Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Slightly Unconventional Arroz de Pato #OurFamilyTable

Christie of A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures has our blogging group sharing rice recipes this week. She wrote: "Rice is such a versatile and buget friendly ingredient. From tossed into salads, added to stuffing, or just plan buttered with salt and pepper, it's the best side dish!"
I am looking forward to getting all sorts of new rice recipes as it's still on my okay-to-eat list. But that's a story for another day. I made this dish for a friend's birthday celebration last year. Last year! But I haven't had a chance to post about it. Geez... First, here are other rice offerings...

We share Recipes From Our Dinner Table! Join our group and share your recipes, too! While you're at it, join our Pinterest board, too!

Arroz de Pato

This was a hit albeit a slightly unconventional way to make Arroz de Pato, Peruvian duck rice. It's not normally made in a tagine. But, I was feeding a lot of people and it was the biggest pot that wasn't already being used.

Arroz de Pato is a combination of rice and duck that's popular all over northern Peru. Muscovy duck was domesticated there by pre-Inca civilizations and it benefited from long, slow cooking. The dish is perfumed by a purée of cilantro and spinach that's used to cook the rice. And I was fortunate to find Muscovy duck breasts!

Ingredients serves 10 to 12

  • 5 duck breasts, about 3 to 4 pounds, Muscovy if you can find it
  • 5 dried guajillo peppers
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
  • 2 onions, peeled and diced, approximately 2 C
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and diced, approximately 1 C
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 2 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 bottles dark beer (I used Guinness)
  • 4 C water
  • 2 C baby spinach
  • 1 C organic cilantro, rough chopped + more for garnish
  • 4 T long grain rice
  • 2 C shelled peas


Destem and deseed the dried peppers. Place them in a small saucepan with 2 C of water and bring to a simmer. Cook the peppers until softened, approximately 15 minutes. 

Place the peppers, red wine vinegar, and enough of the soaking liquid into a blender so that it will blend nicely. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

Heat a pot over medium heat; I used an oval Dutch oven. Prick the duck breasts all over with a fork and place skin side down in the pot. Brown on both sides until the fat begins to render, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the browned duck breasts to a plate. Pour off the excess fat and reserve. 

Add 2 T duck fat back into the pot and add garlic. Stir and sauté for 1 minute. Add the onions and cook until beginning to soften, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the red bell pepper and cook until it soften, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Season with cumin, salt, and pepper.

Pour in the beers, chile mixture, and 4 C water into the pot. Nestle the duck breasts in the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the duck is tender, approximately one hour. Remove the duck to a plate, again.

Add the spinach, cilantro, and one generous ladle-full of the hot duck broth to a blender. Process carefully and pour back into the pot.

Rinse the rice and drain or pat dry with paper towels. In a large pan, add 2 T of the reserved duck fat. Add the rice and stir to coat with the fat. Let the rice cook for a few minutes until the grains look dry and a little toasted.

Add the toasted rice to the hot broth. Bring to a low boil and simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, approximately 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add the peas to the top of the rice, cover the pot, and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, uncover, and fluff the rice with a fork, incorporating the peas into the rice. Cover and let steam, off the stove, for 10 more minutes.

While the rice is finishing, shred the meat from the duck breasts. To serve, fold the shredded duck into the rice. Garnish with more cilantro. Serve hot.

Friday, August 30, 2019

A #PBChocSat Twofer: Dangerous Cupcakes and Homemade Snickers

Today Erin of The Spiffy Cookie invited us to "Get creative and make a sweet or savory recipe using peanut butter and chocolate. I run #PBchocSat throughout the college football season (GO BUCKS) so I thought it would be fun for others to join me - whether you are a fan or not."

So. Many. Possibilites. Here's the line-up of peanut butter-y, chocolate-y goodness...

A #PBChocSat Twofer

As for me, I thought about making a riff on D's Gorilla Poop Cookies. Yes, that's really what he calls them.

I could have re-done my Homemade Peanut Butter Cups. But I wanted to make something new-to-us and needed to bring some things to parties anyway. So I made a batch of 'Dangerous Cupcakes' for the robotics kids one Saturday. And I made 'Homemade Snickers' for a small dinner party with friends.

Dangerous Cupcakes

When I handed R the container, I said, "If anyone asks, these have nuts, dairy, eggs, and case anyone has any allergies." Oh, he said, so these are dangerous. "Yes, I guess they are." LOL.

