Savory Biscotti

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The cookbook by Martha Stewart, called Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook, was published in 1999, pretty soon after I started my catering business.

It’s a beautiful book, even if you’re not a Martha Stewart fan. Her ideas for hors d’oeuvres are, not surprisingly, creative and unique. Sometimes they’re on the crazy end of the spectrum – completely impractical and unreasonable.

One thing always got my attention – savory biscotti. She served them like fun crackers, but they could be used for canapés.

When I think of biscotti, I always think sweet, like my Christmas biscotti. But these are savory varieties, and include ingredients like nuts, seeds, cheese, olives, and other goodies. I imagined them to be really good served alongside cheese, with prosecco or rosé.

I decided it was time to make a variety of savory biscotti for a fun get-together, to have something unique on hand!

The following recipe is the base recipe. What I actually used in my savory biscotti is below.

Savory Biscotti
by Martha Stewart
printable recipe below

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

Place the flour, pepper, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Combine on low speed.

Add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the eggs, and milk. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the dough and mix just until combined.

This is the base dough for savory biscotti. Before chilling the dough and proceeding with baking, add various combinations of savory items and make sure they’re well distributed.

I kneaded the dough a bit before folding in my add-ins, which are listed below, along with Martha’s suggestions.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining olive oil and set aside.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. (I halved the dough to make 2 logs.)

Roll each piece into a log measuring 1 1/2″ thick and about 7″ long. (I formed a log about 12″ long, then flattened it to about 1/2″ thick. (I am pretty sure MS meant 1 1/2″ wide, not thick.)

Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Brush each log with an egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt). I didn’t do this. I did make sure there was a bit of grated cheese on the top of the biscotti, however.

Bake until the logs are light brown and feel firm to the touch, about 30-40 minutes. Reduce the oven to 250 degrees F.

Using a serrated knife, slice the logs crosswise on a long diagonal into 1/4″ thick slices that are 3-4″ long. Arrange the slices cut-side down on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and bake, turning the biscotti halfway through cooking time for even browning, until crisp, about 40 minutes.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

These biscotti really are fabulous, and perfect on a cheese platter. Charcuterie would be a fabulous addition.

Today I simply paired them with Cambazola, but they’d be crazy good with a soft goat cheese or any spreadable herbed cheese.

You can really go crazy with all of the ingredient choices. Martha Stewart’s orange zest suggestion was really tempting but I didn’t have any oranges on this day.

Instead of all olive oil, you could use a flavored or infused oil, or even a little truffle oil.

I’ll definitely be making these again, and will enjoy switching up the ingredients.

Ingredients I used in addition to the above recipe:
Dried parsley
Garlic powder
White pepper
About 3 ounces coarsely chopped walnuts
About 3 ounces pitted Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
Grated Grana Padana, about 1 1/2 ounces

Martha Stewart’s savory biscotti suggestions:
Lemon zest, capers, parsley, and browned butter instead of olive oil
Orange zest, pistachios, and black olives
Parmesan, fennel seeds, and golden raisins

Butternut Bacon Pancakes

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A while back my husband was talking about how good my savory pancakes are, which was nice to hear. I most often make them with zucchini, especially when my garden is really producing.

The way I make savory pancakes is with a small amount of liquid, and very little flour. So mine are a not pancake with a little bit of veggies. Quite the opposite.

Then my husband suggested I make pancakes with butternut squash, and that’s when I realized I never had used any kind of winter squash in savory pancakes. I decided to include bacon, shallots, walnuts, and parsley for a perfect autumnal pancake.


Butternut Squash and Bacon Pancakes

6 ounces bacon, diced
2 eggs
2 ounces cream
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 – 2 pound butternut squash
3 small shallots, diced
1 1/2 ounces chopped walnuts
Chopped parsley
Approximately 2/3 cup flour

Using a large skillet, cook the bacon dice just until done; you don’t want it super crispy. Scoop out of the bacon grease using a slotted spoon, and place on paper towels to drain. Keep the skillet with the bacon grease on the stove.


In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper; set aside.

Peel the butternut squash and remove the seeds. Using a grater, grate the squash. Place the squash in the bowl with the eggs.

Add the shallots, chopped walnuts, and parsley to the bowl and stir, then add the bacon and gently incorporate.

