Friday, March 26, 2010

Cheese Souffle

Tonight, Nick and I had fresh asparagus and a cheese souffle for dinner. This is my very first, ever, cheese souffle. I used my grandmother Eleanor's glass baking dish. Not ideal for a souffle, as the sides slope outward, so my souffle did not rise significantly, but it did rise. Besides, I did not have a souffle dish small enough for my two person version. Ok, I will say that this recipe was supposed to serve four, but it served two. At our house, we eat a lot.

I turned to Julia Child for the recipe. I used the one in The Way to Cook. Here's the basic method.

Separate the eggs. I used five eggs. Make a thick bechamel sauce, with 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons flour, and 1 cup milk. Add a bit of salt, pepper, paprika, and nutmeg. Whip the egg whites to stiff peak. After the bechamel cools, add the egg yolks. Then, fold the egg whites into the bechamel mixture, along with the cheese. The recipe said to use 1 cup of shredded cheese, but I used about 3/4 cup. Put into your buttered, prepared dish, then, put a collar on the dish, so the souffle has something to rise against, once it elevates itself in your oven. The oven is preheated to 375 F. Bake for around 35 minutes. My souffle was a bit weepy in the center, but that was not a bad thing, I don't think. Reminiscent of an omelet baveuse.

I served the souffle with a Pinot Grigio, a salad, some whole wheat bread (I used the basic whole wheat bread recipe from this book), and asparagus from California. I bought the asparagus today at the Reading Terminal Market, in Center City Philadelphia. Wow. $1.49 for a beautiful huge bunch! How great is that price? I read earlier this week, I think in The Wall Street Journal, (which I read every morning while commuting on SEPTA) that Asparagus is coming in huge quantities, thus the price, which is a full dollar lower than I am used to paying. So right now, I'm congratulating myself, thinking we ate pretty well at Chez Barbara. AND there's more! It took only about an hour to make this dinner, and it was all 'from scratch'. (I left work 1/2 hour early tonight, which gave us a head start on the deal.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Getting to the Root

Root vegetables are comforting. I think I'm genetically coded at the most basic level to say "yes" and "good" when it comes to foods that store well and taste good. All I know for sure is that I like root vegetables. Potatoes. Carrots. Parsnips. Turnips. Onions. And so on.

Spring has come to the northeastern US, and there are still no green vegetables above the ground. Even the alliums are silent. But what we do still have are the root vegetables, noble sorts, who have kept well over the past hard and cold months of snow, ice, and rain.

Every Thursday evening, I stop to visit at a farmer's stall. He is from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and every Thursday, he's at Penn Center/Suburban Station, in downtown Philadelphia. He sells in-season produce and beef. He also sells free-range eggs (from happy chickens, my mom, Anne, would say). I buy from him. He's Daryl, from Rineer Family Farms. I like to support those who put heart and soul into the food they produce for sale.

This past Thursday, I bought beets, carrots, parsnips, and eggs. This post is about beets and carrots.

Carrot salad is a comforting food. Some like sweet, mayo laden carrot salad. I like mine more piquant. So here's a carrot salad I will serve tonight. I made up this recipe, and I'm not an expert. So feel free to experiment yourself!

Barbara's Carrot Salad

1 pound carrots, shredded.
1 lemon, squeezed.
1 small apple, chopped, with peel on.
1 stalk celery
2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil (I used peanut)
2 tablespoons sugar (more or less)

Shred the carrots. Put in bowl. Cut up the celery and put in bowl. Cut up the apple. Squeeze the lemon. Swish the apple up in the lemon juice, and add the sugar. Put the apple mixture in with the carrots. Add the oil, salt, and pepper. Cover, and refrigerate. (The apple will not get brown if you do the lemon juice treatment...the alternative is to use a Cortland apple, which do not oxidize brown).

Beet Salad

I had a beet salad at a catered work lunch, and I liked it so much, I was inspired to make my own.

Here's how. I adapted a recipe from the Craig Claiborne NY Times Cookbook, which I have had for years. My version was published in 1990. I use this cookbook a lot.

Boil around 2 pounds of beets whole. This will take around 4o minutes. Then, after they've cooled, peel and chop them. Peel 1/2 a red onion. Cut it into slices. Put the onion into the bowl. Add vinegar to taste, salt and pepper, and a little vegetable oil. Also, add some spices, such as clove or allspice. Chill and serve when chilled down.

Root vegetable salads seem perfect for this time of year. Not hot and hearty and long stewed, but...light and rooty.