Cook the Book Fridays – Chicken Pot Parmentier

Chicken Pot Parmentier

I’ve always been fond of chicken pot pies, cottage pies, veggie pot pies, and shepherd’s pies. They’re the essence of comfort food for me, especially because my mother’s versions have always been so delicious. When we were first starting on Around My French Table, I was introduced to hachis parmentier and I thought I’d found the ultimate expression of this genre of food. I was wrong. This week’s dish, a chicken twist on the standard, is my new gold standard. Perhaps it’s because I prefer chicken to beef mince, or maybe it’s the vast quantity of butter incorporated into the dish, but I could happily eat this every day (and did, for several). The dish was made even nicer by the lovely carrots from my Dad’s garden, along with fresh herbs from my mother’s planters.

I froze some turkey from a recent holiday weekend bird and I’m planning to make a turkey version when the weather turns cold and rainy and I’m in need of some comforting fortification. In the meantime, I’ll be whipping up some gougères for next week’s Cook the Book Friday, in celebration of the release of Dorie’s new book.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

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Cook the Book Fridays – Le Grand Aioli

Le Grand Aioli

There was nothing grand about my aioli tonight, if it could even qualify as aioli at all.

I’d planned out which of the fresh markets I’d stop by for the produce, picking up local green beans that looked like they were freshly picked from someone’s back yard (the best!), fingerling potatoes, radishes, carrot, and red pepper. At home, I had cucumbers from my uncle’s garden and garlic from my Dad’s garden. All I needed were some fresh eggs, which I picked up at the organic grocery store.

I boiled some of the fingerlings and roasted the rest. I blanched the beans, then sliced the rest of the vegetables. I pulverized the minced garlic with salt in my mortar and pestle, then went to get the oil. I’d forgotten that I had only a few tablespoons of olive oil left and not much more grapeseed oil. Even though I’d planned to make only a portion of the recipe of aioli, this wouldn’t work.

My Plan B wasn’t much better – I managed to scrape about a tablespoon of mayonnaise from a nearly empty jar and mixed it with an alarming amount of the pulverized garlic, along with a bit of olive oil. Surprisingly, that tiny amount of very garlicky mayonnaise was enough. And even more surprisingly, it was a delicious addition to dinner. The only other accompaniment it needed (besides a little white wine) was homemade French bread from Mardi’s recipe.

Here’s to the power of peak of the season vegetables, home grown garlic, and very good bread.

No-Knead French Bread

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

I stopped by Companion Books last week, a lovely used bookstore in Burnaby Heights. As much as I love new bookstores, I’m glad that there are still a number of well-curated used bookstores around. They carry titles that have disappeared from the shelves at new bookstores and even libraries, because they’re out of print or out of fashion. There’s a little triumph in finding a title that I’ve been desultorily seeking for years. I know I can find most things online, but the tactile pleasure of browsing through books is something I’d rather not give up. It’s also a great way to find new favourites that you might have overlooked if you’d only been looking online. The landscape of online reviews can be disappointingly homogenous, unless you already know what you’re looking for.

The Silver Palate Cookbook

I picked up a well-loved copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook, one that I was a little too young to be aware of when it came out. It’s like a handbook of ’80s food, both the celebrated and (often unfairly) maligned. I was surprised at how many now-familiar dishes it contains – ones that seemed exciting and new to my family in the restaurants we visited when I was young. It also serves as a cheat sheet for the entertaining that my parents and their friends did through my teen years. The Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken that I learned from the Urban Peasant was in this book first, along with all the tarragon, raspberry, quiche, and mousse recipes that first became ’80s cliché and now have been reclaimed.

What surprised me even more was how in tune it is with how I cook today, French-inflected, grounded in the mostly English traditions that pass for “Canadian” or “American” cooking, incorporating elements from across the globe. What’s changed today, of course, is that the European elements of cooking and eating in Canada and the States aren’t dampening the presence of all the other cuisines that are present here (including indigenous ones).

Its influence could also be seen in the magazines that came to our house, like Chatelaine and Canadian Living. I learned a lot about cooking from them, probably even more than I did from the cookbooks on my mother’s shelf. Cookbooks have a much larger presence in my cooking life today, as anyone who has read my blog probably knows. But, there are still terrific magazines like Saveur, Bon Appetit, and Ricardo that distill the influences of today’s cooking landscape for home cooks. Along with a host of blogs and cooking websites that can teach you anything you can think of.

