Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Grilled Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Burrata Platter #BBQWeek

This week, Ellen of Family Around the Table and Christie of A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures have us sharing recipes for the grill. This is one of my favorite blogging weeks of the year! I love prepping food and handing it off to Jake to grill for me.

Grilled Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Burrata Platter
Along with my grilled sweet potatoes and grilled spiced octopus, I wanted to serve a Mediterranean-inspired platter. And burrata is always a family favorite!

In case you are unfamiliar, burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside is a mixture of mozzarella and cream. In Italian burrata means "buttered."

  • 1 pound organic, stem-on tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 5 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 organic globe eggplant, sliced into thick coins
  • olive oil, for brushing + more for grill
  • organic fresh basil leaves
  • 2 balls burrata cheese , room temperature and quartered

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for high heat cooking; a grill pan on the stove would also work.

Chop off the top and bottom of the eggplants and slice ½" rounds. Brush each coin generously with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

When grill is ready, cook the eggplant until it's softened, approximately 5 minutes per side. If eggplant seems dry, brush on a little more oil while cooking. Remove from grill to a plate, tent loosely with foil, and set aside.

Grill the tomatoes until they just have a nice char on the cut side. Set aside.

Assemble dish by arranging the grilled eggplants and tomatoes on a platter. Nestle in chunks of burrata cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Add a few basil leaves for garnish.

Serve warm with crusty bread and a good red wine.

Maple-Roasted Beet Soup and So Much More from the Green Mountain State #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tracey Medeiros.
I received a complimentary book for the purpose of review, but all opinions are honest and they are my own.
No additional compensation for this post was provided; this page may contain affiliate links.

When I received an email from Tracey Medeiros, asking if I might be interested in reviewing her cookbook - The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook: 125 Organic and Farm-to-Fork Recipes from the Green Mountain State* - I agreed immediately. I am always interested in any inspiration for farm-to-fork recipes. And, truth be told, I don't know much about Vermont. So, I was excited to see what sorts of produce would be featured.
On the Page
image courtesy Tracey Medeiros

Medeiros writes in her introduction that the book "takes you on a culinary journey through the tiny villages, quaint towns, and bustling cities of our Green Mountain State to meet the people that have helped make this book a reality. ...[The] message rings forth loud and clear, 'To ensure good health, you must know where your food comes from and how it is grown. Know what is in your food!'" (pp. xxi-xxii).

The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook is so much more than a cookbook; it shines the spotlight on the area's food producers and purveyors and the chefs who partner with them to create delicious, innovative recipes. It also includes details about seasonal produce such as heirloom tomatoes. She shares, "Don't be deterred by a tomato with cracked skin as long as your choice is not leaking juice it is perfectly fine and just as tasty as its unblemished partners. Choose tomatoes that feel heavy for their size. Take a whiff; a ripe heirloom should give off an earthy odor..." (pg. 73).

Medeiros also educates readers on the reasons to choose organic and non-GMO. I've been on that soapbox for years, so it was a treat to read someone else's take on it.

I tried a handful of the recipes and have so many more flagged! But I'll just share a few highlights of my explorations.

Footprint Farm, LLC provided a recipe for their Meatball Bahn Mi with Maple Sriracha Mayonnaise (Vietnamese Sandwich). And next to the recipe, you get to read about their background - having met in California when they were working as outdoor educators - and their farm. "Taylor and Jake make a good team; he manages the animals, monitors soil health and fertility plans, and keeps the farm's buildings and equipment in working order. She grows beautiful flowers and keeps track of finances and planting schedules. ...[They] agree that their commitment to organic farming comes from a deep desire to contribute to the long-term health and viability of their farm's soil and the people for whom they grow the food" (pg. 36).

Health Hero Farm shared a recipe for their Grass-Fed Beef Shanks Osso Buco. Located in South Hero, Vermont, owners Hannah and Eric Noel, along with new business partners Joan Falcao and Robert Fireovid, run the certified organic farm. Medeiros reports, "The owners feel that their focus on healthy soil has resulted in wonderful grass-fed beef and delectable, nutritious organic vegetables. Their goal is to demonstrate how custom grazing and agronomics can build topsoil that will absorb storm water and prevent erosion" (pg. 175).

