French Fridays with Dorie – Lentil, Lemon and Tuna salad

Let’s start this one off with a bang – this recipe was more than amazing!!  It was a huge success at the Feller household and we will most certainly be making this again and again this summer.  Most likely for American Players Theater…delicious Shakespeare under the stars with good friends and family, truly this dish would be perfect.

I must say I had a negative attitude when I first read this.  I just get so darned mad when I see cool ingredients and know full well that none of them are available here in the Boonies.  Whatever, get over yourself Heidi.  When we first moved here a million years ago, I joined a book club (not the one I am part of now, which is so cool).  There was a “lady” in this book club who actually had the audacity to complain about the price of the book.  Naturally, I was outraged and unleashed my fury on my husband, explaining to him (I can be QUITE nauseating at times), “You know, I received a Fullbright!”  To which he tersely replied, “Yes, but you live HERE now.”  Yet another reason why I am still married to this saint, he keeps me humble.

So, now I am over myself about no true French lentils and have moved on from the remote possibility of finding preserved lemons.  I am drawing on the creative energy and the  adventurous spirit of fellow Doriens and convince myself I can do this without all the fancy fluff (still secretly I would take that jar of lemons, I just know it would change my life).  I used my green lentils and followed the recipe with the broth and carrot and such.  Guess what?  They were spectacular!

French Lentils

While they were simmering away, I made the tapenade, also following Dorie’s instructions and HOLY COW!  Who knew homemade tapenade could be soooooo good?  In years past I had used a Moosewood version and it always seemed to be missing a little something, something.  Now I know what it was, anchovy!  Duh!  So happy that the leftover spread is sitting in my fridge, the kids have enjoyed it as an after school snack (I am well aware of the monsters we are creating by serving them such deliciousness).

tapenade, pure heaven

Time to assemble and serve.  I grated lemon zest and squeezed the juice on top in lieu of the holy grail preserved lemon.  It was an “ok”  stand in but I am ordering a jar of the real deal from Amazon in the very near future. Served on a bed of organic CSA lettuce and accompanied by roasted carrots with honey and rosemary. The results?  Fantastic!  Not a morsel left.  Welcome summer, you taste divine!

 

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French Fridays with Dorie – Double Chocolate and Banana Tart

Double Chocolate and Banana Tart

Strawberry and Ganache Tart

This is a cautionary tale with a lesson (I am a teacher by trade after all). Acknowledging that there are different learning styles in the world, I am more than willing to share the lesson up front so that the lazy readers in the group can move directly to the final picture after reading the opening paragraph.  LESSON:  NEVER BEGIN A RECIPE ON A SATURDAY EVENING AFTER A GLASS OF WINE!

Now that we have that out of the way, this actually turned into a beautiful baking experience.  Hannah did most of the work, so kudos to her!  She also had a busy weekend with her year end dance recital and her tap routine rocked the house.  Here she is in all her glory:

And, yes, that smile stays plastered on her face the ENTIRE time she is on stage.

Back to the lesson.  Last night while Bob was grilling the fish for our fish tacos, I thought it would be a great idea to mix up the dough, form it and pop it into the freezer so that I could be a step ahead for today.  One glass of wine and a very long week behind me lead to poor reading skills.  Needless to say I mixed up the original dough instead of following the directions for the chocolate version in the margin.  Merde!  I contemplated throwing it out and starting all over but a month or two in this cooking group has changed me.  I read every week about how you brave souls change and adapt recipes to fit your taste.  Why not just go with it?

Mother’s Day morning and I am enjoying my coffee and book, The Master’s Muse about Balanchine’s last wife.  Time to bake the crust.  The part about freezing the crust in the pan appealed to me as I have never had good luck with the whole weights (aka beans) and foil thing.  It baked up beautifully!  I will definitely be using that trick again.  Hannah attempted to make the ganache but blew up the first batch of cream (another lesson learned) so they crew headed to the store to pick up more.  The second batch was silky and  gorgeous.

Hannah and I decided to use strawberries instead of bananas ( I know, I am way out on a ledge at this point), so we carmelized them in the butter and sugar, placed them on the crust and poured the ganache over.  Delish!  Off to lunch at Little Village and then back home for the final layer and the glaze.  Hannah did an amazing job, right down to gently layering the berries to make it look all professional and such.  Great dessert for a great Mother’s Day!  Maybe in this quest for trying new things and thinking out of the box I should sign up for tap lessons next year too………….

