Monday, January 28, 2013

Holman Ranch Hosts Sweet Elena {In Your Own Backyard}

Last year, for my birthday, I headed to Holman Ranch Tasting Room with some girlfriends to meet the Queen of Quince. We tried our hands at rolling Yalanchi Sarma, Armenian stuffed grape leaves, nibbled on quince leather, and feasted on various mezze, including pickled cauliflower, black olive dip, spiced feta, and more. And we sipped on different varietals from Holman Ranch Vineyard, including a chardonnay and a pinot noir. It was a fantastic evening.

So, when I saw that Holman Ranch Tasting Room was kicking off their "In Your Own Backyard" 2013 series with a cooking demo by Sweet Elena's Bakery and Cafe, I signed us all up. We love Elena! She baked the cheesecakes for my wedding and has continued to dazzle us with her baking prowess.


Elena Salsedo, former Ventana Inn pastry chef and current proprietor of Sweet Elena's in Sand City, demonstrated making moqueca, the Brazilian seafood stew (recipe to follow!), and Nick Elliott of Holman poured a complementary wine: their Rose of Pinot Noir. 


The series, which brings chefs and food artisans to the Carmel Valley tasting room to share techniques for creating meals from fresh ingredients and pairing them with wine, continues monthly with raw food, winter produce, paella, bacon and other topics. Click here to see the events scheduled at the tasting room.

SRC Rescue: Baking and Creating with Avril

While I love participating in the Secret Recipe Club, I really dislike when other bloggers orphan their assigned partners. That's not what this is all about; this is about being a community and doing what you say you're going to do! So, in those cases, I am always game for stepping in and rescuing an orphan blog. Today, I had the pleasure of meeting and cooking from Baking and Creating with Avril.

Avril writes to share her love of baking - and cooking - along with other crafty ventures. Creativity in and out of the kitchen bring her joy. Me, too! I've been craving dessert for the past few days and decided that this was the perfect reason to crank up the oven and toss some flour around. I started with Avril's recipe for Apple Crostata and made a few changes. I used pears instead of apples, reduced the sugar, and added ground cardamom. I also skipped the crumb topping and the vanilla ice cream. But I will, as she did, serve this for breakfast tomorrow.


1 C flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 C butter, cold and diced
2 T cold water
3  pears, washed and sliced
splash of Meyer lemon juice
ground cinnamon
ground nutmeg
ground cardamom
freshly ground raw sugar
  
In a large mixing bowl, place the flour and sugar. Add in the butter. Cut into the flour with a pastry cutter until pea-sized chunks form. Add just enough water to form a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and form into a disc.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  

In the meantime, wash and slice pears. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the dough is chilled, roll it out - between pieces of parchment paper - to form an organic round. Place the crust on a baking stone. Toss pear slices with spices and sugar. Place fruit in a heap in the middle of your crust, leaving an inch and a half, or so, border. Fold the crust edges in. Sprinkle with more ground sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is firm and golden. Let cool slightly. Serve with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Formaggio Friday 4: Bonnyclabber's Moonshine


I noticed this a few weeks ago, but had other cheeses on my shopping list. Finally, after a few Twitter exchanges with fellow foodie, Twitter pal, and fromage lover Raul N., it was down to the wire and The Cheese Shop was almost sold out. We were warned that there was one round left. So I headed down there and - just in case he got there after I did - I made sure to leave a piece.

This cheese hails from the Middle Peninsula in Virginia, made by the Bonnyclabber Cheese Co. on the Sullivan's Pond Farm. Semi-soft, this cheese is wrapped in corn husks that have been macerated in White Lightnin moonshine and is aged for over two months.

Since I'd never had the cheese - or moonshine - I decided to do some reading. Interesting history!

'White Lightnin' is a brand name of moonshine which was historically called white lightning, mountain dew, hooch, or white whiskey. In the 1600s colonists used their excess corn to distill a clear corn whiskey. In 1920 Prohibition was passed, liquor was outlawed, and alcohol production moved underground. Produced in stillhouses in the remote hills of the South, corn whiskey was transported over backcountry roads by the light of the moon, earning it the name "moonshine."

