Cooking Class at Cafe Merlot

At the end of May our team at work did a cooking class, as a team building. We had a blast… what a treat! Lots of laughter, lots of food and lots of learning!

Our class started off with an introduction and some background from Toni Kraft, one of the proud new owners of Cafe Merlot at Bernardo Winery, the oldest continuously operating winery in Southern California. Bernardo Winery is hidden in the hills of North San Diego County (in Rancho Bernardo, as a matter of fact)… a quaint family run winery boasting jazz on Sunday afternoons, a large courtyard to stroll through, a coffee shop, restaurant, a farmers market on Fridays, shops & artist studios and a beautiful lawn leading out to some of the vineyards.

Please, if you do anything this summer… make sure to visit Bernardo Winery. (But don’t tell anyone else – we want to keep it “hidden”!) ; )

We had some appetizers…

And then Toni handed us off to Chef Daniel Reynolds, who schooled us! (In a good way…)

Let’s see… what did we learn/make?

– We made bruschetta (and he explained that if we were pronouncing this word “BROOSHEDDA” then we would be laughed at). Note to self: It’s “BROOSKET-TA!”
– We made a citrus viniagrette
– We made his Universal Marinade (did I write down all of those ingredients?! phew!)
– He showed us how to make his famed omelets, as well as how to FLIP an omelet! (I failed!)

Through all of those cooking lessons Chef Daniel shared with us some of his kitchen tips (like why it’s important to “spank the herbs”), a few chef secrets, the importance of LABELING everything in the kitchen/refrigerator (product, date, etc), tips on the proper julienne cut and explained the dice, aka “brunoise”.

After each lesson we’d get to taste test what we had made, of course


And by the end of the day we were so full we had to sit down…

And once we sat down they brought to us one of the most amazing mimosas I’ve ever had in my life. I’m telling you – they serve a special mimosa that you’ll have to try for yourself… using a unique-to-them champagne (that’s apparently rather difficult to acquire), blood orange juice and I believe there was a third ingredient (which I can’t seem to recall at the moment).

What a great day… we learned a lot, we ate some amazing food (THAT WE MADE OURSELVES) and have I said yet how much we laughed ?! Oh yeah, and one more thing we took away from the day? Don’t pull a Lori!(obviously referring to how I failed on the one-handed flip of the omelet…nice!)

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

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Wine tasting in Paso Robles, Ca

On Memorial Day we packed up the car and headed north … final destination Pismo Beach. Other stops included: Santa Barbara, Arroyo Grande, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and of course Paso Robles…

Every now and then I get a longing to drive through these rollings hills where I once lived… my childhood full of memories of beach days, camping trips, playing with frogs in the creek and that sweet feeling of surrender… so we made it happen! After MUCH deliberation we planned our trip… and wouldn’t trade it for the world!

So today I am finally getting around to blog about our wine tasting tour through Paso Robles…

We parked downtown Paso Robles and waited for the The Wine Line bus to pick us up. How does The Wine Line work? Well, like a true tour bus…

Of course you can check out their website for the full story.

Lori Jean’s version? Riders can hop off the bus at any vineyard or tasting room, hang out for a while, and then hop back on the bus when they’re ready to move on to the next stop… and for the record, they are THE best way to experience Paso Robles’ vineyards!

Since we’d never been through wine country in Paso Robles before we let them suggest which vineyards we should stop at and in which order. There was 1 additional couple on the bus with us… and we all just tagged along and enjoyed the day together. Afterall, we do love talking to strangers, meeting new people and finding out what we have in common… it was a perfect day!

Come with us on the pictorial review of our tour… ?

How wine tasting works in Paso Robles
As we visited various vineyards we found each vineyard has a different deal on prices for tasting. One place gave us 5 free tastings, another let us try ALL 10 of their wines for $3 and others were the standard $5 for 5 tastings. And yet another waived the tasting fee if we bought a bottle of wine.

You see, the proprietors want you to taste their wine in hopes that you’ll buy wine (and buy a lot of it). Obviously they don’t make much on selling tastings… they make their money by selling wine. (And sending people like us home share pics and talk about how great the wine is, friendly the vineyard staff is and how priceless an experience it all was!)

We started at Castoro Cellars … where we learned they are currently bottling the “Coastal” brand for Trader Joe’s. (note to self!)

