Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Pale, Pale, Pale Red Velvet Layer Cake That Almost Wasn't #FantasticalFoodFight

I love the Fantastical Food Fight coordinated by Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. For more information about the event, click here.

I haven't been very good at participating every month, but as this is the final installment, I knew I had to jump in Sarah shared: "I begin my Masters program in February and need to try and give it my undivided attention and decided that February's Red Velvet Food Fight will be the final food fight. I feel like we just started but we've been food fighting since November 2016. Isn't that crazy?! Thank you all for joining in and sharing recipes each month! It has been such a fun journey!" 

So, I started planning, even though Red Velvet is sort of my Moby Dick. Let me explain. But first, here's the #FantasticalFoodFight final line-up...

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The Pale, Pale, Pale Red Velvet 
Layer Cake That Almost Wasn't

Here's the story of the Pale, Pale, Pale Red Velvet Layer Cake That Almost Wasn't. Do you ever get the sense that the kitchen gods and goddesses are telling you to just give up? Well, I was getting the message loud and clear...except that this was meant to be my final post for the Fantastical Food Fight. So, come hell or high water, I was making - and posting - a darn red velvet cake. Or was I!??

When I refer to Red Velvet as my 'Moby Dick, it's because success with that cake has eluded me for years; I have never successfully made a red velvet cake. Never. Not once. Mainly because I refuse to use a bottle of  (chemical) food dye that appears in many recipes. Use beet puree, they said. Tried that and it made a pink-tinged cake. Tasty, but not red. Use alkalized cocoa powder with vinegar, someone else suggested. That didn't work...the cake was as brown as could be. Not even a hint of red.

I decided to wave the white flag and use food dye for this cake. But I wanted to use natural food dye and that is always a little problematic or really just unpredictable. Last week was Valentines' and, in preparation for that, I made some Iced Sugar Cookie Hearts. Look! Just a few drops of red dye made with beets and they were a bright pink.

Then I left the bottle on the counter and the sun hit it all day. I told you it was made with beets, right? The next day I used the exact same bottle of dye for a cookie encore and it had turned purple! They were still pretty, but they weren't pink.

I read an article about how Red Velvet is a cake from the 1950s that is moist and mildly chocolatey. So I decided to go with that. So, I bought a new natural red dye for this project! And, in the batter, it seemed red. Red enough anyway. But I was foiled...

When my cake faded to a pale pink, I thought that the heat from the baking process was to blame. I opted to dye the cream cheese frosting red instead!

As I was beating in the coloring, I caught the cord of my hand mixer on fire. So, I threw it out the front door and ended up with a pale, pale, pale red cake with pale, pale, pale red frosting.

You can call it 'pink'! I think I've finally accepted that, as my Precise Kitchen Elf explained to me, "Red Velvet isn't your thing."

Ingredients makes a two 9" layer cake

  • 12 ounces flour
  • 14 ounces organic granulated sugar
  • 2 T cocoa powder (I used 1 T regular cocoa powder and 1 T black onyx cocoa powder)
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 C oil (I used canola)
  • 1 C buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • 6 T melted butter, slightly cooled
  • 1 t pure cocoa extract
  • 1 T red food dye (I used a radish-based red this time)
  • Also needed: two 9" baking pans, parchment paper

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 16 ounces butter, softened
  • 1/2 t pure cocoa extract
  • 4 C organic powdered sugar
  • red food dye, as needed (I used a radish-based red this time)


Let all of your cold ingredients from to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two 9" cake pans with parchment paper. 

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, buttermilk, vinegar, melted butter, and cocoa extract. Fold in the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda and whisk until just combined. Stir in the food dye.

Divide batter between the two prepared cake pans and bake for about 38 to 40 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for five minutes before inverting. Let cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

Place softened butter and cream cheese into a large mixing bowl and beat on low until completely smooth. Add in the cocoa extract and the powdered sugar. Add sugar 1 C at a time until fully incorporated and without lumps.

Add food dye until desired color...or until your hand mixer cord sets on fire and you can't use it anymore! No, that's just a note to myself. I hope that doesn't happen to you.

Place one cake layers on your serving platter and scoop a generous layer of frosting on the top. Smooth to the edges and place the second cake layer on top.

Frost the sides and top, then refrigerate the cake so the frosting will set. Remove from the fridge about an hour before you plan to serve.

