30 May 2011

Winey-Briny Pickles

I am having so much fun preserving each seasons harvests both at home and with The Boulevard Market's monthly class!  In May we focused on Michigan seasonal produce of radishes, rhubarb, asparagus and mushrooms.   Out of several recipes, the Winey Briny Pickles, courtesy of Food & Wine magazine, had to be one of my favorites! 

Our family adores crunchy pickled vegetables, especially with cheese and bread as a snack.  We are not fans of most prepared refrigerator pickle mixes and I don't like to add turmeric, because then all of my vegetables are this weird, outer-space yellow color. 

A beautiful view of the vineyards of Sancerre

We usually have a bit of white wine hanging around for cooking and sipping, so in this recipe, I used some Sancerre.  Sancerre (white) is from the Loire Valley of France and is always Sauvignon Blanc.  Crispy and bright with great acidity and a wonderful undertone of mineral-ity, it's refreshing to drink and not quite as in-your-face grapefruit flavors as New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.
LOVING Weck jars from Germany!

Because radishes are in season I threw a few into my jars.  Do keep in mind that they will turn your brine PINK, so I plan to eat my pickles this week and pitch the pink brine after radish season!  Use any vegetables available, carrots, parsnips, onions, cucumbers, cauliflower etc.  They all turn out fantastic and your brine will last about 6 weeks in the fridge...so just keep refilling the jar!

Winey Briny Quick Pickles (Food and Wine magazine)

3 Tablespoons kosher salt or sea salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons whole mustard seeds
3 cups chopped vegetables (radishes, onions, cucumbers)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 ¼ cups white wine vinegar (I've successfully used rice vinegar too!)
Tarragon sprigs

In a bowl combine all ingredients but vegetables and tarragon sprigs.  Stir until dissolved.
Pack vegetables into clean jars and top off with liquid.  Cover and store in fridge up to one month.  You can add more clean vegetables to brine as they are eaten.

I love using a combination of both yellow and black mustard seeds and when the tarragon looks funky, I replace it with Chervil or thyme or chive blossoms!          

25 May 2011

My favorite Scones...

No photos, no stories,just the best sang scone recipe ever created.  A giant "thank you" to Fine Cooking" magazine for always creating recipes that will live in your memory for years to come.  I have been ruined for every other scone in the USA.  I promised gals from the PRESERVE IT! class I would post this for them!  Feel free to substitute whatever fruits or extracts suit your tastes. Enjoy!

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried fruit
6 Tablespoons butter, cold
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons extract of choice

1 large egg
1 Tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon raw sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients (not fruit) and cut butter into until mixture resembles large crumbs.  Stir in fruit.  In a separate bowl, mix eggs, cream and extract together.  With fork tines, gently mix wet ingredients into dry.  Mix until all is combined, but do not overmix or your scones will be tough. 
On a flour surface, pat into a rough circle about 1 inch thick and cut into 8 pieces.  Place on a lined baking sheet.
Beat egg and milk together until foamy and brush on tops of scones.  Sprinkle with a bit of raw sugar.

Bake 18-22 minutes until deep golden brown. 

23 May 2011

Are you Parisian chic?

One of the best things about having daughters is...they encourage me to buy a book "Parisian Chic" and then tell me I look ridiculous when I follow the advice!!!!

I ran across this book and it was fun and funky- off beat places to visit in Paris, fashion tips and even some decor tips.  I was gung-ho to read it...until I found out I'm doing everything WRONG!

I got the white jeans thing right (see previous post on their tragic destruction) and a navy v-neck, but then I got crazy and added a cute little yellow neck scarf....the author now says I resemble a famous Scandinavian store.  For real?

Never wear a necklace and earrings at the same time?  No mascara on the bottom lashes?  No red or green tank tops?  I am a fashion faux-pas a la mode!!!

So, maybe I should listen to the girls more?  Oh la-la!

The only thing I have going for me at this point is a great handbag....

22 May 2011

Vegetable Garden...

