Smoked Cherry Jam

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In July of this year, my husband and I had the pleasure of experiencing a bit of Montana. It’s been on our travel bucket list for years, specifically Glacier National Park, which did not disappoint.

Our home base was the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, and we had a few outstanding meals at their restaurant. To start off our last meal before flying home, we ordered a charcuterie and cheese platter. There was elk sausage, prosciutto, artisan cheeses, pickled vegetables, pears and more, but what really got my attention was a cherry jam of sorts, pictured here on the Montana-shaped board. It looked like perhaps it was made with dried cherries.

On the menu it was referred to as a chutney, made with Montana’s famous Flathead cherries. But it was not savory enough to be a chutney in my book. The cherries were soft, in a not-very-sweet syrup, and had a smoky punch that really took me by surprise.

I knew when I got home I’d try to replicate this condiment. I decided to use my stove-top smoker and seriously smoke fresh cherries.

It worked really well. Here is the jam paired with goat cheese on a cracker.

Smoked Cherry Jam

1 pound cherries, firm and unblemished
2 tablespoons cherry wood, pulverized
16 ounces cherry or pomegranate juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Pinch of salt

Rinse the cherries, and dry them. De-stem and pit the cherries.


Prepare a stove-top grill and use cherry wood.


Place the pitted cherries in the grill, start up the heat, and when you see smoke, cover the grill and lower the heat. You’re not trying to cook the cherries, just add smoke flavor to them.


The cherries smoked for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees; I used a convection setting. I just wanted to dehydrate the cherries a bit. It took 2 hours.

Meanwhile, add the juice and sugar to a pot large enough to hold the cherries. Stir till the sugar is dissolved and reduce the mixture until syrupy. Depending on the juice, you might have to adjust the amount of sugar. I wanted a syrup consistency, but not a super-sweet syrup.

Let the syrup cool slightly, then add the lemon juice, chipotle powder, and salt. Stir well, then stir in the smoked and somewhat dehydrated cherries.

I paired the condiment with goat cheese, brie, apples, fresh cherries, and rosemary crackers.


The jam was delicious with brie.


The smokiness was spot on. I just love this jam!


I can really see the jam being paired with roast pork or turkey. It would be fabulous with duck or brisket.


The pairing possibilities are endless, really. It takes a little work to make this jam, but so worth it!

Puttanesca Relish

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My mother gave me this lovely book simply called Charcuterie, published in 2014. “How to enjoy, serve and cook with cured meats.”

For the blog I’ve already made an eye catching and incredibly tasting salad – chorizo and red cabbage.

This little book is full of surprisingly unique recipes using charcuterie, making charcuterie, or for charcuterie.

Case in point, puttanesca relish caught my attention. Being that pasta puttanesca is my favorite pasta dish, I could easily imagine all of the puttanesca flavors together, served as a relish.

From the book, “This relish is quite like tapenade, but it’s lighter and not as rich. It can be used to add to sandwiches and recipes, but it’s also lovely served with a charcuterie board and spooned onto the meats.”

I couldn’t wait to make it. It’s as easy as making a tapenade, because you can use your food processor.

Puttanesca Relish
Slightly adapted

2 ounces pitted Kalamata olives
2 anchovy fillets, drained
2 teaspoons capers, drained
Big pinch of fresh chopped parsley
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces canned San Marzano tomatoes, seeded, drained
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper flakes

Place the first six ingredients into a food processor and whizz until the pieces are nice and small and the texture is relatively smooth.

Add remaining ingredients. Leave some small chunks, don’t let it become a purée.

Transfer the mixture to a small sterilized jar or an airtight container and cover, if not using immediately.


I served the relish with soft bread, Parmesan, and soprasetta. It is outstanding.


This relish will keep for a week in the refrigerator, and is suitable for freezing.


If you freeze it, make sure to test the relish. It might need a boost in flavor.

I will definitely be making this again and again.

I used a new product for this recipe – capers in olive oil. Excellent.

Liptauer

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I should have been a skier. And not only a skier, but a skier who lives in Chamonix, France, or in the beautiful Dolomites of northern Italy. I love ski suits, I love hot toddies, and mostly, I’m always ready for après ski spreads.

I recently discovered a book called Alpine Cooking, by Meredith Erickson. In it she shares “recipes and stories from Europe’s grand mountaintops.”

Look at these stunning photos from the book.

