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Plantes Vertes

Cooking from 'Vegetables in the French Style' by Roger Vergé

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I thought I'd learn some more precision and improve my method of cooking vegetables, so I recently got this book.

The recipes aren't complicated. Following the recipes is the tricky thing; I'm a throw-in-a-bit-of-this-and-a-bit-of-that-and-see-what-happens kind of cook.

I'll write what I think of the book when I've tried a few more of the recipes. For now, here's the first one I made:

Pommes rôties au laurier - roast potatoes with bay

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The first step in this recipe is to slit the potatoes (I used Exquisas) and slip some slivers of bay inside the incisions. Then you roast them in a mixture of stock and olive oil. Here they are ready to go in the oven:

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The unusual thing about these roast potatoes is that they're half-way submerged in liquid at the start of cooking. The plan is for the stock to boil off and the potatoes then to roast in the oil; you don't parboil the potatoes first. It's really more of a braise.

After 40mins in the heat:

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The potatoes are very tender after 40mins bubbling away in their bath. They taste - and you'll hardly credit it - of bay, so can make friends with any dish that likes bay. The flavour is pronounced, but perhaps not as much as you would expect with that many leaves getting involved. They are also attractive to look at. On the other hand I had to pour the stock off for the final part of cooking as it didn't evaporate as intended. I will try the recipe again with larger potatoes and a shallower dish - the size and shape of the vessel and the vegetables are left to the imagination by the recipe. That meant pouring off the oil too, which probably affected the texture at the end. There was also a bizarrely large quantity of oil specified so I only used about a fifth of it. The potatoes taste rather one-dimensional; I would perhaps prefer them with some garlic slices stuffed inside as well.

We ate them with a green salad and flageolet beans, with a French Domaine Vocoret Chablis in the glass.


Edited by Plantes Vertes (log)
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I again cooked from Vergé's book this evening. The recipe was Courgettes et Petits Oignons à la Cardamomme (Zucchini and Pearl Onions with Cardamom), which I made to join in with the Summer Squash cook-off.

The recipe is for poached courgettes flavoured with cardamom seeds, red chilli, bay and onions and dressed with diced lemon, mint, parsley, coriander and diced dried figs. I had to sub parsley and shallots for the coriander and pearl onions, and I have never seen pearl onions in un-pickled form, and the grocer's was out of coriander.

The ingredients were shameless posers at the start:


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But I got the better of them in the end, and subjected them to a quick boil:

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Tamed them to Vergé's vision:

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And served them with some couscous:

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This recipe was so, so horrible. My mother ate one bite, pronounced it 'interesting', and ate around the rest. It was incredibly acid because of the diced raw lemon even though I reduced the quantity considerably, and the combination of courgettes and dried fruit was... well, let us not sully the page with harsh words. I only used 1/3 of the prescribed amount of fruit because I was shocked at how much he wanted me to put in, but because the courgette was boiled it had very little flavour and could not stand up to the sweetness. I was disappointed.

To add some thoughts on the recipe, it is very unclear. No word is invested in specifying the amount of poaching water, and the shadow of silence obscures the amount of time the author means you to cook the recipe for. The accompanying picture shows selected raw ingredients piled in a basket and liberally strewn with walnuts, which are not in the recipe, so you have no possibility of knowing whether the thing is cooked correctly or not. I wish somebody had tested these dishes before I spent money on the book...


Edited by Plantes Vertes (log)

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Plantes Vertes,

The potatoes with bay look pretty.

It's too bad that the zucchini dish did not work. I imagine that a lot of the flavor of the dish comes from the pearl onions, and using shallots may not have produced the same results. It's odd that you cannot find pearl onions in the UK by the way - here in the US I can find them fresh or frozen (already peeled).

I've seen a lot of people recommend this book so hopefully this won't discourage you...


Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)

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OK, I'll persist. I'm not beyond persuading that some of this is my fault...

For the pearl onions, yes, it is strange, but some vegetables that are popular in preserves are not so easy to buy here in my city, which is very small. You wouldn't find raw beetroot in the supermarket for example, because people like it in vinegar (of course you can get them in the markets in season). I'm sure you can get them in places with bigger and better markets and greengrocers.

