Monday, November 30, 2009

Aunt Sharron’s Visit

Aunt Sharron arrived today, hidden behind two massive white teddy bears.  Each bear transported a special hug from Great Grandma Lorine, down south in Portland. 

Before leaving Portland Aunt S. cashed in on a buck-a-bag close out of seasonal, locally grown produce and this week’s challenge is to eat it all.  So far, we’re thinking of apple pie filling and butternut squash soup. The kiwi fruit are from my grandma’s backyard and the basket in the last picture is filled with a vast selection of teas from Firefox teas in Portland, including my favorite Wuyi blend (especially fine with a piece of Cost Plus Dark Chocolate with sea salt).  They’re a neat young couple making their business work and they’re always great, according to Aunt Sharron.  We’ll be making our way to Churchmouse yarn and tea room here on the island so I can return her generosity and send her home with Bainbridge’s best.

Veni has suggested Food Friday Challenge where we cook only with supplies on hand.  I love this idea with Aunt Sharon our guest cook and am looking forward to emptying out the freezer and pantry. 

How about I post a list of my ingredients and you all can tell me what to make?

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Must go, have lots of sewing, cooking, chatting and tea drinking to attend to. Cheers!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wine Society: Crab Cakes with Cilantro Lime Sauce and Parmesan Herbed Shortbread

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Hope all had a happy Thanksgiving.  My favorite part is when we go around the table and say what we’re thankful for.  This year (again!) I am thankful for my family; my loving husband and children, and good health enjoyed by all.

The holidays have a way of distorting time.  It seems ages ago that we had wine society but really, it was just last weekend and I continue the recipes for the fabulous meal we enjoyed at Victor Alexander’s tasting room.

That memorable meal started with crab cakes.  Moist and delicious, bursting with crab and sautéed veggies with just a hint of Old Bay seasoning.  The big taste twist came with the lime cilantro ginger sauce.  Sweet, then hot , then a cool burst of ginger;  layers of flavor, easy to make and versatile.  I used the leftovers for a sparkling cocktail I’ve yet to name.

This course was served with VA Semillon a light and fruity wine and parmesan herb shortbread.  Buttery, flecked with fresh herbs with a satisfying squeak against your teeth crunch.  These would go well with just about anything and a great replacement for cheese straws which often make their way to holiday tables (and cost a lot).wine society nov 059

This weekend kicks off the holidays.  We’ll hang our wreaths and set up the snowy village with the live ice skaters that E can’t keep her hands off.  We’ll take advantage of this lovely weather to wrap our outdoor trees in white lights.  Tomorrow we’ll bundle up for the tree lighting ceremony at city hall and sip hot chocolate at the newly remodeled Pegasus coffee house.  Before we head home for bed, we’ll stroll the boardwalk looking for boats adorned in holiday lights.  Bring on the canned holiday jingles!

But hey!  Before I forget… shop the Indie Banditas Bazaar today and tomorrow at Woodward Middle School.  I’ve vowed to make or buy local as many gifts as possible and the indie bazaar is a great place to start. 


Crab cakes

From:  Barefoot Contessa

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

¾ cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)

1 ½ cup small-diced celery (4 stalks)

½ cup small-diced red bell pepper (1 small pepper)

½ cup small-diced yellow bell pepper (1 small pepper)

½ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon capers, drained

¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ pound lump crabmeat

½ cup plain dry bread crumbs

½ cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

Place the 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, capers, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay Seasoning, salt, and pepper in a large sauté pan over med-low heat and cook until the veggies are soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, break the lump crabmeat into small pieces and toss with the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. Add the cooked mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Shape into bite-sized crab cakes.

Heat the butter and olive oil for frying over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the crab cakes and fry for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels; keep them warm in a 250-degree oven and serve hot.

Parmesan & Thyme Crackers

From: Barefoot Contessa by Ina Garten

¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, add the Parmesan, thyme, salt, and pepper and combine. With the mixer still on low, add the flour and combine until the mixture is in large crumbles, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, add 1 teaspoon water.

Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 9-inch log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the log into 3/8-inch-thick rounds with a small, sharp knife and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes, until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wine Society at Victor Alexander Winery: Polenta Cakes with Parmesan and Cream Cheese

Normally I’m not a fan of polenta but I wanted our vegetarian society member to have something pretty and tasty on her plate when we served the pork tenderloin.

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Now, until I made this polenta I thought you vegetarians were way healthier than us meat eaters.  I also thought you were missing out on some really good stuff (fat, for one)…however, once you sauté shallots in butter, add three different cheese and fry the whole thing in peanut oil you’ve stepped way off the calorie high road and boarded the express bus to trans fat heaven with the rest of us, happy to be onboard I say because these crispy cakes are worth the sit-ups and power walks to come.  So good in fact, that I narrowly talked myself out of making more of them today. 

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Fresh from the hot oil these have a cracker thin exterior that once breached yields a gooey cheese-fortified interior that literally melts in your mouth.  If you’ve never liked polenta give this recipe a try and you’ll change your mind.  For the meat eaters we placed it beneath the pistachio crusted pork tenderloin where it could soak up the pomegranate port reduction.  Tasty and pretty darn impressive looking.

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Polenta Cakes with Cream Cheese and Parmesan

Adapted from: Master Chef José Gutierrez

1 cup stone ground polenta

¾ cup shallots, diced

2-1/2 cups vegetable stock

½ cup Mozzarella cheese. grated

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup flour

2 teaspoons peanut oil

Preheat oven to 350º F. In a medium pan, sauté shallots in butter until translucent. Add polenta, mix well. Add stock and bring to a boil. Mix with spatula, cover, and bake in oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and add cheeses and salt. Pour into a small sheet pan about 3/4 of an inch thick. Place in refrigerator and chill until firm. Cut into small squares. Roll in flour. Heat peanut oil in frying pan, place cakes in hot oil until golden brown.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wine Society: Pistachio Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate Port Reduction

Looking for an alternative to turkey this Thanksgiving?  Try this simple and elegant pork tenderloin recipe:

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There’s so much that I like about this dish.  First off, I love how we got sweet and savory, salty and crunchy, fresh and fried all on one plate.  And, I swoon over Daniela’s port sauce swirl; that girl has a way with a squirt bottle.  


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The polenta cake, which is coming in tomorrow’s blog ,was the perfect foil for the tenderloin and the Pomegranate Port reduction is just too divine.

I was in charge of sauces for this event.  By the time I got to this one, I’d destroyed three different dips for the crab cakes and was doing some deep breathing on the kitchen floor.  I’d cursed my way through Ina, Mr Napa Style and an aioli that blinded my taste buds with so much lime I couldn’t taste anything else for an hour.  Thoroughly fed up with recipes not working, I vowed to create my own port reduction that would be good and tasty and just right. I’ve credited chef Gutierrez but the genius is in the brown sugar and the pomegranate flavor, both my additions.  I’ll never make another port reduction recipe again.  This one is a keeper.

A word about the wine.  If you haven't been to the Victor Alexander tasting room then you’re missing out on some very nice wines and an even nicer wine maker.  This is Charlie Merrill’s first vintage and he’s on the right track.  The wine society attended the Islandwood wine dinner back in August and when the VA Sangiovese came along all sat up a bit straighter and paid some attention.  Much more sophisticated than any freshman has a right to be, the Sangiovese paired beautifully with this dish, not one bit intimidated by the sweet and savory, salty and crunchy, fresh and fried all on one plate. 

Stop in to 120 Madrone Lane, Suite 100 and enjoy the art, say hello to Charlie and taste some wine.  You’ll be glad you did.


Pistachio Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Pork Tenderloin, marinated.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 cup pistachios, finely chopped

About an hour before cooking, remove tenderloin from the fridge and let come to room temperature.   Before cooking rinse the meat under running water to remove any excess marinade.  (Most marinades contain some sugar and if you try to sear the meat without rinsing you’ll end up with black soot in your pan.)  Heat olive oil in a frying pan then sear the meat on all sides.  Save the pan for the Pomegranate Port Reduction.

