13 April 2013

My First Mint Julep

Last month John and I had a vacation to Savannah Georgia. We really loved the city and surrounding areas and had a ball exploring the area. We embraced the local food scene which is really good too!

My bucket list included drinking a Mint Julep in the deep south, preferably on a verandah....I made it really close! A rooftop bar overlooking the city and Savannah River wasn't too shabby! Of course I fell in love with the Mint Julep and had to make it at home. (Which can never be quite the same feel in rural Michigan) The first recipe I made I muddled mint with sugar and a bit of water until a paste formed, then added the bourbon (I used Woodford Reserve) and ice. It didn't have the nice thickness and refreshment of the one I tried and it didn't have enough of the super fresh mint. So this last time, I made a simple syrup with mint, then added fresh chopped mint to the glass....oh yes! That seemed to make all the difference!



MY SAVANNAH MINT JULEP

Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
a bunch of fresh mint (mine totaled 7 sprigs)

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Boil for 5 minutes, without stirring. Remove from heat an pour over a handful of mint leaves and gently crush the mint with a spoon.

Refrigerator syrup mixture overnight in a closed jar. Remove mint leaves and continue to refrigerate. This syrup mixture will keep for several weeks.


A handful of fresh mint leaves (I used about 6 leaves per glass)
2 tablespoons Mint Syrup
Crushed ice
2 tablespoons water
2 ounces good-quality Kentucky bourbon (I used Woodford Reserve)
Fresh mint sprig for garnish

Prepare the Mint Syrup.

Crush or muddle a few mint leaves in the bottom of an 8-ounce glass. Then fill glass 1/2 full with crushed or shaved ice. Add prepared Mint Syrup, water, and bourbon.

Enjoy!

BTW- this mint syrup is really delicious! Iced tea, hot tea, a bowl of sliced strawberries.....



10 April 2013

Marinated Manchego Cheese

I know the title seems odd, yet the concept is not. What to do with the last bits of cheese in the drawer that you're not using? Friends coming over this weekend and you need something to serve up that isn't SO time consuming in the kitchen? Or possibly, you just want to see the sunshine through a beautiful jar filled with spring-ish green, fresh herbs and bits of colorful peppercorns waiting for your family to come through the door and share fabulous food together? My favorite wine to pair this with is a Tempranillo from Spain! Enjoy!

MARINATED MANCHEGO CHEESE

½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, best quality
1 Pound Manchego, Pecorino or hard cheese of choice; rind removed and cut into 1 inch chunks
½ Tablespoons whole Peppercorns
½ Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary, Thyme or Oregano; washed and torn to small clusters

In a small crock or jar with lid, combine all ingredients and let sit for at least an hour at room temperature.

The cheese can be stored in fridge for up to a week, but the olive oil will solidify, so bring it to room temperature before serving. You could also add olives, sundried tomatoes or roasted peppers of your choice to the mix as well.





05 April 2013

Wine Tasting Notes; Chateau d'Angles Oorain-Victoria

Well balanced, fruit forward, supple tannins, dried figs, earthy.....

What does this gibberish mean to you? Seriously. This is the first post I've created to be about wine and what I'm tasting/drinking these days.

A little disclaimer before we proceed;
I hear the above comments everyday from wine salespeople and read many reviews online at various wine critic sites and what does it really mean to you? One of our key objectives at The Market when selling wine is to find a wine you might like to drink and sell it to you. I cannot stand a snippy little wine person that sniffs when you describe what you want. But I am also honest when I say, "live a little" there is an amazing world of wine out there that you may be surprised at what you like. The wine spectrum does not culminate at "I only drink red". Why? When it's 90 degrees in Michigan I cannot think of anything more repulsive than a heavy, high alcohol, red wine. Even our Italian winemakers will throw red wine to chill during the hot weather or drink a lovely dry rose. Hmmmm. I am not judgmental when it comes to wine. I like all types of wine because each is made to represent something special and work with certain foods, temperatures, etc.

The other main point I would like to make is this; there is tasting and there is drinking....these are not the same things. The next time you attend some wine tasting, I urge you to discover possibilities. Is it possible that the wine you're sampling might be amazing with dessert? Or fish? Or sitting by the fire? Or relaxing on the patio? Why do I like it? Why do I not like it? This analytical tasting will create more success for you in purchasing/drinking and knowing what you do/don't like in wines.

I do not mean this to be a critique of wine but simply a fun description and what I'm experiencing. By no means am I an expert in wine, I simply taste.


