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Jul 31, 2014 03:45 PM

August 2014 COTM - Diana Henry: Pure Simple Cooking

Greetings all!

Please use this thread to post your reviews of the following:

Pure Simple Cooking by Diana Henry

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  1. Zucchini with Ricotta, Mint and Basil, p. 120

    This is a really delicious -- but rather rich -- treatment for zucchini. Zucchini coins are pan-fried in batches until golden on both sides. The batches are layered in a shallow bowl with ricotta salata, pecorino romano, olive oil, lemon juice, fresh mint and basil. This dish is just as marvelous as it sounds! Very fresh and lively from the herbs, cheese and lemon. A great way to use up some of the zucchini glut. There are a few similar recipes in Plenty that I am also looking forward to trying this month as I have lots of zucchini on hand. Also, I think these recipes would work very well with grilled zucchini which would reduce the fat content somewhat without sacrificing flavor. Bring on the zukes!

    2 Replies
      1. re: Westminstress

        Also made this, but changed the recipe a little bit. I used less oil and omitted the ricotta salata since I had none. I liked it. Easy to make and a bit different way to serve zucchini.

      2. Rhubarb cake, page 183

        This is one of my favourite cakes which I've made quite a bit. The last time was on Tuesday using rhubarb from my colleagues allotment. DH says you can also use nectarines, peaches, plums etc.

        It's very simple - equal parts of butter and sugar beaten until light and fluffy. Add three beaten eggs bit by bit, then vanilla extract (a must, IMHO) and fold in sifted self-raising flour. Scrape into a buttered 20 cm springform tin, and top with the rhubarb tossed in sugar. Bake at 190C for 40 minutes.

        In the past I've made this with the early, bright pink forced rhubarb, which goes very soft and melty. The more mature rhubarb kept its shape and a certain toothsome quality. It also gave out a lot of juice! I prefer the early rhubarb, but a colleague at work (it was a cheer us up on night shift treat) messaged me to say " this is incredible. What is it?". Er, cake, with rhubarb! I think it was a hit...

        Must try with peaches next!

        7 Replies
        1. re: greedygirl

          I've made this cake, though not with rhubarb. I did it with apples. Anyway, concur that this is a great and easy cake that would work with any fruit. I think apricots would be very nice!

          1. re: greedygirl

            I made this cake with peaches last night (I peeled them first). It was easy and delicious. It is a rather similar recipe to the "galley girl pear cake" that has made the rounds here years back.

            1. re: greedygirl

              Rhubarb Cake - p. 183

              Those of you in the "Cooking From..." thread may remember my delight in finding this recipe last year. I have baked it countless times, not just with rhubarb but with apples, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, you name it. A truly wonderful, versatile cake recipe.

              1. re: geekmom

                I am now wondering why it took me so long to get off my butt and make this (Rhubarb Cake, p.183). It was ludicrously easy to make, and got rave reviews (LulusDad "This is better than any cake I've gotten at any restaurant!"). Seriously, I took the butter out to soften before doing a few things around the house, and then once I started it took probably 10 minutes (if that) to put this together. Delicious. I'd love to try it with apricots, and the pear idea is intriguing too. I see what the fuss is about! Definitely agree that the vanilla is a must.

              2. re: greedygirl

                Rhubarb (Apple) Cake, p. 183

                Another apple-picking season, another apple cake! Though I love experimenting with new recipes, in this case I wanted to go with something tried and true since I had only white whole wheat flour in the house. If it didn't work out, I wanted to be able to blame the flour and not the recipe!

                Adjusting a bit for American measures, I made this cake with 1 stick of butter, 4 oz of white whole wheat flour, and 4 oz of sugar. I used almost the full amount of apples (700 g peeled and chopped) and did not toss the fruit with any additional sugar. Cooked it all in my 9 inch springform though the recipe calls for 8-inch. As before, it took almost an hour to bake in my slow oven.

                Well the cake was delicious (again) and I couldn't really tell the difference between AP flour and white whole wheat. Maybe the texture was a bit coarser but the cake was quite good. I was worried it might be dry with the whole wheat flour, but I needn't have. It was, if anything, even moister and more delicious on day two.

                1. re: greedygirl

                  Made the rhubarb cake again - except with canned peaches. I suddenly realized that I hadn't thought of anything for dessert and we had a guest coming for dinner. Found a can of peaches in the pantry and bingo! Why not try it? And it was delightful. I just Love this cake. I'm using a slightly bigger cake pan (9 inches, not 8) so take it out maybe 5 minutes before she calls for.

                  1. re: greedygirl

                    Rhubarb (nectarine) cake

                    I had a punnet of nectarines that are too sour to eat. Made them into this cake today with 2.5 tbsp of sugar instead of the 5 tbsp for rhubarb. It was soooo good. The nectarines are so soft and sweet like those coming out of a tin. I didn't peel the skin and it doesn't matter as the skin gone all soft from the cooking. I like the cake better with nectarines than rhubarb.

                  2. Turkish Baked Aubergines with Chilli, Feta, and Mint - p. 112 (UK edition)

                    Every summer I get bombarded with eggplant, and every summer I look for new ways to prepare it. This recipe immediately appealed to me because I had all the ingredients, especially lots of homemade feta sitting in the fridge.

