Pigs in a Pickle

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You can call me Donna Reed.  Well, maybe Betty Crocker instead.  Let me explain.  I’m on a retro food kick in a big way.  And just so I don’t offend anyone, I’m calling retro foods anything that reminds me of my childhood as well, so I’m throwing myself under the bus too when it comes to age!  I opted for the Betty Crocker reference instead of Mrs. Reed because she was supposed to represent the picturesque housewife with the perfectly coiffed hair, pressed apron, and sassy little pumps who flitted about a perfectly clean and tidy little home.  Hmmmm.  Hair – I have some.  Apron – I have one.  It is stuffed in the back of my entryway closet.  Pumps?  I like slippers better.  And clean and tidy home?  A for effort?  Betty Crocker was probably perfect too, now that I’m thinking about it.  Whatever.  Call me JB.

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It has been lonely here around the house.  Ben’s busy time of year is here, so he’s been on the road.  A lot.  You would think that without distraction or obligation I’d find myself knocking off all of those things that seem to always be on my list.  You know, laundry, cleaning…  yeah right.  Motivation walks out the door, packed away safely in Ben’s suitcase and I race home after work each day to jump into my pajamas and curl up under the blankets on the couch with a pup on my lap.  Even making dinner seems like a giant chore.  I really am terrible at preparing food for one.  To be honest, I’m terrible at preparing food for two.  We always have copious amounts of leftovers, which tends to suit us and our budget just fine as we typically have the best looking (and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say best tasting) lunch among our peers.  Is it bad if I love that my coworkers always ask what I’m eating after they catch a whiff as I walk back to my desk?

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Anyway, dinner for one is hard.  And it is even harder because something in my brain says when eating for one, this is a good week to save up on the grocery budget and to eat cheap.  So cheap, small quantities that can keep my interest for both dinner and my leftover lunches send my brain searching.  Because ultimately, these nights alone are my chance to eat whatever I want, whatever I crave, especially if it is something Ben doesn’t like (which admittedly, is very little these days).  I’ve been running out of ideas because again, he’s been gone a lot.  Grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Tuna melts (which I think I’m going to have to repeat again soon.  I forgot how good plain old tuna salad can be).  Old family favorites.  Easy Appetizers.

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There it is.  My single gal menu option favorite.  Give me a good dip and some hearty bread and I’m calling it a meal (uh, plus wine, right?).  Appetizers are my saving grace when I’m holding down the fort solo.  I fill up my plate and hurry back to my spot on the couch before it gets cold or, more likely, the dog has stolen my spot.  So when coworkers started discussing the pickle wrap or pickle roll ups the other day at work, needless to say, my ears perked.  I may have hearing damage from chemo, but you can be sure that if someone is talking food, I’m well aware and have an opinion.

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The pickle wrap is a simple thing – ham, spread with a layer of cream cheese, then a pickle dropped in the middle.  The pickle is rolled up in the ham cream cheesiness, sliced into bite sized chunks, and devoured.  I’m not ashamed to admit that my sisters and I ate these like crazy any time my mom made these.  God bless her, she didn’t want to serve the ends of the rolls to guests so as not to skimp on the pickle portion of the roll, so we’d stand by like dogs begging, waiting until we could snatch a bite.  So my coworkers chatting about this family favorite piqued my interest.  But as we all know, I can’t leave well enough alone.  I figured, if these bad boys were so tasty on their own, imagine if I amped them up a bit and, ya know, fried them.  I’m glad I did.

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Pigs in a Pickle/Deep Fried Pickle Wraps/Whatever You Want to Call Them

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1 lb. good quality deli ham, sliced thin (if you can get ham off the bone at your deli, do)

1 package cream cheese, room temperature

1 jar good quality miniature pickles, preferably kosher dill

1 package wonton or eggroll wrappers

1 egg

Canola oil

Lay a piece of ham across work surface and spread with a layer of cream cheese.  You want to cover the ham fully with a decent amount of cream cheese so you can taste it in each bite.  Cut the ham slice in half lengthwise and lay a pickle on each half.  If pickles are larger, you will want to cut in half.  Roll the pickle up and set aside.  Repeat with remaining ham, cream cheese and pickles.  Can be prepared to this point.

