Foodiva's Kitchen: March 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

French Fridays With Dorie - Crab and Pomelo Salad

It was quite a challenge to make people eat crab ice cream.
~ Heston Blumenthal

For this week's French Fridays with Dorie, our recipe to try out was Crab and Grapefruit Salad, a colorful and fanciful appetizer to be enjoyed best during warmer weather. Before I write further, here are my two disclaimers: 1. I did not use crab ice cream to make this salad, and 2. I do not dislike fact, I quite like its strong bitter-citrus flavor. 

What I did use was canned crabmeat that unfortunately didn't come in big chunks, and pink-fleshed Thai pomelo because I couldn't find any Ruby Red grapefruit in the stores. If I could've gotten my hands on peeled, fresh grapefruit sections in a jar like Kathy did, you bet I would've used that!

Why pomelo? Well, it's very similar to grapefruit, except that it's larger and sweeter, without the bitterness of grapefruit. In Asia, and Thailand particularly, the juicy pomelo flesh is very often added to salads and also to refreshing fruit juices such as orange or lime. I love the sensation of the flesh bursting as I bite into it, releasing its sweet juices on my tongue.

Pale pink-fleshed, sweet Thai pomelo

In Dorie's recipe, there was the option to add chilli pepper and bell peppers. While I incorporated thinly sliced chilli (deseeded) into the salad, I chose to replace the bell peppers with Rose Apple or Jambu instead. This is a tropical fruit, crisp and waxy on the outside, with a 'fluffy' interior on the inside. When ripe, it bears a strong, pleasant bouquet. Often I try to make a recipe work with whatever ingredients I have in stock but on this occasion, I'll admit that I had forgotten to buy those darn bell peppers :). 

Rose apple

A squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, spring onions and cucumber slices finished off the salad (no greens sadly, I ate the last of them in a sandwich earlier in the day). I arranged mine in open-topped glass yoghurt jars which created a whimsical yet elegant look to the salad. Admittedly the salad looked rather pale and unexciting sans the Ruby Red, but the pale pink hue of the pomelo made the salad attractive in a different, more serene way. What's more important is of course the way it tasted, which was deliciously divine! So good. 

This super simple recipe is on page 134 of Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table, a superbly instructional and award-wining cookbook that will have you cooking French food like you were born to do it! The other Doristas and I cook the same recipe every week, sometimes tweaking them with our own variations. For this week's versions of this salad, click here.

PS. There's a reason why this post is a bit late. It's my birthday weekend and the last thing I wanted to do was stay cooped up in front of my computer, writing a blog post (yes, call me Mademoiselle Last Minute!). This Lesley Gore tune suddenly came to mind.... "It's my party and I blog if I want to, blog if I want to..."

Have a great weekend filled with sunny skies, everyone!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

5 Star Makeover - Spicy Cheetos Churros with Sweet Red Cabbage Gazpacho

Our assigned ingredient for this month's 5 Star Makeover was Junk Food! We were to take our typical or favorite snacks and use them to create a gourmet meal. For this purpose, I decided to make an elegant appetizer with components that are familiar to most people - a savory churros with an accompanying gazpacho dip

As much as I lean towards healthy eating nowadays, I won't try to deny my terrible past, eating habit-wise. During my younger days especially as a financially-struggling student, junk food featured prominently in my diet. The processed stuff, the colorful and radioactive stuff, they have probably passed through my body at least once. Only since I started growing older have I been more aware and careful of the things I put into my mouth. 

My junk food days are far from over, but there are less and less of them that I crave for nowadays. When I do have them, they're usually the sweet things (oh, the bane of a diabetes gene-carrier) or else, the really salty, cheesy, crunchy things. That's why it was fairly easy for me to decide what to use in this makeover - Cheddar Jalapeño Cheetos and Chocolate Chips More cookies. These are my snacks of choice especially on those down- and PMS-ey days. But not every month, of course :).

I opted to incorporate the rich cheese flavor and spiciness of the Cheetos in churros so I made bite-sized ones using the 'flour' from ground Cheetos. What I didn't anticipate was how much oil was contained in the Cheetos, most probably from the processed cheese. Using a traditional churros recipe, I added toasted cumin to the ground Cheetos and omitted the sugar and salt (there may be enough salt in Cheetos to sustain your dietary requirements for a long while, anyway). I substituted some of the all-purpose flour with the oily Cheetos flour, and reduced the butter by half. And then the phone rang, and things started to go slightly downhill from there.