                    The recipe has you halve eggplants and then score them. I cut each eggplant into four lengthwise slices instead. You are then supposed to pour on 10 Tbs of olive oil. I didn't measure. I was pretty liberal with it, but I doubt I used 10 Tbs! The eggplant is seasoned with salt and pepper, then gets roasted in a 400-degree oven. Meanwhile, onions are sautéed in more olive oil until golden, then some sliced garlic and red chiles are added in (I used fresno chiles).

                    The cooked eggplant goes onto a serving platter, lemon juice is squeezed over, then the onion mixture goes on top. Feta gets scattered over that, then the yogurt is dabbed on top, and the dish is finished with a scattering of mint leaves and some more olive oil.

                    Hard to see how this could fail to be delicious, and indeed it was. Definitely will be a repeat around here during eggplant season. Served with some lemon roasted potatoes, it made for a nice vegetarian meal.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: MelMM

                      So this was your main? Somehow in reading the recipe I never got that it was supposed to be a main, and it always sounded like it could be overkill with most of the main courses I go for. It *does* sound absolutely delicious.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Yes, it was the main for two of us, and we had a little left over. With all the dairy, it would be a bit heavy for a side, to my taste.

                        1. re: MelMM

                          I think that is why I've skipped over it. I got the impression it was a side (and if it fed 2 of you, that may be part of why I thought this), and I agree - I usually don't want that much dairy in a side - too rich. But as a main it sounds really good. The lemon potatoes sound like they'd be a nice go-with.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            In the headnote, she says it serves 4 as a starter or side. She mentions that it is substantial enough for a main, but doesn't give servings. I'd say it would serve 2.5-3, depending upon how much else there is to go with it.

                      2. re: MelMM

                        Glad to see this enthusiastic report. I have a huge globe eggplant from this past week's CSA haul, and when I looked through the Diana Henry books I own, I lit on this one, and plan to make it later this week...though undoubtedly, I'll use less oil than she calls for!

                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          I got a great tip about eggplant today from a Chinese guy I met at a party. He'd made a delicious Chinese-style aubergine salad and he told me he microwaved the eggplant for six minutes before slicing and frying. Absorbs way less oil that way apparently, and his aubergines weren't remotely oily.

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            Nice tip; unfortunately, I don't currently have a microwave. I also once read, I think on a thread on CH, a tip to pour boiling water over cut eggplant (really, the barest of blanching), with similar results.

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              I always salt cut eggplant for 1/2 hour or so, rinse and dry. It looses its sponge qualities and absorbs much less oil after this treatment

                          2. re: MelMM

                            Oh , thanks for your report ! I've had my eye on this one for ages.

                            1. re: MelMM

                              How do you make your feta? I am impressed that you are making that at home!

                              1. re: MelMM

                                Turkish Baked Eggplant with Chile, Feta, and Mint, p. 112 (US)

                                Funny that chile and mint, which serve as grace notes, made it into the recipe title, while onions, which are really key to the deliciousness of the dish, did not! My feta wasn't homemade, but Bulgarian and made from sheep's milk, and I had but one eggplant (albeit a large globe variety weighing in at around 1.5 lbs), but I can only concur with MelMM that this makes a splendid centerpiece for a vegetarian meal.

                                I sliced my big eggplant lengthwise into four thick slabs, which I scored on one side. I probably used a couple of tablespoons of oil on them, aided by a brush, with more on the scored side. Despite this reduction, they baked up perfectly tender and not at all dry. I also used rather less than 1/4 cup oil for the onions. Like Mel, I used Fresno chiles.

                                I served my eggplant with leftover Greek herb pilaf from the CWPL recipe (I had plenty of rice and feta left, but no more shrimp). I guess by serving Greek lemony roast potatoes and Greek pilaf with our Turkish eggplant, both Mel and I respectively achieved something like diplomacy on a plate! As far as determining how many main dish servings the recipe makes, just for reference, my 1.5 lb eggplant works out to two good servings (for me) with the rice as a side, and could easily be supplemented with a green salad.

                              2. Swedish Baked Beets with Onions, Sour Cream, and Dill, p. 126.

                                The title says it all, with a very short list of ingredients that together create a delicious side dish. You just oven-roast the beets till tender ("try to get small ones" says DH and I did) in little foil jackets at 350 F, cool them and peel them. I love this method of cooking beets because it is essentially no-mess. DH did suggest something new (to me): add some s, p, and a little olive oil into the packets before you seal them completely. Never thought of that before. Seemed to make the peels slide off more easily afterwards.

                                Meanwhile, slice red onions "into half moons, " season with s & p and a bit of olive oil and roast them in the same oven for 20 to 30 minutes until "tender and slightly singed at the tips." Mine took 40 minutes to achieve this state.

                                Halve or quarter the peeled, roasted beets and place them with the onions on a serving dish, and dab them with sour cream mixed with coarsely-chopped fresh dill. Season gently if necessary once again with s & p and serve. Can be served hot or at room temperature; I made the beets and onions ahead, refrigerated them, and then rewarmed the platter slightly in the microwave before garnishing with the sour cream and dill.

