Wednesday, October 31, 2012

for dinner, any fish will do - a mustard sauce with capers.

Salmon with wilted kale

Halibut with mustard greens
This is one of the easiest ways to cook fish that is full of flavor, without adding fat or calories.  In our home, I've served fish prepared this way, twice in the last five days.  On Friday I used salmon, and last night I used the same sauce with halibut.  Swordfish would also stand up quite nicely to the mustard.

I always keep several large jars of capers (any brand will do) in my pantry, and for this recipe I used Maille dijon mustard. It has a nice heat without too much added sugar. The capers, which are slightly sour and quite salty, are excellent with most fish, including smoked salmon or added to shrimp scampi.

leftovers, for breakfast!

My breakfast usually includes some version of toast and nut butter with honey.  This morning, however, leftover halibut with a mustard caper sauce sounded delicious.   I'll post the recipe for last night's dinner later this afternoon.  In the meantime,  enjoy your coffee and have a lovely morning.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

fruit butters (and much, much more!) from Earth and Vine Provisions - now at Tallulah's!

Yesterday I popped into my favorite kitchen store, Tallulah's, to pick up a few tools of the trade.  Lucky for me, I arrived just in time to taste some of their latest goodies from Earth and Vine Provisions! Earth and Vine is a California company that has been making 100% natural sauces, jams, and condiments since 1997.  They are completely free of preservatives, and many of their products are gluten free.  The gals at Tallulah's were sampling the Mandarin Pumpkin Marmalade simply paired with cream cheese and served with crackers.  The spices of fall are so prevalent in this delectable spread, with notes of citrus and cloves.  Of course I left the shop with several jars of this goodness, and plan to re-stock before Thanksgiving company arrives.  For breakfast this morning, I tried the Spiced Fig Pear Fruit Butter, with a bit of Manchego cheese and sourdough toast - blissfully delicious.

The Earth and Vine Provisions website also includes recipes to accompany each of their products.  I can't wait to try the Fig and Pomegranate Brie Tart, using my new fruit butter.  If you live close by,  immediately make your way to Tallulah's downtown, and prepare to be persuaded.  Otherwise, Earth and Vine offers free shipping on orders over $75.00

Sunday, October 28, 2012

dreaming of Blackberry Farm

(photo compliments of Blackberry Farm)
I love Sundays.  Time spent puttering, resting, making lists, and daydreaming is certainly time well spent.  If you haven't already heard of Blackberry Farm, now is the time to "be in the know".  It is considered to be one of the premier destinations in North America, and was named #1 resort in the U.S. and Canada in the 2012 World’s Best Service Awards by Travel and Leisure.  A brief history found on their website describes the farm perfectly.
           "In 1939, Mrs. Florida Lasier of Chicago snagged her silk stockings on a wild blackberry bramble while exploring the idyllic Smoky Mountain foothills, and the name Blackberry Farm was born. Thirty-six years later, the Beall family invested their hearts and souls in the same romantic site that has become their family home and lifelong passion. Today, one of America's most celebrated intimate luxury hotels beckons discerning guests who aspire to escape modern-day frenzy and slip into a Blackberry state of mind. Situated on a pastoral 4,200-acre estate in the Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry will show you the many reasons why it is one of the top rated properties in the world."
(photo compliments of Blackberry Farm)
One way to be a part of this beautiful community is to become a Friend of the Farm. This complimentary membership provides access to "exclusive perks" including discounts on reservations, dinner, and merchandise.  Their farmstead catalog is full of pantry favorites, including southern grits, maple syrup, meats, and cheeses. Everything is locally sourced and produced- all highly recommended additions to your well appointed pantry.
One of my personal favorites, however, is access to their Kitchen Sessions.  These unlisted YouTube videos feature Blackberry Farm chefs demonstrating recipes from their cookbooks!
(photo compliments of Blackberry Farm)
And speaking of cookbooks,  you can pre-order their newest cookbook here!

The dining room is stunning, both in its simple elegance and warmth.
(photo compliments of Blackberry Farm)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

baby it's cold outside - apple cake

On Thursday the temperature dropped 20 degrees in 8 hours, landing at "quite chilly", perfect weather for hosting a cozy fall dinner.  My menu consisted of beef bourguignon served over a celery root puree, followed by a seasonal salad of wilted kale topped with roasted beets and drizzled with balsamic dijon vinaigrette.

