Friday, January 18, 2019

Unaş #SoupSaturday

Awhile ago Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm kicked off this group: Soup Saturday Swappers. And, this month, Sue of Palatable Pastime is hosting. She asked us to "get some soup going in that pot and warm up quick on some cold and snowy winter days."

Okay, let's just say this: it doesn't snow where I live. Well, it has snowed once that I remember. I have lived here on and off for over thirty years. But this snow was more like a light dusting. It didn't stick. And it certainly didn't create any snowbanks that would make staying inside by the fire a necessity.

The central coast of California is remarkably temperate; it's never really too hot or too cold. Really, when it climbs above 75 degrees F, we all start wilting. And anything below 45 degrees is soup weather. So, I do make lots of soups between November and February.

First, let's get to the other bowls...

The Other Snow Day Soup Offerings


Unaş is a fresh noodle soup from Turkmenistan. I roped the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf into helping me. because I love making fresh pasta with him. And, truth be told, I really didn't follow a traditional recipe; I just used the ingredient list for inspiration and forged ahead. I like the tradition of noodles and beans in a soup. It makes for a hearty bowl that can be a whole meal.


  • 1/2 C thinly sliced Spring onions
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 1 can organic black-eyed beans
  • 2 L chicken stock
  • ½ t red pepper chile flakes
  • 4 T plain whole fat organic yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • water

Place all of the dry ingredients in the body of the food processor. Add the eggs. Pulse. Add in 1 T water at a time until it comes together in a ball. Turn the dough onto a floured cutting board and knead until smooth and elastic, approximately 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

To roll: Slice your dough ball into quarters. Cover the portions you aren't rolling. Turn the rested dough out onto a lightly dusted board and roll out as thinly as you can. I found that rolling it into a long rectangle make the most even strips. If you don't have a rolling pin, a wine bottle works well! 

Once the pasta dough is as thin as you can get it, starting at one (short) end of the rectangle, roll the dough into a cylinder.

With a sharp knife, hand cut the roll into pieces whose width is the width you want for your pasta. I went about the width of linguine. Carefully unroll the strips and you're all set.

I cooked the noodles separately and served them in the soup. If you wish, you can certainly cook the noodles in the soup.

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and add Spring onions. Cook until the onions soften an become translucent. Add in the beans, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in the yogurt until well combined.

To serve, place cooked noodles in individual serving bowls. Ladle the broth and beans over the top. Serve immediately.

Learning about Biodynamic Wines + M.Chapoutier Wines with Some Cross-Cultural Pairings #Winophiles

When Gwendolyn of Wine Predator challenged the French Winophiles to explore and pair biodynamic wines this month, I almost didn't participate. It's not that I didn't want to learn about biodynamic practices and try some of the wines; I was completely intrigued by her invitation post which you can read here.

But the boys have launched into build season for robotics and given that they are both on the team and Jake is the team mentor, it's become a family affair and my free time is also completely dominated by supporting this venture.

Still, I figured I would stop by one of my favorite shops, on the way home from work one night, and if they had some French biodynamic wines, I would join in the fun and games. Lo and behold, Renee not only had some, but she knew a lot about them. She talked about burying a cow's horn and planting by the light of the full moon. But really, she was just underscoring the fact that biodynamic winemakers have a more spiritual approach to their craft. However, I do think there is something to that horn thing. I need to do more reading.

In any case, I picked up two bottles of M.Chapoutier wines - one red and one white - and decided to forego my usual task of finding recipes typical of the area in which the wines were made. Cross-culture food pairings were it this week!

Consumer Confusion

A quick note: when I sent my title to our host, Gwen pointed out that not all M.Chapoutier wines are actually biodynamic. I did more digging on their website and realized, in dismay, that the two I had just bought and paired were not. Well, crap! Really, I needed to do more reading about biodynamic wines and winemakers. But time was of the essence and an actual biodynamic wine that I had ordered wouldn't be here till after this event. So, I'm running with these non-biodynamically certified wines and just pointing out my error to you readers. Apologies.

You'll see on the M.Chapoutier website, on their Organic Wines tab, there are five different labels, the fifth just being their own labels of organic and biodynamic. But there are four certifications that they hold and use. I've paraphrased the labels' significance.

French 'AB" Organic Farming Label
From the French Agricultural Ministry, this label indicates that wines come from organically grown grapes and have adhered to other organic farming specifications, including no use of chemical fertilizers, chemical weed killers or pesticides, or chemical fungicides.