Last week I started the vegetable garden with the verve and energy that early spring in Michigan brings!  John fired up the rototiller to turn over my small patch of earth. 

Clay soil has ever-so-slowly turned into tillable soil over the last 18 years we have gardened in this area and 3 years ago I cut my garden to 1/3 of its original size to be a lot more manageable!  I plant my necessities...haricot verts, parsnips, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, Rouge vif d'Etampes pumpkins and Long Island Cheese pumpkins.  This year I also added peas JUST to make this:
A beautiful fresh pea puree with homemade gnocci and garnished with grated Sicilian chocolate flavored with black pepper!  We had this memorable dish in Modica, Sicily and I have been wanting to create it at home ever since!  Magnifico!  I am making it with my first harvest of peas!

I marked my rows with branches and copper this year, as those small plastic tags can never be found once the plants start growing!  I like the sparkle they add!  I have a small raised bed just for lettuce as I HATE to weed and I can harvest leaves and let some grow into heads.

I found some other treasures in the yard this Spring day...

Julia's sock that Pierre had stolen and hidden behind a rock!

And then there was lunch...a lovely fresh herb butter with a bit of German mustard from our friends Helmut and Dorothee.  Beautiful and fresh, perfect for a spring day...

14 May 2011

Do you ever have the feeling your life is spinning so fast like a colorful, striped metal top?  Have you gotten it whirling in the sunshine, zipping along the concrete, feeling exhirilarated because it just keeps moving?!  And then *eeekk* it hits a pebble, starts to sway and then violently skids along out of control until it comes to a slow and painful stop, with the paint job a little worse for the wear?

This may be a tiny bit dramatic.  I have had that feeling for a few weeks now, and today is the official end.
I think I just need to write about all the great things that happened these weeks to feel a bit of gratitude, bring a smile, to feel creative, to get back to myself!!

Our oldest daughter, Gina, graduated from the University of Michigan.  Gina is a lovely woman with such a promising future.  I miss her now that she's living in Virginia.  John and I are looking forward to visiting her in July.

I made "Marrow Bones" for the first time, a la Julia Childs.  Interesting, slightly creepy but pretty tasty.  I will be doing a blog post about them in the near future!

Spring flowers are blooming all over the yard, including these miniature bearded iris in a pale, lemon yellow.  Fragrant and prolific, I also love the dusty green foliage when they are spent for  the season.

Most of my fruit trees are blooming, but this dwarf peach tree is one of my favorites!  It has long, burgundy leaves all season that flutter in the breeze and it's only about 3 foot tall.  The blossoms are so bright and large for such a small guy!

Tragic- Pierre was sitting on my foot and I didn't realize he was helping himself to my favorite pantleg.....can anyone say capri's?  Pierre is not much of a chewer of our things, usually.

Pierre and I hosted a Dog Party at he Market with Sandy and Izzy's help.  We invited all of our customers and their dogs to have snacks, wine, doggie nail polishing and more.  I was impressed with the dogs behavior and they were rewarded with cupcakes and sniffing!!!  I am looking forward to another get together very soon!  Here a picture of a few of us!  Guiness, Kate, Ruth, Amanda, Cici, Erika, Pierre, Sandy, Izzy, Emily


10 May 2011

First Asparagus of the Season

Asparagus says "Spring" to me, like no other vegetable.  The tender little stalks poke through the soil on the first warm sunny spring day and their bright green shoots grow a foot overnight.  Some stalks have a beautiful purple tinge, stocky little fellows waiting for a sharp knife!

We are fortunate to have parents who planted a patch years ago and of course my farmer brother.  Others forage the roadsides looking for the telltale ferny stalks swaying in the breeze.

Our first harvest of the season is always served the same way!  I steam my stalks until just fork tender.  It only takes about 5 minutes for skinny stalks, 7 for the biggies.  If serving the asparagus cold, I immediately plunge the stalks into ice water.  This recipe also works extremely well with grilled asparagus!