Other recipes I intended to try...

  • Garlic Scape Kale Pesto
  • Creamy Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Vermont Maple Smoked Cheddar Cheese
  • Moroccan Spiced Rainbow Carrot Salad
  • Honey-Glazed Pork Bellies
  • Chèvre Gnocchi with a Mushroom, Sunchoke, and Garlic Cream Sauce
  • Black Bean and Sweet Corn Salad
  • Maple Grapefruit Margarita
  • Torta con l'Uva

In the Bowl

Though I tested more than a handful of recipes, I wanted to share one that was contributed by Tracey herself and includes maple syrup since that is something I think of first when I think of Vermont. Well, at least I used to. Now, I picture a veritable garden of eden rife with spring darlings of ramps and fiddlehead ferns; summer lovelies of heirloom tomatoes, berries (what are aronia berries?!?), and currants; and colder crops of squash, roots. Plus, if I ever make it to Vermont, I already have a road map of farms to visit!

Maple-Roasted Beet Soup 
with Chèvre and Herbs
slightly adapted from Tracey Medeiros

I made a scant few changes: I skipped the garlic because I don't usually mix onion and garlic; I substituted hazelnut oil because that's what I had; and I and left out the baguette because Jake and I are trying to cut back on our bread and carb consumption. Otherwise, I think I stayed pretty true to her recipe. And I will definitely be making this again soon.

Ingredients serves 6 to 8
  • 3 pounds organic beets, scrubbed with tops reserved for another recipe
  • 1 T maple syrup + more, as needed
  • 1 to 2 T olive oil, divided
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 C freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 t fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 t fresh dill fronds
  • 1 T hazelnut oil + more for drizzling

  • log of chèvre
  • zest from an organic orange
  • fresh herbs (I used more dill)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the scrubbed beets in a large mixing bowl and toss them with 1 T maple syrup and 1 T olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap beets loosely in foil and place them on a rimmed baking sheets. Roast until the beets are fork tender. It depends on the size of the beets, but mine usually take about an hour or so. After 30 minutes, place the onions on the same baking sheet and roast together for the remainder of the time.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, rub off the skins and coarsely chop. Chop the onions as well.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Place the puree, chicken stock and orange juice into a medium soup pot and cook until heated through. Adjust seasoning to taste with more salt, pepper, and maple syrup as needed. Fold in the fresh herbs just before serving.

To serve, ladle soup into individual bowls. Crumble in the chèvre which should melt easily. Garnish with a sprig of herbs and drizzle with hazelnut oil. Serve hot.
You may find Tracey Medeiros on the webon Facebook, and on Twitter

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

I have also added this to #FoodieReads.
Click to see what everyone else read in May 2019: here.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Grilled Spiced Octopus #BBQWeek

This week, Ellen of Family Around the Table and Christie of A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures have us sharing recipes for the grill. This is one of my favorite blogging weeks of the year! I love prepping food and handing it off to Jake to grill for me.

Grilled Spiced Octopus

Grilled octopus is something that I first tried in college when one of my philosophy TAs invited us over to his house for a barbeque. He pulled the octopus out of bucket and tossed it on the grill. I was in love...with the dish, not the TA! Just wanted to be clear.

It does take time as the octopus is braised, then marinated before it's grilled just before serving. But, I think, it's worth the effort!

  • one 5 to 6 lb. octopus, beak removed
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 C sake
  • 1 C fish stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 2 C water
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • one 1” knob fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 T hot chile paste
  • 2 t coriander seeds
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 2 T gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 T unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
  • Also needed: grill or a grill pan


Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy lidded pot. Add garlic, ginger, chile paste, and coriander seeds, cooking until fragrant, approximately 3 minutes. Add fish sauce, gluten-free soy sauce, lime juice, vinegar, sake, and stock. Pour in 2 C water and bring to a boil.

Add octopus to liquid, reduce heat, and partially cover pot. Simmer gently, turning octopus occasionally, until flesh is tender enough to cut with a spoon, approximately 90 minutes. 