DEMETER is an international certification for products produced using biodynamic farming methods. Biodynamic parameters are much more rigorous than straight organic farming. Having been formally defined in the early 20th century, biodynamic winegrowers and winemakers aim to care for the planet and regenerate the soils by employing fertilizers and preparations based on medicinal and mineral plants, by respecting the rhythms of the Earth and the cosmos.

Biodyvin Label
The Biodyvin label indicates members of the Syndicat International des Vignerons en Culture Bio-Dynamique (International Union of Bio-Dynamic winemakers). The group strives to produce high quality wines, whose taste is representative of their region and terroir, while preserving the environment. Interestingly enough, this label is focused less on standardization and more on embracing differences and regional authenticity.

ECOCERT is an inspection and certification organization overseen by the French public authorities and protected by legislation. It is certified by the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité and certifies wines made from organically-grown (AB) or bio-dynamically grown (Demeter) grapes.

Even with all of that, Gwendolyn and I have had an email exchange with Antonin Bonnet - who is in charge of exporting the wine to the Americas - to clarify. It sounds as if there are wines in their porfolio that are actually biodynamic, but they just haven't been certified as such. So, they don't bear the biodynamic label even though they are. It's exactly what Renee, my wine contact at Stone Creek Kitchen, suspected: the certifications are expensive, so many houses don't go through the process, even though they are in fact organic or biodynamic. But it certainly adds to consumer confusion.

The #Winophiles' Biodynamic Posts
    Previous Pairings
It turns out I have already had poured - and shared - a few French biodynamic wines. A couple of months ago, for an Alsace event, in November 2108, I posted Lingcod, Legumes, and Domaine Mittnacht Frères Crémantd’Alsace. Domaine Mittnacht Frères is headed up by Christophe and Yuka Mittnacht. Christophe was a pioneer in the biodynamic movement and his house was one of the very first certified as biodynamic in all of Alsace.

And further back in March 2018, I posted Sober Clams + a French Syrah when Maison M. Chapoutier sent me a few wines to try. The wine that I did pair for that is a biodynamic wine. Well, as we discovered from Antonin, it is biodynamic, but hasn't been certified as such.

Cross-Cultural Pairings

And for this event, I opted to pair two bottles of M. Chapoutier wine with non-French cuisines, both 2017 Belleruche Côtes-du-Rhône. Just one red and one white.

The 2017 Belleruche Blanc is a zesty blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette and Bourboulenc. Tasting notes indicated aromas that hinted at ginger and summer stone fruits. The 'ginger' notes got me thinking about Asian food and I decided to poach some fish, including ahi tuna from my Real Good Fish CSF (community-supported fishery) and locally-caught salmon, in a miso-ginger broth. I served the fish with a side of rice and some spicy broccoli.

The 2017 Belleruche Rouge is a blend of mainly Grenache with some Syrah. With its intense nose of pepper and fruit, I wanted an equally intense dish and decided to make shredded beef enchiladas.

Recipes to come on both of these dishes. But feel free to play with Asian and Latin flavors and your French wines. You won't be disappointed!

Next month the French Winophiles will be headed to Provence with Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm. And she has something a little different in store for us. Not only are we looking at wines from Provence, but some of us will be looking for inspiration by reading A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. Because she has family who owns a used bookstore, Blue Vase Book Exchange is sponsoring the event and sending copies of that book to those of us who are interested. Count me in!

Mormor Agnes’ Æbleskiver

We enjoyed Æbleskiver a few times while we were in Denmark over the holidays. And I was determined to make them here in California!

Sometimes there are words in other languages that make so much more sense than in English. Take 'grandmother' and 'grandfather' as an example. When mine were alive, they were 'Grandma Meling' and 'Grandpa Joe' to differentiate them from 'Grandma Eva' and 'Grandpa Marc.' So, when Jake and I had the boys, we decided to keep it simple and have them call my parents by the Italian words for grandparents - Nonna for grandmother, Nonno for grandfather, and Nonni collectively - while Jake's parents would be Grandpa and Grandma. Actually, R started calling Jake's dad 'Poppa' when he was a toddler and that stuck; now they are Grandma and Poppa. But we still have four distinct words/names for our parents.

In Danish, the word for mother is 'mor' and the word for father is 'far'. Move one generation up and you have: mormor, morfar, farfar, and farmor. So that's mom's mom (maternal grandmother), mom's dad (maternal grandfather), dad's dad (paternal grandfather), and dad's mom (paternal grandmother). Easy...and it makes perfect sense.

