Sunday, July 22, 2007
Meet my cooking group!
I've been in a cooking group that has been active since 2001. Our start came through posts on Cooking Light bulletin boards. We initially met at Starbuck's to decide on the format to the group as well as to make sure everyone would be comfortable with each other. Since all of the initial members were women at different ages and stages in their lives, we kept the membership to the women themselves as opposed to couples.
We take turns hosting, and the host picks the theme and makes the main dish. We meet every 6 weeks, usually on Sunday evenings. Every so often a host will decide on a brunch theme and make it earlier, or a cocktail party and move it to a Saturday night. Our general rule is that we try to cook healthy foods, although every so often someone will bring something that's a splurge and nobody cries foul. Although we call ourselves a Cooking Light group, we don’t limit ourselves to cooking from that magazine.
There are several aspects about our group that I enjoy:
1. Our relaxed approach. Basically you come when you can. There are people who come almost every time, and some we see once a year or even less -- and that's just fine.
2. The mix of members. We have young women, retired women, people with interesting careers, single women, married women, etc. In general, we spend a lot of time laughing.
3. The food! The group gives me a chance to cook and eat new things that I couldn’t cook for my family.
Vive le Tour 2007!
Our most recent get together was at my house. For our theme, I chose the Tour de France, and you could choose a recipe from any of the countries the tour visits this year -- England, Belgium, France and Spain. We ate al fresco on my new patio, and I played French music through our oh-so-realistic rock speakers.
Here was the menu with links to recipes that can be found elsewhere on the Web:
Pincho Moruno (spiced skewered pork) - Gretchen (bottom right on plate)
Roasted vegetable spread on baguettes - me
Cucumber-Buttermilk Vichyssoise - Chrissie
Main dish & side dishes:
Chicken, Spinach and Mushroom Crepes - me (top left on plate)
Provencal Tomato Potato Gratin - Jackie (bottom left on plate)
Ratatouille- Diane (top right on plate)
Pear Clafouti - Jodi
Improvised dessert crepes - me
Sangria - me
Belgian beer & French wine - Linda
Here are recipes and notes on the rest of the recipes:
Roasted Vegetable Spread
This was an Alton Brown recipe from his show, "Good Eats." It has gotten raves on the Food Network Web site, but I've tried this recipe three different times and have never gotten it to work according to his instructions. His cooking time is too long and the onions char before the rest of the veggies are roasted. Here is how I think the recipe should be done.
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 4 rings
1 medium onion, sliced into quarters -- do not separate rings
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces cream cheese (light works fine)
Freshly ground black pepper
Bread for serving -- he says challah, foccacia, or pita bread. I used French bread but the spread also would be good on bagels.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the bell pepper, onion, garlic, zucchini, and olive oil in a medium mixing bowl and toss until the vegetables are coated. Spread the vegetables evenly on sheet pan lined with foil. Season with salt & pepper. Place in the oven. Roast until veggies are soft and are soft and beginning to turn brown around the edges, approximately 30 minutes (he says 45 minutes). Remove from the oven and cool completely.
Place the vegetables in the bowl of a food processor along with the cream cheese and use on-off pulses until well combined and spreadable but still chunky.
Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve with bread. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Pincho Moruno (spiced skewered pork)
This was delicious, perfectly cooked, and simple to make. I think you could serve it as an appetizer or main dish.
1 garlic clove minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless pork loin, cut in 1-inch cubes
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients except the pork. Add pork and stir to coat thoroughly with marinade. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight, stirring occasionally. Remove pork from marinade and thread onto 4 skewers. Grill over a hot grill or broil 4 inches from flame, turning once, until meat is just cooked but still juicy, about 4 minutes.
The filling for the crepes I made was really bland. Some of it was my fault -- I could have tasted it and added more salt and pepper -- but I think it needed some wine and herbs as well. The crepes themselves came out really good and I'd make them again. Here's the crepe recipe I used, which came from Cooking Light.
Note: a 1/4-cup dry measuring cup is the best tool to scoop and pour the batter into the pan so the crepes cook evenly. The small amount of sugar gives the crepes a golden appearance and crisp edges without adding noticeable sweetness, so this recipe works in both savory and sweet applications.
1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat 1% milk
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Combine milk, water, melted butter, and eggs in a blender. Add the flour mixture to milk mixture, and process until smooth. Cover batter; chill for 1 hour.
Heat an 8-inch nonstick crepe pan or skillet over medium heat. Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter into pan; quickly tilt pan in all directions so batter covers pan with a thin film. Cook about 1 minute. Carefully lift the edge of the crepe with a spatula to test for doneness. The crepe is ready to turn when it can be shaken loose from the pan and the underside is lightly browned (mine never got to the point where they could be shaken loose from the pan). Turn crepe over (I used my fingers and just grabbed an edge), and cook for 30 seconds or until center is set.
Place crepe on a towel; cool completely. Repeat procedure with the remaining batter, stirring batter between crepes. Stack crepes between single layers of wax paper to prevent sticking.
Yield: 13 crepes (serving size: 1 crepe)