Friday, February 15, 2019

A Book, An Inspired Braise, and A (Surprise!) Bottle of Red from Provençe #Winophiles #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the February #Winophiles event.
The book was provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.

This month, Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is hosting the French Winophiles. She levied a fun, two part challenge to the group. You can read her invitation: here

She offered us copies of A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle - courtesy of Blue Vase Book Exchange* - to accompany our exploration of Provençal wines and food pairings. Bonus points, she said, for not opening up a Provençal Rosé. Needless to say: this wine-swilling bibliophile was in. Immediately. 

Provençal Posts
A Book

When I picked up the package at the post office, I was so excited to have a new-to-me book for the weekend. I had to accompany D and his project partner downtown one Sunday last month. So, while they planned a strategy and identified a shot list of photos they needed to take, I sat there with some cheese and a coffee, enjoying the sun, and dug into the book. This is a breeze to read. If you haven't read it and are looking for an afternoon's diversion to Provençe, pick this up!


As much as I love travel and food memoirs, I am surprised that this hasn't crossed my shelf yet. Organized as a calendar year - each chapter encompasses a month - this memoir details Mayle's first year in Provençe as a British ex-patriate who has purchased a house in France and is in the process of renovating. 

I read that Mayle passed away last January - 2018 - after having lived in France for over a quarter of a century. I will definitely be looking up more of his books as I really enjoyed his narrative voice and, of course, the picture he paints of his adopted country.

Some entertaining passages I want to share that illustrate his skill with a pen...and some differences he notes between the Brits and the French.

In January: "The effect of the weather on the inhabitants of Provençe is immediate and obvious. They expect every day to be sunny, and their disposition suffers when it isn't. Rain they take as a personal affront, shaking their heads and commiserating with each other in the cafés, looking with profound suspicion at the sky as though a plague of locusts is about to descend, and picking their way with distaste through the puddles on the pavement" (pg. 10).

In June: "It had taken me some months to get used to the Provençal delight in physical contact. Like anyone brought up in England, I had absorbed certain social mannerisms. I had learned to keep my distance, to offer a nod instead of a handshake, to ration kissing to female relative and to confine any public demonstrations of affection to dogs. To be engulfed in a Provençal  welcome, as thorough and searching as being frisked by airport security guards was, at first, a starling experience" (pg. 101).

In December: "It is very different with the French. They are no sooner given a glass before they put it down, presumably because they find conversation difficult with only one hand free. So the glasses gather in groups, and after five minutes identification becomes impossible. The guests, unwilling to take another person's glass but unable to pick out their own, look with longing at the champagne bottle. Fresh glasses are distributed, and the process repeats itself" (pg. 203).

A (Surprise!) Bottle of Red
 

Probably like most people, when I think of wines from Provençe, I automatically think of Rosés. I've opened a fair share of those after all. I've shared these pairings Spiced Orange Salad + Cave de Saint-Roch-les-Vignes Côtes deProvence Rosé, Warm Weather Rosé + Cheese Pairings, and Tapenade-Topped Sablefish + Cave de Saint-Roch-les-Vignes Côtes de Provence Rosé; and, though not a wine-food pairing, I posted Tasting Notes: Luc Belaire Rare Rosé. So, lots of pinks there.

When Wendy mentioned that she'd like us to find reds or white, as we could, I was on the hunt. And I found one. I picked up a 2014 Domaine de Terrebrune from Bandol, Provençe. It's a single varietal Mourvèdre. Surprise! My bottle of wine is not a Rosé.

Mourvèdre is primarily a blending grape - it's the 'M' in GSM blends - but is increasingly being bottled on its own. When I find it on its own, I am always captivated. The grape goes by a few different names worldwide. The grape we know as Mourvèdre goes by the name Monastrell in Spain and Mataro in Australia.  


This wine has strong garrigue aromas which refers to the wild, aromatic low-growing vegetation on the limestone hills of the Mediterranean coast. Think juniper, thyme, rosemary and lavender; 'garrigue' refers to the lot of them. For this almost purple-hued wine, I got mostly lavender and thyme on the nose. And the salinity on the tongue definitely made me think of the Mediterranean coast of Provençe. There was also some licorice undertones. The noticeable tannins harmonize nicely with the structure of the wine making this a delightful sip.

