Monday, January 18, 2010
The Conscious Cook Experiment: Part Three
"What the hell is 'chiffonade'?"
Sometimes, my friends, it is good to know you're not alone.
As you know from my last few posts, I'm doing a great deal of cooking this month from Tal Ronnen's super-fancy vegan cookbook The Conscious Cook so that I might review said book on CBC radio at the end of the month. What perhaps I haven't mentioned is that I am one of two food bloggers tasked with the cooking and reviewing. The program's producers wanted to give the book to two different bloggers, one vegetarian and one omnivore. Geoff, who chronicled every dinner her ate in 2009 over at A Year of Supper, was the other blogger selected. He and his partner Nicole generously invited the Man of Science and I over to their place for a Ronnen-tastic feast last night. Do we know how to make great radio or what?
The meal began, with the Fresh-Baked Focaccia with Caramelized Onions. Or rather without caramelized onions. Because I fancied olives instead. Otherwise, I followed the recipe to the letter. I'd never made focaccia before, but it wasn't any more complicated than an average bread recipe. It looked and smelled delicious when it came out of the oven and I was eager to get over to Geoff and Nicole's so we could dig in.
We ate the bread dipped in a mix of olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a delicious bottle of red wine. It was lovely. Crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. And the recipe made a ton. There were enough leftovers for us to bring some home for our Sunday lunches. It was still great the next day after a minute in the toaster.
Geoff and Nicole handled the next course, the delicious Fresh Mint and Cucumber Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette.* This was a perfect illustration of why the dinner party was a good idea. I never would have looked twice at this recipe if left to my own devices. But now that I've actually eaten it, I think I'll make it myself some time. It was fresh and crisp, the perfect mid-meal dish. I can't believe how light the dressing was. I had to be told it was tahini, I wouldn't have guessed.
Our main course was Old Bay Tofu Cakes with Pan-Roasted Summer Vegetables, Horseradish Cream, Apples and Beets. Whew! I'd hate to be the waitress rattling that title off to tables of hungry people. This was amazing. I think it was another of Ronnen's epic recipes, since Geoff spent quite a while in the kitchen putting the final touches on the whole dish, hence the shouting about what the hell a chiffonade was. But I would say it was worth the hard work, given how tasty the dish was. Like the meal I prepared in my last post, this one had a great assortment of textures and flavours. We all really, really liked it.
I handled the dessert, choosing the Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cake to end off our meal. Again, I messed with the recipe a bit and left out the berry sorbet that was supposed to go along with the cake. This was not merely a whim. The recipe for the sorbet required an ice cream maker which is one kitchen gadget I do not have. Or want.
I was a bit worried about the cake, frankly, because when it came out of my oven it looked kind of dry. I wondered if maybe the sorbet was crucial for the enjoyment of the dessert. Also, the cake took much longer to bake than the recipe said it was supposed to. The instructions said 25-30 minutes and I ended up leaving mine in the oven for 50 minutes. Regardless, the cake was great. My texture-based fears evaporated with my first bite. This was a very easy recipe and it yielded very satisfying results.
We all agreed that the thing about the book is, though the recipes are complicated and do call for a lot of unconventional ingredients, the food that results is unfailingly delicious. And even though we put away a lot of food we were still able to drink lots of booze (well, everyone else was, I was driving) and play a few rounds of Rock Band (those drums are HARD!) before I drove a rightly hosed Man of Science home for the night.
*It just took me about ten minutes to find that recipe in the book. Here's a complaint! The index is crummy. I looked up "cucumber" and I got a list of about ten page numbers. No other information, like what some of those recipe titles might be. The table of contents does not list recipe titles either. So I had to look at each page listed under "cucumber" to find the salad. Pain in the butt.