Adorable Tri-colored Bell Peppers Set the Stage for a Yummy Appetizer!

Stuffed Mini Bell Peppers

Stuffed Mini Bell Peppers

The best way to enjoy mini bell peppers it to showcase them with a delicious stuffing. These adorable tri-colored bell peppers set the stage for a yummy appetizer. I fill them with a mixture of ricotta cheese and Pecorino Romano along with fresh sage, kale and pancetta. Then I top them off with a drizzle of homemade basil oil to complete the show. They are adorable and delicious!

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A tip to keep them upright while baking, so the stuffing does not fall out, is to use a mini muffin pan to hold them in. Then I use a small amount of ricotta cheese as a base to keep them standing on the plate when I serve them. I also drizzle them with a little bit of homemade basil oil, which really puts them over the top. The basil oil is also wonderful served in a salad with arugula, heirloom tomatoes and burrata cheese.

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STUFFED MINI BELL PEPPERS

Total Time:1 Hr
Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 mini bell peppers (multi colors if available)
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 2 oz chopped pancetta
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped sage leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped kale
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tsp. Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (separated)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • vegetable cooking spray
  • basil oil (optional) recipe to follow
Instructions
  • 1
    Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare peppers by cutting off the top stem and using a small tasting spoon to remove the seeds and veins. Spray a mini muffin pan with vegetable cooking spray and set aside.
  • 2
    Heat oil in a medium sauté pan. Add pancetta and fry about 4 minutes until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add shallots to pan and sauté about 2 minutes until soft and starting to turn golden. Add chopped kale and sage. Stir and cook until kale is wilted, then remove from pan.
  • 3
    In a small bowl, mix ricotta and 1/4 cup Pecorino cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add kale mixture and pancetta to cheeses. Mix together.
  • 4
    Using the small tasting spoon, fill the peppers with the vegetable cheese mixture slightly above the top opening. Sprinkle 1 tsp. Pecorino on top of the prepared peppers. Bake for 18 minutes or until the peppers are tender and the tops are golden. Cool for 5 minutes and serve with a drizzle of basil oil if desired.
Basil Oil
  • 1
    Line a strainer with a double thickness of damp cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. Have ready a colander and a bowl of ice water. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Stir in 1 packed cup basil leaves and cook until bright green, about 10 seconds. Drain the basil in the colander and transfer to the ice water to cool. Squeeze out excess water, and pat dry with paper towels.
  • 2
    In a blender, purée the basil with the 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil until smooth. Pour into the lined strainer and let sit, undisturbed, until the oil is completely strained, about 30 minutes. (The oil will keep refrigerated for up to 1 week)

 (Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Appetizers)

Make your own Polenta, it’s a cinch!

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A Recipe for Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce and the history behind it’s author
 
I recently received a recommendation for a cookbook by the author, Yotam Ottolenghi.  Yotam Ottolenghi is one of the most exciting new talents in the cooking world, with four fabulous, eponymous London restaurants and a weekly newspaper column that’s read by foodies all over the world.  He is an Israeli-born cookery writer and chef-patron.  His cooking style is rooted in, but not confined to his Middle Eastern upbringing, with a western twist.  His particular skill is in marrying the food of his native Israel with a wider range of incredible textures and flavors from the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia and his palate of flavors are unapologetically bold. He is also known for being the champion of vegetables at the same time as eating and loving meat.
 
While trying to figure out what interesting new thing I could do with all of the fresh sweet corn on the cob that I have been receiving from my local CSA box, I came across one of his recipes.  It is for “Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce.”  This recipe satisfied my need for using up my corn as well as my interest in discovering new techniques, as it educates you on how to make polenta directly from fresh corn.  It also allowed me to utilize the wonderful fresh eggplant and tomatoes that I was gifted by my good friend, Tamera. A winner on all counts!
 
Yum!  The polenta was a cinch to make.  I halved the recipe as I only had 3 ears of corn.  I did not add any of the cooking water as the consistency was perfect just from cooking and blending the corn. I didn’t add any salt because I felt the feta added enough on it’s own.  I saved the water to use later in case it thickened too much and honestly figured I would just drink it otherwise.  It was so delicious!!  
 
The Sauce was also quite a simple process.  I cooked the eggplant a bit less than the suggested 15 minutes to a nice brown.  I used Sungold cherry tomatoes and just sliced them in half. I cooked the sauce down to a nice thickness.  
 
