I got a free issue of Cook's Illustrated last week, and decided to try a recipe from there. I couldn't find an issue number or date or anything on it, I think it may be a strictly promotional issue that they send to people they are trying to get to subscribe and not available regularly.

I made the pissaladiere since the way they described making the dough completely in the food processor in less than a minute intrigued me-- for the pizza dough I usually make I mix it by hand and knead it. So I was curious how this would turn out.

I think the recipe was good, I'm pretty sure mine turned out as it was meant to. But I think I prefer my own pizza dough to the pissaladiere dough (it is not supposed to be exactly like pizza dough, so it's just a matter of personal preference which one any person prefers). It doesn't taste like pizza at all, since there is neither cheese nor tomato sauce, but rather olives, anchovies, and lots of caramelized onions. Terry and I really liked the combination of flavors (we put anchovies and olives on pizza all the time), and the caramelized onions really were a change of pace from what I usually cook when I don't use a recipe.

Of course the reason I don't use caramelized onions much is that they take nearly 30 minutes to cook, standing at the stove stirring most of the time, and I don't have great patience for that. But I'll probably go back to this recipe from time-to-time, even if it's not going to become one of my go-to recipes.

Here's the Wikipedia entry for pissaladiere:

Pissaladiere or Pissaladina (pissaladiera Occitan pronunciation: [pisalaˈdjerɔ] in Provençal, "piscialandrea" in Ligurian) is a pizza-like dish made in southern France, around the Nice, Marseilles, Toulon and the Var District, and in the Italian region of Liguria, especially in the Imperia district. Believed to have been introduced to the area by Roman cooks during the time of the Avignon Papacy, it can be considered a type of white pizza, as no tomatoes are used. The dough is usually a bread dough thicker than that of the classic Italian pizza (although a pâte brisée is sometimes used instead), and the traditional topping consist of sauteed (almost pureed) onions, olives, garlic and anchovies (either whole or in the form of pissalat, a type of anchovy paste). No cheese is used in France; however in the nearby Italian town of San Remo, mozzarella is added. Now served as an appetizer, it was traditionally cooked and sold early each morning.

America's Test Kitchen Strawberry Shortcake

I've had a bit of a sweet tooth lately, and have been working my way through the desserts in my new cookbook from America's Test Kitchen (there are several chapters with dessert recipes!). The latest I've tried is the strawberry shortcake, pictured above.

This is actually a very simple recipe-- the only thing the least bit fussy is the biscuit, and even then it didn't take long to make. Plus, you can prepare both the strawberries and the unbaked biscuits up to two hours in advance (although I made them five hours in advance and they still turned out well). The biscuits take only 14 minutes in the oven (which should be preheated, so I guess that adds a little time), then 10 minutes to cool. While they are cooling is a great time to make the whipped cream.

It turned out exactly like the photo in the cookbook, and was delicious. Although from a personal taste perspective, I may prefer the more common strawberries-on-cake to the more traditional strawberries-on-biscuit.

But the technique I've learned from this recipe, even if I revert to strawberries-on-cake in the future is to mash 3/8 of the strawberries and slice 5/8 of the strawberries to make the perfect filling. I used to just slice them all, but it really does make it juicier and better with a portion of them mashed up.

Seafood Bread

This was pretty easy to make, yet I think makes for an impressive presentation. Best of all, it can be prepared in advanced and refrigerated, then baked later, making it an excellent choice for a dinner party. I used the recipe in my "Julia & Jacques" cookbook as a guide (here's a link to the book-- I highly recommend it!):

But you really don't need a recipe, per se, here's the concept. First bake a boule (whatever size is appropriate for the number of servings you'd like to make). This time I made a full-size loaf. In the future, I may make mini-loaves, then stuff and freeze them and try heating them from frozen and see if that works out.

Next, cut the top off the loaf and scoop out the inside of the bread. Process it into crumbs.

Make herb butter (easiest in the food processor). For a loaf this size, I used about 1.5 sticks of butter, a small bunch of parsley, 4 garlic cloves, a handful of sliced almonds, and 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp salt, and 3T pinot grigio. I had a little butter left over, which will get used up on the top of the loaf of bread (not used for the recipe) when we eat that as a snack.

Use a spatula to spread herb butter all around the inside of the loaf. Add a layer of fish (I used the fake crab fish, figuring if it tastes fine with that, it'll be even better with real fish. Besides, I had a bunch in the fridge to use up, and was tired of cold salad). Add a layer of chopped mushrooms over the fish. Add another layer of fish.

Use the spatula to spread another layer of herb butter to cover the fish. Lastly, completely cover the butter with the breadcrumbs taken from the middle of the loaf. Then moisten the breadcrumbs with 1/4 cup pinot grigio (or whatever wine you used to make the herb butter).

Bake for at least 1 hour in an oven which has been preheated to 400F. Cut into wedges, and serve.

Next time, I will probably use salmon, and flavor the butter with dill. I think this concept would also work pretty well with chicken. Maybe season the butter with tarragon for that. In the cookbook, Jacques uses a combination of different fish and squid. I'm sure it's delicious, but I usually can't be bothered fussing with a lot of ingredients, so I'll probably mostly stick to simpler combinations of fillings.

