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Caramel Pork Ribs

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I live in a small city (Reno, NV) nestled on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. A short drive west takes you to amazing outdoor recreation, including Lake Tahoe. Drive any other direction and it doesn’t take you long to get to very rural countryside.

One benefit to living in a city like Reno is that it is fairly easy to find local ranchers selling pasture-raised meats (local produce is a different story; growing veggies in the high desert is tricky). I have been buying grass-fed beef from Alpine Ranch for several years now. The beef is delicious as well as nutritious, and I love supporting a local, family-owned business.

I recently purchased a quarter share of heritage Berkshire pork from Alpine Ranch. We haven’t eaten much of it yet, but what we have tried has been wonderful. The bacon is delicious! I have a giant fresh ham that I plan on roasting for Easter.

How is all this related to Cook the Book Fridays? We made Caramel Pork Ribs and I used a rack of spare ribs from my quarter share of pork!

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Caramel Pork Ribs is a great recipe. It starts by making caramel. Add in brown sugar, beer, bourbon, cider vinegar, ketchup, ginger, soy sauce, harissa, Dijon mustard, and freshly ground pepper to make a wonderful sauce. The pork ribs, which have been cup up into 3-rib portions, are added to the sauce and roasted for a couple of hours. The end result is tender ribs with a flavorful, sticky sauce.

These ribs were a big hit at my house! My husband liked them a lot but said the sauce needed a little “more” (I’m guessing more tang like a barbecue sauce?). My daughter didn’t seem interested in her serving, but then I coaxed her into trying a bite, and next thing I knew her plate was clean. I will definitely be making these again.

Cook the Book Fridays is an online cooking group, currently making our way through David Lebovitz’s book, My Paris Kitchen. We don’t share his recipes (you should buy the book!), but you can find the recipe for Caramel Pork Ribs on page 187.

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Wheat Berry Salad + Merveilleux

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It’s Friday! I will be sharing two Cook the Book Fridays recipes with you today. I had intended to make the dessert, called Merveilleux, for Valentine’s Day, but I was sick with a nasty cold that week and just didn’t feel up to making it. The Wheat Berry Salad is the “official” recipe of the week.

Wheat Berry Salad with Radicchio, Root Vegetables, and Pomegranate

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Wheat Berry Salad with Radicchio, Root Vegetables, and Pomegranate is just like it sounds. Cooked wheat berries are tossed with roasted root vegetables (I chose butternut squash because I found a bag of pre-cut squash that was just the right amount for the recipe), wilted radicchio, parsley, pomegranate seeds, and a citrusy vinaigrette. I made half the recipe and ate it for lunch over the course of two days.

So, Wheat Berry Salad with Radicchio, Root Vegetables, and Pomegranate was only OK for me, but it’s not the fault of the recipe. This type of salad just doesn’t do much for me and I would have never chosen to make this one if it weren’t for Cook the Book Fridays. That said, it did make for a satisfying lunch.

Merveilleux

I mentioned above that I had planned to make Merveilleux for Valentine’s Day. Well, my husband’s birthday was the following week, so I made it for that special event instead.

This year’s birthday was a fun one because our daughter is finally starting to get excited about birthdays (hers and others). She had been looking forward to Daddy’s birthday, so I decided to capitalize on her interest and get her involved. I took her on a special outing to select Dad’s gift and card, then she helped me wrap the gift and signed the card. She was so excited to give him the gift on his birthday. And of course he loved receiving it from her.

Making Merveilleux was quite an involved process that took a good part of the day. I wasn’t really sure what I was even making. This recipe would have benefited from a photo of the finished product.

Basically, Merveilleux is two vanilla meringues filled with a coffee-flavored cream, then covered in that same cream, and coated with finely chopped chocolate. It was very messy to make and my finished products were not very pretty (I don’t think I got the cream stiff enough). The one pictured above was the prettiest and the rest were far less beautiful. The treat pictured below was a simplified Merveilleux that I made for my daughter.

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These were delicious! The coffee cream was so good, and I ended up eating quite a bit of it straight out of the bowl. I only made 4 filled Merveilleux, but I enjoyed eating the rest of the meringues on their own. BUT, I’m not sure it was worth the mess and effort. Perhaps Merveilleux is one of those treats best purchased from a pastry shop in Paris.

