FFWD: Riviera Fish Soup

Riviera Fish Soup

It’s another Fishy French Friday!  We are really get down to the final recipes.  There are some iffy ones left, but also some really good-sounding ones.  I am looking forward to trying them all!

This week’s recipe was a little iffy-sounding to me. Pureed fish soup?  It was hard to get my head around that one.  But, I forged ahead in the name of French Fridays with Dorie.  I bought my whole red snapper (I got the last one!).  The nice folks at Whole Foods cleaned, scaled, and chopped it up for me.  I made sure they left me the head.

When I arrived home, I simmered that snapper, head and all, with a bunch of lovely aromatics, including onions, fennel, saffron, tomatoes, and some herbs and spices. The secret ingredient is pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur. Next, I ran the whole shebang (minus the fish head) through my food mill!  It was actually kind of hard work. After adding a little more salt, pepper, and pastis, my soup was ready for serving.

Another important element of this fish soup are the garnishes: a large crouton and rouille.  I attempted to make my own rouille (a cousin of aioli) using Dorie’s recipe, but failed miserably.  It was looking good.  But, at the last minute it it suddenly turned to liquid!  Did I add the last bit of olive oil too fast?  Who knows? The next day I found this Saffron Rouille recipe using pre-made mayonnaise. It was delish!

Riviera Fish Soup
So, back to the soup.  To serve the soup, it is topped with a slice of toasted country bread and a large dollop of the rouille. I have to say, after eating this both with and without the rouille, it really adds a lot to the soup. Don’t skip the rouille!

This soup was met with mixed reactions in my house.  I loved it!  I loved the flavors and textures. It was unique (to me) and delicious.  Certain other people couldn’t get past the fact that this was “fish soup”, and didn’t care for it.

I probably won’t have a chance to make this soup again because it was a lot of work for just one person to eat it. But if you are looking for a soup to impress a group of fish-liking, adventurous eaters, give this a try!

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FFWD: Vanilla-Butter-Braised Lobster + Couscous Chicken

Happy French Friday!

It has come to my attention that perhaps I was a little too harsh on Valentine’s Day in my last post.  It can be a fun holiday, we just don’t make a big deal about it.  I was trying to explain why we don’t make a big deal, and I guess my point didn’t come across quite like I wanted it too. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day!  All that said, we had a lovely Valentine’s Day dinner this year, inspired in part by this week’s delicious French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Vanilla-Butter-Braised Lobster.

Vanilla-Butter-Braised Lobster

Vanilla-Butter-Braised Lobster

As the Dorista’s nominated recipes for the February line-up, it was decided that Vanilla-Butter-Braised Lobster would make the perfect dinner for Valentine’s Day. Great idea, and great excuse for a special dinner!

The recipe calls for live lobsters, but Dorie helpfully suggests that previously frozen lobster tails would work as well.  I opted for the lobster tails. It was interesting to me to see the varying amounts people had to spend to purchase their lobster. I was lucky to run across a “one-day sale” at Whole Foods, and picked up 4 small lobster tails for only $20.

Butter Braised Lobster

I have never cooked lobster before.  Heck, I have only eaten it a handful of times.  One thing I would love to experience some time is super-fresh East Coast lobster cooked at the source. Some day!

Anyway, I was surprised how quick and easy lobster tails are to cook, when they are braised in clarified butter.  Dorie’s twist is to add a vanilla bean.  I found the vanilla flavor to be very subtle, but delicious.

I rounded out our special meal with Lemon-Steamed Spinach and potatoes roasted in duck fat.  Decadent and delicious!

Couscous Chicken

Chicken Couscous

I’m a week late on another FFWD recipe: Couscous Chicken.  This one is a North-African-inspired dish that makes a very satisfying dinner.

