Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Dried Peaches

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Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Dried Peaches

If you’ve been hanging around kitchens for any length of time you probably have a particular favorite cheesecake. The jammy Strawberry-Topped Cheesecake is popular, or maybe your favorite cheesecake is simply sliced and served as in this lemony version from Mark Bittman. Cheesecake is a staple and most cooks have a fairly certain point of view about which type they prefer. However, if you’re not one of those cooks, or perhaps you just don’t care for the traditionally creamy styles that grace most menus then I’d like you to set these prejudices aside and consider making this Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Dried Peaches your favorite cheesecake.

It’s a seemingly unusual cheesecake, especially if you compare it to a New York Cheesecake. Partly because it’s dense and moist with an uncreamy crumb that has more in common with a pound cake than a no-bake cheesecake. But more importantly, the fruit element in this Cream Cheese Bundt Cake isn’t jammy nor is it fresh and juicy – it’s made with dried peaches.

I know from experience that dried fruit isn’t always a crowd-pleaser. I’ve seen plenty of folks spend most of their Starbucks coffee break patiently plucking currants from a scone. Of course, you can’t talk about the lack of love for dried fruit without using prunes as a case in point. Admit it, you’ve had a box of the wizened little wretches in the back of your pantry since 1994.

That said, dried fruit can be a bakers friend. Because getting just the right balance of moisture, sugar, and flour to make a successful cake often means that fresh fruit is off-limits. One of my most memorable baking fails was a Martha Stewart recipe for fresh strawberry-studded cookies. If you go back and read my post about them you’ll see I tried several ways to tame the moisture from those fresh berries. Dried fruit doesn’t weep when baked the same way many berries and stone fruits do. GREG

Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Dried Peaches

Dried Peach Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 10-12Published
Dried Peach Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cup dried peaches (cut into ½-inch chunks)
  • 2 cup fruity white wine
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 8 ounce cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cup all-purpose flour (scooped and leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • powdered sugar (for dusting, optional)

Directions

Place peaches and wine in a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a low boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the liquid is syrupy. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow peaches to completely cool in the liquid. Do not drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare a bundt pan by lightly coating the interior with non-stick cooking spray and a light sprinkling of flour. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use a hand-held mixer to blend together the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating in between additions until well incorporated.

Add the flour and baking powder to the mixture in several additions and then use a rubber spatula and fold the dry ingredients into the batter between additions. Add the peaches along with their liquid and continue to fold the ingredients together until just mixed through.

Transfer the batter to the bundt pan. Tap the pan firmly on your kitchen counter several times to settle the batter into the folds of the pan.

Bake in the heated oven for 50 to 55 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready. If not, place back in the oven for 3-5 minutes and perform the toothpick test again.

Allow the cake to cool for five minutes and then turn the cake out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving. (Optional)

Perfectly Seasonal Roasted Cherry Toast

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Roasted Cherry Toast with Ricotta Cheese

Los Angeles has all kinds of restaurants. Exotic ethnicities and regional American specialties. Meat. Seafood. Vegetarian. Vegan. Old-School. New-School. Fast Food. Slow Food. But have you ever been to a really great toast restaurant? Well, we’ve got one of those too. It’s called Sqirl. I want you to fully appreciate how unlikely the success of this restaurant is. Think about it – this is Los Angeles and people are lining up on the sidewalk to eat toast. This is where the no-carb fad was born! I love Sqirl (and I don’t mind carbs) but honestly, it’s hard for me to make it over there just so I can have excellent toast for breakfast. So I’ve stolen some of Sqirl’s best tricks and I often top toast with all sorts of creative combinations at home. Honey-Roasted Cherry and Lemon Ricotta Toast is my latest example.

Ban the butter and tell jelly to step aside – the ritual of smearing stuff on toast doesn’t have to be boring. Roasted cherries make a delicious warm compote that cuts through the full-fat flavors in good ricotta cheese, while earthy thyme complements the sweetness. Besides, if you’re like me you buy cherries whenever you see them this time of year. All summer long. It makes no matter how many bushels I already have, or how many fruit flies I have to chase around the kitchen. I always think I need just a few more cherries. Why not try some roasted cherries? You’ve done everything else you can think of with them already. I just know you have. GREG

PS I served this Honey-Roasted Cherry and Lemon Ricotta Toast on slices of whole-grain rosemary bread from Roan Mills Grains. The earthy touch of rosemary gives this toast a savory boost Smucker’s can only dream about.