The result was a creamy sweet corn polenta topped with a bold flavored vegetable sauce.  Incredibly delicious and easy to make.  I can think of a million different toppings for the polenta based on whatever you have in your vegetable drawer from mushrooms to squash.  It would be fantastic with seared scallops, shallots and mushrooms in a white wine sauce….and the list goes on! 
Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

Eggplant Sauce:

  • 2/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chopped peeled tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  1. Heat up the oil in a large saucepan and fry the eggplant on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until nicely brown. Drain off as much oil as you can and discard it — the safest way to do this is to scoop out the eggplant to a plate using a slotted spoon, then pour off the oil into a bowl before added the eggplant back in. You can save the oil to fry lamb chops or eggs in tomorrow.
  2. Add the tomato paste to the pan and stir with the eggplant. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, salt, sugar and oregano and cook for a further 5 minutes to get a deep-flavored sauce. Set aside; warm it up when needed.

Polenta:

  • 6 ears of corn
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter, diced
  • 7 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Remove the leaves and “silk” from each ear of corn, then chop off the pointed top and stalk. Use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels — either stand each ear upright on its base and shave downward, or lay each ear on its side on a cutting board to slice off the kernels. You want to have 1 1/4 pounds kernels.IMG_2980
  2. Place the kernels in a medium saucepan and barely cover them with the water. Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer. Use a slotted spoon to lift the kernels from the water and into a food processor; reserve the cooking liquid.
  3. Process them for quite a few minutes, to break as much of the kernel case as possible. Add some of the cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too dry to process.
  4. Now return the corn paste to the pan with the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring, on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens to mashed potato consistency. (Be aware that if you have a lot of liquid left in the pan, it can take a while to cook down the polenta, and it will sputter. Consider holding back some or all of the liquid. Alternately, if you like the consistency after processing, you can skip to step 5.)
  5. Fold in the butter, the feta, salt and some pepper and optionally cook for a further 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce

 (Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Main Entrees)

Two Ways with Corn!

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Something in me just won’t allow me to enjoy eating an item the same way over and over. After receiving lots of ears of fresh corn in my CSA boxes, I needed to come up with some new ways to utilize it. That’s where I found out how to do these “Two Ways with Corn”.

Both are terrific and easy recipes and they can even be served together to make a meal! A creamy yet chunky Corn Chowder garnished with chopped bacon and green onion and a Romaine and Charred Corn Salad with Avocado Dressing. Did I mention that many of the other recipe ingredients were from my CSA box also?

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Let’s begin with a cooking tip that I use when cutting fresh corn off the cob. I place a cutting board inside a rimmed baking sheet and I cut a small piece off of the pointed end of the cob. To keep it steady, I place it on that end on the cutting board and proceed to cut down the length of the cob removing the kernels in strips. This keeps the kernels from flying all over my counter. This process can work for both recipes.

Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder

CORN CHOWDER

Ingredients
6 ears corn, husks and silks removed
1 1/2 quarts low sodium canned or homemade chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3/4 cups diced potato)
1 cup half and half
Kosher salt and ground white pepper
4 slices Applewood smoked bacon, chopped and fried
3 green onions, finely sliced
Instructions
  1. Hold one corn cob upright in a large bowl and cut off kernels with a sharp knife. Repeat with remaining cobs and reserve kernels and cobs separately. (I place a cutting board inside of a sided sheet pan so that the kernels stay on the board and in the pan. It eliminates the mess and having to chase the kernels!)
  2. Use the back of a knife to scrape corn cobs into a medium saucepan to collect and milk left in the bases of the kernels. Break corn cobs in half and add to saucepan. Add chicken or vegetable stock, bay leaf, fennel seed, coriander seed, and whole black peppercorns. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to just below a simmer, and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and discard cobs and spices.
  3. While stock infuses, melt butter in a separate 5 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, jalapeño and corn kernels, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and kernels are tender, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat if butter begins to brown. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Stirring constantly, gradually add infused corn stock, letting mixture come to a simmer. Add potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add half and half and stir to combine. Soup may look broken with melted butter floating on top at this stage.
  5. Transfer 1/4 of soup to a blender and blend on high until smooth, about 1 minute. (NOTE: You must be careful when blending hot liquids. Hold a cloth over the top of the blender and begin at a slow speed and then ramp up to ensure that it won’t explode) Return to pot and whisk to combine. Alternatively, use a hand blender to blend in the pot until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with salt, pepper. (White pepper is stronger than black so use it sparingly to taste) Serve immediately, sprinkled with bacon and sliced scallions.
Notes

I halved the recipe and it came out perfectly.

