Friday, August 31, 2012

Foodie PenPals: Care Package from Cincinnati, OH

The Lean Green Bean
As much as I love the immediacy of email, I love getting mail. And I especially love getting packages! When Lindsay first contacted me, she wrote that "Cincinnati itself is a pretty exciting town to live in...and there are a lot of great local products I am hoping to send you." She was successful.

To see what the other foodie penpals got in their goodie boxes, click here.

I received my box on an otherwise gloomy day on the central coast of California. Her package made everyone in the family giddy with anticipation. But I, lone female resident, trumped them all: "The tissue paper is pink. What does that mean? It means that this is for Mommy! But I promise that I'll share."

Here's my Cincinnati Foodie PenPal adventure...

The first thing in the box was a note and a recipe for baked oatmeal. I have never had baked oatmeal. We love oatmeal - rolled oats, steel cut oats. It's the perfect breakfast for an autumn morning. So, I will definitely give that a try this year.

Lindsay included two bags of Grippos chips because "one is not enough!" The Cincinnati connection: When Angelo Grippo founded Grippo's Cone Company, in 1919, he manufactured rolled sugar cones in a one-room office on Court Street. Grippo's added pretzels to their business and in 1923 began hand twisting and baking the traditional twist pretzel. The standard sized pretzel sold for a penny each at retail locations throughout Greater Cincinnati.

Next there was a can of pizza sauce from LaRosa's Pizzeria. In 1954, when Buddy LaRosa opened his first neighborhood pizzeria on Cincinnati's West Side, his Sicilian-born father told him he was crazy. "You gonna sell pizza? ‘Med-i-gans never gonna buy pizza from you," he said. Many Americans had never even heard of pizza at that time. But now LaRosa's Pizzerias serve dozens of neighborhoods throughout Cincinnati, Dayton, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana.

My two boys were literally vibrating with excitement when they saw a duo of iced cookies from Busken Bakery that has been serving up pastries to Cincinnati, Ohio since 1928. Two sunny cookies iced with gigantic icing grins. "Have a crumby day!" the package reads. Riley, my 10-year-old, loved the play on words; Dylan, my 8-year-old, didn't get it and said, "Mommy, that's not a nice thing to say to someone!" But they both smiled, matching the cookies' grins, as they munched and crumbled all over the table.

My grill-master husband was thrilled with the bottle of Montgomery Inn barbeque sauce. The Montgomery Inn began in late 1951, when Matula and Ted Gregory moved in and renamed the former McCabe’s Inn. One night, Matula cooked barbecued ribs with her now-famous barbecue sauce; everyone who tried them loved them. Soon they were on the menu and the Gregorys were running a bona fide barbeque restaurant. When a local restaurant critic dubbed Ted the “Ribs King,” history was written.

Then there were two of Lindsay's favorites from Trader Joe's - a bag of harvest grains and chocolate bar filled with speculoos icing - and a bag of homemade granola.

Lindsay, thank you so much! All of the Cincinnati-based products were so much fun and I loved learning about the companies' histories. And your granola didn't last for 24 hours in my house. We were snacking on it by the handful until it was all gone. I appreciate all your efforts and hope that your Foodie PenPals box was as fantastic as mine was. My entire family enjoyed it.
All best, Camilla

And because the gal to whom I sent a package this month isn't a blogger, I thought I'd share a quick note from her: "Thank you so much for all the wonderful treats and items in the box! The ear rings are beautiful! The ginger chili sauce is a huge hit, even my super picky boyfriend loves it! I can tell you really put a lot of thought and time into putting together the box, from the wrapping paper to the neat little info cards, it felt like it was my birthday! I hope you enjoyed the box you received as much as i have enjoyed yours. Have a lovely day!"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cardamom-Scented Cream Shortcakes with Blackberries

Riley came home with freshly picked blackberries, from the bushes around the building where he takes mandolin lessons. He wanted a fresh pie, but I didn't have nearly enough to do that. So I opted for some shortcakes and whipped cream topped with the berries, inspired by the dessert that Chef Jon Moser served at the luncheon I attended yesterday.

