FFWD: Citrus Two Ways

Happy Friday!  It has been a strange week here at the From Scratch household. Between a third week of Christmas break (yes, my daughter’s school district has a 3 week winter break…), head colds, and cable/internet/phone problems, things just didn’t feel normal around here.  This is a long way of saying I didn’t make this week’s (dreaded) French Fridays with Dorie recipe.  I will make it next week when things are hopefully back to normal.  Instead, I will catch you up on a couple of recipes that I made in December but haven’t had a chance to write about.  Let’s get started!

Orange and Olive Salad

Orange and Olive Salad

Orange and Olive Salad. This is one of those recipes from Around My French Table that I was dreading the most.  It just didn’t sound good to me. But, since I’m committed to trying every recipe, I carried on.

Much to my surprise, I liked it!  I especially liked how refreshing the orange seemed with it’s drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. I also liked the onion with the orange.  But I found my mild Niçoise olives did nothing to add to the flavor of the salad.  Perhaps a saltier kalamata would have been better?  Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised!

Pan-Seared Duck Chicken Breasts with Kumquats

Pan-Seared Chicken with Kumquats

Next up is Pan-Seared Duck Breasts with Kumquats.  Except I used boneless chicken breasts. This recipe is all about the kumquat sauce and I knew my family would prefer chicken over duck.

Despite my change to chicken, I followed the recipe pretty closely. I made the sauce and candied kumquats as written.  The chicken was pan-seared skin-side down just like the duck would have been, but then I kept it in the pan and roasted it in the oven until cooked through.

This was good!  I had never cooked with kumquats before and it was fun trying something new.  The sauce was good with the chicken and my husband loved the candied kumquats.  I would make this again.

If you are interested in what the dreaded recipe for this week was (and don’t want to wait until I write about it next week), you can find out here.  Here’s to a good weekend and a more normal week ahead!

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FFWD: Simplest Breton Fish Soup

Simplest Breton Fish Soup

Happy New Year!  January 2015 is going to be a fishy month for French Fridays with Dorie, and we’re getting off to a very fishy start with Simplest Breton Fish Soup.

As the name implies, Simplest Breton Fish Soup is a very simple soup, inspired by the soup fishermen in the Breton region of France would make aboard their fishing boats. It’s made with some basic vegetables (onion, shallot, garlic, celery, leek, and potatoes) and whatever fish is fresh.  I added carrots and saffron, as suggested by Dorie in her bonne idée.

Dorie recommends using a variety of fish and mussels for this soup.  I used one sardine, a nice amount of cod, and a handful of mussels.

Breton Fish Soup

So how did my family like this simple, fishy soup?  I loved it!  My husband…not so much.  I didn’t even try giving any to my daughter.  I loved the rustic simplicity and straightforward flavors.  It was almost refreshing after the heavy eating of the holidays. Even though I loved this soup, I doubt I will make it again since the rest of my crew would not be on board.

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TWD: Gingerbread Buche de Noel

Gingerbread Buche de Noel

Happy Tuesdays with Dorie!  Just in time for Christmas, the group made a fanciful Christmas dessert called Gingerbread Buche de Noel.  These log-shaped cakes are very traditional in Europe, and pastry chefs in Paris unveil their creations for the year with fanfare.  Dorie calls hers a “Franco-American buche de Noel”, with American flavors and the traditional European shape. I made mine for Christmas dinner.

Buche de Noel

There are quite a few steps to making this dessert.  First, make the pecan praline that is used in both the filling and to adorn the outside of the cake.  Next make the gingerbread sponge cake, then the filling.  Finally, when you are ready to assemble the cake, make the marshmallow frosting.

I learned a couple of new techniques while making my buche de Noel. First of all, the cake layer had a technique I have never used before. The first step is to warm the eggs and sugar over simmering water before whipping them. It must help get nice volume. Next, I have never made marshmallow frosting before. It requires a candy thermometer and techniques similar to making marshmallows. It made a lovely, light, spreadable frosting.

