The New Wine Country Cookbook by Brigit Binns

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The New Wine Country Cookbook, Recipes from California’s Central Coast, by Brigit Binns is a delicious tour of California’s wine region. No, not Napa or Sonoma. This book is about the other wine country running from Monterey to Santa Barbara including Paso Robles, famously known for growing outstanding Rhône varietals.

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I received a review copy from Andrews-McMeel Publishing and while flipping through the pages for a quick peek at the contents, I noticed a growing urge to head to the nearest farmer’s market. This book had my attention. Beyond the beautiful photographs and enticing recipes, it’s peppered with stories of the places and people that make this region of California special. Reading about Brad Buckley’s Abalone Farm, Cliff Garrison’s cattle ranch, Don Cole’s varietal honeys, and numerous other producers and vineyards that make this area unique will no doubt send you scurrying off to your local farmer’s market to embrace the bounty of the growers and producers in your area. In addition to inspiringly wonderful food, with introductions to so many people and places, The New Wine Country Cookbook makes a perfect itinerary for a spectacular wine country vacation.

Spit-Roasted Lavender Chicken

Spit-Roasted Lavender Chicken

The recipe for Spit-Roasted Lavender Chicken with Fresh Fig Romesco won me over immediately. The combination of fennel seed and thyme is dazzling when it mingles with the delicate floral hints from a careful touch of lavender. Lacking a spit-roaster, I turned to the traditional oven-roasting method, which was a completely effective alternative. Unfortunately it’s a bit early in the season for figs, so I skipped the Fresh Fig Romesco, but I’ll be revisiting this as soon as figs start showing up at the market.

Spaghetti with Sauteed Radicchio and Scamorza

Spaghetti with Sauteed Radicchio and Scamorza

The book is divided into seven chapters with ingredient-driven titles like, From Garden and Orchard, From Field and Barnyard, and From the Sea. The second recipe I made is in the chapter From the Dairy, Spaghetti with Sautéed Radicchio and Scamorza. If you’re not familiar with scamorza, it’s a smoked mozzarella and it’s absolutely worth tracking down. The flavors in this dish are bold, taunting, and complex, yet the preparation is nothing more than a simple sauté of ingredients taking less time than it takes for the pasta to cook. Radicchio’s bitterness is tempered a bit with cooking, yet it maintains enough fight to hold its own alongside the pungent briny anchovies. Comforting warm smoky flavors from the scamorza settle the dish into a harmony that begs you to have another bite.

Fennel-Dusted Roasted Grapes with Sea Salt

Fennel-Dusted Roasted Grapes with Sea Salt

Of course a wine country book wouldn’t skip the wine. All of the recipes highlight the pairing of food and wine and each recipe comes with a wine recommendation from the Central Coast as well as one from beyond our shores. Though making wine is possibly the most noble use of grapes, roasting them is a close second. The recipe for Fennel-Dusted Roasted Grapes with Sea Salt is tucked in the last chapter of the book, From the Wood-Fired Oven, which is reason enough to start cooking from the back of this book forward. Not to worry if you lack a wood-fired oven as alternate cooking methods are provided and I can assure you the oven method for these roasted grapes is 100% delicious. Binns describes them as “fresh raisins.” They are salty and savory on the crisp, chewy exterior and sweet and jammy in the center. By the way, this is a perfect application for the beautiful artisan flake salt you’ve been hoarding. Every delicious crystal will be appreciated. I can’t imagine ever serving a cheese platter without a generous mound of roasted grapes alongside now that I’ve made these. Once you taste them you’ll be embellishing all sorts of dishes with these little gems. If you’re wondering what wine to serve with roasted grapes, the Central Coast recommendation is Longoria Port “Vino Dulce,” Santa Barbara County (Syrah), and the worldly suggestion is a port from Portugal.