Add the flour by gently sprinkling it over the squash mixture and incorporating it to make the batter.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Have a plate, a spatula and a large spoon ready next to the batter bowl. Place about 2 teaspoons of the melted bacon grease and 1 tablespoon of butter for each batch of pancakes.

Place two or three even spoonfuls of the batter into the skillet and smooth them as best as possible.


Cook for a couple of minutes, then gently flip over, and turn the heat to medium. You want browning on the outside, but you also need the inside to cook.

Flip the pancakes over one more time and allow the squash to cook for at least another 2 minutes, 6-7 minutes total.

Place the pancakes on the plate, heat the skillet hotter, add more bacon grease and butter, and finish the remaining batter.

If you don’t want to use bacon grease and butter, use a olive oil or grape seed oil.

Serve the pancakes hot or warm. They’re great alongside grilled chicken or turkey, but also lighter with just a green salad!


If you’re munching on them as is, try them with some sour cream! Fabulous!

Gordon’s Christmas Muesli

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I’m a big sucker for both Gordon Ramsay, and Christmas. Especially Christmas, but I really respect Gordon Ramsay.

Because he wasn’t well known in the U.S. until he exploded onto food television, many Americans weren’t aware that he’d had a long, tough, distinguished and successful culinary journey up to that point.

And he still is successful. His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars.

Gordon, since we’re on a first-name basis, and Christmas are represented beautifully in a book called “Christmas with Gordon, published in 2010.”

I’ve bookmarked many recipes, and made a few since I first bought the book. But this year while looking through it, a recipe popped out at me that I thought would also make a great gift, which is Christmas Muesli.

It’s not an especially unique recipe, especially for Gordon Ramsay. Beef Wellington is typically associated with the Ramsay name. But I’m excited to make the muesli as gifts.

It’s been many years since I made my own granola. It was so healthy, that only I would eat it. Lots of raw grains, rolled grains, toasted grains, toasted nuts, toasted seeds and no sugar. Yep, that’s why I was the only one who liked it.

But this recipe doesn’t contain lots of sugar. Instead there are an abundance of dried fruits. And, it’s also pretty.

Here’s the recipe.

Christmas Muesli
Makes about 1.3 kg
printabe recipe at bottom

400 g porridge oats
75g unsweetened desiccated coconut
100g skinned hazelnuts
100g skinned Brazil nuts, roughly chopped
100g soft light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
180ml water
120ml groundnut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
75g pitted dates, roughly chopped
75g dried apricots, roughly chopped
75g dried cranberries
50g crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Combine the oats, coconut, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, brown sugar, and ground spices in a large bowl. Mix well.

Whisk together the water oil, vanilla and salt and then stir into the dry ingredients.

Spread the mixture out in two large, shallow roasting trays.

Toast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring and swapping the trays occasionally, until the muesli is golden and crisp, checking frequently towards the end.

Leave to cool.

Stir in the dried fruit and crystallized ginger.


Store in an airtight container.

I found some tall containers that would be perfect for the granola, and used a plastic baguette bag to line them.

Much prettier!

Enjoy with milk or any milk substitute, or plain yogurt. It’s honestly the best granola I’ve ever had! I’ve already made another batch…

 

 

Pumpkin Pancakes

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Pumpkin is not only for Thanksgiving time, or for just making pumpkin pie. After all, it is a squash. It’s healthy, delicious, and really versatile.

I used to make pumpkin pancakes year-round for my daughters when they were growing up. They loved the pancakes and, unbeknownst to them, the pancakes were terribly healthy.

This is a version of what I made for them:
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Pumpkin Pancakes with Raisins and Walnuts

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup milk – almond, soy, hemp, whatever you prefer
2 eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
Ground walnuts, optional
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole-grain pancake mix
Butter
Maple syrup, or agave syrup

Place the raisins in a small bowl. Pour the milk over them and let them sit for about 15 minutes, or even overnight in the refrigerator. Warm the milk slightly if the raisins are hard.


In a separate larger bowl, add the eggs and pumpkin and whisk until smooth.

Stir in the walnuts, cinnamon, and the raisins with the milk.
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Gradually add the pancake mix, but don’t overstir. You might have to adjust the quantity.