The recipes are from France, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland. The one I chose to make out of all of the tantalizingly cheesy recipes in the book is Liptauer, a spiced cheese spread, because I’ve never had it before!


The recipe uses quark, but I substituted fromage blanc. I’ve even seen cottage cheese in liptauer recipes, so I don’t think quark is a strict ingredient.


The author recommends that this spread is served with whole-wheat bread.

She also recommends a glass (or two) of crisp Gruner Veltliner as an accompaniment. I’m happy to oblige.

All I know, is that Liptauer is really really good.

Liptauer
Spiced Cheese Spread

145 g or 5 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
200 g or 7 ounces quark
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
1/4 yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon drained brined capers
3 anchovies, minced
10 gherkins, diced
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a medium bowl, using a fork or a small whisk, ship the butter until smooth, then add the quark and creme fraiche, stirring until smooth again.

Stir in the onion, capers, anchovies and pickles.


Finally, adjusting amounts as desired, add in the sour cream, mustard, caraway seeds, paprika, salt, pepper, chives, and parsley.


I am personally not terribly fond of caraway seeds, so my addition was more like 1/2 teaspoon. Plus I chopped the seeds a bit.

Transfer the mixture to a crock or glass jar for serving.

Serve at room temperature.

Oddly enough, the caraway seeds fit perfectly into this spread. That surprised me!

For interest, I used half sweet paprika and half smoked paprika, and it was perfect.

Whipped Mortadella

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There used to be an food blogger, Chicago-based realtor-by-day Peter, whose blog, The Roaming GastroGnome, was inspiring and entertaining. “I cook, she eats, we travel!”

But Peter’s blogging began dwindling as he began a professional career making sausage. I kid you not. This guy is a charcuterie expert.

His company is called SAUSAGE KÖNIG. Unfortunately, delivery at this time is only in Chicago. but for you lucky folks who live in Chicago, Peter is now catering, and runs the League Secrete des Gourmands dining series as well.

I’ve saved some of Peter’s recipes in my “pile,” waiting for a rainy day, which finally arrived. One of his recipes was whipped mortadella. Intrigued? I certainly was!


From Peter: “Such a snap to make and overall this dish shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes. Basically take all of your ingredients and process in a food processor. The whipped mortadella is spreadable and great on crostini. It is the richest bologna you’ll ever have. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar, or some mostarda for a touch of sweet acidity and oh my! A plate of these will definitely impress your guests, and you don’t need to tell them how simple it really is to make.”


This is the mortadella I purchased from my local deli Amazon.com


This recipe uses regular mortadella, not the variety containing pistachios.

Whipped Mortadella
Spuma di Mortadella

8 oz mortadella, cubed
1/2 c heavy cream
1/4 c grated parmigiano reggiano
Small pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of black pepper

Place the cubed mortadella in a food processor and process until chopped up and fine. Slowly add the cream in and process into a smooth paste, then blend in the cheese, pepper, and nutmeg.

Once you add the cream make sure you process the mixture well so it’s smooth. You may need to add a little more cream in order to achieve the desired consistency. Spoon into a ramekin and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve at room temperature with crackers or crostini.


This stuff is fabulous, and way more fun to eat this way.


I did end up adding a little more cream. It has a bit of a crumbly texture.

The only change I’d make is adding a tablespoon of soft butter to help the spreadability factor. Or, perhaps I could have processed the mortadella mixture longer.

I tried a cracker with a bit of balsamic drizzle and it was truly wonderful.

I will definitely be making this again, and doubling the recipe!

Figgy Jam

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Figgy Jam! Just the name alone conjures Christmas spirit! And it’s December – time to plan cheese pairings!

Personally, I think a jam, paste, or curd is a wonderful addition to a cheese platter, because it enhances the cheese. This one has a little savory component to it, but it’s not a chutney. And, it’s really not a jam, because it’s not that sweet.


Just as the Spaniards are so good at pairing their beloved Manchego with quince paste, I make my figgy “jam” to pair with cheeses like Chèvre, Brie, and my favorite stinky cheese of all time – the famous Époisses from the Burgundy region of France.

I love dried figs, but I have to admit something. When I eat a dense fig jam, it can sometimes feel like I’m chewing sand because of the seeds. So to the figs, I added dates and dried cranberries. That way, I will have the figgy flavor, but not so many seeds.

