FFWD – Storzapretis

Inside

It’s not often that I come across a dish that’s relatively unknown on the Internet – in this case, I mean the English-speaking internet. Until the flood of French Fridays posts today, I could only find a handful of references to this week’s dish in English – there are plenty of recipes for it on French sites. (As an aside, it pleases me that I can read French relatively well, even though no one should ever be subjected to me speaking it.)

Storzapretis, not to be confused with the Italian pasta called strozzapretis, are a sort of Corsican gnudi, as Betsy pointed out in her post today.

They are properly made with Brocciu cheese, but thick ricotta makes a good substitute. The ricotta is mixed with spinach, grated cheese, minced mint or marjoram, an egg, and a very small amount of flour. It’s then formed into quenelles, lightly tossed in a little more flour and set to rest in the fridge or freezer. When it’s time to finish them, they’re gently poached in simmering water, carefully dried, then put in the oven covered with tomato sauce and grated cheese.

Process

It’s the last two steps that caused our crew so much trouble this week, resulting in one of the longest P & Q sections we’ve had in some time. Reading the comments saved me from disaster and also led me to experimenting with cooking them in two different ways.

Many Doristas found their storzapretis disintegrating as they poached, so Adriana tried skipping that step and cooking them in the oven only. She preferred that method and when I tried it, the night I made the storzapretis, I cooked a few that way and stowed the rest in the freezer.

Today, I tried the poaching method and though they kept their shape, I found their texture to be a little too soft for my liking, even after baking them for a bit longer than called for in the recipe. The ones I’d stuck straight into the oven were tender and fluffy, but firm. In future, I’ll skip the poach.

Though these dumplings were a bit time-consuming to make, I will be making them again. They’re worth the effort. And this week’s experience just reinforced my love of this cooking community – we truly help each other along each week.

Baked

Find links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts on this week’s recipe here: Storzapretis.

Reading and Planning While the Year Wanes

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This past weekend, I was out in Aldergrove helping out with a Christmas craft fair that my mother helped organize. When I wasn’t busy uploading photos to the Facebook page and website, I was sneaking in breaks to read Eula Biss’ brilliant new book, On Immunity: An Innoculation.

It’s the most clear-headed view of vaccine controversies I’ve seen to date. But it’s also beautifully written and wide-ranging, in much the same manner as Rebecca Solnit’s work. I’ve got it out from the library at the moment, but I’m going to be buying it eventually and tracking down her previously published work, too.

Here are few more things on my ‘To Read’ pile:

Not that reading is the only thing on my agenda in the coming weeks. In the run up to the holidays, I’ll have a few cookbook reviews for you and I’ll be telling you about some of the craft fairs and seasonal events that are starting to fill up the calendar.

In the meantime, I’m picking out this year’s cookie swap recipes, planning my holiday gathering contributions, and finishing up putting the garden to bed. So much for spare time.

What are you up to as 2014 rapidly comes to a close?

Exercise Your Franchise and Vote

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Today, civic elections are happening across MetroVancouver. If you live in Vancouver proper, you can find the poll nearest you using this tool.

Municipal governments make decisions that quite literally affect us closest to home. So, before you get your Saturday started, hit the polls and make sure your choices are counted.

Almond-Orange Tuiles – A French Fridays Fail

Tuiles

You won’t find any evidence of it on my blog, but I did make Citrus-Berry Terrine way back in July, 2011 when it was assigned. I didn’t realize that there was pineapple juice mixed into the juice I used for it and it refused to set. Worse, it spilled as I removed it from the refrigerator and that part of it set very well on the corrugated shelf. A good deal of scrubbing later, I was reluctant to try the recipe again.

I haven’t had too many failures during my French Fridays run. Some things haven’t turned out as beautifully as I’d hoped, but they weren’t a failure in anything but my artistic ability (of which I have none). And if there was a failure, I usually corrected my mistakes and had a better version to post about by deadline.

This week, though, I decided to tackle what I thought would be a quick catch up, since I had no time at all to go to the butcher for duck or to source kumquats. Unfortunately, I had a Canadian moment when I was reviewing the recipe and read 1/2 a stick as 1/2 a cup. I realized this after I mixed everything and with twice the butter and no more almonds in the house, I adjusted the recipe as best I could, put the dough in the fridge and hoped for the best.

You’re probably thinking that the cookies up top don’t look that bad, right? Well, I have another photo to share with you.

Fail

In one of the few instances where there can be too much butter, the top two tuiles were the only ones that made it to the plate looking like, well, tuiles. And they are a little greasy, I have to admit. I’m going to try these again some time, because the flavour combination is terrific, but that may or may not make it to the blog.

