A cold month deserves some hot warm spicy food and Patricia Wolfert’s “The Food of Morocco” supplies us with a large dose of sunshine, warmth and spice. The Charm City Cookbook Club girls got together with their men and a few last minute guests and cooked up a spicy, lemony, Moroccan storm.

We started with some olives and spiced almonds from Trader Joe’s. You need something to keep you going while you cook. Elizabeth then took us into salad with a beautifully prepared blood orange, romaine and toasted almond salad. The salad called for rose flower water which we thought Maria was going to bring, but she had already marinated her raisins in it so we used the raisin infused rose flower water with the lemon for the dressing. Beautiful and tasty.

Here is the table all set with Elizabeth’s salads.

Meanwhile everyone is frantically cooking in the kitchen. Chris and Pam, who were last minute invites because of a drop out, took up the challenge of making bread. The Msemmen pancakes, made with semolina flour, were an intensive process involving making the dough, letting it rise, then pressing it into a large square. Thanks goes to Pam for the patient patting of buttery squares.

After this you brush with Oudi (thyme scented butter) or Ghee if you’re cheating, fold it into a smaller square and fry. As you can see,  Chris has a deft hand balancing  frying and drinking wine.  Note as well Maria’s tarte tatin and Julie’s soup simmering in the background.

Julie’s butternut squash and tomato soup was divine served with the bread. The goat cheese she put on top was so fragrant that people were sneaking it as she ladled the soup in the bowls and topped it with the harissa and cheese.

Next up the main course and side. Alayne had chosen the winter squash and caramelized onion dish and she caramelized and caramelized and caramelized. She cut the squash in 1/2 and roasted it cut side down in the oven. Then combined the two, adding toasted almonds and raisins and popped it in the oven.

I decided to make braised lamb with fresh spinach, confit lemon and olives. My lamb had been sauteed before the cookbook club members had arrived and had been simmering on the stove with it’s spices for 3 hours. I sauteed the spinach:

then added it and the olives and the confit lemon slices. We served this with Finn’s couscous that he made in the traditional manner, adding water and steaming three times. This process takes some time and is finished off with the thyme scented oudi he had made as well.

Dinner was complex, spicy and lemony with hints of olive. The butternut squash casserole and couscous were a perfect foil to the lamb and spinach dish.

All in all I felt the book was a success. It brought a bit of the warm Mediterranean to cold wintry Baltimore. The complexity of the recipes challenged us, the book had beautiful photography and cultural notes throughout. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to explore Moroccan cuisine.

I decided that I wanted to give us a challenge for the March cookbook club so I chose to work with Thomas Keller’s French Laundry for this month. I gave people a heads up that this wasn’t going to be easy but that it was going to be delicious, boy was I right on both counts.

DSC_0067
CBC started at 3:30 and I wanted to give people a bit of encouragement so I welcomed everyone as Keller does at the restaurant with the salmon cornets.

I borrowed the cornet molds from my new friend Megan (thanks Megan) and set to work at about 1:30. These were really quite tasty but the cornet in and of itself was a lot of work (note the theme of the day). You basically had to stand in front of the oven for an hour while they cooked, burning your fingers every 5 minutes or so as you flipped and rolled the hot dough around the cornet mold. Let me tell you, I was sweating when I finished the 11, count-em 11 cornets I had made at the end of that hour.DSC_0060

Luckily, filled with the crème fraiche and minced and rinsed red onion  “french onion dip” (that’s what it tasted like) and the lovely, lemon and chive salmon tartare, followed by a bubbly sip of cava, they melted in your mouth. To the ladies of CBC!!! Cheers

We set to work with a vengance after that. Maria’s blini were first and she had her work cut out for her, boil those potatoes for a good 45 minutes, peel them while they were hot, OUCH…

DSC_0072

then she had to quickly press this through the tamis that Julie provided. There was nothing “quick” about it and playing with a hot potato, sounds like a game doesn’t it? We ended up getting out my food mill, grinding up that damned potato in there while Maria pushed it through the tamis. Check out our system:
DSC_0076
Ok so this blogpost could go on forever but I think I’m going to do a show and tell of the basic beautiful recipes and leave the details of each of them to the other girls.