Place meat on a broiler pan in a 450 degree oven and cook for five minutes then reduce to 280 degrees and cook until meat thermometer registers 170 degrees.  Remove from oven and tent with foil.  When the meat has rested for five minutes; coat with mustard then roll in chopped pistachios.  Slice and serve immediately.

Here’s a tutorial on coating the meat with pistachios:

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Pomegranate Port Reduction Sauce

Adapted from Master Chef José Gutierrez.

2 tablespoons butter, divided

½ cup onions or shallots

1 teaspoon flour

1 cup red wine

1 cup tawny port

1 teaspoon fresh thyme sprigs

¼ cup pomegranate seeds or 1 tsp pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon brown sugar

In the sauté pan pork was cooked in, add 1 tbsp. butter, melt and cook onions until translucent. Add flour and cook over low heat for 4-5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the wines and bring to a boil. Flambé! The reason to flambé is to remove bitterness from wine. Add thyme and pomegranate seeds and simmer. When the sauce is the desired consistency (8-10 minutes) remove from heat and whisk in remaining tbsp. butter. Strain, making sure to press the onion-seed mixture to get every last drop.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wine Society at Victor Alexander Winery

Saturday night was the third meeting of the Bainbridge Island Wine Society. Five courses paired with three great wines; ten friends and a jovial wine maker. 

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The Menu:


Paired with Victor Alexander Semillon

Fresh Dungeness crab cakes with lime cilantro dipping sauce and parmesan herb shortbread

Crisp local greens with pomegranate shallot dressing


Cheese Interlude: 

Paired with Victor Alexander Pinot Noir

Triple cream Brie, herbed goat cheese, Camembert and Comte cheeses with a variety of breads and crackers served with smoked salmon pâté


Main Course

Paired with Victor Alexander Sangiovese

Pistachio crusted pork tenderloin on a crisp parmesan and cream cheese polenta cake with a pomegranate port reduction. 



Paired with Victor Alexander Sangiovese

Pomegranate truffles


I’ll be posting recipes all week…stay tuned.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Food Friday Brunch: Cranberry Orange Muffins and Holiday Spritzers

Food Friday!  Today we’re prepping the small bites for Saturday’s wine society meeting.  Charlie Merrill at Victor Alexander Winery here on Bainbridge Island will host us in his elegant tasting room at 120 Madrone Lane.  He’s got three great wines and we’ve paired them with everything from pomegranates to seafood to truffles.  I’ll give you all the details next week because today’s post is about breakfast.
cranberry muffins and spritzer 068 Last weekend while being master of the clam universe, I stopped in at the Gray’s Harbor Public Market and bought some cranberries fresh from the bogs.   Littered with stems and imperfectly shaped these glossy orbs were as fresh and wild as they come and I knew I’d be making muffins soon.
Food Friday starts early today so Hollind can get a front row seat at A’s poetry recital this afternoon.  I can’t find a way to justify drinking wine at 9am so we're testing brunch drinks instead; a scrumptious tonic that combines rosemary infused simple syrup, cranberry and orange juices and club soda.  The perfect fizzy, refreshing start to Food Friday. 
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I’m a morning gal and I love to bake so you’d think I’d have muffins down pat.  I don't, but I took a cooking class at Greystone the imposingly..uh …grey stone Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley where I learned to never over mix muffins.  It makes them dense and dry; you want to stop stirring  (do not even think about using a mixer!) while tiny streaks of flour are still visible. 
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I made these in mini and large sizes.  I sprinkled the minis with large crystal of sugar and glazed the others. 