In a blender, I make homemade mayonnaise (so simple, I promise) and add about a tablespoon of soy sauce.  Serve warm or cold.

cups oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg

In a blender, break egg, add vinegar, salt and mustard.  Set on blend and begin adding oil in a constant thin
stream until emulsified and thick.  Stir in soy sauce to taste and use immediately.

*There is a raw egg in here, so please use a source you trust for untainted eggs.

We usually make our own mayo this way and love it!  You can substitute any vinegar or citrus juice for a custom recipe.  Homemade mayo is light and tasty for all dips, spreads, salads etc. and it's so easy to make!  I've successfully replaced Extra Virgin Olive Oil for 1/2 of the vegetable oil as well and it's even tastier! 

I love the crunchy stalks with the creamy dressing and we always try a couple stalks will the rest of supper finishes! 

02 May 2011

Roasting grapes...

Years ago I read an old Italian recipe about roasting grapes.  I thought it an odd thing, as I don't think about baking or cooking with grapes all that much.  Over the years, I have developed the most fantastic recipe for roasting grapes.  It's a recipe that combines the quintessential sweet/savory combination and is so easy to prepare.  It's also a recipe that looks so fabulous and elegant, is easy to eat and can be prepared in advance and assembled quickly.  It's also a great way to use up less-than-perfect fruit. 

Mascarpone cheese is a triple creme cheese from Italy or the US and it comes in a tub.  It's delicate and barely sweet, spreadable and whip-able.  It has a generous shelf life and works well as a frosting, thickener for sauces and smeared on most breads.


1 baguette, sliced in 3/4 inches on a bias
1 8 ounce carton Mascarpone
1 pound seedless grapes, red or black look the best
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
3-4 Tablespoons raw sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On a lined baking sheet, lay out grapes that have been cut into 3 grape bundles, leaving stems still attached in a single layer.  Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt.  Roast about 15 minutes until grapes are wrinkly, but not fully collasped.
Place baguette slices on a lined baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes until slightly golden brown.  Let cool and spread each slice with Mascarpone cheese, about 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle with a bit of raw sugar and top with  a roasted grape cluster.
Serve immediately.

Grapes can be roasted in advance (even a day ahead of time) and kept refrigerated until ready to use.

Roasted grapes are also fantastic in green salads or fruit salads or to top a simple pound/loaf cake with a bit of whipped cream.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do!  Someday I will live in Italy with a tiny vineyard and eat roasted grapes all through the harvest season....dreams are nice aren't they? 

01 May 2011

Baked Eggs

Growing up on the farm and collecting eggs everyday did not turn me into a lover of chickens.  The chickens were always my job, cleaning the coop (ugh) pouring boiling water into their frozen troughs, getting hen pecked and tossing kitchen scraps into the pen.  There was always a beautiful, nasty-tempered rooster to avoid (maybe that's why I love Coq au Vin so much!)  { insert evil chuckle } and they are filthy animals.  Don't get me wrong, I love all the lovely hued eggs and roasted chickens are amazing, so you have to dig through the dirt to get to the gold.  I actually had a passing thought last week how nice it would be to have some little banny hens running around the yard...until Pierre came in covered in bird droppings that he had rolled in.  Nice.  "Non" on the chicken idea.  Moving on to my point...   

I have been seeing baked eggs all over the place!  Magazines, favorite food sites, farm to table cookbooks and even newspapers.  I decided to see for myself what all the fuss is about!  I also bought these great crocks in France and haven't used them nearly enough!  Perfect for 2 baked eggs per person!  I looked at many different recipes....plus what was available in the fridge and came up with this recipe:

Baked Eggs for 2

4 large eggs
6 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
2 Tablespoons Fresh Chives, minced
1/4 lb. Cantal cheese, grated or chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and put a kettle of water on to boil.

Pour 3 T of cream into bottom of ramekin, sprinkle in with a tablespoon of chives.  Break 2 eggs into each dish (or one egg if using smaller ramekins) dust with salt & pepper and top with a few bits of cheese.  Place ramekins into a 9X13 baking dish and pour boiling water to reach at least halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake about 12 minutes until whites are set and yolks are still soft.