Thursday, March 29, 2012

crab & grapefruit salad - French Fridays w/ Dorie

I had been collecting ingredients for this over the week and today I finally picked up a can of crab meat at the market. The weather in the North East was practically hot last week. Perfect for a summery salad. This week it's been rainy and cold. I had a tough time getting excited for this dish but persevered to the delight of my family.

 The recipe couldn't be simpler, but the extended drying time for the grapefruit sounded a bit tedious. Of course, being me, I skipped that step and can't imagine it made a difference.  I thought it would be easiest to cut up the grapefruit by splitting it in 1/2 and running a knife around the inside, then in-between the segments. That's how my mom taught me to serve it (with a little sugar on top for me of course). I took out the pieces with a spoon and laid them in a paper towel lined strainer. We were supposed to dry these for at least two hours, but I couldn't understand the logic behind that when lemon juice is tossed into the salad. It's not supposed to be wet, but some moisture is nice and after adding a few spoonfuls of grapefruit juice as well, it was still a little dry. The color of the grapefruit was a bit pale, so I added in a blood orange. Next time I'd mix the juices, mint, salt & pepper, and Tabasco separately so it would incorporate better and not mush up the crab. I would also like to try it with avocado. After chopping and segmenting, we ended up with a tasty and refreshing dinner salad.

To go along with the salad I tried another recipe from the book I've been wanting to try. It's called Socca and is apparently pretty popular, as I just found out from doing a quick web search. David Lebovitz had a post with the recipe on his site. That part we didn't like so much. Dorie recommends stirring in chopped, fresh rosemary and David says to use Cumin instead. Since I have a couple cups of chickpea flour left, I'm willing to try this again. I didn't get the blackened blisters that are hallmarks of the crepe and I expect that will change the taste considerably.
Socca broiling

Monday, March 26, 2012

cocoa sablés - part deux

Made the second batch on Saturday. They came out lovely. I decided to slice all of these much thinner and like the results. The first batch was too thick, even for ice cream sandwiches.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

cocoa sablés - French Fridays w/ Dorie

Cooling Cocoa Sablés
Everyone loves cookies and I rarely bake cookies if it's not Christmastime. To be honest, I still have Christmas cookies in the freezer. That's not to say I don't love cookies, I just don't love them as much as I love ice cream. But on to the sablés. Sablé translates to sand, which comes from the texture of the cookie. I found an audio translation at, since I kept making my 7 year old laugh each time I'd try to say it. I think I was channeling Pee Wee.

The ingredients are very similar to shortbread - butter, sugar, flour. The texture was completely different and I'm sure it's because I didn't use the extra 1/2 stick of butter and had planned on adjusting the flour but ended up adding a little extra cocoa and didn't really decrease the flour enough.
Very soft butter, given our 80 degree day!
I don't think this is what they mean by sandy texture

I don't think it made that much of a difference in the finished product. I did check out a couple of other FFWD people and one showed dough that was soft enough to roll out. Mine was hardly that soft. In fact, I had to add in a bit of water to get it to come together, like a pastry dough. That did work and I got it rolled into two logs - different sizes because the thought of turning these into ice cream sandwiches, as suggested in Around My French Table, sounded intriguing.

Tomorrow evening I'm going to bake the second half and make them thinner and not coat the tops with the sugar, but just on the sides, because I would like to make mini ice cream sandwiches to bring to a dinner on Saturday. I did need to give them a try and started to crumble a couple of the small ones into a bowl and these were so crumbly one of them exploded and went all over the counter. I managed to keep most of it in the bowl and it made a nice mix in for my mint chip ice cream. The chocolate flavor was nice and they had a good vanilla flavor to them as well. I really like the color of the special dark Hershey's cocoa.