I might also try this as a vegetarian entree for summer, when we have a lot of garden vegetables, maybe throw some beans in there for protein, maybe a little cheese right under the breadcrumbs. The combinations are endless, really.

Rhubarb Rosemary Jelly is Deeeelicious!

I followed this recipe from kitchenparade.com to make rhubarb rosemary jelly. Except I used 1.5 lbs of rhubarb and adjusted everything up proportionally. It wound up being just a little too gelatinous to be perfect, so I'll add more water next time. I think I did cook the rhubarb mix longer than the recipe indicated, so I may have condensed it too much so it's likely to be a cooking execution problem more than a recipe problem. Plus, I've never made jelly with gelatin before (I've always added pectin) so I was just hoping for the best and waiting to see what happened.

Nevertheless, this jelly turned out be really delicious! I am not a huge fan of rhubarb, but since T planted some last year, it's fairly well-established now and we are rolling in the stuff, so I'm just trying different recipes to discover what I like.

This jelly is definitely going to the top of the list! I'll make another batch either later this week or this month, and I'll put it into smaller jars and give them out as gifts. It's that good, and something you can't readily buy in stores.

In my opinion, the only reason to make your own jelly (or sew your own clothes for that matter) is to acquire something that is either completely unavailable in the marketplace, or is available but prohibitively expensive. I could probably find rhubarb rosemary jelly available somewhere but my guess is that after shipping costs are figured I'd wind up paying $15 or more for a jar of the stuff. And here the rhubarb and rosemary are free, and it only takes about an hour of my time start-to-finish, and I get 2 quarts. If I pick more rhubarb, I could make a larger batch without increasing the time and effort too much.

T pointed out that one needs to figure the time and cost to plant the rhubarb in the first place, but I argue that we don't, since it's a sunk cost. That rhubarb is growing in the garden like gangbusters, without any particular care or fertilizer, and it's taking over its patch of earth without any input from us now, whether we harvest it or not. So this year, it's free. Same with the rosemary. I' haven't touched that plant other than to harvest from it for years, and it's a monster. Around 3' high and 4' wide. Pretty scraggly-looking, but still delicious, so I let it remain in place for now.

Anyway, this post has started rambling when all I really wanted to do was direct you to the awesome recipe for rhubarb rosemary jelly. I recommend it to anyone. I eat it on toast, and it's delicious. Haven't tried it with peanut butter, but it just might work in a pbj sandwich, too. . .


  Lamb Breast (Recipe)

In an effort to use up the lamb in our freezer, I decided at random to defrost the packages of "lamb breast". The packs were about 5" x 14" x 1/2". I tried to imagine the physique of a lamb and figured the breast meat would be a thin fillet, like chicken breast. I figured I would slice the breast meat thinly on the bias and pan fry it with onions and serve it over noodles.

But when the meat was defrosted and I opened the package, it was not as I had imagined. What was labeled lamb breast looked to me like spareribs. I decided to go online to figure out what to do with it. I reviewed four or five recipes, and decided to go with a variation of this one.

There was another reference site that very helpfully had photographs of the three different cuts that are all commonly labeled lamb breast. They do indeed include rib bones, but it's just not always called ribs when it is sourced from lamb (although "Denver ribs" was a term that could be used. . .). The two basic options are to braise the ribs or marinate and grill them. I've been braising a lot of meat lately, so I was ready for a change. Plus I happened to have 1.5 fresh lemons on hand, so it was a sign that I should use the opportunity to marinade.

The marinade I created was 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 2 tsp dried oregano. That was enough for two racks (breasts?) of the size I mentioned above. I got them to fit in a gallon ziplock bag and marinated them overnight in the fridge.

Today I fired up my stovetop grill, which basically involved preheating it (it's a cast-iron grill on one side, griddle on the other) over two burners for about 5-10 minutes. I sprayed some oil on it (after burning the fibers in my pastry brush trying to brush oil onto it-- doh!), and put the meat flesh-side down on the grill to char. The meat had been warming to room temperature the same time the grill was being preheated.

While the meat was cooking, I rinsed and drained two cans of chickpeas and put them in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan (along with a handful of leftover kidney beans). I added about 1/2 of a chopped white onion, then salted and peppered the beans & onions. Once the meat had suitably attractive grill marks and the outside was seared nicely, I put the racks atop the beans in the pan, and baked it at 350F for 1.5 hours.

The chickpeas wound up getting a bit crunchy during that time, but had nice flavor (the kidney beans remained tender). The meat came off the bone relatively easily (much like pork ribs), but did not taste at all like either beef or pork ribs. I think this is the first time I've had this cut of lamb, so it's a bit exciting for me to try something new. Nor did it taste quite like the braised lamb dishes I've been making lately, so it was a nice change of pace.

It was not a difficult technique, but the marinade does require advance preparation, one of the reasons I rarely use marinades. Advance preparation is not the strong suit for people with ADD. But the success of this dish will inspire me to perhaps try the marinade & grill technique for some pork ribs I've got in the freezer. I'd prefer to grill outdoors on a grill instead of over the stovetop indoors due to the smoke involved, but with the kitchen window open and fan on it wasn't too bad, and will have to do until T builds a deck where we can put the grill.

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