Friday, September 26, 2014

Vanilla Vegetable Salad

Per Nana~
Our recipe selection for this week is vanilla vegetable salad. 
Dorie suggests using mixed greens or mesclun and topping it with thinly 
sliced curls of summer squash and carrots. The dressing is a combination 
of fresh lemon juice, olive oil and a touch a vanilla. 
I used my mandoline to slice the squash and a vegetable peeler for the carrot. 
Whenever I have to use the mandoline I make Hubby do the work, I am so afraid 
of those blades. It does a wonderful job and was perfect for this salad. The salad 
was very pretty and made a lovely presentation but unfortunately I did not care
 for the dressing because of the vanilla flavor. I did like the slivers of summer 
squash. They are quite tasty and I will definitely add them to other salads.

Per Tricia~
I was intrigued by this recipe since I adore vanilla but do not use it for savory dishes. 

The taste and the aroma is a favorite of mine but I couldn't get my head
 around using it as a vinaigrette in a salad. As expected, the aroma was
 fantastic- fresh and light when mixed with the lemon juice and olive oil.  

The verdict on taste ?  
Unfortunately none of us cared for it. 
My husband stated it looked fabulous but was "not something I would
 serve at a dinner party". It was bland with a strong perfume. That said, 
we enjoyed the adventure - even if this will not be a repeat. 

Happy French Fridays ~

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tuna & Mango Ceviche

Or shall we say "shrimp and mango ceviche" ~
Per Nana ~
I decided to skip the tuna version of this week's recipe and use Dorie's 
"bonne idee" of seared shrimp. The ingredients for this dish did not 
impress me at all. I am not a fan of mangoes, lime or ginger. I could
 not even imagine pairing mango with avocado, onions and lime 
so I made half the recipe and decided Jim could enjoy it all. 

How very wrong I was. 

I sprinkled salt and pepper and a few drops of Tabasco sauce on the shrimp 
and then seared them for a few minutes. That few drops of hot sauce really 
gave it a great flavor.  After I plated the salad mixture I added the shrimp
 and a bit more of the vinaigrette and garnished it with cilantro leaves. 
A perfect appetizer. 

After four years of cooking with Dorie, I don't know why I ever 
doubt her combination of ingredients. She fools me every time. 

Per Tricia ~
I also opted out of the sushi grade tuna and went with shrimp instead.
I tried a type of domestic avocado - a "slimcado" from Florida which I 
do not recall seeing before and I will definitely buy again. The taste, 
size and texture were wonderful and they were a breeze to prepare.

The actual recipe, however, was not such a breeze and took a bit of prep
 work to get the ingredients chopped and ready to go. The results were 
absolutely delicious but my poor fingers had a few cuts and the intensive 
lime prep - zesting, de-segmenting, chopping and then juicing was a bit rough. 

That said, we all went nuts for the results.  The combo was unlike anything I had 
prepared at home and the well balanced sweet and savory, crunchy and
 soft textures were delightful.  I would make this again in a heartbeat.

Happy French Friday ~

Friday, September 12, 2014

French Lentils & Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps and Garlic en Papillote

But the lentils are not in that "papillote".  We have a lentil recipe and a 
make up recipe this week ~ 