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The potatoes look gorgeous! The courgette thing, less so. From the ingredient list, I'd have expected this to be something that is reduced way down to make a vaguely chutney-ish condiment, where the figs, strong acidiy, and very softened texture of the courgettes would make complete sense, and the flavours would have time to blend.

No serving suggestions given?

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The potatoes look gorgeous! The courgette thing, less so. From the ingredient list, I'd have expected this to be something that is reduced way down to make a vaguely chutney-ish condiment, where the figs, strong acidiy, and very softened texture of the courgettes would make complete sense, and the flavours would have time to blend.

No serving suggestions given?

That didn't occur to me for a second, but I bet you're right. There was no serving suggestion and no description of what the end product was supposed to be so I ended up guessing. Now that you point it out yes, a chutney sounds so much more likely than the soupy thing I produced. And as a bonus, more edible....

Thanks!


Edited by Plantes Vertes (log)

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This cookbook was inspirational for me when I bought it 20 years ago, back when I was immersing myself in French cuisine and first taking cooking seriously in general. It introduced me to celeriac and chard, convinced me to try turnips. The eggplant recipes in particular were favorites, especially the gateau d'aubergines. I haven't cooked from it for a long while, though. I remember tweaking some of the recipes but I don't recall any disasters.

One of the things I liked about the book are the tips and informal recipes scattered throughout--using otherwise-discarded cauliflower stalks to make soup, use dried celeriac peelings to make home-made celery salt, etc.

I never tried that courgette recipe, but the photo shows a relatively dry dish, no liquid. If I can find some pearl onions I'll test it. too. Time to pull this book off the shelf again.

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Thanks for sharing your memories, LindaK; this really encourages me to carry on with the book. The aubergine gateau does indeed look spectacular - do you have the picture of the woven presentation? Amazing. Please show us what you make if you decide to reconnect with Vergé.

.

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Today was a very simple preparation of red peppers. I've made that plenty of times before, although not from the book.

You scorch the skins:


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Then you stick the peppers in a plastic bag to steam the skins lose, then peel them once cool:

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Remove the seeds and membranes:

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Slice the pepper flesh, lie the pieces in a dish, sprinkle with garlic and olive oil, and add some black olives:

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Then grill (broil) it on a low heat until the garlic browns slightly.

I served it for my family with mozzarella, and myself, I tackled some leftovers.

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It was good, but I still have not come to trust the quantities in this book. I only used half the garlic, and you can see that there was a lot. I also didn't know whether I was supposed to remove the garlic before serving. I removed part of it; next time I will remove it all as the flavour was very strong.


Edited by Plantes Vertes (log)
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I love this. I follow the same steps but have not tried it with garlic (or black olives), just olive oil with a small amount of red pepper flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice. Leftovers are great in sandwiches.

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Yes, the texture is great. Very soft but still firm. I like them with hummus and also in salads, and they're good to line a tart with too.

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Shallots Braised in Sherry

Full disclosure: this recipe took a left turn in the middle...

The truth, the whole truth: this is in no way a French recipe.

Utter candour: the recipe is for braised onions, but shallots are what was in the veg rack.

One more thing: this was a large recipe calling for eight white onions. I love onions, but there are limits, so I reduced this a good deal; the quantities were therefore somewhat, uh, approximate.

This recipe contains a large quantity of soy sauce. But it's in the book so I considered it valid, and I like soy sauce so I considered it tasty, and I had some shallots so I considered it dinner.

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Peel, wash and dry the shallots and cook them in sherry, olive oil (butter in the recipe) and sugar to reduce the liquid by half.

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Then add stock and bay, cover and braise. Because my recipe was small I cooked this on the stovetop for 20mins rather than 2hrs in the oven.

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Once done, remove the onions and bay and add a mixture of water, tomato paste, soy sauce and cornstarch, and simmer to thicken. It was too hard to be dithering about with fractions of teaspoons so I decided to make a full recipe of the sauce and just use part of it with the onions.

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Now, my shallots were looking and smelling pretty appealing...

