If weeks had titles, the past one would be called Best Day Ever Week. Do you experience those? Each day gets better and better. Not so often? I get that. Me, too. I have droughts. So when seven great days in a row land in your lap, it’s okay to whoop and holler and buy a new shade of lipstick. I’m all over coral-poppy tones this Spring/Summer.
We’re up and out to Vintage Paso: a celebration of the ‘Zins and Wild Wines of Paso Robles.’
The highlight of a week filled with a pontoon boat harbor cruise on Morro Bay, daily hikes and birding, exploring Cal Poly, the public university in nearby San Luis Obispo, and walking to San Simeon, was Vintage Paso. It’s a weekend when 140 local wineries open their gates to celebrate ‘Zinfandel and the other Wild Wines of Paso Robles.‘ Like last year, my friends from southern California, John and Susan Lester, who blog at Create Amazing Meals, were joining me. If you recall, the Lesters and I connected three years ago through French Fridays with Dorie.
Everyone has their station and duties. I admit it. John did the heavy lifting for this meal.
Carottes Râpées, a recipe of Dorie Greenspan’s, is finished and table-ready.
I visited them in February when we not only went to the Channel Islands but also made Saturday night’s meal together. Admittedly, I plead guilty to couple envy as I watched them navigate through their kitchen chores. More fun than cooking alone, I assure you. Hey, let’s do that again. Saturday night dinner at chez Hirsch. Susan and John were game. This time it was my turn to plan the menu, get the ingredients on board, set the table and organize the evening.
Step Aside, David Lebovitz.
We forced ourselves to drink more wine. This is a Mourvedre-based dry rosé called Dianthus 2014 by Tablas Creek Vineyard.
Although this is a weekend told more beautifully through pictures, you first need the menu. Last April I received my preordered copy of David Lebovitz’s “My Paris Kitchen.” Like so many others, it occupied my kitchen cookbook shelf of neglect. So I packed it for my winter in Cambria. When I recently read that author Kate Christensen called Lebovitz’s 100 recipes ‘swoon-and-drool-worthy.’ I decided it was time to give that book some food love.
Dessert: Mrs. Lester’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. She shared the recipe with me. I’ll share it with you.
That’s why we cooked-the-cover, Poulet à la Moutarde, chicken with mustard. To accompany this magnificent one-pan entrée, we made Dorie’s classic Carottes Râpées, a grated carrot salad tossed with raisins and walnuts. (Both recipes are printed below.) We’ll credit the tasty pommes frites and warm French baguettes to Monsieur Trader Joe. During our day’s wineries journey we chose a Tablas Creek French-style Rosé. John, the expert on such matters, ‘thought its flavor would hold up against the mustard background flavor of the sauce as well as the smoked bacon.’ (He was right.) For the perfect dessert Susan surprised this cookie monster with her famous chocolate chip cookies.
The verdict? We swooned. We drooled. We relished each unbelievably tender and flavorful morsel. The Carottes Râpées, a perfect choice. The pommes frites, of course. Warm baguette slices soaked with sauce, messy. The chocolate chip cookies, as delicious as they look. We were very pleased with ourselves, having pulled off this ambitious evening meal. (Remembering we’d been tasting wine all day.) A merci mille fois to the talented Dorie Greenspan and David Lebovitz who helped make it happen.
On our Sunday morning antiquing junket, I scored a food styling and entertaining prop, an old copper escargot/egg poaching pan. Susan and John found antique glassware.
Saying our goodbyes until next Winter.
POULET à la MOUTARDE by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
8 pieces bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and legs
1 cup diced smoked thick-cut bacon
1 small onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
Olive oil (optional)
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon mustard seeds or grainy mustard
2 to 3 tablespoons crème fraîche or heavy cream
Warm water (optional)
Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
1. Mix 1/2 cup of the Dijon mustard in a bowl with the paprika, a few generous grinds of pepper and the salt. Toss the chicken pieces in the mustard mixture, lifting the skin and rubbing some of the mixture underneath.
2. Heat a large, wide skillet with a cover, or a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until it is cooked through and just starting to brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon pieces from the pan and drain on paper towels. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet.