Ingredients makes 12 cupcakes
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 3/4 C organic dark brown sugar
  • 1 C sour cream or whole milk yogurt
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 C brewed coffee
  • 1/3 C peanut butter, warmed to be smooth
  • 2 C flour
  • 1-1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 C semisweet chocolate chunks
Chocolate Buttercream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 C water
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T organic corn syrup
  • 2 C butter, softened
  • 2 T peanut butter, warmed to be smooth
  • 1/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 t coffee extract (use vanilla if you don't have this)
  • caramel sauce, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.

In large mixing bowl whisk together egg, sugars, sour cream, oil, and vanilla until well blended. Add in the cocoa powder, coffee, and warmed peanut butter. Mix until just combined.

Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chunks. Whisk until all dry ingredients are moistened.

Pour into prepared liners, about 1/2 C per hollow. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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

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

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

Begin adding butter, one tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. The more butter you add, the more firm the buttercream will be. Once your buttercream resembles what you think of as buttercream, add in the cocoa powder, warmed peanut butter, and extract. Beat until just combined.

Once the cupcakes are completely cool, pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes. Drizzle with caramel sauce, if desired. Refrigerate if not serving immediately. Let them stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving though.

Homemade Snickers

Though we don't buy candy bars often, when we do, it's a Snickers. I learned just how important Snickers were to my husband when we were packing bags to go to the hospital to have R. I had CDs with babbling brooks, my yoga ball, three copies of my birth plan, and more. Jake had the phone list of people he was supposed to call as soon as we had the baby and five Snickers bars. That's it. maybe he had a change of clothes. Maybe. No joke. So, I have figured out how to make my own!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Butterscotch (Layer One) - you need TWO of these, but I prepare them separately since it's the first and the fourth layers

  • 1 C dark chocolate
  • 1/4 C butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 C organic creamy peanut butter
Melt all of those together until smooth. Line a pan with parchment paper. Pour the layer in and stick it in the freezer to chill.

Nougat (Layer Two)

  • 1/4 C butter
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/4 C evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 C marshmallow creme (yes, I did buy a jar of Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme)
  • 1/4 C creamy peanut butter
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 C roasted, salted peanuts
Bring butter, sugar, and evaporated milk to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the stove and add marshmallow creme, creamy peanut butter, vanilla, and roasted, salted peanuts. Pour over first layer that was chilling, then place back in freezer.

Sea Salt Caramel (Layer Three)

  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C packed organic brown sugar
  • 1/2 C ginger syrup
  • 1/2 evaporated milk
  • 1 C organic heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1 t sea salt

In a medium-size pot, combine sugar, brown sugar, ginger syrup, evaporated milk, whipping cream, butter, and sea salt. Monitor the heat of the mixture with a candy thermometer while stirring. When the thermometer reaches 240 degrees remove the pot from the heat. Pour over previous layer that was chilling then place back in freezer.

Layer Four: Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Butterscotch (same as the first)

Once you have all four layers done, place the pan in the refrigerator to set-up overnight.


  • semisweet chocolate, melted and tempered

Lift the parchment paper out of the pan and cut into whatever size bars you want. I usually do most of them bite-size, two bites really, but usually make one very large bar just for my husband!

Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. In the meantime, melt and temper chocolate in a double boiler. Dip Snickers to coat. Place on parchment paper. Let chocolate cool and set.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Spaghetti + Meatballs and the American Dream #FoodieReads

I have long been a fan of Lidia Bastianich since I stumbled across her cooking show on PBS when we lived in Oklahoma in the early 2000s. So, when a friend lent me a copy of My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich*, I was thrilled to dig in.

On the Page
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, reading it late into the evenings after the boys went to sleep and early in the morning before I had to get up and make breakfasts and lunches for the family. I had not idea that she was one of the ethnic Italians who was stuck behind the iron curtain in Yugoslavia. Or that she and her family escaped and lived in a refugee camp for two years before the United States began accepting refugee applications.

Eventually, they immigrated to New York before settling in New Jersey. Hers is truly the American dream; from coming to America not speaking the language to helming a veritable restaurant empire, Lidia illustrates the values of family, hard work, and faith.

