They can be made large enough for a full meal, or made small for little one-bite canapés. Vols-au-vent are typically served hot and filled with a creamy savory filling (often poultry or seafood-based), but cold fillings, such as chicken or tuna salad, work, too. Whipped cream or pastry cream with fresh or stewed fruit often goes into sweet versions.
Sizes of and fillings for the vols-au-vent were left up to the individual baker. I made three types: a smoked salmon mousse canapé, a larger main course-size filled with tuna salad and a sweet version with vanilla whipped cream and bright red tristar strawberries.
As it’s a little long, here’s a printable link to the recipe for puff pastry, as well as instructions for forming vol-au-vents and some extra tips. Also, there is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). Dont’ be put off by the length of time it takes to make your own puff pastry (most of it is inactive, while waiting for the dough to chill between turns)…it really isn’t that hard to do! I encourage anyone who has never made puff before to take a look at the video, get some good butter, and give it a try!
Thanks so much to everyone who participated in this month’s challenge– I know it required a lot of time and a lot of butter, both of which are precious commodities. I appreciate your feedback and advice in the forums…not to mention your fabulous results!! Also, of course, great big hugs go to Liz and Ivonne, not only for starting this group, but for keeping it alive and fun and so well-organized! Check out the Daring Bakers’ Blogroll for more adventures in puff!
The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.
Something about pickling has always sounded so complicated to me…brines versus cures, acidity and fermentation, blah, blah, blah. I’ll just leave the mysterious intricacies of anaerobic fermentation up to Rick, and not clog up my own (much needed) personal brainspace, thanks very much. But a quick pickle…God, even I should be able to do something called a “quick pickle,” right?
A good place to start for beet-loving, picking virgins like myself is this recipe from last month’s Martha Stewart Living. Trust me, these are easy…so easy, in fact, that after making one batch, I considered myself expert enough to make a second! The first batch was made with red beets, and the second with the striped variety (although the stripes were basically washed away with the hot pickling liquid). Don’t fear the Thai chile…these are not spicy pickles; a gentle backnote is all you get from its heat.
Remember that these pickles are not canned and sealed in a water bath, so do get them into the fridge straightaway and store them there. Give the beets a day or two to relax in their bath before opening the jar. Then they’ll be ready to eat straight-up, to be made into a snappy salad with feta and mint, or to be put Aussie-style on a burger (and preferably enjoyed with a Coopers Sparkling). Supposedly they’ll keep for a month, but I can guarantee you that mine won’t make it a week.
Raw Pickled Beets- makes one jar
adapted from Martha Stewart Living, May 2009
2 red or golden beets
1 fresh Thai chile
1 cup rice vinegar (not the seasoned kind)
1/4 cup sugar
1 fresh bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
-Scrub, trim, and peel two red or golden beets. Slice thinly (a mandoline works best), and transfer to a jar.
-Split 1 fresh Thai chile in half. Bring chile, rice vinegar, sugar, fresh bay leaf, and black peppercorns to a boil in a small saucepan.
-Pour hot mixture over beets. Seal jar and refrigerate. Beets will keep for one month.