Buche de Noel Slice

I enjoyed the flavors of this decadent Christmas dessert, but sponge cake ended up a bit dry.  I actually blame my kitchen scale for this.  I cut the recipe in half, relying heavily on my scale to do so.  Unfortunately, the scale was on it’s last legs and I had trouble getting accurate measurements.  I am sure something was off, resulting in my dry cake.  I did get a new kitchen scale as a Christmas gift (yay!), so this won’t be a problem in the future.

Other than the dry cake, I thought the cake was delicious. I loved the marshmallow frosting and would like to try it on a different cake some time. My daughter inhaled her serving, so I think she liked it!

If you would like to try making Gingerbread Buche de Noel, you can find the recipe (and/or listen to Dorie talk about it!) here: Dorie on NPR.

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FFWD: Speculoos

Speculoos

Merry (day after) Christmas!!  I hope all of you who celebrate had a wonderful day.  We had a lovely time with plenty of good food!

I have a lot of cooking and knitting and even a bit of sewing to catch you up on!  I will tackle them one at a time over the next few weeks, so keep your eye out for new posts from me.

For the last several years the French Fridays with Dorie group has done a Christmas Card Exchange.  This is the first year I participated and it was so much fun! I loved getting the mail each day to see who I got cards from.  Here is a photo with most of the cards I received (I am still waiting on a few…and I have a feeling a few of you are waiting on mine).  I hung them all on our front doors.

Christmas Cards

Today for French Fridays with Dorie the group is doing something a little different.  As part of the card exchange, participants could also share a favorite cookie or drink recipe.  Then, if we wished, we could each make one of those recipes and share it on our blogs today.  I decided not to participate in the recipe exchange, so I am doing a make-up recipe instead: Speculoos.

Speculoos are a spicy brown-sugar cookie recipe popular across Europe.  They are especially popular around Christmas-time. I had been meaning to make these cookies for the last couple Christmases, and finally made them this year.

Dorie’s recipe includes a lot of cinnamon (yum!) and a touch off ginger and cloves.  They are sturdy enough to be cut into shapes, but I made simple round cookies.

Watch out!  These cookies with disappear quickly!

Watch out! These cookies with disappear quickly!

I loved these cookies!  Cinnamon cookies are a favorite and these did not disappoint.  Based on how quickly these cookies got eaten, I think everyone in the family liked them.

If you would like to try Speculoos, Dorie’s recipe can be found here on her blog.

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Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine + Tartine de Viande des Grisons

Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine

Happy French Friday!  How is your December going?  Mine’s been busy, but with fun stuff like a birthday party for my daughter and Christmas preparations.  I’ve been decking the halls and trimming the tree!

Thank goodness for last week’s easy French Fridays with Dorie recipe, since I doubled up this week with it and the current week’s recipe.  I also have a little bonus at the end of this post!

Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine

Lamb and Apricot Tagine

This week the group made a Moroccan-inspired dish called Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine.  Lamb shoulder, onions, tomatoes, and dried apricots were braised slowly in broth infused with exotic spices, including garlic, saffron, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon.  To finish, each serving was sprinkled with toasted almonds and chopped cilantro.  I served it with plain couscous, which was perfect for soaking up the flavorful sauce.

We liked this!  My husband wasn’t sure about the apricots when he saw them, but it turned out he had nothing to worry about.  I loved the variety of flavors and textures.  A hit for sure!

Tartine de Viande des Grisons

Tartine de Viande des Grisons

Next up is a simple open-faced sandwich: Tartine de Viande des Grisons.  The hardest part about this one was finding the bresaola, a dry-cured beef from Italy.  Interestingly, I looked for this at Whole Foods and they didn’t have it, but when I returned a week later they did!

Like I said, this one is simple.  Lightly toast a slice of country bread, butter it generously, top with a layer of bresaola, drizzle with a bit of walnut oil, and strew on a few pieces of walnut.  Cut and eat!

Yum!  This made a lovely little lunch that I enjoyed very much.

Bonus: Red Kuri Soup Redux

Red Kuri Squash

Finally, I found a “real” red kuri squash while in Seattle for Thanksgiving.  I brought it home and re-made the red kuri soup from a few weeks ago.  If you recall, I wasn’t convinced the squash I found here in Reno was really a red kuri squash.  Or it least it wasn’t the kind you can find in France.  As you can see, the one I found in Seattle looks more “authentic”.