French Lentils
Per Nana~
This week's selection is a basic recipe for cooking  french lentils.  
I didn't find the green lentils so I used regular lentils, and with the 
exception of Cognac, everything else is in there. I prefer to chop the 
vegetables into small pieces as in a mirapoix.  I cooked the veggies a little 
bit and then added the lentils and the chicken broth.  I also added a bit 
of diced up ham to the pot.  For serving, a drizzle of extra virgin olive
 oil was used, and a dash of red pepper flakes.  The only thing missing 
was a loaf of french bread. This is one of our favorites and
 Hubby and I enjoyed it on a pleasant cool September day.
Per Tricia~
I did a side by side of two green lentils found locally, neither of which was
 the famed "du puy". The first were green lentils from Wegmans, which I
 had originally thought came close to fitting the bill (granted I realized 
they were likely not imported from France....) but when I showed them
 to Nana she responded that she didn't think they looked like the real McCoy. 
 I had come across some "organic French Lentils" in one of our local whole 
food markets but again I figured they would simply be a nice substitute. 
They were much smaller and darker than the others so I was intrigued.  
The verdict ? 
organic french on left, Wegmans on right
The lighter shade had a lovely aroma when cooking but became bland. 
All taste testers (Hubby, younger son and myself) agreed the smaller 
darker lentils were far superior and tastier, with a better texture. 
The others were more bland and mealy.  Ah yes, and Dorie's actual recipe. 
This basic lentil prep was of course delicious and she provided a few great 
suggestions for fill in. The actual prep I will be looking to streamline in
 the future and likely cook the additional veggies already chopped, rather 
than cooking them down and then chopping them after fishing them out 
of the draining lentils. I will also likely not pre-boil my lentils as I had 
nothing to skim off when doing so and would like to keep this easy recipe
 as easy as possible. I will be back at that market SOON for more of 
those green lentils and look forward to adding ham or bacon next time.

Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps and Garlic en Papillote

Per Nana~
I am adding a make up selection this week, another "papillote", 
this time with baby bok choy, sugar snaps and garlic. 
Bok choy and sugar snaps were totally new vegetables to me. 
 I have eaten them in Chinese food but never purchased them for cooking. 
I actually had to research how to prepare both and found it quite interesting. 
I couldn't find baby bok choy so I bought one regular stalk and used the inner 
section whichlooked so tender.  I used the rest of the vegetable for a stir fry. 
The fact that this can be prepared ahead of time is a treat for anyone on a busy 
schedule. This was a delicious new recipe for us, one that I will definitely make again.
Per Tricia~
I also knocked out the Baby Bok Choy & Garlic en Papillote recipe 
to keep our double posts (we have a lot of make ups to do) in synch.
 Coming off last week's use of this cooking method I was more than happy 
to use it again. I have not prepared the bok choy at home before but was 
struck by how beautiful and tender it was, and will be looking for more recipes. 
We enjoyed this one but unfortunately I think mine got a bit too cooked 
so I likely did a disservice to the gentle texture of the bok choy.
 I will be revisiting the en Papillote method but not with this filling. 

Happy French Friday ~

Friday, September 5, 2014

Curried Chicken, Peppers & Peas en Papillote

Per Nana~
This week's recipe of curried chicken was a nice surprise. 
I did not think I would enjoy the curry flavor, but it was really very 
mild tasting. I loved the peas, red pepper and red onions, and when 
added to the chicken really enhanced the overall flavor of this dish.
 I think that using foil in this way is a great way to cook the chicken and 
I would like to try this method using other spices in place of the curry.
 All in all this was a nice recipe and, unfortunately, I only prepared 
a half portion and was looking for more.

Per Tricia~
This recipe was as remarkably quick and easy as Dorie
 promised. Adding curry, a spice I don't often use, made it a nice
 change to the standard chicken options we typically enjoy. 
 The biggest takeaway for me this week was not just how 
delicious Dorie's combination of ingredients was (and
 it was) but instead a reminder of how easy, versatile 
and enjoyable the results from baking "en papillote" are.
 Simply take some meat or fish, add veggies and 
spices and then bake in foil or parchment wrap
 for a short time to have a great meal. Voilà. 

Happy French Friday ~

Friday, August 29, 2014

Chanterelles with Napa & Nuts

Per Tricia~
This week I finally got a chance to help Nana (for a change) 
after we ran into trouble locating the Chanterelles. Nana is an
 amazing "sourcer" of ingredients for our French Friday adventures 
so when she ran into difficulties I will admit I was a bit scared.  
As usual, however, I got lucky. 
A quick internet search under "Philly" and "Chanterelle" and I 
ended up on the Facebook page for "The Woodlands at Phillips".  
Located in Kennett Square, PA, (dubbed the mushroom capital of
 the world.......) "The Woodlands" turned out to be mushroom mecca.
Serendipitously, they had just posted about a fresh order
 of Chanterelles coming in this week. They were actually 
sourced from Washington State. 

Cookbooks, cooking tools, gifts, and yes,
 even mushrooms- they have it all.  

