• Mushroom Ragout With Fried Duck Eggs

    Mushroom Ragout with Fried Duck Eggs.

    Mushroom Ragout with Fried Duck Eggs.

    Happy Halloween! Go Sox! And way to go Koji! My kids have a new favorite (non-Giant) player. What a Series…now back to business.

    Most of the time when we blog about a dish it was a success. We make plenty of good, average or just “meh” dishes that don’t merit sharing, or at least need some serious tuning before we unleash them on the blogosphere. Over time, we’ve become a very self-critical bunch (the kids can’t help it, if they don’t like something it is very clear). This is a good thing, a little truthful feedback goes a long way, and we continue to improve as cooks. However, this means the bar for a dish to be “blogworthy” grows ever higher.

    shroom4shroom5So while we are sharing this dish, we will say up front that it may or may not be worth the work (it depends on how much you like mushrooms). But we will share the recipe because one of the major components of the dish really did sing, and we will use it again. That part is porcini mushroom stock. With Thanksgiving coming up, we will use this stock for a number of dishes- and they will rock. Someone is bound to say that “this gravy goes to eleven”….;-)

    shroom6shroom7shroom8And the porcini stock did help with this adaptation of a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe. Basically a deconstructed / modernized Stroganoff, this dish combines browned mushrooms, garlicky croutons and a sauce of porcini stock and sour cream. Topped with a poached or fried duck egg (we like to fry the eggs, your choice), you get a rich, flavorful dish with a range of textures. Good, but a bit of a fuss for what ends up in the bowl.

    shroom9shroom10The fuss here is that you have to soak dried porcini for the stock, then make your own croutons (good but 15 minutes), brown the mushrooms in batches (better browning, but a pain in the a**), make and reduce the porcini stock, fry the eggs, finish the sauce and serve. A simple dish made not so simple- Ottolenghi does this to you sometimes. And sometimes it’s worth it and sometimes…..not so much. Such is life.

    shroom12shroom13shroom14But we did get the Porcini stock, and that made everything worthwhile. All you do is soak 1/2 ounce of dried porcini in a cup of hot water for 30 minutes, strain the liquid (discard the porcini), add some water, mirepoix, thyme and a bit of seasoning. Simmer for about 20 minutes and then adjust seasoning. What you get is a balanced, sweet and flavorful stock with clear umami notes. This stuff beats any veggie stock and is better than most chicken or beef stock. And it takes a lot less time to make than most homemade stock.

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  • Sweet Corn Polenta With Eggplant Sauce

    Sweet Corn Polenta With Eggplant Sauce.

    Sweet Corn Polenta With Eggplant Sauce.

    Yes, another vegetable recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi, but this one has more to do with what is going on in our garden than anything. We have eggplant, lots and lots of eggplant. Why? That is very good question. Most years we get a few eggplant, but this year they are taking off. Zucchini and cukes are behind, tomatoes are also slow (even with the heat) but the eggplant are taking over half of a large bed. Gardening always surprises. At least as surprises go, this is of the “pleasant” variety.

    polenta4polenta5polenta6So now we have all these eggplant and need a recipe. Carolyn simply said, “I bet YO has an eggplant recipe”. And, of course, he did. Even better, it combines eggplant with tomatoes and sweet summer corn in a “fresh” polenta dish. We don’t grow our own corn (some epic, EPIC, fails with corn in our past) but there is good local corn at the farmers market so we figured we would try out this dish, and we are glad we did.

    polenta7polenta8This recipe is really two dishes. The first is a corn polenta where you cook fresh corn kernels, then process them and add a bunch of butter and feta cheese. You get something like mashed potatoes with the sweet flavor of good polenta but with a creamy, light(er) consistency. The sauce combines fried eggplant with tomatoes in a quick reduction that yields sweet rich flavors. These dishes are good in combination, but either would work on its own. We served the left over polenta with a bit of bacon and green onion and it was very good. As for the sauce, you could easily serve it with rice or pasta.