It seems as though we’re more in tune with the influences that are rippling through the cultural landscape these days, mostly because there’s a legion of commentators and aficionados ready to break down the latest trends as soon as they become apparent.

All of which leaves me curious: What were your favourite cookbooks or magazines when you were young? Are there classics like The Silver Palate Cookbook that influenced you, though you discovered them much later? Where do you look for inspiration and edification today? Also, do you do all your book shopping online or are you a brick and mortar fan?

I’ll leave you with a recipe that’s very much in the spirit of how I cook today, but harks back to flavours popular in my early childhood (not with me, though – don’t worry!).

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

There are so many wonderful ways to eat peaches and I’m happy to try them all – grilled, in a pie or tart, in cakes, in chutneys and salsas, or just eaten out of hand. But, my favourite is peach crisp. If I don’t make at least one peach crisp each summer, I feel like I’ve missed the whole season.

Ginger and peaches are a classic combination, one I’ve posted about before. Canadian whiskey, generally called rye, is also another good companion for peaches. Together, they’re an improvement upon a ’70s standard drink that I can remember my grandparent, great-aunts and great-uncles drinking at barbecues when I was very small. Personally, I’d take this crisp over one of those any day, though if you’ve got a lot of liquid in the bowl after macerating the peaches, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to strain some of the juice into a glass, topping it up with soda and a little more rye. Now, that’s a cook’s treat to keep to yourself.

1 8X5X2 baking dish

6 – 8 ripe, juicy peaches
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/8 cup Canadian rye whisky
1/8 to 1/4 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet your peaches happen to be)

Topping

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter, cubed

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Peel and chop the peaches into bite-sized chunks. Stir in the fresh ginger, rye, and brown sugar and leave the peaches to marinate for ten minutes or so.

To make the topping: Whisk together the brown sugar, rolled oats, flour, spices, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a crumbly texture.

Put the peaches into the baking dish, then cover them with the oat topping.

Bake for 25 – 35 minutes.

Cook the Book Fridays – Stuffed Vegetables & Babas with Pineapple

Duck Fat Potatoes

I have an ice cream problem, and not the one you’d think. I’ve stuffed the freezer with homemade tomato sauce, berries, rhubarb,and all the other summery goods that I’ll be grateful for in winter. But, I’ve left no room for the bowl of my ice cream maker. So, instead of apricot kernel ice cream, I’m catching up on the other two recipes for August’s Cook the Book Fridays, which I made on time and then neglected to post about.

Stuffed Vegetables (Légumes Farcis)

Stuffed Vegetables

I made these at the beginning of the month, but I was just so busy that I didn’t have an opportunity to post about it. I made the full amount of these, sending some home with my mother so that she could have an easy dinner component while my Dad was away. I was grateful for the same with the ones I kept.

I used eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and tomato as the vessels for this dish and I used ground moose in the filling. I changed the seasonings a little, adding some smoked paprika and mixing it with fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden. Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe, finishing the dish with Italian parsley and basil from my garden.

I enjoyed these, but they were a little drier than my usual recipe, which incorporates rice. They made for a good meal, though, with duck fat potatoes. (Hey, that makes three catch up recipes this week!) You can see the potatoes at the top of this post.

Kirsch Babas with Pineapple

Babas with Pineapple

These were fun to make. They’re a little like popovers, but they seem so brittle when they come out of oven. I thought they’d disintegrate when I gave them their syrup bath, but they plumped and shone, becoming miraculously resilient. The pineapple is a terrific accompaniment for these, and so easily made, once the messiness of breaking it down is through. I stuck with rum for these, simply because I couldn’t find kirsch at the closest liquor store.

I’ll leave you with a photo of a dish only tangentially related to the group – a tomato and goat cheese tart that I made to test-drive Mardi’s pâte brisée from In the French Kitchen with Kids. It was so easy to work with and baked up beautifully!

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

You can read through everyone’s posts here and here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.

No resolutions, but a promise

Cute little holiday card

I got a little extra cheer today, in the form of a holiday card that had been hiding at the bottom of my mailbox. Thanks, Betsy! I am now resolved to pull my mailbox down every now and again. That’s as close as I get to a New Year’s resolution.

