Friday, April 20, 2018

Roasted Asparagus Soup #SoupSwappers


Whenever it's Spring, I find myself cooking with lots of asparagus. And it got me thinking about hosting a Spring soup event for the Soup Saturday Swappers that is organized by Wendy of A Day on the Life on the Farm.

I asked to host this month and I wrote: "Winter is loosening its grip on the world...and our produce. Let's create and share some soups that feature the darlings of Spring. Think fennel, peas, and whatever tickles your fancy."

I decided to go with asparagus, but first...

The Spring Soup Pots


Ingredients
  • 2 to 2-1/2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 4 Spring onions, outer layer peeled away 
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 C organic chicken broth
  • 2 T ground almonds
  • organic lemon for garnish

Procedure
Preheat oven to 400F. Place the asparagus spears and Spring onions into baking pans. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn the veggies and return to the oven. Roast for another 10 more minutes, until asparagus is very tender and the onions are silky. 


While the veggies are roasting, blend 1/2 cup of the broth with the ground almonds until smooth. Leave it in the blender.

When the veggies are done, set aside the prettiest ones for use as garnish. Cut the remaining asparagus and onions into smaller pieces and put them in the blender. Pour in the remaining broth.


Cover the blender and blend on high until silky smooth. Add salt to taste, if needed; I didn't need any. I served this chilled, but I'm sure it would be great served hot, too. Ladle into serving bowls. Float a thin-sliced lemon on top. And garnish with an asparagus tip.

Pairing Bourride à la Sétoise with Picpouls From France to California's Central Coast #Winophiles #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the April #Winophiles event.
Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.

On the third Saturday of each month, The French Winophiles convene and share posts about a particular grape or region. Today we are focusing on the Picpoul varietal. And despite my lack of expertise on the grape, I am hosting. You can read my invitation post: here.

I'm always up for learning something new and seeing what delicious pairings this group creates. If you're reading this soon enough, hop on the Twitter chat on Saturday, April 21st at 8am Pacific time. Search for the hashtag #Winophiles to follow along or peruse the tweets later.


Picpoul
Picpoul is a white grape varietal that's been cultivated in the Languedoc region of France for centuries. It is rarely grown outside of France, however I was able to locate a vintner not too far from me, here on California's central coast.

I read an article or two about Picpoul meaning 'lip stinger', but then I read a convincing rebuttal to that claim and my French is very, very rusty. I didn't have time to really research which side was correct. So, I'll shelve that assertion for now. Maybe one of the other French Winophiles can shed some light onto that.

What I will say is that Picpoul is a zingy white that is refreshing and affordable. With most of the wines I found retailing for between $10 and $15, this is the perfect summer sipper.


And I love that Picpoul de Pinet wines are virtually all sold in a special, distinctive bottle, called a "Neptune" bottle. It's green, slender and embossed with a Languedoc cross on it which was first used as the coat of arms of the counts of Forcalquier in Provence, and then by the counts of Toulouse in the traditional territory of Languedoc.

The Other Picpoul Picks


In My Glass
I was fortunate to receive two samples of Picpoul de Pinet: Cave de Pomerols HB Picpoul de Pinet 2016 and Château Petit Roubié Picpoul de Pinet 2016 from our event sponsor.* And I was very excited to round out our tasting with a fairly local-to-me Picpoul: Adelaida Picpoul Blanc 2015 from Paso Robles, California.

Jake and I opened up all three on a Friday night and tasted each with a single dish, my version of Bourride à la Sétoise. The wine that came out on top was the Cave de Pomerols HB Picpoul de Pinet. And it wasn't even a close call. So, I'll talk more about the other two wines with different pairings.


Cave de Pomerols, from the Coteaux du Languedoc appellation, makes a single varietal wine from 100% Picpoul Blanc. Most of the time, due to its high acidity, the grape is almost always blended with meatier grapes to add a layer of freshness and brightness to a wine. Picpoul is usually greenish-yellow in hue with a crisp minerality, distinct acid, and lots of citrus notes. Interestingly enough, this is one of those wines to drink young. You don't need to - or really want to - age it!