Rosemary-Polenta Cake with Warm Plum Compote

Rosemary-Polenta Cake with Warm Plum Compote

It won’t be long before my copy of this book automatically falls open to page 76, the recipe for Rosemary-Polenta Cake with Warm Plum Compote. The combination of rich buttery polenta pound cake infused with warm savory hints of rosemary, draped in a garnet-red syrup of sweet plums and berries, and accented with the decadent creaminess of lemon-spiked mascarpone is stunningly good. I don’t believe rosemary is considered an umami flavor, but in this situation it’s magical in that umami sort of a way. The rosemary flavor isn’t overpoweringly strong, but it lingers in just the right way beyond the buttery-ness of the cake and sweetness of the berries adding a gentle savory quality that embodies taste, flavor, and pure pleasure. The polenta brings a wonderful toothsome texture to the cake that boarders on addictive. When you make this, do yourself a favor and make a double batch of the compote and mascarpone and serve the leftovers on cornmeal pancakes. I’ll be co-opting this Rosemary-Polenta Cake for Strawberry Shortcake as well. The rosemary and strawberries will get along very well, especially when topped with lemon mascarpone!

Bite-sized Rosemary-Polenta Cake with Warm Plum Compote

Bite-sized Rosemary-Polenta Cake with Warm Plum Compote

If given the chance, I’ll turn anything into finger food. These bite-sized versions of the polenta cake dessert would be perfect for a brunch buffet, afternoon tea party, or to add a little sweet note to an hors’d oeuvre party. Spreading the mascarpone on the cake and placing the compote on top keeps the compote from being absorbed into the cake, which would still be delicious, just not as pretty.

The New Wine Country Cookbook is the kind of cookbook you’ll want to sit down and read, and then invite friends over and cook for them. It’s a wonderful collection of recipes that celebrate growers and producers and wines. I’m looking forward to continuing to cook my way through the book. Brigit Binns and Andrews McMeel Publishing have kindly given me permission to share a couple of recipes with you from The New Wine Country Cookbook, Recipe from California’s Central Coast. Enjoy!

Recipe Links

 

All photos by David or Carol Peterman unless otherwise noted

Sage Caramel Corn

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When I saw the words “sage caramel corn” fly by in a recent #SpiceChat on Twitter, I knew I’d be making some before the week was out. My insticts were right about this flavor combo, it’s fantastic.  I’ve taken this to four parties in the last few weeks and it’s been an enormous hit every time.

I went back through the chat posts to find the link SpiceSherpa shared for the recipe. Much to my disappointment, I realized there was some Twitter chat confusion involved because the link was for this post by Savory Simple featuring three recipes for Thanksgiving inspired popcorns; Pumpkin Caramel Popcorn, Brown Butter Sage Popcorn and Gingerbread Popcorn. Though they all sound like winners, I was really hung up on the idea of Sage Caramel Corn, so off to the kitchen I went.

My strategy was to simply adapt my Orange Fennel Orange Caramel Corn recipe to feature sage. I just wasn’t sure about best way to add the sage. My initial attempt involved frying the sage leaves in the melted butter, setting them aside, and stirring them in at the end. The result was good, but the messy, time consuming process won no points. It  occurred to me the sage would essentially fry and become crispy if I simply added it to the cooked caramel before adding the popcorn. Bingo.

Cooking a caramel isn’t tricky, but it does require some sort of thermometer that will register 300 degrees F. This is the all-important hard-crack stage for sugar, vital for that satisfying crunch of good caramel corn. A candy thermometer and many instant read probe thermometers will get the job done. If you want to invest in a great thermometer that’s fast and accurate, check out ThermoWorks. I love my Thermapen! 

I accidentally blew past the 300 degree mark while fiddling around with trying to pose the thermometer and take a photo, but this recipe isn’t so finicky that it’s a problem. The hard-crack stage for sugar is actually a range from 300 degrees F to 320 degrees F, so you’ve got a little wiggle room. Notice that I’ve washed down any sugar crystals clinging to the side of the pot. An important step to keep the caramel from crystallizing once it cools. (Just dip a pastry brush in water and brush over the sugar crystals until they dissolve. Be careful, the steam created when the wet brush hits the hot pan is hot.)

A word of caution. The sweet caramelly goodness bubbling away in the pot doesn’t actually cross over into the “sweet caramelly goodness” category until it’s cooled and will no longer burn through all layers of your skin in the blink of an eye. Not only is this stuff extremely hot, but it’s sticky, so if it lands on your skin, it wants to stay there and keep the burn going. Please be careful!