Whisk egg in a small bowl.  Lay wonton wrapper on work surface and place pickle roll on top.  Roll, jellyroll style, and secure wrap to itself by painting lightly with egg wash.  Fold in edges like a present (or eggroll) and secure each edge with egg wash.  You may find that your wonton wrapper is too short.  You can avoid this all together by using an eggroll wrapper and trimming of the excess or, you may cut a wrapper in half, secure it to the full wrapper using egg wash, and procede as described previously.  Repeat with remaining pickle rolls and wonton wrappers.  Freeze for 30 minutes and no more.

Place canola oil in a large wok or frying pan, enough to come up about 1 inch on the side of the pan.  Bring to 350 degrees over medium high heat.  Remove pickle wraps from freezer and gently loosen from plate/tray.  Place about 4-5 pickles in the pan, depending on size used, and fry until golden brown on all sides.  Remove and repeat with remaining pickles.

Eat immediately and be happy.

Don’t you wish there was some great appetizer eating event coming up like the Super Bowl?

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2013 jb’s pour house

ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

They say girls like receiving flowers.  Turns out I like eating them.  Don’t worry, your flowers are safe.  I don’t go around and willy-nilly pick off a peony or snap a rose off of a shrub and munch away.  But if I see squash blossoms, zucchini flowers or whatever you choose to call them, guaranteed my heart will start to beat a little faster. 

My interest in floral consumption started several years ago when we were new homeowners.  You see, our former hometown had a huge, amazing farmer’s market each Saturday morning to which we would routinely ride our bikes.  I quickly learned that the trendy items that were quick to sell out early each weekend included bright orange squash blossoms.  A little internet browsing later, I found multiple delicious sounding recipes and soon enough, bunches of blossoms in hand, I was cooking.

Now this summer has been a bit crazy.  My dates with the weekend farmer’s market have been far less than regular.  Instead, trips along the long stretch of highway between Kansas City and Des Moines filled our weekends as a “Sold” sign appeared in our yard and boxes and packing tape began to fill the empty floor spaces inside our house.  Instead of hot dogs, apple pie and fireworks for the 4th, we hauled boxes and furniture under the relentless Midwestern sun.  It seems I’m also death to air conditioners this summer, with no fewer than six repairs and one new air conditioner under my belt between the two residences.  And you wonder why it has been a bit quiet here?

And so we closed the chapter on Des Moines and in this brief respite from moving (albeit not from the heat – thank goodness for a working AC!), I’ve found myself strolling in the morning sun, gazing across tables filled with tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, berries, and wait – squash blossoms!  I beelined through the crowd, leaving B to apologize to the people I cut off or cut in front of as I made my way to the table and grasped my treasures.  In our new barbeque-centric hometown, it seemed only appropriate that we make this recipe first.

ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

recipe:  adapted from Bobby Flay

2 bunches of fresh squash blossoms (keep in water like regular flowers and refrigerate for up to 1 day – they are delicate)

1 1/2 c. ricotta

1/2 lb. best quality pulled pork (you can certainly smoke your own, but we usually buy from our favorite BBQ joint)

1/4 c. barbeque sauce

2 c. rice flour

2 c. ice water

Canola oil

1/3 c. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. honey

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Snip squash blossoms from stems and place in a large bowl filled with cold water.  Gently swish around and let any dirt or debris fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Remove flowers and tip upside down to remove any excess water.  Peel off the sepals (long green leaves at the base of the flower) and gently open the flower petals.  Note: you may find a few little bugs, this is common as the flowers are typically open when picked and the bugs get trapped inside.  It is worth noting that I found a bee once, so do be careful (this was 1 out of hundreds of squash blossoms, so odds are you won’t find a bee).  Gently pull out the stamen and set the blossom on a towel to dry.  Don’t worry if you tear the flower slightly.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

As blossoms dry, combine ricotta, pulled pork and barbeque sauce in a medium bowl.  Season to taste and set aside.  Combine rice vinegar, Dijon, and honey in a small bowl.  Whisk thoroughly and begin slowly drizzling in olive oil.  Continue adding oil until mixture is emulsified.  Season lightly with salt but liberally with black pepper.  Taste and adjust to your preference.  Set aside.