While my friend and I nattered on the phone, the choux-like dough started firming up in the pan. Again, I blame the cheese in the Cheetos. By the time I hung up, the dough was the consistency of overexposed playdoh and became pretty hard to pipe into long churros strips without it breaking off into short pieces. Churros bites it was destined to be, then! The oiliness of the dough also meant that the churros would distintegrate in hot oil, so I froze them for 30 minutes on the tray and simply baked them in the oven. Instantly, they became healthier - at least that was my happy thought. 

For the gazpacho dip, I blended together soft, ripe black plums, red cabbage strips, cucumber, garlic, fresh basil with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. In traditional gazpachos, bread was often added to the liquid before blending to add texture to the cold soup. Instead of bread, for my dip I crumbled several Chips More cookies into the fruit and vegetable mixture and blended it further until it smoothed out. The sweet and savory lilac dip perfectly balanced out the cheesy, spiced heat of the Cheetos churros. For a while, I completely forgot these even contained junk food!

Friday, March 23, 2012

French Fridays With Dorie - Hot Pink Cocoa Sablés

I've never felt like I was in the cookie business. I've always been in a feel good feeling business. My job is to sell joy. My job is to sell happiness. My job is to sell an experience.
~ Debbi Fields (of Mrs. Fields Bakeries)

You can't see the words 'Mrs. Fields' without images of buttery, crumbly/chewy cookies entering your mind immediately afterwards. Well, Mrs. Fields' words above somehow resonated strongly as I baked this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Cocoa Sables. I wanted to bake cookies that would invoke a similar feel good feeling to anyone who sets their eyes on them, and if they're lucky enough, who gets to eat them too.

But first, what in culinary heavens is a sable? It's simply a classic French cookie originating in Normandy. Sable is French for "sand", and refers to the sandy texture of this delicate and crumbly shortbread-like cookie. Butter is what gives these cookies their wonderful, rich flavor. A typical sable would have a coating of raw or granulated sugar around the edges but I decided to forego the sugar and make something that's more visually appealing. And what could possibly be more appealing than a layer of sweet, sweet sugar on a chocolate cookie? How about an eye-catching color, like hot pink, for example? Yes, hot pink dough enveloping dark chocolate is all the rage nowadays. At least in my kitchen it is, I'm not sure about anywhere else :).

My original idea was to pair a more innocent shade of baby pink with the dark brown. However, because I  very rarely play with food coloring, I underestimated the strength of my little blob of pink gel. It proved too much for the amount of plain batter I was using that the 'baby' part of the pink tuned into a very adult 'hot' in 60 seconds... Oh well, we're all grown-ups here, and eating a sexy cookie is really not the worse thing that could happen to you on a Friday!

Dorie's recipe also suggested the incorporation of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate in the cocoa batter, but I decided to keep things simple and omitted that option too. This resulted in a smoother finish to the cut surface of the sables, which I preferred. What I didn't like was the uneven thickness of the cookies when I sliced through the dough using a knife. Somehow it didn't occur to me to use a thread to do a much cleaner job of it. Next time I bake these, I'm going to use pastry flour instead of the all-purpose because I read that it results in more tender cookies.

Not only do these sables invoke a heart-tugging sensation of love-at-first-sight (who can resist that hot pink squiggle?), they may also cause you to fall in love-at-first-bite, too. These shortbreads are crumbly, sweet, slightly salty and very chocolatey. An all-round experience of joy and happiness right there :).

The recipe for these cocoa sables can be found in Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, Around My French Table. The rest of the FFWD cooking group members will have their own take on these cookies, it's totally worth checking them out here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

German Chocolate Streusel Cake Rabbits - Schokostreusel Kuchen

I first took up cycling as a sport about 5 years ago and during the first few outings on my brand new bicycle, I remember feeling out of sync with both the bike and the cycling group I was training with. Many a time, I felt uncomfortable and unsure (read: unsafe) on my seat and struggled to keep up with the intensity of the group's pace. In fact, on the very first road outing I had a slight accident that ended up in me somersaulting over my handlebars and launching the bike into the air, only to have it land back on well, me. Thank goodness it was a very light bike! So even while I nursed my bruises and attempted to conceal the tear on my shirt the size of Australia, I was secretly grateful that my bike suffered only a tiny scratch from the incident :).