Cranberry Orange Muffins

1 cup fresh cranberries
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup orange juice
zest from one orange (about one tablespoon)
sugar for sprinkling
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice

Chop washed berries in the food processor. (don’t get carried away and puree them).  Set aside.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk well, add the chopped cranberries and whisk again.
In a separate, larger bowl whisk remaining ingredients.  Pour dry ingredients on top of wet ones and stir until ingredients are barely incorporated. 
Grease muffin tins well or use paper liners.  Fill 2/3 full.  You can sprinkle with sugar now or glaze them after baking.  Bake at 400 until toothpick inserted in center comes clean.  about 8 minutes for mini muffins and about 17 for the larger ones.
To make the glaze combine sugar and orange juice in saucepan and heat, stirring constantly until boiling.  Reduce heat and simmer for a few until you get the desired consistency.  Peirce hot muffins with a toothpick in and drizzle with warm glaze.

Holiday Brunch Spritzer

Adapted from:  Cooking Light
1/2  cup sugar
1/2  cup water
4 rosemary sprigs
4 cups cranberry juice cocktail
2 cups fresh orange juice
3 cups club soda chilled

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 4 minutes or until sugar dissolves.  Add rosemary; simmer five minutes.  Remove from heat. Pour sugar syrup into a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Uncover sugar syrup, remove and discard rosemary sprigs.  Combine the sugar syrup, juices and soda in a large pitcher.  Serve immediately over ice.  Yield 12 servings of 3/4 cup.
To make ahead:  Fill pitcher leaving out the soda.  When it comes time to serve; pour juice/sugar mixture into a glass and top with desired amount of soda.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Razor Clam Chowder and a Day at the Beach

And a great weekend was had by all.  This is another verbose entry so get a cup of tea and settle in because I have a treat for you; my cousin Teresa’s beach photos.

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Razor clam digging can take a lot out of you so we started carbo loading first thing Saturday morning with my dad’s legendary cabin breakfast.

Dad’s pancakes are silky and rich and mouth melting thanks to the hefty swirl of bacon grease he adds to Krusteaz.  Served alongside steaming, grease slicked eggs  and crisp bacon … I need no other reason to get up in the morning.  My cousin Tim who felt a teensy bit left out of the Fred Meyer vs Safeway conversation swirling around the breakfast table offered his best money saving grocery tip:  buy beer at the store and drink it at home to save oodles in bar fees.  Love that guy.

Breakfast over and daddy daughter day commenced.  Ross took J and E kite shopping and dad took me to the hardware store where we got gutters and downspouts and this green accordion pipe thing to solve the soppy wet spot at the front of the cabin.  I love handing my dad tools as he does dad stuff high atop a ladder.

Soppy spot subdued and off for a walk on the beach where I froze but was nonetheless entranced by the thousands of tiny sandpipers racing the tide and the stark beachscape.

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Once home, fortified with creamy cocoa and ample refills of whip cream we baptized the new fondue pot I scored at the local thrift store for three bucks.

Hard to improve on bread swirled in kirsch spiked cheese washed down with fresh pressed cider.

Thus fortified, we hit the beach.

Clam tides happen only once a month, only in the winter.  You'd think the combination of cold, dark, rain and the occasional snowstorm would keep all but hearty he-man types off the beach.

But no, clam tides attract thousands of clam lovers from kids to grandparents:

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But it’s no cakewalk.  First you must obtain highly specialized equipment and attire.  There seem to be two sartorial schools of thought.  One group goes stealth with camo hip waders and matching neoprene jackets; (I especially like the his and hers matching sets).  The opposite end is the barefoot tank topped gal with wild hair, flat on her belly probing a clam hole with her bare hands.  This is not me, I lie somewhere in between with blue daisy rain boots from Bay Hay;  and my dad’s fleece lined raincoat. 

Next, you’ve got to have the right equipment. We dig with clam guns; stainless steel tubes you press into the sand with a rocking motion.  They slice through the beach layers and if you’re lucky and skilled you come up with a clam on the first pull.