I am not a resolution-maker, but I do like to make myself a promise or two now and again. Right now, in this gloomiest of Januaries, I’m promising to make time for more creative endeavours. My life has been a little too grindstone-centric of late. I’m missing writing for my blog, but even more I’m missing the connections to the people behind the scenes of my favourite blogs.

It’s not just writing and cooking, though, that I want to do more often. I want to get back to exploring community and creativity and I have a few ideas. I’m even considering joining a choir. (Too East Van? Maybe.)

For now though, I’m making a list of things that have the potential of brightening up the last few weeks of rainy, gloomy Vancouver winter. I encourage you to make your own list, wherever you are, then share it with me.

Get Out of the House

It’s nearly time for Dine Out Vancouver, which is a great, affordable way to experience creative set menus at some of Vancouver’s best restaurants. I’ve had some terrific meals and some interesting adventures at my Dine Out choices over the years.

You can also be fed, in a less literal way, with the smorgasbord of offerings from this year’s PuSh Festival.

Scottish Caramel Pu-erh

Or Hunker Down, I’m Not Judging You

There’s a new tea shop on Commercial Drive, Babylon Tea Company. Ye Olde East Van Tea Drinkers (we’re not a club, but we should be) have been speculating on when it would open for months. And now it has, I’m finding myself wanting to stay home and nurse a cup…well, let’s be real…a pot of their Scottish Caramel Pu-erh all evening. I’m actually afraid to go back, because I am susceptible to developing a tea of the week habit.

And speaking of good habits, the lovely folks at Tea Sparrow have a new initiative, the Community Grocer. Healthy, plant-based foods delivered to the door, helping you wait out winter. I’m hoping to tell you a little more about this soon.

The Globe & Mail Holiday Crossword

Be Good to Your Brain

Crave the spotlight? Find out if you’ve got chops at Vancouver Theatre Sports‘ Saturday drop-in.

Or get ready to conquer Paris with conversational aplomb with Alliance Francaise. It’s also a great excuse to go to Salade de Fruits for a long French language lunch.

And if you’re really daring, you can stretch both body and mind in one of Harbour Dance‘s many classes. Just make sure you invite me to opening night.

Okay, it’s back to the grindstone for me. But, I’m back on the regular in 2018 with lots to share with you. So add me to your list of gloom-chasing strategies. Or, maybe just grab a cup of tea and we’ll hang out.

Mid-Summer Ambitions

Roxy's summer style

My ambitions this summer are modest: making the best of summer produce, experiencing what the arts and culture scene has to offer in the off-season, and keeping cool (though not as stylishly as Roxy, as you can see in the photo at the top of the post).

Old-fashioned blueberry bars

I feel a little behind on stone fruits this year, but I did a heroic job with berries and rhubarb, with some more blueberries waiting for this weekend’s baking. I got a small harvest of figs from my five-year-old back yard tree this year (beating last year’s inaugural harvest of exactly one) and celebrated with a fig tart and some very tasty jam. There’s also plenty of kale, cucumber, beets, and homegrown lettuce in the refrigerator, which will make for a very healthy weekend of lunches and dinners. I’ve scattered photos of some of my recent kitchen projects through this post – let me know in the comments if you think I’ve been giving summer fruits their due.

<Frangipane fig tart

As for my second summer ambition, there is plenty going on this weekend and for the rest of the summer.

If you can get yourself out to UBC tomorrow night, the Blackout: Night Sky Festival would be a wonderful way to spend the evening. It reminds me of my childhood trips to the lake country around Kamloops, when we would set out lawn chairs in our campsite and stay up late watching the Perseid show.

Fig, balsamic, honey, and vanilla jam

If your idea of making the most of this hot, muggy, smoky summer is finding something to do indoors, you’ve got lots of choices. Movie theatres are great places to hide from high summer and they provide their own kind of visual feast. I’d start with The Cinematheque‘s annual Film Noir program, then move on to the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

Or you can embrace the elements, heading out to sea with Caravan Stage Company’s Nomadic Tempest, then enter a salmon stream in the middle of the city with Uninterrupted: A Cinematic Spectacle.

