vegetable barley soup with the taste of little india

Ah jet lag, how I loath thee. I woke up this morning to the combined insult of day 2 jet lag and day 1 of European daylight savings time. I’m more than a tad grouchy. Which makes it difficult for me to soften the blow that was last week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India. I made it before I left for a business trip, thinking that my husband could enjoy the leftovers while I was away. Nope, not so much. He ate half a bowl and then went looking for something else. I didn’t even ask what he did with the leftovers while I was gone.

No worries, he doesn’t seem to be permanently scarred. He’s already asking when I’m going to make next week’s recipe. I think he’s gotten wind that it will be a dessert.

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scallop and onion tartes fines

Can’t win em all. Right? This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Scallop and Onion Tartes Fines, was a rather resounding miss in my house. Not sure why. I enjoy all of the ingredients separately and probably would have enjoyed them as caramelized onion tartes fines without the scallops, or as sauteed scallops without the tartes. But somehow they just didn’t work together for me.

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In fairness, we didn’t follow the recipe exactly. Dorie calls for the scallops to spend only a few minutes in the oven, just until warm. However, when I took the still raw scallops out of the oven after the appointed time, my husband expressed his rather strong objections to eating sushi for dinner. So back into the oven they went for a quick stint under the broiler. Not sure if they would have been better uncooked, but good food which nobody wants to eat isn’t helping anyone.

On the plus side, the only ingredients which I had to buy for this recipe were the scallops and pancetta. It seems that since joining French Fridays with Dorie, I always have a package of puff pastry in freezer. Which got me thinking about the foods which Dorie has introduced into my life. Because she’s also the reason that I have cardamom pods in my FFwD106 005spice drawer and pistachio oil in my fridge. None of these are things that I ever had in my kitchen before joining FFwD and are now kitchen staples. So, what about you? What has Dorie introduced to your kitchens? Anything that you couldn’t imagine doing without? I think that I would start going into withdrawal if my pistachio oil ran out.

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sausage-stuffed poussins

So, spring arrived some weeks ago in Frankfurt. The daffodils and cherry trees are in full bloom and I’ve already witnessed the first crazy guy in short sleeves. For those of you from the south who may not be familiar with this particular crazy guy, let me explain. This is a phenomenon anyone who lives in northern climes will be familiar with. Every year after a long and cold winter the sun will momentarily peek from behind a cloud and, though the temps may still be cold enough to see your breath, some crazy guy (sorry to generalize here but it’s usually a man) will have a stoke of optimism and head out in his shorts and tee shirt.

In the spirit of spring my husband and I have embarked on a mammoth cleaning effort. There is a method, or at least a reason, to our madness. We’re moving! Not far. Actually, only 2 blocks away. Unfortunately, the short distance does not seem to make the packing and unpacking any less tiresome or any less expensive. Which is why we’re in the process of purging all the stuff which we never use and don’t need. This includes cook books! Yes, I have ever so bravely put together a pile of 10 cookbooks which I haven’t used once since I paid for them to be shipped from the US to Germany 7 years ago. Sad really. But no worries, I still have 2 full bookshelves piled high.

To be honest, Dorie’s book rarely ever even makes it to shelf because it always seems to be in use. Either I’m cooking from it or looking up ingredients for my grocery list or browsing it to see which recipes I should vote for next month. It gets a lot of use that book and I have to say that it’s held up impressively well. Which is a good thing because we still have quite a few recipes to go.

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But one more which we can check off the list is this past week’s Sausage-Stuffed Cornish Hens. I knew in advance that this one was going to be a winner because I love cornish hens (or poussins, or stubenk√ľken, or whatever is available in your neck of the woods) and I really can’t think of a single recipe from this chapter which I haven’t liked.

The recipe was a fairly simple preparation and I turned it into a one pot meal by throwing some brussels sprouts around the birdies before they went into the oven. The brussels sprouts were tasty, the little hens were juicy and delicious and the stuffing was quite good as well. I might remain partial to the spatcocked method, but this was darn good and yet another winning poultry recipe from our Dorie.

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two tartines

I served this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Two Tartines from La Croix Rouge, for breakfast. Here’s why that’s not weird.

So I’m sure everyone has encountered the occasional continental breakfast in their lifetime. Usually these are fairly lackluster hotel affairs which leave you wondering why you bothered. But, have you ever wondered why the name “continental” is applied? Well, over in Europe they have the Brits and the Irish out there on their islands, and then there’s the continent. On the islands breakfast was traditionally a fairly hearty affair. I have enjoyed many an Irish and English breakfast. I particularly like the beans which feature in the English version. It sounds so out of place, but they are really very tasty. And then there was what the Brits referred to as continental breakfast, which, logically, is what one got for breakfast when visiting the continent.

Over time the term seems to have been abused and expanded to cover a multitude of sins, but the traditional continental breakfast is made up of bread, cheese, sliced meats (usually ham), yogurt, fruit, juice, and coffee or tea. Maybe a hard boiled egg, but nothing fancier. And, while I can’t speak for the rest of the continent, this is indeed a fairly standard breakfast offering around these parts. The key, as with so many things, lies in the ingredients. And where can you find better bread and cheese than on the continent?

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This is why I read this week’s recipe and instantly thought, breakfast! My husband didn’t even bat an eye. My local deli had 4 different kinds of salmon, 10 different kinds of ham (!), and exactly one small offering of roast beef, hidden away in the back. That should give you an idea of local tastes. We bought two of the salmons, settled for any roast beef we could get, and considered ourselves lucky.