FFWD Provencal Olive Fougasse

Salt and bread, what could be better?  Nothing, I tell you. This story, while a love one, is also one that could only end badly,  i.e. with me only being able to wear yoga pants in public.  Bread and I have a bit of a love/hate thing going on.  I love the way I feel so “European” while mixing it up, letting it rise and best of all, inhaling it after it comes out of the oven but then the hate part starts. Why couldn’t I stop after one or two pieces?  Did I really need to sneak back into the kitchen at 9 pm and eat more? Seriously people, all things in moderation.

I have made fougasse before and loved it each and every time so I was quite intrigued by this new (and improved version) with rosemary, lemon zest and OLIVES!  It mixed up lickety split in my KA standing mixer.  The “wetness” that the recipe mentioned was a bit worrisome, as the other fougasse recipe I use calls for a great deal more flour but I decided to trust the recipe.  A punch down an hour and a half later, into the fridge and on with the day.

Cut to a  day later and Grandma Mary is here (due to a funeral). We were laying around looking up recipes so we decided it was a good day for baking and eating bread  (I inherited my addiction honestly).  The dough was shiny and smelled divine.  Roll out, cut slits, let sit and then the final brushing and sprinkling of course sea salt.  Bake for the allotted time and voila, homemade bread!   We couldn’t even wait five minutes to start digging in.  The kids and Bob loved it too.  Now Grandma Mary has to wear HER yoga pants to work too…………

FFWD almond flounder meuniere

Bloggidy blog blog.  Not a great deal of inspiration at the moment so let’s just slog through this one.

First, I love fish, any kind of fish and so does my family so this was easy enough to “sell” at  my house.  One small detail,  I actually don’t cook fish.  This falls squarely on the shoulders of my hubby, Bob. Kind of like the Weber grill on the back patio, you know, man stuff.  I always say that if Bob suddenly passed away I would have to bury the grill with him.  So goes it with the fish recipes at the Feller household.  Soooo, disclaimer – I was only the sous chef and photographer for this recipe.  Glad I got that one off my chest, now the blogging police won’t be at my door tomorrow morning.

the usual suspects

I took care of grinding the almonds and setting it all up so that the lovely chef and his beer could read the recipe.  Reading done.  He took a look at the fish I had purchased ( I am too embarrassed to tell you where but the package did say “wild caught).  After he looked at my sad, emaciated flounder he said, “This is going to go fast.”  So off to the races we were.

The chef studying up for the big test

He was right, in a few minutes we had a lovely fish dinner.  Everyone was really happy with the results.  I have to say though, I couldn’t tell much of a difference between the almond coating and what we usually use.  The roasted almonds on the top were a nice touch and we served it with the recommended boiled, buttered potatoes with parsley and a nice spinach salad.  Not bad for a few minutes of hectic on a Sunday night. Nice work, Bob!

Baking with Julia Hungarian Shortbread

See, Elvis hadn't left the building yet......

So, back from Vegas where we celebrated my mom’s Birthday, a huge surprise for her  (yes, folks Elvis and all) and ready to tackle some new recipes.  I was totally pumped to see that this recipe included one of my all time favorite foods  RHUBARB!  I really love rhubarb.  Some of my fondest memories include this sour, crunchy fruit (really what is it, a fruit or a veggie or a root or what?)  As little girls my best friend Jackie and I used to have tea parties under massive pine trees in the backyard.  We would make rhubarb “sandwiches” with the leaves and the stalks.  Now, we knew full well that the leaves were crazy poisonous (perhaps an urban myth like the one my mom told me about your eyes “sticking” like that if you crossed them) so we NEVER put them near our lips but we did drive ourselves insane eating raw rhubarb.  Talk about pucker!

Another favorite memory of rhubarb (I told you I was obsessed) is the rhubarb custard pie made by my very own Granny Good Witch.  This is a one crust pie made with tart rhubarb and  involves half and half. You literally need duct tape in the kitchen in order not to inhale the whole thing. My Uncle Dan dropped one off at Granny’s earlier this week and Granny claims there is only one piece left.  Good bakers run in my family.  Sugar is its own food group.

This recipe reminds of good old church lady bars that my Granny was famous for.  Granny recently turned 91 and while her memory is not the best and she doesn’t bake anymore , I just know she’ll say, “These are pretty good, can you write that down for me?”  This recipe will then join other scribbled food notes in the two built-in dining room drawers jam-packed with recipes from (church) ladies with names like Hiya and Bernice.

Eli trying to show Granny how to play a video game. Never mind the fact that she NEVER had a driver's license and she also never learned how to ride a bike. Boy could that lady could bake though!

Sorry, I digress.  Granny is one special lady and things haven;t been going her way lately and she is on my mind.  She taught me how to bake as a child and remains an inspiration to me to this day.  We even named Hannah after her.