DSC_0101

So, Maria’s blini were very different. Usually blini are made with flour. This was kind of like a mashed potato pancake. She had apparently spent her entire Friday night making a “tomato coulis” which was 3lbs of tomatoes reduced to about 1/4 cup. They were beautiful, tasty and well presented with the shaved tuna roe sprinkled on top.
DSC_0108
Next up, Julie’s beautiful “Caesar Salads” which she prepared ahead of time and plated at my house. The composed salad had the dressing on the bottom under a baguette crouton, topped with a light, creamy parmesan custard, a parmesan crisp, some shredded romaine tossed with the anchovy salad dressing and topped with parmesan shavings. On the side you can see the balsamic reduction that was a beautiful contrast to the lightness of the custard. MMMMmmmmmm.
DSC_0149

It’s a bit un-traditional but it was ready so we decided to do Elizabeth’s cheese course which was called Corsu Vecchiu with Spiced Carrot Salad and Golden Raisin Puree. She substituted Manchego for the Corsu Vecchiu as she coudn’t find the former, but Keller states that it is a semi-hard sheeps cheese from Spain so we felt this fit the bill. It was utterly delicious, crunchy spicy carrot, sweet puree and the tartness of the cheese all went together very well, though we did find the dried pulverized carrot to be not more than a bit of decoration and probably not worth the effort.
DSC_0155
Renee’s pasta course Sweet Potato Agnolotti with Sage Cream, Brown Butter, and Prosciutto ended up being sweet potato ravioli as we paused too long in the rolling/drying phase of the program and were unable to make the agnolotti. These melted in your mouth, bacony, proscuittoy, sweet delights. She took the rest of the batter home to make on Monday night 😦 Ah well…..

DSC_0163

I chose to make the Black Sea Bass with Sweet Parsnips, Arrowleaf Spinach, and Saffron-Vanilla Sauce. I had to start by making mussels in a white wine broth, not using the mussels but using 1 cup of the broth for my sauce. I did that at about 1pm right before I mixed the cornets up, let me tell you, those mussels were quite tasty on monday night for dinner.
The parsnips needed to boil in cream and be pressed through that tamis again (we ended up using the Maria method again for that). Boy that sweet parsnipy cream was tasty, I ended up adding it to a corn chowder later in the week. Always leftover extra parts with Keller.
Once the saffron vanilla cream mussel reduction was done, the parsnips were piped onto the plate, the orange spinach was fried, squeezed and balled on top of that, it was time to make the fish.
DSC_0173
Note, I am not the worlds best fish fryer. I ended up using rockfish for most of it because the black sea bass was tiny, and I did end up undercooking some of the larger pieces of fish (sorry peeps) but all in all, it was a beautiful, time consuming, deliciously creamy dish.

And here it is:
DSC_0176

Last but definitely not least was Alayne’s tasty Lemon Saboyan Tart with Pine Nut crust and Honeyed Mascarpone Cream. The tart was beautifully browned, tart yet sweet. It was reminiscent of the one I make from Dannenberg’s “Paris: Boulangerie Patisserie” with a much richer crust.
DSC_0182

We didn’t finish up until about 10pm on Sunday night so you can see that it was an intense, wonderful evening spent. Thanks to everyone for pitching in with the dishes as we would not have had enough cooking or serving dishes for everything. We used every single dish towel I possess. Looking forward to Friday night at Maria’s house…..

Many of us are insanely busy right now or catching up on our blogposts, they will come though, trust me… We used three different Daniel Boulud cookbooks, Daniel Boulud’s Cafe Boulud, Daniel’s Dish, and Cooking With Daniel Boulud.

We  made:

  • Coralie’s Paté Maman (not from Daniel) – Renee
  • Cremini and Fontina Tart – Renee
  • Soupe au Pistou – Tracey
  • Sweetbreads salad with Mache and Chicory – Joanne
  • Lamb Chops with Lemon Pignoli Crust – Julie
  • Oven Roasted Vegetables – Alayne
  • Chamonix with Orange Chocolate Ice Cream – Elizabeth

Delicious

boulud

The book is chosen, prepare yourselves…

Kitchenography is hosting the  November Cookbook Club and she has chosen Daniel Boulud’s Cafe Boulud Cookbook: French-American Recipes for the Home Cook. Courses have been assigned and we are looking forward to it. Stay tuned for November updates.

