French Fridays with Dorie – Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potatoes & Prunes

This is an interesting one guys. I really, really liked it but it was very different from anything I’ve made before. For one thing, I have never cooked with saffron before tonight. I had to send my friend to the spice store in Madison to get me both saffron & star anise because they aren’t available anywhere here in town. I’m really very excited to get my hands on some star anise since it has been called for in several recipes we’ve done and I’ve just skipped it. Watch, now we won’t need it for anything else!

I scooted home from work all quick-like and got the onions going in the pot:

Mandoline? Who needs a mandoline?? I liked that after you got everything together in the pot there really wasn’t much left to do. I took this break in our regularly scheduled programming to drink a vodka tonic and have a little pre-dinner snack.

God I love sweet potatoes. Tristan says he doesn’t like them but I kind of don’t believe him. In any case, it doesn’t stop me from making them. I really dug the prunes in this dish as well. I know they get a bad rap, but honestly they’re just dried plums and who doesn’t like plums? Well probably some people don’t, but who cares? I like them and I’m writing this so pfffffffffffft!

I had a 2nd little meatless helping just because I loved the flavor combo so much. And just so you don’t have to wonder, yes those are Pillsbury breadsticks. I love them and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. I just realized that I forgot to add the little pinch of cayenne that would have given this dish yet another layer of flavor. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to make it again sometime! 🙂

Pure Vanilla

So there’s this blog called Piece of Cake that I’ve been reading for about a year and seriously if you’re not reading it already, you need to start. Shauna is super witty, smart, and has great taste – as evidenced by her new cookbook Pure Vanilla. I got mine in the mail the other day and read it pretty much cover to cover. Honestly, it was really hard to decide what to try first. But since I had a loaf of bread to use up, I went with the Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding. And boy-howdy, was it a good decision.

I had it for dessert last night and breakfast this morning and I plan on finishing it tomorrow morning with my mint-mocha coffee. Yum! I think the next thing I try will definitely be the Glazed Vanilla Bean Doughnuts…or the Vanilla Cloud Cake…or the Tres Leches Cake. See what I mean? It’s hard to decide. Not only is this thing chock-full of really tempting recipes, it also has super useful information as well. One of my favorite tips to amp up the vanilla flavor was to add the vanilla to the fats in a recipe ASAP which is kind of the opposite of most recipes I’ve read. Usually you’re instructed to add the vanilla right at the end and I’ve always wondered why. Turns out, adding it to the fat earlier intensifies the vanilla flavor. I guess some recipes might not want that, but all the ones in this book most certainly do!

So yeah, I think you all need this cookbook. Like now. I know I said I was going to eat it for breakfast tomorrow, but I hear that bread pudding calling my name from the fridge. If you’ll excuse me….

French Fridays with Dorie – Spur of the Moment Vegetable Soup

First of all, I feel very healthy right now. Healthy to the point of needing to ruin it with some sort of treat real, real soon. Why? Because I ate like 5 vegetables at dinner tonight and I’m usually lucky if I eat 5 vegetables in a week! Yeah, yeah I know it’s terrible. I am just not a huge veggies person. Cauliflower? No. Celery? No. Sprouts? No. Broccoli? Ugh no. This video perfectly sums up my feelings on broccoli:

I could go on about the vegetables I’m not comfortable with but you’d just get bored. Suffice it to say, I was not that excited about this week’s recipe. Also soup is always a challenge in our house because Tristan is not really a fan. It’s not that he doesn’t think it tastes good, he just doesn’t consider it a meal or some such nonsense. Consequently I don’t make it very often. But I am willing to go the extra mile for Dorie (usually) so I decided to do this one up right. I went to the farmer’s market here in town to supplement the things I already had and I picked up some GIANT carrots. I had a few left in a bag from the grocery store and look how they are totally dwarfed by this huge farmer’s market carrot!

I also got a really cool purple potato which looks much fancier than a regular ol’ Russet but doesn’t really taste any different.

Alas there was no celery or ginger at the farmer’s market so I still had to go to the grocery store after work anyway. Oh well. I elected to use all of Dorie’s optional ingredients and I just thought I’d mention that peeling ginger using a teaspoon is so much easier than trying to do it with a peeler. Maybe everyone knows this trick and I’m just being weird but I used to use my veggie peeler and had a hell of a time with it but then I read a little snippet in Everyday Food that taught me something new a few years ago. Here’s how it’s done (for anyone who’s curious):

Sorry about the Jay Robb’s Protein Powder in the background. It’s leftover from when my sister-in-law lived with us and I hoped that taking it out of the pantry would encourage us to use it up (it hasn’t). Any old who, I got all my ingredients ready to go all mis en place-style and seriously this soup practically made itself. So easy.

The veggies are actually in a clear glass bowl, but doesn’t it look like they are just magically hovering over the cookbook/stove? Fun stuff. Here are the veggies right before they got slowly softened for 20 minutes over low heat:

Beautiful, no? We are not supposed to post the recipes in our FFWD group but Dorie herself says that this is more of an idea than a recipe so I think it’s okay this time. Plus, I added a few things so I’m just going with it.

Spur-of-the-Moment-Veggie-Soup

1 T unsalted butter

1 T olive oil

1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced into pretty rounds

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 1″ piece of ginger, thinly sliced

1 rosemary sprig

1 marjoram sprig

6 -7 cups chicken broth (I had about 4 cups of broth in the fridge and then I used 3 cups of water & 3 bouillon cubes)

1 large-ish purple potato

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1-2 cups kale, torn into bite-sized pieces

salt & pepper

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the butter & oil. When the butter has melted, add the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, ginger, rosemary, & marjoram. Stir so that everything is nice and coated in the butter and oil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook this way for about 20 minutes, until the veggies have all softened. Add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil, then throw in the potato. Lower the heat until the soup is just simmering and partially cover the pot. Cook for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender, then throw in the kale & scallions and season with salt and pepper to taste.

I was really pleasantly surprised by how much flavor this little soup had. I think the ginger really had a lot to do with it so I am definitely glad I decided to use it. All in all, we had a very delicious and healthy little dinner. Of course I made something to go with it since I knew this meatless soup would not fly as a stand-alone for dinner. I made this delicious Rigatoni with Vodka & Spicy Tomato-Cream Sauce courtesy of my friend Jeanne. Maybe if we all ask really nicely, she will do a post about it 🙂