Pour sesame oil into the cooking liquid. Let both the octopus and the liquid cool. Then pour the liquid over the octopus in a dish with a lid and marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 4 hours. Bring the octopus to room temperature before cooking. While the octopus is warming, start the grill.

Slice the octopus into large pieces - I like to keep the tentacles mostly intact and cut the body into 2" cubes or so. 

Grill to get nice char marks on the octopus. Serve with a dipping sauce of your choice.

Lemon Lavender Blackberry Cake #TheCakeSliceBakers

Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through. This year it is The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk*. We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes! 

Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the links below to take you to each of our cakes. If you have a blog and are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details. 

The Cake Slice Bakers also have a new Facebook group called The Cake Slice Bakers and Friends. This group is perfect for those who do not have a blog but want to join in the fun and bake through this book.

Here were the selections for May 2019 - Kladdkaka-Sticky Chocolate Cake, Lemon Lavender Blackberry Cake, Sirnek-Ukrainian Cherry Cheesecake, and  Amaretto Creme Cake - and here are our links. Surprisingly, no one made the Sirnek-Ukrainian Cherry Cheesecake. I might have to fix that before the month is through. Check out the posts...

Kladdkaka-Sticky Chocolate Cake
Lemon Lavender Blackberry Cake
Amaretto Creme Cake

Lemon Lavender Blackberry Cake

I am one of those nutty people who find cooking completely relaxing. So, it doesn't bother me one bit to make my own birthday dinner and cake! I decided to make the Lemon Lavender Blackberry Cake for myself. After making this one, I finally wrote a review of the book because I had four of the cakes under my belt. You can read my thoughts in this post: Stretching My Cake-Baking Skills. And, on that note, this recipe gave me a different way to make buttercream. I love it! I'll be making buttercream this way from now on.

This cake appears in the "Western Delicacies" chapter as French Pastry-Inspired Creations. Nesteruk writes, "These unique cakes are made with flavors such as lavender, chocolate, hazelnut, coffee, and berries. They're not only a pleasing sight for the eyes, but also captivating for the discriminating palate" (pg. 39).


  • 1/4 C butter, softened
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 t lemon extract
  • zest from 1 organic lemon
  • 1 C whole milk
  • 1-1/2 C flour
  • 1/3 C almond flour
  • 3 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 C fresh organic blackberries
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • Also needed 9" round baking pans, parchment paper
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 C water
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T organic corn syrup
  • 2 C butter, softened
  • 4 drops lavender essential oil
  • blue and red food coloring, as needed (I prefer vegetable and fruit-based dyes)
For Serving
  • fresh organic blackberries
  • organic lavender sprigs
  • candles, if it's for a birthday!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 9" round baking pans by buttering them and lining the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until lightened and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Add in the egg yolks, lemon extract, and lemon zest. Mix again, then pour in the milk.

In another mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients: flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Sift the dry ingredients into the batter and fold in gently with a spatula until just moistened.

In another mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until medium peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter, taking care not to deflate the egg whites too much.

Divide the cake batter evenly between four cake pans (the original recipe said three, I wanted to do four layers). Toss the blackberries in a small bowl with the cornstarch, then press 8 or so berries into each pan. Try to space them evenly apart.

Place pans on baking sheets and place them in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the layers are firm and golden. Remove the trays from the oven and cool the cakes completely on wire racks.

Place egg yolks in a mixing bowl and beat on high until they are thick, pale, and ribbon off the whisks.

Combine water, sugar, and corn syrup in a small saucepan. You can attach a candy thermometer to the side; I just kept testing until it reached soft-ball stage. If you're using a thermometer, heat until it reaches 238 degrees F. For testing otherwise, dip a spoon into the syrup, then into ice cold water. The syrup should immediately set up into a soft ball. Mine took about 8 minutes to reach the correct consistency.

Once the syrup is ready, remove it from the heat. While one hand hold the mixer, use the other hand to pour the syrup into the yolks. When all of the syrup is added, turn the mixer up to high and beat until the yolks have doubled in size and have reached medium peak stage. The bowl should be cooled and just lukewarm to the touch. Mine took about 9 minutes.