                                The finished dish is unashamedly deep-red in color but the dabs of white sour cream mixed with tiny sprigs of green dill provide a very pretty contrast. The sweetness of the beets was nicely balanced by the sour cream and dill. DH suggested serving this dish in the Swedish way with smoked fish like trout or salmon. I accompanied it with my Rozanne Gold speciality: fresh organic salmon filets enrobed with a slice of smoked salmon ("Wild Alaska Sockeye Salmon," Echo Falls brand ) at 475 F for 12 - 15 minutes. I love this simple technique because it keeps the salmon filets moist and contributes an elusive smoky taste without being at all overpowering.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Goblin

                                  Great to read this Goblin. We roasted beets last night, will roast red onions tonight, tomorrow will assemble the salad.

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    I hope you like the dish, Gio! To me is was a simple, classic combo. Tell us what you serve it with.

                                  2. re: Goblin

                                    Swedish Baked Beets with Onions, Sour Cream, and Dill, Pg. 126

                                    Lovely, tasty salad. Sweet beets, softly charred red onions, chopped dill, sour cream equals quintessential Swedish cuisine. The beets and new onions were fresh from the farm as was the dill so the ingredients were at their best and the final dish proved it served at room temperature.

                                    I served this with a roast chicken sandwich on freshly baked rye from the FM layered with sweet onion, tomato, and crisp cold lettuce. It was a very good pairing but I completely forgot there is a package of smoked trout in the freezer. I think there's enough left to remedy that oversight. Thanks for your report, Goblin !

                                  3. Chicken baked with red onions, potatoes and rosemary p. 15
                                    This was a very quick and easy meal made with chicken thighs. The oven is preheated to 400. Two red onions are cut into 10 wedges each and spread on the bottom of a roasting pan along with 1 1/4 lbs of new potatoes, unpeeled, and 2 bulbs of garlic unpeeled but separated into cloves. The vegetables are seasoned with S & p, olive oil (1/2 c is called for, I used less) and 2 T balsamic vinegar. 5 sprigs of rosemary are added (some stripped and some whole, use your judgment) and everything is mixed together by hand and topped with a 4lb chicken cut into 8 pieces or 8 chicken thighs. I cut the amount of chicken in half to no ill effect.
                                    The whole thing is baked for 45 minutes or until baked through.
                                    This is not really a new or exotic recipe - though the use of balsamic was new for me. I think I might chop the rosemary more finely if serving to company. Overall this was fast, easy, inexpensive and satisfying.

                                    11 Replies
                                    1. re: Blythe spirit

                                      Chicken baked with red onions, potatoes, and (thyme) - p. 15

                                      Thanks to Blythe for the summary of this recipe. I used thyme, because I was cooking for someone who doesn't like rosemary. The substitution worked extremely well. The flavours are simple and appealing.

                                      This was ludicrously easy, and I was able to make it as a weeknight meal - I preheated the oven when I walked in the door, quickly chopped everything up and "bunged it in the oven" as the book says. The aroma coming from the kitchen was absolutely wonderful as it baked! We all thoroughly enjoyed this dish.

                                      I did find that my chicken was thoroughly cooked through well before the veg had reached the level of caramelization I wanted, though, so if possible I'd recommend you use chicken with the bones and skin still attached.

                                      1. re: geekmom

                                        I had a problem with my potatoes not cooking through when I did this one. I make a similar dish fairly often and never have that problem, so I'm guessing the potatoes were weird. The recipe on the same page with sweet potatoes is also dead easy and very tasty.

                                        1. re: geekmom

                                          :-) 'ludicrously easy' is a very apt description!

                                          1. re: geekmom

                                            We cooked this recipe for that "Cooking From" thread and absolutely loved it. I used the tiny marble potatoes from TJ's left whole, and they worked perfectly. I used bone-in chicken thighs which also cooked as we like them, juicy and tender. Sometimes I lay a whole branch of tiny tomatoes on the vegetables. Thanks for reminding me about this recipe.

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              I picked up the book earlier this morning-
                                              I found so many good recipes that I am looking forward to trying.

                                              a chicken breast is marinating in the garlic, evvo,lemon.
                                              will then place on a bed of cut potatoe, sweetpotato,
                                              red onion and mini peppers.

                                              1. re: jpr54_1

                                                Love that combination jpr. Perfect meal, chicken and vegetables.

                                            2. re: geekmom

                                              so good to see you back, geekmom! missed your posts....

                                              1. re: Westminstress

                                                Thank you :-) I'm glad that I've found time to contribute this month!

                                            3. re: Blythe spirit

                                              Add us to those who've made and loved this dish (both variations). I used bone in skin on parts and cooked them with the veg on a baking sheet, everything in a single layer. Cooked through very well that way. The balsamic vinegar in this recipe really elevates the flavors and the sea-salt rubbed chicken skin gets nice and crispy.

                                              1. re: Westminstress

                                                Yes, that balsamic (I had white balsamic on hand) really adds a nice touch.