Adapted from Serious Eats 
Romaine and Charred Corn Salad with Avocado Dressing

Romaine and Charred Corn Salad with Avocado Dressing

ROMAINE AND CHARRED CORN SALAD WITH AVOCADO DRESSING

Serves 6
A tart and creamy dressing compliments hearty romaine and charred fresh corn in this delicious salad.
 
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3 to 4 large ears)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 Hass avocado, 3/4 peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice, 1/4 sliced for garnish
Kosher salt
Pepper
Three 6- to 8-ounce romaine hearts, torn into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup shredded pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat the broiler. Spread the corn kernels on a large rimmed baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from the heat for about 
5 minutes, until lightly charred. Let the 
corn kernels cool completely.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil with the lemon juice, honey and garlic. Add the avocado and, using a fork, lightly smash it against the side of the bowl and mix it in to form a chunky dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the cooled corn with the romaine pieces, sliced onion and the 1/2 cup of pecorino cheese. Add the dressing, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Garnish the salad with shredded cheese and serve right away.
Notes

If you have a BBQ grill handy, you can just grill the corn and then remove the kernels for the salad.

By Molly Chester
Adapted from Food & Wine

(Printable recipes can be found in my recipe index under Soups and Salads) 

Blood Oranges and Scallops Team Up for an Amazing Meal!

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What a surprise to receive a bag of beautiful blood oranges in my CSA box in mid August! These gems aren’t usually around till December and they make some extremely appetizing dishes. Here Blood Oranges and Scallops team up for an amazing meal served over polenta toasts.

I love the combination of rich tender scallops with citrus that has a little punch so this recipe hits the mark. It is simple to assemble and extremely quick to prepare. Add a side salad and dessert and you have a wonderful menu for any special occasion!

Seared Scallops over Polenta Toasts with Blood Orange Salsa

Seared Scallops over Polenta Toasts with Blood Orange Salsa

Serves 3
A wonderful citrus salsa teams up with tender seared scallops and polenta for a glamorous meal!
 
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 Tbsp Olive oil, divided
  2. 2 blood orange
  3. 1 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
  4. 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  5. Juice of 1/2 lemon
  6. Salt
  7. Pepper
  8. 12 large scallops
  9. 2 Tbsp sugar
  10. Polenta (ready made in a sleeve pack)
Instructions
  1. Take the zest of one blood orange and place it in a bowl.
  2. Set a strainer over the bowl and peel and segment the oranges. Squeeze the juice from the leftover membranes into the bowl.
  3. Cut the segments into chunks and add to the bowl.
  4. Add the red onion, cilantro, lemon juice, and lightly toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Heat remaining oil on medium high.
  6. Slice polenta into 1/4″ thick slices and pan fry them until toasty. (Use 2 or 3 slices per person and save the rest for another recipe) Drain on a paper towel.
  7. Pat scallops dry. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Spread sugar on a small plate and dip one side of each scallop into the sugar before placing it into the saute pan.
  8. Cook for 3 minutes, until the scallops are nicely seared. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the scallops opaque almost all the way through (cut one with a knife to check).
  9. Remove from the pan and serve over polenta cakes, topped with salsa.
Notes
  1. I made several changes from the original recipe. I increased the orange, lessened the amount of onion and oil, added polenta as a base for the scallops and corrected some instructions.
  2. The key to getting nicely seared scallops is to ensure they are very dry and to cook them in a very small amount of oil. Just enough to keep them from sticking, but not enough to steam them. Refrain from moving them until they are ready to be turned or their caramelized crust will turn into a slippery sauce!
  3. For the preparations of the blood orange segments, I cut a small slice off of the top and bottom of the orange and then cut the skin and pith off by standing the orange on end and slicing down in strips. I then used the knife to separate the segments from the membranes. It’s much easier this way as blood oranges are usually smaller and more delicate. You can then break the segments into pieces with your fingers.
By Shawnda the Foodie Bride
 
(Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Main Entrees)

Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles

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Do you love bread and butter pickles? Well then you are going to flip over Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles! They are a snap to prepare and have a zesty, tangy fresh flavor that goes fantastic on sandwiches or as an accompaniment to your meal. I found them along with a recipe for Pork Burgers made with a mixture of ground pork and fresh chorizo. They made an incredible taste sensation served together. Listen to this line-up:  

  • Brioche bun (I made sliders instead on Sweet Hawaiian Rolls)
  • mayo and ketchup (I made homemade Tomato Jam)
  • Pork Burger (made with ground pork, chorizo, ricotta cheese-mine was homemade, and chopped capers)
  • melted sharp cheddar cheese
  • bread and butter zucchini pickles
  • butter lettuce (I used red-leaf lettuce)

It was over-the-top scrumptious! Easy to make, especially when you assemble the pickles a day ahead so their flavors can meld.

Here is the recipe:

BREAD AND BUTTER ZUCCHINI PICKLES

  • SERVINGS: 1 QUART

These super-easy, sweet and tangy pickles get their brilliant yellow color from turmeric in the simple brine. 

  • 1 pound very firm medium zucchini, sliced crosswise 1/8 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • Ice water
  • 1 1/2 cups unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons brown or yellow mustard seeds, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Preparation:
  1. In a large bowl, toss the zucchini and onion with 2 tablespoons of the kosher salt. Cover with ice water and let stand until just softened, about 45 minutes. Drain the zucchini and onion well and pat dry.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt with the vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, mustard powder, turmeric and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar; let cool completely.
  3. Transfer the zucchini and onion to a 1-quart glass jar and pour in enough brine to cover. Seal with the lid and refrigerate overnight before serving.
Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles

Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles

MAKE AHEAD The pickles can be refrigerated in the brine for about a month.
Farmbar Pork Burgers with Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles

Farmbar Pork Burgers with Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles

One of Milwaukee’s Top 5 Restaurants in 2013 – La Merenda

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I can see why one of Milwaukee’s top 5 restaurants for 2013 is La Merenda. It has a terrific selection of small plate/tapas style dishes from all over the world. Although in Italian, merenda means “early snack”, their small plate dishes could certainly boast that they are much more than that. 

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The location was adapted from an old woodworking shop and is bright and full of light. We sat on their outdoor patio which was charming and nicely appointed with planters filled with interesting arrangements. We were facing a comfortable sitting area and outdoor fireplace that I’m guessing is a perfect place to relax with a cocktail and stave off the nighttime chill. They even have their own small garden on site growing some items for use in their kitchen. Like many of the restaurants we visited in Milwaukee, La Merenda sources much of their products locally as they believe in keeping socially and environmentally responsible.

Tart of the day

Seasonal Tart of the Day

Our server was quite helpful and spaced out our share plates nicely so that we could sit and enjoy our journey through their internationally based culinary delights in a relaxed manner. Our meal began with what I deemed, my very favorite menu item in all of Milwaukee! It was their local Wisconsin Seasonal Tart of the Day and was made with smoked red pepper puree, spinach & broccoli, Montamore cheese and Clock Shadow Creamery quark cheese topped with a balsamic sherry gastrique. The crust was light and flaky, just enough to encase it’s contents and the tart was creamy, flavorful and just plain delicious! Absoutely a perfect balance of creaminess and structure.

La Merenda Salad

La Merenda Salad

A perfect accompaniment for the tart was the La Merenda Salad. It is made with fresh arugula, pine nuts, Keewaydin Organics dried cranberries, and Dolcina Gorgonzola with ginger balsamic vinaigrette. Very lovely, fresh and light.

Veal Ravioli

Veal Ravioli

We couldn’t pass up trying the Wisconsin Meadows grass-fed mother’s milk veal in the Italian Veal Ravioli. Made with Clock Shadow Creamery Quark cheese (a new favorite of mine:), topped with mushroom ragu and shaved Uplands Dairy Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese. Wow, this was incredible!

Pork Belly Confit Crepes

Pork Belly Confit Crepes

Traveling around the world for a taste of France brought us to the Pork Belly Confit Crepes. They are homemade chive crepes filled with Maple Creek Farms pork belly confit, River Valley Ranch mushrooms, Keewaydin Organics morels served with rosemary cream sauce. Pretty darn amazing, but just a touch too salty for my palette.