Back to the business at hand.  There was NO possible way this wasn’t going to be amazing with the WHOLE pound of butter and the rhubarb.  Easy enough to make, and yet technically it is a bit early for rhubarb in my book.  Lucky for us we got a jump on Spring a few weeks ago (where DID you go Spring?) and when I sent out my request via FB, my friend Jan offered up her patch (she also has tarragon and sage that never died out if you need that too).

The jam was simple to make though I didn’t have a vanilla bean on hand and this back woods town I live in didn’t have any either.  I decided to “be Jan” (she is always improvising) and dump in regular vanilla instead.  Done.

Cut to this morning when I whipped up the dough, froze it and then bribed the minions to help with the promise of baked goods when it was over. I thought the grating trick was really cool and I was looking forward to seeing what it would look like after baking.

The minions assisting

Into the oven for the allotted time then powdered sugar sprinkled over the top as per the directions, then off to Hannah’s soccer game.  The results?  Excellent!  Eli says I should sell my meals after making them and Hannah proclaimed it heavenly.  Not bad as a reward for winning 4-0 (even if you do run like your mom, Miss Hannah).

French Fridays with Dorie Coconut Friands

Seems we are on to some sort of theme for the month of April with this cooking group.

Love it or Hate it”

Luckily, so far, I happen to belong to the “love it” team.  Coconut, what’s not to like?  This seemed like the sweetest little recipe, something to whip up while finishing my final paper for my AODA class and organizing the volunteer reception for our district’s volunteers (it’s National Volunteer Week).  I finally got to it yesterday.  It WAS so simple and pretty to whisk up the ingredients.The description that Dorie wrote in the cookbook made me want to brew some tea and invite my friends over to chat while nibbling on these delectables. Too bad things seem to be so crazy this week that I wasn’t even sure I would have time to try one while flying out the door.  I love the smell of coconut, although I wasn’t able to find unsweetened for this recipe but I think the sweetened worked just fine in this case.

looks pretty, but why does everything in my kitchen seem to be white?

 I was too lazy to buy another mini muffin tin, as mine bit the dust in a “let’s make our own crayons” fiasco.  I simply bought mini muffin cups and filled them with the batter and placed them on a cookie sheet, then popped them in the oven.  This worked really well!

Seventeen minutes later just as Dorie promised, these babies were ready!  The verdict?  Both Hannah and Eli gobbled them up, Eli claiming they were the best of the best (they don’t have access to vast amounts of sugar).  Bob had to be prodded to attempt a bite (he plays for  the other team) and pronounced them “good”.  If you know Bob, you know he means “crappy” but you can’t win them all.

Sadly for next week’s post I may need to trade my jersey in for the opponent’s colors.  Lamb, love it or hate it………………………stay tuned.

Tuesdays with Dorie Lemon Loaf Cake

Saturday morning, I am still in my pjs and so is my sous chef for the day, Mr. Eli (his sister is at a sleep over and will likely come home too crabby to make eye contact with).  This is my first post for Tuesdays with Dorie and so far I am loving this cookbook.  It is soooo pretty.  The comments I  have been reading are not.  We aren’t allowed to post until Tuesday but we can comment and it seems as if this recipe wasn’t quite the home run we were expecting.  Oh, well. let’s give it a try anyway.

Another cup of coffee and Live in Paris from Diana Krall on the IPOD and we are all set. I decided to use Meyer Lemons instead of regular after reading some of the comments. Thank for that tip! Yum!  After making all the lemons “bald” I decided to juice them and use them for a glaze, taking another piece of advice from other Tuesdays members.   A lovely photo of some of the delicious ingredients.  Notice the bowls, they are a recent gift from my Aunt Sue.  They belonged to my Grandma Grace and they bring back fond memories of Tang and green jello when my sisters and I would spend the night.

Eli really got a kick out of whisking (I had to remind him not to annihilate the batter).  It looked divine and smelled wonderful so I am really and truly hoping it tastes that great as well.  Into the oven and to the quick glaze. I used only the Meyer lemon juice and a bit of powdered sugar.  The sous chef deemed it acceptable for consumption.

When it was finished, I poke holes as advised by other bakers into the cake and quickly poured the glaze over, then let it cool.

We decided to unleash this experiment as dessert tonight.  I sliced strawberries and made   whip cream to go with it.  Results?  Dismal at best. It looked pretty but the taste was completely underwhelming.  I would not make this again and it actually seemed like a waste of some perfectly good Meyer lemons.  Oh well, when the world gives you lemons you can always bake something!