What makes Chicken Couscous special and exotic is the spice mix: fresh ginger, cumin, turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, and garlic. The chicken and spices are stewed together with a variety of vegetables, including, leeks, carrots, celery, and zucchini. The final touch is garbanzo beans.  The whole thing is served with the traditional couscous.  Dorie has us cook the couscous with some of the stew’s broth, lending the pasta the same exotic flavors as the rest of the dish.

I loved this!  I found it so satisfying and delicious. Best of all, it made enough for two night’s worth of dinners!

This post participates in French Fridays with Dorie, an online group dedicated to cooking our way through Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful book, Around My French Table.

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TWD: Marquise au Chocolat

Marquise au Chocolat

My husband and I don’t generally do much for Valentine’s Day. We consider it a made-up, commercial holiday, and we don’t need a special day of the year to express our love for each other. However, this year my two Dorie groups presented the perfect excuse to make a fancy dinner to “celebrate” the holiday. I will tell you about the main dish on Friday.  Today we will discuss the dessert I made: Marquise au Chocolat. This was the Tuesdays with Dorie dessert for last week (I’m posting a week late since I saved it for Valentine’s Day).

Marquise au Chocolat can be described in three words: frozen chocolate mousse. It truly is chocolate mousse packed into a loaf pan and frozen.  It is sliced just before serving.  The end result is a dense, almost fudgy, chocolatey treat.

Marquise au Chocolat

I loved pretty much everything about Marquise au Chocolat.  The flavor and texture are wonderful.  I love that you can make it ahead – perfect for a dinner party.

This dessert was a big hit with my husband.  All of his favorite desserts include the words “chocolate” and “mousse”, so I think this will go down as being one of his favorites from Baking Chez Moi.

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FFWD: Winter Ceviche

Winter Ceviche

Happy French Friday! We’re back to fish this week, and also back to me having to make a dish for myself. The only shellfish that gets eaten by everyone around here is crab, and Winter Ceviche features scallops.

Luckily, Winter Ceviche was easy to scale down for one and pretty quick to make. Most of the preparation time was spent letting the scallops marinate in a mix of lemon, lime, and mango juices.

Winter Ceviche

This recipe has an interesting mix of ingredients and flavors. I already mentioned the citrus-mango marinade.  Once the scallops are done marinating, they are served atop a bed of fresh tarragon leaves lightly drizzled with olive oil. Next, halved grapes are strewn on top after a quick dip in the marinade. Finally, the whole thing is topped with thinly sliced shallots that had been marinating in a mix of sherry vinegar and sea salt.

I enjoyed eating Winter Ceviche. The mix of flavors was unusual, but delicious. It was very refreshing and almost summery, which was great in the middle of winter. I doubt I will make this again since I’m the only one who will eat it, but it was good.

Winter Ceviche

I will be out of town this weekend without wi-fi (the horror!), so I won’t be reading blogs or able to monitor my comments. I have a fun weekend planned with friends and family back in my home town of Seattle.

This post participates in French Fridays with Dorie, an online cooking group cooking our way through Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful book, Around My French Table.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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FFWD: Croquants

Croquants

Happy French Friday!  We’re taking a break from the fishiness this week with a super simple cookie called Croquants.

Croquants are a crisp and crunchy cookie made from nuts, sugar, egg whites, and a small amount of flour.  Almonds and hazelnuts are the most commonly used nuts in Croquants, but I used Dorie’s “house favorite” salted cashews.

These might really be the fastest, easiest cookies I have ever made.  Mixing up the ingredients took about two minutes with a bowl and spatula.  No need to haul out the mixer!

Croquants

I loved these little cookies.  They are light as air and very crisp. The flavor reminds me of something, but I can’t put my finger on it. Using the cashews was a good call, but I imagine they would be very good with almonds too.

Have a great weekend!

This post participates in French Fridays with Dorie.

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WIP Wednesday: Shades of Gray

It’s been a while since I have shared my knitting projects with you, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been knitting!  I have an unprecedented (for me, anyway) three projects going right now. Each of the projects is very different, except for one similarity:  they all use yarn in some shade of gray.