Chocolate cookies and a whole lot of blueberries

If you want to get out of town, you can head over to the Sunshine Coast for the Rogue Arts Festival or out to the Shuswap for the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival. And if you’d like to skip the organized activities, you can DIY your own Okanagan wine tour, explore the Fraser Valley’s Circle Farm Tour destinations, or spend August the way my family did when I was a kid and find your favourite fishing spots in the Thompson-Nicola region.

I’ll bring the treats.

Baking Chez Moi – Streusel-Topped Rhubarb Lime Tart

Streusel-Topped Rhubarb Lime Tart

I know I was extolling the virtues of sharing all over Instagram last week, but I realized today that for all the baking I did last week, I didn’t have any treats (savoury or sweet) left in the house. I remedied that by picking up a pint of strawberries this afternoon and am now battling the urge to re-purpose the goat’s cheese I’ve got saved for Cook the Book Fridays – there’s nothing nicer than a goat cheese and strawberry tartine at this time of year. Except maybe fresh summer strawberries all on their own. So, the goat cheese is safe for now.

I do admit to hanging on to more of this rhubarb tart than I usually do for the baked goods I make. Rhubarb is one of my favourite things in the garden and my estimation of my fair share of a rhubarb dish may be a little skewed. This was wonderful the day it was baked and it was still good for breakfast the next day (or so). Its base is Dorie’s sweet tart dough, cookie-ish without being overly sweet. The filling is rhubarb brightened with lime juice and zest and covered in custard, then topped with streusel.

I could eat variations of this tart with whatever happens to be in season and enjoy them very much, but I’d always be counting down the months to when it’s time to harvest the rhubarb from the garden.

Luckily, there’s still some rhubarb to be had, though I rarely make the same thing twice with it in the same season – my rhubarb recipe file is ridiculously large. Once it’s gone, I’ll console myself with all the other berries and stone fruits to come.

I’ll also start getting to know my new friend – a very kind Co-op neighbour gave me some sourdough starter at a meeting tonight. So, if you have any sourdough advice, let me know. I’m determined not to let it die!

Sourdough starter

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this month’s recipes here.

Holiday Cookbook Reviews – River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers

Ribollita

I received a review copy of River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

And so, it’s time to wrap up this year’s Holiday Book Review Series. It’s been an especially good one, don’t you think? I want to thank Raincoast Books for generously sending me review copies of the six books in this year’s series and especially for giving my Canadian readers the opportunity to win a copy of one of them.

I’m ending with a cookbook that will serve you in good stead come January and resolution season. I’m not big on resolutions, but I do hold some intentions each new year. One that’s always on my list is to reduce the amount of waste in my life and to make the best use of the resources I’m lucky enough to have access to. A big part of this for me is reducing my food waste and that’s where River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers comes in. It’s a cookbook, certainly, but it’s also a handbook for making the most of your food and keeping as much as possible out of the waste stream.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has broadened his definition of leftovers to include more than what’s left in the serving dish after a meal. His recipes tackle the food that often gets discarded in the course of food preparation, like leaves, peels, bones, and rinds. He also includes the results of big batch cooking (or, as he calls them, ‘planned overs’) under the book’s umbrella, so that your fridge and pantry are filled with prepared foods, without the packaging and sometimes dubious quality of the store-bought variety.

The book is organized a little differently than most cookbooks, with chapters built around categories of leftovers, rather than meals or types of recipes. He begins with a discussion of planning for leftovers, with sensible advice from shopping through storage. Before the recipes begin, he shares an infographic of frequently occurring leftovers that serves as an alternate table of contents. His chapter on Launchpads for Leftovers is a condensed version of a conventional cookbook format, running through base recipes for everything from stocks to desserts.

The rest of the book is given over to recipes under categories of the most common leftover foods. He tackles meat, fish, and starches, but also trickier foods like greens, dairy, and eggs. These are the ones that I find most likely to languish in the fridge waiting for inspiration, then ending up in the compost.

Vegetable Peel Crisps

And your compost bin will be nearly empty, if you use the many nose-to-tail recipes Fearnley-Whittingstall includes in this book. Fish skins and trimmings can sub in for bacon, potato peels transform into a comforting, creamy soup, and broccoli stems can take the place of meat or fish in a carpaccio. His Vegetable Peel Crisps are typical of this approach. There’s no reason that root vegetable peelings should have to go into the compost, as long as they’re clean and free from bad spots. He tosses them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasts them in a slow oven. When they come out, you can add a sprinkling of smoked paprika, as I did. I used a mix of potato, parsnip, carrot, and yam peelings. I liked them better than potato chips and they’re definitely healthier.