While the history of the liquor fascinated me, I have say that the cheese did not. It was okay, but - in my estimation - not worth the ticket price. At over $50 a pound, I expected to be dazzled. I wasn't. Thankfully, I have 48 more weeks of my Formaggio Fridays project. I'm sure I'll discover some winners.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tantalizing Tapas at La Crème

Last night we celebrated Brian's 40th birthday with a surprise party at La Crème in Pacific Grove. Though he suspected something was up - and claims to know that he knew I was lying about it - Pia managed to keep the scale of the bash under wraps. Brian had no idea friends from near and far would be in attendance to celebrate the start of his fourth decade.


Once again, Chef Jon Moser and La Crème owner Tamie Aceves whipped up some culinary magic. Here's what was served...

 Scallop Crudo
An über-fresh scallop was perched atop a poached garnet yam with a dot of lemon salsa and fresh mint. I think I ate half a dozen of these myself!

Tarte Flambée
I wondered why this appetizer was called a flambée since it was obviously not flambéed. So I did some reading. A Tarte Flambée, from the Alsace region in France, is a "pie baked in the flames." Chef Jon's version was smeared with an herb fromage blanc mixed with caramelized onions and topped with applewood smoked bacon. Creamy, salty deliciousness.

Stuffed New Potato
I didn't get to try this but it looked fabulous: a potato filled with braised fennel and roasted pepper.

Blood Orange & Almond Salad
After the passed hors d’œuvres, we sat down and started with this salad - County Line Farms' winter greens tossed with succulent blood orange segments and toasted almonds, dressed with an orange-balsamic vinaigrette.


Grilled California Rock Cod
I thought these were parsnips, but when Chef Jon sent me the menu, I realized that it was actually a puree of celeriac. I loved the sautéed cavolo nero and the drizzle of mixed citrus butter. This might just have been my favorite course. 

Slow Cooked Angus Beef Short Rib
These ribs were so tender we could have eaten them with a spoon! That they were on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes only added to their magic. Oh, and the black pepper infused braising juices didn't hurt either.

Roasted Apple Crostata
By the time these made it out, I was stuffed. Completely stuffed. But that didn't stop me from devouring the entire crostata with a Fiscalini cheddar cheese crust and its side of vanilla bean ice cream.

What a great night! While this was a special dinner and menu, La Crème's Tapas and Wine Bar - which has been open for just over a month -  provided the first three items on our menu. Jake and I will definitely be back there for a date night soon.

Happy birthday, Brian! And thank you, Chef Jon and Tamie, for another amazing evening. La Crème is fully cemented as one of our favorites. 

Wild Boar Rillettes {Afield}

Photo by Kevin Brookhouser

While working on my latest cookbook review, I needed some wild boar. Naturally, I asked my friend Brian, "the best killer in the family", according to Dylan.


Truth be told, this is not the creature we're eating. I think I cooked the pig before this one, or the one after. In any case, Brian gave me a piece of wild boar backstrap.

Before reading this cookbook, I had never heard of a rillette - much less eaten one. Rillettes are savory meats or fish that have been braised or prepared as confit.

This recipe - from Jesse Griffiths Afield: A Cook's Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish - was so easy to do and resulted in a salty, creamy, satisfying dish. Stay tuned for my full review of the book. But for now, enjoy this...

I started with the backstrap, rubbing it with a mixture of ground ginger, ground cardamom, ground coriander, and ground cinnamon. I placed the meat in a baking dish and filled the pan with water so that it covered the meat three-quarters of the way. Cover the pan with foil and place in a preheated 225 degree oven.


Let the meat braise for 8 hours. With a fork, shred the meat into a mixing bowl and blend in room temperature butter. While the original recipe called for lard, I subbed with butter. Season with salt to taste.


Now here's where the flavors really begin to sing. Serve the meat with crusty bread, pickles, and mustards. Cornichons are traditional. We served a jar of pickles that Riley made on New Year's Eve - pickled carrots, onions, and beets.