2 cups flour
3 t baking powder
2 T organic granulated sugar
dash of ground cardamom
dash of ground ginger
4 T softened butter
3/4 C organic heavy whipping cream
organic heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven 430 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, ground cardamom, ground ginger, and sugar. Cut in butter. Mix in cream. Form flattened rounds in whatever size you want. Place onto a baking stone and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly brown. Serve with cardamom-scented, unsweetened whipped cream and fresh berries.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Green Olive-Thyme Loaf

Another night. Another breadless morning tomorrow...unless I bake something to put under their ham and cheese in their lunchboxes. I decided to make a green olive-thyme round with some lemon olive oil. Can you tell that I'm quite smitten with my We Olive lemon olive oil? Maybe I should have gotten all three bottles' worth of that!

3 C all-purpose flour
1 T active dry yeast
1 t freshly ground pink Himalaya salt
1 C warm water
¼ C lemon olive oil
1 C green olives
2 springs of fresh thyme

Place the water in a large mixing bowl. Float the yeast on top and allow it to bloom for about 5 minutes. Add the flour, salt, and olive oil and mix until a ball forms. Knead in green olives and leaves from the thyme sprigs.

Shape the dough into a flat round, adding only enough flour to allow you to handle the dough. Cover it and let it rise in the warmest place in your kitchen while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Let it rise as long as you can. Brush the loaf with water, sprinkle it with coarse salt and herbs if you like, drizzle with some more olive oil and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the bread is golden brown and feels hollow when you tap it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Pickled Blueberries

The Grand Prize winning recipe for the We Olive 'Discover Cooking with California Olive Oil Cooking Contest' was Naylet LaRochelle's Lemon Olive Oil Poached Halibut. My mouth was watering just reading her recipe. No wonder she won!

And since I have never poached in olive oil, I decided to give it a try. Naylet does hers on the stovetop, I read this article and decided to try poaching in the oven.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Lay your fish in an oven-proof baking dish. Fill pan with enough olive oil to mostly cover the filets. Cover with foil. Place in the oven for 25 minutes.

Check for doneness. If the fish needs more time, return the dish to the oven. The fish is cooked when it is firm to the touch.
I served these over a bed of whole wheat couscous. To finish: I topped them with pickled blueberries, fresh thyme leaves, a sprinkling of pink Himalaya salt, and a drizzle of We Olive's lemon olive oil.

*Update 4/5/2013: added this to Katherine Martinelli's Salmon Linky Party.*

Adding Pizazz with Pickled Blueberries

I love surprising details. In jewelry, in clothing, but - especially - in food. I had clipped out an article from Saveur magazine last year titled "The Finishing Touches." It was all about those details and listed some sandwich condiments from around the world that intrigued me. Here's the article online. And here's the recipe I adapted to make the pickled blueberries that Chef Tyler Kord, of No. 7 Sub Shop in New York City, uses for his sandwich of brie, pistachios, and chervil.

1-1/4 C blueberry vinegar
1/4 C organic granulated sugar
1-1/2 lbs organic blueberries
1 t pink Himalaya salt
1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

Mix together in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight...

I used these sweet-tart little morsels on top of some poached salmon.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eating, Imbibing, and Exploring at the Olive Festival

Having won a recipe contest through We Olive, I roped some friends into joining me and my family at the Paso Robles Olive Festival, an all-day celebration of all things olives.

We sipped olive oils, bent olive branches into crowns, spooned olive jam onto olive oil crisps, slathered olive oil lotion onto sun-baked skin, and cooled off with olive oil ice cream – topped with balsamic vinegar.

What we didn’t do, that I thought we would: taste olives. You know, the actual fruit. I envisioned tubs of green, almond-shaped cerignola; slightly wrinkled, almost midnight gaeta olives; and the green picholine to the purplish liguria all swimming in their pools of delicious brine.

It was an odd omission, considering the name of the festival – it’s not the Paso Robles Olive Oil Festival, after all – and it had me craving slightly salty, meaty olive morsels.

But I thoroughly enjoyed the day, surrounded by olive growers, their delicious products, and some other central coast foodsmiths. Here are a few of my favorites from the festival…

Tiber Canyon Ranch, out of San Luis Obispo, lured me in with their bottles of yuzu olive oil. Yuzu is an odd-looking citrus fruit used in Asian cuisines. It’s something like a cross between a grapefruit and a mandarin. But its aroma is unforgettable – zesty and potent – and inspiring. So, when I saw Tiber Canyon Ranch’s offering, I had to try it. They do not add the yuzu flavoring as an afterthought. The citrus is crushed along with the olives in the mill, marrying the rich olive oil to the fresh citrus.