To fill blossoms, gently push about 1 tsp. filling down to the base of the flower.  Continue to fill until you are nearly to the top of the flower where the petals start to flare out.  If you have torn the flower a bit, wrap the edges together to form a seal and lightly twist the tops of the petals together.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

Fill a large frying pan about halfway with canola oil and heat over medium high heat.  As oil is warming up, combine rice flour and cold water.  Stir well to combine.  Dip a blossom into the rice flour batter and place in hot oil.  Repeat with four or five other blossoms, depending on the size of your pan.  Fry for about 2 minutes per side and carefully remove from oil.  Stir rice flour batter again and repeat with four or five additional blossoms.  Repeat until all blossoms have been fried.

Serve immediately while hot with black pepper vinaigrette.

Stay cool friends!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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jalapeno cheddar gougeres… with a side of loneliness

It is challenging to be a transient.  Living out of a suitcase, logging miles on the road, and being far from the ones you love tend to wear on one’s spirit and tug at the heart.  All of this and it has only been a week and a half.  So maybe I have a flair for the dramatic…  I do miss home though.  I miss the comfort of a normal routine, the warmth of my pup on my lap, and the reassurance of B lying in the bed next to me at night.  Weekdays take far too long and weekends fly by much too quickly.  So when my very accommodating hosts let me, I turn to the kitchen where I can always find something familiar – a friendly face, so to speak.

There is something comforting about the routine of preparing a meal.  A knife runs through a jalapeno the same in Kansas City as it does in Des Moines.  But there’s learning where tools and gadgets are stored in friends’ cabinets and drawers, understanding where the stove or pans run hot, and piercing a bite with an unfamiliar fork on a different colored plate to remind me that home is too far away. 

I’m out of practice it would seem.  After weeks of home improvement projects and quick-fix meals, I transitioned to borrowed time in a new kitchen and want to tread lightly given I can do some serious damage to the cleanliness factor of a kitchen in short order.  And there are new faces to share with – friends and co-workers who don’t know yet about my culinary obsessions.  So with all of the newness in my life, I decided it was time for a new recipe.  One that had the familiar feel of home, but with a new twist.  And yes, I’m betraying my new city – there is nothing smoked or barbequed in this recipe.  Stay tuned though, I have a feeling that once B joins me here, all of that goes out the window…

With the holidays right around the corner, the basics of this dough are a good thing to have in the event you have unexpected company arriving or need something easy to bring for a festive fete.  When prepared in a savory fashion with cheeses or spices, they are called gougeres (say go-zhair) or puffs, if you don’t want to put on airs.  From parmesan with a marinara dipping sauce to tangy goat cheese or a pungent blue, you are only limited by your imagination.  But if sweet is more your style, the dough can be prepared simply without any additions, cut horizontally, then filled with ice cream of your choice and drizzled with sauces galore for a treat called profiteroles (say pro-feet-eh-rolls).  Either way, they are delicious.

Oh and please forgive the quality of the photos.  It seems my camera is among the items I left at home, so the Blackberry had to suffice.

jalapeno cheddar gougeres

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1/2 c. water

1/2 c. whole milk

1 stick unsalted butter

1 tsp. salt

1 c. flour

4 eggs, room temperature

1 jalapeno, very finely minced (seeds and all!)

1 1/2 c. sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine water, milk, butter and salt in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil – watch carefully, as milk really can cause a mess if it boils over!  Once boiling, add flour and remove from heat.  Stir rapidly with a wooden spoon until dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Let cool for two minutes and place in a stand mixer.  With the mixer running on medium speed, add one egg and let it fully incorporate into the dough.  Continue adding eggs, one at a time, until eggs are fully mixed in.  Turn off mixer, add jalapeno and cheddar, and turn mixer back on low just until fully incorporated. 