And the cranberries provide a more scarlet color, which fits the holidays.
So here’s what I did:

Figgy Jam

1 pound dried fruit – chopped figs, chopped dates, and dried cranberries
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely diced
¾ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup ruby Port
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

On a scale, weigh out the fruit you’re using – in this case, figs, dates, and dried cranberries.

Place all of the ingredients in a pot including the cinnamon stick.

Cook the mixture with the lid on for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often.

Pretty much all of the liquid will have been absorbed; you want the dried fruit hydrated, but also have a little liquid left over in order to process the jam.

Let the mixture cool. Remove the cinnamon stick, then put the mixture in a food processor. Pulse, scrape, pulse, scape, and continue, using a little more orange juice if necessary. I don’t make a paste – I prefer to have a little texture.

Place in jars and store in the refrigerator. Alternately, freeze the jars and thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

The jam is best at room temperature served with a variety of cheeses, crackers, breads, and more dried fruits!

There are brie logs that would make lovely canapés.

Also, the figgy jam could be put on a brie wheel of any size, warmed slightly. Then you get the combination of oozing cheese and the figgy jam.


I drizzled a little maple syrup over the brie as well.

The jam is also good with goat cheese.

However you use it, you will love the combination.

The figgy jam isn’t terribly sweet, so it’s also good on toast in the morning!

Pistachio Feta Dip

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Pistachios add a beautiful emerald-green to holiday foods like Christmas bark and festive biscotti, but what about the really green holiday – St. Patrick’s Day?!!

Maybe I’m just really into color – I’ve certainly been accused of that – but I saw this dip online and just knew I’d be making it for St. Patrick’s day, on March 17th, 2018. Way more fun than Irish stew, and you can still enjoy your green beer.

I’m basing my recipe on the one from The Lemon Apron, a gorgeous blog by young Jennifer, who believes in “rustic, indulgent, and healthy home cooking.”

She got the original recipe from the book Persiana, by Sabrina Ghayour.

What I especially loved about this dip is that there is no TAHINI or CHICK PEAS in it!!! Hummus is wonderful, but there are other dips out there.

Case in point – this one is a beautiful purée of pistachios, along with feta and yogurt. YUM!

Pistachio Feta Dip
Slightly Adapted
Printable recipe below

3 1/2 oz (100 g) shelled pistachios
1/4 cup olive oil
7 oz (approx 200 g) feta cheese
2 handfuls of parsley, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove peeled and crushed
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
6 ounces Greek yogurt
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Blitz the pistachios and olive oil in a food processor for 30 seconds.

Add the feta, parsley, garlic, chile pepper, yogurt and lemon.

Blitz until the mixture is well combined and has a rustic texture and place in a serving dish. I drizzled some olive oil over the top.

Serve with warmed focaccia or flat bread, pita crackers, crackers, or crostini.

I used Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips because they’re so delicious.

I realized after-the-fact that if I’d removed the brown, thin skins from the pistachios, the dip would have been greener. But oh well. You will still be addicted!

There isn’t one thing I don’t absolutely love about this dip. I’ll be making it again, even when it’s not St. Patrick’s Day.

Note: In the original recipe, dill and cilantro are both used. I made an executive decision to just use parsley, because I wanted this dip to be more generic in flavor, in order to match it with other hors d’oeuvres I was serving.

I noticed that Jen spread the dip on toast and topped it with an egg! Yeah!!! (her photo below)

 

 

Baked Brie with Roasted Cherries

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My friend has a fruit orchard. In spite of a late freeze, the cherry trees were prolific this year, and at the beginning of June I went over to relieve her of some cherries!

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Although there’s nothing much better than just popping a fresh cherry in your mouth, I decided to do something with these fresh cherries, but without baking the obvious pie.

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I thought about ice cream, but then I settled on an idea I’d spotted in a cookbook a while back – roasting the cherries.

My friend told me to refrigerate them, as they’re easier to pit when they’re cold, so that’s where they went for a few hours.

I sorted the cherries, throwing away any questionable ones, rinsed them and let them drip dry.

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My friend gave me another tip – how to pit the cherries without using the olive/cherry pitter. A paper clip!

You insert one rounded end of a paper clip into the dent where the stem was, and simply “scoop” out the pit. This works especially well when the cherries are ripe.

I love brie in general, but if you’ve never had a goat brie, you’re mising out! However, regular brie will substitute in this recipe.

So here’s what I did.

