Carrot Cake

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Happy Friday! I love baking and baked goods, but I don’t bake very often. My small family just doesn’t need to have too many tempting treats lying around. So I was very excited when Cook the Book Fridays gave me the perfect excuse to bake this week with Carrot Cake.

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The recipe as it is written is for a giant layer cake that serves 12 to 16 people. Since I didn’t have a birthday party or other event to bake for, I had to pare things down. I cut the recipe in half and baked cupcakes! Not only did I bake cupcakes, I also took the opportunity to use my mini bundt pan. I got 18 cupcakes out of the half recipe, though I probably should have filled the mini bundt pan with a little less batter per cake.

The frosting is a mix of cream cheese and mascarpone with small amounts of powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest.

My cupcakes turned out really well. The cake is moist and tender, with just the right amount of spice, and the frosting is decadent but not too sweet. They seem to keep well; they were just as good (if not better) on the second day.

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Altitude Adjustments: I made a few small adjustments for my altitude of 4500 feet:

  1. Since the full recipe uses an uneven number of eggs (5), when I cut the recipe in half I rounded up to 3 eggs. This provides a little extra moisture and structure for the cake.
  2. I also added an extra tablespoon of buttermilk for even more extra moisture. My climate is dry, so I always add a little extra liquid when I bake.
  3. I reduced amount of baking powder and baking soda slightly. I took an 1/8 teaspoon out of the baking powder, and when I measured the baking soda, I used just a smidgen less than a half teaspoon.

If you would like to try your hand at making these cupcakes (or the whole, giant cake!), you can find the recipe in David Lebovitz’s book, My Paris Kitchen.

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Black Olive Tapenade

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Happy Friday! After Cook the Book Fridays’ work-intensive, duck-filled month of January, we chose an easy recipe for this week to ease into February.

Black Olive Tapenade is one of those “why don’t I make this more often?” recipes. It’s so easy to make and so delicious! The hardest part is procuring the ingredients (and that wasn’t very hard). I found pitted Niçoise olives and they were perfect for this tapenade.

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I love tapenade with goat cheese, so I purchased some herbed goat cheese and served it all on simple crackers for a lovely afternoon snack. Tonight I plan on making Olive-Olive Chicken Breasts à la Dorie for dinner. My husband hasn’t had a chance to try the tapenade yet, but I’m sure he will enjoy it this weekend.

Black Olive Tapenade is a winner, and a reminder that sometimes taking the time to make something from scratch is worth it!

You can find the recipe for Black Olive Tapenade on page 57 of David Lebovitz’s wonderful book My Paris Kitchen.

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Cassoulet + Some Catching Up

Happy New Year! I am kicking off the new year with a catch up post. I’ve continued cooking along with Cook the Book Fridays, but I haven’t managed to keep up with my blogging. I will be covering each item in the order cooked (because the order was strategic!).

Counterfeit Duck Confit

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Counterfeit Duck Confit provides a simplified way of making the classic duck confit at home. It takes some planning head (the duck legs marinate overnight then roast for close to three hours), but the technique is easy.

I don’t think I’ve ever had duck confit, so I’m not sure how it compares to the real deal, but I enjoyed this duck a lot. Part of the leg portion was a touch dry, but the skin was crispy and delicious and most of the meat was moist and tender.

I cooked four duck legs and froze two of them. I also saved the duck fat that remained in the baking dish. Keep reading to see why!

Fennel, Radish, Orange, and Crab Salad

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Fennel, Radish, Orange, and Crab Salad is pretty much what it sounds like. Simple crab salad placed on a bed of sliced fennel and radicchio topped with orange suprêmes and sliced radishes.

We liked this, but I would change a few things: 1) There were too many greens for the amount of crab; I ended up using only half the greens I prepared. 2) We didn’t care for the bitter flavor of the radicchio and felt like we would have enjoyed the salad more with romaine lettuce. 3) Buy a better crab! The crab I bought was only OK, so I can only imagine how delicious the salad would be with perfectly fresh crab.

That said, we enjoyed the all the flavors of the salad (except the bitter radicchio), especially the brightness of the orange.

Potatoes Cooked in Duck Fat

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Potatoes Cooked in Duck Fat: another very descriptive recipe title! Remember the duck fat I saved when I made the Counterfeit Duck Confit? I used it to make these potatoes.