Then one day, one of the 'pros' who had taken it upon himself to be my cycling buddy said something I would remember to this day. What he said was, "To be able to cycle well and efficiently, you have to be  one with your bicycle. You have to think of it as an extension of your body". Now does that make sense to you? Because it didn't to me back then, as I had no clue how to start being one with my bike at all. 

Now that I'm no longer such a novice, I'm comfortable going off on solo rides. And this very morning, something rather special happened. You've seen how Lance Armstrong throws his arms up in the air at the finishing line in the 'look-ma-no-hands' style? Well, I managed to do the same and found that I could keep the bike perfectly balanced by shifting my body ever so slightly. I must've been comfortable enough, one enough with my machine to have been able to do that! Those of you who work in the circus must be thinking, yawn...big deal... but for someone who's tried to achieve this for the best part of several decades, it's a small miracle that it's finally happened.

With baking, it was the same thing. My first year of baking was full of hits and misses, probably more of the latter, to be truthful. I wasn't comfortable with my skills and had very little experience to speak of when it came to combining flavors, or textures. For a while, I had to endure witnessing my poor colleagues politely spit bits of cakes, breads and cookies into their napkins because they tasted so awful! I had to endure? Imagine what they had to

Well, now that I'm one with my baking skills, I'm more able to play around with ingredients in the kitchen. And the results don't turn out too badly (most of the time). I can also afford to focus on making the food look more fun and attractive. Like today for example, where I decided to bake this easy German Chocolate Streusel Cake inside parchment paper rabbits.

Fatter rabbits after baking!

I first came across this recipe in Germany, on the back of a box of Dr. Oetker Baking Powder. It's been a while since I last baked this delicious cake but I was recently prompted by my cousin Aimi's tweets saying that she wanted to see some German recipes on this blog. 

The cake itself is dense and buttery while the chocolate topping is crunchy, a beautiful mix of textures. If you were to use a springform pan, it would take about an hour altogether to prep and bake it. But if you want to bake it inside these muffin-sized paper rabbits, the baking time gets cut down to 20 minutes. The origami part, depending on your paper-folding skills, will probably take more than an hour :). I struggled with the first rabbit, but after that it gets easier and if you're not careful, these little rabbits tend to proliferate! Now I don't celebrate Easter but it's nice to go along with the seasonal theme and these cake rabbits fit the bill.

Here's a YouTube video with clear folding instructions for the paper rabbits. Good luck! :)

Easy German Chocolate Streusel Cake - Schokostreusal Kuchen
Makes one 10 or 11-inch springform pan cake, or 10 muffin-sized rabbits
1/3 cup sugar (75 grams)
5 tablespoons butter (75 grams)
1/8 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoons lemon extract (optional)
1 1/8 cups flour (150 grams)
1/4 cup potato starch or corn starch (50 grams)
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
4 tablespoons milk

1/4 cup apricot or raspberry jam

Chocolate Streusel
1/3 cup cocoa (30 grams)
1/3 cup sugar (80 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
11 tablespoons butter (100 grams)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/8 cup flour (150 grams)

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
2. Cream sugar, butter and salt. Add egg and flavor extracts and mix well.
3. Sift flour, starch and baking powder together and add to batter, mixing well.
4. Add enough milk to form a medium thick batter (like brownie batter). Spread into a 11-inch springform pan which has been buttered and floured lightly.
5. Heat the jam for 30 seconds on high in the microwave until it becomes runny. Stir and then carefully spread over cake batter.
6. Make the streusel by rubbing all the ingredients together with your fingers. You may also use a pie dough cutter or two forks. Continue until large crumbs form. Sprinkle evenly over cake batter.
7. Bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean and cake springs bake when touched lightly. (About 20 minutes for the rabbit muffins)
8. Remove from oven and cool. Remove outer ring after 5-10 minutes so the edges don't become soggy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Muffin Monday - Honey Pineapple Olive Oil Muffins with Lime Glaze

These week's muffin recipe for Muffin Monday is another easy one, if you have a bowl, a spatula and a muffin tray, you're all set to make these. The original recipe provided by Anuradha of Baker Street (our host) was for Honey Lemon Olive Oil Muffins with Lemon Glaze but I decided to switch it up a little and substitute the lemon flavor in the batter with pineapple, and in the glaze with lime.