Their olives are maintained using sustainable farming practices; they do not use petrochemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. And they prefer a “field blend” which means that they harvest their leccino, frantoio, pendolino and coratina olives together and blend them at harvest, picking and crushing them at the same time. And when they aren’t in the olive groves, you’ll find them in their glass-blowing studio.

Travis Zumwalt is a master woodworker based in Madera. His array of wooden spoons caught my eye. Irregular, organically shaped utensils with the type of wood burned into the handle. It took immense self-control to not fondle each and every one of them! When he lived on Maui, he worked with koa, mango, monkey pod, many types of Eucalyptus wood, cypress, jacaranda, and hale koa. Now based in California, he uses olive, maple, mulberry, oak, walnut, and an assortment of different fruit trees. All his pieces are made by him, by hand, and finished with food-grade oils.

Pismo Beach’s Native Herb & Honey is a 100% Native American-owned company who offers everything from all natural skin care and cosmetics to native spice blends and handmade jewelry. We picked up jars and sticks filled with raw, unfiltered California sage honey…and had a contest to see which of the kiddos could suck the straws the cleanest. That kept them occupied – and quiet – for at least fifteen minutes.

Before we left Paso, I went to We Olive’s store and used my gift certificate that was part of my prize. I walked out with three different bottles of olive oil, two different bottles of vinegar, some olive oil crackers, and more.

I’ll blog about some of the culinary creations I whip up as I go along. Still I felt that I had missed out on eating olives. So, when we made it home, I dashed out to the market, picked up a few tubs of olives, paired them with crusty bread, a triple crème brie, and goblets of chilled Albariño. What a day!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sinfully Delicious Chocolate Pudding

Here's how the conversation went...

"What are we having for a snack tonight?"
What do you want?
What kind of dessert?
"Something chocolate-y...and Christmas-y."

That's it. And off I went, into the rummage through my cabinets. Here's what I came up with: a decadent, rich chocolate pudding with cinnamon and nutmeg. Nutmeg always reminds me of Christmas.

3 C heavy cream
1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 C organic granulated sugar
1/3 C flour
4 egg yolks
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
8 T butter

Whisk the egg yolks and cream together in a large sauce over a low to medium heat. Add in the cocoa powder, sugar, and flour. Whisk until smooth. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg. Continue whisking until the pudding coats the back of a spoon. Remember it will thicken as it cools. Stir in the butter until it's completely  melted and the pudding is glossy.

I usually chill mine, but we ate a bit warm last night. Dangerously delicious.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Zahtar-Spiced Egg Salad

When I picked up a jacket my husband had left at our friends' house, she had tucked a small container of zahtar into the bag. Zahtar is a spice blend that originates from the Middle East and is used to sprinkle over dips, deep-fried vegetables and flat breads.

I found a recipe to make my own blend - equal parts sesame seeds, thyme, and sumac with a dash of salt - but, for now, I used my foodie score to season egg salad for sandwiches. Yum!

Zahtar-spiced Egg Salad: hardboiled eggs, peeled and diced; mayonnaise; zahtar.

Øllebrødspulver {Denmark}


I was completely out of steel cut oats, stone ground oats, and polenta. But I still had a bag of  Øllebrødspulver that Rikke had sent from Denmark. So, I started typing in the instructions from the package - thank goodness for Google translate! - and had to do some quick conversions, but I whipped up a pot for breakfast.

Øllebrød is a traditional Danish beer bread porridge. Other than that, I had no idea how it should be served.

I opted to give it some ground cardamom, a splash of vanilla, a bit of sugar, and a pat of butter. Then I topped it with fresh blueberries and raspberries.

Dylan's unfortunate response: "Didn't we already cook Denmark?" Yep. But I didn't have anything else for breakfast this morning. "Can you please get something for breakfast tomorrow...not this?" Fine.

This wasn't a hit. I liked it, but the rest of the family wasn't convinced. Maybe I'll ask a Dane how to actually serve this. Next time...

Petite Amuse Sample Box

Today I saw, on one of my favorite foodie bloggers' blogs, a plug for Petite Amuse. Check them out: Petite Amuse! Seriously. I am enamoured.

They offer gourmet and specialty food sample boxes to introduce consumers to small food producers, helping them compete with the larger, mass-producing companies. The sample boxes seem a wonderful way to try new products without spending a lot. And, judging from Kristin's sample box just received, I am going to love this subscription.