So, when I posted a note to Rikke that I was ready for her grandmother's Æbleskiver recipe, she sent me this. I knew exactly whose mom's recipe it was.

Also, a quick note about the pan. There are less expensive versions out there. But (1) I trust the Scanpan brand, (2) it's actually from Denmark, and (3) I  figured I would find other recipes to not have this be a unitasker kitchen pan. I'll be trying takoyaki soon.

Mormor Agnes’ Æbleskiver
While most of my recipes use cups, not grams, I did pull out my scale just to make sure that I was staying true to Mormor Agnes' recipe. Rikke said she doubles the recipe, so I did the same.

Also, I was dubious when Rikke typed, "...beat the eggwhites until you can turn the bowl upside down without the eggwhites falling out of the bowl. (As a child - that was my job: eggwhite-tester!)" I pictured eggwhites all over my counter or floor. But, I trusted her and I did it.

  • ca. 4 dl buttermilk (14 ounces buttermilk)
  • 1-1/4 t baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 250 g flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 t sugar
  • For serving: jam and powdered sugar
  • Also needed: Æbleskiver pan, Æbleskiver turners* (though skewers or knitting needles work fine!)

Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a bowl with the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Whisk together with the buttermilk.

In a another mixing bowl beat the egg whites until you can turn the bowl upside down without the egg whites falling out of the bowl. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Heat the pan until it is more than warm to the touch. Melt a little butter in each hollow.

Fill it up with batter till just below the edge. It will puff up a little bit as it cooks. If you want to add apple slices or applesauce, you should do it at this point.

After a few minutes, turn the æbleskive a quarter of a round.

And after another minute, turn the last bit, completely the round. Make sure that it is properly baked on the inside!

Of course I had to taste-test one while I was making them! Yum.

When we were in Denmark, we ate Æbleskiver with raspberry jam and Nutella. I served this batch with some apricot jam I had in the fridge.

The boys were so excited to see this on the table for breakfast this week. I can't wait to make them again soon.

*This blog currently has a partnership with 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 and search for the item of your choice.

Spiced Café Noir #FoodieReads

I still don't remember how I ended up with The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah* on my to-read stack. I don't recall if a friend recommended it, or it was just one of those 'people who bought x also bought this' suggestions that always gets me on Amazon. Always. But, after I finally kicked jetlag from our holiday trip to Denmark, I picked this book up off my shelf.

On the Page
Unfortunately, I liked the idea of the book more than the actual book. British travel writer Tahir Shah uproots his family from the gloom of London and buys a house in exotic Casablanca. He has dreamt of making Morocco home since he traveled there as a child. In the same tradition of Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes or A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle - that the French Winophiles will be reading next month! - Shah details his trials and tribulations about being a foreigner making a home in a new country.

He acquired Dar Khalifa, a crumbling seaside mansion in Casablanca that once belonged to the city’s spiritual leader, or caliph, and wants to renovate it. Sounds interesting, right? The guardians or caretakers believe that that house is inhabited by jinns, invisible Islamic spirits, that need to be exorcised. Still interesting.

However, this felt fictional and bad fiction at that. I mean, how many times can you "trust" a native, get burned, and still be surprised? I find it difficult to believe that someone as worldly as Shah could be such a bumbling simpleton. The anecdotes just didn't ring true and I was glad when the book ended. So I'm happy to move on to other books that are requesting my attention!

In My Cup
Despite my feelings about the book, I was excited to create an exotically-spiced coffee inspired by Moroccan cuisine. This isn't a traditional recipe, but I loved the idea and the flavor of this cup. Café Noir appears in the glossary at the end of the book. No real recipe, just that it doesn't include milk. Okay.

Ingredients makes 2 cups of coffee

  • 1 C water
  • 4 T coffee grounds (I used a dark roast)
  • 1 t ground cardamom
  • large pinch of saffron
  • 2 T rosewater

Pour water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Spoon in the coffee grounds, ground cardamom, and saffron. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 or 6 minutes. Raise the heat to bring it to a boil, then pour in the rosewater. Bring the coffee to a boil for a third time. Simmer for another 5 to 6 minutes. Strain out the grounds and pour into small cups.

I served this Café Noir in demitasse cups with dates, mixed nuts or pastries.

*This blog currently has a partnership with 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 and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else read in January 2019: here.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Hot Vanilla for Winter #WarmUpDrinks

Happy New Year and welcome to the third installment of the Winter Warm-Up Drink Series hosted by Ellen of Family Around the Table! For the next four Fridays, now, we'll be featuring winter drinks guaranteed to warm you right up!