Using a rubber scraper, transfer dough to a large resealable plastic bag.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Snip a small corner off of the plastic bag and squeeze about 1 Tbsp. dough onto baking sheet.  Use a butter knife to separate dough from plastic bag.  Pipe another 1 Tbsp. dough about 1 inch apart.  Continue piping dough until complete.  Dip fingers into water and gently smooth down any rough or pointy edges on each gougere.  Place in the oven and immediately reduce heat to 375 degrees.  Bake for 24 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Here’s hoping you spend the holidays with those you hold closest to your heart.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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fried pickles with ranch creme fraiche

I’m officially declaring the summer of 2010 as the “Summer of the Pickle.”  Our Garden on Steroids has had a tendency to go overboard on just a few select items each year in the four summers we’ve put our green thumbs to the test.  Year one was tomatoes and basil (darn).  Year 2 was butternut squash – heavy on the vine production, not so heavy on the squash.  Year 3 was pattypan squash galore.  (Seriously.  Some were as big as B’s head.  I still have squash soup in the freezer.)  And this year, year 4, has been cucumbers, banana peppers and jalapenos galore.  Given I still have 2009 jalapeno poppers in the freezer, I had to find a new outlet for the garden gone mad.

And so, I dove into the world of home canning and in the process, trucked home gallons of vinegar, pounds of kosher salt, and boxes of mason jars from the grocery store.  From the cucumbers came quart upon quart of Dan Koshansky’s refrigerator pickles, Triple Dill pickles, and White Wine & Tarragon pickles.  I pickled banana peppers, because I’m obsessed with them.  Piles of jalapenos went for an unseeded (yikes!) swim in the brine to produce hellfire hot pepper slices for spicy platters of nachos throughout the winter.  And last but not least, I pickled green tomatoes – I just couldn’t make FGTs fast enough!

As I gazed across my 18 quarts (yes, I said 18) of pickled cucumbers, I realized we don’t eat enough burgers, tenderloins, or sandwiches to move through the pickles fast enough.  Something had to be done.  Something using a lot of pickles needed to be made, and quickly.  Given I’m still desperately trying to hold on to the days of summer now painfully behind me given the rate at which the leaves are falling, I decided to bust out a little State Fair action.  Yup, you guessed it.  I fried the pickles (placing on a stick is completely optional).

And in true JB fashion, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  I couldn’t just fry up some pickles and call it good.  Oh no.  I had to pickle my own cucumbers, bread in crunchy panko bread crumbs, and make my own crème fraiche for the base of my dipping sauce.  In a complete non-J move, I decided to go with a packet of Hidden Valley ranch seasoning to add to the crème fraiche.  Heed my warnings here – this stuff is salty.  I’d recommend leaving the salt shaker where it is on the counter because between the pickles and the dip, you won’t be lacking.

As I listened to the squirrels crunch around in the fallen leaves outside as we crunched on our pickles, I glanced at the counter to happily see an empty mason jar.  One down, 17 to go…

fried pickles with ranch crème fraiche

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. heavy cream

2 Tbsp. buttermilk

1 quart Dan Koshansky’s refrigerator pickles (Claussen pickles would be a good substitute)

1/2 c. flour

2 eggs, beaten

2 c. panko

½ pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix

Canola oil

Combine cream and buttermilk in a sealable jar.  Leave on the counter for 24 hours.  Stir, and if not thickened completely, leave for another 24 hours.  Once thickened, place in refrigerator and use within a week.

Combine crème fraiche and half of Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix.  Set aside.

Drain pickles from brine and blot with paper towels to dry.  Working in small batches, dredge pickle slices in flour, then egg, shaking off excess,  Coat thoroughly with panko and set aside.  Repeat with remaining pickles.

Place canola oil in a wok or large stockpot, filling about 1/3 of the way up the side of pan.  Heat over medium high heat until temperature reaches 375 degrees.  Place 6-8 pickle slices carefully in oil and fry 1-2 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove pickles from oil using a long handled slotted spoon, spider or mesh strainer.  Repeat with remaining pickles.

Serve hot with dipping sauce.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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corn relish

Bonus recipe!

 

As we made our way through our Ode to Sweet Corn, I received a text message from my sister.

“You should make corn relish!”

Corn relish is a special treat for my family, reserved for a patio overlooking the ocean or the harbor on Hilton Head Island.  Every time we visit, there’s sure to be a jar of corn relish packed away, waiting for the violet hour when cocktails are poured.  It is something the whole family loves, yet, we’ve never made it at home.  Somehow, with all of the pickles, tomato sauce, and other summer treats that get packed away until the cooler months, we never attempted corn relish.  I agreed with my sister, it was time to change that.

Just a few ingredients and a remarkably short cooking time later, and two large jars of corn relish sat cooling in my refrigerator.  Soon enough, the vibrant yellow corn will be happily perched on a cracker as beads of water drip down my glass.  It’s cocktail time!

