Sunday, February 28, 2021

Fire & Ice Ceviche #CooktheBooks #FoodieReads


Claudia of Honey from Rock is hosting our bi-monthly reading group Cook the BooksAnd, if you'd like to join the fun, the posts aren't due till the end of March, so you still have time. You can read her announcement here. She has asked us to read Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef by Aarón Sánchez* which is the book pick for February and March 2021.

I have had this on my shelf for a few months and just kept pushing off starting it until I read some other books. When I had a lull...and realized that February was almost gone...I picked it up. And it was a breeze to read and a completely delight!

I know that I have seen Aarón Sánchez on television when we've stayed in hotels and watched the Food Network. Maybe Chopped. Maybe MasterChef  or IronChef. But he never struck me as a television personality that I was compelled to read more about or learn his back story. So, I'm glad that Claudia picked this memoir because his story was absolutely wonderful.

On the Page

From his parents' divorce and his move to New York City with twin brother and his mother - herself a pioneering Mexican chef - to dropping out of culinary school after a year to opening and closing restaurants of his own, the candor with which Sánchez tells his story is both compelling and inspiring. He writes with reflection about his failed marriage, depression, and even the MeToo movement in the restaurant industry. But it is his dedication to his craft, especially shining the spotlight on Latino cuisine and traditions, that created a book that I couldn't put down.

Here's how he described Mexican cuisine, "Always the food. Rusty, dried guajillo peppers. Verdant sprigs of curled cilantro. Flavors that take days to develop, layered with wildly complex blends of spices and ingredients, techniques that take years to master, so that every dish pops and dances on the palate. There is nothing about the food of Mexico that is dull or muted." And "In Mexico, cooking for someone is the ultimate gesture of love, so what better way to draw your brother back from the dead than with his favorite earthly delights?"

He writes about mole. "But the canon of mole variations is so much more vast than most diners recognize. It can be made from almonds or pumpkin seeds. It can be yellow or green or red or pitch black. There are legends about its invention, one tale including nuns, another involving an Aztec king. Regardless, the constant is the sauce’s complexity. Some versions use thirty or more ingredients, the spices and peppers carefully toasted and ground together, most often by hand, in a molcajete—a sort of Mesoamerican mortar and pestle."

And he writes about his identity as a Mexican-American chef, "Being bicultural always presents that challenge; you’re never quite American enough north of the border, and never exactly Mexican enough on the other side."  About culinary authenticity, he muses, "I think what I’ve learned in my time in Mexico is that in some ways, the 'authentic' Mexican way of doing things means doing it your own way. With the ingredients and techniques that come from your own heritage and your own surroundings. We wouldn’t expect a homogenous product from Puebla to Veracruz; adaptation based on geography and personal experience is making food in the true Mexican spirit."

After I finished the book I started streaming The Taco Chronicles on Netflix. It's not his show, granted, but there was something about his book that inspired me to watching several episodes that focused on regionally relevant and traditional tacos from all over Mexico. Word of warning: don't read this book while you're hungry. Seriously.

Finally here's an example of his writing that blends together culinary history, food commentary, and personal experience just as he would blend together a multitude of ingredients to create a delicious dish. "Eating food where it’s grown or where a dish was created, still consumed for the same reasons and by the same people, where tradition runs centuries deep—there’s just nothing like it. It’s spiritual and emotional. It is humbling beyond words. I was also exposed to flavors and cooking techniques that explained much about the pre-conquistador connection to Mexico, the ingredients that were exchanged, the history and timeline of events that altered the course of both countries and hugely influenced modern Mexican cuisine. When the conquistadors landed at the port of Veracruz in 1519, they brought ingredients that influenced and enlarged the canon of modern-day Mexican flavors: olive oil, wheat, pigs, and Vitis vinifera, the grape vine. And beyond following the trajectory of different foods, when we visited an archival library, I was also able to trace our family back to Spain in the 1500s. I learned my ancestors on my mom’s side are from the Basque country and were once musket makers. It was an influential, insightful trip both professionally and personally, and it intensified my appreciation for understanding where things come from and why—myself included. Then, several years later in early November 2008, I had a chance to take a trip with the Chilean tourism board. We traveled to San Pedro de Atacama in the northern part of the country, which is the most arid place in the world, even more so than the Sahara and Mojave deserts. I learned about the machuca people, natives of a small Andean village where only twenty or so buildings, constructed from clay and cactus wood, comprise the entire town. They lived on and traded llama meat and empanadas, their simple lives heavily reliant on the tourism industry and visitors to their little piece of the globe, and were generous and welcoming to travelers."