There you have it. My Pale, Pale, Pale Red Velvet Layer Cake That Almost Wasn't. "More chocolate next time, Mom," suggested one. I doubt she's ever going to make Red Velvet again, observed the other. We'll see. 

This certainly didn't turn out as I had planned, but I couldn't let the final Fantastical Food Fight go without attempting a cake. Thanks for all the fun, Sarah, and good luck with your Masters program!

Galette de Pomme de Terre #FoodieReads

After I read a book for a future Cook the Books event Kitchen Chinese: A Novel About Food, Family, and Finding Yourself by Ann Mah I was interested in reading something else by the same author. I found The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah* at my local library.

On the Page

The Lost Vintage reminded me of The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel. You can read my post about that book: here. Thank goodness I never tire of historical fiction, especially when set in wine country! The Lost Vintage is told in two timelines - present day and World War II - and is set mostly in the Burgundy wine-making region of France. We meet Kate Elliot who is struggling to pass the Master of Wine examination. Her mentor suggests she leave San Francisco and head to her family estate in Burgundy to immerse herself in Burgundian vintages.

"'Your Achilles' heel is always France. And not even all French wine. Just the white,' Jennifer observed a few months ago. ...'If you want to pass the bloody exam, you need to know French wine. And the bottom line is, you don't. It's strange. It's almost like you have something against it'" (pg. 9).

So, off Kate goes. While there she helps her cousin Nico and his wife Heather clear out the cellar where they discover a hidden room. "Here in this hidden space, which had remained untouched for so many years, the air breathed sharp with the persistent edge of mold. Shadows pooled in the corners, and gathered along the walls and below the wine racks, magnifying shapes and sound, faint scratches and scrabbles that hinted a mice, spiders, roaches. ...Even enclosed within glass it bewitched me, this potion lying in fairy-tale slumber, waiting for a spell - the twist of a corkscrew, a breath of air - to make it vibrant once again" (pg. 147).

Along with the cache of expensive wine, they also unearth a diary from Hélène - a woman who shares the family name but is completely unknown to them - and World War II Resistance pamphlets. Inspired by their discovery, Kate begins to dig into her family's history surrounding a great aunt that they didn't know existed. Great Aunt Hélène had been expunged from the family history because she had been labeled as a Nazi collaborator after the war.

I'll leave it at that, well with just a few more comments about what I liked and what I didn't like.

Both of the heroines, in the two periods, are extremely likable. Both storylines are nicely paced, well-written, and grab you immediately. At least they grabbed me. The entire book has threads of mystery, adventure, romance, adventure, and, naturally, lots of wine. It's hard not to love it.

The bad: well, the ending felt abrupt to me and a tiny bit cliché.

But I am happy to turn the other cheek as the positives outweigh the negative in my opinion. Mah shows how the heartache of war can reverberate through the generations, but she also underscores the hope of unearthing truth and history to bolster familial ties to each other and the land from which you come. I really enjoyed this book.

On the Plate

I didn't mention it above, but there is a love story between Kate and Jean-Luc whose family owns the estate that produced the legendary Les Gouttes d'Or - Drops of Gold. There are a few food scenes that stuck in my mind. One was a dinner party that Kate cooks at their family estate. She served individual beef Wellingtons, miniature Éclairs and berry tarts. Then there was a meal Kate shares with Walker - "a trio of poached eggs quivered on the plate before me, nestled atop a puddle of meurette sauce, rich with wine, laced with bacon" (pg. 203).

One scene that had me chuckling was when Jean-Luc surprises Kate at the restaurant in San Francisco where she's working. "'What's green papaya carbonara?'" he asks her.

"'It's a warm salad of slivered green papaya with guanciale and a coddled quail egg - you know what? Skip it.' I lowered my voice. 'The food here is bizarre. Not in a good way'" (pg. 277).

Jean-Luc waits for her shift to end and Kate introduces him to "'Le tay-ko?' I laughed. 'It's a taco.' ...He took another large bite, then chased it with a swallow of beer. 'The California is amazing. You can eat with your hands...you can drink out of the bottle...no one cares! I think I love it here!'" (pg. 280).