Roasted Cherry Toast with Ricotta CheeseRoasted Cherry Toast with Ricotta Cheese

Honey-Roasted Cherry and Lemon Ricotta Toast

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from Andrea BemisPublished
Honey-Roasted Cherry and Lemon Ricotta Toast

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta (drained and at room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • 2 cup pitted fresh cherries
  • 2 tablespoon honey (plus more for serving)
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • fresh thyme sprigs (as needed)
  • 4 slice whole-grain artisan bread (cut ½-inch thick, then toasted)
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped raw almonds
  • flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Directions

Stir together ricotta, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt. Ricotta mixture can be refrigerated, in an airtight container, up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

On a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, toss cherries with honey, lemon juice, remaining olive oil, and 4 or 5 fresh thyme sprigs; season lightly with salt. Bake in the heated oven until the juices begin to thicken and the fruit is very soft about 17 minutes.

Generously spread the toasted bread slices with the lemon ricotta mixture and dollop the cherries with some of the juice on top. Garnish with chopped almonds and the tender tips of torn thyme sprigs. Serve with flaky sea salt and more honey on the side.

Chorizo Hash: Because I Have a Food Blog

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Fingerling Potato and Chorizo Hash with Baked Eggs

Oh, look! I have a blog. It seems to be a food blog. I almost forgot about it. It’s been 12 days since I last posted. I’ve never gone quite that long between posts before. I’m a bit surprised at how little the lack of attention has bothered me this past (nearly) two weeks. There was a time when such a lapse would make me feel antsy. But I’m still eating and I’m still blogging and I’m still glad you’re here. So I made hash. A Fingerling Potato and Chorizo Hash with Baked Eggs. I’ve thrown in some moderately spicy elements like fresh poblano peppers and chipotle powder, but this isn’t too far off the classic hash you might order at your favorite diner.

Let’s see, what else do I need to say? It’s been so long since I’ve done this I almost forget how to blog. Oh yes. I need to get my keyword into the text two more times. Chorizo Hash. Chorizo Hash.

There I’m done. May I please be excused from the table? GREG

PS I know, I know mom. Cakes are done people are finished.

Fingerling Potato and Chorizo Hash with Baked Eggs

Fingerling Potato and Chorizo Hash with Baked Eggs

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published

It’s important that the skillet and hash be hot when the eggs are cracked into the wells for baking.

Fingerling Potato and Chorizo Hash with Baked Eggs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes
  • water (as needed)
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • 12 ounce Mexican chorizo (casing removed and discarded)
  • vegetable oil (as needed)
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chiptole chili powder
  • black pepper (as needed)
  • 1 poblano pepper (stemmed, halved, seeded and cut into ½-inch dice)
  • 1 yellow onion (peeled and cut into ½-inch dice)
  • 4 grilled piquillo peppers from a jar (chopped, you can substitute roasted red bell peppers)
  • olive oil (as needed)
  • 4-6 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoon grated cotija cheese
  • chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
  • sour cream
  • salsa (optional)

Directions

Add the potatoes to a pot cover with water and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil then cover the pan until mostly cooked, about 7 minutes. Drain well and spread out on a baking sheet to cool.

Meanwhile, drizzle a little vegetable oil into a large skillet and cook the chorizo over medium heat until brown and rendered of all the fat, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to move the chorizo to a plate leaving as much of the fat as possible in the skillet. There should be about 2 tablespoons, if not add a bit of vegetable oil and set the skillet aside.

Cut the potatoes into ½-inch thick rounds; set aside.

When ready to make the hash preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Meanwhile, heat the fat left in the skillet from cooking the chorizo. Add the potatoes in as close to a single layer as possible. Stir in the paprika and chili powder and cook, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are beginning to get browned, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the poblano peppers and onion and cook until the peppers have softened, the onions begin to brown slightly, and the potatoes get crusty about 3 minutes. Return the chorizo to the pan and add the chopped grilled piquillo peppers; gently stir to combine.

Take the skillet off the heat and make 4-6 small evenly-spaced wells in the hash, exposing the bottom of the skillet, and pour a small bit of olive oil in each well. Break an egg into each well, sprinkle the eggs with salt and black pepper and scatter cotija cheese over the hash.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are cooked to your taste, about 5 minutes for firm whites and soft yolks. Serve immediately with optional accompaniments like fresh cilantro, sour cream and/or salsa.

