Monday, January 23, 2017

Salted Juniper-Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta


Panna cotta is one of my favorite desserts to make for a dinner party for several reasons. First: it's easy to make. Second: it's a recipe that is easily adaptable to fit whatever creative bent you're on. Third: it's not too sweet. Fourth: you can make it ahead of time so you're not scrambling to finish a dessert at the end of a party. Oh, and I did mention easy, right?!?


Your basic panna cotta can take as few as three ingredients. I decided to make this one a little bit more fancy with a juniper infused cream and some chocolate.


Ingredients makes sixteen 2-ounce servings
  • 2 envelopes gelatin
  • 1/2 C cold milk
  • 4 C organic heavy whipping cream
  • 2 T juniper berries
  • 1/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 C dark chocolate, chopped (use a good quality chocolate with, at least 64% cacao solids)
  • fleur de sel for serving



Procedure

Crush the juniper berries with a mortar and pestle. Set aside. Pour heavy cream into a medium sauce pan and heat until bubbles begin to form along the edges of the pan.


Add the crushed juniper berries and let steep for at least thirty minutes. Strain out the juniper berries and set cream aside. *NOTE: Most of the people at my table couldn't pick out the juniper flavor. I could, but maybe you will want to let it steep for longer for a more pronounced flavor.*

Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface. Let bloom for 5 minutes.

Heat the infused cream until it begins to steam. Do not let it boil. Add in the chocolate and make sure all the pieces are submerged. Let stand for 3 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture over the gelatin and stir until completely dissolved.

Pour the mixture into your serving containers, leaving a little bit of space at the top - in case you want to top it with any sauce - and let chill until set, but at least four hours. Serve cold. Just before serving, sprinkle with some fleur de sel as garnish.


This was a great dessert to end our Wine & Fine Swine dinner for Brian. I didn't have a cake with candles. But the dapper dudes sang with a tray full of panna cotta in front of them!

Ochazuke (Green Tea Over Rice)

In Japanese cuisine, this dish is called ochazuke. It’s a simple rice sidedish made by pouring hot green tea over steamed rice. 


I chose to put this on our Wine & Fine Swine menu because the pork dishes accompanying this course were Asian-inspired and - truth be told - I really wanted the chance to use my pink cast iron teapot.


Or, I should say, I really wanted to make Brian use my pink teapot. He happily obliged!


Ingredients serves 8

  • 4 C cooked rice (I used jasmine rice cooked in vegetable broth for more flavor)
  • 1 to 2 C green tea
  • pinch of salt
  • black sesame seeds for garnish

Procedure
Brew the green tea and add a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Place the cooked rice in a shallow dish with a lip to hold the tea. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds as garnish. At the table, pour the green tea over the rice and serve immediately.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Shimeji Mushroom Noodles for Foodie Reads


As January continues, I am forging ahead with my renewed Foodie Reads Challenge. My copy of The Vegetarian by Han Kang* was next on my nightstand. So, over the course of a few evenings, I read it.


On the Page...
While the book was provocative, I can't say that I really enjoyed it. Honestly, I almost put it down.

Marital rape, a father force-feeding a grown daughter, attempted suicide...and that was only in the first part of the novella. This book is comprised of three parts. Part one is told from the standpoint of the husband of the vegetarian; part two is narrated by the brother-in-law of the vegetarian; and part three follows the sister of the vegetarian. And all of them were uncomfortable.

I will not say too much more - just that the people in her life are baffled by Yeong-hye's abrupt decision to give up meat. This was one passage from a dinner party to which Mr. Cheong brought Yeong-hye.

"People mainly used to turn vegetarian because they subscribed to a certain ideology...I've been to various doctors myself, to have some tests done and see if there was anything in particular I ought to be avoiding, but everywhere I went I was told something different...in any case, the idea of a special diet always made me feel uncomfortable. It seems to me that one shouldn't be too narrow-minded when it comes to food" (p.31).