So my lesson this week (one I thought I’d learned by age eight) is to read the recipe carefully before beginning. Thanks to Adriana for the inspiration to keep it real.

Find out what these tuiles are supposed to look like here: Almond-Orange Tuiles.

Everyone else made duck this week and you can find those links here: Pan-Seared Duck Breasts with Kumquats

Baking Chez Moi – We Begin!

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There’s nothing like the excitement of a new book, is there? Especially one that you’ve been anticipating for a long while. I finally got my hands on such a book on November 2nd, when I headed down to Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks to pick up my copy of Dorie Greenspan‘s eleventh cookbook, Baking Chez Moi.

Dorie was in Vancouver for the only Canadian stop on her book tour and I was lucky enough to be able to attend the taping of her interview with CBC’s North by Northwest Cooking Club. (Some even luckier folks got to have dinner with her later that evening.) She told stories about living and baking in Paris and shared tips and tricks while she demonstrated putting together her Pink Grapefruit Tart from the book. CBC has posted the interview now, which you can find here.

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Meanwhile, the audience got to munch on miniature versions of the tart, while sipping Barbara-Jo’s signature tea blend. (If you think my idea of heaven would be listening to one of my culinary heroes, while munching on a delicious tart and sipping a cup of perfect tea, in a bookstore devoted to cookbooks – well, you’d be right.)

Pink Grapefruit Tart

After the interview, she fielded questions from the audience and engaged in some banter with her husband, Michael, who is accompanying her on the tour. His version of the stories she shared were sometimes a little different from hers and he quite charmingly interjected when he thought it was necessary.

Michael and Dorie

At the end, I introduced myself and Dorie gave me a big hug. It was lovely to finally meet her after cooking through Around My French Table with the French Fridays with Dorie group for the past four years.

Dorie

Which brings us to the first entry in Tuesdays with Dorie‘s newest project – baking through Baking Chez Moi. We’ll be posting together twice a month as we work our way through the book and I’m quite excited to be joining in. Just browsing through my copy of this cookbook left it bristling with bookmarked recipes, so I’m glad that TwD is here to provide me with some structure. (I’ve joined in with Tuesdays with Dorie before, along with my nieces, over at The Family That Bakes Together for some Baking with Julia assignments.)

PaletsdeDames

The recipe chosen to kick off the bake-a-long was Palets de Dames, Lille Style, a sweet, cake-y vanilla cookie topped with a shiny lemon glaze. I made these three weeks ago, when the French Fridays crew celebrated Dorie’s Birthday. I thought about making them again this week, but they are far too addictive. I will wait until I’m sure I have plenty of people to share them with.

I’m looking forward to reading through everyone’s posts and connecting with old friends and new through this new group. Our next assignment for Baking Chez Moi is in two weeks, when we tackle Dorie’s Cranberry Crackle Tart.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this week’s recipe here: Palets de Dames.

FFWD – Jerusalem Artichokes, Two Ways

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This week’s post tackles two French Fridays assignments, because when Jerusalem artichokes first showed up in the rotation last month, there were none to be found in Vancouver markets. I prefer the name sunchokes for these, as it’s a bit less confusing than Jerusalem artichokes, which are neither native to the Middle East nor related to artichokes. They’re actually native to the Americas – a root vegetable from a plant in the sunflower family, with a flavour that hints at artichokes. Sunchokes are sought after by chefs, but they’re not for everyone. Some folks experience a bit of gastric distress when they eat them (we found out this week that my Dad’s one of them), so they’ve earned a rather notorious nickname.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Parsley Coulis

This week’s dish was a puréed soup, much like a potato soup, with salty leek and garlic notes against the delicate artichoke flavour of the sunchokes. I substituted vegetable stock for chicken stock, but otherwise followed the recipe, which you can find here. I packed up half the soup for my parents and the flavours were a hit for all of us.

The parsley coulis caused a bit of consternation in the group, because a number of us couldn’t get the parsley past a pesto texture. I didn’t mind that texture at all in this soup. The parsley also finishes the soup perfectly.

Since sunchokes stick around in the market until almost spring, we’ll be revisiting this soup all winter.

Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Garlic

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I bought more sunchokes than I needed for the soup so that I could roast some, too. We ended up having them as a snack last night and enjoyed them, though I’d used too small a pan and they didn’t crisp up as much as I would have liked them to have done. The slivers of garlic were amazing with the sunchokes and on their own – they made this dish. However, I think that next time I roast sunchokes, I’ll do as Sanya did and mix them in with potatoes or other root vegetables. I think they’d be a nicer element in a mix than they were on their own.

Another unusual vegetable demystified, thanks to Around My French Table.