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Place about one tablespoon of butter in a skillet or on a griddle. Heat it up over medium-high heat. I let my butter brown and even burn a little.
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When the butter is ready, make pancakes with the batter, spreading it evenly. Let cook for about a minute, then turn over, turn down the heat a little, and cook them for about 2 minutes. I like the outsides browned, but the insides need to be cooked through.
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When the pancakes have cooked, place them on a plate and continue with the remaining batter.
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Of course I add more butter to the warm pancakes.

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This recipe makes about one dozen pancakes, about 3″ round or so.
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Drizzle with maple syrup.

Enjoy!
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note: Children may not like the walnuts unless they’re more finely chopped. Oats that have been soaked in liquid are another option for added texture and nutrition.

Foriana Sauce

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Soon after starting my blog, I posted on this miraculous concoction called Foriana sauce. I’d never heard of it before which is what I love about food and cooking. There is always something to discover.

The recipe is in the cookbook, “Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods” by Eugenia Bone. She claims its origin is a little island off of the coast of Naples. I definitely need to visit this island to see what other culinary treasures they’re keeping from me!

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So I posted on foriana sauce back when I had about 3 followers, and it’s just too good to keep to myself. So this is a re-post of sorts.

foriana sauce

foriana sauce

Foriana Sauce

1 cup walnuts
1 cup pine nuts
10 good-sized cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup golden raisins
More olive oil

Place the walnuts, pine nuts,and garlic cloves in the jar of a food processor. Pulse until the nuts look like “dry granola.” Add the oregano and pulse a few more times.

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Heat a skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. Add the nut-garlic mixture and the raisins and cook on the stove, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. The nuts and raisins will caramelize a bit.


Divide the mixture between 3 – half pint jars that have just come out of the dishwasher (sanitized) with their lids. Let the mixture cool. Tamp it down a bit to limit air pockets, then pour in olive oil until there’s about 1/2″ of oil over the nut-raisin mixture. When cooled completely, cover and refrigerate until use.

foriana sauce cooling off in the jars

foriana sauce cooling off in the jars

After using, replace some of the olive oil on the top to protect the sauce.

To test it out, we spread chèvre on baguette slices and topped it with the foriana sauce. Everyone fell in love with this stuff. I quickly gave the other two jars away so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat more of it!
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Then, the following Christmas, I made foriana sauce again, but this time with two different kinds of dried cranberries instead of the raisins. Just to make it more festive! Plus, I processed the nuts a bit more to make the sauce more spreadable. And once again, I can share with you that this stuff is heavenly!

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I tested it with a variety of cheeses, for the sake of research, and I found foriana sauce especially good with warmed bleu cheese!

I hope you try this extraordinary “condiment” of sorts for the holidays. You will not regret it!

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note: I can see this foriana sauce spread on chicken or fish, or added to lamb meatballs, or added to a curry. The author also has suggestions as to how to incorporate foriana sauce into various dishes. But I just want to spread it all over a brie and bake it…

Aillade Toulousaine

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A while back when I was making the beet ravioli out of the cookbook Mange Tout, by Bruno Loubet, I checked out the other recipes that I had bookmarked. And this recipe really popped out at me, even though it’s not a dish per se, but a sauce.

Actually, this sauce is not really a pesto or a gremolata, and Mr. Loubet suggests serving it with roasted lamb. He unfortunately doesn’t give any history on this sauce, although from the name you can guess garlic and perhaps Toulouse?!!

I was quite intrigued by the ingredients – essentially walnuts, garlic, and herbs.

It’s not the prettiest sauce, but that will be forgiven as soon as you taste it. I made it to top a filet of salmon, but I can see myself spreading this stuff on just about everything.
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One note: If you’re not fond of fresh garlic, cut the amount in half.

Aillade Toulousaine
from Mange Tout

100 grams walnuts
6 large garlic cloves
1/2 sage leaf
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons water
100 milliliters walnut oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Salt
Black pepper
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Begin by placing the walnuts, garlic, and half of sage leaf in a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth.
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I honestly didn’t taste the sage because of the strong garlic flavor of this sauce, so I’d recommend using a whole sage leaf. My sage was still alive and thriving outside, but I’m also wondering if the flavor was subdued slightly being that it’s January.
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Add the mustard and water, then drizzle in the walnut and vegetable oils while the machine is on.
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Once fully processed and saucy smooth, pulse in the parsley and chives.
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I didn’t season the sauce until I tasted it. It definitely needed salt. I passed on the pepper.

