Monday, April 23, 2018

Tuesdays with Dorie: Apple Matafan AND Viennese Sables

I'm pretty pleased that I managed to get both of the April recipes selected from Baking, Chez Moi baked this month, even if the first one was not made in time to post last week. So I'm pulling a double here.

I had no clue what Apple Matafan even was before I read the recipe. It sounded exotic and fancy, but really, it's like a giant apple pancake that cooks in a pan. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Dorie handles apples in the best, most appley way possible. The flavor isn't masked by cinnamon or caramel or anything else. I've actually started calling her Saint Dorie of the Apples in my head, because I'm cool like that. Ha!
Anyway, so I prepared this as my treat, the day after completing an 80 day workout program (which was AMAZING, and I'm about to start my second round of it next week, if anyone wants to join my Success Group. I'm happy to send you more info on it.) It came together easily (like I said, it's basically a pancake batter, with some extra touches). Batman sniffed his way into the kitchen and said, "I KNOW this is going to be good, just by the smell of it." He was right.
This would be a lovely Mother's Day breakfast, or a great brunch component. Not too sweet, not too filling. Perfection.

Conclusion: Loved it.

Yesterday, I made Viennese Sables. The dough was easy to make, but I definitely could not make shapes out of it using my super high-tech Ziploc bag piping technique. I tried that for two, made a mess, and then just made little logs. Or, as Matt put it, "So you decided to take the turd approach?"

Can you guess which 2 are supposed to be W's? HA!
That is correct, and I threw sprinkles all over those little turds, because sprinkles make everything better. EVERYTHING.
Dorie likens them to the Danish butter cookies that come in the blue tin. She says "You get an initial crunch, a hit of flavor and then they melt in your mouth."

Maybe I left mine in the oven a minute too long? Mine are dry. They do not melt in your mouth. They also taste kind of bland. I mean, they're fine, but they don't make me want to eat them. This is probably a good thing. I smeared nutella on one, enjoyed it, and was done.
Conclusion: Just okay. I don't see myself making this recipe again.

I'm In Love

Things have been getting all Persian up in this joint, I've just haven't had a chance to sit down and write about it. Let me dive right in...

A friend who was in town, and her mom, came for dinner on Friday. Matt grilled burgers and asparagus, and I made two dishes from The New Persian Kitchen.
Helper monkey.
First was New Potatoes with Dill and Lemon. This was an easy preparation of potatoes, lots of lemon juice, zest, a ton of dill, garlic, and some turmeric. That list of ingredients doesn't sound like it should be addictive, but it was. I'm going to make this all the time. Flat-out lemony, garlicky deliciousness.
Conclusion: Loved it.

I also made Cucumber and Watermelon Salad. Watermelon isn't in season yet, so I was aware going in that this might be a flavorless mistake, but the promise of summer was too tempting, so I went for it anyway. It wasn't the best melon ever, but it turned out not to be that bad. This salad is really simple--diced melon and cucumber, salt, scallion, and vinegar. That whole tail end of things (salt, vinegar, scallion) also made me  nervous, because I have never ever ever put those flavors on watermelon before. I think it's good to cook recipes that aren't a sure hit. Sometimes they fail miserably, but sometimes, like this time, they are a revelation. As far as I was concerned, the cucumber was extraneous. It just got in the way of the watermelon, whose flavor was amplified and supported by those three other simple ingredients. Scallions. Vinegar. Salt. On watermelon. Who knew?
Conclusion: Loved it.

Last night, I made Oat and Mushroom Soup. Again, a risky choice. Especially because Matt does not always like mushrooms. The ingredient list was so bizarre. Oats, mushrooms, carrot, turmeric, tomato paste--okay. Not that weird, apart from the oats. Then we add milk and a lot of lime juice. I couldn't imagine what this would turn out like, so I obviously HAD to make it.
As I was cooking it, I kept thinking that this was a good Depression meal. Not the mood, but the economic condition. Does anyone else mentally lock away recipes that are cheap to make in the event of widespread economic collapse? No? Just me? Never mind. Seriously, though. You pulse the oatmeal in a food processor, and then toast it in the oven before letting it cook in the soup. It thickens up the broth and turns this into a pretty satisfying meal, despite the absence of meat. I cut the mushroom up small, on Matt's behalf, and much to his surprise, he loved this soup. We all did. Even Batman. He said it tasted like pasta sauce, but I suspect that's just because of the tomato paste, and because I added pasta to the kids' bowls. Both kids wolfed it. Total success.
And as for the milk and lime juice? The milk made it a little richer, and the lime juice added a hit of acid, without making it taste limey. 