What I like about this recipe is that the potatoes are parboiled in water and then fried. This helps ensure they are creamy and cooked through on the inside and not too overdone on the outside.

Yum! These are the best fried potatoes I have ever made. I served them with an egg scramble (using leftover fennel and radicchio from the crab salad) for “Breakfast for Dinner”.

Cassoulet

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Finally, the Cassoulet! Or, the more descriptive White Bean, Sausage, Duck Confit Casserole.

This was an all day project, even with the already-made duck confit legs I pulled out of the freezer. I cut out some of the time by using my Instant Pot to cook the beans and ham hock (I saved about an hour and a half).

This recipe make a lot. I cut the recipe in half and it still served us for two dinners, a lunch, and sadly some that went to the trash.

This is another French classic that I have never eaten before. I don’t know if the ratio is traditional, but I thought there were too many beans to the duck confit and sausages. Next time (if there is a next time) I would cut the beans in half again.

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I wanted to like this more than I did. The beans had a wonderful flavor, but I wanted more of the meat. Also, as my husband said, “It has a delicious background flavor, but it’s all background flavor”. He wanted more punch from the duck confit and sausages, but the flavors blended almost too well with the beans. So, while I had fun making this, and I really did enjoy eating it, I doubt I would make it again. Too much effort for not enough payoff.

Whew! I need a rest after that. Good thing it’s the weekend!

All the recipes mention in this post can be found in David Lebovitz’s book My Paris Kitchen.

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Celery Root Salad with Mustard Sauce

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I sat down yesterday to write this post (on time!) and made a big mistake. I saw that my computer had updates, so I decided to update and restart my computer. Little did I know it was a big update and I spent my whole window of “computer time” updating! So, here I am writing my post a day late.

The Cook the Book Fridays recipe of the week was (thankfully!) an easy one: Celery Root Salad with Mustard Sauce. This is one of those recipes that I would have skipped over if not for Cook the Book Fridays. It’s hard to get excited about something called “celery root salad”.

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Well, thank goodness for Cook the Book Fridays! Otherwise I would have never known that celery root salad would be so easy and delicious. The mustard dressing was flavorful, but not overpowering. The celery root provided crunch and a fresh flavor. This is a great salad to make in the winter when fresh vegetables are not looking so fresh, but it would also be good in the summer as a sort of slaw replacement.

If you own My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz, don’t skip over this recipe like I almost did. If you don’t own it yet, get it added it to your Christmas wish list!

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Buckwheat Polenta + Fresh Herbed Pasta

Happy Friday! Since mid-summer I have been feeling behind on my Cook the Book Fridays cooking. With this post I am officially caught up! (with the exception of the apricot kernel ice cream, which I may or may not get to). Let’s see what delicious things I made over the last couple of weeks:

Buckwheat Polenta with Braised Greens, Sausage, and Poached Eggs

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I have always liked polenta, but for some reason I don’t make it very often. This recipe gave me the excuse I needed.

There are a lot of pieces to this recipe: the polenta, the braised greens, the sausages, and the poached egg. I feel like I used every pot in the house to make it!

I made Buckwheat Polenta with Braised Greens, Sausage, and Poached Eggs on a chilly, rainy night, and it was a perfect bowl of hearty comfort. For my appetite, I don’t think it needed the sausage and the egg, but it was a delicious combination of flavors nonetheless.

Herbed Fresh Pasta

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I can’t remember the last time I made fresh pasta. It’s been years since I pulled out my Kitchenaid pasta attachment. Freshly made pasta is wonderful, but time consuming to make. Not the type of thing a mother has time to make very often.

I was happy to finally have an excuse to make fresh pasta! I learned several things with this particular recipe: 1) I have never been brave enough to add in any kind of herbs or flavoring to my pasta and this recipe taught me how (I used just parsley); 2) The recipe I have used in the past has no mention of using rice flour or semolina to toss with the freshly cut pasta to keep it from sticking together. Knowing about this is very helpful!; and 3) While the recipe itself didn’t teach me this, I researched and learned how to freeze fresh pasta for later use. I figured if I am going to go to the trouble of making pasta, I should at least get several meals out of it. More about how to freeze later.

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I spread the work of making this pasta throughout the day, so it didn’t really feel all that work intensive. I made the dough in the morning, cut it in the afternoon, and cooked it at dinner time.