Box or Bag? Kale Salad with White Beans and Farro

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Baby Kale Salad with White Beans, Farro, and Golden Raisins

I’m the primary caregiver for my partner’s mother. She lives with us and there are a great many rewards, but there are also challenges. As her dementia progresses my caregiving responsibilities naturally increase. Perhaps you’ve noticed that I don’t post as much as I used to and some of my entries are less culinarily enthusiastic than they once were. In fact, I find myself taking all kinds of dinnertime shortcuts that at one time seemed unthinkable to me. Which means semi-creative salads are often the compromise I make to get a meal made. Kale Salad with White Beans and Farro should be a simple dinner. However, in today’s mechanized food world dinner is rarely simple. Even salad.

Box, Bag, or Prep your Own?

That’s a question I ask myself a lot these days. That’s because there are a lot of reasons to hate those pre-washed salad greens that come in a bag. First I can’t get over the feeling that a salad in a bag is the modern version of imagination-free, single-serving TV dinners. I know they’re convenient but the waste created by the excessive packaging is a real problem for me – never mind that these little bags cost just as much as good organic, locally grown lettuce. But, if you’re the kind of person whose good intentions sometimes lead you to buy a whole drawerful of farmers market vegetables and then let them rot simply because you don’t have the time and/or energy to wash, chop, and prep all that good green stuff then I think there’s an argument to be made that more packaging waste is the trade-off for less food waste. Or is it?

Because another unappetizing fact about bagged greens is the disturbing method they use to help those leaves appear so fresh and green. Food that has been “packaged in a protective atmosphere” means that it has been “gassed” with “modified” air to extend its shelf life. So, much like the mummies of ancient Egypt, once that “protection” is compromised by opening the bag the limp leaves inside quickly catch up with their actual age and become nearly inedible within hours. Yuck…

Boxed Kale Salad with White Beans

Still. Here’s a Kale Salad with White Beans and Farro I made with baby kale leaves that come pre-packaged in a plastic clamshell box. I don’t think greens in a box are “gassed” like the bagged versions. The box isn’t airtight. But still, I wonder every time I throw the plastic box in the recycling bin if I’m doing the right thing. The thing is I’ve never seen baby kale leaves sold any other way than pre-packaged. I like all kale but I like baby kale a little better than any other type of kale. So, I tell myself, buying the box means I’ll eat kale more often. Surely that’s a win. Besides baby kale in a box still requires some creativity to make it interesting. Right?

What do you think? GREG

Baby Kale Salad with White Beans, Farro, and Golden Raisins

Baby Kale Salad with White Beans, Farro, and Golden Raisins

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Gena HamshawPublished
Baby Kale Salad with White Beans, Farro, and Golden Raisins

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cup water (you can substitute chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 1 cup hulled farro (rinsed and drained)
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • black pepper (as needed)
  • 5 ounce baby kale leaves (washed and dried)
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 ½ cup cooked and drained white beans (or one 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)
  • lemon wedges (for serving)

Directions

To cook the farro: Bring water (or stock) to a boil in a large saucepan. Add a generous heaping teaspoon of salt (optional) and the farro. Bring to a boil. Once boiling lower the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer until the farro has begun to split open and has reached the desired tenderness, about 25 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. The farro may be made one day ahead. In which case cool, cover, and store in the refrigerator.

To make the dressing: In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt, and a generous grinding of black pepper. Whisk until blended, set aside.

To make the salad: Fluff the cooked farro with a fork and set aside.

Put the baby kale leaves into a large bowl. Pour in about half of the dressing and toss until well coated. Add the farro, raisins, and white beans; toss to combine. Drizzle in a bit more dressing. The salad should be generously dressed but not swimming in dressing, use your judgment. Toss again. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.

Chicken Adobo Taco is a Real World, Cross-Cultural Mash-Up

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Adobo Taco

Do a search for “taco” on this blog and you’ll find quite a few entries. It may make you wonder how many posts about tacos one skinny Americano can write on one little blog over a 10-year period. As you try to calculate the answer please factor into the equation that said Americano lives in taco-centric Los Angeles. You should also consider the fact that he’s fascinated with cross-cultural mash-ups. Which means many of his best tacos aren’t really “tacos” at all. Take today’s taco – it’s stuffed with shredded Filipino adobo chicken. So I have to ask, can an Adobo Taco be a taco after all?

