Food fraud?

I’ve been reading about “fake” food or fraud.  What’s in the package may not be what’s claimed on that catchy label.  Olive oil?  Yes, so I have a favorite specialty shop where I buy my olive oil (Bull City Olive Oil that I’m sure I’ve mentioned before).  But tomatoes?  Hadn’t crossed my mind until my email from Taste appeared in my inbox with an article on that:  The Fake Rolex of Canned Foods.  It’s definitely worth reading since I’d guess that we all have canned tomatoes living in our kitchen cabinets.

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Popcorn!

I am a big fan of popcorn. I’ll take that over potato chips, or any other variety of chips almost any time. It’s just the thing to go with a good book while you’re having a duvet day.

PopCorn MakerYou can probably even make a case that it is at least “healthy-ish”–compared to most other snacks that come in bags from the grocery store–and it’s more fun. You can custom tailor the seasoning to fit your mood. At least I know what’s in it if I’ve popped and seasoned it myself.

I’ve gotten very fond of my Lékué PopCorn Maker for making popcorn in the microwave (and that’s about the only thing I do in the microwave).  I will admit to using oil (usually about 1-1/2  tablespoons of olive oil for about 1/3 cup popcorn) when popping popcorn. For some awesome popcorn, use just a little Baklouti chili pepper (fused) olive oil (about 1 teaspoon) with the regular olive oil. Wow!

Other favorite infused oils (all from Bull City Olive Oil) to touch up my popcorn with are harissa, chipotle, or garlic.

While I don’t often do stove-top popcorn, I did find some interesting suggestions for other flavorings to try from Taste in “Really Good Popcorn“: brewer’s yeast, dulse flakes (I know I like other seaweed seasonings), and Urfa biber (described as in that article as “a dried Turkish chile pepper with a raisin-like sweetness, a subtle spice, and the gentle acidity of a lightly roasted Ethiopian coffee”–that sounds totally great.  Since I’ve used Aleppo pepper on popcorn and that makes this sound very interesting to me.

A son gôut!

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Winter oyster tradition continues

As I’ve posted before, oysters with special wine are a Christmas and New Year’s tradition in my home. When I finally got it back together from the C. difficile, it was way past prime oyster season. But it is again prime oyster season so my thoughts are turning to oysters and wine. Eating oysters on the half-shell recently at Burger Bach (yes, they “do” excellent burgers, and oysters) really got me thinking about oysters in a very serious way. Even though I’ve not made it for either Christmas eve or New Year’s eve, I still intend to have my winter oysters. I’d arranged to share with two good friends who are also oyster lovers–but we had to reschedule first because of snow and horrendous cold, and then, again, because all the snow and cold left Durham essentially without oysters!

I’ve done some fun things with oysters: oyster and corn chowder, and a in 2013-2014, with black truffle (good friend gave me truffles) and experimented with some wines.  I liked the “surf & turf” combination so well that I’m continuing it this year as well.

I’ve started the hunt for wine for this winter’s oyster feast. So far the wines recommended are:

2011 Pouilly-Fuisse (Gilles Noblet, France)

“Gilles Noblet, Pouilly-Fuisse, Burgundy, France, 2011{sustainable} 100% Chardonnay EXOTIC FRUITS, DRIED CITRUS & WHISP OF VANILLA Thirty year old Chardonnay vines provide the heart and soul of Noblet’s Pouilly Fuissé, right from the village of Fuissé. This area was originally comprised of negociant producers and Gilles Noblet was the first in his region to independently bottle his wine under his own name. This style is racy, rich and elegant with hints of kiwi and pineapple fruits. The finish goes on and on and on… Serving Suggestion: White Burgundy is the home of Chardonnay and this one is extremely versatile. A perfect match for dishes with heavy cream sauces.”  From Wine Authorities.

2013 Macon-Peronne (Gandines, Domaine des, France)

domaine-des-gandines-macon-peronne-burgundy-france-10338034“100% Chardonnay FULL & FLAVORFUL, LEMON, HAZELNUT, CARAMEL. SERIOUS! Gandines really surprised us with this compelling, and serious White Burgundy. Fully ripe and lush, but with juicy acidity and complex minerality. This kind of power usually comes from the big boys north of the Macon in the Cotes de Beaune. Aged in enormous 3000 liter old oak barrels that soften the wine without giving it any oak flavor, it is possibly the most impressive Chardonnay available at this price! Serving Suggestion: Steamed or raw oysters. Black sea bass poached in olive oil with fresh thyme. Roast turkey with truffles or chanterelles.”  From Wine Authorities.

Tenuta del Cavaliere, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Marchetti, 2013 

385762“Verdicchio is central Italy’s most distinctive white varietal. The mineral-rich soils of the Classico Superiore sector of the Marches’ Castelli di Jesi zone – just a few miles from the Adriatic Sea – imbues the finest Verdicchios with extra complexity and a deeply etched soil signature. A radiant green-gold in the bowl, Marchetti’s Verdicchio shows all the minerally snap pea and smoky white pepper notes that we so love in the very finest Verdicchios. The wine’s smoky mineral expression yields to a fleshy core of pear and melon fruit backed by riveting acidity, a tactile mineral expression, and suggestions of green tea, grapefruit zest and sappy dried herbs. Full bodied yet balanced and elegant, Marchetti’s Verdicchio begs for rich vegetarian recipes and fish steaks. Pair it now and over the coming five years with hearty fare that calls for a bold white wine, like swordfish, fresh albacore tuna, rabbit, zucchini casseroles, white pizzas, and pastas dressed with olive oil, garlic and seasonal vegetables. Impressive Verdicchio! ” Found this one at Hope Valley Bottle Shop.