As I mentioned, I was very excited to find a fairly local-to-me Picpoul: Adelaida Picpoul Blanc 2015 from Paso Robles, California. However, of the three we poured with the dinner, that one was the least favorite. So, we popped the cork back in and poured it the following day with some Vietnamese sandwiches. More on that soon!


In My Bowl
When I was deciding on a pairing, I started by researching regional dishes from Languedoc. Bourride à la Sétoise caught my eye in that it is traditionally made with monkfish. We love monkfish - you can read about my Roasted Monkfish Over Mole Negro, Monkfish en Papillote, Moqueca, and Lemon-Poached Monkfish. Our fish market always seems to have it. But, on the day that I was set to make this, they didn't have any. Boo. Instead, I swapped in some local black cod.

Less complicated and less expensive than the Bouillabaisse from Marseille, this regional speciality involves cooking white fish with an aioli sauce.

Bourride à la Sétoise

Ingredients
Fish Stew
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 2 to 3 medium leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound monkfish, cut into large cubes (monkfish is tradition, but I used black cod)
  • 1 pound littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1 t fresh thyme leaves
  • pinch of saffron
  • pinch of crushed red pepper chile flakes
  • 1 C white wine (I used some of the Picpoul)
  • 3/4 C aioli (see below)
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
  • baguette, sliced for serving
Aioli (you'll have extra!)
  • 3 or 4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 organic lemon, juiced
  • 1 C olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper


Procedure
Aioli
Put garlic and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, or in a blender. Pulse 2 or 3 times. Add the egg yolk and lemon juice. Pulse until blended. Turn the food processor on low and add the olive oil in a thin stream through the access chute. If it becomes too thick, thin it out with some water and continue streaming in the oil until it's all used.


Spoon the aioli into a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Fish Stew
Melt butter in olive oil in a large skillet or pot (I used my Dutch oven). Stir in the leeks and garlic. Cook until the leeks are softened, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil.


Reduce the heat at a simmer and stir in the fish chunks, thyme, saffron, and chile flakes. Cook for a minute or two. Nestle the clams in the pot and cover. Let steam for 7 or 8 minutes until the clams open. Remove from the heat and pour in the lemon juice. Then add the aioli. Gently stir the pot so that the aioli is incorporated into the cooking liquid and coats the fish and clams.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, as needed. Fold parsley into the pot before ladling into individual serving bowls. Serve hot with slices of baguette.

Find the Sponsor...

Languedoc Wines on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter

*Disclosure: I received sample wines for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Moqueca #FishFridayFoodies


It's time for Fish Friday Foodies' April event. We are a group of seafood-loving bloggers, rallied by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, to share fish and seafood recipes on the third Friday of the month. This is, easily, my favorite recipe sharing event of the month. I always come away with a list of recipes that I just have to try!

This month, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories is hosting. She instructed: Make a fish dish from any country in Latin America, from Mexico to Chile.



Going Latin



Moqueca

There are many variations of Moqueca, a fish stew from Brazil, but this is the one I learned from a local-to-me chef and it includes plantains which I haven't seen too often in other versions.

Ingredients
  • 2 to 3 pounds of seafood (I used a combination of mussels, scallops, shrimp, squid, and monkfish)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 T freshly squeezed lime juice + lime wedges for garnish
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 C chopped celery
  • 1 C chopped onion
  • 1 C chopped plantain
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 1 T sweet paprika
  • pinch of red pepper chile flakes
  • 3 C water or fish stock (or a combination of those)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 C fresh cilantro chopped + more for garnish
  • fresh green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced for garnish
  • Also needed: cooked rice (I used black Forbidden rice)

Procedure
Place seafood in a large bowl and toss with garlic and lime juice. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Let stand.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large soup pot. Add in the celery and onions and cook until the onion is translucent. Add in the plantains and tomatoes and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the paprika and chile flakes and pour in the water or stock. Bring to a boil and lay seafood on the top. Pour any of the marinade into the pot as well. Cover and simmer until the seafood is opaque, approximately 5 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and heat till it's warm. Stir in the cilantro. Adjust seasoning as needed if you prefer more salt and pepper.