Chicken Adobo Taco

Now that I’ve explained why this taco is not really a taco let me further complicate things and talk about Filipino adobo. Which as you’ll see seems the perfect partner to a taco.

Adobo is not a recipe per se, it’s a method by which anything – fish, fowl, vegetables or meat – is marinated in vinegar and spices. It’s sometimes browned in hot oil and then braised. Though some versions are finished under the broiler. However, my Adobo Taco mash-up is shredded. Soy sauce may or may not be used. The dish is often garnished with an egg, but I did not know that when I prepared the tacos you see here. However, I think a fried egg on top of my Adobo Taco might be a very good idea.

As you’ve probably guessed from the shopping list adobo is a mingling of eclectic influences. Some regional and some imported. As the locals say, “Philippine food was prepared by Malay settlers, spiced by the Chinese, stewed by the Spanish and hamburgerized by the Americans”.

I think that may be partly a joke (especially the hamburger part) but it very clearly illustrates that adobo morphed with the changing times and cultural influences that shaped the island’s history. So you can see why an Adobo Taco is probably a very good idea.

I read that adobo is a cousin to a popular Malaysian dish known as ginataan – chicken, pork and vegetables cooked in coconut milk and garnished with vinegar and garlic. But the main influences come from the Spanish who colonized and ruled the Philippines for more than three centuries. The Spanish most certainly introduced the locals to the idea of the marinade, because before that almost everything was boiled. Some food experts say that as much as 80 percent of today’s Filipino dishes are derived from Spanish recipes.

Spanish recipes. Which of course brings me back to the taco. The Chicken Adobo Taco. GREG

PS: A word about tortillas. I know I should probably do a post on this because I have strong opinions. However, when it comes to a taco you want to choose corn tortillas. There are some exceptions. Flour tortillas are often the first choice in Tex-Mex renditions. There is also a type of taco known as “Arabica” which is properly served on a flour tortilla because the intention is to replicate pita bread. But true (real good) Mexican tacos are served exclusively on corn tortillas. Corn tortillas have the tooth of corn to carry bold flavors. They just do.

However, to complicate matters a lot of folks will disagree with me because the only corn tortillas they’ve ever eaten are mass-produced (which are made with the whole ear of corn – cob and all). These tortillas are dry and brittle and can sit in your stomach like a rock. If you can, seek out corn tortillas made with just the kernels or make your own with good quality masa.

Adobo Taco

Shredded Chicken Adobo Tacos

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Adapted from Wes Avila Guerrilla TacosPublished
Shredded Chicken Adobo Tacos

Ingredients

  • 8 skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 8-10 cloves garlic (peeled and sliced)
  • 8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 drop chile de arbol (stems removed)
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • warm (5-inch) corn tortillas (or as needed)
  • avocado-tomatilla salsa (see recipe)
  • simple cabbage slaw (see recipe)
  • 1 bunch green onions (white and some green parts , sliced)

Directions

In a large pot with a lid over medium heat, combine the chicken, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, thyme, chiles, bay leaves, peppercorns, and cinnamon stick and simmer partially covered until the chicken is well-glazed. Turn the chicken often to ensure even cooking and don’t let the pan get dry. Add a splash of water as needed. Total cooking time should be about 1 ½ hours.

Move the chicken thighs to a cutting board and save the cooking liquid in the pot. When cool enough to handle pull the chicken meat from the bones and shred into bite-sized chunks. Discard bones and return the meat to the pot with the cooking liquid. Let cool completely.

When ready to serve gently reheat the shredded chicken adobo. Spoon the warm chicken and some of the sauce onto warm tortillas. Top with a drizzle of avocado-tomatillo salsa, slaw, and scallions. Serve immediately.

Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 20-24Source Adapted from Wes Avila Guerrilla TacosPublished
Shredded Chicken Adobo Tacos

Ingredients

  • 1 pound tomatillos (husked and rinsed)
  • 2 ripe avocados (pitted and peeled)
  • 1 serrano chile (stem removed)
  • 6 clove garlic (peeled)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (leaves and some of the stems)
  • kosher salt
  • 4-6 limes (juice only)

Directions

In a food processor, combine the tomatillos, avocados, serrano, garlic, cilantro, and a few big pinches of salt. Juice the limes over the top then pulse them in the food processor 3 or 4 times to roughly chop everything together. Scrape the sides of the bowl then pulse 3 or 4 more times. Scrape the side of the bowl then process until you achieve a chunky salsa. Set aside.