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  • Cucumber Salad With Smashed Garlic And Ginger

    Cucumber Salad With Smashed Garlic And Ginger.

    Cucumber Salad With Smashed Garlic And Ginger.

    Yotam, meet Nancy. Nancy, this is Yotam. You are separated by thousands of miles, but we think you will get along just fine…we certainly hope so.

    One of the fun things about cooking and blogging is the volume of recipes we read and cook (we have a obsession thing with cookbooks). And sometimes when we are cooking one recipe, another recipe jumps into our heads as a potential compliment (then again, sometimes we have to look around for a while). In this case we adapted a recipe for Sashimi With Hot Rice and Broth from Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s book “Japanese Farm Food“, and this recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” immediately came to mind as our salad. We hoped for a good fit.

    cukecuke1The fish was a simple, warm, umami-bomb of a dish (but oh so good). We wanted a salad that complimented the savory umami flavors but was also cool and crisp. Few things are as cool as a cucumber (ugh), so we pulled out this recipe that added a serious dose of ginger, onions and garlic to the cukes with a big splash of a rice wine vinegar and sesame oil-based dressing. A very good recipe and one that we would have just as likely seen in Singleton’s cookbook as Ottolenghi’s. Either way, they seemed like a natural match.

    cuke6cuke7cuke4And they were quite complimentary. The ginger, onion and garlic are marinated in the dressing for a bit, so you still get their flavor with the cukes, but the harder, hotter edges are taken away. Sesame seeds and cilantro add some depth (we think peanuts would also be good) so the first bite was as good as the last. And the final benefit was timing, this salad was easy to make and took about the same time to prepare as the sashimi in broth. An excellent salad and a good foil to any flavorful or savory main dish.

    cuke8cuke9cuke10The only downside of this salad is that, even if the rough edges are smoothed, you are still using crushed raw garlic. It sticks with you for a while. I went to a town council meeting later that night and bet that sitting next to me wasn’t a real treat (or was worse than normal). And when I spoke I could almost see the council member’s eyes water. I would like to think it was my moving oratory at work, but I suspect it was something else… 😉

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  • Smoky Cauliflower Frittata

    Smoky Cauliflower Frittata.

    Smoky Cauliflower Frittata.

    frit2We almost never do this, but we are enjoying Yotam Ottolenghi’s (YO) cookbook “Plenty” so much that we are posting another recipe. This wasn’t exactly by plan, but we like this recipe a lot and have the photos, so why not? And the other new cookbook we are working from that will go nameless Nigella, isn’t working out quite as well- at least, not yet. But if this keeps up, YO may end up in Alice Waters’ territory as far as being a “go-to” source for vegetable recipes. In our part of the world that is lofty company (although we gather that this wouldn’t be a surprise in the UK).

    frit6frit7Oddly enough, this frittata is more about the eggs and cheese than the cauliflower, but it is easy to make and tastes good (and the vegetables give at least the appearance of a healthy dish). That makes us happy. And using scamorza (smoked mozzarella) makes us even happier. This cheese melts evenly and has smoky, but clean, flavor that works incredibly well with the sweet, caramelized cauliflower. And YO then adds some smoked paprika and aged cheddar to accent the scamorza even more. If you haven’t tried smoked mozzarella, this recipe is worth a try. We bet you will want to use it in other recipes.

    frit8frit9frit10The other key to this dish is that YO uses crème fraîche, Dijon mustard and chives in the egg mixture (we added a little tarragon, as well). This adds sharp, herbal and tangy notes that cut the richness of the overall dish (even as the crème fraîche adds a good dose of fat). It’s these little things that make a big difference in the final dish. Without a little tang, this recipe might be all smoky cheese and eggs, good on the first bite, but probably overwhelming as a main dish. But those brighter notes make for a dish that is good from beginning to end. And if you serve this frittata with a nice green salad with a basic vinaigrette, the balance is even better.

    frit11frit12frit13Another good thing about this dish is that it is quick and easy. It will take about 30 minutes total, without a bunch of work. The only extra step is to boil the cauliflower a few minutes before you caramelize it. But this does soften the cauliflower and give you an even texture, so we think the work is worth it. And since the rest is so easy, you barely notice the extra work. Otherwise, this is frittata 101. Start it on the stove top, finish in the oven, let it cool just a bit and serve. A good payoff for the time spent. Happy Monday.

    frit14Smoky Cauliflower Frittata:

    (Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty“)

    Notes Before You Start:

    What You Get: An easy dinner with extra flavor. A perfect weeknight dish.