Red Kuri Soup

I made the soup again with my new squash.  It definitely had a different flavor and we liked it much more.  My husband wasn’t comparing this version to boxed soup.  Whew!  However, I don’t think we liked it as much as the French seem too.  I think I will stick with my favorite butternut squash soup recipe.  But I am glad to have tried this with the second squash.

I hope you all have a good weekend!

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TWD: The Rugelach That Won Over France

Rugelach

It’s Tuesday, and that means it’s time for my next installment of Tuesdays with Dorie.  The recipe of the week was The Rugelach That Won Over France.  I made them as part of the spread for my daughter’s birthday party this past weekend.

Rugelach consists of a tender dough made from cream cheese that bakes up similar to a puff pastry.  The dough is rolled with any number of fillings.  This recipe has us roll the dough with a filling of coconut, toasted nuts (I used almonds), chocolate, and dried cherries.  Dorie has us roll the dough like mini cinnamon rolls and then slice and bake it.

Like others mentioned in the P’s & Q’s, I had a little trouble with this recipe.  The rugelach were hard to slice without the dough cracking and the filling spilling out.  Also, the 400° oven temperature seemed too high and some of mine were over-cooked.  For a second batch I lowered the oven temp to 350°, and they turned out much better.

I had heard that Dorie has a very similar recipe in her book Baking: From My Home to Yours. I checked it out and found that her method of filling and rolling the dough was different: more like a crescent roll.  Also, the baking temp was 350°, so I wonder if it’s a typo in the new book?  The rugelach and the filling were good enough that I would try these again using the techniques from Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Rugelach

Despite their messy appearance, the rugelach were a hit!  The party guests cleaned the platter and exclaimed how good they were.  Can’t ask for more than that!

If you would like to see if this is “the Rugelach that wins over you”, you can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s newest book, Baking Chez Moi.

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FFWD: Beatrix’s Red Kuri Soup

Beatrix's Red Kuri Soup

Happy Friday!  To those of you in the U.S., I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I am here in Seattle visiting family and we had a delicious feast yesterday.

We’re rounding out this month’s French Fridays with Dorie selections with another soup.  This one is squash soup, specifically Beatrix’s Red Kuri Soup.  According to Dorie, her Parisian friends look forward to this soup all year long!  They love the sweet, chestnut flavor of the squash.

I’m not convinced I really had a red kuri squash, at least not the same kind Dorie uses for her soup.  It was labelled “Red Kuri”, as evidenced by the picture below:

"Red Kuri" Squash?

It certainly has the right color, and the skin became soft during cooking, a hallmark of the red kuri squash.  But I didn’t detect any chestnut flavor, and it wasn’t a sweet squash.  Also, it doesn’t have the right shape.  Here is an image I found elsewhere online:

See that pointy top?  Mine didn’t have that at all.  If I ever find (or grow!) a red kuri squash that looks like the image above I will try this soup again to see if it tastes different.

Anyway, did we like the soup?  Not really.  It didn’t have much flavor, and I was expecting this soup to have a special flavor after the build-up Dorie wrote about in the lead-up to the recipe.  My husband said we might as well have been eating boxed soup.  Ouch!

I can’t help but think it was the squash that wasn’t right.  I had part of the squash left over, and I roasted it as a side for dinner another night.  The roasted squash also did not have much flavor.

If you are certain you have a real red kuri squash and want to try this soup, you can find the recipe on Dorie’s site:  Red Kuri Soup.

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FFWD: Storzapretis

Storzapretis

Happy French Friday!  This week’s recipe is one of those from the book that I never really noticed.  I just kind of glossed over it.  But then I read it, and it sounded good!  I think the problem is the name:  Storzapretis.  That doesn’t mean anything to me.  The subtitle has more meaning: Corsican Spinach and Mint Gnocchi.  That sounds more like something I can get into!

Storzapretis is a ricotta-based gnocchi from the island of Corsica.  It has a nice amount of spinach, as well as Gruyere and mint.  It is baked in a tomato sauce of your choosing (I used homemade roasted tomato sauce made from garden tomatoes that I had in the freezer).