Wow, so delicious! I served the pasta with Summer Tomato Sauce that I had in the freezer, which was made from garden tomatoes. What a treat in the middle of November!

To freeze fresh pasta: I portioned the pasta into single-serving piles that I tossed with extra semolina flour to prevent sticking. I left the pasta out and uncovered for a few hours to dry it slightly. Then, each portion of pasta went into its own freezer bag, and the smaller bags were put together in a larger freezer bag. Into the freezer it went! When it’s time to cook the pasta, don’t thaw it. Just cook it from frozen. I tried some of my frozen pasta this week and it cooked for the same amount of time as fresh. And it was just as delicious!

This post participates in Cook the Book Fridays, a group cooking our way through David Lebovitz’s wonderful book My Paris Kitchen. You can find today’s recipes on pages 158 and 230.

I wish all of my American readers a very Happy Thanksgiving! Everyone else, have a great weekend!

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Celery Root Soup + Some Catching Up

Happy Friday! I have some catching up to do! While I’ve been doing a pretty good job keeping up with my Cook the Book Fridays cooking, I have been terrible about keeping up with the blog. Which means I have three recipes to share with you today.

Celery Root Soup with Horseradish Cream and Ham Chips

First up is Celery Root Soup with Horseradish Cream and Ham Chips.

The soup itself is pretty basic: leeks, celery root, butter, and some herbs and spices cooked until tender and then blended smooth. What makes this recipe shine is the garnishes! The horseradish cream is made from crème fraîche, horseradish, and a squeeze of lemon juice. The “ham chips” are thin slices of prosciutto baked until crisp. The final flourish is a sprinkling of chives.

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I liked this soup a lot, but the rest of my family thought it was only OK (actually my daughter only took one bite and moved on…).

Indian Cheese Bread

Next is Indian Cheese Bread. It’s basically naan stuffed with cheese.

I made a few of these with the cheese stuffing, and the rest I cooked plain. I actually preferred the plain ones, but I can’t quite put my finger on why.

The cheesy version:

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You can’t really see the cheese, but it’s there. Also, when I cook this type of bread, I can’t quite seem to find the fine line where the pan is hot enough to actually cook the bread, but not so hot that it gets charred.

The plain version:

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There’s nothing like a photo to point out that you should have wiped the plate clean before taking pictures.

Individual Chocolate Cakes with Dulce de Leche and Fleur de Sel

I saved the best for last! Individual Chocolate Cakes with Dulce de Leche and Fleur de Sel are decadent single-serving molten chocolate cakes. You might guess from the title that they each have a spoonful of dulce de leche and sprinkling of sea salt in the middle.

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These cakes are best eaten when they are still warm from the oven. As an experiment, I baked half of them right away and baked the rest the next day. They were just as good after an overnight rest, which means they are perfect for a dinner party: assemble early in the day (or the day before) and bake right before serving.

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Huge hit! We loved these! I love that these little cakes are flourless. My husband is eating grain-free and he loves chocolate, so this recipe will probably be my go-to decadent treat recipe.

All the recipes mentioned in this post can be found in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.

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Buckwheat Rolls with Seaweed Butter + Potato, Basil, and Feta Tortilla

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Happy Friday! At the time this is posted, I will be enjoying a fun weekend catching up with old friends. The fact that I’m saying “old friends”, makes me feel old… But seriously, I only see some these friends every couple of years, so it’s fun to catch up and laugh together.

Today I’m going to tell you about two Cook the Book Fridays recipes: Buckwheat Rolls with Seaweed Butter and Potato, Basil, and Feta Tortilla.

Buckwheat Rolls with Seaweed Butter

I had trouble understanding how this recipe fit into a book called My Paris Kitchen until I read the intro to the recipe. Turns out, it’s a knockoff from a trendy Paris crêperie with Japanese influences.

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We’ve made the buckwheat galettes before, filling them with savory ham and cheese. This time they were filled with butter and toasted, crumbled nori, then rolled up and fried in more butter until crisp.

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Interesting recipe! I can see how these would be quite tasty eaten in a trendy crêperie in Paris. I enjoyed the crisp, buttery exterior and the hint of salty seaweed flavor. I’m not sure I would make these again, but it was fun to give them a try.

Potato, Basil, and Feta Tortilla

A tortilla is the Spanish take on a omelet or frittata. It’s always filled with eggs and potatoes, and this version adds green onions, piment d’Espelette or paprika, and crumbled feta cheese. Like a frittata, a tortilla is easy to throw together. It makes a great weeknight meal with a salad on the side.