The thing you need to know is that razor clams don’t just lie there.  The second your clam gun hits the sand they start digging.  Take your time, worry about your manicure or get girly about sticking your hand into an eighteen inch hole filled with frigid sea water and your quarry high tails it.

The last one to limit gets a cheer squad and lots of help spotting the show; the dimple in the sand that indicates a clam.

It’s then, when the whole group has limited and we prepare to leave the beach that we realize the true reward;  the grandeur all around.  The Pacific ocean froths and swirls; windswept trees arch along the ridge; the sand shimmers with twilight.  Against the roar of the ocean; migrating birds soar, calling their locations to each other much the way families up and down the beach keep track of their youngsters, bantering about who has the largest clam, who limited first and how many bowls of dad’s clam chowder we’re going to eat.

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A great big thank you to my cousin Teresa Harpster, a very talented artist and photographer, for loaning me these wonderful photos.


Razor Clam Chowder

This is my dad’s recipe; one we all love.  You can make it with any clams you like.

3 strips bacon chopped into 1 inch pieces

½ cup onions, diced

1 cup potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup water

1 cup chopped clams with juice

1 quart half and half

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 cube)

Potato flakes or left over mashed potatoes

Cook bacon pieces add onions until they are slightly browned. Add water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add potatoes and cook until slightly done. Add chopped clams and juice. Cook 20 minutes. Add half and half and butter. DO NOT LET MIXTURE BOIL. Season to taste. Add potato flakes or mashed potatoes for desired consistency. Test to see if it is edible…enjoy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Truffles and hot tubs and what have you.

Friday morning already?  Where did the week go… I had marvelous intentions of sharing my newly found truffle (chocolate not the smelly ones) recipes with you.  I had great success with Earl Grey and bittersweet chocolate and a stunning failure involving mango and curry.  I’m sure someone more poetic than I could wax on about highs and lows and all that but I know what you’re secretly thinking…”Mango and curry…chocolate…blech!”

A wild desire to be avant garde and uber creative seized me and the mango curry truffles were the result.  Veni and Hollind tried to talk me out of it but I was deaf to their pleas.  My punishment:  a dozen perfectly gorgeous but oddly flavored..okay I’ll be frank…inedible chocolate blobs.

And I would have posted the Earl Grey recipe last night if Hollind and Steph and Elaine hadn’t kept me out so late.  We went to Eleven Winery’s tasting room to support Island artist Isobel Coney in a showing of her exquisitely rendered Lino prints.  (Please go!  You’ll be glad you did!)

It was supposed to be an early night due to Steph’s stated intention to tuck in her kids at 7:30…being the supporting friends that we are, we helped Steph find a way to have her wine and drink it too by weaseling through a tuck-in loophole:  we accompanied her home so she could tuck in the kiddies then we retired to her hot tub for two hours. 

Today is an exciting day because T&C is sampling cheeses again.  I went yesterday and spent a happy interlude sampling such wonderful things as Cibo Natural’s smoked Jalapeno cheese, Bucherondin French goat milk cheese and I have it on good authority that today they’ll have gorgonzola dolce, a cheese so luscious and meltingly gorgeous you can (and will want to) eat it with a spoon.  I swoon as I write this.  This happens from 10-12 so don’t be lazy, get up and get there and say hello—I’ll be the one hovering over the gorgonzola.  BTW—every single fabulous cheese on aisle 1 is 25% off.  woohoo.

Okay, so I think I owe you some eye candy.   As tasty as the Earl Grey truffles were, they didn’t photograph well (unless rocks on a plate excite you) so I give you instead pics from a recent apple cider pressing at my folks house in Joyce, WA.

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  ginger cookies truffles 123ginger cookies truffles 111 

Remind me later to tell you about the crab feed we had on Wednesday night.  Matthew, the same lovely neighbor who gave me salmon to smoke, dropped by with four! freshly caught and cooked Dungeness crab. 

Off to Copalis to slay some clams.  Cheers.