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You can find the recipes for Wheat Berry Salad with Radicchio, Root Vegetables, and Pomegranate and Merveilleux in David Lebovitz’s book, My Paris Kitchen.

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Coq au Vin

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Do you ever sit down to write a blog post and you just can’t think of anything interesting to say? I’m having one of those days today…the ideas just aren’t flowing. So please forgive me if my post is a little boring.

My lack of anything interesting to say is no reflection on the Cook the Book Fridays recipe of the week, Coq au Vin (or, Chicken in Red Wine Sauce). In fact, it was quite delicious and I enjoyed it very much.

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My daughter seems to have a love-hate relationship with chicken. Sometimes she eats it right up, and other times she hardly touches it. This one she didn’t seem to care for much. Maybe the wine added a flavor that was too exotic?

This recipe hits all the right notes for me: braised chicken, bacon, mushrooms, and a flavorful sauce. All in all, it was a cozy dish to tuck myself into on a chilly night.

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Salt Cod Fritters with Tartar Sauce

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Happy Friday! Remember last month when I made the Salt Cod and Potato Puree, and I mentioned that I froze half of it for later use? Well, this week I used it! The Cook the Book Fridays recipe this week was Salt Cod Fritters with Tartar Sauce, and the base of the recipe was the leftover puree.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I rarely deep-fry things at home. Maybe once every couple of years. And I’m pretty sure the last time I deep-fried something was for French Fridays with Dorie. These cooking groups really help me get out of my comfort zone! So, while I was looking forward to eating these deep-fried fritters, I wasn’t all that excited about the frying part.

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The process starts by mixing the salt cod and potato puree with some bread crumbs (I used panko because that’s what I had) and forming them into 1-inch balls. The balls are refrigerated to firm them up.

While the fritters were chilling, I made the tartar sauce. Because I have never successfully made homemade mayonnaise (I *have* failed at making it before…) I decided to try the recipe from My Paris Kitchen. It was successful! Except I didn’t really like the taste, but that’s my issue and not the recipe’s. However I loved the resulting tartar sauce (it included chopped cornichons, minced shallots, chopped capers, parsley, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar) and I will certainly make it again, probably with store-bought mayonnaise.

Next up, the beer batter! It seems like a pretty basic batter recipe, but it is seasoned with cayenne pepper, parsley, and cilantro.

The frying part wasn’t so bad. Because I was only making a few fritters for myself, I used a 2 quart sauce pan with only about an inch and a half of oil. I appreciate that the recipe specified what temperature to bring the oil to; deep-frying is much more successful when the oil is the right temperature.

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Oh man, these were good! The batter fried up crisp and light and the filling was delicious. I’m sure the batter would be great for onion rings or fish and chips too. If you are feeling adventurous, give this recipe a try!

You can find the recipe for Salt Cod Fritter with Tartar Sauce on page 73 of David Lebovitz’s book My Paris Kitchen. If you don’t have it already, why not? It’s excellent!

Have a great weekend!

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Honey-Yogurt Mousse

 

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As I looked at the January recipes for Tuesdays with Dorie, I realized I fell off the TWD wagon a bit this past year. I have always said I would only make the recipes from Baking Chez Moi that sounded good to me, but last year I skipped quite a few that I wanted to make. Ones I had even procured the ingredients for. What’s to blame? Certainly our busy schedule (especially the Fall) takes some of the blame. But some of it is also a lack of deadline (TWD switched to a “do whichever recipe for the month that you want to do each week” approach that apparently doesn’t work as well for me). I have decided that at the beginning of the month I will decide which recipes I am going to make, and then assign the due date for each one. I will also approach the baking and enjoying of each treat as a welcome respite from a busy life. We’ll see how it works!

You may notice that today is Wednesday, so I am starting the year off already a day late. But, I didn’t decide on my new scheduling plan until it was too late to have the recipe made, photographed, and blogged about on time.

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The recipe I chose to make to kick off the new year is called Honey-Yogurt Mousse. My family loves any kind of pudding or mousse so it seemed like a good fit. It is also sort of healthy. It doesn’t take much time at all to whip this one together, as long as you allow enough time for the yogurt to drain and the mousse to set.

