Sunday, December 30, 2007

Non-Baker Baked!

The Non-Baker Baked !!!! It really worked! In my last post I was telling you about a recipe I found in two magazines called “Almost No-Knead Bread”. Cooks Illustrated Magazine is the one that caught my eye as it used beer and water, instead of just water. The recipe looked very simple but did take some rising time, anywhere from 8 to 18 hours, the longer the better. So this is a “two dayer” bread.

Bread has to rise in a 10 inch skillet.

Ready for the Oven!

Into the "dutch oven" for the real oven!


Oh my gosh, I think it worked!

Not bad for a first attempt!
Moral of story, success for the non-baker baking!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Remembering...And Baking Again?

As I am sitting here with my morning tea, still adoring my now somewhat drooping Christmas tree, I am thinking of the past year. Wow how quickly it has flown by me. Just 2 weeks ago I was in snowy Ohio visiting the Winter Farmers Market and now I am sitting in the south with all the windows and doors open. Thinking back on the past year, as I guess we all do this time of year, I said to myself, what was the highlight of my past year? First of all, in February, I started my blog. At that time I would have never guessed it would have developed into what it is today, sharing my favorite pastimes with so many new friends. It has developed into a community I cannot live without!

The second highlight of my year was being able to live in Ohio for the summer months and discovering the Oxford Farmers Market. Not only did I get farm fresh veggies, eggs, etc. I got another new set of friends. These couple of photos of the Winters Farmers Market are surely a testament to their dedication. These folks go thru “hell and high water”, OK let’s say snow, to bring to us the freshest and safest foods for our families.
If you would like to visit one of these hardworking farmers check out Lucy from Boulder Belt Eco Farm. Stop on over to Lucy’s blog, for updates weekly on the trials and rewards of organic farming. Reading her blog, and actually speaking with them at the market, sheds a new light and appreciation of “buying local”! This is a photo of Lucy in front of her stand at the Winters Market!

Well folks, enough reminiscing for now, time to plan dinner and head to the grocery store. Also, I am in the process of making “No Knead” Bread. Not sure if any of you saw the article in the New York Times, I didn’t, I first came across it in “Mother Earth News”. The second time I saw an article about it was in the February 2008 issue of “Cooks Illustrated” Magazine. After seeing it this many times, and they telling me how easy it is, I thought I would give it a shot. So the non-baker is baking again. Could this be a new trend for 2008 ???? Scary!


Sunday, December 23, 2007

A "Merry Christmas" With Wine

Well the big day is almost here and hopefully all of your Christmas shopping and wrapping has come to an end. Now it is time to sit back, relax, enjoy family and friends and pop open a bottle of wine to celebrate! And do I have a new one just for this occasion. If you have read any of my past posts on wine, you will know that some of my favorites are wines from "Toad Hollow". My two past favorites have been the "Dry Rose of Pinot Noir, Eye of the Toad" and "Erik's The Red", Propriety Red Wine. Both of these would be great for any celebration. But as I was strolling through the wine aisle this week, choosing our selections for the holidays, I came across Toad Hollow's newest offering. What caught my eye first is the whimsical label, as you all know I adore "artsy" wine labels. So I had to purchase "Le Faux Frog" 2005 Chardonnay!

About 11 years ago, Toad Hollow crossed the big pond over to France and created great new French Wines under the label "Le Faux Frog". These have been nice wines, but to me the ones they produce here in California I enjoyed a bit more. But seeing this label, I had to give them another try. And I am so glad I did! Their 2005 Chardonnay is the best to date. How can it not be as it is produced in the South of France in the District of Limoux! Limoux is situated just south of Carcassonne and not very far from the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. The 2005 Chardonnay has such a refreshing, non-oaky flavor with hints of lemon and a fun bright finish to it. It is not a heavy Chardonnay like some of the California ones can be, but one that is lively and light! Perfect for sipping at your holiday parties!
I will be pouring "Le Faux Frog" this evening and I will raise my glass to all of my friends all over the world!

I want to wish all of you a very "Merry Christmas". Have lots of fun and be safe!


Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy "Seasoned Eatings" From Key West

My post yesterday was about the fun spice exchange "Seasoned Eatings" hosted by two great gals, Katie at Thyme For Cooking and Lindsay at Country Girl City Living. Thanks for bringing us an early Christmas! It was so fun opening up my spice gift from Sher at What Did You Eat. And, what I truly enjoyed was heading to the kitchen to bake the recipe Sher sent along with her secret spice "cinnamon"! I do not do much baking so this was the perfect treat for me. Sher's recipe for "Cinnamon Lace Cookies" was easy and oh so yummy for the Holidays.

Just look how great they turned out! After I popped them in the oven, I had to watch through the door and, oh my gosh, they did turn into lace while cooking!

Sher's "Cinnamon Lace Cookies"

1 stick of butter (4 oz)
2/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chopped

Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and cream in a heavy saucepan, bring to a boil stirring often. Remove from heat, add flour and cinnamon and beat till smooth. Put into a bowl and into the fridge to chill.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop 6 one half teaspoons size (and believe me, do not go bigger as I did the first time, these guys really spread out) mounds of batter onto the baking sheets, with room to spread! Bake 8 minutes or until cookies are lacy and golden.
Let cool on baking sheets until firm. Transfer to a rack. Wipe off parchment and repeat with remaining batter. Chill batter between batches.
When cookies are cool, melt chocolate stirring until smooth. Roll the edges of the cookies in chocolate and set them on wax paper to harden. Enjoy!

Sher, these turned out great! I even got a little creative while playing in the kitchen. While the cookies were still fairly warm out of the oven, before I transferred to a rack, I took a fork and picked up the edge of the cookie and then rolled them. When they cooled, I dipped the ends in the chocolate. They turned out like little candies! So sweet and crunchy! Thank you Sher for your spice gift to me!

And, Thank You again Katie and Lindsey for organizing this great event for us. I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into this event. It was so fun and now I look forward to the round up on your sites! Cannot wait to see what everyone else received and "cooked up" with their new spices and recipes!

Merry Christmas and Happy "Seasoned Eatings"!


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Home Now and My Spice Package Was Waiting For Me

On my way home all I could think about was my "Seasoned Eatings" package waiting for me! Sure, I was excited to be back home after the snowy days in Ohio and looking forward to getting a Christmas tree, but the spice package waiting means it is time to get back in the kitchen and prepare whatever awaited me in my secret spice package! Plus, it meant re-connecting to my friends in the blogger world. I missed you all!

I must send out a big thanks to Katie at Thyme For Cooking and Lindsay at Country Girl City Living for hosting a wonderful event for us. Kaite and Lindsay came up with the idea of getting us cooking bloggers together for a spice exchange. We all sent in our addresses to them, they in turn emailed us a fellow blogger somewhere in the world to send a package of a local spice from our area or a spice that we enjoy cooking with, along with a recipe using that spice. We are to prepare our recipe and there will be a roundup of all the goodies on Katie's and Lindsay's site soon. This was such a fun event because I got to meet a few new bloggers. So many thanks again to Katie and Lindsay for all their time and effort to make us have a happy "Seasoned Eatings"!

Now for the fun part! As soon as I walked in the door I opened my "Seasoned Eatings" package. A big "Thank you" to Sher from What Did You Eat! Sher lives in Davis, California and I envy her as she lives so close to wine country! Her spice to me is Cinnamon and a perfect spice for the Holidays! Sher also sent me a beautiful card with her recipe included, a nice note introducing herself and two locally made items. She sent a package of "Naughty Biscotti" from a company located in Santa Clara and a jar of "Spun Honey With Cinnamon" from a local bee keeper in Woodland, Ca. I am going to save this yummy looking jar of honey for Christmas morning! Thank you so much Sher for this terrific package! I am thrilled with these goodies and look forward to making the cookie recipe that you sent me. I will be posting the results of it soon and it will be included in Katie and Lindsay's roundup.

It is great to be back home again and now I must go and visit all of my blogging friends and catch up from the week I was up north. More on that trip tomorrow!