Rolled, sliced and ready to sugar

Counter covered with "sablé" crumbs

Friday, March 16, 2012

cheese soufflé - French Fridays w/ Dorie

I've made soufflé before. I've made sponge cake before. I'm not scared of the egg white. I am scared of hot and cold and cooking eggs when they're not supposed to be cooked. I'm also usually in a hurry (rushed), so I wanted to give myself time for this recipe. I sort of succeeded. I separated the eggs in the morning, taking care of one task that can be a bit time consuming. I thought I read the recipe thoroughly and saw that I'd need about an hour to bake it. What I didn't realize was I'd need 10 minutes to cook the base and about 10 minutes to let it cool before adding the yolks. The base didn't take the full 10 minutes to make. I also skipped straining the sauce and heated the milk in the microwave. It was the cooling part I wasn't sure about. I put the pan on an ice pack to speed up the process and it did get it down a bit. I also put in 1/2 the cheese, which was just out of the refrigerator. When I was able to touch the bottom of the pan I figured it wasn't hot enough to cook the yolks, so I added those and then the rest of the cheese. For seasoning, I skipped the nutmeg because I put in roasted Szechuan pepper salt for flavoring. Something was telling me that nutty, toasty, roasted flavor would be good. I was thinking of browning the butter but forgot about that idea and added the flour before I could do it, so the pepper salt made up for that mistake!
before egg yolks

after egg yolks
The egg whites beat up in no time and six whites is a lot! I went with my instinct on how much to beat these. I never see "shiny" as recipes suggest, unless there's added sugar. I beat until it stood up tall. Then I added the third to the sauce and mixed it in thoroughly before adding the rest. This is where you have to use judgement as well. There was a definite texture difference between the batter on the bottom and the batter on the top. I wanted it to be the same but didn't want to deflate the whites. I settled on getting most of it to be the same and when I poured it into the soufflé dish, the batter from the bottom of the pan sunk quite a bit in the middle, where I was pouring into (if this makes sense). To fix this, I did a few extra folds of the batter in the dish. I forgot about doing the fancy cap by running a knife in a circle around the middle, but it didn't matter. The folding seemed to take care of this because I didn't worry about making a flat top but just getting it into the over quickly.

As suggested I didn't even look at it until after 30 minutes had passed. At this point, it was getting close to 7 PM, when dance class ends. I was a little worried it wouldn't be done by the time Alan and Shara got home, but then I was also worried they'd be late and the soufflé would be overdone! I don't like having to time the serving so precisely. When they came home, it was ready to be served. I told everyone I was getting dinner on the table. I made a delicious strawberry salad to serve along-side and had that plated and on the table. I wish I took a picture of that. I took the delicious strawberry balsamic vinegar (syrup) and mixed it with walnut oil, a little Dijon mustard, salt, and lots of pepper, tossed in torn leaf lettuce, sliced strawberries and topped it with steamed asparagus. I was going to roast the asparagus but couldn't open the oven for 30 minutes while the soufflé was setting up!

So everything was ready to go. I had turned the oven down to 350 about 5 minutes before they came home and was itching to get this thing on the table. I told everyone dinner was ready and no one came. I then said they need to sit down so I can serve this and ooh and aah appropriately. They did and we loved it. Shara actually loved the salad most! It was much richer than it looks. I used Kraft low fat Swiss slices and sliced into think strips, so there were ribbons of cheese throughout. I'm always surprised by the richness of soufflés. If you make the bechemel ahead of time, this could easily be a normal weeknight dinner, but add in some chopped shrimp or crab - yummy dinner party fare!
Didn't want to wait to get the picture in case it fell! It was pretty sturdy though.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Last night I was making a very flavorful Moroccan stew and wanted something to go with it but not rice. I thought flat bread would be a good accompaniment but didn't have enough time to let anything rise. Sounds like Passover's just around the corner! Close to the Middle East is India and the recipe for Roti sounded perfect. It took 12 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook. I had all the ingredients and it was made with all whole wheat flour! I will certainly make these again, but will add a good deal more salt and/or other flavorings.

Pi Day

I know, I have to jump on any cute bandwagon and how could I not start a new tradition of making (and eating) pie on Pi day. This morning I hurried and got the dough and vanilla pudding made for a banana cream pie. I really like the taste of a whole wheat crust and looked for a recipe that I could use a little less butter and thought yogurt may be a substitute. I looked in Rosie's pie and pastry bible for a crust using yogurt and she actually had one. The amount of butter was the same and the yogurt replaced the water and vinegar. I still cut down a little on the butter. I think I should have put in more yogurt from the beginning and ended up over-mixing it. The flavor was good, but it was a little hard, not flaky. I also used beans for the first time to keep the crust from puffing up. Rosie suggested using a coffee filter to hold the beans and that worked very well. Some of the butter soaked into the filter though.
melted chocolate covering bottom of the crust

I made the crust while dinner was baking and the crust didn't have proper time to cool before being filled. I do believe when baking is rushed, a price is paid. The price paid for this one was a runny filling, since I threw the ingredients into a pot, ten minutes before having to leave for the bus stop. I didn't even measure the cornstarch and now realize I should have used more. However, it was really yummy - put a layer of melted chocolate on the crust to keep it crunchy, drizzled lemon juice on the bananas so they wouldn't turn brown, and the crust design turned out very pretty, I think. 