Project 1 – Socks

CoBaSi - Gun Metal Gray

First up is a project I actually started over a year ago.  It’s my first pair of socks, Focus Pocus by Michelle Hunter.  As I said, I started this one a year ago, but I didn’t like how tight the cast-on edge was.  It was hard to get over my heel, and it felt a little tight on my calf.  So I ripped it out.  I put off starting over for several months.  The cast-on and knitting of the first few rows is quite fiddly and stressful and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I finally braced myself and cast on in November.  To address the too-tight edge I used a larger needle for the cast on, then switched back to the smaller needle when I began knitting.  This not only helped with the tight edge, but it seemed to make the whole process go a little easier.  Now that I am well into the knitting, I am enjoying this project!

Focus Pocus Socks

I am about halfway through the cuffs of these socks.  This project is temporarily on hold while I work on some other projects, but I am looking forward to getting back to it.

Project 2 – A Mystery!

I can’t really tell you much about this next project, because it is super secret!  I can show you a picture of the yarn I am using:

Kenzie Yarn

And here is a little detail photo:

Mystery Detail

I will tell you more about this project when I finish it in a few weeks!

Project 3 – Downton Abbey

Lastly, I couldn’t resist participating in the Downton Abbey Mystery Knit-a-long hosted by Jimmy Beans Wool again this year. I have had so much fun with it the last two years, and so far this year is no exception.  As always, Jimmy Beans created a specially-dyed yarn just for this project.  While I liked the pink and brown colors of the special yarn, I couldn’t see myself getting much use out of a shawl in those colors, so I went rogue and chose these pretty colors:

Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock

The yarn is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. The color on the left is called “Fifty Skeins of Gray – Anastasia” and the color on the right is “Kerfuffle”.  I love these two colors together!

I am running a few weeks behind the knit-a-long (the group is on clue #4 and I am on clue #2).  Here is a picture of my shawl at the end of the first clue:

DA Mystery Shawl Part 1

I can’t wait to see how this one turns out!

What projects are you working on?

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TWD: Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake

Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake

It’s time for another Tuesdays with Dorie recipe from Baking Chez Moi!  I was really looking forward to this one: Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake.  I love simple vanilla-flavored cakes, so this sounded right up my alley.

What makes this recipe special is the brown butter and the vanilla bean.  Sure, it would be good with “unbrowned” butter and vanilla extract, but the inclusion of these two ingredients really adds oomph and complexity to the flavor.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

As expected, I loved this cake! The flavor, the texture, everything about it. The tender but sturdy crumb was surrounded by a lightly crunchy crust. While I loved this cake on it’s own, it would be wonderful as a base for strawberry shortcake, or any recipe calling for pound cake.

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Cake

Altitude Adjustments

I live at an elevation of about 4500 feet, so I usually have to adjust cake recipes so they rise properly.  The adjustments I made seemed to work well.  Here’s what I did:

  • Reduced the baking powder by 1/8 teaspoon
  • Added an extra tablespoon of cream
  • Added a tablespoon of 1% milk

Note: I did not use the optional rum.  If I had, I probably would not have added as much extra liquid.

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FFWD: Spice-Crusted Tuna + Caviar in Aspic

Happy Friday! Boy this week went fast! I think it is because Monday was a holiday, so the week started a day late. Regardless of how fast the week flew by, I managed to make two French Fridays with Dorie recipes, both fishy. I made this week’s recipe, Spice-Crusted Tuna, and the dreaded recipe from a few weeks ago, Arman’s Caviar in Aspic.

Spice-Crusted Tuna with Mango Chatini

Spice-Crusted Tuna with Mango Chatini

First up is a quick and easy recipe using fresh ahi tuna: Spice-Crusted Tuna. Fresh tuna is rubbed with a paste made from cardamom seeds, white peppercorns, coriander seeds, fresh ginger, and salt. Then it is quickly seared in a skillet and served with a drizzle of olive oil.  I topped it with the optional Mango Chatini, found in the “Fundamentals and Flourishes” chapter of Around My French Table.