I pan-fried the salmon in butter, and seasoned it well with salt and pepper. Then I placed the salmon over a bed of lightly-dressed lettuces.
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Then came the sauce. It’s very fragrant of garlic and walnuts, and it just fabulous with the salmon. I can’t wait to have it with beef or lamb.
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Heck, I could have this on roast chicken as well.
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Whatever you serve this room-temperature sauce with, have extra on hand. You will need it!
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A Zucchini Pancake Challenge

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For a significant part of my life I can honestly say that I worked tirelessly to get people into the kitchen to make home-cooked meals. It makes so much sense from an economic standpoint, as well as for health and wellness reasons. Home cooking is generally less expensive and healthier than meals eaten out or worse than that – purchased as fast food.

But novice cooks are often overwhelmed with the idea of cooking without having a specific recipe in front of them. Especially women, in my experience. As a result, often food goes to waste, which defeats the purpose of home cooking.

Cooking at home is work, let’s face it. You need to keep your pantry stocked. And if you believe in fresh food, you need to make grocery lists and shop often.

But the most important thing in my mind, is to be creative in the kitchen without having recipes. A scary sounding proposition if you think that cooking is difficult.

Home cooking is not difficult. In fact, it’s way more fun than being a chef in a restaurant kitchen, in my mind, because you can make whatever you want on a daily basis, to suit your tastes.

Certainly prepping skills are good to know, as well as cooking techniques. But what I’m talking about is creating your own dishes based on what you have on hand. That way there is no waste.

Take zucchini. It’s September right now in the US, and zucchini, a summer squash, is still growing in my garden and readily available at grocery stores.

Sure, you can bake zucchini bread and muffins, but that’s not something that’s nourishing. I’m talking savory zucchini pancakes – a lovely vegetarian option, or a fabulous side dish to protein.

If you want an exact recipe, check out my squash and corn pancakes from last summer. It’s a little more involved, but there is a recipe.

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So the following is a guide to make your own zucchini pancakes. Put your personality into your own recipe. Season as you like. You’ll know when the texture is perfect when the batter is similar to breakfast pancakes – although breakfast pancakes with lots of grated zucchini! Take the challenge and see what you come up with. No recipe allowed!
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Zucchini Pancakes

Eggs, whisked
Zucchini, grated
Liquid of choice
Onion, diced
Chile peppers, diced (optional)
Parsley, chopped
Salt
Garlic pepper
Thyme (optional)
Flour
Butter

First, whisk your eggs in a large bowl. I used 2 extra-large eggs. Grate your zucchini and add it to the eggs. I used a medium-sized zucchini.

Prep your aromatics. I chose onion, red chile peppers, and parsley. Here’s how I chopped the chile peppers.

Then add the liquid to the batter, only about 1/3 cup, and the seasonings. You can use any herbs, spices, or even pesto!
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Give everything a stir. The mixture should look similar to this.
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Begin adding flour, about 1/3 cup at a time. Don’t stir the flour in completely, just fold it in well enough to see if more flour is needed. These savory pancakes are not going to be as tender as breakfast pancakes, but we don’t want them tough and rubbery, either.

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Just add enough flour to bind all of the ingredients. Then stop. I didn’t use more than 1 cup of flour.
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These are not supposed to be big doughy pancakes with a little bit of zucchini. These are zucchini pancakes.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat.

Add a generous amount of butter to the skillet, and then, when it’s almost browned, add spoonfuls of batter. Take the spoon and flatten the pancakes gently. If they’re too thick, there’s a risk of them not being cooked through.

After a couple of minutes, turn them over and cook for another couple of minutes.

If you’re unsure of the total amount of time required to cook these through, break open the first pancake and look at it. If the middle is still doughy, as this one is, then the pancakes need to be cook longer.
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Ideally, the outsides of the pancakes should be crispy and golden brown and the insides soft, but not raw.

Serve the pancakes warm. They’re delicious with a little dab of butter or even a little sour cream. Or simply, on their own.

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I served these spicy zucchini pancakes with a tomato salad, but my husband enjoyed the pancakes as a side dish. They also reheat very well.

Ideas for other options:

Shallots/garlic instead of onions
Green onions/chives instead of onions
Bell peppers/roasted red bell peppers instead of chile peppers
Other vegetables included like corn
Cilantro instead of parsley
Grated potato/summer squash along with the zucchini
Chopped walnuts/pecans
Whole wheat flour instead of white
Olive oil instead of butter

If you haven’t attempted savory pancakes like these before, and follow through on them without a recipe, please tell me about it. I love to see how you did. Because trust me, it will work!