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Baked Goat Brie topped with Roasted Cherries

Fresh pitted cherries, approximately 8 ounces
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon cherry or pomegranate syrup
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 small goat Brie

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Add the cherries and sugar, stir gently and remove from the heat. Place the mixture in an oven-proof baking dish.

Roast the cherries, watching them carefully. It should only take about 15-20 minutes. You’re not drying them, just caramelizing them.
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Remove the baking dish from the oven. Because these cherries were so juicy, I gently removed to cherries using a small, slotted spoon, and poured the remaining liquid in a small saucepan.
I gently reduced the cherry juice until a syrup, then added the cherry syrup. I reduced a few minutes longer, then added the balsamic vinegar.


Meanwhile heat the goat Brie ever so gently in the oven or microwave. You don’t want to cook the cheese, just begin the melting process.

To serve, place the Brie on a serving plate and cover with the roasted cherries.

After the reduction has cooled slightly, carefully spoon it over the brie and cherries.

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I also added a few sprigs of thyme, and served the brie with toasts.

If the brie is nicely warmed, it should pour out of its casing when cut into.

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The cherry juice, reduction and molten cheese made a beautiful design that wasn’t anticipated!
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This hors d’oeuvre turned out to be one of the tastiest I’ve ever created, in my humble opinion. And, it’s beautiful.
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The ratio of ingredients will definitely depend on the sweetness and juiciness of the fresh cherries!

Strawberry Vanilla Neufchâtel

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A while back I posted on making your own Chocolate Neufchâtel – a chocolate cream cheese spread. My initial reason for making the chocolate version from scratch many years ago was because the chocolate neufchatel I purchased once was terribly expensive.
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I haven’t seen it around anymore, although I spotted a variety on IGourmet.com this morning. It’s made by Westfield Farm, and it’s purely a chocolate-flavored goat cheese. Pure bliss!
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In any case, chocolate neufchâtel is wonderful to serve for something slightly sweet on a table of hors d’oeuvres, as is this strawberry version. I use the name neufchâtel only because it sounds nicer than cream cheese. They’re both firm and creamy, although American cream cheese also contains cream; the taste difference is negligible.


I had a little leftover jam from when I used my new jam and jelly maker last week, and decided to use it to make the strawberry cream cheese. I could have also added some goat cheese for a little zing, like I did with my chocolate version, but today’s will be only cream cheese.
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Besides being delicious, strawberry cream cheese/neufchâtel is very pretty, especially in the spring and summer for parties and showers. You can make a very similar strawberry cream cheese with sweetened fresh strawberries, but today I’m simply using the jam I made, a strawberry vanilla jam. It’s so simple.
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Strawberry Vanilla Neufchâtel

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup strawberry jam

Place the cream cheese and butter in a medium-sized bowl and add the jam.

Blend the ingredients together until they’re smooth.

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Today I’m going to make the cream cheese into a log form, so I let the mixture chill for about 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Place a piece of plastic wrap on a counter, and plop the strawberry cream cheese onto the plastic. Working carefully, with your fingers underneath the plastic wrap, carefully form the cream cheese into a log shape, wrapping it in the plastic at the same time. If it’s not working properly, you probably need to chill the cheese more.


When ready to serve, unwrap the cheese and place on a serving platter. The plastic should come off easily; the butter helps with that step.

Let the log warm to room temperature before actually serving. Serve with water crackers or crisps or bread.
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As you can see, it’s very spreadable.


You could sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top, toasted walnuts, candied pecans, or pearl sugar. Or, if you wish, you could also add a little more of the jam on top.

But I really like it as is, with just the slight sweetness of the strawberries!

note: Taste the cream cheese when you’re making it, because the flavor of the resulting spread, no matter what shape you form it in, will taste the same. If you want more sweetness, add some sieved powdered sugar. Don’t go crazy with adding the jam; in fact, I wouldn’t use any more of the jam to cream cheese and butter ratio than I did. Otherwise you run the risk of the cream cheese not firming up. Jam doesn’t firm up – cream cheese and butter do!

Beet Hummus

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Firstly, I have to clarify that this recipe is not a true hummus. Personally, I don’t really love hummus. I mean, it can be good, but there are a lot of bad ones out there – at restaurants and pre-packaged at stores like Central Market and Whole Foods. Some are too lemony, some are tasteless, and sometimes the hummus is mealy. I prefer a softer, smoother texture that I get from using white beans instead of garbanzos.