Conclusion: Loved it so, so much.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Turmeric Chicken with Sumac and Lime

When I first flipped through The New Persian Kitchen, I immediately flagged Turmeric Chicken with Sumac and Lime, primarily because I didn't need to buy anything except a lime, but it was different enough that I wasn't totally sure how it would turn out.

First, you coat the chicken with a hefty mixture of turmeric, salt, and pepper, and brown them on each side. You don't just brown them, though. You reeeeeally brown them. It says 7 minutes per side. I was afraid it would burn in that time, but it was fine. Then you add water and a lot of garlic, cover it, and let it braise for a while.

I was pleasantly surprised, when I lifted the cover, that the garlic water had mixed with the spices on the chicken and thickened into a sauce, and the chicken itself was completely, beautifully tender. The recipe calls for thighs, but I used breasts, because, despite the fact that every cooking show on earth tells me that dark meat is superior, I think it mostly tastes the same, but there is less of it, and you have to deal with all those gristly, nasty tendons and things. Please don't completely write me off. I'm sorry, Mr. Bourdain. And Colicchio. And all the rest of you. Ha!

Sprinkle with sumac, spritz with some lime juice, dress with the sauce, and dive in. The chicken and the sauce were very salty, so I'm glad I tasted it before slathering it on. With restraint, it was salty in the best possible way.
I always avoid eye contact and hold my breath whenever Batman tries something new. He's getting better about eating a variety of food, but it's been historically difficult. He accused me of putting vegetables in it to turn it yellow. I assured him there were no vegetables in the chicken. He tasted it, and declared it "really good! Salty! Like french fries!" I'd say there was a bit more of a spicy nuance there, but whatever--he ate it! No complaints!

He asked if it was Indian food.
I said, "No, Persian."
He said, "Does that mean it's from Paris?"
"I said, "No, it's from Iran."
He chewed, and nodded, and said, "Cool. I miss Paris. That place was really big, and we ate a lot of dessert there."

We sure did. Paris, in a nutshell.

Conclusion: Loved it. I wish that I'd made double, so I could have leftovers on a salad for lunch tomorrow. This will definitely be a repeat.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Wrapping Up, and Up Next

Part of my problem here is that I'm a cookbook hoarder. Do I want to get rid of Nom Nom Paleo? No, because I never want to get rid of any of my books. Do I see myself using it often in the future? Not really. If I had taken it out of the library, would I run out to buy it? Definitely not. So where does that leave me? Nowhere conclusive.

I'll probably hang on to it for the time being, until I absolutely have to get rid of something if I want to buy a new book. It's going to be first to go, when the time comes, though.

Next up! I've had this book for a few years, and have not cooked a single thing from it. Oops. That mistake must be remedied, asap. I'm excited for this one!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Am I Missing Something?

I want so badly to love this cookbook. It's cute and cheerful and it puts me in a good mood to flip through it. I've heard so many great things about it online, and from personal recommendations--one of my friends said "It got me through my first Whole30." That's a pretty big deal! I'm just not happy with how the food is turning out. Maybe I have different tastes than the author, who seems so delightedly enthusiastic about her recipes.

Then again, there is a little cartoon version of her kid with a comic book bubble coming out of his mouth, saying, "Watermelon is better than candy!" Batman took one look at that, scoffed, and said, "That kid ain't eating the right candy."

a) I died laughing.
b) He's totally right, and that level of fervor is something I need to bear in mind. I'll bet Michelle Tam and her family really do love these recipes that much. They also like watermelon better than candy, though, so, different.

First up, I had all the ingredients for Citrus Vinaigrette, so I went ahead and made that. For some reason, I expected zest to be involved. It wasn't. This is just lemon juice, orange juice, dijon, salt, pepper, and olive oil. The only thing that differentiates it from 1000 other dressings is the orange juice, which I can't even taste in the finished product. I expected this to be bright and identifiably citrus. Nope. Tasted like any other lemon/mustard based dressing. Needs zest, man.
Conclusion: Meh. Just okay.

Next up, Slow-Poached Magic Tuna. This caught my eye every time I flipped through the book, because magic. I like tuna, and I've never poached it in olive oil before, so I decided to give it a shot. I hesitated for a minute when I realized that I needed to make Magic Mushroom Powder first.

Magic Mushroom Powder is dried porcini mushrooms, blitzed with salt and other spices in the food processor. I hesitated because I've been rationing out the dried porcini that I brought back from our tour in Italy, and I was down to my last bag, and because, in general, they're expensive, so with the tuna, this was becoming a pricey meal.

I got suckered in by the description: "This spice blend is truly magical--and one of my most sought-after secrets...this stuff is powdered umami in a jar...sprinkle some of this flavorful dust on anything you cook, and bask in the admiring gaze of your dinner guests."

How do you not make that?

I should have saved my mushrooms for risotto.

