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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tartines, or Fancy Sandwiches

Before I tell you about these tantalizing tartines, I wanted to let you know to keep an eye out later this week for a giveaway! Yes, I'm hosting my first giveaway--yahoo! CSN Stores approached me earlier this week and offered me to review a product or give something to you, and although I'd love to add a new item to my kitchen, I'm going to pass the luck on to you, my loyal readers! CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find anything you need whether it be office desks, fitness equipment, or even awesome cookware! I'll tell you more about it soon, but I wanted to give you a head's up. :-)

On to the tartines! I was introduced to lovely tartines when I lived in France. The French have such a fancy name that rolls off the tongue and elicits images of elegant food. Really, they're just open-faced sandwiches, but the French do it with such flair. Open-faced sandwiches in the U.S., at least in my experience, are often piled high with meat and smothered in gravy or sauce. Not so in France--they are delicate sandwiches, usually made with simple ingredients that meld together perfectly.

On Valentine's Day we recreated our favorite tartines from one of our favorite restaurants in Strasbourg, L'Épicerie. It is located such a quaint little space where you really get to know your neighbors (or at least their elbows!) and is combined with affordable (which is hard to find in Europe!) and delicious fare. My daughter would always order the smoked salmon while I would order the goat cheese tartine. Ahhhh...the memories!

These sandwiches are great as a meal if paired with a salad or would be great cut up into bite-sized pieces and served as an hors d'oeuvre. Feel free to be creative with your toppings--the French certainly would!

Smoked Salmon Tartine with Dill, Capers and Crème Fraiche

1 slice of rustic bread, preferably a boule-shaped loaf (I used homemade wheat.)
Crème fraiche
1 slice of smoked salmon
1 tsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp capers, rinsed

Spread a little bit of crème fraiche onto the bread. (A little goes a long way.) Lay the salmon on the bread and sprinkle with the dill and capers. Enjoy!

Goat Cheese Tartine with Honey and Almonds

1 slice of rustic bread, preferably a boule-shaped loaf (I used homemade wheat.)
1-2 Tbl goat cheese
1 tsp honey (or more to taste)
1 tsp sliced toasted almonds (or more to taste)

Spread the goat cheese onto the bread. Drizzle the honey over the goat cheese and sprinkle with almonds. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Trip to Marksbury Farm (and a Prosciutto and Peppercorn Asiago Panini Recipe)

As you may know if you've been reading this blog for a while, I've slowly moved toward organic and local foods since moving back from France in 2009. It has been a slow evolution in our eating habits, but we've decided that the healthier choice is to eat foods that aren't processed and for which we know the origins. We've been able to do this largely because of a CSA that we joined in 2009 (for our vegetables), and we had moved largely to locally and naturally raised beef and pork from St. Asaph Farm, but the opening of a local business, Marksbury Farm, has allowed us to be more spontaneous in our cooking. We often bought in bulk from St. Asaph, which was great, but required a lot of forethought. (I also love that St. Asaph's Preston Correll is one of the partners, so I am still supporting that farm's endeavors.)

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have a tour of Marksbury Farm along with local food bloggers Lori from Fake Food Free, Melissa from My McDonald Meal and Sami from A Teenage Gourmet. Marksbury Farm is a lot of things--meat processing facility, butcher shop and farm market--but to me, it quite simply is my favorite place to shop for food in my region. Although Central Kentucky is rife with farms, historically, there haven't been very many meat processing facility for small farmers in the area. I'm lucky enough now to live near one that also has a great butcher shop and market.

Richard McAlister at the meat counter at Marksbury Farm.

One of the things I love about Marksbury Farm is their commitment to selling humanely-raised, natural and antibiotic- and hormone-free meat. (For more information on their requirements, go here.) They will process animals from any farmer who contracts with them, but will only buy from farmers who adhere to these guidelines, which means, then, that when I buy from Marksbury, I know that my meat is natural and safe.

Holding pens for livestock

Marksbury treats the animals with dignity before death, providing livestock with pens that overlook the local farm land and fresh water. For the sake of my readers, I didn't photograph much inside the plant, but I would like to say that the facility was impressively clean and that the thoughtfulness in processing made me feel good about the food I eat. (For example, they stun the animals before slaughter to reduce pain and stress.)


They prepare all of their meats on site, which includes smoked meats, marinated and prepared meats (like meatballs and marinated pork loin), and various meat pies.

Richard at the extensive meat counter in the retail store

The storefront, which is actually down the road from the meat processing facility, has a quaint country store feel. As soon as you walk in the door, you see the impressive array of meats--including beef, pork, lamb, and poultry. In my experience, if they don't have what you're looking for, they'll get it for you. There's even a hand-written list by the cash register for you to list your wanted items. I have never been there when I didn't know another customer, and it's been a great place to exchange ideas, give cooking advice (and get some!), and just chat about our lives.