It turns out this was a tricky one to make.  There was much discussion about how to best make this without having the gnocchi fall apart to bits while cooking.  My first attempt was very successful and I got a little cocky.  My second attempt was a disaster, and my third attempt was another success.  Here’s how it all went down:

1) The night I mixed up and formed the gnocchi, I cooked up half of them as directed after freezing them for half an hour to firm them up a bit.  I boiled them at a very low simmer and then they were baked with the tomato sauce with cheese sprinkled on top.  No gnocchi disintegrated, and they were delicious!  I took no pictures.

2) I had left the remaining gnocchi in the freezer over night.  The next day for lunch, the plan was to cook half the leftovers for the purposes of taking photos in natural light.  I plopped the frozen gnocchi into the lightly simmering water (Dorie said we could cook from frozen).  They disintegrated!  Only a couple of them stayed in any shape mildly resembling gnocchi, and they were very soft and misshapen.  Uh oh!

3)  Several Doristas had tried skipping the simmering step, and just baked the raw gnocchi in the tomato sauce.  I tried this with the rest of the leftovers – I had to get a photo!  Mine baked for quite a bit longer than directed since they were frozen, but it worked!  A delicious lunch and some beautiful photos.  Whew!

Storzapretis

My conclusion after all this, is that the Storzapretis are delicious to eat, but persnickety to make.  I wouldn’t make this for company unless I was sure I had perfected my technique.

If you would like to see how others fared, check it out here.

Have a great weekend!

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FFWD: Almond-Orange Tuiles

Almond-Orange Tuiles
Happy French Friday! I am doing a make-up recipe for French Fridays with Dorie today because I couldn’t find a key ingredient (kumquats) for this week’s recipe.  I have been assured that kumquats will be in the market in a couple weeks, so I will make that recipe soon.  Instead I made Almond-Orange Tuiles.  I am down to only two make-up recipes!  Not including the one I didn’t make this week…so really three.

Almond-Orange Tuiles are a lacy, light, little cookie.  They are very easy to mix together, taking only minutes.  The tricky part happens after they are done baking.  You are to transfer these lacy cookies onto a rolling pin so they can set in their curved shape.  The first one I tried ended up in a little lump on the counter.  It almost slid down between the stove and the counter, but I caught it just in time!

IMG_9590_edited-1
I finally got the hang of making these pretty cookies and I thought they were delicious.  The flavor from the orange juice is subtle but nice.  I ate these on their own, but I think they would be at their best adorning something like ice cream or a creamy cake.  They would also be a nice addition to a dessert buffet.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

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TWD: Palets de Dames, Lille Style

Palets de Dames, Lille Style

Welcome to my very first Tuesdays with Dorie post! We will be baking our way through Dorie Greenspan’s brand new book, Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere.

A little history lesson: Over six years ago, Tuesdays with Dorie was begun by a few bloggers wanting to bake their way through Dorie’s book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. When Around My French Table came out four years ago, French Fridays with Dorie was spun off, and I joined that group a few months after it was created. Now that Dorie’s new book is out, Tuesdays with Dorie is taking it on!

I have decided not to try making every recipe from this new book like I am with Around my French Table. I will just do those recipes that sound good to me and that I have time for. I just can’t make that many desserts! Luckily for me, the first recipe the group chose was one that sounded really good to me.

Palets de Dames

The inaugural recipe from Baking Chez Moi is a delicious cookie called Palets de Dames, Lille Style. They are a simple, slightly cakey, iced vanilla cookie.

These cookies are as good as they look! I ate more of these than I care to admit. Their cute size means they are easy to pop into your mouth! My inability to stop eating these just proves that I can’t be trusted to bake every treat in this book and not gain ten pounds.

Palets de Dames

This was a fun recipe to kick off Baking Chez Moi and my participation in Tuesdays with Dorie.

Like FFWD, Tuesdays with Dorie does not share recipes.  We want to encourage people to buy the book. However, this cookie recipe is available online here, if you are interested in giving it a try.

Happy Baking!

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