CHATEAU D'ANGLES OORAIN-VICTORIA LUXE D'EXCEPTION

This wine caught my eye in one of my distributor's catalogs for 3 reasons, it is made by Eric Fabre who was Technical Director at Ch√Ęteau Lafite Rothschild (oh yes, that means winemaker), it comes from one of my personal favorite wine regions of France (la Clape which is now an AOC) and it is red wine made with Maple Syrup. Weird. (#4; and it has a really cool label)

Mainly Syrah (shiraz) with a bit of Grenache and about 10% Maple Syrup (French spelling maple sirop). How can this be? And it's only 13% alcohol so it's not fortified like a Port. After reading a bit of background, it's a collaboration between Fabre and Oorain brands Victoria, a chocolate and confections maker from France.

I was actually quite surprised upon tasting that this wine isn't very sweet. It's more of a concentrated fruit style wine with lots of dried fig notes, distinct maple syrup flavors mid-palatte that disappear quickly and some tannins (that dry feeling) that give the whole wine structure and interest. It's nice and earthy like I expected from this region, yet elegant. The overall impression is rich flavor, a bit velvety and a great lingering taste. I like it very much. I also like the fact that it has some staying power once opened (I opened it the day before I had the flu and 7 days later its still very nice. I would drink this wine as an aperitif, in place of dessert or with a rich oozing chocolate dessert. It would also be incredibly lovely with a cheese plate. Stinky French cheeses of course :)

If you're interested in trying a bottle of your own, give me a call at The Market 517.423.6000 and we can special order it for you. The going price is going to be around $34, so not cheap, but far from expensive given the quality and interesting nature. Being an 06 vintage I think it's best to be drunk now, but I'm not great at determining cellaring, I think the color looks a bit off of garnet and that's usually a decent observation as to how long lasting it will be. (there are tons of online experts to help with that!)

Have a great weekend...and drink some fun wine!!















04 April 2013

Fresh Mozzarella and Arugula Crostini

Why is a simple always the tastiest?

When I remember some of our travels, I always seem to remember the simple pleasures of food versus the fancy restaurants. Case in point, Fresh Mozzarella and Arugula Crostini. The baguette was toasted to perfection, the olive oil was fruity and golden, the arugula was peppery and bitter and the Fresh Mozzarella was milky and warm.....it was my "ah-ha" Italian moment. This is a recipe that requires GREAT quality ingredients, use the best you can afford. Because the simplicity of the ingredients, each component is actually tasted and you want them to be amazing. I also use only coarse sea salt for these, I want the crunch and they need a good bit of salt to bring out the flavors.

Spring is here and the allure of fresh garden arugula was calling me. So simple to make, so lovely before dinner, so fresh.

FRESH MOZZARELLA AND ARUGULA CROSTINI

10 slices of fresh baguette
1 ball Fresh Mozzarella (of course I used Four Corners Creamery)
1 handful of fresh Arugula, cleaned and torn to 2 inch pieces
Best Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush baguette slices with a bit of olive oil and bake 7 minutes. In the meantime, slice 1/2 ball of fresh mozzarella into 10 slices.

Assemble by layering a small amount of arugula and slice of fresh mozzarella on top of each baguette slice. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle (give it a healthy bit as it really brings out the flavors!) with sea salt. Eat immediately!







02 April 2013

Blue Cheese Spring Nests

A few months ago I came across a box of "kataifi" at my favorite Mediterranean grocery store. It's basically phyllo dough made in long strands, much like angel hair pasta. As the possibilities swirled in my head and around shrimps for dinner, this recipe was my first thought and I've been waiting to make them for Easter brunch!

I made a variation of this for a cooking class at The Market, but the flavor was very mild and for Easter I wanted more punch! Originally, I used an aged goat cheese from Four Corners Creamery, a few bits of onion and a sprinkle of parsley. On my trial run last night, I used a hunk of blue cheese and was much happier since it's more flavorful. So feel free to use either cheese depending upon your preferences (maybe both together would be great too?)!

The kataifi does dry out quickly, so you'll only want to thaw what you plan on using, and cover it with a damp paper towel while you're working.



BLUE CHEESE SPRING NESTS

1/3 box of Kataifi
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1/4 lb blue cheese cut into slices

1 cup fruity red wine-Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon (young), Syrah/Shiraz
3 Tablespoons Agave Syrup or honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap several strands of kataifi into a nest shape on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Using a pastry brush, brush melted butter gently onto nest. Top with a slice of blue cheese.
Bake 12-15 minutes (watch carefully, they can get a little TOO brown) until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine agave and wine over medium heat and allow to reduce to about 1/2 cup of thickened syrup. Use immediately or refrigerate up to 3 days. Drizzle over slightly cooled nests and serve.

Sorry, about the lack of photos, apparently the Easter Bunny brought me the flu. I was struggling to get this posted before Easter and nothing turned out well finished photo wise!