Stay Warm With These Sips

Hot Vanilla

I am almost loathe to call this a recipe. But, when I talked to my boys about hot winter drinks, 'Hot Vanilla!' resounded around the dining table. "We love Hot Vanillas, Mom!" they hollered. I know. I know. When they were younger, we went to a breakfast spot and I always let them order - and share - one hot vanilla. Now we don't eat out as much, so we make these at home. You could also call them a steamer, but old habits die hard and these are 'Hot Vanilla's in our house!

Ingredients serves 2
  • 2 C milk
  • 2 t vanilla syrup
  • Also needed: milk foamer (I use an Aerolatte)

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until it begins to steam around the edges. You don't want it to boil!

Add 1 t vanilla syrup to each mug and set aside. Pour the warmed milk into a wide mouth container. Foam the milk.

Portion milk into the mugs, then scoop the milk foam into the top of each mug. Serve immediately.

Oven Roasted Mussels Over Wilted Greens #FishFridayFoodies

It's time for Fish Friday Foodies' first event of 2019. 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, Caroline of Caroline's Cooking is hosting as we share seafood recipes fresh from the oven. She mentioned a sheet pan and I was inspired!

Before I get to my recipe. Here's the rest of the #FishFridayFoodies' oven-made menu...


  •   to 4 pounds mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
  • ½ C white wine
  • 1 pound tomatoes (I used organic mini hierlooms, halved)
  • pinch red chile flakes
  • ¼ C organic parsley, chopped (I used flat leaf parsley) + more for garnish
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 pounds baby spinach, rinsed and dried
  • 1 T olive oil
  • Also needed: sheet pan, parchment paper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, tossing to coat the mussels as much as possible. Spoon the mussels onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a single layer and pour the marinade over the top.

Place tray in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until most of the mussels have opened. If there are still some unopened, return the tray to the oven.

In the meantime, heat 1 T olive oil in a large skillet and place the spinach in the pan. Cook until it is just wilted and remove to a serving tray. Arrange all of the mussels on top of the spinach. Then pour the juices in the pan over the mussels and spinach.

Sprinkle with more parsley and serve with a great bottle of white wine. I ended up pairing this dish with a bottle of Domaine Cauhapé 2017 Chant des Vignes – Jurançon Sec. Read my tasting notes by clicking on the link. Cheers.

Peruvian-Inspired Denmark

This is a dinner that I made for the Frydenholm Mortensens when we invaded their abode in Ry, Denmark over the holidays. I had been reading - and was duly inspired by - Edward Lee's Buttermilk Graffiti. 

I am not going to comment too much on the book because it's a bookclub pick for later in the year. Just know that it's not the first time I'm reading this book. I doubt it'll be the last. I've been a fan of his since Mind of a Chef and his recipes and sentiments are timeless. I picked this recipe because it looked as if it had a lot of flavor. And it would be easy to do between our visits to museums and the copious board games we were playing.

Also, I write 'inspired' because a true Pollo a la Brasa is slow-cooked over charcoal. This version was roasted in the oven. But the flavor profile remains. I did leave out a few ingredients as we didn't want it too spicy for little palates. In my mind, the Green Ají Sauce made this dish. I could have eaten that with a spoon. But, since we were at someone else's house, I refrained.

Ingredients serves 8

  • 2 whole chickens, preferably organic, approximately 2-1/2 pounds each
  • 1/2 C soy sauce
  • 4 T olive oil
  • juice from 4 limes or lemons
  • 8 to 10 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1-1/2" knob fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 t oregano
  • 2 t rosemary
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t pepper

Green Ají Sauce

  • 1 bunch herbs (traditionally this would be cilantro, but we weren't sure the kids would like it, so we used parsley)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C mayonnaise
  • pinch of oregano
  • jalapeno peppers, optional (we skipped this, again for the kids' palates)

Whisk together the soy sauce, olive oil, lime or lemon juice, minced garlic, grated ginger, oregano, rosemary, salt, and pepper to form a paste. Place the chicken in a large baking dish and rub the chicken with the paste. Cover and let marinade overnight in the refrigerator.

Pull the chicken out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before roasting. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Roast the chicken for 50 to 55 minutes. The skin should be browned and crisp and the juices clear. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Green Ají Sauce
Mince the herbs as finely as you can (or use a blender or food processor). Whisk together with all of the other ingredients. Serve on the side with the roasted chicken. 

We also had broccoli and brown rice. It was a hit!

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