An Inspired Braise

I took inspiration from this passage in the January chapter: "The cold-weather cuisine of Provençe  is peasant food. It is made to stick to your ribs, keep you warm, give you strength, and send you off to bed with a full belly. It is not pretty, in the way that the tiny and artistically garnished portions served in fashionable restaurants are pretty, but on a freezing night with the Mistral coming at you like a razor there is nothing to beat it" (pg. 13).

So in the last weekend of January, I made a Provençe-inspired braise with boneless pork chops I had in the fridge. And to match the garrigue notes of the wine, I added in thyme, rosemary, and lavender to the dish. With the cream and potatoes, it definitely sent us to bed with fully bellies!

Ingredients serves 4 to 6

  • four boneless pork chops
  • 1 organic onion, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thickly sliced with fronds reserved
  • 1 pound potatoes, thickly sliced (I used multi-colored marble potatoes)
  • 2 t crushed dried lavender blooms
  • 2 t dried rosemary
  • 2 t dried thyme
  • 2 t sea salt
  • European style mustard*
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • 1/2 C stock (I used chicken stock, but use whatever you have)
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • water, as needed
*NOTE (because a reader asked for clarification): When I write 'European style mustard' I just really mean anything other than (American) yellow mustard. It could be Dijon, English, or whole grain. You could use any kind that you have, but the latter kinds have a little bit more texture and heat, in my mind.

Procedure

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a small mixing bowl, blend together the lavender, rosemary, thyme, and sea salt.

In the bottom of a baking dish or Dutch oven, layer in the onions and fennel bulb. Sprinkle in a third of the herb mixture. Add the potatoes and top with another third of the herbs. Place the pork chops on top and finish off the herbs.


Add some mustard on top of the pork and use a knife to make a thin layer. Pour in the liquids. If the liquid doesn't reach to the bottom of the meat, add in some water. Top with fresh fennel fronds and  the cover the dish or use the lid.


Place in the oven and let braise for 2 hours. Remove the lid. Turn the meat and potatoes to make sure they are fully covered in the sauce and return it to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes.


Serve hot with a wine from Provençe...a red wine, if you can. I also served this with wilted spinach and a bitter greens salad in a mustard vinaigrette. What a delicious meal, inspired by a fun read. Thanks for hosting, Wendy! And thanks, too, to Blue Vase for the book. Merci beaucoup!

Find them on the web, on Facebook, and on Amazon
I am also linking this post up to February's #FoodieReads: here.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Candy Cap Cookies: Fungi Treats for My Fun Guys


After almost twenty-one years together, Jake knows I get a little creative with my ingredients. In fact, all of my friends joke that I can't make anything plain or basic. Ever. Case in point: I can't stand to make plain rice krispie treats; there's always a twist. Fine, they're right.



So, when I was trying to decide on some Valentines' treats, I eagerly eyed a bag of dried candy cap mushrooms that I had tucked away in the cupboard. I have ground them up to make Candy Cap Macaroons and to use them in a crumble topping before. I pulled out my coffee grinder to do something like that again. 

Then I found a recipe that rehydrated the dried candy caps, cooked them in butter, and used them in the cookie like that.  So, I started with that recipe from Bedford Winery. I swapped sugars, used coffee extract, and skipped the nuts but added nut flour. I also saved the mushroom water, made a syrup, and used it in a frosting. 


D, my mushroom-averse child, wrinkled his nose when he saw these on the counter. "What are those for, Mommy?" he almost wailed. Don't worry about it. You won't even know it's in there. "Oh, I'll know," he insisted.

R walked over as I poured hot water over the dried mushrooms and declared, "That's a lot of witchiness going on, Mom. What are you making with that?" Cookies. "Yum!"

In case you aren't familiar, candy cap mushrooms actually smell and taste like maple syrup. In fact, I've washed my hand dozens of times since I made these and they still smell like the candy caps. It's a crazy ingredient that I love.


And just two more things you should know about this cookie. I actually ate one. Well, I ate half of one. D ate the other half. Most of the time I am content just to create. I don't actually need to taste the baked good to decide if I'm going to share the recipe or not. My peanut gallery is always more than willing to give me thumbs up or thumbs down. So, it's saying a lot that I indulged. They were that enticing.

Also, I went to pack a few cookies in each lunchbox this morning and the entire container was gone. Jake had packed it to take to work. So, he must have liked them that much...or he just wanted to prove to his coworkers that his wife is off her rocker. In any case, I need to make some more because this batch vanished quickly.