I had thought Yeong-hye might have some cogent arguments for vegetarianism, but, she didn't; she attributed her drastic lifestyle change to a dream. It was more of a nightmare.


On the Plate...
Yeong-hye questioned the need to eat and, even, the need to live. So, food wasn't high on her list of priorities. Still, I was inspired into the kitchen to make stir-fried noodles with mushrooms. Her husband was lamenting the menu shift at his home. "Her fragrant, caramelized deep-fried belly pork was achieved by marinating the meat in minced ginger.... Her signature dish had been wafer-thin slices of beef seasoned with black pepper and sesame oil" (p.22).  "On weekends, she prepared seasoned vegetable side dishes for us to eat during the week, and even made stir-fried glass noodles with mushrooms, instead of the usual meat" (p.25).


Ingredients
  • 1 bunch organic green onions, trimmed, and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 t sesame oil, divided
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 2 C mushrooms (I had shimeji mushrooms)
  • 2 C spinach leaves, rinsed at least three times
  • 1 C green peas
  • 1 C stock
  • 1 package rice noodles
  • 1 T fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 t gluten-free soy sauce

Procedure
Cook noodles according to package directions. Set aside.

In a large, flat-bottom pan, heat 1 t sesame oil and 1 t olive oil.  Cook the green onion and garlic until softened. Add in the mushrooms. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Add in the spinach and peas. Cook until the green of the peas brightens and the spinach just wilts.


Add in the drained, cooked noodles. Toss with 1 t sesame oil. Fold in fresh herbs and season with soy sauce. Serve warm.

*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.



Here's what everyone else read in January 2017: here.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

#Nourish2Flourish: Olive Oil-Poached Salmon Over Cauli-Rice Curry for #SundaySupper


This month, we catapulted into a new adventure. We are now a robotics team family; translation – our lives now revolve around a robotics team’s schedule. Our older son joined the robotics team at school. And, for six weeks, they have an absolutely grueling schedule. They plan, build, troubleshoot, and create a robot that will compete in a series of challenges. This means that for two days during the week, he stays at school until seven in the evening. On Saturdays he’ll be at school from nine in the morning till six at night.

Not only has this meant shuffling our schedules to align with pickup and dropoff logistics, but it has caused me to make some significant changes to my meal-planning. We sit at the table to eat, as a family, at least two times a day. Everyday. During the week, we share breakfasts and dinners. On the weekends, we sit down together at lunch as well. For us, mealtimes are social. Sitting around our table is when we talk about our days – either about what is going to happen or what did happen. We joke, we laugh, we share, we learn, and we teach. I can’t picture my days without that time together.

So, imagine the mental-shift required for me to feed R at the end of a robotics day. I don’t want to be eating at 8 o’clock at night, but I also don’t want to sacrifice nutrition. Enter Mann’s Nourish Bowls.* These are individual servings that provide a warm meal chockfull of fresh veggies that are ready in less than five minutes. Now, if I prep, my protein ahead of time, we can simply heat the Nourish Bowls in the microwave for three to four minutes and – voilà! – dinner is ready.

If you have dietary restrictions in your household – my husband is gluten-free, for example – Nourish Bowls are clearly labeled. You can easily see which ones are wheat-free, gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, and tree nut free. The Smokehouse Brussels contains no allergens at all!


The Nourish Bowls are available in five different, delectable options: Monterey Risotto, Smokehouse Brussels, Sesame Sriracha, Southwest Chipotle, and Cauli-Rice Curry. I have had the chance to try the latter two, Southwest Chipotle and Cauli-Rice Curry. Both were delicious and fresh. I can’t wait to get my hands on the other varieties!

The Sunday Supper Tastemakers Get Creative with Nourish Bowls
Plus meet Gina Nucci, aka Gina Broccolini, one of the third generation family owners of Mann Packing - the creators of Nourish Bowls - in a Sunday Supper Movement Interview

Olive Oil-Poached Salmon 
Over Cauli-Rice Curry

Today, I’m sharing a way to prep salmon ahead of time that stays moist even through reheating. It’s perfect to lay on top of a Nourish Bowl for a healthy, speedy dinner. I selected the Cauli-Rice Curry for my recipe because curry rice bowls are a family favorite. But with the Nourish Bowls, and a little advance planning, our “rice” bowls can be on the table in less than five minutes now…versus the thirty or so minutes it usually takes for me to cook rice.

