I know that I need to work late a lot in this coming week and I hate cooking when I get home at eleven. I wanted some food that I could just heat up. Last week, I ate frozen dinners, but they don't really hit the spot for me. So because I was so happy with the Vegetable Soup that I made about a month ago, I decided to make Provencal Vegetable Soup (Soupe au Pistou) (p. 128).
I had never used leeks before so I was a little nervous. I always get nervous when I try to prepare a new vegetable--even if it doesn't seem very difficult. I was glad to get over this fear because I really like leeks. I decided to spare you from the pictures of the leeks, onions, celery, and carrot sauteeing because that pic has been posted plenty! The recipe wants two medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped. I felt no need to buy fresh tomatoes. It's not tomato season, so they aren't going to taste any better than canned tomatoes and opening a can of diced tomatoes is sure a lot easier. It didn't seem to affect the recipe at all. I also used frozen green beans because that's what I happened to have. I used elbow macaroni (which always makes me feel like I'm going to do crafts), canned white beans, and no saffron--I wish I kept saffron on hand, but I don't. That will be taken care of on the next trip to Penzey's Spices!
Mmm....the soup before the beans and such were added...
The recipe requires Pistou (p. 569). TJOC says to make it without seasoning it...I figured that was the basil, garlic, and olive oil without the pepper and Parmesan. This was a problem. Basil isn't in season and the basil leaves in the store were extremely expensive so I only picked up one package. Unfortunately, this was only half of what I needed. So I searched for more basil and found that I had one of those squeeze bottles. I have no idea how to substitute the two so I just squeezed some in there--I figure that 1 cup of the squeeze bottle (which would be the whole thing) would be WAY too much because it's so compact!
This mixture pretty much looked like pesto without the pine nuts. That's what it smelled like too. Delicious. I don't have an after shot, but here's a before:
Quite a bit of soup was produced, as you can see...four storage containers and a bowl for eating!
The soup was really good and the basil was strong but not too strong. I don't think it was quite as good as the Soupe Paysanne but I will still make it again.
Mushroom Triangles (p. 88). I need to tell a little story before I can explain why I want to make these...
One of the only restaurants that I really liked in Columbia, Missouri was called the Uprise Bakery. It was delicious. And one of the tastiest items in this bakery were little mushroom turnovers. I've always wanted to know how to make these wonderful, greasy, flaky, little mushroom items. So when I saw the recipe in TJOC I was hoping that it was the same recipe or at least similar.
Frankly, I don't think they were. They weren't NEAR greasy enough, first off. And I wasn't in love with the flavor of the mushroom mixture, but I'll go into that later.
I've always been nervous about working with phyllo dough. It seems difficult and makes me nervous. There are tons of cool recipes that use it so I've been interested in it (I LOVE Baklava and the Spinach and Feta Triangles that follow the Mushroom Triangle recipe looks really good). But there are so many directions on how to work with it--anything that requires that much explanation to use makes me very nervous.
To make the triangles, first you combine shallots and garlic with butter. What a promising start! I love butter, I love shallots, and I LOVE garlic. Mmmm....garlic.....I doubled the amount of garlic, like I always do.
Next, the mushrooms. First, you have to rehydrate some mushrooms. As some of you remember, dehydrated mushrooms are the secret of Hot and Sour soup (learned earlier in this experiment). I wasn't confident about the dehydrated mushrooms in the recipe. They have a strange texture and I couldn't imagine them in the triangles. Here was my set-up--the dehydrated mushroom draining apparatus, the normal mushrooms cut-up in a bowl, and the dehydrated mushrooms, cut-up. And, of course, a Coke for energy.
This is a TON of mushrooms. I was feeling really good about the recipe at this point because, hey, I like mushrooms and they smelled really good. If you are wondering, the hydrated mushrooms were shiitakes and cremini's and the dehydrated were shiitake and a gourmet mushroom mixture.
The phyllo...how nerve racking...
You have to work with it very quickly or it dries out and you have to throw it away. I covered the pieces that weren't currently being covered with a damp paper towel, like recommended. Man, they aren't kidding. If it isn't wet enough, the phyllo dries out. If it's too wet, the phyllo sticks to it and rips. And it doesn't like being brushed with butter--that rips it too.
Another problem--the recipe says to cut it lengthwise into 8-9 strips. Are they working with a larger sheet? If I cut mine into that many strips, they would have been about a half inch tall. That doesn't seem like a very good filling to phyllo ratio. I cut mine into 3-4 strips.
If you are wondering what raw phyllo tastes like--it's floury but fairly tasty.
So you have your strip and you add some filling to the top corner.
Then you fold it over, like a flag, and just continue like that.
This was about the size I made my triangles. But it made the correct quantity, which is confusing if they are the wrong size.
Cooked, they looked delicious, but they just didn't trip my trigger. I don't know what the problem was...I think it was that strange consistency of the dehydrated mushrooms. And I never thought I'd say this--but I almost think they would have been better with just button mushrooms.
I also made the Hearty Meat Ragu (p. 101). I figured that this recipe was something that could be made moderately easily (it's made in a slow cooker). The recipe was fairly simple and straightforward--except for a couple lines. Here are two of the ingredients:
1. One 28-ounce can tomatoes, crushed, with juice
2. One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree
What's the difference? I have NO idea. So mine was made with two cans of crushed tomatoes. Was I just supposed to get a can of whole tomatoes and crush them myself? I didn't feel this was clear at all. What do you guys think?
I've got to stop taking pictures of the carrot/celery/onion/garlic mix. You've all seen in at least a dozen times by now.
My crockpot is old. It was my mom's, which is funny, because she hates crockpots. Her theory is that the pressure cooker does the same thing in a fraction of time, which is true. That being said, the crockpot isn't scary at all and the pressure cooker is extremely scary. I mean, when you want to suggest that something is intense and scary, you refer to it as a pressure cooker. Nobody says that they are afraid of getting in a slow cooker situation.
The chunks of meat in this sauce are fairly sizeable. Like a giant dork, I actually measured one of the chunks of meat to make sure that they were the correct size--and they were. It's a very red sauce.
It didn't feel very Italian. In fact, it didn't taste very Italian. But it was damn easy.
It made a LOT of sauce. These cooking frenzies are using up all of my Tupperware! I'm not going to have any left soon! I figure some can go into the freezer--it's great to be able to pull out some sauce when you are hungry.