3. Add the onion and stir to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times, until the onion is softened and mostly translucent. Stir in the thyme; cook for a few minutes, until fragrant, then scrape the cooked onion into a large bowl.
4. Add a little olive oil to the pan, if necessary. Place the chicken pieces in the pan in a single layer. If they don’t fit, work in two batches. Cook over medium-high heat, ,browning them well on one side. Flip them over and brown them on the other side. Cook until nicely browned, could be 20 minutes or so.
5. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the onion. Add the wine to the hot pan. Use a sturdy, flat utensil to dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Return ALL the chicken pieces to the pan along with the onion mixture and bacon. Cover and cook over low to medium heat turning the chicken pieces over a few times during cooking, about 15 minutes. To check for doneness, insert the sharp tip of a knife into the meat next to the thigh bone; if the meat is still pink, cook for a few more minutes.
6. When the chicken is thoroughly cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, the mustard seeds and the crème fraîche or heavy cream to form a sauce. If it seems too thick, you can thin it with a little warm water. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the top. Serve.
CAROTTES RÂPÉES by Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table
1 pound carrots, peeled and trimmed
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard 1 Tablespoon honey 1/4 cup cider vinegar 1/2 cup of mild oil, canola or grapeseed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Moist, plump currants or raisins Coarsely chopped walnuts Chopped fresh parsley,
1. Grate the carrots, using a box grater or food processor. Drain any excess moisture from the grated carrots.
2. In a small jar or processor or bowl and whisk, mix the mustard, honey, cider vinegar and oil together. Season with salt and pepper. Whir or shake until blended into a thick, smooth vinaigrette.
3. Toss the carrots with currants or raisins and nuts.
4. Just before serving, pour on the dressing and toss well. Adjust the salt and pepper, if needed. Add the parsley.
This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India. Très confus? Dorie admits this is neither French bistro fare nor authentically Indian. It’s a Greenspan concoction. While walking through a Parisian Indian neighborhood she spotted and bought several tiny sachets of mixed spices. Adding them to a rather conventional root vegetable and barley potage kicked its flavoring out of France and up a notch.
Author Brigit Binns, who has written 28 cookbooks, welcomes us to her first cooking class of the season.
The veggies are predictable: onions; carrots; and, parsnips. The spices are not: garlic; fresh ginger; turmeric; red pepper flakes; and, Garam Marsala (coriander, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, kalonji, caraway, cloves, ginger and nutmeg). Chicken broth and pearl barley complete it. The recipe for this heart-healthy dish is included in this recent ChicagoTribune article, Cook Along with French Fridays, giving we Doristas our 15 minutes of fame.
Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India
The Two Cheese Mavens: Lindsay Dodson-Brown of Justin Vineyards & Winery (L) and Alexis Negranti of Negranti Creamery (R) prepare for class.
Last weekend I attended author Brigit Binn’s first cooking class of the season at Refugio, her home in Paso Robles. Binns‘ twenty-eighth cookbook, The New Wine Country Cookbook, Recipes from California’s Central Coast, has been my tour guide and culinary bible since arriving here in January. I barely made the cut of the chosen twelve but for two whining e-mails to Brigit and a last minute cancellation. Who says begging isn’t helpful?
The most difficult thing about making ricotta cheese in an outdoor kitchen on a windy day is to keep the burner’s flame lit. Brigit and her husband, Casey, try to block the wind!
Everyone in the class got to play.
The class was entitled Two Cheese Mavens. Lindsay Dodson-Brown of Justin Vineyards & Winery and Alexis Negranti who owns Negranti Creamery helped us make mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. But this was a teaching lesson with sideshows. While we were making cheese, Binns and her husband, Casey, were creating delicious, homemade flatbreads dressed in tasty toppings, roasted baby artichokes and those olives, all made in their wood-burning outdoor oven. Butler poured her 2013 Rosé as well as a 2012 Viognier, and a 2010 Carignan. (More about Winemaker Butler next week.) Do you understand why I humbled myself and groveled?
This flatbread is the best I’ve ever tasted. Briget shared the dough recipe so I will share also if you contact me.