In addition to meat, Marksbury Farm also offers other local products, including cheeses, milk, bread, pasta, flour, and produce. My daughter is particularly fond of the chocolate milk they carry that contains natural ingredients (like real sugar...gasp!). I have not been a fan of milk since my early childhood, and even I like this chocolate milk.

If you're interested in stopping by, which I highly recommend (as you can probably tell), the shop is located at 73 Fisher Ford Road in Lancaster, Kentucky, only 10 minutes from downtown Danville. They are open on Thursdays and Fridays from 12pm-6pm and Saturdays from 10am-4pm. If you're in the area, make sure to stop by for some delicious, local ingredients!

Prosciutto and Peppercorn Asiago Panini
All ingredients for this sandwich (except for the olive oil and tomato) were bought at Marksbury Farm.

2 slices of whole wheat sourdough bread
2 slices of prosciutto
2-3 Tbl coarsely grated peppercorn asiago cheese
2 extremely thin slices of tomato
Olive oil for brushing

Preheat your panini grill or a pan.

Distribute half of the cheese on one slice of the bread. Layer the prosciutto and tomato on top and then sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Place the other piece of bread on the sandwich. Lightly brush one side with olive oil. Place the oiled side down on your grill (or pan) and lightly oil the other side. Grill your panini until the cheese is melted and the outside is crispy and brown.


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Friday, February 18, 2011

The Week in Review

Has this week flown for you like it has for me?! We've had a beautiful couple of days here in Kentucky, and I've spent time trying to enjoy that and get away from the computer, but here are a few posts I liked this week:

  • I've always loved getting giardiniera (Italian pickled veggies) at restaurants, but I never really thought about making them at home. Last summer, I found out how easy it was to make refrigerator pickles, so why shouldn't I try The Parsley Thief's Giardiniera this summer??? This is definitely going on my "to-make" list!
  • As a native Californian, I miss the regular appearance of jalepeños in my diet. These Baked Stuff Jalepeños recipes from Simply Recipes might just be the thing to fulfill my jalepeño cravings. :-)
  • And finally, a lovely sandwich from Pink Bites: a Pear Croque Monsieur. I've been eating a lot of pears lately, and this looks like the perfect variation for me--a cheesy, melty French sandwich with slices of pears. Yum!

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day Chocolate

Okay, I've succumbed to the Valentine's posts that have been floating around the blogosphere. I just can't resist, not because it's Valentine's Day, but because it's one of the days of the year that the whole family cooks together. It all started when my husband (then boyfriend) cooked dinner for me on our first Valentine's Day together. It's been a tradition since then to choose something different, difficult or fun to cook together. Last year, we included our daughter in the tradition when we made sushi together, and this year we decided to recreate a favorite meal at a Strasbourg restaurant when we lived there a couple of years ago. (More on the rest of the meal to come!)

Today, though, I'd like to focus on our very simple dessert--chocolate! I ran across a "recipe" from Jacques Torres in this month's Food & Wine and thought it would be perfect for the hectic Valentine's Day we were expecting. My daughter and I made the chocolate the day before, and it took all of about 30 minutes (10 of which were hands on). My daughter loved the idea of recreating chocolate, and we all loved eating it. I think this will be my go-to quick dessert when required to bring something sweet to a party, although I might play with the additions a little. (I've been dreaming of orange zest, pumpkin and sunflower seeds ever since we ate this last night!)


Dark Chocolate Bark with Roasted Almonds and Seeds
Recipe by Jacques Torres from Food & Wine

1 lb. dark chocolate, finely chopped (60-70% cacao)--I used 70%.
1 1/4 cups roasted whole almonds
3/4 cup shelled salted roasted pumpkin seeds and shelled sunflower seeds (combined)

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Add a little water to a pot and bring to a simmer. Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl that is big enough not to fall into the pot and place over the simmering water. (Make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.) Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is about 2/3 melted. Remove the bowl from the pot and stir the chocolate until it is completely melted. (At this point, you're supposed to use a candy thermometer to get the chocolate to 90 degrees, but I don't have one, so I just stirred until completely melted and not too hot.) If the chocolate won't melt completely, return to the pot until it's melted. Make sure not to overheat it, though.

Stir the almonds and the seeds into the chocolate and pour the chocolate onto the parchment paper. Spread to about 1/2 inch making sure the nuts are completely covered in chocolate. Refrigerate for 10-20 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened. Invert the chocolate onto a work surface and break into pieces.

The chocolate can be stored in an airtight container or bag at cool room temperature for up to 10 days.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

The Week in Review

It's a snowy week here in Kentucky, but the forecast calls for a beautiful weekend and an even better week next week. Here are some posts and sites I've found to get us through till then!