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Holiday Shopping On The Mainland

Hi Gang! I am going to have limited access to internet for the next week or so. I am heading north to do some Christmas shopping and visit family! I should be back to you all full time again the week before Christmas so I can chat with you about the holidays! I will miss you!


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cookbook Review 6 - Wine and Food of Greece

This cookbook review is for my good blogging friend Valli at More Than Burnt Toast. Valli is a major Greek fan having visited Greece and attending a cooking school there! Valli shares with us on her blog wonderful photos of her visit and delicious recipes from her trip.
I have had “The Food And Wine Of Greece” by Diane Kochilas around my kitchen for quite a few years. The most used recipe out of her book is the flavorful Makedonitiki Skordalia, which is Mike’s favorite appetizer. This is a garlic and potato puree from Macedonia that will knock your socks off with the fresh garlic ingredient. Diane’s book is a great collection of Greek cuisine and pays tribute to the history, tradition, folklore and culture that surround each dish. Diane traveled in Greece and lived in Athens during the writing and testing of her cookbook. I so enjoy books like this written with such details on the different aspects of life and the background for the recipe.
Diane’s first part of the book is dedicated to the essentials of Greek cuisine. Actually, I totally enjoyed this part of the book as it is on Greek Wine! She starts with the mythology of Greek wine, the history of it, followed by the different wine regions. She has a very informative page on the “Appellation Wines Produced in Greece by Name and Region” with a map pointing out these regions. After the wine section, she goes on to discuss the “Spirits of Greece” and then other beverages like teas and coffees. The rest of Part 1 of the book is about basic ingredients and bread. Part 2 discusses appetizers, Part 3 is the main course section and Part 4 is on “sweets”. She has a great follow-up at the end of the book on Classic Greek Meals. For example, Diane lays out a sample menu of what you would serve for Easter, Christmas, Lent, Winter and a favorite Summer meal. This book is a must for anyone who would like to learn and taste authentic Greek dishes!

Here is a recipe that I adapted from “The Food and Wine of Greece”. And yes, here I go again with my tomato fetish!

Kotopoulo Kavourmas or Kokkinisto which is Braised Chicken With Tomato Sauce

3 lbs. of chicken legs, you could use any part of the chicken
Olive Oil and 1 Tablespoon butter
Flour for dredging
2 large red onions, sliced
1 can of petit chopped tomatoes with their juice
4-5 cloves of garlic finely chopped
3 tablespoons of fresh chopped oregano or 1 tablespoon dried
2 bay leafs
1 spring of fresh rosemary chopped (optional)
A good shake of hot pepper flakes (for Mike)
1-2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat some olive oil and butter in your stewing pot, dredge your chicken in flour, add to hot pot and brown chicken on all sides, remove to plate.
Add more olive oil if your pot is dry, add onions until translucent, add garlic for a few moments, add tomatoes, herbs, pepper flakes, and a bit of water. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes over low heat. Check the pot occasionally to make sure there is enough liquid, if not, add a bit more water.
About 10 minutes before serving, add the vinegar to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

You could serve this chicken dish with rice, mashed potatoes, or like I did, over pasta. It is a very easy, flavorful dish for a cool evening.

I did not have any Greek white wine, so I just went with my favorite Sauvignon Blanc!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Found Friends

Happpily in the garden, kissed by rain...

Remember this guy last week looking for a pole...

Better than a pole...a new found friend...the "grape" tomato vine:)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cookbook Review 5 - Stews, Bogs And Burgoos!