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And may I just say, breakfast was delicious!

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garbure from the supermarket

The problem with Fridays is that I’m always hungry. Here’s the deal, my husband and I do our weekly grocery shopping on Saturday morning. This is no coincidence. German shops tend to have idyllic opening hours (for the shopkeepers anyway) and basically Saturday morning is the only time when my work schedule and their opening hours don’t clash. Our usual routine is to cook a big meal on Sunday night and then survive off leftovers and whatever else we bought for as long as possible. This usually gets us through Wednesday. By Thursday we’re down to bread & cheese or take-out. By Friday the cupboards are bare and we go out to eat.

So why am I always hungry on Fridays? Because I usually come home from work a little earlier and then check up on French Fridays with Dorie while I’m waiting for my husband to get home so that we can go to eat. And here I sit, writing and reading and drooling over all the delicious posts. Remembering how tasty the recipe was, mentally planning what I’m going to order when we finally make it to the restaurant. And re-checking the fridge, because surely some scrap of cheese must have escaped notice the last time I checked.

That should give you an idea of my current state as I type up this week’s recipe, Garbure from the Supermarket. And since we’re on the subject of supermarkets, do any of you shop at a supermarket which stocks duck confit? Because if so, I want to live where you do. The title of this recipe gave me the false impression that it was one of those dishes made with easy to find ingredients. Not so! I had to settle for a duck leg in the end.

Good lord, just listed to all that whining! Okay, I’m done now. The garbure was not an easy recipe to shop for and it took some time to get together once home too. But the end result was darn tasty. It’s a big, meaty pot of rib-sticking goodness. The phrase “French chili” actually came to my mind when I was making it. And, if we hadn’t thrown half of it in the freezer, I would probably still have plenty to keep my hunger at bay tonight.

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twofer

Today it’s two February French Fridays (on a Sunday) for the price of one. Yeah, I’m running a little behind this month.

First up, this past week’s recipe, Butter and rum Crepes. Now, maybe it’s the Vermonter in me, but I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to pancakes. Butter and maple syrup is the gold standard (real maple syrup in case there was ever any question). I occasionally enjoy nuts or fresh fruit thrown into the mix. And my favorite crepe topping is sugar and fresh lemon juice. It may not stand out to you when reviewing the menu at a crepe stand (my husband usually goes for nutella), but I assure you that it’s delicious. All of those fussed up custard filled this and chocolate & ice cream topped that, doesn’t interest me at all. It’s breakfast, not a bloody ice cream sundae.

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So, rum crepes filled with lemon curd and topped with a citrus butter sauce? Sounded a little fussy to me. And it was. Especially to make. But the lemon curd was a big hit. I wasn’t a big fan of it on my crepes. But I absolutely LOVED it mixed into my yogurt. That I will make again. The crepes and the sauce, not so much.

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Next, a recipe from earlier in the month, Boeuf a la Ficelle, or Beef on a String. A classic example of how just about anything sounds fancier in French. I mean, who is going to order “beef on a string” off of a restaurant menu?

The prep for this one made the crepes look easy by comparison. First we had to make our own beef broth. Mine was a bit bland because my bones didn’t have much marrow in them and I had to beef it up a bit (no pun intended) with some demi glace. Next time I’ll either pay closer attention or take the lazy route and buy some at the store. Next, we cooked a pile of veggies and finally a full beef tenderloin in the broth. The whole idea sounded weird. Really weird.

But it didn’t taste weird. It tasted delicious! The meat was perfectly done and the veggies and broth rounded out the meal nicely. We enjoyed the leftovers the second day and then on the third day I made Dorie’s Next-Day Beef Salad. Also delicious! Looking forward to making that one again when it comes up on the FFwD roster.

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fondu and all-white salad

No, not together.

Last week I was high up in the mountains, enjoying a week of cheese, cheese, and more cheese. Seriously. The local specialties in the French Alps are Fondu (bread dipped in melted cheese), Raclette (bread and/or potatoes topped with melted cheese), Tartiflette (potato & melted cheese casserole), baked Mont d’Or (more cheese)… let’s just say, not a vacation destination for the lactose intolerant.

Luckily for me, I can tolerate pretty much anything. Unluckily for me, the weather was not ideal for skiing:-( Which meant that we had quite a bit of free time to kill. The television in our rental was all in French. The internet connection got progressively worse as the week wore on. But take a look at our kitchen! It was easily twice as large and much better equipped than my little kitchen here in Frankfurt. So, what did we do? We learned to make fondu.

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The first attempt was not a success. I followed a very basic recipe from David Lebovitz and, while the flavor was good, it never really came together into the right consistency. The second time I asked for some advice from the lady selling me the cheese and added the cheese to the pot slowly, one handful at a time. And, oh my! The fondu was perfect! Creamy, delicious, perfect!

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But, after a week of too little skiing and too much cheese, I was very happy to return to find that this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Helene’s All-White Salad, was high on vegetables and low on dairy. My husband, however, was less enthused. I believe, “looks interesting” was his comment. And then he asked what else we were going to have for dinner. Sheesh! Tough crowd.

In order to make the salad more husband-compliant, I used endives instead of the dreaded celery and added a poached chicken breast to beef it up a bit. Still white-ish and still delicious. Even the husband thought so.

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