Poaching fish—gently cooking in a liquid over low heat—is a classic French technique. Usually, the poaching liquid is water, wine, or a broth; but I love poaching in olive oil. The fish comes out of its olive oil bath with an incredibly silky texture that’s difficult to achieve with any other cooking method.


Ingredients serves 4
  • 2 Cauli-Rice Curry Nourish Bowls
  • 4 wild-caught salmon filets, approximately 6 ounces apiece
  • olive oil as needed
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • freshly squeezed juice from 1 organic lemon
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper


Procedure 
Select a large enough pot that the salmon filets can sit flat without touching each other.

Pour olive oil into the pot so that it’s about ½” deep. Add garlic and thyme. Bring the olive oil to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.


Lower the salmon filets – skin-side down – into the warm oil. Poach for 10 to 12 minutes.


Flip the filets and poach for another 5 to 6 minutes. If using immediately, serve warm. If using later, let salmon cool. Drizzle with lemon juice and refrigerate.


To serve, heat Nourish Bowls according to package directions.


Spoon warmed Nourish Bowls into individual serving bowls. Though the bowls contain a single portion, they are generous servings, so we split them in half.


Top with warmed olive oil-poached salmon. Sprinkle with freshly ground salt and freshly ground pepper, as needed. Serve immediately.


Up Close...
One of the perks about being local to this sponsor: I got to go on a tour of the factory and watch the Nourish Bowls being made.


One afternoon last week, I headed to Salinas and met with Gina Nucci, Director of Marketing. We talked for awhile about the company before heading over to the processing plant where I was able to see them packing up the Southwest Chipotle Nourish Bowls. 

That's when I realized that the bowls are more than just a quick meal; they are the embodiment of Mann's mission: Fresh Vegetables Made Easy™. Nucci told me about how she mixed the Southwest Chipotle Nourish Bowls into some browned ground turkey and used that as the filling for her homemade enchiladas.

Now, why didn't I think of that?! Thankfully some of the other Sunday Supper Tastemakers made that leap and are sharing how they used the washed, chopped, and sliced veggies to create quick healthy meals.

So, not only can I use the bowls as a quick meal when R gets back late from robotics, I can use the bowls as prepped veggies for other dishes. Veggies made easy, indeed. What a timesaver!

Getting Social and a Chance to Win
Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on Twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7 p.m. ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It's easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

There will be a Facebook live on the Sunday Supper page at 4 p.m. ET. on January 22nd where Family Foodie will be making one of her famous breakfast bowls using Nourish Bowls. At the end of the video, a winner will be selected from the comment section to win a prize pack from Nourish Bowls! Just visit the Sunday Supper Facebook page during that time.


You can find Mann’s Nourish bowls…
On the website

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Nourish Bowls in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC. All opinions are my own.

Wine & Fine Swine for Brian's 44th Birthday

Another year, another birthday dinner for one of my favorite carnivores: Brian. Tonight we feast! This menu was inspired by my share of a pasture-raised Berkshire pig from a small, artisanal purveyor in Aromas: Wayne’s Fine Swine.


After the party, either tonight or early next week, I'll add hyperlinks to the menu here. You'll just need to click on the title to go to the recipe post or the wine's tasting notes. Enjoy!