  • I love hummus, and my daughter does too. We like to make it, but I've never been able to get it quite creamy enough for my taste. I always thought it was my blender or food processor, but I came across this method for making creamy hummus from fresh tart. I'll be trying this soon and will let you know how it turns out!
  • I know I posted about Nutella last week, but I just love that stuff! David Lebovitz has posted a Homemade Nutella recipe that might be worth a try...
  • I haven't had much chance to check it out fully, but it looks like Foodily is a great resource for cooks. It's a recipe search engine with photos, the ability to connect on Facebook, the attraction of creating menus, and more.
  • Have you heard of AmeriCorps, the federally-funded service program that sends people out to help with anything from public education to environmental clean up? They've just added a division called Food Corps, which would allow service members to be involved in the school food movement, anywhere from starting and tending school gardens to organizing the Farm to School programs at specific schools. It's limited to certain states, but it's a start toward healthier school lunches!

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Indian Side Dish: Cauliflower with Fennel and Mustard Seeds

I usually focus on the main dishes in Indian cooking and forget about the sides, but this is a delicious side to go with the Chicken in a Sweet Red Pepper Sauce that I just posted about earlier this week. The bright yellow color goes great with the red sauce over the chicken. It's a veritable rainbow on a plate! The flavor of the cauliflower is pretty mild, even if it does call for a lot of spices.

Cauliflower with Fennel and Mustard Seeds
from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

1 large head of cauliflower
7 Tbl vegetable oil
2 tsp whole fennel seeds
1 Tbl whole black mustard seeds (I usually use regular mustard seeds, and it tastes fine.)
1 Tbl finely minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4-1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
About 1 1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbl water

Cut the cauliflower into small florets, no longer than 2 inches in length and no wider than about an inch thick at the head. Put them in a bowl of cold water for at least 30 minutes. Drain them just before you get ready to cook.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium flam. When hot, put in the fennel and mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the garlic. Stir and fry until the garlic is lightly browned. Add the turmeric and cayenne. Stir once and quickly add the cauliflower, salt and about 4 tablespoons of water. Stir and cook on medium heat for 6-7 minutes or until the cauliflower is just done. It should retain its crispness and there should be no liquid left. If the water evaporates before the cauliflower is cooked to your satisfaction, add a little more.

(If your frying pan is smaller than 10-12 inches, the cauliflower will take longer to cook. It might be a good idea to cover it for about 5 minutes before letting the water evaporate.)

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chicken in a Red Sweet Pepper Sauce: A Go-To Indian Dish

It snowed here again last night, so I thought that I'd post another Indian dish to ward off the cold. This Chicken in a Red Sweet Pepper Sauce is a delicious, not-so-spicy (although you can change this if you'd like) dish. The ingredient list is longer than previous Indian dishes I've posted, but the work is worth it. We often double the amount of sauce for this dish, cook it with the chicken, and then freeze the second half of the sauce. Then all we have to do is add some chicken and we have a quick meal at another time. I also highly recommend serving it with Spiced Basmati Rice and some raita--a cool yogurt and cucumber sauce that works wonderfully with the red pepper.

Chicken in a Red Sweet Pepper Sauce
from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

2 1/4 pounds chicken parts (We like thighs and drumsticks.)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 inch cube of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 1/2 Tbl blanched, slivered almonds
3/4 lb. sweet red peppers, trimmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1 Tbl ground cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/8-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on your heat tolerance)
2 tsp salt
7 Tbl vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 Tbl lemon juice
1/2 tsp black pepper

If the chicken legs are whole, separate them from the thigh. Breasts should be cut into four parts. Skin all of the chicken pieces.

Combine onion, ginger, garlic, almonds, peppers, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and salt in a food processor or blender. Blend until you have a paste.

Put the oil in a large, wide, and preferably non-stick pan and heat it over a medium-high heat. When hot, pour in all of the paste from the food processor or blender. Stir and fry the paste for 10-12 minutes or until you can see the oil forming tiny bubbles around it.

Put the chicken along with the water, lemon juice and black pepper into the pan. Stir to mix and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer gently for 25 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Stir a few times during the cooking period.

Serve with rice.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

The Week in Review

This has been yet another busy week--I'm not convinced that I'll ever have a non-busy week again! I have had a chance, however, to look around the web some this time around. And here's what I found:

  • These Pear-Cranberry Streusel Kuchen from Back to the Cutting Board will be making a debut on my table very soon. Not only do they have a German name (which holds a special place in my household), but they look delicious too. Who wants to visit me so I have an excuse to make them???
  • Big Red Kitchen has been working on a series of posts about how to make your own convenience frozen meals. Although I've never actually eaten at White Castle, I think her technique for making from-scratch frozen burgers for her kids is genius. After a couple of busy weeks here, I'm all over this type of cooking. Do you have any tricks for homemade convenience foods?
  • A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon Lori's (from Recipe Girl) new(ish) blog: Culinary Covers. The idea is that she makes the recipes on the covers of different magazines and cookbooks and rates them. Such an interesting idea!
Have you come across anything interesting this week?

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