Sambal Goreng Udang

Sambal Goreng Udang

 

Braise, a Community Supported Restaurant (CSR) in Milwaukee

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I am a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in California called Talley Farms. From them, I receive a bi-weekly box of seasonal fruits and vegetables all sourced at local farms. Braise, a Community Supported Restaurant  (CSR) in Milwaukee, supports its local farmers and artisan producers through the use of their products in their restaurant. They have also created Braise Restaurant Supported Agriculture (RSA) to make these products easily accessible to other restaurants in their area. Braise is committed to helping people become aware of the source of their foods and understand how an optimal relationship between a local farm and a restaurant can benefit the local economy, environment and food quality.

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Part of their mission is to reconnect people with their food through teaching. Braise offers hands on & demo-style classes available to all levels of home cooks. Their restaurant and school are run by Chef/Owner David Swanson, who earned a James Beard Award nomination in 2013 for Best Chef in the Midwest.

Steamed Pork Buns

Steamed Pork Buns

This was our last meal during our visit to Milwaukee and it supported the saying of “saving the best for last”! We loved the atmosphere and decor of the restaurant and the service was first-rate. To begin our culinary journey we ordered their Steamed Pork Buns.  After having had them at another Milwaukee restaurant, I was curious to see their interpretation. It was considerably different than the pork buns at All Purpose and they were incredible! Sweet and tangy on a melt-in-your-mouth pastry that was a perfect envelope for the toppings. 

Grilled Summer Squash Tart

Grilled Summer Squash Tart

We enjoyed their Grilled Summer Squash Tart, a delicate puff pastry tart topped with an assortment of summer squash with lemon pepper chèvre, fried fennel fronds and salsa verde. It was light and tasty.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

We couldn’t resist a taste of the fresh farm Heirloom Tomatoes served with herbs, olive oil, quark cheese and saba. Quark cheese is a fresh dairy product also known as curd cheese and Saba is a syrup made from freshly squeezed grape juice. It was fresh and luscious!

Roasted Chicken Breast

Roasted Chicken Breast

Chicken Breast is probably last on my list of things to order in a restaurant as it is something that I can easily make myself, is not that exciting and is usually overdone. This Roasted Chicken Breast, however, was breathtaking! Served with sautéed Chanterelle mushrooms & Italian braising greens, grilled red baby onions, griddled polenta cake and Summer Savory vierge. (Vierge is a French sauce made with olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and basil with often the addition of other herbs.) This dish was complex in taste and utterly delicious!

Rosewater Panna Cotta

Rosewater Panna Cotta

Since we had not indulged in dessert at most of our meals, this being our last, we decided to order dessert. Their Rosewater Panna Cotta with rhubarb broth, an almond-oat cookie and fresh cherries was a perfect ending to our meal. The texture of the panna cotta was exactly as it should be with a delicate sauce lightly flavored with rhubarb and the interesting additional accouterments alongside. I am totally sold on the philosophy of quality, freshness and exceptional taste through local sourcing and Braise is a wonderful ambassador for this cause.

 

I’ve gone to Fig Heaven!

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My wonderful tennis friend, Penny, shared some of her homegrown figs with me recently. They have accompanied Marinated, Grilled Lamb Chops in a Walnut, Fig and Goat Cheese Salad and are also showcased in homemade Fig Jam. I devoured some of the fig jam atop of softened Triple Creme Brie cheese served on Whole Wheat & Flax Seed Crackers and as a result I’ve gone to fig heaven! 

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The recipe was so simple, it’s almost embarrassing to post, but it is so delicious that I must! If you find yourself able to obtain some ripe fresh figs, I urge you to try this. Just make sure you keep someone around when you eat it to keep you from finishing the entire amount in one sitting and going into a fig coma!

Fig Jam

  • ACTIVE: 30 MIN
  • TOTAL TIME: 45 MIN PLUS COOLING
  • SERVINGS: MAKES THREE 1/2-PINT JARS
  • MAKE-AHEADIMG_3001
  1. 2 pounds green or purple figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  2. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  3. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  4. 1/2 cup water
  1. In a large, nonreactive saucepan, toss the fig pieces with the sugar and let stand, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the sugar is mostly dissolved and the figs are juicy.
  2. Add the lemon juice and water and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer the fig jam over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid runs off the side of a spoon in thick, heavy drops, about 20 minutes.
  3. IMG_3011Spoon the jam into three 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top. Close the jars and let cool to room temperature. Store the jam in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
NOTES Variation: Substitute 1/2 cup of white port for the water and add one 4-inch sprig of rosemary with the lemon juice; discard the rosemary before jarring.
(Adapted Food & Wine, Grace Parisi)
 
(Printable recipe is available in my recipe index under Sauces)

The Best Cancer Fighting Berry – Blackberry!