Sardine Rillettes

Well, here goes nothing.  I was initially very excited to see this recipe but a head cold and rockin’ headache to go with it are really keeping me down.  No worries, my sous chef should be home from tap lessons in a few minutes to help me out so  I’ll start without her.

Sardines, you either love them or wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole. I happen to love them and have fond memories of Sunday afternoons as a child when my dad would roll back the top of a tin of sardines (just like in the cartoons) and spread them on Saltines.  My mother would, of course, run for the hills claiming they smelled too fishy (duh).  She still doesn’t like her fish to taste like fish, a statement I really don’t “get” as I will eat anything from the sea.  I once ate smoked eel (think popsicle)  out of the back of a truck at the North Sea in northern Germany.  Sehr gut!

Now while my husband and children also adore seafood, only Eli has ever been brave enough to eat stinky sardines with his mommy.  Let’s see what happens after I smoosh them up and add cream cheese (nothing wrong with cream cheese, right?).

Here is what the sardines look like that I bought at Viking Village (again, no comments please). If they were good enough for King Oscar, they are good enough for me.  I decided to use cream cheese because that is what I had on hand.

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Before I start the chopping and mixing, probably time for a drinkie poo.  Prosit!

P.S. Don’t you think my shirt looks French?

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OK, now on to the real work.  Cream cheese softened, shallot minced, green onion in the bowl.  I used cayenne because I have no idea what piment d’ Espelette is but I will definitely be checking it out soon.  Lemon and salt, as in sel gris, velvet from Bekah Kate’s.  Chives stolen from the neighbors, compliments of my son, Eli.

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Now for the big moment, let’s open this baby up!  Man, that stinks, but Eli and I simply cannot help ourselves, we start scooping  them out of the tin and eating them directly.  Yum!

Now on to the finished product, which I served with toasted baguette slices.

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Here is the verdict:  Eli claims he could eat it out of the bowl, no toasted baguette required.  “In my world, this is the food of the week!”

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Hannah, on the other hand, refused to EVEN TRY IT!  EWWWW, GROSS!

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Bob tried a few, remaining polite (but he used hot sauce from our Puerto Rican vacation).  Thanks, honey for putting up with my antics.  Perhaps now wouldn’t be a good time to mention that I joined the Tuesdays with Dorie group as well?

I think the recipe rocks!  I will most certainly use this as an appetizer for my next soiree.  No fear cooking, bring on the lamb!   Now, how do you suppose I can get rid of this fishy smell in the kitchen, Grandma Mary?

Asparagus and bits of bacon

So my copy of Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan arrived a few hours ago (not a moment too soon) and all I can say is, “Man, I love food porn!”  This book is delicious.  I cracked the spine, smelled the book and quickly looked up this week’s recipe, asparagus and bits of bacon.  Right. What’s not to love?  Bacon and asparagus, yippee!

I hopped in the car to pick up a few things at Viking Village (don’t ask) and was immediately annoyed.  No walnut or hazelnut oil as far as the eye could see.  Whatever.  I drove to the other side of town to check out the competition and guess what?  Strike two.  I drove home with my asparagus, once again irked by the fact that we live in a small town with limited food resources.  There are tons of fabulous things about living in Reedsburg but at the moment I am wishing my zip code was closer to Madison. Oh, well. Time to improvise, a skill I have only picked up in the kitchen since living here.  Olive oil it is.

Back in the kitchen I assembled the rest of the cast.  Here is what they look like:

I must confess something at this point, I actually have a sous chef doing most of the prep. As it is Spring Break here both children are lurking around and Hannah didn’t make it out of my line of sight fast enough so now she must help.  All photography credits go to her and most likely I will have to grovel at her feet if you are reading this at all. I am an idiot on the computer and ten to one she will save me in a few minutes when I cannot figure out how to post this.  Here is the uber lovely Miss Hannah:

Bacon in the pan, water boiling and walnuts in the oven roasting.  What, you say, there are no walnuts in this recipe?  I beg to differ. If one cannot find walnut oil in the boonies, one can certainly impart a nutty flavor by adding roasted walnuts to the finished dish.  And these are not just ANY walnuts, these are black walnuts my Uncle Dan lovingly collected and extracted by hand. Double Yum!

Back to the cooking.  Bacon turned out deliciously browned and after cooling went back in the pan with the diced onion. I know the recipe said not to brown the onions but I just didn’t think that would fly here so I let them soften up some and take on color.  Asparagus cooked and patted dry then on to assemble the whole ensemble.  The finished masterpiece!  Not only is it pleasing to the eye, the tummy is VERY happy as well.  Guten Appetit!