I thought I was going to love this one. One of my favorite ways to eat Greek yogurt is to sweeten it with a bit of honey. A gussied-up dessert version sounded terrific! There were definitely things I liked about Honey-Yogurt Mousse, like the marshmallowy texture and the richness from the cream. But I thought it was too sweet. If I try this one again (and I might because it has potential) I will use a lot less honey.

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If you would like to try Honey-Yogurt Mousse, you can find the recipe on page 352 of Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking Chez Moi.

I hope to join you all for a year full of delicious baking!

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Fresh Herb Omelet

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Hawthorne Berries in Snow

It’s rare that a snow day happens on the perfect day. Usually there’s somewhere to go, or something to cancel, or some other inconvenience caused by the snow. Today, as I sit here writing this, the snow is softly falling and everything is white. Happily, we had nowhere to be today: no errands, no appointments, no obligations outside the house. Just a quiet day, snuggled at home, looking out at the winter wonderland. The perfect snow day!

Cook the Book Fridays is starting the new year with a simple recipe that I am sure I will make again and again. Fresh Herb Omelet is nothing more than a simple omelet dressed up with a mix of herbs and a splash of cream.

I make myself omelets all the time, but I decided to follow David Lebovitz’s recipe and instructions exactly, to see if I could learn anything new from the process.

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Fresh Herb Omelet before being cut in half

First of all, I don’t normally put herbs in my eggs. This time I used a mix of fresh thyme, marjoram, and chives. While I do whisk in a bit of milk when I make an omelet, I have never tried heavy cream. I happened to have some, so I used it.

The biggest difference between my normal omelet technique and David’s is that I usually use a 10 inch pan for a 2 egg omelet, and he has us use one that is 12 inches. I liked the thinner omelet I got as a result, partly because it felt more refined, and also because the “top” of the omelet cooked to my liking more quickly.

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Fresh Herb Omelet, Bacon, and a Salad for Dinner

Takeaways? Both my husband and I liked the fresh herbs in the omelet. It gave the eggs a little extra something that we both enjoyed. Next time I would spread the grated cheese (I used Parmesan) over half the omelet rather that just down the center; I like a little more cheese distribution. Finally, I loved the results of the using the bigger pan. Overall, this recipe was a winner, and made for a delicious, easy dinner.

If you are interested in trying your own Fresh Herb Omelet, you can find the recipe on page 133 of David Lebovitz’s book My Paris Kitchen.

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Salt Cod and Potato Puree + Scalloped Potatoes

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Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe 2016 is almost over. It seems like it was just January, and yet when I look back on all that happened this year, it was a pretty long year.

Cook the Book Fridays is ending the year with an “Extra Edition” recipe. It’s a bonus Friday in the month where we tackle a recipe that is a little “scary” or harder to get excited about. This month we made Salt Cod and Potato Puree.

I had no idea if I would be able to find salt cod here in Reno. But the fish guy at Whole Foods who noticed me looking around fruitlessly led me right to it. It came in a cool little wooden box:

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The recipe itself was pretty easy to execute; you just need to allow enough time to soak the salt cod for 24 hours. After a good soaking, the cod was cooked with cubed russet potatoes, and then blended with heavy cream, black pepper, and a tasty olive oil infused with thyme and garlic.

I divided my puree in half. Half of it went into the freezer for a recipe you will be seeing here next month. The rest I split into two ramekins, for individual lunch servings.

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I had no idea what to expect with this recipe! I have never had anything like this before. It was very good, but I still have trouble wrapping my head around it being a main dish and not an appetizer. This is definitely one of those recipes I would have never made without participating in Cook The Book Fridays, but I am glad I did.

I also did a make-up recipe this month. I made Scalloped Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Roasted Garlic for Christmas dinner. It was decadent and delicious! It went perfectly with the prime rib roast I made. Definitely one to make again.

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Wishing all of you a happy and prosperous 2017!