The vineyard and grounds look like you’d expect a vineyard to look like. There is a long walkway up to the tasting room, rolling hills of vineyards, a large patio with chairs and tables placed strategically to enjoy the view, bundles of California poppies and lavendar speckling the planters and large empty barrels sitting about.

The tasting room was as comfortable as my imaginary italian aunt’s home … the walls painted in warm yellow tones and rich cabinetry… sofas and chairs and a big fireplace. Our Wine Line Guide was right… this was the perfect place to start!

While I had been wine tasting once or twice at local tasting rooms my hero-of-a-hubby has not. So we asked for the beginner’s tour at our first vineyard stop. The friendly wine steward took her time to help us become comfortable with the “in’s and out’s” of tasting. She explained “how” flavors work, how to taste, how to ALWAYS ignore the first sip and to judge the wine off of the second taste.

She was patient with us, funny, knowledgable and excited about 2 particular wines that we couldn’t wait to taste!

We tried 5 wines for FREE and bought a 2007 Zinfusion (this was not her favorite – but it WAS in our price range). Perfect way to start the tour!

I took a gander through their shop and stopped briefly in front of the syrups, jams, marinades, etc.

I could literally sit here all day… but alas, this is the just the beginning. We had several more hours of this.

So I kept walking…

Afterall, this is just the first stop!

We came, we tasted, we conquered! Time to hop back in the bus and move on to vineyard/tasting room #2…

Tasting #2 at Zenaida Cellars – surrounded by yet another awe-inspiring view from the patio…

This tasting room had a completely different feel to it… dark black-brown painted cabinetry, antiqued gray-tan walls, blue neon lights hanging from the ceiling. Just felt a bit more “cool” and updated, like a downtown loft.

We enjoyed 5 wines for a small fee… and took home their Zc Red. While my hubby was paying our bill I took the opportunity to stroll around their property a bit…

And you guessed it, again I found that I wanted to sit here all day!

But no sitting was going to be done quite yet. I just couldn’t… afterall, it’s only noon! We’ve got some more touring and tasting to do! Let’s get a wiggle on…

Tasting #3 – (admittedly, my favorite stop of the day)… AronHill Vineyards

We drove up, climbed out of the van and saw THIS view…

Now THIS?! THIS is where I was going to sit for a while.

I mean, can you blame me?! Look at that view! It was a perfect 71 degrees outside with a slight breeze and we were among fantastic company!

Our Wine Line guide brought out the pre-ordered lunches (sandwich, potato salad and fruit) as we were treated to a remarkable wine tasting affair.

It is apparent that Judy, the proprietor of Aron Hill Vineyards, is in love with what she does on a daily basis! Not only did she personally deliver our tastings and talked to us about each wine… but she had a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye that showed me she has found her passion in life and is living it outloud!

Can I tell you how much I love that?!

We sat, enjoyed lunch, enjoyed 5 tastings and took in this view…

We didn’t rush to get up and Nic, our Wine line guide, talked to us about the history of this region, how certain aspects of the wine industry work and his personal travels.

We brought home a bottle of the best wine we’d tasted all day, Judy’s 2006 Primitivo and two pieces of her stemware.

We helped ourselves to a self-guided tour of her new tasting room (it opened less than a month ago), which included her new shiny (and fully-stocked) chef’s kitchen where they will soon start preparing/selling food for lunches, etc. I noted she had a few panini presses and said “Oh – we’ll be back!”

Let it be known – the tour could have been over at this point. My expectations had been greatly exceeded and the rest of the day paled in comparison… (sorry in advance to the next 2 vineyards, I’m just sayin’… )

Tasting #4 at Norman Vineyards … known for their Monster Zinfandel. We brought home 2 bottles…

It was obvious they were cat lovers (that’s neither a good or bad thing) … not to mention the company logo.

I enjoyed strolling around their property with my camera, and of course with the cats following every move…

And it was time to get back in the bus…

Tasting #5 at Rotta Winery… the oldest family-owned winery in San Luis Obispo county.

As soon as I walked in I wondered if I was on the set of “Will & Grace”. Why? Our wine steward was the spittin’ image of Karen! Rather weird and comical all at the same time… but I didn’t say anything to her until the end.