Begin adding butter, one tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. The more butter you add, the more firm the buttercream will be.

Once your buttercream resembles what you think of as buttercream, add in the lavender essential oil and the food coloring. I started with equal parts red and blue, but it just looked strange. So, I added more red and went with a muted pinkish shade!

For Serving
Once the cake layers have cooled completely, use a serrated knife to cut the layers flat. Spread a generous amount of buttercream between each layer and place them on your serving platter.

Smooth the buttercream over the top and along the sides. Garnish the top with blackberries and lavender.

And, as I mentioned, if it's a birthday celebration, get some candles. I could only scrounge two candles from the drawer.

The night before, at another birthday party, my friends only had a '3', a '4', and a '7'. So, Jake and I together were turning 347. No matter. blowing out candles always feels festive, no matter if the number is accurate or not!

There we go. Happy birthday to me!

This was such a stunning cake. It looked beautiful and tasted amazing, too. It's definitely one to repeat. Now I just need an occasion.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Grilled Sweet Potatoes #BBQWeek

This week, Ellen of Family Around the Table and Christie of A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures have us sharing recipes for the grill. This is one of my favorite blogging weeks of the year! I love prepping food and handing it off to Jake to grill for me.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes Recipe

So, I already mentioned that I had off the prepped food to my husband. I actually did all of my week's recipes on Mothers' Day; I figured that was perfect because he was doing all the work...and I could relax while he grilled. The downside: I was inside reading a book and neglected to get process photos. "Did you take any photos?" I asked when I came outside.

Ummm...no. Why would I?

"Because these are for a post," I almost wailed.


Ugh. So sorry, folks. No process photos of the grilling part.

  • 4 to 5 organic sweet potatoes, roasted until just fork tender
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 1 t sweet chili sauce

Whisk together the olive oil, sesame oil, and sweet chili sauce. Set aside.

Slice the roasted sweet potatoes in half, lengthwise and brush with the sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill the sweet potatoes: Once the grill is hot, lay the sweet potato pieces, cut side-down. onto the grill grates. Cover the grill and cook until each side gets some grill marks, approximately 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Serve hot.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Lemon-Caper Halibut + Gérard Bertrand 2018 Cigalus Blanc #Winophiles #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the May #Winophiles event.
Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.

This month, L.M., of L.M. Archer, is hosting the French Winophiles as we explore and pair Gérard Bertrand Wines. Read her invitation here. Several of us were fortunate enough to have our posts sponsored by Gérard Bertrand. I, for one, had already sourced, tasted, and paired my wine.

Then I received a suprise bottle from Gérard Bertrand* and changed direction. But you can read my initial post at Boeuf aux Agrumes + Gérard Bertrand 2014 Kosmos. If you are reading this early enough, join the conversation on Twitter: Saturday, May 18th at 8am Pacific time. Be sure to include #Winophiles in your tweet so we can all see you; or simply search for the hashtag later and read the conversation.

The #Winophiles' Explorations

In My Glass

At Cigalus, in the South of France, Gérard Bertrand manages the vineyard according to the biodynamic system that has at the heart of it a system of growing that enhances the expression of the terroir with minimal intervention from the grower and winemaker. In fact, at the heart of the biodynamic system is the energy of the soil. All the work in the vineyard - from ploughing and pruning - and in the cellar is done in strict adherence to a calendar that revolves around the sun and the moon.

Throughout 2019, we have been exploring boidynamic wines in several of the wine groups. It's been quite eye-opening. You can read my previous posts. For those events, I shared: Dinner in Testosterone Land: Braised Short Ribs + 2016 Nuova Cappelletta Barbera del Monferrato and Learning about Biodynamic Wines + M.Chapoutier Wines with Some Cross-Cultural Pairings. I'll be honest, I appreciate learning about biodynamic practices and I truly respect wineries that are following those practices - whether they get the certifications or not - but the designation is not a guarantee of a "good" wine, in my mind.

The Cigalus vineyard has a semi-arid Mediterranean climate; with its mild winters and hot summers, all the grape varieties enjoy an early ripening. And the dryness of the climate is countered by bordering Aussou, a stream that runs alongside the property.