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 C dried candy cap mushrooms
  • 1 C boiling water
  • 1 C butter, softened + 1 T for sautéing
  • 1 C organic dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 t coffee extract
  • 1-1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C ground almonds

Candy Cap Syrup
  • reserved mushrooms water (mine was about 1 C)
  • 1 C organic dark brown sugar

Frosting
  • 2 C organic powdered sugar, or more to thicken icing 
  • 1 to 2 T candy cap syrup
  • 1/4 t coffee extract

Procedure

Cookies
Rehydrate dried mushrooms. Place them in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them. Stir to ensure that they are all submerged. After 20 minutes, strain them but reserve the soaking liquid. Squeeze excess liquid out by hand, then chop or thinly slice.

Melt 1 T butter in a skillet and add in the sliced mushrooms. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, cream together 1 C butter and brown sugar. Beat in egg and coffee extract. Slowly add flour and ground almonds while stirring. Once it's come together, add in the sautéed candy caps. Incorporate the dough into a ball. Divide the ball in half and wrap in plastic wrap to chill for 15 to 30 minutes.

Candy Cap Syrup
While the dough chills, make your syrup. Strain the soaking liquid a few times to remove any chunks or debris. I think I strained mine three times. Pour the liquid in a small sauce pan and stir in brown sugar. Over medium heat, bring the liquid to a boil. Swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. If you would a thicker consistency, cook it longer. I only used a little bit of this syrup. So, you'll see it again in a candy cap cocktail. Soon.


Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out to between 1/4" and 1/3" thick. Use a cutter and place the cookies on a parchment paper or silicone mat-lined baking sheet.


Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until bottoms of cookies are firmed. Let cool on the baking sheet for 3 to 4 minutes before removing to a wire rack and letting them cool completely.

Frosting
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the ingredients until smooth. If it needs to be thicker, add more powdered sugar. If it needs to be thinner, add more syrup. Set aside.


To assemble, place a small amount of the frosting on top of the cooled cookies. Gently use a spoon to push the frosting to the edge. Set aside to let the frosting set.


There you have it: fungi treats for my fun guys! Happy Valentines' Day.

Black Tahini Truffles


So, I think I just answered my own question about why they never buy me chocolates! They know I have a less than typical palate and probably can't find a funky enough confection. Ha. It's a good thing I can make my own. Happy Valentines' Day to me!


I love pairing savories and sweets. For instance: Black Garlic Chocolate Cake or Garlic Ice Cream. And you'll see a Candy Cap Mushroom Cookie recipe on the blog shortly. But I really love stirring black tahini into chocolate as I did in my Black Tahini Chocolate Bundt Cake. I think the black tahini adds an earthy depth to chocolate. So, for my Valentines' truffles this year, I decided to make a black tahini version.

Ingredients
makes approximately 2 dozen truffles

Truffles
  • 1-1/2 C 60% cacao chocolate, chopped or chips (a higher percentage of cacao is great, too!)
  • 1 C organic heavy whipping cream
  • 1 T butter, softened
  • 2 T black tahini

Finishing
  • 1-1/2 C 60% cacao chocolate, chopped or chips (a higher percentage of cacao is great, too!), divided
  • black sesame seeds for garnish
Procedure

Truffles
Place chocolate, black tahini, and butter in a large mixing bowl.  In a medium saucepan, heat cream steaming. Pour cream over the chocolate.  Let sit for three minutes, then whisk until smooth. Refrigerate until firm - at least two hours.


Now all you need to do is scoop the ganache into truffles...and dip them in tempered chocolate.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. With a tablespoon or tablespoon scoop, scoop chilled truffle ganache from your bowl and place on the lined tray. Refrigerate for a minimum of 15 minutes. (I let them chill for about 30 minutes.)


Finishing
You will want to temper your chocolate. Here's how...

Place half of your chipped chocolate in a double-boiler and, over low heat, warm until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the other half of the chocolate. Set aside until the chocolate begins to lose its shine; it's beginning to crystallize. Then, return the chocolate to the double-boiler and warm, over very low heat, until smooth and glossy.


Dip chilled truffles in the melted chocolate, one at a time.  You may use a candy dipping tool, but I just use a two-toothpick combo. Dip the truffle quickly into the melted chocolate and shake off the excess.  Place on the lined tray and use another toothpick to nudge the truffle off of the toothpick. Dip the toothpick back into the melted chocolate and use a dab of chocolate to cover up any imperfections.

