Monday, April 23, 2018

Banana Split Bar #KitchenMatrixCookingProject


Today is our final April post 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 'Dessert Bars'. You can read Bittman's dessert bar ideas online if you don't have a copy of the cookbook.

More Sweet Treats




Pure Exhaustion
Funny story...to give you some context. We have all been working hard to help R finish his MYP (that's Middle Years Programme in the International Baccalaureate system) Personal Project. Picture a school year-long project that's student-driven and encompasses whatever they want to explore. And, given that he's mine and Jake's, he's doomed to undertake something the polar opposite of simple. If you're interested, you can check out his blog: Weaving the Green Machine.

 

Over the years I've asked the boys to simplify...Tech Challenge, Science Fair, History Day. The list goes on and on. They just laugh at me and ask if I'm the pot or the kettle. So, for this project, we all pitched in to help him make his (already extended) deadline. This past weekend had D coloring the rivets, Jake building the base with wood, and me soldering. Yes, you read that correctly: I was soldering. For. Sixteen. Hours. Oh, my goodness. 


At least I had a good teacher...and I only burned myself once. But this was all to set the stage for why I read the two 'Dessert Bars' pages in the cookbook half a dozen times. I was exhausted.

I kept looking at the photo of the beautiful brownies, not making the connection between brownies and a meringue or sponge cake base. Huh? So, I shut the book and emailed Wendy. I don't understand, I wrote.

When I re-read the pages again in the morning I realized, there was no cooking involved; it wasn't a recipe. Bittman was giving suggestions of what to offer at a dessert bar, as in a sweet smorgasbord - not a dessert bar as in a bar cookie.

Banana Split Bar

So, after talking to my trio about what they would want at a dessert bar, we settled on a Banana Split Bar. Easy peasy. And, again, no cooking involved. I picked up all the fixings on my way home from a school meeting and let them sugar it up to get them through the final night of the project.

Ingredients

Base
  • Bananas


Toppings
  • ice cream (I offered 3 flavors: cardamom, vanilla, and bittersweet chocolate)
  • whipped cream

Goodies
  • organic berries
  • mini chocolate chips
  • caramel sauce
  • chocolate sauce

Procedure

Peel the banana and slice it lengthwise. Place it in an individual serving bowl. Top it with scoops of ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream.


Drizzle it with sauce. And add all your extra goodies. Like this...


...or this....


Enjoy!


And while the project is not completely done, it was done enough to make it to the school open house.... I'm pretty sure the banana splits helped him stay up till almost midnight to finish!


A Day Full of Flowers + Filoli Quince Jam Thumbprint Cookies


Yesterday one of my best friends took me, and another best girlfriend, to Filoli in Woodside. You can read about the historic house and garden at their website.


Jenn's birthday is in March; mine is in May. So, an April girls' day is the perfect in-between birthday celebration. Pia treated us to a delicious picnic brunch before we headed in to the grounds.

 
 

We strolled through the gardens, sticking our noses in blossoms, and soaking in the beautiful Spring day.

  

And afterwards, we ducked into the gift shop and picked up some goodies. I bought a jar of Filoli wildflower honey and a jar of quince jam. I love quince. If you're unfamiliar, here's a piece I wrote for Edible Monterey Bay in August 2014: Queen of Quince Takes Her Show on the Road.


Ingredients  makes approximately 30 cookies
  • 3/4 C butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 C flour
  • 1/2 C ground almonds
  • 2 t gin
  • quince jam

Procedure
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in the egg yolks until incorporated. Stir in the flour and ground almonds until a flaky dough is formed. Add in the gin, gently working the dough until it forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes before proceeding. While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Pinch off pieces of dough and form into small balls, about the size of a walnut in its shell. Place each ball onto a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet, pressing a "thumbprint" into the center of each and slightly flattening. (The cookies will not spread, so make them the size that you want!)

Add about 1/2 t to 1 t of quince jam to each thumbprint. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cookies cool for several minutes on the sheet before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bánh Mì + A Wine Suggestion #NationalPicnicDay


We love picnics! So, when I saw that Ellen of Family Around the Table was hosting a Festive Foodies event to celebrate National Picnic Day, I was excited to participate and get some new ideas for Summer and Spring meals al fresco. Sometimes our picnics are as easy as jarred tapenades, sliced breads, cheese, and fruits.