On one end of the bar was a group of 3 guys who had obviously been drinking (oh, rather “tasting”) for a good portion of the day (and one who smelled pretty ripe, I might say)… these boys were “good ol’ boys” and were giving the wine steward quite the trouble. But it was all in fun…

Here we enjoyed a taste of each of their wines (I think a dozen of them?) for $3! Yes, only $3. We were definitely feeling our wine at this point…

Look at all those awards! They wanted us to TASTE what made them so good!

Ugh… it was now about 4:30 pm and we had been “tasting” since 11 am. Phew… I needed to sit down again (while I’m on that subject – why don’t these tasting rooms have chairs to sit in?!)… but the tv show look-alike was keeping us on our toes!

We brought home the 2007 Estate Zinfandel… she explained that this was the reason we came in today. And she was right! It’s pretty darn fantastic!

As we said our goodbyes at Rotta I asked the wine steward if anyone had ever mentioned her uncanny resemblance to Karen of “Will & Grace”… she laughed out loud (just like Karen, of course) and said “NO – but I love it!”

Then we hopped back in the bus, rehydrating with WATER and took the leisurely drive back into town… and our thoughtful and helpful Wine Line driver dropped us at a dinner locale downtown Paso Robles, just about a block from where we had parked. We slowly ate dinner, drank WATER and chatted over the favorite’s of the day, how we were impressed with the whole experience, etc.

We eventually walked back towards the truck and made our way back to our hotel in Pismo Beach.

We talked about how glad we were to have been able to experience this, and dreamed about how soon we can come back! We are glad we toured Paso Robles for our first wine tasting tour together… it was a complete experience!

(And we have half of a case of wine to prove it! Sheesh!)

Best part of it, my hero-of-a-hubby and I haven’t gotten away (just the two of us) for quite a number o years. We relished in the opportunity to reconnect, dream and relax together. What a treat…

And I leave you with this…

“When wine enlivens the heart, may friendship surround the table.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

When I was 8 years old I received my first cookbook

A gift from my Mom’s Mom, a fabulous Gramma. She was a wife and mother who was known to make a new dessert every night of the week. When you have a husband with a sweet tooth and 3 kids running the house… yes, it is necessary!

When I was 8 years old I started drooling over cookbooks. I remember standing for hours at the kitchen counter, reading each detail of each recipe… looking at all the details of all the hand drawn illustrations.

I mean, who wouldn’t when you have graphics like this?!

In all seriousness, this kid’s cookbook has more technical information in it that most “grown up” cookbooks! Check it out… this goes into detail on necessary items, safety precautions, proper names of kitchen utensils, cooking methods, etc! (I think I even learned something again when reading it again yesterday!)

I do recall making a killer cinnamon toast… thank you to my very first cookbook! Mmmm…. makes me want some now!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: Southwest Dressing from a certain (unnamed) Brewhouse

Let it be known:
1) I searched high and low for this recipe online.
2) I couldn’t find it online.
3) I frequented this Brewhouse’s establishment a number of times and will continue to do so happily.
4) I fully understand that I probably should not have this recipe.
5) I am not being paid by anyone to share this secret.

And yet I will refrain from releasing the name of the locale. But they brew beer (and root beer) and make deep dish pizzas and some really good cookies for dessert… and they just opened a joint here in town. They serve this sauce with a few of their dishes (southwest spring rolls and fish tacos, for instance) … and I just knew I had to figure out how to make this so I could enjoy it at home.

I ate at their location several times… going back over and over again just to taste the dressing (oh yeah, and to enjoy it on their fish tacos).

And then I just had to ask. And I finally found someone to share the ingredients of their recipe. (Thank you, my unnamed friend at this unnamed Brewhouse.)

But leading up to that moment I made my own versions of this sauce at home… at least 5 times. And each time I made it I got farther and farther away from the actual ingredients.

Here’s how simple it is…

4 easy ingredients: prepared “ranch dressing”, chili powder, ground cumin and cayenne pepper.

I used about 2/3 cup ranch dressing, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper. (But you can add more cayenne if you like things spicy.)

Give it a whisk and serve with just about anything… it can be used on fish tacos, chicken quesadillas, taco salads, a southwest burger… use your imagination.

You can thank me later…

Dear Legal Dept at unnamed Brewhouse… I apologize in advance if this should have remained some sort of secret. I couldnt’ help myself. Your product is so good… I just had to share it.