As a variation, I topped one piece with black truffle cream instead.

Pop Tarts-inspired Goat Cheese & Pumpkin Butter Tart



Last night, at a friend's 40th birthday party, he received a box of Pop-Tarts from some friends. Don't ask! I don't...

But sometimes that's all it takes to get my culinary gears churning. I woke up this morning, thinking I would make my own version for breakfast. I intended to make pocket-sized rectangular tarts, but ended up with one large round tart that we sliced into wedges.

I am certain that this tastes nothing like a Pop-tart, but it was Pop tart-inspired.

4 C flour
3/4 C espresso
3/4 C olive oil
2 1/2 t baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, blend all of the crust ingredients and knead to form a soft dough. Divide the dough in half and roll each out into a round shape.

Place one round on a baking stone. Crumble chevre (goat cheese) in the middle, leaving about an inch border around the outside of the filling. Spoon pumpkin butter over the cheese and place the second crust on top of that. Fold the edges together to close the tart. Gently crimp. Cut whatever designs you wish in the top. This morning I chose hearts! Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon

Bake for 45 minutes, until the crust is crisp and golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before glazing. Drizzle with a powdered sugar glaze and sprinkle with more cinnamon and sugar before serving. Serve warm.

Food Matters Project: Chicken Jook with Lots of Veggies


The Food Matters Project challenge for this week was Mark Bittman's Chicken Jook with Lots of Vegetables, chosen by Erin of The Goodness LifeClick here to see what everyone else created; look in the comments section!

This was an easy lunch on a Saturday afternoon; I set it on the stove in the morning and went about my day, doing laundry and cleaning, and by the time we were all hungry, it was done. Perfect!

One note before we begin: I hardly think that cabbage, snow peas, and bean sprouts count as "lots" of vegetables. I bolstered the pot with the bounty from my CSA box, using leeks, carrots, celery, fennel, kale and chard. That's lots of veggies! Also, I didn't follow Bittman's procedure very closely at all...

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
2 leeks, cleaned and cut into coins
2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
olive oil
4 carrots, sliced
6 stalks of celery, sliced
2 C short grain brown rice
8 C organic chicken broth
2 T minced ginger
2 T minced garlic
2 C baby kale, destemmed
2 C green chard, thinly sliced
4 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil

Steam the brown rice in a small pot until cooked. In a large soup pot, saute the fennel and leeks in a splash of olive oil until they are softened and beginning to caramelized. Lay the chicken breasts on top of that and cook until opaque. Add in the carrot, celery, ginger, garlic, kale, chard, and brown rice. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for an hour and a half to two hours. The jook should have a soupy and creamy consistency but still have a little chew. The chicken will be very tender, so you can break it into small pieces as you're serving. Season with soy sauce and sesame oil. Serve hot.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Formaggio Friday 3: Commissiekaas

In France, this is called mimolette - or Boule de Lille - as it is traditionally produced around the city of Lille, France. This is a Dutch version which is called commissiekaas.


The story goes that King Louis XIV was searching for a native French product to replace the very popular Dutch Edam. To differentiate it from Edam, he had it colored orange with annatto seeds. Dutch cheesemakers took it right back and created their own "mimolette."

Made with cow's milk, it has a grey crust which is the result of cheese mites intentionally introduced to the surface of the cheese! As it ages, its taste changes. A young commissiekaas tastes vaguely like parmesan and it somewhat soft. I prefer it with a harder texture and a stronger flavor. This piece, that I picked up at the Cheese Shop, reminded me of hazelnuts. Though we savored this in small chunks, I'm thinking about getting another piece and doing something with chocolate and hazelnuts. If I do, you'll see it here!

Had any good cheese recently? If so, I'l love to hear about it. Contact me on twitter: @Culinary_Cam or email me directly at constantmotioncamilla [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks!