To serve, place a scoop of rice in your bowl and ladle seafood around the mound of rice. Pour the broth over the seafood and garnish with fresh cilantro and green onions. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sautéed Sesame-Soy Fiddlehead Ferns and Asparagus


There are a few things that have such a short season, at least in our area, that I just about scream and dance a jig when I see them. Rhubarb is one; fiddlehead ferns are another. We've foraged fiddleheads a few times, but whenever I see them in the markets or a store, I scoop up as many as I can.

If you're lucky enough to find them, you can cook them as you would asparagus. I opted to do an Asian-inspired sauté. In this case, I didn't actually have enough fiddleheads, so I mixed them with asparagus.


What are fiddleheads? Besides being a harbinger of Spring, they are the tightly curled fronds of a young fern. They are bright green, have a snappy texture, and have a grassy, woodsy taste.

R commented that they taste "like the bottom of a redwood forest." I'm not sure exactly what that means, but that's kinda grassy and woodsy.


Jake was equally dubious this time around, too. You've had these before, I insisted.

"But did I like them?" he asked. Yes, yes you did.


I served this as a side dish with my Hui Guo Rou (Twice-Cooked Pork Belly). It was a great combination.

Ingredients
Before you cook them, you might need to do a little bit of prep. Wash the fiddleheads and remove any brown fur or fluffy "skin" and trim off any browned ends. Now, you're set...
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1/2 pound fiddlehead ferns
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 2" lengths
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 t toasted sesame oil
  • sesame seeds for garnish, approximately 2 t

Procedure
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, approximately 1 minute. Add the fiddlehead ferns and asparagus and cook, stirring, until the fiddleheads and asparagus are bright green and crisp-tender, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds, tossing to coat completely. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Strawberry Shortcake Cheesecake #FantasticalFoodFight


Welcome to the April edition of the Fantastical Food Fight. I love this event coordinated by Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. For more information about it, click here.


This month, we were given the challenge of making a recipe inspired by strawberry shortcake. So you can read all about my journey to this dessert through recipe testing: Laminated Biscuit Strawberry Shortcake and Sour Cream Pound Cake Strawberry Shortcake. But first...

The Strawberry Shortcake Line-Up



Strawberry Shortcake Cheesecake

This dessert was the end of a wonderful food day to celebrate my 18th wedding anniversary. We had already indulged in quiche, rhubarb pie, bouillabaise, and a great bottle of wine. 


I created the crust with leftover biscuits from my Laminated Biscuit Strawberry Shortcake!

Ingredients

Crust
  • 1 C crushed graham crackers
  • 1 C biscuit crumbs (or just use more graham crackers)
  • 3/4 C ground almonds
  • 1/4 C crushed freeze-dried strawberries
  • 8 T butter, melted and browned*
  • 2 T organic granulated sugar

Filling
  • 3 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 C organic sour cream
  • 1 T pure vanilla bean paste

Topping
  • 2 C organic sour cream
  • 1 t pure vanilla bean paste
  • 1 T organic granulated sugar

Macerated Strawberries
  • 2 C organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 2 T organic powder sugar
  • 1 t freshly squeezed lemon juice

Serving

  • unsweetened whipped cream
  • crushed freeze-dried strawberries

Procedure

Crust
*To make beurre noisette (browned butter): place butter in a pan over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally to be sure the butter is cooking evenly. As the butter melts, it will foam and begin to darken. The color will progress from a pale lemon yellow to golden straw hue and, finally, to a hazelnut brown. Once you achieve the color and aroma you want, pour the beurre noisette into a glass container. The milk solids will continue to brown - and eventually burn - if you leave it in the pan

Mix all of the ingredients together until moist clumps form.