 

corn relish

adapted from:  Saveur

 

2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped

1 c. finely chopped onion

1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 jalapeno, finely chopped

1 c. sugar

1 c. white vinegar

1 c. water

1 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. celery seed

2 Tbsp. flour

1 Tbsp. dry mustard

1 tsp. turmeric

1/4 c. cold water

1 doz. ears of corn, kernels removed

Place celery, onion, red bell pepper, jalapeno, sugar, vinegar, water, salt and celery seed in a large stockpot.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring often, and let boil for about five minutes.

Combine flour, dry mustard, turmeric and water in a small bowl.  Add to celery mixture with corn and boil for an additional five minutes, stirring frequently.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve, use as is or strain 2 c. corn relish in a fine mesh strainer to remove excess liquid.  Mix strained corn relish with about 1 c. sour cream and serve with crackers.

Good idea, S, and here’s another recipe for your collection!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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sweet corn panna cotta with fresh tomato salad

“Ode to Sweet Corn” – Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

In the midst of the summer heat, we’ve managed to squeeze out a few days with low humidity and clear skies – the kind of day that begs for a lovely dinner on the patio and a chilled bottle of rosé.  A dinner party for three with my favorite boys as my guests, where locusts and neighborhood birds provide the background music.  A dinner where we’ll watch the bees buzz from our Russian sage to our purple coneflowers as we lazily enjoy our meal and sip our wine, and as the sun sets, we’ll talk as flames from our citronella torches dance and twirl in the gentle evening breeze.

The table is set, the wine is open, glasses are full and plates have been placed before us on the table.  The bees are buzzing, the torches are lit and the locusts are humming.  Ah, perfection.

And then, a siren.  A fire truck.  Soon enough, both of my dinner guests have their heads thrown back, mouths to the sky, howling away.  I’m so glad the hubs taught Brix to howl…

Try as I might, I can’t resist laughing at this spectacle.  Poor Brix has such a mournful little wail, his little doggy mouth forms into a perfect “O,” his small body goes rigid and the closer the siren comes, the more excited he gets and start to furiously wipe his feet as he throws his head back again.  And B, well, what can I say?  Ah well, you can dress `em up…

So often relegated to the backyard barbeque, corn on the cob and its requisite pile of napkins and waiting toothpicks is a veggie that could stand a little dressing up.  Not that I have anything bad to say about plain ol’ corn on the cob – I’m the girl that comes home from work and appears in sweatpants no more than five minutes later.  But every now and then, it is fun to get a little gussied up, and I thought it was high time sweet corn got the glamour treatment.  I knew just the thing.

I’d read recently about a benefit dinner where a sweet corn panna cotta was one of the featured courses.  I’d seen sweet corn panna cotta before, but always in a sweet setting as a dessert.  While the natural sugars and creaminess of really good sweet corn would be fitting for an after-dinner treat, the tomatoes fresh out of my garden led me in a different direction.  I thought back to a tomato and corn pie I’d made last summer and recalled the tasty combination.  So with a savory theme in mind, I set off to create a delicate summer first course.

Inspired by a version of panzanella salad I make every summer without fail, I wanted the fresh tomato salad to be full of bright flavors.  I strolled out to my garden with shears in hand and returned with fresh basil, chives and garlic.  To this I added some balsamic vinegar for a little depth, olive oil, and shavings of Parmiggiano Regiano cheese for a little salty accent.  The sweet corn and cream in the panna cotta provide such a creamy contrast to the fresh tomato salad.  Served cold or at room temperature, this was a perfect dish to prepare ahead of time and have ready and waiting for you. 

sweet corn panna cotta with fresh tomato salad

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. whole milk

1/3 c. sugar

2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut off and cobs reserved

2 c. heavy cream

¼ tsp. kosher salt

3 Tbsp. water

2 ½ tsp. unflavored gelatin

2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into ½” dice

2 Tbsp. minced fresh chives

2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 ½ Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

¼ c. shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small stockpot, bring milk and sugar to a slow simmer over medium heat.  Add corn kernels, simmer for about 5 minutes.  As corn is simmering, chop reserved cobs into four pieces each.  Add cream, kosher salt and reserved cob segments.  Bring to a simmer and once simmering, cover and remove from heat.  Let steep for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, place water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top.  Let stand for 15 minutes. 