Casey made his scrumptious olives in their outdoor oven. Mine tasted almost as delicious with my conventional one. Just as tasty the next day, served cold. Quoting from page 274 of Binn’s cookbook: “Toss brine-cured or oil-cured olives with a little olive oil, scatter with some springs of fresh thyme and rosemary, and a little lemon or orange zest. Roast in a shallow pan for 10 to 15 minutes at 425 degrees until the olives are shriveled, aromatic and slightly crisp.” [Between this recipe and Dorie Greenspan’s Herbed Olives, avoid the high-priced olive bars and turn plain, inexpensive olives into Fancy Nancys – Mary]
Casey’s Olives, roasted in the outdoor oven
My olives (a different kind) with herbs, olive oil and seasoning, ready for my 425 degree oven
The cauliflower in my farmer’s market is gorgeous so I couldn’t resist this purchase. I recently found a recipe by Chef Chad Colby for Sauteed Cauliflower Wedges with Bagna Cauda on this blog. Since I’d never made the Italian dipping sauce, Bagna Cauda, before, it was worth a try. Yummy. More about Bagna Cauda-Love in a later Post.
Sauteed Cauliflower Wedges with Bagna Cauda
About my dessert. First, you milk a ewe. Now I didn’t have to do that because Alexis Negranti and her husband, Wade, already had. Negranti, who taught us how to make mozzarella, also chit-chatted about her passion, creating different flavors of sheep milk ice cream – Chocolate, Black Coffee, Raw Honey, Salted Brown Sugar, Pumpkin, Fresh Mint – using fresh produce from local farmers. There’s much to tout about this dish of deliciousness but, for now, be satisfied that its fat content is less than 8%. As I mentioned, this was a feast…with leftovers.
Blueberry and Cinnamon Swirl Sheep Milk Ice Cream. Killer. I’m a convert.
Start with a thawed sheet of puff pastry. After flouring your work area and rolling the pastry to a 13-inch square, take a 6-inch wide plate and, using a sharp knife, cut out four circles. Lay these on a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick with a fork. Lay more parchment on top and then plop another baking sheet over them. Sorta has a crushing affect on the unsuspecting pastry.
For the next fifteen minutes, while the pastry is baking and not puffing at 400 degrees, you mix together the caramel onion-bacon layer (my favorite part of this recipe). Divide this mixture among the four crusts and arrange scallops, sliced into thirds, over it. Drizzle olive oil over the top before seasoning with salt and pepper.
Dorie recommends baking these tarts at 400 degrees for 3 to 4 minutes. Being cautious, I baked mine longer which resulted in my pastry base becoming a tad too brown. In hindsight, I would have seared my scallops first. Still, tasty and unique as an appetizer or lunch (with a salad).
You might note that I suggested no wine choice for this menu. Last weekend I attended Vintage Paso: Zinfandeland Other Wild Wines, a 3-day touring blitz of our wine area. Readers, you know I’m a trooper, but after devoting one full day to this festival, I was done. That’s why you’re on your own for this week’s beverage.
The festival was educational, tasty and hilarious. My friends, John and Susan Lester, who live in southern Cali and blog at Create Amazing Meals joined me for the weekend. We’d known each other virtually for two years and met inreality last year. John is especially knowledgeable about wines, they visit this wine country frequently and were perfect companions and guests.Pictures and just a few words, tell our story best.
We’ve had our coffee. Susan and I, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, are ready to roll. Last week we plotted our zinful itinerary and plan to visit five wineries today.
Our first stop was Peachy Canyon Winery. This was supposed to be our fifth stop but, unfortunately, John missed a turn. Which meant that Susan and I both grabbed maps, assisted with directions all day and drove John, well, to drink!
Memo to my Colorado brother who is casually concerned about my wine adventures this winter: a Lester purchase.
Winery #2, Tablas Creek. With our tastings we enjoyed small bites, shrimp on sweet corn polenta cake and a beef slider on a sourdough crostini.
Winery #3, Halter Ranch, my favorite, where we had our wine and paella in the ranch’s original barn. Susan and I are at the tasting-less-and-eating-more stage.
Winery #4, Adelaida Cellars. It’s 82 degrees, I’ve had it. Susan and I sit at a picnic table while John happily disappears.