Smiley Olive Pie {Cyprus}


We've made Eliopitakia (Cypriot olive pies) at home, but today I made them with a dozen 3rd through 5th graders. And they did an amazing job. Too bad I didn't get to try any! They feasted, then they asked if they could take some home. At the end of the class, there was nothing left for me to try. Must have been good. Thankfully my boys were up to v.2 and we made another one for dinner tonight at home!


Pastry
3/4 C orange juice
3/4 C olive oil
4 C white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 t baking powder

Filling
2 C pitted black olives (avoid olives preserved in vinegar)
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 C fresh herbs, thinly sliced (we used Italian parsley and rosemary today)
4 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In medium bowl, mix all the pastry ingredients and knead to make a soft dough. Let stand while preparing filling.

Caramelize onions. Mix olives and mint to onions and toss with olive oil.

Split dough in half and roll out each to 1/2 inch thick circle.

Spoon the filling onto one of the circles, lay the other circle on top. Press the edges to seal tightly. And pinch together to make a design. One of the kids wanted to cut a smiley face into the top. Perfect!


Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot.

Insalata Caprese {Italy}


Can you call something a recipe if all it requires is slicing and layering? Perhaps. This is the Italian 'recipe' we made during our Culinary Adventurers class this afternoon: Insalata Caprese

Heirloom tomatoes + fresh mozzarella + fresh basil

Then we sprinkled it with freshly ground salt and drizzled it with olive oil.

Cinnamon Oranges {Morocco}


This is hardly a recipe, but I've made it twice now in less than six hours, so I figured it was worth sharing. I wanted a little something sweet to end our Mediterranean trip during my Culinary Adventures class; I came across a Moroccan dessert of sliced oranges, sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with orange blossom water. I used what I had: blood oranges + ground cinnamon + rosewater. It was a hit!

Then I repeated it for our own dinner. Delicious! This is definitely going to be on our after-dinner treat rotation.




Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Opening Up My Kitchen" for Try Anything Once {Guest Post}

I agreed to write a guest post for Dionne of Try Anything Once this month. My topic: overcoming a culinary challenge. I chose to write about opening up my kitchen and getting over that ridiculous overprotectiveness I used to have. How did I do it? Click to read my post on her blog: here.
Have you overcome any culinary challenges? I'd love to hear about them. Comment here or email me at constantmotioncamilla [at] gmail [dot] com.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Seafood Risotto with Crab, Truffle Cream & Lemon Zest


Tonight I made a seafood risotto with crab, black truffle cream, and lemon zest. The secret to risotto, as Maria told me, is stirring: usa il cucchiao...sempre. Use your spoon...always; keep stirring.

Maria was the cook for the Nuzzo family who was ordered to teach me all her recipes. Then she was fired and I was tasked with cooking for the family six days a week. Thankfully she didn't blame me for the impossible situation and we stayed close throughout the year that I was there. And sometimes when I cook, I hear her instructions in my head.

Make risotto with whatever you have on hand! Tonight I used kale, herbs, pancetta, squid, scallops, and shrimp...and topped it with some crab from a friend's friend. Thanks, Bret!

And thanks, my love, for cleaning the crabs for me. I helped; I poured him an oatmeal stout.

I stirred in some black truffle cream and tossed some lemon zest on top to make the flavors really sing.

For the risotto: saute your ingredients - greens, seafood, whatever - in a large flat-bottom pot in a splash of olive oil until cooked through. Stir in the arborio rice - one handful per person you're serving and un'altro per la pentola (an extra for the pot). Maria's voice again.

Add one ladle of simmering broth at a time, stirring, stirring, and stirring some more till the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until the rice is soft. Let stand for 5 minutes. Season with sea salt to taste. Stir in marscarpone cheese. Serve with shreds or shavings of cheese and, as I mentioned, tonight I added in the earthiness of truffles and the sourness of lemons. Che squisito!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Olive Oil-Sour Cream Bundt Cake



1 C flour
1/2 C ground almonds
2 t baking powder
2/3 C organic sour cream
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 C organic dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 C olive oil + enough to grease the bundt pan
2 T Sambuca, or other licorice liqueur
pinch of fennel pollen
1 C raw pecan halves

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, fennel pollen, and baking powder. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the sour cream, eggs, sugar, olive oil and Sambuca until combined. Scrape the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk again until lump-free. Pour the batter into the buttered bundt pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until browned. Allow cake to cool for at least 10 minutes, before unmolding.