On the Plate

Clearly there was a lot of food inspiration in this book! And I will be trying several of the recipes he included in his book.

He describes the Texas barbeque that he had when he visited his dad: "I learned then that Texas barbecue was all about the beef. We’d get this huge spread: pickles and white bread—always untoasted—and then the beef brisket and massive fucking Flintstones–style, dinosaur-sized racks of ribs. It was always super hot outside, so we had huge red cups of Coca-Cola packed with ice to wash it all down. I always left with sticky fingers and a smile on my face, full and satisfied, knowing I had a whole El Paso summer ahead to spend with my father. Even now, the flavor of smoke and brown-sugar-sweet, vinegar-spiked sauce is enough to take me right back in time, to that little Texas joint, and bring back those feelings of excitement and anticipation."

He shares what he made for his mom when she first came to visit his restaurant, "When she came for the first time, I made a point to cook for her personally. I roasted a lamb loin with a pomegranate ancho chile sauce that she loved. I did a whole roasted suckling pig, cocina de pibil style, slow-roasting the pork in a marinade with pickled onions with habanero, served with a big cracklin’ on top and fresh tortillas on the side. I made a simple sautéed fish with lime, serrano, cilantro, and olive oil. I think she recognized the effort I was making, what I was trying to do, and that I had a clear vision—and that was really important for her to see." Everything he described made my mouth water. 

But I was inspired into the kitchen from this passage about his menu at Patria: "a dish called 'Fire & Ice'—a coconut ceviche with tuna and ginger and tons of chile, served out of a coconut shell over ice, surrounded by a flurry of snow-white coconut shavings. Or ceviche negra, octopus and scallops served in an emulsion of black-as-night squid ink. Golden arepas were made fresh, one side with yellow and the other with white corn, stuffed with a satiny black bean puree and farmers cheese, served with blistered heirloom tomatoes and finished with a fire-branded star. The stuff coming out of that kitchen was creative and beautiful and completely unique. We had a dessert burro made to look like a cigar; we called it the 'Smokeless Cuban.' It was stuffed with dulce de leche and chocolate mousse, rolled in tons of cocoa powder and served with matches made from spun sugar and a whipped coffee custard—even a cigar band with the restaurant’s name. Every night I went to work so proud to be putting my small stamp on each of those dishes."

Ceviche is a simple dish of seafood "cooked" by the acid in limes. It's so easy, but it requires incredibly fresh ingredients. I usually ask my fish monger which is the best choice for ceviche that day. That day he offered me wild-caught, local rockfish. Perfect!


  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds, rockfish, cut into 1" pieces
  • 6-8 fresh limes, juiced plus lime wedges for serving
  • 1/4 cup fresh salsa plus more for serving
  • 1 to 2 organic avocados, cubed
  • 2 radishes, rinsed and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (traditional would be cilantro, but I had dill from our garden)
  • 6 Tablespoons coconut milk or coconut cream
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • tortilla chips, for serving
  • candied jalapeños (my recipe here), for serving (that's the 'fire' part for my dish!)


Place the raw seafood pieces in a glass dish and cover them with freshly squeezed lime juice. The seafood should be completely covered by juice.


Cover the dish and place it in the refrigerator. Let the seafood marinate or "cook" in the lime juice for at least 4 hours. Once the seafood is "cooked" in the juices, drain the lime juice, but reserve 1 to 2 Tablespoons of the juice.

Stir in the salsa, avocado, radishes, herbs, and coconut milk. Stir in the reserved lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with tortilla chips, more salsa, fresh lime wedges, and candied jalapeños (my recipe here). 