Simple Cabbage Slaw for Taco Topping

Print This Recipe Total time Yield Published
Simple Cabbage Slaw for Taco Topping

Ingredients

  • ½ red cabbage
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 4-5 limes (juice only)

Directions

Shred the cabbage very thinly (preferably with a mandoline) into a large bowl. Chop the cilantro (all the leaves and a good amount of the stems too). Add the chopped cilantro and lime juice to the bowl with the cabbage; season with salt. Set aside at least 1 hour and as long as three days ahead.

Grenache Locations Locations Locations

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Grenache Locations

Three things to look for in buying a house? Location, location, location. Three things to consider when selecting a wine? Locations, Locations, Locations. Where does the wine come from? How does it express its particular sense of place? A word should be forming in your mind: terroir. Esteemed winemaker Dave Phinney (of The Prisoner fame) has morphed into an oenological Dora the Explorer with his current project, Locations wines. Each area he explores, each partnership he forms and each wine his team produces strives for authenticity, typicity, and quality (at a more than fair price point, I might add). Let’s talk Grenache Locations.

As you may recall from past posts, I’m a big Rhône fan. Good Grenache doesn’t necessarily hail from France however. Given the appropriate climate, soil, aspect, and winemaking a true expression of this grape can even be found in Texas! This post will compare and contrast the nuances of three Locations wines, all are blends that feature Grenache as the star player.

Grenache Locations

  • Grenache Locations F5 France
    Nose: red fruit, bramble, savory, herbal, spice
    Palate: cranberry, boysenberry, licorice, smooth tannins, medium + acid, black raspberry
    Classic Rhône flavors, a compote of ripe red fruit– raspberry, black cherry, rhubarb; impressions of dried herbs, a definite savory quality, a supple, polished rusticity if such a thing is possible. What I’d expect of a southern French blend– a gutsy baby Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Steak frites, anyone?
  • Grenache Locations E5 Spain
    Nose: earth, stewed red and black fruit, pepper
    Palate: plum, blackberries, slight salinity, warm stones, smoke, tart acidity with integrated tannins. I picture a sun-drenched, windblown, dusty vineyard for some reason. There’s a definite backbone to this wine, showing ripe yet not overly sweet black fruit. While it would stand up to any meat dish, it could be lovely with tapas and Spanish tortilla.
  • Grenache Locations TX6 Texas
    Nose: black cherry, forest floor, tarragon, spice
    Palate: ripe red fruit, raspberry, cherry, wild strawberry, smooth tannins, medium plus acid, bright savory finish. Pleasantly surprised by the juicy deliciousness of this blend– it’s big like most things Texan, but not overpowering. Rather, it’s a balanced, drinkable, food-friendly ripe rich red. An all-American grilled burger with corn on the cob or Tex-Mex fajitas or nachos would both pair nicely.

What distinguishes these three expressions of terroir-driven Grenache blends? France gives us an accent of garrigue, Spain conjures up warm earth and leather and Texas boasts big fruit flavor. The common theme– sun, sun, sun. Locations wine doesn’t abide the “single appellation only” convention, rather the winemakers blend grapes sourced throughout the country (or state) to create a broader representation. The result is a wallet-friendly, food-friendly wine that easily pairs with its regional cuisine. KEN

I received samples of Locations wine. All opinions are my own.

Grenache Locations

Baked Sweet Potatoes Dressed Up with Bacon and Shallots

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Baked Sweet Potatoes Dressed Up with Bacon and Shallots

Nothing is better than baked potatoes, except maybe baked sweet potatoes. It seems many North Americans agree. We eat about seven pounds of sweet potatoes each year and a whopping fifty pounds of white potatoes. I’m here to say we should do our best to flip those numbers around. Not that I mean too much disrespect to the white potato. Mashed, baked, roasted and even fried I love and eat white potatoes often. However, the truth is there considerably less nutritional value in a white potato than there is in the more nutrient-dense sweet potato. In fact, nutritionally speaking baked sweet potatoes are almost too good to be true. Even if you call them yams.