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I took a photo before removing the tortilla from the pan in case it didn’t go well…

Potato, Basil, and Feta Tortilla was met with mixed reactions in my house. I thought it was delicious even though I may have overcooked it slightly. I enjoyed it for dinner and had leftovers for lunch the next day. My daughter devoured her serving. My husband thought it was “fine”, but didn’t love it.

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Removal successful!

I hope you all have a great weekend!

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Baked Provençal Vegetables + Eggplant Caviar

Happy Weekend! This week for Cook the Book Fridays we are celebrating garden vegetables! I made two dishes for this week, and they both feature veggies we grew ourselves.

Baked Provençal Vegetables

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It was perfect timing to make Baked Provençal Vegetables this week: I had tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and thyme ready to harvest. We have been enjoying roasted tomatoes this summer, and this was a great recipe to take our roasting up a notch.

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This was delicious! It will be something I make every summer to highlight the garden vegetables. Even my daughter enjoyed this one, although she adeptly avoided the zucchini.

Eggplant Caviar

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I waited to make Eggplant Caviar until I had enough eggplants from the garden to make it. This is a simple eggplant-based spread made with eggplant, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper, and chopped basil (also from the garden).

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I enjoyed this one too. I served it to myself with fresh garden tomatoes and cucumber for a light dinner. I loved the smokey flavor from the paprika. This would be a great make-ahead appetizer.

Have a great weekend!

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Buttermilk Ice Cream

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Happy Friday Saturday! It seems like a while since I’ve been here. Summer was a whirlwind! I guess it’s technically still summer, but school has started where we live, so the carefree part of summer is over. Which means I’ll have more time for cooking and blogging!

This week the Cook the Book Fridays group made Buttermilk Ice Cream. As far as ice creams go, this recipe couldn’t have been easier. Heat up some heavy cream with sugar and corn syrup to dissolve the sugar, then cool thoroughly. Once cool, add buttermilk, then freeze in an ice cream maker (though I hear there are techniques for making ice cream without an ice cream maker).

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Buttermilk Ice Cream is refreshing and delicious. The tang from the buttermilk gives the ice cream a flavor that reminds me of cheesecake. I am sure it would pair well with all sorts of things, from fruit to chocolate cake. I served it with fresh peaches and it was delicious!

If you would like to try Buttermilk Ice Cream, you can find the recipe on page 299 of David Lebovitz’s book My Paris Kitchen.

I am glad to be back, and I hope you will be hearing from me more regularly in the months ahead. Have a great weekend!

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Panisse Puffs + Vegetable Soup with Basil Puree

It may be Saturday, but today is all about Cook the Book Fridays! It’s a two-fer today since I missed the last CTBF post due to being out of town and poor planning.

Panisse Puffs

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I have always enjoyed Yorkshire Puddings and this week’s recipe, Panisse Puffs, is a sturdier, easier version.

The technique is similar to Yorkshire Puddings, but the ingredients are a little different. Panisse Puffs contain more chickpea flour than all-purpose flour, seem less eggy, and add ground cumin and cayenne pepper to up the flavor.

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These were fun to make, and I enjoyed the flavor, but I felt like mine were slightly overcooked. They were a little drier than I would have liked and the edges were a little too brown. I only baked up half the batter, so I may try again tomorrow, reducing the baking time by a couple of minutes.

Vegetable Soup with Basil Puree

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Vegetable Soup with Basil Puree is David Lebovitz’s take on the classic Soupe au Pistou. It’s a humble vegetable-bean soup elevated by the addition of fresh pesto and grated cheese.

I have recently jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon, so I decided to cook the dried Great Northern beans in my new pot. Super fast! I did overcook the beans slightly, but I have a tendency to under cook beans, so this was a refreshing change. I cooked the rest of the soup in the Instant Pot, but just using the “saute” mode, not under pressure.

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The soup was a hit! The pesto and grated parmesan cheese really make the soup. I cooked the pasta separately, so we could each have some or not, according to taste. My vegetable-loving, pesto-loving, grated-cheese-on-soup-loving husband loved this soup! And my daughter enjoyed her serving too (though she skillfully avoided the dab of pesto).

This post participates in Cook the Book Fridays, an online cooking group currently making our way through David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.

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