Galette de Pomme de Terre
makes one 10" galette

Okay, so I didn't make beef Wellington, green papaya carbonara, or even tacos. I opted to make something that I could envision Jean-Luc packing into a picnic basket while they work the harvest - a galette. And my galette was dictated by what I had in the veggie bin. Galette de Pomme de Terre it was! It begins with Pâte Brisée, a pastry dough/crust that has a rich flavor and a crisp, flaky texture. You definitely want to have a version of this in your culinary wheelhouse; it's ideal for both sweet and savory pies, tarts, and quiches!

Pâte Brisée

  • 2-1/2 C flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1/2 C finely ground blanched almonds or almond flour
  • 1 C butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 3 to 4 T cold water
  • 3 to 4 T vodka


  • 1 organic onion, peeled and sliced (I use a mandolin slicer)
  • splash of olive oil + more for drizzling
  • 2 to 3 potatoes, scrubbed and sliced (I use a mandolin slicer)
  • cheese for grating (I used parmesan), approximately 1/2 C but divided
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper


Pâte Brisée
Place the flour, ground almonds, and cold butter the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Alternate between adding cold water and vodka, 1 T at a time, until mixture just begins to clump together. If you squeeze some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready. If the dough doesn't hold together, add a little more water and pulse again. Note that too much water will make the crust tough. Once the dough comes together into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

While you're waiting for the dough to chill, make the filling. Place onions in a rimmed skillet with a splash of olive oil. Cook on low heat until the onions are softened and beginning to caramelize. Set aside.

Parboil the potatoes so that they are fork tender, but still holding their shape. Drain and set aside.

To Finish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the Pâte Brisée between two pieces of parchment paper. It doesn't need to be perfectly round. In fact, I like the organic edges on my crust. Place on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle 1/4 C of cheese over the crust and spoon the caramelized onions on top of that. Arrange the potatoes over the onions, overlapping them to form a layer.

Bring the edges of the crust up and over the rim of the potatoes. Press down gently on the dough. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, followed by salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and flaky.

Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately. Though, if you have leftovers, this is just as good cold the next day.

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

Click to see what everyone else read in February 2020: here.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Stargirl Caraway Cookies with Aquavit Frosting #FoodieReads #LitHappens

This month for our Lit Happens book club, Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures picked Stargirl by Jerry Spinnelli.* Though that is not a cook-from-the-book kinda group; I always find some kind of inspiration to create an edible of some kind! But first, the book...

On the Page

This book is a celebration of individuality and nonconformity set in a time - adolescence - when popularity and inclusion rely on conformity. Narrator Leo Borlock tells the tale of Stargirl Caraway's arrival at Mica High School where the tacit rule is: do not stand out under any circumstance!

"We wanted to define her, to wrap her up as we did each other, but we could not seem to get past 'weird' and 'strange' and 'goofy'. Her ways knocked us off balance. A single word seemed to hover in the cloudless sky over the school: HUH?" (pg. 11).

Stargirl was born Susan, then, she explains her evolution during her interview in the Hot Seat, a school-produced program. "'I named myself Pocket Mouse,' Stargirl said breezily. 'Then Mudpie. Then Hullygully. Then Stargirl" (pg. 63).

In any case, Stargirl arrives with her pet rat Cinnamon, dancing through the halls in a cloud of color and a cacophony of ukulele music. She enchants the entire student body until the delicate scale of popularity shifts and she goes from idol to pariah in the blink of an eye.

She tries to erase her fierce individuality to be accepted again. And Leo was completely besotted with his ordinary girlfriend. "And just like that, Stargirl was gone, replaced by Susan. Susan Julia Caraway. The girl she might have been all along. I couldn't take my eyes off her. She cradled her books in her arms. The sunflower canvas bag was gone. The rat was gone. The ukulele was gone. She turned around slowly for my open-mouthed, dumbstruck inspection. Nothing goofy, nothing different I could see. She looked magnificently, wonderfully, gloriously ordinary. She looked just like a hundred other girls at Mica High. Stargirl had vanished into a sea of them, and I was thrilled" (pp. 139-140).

But, the pendulum swings and Stargirl returns. "She went from table to table at lunchtime, passing out happy-face cookies. ...Stargirl strolled among us strumming her ukulele, asking for requests. ...I was too stunned to join her. And too cowardly. And angry. And not wanting to show approval for her return to Stargirl" (pp. 161-162). Leo confronts her.