Press crumb mixture onto bottom of a springform pan that's been wrapped in foil. Chill crust while preparing filling.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Filling
Beat cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in sugar. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in sour cream and vanilla paste.


Transfer filling to prepared crust. Place springform pan in large roasting pan or a rimmed baking sheet. If your springform fits in the roasting pan, pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of springform pan. If it doesn't (my springform is too big), place ramekins filled with boiling water around your pan.

Bake until cheesecake puffs around edges, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn off oven. Let cake stand in oven 1 hour, leaving oven door ajar.

Topping
Mix the ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Spread this evenly over the cheesecake and bake in a 350°F oven again for 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer cake to rack. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Cool completely.


Remove foil from pan sides. Cover cake and chill overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Remove pan sides to serve.

Macerated Strawberries
Place all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Toss until the sugar is completely moistened. Let stand for, at least, 20 minutes. Toss one more time before serving

Serving
Sprinkle crushed freeze-dried strawberries over the top of the cheesecake. 


Place wedges on individual serving plates. Garnish with whipped cream, macerated strawberries, more whipped cream, and a final sprinkle of crushed freeze-dried strawberries. Serve immediately!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Cajun-Style Sautéed Shrimp #KitchenMatrixCookingProject


Today is our third post of April for our Kitchen Matrix Project, named after Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix cookbook. You can read about the year-long project: here. This month, Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm chose the recipes.

This week, she selected 'Sautéed Shrimp + 3 Ways'. You can read Bittman's shrimp recipes online if you don't have a copy of the cookbook. You'll notice that the sautéed options are: Garlic and Saffron, Fermented Black Beans, and Caper and Olives. Whoops. I didn't read the recipe planner very carefully, opened up the cookbook, and told my trio to pick the shrimp recipe they wanted to try.

They selected 'Cajun'. It wasn't until today that I realized that that fell under the broiled list and, so, not one of Wendy's sautéed choices. Yikes. Well, my boys had their hearts set on Cajun, so I went Cajun and just tossed it in the pan instead of in the oven. So...slightly adapted!

All the Sautéed Shrimp


Cajun-Style Sautéed Shrimp

Ingredients
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • 1/2 t smoked paprika
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • lemon wedges for serving


Procedure
Pour olive oil into a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook until golden, but not browning. Stir in shrimp, paprika, smoked paprika, and cayenne. After they turn opaque on one side, flip them over and drizzle with the lemon juice. Cook until they are opaque on the second side. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.

A Sneakpeak of Picpoul for #Winophiles


On the third Saturday of each month, The French Winophiles convene and share posts about a particular grape or region. Today we are focusing on the Picpoul varietal. And despite my lack of expertise on the grape, I am hosting. You can read my invitation post: here.

I'm always up for learning something new and seeing what delicious pairings this group creates. If you're reading this soon enough, hop on the Twitter chat on Saturday, April 21st at 8am Pacific time. Search for the hashtag #Winophiles to follow along or peruse the tweets later. The following articles will be live by Saturday. Stay tuned.

The Picpoul Posts
  • Michelle of Rockin Red Blog says, "Picpoul...Take Me Away."
  • Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm encourages us to Pick a Picpoul to Enjoy al Fresco This Summer.
  • Susannah of Avvinare features Picpoul de Pinet - A Refreshing White from the Languedoc.
  • Jill of L'Occasion shares Mediterranean Bliss: Picpoul de Pinet.
  • Jeff of FoodWineClick! pairs Picpoul de Pinet and Steak Tartare Redemption. 
  • Nicole of Somm's Table writes Cooking to the Wines: Font-Mars Picpoul de Pinet with Crab Cakes and Fennel-Apple Salad.
  • Payal of Keep the Peas posts A Lip-Smacking Lip-Stinger: Picpoul de Pinet.
  • David of Cooking Chat makes a case for Picpoul Wine with Pesto and Other Pairings.
  • Lauren of The Swirling Dervish says Picpoul de Pinet: Your Go-To Wine for Spring.
  • Lynn of Savor the Harvest asserts The Single Variety Wine For Summer- Picpoul de Pinet.
  • Gwendolyn of Wine Predator has Picpoul Goes Southern with Shrimp and Grits.
  • Rupal of Syrah Queen will also have a title soon.
  • Jane of Always Ravenous pairs Halibut with Spring Vegetables and Picpoul Wine.
  • Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles shares Picpouls from Pinet and California and a Seaside Pairing
  • At Culinary Adventures with Camilla, we're Pairing Bourride à la Sétoise with Picpoul From France to California's Central Coast.