And her love of food and cooking are evident from early on. She loved being in the kitchen with her family. "Spending time with Zia Nina in the kitchen was great fun. She was still working as a personal chef, and I got to assist her with some of her food purchases and preparations. I'd accompany her in the mornings to the market as she picked out the fruits, vegetables, meats she would carefully prepare for her employer.... When pheasants were on the menu for the evening, I'd help her pluck them. ...Zia Nina added a thoughtfully selected combination of herbs and spices,wines, and sometimes even Cognac to her dishes" (pg 83).

She earned her way at Scuola Canossiana by lending a hand in the kitchen. "The nuns would give me a stool to sit on and have me peel potatoes and apples, shell beans - whatever food prep needed to get done that day. ...We always started each meal with a light primo dish and followed up with a hearty main course and dessert. The meals were very balances, and included soups and pastas, cheese, and lots of vegetables. We had an abundance of apples and would often do strudels and apple cakes. There were crostatas and baked sweets with some fruits in there, too" (pp. 115-116).

At fifteen, she started working at Christopher Walken's family bakery, taking on more responsibility over time and eventually getting her mother a job there as well. "On Sundays the bakers would come before 3:00 a.m. and leave early to get home to their families. They would quietly exit through the back door, leaving plain cakes - with no icing or decoration on them - for others to dress if needed. I gradually took on that task, adding icing, flowers, and other designs, and carefully adding names.... I honed my cake-decorating skills with the instant Duncan Hines cakes I made from the box for our family desserts. Now I was in a professional baker's kitchen with access to all the professional decorating tools" (pp. 182-183).

Fast forward to when she and her husband Felice opened their second restaurant, she writes, "I had spent a big part of my life in the kitchen, assisting important chefs, but now here I was, the captain of the ship. I was the conductor of this orchestra, and I had to make beautiful music, beautiful food. In a busy restaurant, it is not enough that you can make a delicious and beautiful plate of pasta or chicken scarpariello; you have to make twenty to thirty portions of each of them every evening, plus all the other dishes and come on order. And you have to synchronize their cooking, so the food for all the diners is ready and reaches the table all at once. The pasta has to be al dente, the risotto creamy, and the meat at the customer's requested temperature. ...No matter what the challenge is, the chef has to fit the deviation into the rhythm and continue. The dining room has to flow smoothly, like oil, but it is not always so in the kitchen: sometimes chefs lose their cool and pans fly" (pg. 260).

Though this is a tale about her journey as a food maven, it is also a family history. She shares, "I have loved being a guide, a crutch, from their first crawl to their first step.... I want them to have complete trust in Nonna Lidia and confide all their pains and joys in me. ...What is important is that they learn how to love, that they have respect always for themselves and for the people around them, and that they strive, to their full potential, to embrace the gifts God bestowed on them. ...Dear Olivia, Lorenzo, Miles, Ethan, and Julia. this book is for you. I am writing it so that each of my beloved grandchildren will know the courage their great-grandparents Erminia and Vittorio had in leaving their homeland to search for freedom and a safer place to raise their children. And so that they may know the struggles of their grandparents Lidia and Felice as they sought to find a place in this great new land. It is my hope that they, and all who read this story, better understand the hardships and successes of America's immigrants" (pg. 296).

Mille grazie, Lidia for a truly inspiring account of your life, a real American dream.

On the Plate

Though Lidia forged her name and reputation with authentic regional dishes as her career blossomed, early on she and Felice "both enjoyed sampling and critiquing the Italian American fare in pizzerias, cafes, and restaurants around Queens and Manhattan. This was a cuisine I was unfamiliar with when I first arrived in the United States. Such peculiar offerings as meatballs and spaghetti.... I was fascinated - and even a bit puzzled - by them" (pg. 208).

Yes, you read that correctly: 'spaghetti and meatballs' is not an authentic Italian dish. Spaghetti would be served as a primi piatti while polpetttine would be served as a secondi piatti. So, yes to spaghetti and meatballs being Italian...just not served together. That said, it's a favorite dish on our table and one of the recipes R makes without complaint. And he's been making it for years. I am pretty sure these photos of my favorite meatball maker are from nearly a decade ago.