"'I'm answering your question. The answer is yes. I'm giving up on trying to be popular and normal" (pg. 162).

Stargirl leaves the school, floating out of the Ocotillo Ball in a cloud of sunshine that was her gossamer buttercup gown. But she inspires a legacy of light and kindness in her wake. Fifteen years later, Leo reports that the school "has a new club called the Sunflowers. To join, you have to sign an agreement promising to do 'one nice thing per day for someone other than myself. Today's Electron marching band is probably the only one in Arizona with a ukulele" (pg. 185). As for Leo, Stargirl is always with him. "I wonder,  Is she there? I wonder what she calls herself now. I wonder if she's lost her freckles. I wonder if I'll ever get another chance. I wonder, but I don't despair. ...I do not feel alone. I know that I am being watched. The echo of her laughter is the second sunrise I awaken to each day, and at night I feel it is more than stars looking down on me" (pg. 186).

I read this book while sitting with a skeleton crew of the robotics team at a scrimmage this past weekend. Interestingly enough several of them had read it in middle school. So, on the drive home, we talked about it and some other books. M, the co-captain, declared, "I love her randomness! She was so cool." Didn't she come to school on the first day in a white dress? I remember that. She was totally original, said R, the other co-captain.

A friend asked what the teens' take on the book was.  And I admitted that they are all robotics kids. Popularity and conformity aren't high in their list of priorities.

On the Plate

There were many things that inspired me. I considered making a new version of my Sunflower Cupcakes. I thought about making half pepperoni and half anchovy pizzas like they ate at Pisa Pizza or meatloaf for the dinner that Leo had at the Caraway's house. But, then, I wanted to make something star-shaped made with caraway seeds. Done.

Can you help me frost these cookies? I asked no one in particular. Both boys were busy working on projects and ignored me.

Jake launched himself off the couch and came over. "Do I get to eat one of the stars if I help?"


He finished slathering the royal icing on the stars, then dipped his cookie into the icing for an upside-down Mont Blanc.

Really, my Love?

"Yes, really," he affirmed as he walked out of the dining room with his cookie in hand.

These are my favorite simple vanilla sugar cookies, but I added some ground black caraway seeds to the dough and aquavit to the frosting for this version. Then I added some edible glitter. Different and sparkly...just like Stargirl!


Turns out that black caraway is actually not related to caraway; it is also called Nigella seeds - scientific name Nigella sativa - and is primarily used in Indian and Turkish dishes. Black caraway is peppery with a touch of nutty sweetness. And I splashed aquavit into the frosting to add a layer of herbal intrigue.

Before the recipe, I want to start with a quick primer on aquavit. Despite how long Scandinavians have been making and drinking aquavit, it's largely unknown outside of those countries. It's such a shame because, as a spirit, it's completely beguiling.
The name 'aquavit' derives from two Latin words: aqua vitae and translates to "water of life." The French have a clear brandy eau de vie which means the same thing, but has a very different flavor. I've had more fruit-based eau de vie while aquavit is decidedly more spicy. Aquavit has many different recipes and flavor profiles between brands, but the dominant flavor is caraway seeds. This one, from Krogstad, has a strong star anise flavor that I love! It is brilliantly clear with spicy notes and aromas that are smooth and seductive.

Vanilla-Black Caraway Sugar Cookies
  • 2-3/4 C flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 3/4 C butter, softened
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t pure vanilla paste or extract
  • 1/2 t ground black caraway seeds
  • Also needed: cookie cutter (I used a star), edible glitter (optional)

Royal Icing
  • 3 egg whites, or more to thin icing
  • 6 C organic powdered sugar
  • 1 to 2 t aquavit
  • 1/4 t pure vanilla extract

Vanilla-Black Caraway Sugar Cookies
Sift together flour and baking powder. Set aside in a bowl.

Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and ground caraway seeds. Mix well. Gradually add flour mixture, until completely combined.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill dough for 1 to 2 hours. Roll out between two pieces of parchment paper.

Preheat over to 400 degrees F. Shape dough with your cutters, using flour to keep them from sticking. Place on a silicone mat-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 9-11 minutes, depending on the size of cookies.

Cool completely on wire racks. Make the royal icing while the cookies cool.