Sometimes I'll prep salads or chilled soups. We picnic in parks, on the beach, wherever we happen to be. And, on special occasions, we'll even hike in a bottle of bubbly or wine. Wine bottles are heavier than you would think; my husband groans when he sees me packing one.


For this #NationalPicnicDay event, I wanted to share our favorite sandwich: Bánh Mì.


But on the afternoon I was packing these up, this is what it looked like outside! Darn it. So, we picnicked at our dining room table instead. I promised the boys we'd re-do these on another day, when the sun was shining.


But before I get to my recipe, here are the picnickers' offerings!

The Festive Foodies' Picnic Basket

Bánh Mì

Bánh mì is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread, derived from bánh (bread) and mì (wheat). But, more often than not, it refers to the baguette which was introduced by the French during its colonial period. But when we say it, we're usually referring to the Vietnamese sandwiches that my boys adore. These sandwiches combine French ingredients such as baguettes, pâté, and mayonnaise with native Vietnamese ingredients such as cilantro, cucumber, pickled carrots, and daikon.


Ingredients 
makes 8 sandwiches with 4 or 5 meatballs each

Meatballs
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 1 T chopped cilantro
  • 1 T chopped basil
  • 1 T chopped parsley
  • 1 t minced ginger
  • 1/2 t minced lemongrass
  • 1 to 2 scallions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 2 t fish sauce
  • 2 t soy sauce
  • 1 T Sriracha or other hot sauce


Pickled Carrots and Daikon
  • 4 to 5 medium carrots, julienned (I used orange, yellow, and purple carrots)
  • 1 daikon radish, peeled and thinly sliced (I used a mandolin slicer)
  • 4 T organic granulated sugar
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 1/2 C rice wine vinegar
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 2 t minced cilantro

Spicy Mayo
  • 1/2 C organic mayonnaise
  • 1 to 2 T Sriracha or other hot sauce

To Assemble
  • 2 baguettes, cut into 4 equal pieces and lightly toasted 
  • pâté
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh cucumbers, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • waxed paper or parchment paper (if actually taking these on a picnic)
  • cotton twine (if actually taking these on a picnic)
Procedure

Pickled Carrots and Daikon
(This can be done the night before, but should be done at least six hours before serving.)


Place julienned carrots and sliced daikon in separate bowls. Bring the sugar, vinegar, and fish sauce to a simmer. Stir till the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the sesame oil and cilantro. Divide the hot liquid in half and pour half over the carrots and half over the daikon. Make sure the vegetables are as submerged as possible. Set aside until ready to serve.

Spicy Mayo
(This can be done the night before, but can also be done at the last minute.)
Place ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Stir together until well combined. Set aside.


Meatballs
In a large bowl, using your hands, mix together all of the ingredients until well-combined. Roll walnut-sized balls and place them on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 35 minutes until well-browned.


To Assemble
Open up each piece of bread. Spread the Sriracha mayonnaise on one side. Smear pâté on the other side. Place the meatballs on the bread. Top with picked carrots, pickled daikon, cucumber slices, and fresh cilantro. Enjoy! If you're taking this in a picnic basket, wrap them tightly with waxed paper or parchment paper and tie with twine.


And, as a bonus, I'm offering a wine pairing! With the sandwiches, I poured the 2015 Picpoul Blanc from Adelaida Vineyards & Winery, Paso Robles, California.


I had initially opened up this wine to go with the Bourride à la Sétoise I made for April's French Winophiles event last weekend. You can read that post: here. But neither of us really cared for it with that dish. So, I poured it with the Bánh Mì and it worked really, really well.

On the nose I got aromas of tropical fruits, citrus, and brioche. On the tongue, those complex notes were matched with just enough citrus and savory spices to complement spicy Asian fare. If you can't get your hands on a Picpoul, I would suggest an unoaked Chardonnay or Grüner Veltliner. Cheers.

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.

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