    What You Need: No special equipment required.

    How Long? About 30 minutes, and an easy 30 minutes, at that. Anytime dish.


    (Serves 4-6 as a main dish)

    • 1 medium cauliflower cut into small florets
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 6 large eggs
    • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche
    • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
    • 2 teaspoons sweet, smoked paprika
    • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
    • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon (optional)
    • 5 oz. scamorza or smoked mozzarella, including the smoky rind, grated
    • 2 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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  • Royal Potato Salad

    potatopotato3Well, if it’s “Royal” it has to be good. And it is. Very. But we do smirk at the name of the recipe. It comes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s (YO) cookbook “Plenty“. If you are unfamiliar with “YO” he is the hottest vegetarian cookbook author of the moment (he isn’t a vegetarian, but he’s rolling- we jokingly call him “the vegetable whisperer”.) And if you sense a bit of intense jealousy suspicion, you are might be right. But good food is good food, and this recipe is a winner. We aren’t proud, if a dish tastes good, we will make it. Often, if the kids like it.

    potato5potato4And many of the recipes in the cookbook are true winners. There are also some recipes that require way, WAY, too much work for what you might get- but for the most part we are big fans. And YO does know his flavors. But, like many restaurant chefs, YO will ask you to do work that simply isn’t worth it, but looks/sounds good at the time. Chefs do that sometimes. Chefs are not home cooks, and they just can’t help themselves.

    potato6potato7In this case YO asks you to make a very tasty potato salad with a bright pesto sauce and peas, but then adds halved, soft-boiled quail eggs. We like quail eggs, and used them in the recipe, but you can’t tell us that quartered hard-boiled chicken eggs wouldn’t work just as well (maybe better). And after you try to peel a dozen quail eggs, you might agree. But maybe that is what makes the recipe “royal”….whatever. (Actually it is named after Jersey Royal potatoes…but why let the facts get in the way of some good snark?)

    potato9potato10As for the rest of the recipe, this is the good stuff. Boiled waxy potatoes with a herbaceous, not too garlicky pesto, peas and soft-boiled eggs is a lovely dish. We did adapt the recipe for more herbs, particularly parsley, in the pesto. But this is where you can play around to fit your tastes. But what you get is a mix of bright, earthy, sweet, herbal and umami flavors along with soft and slightly crunchy textures. If this sounds like a restaurant-quality dish, that’s because it is. We have come to accept that YO is truly a “vegetable whisperer”.

    potato11potato13potato14potato15Royal Potato Salad:

    (Adapted from “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi)

    Notes Before You Start:

    You need “waxy” new potato varieties, or Yukon Golds in a pinch. Russets will not work here, as they will fall apart.

    You can play with the proportions of parsley and basil in this recipe. If your basil is fresh and flavorful, lead with it. Otherwise go with more parsley, it makes for very good pesto.


    (serves 4-6)

    • 10 quail eggs or 4 chicken eggs
    • 1 cup frozen peas
    • 2 pounds new or “waxy” potatoes
    • 3/4 cup basil leaves
    • 3/4 cup Italian parsley (plus more for garnish)
    • 1/3 cup pine nuts
    • 1/2 cup, about 2 oz. grated parmesan cheese
    • 1 clove garlic, lightly crushed
    • 1 cup olive oil
    • Dash of vinegar
    • 1 bunch (handful) mint leaves, shredded
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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