Can you blame me?!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: French Macarons

I present to you… bliss…

Lori’s disclaimer: I made lots of mistakes through this recipe (my first time throught it). And I’ll share those with you throughout this post. Follow the instructions below and you’ll be fine.

Here’s where I started… almond flour (blanched almonds that have been very finely ground), powdered sugar, granulated sugar, water, cream of tartar, salt and egg whites.

Start by running the powdered sugar and almond flour through the food processor for about a minute. This will help remove any clumps and mix them together well.

Next, sift the two (a time or two) to make really sure that you’ve got out any large pieces of the almond flour. (Note from Lori: you may find the need to discard about a tablespoon worth of almond flour – or try running it through the food process/blender again to break it down a bit more.)

In a stand mixer bowl, combine the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt …

But first dissolve the sugar in the water and boil until it reaches approximately 240 degrees F.

While the sugar is boiling, whip the egg mixture (on high, for a few minutes) until soft peaks begin to hold.

Slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the egg mixture, still beating the meringue. Beat until it again holds soft peaks. It should be glossy and look very smooth.

Using a spatula, gently fold in the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture.

Using a spatula, stir the meringue mixture until the batter runs in ribbons… (

Here was my first mistake (which led to mistake #2): I don’t think I stirred it long enough… when I would hold up the spatula to watch for the “ribbons”, the mixture was dropping, not running like a ribbon. I believe that stirring for a bit longer would have created the “ribbon” affect I was needing.

So the next problem happened when I was dropping the meringue on to the cookie sheets… the dough wasn’t thick enough, so it was runny. Mistake #2 was… I placed the cough too close together, so they meringue ran together … you’ll see what I mean in the next few images.

And do you see an ever-so-slight change in color in the row of meringue closest to you? I scooped up the first half of the dough and then decided to add just 1 small drop of yellow food coloring (for a 2nd version of the macarons – filled with lemon curd).

Note to self – next time add 2 drops of yellow food coloring.

And so I prepared a second sheet tray. (You will need to use 2 large sheet trays.)

The meringues will need to sit out on the countertop for about 2 hours… and then bake them off.

Allow them to cool completely on the sheet trays… when they are ready remove them carefully with a very thin spatula. (For the macarons that were “joined” I simply cut them apart with a paring knife… they weren’t as pretty, but they tasted just as good.)

Then accessorize as you like… for the plain macaron I used a very soft carmel filling. And for the yellow macaron I used lemon curd.

The lemon macaron was the first to go…

And then it got ugly real quick… pardon me. I need to find a napkin.

French Macarons
Recipe courtesy King Arthur Flour Co
link to website: French Macarons

Ingredients
1 ½ cups almond flour
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 large egg whites, room temp
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cream of tartar
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon water
½ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Instructions
In a food processor, process flour and confectioner’s sugar for approximately 20 seconds. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Set aside.

Put 3 large egg whites, pinch of salt and cream of tartar into large bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan heat water and sugar over medium heat, until sugar dissolves. Then bring to a rapid boil. Boil for 2 mins. The temp of the syrup should reach between 235-240 degrees F. When it does take the syrup off the heat.

Immediately start whipping the egg whites, using an electric mixer. When they hold a soft peak on the end of the beater stop, grab the hot syrup, resume beating and pour the syrup steadily into the whites as you beat. Stop to scrap the sides of the bowl midway through.

Continue beating until the meringue is smooth, glossy and forms soft peaks. Fold in the almond flour/sugar. Once everything is fully incorporated, stir with a spatula until the batter runs in ribbons that disappear back into the mass in 10-20 seconds. Test frequently and stop stirring when you reach this point.

Using a teaspoon cookie scoop or pastry bag to deposit a generous teaspoon-sized round blob of batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

Test cookie should flatten out, rather than remain in a tall blob. If it doesn’t spread, stir the batter some more.

Want to tint some? One or two drops of a gel-paste color. Add at this stage.

Allow to rest in a dry place with good air circulation (a counter top is fine) until you can gently touch the tops and come away with a clean finger, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Bake the cookies for about 25 – 30 mins, until firm on top. They’ll develop a “fuzzy” ring around the center; that’s a good thing. Remove them from oven, and cool completely on sheet.

Use a thin spatula to separate them/remove them from parchment.

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

do i like brussel sprouts?

