Friday, October 5, 2007

At Home in Napa

Posted by BAKE-EN at 6:04 PM
Not nearly as cool as Provence!

This week I've been cooking and baking from Patricia Wells At Home In Provence. This cookbook is beautiful, and all of the recipes are inspiring. Two of the recipes that really stood out for me were the Saturday Beef Salad (page 74) and Garlic Family Soup (page 103). Both of which I decided to make last Friday as a surprise dinner for Joe to come home to. The grapes were finally ready to be harvested last week, so Joe's been working very long days lately. He clearly needed steak.

The Saturday Steak Salad was the perfect meal for us. Joe always wants to eat steak, and I always want to eat salad; so finally we were united in a meal :) This salad was so good. The cornichon's went amazingly well with the horseradish, red onion, dijon and steak. The potatoes made this salad much more of a meal than a starter. The romaine made it feel healthier than it really was :) Overall, I would say this was one of the best salads I've made. While Joe and I were savoring the salad; Joe declared the salad didn't need the romaine. It was the best potato salad he's ever had! So funny, personally I think it needs the romaine to cut through the heaviness of the other ingredients.

In addition to the salad we had the Garlic Family Soup. I was really disappointed by the soup that evening, but I've changed my tune since. In hindsight, it's obvious to me that I paired two very strong flavored items together that would have been better apart. There was simply too much going on, flavor wise, between the cornichon's, horseradish, garlic, tarragon...etc. There were too many competing flavors, and because of that the soup didn't taste that good. All I could get from it that night at dinner was a strong taste of tarragon. The next day though, I had the soup for lunch. It was great. The garlic, leeks, shallots, onions and potatoes united together to form a deliciously creamy soup. The tarragon, which I had found overpowering the night before, was mellow and a nice contrast to the other flavors.

In addition to the cooking, I decided to make the Fig, Apricot Walnut & Raisin Rye Bread (page 183). This bread recipe was delightful to make. I didn't have figs, raisins or walnuts so I did as Mrs. Wells suggested; I used what I had on hand. The bread I made was loaded with dried apricots, cranberries and pecans. To me, this recipe is what bread baking is all about. The best ingredients and a lot of time and patience. The whole process of making this bread took about 13 hours, but it wasn't very labor intensive. Next time, I will make this bread at night right before bed, because the first rise is about 8 hours in the refrigerator. Here's the resulting bread:

It was huge and delicious. On Sunday night I made the most incredible tartines with said bread. Slices of bread were toasted, topped it with a thin layer of cream cheese, some Stonewall Kitchen Old Farmhouse Chutney, Boars Head Maple Turkey, a little watercress and finally some thinly sliced radishes. Then I put the assembled tartines back in the toaster oven to warm everything up. The resulting sandwich was heavenly. We still have a lot of bread to go through though. I'm seeing visions of a delicious bread pudding in our future!

1 comments on "At Home in Napa"

Madam Chow on February 26, 2008 at 8:53 AM said...

OK, that bread looks amazing, and I'm going to have to try it as soon as possible!


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