Immediately after chocolate dipping, sprinkle the truffle with a pinch of black sesame seeds as garnish.  Repeat with remaining truffles. Let the chocolate set. Store the truffles in an airtight container in the fridge. Let come to room temperature for serving.

Turmeric Lemon Roasted Potatoes #FoodBloggerLove


I noticed a fun game posted in the online group #FoodBloggerLove. We claim the last blogger in the comment stream and add our own link. Then we have a week to post an inspired recipe. I was excited to claim Cindy of Cindy's Recipes and Writings. She and I have been in several different blogging groups over the years, so I was familiar with her blog already. But it was nice to really dig in and get to know her.

Meet Cindy! You can find her: on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on Pinterest.

Cindy has been blogging since 2012 and was a professional cook for more than four decades. She's a passionate cook and gardener, a proud Penn State Master Gardener alumna. She's been a contributing writer for several newspaper columns where she lives in Northeaster Pennsylvania, including "Garden Spot” in Pocono Record,”The Watering Whole” in Times News, and “Lawn and Garden” in Pocono Xpress.

But, probably my favorite part of her bio is when she writes: "I’m an active competitor in Food Sport." I had no idea what that even meant. She shared that she's won or placed four times at PA Vegetable Board in Harrisburg, PA and Sustainable Seafood Cobia contest in Charleston, South Carolina. And she's qualified and competed three times in World Food Championships, in Orange Beach Alabama. How fun is that?!

So, I explored her blog and will be making several of her other dishes, including her Butternut Squash Squares and Broccoli Cheddar Soup. But, today, I was inspired to make a twist on her Turmeric Lime Roasted Potatoes for our Valentines' breakfast. We love roasted potatoes, but Cindy's spices and citrus elevated this usually ho hum side dish to an amazing side dish. Thanks for the inspiration, Cindy. 

I did swap out the limes for Meyer lemon because I have a tree and almost never buy limes or lemons. Also, I cut back on the garlic because I used raw garlic instead of roasted. My vampire would have objected to that much garlic this early in the day. And I did, painstakingly, cut out tiny little hearts to match the day.


Ingredients

  • 4 to 6 potatoes, scrubbed, sliced to 1/3" and cut into hearts (or just make squares)
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 t ground turmeric
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice



Procedure 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil and spices. Add potato pieces and toss to coat. Spread as a single layer on a parchment paper or silicone mat-lined baking sheet.

Place try in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes turning occasionally. Roast until the outside is crisped and browned and the inside tender.


Serve hot. I served this with a cheesy herb omelette.

We'll definitely be making these again. Maybe without the hearts...that was time consuming. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Sticky No Soy Spare Ribs #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Social Nature. All opinions are my own.

I received a coupon for a complimentary bottle of Ocean's Halo sauce*, through my association with Social Nature, and was excited to find the product at my local Whole Foods. I considered the options and picked up the No Soy Less Sodium Soy-Free Sauce.

Then I set about learning more about the company. Visit their website to get the whole story, but it was started by four dads who wanted to create a product using sustainable ocean-farmed seaweed and non-GMO ingredients. Based just up the coast from here, they are now partnering with the Monterey Bay Aquarium - donating 2% of their profits - to allow school children to visit the aquarium for free! So, great product with a great mission...you can't beat that.


When I was trying to decide what to make, I figured I'd make a dish that the boys love and just swap out my regular soy sauce with the Ocean's Halo and see if they made any comments. Also, at Whole Foods, I picked up a rack of spare ribs and had the butcher slice them horizontally to about 2" lengths.

Ingredients

  • 1½ to 2 pounds lean spareribs, cut into roughly 1½ to 2" long pieces
  • 1 organic onion, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 3 C cold water
  • 3 T raw, local honey
  • ½ t sea salt
  • 2 T toasted sesame oil
  • 2 T Ocean's Halo No Soy Less Sodium Soy-Free Sauce
  • 1 T olive oil
  • black sesame seeds for serving, optional
Procedure

Pour water, honey, salt, sesame oil, and No Soy Less Sodium Soy-Free Sauce in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Heat a large saucepan (I used my braiser) or wok and add olive oil.


Add spare ribs and brown on all sides over medium heat, approximately 7 to 8 minutes.