Many Bean Salad

The crisps made a great lunchtime pairing with his Many Bean Salad, which is almost infinitely variable, depending on what you have on hand. I used a mix of beans, but it would have been equally good with lentils, chickpeas, or just about any other sort of pulse. I threw in some tuna (I liked that he specified sustainably fished tuna), celery, Malossol cornichons, celery, red onion, and grated parmesan. I used his recipe for mustardy vinagrette, with pickle brine in place of the vinegar. It’s the kind of salad you can find in other River Cottage cookbooks, but with an extra emphasis on using what you’ve already got on hand.

The leftover ingredients used in each of the recipes is highlighted, so that when you’re skimming through the book, you can note which work with the leftovers you’ve got on hand. It’s another design feature that is meant to make it easy for you to find ways to use up the contents of your fridge and pantry.

Leftover Ribollita

A time-honoured method of cleaning out the fridge is to make a soup, and Fearnley-Whittingstall includes a number of soups across his leftover categories. His take on Ribollita was especially inviting during the cold snap we’ve been experiencing in Vancouver. We’ve had snow sticking around for over a week, with more on the way. Warm, rich, filling soup is something I’ve been making a lot of lately.

The Love Your Leftovers version can help use up roasted roots, soup stock, Parmesan rind, pulses, and leftover greens. I skipped the rind and chose vegetable stock, as I’m planning to share the soup with a vegan this week. That didn’t stop me from adding a little Parmesan to my serving, and with the garlicky toast in the bottom of the bowl, it was perfectly delicious.

I’ve been trying to stock my fridge with ‘planned overs’ like big containers of roasted roots for a while, but I can be inconsistent. I keep intending to soak batches of beans on a more regular basis, so I can reduce my use of canned goods a bit (I don’t think I’m alone in this one). I can also be a little forgetful when it comes to leftover stock – there’s really no excuse for throwing out stock, but it’s something that’s happened more than I care to admit.

Scheduling recipes like this soup could help me to get a bit more consistent in the batch preparation I’d like to do more often, while keeping me from wasting staples like stock and greens – so many greens.

I don’t have permission to share the recipe with you, but you can find it on the River Cottage website:

Leftover Ribollita

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River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 22nd: Win a copy of River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers*

I’ve been a fan of Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes for quite a while, especially after working through his River Cottage Veg with the Cottage Cooking Club. However, it’s his approach to food that’s stuck with me even more than his recipes. He uses what’s fresh and seasonal, certainly, but he also stocks his pantry with good quality canned and dried goods, so that delicious weeknight eating is something that can be accomplished year-round.

In that way, this cookbook is the perfect extension of his food philosophy. Not only are his recipes flavourful and accessible, they’re also making the best of every part of the good food he stocks in his kitchen. As much as I like project cooking and baking, special occasion recipes, and rich comfort foods, Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes are a better representation of how I prefer to eat most of the time. With River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers on my shelf, I’ll be able to do so even more effectively and sustainably. I think I’d even make a resolution to that effect.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the thrifty cook, the environmentalist eater, the seasonal gourmet, and the comfort food connoisseur.

*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 3 X 64 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

You can find links to the rest of my Holiday Cookbook Review Series giveaways here. They’re all open until December 22nd.

Baking Chez Moi – Custardy Apple Squares

Custardy Apple Squares

I always gravitated to the humanities in school – literature and writing, history and philosophy – these subjects, along with the more concrete elements of the sciences, grabbed my attention and often felt almost effortless. Math, however, was not my natural element and I remained convinced that I had no talent for it.

But, I’m kinder to myself than I once was and realize now that I had been delving into math from a very young age. I just expressed it in the form of cookies and cakes. It may not be higher math, but baking is certainly one of the more satisfying – and even elegant – ways to experience math.

So, even though I can only experience the majesty of black holes and fractals through popular science writing, I am able to witness the wonder of a few simple ingredients coming together in precise proportion to create something magically more than the sum of its parts.