Which you might be inclined to do. Though technically yams and sweet potatoes are different tubers from different genera (that’s the proper plural for genus I think). Years ago, when orange-fleshed sweet potatoes were introduced in the southern United States, producers and shippers thought they needed to distinguish them from the more traditional, white-fleshed potatoes. So the marketing geniuses settled on the name of a similar tuber known in Africa as nyami (of the Dioscorea genus). The word needed to be Americanized (of course?) and became yam. So, in this country at least, yams are actually sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) and have a moist texture and an orange (or sometimes white) flesh. Although the terms are generally used interchangeably, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the label “yam” always be accompanied by “sweet potato” (but not vice versa). Which is probably what led to the confusion and has nothing to do with the Baked Sweet Potatoes I’ve dressed up with a bacon vinaigrette and baked shallots. GREG

Baked Sweet Potatoes Dressed Up with Bacon and Shallots

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Shallots and Bacon Vinaigrette

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Sam KassPublished
Baked Sweet Potatoes with Shallots and Bacon Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 4-6 medium sweet potatoes (scrubbed)
  • 4-6 whole shallots (skin on, root end intact)
  • 6 ounce thick cut bacon slices
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • coarse sea salt (as needed)

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. Pierce each sweet potato several times with the tines of a fork. Place the sweet potatoes and whole shallots on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Bake until the potatoes are tender and the shallots skins are very well browned about 45 to 60 minutes, depending on size. The shallots might need to come out of the oven before the potatoes, again depending on size. Use your judgment.

While the potatoes and shallots bake, cut the bacon crosswise into ½-inch pieces. Place them in a large cast iron skillet and place it over medium heat and cook stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the bacon is brown and crisp. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar and season with black pepper.

To serve: Make a lengthwise slit in the top of each potato and mash a generous pinch of salt into the flesh with a fork. Spoon on the bacon dressing and squeeze the interior of a shallot (like toothpaste out of the tube) on top of each potato. Discard the browned shallot skins and serve immediately.

A “Two Virgos” Gin Tasting

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Gin Tasting

My friend Helen is here today to talk about gin. Which is only strange when you realize that Helen is not typically a gin drinker. She’s one of Sippity Sup’s wine connoisseurs. That is she was – until she reconnected with an old chum from her childhood days in England for an evening of gin tasting. GREG

There was a time in Grammar School (High School) when Debbie and I were joined at the hip. Our birthdays are within two days of each other and we were academically inclined at a school that prized athletic prowess over intellectual aptitude (perhaps that’s true of all High Schools?). We handled the burden together.

When we were 16 years old, we went our separate ways. Debbie went on to University and corporate success, with a recent leap into freelance consulting. I went to Drama School and meandered around the entertainment industry for a decade before settling into the cut-throat world of Massage Therapy. Forty years passed, during which we had one chance meeting in London, and one rather boozy reunion with another friend in Yorkshire, arranged via the wonders of Facebook.

Yes, we had seen each other only twice in the last 40 years and now Debbie was flying to Los Angeles to spend a week on my couch. What could go wrong? Well, nothing, as it happens, we had a fabulous time together getting reacquainted. We still see the world in very similar ways, and showing her around my city and seeing it fresh through her eyes made me appreciate it more. Over the years, Debbie has developed into a morning person and a gin appreciator, whereas I am a night owl who sticks mostly to wine. I avoided gin as I associated it with the heavily perfumed (Gordon’s) G&Ts that my mother used to drink once in a while. It was only a couple of months ago that a cocktail at the London Hotel (called The Bond Girl), opened my eyes to the possibility that gin could be delicious. So, I decided to arrange a gin taste-off in Debbie’s honor and for my education.

The Gin Tasting

The gins were chosen purely arbitrarily, based on the ones I could find in miniature*. I also included the bottle of Plymouth gin I had bought because it is the major ingredient in the Bond Girl. Being a Virgo (We are known for our organized perfectionism… I have some mitigating factors in my chart!), I researched the ingredients of each gin I had purchased. I placed the gins in the order of tasting according to the number of ingredients each contained. When the number of ingredients was the same, I placed gins with similar ingredients next to each other.

We started the gin tasting with Tanqueray, which has only four ingredients: Juniper, Coriander, Angelica Root and Liquorice, and we ended our flight of ten gins with The Botanist – a herbal heavy hitter containing 31 botanicals, 22 of which are native to the Southern Hebrides where it is made. During the course of my due diligence, I discovered that Tanqueray No. Ten has fresh citrus fruit in it, rather than the more common citrus rind, so I threw caution to the wind and bought a bottle to add another dimension to the gin tasting. I was glad that I did.