Quite a few people wince when brussel sprouts are mentioned. And I cannot recall ever attempting them before (probably because of all of the wincing)…

So, today I bought some. I felt so proud of myself as I bagged up several brussel sprouts… all the while Gramma’s sarcastic tone rings in my ear: “How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never given it a good chance?!”

I brought them home… did some online researching and found a quick method that looked easy, sounded good and had some potential.

I started with preheating the oven to 400 degrees F. Then I hit the cutting board… I cut off part of the stem and peeled back the yellowish and/or loose leaves. I will note, these things look and act like mini-iceberg lettuce heads. The layers of leaves even peel back similarly… but don’t let them fool you. They taste NOTHING like iceberg lettuce (afterall, iceberg doesn’t have much flavor anyway).

But let’s take another rabbit trail… while I was roasting I decided it was time to roast some garlic and maybe some cauliflower too. See?

Chop off the pointy top, drizzle some oil and sprinkle on some kosher salt… wrap it tightly and voila!

Then I tossed the brussel sprouts (not pictured here) in a little bit of olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper. And onto the sheet tray with the garlic…

But since brussel sprouts take a bit longer than the cauliflower I’m going to wait on that part for now.

Roasting, roasting, roasting…

After about 15 mins it was time to roll the brussel sprouts around the sheet tray a little bit (so they roast evenly)… so this is when I added the cauliflower. (And yes, I also drizzled the cauliflower with a bit of olive oil and kosher salt.)

Another 15 mins went by… and it was time for another turn.

10-15 mins later … it all looks good. Time to find out if I like brussel sprouts. (I already KNOW I love roasted garlic and cauliflower… just doing double duty with the hot oven on this post.)

The cauliflower was scrumptious. The brussel sprouts? Crispy on the outside – and salt always helps. Cooked well inside – soft and not overdone. But there is that overwhelming brussel sprout flavor… I can understand the wincing, completely.

So, what’s the verdict? I still don’t know if I like brussel sprouts.

Why don’t I know? Well, I ate the brussel sprouts. But I’m not yet convinced. i promise to give these poor things will get a second try from me (using a different cooking method) along with some different flavors. Any suggestions? Leave me a comment…

Stay tuned… I’d like to be a champion for brussel sprouts. But they have yet to prove themselves…

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Chef John Besh’s Braised Beef Short Ribs… aka good food from Esquire magazine

Thank you Chef John Besh, for being from New Orleans … and for learning how to cook… and for sharing it with us. (Or should I thank Esquire magazine? That’s where I found this recipe online. Honestly, I didn’t know they were in the food business. Hmm…)

It was time for some braised beef short ribs. And I wanted to try someone else’s recipe this time. (And it dawns on me… my recipe isn’t on here. Oh darn. We’ll have to do short ribs again soon.)

Here’s where I started…

Then I salted and peppered, and browned…

Oh, I forgot these two ingredients. You’ll need to add this to the fluid portion of this dish.

In this large bowl is a bottle of red wine, some beef broth, sugar, diced tomatoes, kosher salt and bay leaves… and you see me adding some garlic and thyme. (Yes – the recipe below calls for zinfandel. But I used merlot. Just being different, again…)

Then it’s time to prep the aromatics…

Once the rest of the ribs are browned… remove them and set aside.

But let’s take a quick look at what’s happening at the other side of the stove. I’m reconstituting some dried porcini mushrooms.

Bring some water to a boil, stir in the mushrooms and turn off heat. Let the mushrooms sit for about 5 minutes, and then strain out of hot water. Just set aside. You’ll use these later…

Add those aromatics to the hot pot so they can cook down and then bring the meat back to the pot.

Now it’s time to add the wine/broth mixture and let it all settle in for the long winter…

OK – really it only takes about 2 hours…. and it’s worth every minute.

Don’t forget to add those mushrooms and give it a little stir.

Bring it to a boil… let it roll for a while and then place the lid on and walk away. Do NOT be tempted to take the lid off and smell it. Do NOT be tempted to peek inside to see how it’s going.

Walk away…

Wait at least 2 hours and then test for doneness…

Before serving allow the fluids to reduce down by about half… it will make a nice sauce to drizzle over the ribs.

Enjoy! We did… we served them up with creamy mashed cauliflower… that recipe will follow tomorrow… oh yum!!!

Halfway through dinner, my hero-of-a-hubby happily announced: “You can definitely make this again!” (Gee, thanks babe!)