The Gérard Bertrand 2018 Cigalus Blanc is a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. To the eye it has as clear, light straw color. The nose is intensely citrus with notes of lime, grapefruit, and mandarin. But, after you give it a good swirl, softer tones of summer stone fruits and honey. Jake noted bioche, however, that may be because he misses bread!

On the palate, the Cigalus Blanc is surprisingly full-bodied, given its light color, supple and silky. And, despite its citrus aromas, I thought the flavor leaned more vanilla and tropical fruit. Still, its weight made it a great pour with my citrus-heavy fish dinner.

On My Plate

I had picked up some halibut at the market and wanted a quick, easy dinner. So, I opted to pan-fry the fish and make an easy pan-sauce with butter, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and caper. Then, because Jake and I are trying to cut back on bread and carbs, in general, I put the fish on a bed of zucchini noodles.

 Lemon-Caper Halibut 

  • 1 to 2 halibut fillets
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • noodles or zoodles (zucchini noodles!) for serving
Caper Sauce
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T capers
  • 1 T cornstarch mixed with 1 T water
  • 2 T white wine
  • juice of 1/2 lemon, (about 1 T)
  • 1 C chicken broth

Caper Sauce
In a skillet, over medium heat, melt butter with garlic. Cook till the garlic softens. Add wine, lemon juice, and capers. Cook off the alcohol for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Pour in the broth and whisk it until it begins to thicken. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, over medium heat, melt butter in olive oil. Add halibut fillets. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side.

To serve, toss cooked noodles with olive oil and half of the caper sauce. Place into individual bowls, top with halibut. Then divide the remaining sauce between the servings. 

As a simple side dish, I served avocados drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. It was a tasty, simple dinner...and it went really well with the Gérard Bertrand 2018 Cigalus Blanc.

Until next time...the French Winophiles will be focusing on French wine and French cheese with Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog leading the charge. Cheers!

*Disclosure: I received sample wines for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Steamed Fish, Tuvalu-Style #FishFridayFoodies

It's time for Fish Friday Foodies' May event. We are a group of seafood-loving bloggers, rallied by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, to share fish and seafood recipes on the third Friday of the month.

This month, Sneha of Sneha's Recipe is hosting as we share seafood recipes that are wrapped in leaves. 

Before I get to my recipe. Here's the rest of the #FishFridayFoodies' 'wrapped in leaves' menu...

Would you like to join Fish Friday Foodies? We post and share new seafood/fish recipes on the third Friday of the month. To join our group please email Wendy at wendyklik1517@gmail.com. Visit our Facebook page and Pinterest page for more wonderful fish and seafood recipe ideas.

Steamed Fish, Tuvalu-Style

I found a traditional Tuvalu recipe that involved steaming local fish in banana leaves; they use uku which is a blue-green snapper. I just happened to have black cod from the market this week.

This preparation ended up being a huge hit! And it's always a fun presentation to have to unwrap your dinner, right? It's like a culinary present.

serves 4 with 2 small packets each

  • 8 banana leaf squares (thawed, if previously frozen)
  • 8 small fillets of fish (I used local Black Cod)
  • freshly ground salt
  • Also needed: 100% cotton twine, cut into 12" lengths; steamer or double boiler

  • 1 T freshly grated ginger
  • 2 t freshly grated lemon grass
  • 1 T fresh garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1/2 C chicken stock
  • 1/4 C gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/4 C sesame oil
  • 2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 T green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

Place banana leaves on a flat work surface or cutting board. Place fish in the center of the leaf. Season the fish with salt. Fold the leaves to form a package and secure with kitchen twine. Repeat for the remaining 7 packages.

Place the packages in a steamer or the top of a double-boiler set over lightly boiling water. Cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cooked through.

While the fish steams, prepare the sauce. Combine the ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and chicken stock in a medium saucepan. Whisk until well-combined. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Pour in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir in 1 T cilantro and 1 T parsley. Heat until warmed through. Set aside.

To serve, place the packages on individual plates. Cut open at the table. Top the fish with the sauce. This dish is likely served with white rice. I served it with a mixture of brown rice and quinoa.

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