For dessert, I made apple cake and served it with a wedge of Stilton cheese to pass around the table (trust me on this one, the two share a plate quite well).  The recipe for this apple cake comes from a friend who bakes the most delicious cakes.  Not the kind of cakes one has at birthday parties or manufactured social gatherings.  These are the cakes that dinner party legends are made of.  Rustic, with fruits and spices, and full of warmth. In this recipe, the spices are what make the cake especially good.  Nothing compares to the flavors of fresh cardamom plucked from its pod, or nutmeg grated directly into the batter.  Both of these spices will keep in your pantry for a very long time,  and the results they yield are not to be surpassed.

WSJ Off Duty - Saturday morning bliss

Culinary inspiration from the Wall Street Journal's 'Off Duty' section.  This is my favorite way to start the weekend. With recipes from the likes of Eric Ripert and James Boyce, how can one go wrong? Next stop will be the farmers market, and then I promise to share my apple cake recipe! In the meantime,  I hope you're all enjoying your Saturday morning.

Friday, October 26, 2012

not your average pizza

This is a perfect example of how important it is to have a well stocked pantry (and refrigerator).  Tonight my husband and I both arrived home at 7pm,  tired and hungry.  I had leftover stew in the refrigerator, but somehow that didn't seem appetizing.

Thankfully, I had on hand the necessary ingredients for a perfectly decadent pizza.  Twenty minutes later,  I'm sitting here at my kitchen counter, snacking on pizza and sharing the recipe with you. 
Before I go any further, however, I must give credit where credit is due.  The inspiration for this meal comes from Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, of Beekman 1802 fame, via Martha Stewart.  The Blaak Onion Jam is theirs and it is divine.  I highly recommend stocking your pantry with at least 2 or 3 of these jars as soon as possible.  You can also find the recipe for their fabulous jam here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

mayonnaise (and mustard)

As much as I love the taste and texture of homemade mayonnaise,  I don't always have the time (or motivation) to whip up my own.  Despite my occasional bouts of culinary laziness,  I am still a devout mayonnaise snob.  Duke's mayonnaise is consistently the best you can buy.  First created in Greenville, South Carolina in 1917 by Eugenia Duke, the family recipe has remained the same for almost a century.  If you are of the vegan persuasion,  do not despair!  Vegenaise is a lovely substitute for the real deal.  The texture and tang of real mayonnaise is not lost in this vegan version of the creamy spread. 

Last but not least, I must share with you this little gem of a mustard.  I was first introduced to Edmond Fallot Mustard when we were traveling in Denmark this past June - but more on that another day.  These Dijon mustard's are paired with herbs and spices such as tarragon, green pepper and cassis to create the most decadent spread one can imagine.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Roast Chicken, my husband's favorite.

 If asked about his favorite meal, my husband would be more than happy to entertain with an ode to roast chicken.  We've celebrated anniversaries and holidays with roast chicken, as well we've enjoyed this simple dish in the middle of the week for no reason at all. I've had so many requests for this recipe over the years, and I'm happy to share "our" roast chicken with you, my dear reader.

There are unlimited resources and recipes for roast chicken, both online and on the cookbook shelf.  Every family has its own method, and ingredients that make their recipe special, but there are a few details, such as temperature, time, and of course the chicken, that remain the same   This is our version.

Monday, October 22, 2012

a sweet treat

I always keep dark chocolate on hand for emergency situations! Tonight is apparently one of them.  We flew back this morning from a quick weekend trip to Boston, and this evening I was in need of a chocolate fix. Dark chocolate has many health benefits, providing antioxidants and vital minerals, as well as reducing blood pressure and risk of heart disease.  By European standards, chocolate must contain at least 35% cocoa solids to be considered "dark".  The best, and most guilt free chocolates contain 70% cocoa solids.  These chocolates are very rich, slightly sweet and absolutely delicious. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

a new cookbook from Ina Garten!