I find it easiest to start by stirring in about 1/3 of the popcorn along with the nuts rather than adding all of the popcorn at once.  I like to work with two silicone spatulas and find a cutting motion is effective at breaking up large caramelly clumps. They key to getting all the popcorn evenly coated is patience. Just keep cutting and stirring and eventually the caramel will be nicely distributed.

This is truly a delicious treat. I hope you give it a try.

Recipe Link

 

 

All photos by David or Carol Peterman unless otherwise noted

Cleaned out of SpiceCare!

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Update: 10/22/12 Both World Spice and My Spice Sage are now out of  SpiceCare inventory.

Last week we announced that we will no longer be producing SpiceCare, and much to our surprise we are already out of inventory. Don’t panic just yet, because a few of our retail partners stocked up on the last of our inventory. If you are interested in buying SpiceCare, you will find it available for a little while longer through World Spice Merchants and My Spice Sage. They both sell online and Wolrd Spice also has a retail store in Seattle.

SpiceCare System

You will notice that despite no longer having a product to sell, our website is alive and well. We will keep it stocked with great recipes and spice information, so don’t be a stranger. You can also stay in contact with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you again to everyone who has supported us and loves their SpiceCare!

Happy cooking,

Carol & David

All photos by David or Carol Peterman unless otherwise noted

SpiceCare: Get ‘em While You Can

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It was about five years ago that David and I embraced our ambitious idea to launch a company designing and manufacturing highly functional kitchen tools. TableFare was born, and after much planning and design work we launched our SpiceCare spice storage containers in the summer of 2009.

Booth at International Housewares Show

This entrepreneurial adventure has been a rollercoaster ride of exciting and fun peaks matched by stressful and scary dips. Though we’ve received outstanding feedback on our product, our SpiceCare ride is coming to an end. Despite our best efforts to make our venture work, the reality is SpiceCare is just too niche of a product to sustain us. We had hoped to find a home for SpiceCare with a larger housewares company, and though three companies were very interested and evaluated the opportunity, none of them decided to go with our product. In light of this we’ve had to face the reality that we can no longer afford to produce SpiceCare.

We will be selling out the inventory we have on hand and at least for the time being, not producing any more. If we manage to get ourselves re-established in our former careers, bringing SpiceCare back as a side venture is not out of the question. If you want to add to your SpiceCare collection now would be the time! We are offering free shipping on orders over $25 until our inventory sells out.

Unloading our first shipment of SpiceCare inventory.

Building TableFare by bootstrapping our way along and learning with each new opportunity has been a remarkable experience. The most rewarding of all has been the ability to connect directly with all of you through our website, blog, newsletter, Facebook and Twitter accounts– always a highlight of our daily activities. We plan to keep TableFare.com active with blog posts, Spice Library updates, and other food and cooking related information. We also look forward to engaging in interesting food, cooking, and spice-related discussions with you on Facebook and Twitter. The increasingly popular Twitter #SpiceChat on the first Wednesday of each month will continue as well.

We deeply appreciate your support, thank you for your business. The emails from happy SpiceCare customers extolling the organizational joy of our product were the biggest rewards of our entire venture. We hope you’ll stay in touch and if we can swing it, someday you may just get an email announcing SpiceCare is back!

Thank you,

Carol & David

All photos by David or Carol Peterman unless otherwise noted

French Green Lentil & Kale Salad

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A simple healthful salad that packs and travels well is just what’s required as the weather taunts us this time of year to enjoy our meals outside at a park, beach, or even on the steps in front of an office building.

French Green Lentil Salad with Orange and Goat Cheese

My guest blog post this month for Girl Power Hour is all about this delightful French green lentil and kale salad. Bursts of juicy orange, creamy nuggets of goat cheese and hidden pops of mint will completely distract you from the fact that it’s so healthy.

Later in the summer when cantaloupe melon is supremely fragrant and sweet, it will likely stand in for the oranges and I wouldn’t be surprised if a bit of prosciutto works its way into the mix.

Read my full blog post about this salad.

Recipe Link

 

All photos by David or Carol Peterman unless otherwise noted



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