This month she received - ice wine jelly from Caramoomel; salted rosemary shortbread and Cha-Chas from Lark Fine Foods; sundried tomato and parmesan popcorn from Oogie's Gourmet Popcorn; and something from Garuka Bars.

After reading her post, it took me all of two minutes to sign up for my very own sample box. So, when I get that, you'll hear back from me. Until then, I'll just peruse their website and drool.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cooking Around the World: The Gambia

The Republic of Gambia is the smallest country on the African mainland and is bordered on three sides by Sénégal. A wide variety of ethnic groups live in The Gambia and its cuisine is a mixture of Native, Arabic, Portugese and British influences.
For our tabletop travel to The Gambia, we cooked a traditional Gambian one-pot stew of fish and vegetables in a tomato broth. And since it's usually served with rice, I used the opportunity to makes these cute lil' rice dudes my cousin had sent me a photo of with a note that read: "thought of you when I saw this." Adorable.
The funny thing: I made two rice dudes - one of each of my kids - and my husband wanted to know where his was. Oh, brother!
Serekunda Fish Benachin
Benachin literally means 'one-pot.' So, all of this went into one pot and simmered until cooked and soft. Then I laid the fish on top and steamed them until they were opaque. One recipe I found listed measurements in "cigarette cups;" I have no idea what that means!

cabbage (1/2 head)
fresh tomatoes
chicken stock
tomato sauce
fresh herbs (mint, tarragon, dill, and parsley)

I served the soup with a
traditional Gambian recipe for a salad of cabbage, celery, spring onions, and pineapple with herbs in a yogurt, sour cream and coconut milk dressing.

I didn't really measure anything for this meal...just eye-balled it and it turned out great!

We are off the Georgia next in our Cooking Around the World Adventure!

Monday, August 13, 2012

SRC Orphan No More: From Arepas to Zwetschgen

Every now and then, somehow, there are some bloggers whose Secret Recipe Club partners flake out and don't cook or post. It's a horrible feeling to be left out, so when that happens, the group organizers put a call out for some quick cooking. I was happy to step-in today and help make sure that the gal behind From Arepas to Zwetschgen (the blog formerly known as Belchertown-Bites) was no longer an orphan.

What a thrill to see that she is also on a cooking around the world adventure! The sub-header for her blog is: International Kitchen Adventures. There is a woman after my own heart. She has cooked many more countries that we have; we've just hit the 'G's. But we have cooked many of the same dishes - Papas con Salsa de Aguacate, from Columbia. Here's hers; here's mine. We've used similar ingredients for different countries. When she cooked Canada, she made Canadian Maple Walnut Pancakes; I made a Maple Mousse.

But as I don't have a month to peruse and explore her website, I looked for something that I could whip up for dinner with what I know I have in my kitchen already. I settled on her Pisca Andina, a potato-cheese soup from Venezuela. I didn't have any milk, so I subbed some plain yogurt; I switched out the cheese to a queso fresco versus the asiago and mozzarella that she used; and I added more herbs. It was a hit!

Pisca Andina

10 potatoes, scrubbed, dried, and cubed
6 C  organic chicken broth
2 spring onions
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, mashed
2 T butter
1 C crumbled queso fresco
1 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 T fresh mint, chopped
1 T fresh dill, chopped
1 T fresh scallion, chopped

Place potatoes and broth in a pot and simmer for 25 minutes. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add scallions, spring onions, and garlic and cook until transparent, about 1-2 minutes. Add to the potatoes, season with salt and pepper. Add yogurt for desired consistency. Reduce heat to very low, add cheese, and stir until cheese is melted. Stir in herbs and serve.

I also used her Oven-Roasted Vegetables and Potatoes as inspiration for our side-dish tonight - roasted broccoli and romanesco. I don't know why I've never thought to roast broccoli. Yummy.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cream-Yogurt Biscuits

I was looking for something to put under my cantaloupe-vanilla bean jam and decided on some cream biscuits. Easy!

2 C all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
3/4 C heavy cream
1/2 C plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Blend everything together to form a dough. Roll out and cut biscuits; I used a jelly jar.

Dip each biscuit in melted butter and lay on a baking stone. Bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden brown.