Still have any leftover turkey? By this time, probably not. If you do, here is a yummy way to use it up. Saturday I was tired of turkey soup, turkey sandwiches and poultry in general. But still starring me in the face when I opened the fridge was a good portion of left over turkey. So off to the book shelf I went. Now here is a book that I have had for several years and enjoy turning to when I want a one pot meal.
Stews, Bogs, and Burgoos – Recipes from the Great American Stewpot by James Villas. James has been the food and wine editor at Town and Country magazine and he has had several articles in Gourmet Magazine, Bon Appetit, New York Times and Esquire. I like his comment at the beginning of his introduction, “In a large, heavy pot… Just these five words, repeated over and over in recipes throughout this book, immediately evoke timeless memories of sitting around a big wooden kitchen table in North Carolina and watching my grandfather fill blue and white bowls with his steaming rabbit stew…”
This is just the beginning of a wonderful book filled with “down home” cooking such as stews, ragouts, burgoos, mulls, braises, bogs, hotpots, kettles, gumbos, chilis – whew, now I am hungry. After his introduction, which will keep you turning the pages of this book, James has chapters on Beef Stews, Pork Stews, Lamb and Veal Stews, Poultry Stews, Game and Variety Meat Stews, Seafood Stews, Vegetable, Bean and Fruit Stews and to accompany all these delicious pots his last chapter is on Biscuits! Another informative feature of his book are the "Stew Savvy" comments throughout the chapters. These are great helpful hints to make life easier while spending time in your kitchen. Here is an example of one of his tips - "To prevent small whole onions from coming apart during the cooking of stews, take a knife and score the root ends with an X". Good advice James!
Now it is time Mr. Turkey leftovers, you are headed for a Mull. Here is my version of James’ Turkey, Corn and Lima Bean Mull.

Turkey, Corn and Green Pea Mull

4 slices of pancetta, or you could use bacon
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 pieces of celery finely chopped
1 green bell pepper finely chopped
3 cups turkey stock and 1 cup chicken stock
One 10 oz. package frozen corn, thawed
One 10 oz. package frozen green peas – my favorite ingredient!, thawed
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
Whatever leftover turkey you have cubed, I had about 2-1/2 cups
One teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large heavy pot, fry the pancetta or bacon till crisp, remove from pot, drain on paper towel and crumble. Add a touch of olive oil to the pot if it is too dry and add the onions, celery, bell pepper and cook until soft. Add the remaining ingredients plus your bacon and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are fork tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

As you can see, this is a great alternative to those cold turkey sandwiches. I served it for lunch, but you could definitely do this for supper and just add a crisp salad and some great biscuits to make a satisfying dinner on a “cool” fall evening.

If you are doing it for dinner, a nice wine to serve aside would be a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio!


Friday, November 23, 2007

Garden Update And Post Thanksgiving

Hope everyone is fully stuffed from your big bird and have lots of good memories under your belt besides turkey, stuffing, pie, etc. Our day was wonderful with lots of goodies to keep us in food for the next few days. Our table was graced with lots of wine, mostly Rieslings from Washington State, Three Mushroom Dressing, Cranberry and Apple Relish, Smashed Potatoes, Gravey, Pumpkin Pie and Mincemeat Pie. But the Highlight of the dinner table was Mike's grilled turkey straight off the hot charcoals. What a beauty! Good job Mike! It was all so yummy!

While I am listening to Christmas music this morning, I thought I would update you on the container garden!

Pole Beans

Pole Beans Heading For The Sky

Looking For A Pole

First Tomatoes

Hot Banana Peppers

Cayanne Peppers That Need Transplanting

Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving and Enjoy Your Weekend!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoyed a glass of 2005 Maison Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay last evening while preparing my last list of goodies that I need for our Thanksgiving Dinner. I gave you the scoop on this wine a few months ago, but thought I would share with you again. It would be a nice wine to sip on Thanksgiving Day while that big bird is cooking in your oven and making your house smell so comforting. Chilled, the Ardeche Chardonnay is a nice wine that has a fresh crisp apple note to it and is smooth on the finish. Not a heavy Chardonnay at all! A good choice before you set the table. I have not purchased my wines yet for the big day, but will probably go with a Riesling. They are good chilled and have a nice sweet note that will pair well with the sweeter items on the Thanksgiving Table, such as sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce for instance. Also the Rieslings would be a good choice beside a nice slice of pumpkin or apple pie that is smothered in whip cream or ice cream! As for you red wine drinkers, I would go with a lighter red such as a Pinot Noir, Merlot or even a Shiraz. These will pair well with the light tasting meat of the turkey.

Now that my mouth is watering in anticipation of all the yummy "fixin's" for tomorrow, I will move along as I need to hit the market for my last minute items!

