FFWD – Croquants

Croquants

Hello Doristas – I’ve missed you! I can’t believe this is my first French Fridays post since the beginning of the month, but it’s been hectic around here.

This week’s recipe is one of my favourite sweet treats from this book, one that I’ve made often when I’ve had extra egg whites in the kitchen. (Although its place as my favourite egg-white-using dessert may now have been usurped by Dorie’s Cranberry Crackle Tart.)

I’ve even made these cookies when I didn’t have egg whites to use up, which reminds me – I’d love it if cookbooks had an index section for egg yolk recipes, as well as one for egg white recipes. Pavlova lovers will agree with me, I’m sure.

I love croquants with any kind of nuts, but my favourite version uses a mix of different nuts – our co-op sells a ‘fancy nut mix’ that’s perfect for these cookies. I’ve tried them with unsalted nuts, but found the cookies were then too sweet, so I stick with salted nuts now.

These cookies are perfect with a cup of tea and keep quite well in a cookie tin. I brought a big batch of these to a training a few months back and the Chair took the leftovers home, as we had another meeting scheduled for the next night. He showed up to that meeting empty-handed, explaining that “a couple of friends dropped by last night and, uh, we ate all the cookies.”

I think that’s a ringing endorsement.

You can find David Lebovitz’ version of croquants here (or even better, you can get yourself a copy of Around My French Table). And you can find links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts on this week’s recipe here: Croquants.

Baking Chez Moi – Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

There are many reasons why I love to bake, but eating what I bake isn’t at the top of my list. Don’t misunderstand me, I love baked goods and I think homemade ones are the best. But sharing what I bake rates higher for me, as does the act of baking itself. There’s something calming about the methodical nature of baking and something satisfying about the progression of a baking project. And though tasting is the final step in this progression, it’s the aroma of something delicious in the oven that’s really the sensory payoff for me.

This is especially true of this week’s Baking Chez Moi assignment. From the moment I started scraping the pulp from the vanilla pod, my home smelled wonderful. After the butter browned, the aroma was heady. By the time the loaf came out of the oven, it was intoxicating. I felt it was very unfair that I’d read Dorie’s comment that the loaf improves after a day’s rest, because I really wanted to slice into that cake immediately. Actually, I wanted to set it in front of me on my desk. Who needs a bouquet when you can have the scent of this loaf perfuming your space, instead?

Well, wait I did and the cake rewarded me with a tender, sponge-like crumb and a gentle crispness at the edges. There is no need to spread butter on this loaf cake – browned butter is present in every bite. It would be good used as shortcake might be, covered in macerated berries and cream. Stale, it might be perfect in a parfait. Right now, though, I like it just as it is, eaten out of hand. I’m looking forward to trying it toasted in a day or two, as well. Then, I might break out just a little more butter.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here: Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake.

Cottage Cooking Club – January 2015

Early spring

Spring is a few weeks ahead of itself here. The blooms that start popping up in February have been appearing everywhere around the neighbourhood over the last two weeks. It’s a welcome sign of renewal.

I’ve been experiencing renewal in a slightly less pleasurable way since the turn of the year. Our building was completely re-piped over the last few weeks and it was disruptive enough to throw off my blogging schedule (among other things). Half of my kitchen’s contents were piled on the other half and the rest of our place was uneasily accommodating the contents of our storage and coat closets, along with the substantial contents of a big built-in bookshelf.

There are no more holes in the wall and in their place, there are bright new coats of paint. We’re slowly organizing and putting away the things we’re keeping and working on getting rid of the rest. (One of the advantages of this sort of project is that it inspires you to purge unneeded belongings.) One of the disadvantages of work of this kind is that it saps creative energy, so we’ve been existing on some pretty utilitarian cooking lately and writing inspiration was a little hard to come by.

But that’s all over with, so I’m back in the kitchen and at my desk and will be catching up on some promised posts soon. For now, I’m glad I only committed to one Cottage Cooking Club selection this month, though all of them looked like things I’d love to try.

Curried Bubble and Squeak

Bubble and Squeak

Just before the chaos began, I made a big batch of this bubble and squeak. The traditional version has been a comfort food favourite of mine for many years, but one that I don’t often remember to make. This curried vegan version, which uses leftover cooked cabbage and potatoes, is economical and delicious. (And as a bonus, it reminded me that simply sautéed shredded cabbage is a delicious side dish all on its own.) I added chickpeas to the dish, for a little protein and fibre boost, but otherwise followed the recipe. My only quibble is that curry powder is such an imprecise description. I’m going to be playing around with curry spices as I make this dish again, until I get a combination I really love.