Some of my favorite cookbooks come from beautiful kitchen of Ina Garten.  Also known as "The Barefoot Contessa",  Mrs. Garten worked in the White House as a nuclear policy analyst before purchasing the Barefoot Contessa, a food specialty store in East Hampton, in 1978.  Her store was wildly successful, but in 1996 Ina sold the shop to two employees.  In 1999 she published her first cookbook,  The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, and this latest publication will be her eighth title. Mrs. Garten's cookbooks are beautifully organized by courses, and the photographs are just scrumptious.  I recommend that everyone own at least one of these cookbooks, if not the entire collection! I've learned so much from reading her books - from the temperature for roasting a chicken, to her recommendations for keeping a proper kitchen. You can also follow Ina's blog on the Barefoot Contessa Website.  She continues to inspire, whether in the kitchen or through her culinary finds.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

a gluten free cracker

I'm constantly in search of good crackers to serve my gluten-free friends.  These little gems from "Le Pain des Fleurs" are one of my favorites.  They are a bit rustic with a nice crisp.  The quinoa is slightly nutty, and the cracker has just enough added salt for flavor.  They are just as good with cheese and olives for cocktails, as they are with nutella for a midnight snack.  A must for any pantry.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

cake is in the oven!

pure wow and pear cake

Several months ago I learned about Pure Wow, a "free daily lifestyle email for stylish women of substance".  They offer the latest in fashion, culture, and FOOD!  I've tailored my subscription to receive several recipes a week by email.  Today's recipe for Smoky Sausage with Lentils (recipe after the break) seems like a perfect dish for a fall weekend.   

My dad arrived in town yesterday, so I took the liberty of giving my pantry a rest.  We have 2 more guests arriving this afternoon, but there is a spectacular version of Pear Cake that I can't wait to make.  I'm looking forward to sharing it with you this afternoon! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

coffee and tea

 I'm still not feeling quite right, and have consequently slurped down quite a bit of hot tea over the last few days.  It's important to always have a generous supply of coffee and tea, as well as the necessary accoutrements, on hand. Regular and decaffeinated are two obvious options,  but tea can be tricky.  There are white teas, black teas, green teas, as well as flowers (just to scratch the surface).  I prefer to have at least these 4 options for my guests.  I even have a few instant iced tea packets on hand for an emergency.  A friend of mine was recently in China and she brought back some lovely teas that I keep in a tin to preserve the freshness.

Coffee is a bit more simple and one can usually get away with regular and decaf.  I prefer a dark roasted bean, and it's very easy to add a splash of hot water if the coffee is too strong.  I also keep a tin of Cafe du Monde's Coffee and Chicory.  It's a New Orleans favorite and I love the nutty taste, especially to cut through sweets (like a breakfast beignete !).

Of course it's helpful to keep sugar, sweetners, a cream pitcher, a thermos, your french press, and of course mugs, all within reach.  I even like to have a toast rack nearby for a quick breakfast tray.  As you can imagine, this cabinet is my first stop in the morning!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

company is coming!

and I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off...

In fact,  I actually love having house guests.  I bake for days in advance, and stock the refrigerator with stinky cheeses, olives, and homemade pesto's.  Notice the fennel bulbs on the counter next to the cookie dough -  complete chaos. 

I'm halfway through 6 dozen chocolate cookies.  These are, in fact, THE BEST chocolate chip cookies - ever.  I came across this recipe last May, when my friend Rachel documented them in her blog, Erstwhile dear.  She and her husband, Joe, created a visual guide to the recipe, which went on to win America's Test Kitchen's Boston Blogger Cookie Challenge Winners!  Over the last year I've made these cookies at least a dozen times,  and each time they are declared " THE BEST  cookies 'I've' ever had!"  I always make sure to keep several bags of Ghiradelli Chocolate morsels,  semisweet, bittersweet and dark, in my pantry at all times.  One never knows when you'll need to whip up a batch of these cookies.  This recipe is always a sure thing. The only thing I've added is to sprinkle a dash of sea salt on the dough balls before baking.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Miso Soup

Today I've been fighting a bit of a head cold.  It is always disappointing to be sick when the sun is shining outside and there is a nip in the air!  Fall is the most beautiful season for cooking in my opinion.  Sadly most of the fresh fruits and vegetables are out of season, but it's finally not too hot to use the stove!  While I certainly enjoy the hours leading up to a good stew or rich root soup,  it's also nice to have options for a warm bowl of nourishment without the process, especially when one is feeling in less than stellar health.  Miso soup is this nourishment.  It requires few ingredients, and takes only a few minutes on the stove.  Soft miso paste is full of vitamins and nutrients as well as protein, fiber and omega 3's.  I prefer the sweet white miso for it mild and slightly sweet taste. 

if you don't already.....

image courtesy of Garden and Gun
If you don't already subscribe to Garden and Gun,  I suggest that you at least check out their website.  The latest edition focuses on the best Southern Foods - as you can see from the image above.  I would give my right arm for that biscuit right about now. 