Royal Icing
Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar, vanilla extract, and aquavit. Beat for another minute. If the icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it's too thin, add more sugar.

To Finish
Smooth the royal icing over cooled cookies. Sprinkle with edible glitter, if using. Let icing set completely before serving.

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

Click to see what everyone else read in February 2020: here.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Comparing Cajun and Creole Gumbos, Our Family Favorite, and a Wine Pairing #SoupSwappers

Here we are at the February 2020 Soup Saturday Swappers event. Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm started this event and, every month, I get a new array of soup recipes to put in my to-try pile.

This month, Sue of Palatable Pastime is hosting and writes: Let's help celebrate Mardis Gras (falls on 2.25 this year)  by  posting a favorite gumbo recipe." Here's the line-up of gumbo recipes from the #SoupSwappers...

Comparing Cajun and Creole Gumbos
I'll be honest: the difference between Cajun and Creole has been a mystery to me for years. So, I decided to use this event as a jumping off point. Let's, first, look at who the groups are. Cajuns were French Acadians expelled from what is now Nova Scotia in the 1700s for their Catholic beliefs. Many settled in Acadiana. Isolated by swamps, bayous and prairies, the Cajuns lived off the land and their cuisine is rustic and hearty.

On the other hand, Creoles were originally from Europe and settled in New Orleans. Primarily from wealthy French ans Spanish families, Creoles brought their own chefs from Madrid, Paris, and other European capitals. These chefs adapted classic cooking techniques to incorporate unfamiliar ingredients such as crawfish and snapper. Then you add in the culinary influence of the enslaved Africans who also served in these households, the influence of the surrounding Choctaw Indians, and even more European immigrants from Ireland and Germany; and a diverse gumbo emerges.

One chef and native New Orleanian Mark Falgoust reported, “Cajun folks used one chicken to feed three families, Creoles used three chickens to feed one family.”

Gumbo is derived from the word 'gombo' which translates to 'okra' in many West African languages. The earliest recorded recipes for the dish include okra as a main ingredient.

Our Family Favorite: Creole Gumbo

Turns out that I have only ever made Creole Gumbo. And when I gave the Cajun Gumbo a try, two of the four around my table found it too strong. Read about my Cajun Gumbo with Chicken, Andouille, and Shrimp + 2018 Maricool Muscadet. Jake and I enjoyed it and found the wine pairing delightfully compatible.

But I'm sharing a Creole recipe today...


  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 pounds medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined (shells and heads reserved to make seafood stock)
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, cut into thick coins
  • 1 pound spicy Creole sausage, cut into thick coins
  • 1 pound okra cut into 1" length
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 to 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, cored and chopped
  • 2 C diced tomatoes
  • 1 T Creole seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 T filé powder
  • freshly ground salt, as needed
  • freshly ground pepper, as needed
  • Also needed: steamed rice for serving

Add the shrimp heads and shells and 2 quarts water to a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Cook sausages in a large stockpot until the pieces are nicely browned and much of the fat has been rendered. Remove the sausages and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. In the same pot, add 1 T oil. Add in the onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and bell peppers. Stir together and cook until the vegetable are softened.

Strain the shrimp stock into the large stockpot. Add in the browned sausages, bay leaves, and diced tomatoes. Bring everything to a boil over medium heat. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and stir the okra into the mixture. Continue cooking the gumbo for 60 minutes. Fold in the shrimp. Cook for 15 minutes longer. 

Remove the gumbo from the heat and stir in the Creole seasoning and filé powder. Let the gumbo rest for 15 to 20 minutes. As it cools, oil should form on the top. Skim the oil off with a ladle and discard. 

Taste the gumbo and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve the gumbo ladled over steamed rice.

And a Wine Pairing

And I am also sharing a wine pairing to go with my Creole gumbo: 2016 L’Amore di Giulietta, a Chardonnay from Italy.

I did buy the wine for the label, but it ended up being the perfect match with this gumbo. It poured a light straw color with flecks of gold. On the nose, it was fruity, almost tropical with notes of pinepple. But on the palate, it was more dry than fruity with soft tannins. Very food friendly and easy drinking.

That's it for this month. The Soup Swappers will be back in March with April of Veggies First Then Dessert hosting. We'll be sharing soups with Spring greens. Stay tuned.

