Cream-braised Green Cabbage with Seared Ahi for Cook the Books Club

Our latest Cook the Books Club pick is Molly Wizenberg's delicious little memoir-cookbook, A Homemade Life.  Molly writes a popular blog, Orangette as well as contributing food related articles to newspapers and magazines, such as Bon Appetit.  In this, her first book, she carries off a fine, well-integrated balance of personal reminiscence and culinary writing.

 Something about this book just got me trying things.  Often I can have a cookbook on my shelf for years, without actually making anything from it.  However, for the past few months I have been enjoying an unprecedented  number of recipes from A Homemade Life.

For instance, normally, I'm with Brandon on the cabbage question.  I love raw cabbage and rarely cook it, so of course, I first had to make his Cabbage Salad with Lemon and Black Pepper, which was excellent of course, but then I wanted to try the cabbage cooked in cream method.  It just sounded so decadent.  And, since the recipe made enough for four, it gave me two meals' worth.

On night number one, I served the creamy, tender cabbage with seared ahi and a salad of fresh tomatoes and basil.  Sweet, and slightly caramelized, the cabbage was wonderful. 

Afterwords, just looking at all that lovely cream sauce lapping the remainder of our cabbage, I thought maybe, when Bob's not looking, I'll just slurp it all up.  It was that good.  But, adding chicken, and serving over egg noodles would also be wonderful for night number two.  And, guess what?  It was.  I removed the meat from two baked chicken breasts, added it to the cabbage in cream sauce, and gently warmed both together before serving over the hot noodles.

More also rans from Wizenberg's book were the Bouchons au Thon (a kind of tuna muffin), were tasty both hot and cold; the delicious Turkey Meatballs with Lemon Yogurt Sauce (which as it turned out, I liked better with the sauce cooked); and a most excellent Butternut Squash Soup with Pear and Vanilla.  Also her Ratatouille, a dish I've made for years (though still prefer my simpler method),  inspired me to add Scampi, bringing about a wonderful new combination of two old standards

The lovely thing about all this is that there are still more recipes to try.  I have bookmarked her Little Corn Cakes with Bacon, Tomato and Avocado for my next brunch or dinner appetizer.  Be watching out for the Cook the Books Club Round-up to see what everyone else whipped up from our enticing little selection.


Mr. Ratatouille Meets Ms. Scampi on a Bed of Pasta

Two well-loved, old favorites of mine got together last night, and discovered they never want to separate.  It is true love.  I am serious here, folks.  Take a look at these recipe cards, if you don't believe me.  They've been around for awhile.  Sadly all on their own. 

You don't have to depend upon having some left-overs for this dish.  However, keep in mind that Ratatouille is better on the second day, and just know from the start what a good thing a merger can be.  I did have the left-overs, and happened to pick up some locally raised Kauai shrimp, when the light bulb went off in my brain.


Butternut Soup with Pears, Cider and Vanilla

This slightly unusual soup was thanks to Molly Wizenberg's delightful book, A Homemade Life,  which we are currently reading for Cook the Books Club.  I have been trying various of her recipes, this soup being the latest.  What a fantastic concoction of flavors -  golden butternut with pears, cream and vanilla, a hint of apple cider and my duck stock backing everything nicely.

For Daring Cooks this month our goal was to make stock and then a soup.  Peta, of the blog Peta Eats, was our lovely hostess for the Daring Cook’s September 2011 challenge, “Stock to Soup to Consommé”. We were taught the meaning between the three dishes, how to make a crystal clear Consommé if we so chose to do so, and encouraged to share our own delicious soup recipes!

I made a flavorful stock from Sunday dinner's roasted duck carcass, with added aromatics, carrots, celery and onion.  After chilling the broth and removing all fat, I reduced it by quite a bit, then went on, days later after numerous attempts at gathering together the various ingredients, to this soup.  Finally.  But, well worth the effort.  Since I do make stock on a regular basis, I should have done the clear Consommé thing with an egg white raft and all.  But, truthfully it just did not call out to me.


Guava Butter recipe

The guavas are coming in.  There were just enough yesterday for a nice batch of butter or jam.  I usually make jam with my fruit as it's easier than jelly, and anyway why waste the pulp part of the fruit.  Seeds, okay I draw the line there.  No one in their right mind wants guava seeds in jam, or anything else for that matter.  They are very hard, and not small enough to just swallow without noticing.

I filled two 4 cup measures, but on a digital scale, for the correct amount of sugar to add.  The fruit went in as I peeled off bad parts, halved, then scooped out the seeds, and cut into chunks.

For a fruit butter, only one extra step is needed, that of pureeing or blending it into a nice smooth sludge, once cooked in a bit of water until soft, after which you finish cooking with the sugar added.  Now for my next batch, when there are way too many for a single pot of jam or butter, I will be doing the oven baked method.  No stirring involved (or hardly any); no spitting pot of bubbling fruit hitting my arms, face, oven and floor.  The smooth sludge spits rather than simmering or boiling properly.  It's a super simple recipe, just the basics here. Unlike a fruit curd, it doesn't have eggs or butter in it.  Unlike a jam though, it doesn't keep well.


Cold Avocado Soup with Garlic Chives

We  have been enjoying lots of cool salads and cold summer soups lately, with whatever fresh vegetables and herbs are available.   This Avocado Soup is an old favorite.  All you really need are avocados, broth, and a bit of cream.  No cooking is involved.  Just a blender.

I am proud to say that Bob purchased our blender, an Osterizer, in about 1976, for $5. at a garage sale.  Unbelievably, it still works fine.  Do they even make things like that anymore?  The Blender Cookbook (source of recipe) either came with it or was purchased at the same time, which gives you an idea of just how long I've been making this soup.  You can vary the type of broth, just keep to mild tasting ones so that the avocado won't be overpowered.  Also, various herbs will work -  parsley is fine, dill or cilantro, but these Chinese or garlic chives are lovely, especially with their little white flowers.

They seem to re-seed themselves, and are popping up in different spots in my garden.  Always welcome.  The buds give a nice zap of intense flavor to omelets as well.

This little avocado scooper thingy is quite handy.  Just take the seed out and scoop the flesh into your blender container.