If you want to read the book and join the Cook the Books fun, you still have a month to do so. Even if you don't, I highly recommend that you read this book at some point. You'll think differently about Latino workers in restaurant kitchens as well as the regional Latino cuisines. I promise!

*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.

In addition to submitting this to #CooktheBooks, I am adding it to #FoodieReads.
Click to see what everyone else read in February 2021: here.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Chicken Fajitas #SundayFunday

Today the Sunday Funday group is celebrating chicken. Thanks to Stacy of Food Lust People Love, Sue of Palatable Pastime, Rebekah of Making Miracles, and Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm for coordinating this low-stress group. Today Stacy is hosting and she's given us the following prompt: Share your favorite family friendly chicken recipes, cooked any way you like it! Creative or traditional, we are always looking for ways to serve this ubiquitous bird. Vegetarians only: feel free to use protein substitutes.

Here's the line-up of how the #SundayFunday bloggers are using chicken in their kitchens...

Chicken Fajitas

Fajitas are one of those things that I throw together when I haven't really had time to plan a meal. Really. The thing that makes it: my DIY Taco Seasoning. But you can use whatever taco seasoning you have in your kitchen.  

If you are interested, I shared the process for the spice blend on my Culinary Cam YouTube channel...

For the fajitas, you just need chicken, onions, bell peppers, tortillas, and salsa. We usually make some Mexican rice, heat up some beans, and call it dinner.

Ingredients serves 6

  • 4 chicken breasts or 6 chicken thighs
  • 4 to 5 teaspoons taco seasoning (DIY Taco Seasoning)
  • 1 onion, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 3 bell peppers, cored and thickly sliced
  • freshly ground salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper pepper
  • Also needed: grill pan or griddle, oil
  • For serving: tortillas, salsa, and sour cream


Place the chicken breasts or thighs on a plate. Sprinkle half of the taco seasoning, then flip them over. Sprinkle the rest and let stand while you heat the pan.

Preheat 1 to 2 Tablespoons oil over medium high. Add the chicken breasts to the pan and cook for 5 minutes without moving them. You want a nice char to develop on the bottom. Flip the chicken with a pair of tongs and cook on the other side for 5 minutes.

Remove from the pan and let stand for 5 minutes while you cook the onions and peppers. After 5 minutes, slice the chicken and add it back to the grill pan with the onions and peppers to make sure it's completely cooked through and hot for serving.

Serve the chicken, onions, and peppers on a platter with warmed tortillas and let everyone assemble their own.

That's a wrap on our chicken event. The #SundayFunday bloggers will be back next week to share healthy salad recipes with Sneha of Sneha's Recipe leading the discussion.

Recipe Round-Up: The #FoodNFlix Bloggers are Spirited Away


This month I invited the bloggers of Food'N'Flix to join me in watching Spirited Away. You can read my invitation here.

I think it might have been a challenging movie to find and I apologize for that. Wendy found her copy at the library and I know I purchased it for viewing on Amazon.

And it also wasn't a typical genre for our movie picks or the movies we prefer, I suspect. But I am glad that a few of us were able to watch and get inspired into the kitchen.

Elizabeth of Literature and Limes served Japanese Chicken Legs. She wrote, "While not my favorite of movies, it was still cute. The imagination throughout was fun and did wave a great plot line together."

And she created a winner of a recipe that was teen-approved. That's always a plus. "I was inspired by the scene where Chihiro’s parents devour the food and turn into pigs. Her mom appears to be eating some type of poultry. There are dumplings, rolls. I probably would have eaten all that food too. But I decided to try my hand at these Japanese Chicken Legs. My 13-year-old announced at dinner that they were the best chicken drumsticks she’s ever had."

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm shared her Soboro Don, a Japanese Ground Chicken Bowl that is slightly sweet and completely delicious. Wendy posted:  "There is tons of food in this film however the scene that touched my heart was when the Spirit that is assigned 'the human' offers her comfort with a rice bowl."