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Researchers have known for quite some time that berries contain antioxidants which help to fight cancer causing free radicals. A study at the University of Ohio has found that blackberries are the most potent cancer fighting berry of them all, by nearly 40 percent! Blackberries are packed full of anthocyanins, which are said to enhance heart health, protect against obesity and aid in the protection against breast cancer. And a cup of blackberries has only about 62 calories!

After receiving a container of fresh, plump blackberries in my Talley Farms CSA box this week, my culinary journey led to the creation of a Blackberry-Swirl Pound Cake; an adapted recipe from Martha Stewart. It is a simple recipe resulting in a cake that is moist and delicious!

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Blackberry-Swirl Pound Cake

Enjoy this cake on it’s own or with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.

  • Prep Time15 minutes
  • Total Time2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Serves9

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 6 ounces blackberries (1 1/3 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; butter parchment. In a food processor, puree blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.IMG_3034
  2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  3. IMG_3037Transfer half the batter to pan and dot with 1/2 cup blackberry puree. Repeat with remaining batter and puree. With a skewer or thin-bladed knife, swirl batter and puree together. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 30 minutes. Lift cake out of pan and place on a serving plate; let cool completely before slicing.

Note:  You can also swap 6 ounces raspberries or blueberries for the blackberries.

Martha Stewart, Everyday Food, July/August 2010
 
( Printable recipes found in the recipe index under Desserts)
 

Put Old World Italian together with Farm to Table and you get Cento Ristorante in Madison, WI

 

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One of the recently named best chefs in America, Chef Michael Pruett, has put Old World Italian together with Farm to Table at Cento Ristorante in Madison, WI. Pair that with Sommelier Caitlin Suemnicht’s remarkable wine list and you’ve got a winner!

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After perusing their wine list, we selected a 2008 bottle of Il Fauno di Arcanum, a 94 pt wine with a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and Petit Verdot. It was an absolutely delicious Tuscan wine with a smooth velvety richness and ripe aromas of cherry and blackberry. 

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Bruschetta

To go along with our wine, we began with one of their Bruschetta offerings, adorned with porchetta, arugula, fennel and pecorino. The artisan bread was delicious and made a firm support for the toppings allowing multiple flavors in every bite. A great starter!

Pizze

Pizze

Being a fan of wood fired anything and having a pizza oven of my own, I had to try their Pizze to see how it measured up. I selected their sweet Italian sausage, bocconcini, broccoli rapini, tomato sauce, garlic and chili flake version. I have to say it was pretty good overall. The crust had great flavor and texture although it was a bit thick for my liking. The toppings lacked a bit in flavor and that may have been a result of the crust to topping ratio being a bit off.

Tagliatelle

Tagliatelle

On to the Primi course. Black Tagliatelle with lobster, prawns, clams, mussels, peas, uni sauce and fresh horseradish. (Uni (oo-nee) is the Japanese name for the edible part of the Sea Urchin.) This dish was a grand slam and I could have eaten a large plate of it all by myself. I don’t know how to properly describe this dish other than to say it was just a little bit of heaven! 

Arctic Char

Arctic Char

Our Secondi course was Cedar-Roasted Arctic Char with roasted vegetables, lemon and tarragon oil. I thought it was divine. What made the greatest impression on me, however, was the diverse selection of vegetables and how perfectly they were prepared. So many restaurants treat the vegetable as an after thought and it amounts to an item that is left untouched and unwanted on the plate. These vegetables, however were so delicious that again, I felt I would have been happy with a large bowl of them as a meal!

Glazed Carrots

Glazed Carrots

For our Contorni course, we selected Glazed Carrots with orange and fresh herbs. Tender with a nice citrus flavor, they were a perfect accompaniment to our meal.

We had a terrific server attending to our every need and several visits from the manager to ensure that things were perfect. It was a wonderful experience and a great find in Madison, worth multiple visits!