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... and I was loth to smother them in tarry black sauce. And, I had dismembered a cauliflower the day before and had some cauliflower greens eyeing me accusingly from the crisper. And I had some fried onions left over. And, I have suffered a lot in this life and did not feel I deserved a second meal of cauliflower greens soup this week. So I did a three-point turn. I quickly steamed the greens:

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Boiled some noodles, combined the lot and devoured it.

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Some more of the sherry insinuated itself into the picture. It was really great.


Edited by Plantes Vertes (log)

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Oh, and, the shallots are in the fridge awaiting their true destiny, and I wholeheartedly recommend oat noodles; they're really chewy.

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Oh, and, the shallots are in the fridge awaiting their true destiny, and I wholeheartedly recommend oat noodles; they're really chewy.

I like chewy noodles. Are these a dried product? I must explore.

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Today I gave the Gâteau d'Aubergines (aubergine/eggplant cake) a whirl.

The lineup:


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You cut and score the aubergines, sprinkle with olive oil and cook in the oven.

Before:

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After:

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Then you gut the aubergines so that the skins remain *intact*. I didn't do that. I used a grapefruit knife and they ended up in ronions. However, I managed to rescue a few scraps and fashion then into a woven aubergine basket:

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Please note that my version does not look exactly like the one in the book, which is an object of beauty and awe.

But mine's fine. Right? Right?

Next you put the aubergine innards into a blender, where they're joined by a red pepper, roasted and skinned as demonstrated in the previous post, plus a tsp of cardamom seeds, salt and pepper. At this point you're meant to add full cream, eggs and bread soaked in milk. These are foods I try to avoid so for binding I added 2TBS chia seeds and some water. You stuff that inside your aubergine basket, and stick it back in the oven.

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Plantes Vertes - I hope you realize that "full cream, eggs and bread soaked in milk" is not equal to "chia seeds and some water"!!! :smile:

Regardless, I can't wait to see the reveal.


Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)

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When it comes out it looks like this:


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Then I made a quick sauce out of a spare roasted pepper I happened to have hanging around, some parsley, a small garlic clove and salt and pepper.

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We ate it with bulghur and some greens, and a Chateau Musar Jeune from the Lebanon.

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Plantes Vertes - I hope you realize that "full cream, eggs and bread soaked in milk" is not equal to "chia seeds and some water"!!! :smile:

I had my suspicions... :hmmm:

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If I can find a link to the recipe I'll be the guinea pig for the original version. As much as I love my Chia ( strictly platonic) it is quite a stretch to sub for cream, eggs and bread as attested to by BMI. And the dish does look great with the pepper sauce.

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Steve Irby, I found one here. Please post your results for the real thing if you do try it.

ETA For some reason the NYT recipe omits the sauce from the recipe; the book specifies a red pepper or tomato coulis. I can PM you the recipes for those if you like.


Edited by Plantes Vertes (log)

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Since I've said nice things about this book on the past, I feel obliged to revisit it, especially recipes like the gateau d'aubergine that I remember as being really good. So here's the original, sort of. I had access only to small eggplants, so the skins weren't large enough to cover the length of a full size pan. So instead I made petits gateaux using individual ramekins. Voilà!

DSCF1401.JPG

I didn't have the extra red pepper to make the coulis, though it's quite good. Mostly I was hungry. So for speed, as well as contrasting color and acidity, I sautéed some of the cherry tomatoes that are taking over my garden. Not as elegant but it was very tasty.

I followed the recipe precisely, though once I got started I remembered some of the tweaks that I'd adopted long ago when I made this with some regularity (1) use more eggplant pulp than the recipe indicates. You get a silkier and more flavorful result. (2) seeds: if you find yourself with large eggplants with large seeds, use a food mill to separate the pulp. it wasn't an issue this time, though I did pull out a few clumps of seeds before I puréed the mixture. (3) also, be sparing with the ground cardamom. Taste before adding the full amount. If yours is fresh and strong, it can overwhelm.

If you're wondering what the inside looks like, with its little flecks of roasted red pepper:

DSCF1416.JPG

I've never tried to weave the eggplant skins into a lattice. They're never long enough, plus, I would fear that it would be awfully thick to eat, even if it is pretty. I've been happy enough to simply line the molds with strips.

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