Despite my lack of Cook the Books posting this month, I have actually made a lot of things from this month’s selection, Tender. The recipes are simple, yet delicious, and I am really enjoying it so far. I have forgotten to take many photos, other than quick snaps on the phone. This month has been personally very rough for me. You get the idea. You see, my dad is still sick. He was on his way to the awaited transplant, but had complications and it didn’t happen. And, we just found out he was being taken off the transplant list, with no chance of a transplant. So, I’m pretty emotionally wrecked and most definitely distracted. I haven’t felt much like cooking, truth be told.
That being said, I have still been cooking. My heart just isn’t in it.
- Chickpea patties and beet tzatsiki (p 46) I realized I haven’t properly expressed my love of all things chickpea/garbanzo. I adore them in about any form imaginable. They rule the legume world. The patties were a bit falafel-ish, but with a lighter texture and patty-shaped. I really, really enjoyed them and will be making them again (and again). Nigel warns about overmixing the beets into the yogurt for the tzatsiki sauce to avoid turning it “a lurid pink.” I found it turning pepto-bismol pink pretty much on contact, so I decided to just embrace the hot pink pile on my plate. I mean, how often do you get to eat (naturally) hot pink food? I really liked the variation of beet tzatsiki, but would have added more garlic.
- Chocolate-beet cake with crème fraîche and poppy seeds. (p.54) I have heard folks wax poetically about variations of chocolate beet cake, yet, I don’t know. It sounded kind of odd. However, when it gets right down to it, we put carrots in our cake and love it… so why not beets in our chocolate cake? I gave it a try. And it worked. And it was delicious. What I really liked was that it wasn’t overly sweet or over-the-top chocolatey. I don’t veer toward super chocolatey desserts. I will choose a non-chocolate dessert over a flourless torte anytime. It was a chocolate cake, to be sure, just not cloyingly sweet. I forgot to buy crème fraîche, so we made a barely sweetened whip cream for the top and it was perfect.
- Lentil, bacon, and chard soup (p.184) What do you make when it is unseasonably hot and sunny? Light up the grill? Yes, normal people do. People that aren’t on a cookbook mission might. Me? I had all the ingredients on hand, and in the garden, for a nice, fit-for-winter soup. (I went with it, because nothing screams summer weather like lentil soup, right?) I’m new on the lentil soup scene. I love lentils in the form of dal, but other than that I haven’t found them all that interesting. The soup though? Nice. I liked it. Quick, easy, and even better for lunch the next day.
- Carrot and cilantro fritters (p.130) I need a food processor again. I got a Vitamix last year and, in an effort to decrease the amount of things in the house, I promptly got rid of my food processor. I was certain I would never need it again. I have since realized the Vitamix rules for just about everything under the sun, except for grating. It doesn’t grate. It can mince. It can put something into smaller pieces just prior to puréeing them to a lump-free existence. But grate? No, it can not grate. Needless to say, I tried. And the result was closer to mush, than Nigel’s recommended long strands. Oh well. What I am loving about the recipes in Tender is that you can improvise. Apart from my need of a food processor, I also could use some inclination to measure. I used all the carrots I had, which was far more than the 11 ounces he suggests, but I didn’t add more binder (egg), so my fritters didn’t exactly stay together very well. But you know what? Carrot fritters pieces are fantastic! I loved them. I can’t wait to properly grate carrots and experiment with different flavor combinations. I loved them!
- Baked celery (p.156) Have you heard of baked celery? I haven’t it. Is it a thing? I never, (ever, ever) would have thought to bake celery, especially in a sauce. Know what is my newly discovered Hangover Helper? Baked Celery. The Ladyfriend and Babylady were out of town a couple of weekends ago and I decided to bust out a few Cook the Books selections while they were gone. Mostly, things I thought they might not try. I also went out with some good friends one of the nights and drank… um… a lot. In the order of tequila, then beer, then gin and keep’em coming. I don’t recommend either the quantity or progression. The following day was generally unpleasant. Until that is, I pulled myself together enough to make the baked celery. And, people, I am here to tell you, that stuff is amazing. One, I felt better (Cured!) immediately. Two, I have been craving it ever since. It was comfort food. The celery is boiled with onions ( I used leeks from the garden) and then baked with a sort of mornay-ish sauce. Nigel was right – the mineral nature of the celery with the sauce is fantastic. I even ate leftovers for breakfast.
- Creamed (fava) beans with mint (p.246) One of other things I am enjoying about this cookbook is his measurement style. I respond well to instructions like “a handful” or “a knifepoint.” It is how I cook and I appreciate the trust in my ability to cook something to my taste and understanding of the palates I will be serving. Go Nigel! I made this on another solo night along with some toast, as he suggested. It was a lovely, simple, comforting supper. It was also my first time cooking fava beans. Again, I appreciate his instruction to “cook until tender.” One can’t possibly give a certain time to cooking some items because it depends on age and size. I much prefer information on the desired outcome and than some arbitrary time that may or may not be correct.
- Spring leeks, fava beans, and bacon (p.296) The Babylady thumbed through Tender (which, I assure you was unbelievably cute) and chose this dish as the item she wanted. So, together we went to PCC and chose our leeks and fava beans. She wanted big leeks instead of the called-for young, spring leeks. We didn’t have tarragon (and buying those insanely small packets of herbs makes me bonkers), so we used extra parsley from the garden and I tossed in a few fennel seeds. It was fantastic! Favas are so delicious, but with a bit of salty bacon and loads of parsley? Wow.
- Sea salt-baked potato, Parmesan greens (p.440) More of an idea than a recipe, but a good one. Putting your salad in your baked potato shell? Brilliant I say! Now I am assuming that Nigel, being British and all, did not pick his up and eat it like a taco. But I did. And I’d do it again. Crisp potato shell packed full of salad and parmesan? What’s not to love?
Briggs and I are doing monthly dinner party this coming weekend and will be no doubt whipping up a lot of selections. Have you been cooking from Tender this month? If you haven’t submitted your post, send that as soon as you can. We can’t wait to see what you are cooking up, wherever you are!