Winery #5, Opolo Vineyards. Whoopee. We head to the barbecue tent for roasted lamb, carne asada tacos, beans and all the fixings. We girls rally. Friends forever.
We assemble the wine on the dining room table and take the pledge, “What happens in Cambria, stays in Cambria.”
After dinner at my neighborhood Sea Chest restaurant, we settled in for an evening of Gin Rummy and a Port tutorial. Since I had never tasted Port, John bought me a bottle at Adelaida Cellars. A very smooth evening.
A tartine, if you are not acquainted with the term, is what the French call an open-faced sandwich with a sweet or savory topping. These spreads can be exotic or simple. At one of my favorite food blogs, theKitchn, is posted ten of their favorites, from Ricotta, Fig and Honey to Egg, Arugula and Herb to plain old Roasted Tomato Tartine.
Have I piqued your interest?
What’s for lunch? Hallelujah-It’s-Healthy Tartine, Lemon Basil-Mint Lemonade, & Raw Brownies
This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe choice is Hallelujah-It’s-A-Healthy Tartine. To be truthful, that’s really not what Dorie chose to call this wonderfully delicious idea for a lunch or snack. In France this recipe is called Tartine Régime. Sounds sexy, right? It translates into English as Dieter’s Tartine. Thud.
So sorry, Dorie, I changed its name. Let’s move on.
First, you vigorously mix together a topping of cottage cheese and sour cream. Generously spread it on a large, toasted piece of country bread. Toss seedless cucumbers, peeled and diced, together with a small tomato, peeled, seeded and diced. Put on top of the spread. Add a dash of Herbes de Provence and fresh chives or basil. Voilà. Quick and Easy.
The ingredients are all prepped and waiting for their slab of toasted country bread to appear.
Because I wanted this lunch to be all about eating healthy, I chose Deborah Madison’s Lemon Basil-Mint Lemonade over a French Rosé for my drink. Although Madison’s new cookbook, Vegetable Literacy, has carried the edible plant kingdom into my kitchen with surprisingly tasty results, I was skeptical about this lemonade business. Why do I ever doubt Deborah or Dorie? It’s not-for-nothing that they publish successful cookbooks. Try this lemonade, Readers, you’ll love it.
a healthy and delicious tartine – American style
For dessert I made Raw Brownies, a recipe my friend, Susan Phillips, adapted from Sarah Britton, an innovative Danish chef who blogs at My New Roots. Susan first shared these with me, saying, “These brownies will change your life.”
In a word, Addictive.
It takes only five ingredients – walnuts, cocoa powder, Medjool dates, almonds and salt – tossed together in a food processor plus a little freezer/refrigerator time to make these beauties. My tip? After pressing the crumbly mixture into a dish lined with waxed paper, refrigerate until cold enough to cut into squares. Then, toss them into a baggie and throw into the freezer to eat when tempted. Although Britton suggests topping them with cinnamon, I don’t bother. A caveat……substitute cocoa powder for raw cacao (in Britton’s recipe) in the same proportions.
Brownies: Healthy – Delicious – Raw (no sugar or eggs)
I’ve started taking these healthy treats on hikes for snacks/ dessert and have found it’s increased my popularity as a hiking partner. Although I’m not yet the hiker I aspire to be, slower than my friends, I bring yummy treats. That counts for something.
To see if my colleagues liked this diet fare (healthy choice) as much as I did, go here. And, please let me know if you try any of this week’s recipes. I’m really excited about this lunch combo and was happy to be able to share all the recipes with you.
This is not a Snap about Port. Perhaps, it should be. At a restaurant recently, I watched a woman swig down two goblets of this sweet red wine, served on the rocks, before receiving her entrée. Although I realize Port is “just not for dessert anymore”, she was clearly not needing to Snap-Out-0f-Anything by the time I finished my dinner and left.
PORT, THE PRIDE OF PORTUGAL, PHOTO BY IMAGE SOURCE PHOTOS
Nor is this a prompt about obtaining an American Passport for international travel. Not that it isn’t a good idea. According to the State Department, the number of Americans who have passports, as of January 2011, is 114,464,041. Since we’re a country of more than 300 million people, that translates to one out of every three Americans who can travel abroad. In other words, 2 out of 3 of us can’t even travel to-and-from Canada!