Find links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts on this week’s recipe here: Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Parsley Coulis. Then, see how everyone fared with the Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Garlic.

Chock Full of November

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Last Saturday, the Parade of Lost Souls inhabited Britannia Community Centre, leading the audience through a maze of performance, music, and interactive experiences informed by traditions acknowledging the waning of the year. I’ve told you about the parade before, but things have changed since then. The Public Dreams Society has, sadly, folded and Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret has taken over the stewardship of this event so it can live on. If you want them to be able to continue to do so, visiting their Indiegogo fundraising campaign would help a lot.

I’ve peppered the post with photos from this year’s parade, but it’s the rest of the month that I want to tell you about. My favourite event of November is always the Eastside Culture Crawl, which I’ve also told you about before. The Crawl is four days long now and well-worth all that tramping around the neighbourhood, no matter what the weather.

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Now that you’ve set aside those four days for the Crawl, you can finish filling your calendar for the month – here are a few of your choices:

You look like the well-read sort; I just know you have a library card. So, I also know you’ll be thrilled that you can show it at the door for free entry into Between the Pages: An Evening with the Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalists. Your appetite for captivating presentations properly whetted, you might want to check out Interesting Vancouver next. There’s also a few days left of the Heart of the City Festival. Or, you can get in on the act (well, workshop) at this year’s CircusFest – I’ll be sticking with my role as audience member, personally. For a less strenous look behind the scenes, you can listen to some of the Culture Crawl’s artists at HOT TALKS: Eastside Culture Crawl.

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There are more exhibitions and performances this month than I can reasonably mention, so I’ll just give you a taste of a few more that caught my attention.

You can pick up some original art while supporting the Seymour Art Gallery at their ‘Art Party!’ exhibition until November 8th. Kevin and I are big fans of Portland’s The Wonderheads and their latest show, Loon, sounds like another instance of their signature blend of magic and bittersweet. Museums matter and are more relevant than ever, as spaces like MOV are proving. On November 14th, I Came to See the Beautiful Things will celebrate museums with music, performance, and discussion.

So, by now you might be looking for a little bit of fun in this list. Doctor Strange’s Future Think Dinner Show might fit the bill. Or maybe all this activity just worked up your appetite. In that case, the Ocean Wise™ Chowder Chowdown will fill your belly while supporting sustainable seafood simultaneously. And with that out of the way, you can concentrate on some pre-holiday shopping therapy at a few of the MANY craft fairs that November brings.

Blim is always a good bet and The Province has a nice list that extends all the way into December. I’m also going to put in a good word for the craft fair that my mother is helping to put on at Sts. Joachim and Ann’s Parish in Aldergrove. They have some great crafters and artisans lined up.

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And before I go, I’d like to remind you that this month, civic elections are happening across Metro Vancouver. The Broadbent Institute has started an interesting initiative to increase voter participation. Feed Democracy is a non-partisan awareness campaign that has some of Vancouver’s favourite spots to eat and drink signed on to help get the vote out. In Vancouver, advance polls opened today (though, rather maddeningly, not on the east side) and the big day is November 15th. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, there are at least three more all candidates meetings to go.

November, you are no wallflower.

FFWD – Osso Buco à l’Arman & Double Banana and Chocolate Tart

Osso Buco

I suppose that because it’s Hallowe’en, I should rename this week’s dish. Something like Blood and Bones, a meal to suit the most ghoulish of eaters. But, I’m not that keen on messing with a storied dish like Osso Buco, even for the sake of a seasonal tie-in.

Instead, I’ll tell you that while we fielded visits from tiny zombies, fairies, witches, and one amazingly kitted-out Captain America, this citrus-y take on a classic recipe slowly braised in the oven.

I don’t eat veal, so my halved portion of beef shank rang in at less then ten dollars. For once, my preferences benefitted my pocketbook. I don’t think the dish suffered, either.

I served this with the citrus and onion rice that Dorie suggests in her bonne idée and it was a perfect accompaniment. I’m expecting tomorrow’s leftovers to taste even better.

Double Chocolate and Banana Tart

Double Banana and Chocolate Tart

This month has been a pretty special one for Doristas, as we saw with last week’s posts. It was also a very special month for us, too, as we celebrated our tenth anniversary. This tart, made with a gluten-free version of Dorie’s chocolate pâte sablée, was one of the treats we shared together.

My gluten-free conversion needs a little work. The tart shell was crumblier than it should have been, but it didn’t fall apart and it tasted delicious, so it’s a good start. The filling – caramelized bananas covered in chocolate ganache, topped with slices of raw banana painted with hot apricot jam – was every bit as good as you could imagine.

Needless to say, we didn’t share. It was an anniversary treat, after all.