Amy made Restaurant-Style Rice, graciously just commenting that "The movie was...odd…I’m not a huge anime fan, and this one didn’t endear me to the genre any more. Nevertheless, there was ample food inspiration." And the movie did inspire a dive into rice. She wrote: "The food that stood out the most was a rice ball. I started searching for recipes and then realized that what I was really interested in was the rice itself.  Lately, Spud has become more and more vocal about rice.  He is super frustrated that I make rice wrong or buy the wrong rice.  He loves the rice that sticks together at restaurants and has no patience for the regular long grain rice that I make at home." It appears she has mastered it!

Lastly, I shared my version of Hong Shao Niu Rou Mian (Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup). "But because the setting is fashioned after an actual town in Taiwan, I set about researching traditional Taiwanese foods and was intrigued by Hong Shao Niu Rou Mian, a braised beef soup. This dish didn't appear in the movie, but everyone in my household was grateful when it appeared on our table."

Radha of Magical Ingredients was a little late to the party, but I wanted to make sure you saw her Japanese Steamed Curry Buns. Radha loved the movie. She wrote,"I was so impressed by the character, Chihiro. What an amazing qualities she has! She has the dedication and determination to the fullest to get back her parents though she was scared. At the same tome, she was nice to everyone and showed compassion. She worked hard in Yubaba's bathhouse. She cared for the stinking spirit which was a harder job for a 10 year old. She had the qualities to care for others and refused gold when others were running for it. She was not greedy and was the most lovable child. For a 10 year old, having these qualities consistent, really moved me and I loved the movie and Chihiro."

Well, that's a wrap on February's Food'N'Flix pick Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures is hosting us as we watch P.S. I Love You. Stay tuned for that.

Hong Shao Niu Rou Mian (Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup) #FoodNFlix

This month, I am hosting the Food'N'Flix group as we watch and -  hopefully - get inspired into the kitchen by Spirited Away. This is definitely out of the range of movies the group usually watches, but I hope that the other gals join the fun.

On the Screen

I had never heard of this movie until my boys purchased it on Amazon. They have long been fans of Studio Ghibli movies though I have never watched any of the movies with them.

However, the first time they watched it, both commented that I should suggest it to my foodie movie group. I largely ignored that suggestion until I was reading through a list of top twenty-five films that food lovers have to watch. Okay. I was convinced and offered to host it for our foodie, movie-watching group this month.

For those unfamiliar, as I was, Hayao Miyazaki is the Japanese animator, writer, director, producer, and filmmaker whose work with Studio Ghibli has resulted in creative and influential animated films, including: Princess MononokeMy Neighbor TotoroThe Wind Rises, and this month's Food'N'Flix pick, Spirited Away, among many others. Released in 2001, Spirited Away won that year's Academy Away for Best Animated Feature and is Japan's highest-grossing film of all time.

Set in the mountain village of Juifen, in Northeastern Taiwan, Spirited Away tells the story of a girl named Chihiro who finds herself trapped in a spirit world. A witch named Yubaba has cast a spell on Chihiro's parents, for gluttony, and transformed them into pigs. Chihiro meets Haku who helps her navigate the world in which she finds herself. In order to save her parents, she works in Yubaba's bathhouse - a veritable spa for fanciful and oddball spirits - while working to free her parents.

When I finally sat down to watch the movie, sources - and my boys - were correct. The food is animated in amazing detail. Everything from the onigiri (rice balls) to the konpeito (sugar candies) to the ishi-yaki-imo (stone-roasted sweet potatoes) made my mouth water.

The food in Spirited Away is animated with intricate detail. Some of it is Japanese: Chihiro noshes on onigiri (rice balls) with her parents; Lin feeds konpeito (traditional, brightly colored Japanese sugar candies) to the animate soot balls; and even ishi-yaki-imo (stone-roasted sweet potatoes) appear on screen. Food is also powerful and magical. Haku warns Chihiro that she must keep eating the spirit world's food or she won't be able to stay in the world. Think reverse Persephone! And, it's a magical cake that restores Haku and No-Face to their pre-cursed forms.