BUY LOCAL – See the USA
We all love Dora the Explorer, graphicshunt.com
If international travel isn’t an interest, or, even if it is, here’s an idea that should appeal to the Dora Explorer in all of us.
Last month I visited the historic Piedras Blancas Lighthouse with my friends, Walt and Shirley Lowe. Located near Hearst Castle on the central California coast, this lighthouse was critically important during the California Boom era when tall ships and cargo vessels were trying to navigate the dangerous hidden shoals and submerged rocks of the craggy coastline. Today, about 30 lighthouses, now obsolete, survive here, perched majestically along the Pacific coast. At least twelve are open to the public.
Piendra Blancas Lighthouse, circa mid-1800s, St. Simeon, Ca., Photo by lighthousefriends.com
As we were leaving, what had been a fabulous tour, Shirley remarked to Walt, “Oh, we have to get our stamp.”
The Lowes explained that the US Lighthouse Society sponsors a Passport Program. The passport, with its blue vinyl cover is a look-alike of the official US passport and is used by lighthouse aficionados as they travel throughout the country. When you visit a participating lighthouse (there are 60 of them) you have your passport stamped with a custom-designed work of art. Each stamp is different.
At the gift shop, Shirley asked “to be stamped”. The volunteer obliged. Plop went the newly-inked stamp. Done.
Not one to enjoy being caught flat-footed, I wanted to know more about this passport business.
“Why, yes,” another friend, chimed in, “I’ve had a Passport for the National Parks for years.”
US National Parks Cancellation Station, Government Photo
According to the US Parks’ website, the Passport® to Your National Parks, launched in 1986, includes not only blank pages for stamps but also color-coded maps, pre-visit information, illustrations and photographs. It also includes a free map and guide to the national park system.
Even Elderhostel (now called Road Scholars) issues participants a passport so they can track their program attendance. Although they distribute actual lick-and-smack-down stamps for each program, the idea is the same. The late Glenn Schwartz had 96 Elderhostel stamps in his book, leaving a treasured memory for his family. Schwartz, who was an engineer, travelled near and far, from the Boundary Waters, in his home state of Minnesota, to as far away as Antarctica.
Which got me to thinking………
I am on a mission to see all the Presidential Libraries, all 13 of them. Presidential Libraries are not really libraries but rather archives and museums, bringing together in one place the documents and artifacts of a President and his administration. To date I have visited the libraries of Herbert Hoover (West Branch, Iowa) and Harry Truman (Independence, Missouri). These treasures are fascinating and, in my opinion, one of America’s uncrowned glories.
Wondering if there was a passport for my quest, I pulled up the National Archives web site. Holy Tippecanoe and Tyler Too! In June 2011 the National Archives began issuing it’s own “Passport to Presidential Libraries,” that visitors can carry with them on their travels to Presidential Libraries across the nation.
I’m on it!
Anyone interested in a long week-end in Texas next Fall? I can knock off three libraries in one visit. Or, California, two? Better yet, join me as I swing through the South? My route includes four.
Have map and “Passport to Presidential Libraries”. Will travel.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Photo by eventective.com
Stocks are down. Spirits are rocky. Temperatures and tempers are soaring.
There’s a nearby neighbor who is struggling more than you.
So, savor this last month of Summer by offering friends and neighbors your very own Signature Drink. Create it. Invent it. Copy it off a Food Blog or Recipe Site. Tweak it. Name it. (Mine is called “My Sip of Summer”). The rule is, if you serve it, you own it!
My August is all about Watermelon Lemonade (with or without Vodka).
This recipe was in the June 2005 Issue of Oprah’s Magazine. Is there a better way to honor the end of the “Oprah” ?
In a mixer, blender, or the bowl of a food processor, place watermelon and process until very smooth. If you don’t want pulp, strain through a coarse sieve set over a bowl, stirring to push through any pulp. Pour juice into a large pitcher. Add lemon zest.
In a bowl, whisk lemon juice and honey until honey dissolves; stir into watermelon juice. Stir in 1 1/2 cups cold water; cover and refrigerate until very cold. Serve over ice and garnish with lemon slices, adding vodka, if desired.