As Elizabeth and Patrick O’Connell both said, the dinner was elegant and refined. I think it’s important to stress that we used two different books by Patrick O’Connell. Patrick O’Connell’s Refined American Cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington and The Inn at Little Washington. Both books have beautiful photos and while the latter focuses on the region, the restaurant and the food, the former is pure food.

Renee did not come through on the chintz decor that should have been  mandatory for this particular dinner party. Having eaten at The Inn, I must say that I prefer the larger portion sizes that we had at Renee’s to the tiny portions that we had at the Inn. Tasty, but tiny…

Elizabeth’s pasta dish was not tiny. It was big and bold and delicious, the tomato paste and mushrooms combined to make it velvety. I’ve never seen Aveline eat so much.

In the photos below you can see Renee’s baby bok choy. The sauce that Elizabeth was referring to was a caramelized rice vinegar sauce that was absolutely wonderful with the crispy rockfish and bok choy. Julie did a fantastic job on the soufflés and I was surprised at how tasty the corn salsa was with the fish. I love the other picture as Renee’s potholder matches the puffed up grit cakes.

As for the Rutabega-Apple Soup that Alayne made, it was tasty, creamy and smooth with a bit of a tang from the rutabega, sweetness from the maple syrup, sweet potato and butternut squash, and had just the right hint of spiciness with the addition of the cayenne. It was so good I made it for dinner again last night.

I must say I was a bit disappointed with the grapefruit tart (not that I didn’t finish my piece). It was very astringent and acidic, though it looked pretty.  I had thought the sugar and cream would tone it down but I think the grapefruit to orange juice ratio was too high, if I made it again I believe I’d either do 3/4 orange to 1/4 grapefruit juice or maybe just use 1/2 of the rind from the grapefruit, that may have been where the astringent taste came from. Sorry Alayne.


Renee has picked Patrick O’Connell’s books for this autumn foray. There will be seven members of Cookbook Club in October and each is assigned a course. Hopefully Renee’s kitchen will accomodate us all. Someone should be in charge of the chintz and someone else in charge of the gilt in order to have the appropriate atmosphere for eating this rich beautiful food.

Renee has stated that we can take our recipes from “The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook” or “Patrick O’Connell’s Refined American Cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington”. I’m in charge of dessert, looking forward to October….

Cookbook Club was held on Labor Day chez Keswickian. We decided to invite the guys and had quite a bit of fun cooking for and with them. We were also joined by Strawberrie’s sister Laurita who contributed the wonderful bread that, paired with the local butter WBC had brought, went down very well.

The cookbook 1080 Recipes is a Spanish cookbook that was written by Simone Ortega in Spanish over 30 years ago and recently translated into English by Phaiden Press.

I was a little bit nervous about this book as CBC had previously done the Silver Spoon Cookbook which was published by the same outfit and had many errors. We were pleasantly surprised.

We decided to go the tapas route (Spain after all) and cook and eat as things became available. The guys were charged with pairing drinks to our meals. I think this was pretty impossible as we didn’t know what we were making until Saturday. There was plenty of sangria, sherry and some kind of brazilian tequila like liqueur going around. The impressive list of tapas follows:

  • Steamed Shrimp with Homemade Mayonnaise
  • Zucchini Stuffed with Mussels and Tarragon Cream Sauce
  • Baked Whole Fresh Sardines
  • Gruyere Wrapped in Bacon and Fried
  • Fried Codfish Cakes
  • Potatoes Stuffed with Sausages (Strawberries has a story to tell!!!)
  • Lamb Tenderloin in a Rosemary Salt Crust
  • Shirred Eggs with Chicken Livers and Sherry

For dessert we had a date mousse that was delicious and even better cold the next day. I’ll leave the deets and the rest of the photos up to the other two. Suffice it to say it was a wonderful evening.