From my home to yours, have a very Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 19, 2007

Cookbook Review 4 - "Baking With Julia"

We are rapidly approaching the Holiday Season. And with that thought, I start planning all the goodies that I want to adorn my table. Problem is - I am not a baker! Therefore, when a holiday does approach, I pull out my trusty baking companion, Julia. Everyone who cooks knows Julia Child. I have many of her books, but my favorite one that has many bookmarks and stains, is “Baking With Julia”. I picked up this book after tuning into her PBS TV series that aired back in the mid 1990’s. This book and her series is a gathering of 27 chefs of enormous talent which, one by one, visit Julia in her kitchen and prepare some of their specialties. I enjoy this book as it has very explicit instructions of each recipe and beautiful photos of work-in-progress and finished product. I need all the help I can get when baking and this is the perfect book!

After a nice introductory section, Baking With Julia starts with a chapter on “Baking Basics” which is great information from almond paste, baking pans, to the zest of citrus fruits. Following that is one on “Batters and Dough’s” which goes over many “how to’s” on making flaky pie dough, puff pastry, and many other basic batters and dough’s that will be used throughout the book.
Now let the baking begin with:
Daily Loaves
Artisanal Breads
Morning Pastries And Quick Breads
Everyday Delights
Cakes For Occasions
A Glorious Wedding Cake
Homey Pies And Tarts
Grand Pastries
Savory Pastries
Sweet Fillings And Savory Spreads
The ending chapters are on the bakers themselves, sources and the index.

One of my favorite recipes from Baking With Julia is the one for Galette. I have used the Galette Dough two different ways in the past, one for a Berry Galette using fresh berries and one for a more savory Galette using fresh plum tomatoes, Monterey Jack cheese, Mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves. But the other day I had fresh pears and a big bunch of grapes on hand and thought, WOW, this would make a lovely Galette.

I served my Pear and Grape Galette with freshly made whip cream that I only added a touch of sugar and vanilla. I did not want to overpower the sweet taste of the fruit in the galette, but add a cool smooth texture along with the textures of the crust and fruit. What a happy party in my mouth!

The wine I would serve with my Pear and Grape Galette would be a nicely chilled Riesling from Germany or Washington State. The sweetness of the fruit in the galette would pair nicely with the sweetness of the wine.

Just an ending note – I highly recommend Baking With Julia for a no stress baking experience during your Holiday baking time. She is well worth picking up in your library or local bookstore. Not only is the book “user friendly”, I totally enjoyed the section that introduced us to all 27 chefs that collaborated on this wonderful series.
As Julia would say “Bon Appetit”, or Deb says…

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Visiting A Favorite Wine And Visiting Me!

I visit this wine from time to time
As it totally is a favorite of mine
So pour a glass and let it shine
Monkey Bay is so fine!

How do you guys like that! Well, you will like this wine I am sure. Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, is such a treat for under $10.00. As you all know, I really enjoy the Sauvignon Blancs from Australia and New Zealand. They spotlight great, concentrated tropical fruit with a hint of grassiness that I find irresistible. So refreshing and have just the right acidity to balance out all those tropical fruit flavors on your palate. I enjoyed this bottle last evening as the beginning of the end of my day. It went perfect with a fresh piece of fish on the grill basted with butter and lemon. I was on a green kick last night craving crispy green veggies, so I served the fish with grilled asparagus and steamed broccoli. The grassiness of the wine complimented all of the goodies for dinner! Cheers!

Katie from Thyme For Cooking, The Blog, tagged me the other day for a Meme! If you have not visited Katie's site yet, I highly recommend that you do. Her weekly menu's and delicious dishes she posts about will send you to your kitchen immediately! She also entertains us with her wonderful writings about life in France and the antics of her two beautiful dogs. Here ya go Katie!

Four places I have lived: my life started in Kentucky, then to Ohio, then to Tennessee, back to Ohio and now in Florida.

Four Jobs I have had: When I decided to start working in the real world, I planned my jobs as to what benefits I could get out of them. First job was in the accounting department of a Brewery - great benefits! Second job was at an Automotive Parts Distributor. Mike was in heaven because I could get parts for his Corvette! Third Job was for Levi Strauss - need I say more. Last major job was at a Material Handling Distributor. Again Mike was in heaven because we were able to outfit his garage with shelving, etc. for all of his toys, his tools!