Candied Ginger-Pomegranate Stained Glass Hearts

When Jake brought home a jar of pomegranate jelly from one of his co-workers, I thought two things: thumbprint cookies and glazed lamb. 

Well, I decided to go a little bit more Valentines-y with the cookies and made some candied ginger-pomegranate stained glass hearts instead of thumbprints. And I haven't decided on the lamb. I do have lamb chops in the fridge for tonight's dinner. Stay tuned for that...

  • 3/4 C butter (1-1/2 sticks), slightly softened
  • 1/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/4 C organic powdered sugar +  more for finishing
  • 1 egg
  • 2 C flour
  • 1/2 t ground cardamom
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1/2 t ground allspice
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 2 to 3 T candied ginger pieces
  • jam or jelly for filling (I used pomegranate jelly)
  • Also needed: heart cookie cutters in two different sizes to make the base and the window

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together with an hand mixer until lightened and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then fold in the flour and the spices until it comes together as a ball. Fold in the candied ginger pieces.

Roll the dough out (I did mine in two batches) on a lightly floured surface. You want to try for between 1/4" and 1/2" thick.

Use a large heart shape to cut the dough. Re-roll the extras until you are out of dough. For half of the hearts, cut another, smaller heart in the middle to form a window. You'll want to have even numbers of tops to bottoms. Place the cookies on a parchment paper or silicone mat-lined baking sheet.

Place the cookies in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. You want the cookies firm, but not too browned.

Allow the biscuits to cool on the tray for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble, dust the cookies with the cutouts with powdered sugar.

Add a dollop of jam to the full rounds and sandwich the cookies together.

Asian BBQ Sauce-Glazed Pork Chops + Domaine Trosset's Mondeuse d'Arbin #Winophiles #GodforsakenGrapes #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with Vin de Savoie.
Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.

Last month we focused on godforsaken grapes from any region with January's #WinePW group. You can read the results of that exploration in my post: An Unlikely Match: A Thai Favorite + A Qvevri-Aged Wine from the Republic of Georgia.

This month, I invited the French Winophiles to post about an indigenous or godforsaken grape from France. Before I get to my post, here's the rest of the #Winophiles' offerings...

In the Glass

Also this month, Jill of L'Occasion hosted an event for #WinePW when we turned our eyes on Savoie. Luckily, several of us received wine samples from Vin de Savoie*. And it turned out that one of the bottles I received - Domaine Trosset's Mondeuse d'Arbin - fit perfectly into my post for this month.

Located between Chambéry and Albertville, at the base of the Bauges Mountains, Domaine Trosset inhabits over 16 hectares of those south-facing slopes. And Fabien Trosset, along with his partner Chloé, is the first producer of Mondeuse d'Arbin in Savoie.

If you're asking 'What is Mondeuse?' that is the point of this post - to explore a less than familiar grape varietal from France. Mondeuse definitely falls into that 'godforsaken' category as it is largely unknown outside of the Savoie region of France. There are a few bubbles of cultivation in the Bugey area between Lyon and Switzerland and a smattering of vineyards in Australia and California, but it is certainly an obscure grape.

Jason Wilson, in Godforsaken Grapes, recounts a dinner he attended hosted by Michel Grisard, "a tall, ruddy-faced winemaker with a huge smile...whom everyone called 'the pope of Savoie.' ...[and with] the wines under his label, Domaine Prieuré Saint Christophe - in particular the grape mondeuse noire, which he almost single-handedly saved from extinction in the 1980s" (pg. 78). Wilson goes on to describe Grisard's Mondeuse as "a revelation: floral, fruity, smoky, foresty, but so light and dangerously drinkable" (pg. 79).

While I didn't get to pour a Domaine Prieuré Saint Christophe, I poured a Domaine Trosset whose Mondeuse d'Arbin's is a single varietal - 100% Mondeuse - made from vines that are over half a century old. The grapes are hand-harvested and vinified in whole clusters before being aged in stainless steel for up to a year. This Mondeuse was characterized by deep color, healthy tannins, and a unique note of bitter cherry that verges on spicy.

To the eye, the wine pours an inky garnet with flecks of purple on the rim. On the nose, I got an intense floral note with underlying fruits of plum and blackberry. On the palate, this was deliciously spicy with a full mouthfeel and tart tannins.