 Chimichurri Pork Meatballs
Crisps, Crème Fraîche, & Caviar
Paired with Patrick Bottex Bugey Cerdon La Cueille
  
Vietnamese Pan-Seared Pork Chops
Ling Ngau Tong (Pork, Lotus Root, Peanut Soup)
Balsamic Green Beans with Bacon
Paired with 2014 Abbatucci Valle Di Nero Rose
   
Vanilla-Fennel Lard Caramels
[I had to change my menu a bit as I couldn't find my candy thermometer. We served two ice creams from Revival Ice + Cream instead. Candy Cap and Beet. Yum!]
Paired with 2015 Pheasant's Tears Saperavi Republic of Georgia

And D has been learning to tie a tie, so he asked if we could make it a fancy party and ask everyone to wear ties. He was happy to tie extra ties in case they forgot! Here are the dapper dudes...

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Savoie Pairing: Soupe aux Cailloux + Gonnet Chignin #Winophiles


Here we are at the first 2017 event for The French Winophiles, a wine-swilling, food-loving group started by Christy of Confessions of a Culinary Diva and, now, jointly coordinated by Jill of L'occasion and Jeff of Food Wine Click. Here's Jill's full invitation for this month: here.

The French Winophiles are headed to Savoie which is a wine region on the eastern edge of central France.


What Everyone Else Poured...


 In My Glass...
Okay, so, here we are again at a wine event during my very restrictive Whole30 Adventure. Boo. But, since I went to all the trouble to track down a bottle of wine from the region before I committed to the Whole30, I decided that I would taste one teeny, tiny sip and not consider it a cheat.

This wine from Domain Gonnet is a single varietal, being made entirely from 40-year-old Jacquere vines. I loved learning that this vineyard uses sustainable growing practices. And the grapes for this wine are harvested by hand before being pressed and fermented in a stainless tank.

On the nose it's fresh with a hint of melon. And its crisp finish was a nice contrast with the heavier, hearty soup I made.


In My Bowl...
While I was researching traditional recipes from the area, I came across a recipe for Soupe aux Cailloux, or stone soup. I knew I had to make it because it's a book that my family loves and something we cooked several times when the boys were smaller.

Stone Soup is an folktale in which hungry out-of-towners manipulate the locals into sharing their food. In the version we have*, soldiers arrive to a village, carrying nothing more than a large, empty pot. The villagers, unwilling to feed strangers, have squirreled away their food. The soldiers fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire.

The curious villagers inquire as to what the soldiers are cooking. "Stone soup!" The soldiers say that it tastes wonderful, but it just needs a few things to improve the flavor. This conversation repeats as the soldiers trick the villagers into bringing out onions, carrots, cabbages, potatoes, and more.

Finally, the soup is done and the stones are removed. Everyone in the village feasts, including the soldiers. Though we've always just imagined the soup had stones in it, this time I actually put our whiskey stones in it...just for fun!


Ingredients
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 leek, trimmed and diced
  • 1 bunch of celery, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • 4 carrots, cut into coins
  • 2 pounds pork (I used boneless ribs)
  • 1 green cabbage, cored and sliced into wedges
  • 1 large potato, scrubbed and cubed
  • 4 to 5 C stock (I used homemade vegetable stock)
  • 1/2 C fresh herbs (I used a mixture of parsley, oregano, and thyme)
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • stones! (just for fun)*

Procedure
In a Dutch oven or large souppot, heat the olive oil. Add the shallots and leeks. Cook until they begin to turn translucent and start to caramelize. Add in the pork and brown on all sides. Remember: The more you sear the edges, the more flavor you get!


Add the celery, fennel, and carrots to the pot.


Add in the cabbage wedges and potato cubes. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The pork should be tender and falling apart. Stir in the herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with stones, if using. Just be sure to remind diners that those are not edible.


Next month, we'll be exploring the foods and wines of Corsica. Join us!

*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, but it helps support my culinary adventures in a small way. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

   

All-In Chicken Soup #SoupSwappers


This month, Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm kicks off her new group: Soup Saturday Swappers. And our January theme is Healthy Soup Options. Sounds like the perfect way to start off the year.

Wendy wrote: "Since so many of us resolve each year to start living a more healthy lifestyle, let's help each other meet our goal by posting our favorite, healthy soup recipe. Perhaps it is a lightened version of a classice favorite or a creamy soup that contains no cream or a hearty soup chock full of vegetables. Whatever it is that helps you in your goal to eat nutritously, healthily and deliciously."