But because the setting is fashioned after an actual town in Taiwan, I set about researching traditional Taiwanese foods and was intrigued by Hong Shao Niu Rou Mian, a braised beef soup. This dish didn't appear in the movie, but everyone in my household was grateful when it appeared on our table.

In My Bowl

I should note at the get-go that this is not a traditional preparation of this dish which includes shaoxing wine. After I made this dish, I realized that shaoxing wine is a rice wine. At the time, I just used whatever wine I had...which happened to be a red wine. As I said: this is not a traditional version. But I love that the beef is braised in an delicious, aromatic broth. We will certainly be making this again soon.

  • 1 to 1-1/2 pound piece of beef 
  • salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Chinese five spice 
  • 1 red onion, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 2-inch knob of fresh ginger, halved
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup wine (I used leftover red wine)
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons chili bean paste
  • 1 Tablespoon organic dark brown sugar
  • Also needed more beef stock, noodles, baby bok choy, and egg (I used quail eggs)

Rub the Chinese five spice and salt into the beef. Add a splash of olive to a large pot and heat until it shimmers. Brown the meat on all sides, approximately 1 to 2 minutes per side. Then add in the onion and ginger. Pour in the soy sauce, wine, stock, and water. Stir in the chili bean paste and brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Let braise for three hours.

Bring  your beef stock to a boil. Add 1/2 cup of the braising liquid from the meat. 

In another large pot, bring water to a boil. Blanch the bok choy and remove. Add the noodles and cook until just done. Remove noodles and rinse briefly under hot water. Poach your eggs in water and remove for serving.

To serve, add noodles to individual serving bowls. Top with sliced beef, bok choy, and egg. Ladle in the broth and serve immediately.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Pollo a la Catalana + Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2019 #WorldWineTravel

This year a fourth wine blogging group was formed by Jeff of Food Wine Click! and we will be doing a deep dive into the wines of Spain in 2021. January had us looking at Rioja; you can read my article - with the links to everyone else - here. And this month, Susannah of Avvinare is hosting as we head to Catalunya.

All of these posts will be live by Saturday, February 27th when we'll be meeting for a live Twitter chat at 8am Pacific. Follow along with the hashtag  #WorldWineTravel and be sure to add that to any tweets you posts so we can see them. Here's the #WorldWineTravel Catalunya line-up...

As we are approaching a year of living in this pandemic, we haven't traveled much at all. One brief exception was when we went to visit my in-laws during Fall Break last October. It was a welcome respite from being sheltered-in-place and I celebrated by cooking dinners for the family every night. It was a nice way to spend time with my younger Kitchen Elf and my niece who is the same age. We cranked up the music or just chatted while we prepped and prepared dinner for about a dozen people everyday. It's always a treat to have the run of a commercial kitchen, right?

And being the serial planner that I am, I carried up a bunch of wines and knocked out pairings for several of my wine groups. So, one evening, we took a virtual trip to Catalunya and I served Pollo a la Catalana + Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2019.

map from

Catalunya is a Spanish Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP) for Catalan wine that was formed and recognized in 2001. Its purpose: support over two hundred wineries (bodegas) that were not included in other specific DOPs in Catalonia. Interestingly enough it isn't tied to a specific geographical location but instead is comprised of nearly 20 square miles of individual vineyards from all over Catalonia. Catalunya does allow winemakers to mix in grapes from other DOPs.

The bottle that I tracked down for this event was the 2019 Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat. Priorat is a tiny wine-producing region that is comprised almost completely of craggy, terraced vineyards. Until the early 1990s it was virtually abandoned. Then René Barbier arrived and set about revitalizing the region. With a base in the village of Gratallops, they aimed to revive the ancient vines and cultivate some new French grape varieties.

Because the new vines were well-recognized - think Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot - and the quality of the wines they were producing was high, Priorat is enjoying a renaissance. By the turn of the millennium, the area's vineyards had already doubled.