Food Matters Project: Fresh Spring Rolls

This week's challenge for the Food Matters Project inspired a dinner teeming with Asian flavors with the assigned Vietnamese-style rolls with peanut sauce as the centerpiece. So delicious!

Mark Bittman describes these as "nothing more than salad wrapped in moistened rice paper." Taking that to heart, I used whatever fresh veggies I had in my fridge.

What I used...

spring roll wrapper / rice paper
green leaf lettuce, rinsed and dried
carrots, julienned
cucumbers, julienned
enoki mushrooms, rinsed and rootball trimmed
avocados, peeled and sliced
extra firm tofu, cut into long strips
fresh mint, chopped
fresh cilantro, chopped

What I did...

Submerge the rice paper in cool water until softened and pliable. It took about a minute or two per piece. I made two rolls per person.

Lay the salad on the softened rice paper. I did lettuce, carrots, cucumber, enoki mushrooms, tofu, avocado, mint, and cilantro. 

Fold the ends of the rice paper over the filling. And, keeping as much pressure as you can without ripping the paper, roll into a burrito-shape. Press the seam to seal. Serve whole or cut in half with a dipping sauce.

Dipping sauces: (1) The Ginger People's Hot Ginger-Jalepeno Dipping Sauce and (2) peanut sauce - 1/2 C organic peanut butter, 1 C coconut cream, 1 T soy sauce all whisked together.

What I served to round out the dinner...

Black Bean-Seaweed Salad: reconstituted seaweed, black beans, soy cause, olive oil, lime juice, and sesame seeds

Sesame Chicken Over Yam Noodles: chicken breast roasted with a soy sauce and lemon juice marinade, cooked yam noodles, olive oil, sesame oil, sesame seeds

This was a wildly successful Food Matters Project-inspired feast. I can't wait to see what the other creative cookers whip up with this challenge.

To see all the other takes on this, click here and look in the comments.

Cantaloupe-Vanilla Bean Jam

I had picked up two cantaloupes and they were sitting in the fruit basket. Riley asked me, "Mommy, can you make jam out of cantaloupes." I don't know. I don't see why not. So, I set out to give it a try. And Riley was more than happy to use his new trumpet juicer to help me with the lemon juice part.

2 ripe cantaloupes, deseeded, skinned, and cubed
1 C organic granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped out
1/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice

To make the jam, place the fruit and sugar into a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the vanilla bean seeds and pod. Continue to cook, stirring the jam constantly, for about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the lemon juice. Hold the jam at a constant simmer, checking frequently to make sure the jam isn’t scorched at the bottom of the pot. After 15 minutes, check to see if your jam has set by running a wooden spoon down the middle of your jam. If the jam leaves a path, it's set. If the liquid runs back to fill the path, cook it a little bit longer. Remove the vanilla bean pod.

Place the jam in sterilized jars, leaving about a 1/2" gap to the top. Gently tap the bottom of each jar on the counter to release any air bubbles. Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and secure the lids and rings. Process in a water bath for 10-15 minutes. Remove the containers with tongs and let cool on the counter.

You’ll hear the sound of can tops popping shortly—a sign that a secure seal has been made. Pop, pop, pop. Or, you can refrigerate the jar without processing and use it within three weeks. Enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

And, that's a Wrap...

We have wrapped the first week of school. Well, truth be told, it was more like the first two and a half days of school since Wednesday was only a half day. I love being able to ease back into the routine before a full five days of a stricter routine and earlier bedtime. And I especially like that I only had to pack three school lunches this week.

For the first two and a half days, I am happy to report: we have had no drama, no major objections, and - my personal favorite - no tears due to classmate teasing!

The winning recipe of the week: wraps. Though I have a question about that. What makes a wrap a wrap? My friends, and my husband, claim that a wrap is open on one, or both, sides. So, when I am carefully tucking in the ends of the flatbread or tortilla, it has now tranformed into a burrito. Really?!? I think that a burrito relies on the ingredients, not the shape. What do you think?

Regardless, successful lunches have included the following...all wrapped into a tight tortilla roll:

Ham + "Dull" Cheddar (because clearly the opposite of "Sharp" Cheddar is...?!?) + Lettuce + Radish

Chicken Salad (made with leftover Gabonian Mustard Chicken) + Red Grapes + Lettuce

Ham + Brie + Lettuce

Other triumphs - Riley decided that he likes whole almonds this year and lettuce. He actually told me to put more lettuce in the wraps.