Dorie’s apple squares are a lovely example of this kind of culinary marvel. A little flour, milk, butter, sugar, and eggs transform into something that isn’t quite cake and isn’t quite custard. In different proportions, the same ingredients can produce everything from a rich bread to a sturdy sponge cake.

This recipe is quite similar to one of my favourite apple desserts, Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake, but with its own unique texture and snackable square shape. I differentiated it further from its rum-rich cousin by taking Dorie’s suggestion of using a tiny drop of almond extract in the batter, which somehow manages to enrich the apple flavour even more.

Nicola apples

I used some gorgeous Nicola apples that I found at my local food co-op today, but these would be great with any baking apples (or pears, another one of Dorie’s variation suggestions).

These won’t last long, but the good news is that they’re quick to prepare, even with the 40-minute bake factored in. Delicious dessert that requires a minimum of effort and uses pantry staples. That might be the baker’s golden ratio.

You can find the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie crew’s entries on this recipe here or here, along with posts about this month’s other selected recipe, Pear Tart with Crunchy Almond Topping.

Cook the Book Fridays – Cherry Tomato Crostini

Cherry Tomato Crostini with Herbed Water Buffalo Cheese

I spend the hottest part of the summer negotiating with myself over when I can turn on the oven and for how long. As much as I love stone fruit pies, roasted corn, and all that heat can bring to summer’s produce, I am not built for hot weather (or cold, but at least turning on the oven in winter helps alleviate my weaknesses). I should probably take up grilling, since I’m not sure how my neighbours would feel about my visualizations of an outdoor kitchen.

Cherry tomatoes ready for roasting

One thing that can motivate me is high summer’s tomatoes. I love roasted tomatoes. I usually slow-roast them, but David Lebovitz‘ quicker method is so good, I might just start using it all the time.

Roasted cherry tomatoes

I had a meeting in the backyard while the tomatoes were in the oven, so the heat was only a factor when I was taking them out. I ended up leaving them in a little longer than the recipe calls for, inadvertently, but they came out just the way I like them – soft, jammy, and a bit browned. I roasted them with thyme and rosemary, lashings of black pepper and a little sea salt. They are sweet and savoury in perfect measure.

Making herbed water buffalo cheese

That was today’s primary activity in making this week’s Cook the Book Fridays selection, but I started preparing this dish yesterday. To make the herbed cheese, I bought some thick, Greek-style yogurt. It was supposed to be goat’s yogurt, but the only containers I could find were huge and the yogurt inside seemed runny. So, on a whim, I used water buffalo yogurt instead. It’s milder than goat, so the finished cheese is less tangy than it would have been, but I really like the results. It’s more like labneh than a soft cheese and it’s perfect for this recipe.

Herbed Water Buffalo Cheese

I’ve made chèvre before and loved it, but this recipe is much more likely to be made regularly. It’s easier and can be used in many of the same ways as soft cheeses like goat cheese. Mixed with garlic, shallots, cayenne, and herbs (I used basil, flat-leaf parsley, chives, and thyme), it made a perfect foil for the tomatoes.

The last step was the easiest, but it required a little fortitude. I’d been out in the heat, running errands, and the last thing I wanted to do was turn the oven back on to toast the bread. It was worth it – who can argue with toast that’s been slathered in olive oil before going into the oven and then rubbed with a garlic clove on its way out? But I might cheat tomorrow, if it’s as hot. Toast can be brushed with olive oil on its way out of the toaster, after all.

Cherry Tomato Crostini with Vegan Cream Cheese and Gluten Free Bread

I actually made this two ways – one version with gluten-free bread, vegan cream cheese, and the roasted tomatoes; the other with the French country bread, the herbed water buffalo cheese, and the roasted tomatoes. The second one was for me and I loved it. The first one didn’t go over as well – the vegan cream cheese wasn’t a perfect match for the roasted tomatoes.

I’ve got enough of everything to do it all over again tomorrow. And if I use my toaster cheat, I won’t have to turn the oven on at all.

If you want to try this yourself (and if you have summer tomatoes available, you should), you can find the recipe here: Cherry Tomato Crostini with Homemade Herbed Goat Cheese. But, buy the book – everything in it is stellar.

You can read through everyone’s posts here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David LebovitzMy Paris Kitchen.