In the Glass

In 2015 Alvaro Palacios was named 'Man of the Year' by Decanter magazine. Though Palacios descends from the Rioja's Palacios Remondo family, he left Spain in his early 20s to work and study winemaking elsewhere, namely Bordeaux. But he returned to Spain and was drawn to highlighting traditional grape varieties such as Garnacha and Cariñena.

This wine is a blend comprised of 35% Garnacha, 24% Syrah, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cariñena, 10% Merlot, and 3% other varieties. The grapes were destemmed and lightly crushed before being fermented in a combination of stainless steel, oak, and concrete tanks. After fermentation, the wine was left to mature in oak barrels for another four months.

The wine poured an inky purple. To the nose, aromas were savory with hints of fennel and balsamic. And on the palate those aromas were mirrored with more licorice and spice. This wine was intense but approachable and elegant. 

On the Plate

For these #WorldWineTravel events I am going to try to post pairings with food that hails from the same region, or at least inspired from the region. You have probably heard the adage: what grows together, goes together. Pollo a la Catalana, Catalan-style chicken, is a warming dish that's great in the Fall. Chicken is browned, then braised in a sauce of onions, tomatoes, and wine with prunes and raisins. It's so delicious. 

I did add in some ground Spanish chorizo from local-to-me PigWizard for even more flavor, but that is not traditional. And the photos - large pots and trays - were for fifteen or sixteen people. The recipe and quantities below serve six.

Ingredients serves 6

  • 1 cup prunes, pitted
  • 1 cup raisins 
  • warm water
  • 1/2 pound ground chorizo
  • 3-1/2 pounds chicken, cut into pieces if whole (we used leg quarters)
  • 2 teaspoons smoked or sweet paprika (we used smoked paprika)
  • 1 cup onions, peeled and chopped (we used a red onion)
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (we used can)
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil plus more as needed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup sliced almonds (traditional is pine nuts, but I used what we had)
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper


Place prunes and raisins in a bowl and cover with warm water. Let soak for at least 2 hours. Drain and set aside.

Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large pot and cook the chorizo until done. Add in remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil and place chicken legs in the same pot and sprinkle with paprika, salt, and pepper. Brown the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Add in the onions, celery, diced tomatoes. Pour in the chicken stock and wine.

Bring liquid to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Let chicken braise for 60 minutes. Sir in the almonds and the soaked fruit. Let simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove chicken from the pot and place the pieces on a serving platter or tray. Bring the sauce to a rolling boil and cook until thickened to your desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, as needed.

To serve, place chicken on individual serving plates and spoon thickened sauce over the top.

Serve with rice or bread on the side.

That's a wrap for our virtual trip to Catalunya with the #WorldWineTravel group. We'll be back next month with an exploration of wines of Castilla y Leon with Allison of Advinetures leading the discussion. Stay tuned....

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Secrets of a Cursed Family + Grilled Lamb and Apple Chutney #FoodieReads


I don't usually read anything in the 'thriller' genre, but After Alice Fell by Kim Taylor Blakemore* intrigued me as a historical thriller. I wasn't actually sure what to expect from this novel. But I'm glad I read it.

On the Page

Set just after the Civil War, this book was dark and disturbing. But the writing was also incredibly beautiful. War widow and nurse Marion has returned home to live with her brother, Lionel; sister-in-law, Cathy; and nephew from her brother's first marriage, Toby. Marion's sister, the titular Alice, has died while a patient in an asylum and Marion is convinced that the institution is hiding something.

Alice had been mute since she was fourteen years old. And, when we discover the cause of her silence, I am pretty sure I gasped aloud. That's a successful thriller, right?

Lionel's first wife and Toby's mother, Lydia, died tragically as well. And though Marion isn't initially investigating that death, she does uncover some unsettling truths there as well.

When Saorise helps to keep Marion a prisoner in the family home, Marion narrates, "My hand is numb, but not the wrist. Not the break. I clamp my jaw, swallowing back a keen of pain. Scoot forward again. 'Why?' She shakes her head, ''Tis a cursed family, this one.' Stands and hobbles back, pulling the door shut with a click and clunk of the lock" (pg. 241).
I'm not sure they were cursed exactly, but they were certainly in a tragedy of their own making! Even though this wasn't my usual genre, I enjoyed Blakemore's storytelling.  