Remove cobs from the cream mixture and discard.  Bring cream mixture back to a simmer and once simmering, add gelatin mixture.  Remove from heat and stir until gelatin is thoroughly incorporated.  Strain, reserving both cream and corn.  Divide corn kernels among six ramekins and top with reserved cream mixture.  Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Combine tomatoes, chives, basil, garlic cloves, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and Parmiggiano Reggiano shavings in a medium bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

To serve, run a metal spatula along the edges of each ramekin and carefully invert onto a plate.  Top with about ¼ c. tomato salad.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Enjoy – with or without howling in the background!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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cheesy tomato bread

Bonus recipe!

By now, you’ve read all about our adventures in Wisconsin and the tasty treats that have resulted from our trip.  I don’t have any other stories to tell, but I couldn’t let this recipe go by the wayside.  If your garden is behaving like mine, tomatoes are starting to pile up on the counter.  This easy and fast recipe is a great way to use several tomatoes as well as your fresh basil.  And really, who can resist warm, melty cheese?  I can’t, that’s a fact.

cheesy tomato bread

recipe:  adapted from Brennan’s Market

 

1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half lengthwise

3 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into 1/4″ slices

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 c. fresh basil, thinly sliced

8 oz. farmer’s cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place loaf halves cut side down, toast for about 6-8 minutes.  Remove from oven and flip so cut sides face up.  Layer tomato slices across bread.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle basil across tomatoes and top with shredded farmer’s cheese.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cheese has melted and is bubbling.  Slice into individual portions and serve warm.

Oh tomato love!  I’m drooling, have to go make this again.

-j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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radishes with tarragon beurre blanc

There are a few sauces in the culinary realm that really trip my trigger.  Beurre blanc happens to be a shining example.  In fact, it is not uncommon to hear me say that I would take a bath in it.  I heart beurre blanc.  (You may also hear me say that about ponzu sauce, but let’s save that for another day).  I happen to think that beurre blanc is the bee’s knees.  I love that you can start with a handful of base ingredients then twist and morph it into an endless variety of tasty treats for dipping (or drowning, as in my case) veggies, meats, seafood… oh the list goes on and on.  But really, can you go wrong with a sauce that is 95% butter?  I think not.  Jenny Craig, cover your eyes and ears (and mouth!).

Literally translated from French, beurre blanc means “white butter.”  You can sound super impressive and use the French name (say burr bl-ah-nc) or you can just say butter sauce.  Either way you say it, it is damn tasty.  It is a rich, velvety sauce with a hint of acidity, either from vinegar/lemon juice and white wine.  You can also make it with red wine, but at that point, it becomes beurre noir.  See?  You’re learning French today, too!  It does take just a little bit of babysitting, as you continually whisk the butter into the reduced wine piece by piece, which allows the butter to slowly incorporate into the sauce and not separate.  Remember the scene in Ratatouille?  “Don’t let that beurre blanc separate!  Keep whisking!”

I digress.  As I said before, I’m a sucker for the stuff.  I was browsing around, looking for quintessentially spring recipe ideas, and I stumbled across this.  In France (and elsewhere), it is traditional to eat raw radishes with butter and salt, often on fresh bread.  It is said that the richness of the butter cuts the bite of the radish.  So I thought, why not take it up a notch and turn that butter into a rich butter sauce, add a little tarragon, and really knock it out of the park?  Gourmet, you had me at beurre blanc.

You can certainly use regular radishes, but I wanted to wait until our Farmer’s Market had bunches of French Breakfast radishes.  (See a theme here?)  French Breakfast radishes have just a little bite compared to the more horseradish-like bite of a traditional radish.  They are long and thin, rather than round and wide, and are vermilion red with a delicate white tip.  Once cleaned of all of their dirt and their greens trimmed, they are a stunning display of jewel-like vegetables.  And once dunked into a decadent beurre blanc, they are gone.

radishes with tarragon beurre blanc

recipe:  adapted from Gourmet (I miss you so)

2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot

1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

½ tsp. whole black peppercorns

1 c. dry white wine (such as chardonnay)

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes (European style if you can find it)

1 ½ Tbsp. finely chopped tarragon

Kosher salt

Radishes, cleaned and greens trimmed 

Combine shallot, white wine vinegar, peppercorns and wine in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce to about ⅓ c.  Strain reduced wine into a small bowl, discard solids, wipe out saucepan and return wine to pan.  Reduce heat to low and whisk butter into sauce, one cube at a time, until fully incorporated.  Repeat with remaining butter.  Remove from heat and add tarragon.  Season to taste with salt.  Serve immediately with radishes and additional kosher salt.  Dunk radish in beurre blanc, dip in a bit of salt, and enjoy!