Chef John Besh’s Braised Beef Short Ribs

Ingredients
4 lbs beef short ribs, cut flanken style
Coarse salt and black pepper
3 cups zinfandel
½ cup sugar
6 oz canned chopped tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 sprigs fresh thyme, picked off stem
2 bay leaves
3 oz canola oil
1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
2 medium carrots, diced (1/2 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced (1/2 cup)
2 oz dried mushrooms, preferably porcini

Instructions
1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper; be rather generous. In a mixing bowl, whisk together zinfandel, sugar, tomatoes, beef broth, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt.
2. Pour canola oil into a heavy pot or Dutch oven (at least 5 quarts) and place over high heat. When oil is hot, working in small batches, brown the meat. Turn each piece to brown on all sides before removing from the pot. (Tip: A sturdy pot that conducts heat well has a lot to do with the success of this dish. Get yourself a cast-iron pot. It’ll outlast you.)
3. When all beef is browned and removed from pot, add onion, carrots, and celery, allowing onion to cook until browned, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Return beef to the pot along with wine mixture. Allow wine to come to a boil before reducing heat, skimming fat from surface.
5. After simmering for several minutes, add mushrooms. Cover and simmer over very low heat until meat is fork tender and nearly falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
6. Once the beef has cooked, remove from pot and keep warm. Turn up heat and reduce the pot liquids until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Transfer ribs to four shallow bowls, spooning liquid over top.

John Besh is the chef and owner of August in New Orleans.

Source:
http://www.esquire.com/features/guy-food/short-ribs-recipe-ll-1107

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

FOOD IDEA: Encrusted Mahi Mahi

Let me share a secret with you… shhh…

I learned a secret while watching Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. (It’s just between me and you ok?!)

Chef Anne Burrell was talking about a tip she learned from Chef Mario Batali. And Mario Batali can do no wrong. So of course I perked up and listened even more intently.

She said he used instant potato flakes as a coating (aka “crust”) on the outside of fish.

WAIT, wait, wait!!! WHAT?!

That’s not very “chef – y” !!! Are you sure it was Chef Mario and not someone else?!

So I resolved to try it for myself… but on mahi mahi instead.

Using herbs from my own herb bowl out front … I graved the italian flat-leaf parsley and thyme. And some chives from the store. These are used to flavor the potato flakes ever so slightly.

And I headed towards the dredging station… egg, herbed potato flake crust (but only crusting on one side)… and into the hot pan.

Judging the thickness of these fillets, I cooked them for about 4-5 minutes on the crust side (until the crust was golden brown). And then once they got flipped over they got another minute or two.

We had the fillets with Spinach Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

But don’t take my word for it, or Chef Mario Batali’s or Anne Burrell’s for that matter… make it yourself! You can thank me later!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Saffron…

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” – Julia Child

And fun did I have today… I went on a scavenger hunt. For saffron…

Not that it’s necessarily difficult to find. But I also didn’t want to buy a large container and spend $20 on something I’ve never used before – my regular market had it for $19.59! Ouch… so, I found this small container (a little bit bigger than a Quarter) at World Market, for $4.99 (a product of India).

The saffron is very tightly packed into this little container. . .

And once you open it they just start falling out. . .

In a few days I will use this to make a saffron risotto… it will not be my first attempt at risotto. But it WILL be my first attempt at saffron risotto. I look forward to the experiment…


Click here for more about saffron . . .

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

pining for figs

Today, I wanted good figs…

I really wanted them to be the perfect figs.

They were “ok”, just “alright”… but not what I was looking for exactly.

The inside of the figs are simply beautiful.

Bite right into them… and enjoy the mellow yet slight honey-like flavor.

If you don’t know much about figs… read more here: About figs

Here’s a challenge – next time you’re at the market pick up a food item you’re not sure about. Take it home, read up on it and do a taste test. Go ahead, be brave. Wait until you hear about my adventures in lychees.

Back to the figs: I remember once saying I didn’t like figs. But in all reality I just didn’t know enough to know what I was looking for. I didn’t know at what stage of their ripening that they taste the best. It was just a matter of trying it and figuring it out. (Sidenote: Isn’t that how life goes… we blindly judge something until we are open-minded enough to take the time to learn more about it and understand where it’s coming from, the subject’s strengths/weaknesses, how it’s supposed to act, what it’s capable of, etc.

Food imitating life… I love it!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…