Four Favorite Places I have been on Holiday: These 2 places tie for the best holidays I have ever had - France and Australia! Next would be San Francisco and the place I call home, Key West, Florida.

Four Favorite Foods: Wine, Artisan Breads, Olive Oils, and Green Peas.

Four Places I'd rather be: I enjoy my home here, but would love to spend more time in France, Australia, Italy, Canada and the UK. Oops, that is 5, oh well. I think it would be so cool to stay in each spot for 6 months or more to learn all about their history and seek out the best foods,wines and visit with my blogger friends in these areas.

Four Fantastic Bloggers To Tag: Only if you guys have the time, as I know your schedules are pretty full. Nora B., Lucy, Valli and Wendy.

Thank you Katie for the tag. It is fun to learn more about all of our blogging friends!

Cheers to all!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cookbook Review #3 Kate Hill's Culinary Journey In Gascony

I have been working on this post for the last week and it is one of the most exciting for me. Why? Let me tell you a quick little story. A few weeks ago, I was on Wendy’s site and decided to visit one of the blogs that she has listed on the side under her column Food. I liked the sound of Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook, so off I went. I was thrilled when I started reading Lucy’s blog because she is located in France. As you all may or may not know, France is one of my favorite spots on earth. I am not sure how I got hooked on France, but it was probably because I was starting my new venture in wines and I was enjoying French wine. This was back in the mid 1980’s. My fascination continued with French wine and then on into French cuisine. In the mid 1990’s I actually got to travel to France twice, due to Mike’s business travels. We met and became good friends with some folks who live in Saumur and that became home base for us. So in my travels of France, they were mostly in the northern part of the country.
OK, back to Lucy’s blog. I do not remember which day I was reading it, but she mentioned a person named Kate Hill and I saw the name Julia Hoyt somewhere. That name rang a bell to me as I read, and still have on my top shelf, a book I purchased back in the mid-90’s called “A Culinary Journey In Gascony” by Kate Ratliffe who lived on a canal barge called the Julia Hoyt. Oh my gosh! It cannot be the same person! So I hopped over to Kate’s sight and WOW! It is the same person who is still living on the Julia Hoyt on a canal in Gascony! I immediately pulled the book from the shelf for a revisit, besides spending hours on Kate’s blog. So let me introduce you to Kate Hill and the Julia Hoyt.

In A Culinary Journey In Gascony, Kate takes you on a six day tour on her canal barge the Julia Hoyt. The canal that she travels is “Canal Lateral a la Garonne”. This canal meanders close to the Garonne River between Bordeaux and Toulouse. During her travels on this slow moving canal, she gathers recipes and rituals from neighbors and friends who live in about nineteen villages along her route.

Her first chapters are Introduction pieces about her home on the Julia Hoyt, the river, the valley, and all the villages she visits while traveling up and down the canal. Day One, Kate takes us to the town of Castets-En-Dorthe, A Barge Town, gives us some lovely photos and takes us on the first part of her culinary journey – Aperitifs. Here she gives us the history and wonderful recipes for some of the aperitifs her and her friends enjoy. Day Two brings us to Meilhan-Sur-Garonne and Kate’s Soups. This was a wonderful chapter and the soup that caught my attention was the “Soupe Aux Poireaux Ma Facon” Leek Soup Vinaigrette.

This soup is comprised of leeks, potatoes, shallots, chives, and a surprise taste that you add at the end, vinaigrette composed of mustard, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt & pepper. This soup was so rich and creamy without a hint of milk or cream. So satisfying!!! Day Three brought us to Marmande-La-Jolie and market day. This chapter was on all the lovely veggies that Kate acquires on her trip. Day Four takes us to Le Mas D’Agenais and Lagruere. Here Kate presents us with “main courses”. I absolutely had to try “Lapin Aux Pruneaux D’Agen” Rabbit Cooked With Prunes of Agen.