I also made the fennel and celeriac soup with orange zest, which was delicious, but that was when the work in our kitchen began and I neglected to get a photo. I love this sort of soup, especially when the weather is cold or rainy. Citrus and fennel have bright notes that help to make up for sunless days and celeriac has the same sort of earthy heft as potatoes, which braces against the cold. A perfect winter soup.

Now, we can move on to February. It’s a cold and dark month in many places, but here in Vancouver, it’s often full of spring.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Renovation Blues

2015/01/img_3360.jpg

Things might be a little slow around here for the next couple of weeks. Our place is undergoing a complete re-piping right now and it’s put our living space into chaos.

On the negative side, I’ve missed a French Friday and I might miss one more, between water shut offs and emptying out built in bookshelves, storage spaces, and one quarter of my kitchen.

On the positive side, I’ll have a timely book review for you on Saturday and next Tuesday, I’ll be telling you about a resource for your New Year’s resolutions that can be found right in one Vancouver grocery chain.

In the meantime, I’ll be telling myself that this renewal will help give another twenty years’ life to this building…

Cottage Cooking Club – December 2014

tea

One last hurrah from the year that has passed, with some deeply warming winter dishes that were a contrast from the frivolity of much of the holiday food we consumed all month. It’s the time of year for drinking endless cups of tea and thinking about healthy winter eating. These two dishes are great examples of vegan choices that will warm and nourish you.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

This soup was quick and simple, perfect for a month in which I’d bitten off a little more than I could chew, while trying to fit in all the holiday fun I could manage. I usually think about Thai flavours when I use coconut milk, but this soup reminded me that it is equally wonderful with Indian spices. I skipped the yogurt (to keep it vegan) and the cilantro (because the stuff in the store was wan and unappetizing), instead dipping toast into my bowl. Kevin just ate it straight up and loved it, though he’s usually not a fan of sweet potatoes.

The sharpness of the lime and ginger, the smoothness of the coconut milk and pureed sweet potatoes, and the spiciness of the curry and chiles make for a balanced and delicious soup. There’s also a variation listed for curried red lentil soup. I think that one might be on the agenda soon.

Roasted roots

Roasted Roots With Apple and Rosemary

Roasted roots are something I always think I should make more often, so I was glad that this dish was one of the choices. I used carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and parsnip, but any winter root will do. They are roasted until they are softening and starting to brown, then apple wedges and fresh rosemary are added for the final fifteen minutes or so. The results are as good as a holiday stuffing, but more substantial. It’s meant to be a side, but I ended up making my lunch from the leftovers. I won’t be forgetting about roasted roots for the rest of this winter.

I was also planning on making the Leek risotto with chestnuts, but December just got away from me and there was no more time (nor has there been since). January is going to be another hectic month and then I’m hoping there will be a little breathing room thereafter.

How is your 2015 shaping up so far?

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Smoked Salmon Waffles – A French Fridays Catch Up

Waffles

It’s not Christmas dinner I most look forward to, but Christmas brunch. There are fewer rigid expectations and an opportunity for playfulness that you don’t get at the more formal meal. This year, I made a bûche de Noël and smoked salmon waffles. Another year (actually, more than one), I made cardamom bread.

I bought a waffle iron a few months ago, in anticipation of making smoked salmon waffles for Christmas brunch. My brother caught and smoked a salmon himself earlier this year and my mother had some stashed in the freezer. Christmas morning waffles seemed like a great way to use some of the salmon and celebrate the season.

I loved how easy the batter was to put together and the waffles came off the iron without any trouble at all. (I sometimes wonder why people buy boxed mixes for waffles and pancakes, when making them from scratch is so easy and gives you much better results.) The savoury flavours of smoked salmon and green onions made these waffles the perfect accompaniment to our brunch, especially with a little dollop of cream on top.

They could also easily be elevated to cocktail snack or appetizer presentation by making them smaller, as Dorie gives as one option, and topping them with crème fraîche and salmon roe. Then, they would make a nice part of a New Year’s Eve spread.

Happy 2015, everyone! My blogging goals for this year include improving my photography (as you can see above, I’ve been a little complacent of late) and concentrating more on the quality of my writing. What are your goals for this year?

Find links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts on this recipe here: Smoked Salmon Waffles. Then, see how everyone fared with this week’s recipe Simplest Breton Fish Soup.