Add in the sliced onions and pour in the water-honey mixture. Bring to a boil. There should be enough liquid to cover the spareribs. Cook over medium high heat until liquid is greatly reduced and sauce becomes thick and caramelizes. This process should take about 30 minutes. Here's what mine looked like. This was after 10 minutes....


This was after 20 minutes....


You will need to be vigilant after about 25 minutes as the sauce is really caramelized and can easily scorch. As soon as the sauce is thick - like molasses - turn off the heat.


Turn the spareribs to fully coat each piece with the caramelized honey sauce. Remove to a serving platter. Garnish with black sesame seeds, if using.


Enjoy! It's that easy. One thing I didn't do was a side by side taste test of my regular soy cause with the Ocean's Halo No Soy Less Sodium Soy-Free Sauce. I couldn't quite bring myself to do that. But I liked the way the product behaved in my recipe and will certainly buy another bottle!


You may find Ocean's Halo...
on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Pinterest

*Disclosure: I received this product for free from the sponsor of Social NatureAs a Social Nature blogger, I agree to use this product and share my thoughts. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Social Nature or the manufacturer of this product.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Recipe Testing: Mocha S'mores Cake #SpringSweetsWeek #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Nancy's Yogurt and Dixie Crystals, #SpringSweetsWeek sponsors. 
I received complimentary product for the purpose of review and recipe development, 
but all opinions are honest and they are my own. This page may contain affiliate links.

When I take part in events with sponsors, I love recipe testing for the best recipe that showcases the products well. So, when I received yogurt from Nancy's Yogurt for #SpringSweetsWeek, I wanted to try a variation on a sour cream chocolate cake that I've been making for years.

The verdict on this cake: delicious, but not appropriate for a Spring event.

"'Spring' isn't the first word that comes to mind when I look at that," piped up the Precise Kitchen Elf.

"It's more like Summer, Mom," said the other. "because of camping and campfires."

You're right that it's not Spring-y. Now I think it's perfect for a Winter cake...in front of the fireplace.

"It's not chestnuts," they both objected! "You don't roast marshmallows in a fireplace, do you?"

Well, not usually. Fine.

So, while this isn't an appropriate cake for the #SpringSweetsWeek, I'm sharing it ahead of time because it was delicious. I used yogurt in the cake and the frosting. I love that added tartness.

Ingredients

Chocolate Yogurt Cake
  • butter, for the baking pans
  • 1¾ C flour
  • ½ C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 t cornstarch
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 C whole milk yogurt (prefer Nancy's)
  • 1½ C dark brown sugar, lightly packed (prefer Dixie Crystals)
  • ⅔ C olive oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t coffee extract

 Chocolate Yogurt Frosting
  • ½ C whole milk yogurt (prefer Nancy's)
  • ½ C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ t pure vanilla extract
  • ½ t coffee extract
  • 4 C powdered sugar (prefer Dixie Crystals)

Finishing
  • marshmallows, approximately a dozen, but enough to cover most of a 9" cake


Procedure

Chocolate Yogurt Cake
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9" cake pans. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add together yogurt, oil eggs, sugar, and extracts. Whisk until smooth. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Use a spatula to combine until just moistened. 

Divide the batter between prepared pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula. Place pans on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes. The cakes will spring back if pressed lightly in the center.


Let cakes stand for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove from pans and invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Yogurt Frosting
Mix together yogurt, cocoa, and extracts in a large mixing bowl. Add in powdered sugar and beat until it forms a thick frosting.


Finishing
Place marshmallows in a single layer on a piece of foil. Place the marshmallows on a baking sheet and under the broiler for 1 minute. Set aside.

Place one cake layer on serving plate. Spoon half of the frosting in the center and gently spread to within an inch of the edge. Position the other cake layer on top of that. Spoon the remainder of the frosting on the top of the cake.

Spread the frosting to the edge and top the cake with the browned marshmallows.

Serve immediately...with a tall glass of milk!


#SpringSweetsWeek products 
included in this recipe...

You may find Nancy's Yogurt on the web
on Twitter, on Pinterest, on Instagram, and on Facebook.
You may find Dixie Crystals on the web
on Twitter, on Pinterest, on Instagram, and on Facebook.

*Disclosure: I received product for free from the sponsor for for participating in this event, however, I have received no additional compensation for my post. My opinion is 100% my own and 100% accurate.

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