Earl Grey Chocolate Truffles

From: Cuvee 928 in Flagstaff, Arizona

½ cup heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar

3 Earl Grey tea bags

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter cut in ½ inch cubes

2 tablespoons brandy

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Bring cream and sugar just to a boil in heavy small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. Empty tea from bags into cream. Cover and steep for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir chocolate and butter in small saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Transfer to medium bowl.

Strain cream mixture through fine meshed strainer (or through several layers of cheesecloth) into chocolate mixture; stir to blend. Stir in brandy and salt. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Cover and chill until firm, about four hours.

Lime rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or waked paper. Roll rounded teaspoons of chocolate mixture between palms to form a ball. Place on prepared sheet. Chill until firm, about one hour. Roll truffles between palms again. Place cocoa in small bowl. Roll truffles in cocoa powder; return to same sheet. Cover and chill.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wine Society Soup Pairings and Broccoli Mascarpone Soup

Last spring a group of us got together and created the Bainbridge Island Wine Society.  Our stated purpose is to learn more about wine but our actual purpose is to drink a lot of wine and eat a lot of food while talking about learning about wine.

Get that?

Halloween 223 Anyway, we’re meeting soon and the menu committee is having a bit of a tussle with a brash young Pinot Noir.  We want this haughty newbie to pair with a soup and so far it’s not cooperating.  If this wine got a report card it would read “does not play well with others,”  It’s probably just that it’s misunderstood, we are, after all newbie's ourselves at pairings. 

My foodie pals Hollind and Veni and I got together with a bottle and three soups: Tuscan white bean, broccoli mascarpone and curry cauliflower.

Admittedly it’s no hardship to have to drink wine and taste soup on a rainy Wednesday afternoon and I for one think we ought to make a habit of it. 

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Halloween 226 Halloween 196

The  white bean soup came the closest, mostly because it laid down and let the pinot walk all over it.  The other two showed a feisty side with the broccoli sucker punching the pinot up front then playing nice later.  translation:  (the broccoli overwhelmed the wine but got better as we tasted).   The cauliflower soup just turned up her nose and refused to play and neither the soup nor the wine benefitted.

Can you help us?  If you’ve got a great soup that would work let me know and I’ll hastily arrange another wine-Wednesday and give it a go.  (Even if you don’t have a recipe; make one up so I can have another wine Wednesday.)

I was really rooting for the broccoli mascarpone.  I love its velvety texture and soft green color.  And I used shallots from my very own garden.  This soup is easy to make.  You can substitute cream cheese if you want because mascarpone can get a bit pricey.  Great as a starter or a light dinner with salad and a baguette. 

Broccoli Mascarpone Soup

From Bon Appétit

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups sliced shallots

1 1/2 pounds broccoli florets, cut into one inch pieces.

6 cups low salt chicken broth

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) mascarpone cheese, divided.

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons chopped, fresh chives.


Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add shallots; sauté 3 minutes.  Add broccoli; sauté 1 minute.  Add broth, bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Cover and simmer until veggies are tender, about 10 minutes.  Cool slightly.

Working in batches, transfer soup to blender,  puree until smooth.  Return to pot.  Reserve 1/4 cup mascarpone in small bowl.; cover and chill.  Whisk 1 1/4 cup mascarpone and cayenne pepper into soup.  Season with salt.  DO AHEAD:  Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover, chill. Heat soup over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Do not boil.

Garnish with remaining mascarpone and chives.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chocolate Pecan Biscotti

Biscotti have always been a little too hostile for me.  I  like my cookies to be soft and melty; ladylike, if you will.  With biscotti, I know I’m in for a fight.  When you have to use the meat gnawing molars to subdue a cookie there’s something wrong…so I dismissed biscotti as too forceful; the bully of the cookie family.

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Years later I was standing outside the main entrance to the Nordstrom Flagship store in downtown Seattle.  Through the open store doors the scent of leather and perfume and elegance beckoned and I knew that I’d need some shoring up before I was ready for total Nordstrom immersion.