In the spirit of scientific exploration, I decided that we would taste the gins in order, four different ways: Neat; as a G&T, with Fever Tree Light Tonic Water; as a Gimlet, with fresh lime and Trader Joe’s freshly squeezed Limeade; and finally, as a Greyhound, with fresh grapefruit juice. I also intended us to try them in a Gin Sling but I bought the wrong kind of cherry brandy (82% proof) and by the time we got to the slings, we were a bit palate fatigued and precise measuring had taken on a more artistic feel.

Tanqueray No. Ten and The Botanist were our overall winners even though they did not ace every single combination. No. Ten made a beautifully fruity G&T and was spectacular in a Gimlet and as a Greyhound, but we found it a little bitter served neat. The Botanist tasted pleasantly medicinal and impressed us neat, it was deliciously herbal in a G&T, and surprisingly yummy in a Gimlet, but the jury was split as a Greyhound. I thought the flavors clashed horribly, whilst Debbie thought it was still drinkable. Bombay Sapphire, although not a winner in any category, was definitely the smoothest gin we tasted and the overall safest choice in everything but a Greyhound.

We were also very taken with Martin Miller’s gin, which showed a smooth complexity and cucumber notes that outperformed Hendrick’s, both neat and in a super refreshing G&T. Neither of these two gins worked well as a Gimlet or Greyhound. Despite its popularity, Hendrick’s definitely underperformed against most of the other gins in all categories.

The gin that stood out as not belonging in the line up was New Amsterdam. I couldn’t find the ingredients online and I think that is probably due to it not bearing evidence of any juniper, therefore making it more of a citrus vodka than a gin – at least that is what it tasted like to us. Beefeater majestically held the back of the pack, working only (marginally) as a Greyhound. We appreciated it as our token “Mother’s Ruin” gin which we choked down in the interest of science even as it seared and stripped our palates with its firewater roughness.

Being a Virgo, Debbie took meticulous notes on every single one of our 40 combinations. She is also the one responsible for this comprehensive quick reference chart. The most delightful revelation of the evening was that we were in complete agreement 38 times! The other two times basically consisted of me saying, “Well, that doesn’t work at all,” and Debbie saying, “It’s not the best but I’d still drink it.” Great minds think (mostly) alike and great friendships survive years of neglect, especially when two Virgos get together over 10 gins. Helen

*We received no compensation for this gin tasting. All opinions are our own. If you would like to replicate our taste-off, you can find all the miniatures we used at BevMo.

Helen Melville tastes gin for Sippity Sup Gin Tasting Notes

CLICK chart to enlarge

Gin Tasting

Eat a Little Better: Grilled Cauliflower Steaks from Sam Kass

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Eat a Little Better: Grilled Cauliflower Steaks

Grilling season has come early to my house. Grilled Radicchio last week and Grilled Cauliflower Steaks this week. That’s partly because I’m putting an effort into eating less meat these days. I’m not saying that I’d ever give up on meat entirely, but I’ve been reading the new book from Sam Kass, the Obama’s White House chef, Eat a Little Better and some of its lessons have really rubbed off on me. Especially his philosophy on how to enjoy eating meat in a manner that’s good for your body and mindful of the planet. I’m sure you’ll see some of his opinions about eating meat parroted back on these pages soon.

But lately, I’ve been concentrating on ways to take vegetables to the center of the plate. Because (as paraphrased from Kass) the one single thing we can do to “eat a little better” is to eat more fruits and vegetables. It doesn’t matter what kind, where they’re from, or how they’re grown either. Idealists will claim that the answer to our health woes lies in the organic, seasonal, and local produce we buy at our farmer’s markets. But the truth is that most folks are like me, we do most of our shopping at the supermarket. There are plenty of reasons for this, the convenience not being the least of them. So it’s easy (again if you’re like me) to stand in the produce aisle and worry over every purchase you make. Certain that you’re ruining the world as well as your health if you buy the asparagus from Peru that may or may not have been grown with pesticides and fertilizers. As Kass says, “In the quest to do better and stress out less, let’s acknowledge this encouraging truth: as long as you’re eating more vegetables – yes, even if they’re not organic or are flown in from far away –  you’re doing better for your health and the planet’s.”