I baked these in the evening and only 5 muffins survived for the photoshoot the following day! 

I have baked cakes and muffins with olive oil before and loved it. Having it in baked goods reminds me a lot of the breads and cakes of the Mediterranean region, ones I could eat truckloads of :). Thank goodness then that I reside far away in the tropics (where there are other, different food-related sins!).  From what I know, the combination of olive oil and tangy citrus are complementary flavors in cakes, so I reasoned that switching one citrus for another would have the same effect.

I opted for the more tropical citrus accents of pineapple and lime, both of which I have in abundance either growing in my garden or from the vegetable stall down the road from my home. The chopped pineapple bits were divided into two portions, one was mixed into the batter and the remainder was sprinkled on top of the muffins for effect. You won't get perfectly smooth muffin tops as a result, but there's no chance of mistaking these pineapple muffins for anything else! 

Pineapples from my local vegetable and fruit guy (L) and limes from my garden (R). 
Limes photo taken from my Instagram account :)

A quick half an hour is all you need to produce these beautifully light and refreshingly tangy muffins. If you have an extra 10 minutes, you might probably want to make the cute toppers shown here using toothpicks and bits of lime and pineapple. Squeeze the lime on top of the glaze for that extra zing and while you're at it, why not pretend you're on on a tropical holiday! ;)

Note: Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop her a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.  

Honey Pineapple Olive Oil Muffins with Lime Glaze
(Adapted from Pinch My Salt)
Makes 12 muffins
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup honey (preferably local)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (I used 3/4 cup pineapple chunks, cut into small cubes)
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice (Omitted this)

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick baking spray or line with paper cups (spray the inside of the cups with baking spray to prevent muffins from sticking to the paper).
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Set aside.
3. In a separate medium bowl, combine honey, sugar, olive oil, buttermilk, and eggs. Whisk together until well combined. Divide the pineapple chunks into 2 portions and stir 1 portion into the mixture. Reserve the rest of the pineapple for the topping.
4. Pour liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon just until all of the flour is incorporated. Don’t overmix.
5. Divide batter between muffin cups using a large spoon or mechanical ice cream scoop – the cups should be mostly full. Sprinkle remaining pineapple on top of the muffins.
6. Bake for 17 – 21 minutes or until the center of a muffin springs back lightly to the touch or a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Check early and watch carefully, they will brown fast.
7. While muffins are baking, make glaze. Sift powdered sugar in a small bowl and stir in the lime juice, mix until well incorporated.
8. Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack. Brush the tops of the muffins with glaze while they are still warm. Let cool completely.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Going Crackers Mid-Week! :) Whole Wheat Raisin Rosemary Pepita Crackers

Hors d'oeuvres have always a pathetic interest for me; they remind me of one's childhood that one goes through wondering what the next course is going to be like - and during the rest of the menu one wishes one had eaten more of the hors d'oeuvres.
~ Hector Hugh Munro

So it's Wednesday, and I haven't blogged all week. Or all of last week for that matter. If you'd wanted to look for me, you would likely find me on Instagram, I'm there - every single day :). Taking photos with the handphone and posting them is an instant act, it's extremely easy and there's no need to write words, many words to describe your post. No wonder it's addictive. Maybe I'm just getting lazier with this blog, who knows? 

Unfortunately, if you don't have an iDevice to play around with, you'll have to keep on missing me until I come on here again and we can hang out and stuff. Yes, life's a bit unfair like that.

And why did I bother even mentioning Instagram (IG) for those of you who aren't interested or don't really care for it? Because this recipe - Whole Wheat Raisin Rosemary Pepita Crackers - was inspired by one of my pals on IG called @thebobbycaudle. Okay, his real name's probably just Bobby Caudle without the 'the', but that I'm not totally sure. What I'm sure about though is that one of his delicious food posts made me run straight to the kitchen to create these amazing crackers!

Clockwise from top left: Nigella seeds, rosemary, raisins and pepitas

There are many ardent food-lovers lurking on IG, and honestly, they, we, okay... I, tend to post up many, many meals that we've seen, made and consumed on a daily basis. Taking out a phone in a restaurant or public place and hovering it over your plate for a shot is a far less embarassing process than taking out a hefty SLR camera to do the same thing, you know? I do most of my 'hovering' at home and even have a colorful breakfast series up on IG where I post my daily morning meals. Check it out at @divabreakfasts if you're interested ;).