Formaggio Friday 2: Stokes Point Smoked Cheddar


This was another find from The Cheese Shop. I went in to get a selection of cheeses for my Culinary Adventurers class and was introduced to this cheese by a very helpful employee. Thank you!

Stokes Point is the most southern tip of King Island, in Australia, and the closest point to northwestern Tasmania. King Island Dairy Stokes Point Smoked Cheddar is naturally smoked with Tasmanian hardwood. Matured for nine months, the golden rind created during smoking acts as a natural preservative.

This cheese is amazingly unique. I have, literally, never tasted anything like it. Salty. Smoky. It reminds me of smoked salmon. My students' reactions varied. One said, "delicious, awesome, strong"; another said, "weird and fishy."

The Food Matters Project: Sesame Noodles with Kale, Crab & Salmon


The Food Matters Project challenge for this week was Mark Bittman's Sesame Noodles with Spinach and Salmon, chosen by Sara of Pidge's PantryClick here to see what everyone else made. Look in the comments section.

This was an easy dinner on a Sunday night. Well, easy for me. My husband had to pick the crabs clean...which I really, really appreciated. I did pour him an oatmeal stout while he cracked and pulled.

And I especially loved that the crab was pulled from the bay this afternoon. I am so grateful to have friends who fish and crab. Or, in this case, friends of friends.

3 C baby kale leaves
1 C thinly sliced shitake mushrooms
1 T minced garlic
enough whole wheat spaghetti noodles for everyone you're serving
olive oil
sesame oil
soy sauce
sesame seeds for garnish
2 handfuls haricots verts, blanched
crab meat
smoked salmon

Cook the pasta. In the meantime, brown the garlic in a large flat-bottom pan. Add the shitake mushrooms and baby kale. Cook until the greens are wilted and the mushrooms are softened. Drain the pasta and stir into the kale-mushroom mix. Toss to coat with olive oil. Season with sesame oil and soy sauce. To plate: spoon your pasta as the base, lay blanched green beans on top, layer smoked salmon and fresh crab meat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Fennel Pollen + Nutmeg-Scented Stuffed Grape Leaves

Almost a year ago now, my best girlfriends and I went to an event at a local tasting room: Meeting the Queen of Quince. She had us roll Yalanchi Sarma, Armenian stuffed grape leaves. For Ulla's Mediterranean birthday feast, I decided to try my hand at my own version. Yum!


Stuffing
2 C cooked bulgur wheat
1 pound 96/4 organic grassfed ground beef
3 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of fennel pollen
dash of ground nutmeg
freshly ground salt and pepper

In a large, flat-bottom pan saute the shallots and garlic in a splash of olive oil until softened. Add the meat and cook throroughly. Season with spices and stir in the bulgur.

Place a teaspoon of your filling in the center of a grape leaf. Keeping constant pressure, roll the grape leaf into a packet. Because my grape leaves were so small, I used two for each roll.


Arrange the rolls in a baking dish. Lay sliced of lemon over the top. Fill your pan with water so that the water comes to the top of the rolls. Add a splash of Sambuca and a splash of olive oil. Lay grape leaves over the top and cover with foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 90 minutes, until the liquid is completely absorbed and the rolls are soft. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

*Update: 1/15/2013 - Linked up to Munchie Monday (MM#10) at dailydishrecipes.com*

Team Linguine vs. Team Fettucine {Homemade Pastas}



For my friend's Mediterranean-themed birthday dinner, I decided to put the kids to work to make pasta. We had...

...and...

Each kid made a dough ball...

1 C semolina flour
1 egg
water as needed


Then they ran the dough through the machine: 3 times on setting 1, 1 time each on settings 2-6, and through the cutter.

We served Team Linguine's creations with a fresh marinara sauce while Team Fettucine's pasta was tossed in an alfredo.


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