Shara even liked it. At first she was very skeptical about not having a chocolate base for the bananas, but when she smelled the vanilla pudding, she realized it was the right choice. She ate her whole piece. 

Friday, March 09, 2012

saint-germain-des-pres onion biscuits - French Fridays w/ Dorie

What a quick recipe. Last night I got home from work, thinking Alan had to leave for a meeting at 6 pm. Shara had to do a homework project that gave examples of measuring devices. I thought I'd kill three birds with one stone and make the FFWD recipe, show how I use measuring tools in my hobby, and get dinner on the table in less than an hour. Since the meeting didn't actually start until 7:30, I didn't have to rush as much as I thought but still got it done in relatively little time.

I used my 1/2 cup measuring cup to get the correct amount of chopped onions. Showed how I measured out the butter using the markings on the side of the wrapper and started in with the measuring spoons when it was clear that Shara wasn't interested. Oh well, I tried. What I did manage to do successfully was make some mighty tasty biscuits! I'd put in more onion next time and maybe even add some garlic. The rest of it was great though. I only had skim milk and used 1/2 white flour and 1/2 whole wheat. The color was off from the wheat, but the taste was fine. I was actually surprised they rose as much as they did. I thought I may have over-mixed the dough, but apparently not.
Really in a rush - didn't even flour the board

I did use the more efficient cutting method - a knife instead of a biscuit cutter, but cut them in triangles to give some visual appeal. They made the perfect side for our quick scrambled eggs w/ spinach, onions and cheddar dinner.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Roasted Salmon w/ Lentils - French Fridays w/ Dorie

Last week we were on vacation and didn't even attempt to complete the FFWD dish, yet I will because it was French Onion Soup, one of my favorites. You can read all about the trip at my more personal blog. This week I'm way behind on everything, having come home Sunday night and working all week. As of this minute, I'm actually out of milk, have no idea if there are eggs, and have been going through the freezer for dinners. Alan even chipped in and made a wonderful tuna noodle casserole that we've been enjoying most of the week as well, and just finished last night.

The issue with the Roasted Salmon is a timing thing. I think fish has to be fresh, if you can get it that way. Since I can, and often do get very fresh salmon around here, I'm going to make this tonight and will be late in posting. Roast salmon happens to be one of my go-to meals, and Dorie's lentils are my new recipe of choice for prepping these interesting little legumes. I've tried other recipes where they taste too healthy and turn out mushy and rather unappealing, but her recipe is great. They're almost al dente and have great flavor, I think due to the one little clove added to the pot. More details will follow tomorrow.

Tomorrow, actually now. Last night we made the Salmon and all of us loved it. As I mentioned above, Dorie's lentil recipe is the one I've been making for some time now, but I never thought to puree it and make it into a sauce. The texture was great and Alan commented that he really liked the flavor of the lentils with the salmon. I agreed and Shara ate hers up too! It was hearty and didn't need the roasted broccoli and bread that I served on the side, but I was starving so it was fine with me. The bread was also good for getting the last bit of lentils off the plate!

Since these were recipes I've made before, I made a couple of small changes. I needed to buy more lentils and the only ones I could find were the standard brown or red. I got the red and added them to the 3/4 cup of green I still had. In the end, the green ate up the red so there was no color difference in the finished product. The other change was to add some seasoning to the salmon. My sister gave me a great sesame seed seasoning mix for fish that I put on the salmon. I wasn't sure how it would work out, but it was perfect. I think she got it at Marshal's. It's called "Victoria Taylor's Seasonings" - toasted sesame ginger seasoning: sesame seeds, ginger, black sesame seeds, garlic, sea salt, red pepper, toasted sesame oil.

Shortcut: rather than take out some of the lentils and broth to puree, I just took out the clove and carrots and cut them up. Then I took my immersion blender and pureed the onions and some of the lentils. I added back in the carrots and boiled down the lentils a bit. I don't know the texture was supposed to be, but we really thought this was fine.

The next day I took the leftover lentils and put them on top of baby spinach, popped them in the microwave for a couple of minutes and had a great lunch.