This is best done with chocolate and caffeine so I ducked into the Nordstrom coffee bar.  At first I dismissed the chocolate dipped biscotti, but there was something about that glossy chocolate exterior that beguiled me.  Also, it was the only thing that had any chocolate on it.

Either biscotti had been tamed in the intervening years or I’d judged too harshly in my tempestuous youth because this cookie yielded without so much as a bone jarring.   The was no wrestling for dominance.  This cookie knew its place and yielded with an elegant and satisfying crunch then infused my mouth with lush chocolate flavor.  It might have been a day or a week but it wasn’t long before I started testing biscotti recipes and came up with with one:

Chocolate Biscotti

To make an elegant statement, melt semisweet chocolate chips and drizzle across, do the same with melted white chocolate.

2 cups flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped*

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a baking sheet. In bowl whisk together flour, cocoa baking soda and salt. In another bowl beat together butter and sugar until fluffy, add eggs.

Stir in flour mixture to form stiff dough. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.

With floured hands form two logs 12” long and 2” wide. Bake 35 minutes, cool five minutes then cut diagonally. Place on baking sheet and bake until crisp about ten minutes.


I like to freeze these and pull them out when I want a quick tea treat.  They make a wonderful hostess gift; I slip them into an oblong bag and tie with a pretty ribbon or pack into a small bakery box, wrap with food grade tissue then tie with a ribbon.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Irish Grandma’s Enchiladas

There are so many things I should be doing right now instead of writing this blog, like editing the family cookbook that I’m supposed to have ready for this weekend.  It’s been a year since our first annual ladies weekend at the beach where all the women from my mom’s side of the family got together to write a cookbook.  But all I can think about is my Irish Grandma’s Enchiladas. 

This dish has been a family favorite for years.  I can remember our annual fourth of July Potluck at the Sol Duc hot springs when I was a kid and my  6 year old cousin crying while eating them.  I can still smell the sulfur and chlorine, still see the green mountains before a blue sky, still hear the teen girl screeches and shouts from the pools and my cousins sniffles as he ate.

Alarmed my Aunt Sharron sat down on the cabin steps beside him and told him that he didn’t have to eat them if he didn’t want to.  “I love them but I’m crying because they’re spicy but so good that I can’t stop eating,” he’d sobbed.

I think she toned down the spice after that because I don’t remember them ever being cry-your-eyes-out spicy.  What I do remember is the tender crunch of onions, the piquant bite of olives, the creaminess of loads of melted cheese.  My Great-grandma, the daughter of Irish immigrants, grew up speaking Spanish in a small  California town just north of the Mexican border and this recipe reflects that upbringing.

They’re on my mind right now because I know that’s what Aunt Sharron is making for dinner on Saturday night.  Grandma’s making her salsa fresca and my cousin Kelli’s bringing her Texas caviar.  Lisa’s on deck with her well loved bruschetta and we’re all bringing dessert. 

To say I’m excited doesn’t really describe my feelings.  Perhaps I’m aiming too high but I hope we’re making memories and connections we’ll treasure for the rest of our lives.  We’re spread out; my family resides mostly in Western Washington, my mom’s sisters, my cousin and my grandma in Oregon.  But all of us value these connections enough to make the trip for each other…or maybe it’s just the promise of good food.

My Irish Grandma’s Enchiladas

Sharron Farrell: This came from Grandmother Pursley. The family really loves it.

black olives, sliced

onions, chopped

sharp Cheddar Cheese (small cubes)

Flour tortillas

Red Chile sauce, medium

Depending on how much you want to make use equal amounts of olives, onions and cheese.

Soak one tortilla at a time in heated red chile sauce. Mix together olives, onions and cheese. Place a very large spoon full of the mixture in soaked tortilla, fold in half. When the bottom of the pan is full layer a mixture and some of the red chile sauce before starting the next layer, until the pan is full. Use a fork to poke holes through the layers of tortillas and pour more red chile sauce over it. Cook in a 350 degree oven until the onions are done and the cheese is melted.