I also receive email updates from their publication and last week they featured "Not so Secret Suppers".  This sounds absolutely fascinating, and I'm seriously considering attending one of these events in New York City.   In 2005, Damien Schaefer began hosting what he called "Secret Suppers"  in Athens, Georgia.  According to legend, these suppers were attended by a secret list of invitees who sought out cutting edge culinary experiences.   Fortunately for the rest of us,  Mr. Schaefer is now making his famed supper parties available to the general public. 
For more information go to their website, Public Domain.
Image courtesy of Garden and Gun
Continue reading below to see the menu from their inaugural Public Domain dinner.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beef Bourguignon

Last night I made beef bourguignon for the first time.  After researching recipes from Julia Childs, Jöel Robuchon, Ina Garten and a few others,  I settled on M. Robuchon's version for it's clear instruction and specificity of ingredients.  All of the recipes are similar in that the key ingredients remain the same.  A bottle of red wine,  beef, and onions are the key flavor makers in this decadent "stew".  It is essentially beef stew, in the style of Burgundy, France.

last night's dinner

salt and honey.

This is peanut butter toast, version 2.0.  The complexities of flavor in such an excruciatingly simple meal are so satisfying.  Freshly ground peanut butter, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a drizzle of lavender honey come together on a humble piece of toast to create something almost mysterious.  The key here is purity of ingredients.  The peanut butter must be freshly ground, so to be a soft nutty paste, free of any additives or preservatives (freshly ground peanut butter should always be refrigerated and will last several weeks).  Sea salt, Maldon if you have it, brings out the richness of the peanut taste, without changing it.  A drizzle of lavender honey is the final ingredient and the pièce de résistance.  The floral notes of sweet honey contrast to the rich nutty butter, to make your breakfast complete.   Serve with piping hot coffee. It's good to the last bite.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Celery Root Potage

Lunch at Uprise Bakery, so so good! We need to talk about celery root, also known as "celeriac". Soon!

Farmers' Market

It was cold and grey at the market this morning, but I managed to find a few staples without freezing!

a pancake kind of morning.....

Good morning dear readers.  First, an apology for not posting any more photos from last night's festivities.  As I should have known,  I barely had time to put the last Fig and Proscuitto with Fontina "pizza" into the oven and throw on a silk blouse before the first guest arrived.  I took a few quick pictures with my phone, but they didn't turn out very well - bad lighting.  Quel Dommage! In the end, everything was lovely and we had a wonderful evening celebrating with our friends.

That being said, this is certainly a pancake kind of morning.   It's cold outside and I'm desperately craving comfort food.  How I wish I could settle into a short stack of buttery, blueberry buttermilks, topped with good maple syrup, but I can't.  Not this morning.  Instead, I'm heading to the farmer's market.  On the list is 3lb of lean stew beef, perhaps I'll check with the Lamb Lady.  I'll keep you up to date, I promise.

In the meantime,  I'll leave you with inspiration for your own pancake morning! 

Image courtesy of Library Thing

Friday, October 5, 2012

Duck Confit - and a party

I always keep a few tins of duck confit in my pantry.  It is very rich and very versatile.  My favorite is Confit de Canard from Maison Escudier in Castelnaudary, France.  It's 27 ounces of pure decadence,as each tin contains 2 duck legs preserved in duck fat.  Although this will not be kind to your waistline,  I've heard that "french women don't get fat", and this is VERY french.

Tonight I'm co-hosting a small anniversary celebration for some wonderful friends.  The weather is wet and cold, and I know that duck confit crostini will be sure to keep everyone satisfied and warm.

Stay tuned for more notes and pictures as I prep for this evening's party!

Thursday, October 4, 2012


A well appointed pantry always has plenty of nuts on hand. I also like to keep a batch of sweet and spicy roasted nuts ready for any unexpected visitors, or as a quick snack to share over cocktails.   I often use Ina Garten's recipe for Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts.  You can also find it in her cookbook, Back to Basics.