Get Social!
Live #Winophiles Twitter Chat April 21, 11 a.m. ET: Participating bloggers and others interested in the subject will connect via a live Twitter chat. It's a nice bring way to bring in others interested in the subject who didn't get a chance to share a blog post. You can definitely still join the blog event if you're not available for the live chat; and the chat is open to any and all who are interested in the topic. Jump in and get social!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Pacific Rock Crab Claws + 2016 Otazu Merlot Rosado #WinePW #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the April #WinePW Navarra event.
Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.

This month Gwendolyn of Wine Predator is hosting the Wine Pairing Weekend - #WinePW - bloggers. She asked us to explore the Spanish region of Navarra. You can read her invitation: here. And she also arranged for several of us to receive samples of Navarra wine. So nice!


I received two bottles* and decided to feature one for the #WinePW event. The other I poured with soup and sandwiches for a couple refreshing, easy Springtime dinners.

Navarra
Navarra is a region best known for its annual Running of the Bulls - locally called Sanfermines - a festival that transforms Pamplona's narrow streets into the site of much revelry and rosado.

The region is also revered for its fresh products, including asparagus, piquillo peppers, artichokes, and sheep-milk cheeses such as Roncal and Idiazába. If I ever make it there, I hope I can wrangle an invitation to one of their sociedades gastronomicas, private gastronomy clubs.

The climate diversity in the region merges with a range of soils to allow for many different grape varietals. So there are high quality whites, rosés, reds, and dessert wines all in one viticultural area.

The Other Pours from Navarra

And, if you're reading this early enough, you can join the #WinePW conversation on Saturday, April 14th on Twitter. Follow #WinePW starting at 8am Pacific...or check out the stream anytime using that hashtag.


Otazu Merlot Rosado
One of the wines I received was a Rosé from Bodega Otazu. Located less than 6 miles from Pamplona, Bodega Otazu was founded in the mid-19th century. A single varietal - 100% Merlot - the winemaker José Luis Ruiz uses the traditional method of free running. Free running is basically when bunches of grapes are stacked up on top of each other, the sheer weight of all the grapes results in the release of the juice. After the juice is clarified, the wine ferments in stainless steel tanks.
  

To the eye, the wine is an intense shade of raspberry. On the nose, you get a hint of ripe berries. And on the tongue, the wine is balanced, round, and simultaneously silky and refreshing. This was the perfect wine to pour with a simple local seafood dinner.


Pacific Rock Crab Claws
On the same day that my bottles arrived, my CSF (community-supported fishery, Real Good Fish) share was Pacific Rock Crab claws. Rock crab are delicious and similar to a Dungeness crab, but slightly smaller with thicker shells. I find their flavor a bit more luscious, and slightly less sweet than their better-known crustacean cousins.


Ingredients serves 4
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 pound crab claws, cooked and cleaned

Procedure
Place uncracked claws into a steamer basket. Set steamer basket over pot of boiling water. Cover and steam until heated through, approximately 5 minutes.

In the meantime, melt butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Transfer to small serving bowls.


Remove claws from steamer, crack shells, and serve with melted butter.


As you can see, this was a hit! Nothing by remnants left on the plate.

Next month, join the Wine Pairing Weekend crew as we focus on Wines that Start with 'M' under the guidance of Lori at Dracaena Wines. Stay tuned for more information from her on that.

Bodega Otazu on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram

Navarra Wines on the web, on Twitter, on Instagram

*Disclosure: I received sample wines for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

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