Lingonberry Vinaigrette

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The other day while I was on hold with American Airlines, I spent the hours perusing recipes at Epicurious.com. I love the site, and its recipe search engine is very smart. You can search for a specific ingredient, for only dessert recipes, holiday dishes, and so forth.

I was just searching randomly, to pass the time, but then I came across this recipe: Red Cabbage Salad with Green Apple, Lingonberry Preserves, and Toasted Walnuts. The salad wasn’t too different than ones I’ve made; I’ve even blogged about a couple that are very similar, because I happen to love hearty, crunchy salads. It was the dressing, made with lingonberry preserves, that really caught my attention.

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lingonberries


So that idea stayed in my head, and when I was at Whole Foods last week I found them! Swedish Lingonberries! I couldn’t wait to play with them and make a vinaigrette.

From the list of ingredients, lingonberries, sugar, and pectin, I expected the lingonberries to be very jam-like. In fact, they weren’t very sweet at all, and didn’t have a jam-like texture to them either. So I got creative, and here’s what I did.

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Lingonberry Vinaigrette

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons beet juice, from canned beets
4 tablespoons lingonberries
1/2 teaspoon sugar

To begin, I added all of the above ingredients to a blender jar, because that’s second nature to me. Then it dawned on me. With beautiful, whole lingonberries in the dressing, it would be much prettier with the ingredients left as is, instead of blending them all together.


So I simply shook the ingredients in the blender jar, and poured the vinaigrette into a serving bowl.

My salad was simple – Romaine lettuce, purple cabbage, carrots, grilled chicken, beets, and a few pine nuts.
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I also decided to decorate the salad with a few extra lingonberries, so I rinsed some of the “jam” gently with warm water to separate the individual lingonberries.
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Just now as I’m writing this post, I looked back at the recipe that inspired me, and I wish I’d included apple in my salad. With the lingonberries not being as sweet as I expected, a fruit would have been a delicious addition.

But in any case, this vinaigrette is wonderful. Only slightly sweet, and slightly tart at the same time.
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note: If you don’t love beets, omit the beet juice. I added it, again, because I wanted to offset the sweetness from the berries, but it wasn’t necessary.

Strawberry Vinegar

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There is one thing that makes me crazy at restaurants, and that is non-seasonal menus. It makes me want to go yell at everyone involved with the food and menu. And I’m not a yelling kind of person. Just ask my kids. Or maybe don’t.

One menu item that infuriates me is a green salad topped with strawberries. In January. And it’s snowing outside.

Why? And where are you getting these strawberries? And what are they costing you? Because they’re certainly not locally harvested in January. Not in the northern hemisphere.

Strawberries are all about spring. Spring. Time. Add roasted butternut squash and warm lentils to your winter salad, maybe with some goat cheese. But save the strawberries for strawberry season.

Speaking of strawberry season, the featured photo is of some of my just-picked strawberries from last year. I especially love the smaller, wild strawberries because of their sweetness and almost perfume-like quality. But you won’t find me putting any of my garden-ripened berries in vinegar or vodka. I like them just picked, warm from the sun, even if there’s still a little dirt on them.

Store-bought berries are good for infusing vinegars and vodkas. As long as you can taste them and you know they’re sweet. A strong aroma is usually a good indication of their ripeness as well.

And just as an aside, the sweet strawberry vodka from last spring is my most favorite infused vodka I’ve ever made. Check it out if you’re interested; there’s still time.

But back to vinegar, I have actually never flavored my own vinegars. I typically add the flavorings when I make vinaigrettes. But in the spring, along with some fresh strawberries on a salad, I decided the layered effect of having a strawberry-infused vinegar was a must this year. Especially when just seasoning a simple salad with only oil and vinegar. No garlic, or mustard or other strong flavors to impede the deliciousness of strawberry.

I bought a quart of good strawberries, gave them a slight rinse, then let them drip dry on a towel. I thought about mashing or even blending the strawberries to a pulp, but since I wanted the resulting vinegar to be clear, I decided to simply slice them.