So this recipe is actually a white bean dip recipe made with beets. There is no lemon and no tahini and no garbanzos. It’s just sometimes easier to say or write hummus, rather than white bean dip!

I recently made beet ravioli again, and this time I used canned whole beets to see if there was a difference in the beet filling, as compared to using roasted beets. As it turns out, that there wasn’t any difference.

With all of the many different variation of white bean dip I’ve made over the years, I’ve never included beets, and I decided to change that immediately!

For the beet ravioli filling, the cooked beets are finely processed, placed in cheesecloth in a colander over a bowl, and weighted down. This serves two purposes – the juice is collected for a reduction, and the beets dry out to create a denser filling. So keep in mind that these beets have been squeezed “dry.”

So this is what I did today:
white bean and beet dip
White Bean and Beet Dip

1 – 15 ounce can Great Northern white beans
1/4 cup minced cooked beets
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
Pinch of salt
Olive oil, about 1/4 cup
Olive oil for drizzling
Valbreso, or other feta cheese, optional

Drain the white beans well in a colander. I give mine a rinse as well.
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Place the beans in the jar of a food processor. Add the beets*, garlic, cumin, and salt.
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Process, pouring in a little olive oil at a time until the mixture is fairly smooth. Scrape down, and process until the bean dip is smooth.
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Serve immediately, with pita triangles or crackers. If desired, drizzle a little olive oil on top of the dip.

A little crumbled feta cheese on top is also tasty!
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* You don’t have to squeeze the liquid from cooked beets for this recipe, but you may not need as much olive oil if you don’t. Just add the oil slowly, until the proper consistency is reached.

note: The next time I make this, which I will, I will use 1/3 of a cup of beets, instead of the 1/4 cup I used. The beet flavor is surprisingly a bit subdued. I could used less garlic and cumin, but I really was after that beet, garlic, and cumin flavor combo!
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If you’re interested in my other white bean dip recipes on which I’ve posted, check out white bean dip, and another white bean dip!

Pickled Salmon

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I adore salmon, in just about every way. Hot smoked, cold smoked, raw, grilled – you name it. And I’ve always wanted to make my own gravlax. But then I came across this recipe for pickled salmon recently, and I knew I had to make it first.

It’s from one of my favorite series of cookbooks that I still refer to – the Foods of the World series by Time Life. This recipe is from American Cooking: The Northwest. Sorry for the blurriness.

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Now, this recipe can’t replace gravlax, which is cured salmon. This recipe is pickled salmon, so I’m still promising myself to still make gravlax soon.

I’m typing up the recipe as it is in the recipe book, and I did pretty much follow the recipe. However, instead of a large side of salmon, I used a smaller, frozen filet (thawed first) that was barely over a pound, and crudely adjusted the other ingredients accordingly. I mean, what’s 2 bay leaves divided by 5?

This salmon is super easy to make, and can be enjoyed within one week when it’s stored in the refrigerator, which it must be. I served mine with crackers, quite simply. If you love anything that’s pickled, you’ll love this pickled salmon!

Pickled Salmon
To serve 12 as a first course

2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 small onions, peeled, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rings
2 medium-sized bay leaves, crumbled
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
5 pounds fresh salmon, boned, skinned and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt

Combine the vinegar, water, olive oil, onions, bay leaves, mustard seeds, cloves, and white and black peppercorns in a 2-3 quart enameled saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer partially covered for 45 minutes.
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Meanwhile, spread the salmon pieces in one layer on a strip of wax paper. Sprinkle the fish evenly with the salt and let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
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Then drop the salmon into a colander and run cold water over it to rinse off the excess salt.
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Pat the fish dry with paper towels and pack the pieces tightly into a glass jar.


Pour the hot vinegar-and-spice mixture over the salmon, a little at a time, allowing the liquid to seep down slowly to the bottom of the jar before adding more.
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Cool to room temperature, tightly cover with foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate the salmon for at least 24 hours before serving. Tightly covered, it can be safely kept in the refrigerator for about a week.

Before serving, I poured off the liquid. I didn’t want the salmon to be watery.

I added a little marscapone to the crackers before topping them with the salmon, and it was really nice. The marscapone toned down the vinegary flavor, but the salmon was good.

note: I kept the salmon in one piece to do the salting part, rinsed it and dried it, and then sliced it up. Way easier. I also decided to include a few of the pickled onion rings along with the salmon.