On the Plate

There was quite a bit of food mentioned, including a raspberry charlotte that I will be making soon. But it was the Marion's alibi of her dinner at the Phoenix that sent me to the kitchen. As she was being coached on her story, she practices saying, "'Dinner at the Phoenix.' 'Good.' The feather mattress plumps as she stands and paces along the windows. 'You had lamb and mint. Strawberry tart.' 'I don’t like mint.' 'Stewed apples.' The window casing groans as she opens it. The outside noises slip in: horse hooves and boys calling and the constant rumble of people living life. 'Someone might ask'."

Well, unlike Marion, we do love lamb and mint. In fact, one of our favorite lamb dishes: grilled lamb lollipops! However, since I was staying away from mint and Marion also invented having had stewed apples with her lamb, I decided to make an apple-herb chutney.  My chutney is spicy with a hint of sweet. The rib chops absorb a great deal of flavor from their paste-rub in 30 minutes and, then, they cook up to be perfectly browned in under four minutes per side.


Lamb Lollipops
  • rack of lamb, sliced into individual pops
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 teaspoon fennel powder (optional, if you don't have any!)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Chutney makes 4 pint jars
  • 6 apples 
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup organic dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons yellow mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large sweet red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground all-spice
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • herbs (I used fresh rosemary and mint to mirror the flavors in the lamb)


Combine the onion, garlic, ginger, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, and salt in a medium-size saucepan. Add the apples, adding them as you chop to keep them from turning brown. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the sweet pepper, jalapeno, and ground all-spice and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, approximately another 30 minutes. Add in the raisins, cranberries, and herbs. You can process these in a water bath if you wish, but I usually just cap them and store them in the refrigerator to use within a month or so.

Lamb Lollipops
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, fennel powder (if using), rosemary, parsley, mint, and 1 Tablespoon olive oil make a wet paste. Rub the paste all over the lamb chops and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Generously season both sides of the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining oil in a sauté pan or a grill pan until very hot.

I wipe off most of the paste before grilling as the garlic tends to burn easily. Sear the chops until well-browned on one side, approximately 3 minutes. Flip the chops and cook until the second side has browned, approximately 3 minutes for medium. Transfer the chops to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Let rest for approximately 5 minutes before serving with chutney.

*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 February 2021: here.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Raspberry Basil-Marinated Mushrooms #Sponsored

  This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Quail & Olive.
Complimentary product was provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.
However, all opinions expressed here are my own.

When Anni at The Quail & Olive*asked if I wanted to play with the Raspberry Basil Vinegar to create a recipe, I couldn't say 'yes' fast enough. I love a challenge and I really love supporting and highlighting local businesses. So I went to her shop, picked up a bottle, and starting thinking about possible combinations on the drive home.

I had some mushrooms on my counter and decided to share my super simple process for making marinated mushroom. You can make this with any vinegar, but I used the Raspberry Basil vinegar and mirrored the flavors with the addition of some fresh basil from the garden.

This recipe makes three half-pint jars. You can easily halve the recipe if you don't want that much or don't have enough ingredients. These are also not processed in a water bath, so keep them in the fridge and eat them within ten days.

Ingredients makes 3 half-pint jars

  • 2 cups water
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel pollen, optional
  • 6 or 7 cups mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons vinegar (I used the Raspberry Basil Vinegar from The Quail & Olive)
  • Also needed: medium sauce pan, clean mason jars with lids

Place the water, lemon juice, basil, and fennel pollen (if using) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Stir in the mushrooms, making sure they are covered, as much as possible, by the liquid. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand for an hour. Stir in the vinegar. Place in a jar or container.

Keep these in the fridge and eat within 10 days. 

Serving suggestions: you can spoon these on top of salad or eat them with crackers or sourdough bread.

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*Disclosure: I receive compensation in the form of complimentary products for recipe development 
and generating social media traction. All opinions are my own.