So eat more vegetables. Make them the center of your meal more than you used to. And while you’re at it forget all that worry about GMO’s, in true Obama style Kass relies on science to put all those fears to rest. In the most succinct explanation I’ve come across he plainly says that GMO technology “sounds like the plot of a sci-fi thriller, but there isn’t a single credible study that shows that GMO’s are dangerous to eat”. Which isn’t to say that GMO’s are the perfect answer. There are still issues with seed diversity and soil health (among others) that need to be worked out. We should address these issues rather than dismiss the process entirely. Kass says, “As climate change accelerates, food will become much more difficult to grow. Gene-editing technology might help with that, so I think it’s wise to keep it as a tool in the toolbox.”

But that’s a post for another day. Today the subject is cauliflower. Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Grapefruit, Watercress, and Pecans. GREG

I received a review copy of Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World by Sam Kass, all opinions are my own.

Sam Kasscauliflower steak slices Eat a Little Better: Grilled Cauliflower Steaks

Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Grapefruit, Watercress, and Pecans

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Eat a Little Better by Sam KassPublished
Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Grapefruit, Watercress, and Pecans

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup grapeseed or vegetable oil (plus more for the grill)
  • 2 small heads cauliflower (bottoms trimmed flat)
  • kosher salt
  • 2 large grapefruit
  • 1 tablespoon white blasamic veinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch (6-oz) watercress or arugula (thick stems trimmed)
  • ½ cup toasted pecans (crumbled if large)

Directions

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high heat. Pour a little oil on a rag, grab the rag with tongs, and rub the oil onto the grill grates to prevent sticking.

One by one, stand each cauliflower head, florets up, on a cutting board and cut the cauliflower into thirds, making sure each piece includes some of the stem so the pieces hold together. Rub the pieces on both sides with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season generously with salt.

Grill over direct heat, flipping once, until crisp-tender and charred on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter.

Meanwhile, trim the tops and bottoms of the grapefruit with a sharp knife. Working from top to bottom and following the curve of the fruit, carve off the peel and pith to expose the flesh. Working over a bowl, cut each grapefruit segment from the membrane and drop it in the bowl. When you’re done, squeeze any juice from the membranes into the bowl, then discard the membranes. Pour the juices into a smaller bowl, whisk together with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and season with salt to taste to make the dressing.

In a big bowl, gently toss the watercress with some of the grapefruit dressing. Drizzle the rest of the dressing onto the cauliflower steaks, sprinkle with pecans, then top with the grapefruit segments and watercress.

Grilled Radicchio with Burrata Takes Center Plate

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Grilled Radicchio with Burrata, Golden Raisins and Hazelnuts

A lot of the grilled vegetables that have passed my plate over the years have been rather boring. In fact, I’ve been to many outdoor BBQ parties where the vegetables feel quite frankly, not much more than an afterthought. You know which veggies I’m thinking about. I may be a grilled veggie lover, but I’ll admit that too many times I’ve politely passed over these veggies in order to get to the main event. These days, for the sake of the planet and my health, I’ve vowed to eat less meat. Which sometimes presents a “center of the plate” dinnertime challenge. Grilled Radicchio with Burrata meets that challenge deliciously.

Brevity seems to be my middle name these days. GREGGrilled Radicchio Quarters

Burrata BallsGrilled Radicchio with Burrata

Grilled Radicchio with Burrata, Golden Raisins, and Hazelnuts

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Inspired by Sam KassPublished
Grilled Radicchio with Burrata, Golden Raisins, and Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • smoked sea salt (such as Maldon, as needed)
  • 2-3 heads radicchio
  • canola oil (as needed)
  • 2-3 (4-oz balls) fresh burrata
  • lightly toasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts (for garnish)

Directions

Heat olive oil in a small skillet and over a medium-low heat. Add the raisins to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes until slightly plump, then add the vinegar, honey, and a few pinches smoked sea salt. Take the pan off the heat.

Quarter the radicchio through the stem end into equally sized wedges. Rub them on all sides with canola oil. Season generously with smoked sea salt.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to high heat. Pour a little canola oil on a rag and use tongs to carefully rub the oil onto the grates.

Grill the radicchio over direct heat, turning often, until nicely charred in places and slightly wilted 8 to 10 minutes). Transfer to a serving platter. Lay the burrata balls across the radicchio and gently tear them open for best presentation. Drizzle the warm raisin mixture over the radicchio and burrata. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and serve immediately.