The recipe called for tuna steaks that were about a half inch thick.  Mine were at least an inch think, so I sliced them in half.  I wish I had not done this as I ended up overcooking my tuna.  The recipe stated that the inside of the steaks should remain pink, but mine were cooked all the way through.

I liked this recipe, but it would have been better if I had not overcooked my tuna.  This is a good quick and easy recipe to make if you are looking for something meaty, but a little different.

Arman’s Caviar in Aspic

Caviar in Aspic

Now it’s time to talk about what might be the most dreaded recipe in AMFT: Arman’s Caviar in Aspic.  Fish flavored jello with scoops of caviar. Ummm…

Needless to say I had to make this one for myself.  No one else in my household would touch this one with a ten foot pole.

So, I made it and I tried it.  I didn’t hate it.  But I can’t say I liked it either.  I can see how, with the right setting, the right people, and the right drinks, this could be an enjoyable sensory experience.  Unfortunately, trying this on a random Thursday afternoon by myself in my sweatpants was not the right setting…

I’m still glad I made this and tried it!  It’s part of the FFWD experience.

Next week we get a (short) reprieve from fish. Stay tuned!

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FFWD: Curried Mussels

Curried Mussels

Happy French Friday Saturday! I am a day late with my French Fridays with Dorie post.  I sat down to work on it yesterday, but I must admit I got distracted by the Internet.

This week we made a wonderful dish that tastes way better than the effort put into it.  Curried Mussels are the last of the three mussels recipes in Around My French Table for the group to complete.  It is basically steamed mussels in a creamy curry sauce.

I am always surprised how quick and easy mussels are to cook.  We began by building up a sauce of butter, onion, shallot, curry powder, red pepper flakes, wine, and some herbs.  The mussels are added to the pot and quickly steamed.  Once the mussels are done, the sauce is finished with a bit of cream.  Heaven!

Curried Mussels

Good thing this recipe was quick and easy because I made it for myself for lunch one day.  No way anyone else in my household was going to eat this.  It felt special and decadent to make myself such a wonderful lunch on an otherwise mundane week day!

This was my favorite of the three mussels recipes.  I even slurped up some of the sauce when the mussels were gone.  I will have to remember this recipe next time I’m feeling the need to treat myself to a special lunch.

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TWD: Granola Energy Bars

Granola Energy Bars

I am happy to report that things have gotten back to normal around here.  It’s always nice to return to normalcy and routine after the holidays.

Tuesdays with Dorie is kicking off the new year with a healthy recipe from Baking Chez Moi: Granola Energy Bars.  Have you ever made your own granola bars?  I did once before, and while they tasted good, they were too crunchy and crumbly. I was very excited to give Dorie’s recipe a try!

Granola Energy Bars

Besides oats, nuts, and dried fruits, Dorie’s recipe includes shredded coconut, vanilla extract, and her secret ingredient, brown rice syrup.  While she gives us specific ingredients and measurements for these healthy bars, she also gives us permission to mix and match with our favorite nuts and dried fruits. I did a mix of slivered almonds, raw sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and mini chocolate chips.

Verdict?  Wonderful!  These granola bars are chewy and delicious.  I love the idea of experimenting to find my favorite, signature blend of nuts and fruits.  The mini chocolate chips melted into the mixture, so next time I will wait for everything to cool before I mix them in, or else use cocoa nibs.  I also want to try these with coconut oil in place of the butter, as suggested by a fellow TWD member.

Granola Bars

These were a big hit with my family.  My husband has been eating them for breakfast.  My daughter has been enjoying them in her school lunches or as after-school snacks.  And I like one as an after workout lift-me-up.  I can see myself making these on a regular basis!

What did the rest of the TWD crowd think?  You can find out here!

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