Find links to the rest of the French Fridays crew’s posts on this week’s recipe here: Osso Buco à l’Arman. Then, check out all the Double Chocolate and Banana Tart goodness.

Cottage Cooking Club – October 2014

There was no mistaking it this month. We’ve moved out of our summer repertoire of recipes and are solidly into winter vegetable territory.

If this month’s recipes are any indication, however, that’s not such a bad thing.

Carrot, Orange, and Cashews

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On the rare occasion that I find myself supreming an orange, my mind always turns to this:

Am I the only one? Probably.

Sectioning the oranges aside, this was a very simple salad, flavoured with a little cumin and cider vinegar, but really playing on the flavour combination of orange, carrot, and cashew. It’s got a vibrancy that a typical carrot salad lacks and the juice of the orange manages to intensify the carrot’s flavour without itself disappearing.

I was out of cumin seeds, so I used ground cumin, but I don’t think the salad suffered. This dish provides a nice contrast to the usual heavy fare of winter and would brighten any casual gathering, both in colour and taste. Something to keep in mind as the rainclouds make Vancouver their winter home.

Vegeree

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Eggplant and zucchini are my partner’s two favourite vegetables, but he likes them served very plain. And separate. So, I was mostly on my own for this one.

I like the idea of this dish more than the execution – roasting the vegetables together left them a little underwhelming, I thought. If I make this again, I’d roast the eggplant whole, while caramelizing the onion on the stovetop. Then, I’d add cubes of zucchini to the onion to soften a little. Finally, I’d toss them with chunks of the roasted eggplant and the rest of the ingredients. I think this would add some depth of flavour that I found a little lacking in this dish.

Broccoli Salad with Asian-Style Dressing

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This is a perfect lunchbox salad. You could make it the night before and refrigerate it, then pull it out and let it come to room temperature before lunch. You’ll just need to remember to pack two little containers containing the toasted sesame seeds and the slivered green onions, so you can dramatically strew them over your salad before digging in. Lunchroom theatre.

This one’s definitely on my ‘make again’ list. I especially liked that the dressing was complex without being too assertive.

Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Paprika

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This dish is another simple treatment for a brassica. Florets of cauliflower dusted with smoked paprika and roasted with lemon wedges. I could eat this every day.

Intrigued by this month’s recipes? Buy the book and join us.

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.

Happy Birthday, Dorie! A French Fridays Celebration

Happy Birthday

Today’s French Fridays with Dorie assignment has been set aside for a celebration. Not only are we wishing Dorie Greenspan the happiest of birthdays, but we’re also baking from her soon-to-be-released cookbook, Baking Chez Moi. This celebration has been orchestrated by two of our fabulous French Fridays collaborators, Liz and Susan, who gave us four recipes from the new book to choose from.

I chose two, but the good news is that I’ll be baking through the entire book with Tuesdays with Dorie, starting in November – and you can, too. All the details are in this post on the TwD site.

Paletes de Dames, Lille Style

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These little cookies manage to be elegant and homey all at once. The cookies themselves are flavoured with vanilla and have a cake-like quality, while the icing has a few drops of lemon juice and sets in that shiny, smooth, pastry shop way. They can be dressed up with tinted icing or some sanding sugar, but really I think they’re perfect just as they are.

Brown Butter-Peach Tourte

Peach Tourte

One of the things I love about French baking (well, besides all the butter) is that a good number of the desserts are far less complicated than the results would suggest. This tourte, with its free-standing crust and its sparkling surface, looks like it requires effort and expertise to carry off. The truth is that once you’ve mastered pâte sablée, the rest is easy. And if you have Dorie’s instructions for pâte sablée (or sweet tart dough), that part’s easy, too.

I used some of the last of this year’s peaches to make this tart, but I think it would work equally well with any juicy tree fruit. In fact, I think I might try it again with mango this winter. I think it made an admirable stand in for a birthday cake and might be even more welcome than cake at the height of peach season.

Sliced

It’s been an amazing four years cooking and baking with French Fridays and I’m looking forward to the last six months or so of working through Around My French Table. I’m also starting to get excited about getting my hands on Baking Chez Moi and working through it with the Tuesdays with Dorie brigade.

So, again, happy birthday to you, Dorie. I’ve learned so much more about cooking and baking in these last few years, thanks to your work. I deeply admire your love and enthusiasm for food and the community it creates – you write about it beautifully.

Below you’ll find the full line up of posts for this French Fridays celebration. (Click on the name of the dish to find the recipe, so you can join in on the fun, too.)

Mini Cannelés

Chocolate Cream Puffs with Mascarpone Filling

Paletes de Dames, Lille Style

Brown Butter-Peach Tourte