On the Plate

I wanted to make something that would highlight and complement the piquant, spicy flavors of the wine. I opted to make a homemade hoisin sauce as the base of an Asian-inspired barbeque sauce. Then I slathered it on top of a grilled pork chop. What a tasty match! My hoisin sauce is flavorful, easy to make, and is made from ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. It lasts for a week.

Homemade Hoisin Sauce
  • 1/4 C soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
  • 1-1/2 T creamy peanut butter
  • 2 T organic dark brown sugar
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1" knob fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/8 t sesame seed oil
  • 1/2 t sriracha (or other hot sauce) + more, if needed
  • 1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 t ground white pepper

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Store in a lidded jar in the fridge for up to a week. You can use this as a dipping sauce for lettuce wraps, as a seasoning in all types of Asian dishes, or - as I do below - as part of an Asian-inspired barbeque sauce.

Asian BBQ Sauce-Glaze

  • 3/4 C unsulpured molasses
  • 1 T soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
  • 3 T Hoisin sauce (above)
  • 1/4 C organic dark brown sugar
  • 2 T minced candied ginger
  • 2 T bourbon
  • ½ t ground Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 2 T corn starch
  • 2 T warm water

Place all sauce ingredients - except the corn starch and water - in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the corn starch into warm water to form a slurry. Add 1 T of the hot sauce into the corn starch and whisk to combine. Slowly add the cornstarch to the sauce pan, whisking until smooth. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

Let cool and refrigerate until needed. I slathered this on top of grilled pork chops to serve with the Mondeuse. I also served a fresh coleslaw made with a sesame vinaigrette and oven-roasted broccoli. Delicious!
You may find Vin de Savoie on Facebook.

Find Domain Trosset on the web,

*Disclosure: I received sample wines for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Potato, Egg, and Arugula Curry #ImprovCookingChallenge

Welcome to the February 2020 Improv Cooking Challenge. This group is headed up by Nichole of Cookaholic Wife. And I haven't been very good about participating, but I love the idea of the group, so I will try to be better in the coming months.

The idea behind Improv Cooking Challenge: we are assigned two ingredients and are challenged to create a recipe with those two things. This month's items: potatoes and eggs. Here's what the crew is sharing...

  • Hash Brown Breakfast Sandwich by Cookaholic Wife
  • Potato, Egg, and Arugula Curry by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
  • Steak and Egg Hash by Making Miracles
  • Patates Salatasi - Turkish Potato Salad by Pandemonium Noshery
  • Egg & Potato Curry by Sneha's Recipe
  • Mom's Potato Soup with Egg Dumplings by Our Good Life
  • Polish Potato Pancakes by A Day in the Life on the Farm

  • Potato, Egg, and Arugula Curry

    When I was in college, I had a lot of Indian friends. I'm not being un-politically correct regarding Native Americans; I mean that I had a lot of friends whose parents immigrated here from India. Most were vegetarian and I loved being invited over to their houses and being pampered by their moms. One of my favorite dishes was a potato, egg, and spinach curry. I decided to recreate that for you today, but I didn't have any spinach. So, I used what I had and you're getting potato, egg, and arugula curry.

    • 3 T oil
    • 2 large organic onions, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 1 to 2 chile peppers, depending on how hot you want it
    • 1" fresh ginger knob, peeled and grated
    • 2 T curry powder
    • 1-3/4 C coconut milk
    • 1-3/4 C vegetable stock
    • 6 eggs
    • 1 pound potatoes (cubed, if large, or halved baby potatoes), parboiled
    • 2 to 3 C fresh organic arugula
    • juice from one organic lemon
    • freshly ground salt, if needed
    • freshly ground pepper, if needed
    • Also needed: steamed basmati rice for serving

    Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened and translucent, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chiles, and grated ginger. Cook until fragrant. Whisk in the curry powder and cook for a minute. Then pour in the coconut milk and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in the parboiled potatoes and let cook for 15 minutes.

    In the meantime, lower the eggs into a pot of boiling water. Let the water return to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and drop them into a bowl of cold water. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel the eggs and set aside.

    Add the arugula to the top of the potatoes and stir until combined and wilted. Squeeze in the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper, as needed.

    Ladle the curry into an individual serving bowl and serve immediate with hot basmati rice. Garnish the bowl with a whole egg or halved to show off the soft-boiled yolk. 

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