A Year-end Round-up

Favourite Posts

A round up of popular posts on the last day of the year may be a blogging cliché, but it’s nice to look back at what’s resonated with people, especially when some of the top posts of the year reach farther into my blog’s history.

It’s not a surprise that this top 16 draws primarily from my cooking community posts and from posts with a local focus. Those are the twin pillars of my blog, after all.

I’m looking forward to where this blog will take me in 2015, but looking back, I’m quite happy with where I’ve been so far. A very happy New Year to you all. I hope 2015 brings you health, happiness, and adventure.

And so to the list:

16. FFWD – Tuna Rillettes

I’m starting out at the bottom of the list, in true late December countdown fashion. Sixteenth of over 350 posts is still pretty impressive, though. This post is about one of my favourite Dorista snacks of 2014. Tuna rillettes are addictively good, whether used as a dip or a spread.

15. FFWD – Sablefish with Double Carrots

Most of the Doristas who made this came away enamoured with the carrots cooked in carrot juice that anchor the dish. This post also includes a primer on sustainable seafood and a rich, cocktail snack of a quick bread.

14. The Bounty of the Valley

The Fraser Valley isn’t just the place where chefs, bakers, and makers get their ingredients. These days, there are more and more businesses springing up that are making the Valley a destination (or keeping Valley foodies closer to home). The Fraser Valley Food Show has become a showcase for some of the best the Valley has to offer.

13. FFWD – Celery-Celery Soup

The name of this soup piqued my interest, so it makes sense that readers would be curious, too. If you don’t know what to do with the celery root you see in the markets, this would be a good place to start.

12. West Coast Christmas Show

Another event in the Fraser Valley, proving you don’t have to commute to find great, local goods.

11. FFWD – Chanterelles with Cabbage & Nuts

One of my favourite 2014 French Fridays dishes, this is going to appear on my table every fall when the wild mushrooms start showing up in the markets.

10. FFWD – Visitandine

A simple cake and a great way to use up egg whites, especially if you’re making lemon curd. I make sure there’s always one of these in my parents’ freezer in case they need a dessert on the double.

9. FFWD – Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

This is one of the very first posts I made on the blog and it’s been in the top ten ever since. The cake has become a favourite in my family and beyond, making rum a more prized commodity around here than it ever was before.

8. Vegetable Quinoa Soup with the Taste of Little India

The photos for this soup are about as Pinterest-y as I get, which is why I think this one made the top ten. Besides, who can resist the promise of the name?

7. Eat Local: Kingfisher’s Waterfront Bar & Grill

I love talking about the local food scene and Kingfisher’s has a great food philosophy – two of the reasons I think this post was popular. The third? You got to meet my brother, Kingfisher’s Executive Chef.

6. Patate Alpino

I’ve been experimenting with working with brands a little bit on the blog and this is a post I’m rather proud of. A recipe inspired by the Italian side of the Alps and some French Fridays leftovers, this dish could become a dangerous habit for anyone in reach of a good Italian deli.

5. Cottage Cooking Club – October 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club, organized by the wonderful Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness has become a highlight of each month for me. Cooking through River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall gets me out of the rut of my usual approach to vegetarian cooking, which is how I like to eat at least 60% of the time. I think more people are getting interested in meatless meals, so I’m not surprised this post made the top ten.

4. Happy Birthday, Dorie! A French Fridays Celebration

The French Fridays crew is in the last few months of cooking through Around My French Table, so when our fourth anniversary of cooking together lined up with the release of Dorie’s new book and her birthday, we decided to celebrate. With previews of recipes from Baking Chez Moi, birthday wishes, and fond reminiscences, this was part of a very special round up of posts.

3. Almond-Orange Tuiles – A French Fridays Fail

It’s a commonplace that we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. I think that’s why this post climbed so high into the top ten, along with the fact that we can all relate to less-than-perfect results in the kitchen and everywhere else.

2. FFWD – Brioche and Nutella Tartine

This post from early 2012 has been consistently popular, perhaps because the word Nutella is a magnet or maybe because braided brioche is the cutest bread ever. I know I like the reminder of what a good team brioche, marmalade, and Nutella make.

1. Baking Chez Moi – We Begin!

My post on the kick off of another round of Tuesdays with Dorie was my most popular post of the year. How could it not be? Delicious cookies, a re-energized community, and a visit with Dorie Greenspan – no wonder it’s Number One.