It's a mushroomy powder. I don't know what else to say about it. Here's the thing. I don't think mushroom is a great flavor for "anything you cook." I certainly didn't love it on tuna.

Also, during the blitz, my kitchen filled with airborn mushroom particulate. Nugget and I could not stop sneezing. Pretty sure it's lodged in my lungs like asbestos now. Should have been more delicious for all that.

I have an entire mason jar full of this stuff now, and I don't honestly know what to do with it. She recommends sprinkling it on kale chips. I guess that could be okay.

Conclusion: Just okay
That purple sweet potato was bomb, though.
Now, as for that tuna. I cooked this according to her timing. It was gray all the way through. The oil was not infused with Magic Mushroom Powder in any delicious way. She says that the leftovers, stored in the braising liquid, will keep for a week. I tried to put some on a salad today for lunch, took one bite, and dumped it. Apparently, tuna gets reeeeeeal fishy when it's sitting in your fridge.

Conclusion: The price point tips this from Just Okay to Dislike.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Why Does That Kid Look So Happy?

Two recipes to report! The first is short and sweet. In the pictures in the book, Carrot + Cardamom Soup looks fresh and pretty. Mine looks quite unappetizing. No description necessary...
I added chicken, because carrot soup is not a meal.
That said, it tasted good. Nothing earth-shattering, but I seem to like anything with cardamom in it. Batman stubbornly sat, not eating, for an hour and a half. He said, "It's fine, if I could just get this flavor off my tongue." O-kaaaaay. When I told him it was time to get ready for bed, he finally ate it really quickly, saying that now that he'd let it sit, it tasted better, and he liked it as much as cauliflower soup. He advised that I write "let it rest a long time" into the directions. No.

Conclusion: Liked it.

In hopes that it would be a crowd-pleaser, I made Chicken Nuggets yesterday. The recipe has you brine chicken breasts, coat them in arrowroot powder, which I happened to have (WHY was this in my pantry??), and fry them in a cup of ghee. DO I LOOK LIKE I'M MADE OF MONEY? I couldn't bring myself to waste an entire cup of ghee on frying some chicken nuggets, so I used vegetable oil, ensuring paleo/whole30 ostracization. Spell check is telling me ostracization is not a word. I like it, though, and I'm keeping it. Now I'm banished by grammar purists. I'm on a roll today. (I just drank extra coffee. Can you tell?)

I had serious qualms about the nuggets while they were frying, because parts seemed crispy, but other parts were gummy. Like, melted cheese stretching between the tongs and the nugget type of gummy. In the book, the nuggets are golden. Mine mostly stayed white. Eaten immediately, the coating was surprisingly crisp.
This is my "this toddler is trying to kill himself while I cook dinner, I don't have time for vegetables!!!" plate.
However, these were overwhelmingly salty. The only salt was from the brine. Was I supposed to rinse the meat before I used it? The instructions didn't say to. I thought it was just me, but even Batman said they were "good, but TOO salty." We both actually felt sick to our stomachs after dinner, and he didn't want the leftovers for lunch today. I'm definitely bloated today, and chugging as much water as I can. I don't know what happened here. I can't imagine they are supposed to be like this. Batman looked at the cookbook while I was cleaning up and asked, "Why does that kid look so happy? Why doesn't his stomach hurt?" I don't know, buddy. I really don't.

Also, by the time i wrapped up the leftovers, the arrowroot coating had turned soft and gummy again.

Conclusion: No. No, no, no. A solid Disliked.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Vietnamese Lettuce Cups

Last week, I made Vietnamese Lettuce Cups, with Quick-Pickled Carrot Strings from Nom Nom Paleo. Nothing crazy was going on in this recipe, so I was pretty confident that it would be more edible than that meatloaf. I'm still not over the meatloaf.
Pretty standard.

The main flavors were fish sauce, lime juice, cilantro, mint, and basil. I felt like they needed a little extra something. Some heat? I suppose that's why she recommends eating them with Paleo Sriracha. I'd already made some pickled carrots for this (which were very good.) I didn't have time to make condiments, as well. More of everything might have also helped. That said, the kids both ate this mixed with brown rice, and didn't complain. My favorite part about them was the crunchy little sweet bits of diced apple. They were a lovely surprise.
Seriously. Go eat your own.
The portion size on this seemed off to me. Matt was away, so I fed myself and two children, but had less than a cup of meat leftover. This is supposed to feed 4. I assume those 4 people are intended to be adults? I mean, I don't think this is meant to be served as a component of a meal. It's the whole meal, right? Ground pork and lettuce and carrots is NOT FILLING.

Conclusion: I liked the Quick Pickled Carrot Strings, but thought the Vietnamese Lettuce Cups were Just Okay.