Finally, the weather is cooperating, and I’ll be eating oysters on Saturday evening. I haven’t yet decided which wine will accompany this round of oyster stew with black truffles!  I keep reading the descriptions of each and just can’t decide, but I do know that three is too many–I have to make a decision.

 

Turkey–with truffle butter

Thanksgiving does have its good points–getting together with friends! There’s another positive thing, especially if you are like me, someone whose favorite part of the turkey is the dark meat: you can find turkey thighs in the grocery store. That means dark meat in quantities suitable for cooking for one.

Perusing my food-related emails a few days ago I found one from D’Artganan–my favorite source of foodstuff that can be hard to find (e.g. the cassoulet  ingredients–no, I didn’t say it was inexpensive). There was a link to a delightful video on preparing your Thanksgiving turkey using truffle butter. (Attempting not to drool on my keyboard.)

You’ve seen from some of my previous posts that I really like truffles (not the candy–well, those, too, but…), even in my comfort food. In my attempts to be frugal and still indulge my tastes for the expensive stuff I do skulk through the “manager’s specials” and those carts full of end-of-season bargains. Sometimes I’m lucky and find an indulgence elsewhere. Not long ago I found a small tub of truffle butter at my local supermarket–marked down as it was lingering with the cheese and spreads, but not past it’s sell-by date. Needless to say, it came home with me–some of just have no willpower when it comes to food!

20161119_165833After seeing the turkey with truffle butter video, realizing that I had truffle butter, and turkey thighs to hand, I decided to try  turkey this way. I decided (since I was roasting all dark meat) to use my Schlemmertopf  for this. I carefully loosened the skin over my turkey thighs, and as directed in the video, put bits of truffle butter under the skin. After soaking the clay cooker properly, I patted my turkey thighs in, sprinkled some kosher salt over them, and put the pot into a cold, 300ºF oven for about 2-1/2 hours–until they were nice and brown, and very tender. (Many recipes will suggest oven temperatures of about 450ºF, but I chose to use a lower temperature because dark meat can tolerate longer cooking, and it often tends to be tough. I wanted slower cooking to break down collagen and make my turkey really tender.

The skin did shrink away from the edges of one of the thighs–I would rather have had one big thigh instead of two small ones, but it seems those haven’t hit the stores yet. Size and skin shrinkage aside, I had some lovely dark-meat turkey nicely flavored with black truffle. Turkey my way!

A son gôut!

Consider the dandelion

It seems that spring may finally be here. Looking out my kitchen window I see that the maple (which I think is Acer saccharum) is budding. The honey bees are bringing different colors of pollens to the hive. I thought I had always been oriented to seasons–but it seems my observations were mostly related to what to eat that was in season. In other words, what to feed me. Now that I have honey bees I find that my awareness of seasons has broadened to include what is blooming that is providing food for my bees. We beekeepers have an orientation to flowering plants that is a bit different from the person interested in that velvet expanse of lawn, or the picture perfect flower garden: plants that are weeds to some are nectar and pollen for our bees.

IMG_0875Consider the dandelion. It is the bane of many lawns–and people go to great lengths to get rid of it. From having grown up on a farm where part of our food was obtained from foraging (wild asparagus, lambs quarter, et cetera), I already had an appreciation of the dandelion. The brilliant yellow flowers and green leaves that appear early in the spring (or even when it warms up just briefly in late winter) signaled fresh greens on the table–a reprieve from canned food. While “harvesting” those precious greens we would find the bees sharing our interest–busily mining those bright yellow flowers for nectar and pollen.

There are many plants that are weeds if they appear in the lawn, or in the flower bed; that should be more attention as food plants, for us and the bees. Some plants found in the flower beds can also be eaten. Dandelions have become “gourmet” now. They’ve appeared in the produce case, the farmers’ market, and should you want to grow your own you can buy the seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  Young leaves can be used as salad greens, perhaps with a hot bacon dressing. Older leaves can be braised as you would other hearty greens. Older greens do have a bitter flavor, which I don’t find objectionable; however, some people have a genetically determined distaste for bitterness. These are for everyone, but if you like arugula, escarole, or frisée you might want to try some dandelion greens.  Even if you don’t want to eat them, the honey bees find the flowers a source of nectar and pollen in the early spring. Please don’t kill the dandelions!

 

Parmesan, Chive and Truffle Madeleines and a Paris Snapshot

Despite Paris being so close to London – three hours on the Eurostar – we had never been with big A and little Z. Mr B and I had been on numerous occasions in the past both for work and…

Source: Parmesan, Chive and Truffle Madeleines and a Paris Snapshot

Fig season

ripening fig

Excitement. . . .

Anticipation is one of the good things about seasonal foods. I know some have already had fresh figs this season, but not here yet. I’m anticipating that day when I see that luscious, brownish-reddish fruit, the little drop of nectar at the bottom telling me its ready to eat. It’s like the anticipation of the first asparagus in the spring, or the first home-grown tomato in the heat of the summer. The very first of a seasonal food–even if it’s only a single fig found ready to eat, need to be appreciated without adornment so that the appreciate the season, not the sauce or other accompaniments. Those come later when the figs, asparagus, or tomatoes are more abundant–maybe even a little overwhelming.

The first of the brown turkey figs are starting to ripen now–they are straggling in–the figs are ranging from very tiny to several that have been mostly devoured by birds, to one that was ready for me to eat–but lots of tiny ones that I can look forward to.

Mornings may find me with my latte visiting the fig tree in hopes of a fresh-off-the-tree, warm from the sunshine, figs for breakfast.

There are so many easy things to do with figs:

The anticipation of watching them ripen, hoping that you’ll get them before the birds. . .so many easy and delightful ways to enjoy this luscious fruit during its season.