I placed the slices in a clean bottle with a wide neck, and added no more than 1 teaspoon of white sugar. Then, using a funnel, I poured white balsamic vinegar into the jar. I used 2 – 8.5 ounce bottles for the quart of strawberries.

After giving the closed jar a gentle shake, I placed the jar in my pantry, and decided that one week should be sufficient, but I’ll give the vinegar a taste to see if a week is a substantial amount of time first. Stay tuned if you’re interested!


Just in case you’re wondering, I chose a white balsamic instead of the traditional dark-brown color. I am a huge fan of balsamic vinegar – the aged and the less aged both. But they are brown. And this is just my personal opinion, but I have never liked the look of, for example, a pasta salad tossed with balsamic vinegar. It’s just not pretty. Since I wanted to use the strawberry vinegar for more than just my one salad in this post, I wanted it pink instead of brown.

If you don’t love the sweetness of a white balsamic vinegar, simply use an apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or a sherry vinegar.

Tablescape

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I am not Martha Stewart. Nor do I want to be. Because people would hate me. I really like having friends who like me, and I especially like having daughters who aren’t doing a TV show making fun of me. So I’m totally okay with not being a wannabe Martha Stewart.

She’s been in the news lately because of her hateful comments towards bloggers – regarding our non-professionalism in the kitchen – even though it doesn’t seem that Ms. Stewart herself attended cooking school of any kind. So that’s a bit hypocritical of her. Many of us are self-taught, including you, Ms. Stewart.

And, let’s face a major biographical fact – this woman has been to prison. I haven’t.

But with all that being said, Ms. Stewart must be revered to some extent, at least I feel this way, for the fact that she really has good taste. She has fabulous resources, of course we would all as well if we were zillionaires, and is extremely creative and crafty.

I’m not sure if Ms. Stewart herself coined the term “tablescape,” however it’s become a commonplace appellation for the design of the party table. And if you look at her magazines or her entertaining books, Ms. Stewart is very talented at designing tablescapes. Or maybe her people are. I’m not sure.

I’m really envious of anyone who is creative in this way. Just look at Pinterest and you’ll know what I mean, just in case you’re one of the millions who hasn’t looked at Pinterest.

So I had a Christmas party a few days before Christmas in 2013. Normally I would have put clipped poinsettias and placed them in three or five vases along the middle of the buffet table and called it done. I probably would have used a green tablecloth, because that’s festive. My dining room is painted red, so the red and green would make things really festive, right? You can tell by my blog that I love colors, but I especially love red and green.

However, I have been saving this Pinterest pin on my Christmas “board” forever. Here it is:
wine-bottle-candlestick-centerpiece

This photo comes from this blog. The photo was from a wedding sit-down dinner; the white candles really add the wedding “feel” of the celebration. Beautiful.

So many years ago, because of this photographic inspiration, I forced myself to drink 13 bottles of Clean Slate Riesling, because I thought the bottles would be perfect for a buffet table. I didn’t know when I’d use them, I just knew I would…some day.

They’re fairly clear bottles – not aqua, and not dark green. Then I removed the labels, washed the bottles, and stored them in our basement. Until recently.

I decided to use the wine bottle-candle idea for my Christmas party! I really got excited, because for once I wanted to try my hand at a creative tablescape. Something beyond red and green.

I decided to go the non-color route, and started gathering goodies. More in natural tones, and a lot about nature. And then, it all just fell into place.

I found these beautiful carved wooden birds at my local florist shop.

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Aren’t they really adorable?
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I purchased the dried clove-studded oranges and lemons, and included some pinecones my husband scavenged on a walk with the dogs.

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I then found some faux cherries, added faux walnuts, and threw in some raw cranberries for a little more color, at the last minute, of course.

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Right after the food was placed on the table, my husband lit the candles, and it all came to life.

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Since this is a cooking blog, I will tell you what I served for my Christmas party:

Smoked Scottish salmon with pumpernickel triangles
Cranberry Wensleydale and Cambazola with assorted crackers
Maple Pecan Baked brie
Pâté de foie and onion confit with cranberries, served with baguette slices
Roasted beef tenderloin sandwiches with apple-butter mustard
plus a variety of sweets, including Sugarplums, which were a huge hit

This may not be your style, but I am very proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone a bit and trying my hand at holiday creativity. I was very pleased at the subdued, natural look of the goodies strewn along the center of the table, and candle light just can’t be beat.

Happy New Year to all of you!