  • 1 pound ground pork (or ground meat of your choice)
  • 2 T minced shallots
  • 1 T chopped fresh basil
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs (or, if you need gluten-free, I use ground almonds)

  • 2 C fresh tomato sauce
  • 1/2 C liquid (you can use stock, water, or wine)
  • 2 T minced shallots
  • 1 T chopped fresh basil
  • 1 t fresh oregano
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil

To Serve
  • pasta cooked according to package directions
  • shredded paremesan cheese, as needed


Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Form whatever size meatballs you like. Set aside.

R used to tell me that my meatballs were way too big. As he's gotten older, his meatball sizes have also grown. But this batch was mini!

In a large, flat-bottom pan, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the shallots until they begin to turn transparent. Add the tomato sauce, liquid, and herbs.

Gently drop the meatballs into the sauce and simmer until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve
Toss the sauce and meatballs into cooked pasta and add another splash of olive oil to make it glossy. Serve immediately. Offer shredded parmesan cheese to diners, if desired.

*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.

Click to see what everyone else read in August 2019: here.

Curry-Kissed Tater Tots

I never really considered making tater tots before a few years ago. But, inspired by a few friends, I created Hand-formed Parmesan Tater Tots; and my recipe ended up being a community pick on Food52. So, tots have been a staple on our breakfast table whenever I have leftover potatoes. I don't typically roast potatoes for the sole purpose of making tots, but when I have a spud - or three -  in my fridge, I'll make them. This morning I had three roasted potatoes and one roasted sweet potato, so I put them together and added a kiss of curry. These were a hit!

  • 3 roasted potatoes, cooled
  • 1 roasted sweet potatoes, cooled
  • 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 t curry powder
  • canola oil

Shred the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater. You can peel them first; I didn't. Place the other ingredients into the bowl with the grated potatoes and use a fork to fully combine everything.

Line a baking dish parchment and lightly grease it with canola oil. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Using about a teaspoon of the potato mixture, form it into a cylinder about 1 inch long. Place on baking sheet and repeat until all the tots are made.

Bake about 35-40 minutes, turning once about 20 minutes into the cooking time.

Serve hot with ketchup. Here's a recipe for homemade ketchup, if you're feeling ambitious.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

First Try, Wrong Dish: 'Tahdig', I Mean 'Tahcheen' #FoodieReads

I just finished a different book set in Iran. You'll hear more about that soon, I promise! But that inspired me to pick up some other books on my bookshelf from the same region of the world and I revisited this one first - Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas.*

On the Page
Funny in Farsi is a memoir written by an Iranian-born author who immigrated to California when she was 7 years old. It's - as you would expect from the title - funny. Really funny. But it's also heart-wrenching and mortifying.

Imagine having your name's pronunciation slaughtered at every turn. I didn't have to imagine; I get it all the time. Most of the time I just introduce myself this way: "It's Camilla. Like Pamela, but with a C." Still, when people see if, even after I have just said it, it's still Ca-MI-la or Camellia, like those horrible flowers that rot while they are still on the bush. She writes My name, Firoozeh, chosen by my mother, means 'Turquoise' in Persian. In America, it means 'Unpronounceable'.... One mom at her children's school refused to learn her name and, instead, started calling her 'F-Word.'

Dumas writes with candor and her accounts truly convey the immigrant experience. I, myself, am first generation, but I have heard stories from my parents and my grandparents. So, I can relate by extension.

I chuckled at her characterization of Berkeley. Having lived there for 5 years for college, I would agree with her assessment - Berkeley wasn't just any armpit, it was an armpit in need of a shave and a shower, an armpit full of well-read people.... Don't get me wrong, I love Berkeley. But her characterization is painfully accurate. I think that's where her humor succeeds: She tells it like it is.

After reading this and the other Iranian book, I was inspired to attempt Tahdig. I have only had it once before. Actually, it was in Berkeley when my Iranian friend made it for me and Jake at her home. We have since lost touch and I never did get her recipe.

I figured that I would prefer a hands on lesson from someone who actually knows how to make this. I was able to perfect my soccarat on paella after a lesson from one of my favorite Spaniards. But, alas!, no one offered to help me, so I decided to give it a try on my own. It wasn't too bad, if I might say so myself.
On the Plate

Now, here's something else funny. I wanted to try my hand at Tahdig, but I also wanted a complete meal, not just a side dish. So, I found a recipe that I thought was just tahdig with chicken. Turns out, it's got a completely different name. So, I actually made Tacheen...and maybe not even that since I used rabbit and not chicken. Oye! It's hard to be linguistically ignorant.