Anyway, Mr. Bobby Caudle had prepared an hors d'oeuvres platter using these savory-sweet Trader Joe's Raisin Rosemary Crisps and by the time he finished describing the ingredients on the box to me (yes, I shamelessly asked!), I knew exactly what to do. 

If you wish you could eat more whole foods without breaking your budget, these homemade crackers are for you. I've promised some friends that I'll post up the recipe and I’m finally dishing it out. When you think about the typical cracker, they're usually thin and salty so the key to good, crisp crackers is to make 'em really thin! And not too salty, if you're thinking healthy as well. You can substitute the flours in the recipe below with gluten-free flours, you simply need to experiment and play around with the measurements a little. I've also used olive oil in place of butter, it contributes to the crispness of the crackers, plus you can snack on these babies with less (much less) guilt.

The original Trader Joe's crisps also contained flaxseeds and sunflower seeds but I had neither and therefore substituted them with pumpkin seeds and Nigella seeds, which have an onion-y flavor. You can get the latter at many Indian food or spice stores, they're commonly known as blackseeds. You can experiment with other spices and seeds... right this very moment cumin and garlic just popped into my mind!

From the way everyone at home appreciatively munched on these, I would say this homemade cracker recipe will satisfy even the pickiest cracker eater. They have interesting flavors that blend well together, they're not bland, not too salty and not too sweet either. Just nice... Served with something creamy like goat's cheese or Brie, they become just that bit naughtier, and a whole lot nicer!

Whole Wheat Raisin Rosemary Pepita Crackers
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Nigella seeds (blackseeds)
2 tablespoons raisins, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup water
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (pepitas), coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Combine the whole wheat flour, plain flour, rosemary, raisins, Nigella seeds, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the olive oil and using a fork, mix the oil thoroughly into the dry mixture until it looks like large crumbs.
2. Add the water in 3 batches to adjust the dough consistency. Mix well until combined and dough forms, but only as long as necessary for the most tender crackers. Dough should be firm but not sticky when you form it into a ball. Add small amounts of whole wheat flour as necessary to adjust to this texture.
3. If you have a pasta machine, divide the dough into 4 portions and roll into thin, flat sheets. I usually go up to the second or third last setting on the machine. If it’s too thin, the dough will tear easily.
4. If you don’t have a pasta machine, don’t fret because you can roll these by hand! Use parchment paper, a lightly greased cookie sheet or a non-stick silicone baking mat. Roll each of the divided dough to your desired thinness right out on the paper, sheet or mat after flouring it lightly.
5. After the dough sheets are rolled out, sprinkle the chopped pumpkin seeds over each sheet and gently roll over the sheets again with a pastry roller to press the seeds in (no, do not put these through the pasta machine again!).
6. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife and cut the dough into squares or triangles, about 1 1/2 inches each. If you want all beautifully square crackers, you can trim the edges square. (Note: be sure not to cut your silicone mat).
7. Bake the crackers, one sheet at a time, until crisp and browned, 8 to 10 minutes. If some of the thinner crackers on the edges brown too quickly, remove them and return the remaining crackers to the oven to finish baking. These crackers bake quickly, so watch them closely – even 30 seconds can turn them from golden brown to toast! To make them extra crispy, I turn them over after 8 minutes and bake them for another 2 minutes in the oven.
8. Remove the crackers from the oven and cool on the pan or on a rack; they cool quickly. They will crisp up as they cool and stay crisp for many days, but are best stored in airtight containers.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Muffin Monday - Hazelnut Plum Muffins with Lemon Curd Frosting

I love quickies in the kitchen, I mean, who doesn't? :) Now, before your mind races off into the gutter, I  invite you to come back up to the same page and hear out this easy and quick recipe for Muffin Monday, Hazelnut Plum Muffins. Our MM host, Anuradha provided us with this recipe that can be mixed simply by hand and utilizes hazelnut meal and plum jam which give the muffin its namesake.