I'm not sure how I want to consider this healthy. I think it qualifies in a multitude of ways: (1) I can identify and pronounce all of the ingredients - unlike some canned soups; (2) it includes a ton of veggies; (3) there is no added salt; (4) there is no added oil; and (5) when we eat it, we just feel healthier. It's my go-to soup for when my family is under the weather. A steaming bowl of this on the table makes us all smile.

I'm calling it my 'All-In' Chicken Soup because I just added all of the veggies in my bin. And for those who are following my blog and know that I'm currently on a Whole30 Adventure, note that this is not compliant. I made this for the household before I kicked off the Whole30. So, if you are following Whole30, just skip the rice and add in cubed potatoes instead!

Ingredients

  • 1 whole organic chicken
  • water
  • 2 C diced organic celery
  • 1 C diced organic white onion
  • 2 C diced organic carrots
  • 2 C thinly sliced organic chard
  • 2 C thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1/2 C fresh herbs (I used parsley, thyme, and oregano)
  • 2 C rice (I used Thai jasmine rice)
  • lemon wedges for serving

Procedure
Place chicken in a large souppot. Fill the pot with water, making sure that the chicken is covered by, at least, 2" of water. Bring the water to a boil. Cover and cook for an hour. Add in the celery, onions, and carrots. Cook for another 30 minutes. By this point, the chicken meat should be tender and falling off the bone. Gently remove the chicken from the pot and place in a colander over a bowl.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones. Separate the meat from the bones and shred into bite-sized pieces. Reserve the bones. I use the bones again to make another stock for soup!

Place the rice in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender, approximately 30 minutes. Stir in the chicken, mushrooms, and chard. Cook until the chard is just wilted. Fold in the herbs. Ladle into individual serving bowls. Serve hot with a lemon wedge.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Improv Cooking Challenge: {Gluten-Free} Candied Lemon Cake with Rosemary


Welcome to the first ImprovCooking Challenge of 2017. This group is now headed up by Nichole of Cookaholic Wife.

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: lemon and rosemary. Those are two of my favorites and I longed to put them together in a savory dish. But time got away from me this month and my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf pitched in to make this while he was with my parents after school.

This is one of our favorite cakes. He makes it without limoncello to keep it kid-friendly. And he used gluten-free flour so Daddy could have some, too. Thanks, Little One!

Jake did pour himself some homemade limoncello to go alongside. I had to avoid both the cake and the liqueur since I'm on this Whole30 Adventure.


{Gluten-Free} Candied Lemon Cake with Rosemary
Ingredients
Candied Lemon

  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 C water
  • 1 C thinly sliced organic lemons

Cake

  • 1/2 C ground almonds or almond flour
  • 1-1/2 C gluten-free all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • juice and zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 T fresh, chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 t pure lemon extract
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 2/3 C + 3 T organic milk
  • Also needed: parchment paper and butter for greasing dish and paper

The Glaze and Garnish

  • 1 C organic powdered sugar
  • 1 T pure lemon extract
  • 2 T cold water
  • fresh, organic rosemary sprigs
Procedure

Candied Lemon
Place the water and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Lay the slices in the syrup so that they are all flat and all submerged. Simmer until the rind is softened and translucent in places. Approximately 5-7 minutes. Remove from the syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Cake
Preheat 350 degrees F. Butter a baking dish, line with parchment, and butter the parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until lightened in color and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Pour in the milk, lemon juice, and lemon extract. Fold in the ground almonds, gluten-free flour, baking powder, rosemary, and lemon zest. Stir with a spatula until just moistened.

Spoon into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes in pan, then invert onto a wire rack. Let cool while you make the glaze.


The Glaze and Garnish
Whisk all of the ingredients, except the rosemary, together until they form a glaze. Pour over the cooled cake.
 

Decorate with candied lemon slices.
 

And garnish with fresh, organic rosemary twigs.

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