In any case, Tahdig is a Persian rice dish, cooked in two stages, with a distinctive crispy bottom. The word tahdig itself is Persian for "bottom of the pot." The crusted rice that is found at the bottom of the pan, after the rice cooks, is the signature of the dish as well as its most coveted part. 

Tahcheen means “arranged on the bottom,” and it is a lovely dish with succulent pieces of saffron chicken, or rabbit in this case. This is a conglomeration of different recipes and techniques I found online. It wasn't perfect, but a few people who might be in the know commented, after I posted a photo, that it "looks pretty good" and "looks right to me." I'll take it!

  • 3 C white basmati rice
  • water
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • salt
  • 1/2 C diced carrots
  • 1/2 C diced celery
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 pound boneless rabbit, cut into chunks
  • ¼ t fresh lemon juice + more as needed
  • ¼ t ground saffron
  • 2 T hot water
  • 1 C whole milk yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • Ground turmeric for sprinkling
  • 5 T butter, divided
  • chopped herbs for serving

Place the rice in a pot, covered in cold water, for 30 to 60 minutes. Swirl it around in the water a few times. Then drain and rinse it until the water runs clear. Mine took three rinses.

Soak the saffron in 2 T hot water. Set aside.

In a large stockpot, combine 8 C of water and the 2 heaping T of salt. Bring to a boil. Add the rice and bring it to a boil again. After 5 minutes it should be softened but still opaque and not totally cooked through. Drain and rinse the rice under cold running water in a colander. Measure out 2 cups of the parboiled rice and set aside.

In a large pan or skillet with a lid (I used my Le Creuset braiser), heat the oil over medium heat. Add in the onion, carrots, and celery. Add a dash of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes; you don't want the garlic to brown too much or it will get bitter.

Stir in the rabbit. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the rabbit takes on a little color, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice and the saffron water Turn the rabbit  pieces to coat all sides, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Partially cover and simmer, turning once in a while, until the chicken is tender and just cooked through, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, if needed. Set the rabbit aside in its cooking juices.

Preheat the oven to 400°F with the rack set in the lowest position.

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, egg, and a sprinkle of ground turmeric. Fold in half of the parboiled rice, and set aside.

Place 3 T butter in a rimmed baking dish (again, I used my Le Creuset braiser) and place in the oven to melt, approximately 2 minutes. Swirl or brush the melted butter all over and up the sides of the dish. Spread the yogurt-rice mixture evenly on the bottom of the dish, pressing it down firmly. Add a layer of the rabbit  pieces evenly over the rice, top with a layer of the plain rice, drizzle with 2 T of ra rabbit juices, smooth the top, and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cover tightly with foil or a lid and place in the oven. Bake for about 70 or 80 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently lift the edge of the rice to see if it's nicely golden. If not, bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, but take care not to scorch it. Take the tahcheen out of the oven, and let it rest for 5 minutes.

To serve, remove soft rice to a mixing bowl and fold in fresh herbs. Spoon onto individual plates. Remove the hard, crunchy rice from the pot and break it evenly into however many people you are serving. Place the crunchy rice, inverted, over the top. Serve immediately.

*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.

Click to see what everyone else read in August 2019: here.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Ma Liu Mi + Rice Candy #MastersTea #Sponsored

This post is sponsored by Masters Teas and Adagio Teas
I received complimentary product for the purpose of review. All opinions are mine alone.

You can read about how I ended up with some samples from Adagio Teas of their new line: Masters Teas*. Head over to my first tasting - Tai Ping Hou Kui + Dried White Mulberries. This time we brewed their Ma Liu Mi tea. The boys were curious about the description of "monkey-picked," asking if it was really picked by monkeys. I didn't know, so I did some research.

The origin of 'Monkey Picked' oolong tea dates to the early 18th century, when this varietal of tea plant was discovered in the Anxi county of Fujian province. Legend has it that monkeys were trained by monks to pick the choicest leaves from wild tea trees growing in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian Province. So, no, it isn't really picked by monkeys; but 'monkey-picked' refers to oolong tea of the highest quality.

Unlike the Tai Ping Hou Kui which were pressed to be elegant and long, these were picked with one bud and two or three leaves, then fired by hand and roasted once.

There was a lingering floral note that made me think of citrus, so we opened up a box of rice candy from Japan that has a mild lemon and orange flavor. 