Nowadays, it's hard to think of hazelnut in a recipe without wanting to include Nutella in there somehow. Well, I fought my instinct and went for the plain hazelnut flavor without any pesky chocolate sharing the limelight. Okay, I was only kidding about the can never be pesky and can only make any recipe immediately taste better. But not today, I had to be firm with the chocolate-obsessed part of my brain. :) 

I also decided to leave out the plum jam (but only because I didn't have any) and substituted that with soft dried plums or prunes. I pressed one of these gently into the middle of each hazelnut batter before baking, not knowing for sure if they were going to sink or rise. As you can see, they rose and sat quite magnificently atop each muffin! Which meant frosting was going to be a slight issue....

Until, that is, I spotted a jar of lovingly-made Mrs. Darlington's Legendary Lemon Curd that would be perfect for spreading on top of the muffin and around the plums. And it was... The sweet, tart and creamy curd complemented the roasted, buttery hazelnut flavor rather nicely. You can bite around the muffin underneath the curd then end up chewing the plum last. At least, that was how I ate them!

Happy, happy Monday!

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week!

Hazelnut Plum Muffins
(Adapted from Women's Weekly)
90 grams butter, melted
21/2 cups (375 grams) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (55 grams) hazelnut meal
2/3 cup (150 grams) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 cup (250 ml) milk
1/2 cup (160 grams) plum jam (I used soft, dried plums instead)
1 cup lemon curd, for frosting

1. Preheat oven to 200C.
2. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan or line with muffin liners
3. In a large bowl, combine butter, flour, hazelnut meal, sugar, egg and milk.
4. Spoon half of the muffin mixture into the prepared pan and make a well in each muffin, spoon in rounded teaspoons of jam and top with remaining muffin mixture (I simply pushed one dried plum gently into the middle of each  muffin batter before baking).
5. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Leave to cool for 20 minutes before frosting with lemon curd.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

French Fridays With Dorie - Roasted Salmon and Lentils

Late again for French Fridays with Dorie, as it's already Saturday night here as I'm typing up this post. The comforting thing though is, my fellow Doristas and other readers are so forgiving and I sure am not the first one (nor the last!) to be late in the history of FFWD. One of the reasons for this was that I'd spent a good part of the week scouring local stores to procure lentils du puy, or French green lentils, a key ingredient in this week's Roasted Salmon and Lentils recipe. Then Friday came...and went...and still no green lentils.

So this morning, I went out one last time to a speciality food store that stocks those difficult-to-get ingredients at the regular stores and.... nope, they didn't have the green lentils either. Normally, I would've settled for the more common (over here) red, yellow or black lentils, but I've read reviews swearing over the utter loveliness of these green lentils so I persisted in looking for them. Just as I was about to throw in the towel, I spotted a packet on the shelf printed with "Mélange Pour Soupe - Aux Légumes", a vegetable mix for making soup that consisted of lentils, split peas, barley and alphabet pasta bits made from wheat flour, spinach and tomato. Okay, there had to be a few lentils du puy in would have to do!

Apart from the repeated boiling and straining steps involved in cooking the beans, the overall effort required to put this dish together was surprisingly minimal. I even managed to bake a set of muffins for my participation in Muffin Monday while this was on the stove. That was how easy it was!

I'm also quite used to throwing in a pinch of whole cloves when I cook my local dishes, so the one clove required in this recipe seemed to me rather piddly. In the spirit of compromise, I used three :). That still didn't have that much impact to the overall flavor of the dish that I was glad I hadn't stuck just one clove into the onion. Before the last boiling phase, I chopped up the softened onion but decided to leave the carrots in large chunks as they were. Yes, I can be inconsistent like that.... besides I was already thinking about the aesthetics of the presentation at that point. So annoying!

The seasoning for the salmon was very simple and in my mind's palate, bland. To make the fish portion a bit more interesting, I sprinkled paprika over it just before it went in for roasting and that worked to enhance the dish. Lastly, I snipped chives over the plate and drizzled olive oil over the salmon and lentils. Truffle oil? Oh, how I wish. 

This was a very hearty meal, especially since my base was also made up of not just lentils but barley, peas and pasta bits. Everyone at home loved it. Lentils du puy or not, I know this recipe willl be revisited again...soon.

If you're interested in this recipe of joining our FFWD online cooking group, pick up a copy of Around My French Table and you're all set for an amazing sharing experience every week. If you still don't believe me, click here to check out what everyone else who cooked this dish had to say about it. 

Have a great rest of the weekend, everyone!

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