I am sure the prunes that I used did not come from Agen, but once I took a bit of this stew, I was not sure I cared where the prunes came from! This rabbit stew was comprised of rabbit, salt & pepper, bacon, onions, shallots, olive oil (because I did not have duck fat!), flour, carrots, celery, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, prunes and 1 bottle of red wine – minus one glass! For a fall evening, this was one of the best dishes I have made in such a long time. So rich and full of flavor, all I added to the meal was salad, bread and another bottle of red wine! Day Five brought her travels to Damazan, Vianne and Buzet. Here we have a chapter on side dishes such a potatoes, vegetable puree’s, leeks and zucchini.

Day Six brings us to the end of this journey back to the home port of the Julia Hoyt, Ste. Colombe-En-Bruilhois and Camont, the French Farmhouse where Kate also calls home. Camont and the Julia Hoyt are located just a wee bit north of the town of Agen, which I have pointed out to you on the map, just in case you want to drop by!

This ending chapter brings you to the end of dinner, dessert. Also, Kate introduces you to Camont and the wonderful folks who are her neighbors.

You must be an “arm chair” traveler and visit with Kate. This book is a travel journal and cookbook all in one. I so enjoyed it back in the mid-90’s and am so enjoying it again! Please visit Kate on her blog “Kate Hill – A French Kitchen Adventure”. Kate also has cooking classes at her “French Cooking School at Camont” and is now planning “Truffle Weekends & Winter Workshops for 2008”. You can now read on Kate’s blog about “Camp Cassoulet” where she had a group of folks, including Lucy and David Lebovitz, join her at Camont for the weekend to make Cassoulet. Wonderful fun posts about the weekend with lots of great photos!


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Fun Fruits

I spend most of my time when I am grocery shopping in the produce section. It smells good and has lots of colorful items to keep me occupied for some time. In the past few weeks I kept eyeing this fruit - Dragon Fruit. Well the flesh I suppose looks like a dragons skin, but I was curious as to what the insides looked like. When I picked it up, it was hard and had no aroma to it. Hum, I wonder what I could do with this, and most of all, what does it taste like. But at a price of $5.00 for one, I put it back on the shelf, but kept my eye on it. I did this for several weeks. Yesterday, to my surprise, Chris came into the house with a sack of fruit and chocolate! He decided to make dessert for dinner and the fruits that he had in the sack were, you guessed it, DRAGON FRUIT!!! I was so excited! So immediately, out came the camera!

Dragon Fruit, a.k.a. Pitahaya, Strawberry Pear is the fruit of several cactus species. It is native to Mexico, South and Central America, but actually is cultivated around the world in all tropical regions. It is rich in fiber, vitamin C and has lots of minerals. In reading about it I found it interesting, that in Taiwan, diabetics use the fruit as a substitute for rice!

As you can see, the flesh of the Dragon Fruit is red. But what really surprised me was that the inside of the fruit was white! I guess I was thinking it would be the same color or pink. There are some that have a red core, but ours was white with lots of little tiny black seeds. OK, now for the taste test! One bite and disappointment spread over Chris' face and I am sure mine also. No flavor! (When I first saw the inside, I thought of Kiwi with those little black seeds.) A nice crunch, but nada on the taste buds. Maybe it was not ripe enough. I have no clue, but it sure looks interesting. Has anyone tried this fruit? What was your experience? Anyhow, we still served it with Chris' chocolate dessert.

What did save the day was the other fruit that Chris had in the sack - Star Fruit, Carambola! We all have had this beauty of a fruit and it saved the day! Star Fruit is originally from Sri Lanka and the Moluccas. It has also been cultivated for hundreds of years in Southeast Asia and Malaysia. Today it grows in South Florida and Hawaii due to our warm environment. It is a lovely little fruit that is an excellent source of Vitamin C and is low in fat. Star Fruit is crunchy and has the combination of flavors such as lemons, plums and a hint of pineapple in it. A touch of acidity in the fruit also adds a bit of sparkle to the palate.

Chris plated his dessert, a small chocolate souffle, on top of a light, creamy banana sauce with a couple of pieces of star fruit to the side. Heavenly! At this point, I said heck with the photos!