A few quick emails back and forth with the gracious folks there
 and I had two pounds reserved for Nana and I. 

Unfortunately Nana could not join me in the road trip the day they 
arrived but she is getting a raincheck because we will be back.

 Yes, we will definitely be back.

Now on to the recipe from "Around My French Table".
In full disclosure, I do not care for mushrooms. 
My curiosity was piqued and the road trip was fabulous,
 but that would not sway my tastebuds if they are not happy. 
Luckily, they were happy. 

I actually even ate a Chanterelle before cooking it and was pleasantly surprised.  

In fairness, the soy sauce added a flavor that was right up my alley. 
To top it off, the whole completed dish looked suspiciously like 
my favorite spicy cashew chicken from the Cheesecake Factory. 

It didn't taste like it but I did enjoy a serving and my mind was racing 
with ideas of what to serve this with, on, or in. My guys were all fans 
of  mushrooms before this week so it was no surprise that these were a hit, 
but they did get a kick out of the new variety. Another Friday adventure.

Per Nana~
I looked all over for Chanterelle mushrooms these past two 
weeks and finally gave up and purchased a package of dried.   
thought that I would reconstitute them and take my chances 
with this week's recipe, but for some reason I kept putting it off. 
This was one time when procrastinating paid off.
Along came Tricia with goodies galore from her trip to the mushroom farm. 
I am so lucky, and she even supplied the Napa cabbage too. 
The recipe was very interesting and never having tasted these mushrooms
 before, I did not know what to expect.  Everything blended together so 
well, with the nuts giving it the perfect crunch. I have some leftovers and 
am seriously thinking of cooking rice and topping it with these 
wonderful mushrooms. Now that I have used the fresh mushrooms 
I can not imagine the dried working with this recipe. 

Happy French Friday ~ 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Couscous Salad & Tomatoes Provençal

Another summer double header as we play catch up ....

Couscous Salad
Per Nana~
Couscous is not something I prepare often. Many people think it 
resembles "pastina" pasta but I definitely find a difference in flavor.  
This week however, using the couscous with all of the herbs and spices called 
for in the recipe made the dish quite interesting. Normally I don't use a lot of
 ginger or cumin in my cooking but it definitely worked well in this salad. 
Taking the easy way out for dinner, I served this 
salad with a delicious roasted chicken from Costco. 

Per Tricia~
This is definitely one of the recipes that gets filed under "never would have 
thought of these ingredients". Likely because I am not familiar with Moroccan
 cooking. But somehow, after four years of "French Fridays with Dorie". pantry IS prepared for Moroccan dishes.  I actually surprised myself that I
 could easily lay my hands on turmeric, cumin, and ground ginger-
 check, check and check. It was the good old cinnamon I had to hunt for. 
My how times have changed, but for the better. The family enjoyed it 
and hubby said it was a good option for him to take for lunch at work. 

Tomatoes Provençal 
Per Nana~
Adding to this week's post is a make up recipe for tomatoes provençal. 
Many thanks to Kathy for this selection, it was excellent and quite tasty.
 This is one recipe I will make time and time again. 
The mixture of herbs that I used were fresh basil leaves and chives, blended 
with finely chopped garlic. I baked the tomatoes for 30 minutes as instructed, 
and then I basted them. Another 15 minutes and they were perfect. 
I sprinkled some parmesan cheese over the tomatoes as Dorie 
suggested, and they were simply delicious. 

Per Tricia~
The spoiling continues. 
It is widely known that I am treated to both standard and hard to find ingredients by
 getting a special delivery à la Nana. This week my lovely new next door neighbor, 
Nicole, just happened to ask if I could use some of her garden fresh tomatoes.
Yes, she evidently raises amazing heirloom tomatoes and offered to share. 
Coincidentally, on the same night that I was planning to
 make the tomatoes provençal. Cue the choir of angels. 
Aren't they gorgeous ?  Yup - they were absolutely delicious too.  
This recipe was wonderful. Even though it involved turning on the 
oven in the summer, I will still do it again and again. All of my
 taste testers approved. And now they want a garden next year as well ...

 Happy French Friday ~