The tea poured a light golden straw color with tinges of green. And though it was brisk, it finished with a sweet aftertaste.

We steeped and poured several times. It grew stronger towards the end, but was not at all bitter.

This tea, for Masters, was farmed by Wang Xiang Feng who harvested it in May 2019. Here's an excerpt from a conversation with her on the Masters website. About her favorite part of growing tea: "Our tea farm is in the Wuyi natural protection area. You cannot enter without permission. I love to work in the natural area. Everything is clean, the trees are green, the air is fresh."

And a challenge of growing tea? "I hate bad weather. If it is too cold, our tea buds and tender leaves will be damaged. If it is raining hard, the moisture will be too high to make good tea."

This was a beautiful tea with a really lovely flavor. I will enjoy this one until my leaves run out!

You may find Adagio Teas on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram

You may find Masters Teas on the web, on Facebook, and on Instagram

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Quince Sharlotka

I jump for joy whenever I see quince in the markets; I love quince. Quince are golden-hued till you cook them. Then they take on unique shades of pink, orange, and rose. They are lovely. Many people have commented that they don't know what a quince is or they haven't ever had a quince. If you're unfamiliar, here's a piece I wrote for Edible Monterey Bay several years ago: Queen of Quince Takes Her Show on the Road.

Truth be told, this is not a traditional sharlotka. The few Russian recipes I found didn't actually use ricotta or even quince. But I went with it anyway. I love adding ricotta and sour cream to baked goods for added moisture...and quince is always a delight. Also, this is normally done in a large Springform pan; I wanted to make individual cakes.

Ingredients makes 12 individual cakes

Poached Quince
  • 4 C water
  • 1 organic lemon peel
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3-1/2 to 4 C quince, peeled and sliced


  • 8 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 1/4 C softened butter
  • 1/2 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 t vanilla paste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 C flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 C poached quince, chopped
  • Also needed: parchment paper, butter, cupcake tin

For Serving

  • poached quince 
  • organic powdered sugar


Poached Quince
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium or large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 60 to 75 minutes until the quince is tender and has turned a delicate shade of salmon pink. Drain and reserve poaching liquid. Remove cinnamon sticks and lemon peel. When cool enough to handle, chop about 2 C worth. Leave the rest of the slices whole for serving.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. While the oven heats, butter the cupcake hollows and cut parchment paper to line the bottom of each hollow. Set aside.

Whisk together ricotta, softened butter, sugar, vanilla paste, eggs, and milk. Fold in the dry ingredients until just moistened. Stir in the chopped quince.

Scoop 1/2 C batter into each hollow and place the pan in the oven. Bake until the top is golden and pops back up when pressed. Mine took about 50 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

 Run a knife around the edges, then invert onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment circles from the bottom. After cooling for 10 to 15 minutes, place the cakes on individual serving plates.

Dust with powdered sugar.

Arrange a few slices of poached quince on each plate.

Serve warm.

This cake is moist and custardy on the inside and lightly caramelized on the outside. I can't wait to try this process with other fruits. I'm thinking apples next. Actually, I think apples might be traditional. Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Apple-Stuffed Delicata Squash #OurFamilyTable

Though I still haven't felt the chill of autumn in the air here on California's central coast, we are sharing recipes with Fall's darling - the apple. Christie of A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures wrote: "Fall is just around the corner, but apples are coming into season. From sauces and breads to salads and side dishes, apples are completely versatile."

I am looking forward to getting all sorts of new apple recipes with an entire week devoted to apples next month. But, for now, let's kick off apple season! 

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Apple-Stuffed Delicata Squash

I typically make savory stuffed delicatas. But, for this event, I decided to go sweet...and served this for breakfast. 

Ingredients serves 2
  • 2 delicata squash
  • olive oil
  • 2 organic apples, cored, peeled, and diced (I used Granny Smith)
  • 2 T softened butter
  • 1/4 C chopped pecans
  • 1 T organic dark brown sugar 
  • 1 t ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut squash in half.

Remove seeds. Place cut side up in a rimmed baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes. In the meantime, make the filling.

Combine apples, softened butter, pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon. 

Remove the squash from the oven and fill with the apple mixture. Cover with foil and return tot he oven for another 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and return the pan to the oven for a final 10 minutes. Serve immediately.