Happy spring!

– j

 All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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wild mushroom pate

I’m not one of those women.  You know the type I’m talking about – the women that work full time, whip up a mean dinner, have an impossibly clean and tidy home, volunteer for their favorite local charity and seem to have boundless energy to accomplish all of the aforementioned tasks.  Secretly, just typing all of those words made me want to crawl into my favorite sweatpants and retreat onto our super cushy couches under a fuzzy blanket.  Oh wait, already there.  To me, these women are straight out of Martha Stewart Land with their perky perfectionism and uber creativity.  Maybe I’m jealous.  Maybe I’m tired just thinking about all of that.  And maybe, because of all of that, I’ve resisted the pull of the Martha magnet and all of her “good things.”  Until now.

I’d been challenged.  We were headed to a vegetarian friend’s house and I needed to bring something to contribute to the evening noshing that would appeal to everyone while being considerate of my friend’s dietary preferences.  I wanted to wow.  I hit up all of my favorite recipe sources, desperately seeking inspiration.  Meh.  I didn’t find any.  After exhausting all of the usual suspects, I suddenly veered off of the usual path and for some reason, headed over to see Ms. Martha.  Suddenly, there it was.  Wild Mushroom Pate.  Oh Martha, you dirty (jail) bird. 

The ingredients immediately intrigued me – a mushroom medley, fresh thyme, scallions and sherry.  Toasted nuts for crunch.  Cream cheese as the binder.  And then – oh baby – several dashes of hot sauce for a little something more.  I hit print.
As the dish started to come together, the smell of mushrooms sauteing in butter began to fill the air.  Soon enough, the thyme and sherry were in the pan, adding their own layers of flavor to the increasingly more complex mushrooms.  Finally, the mushrooms reached a golden brown perfection and were added to a mixing bowl with the cream cheese and toasted nuts.  In went the hot sauce and I dug in for a taste test.  *Swoon*  Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Patience isn’t one of my virtues, and this bad boy needed to chill for 8 hours.  That’s what they make freezers for.  So, in with the ice cubes it went to chill for a couple of hours and then we were off to our evening event.  My kind pals offered their “oohs” and “ahhs” as I carefully unmolded the pate.  Knowing what I had tasted earlier, I couldn’t wait to dig in once the flavors had melded together.  The crunch of the nuts played against the creaminess of the cheese and the tender mushrooms.  The hot sauce dances around in the background as that something you just can’t quite put your finger on.  *Swoon*  Sorry, you’re just going to have to get used to that with this recipe.  I guarantee you’ll fall for it too.  Trust me, it’s a good thing.

wild mushroom pate

recipe:  adapted from Martha Stewart

1 c. pecans
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 oz. each cremini, button and shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 bunch scallions, white and green portions finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c. dry sherry
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh parsley
Several dashes of hot sauce

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread pecans on a baking pan.  Bake for about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside to cool.  In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, melt butter and cook the chopped mushrooms, stirring occasionally until liquid has been released.  After about 8 minutes, add scallions and thyme.  Continue cooking until mushrooms release all liquid and begin to turn golden brown.   Add sherry, and scrape bottom of the pan to release all caramelized pieces.  Cook until skillet is almost dry, 4 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Chop the pecans into small pieces.  Combine pecans, mushroom mixture, parsley, hot sauce and cream cheese in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Line a large ramekin, bowl, bread pan or terrine with plastic wrap, letting the wrap hang off of the sides.  Add mushroom mixture and firmly press down, spreading mixture as evenly as possible.  Cover the mold with the overhanging plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Unwrap the chilled pate and invert it onto a large serving platter.  Serve with plain crackers, such as water crackers.

Try not to swoon.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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