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Pissaladière (Onion Tart)

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Today has been a lovely day spent decorating the Christmas tree with my daughter. It is her first official day of Winter Break, so it seemed like the perfect day to decorate the tree (that and the fact that the tree has been up for over a week and has been begging for ornaments). This year is the first time she has had any interest in helping out, so it was a lot of fun! Our house finally looks like it’s in the Christmas spirit.

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My daughter selected the placement for most of these ornaments. I love that the two duckies are together!

This week for Cook the Book Fridays, we made the Provençal treat known as Pissaladière. A lot like a pizza, it is topped with meltingly delicious caramelized onions, Niçoise olives, and anchovy fillets.

I successfully cut this recipe in half, and it made the perfect amount of tart. I had to add a little extra water to the dough, which may have been because of cutting the recipe in half, but was more likely because of my very dry climate. Because of the smaller size of my tart, I was able to bake it on my pizza stone.

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I loved this tart! The crust was perfectly crisp and the toppings flavorful and delicious.

The French Fridays with Dorie crew made a version of Pissaladière from Around My French Table. I honestly couldn’t remember what I thought of that tart. If you are as curious as I was, check it out: Pissaladière from AMFT. This sentence stuck out to me: “My husband and I both like caramelized onions, but we both agreed we could do without the whole anchovies and would use more olives”. It is interesting because when I was eating David Lebovitz’s tart, I thought to myself that the anchovies were essential.

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Despite my spotty memory, I am pretty sure that the Pissaladière from My Paris Kitchen has a slight edge over the one from AMFT. It is the one I will choose if I make it again.

I doubt I will be writing another blog post before Christmas, so I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Grated Carrot Salad

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After taking a month off from Cook the Book Fridays, I am back with a simple, yet classic, salad. According to David Lebovitz, you won’t find this salad in most traditional French cookbooks because it is so commonplace, it’s assumed that everyone knows how to make it.

Grated Carrot Salad is as simple as it gets: grated carrots are tossed with a simple dressing made from olive oil, lemon juice, salt, Dijon mustard, sugar, and herbs (I used parsley).

We thought this salad was only OK. It lacked flavor, or something. Perhaps it was the lemon I used? It wasn’t the freshest…  My husband added raisins to his serving and liked it much better. I think it brought back memories of the carrot salad he grew up on.

On the plus side, this salad is easy and can be made ahead. It would be perfect for a potluck or picnic.

If you are interested in trying Grated Carrot Salad for yourself, you can find the recipe on page 123 of My Paris Kitchen. There are also a couple of variations on David Lebovitz’s web site. Here is one: French Grated Carrot Salad.

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Baked Eggs with Kale and Smoked Salmon

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Happy Friday! I am a couple of weeks late with this Cook the Book Fridays recipe, but I have a good excuse: I had a pretty big surgery the day before the post was due. I managed to cook the recipe before my surgery, but I was too busy preparing for surgery to get the post written.

First off, I’m fine! My surgery was not for a life-threatening reason and I am recovering well. I have more and more energy each day, but I do have to take it easy for a few more weeks. I will not be making the November Cook the Book Fridays recipes (but I will definitely make them up at a later date because they look delicious!). Since I need to rest more than usual, I have had extra time for knitting, so maybe you will see some finished projects!

One thing I was busy doing while preparing for my surgery, was making a bunch of meals for the freezer. It has been so nice to have easy, yet tasty, meals already prepared! If there is interest, I might share some of my techniques and recipes with you since I won’t be doing the CTBF posts this month.

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So, let’s talk about the recipe: Baked Eggs with Kale and Smoked Salmon. This was an easy, elegant meal. The eggs were baked on a bed of sauteed kale, along with smoked salmon, goat cheese, a little heavy cream, and the wonderful garlic bread crumbs (which I confess I ate quite a few of before even sprinkling them on anything). Like others, I found the eggs took longer to cook than the recipe suggests, but they did cook more quickly when I brought the eggs to room temperature before baking.

We liked this. My husband ate dinner later than me the night I made this, but it was easy to assemble his in advance and pop it in the oven when he was ready. I am not sure I would buy the ingredients just to make these baked eggs, but it is a good way to use up leftover greens or smoked salmon.

I hope you all have a great weekend, and I look forward to catching up with my fellow Cook the Book Fridays friends!

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