No Big Dill!

July is very appropriately National Pickle Month.  Who doesn’t want a dill spear on the side of their sandwich or a bread and butter slice on top of their burger or a pile of relish on top of their grilled hot dog? With these summer staples, pickles are the perfect accompaniment as they are crisp, fresh, light and add a lot of flavor.  Pickling began as a way of preserving foods for out-of-season use and also to keep foods fresh for long journeys.  With refrigeration, we don’t have to worry so much about keeping foods fresh for long journeys, but pickling is still used for keeping out-of-season foods fresh for the off-season. I have memories of making five-gallon buckets of pickled ramps in the spring when working at db Bistro Moderne.  They were served with a duck pate and we had to have enough to last until the following spring. It was not easy feat but somehow, we made it work.

We can’t talk about National Pickle Month without talking about Rick’s Picks.  Their Phat Beets are my favorite… I love beets for obvious reasons, and these are made with just the right amount of rosemary and garlic and are just delicious.  Their recipe for Phat Beets Happy Appy makes lots of appearances when I entertain. While Ricks PIcks Classic Sours are delicious, you cannot go wrong with adding some Mean Beans or Hotties to your Bloody Mary.  Homemade pickles are a great way to use up that load of vegetables you got from  your CSA and can’t possibly eat before they go bad, but pickling isn’t just for cucumbers and vegetables anymore.

Pickle juice has become as popular as the pickles that are inside it.  A few years ago the pickle back, a shot of pickle juice, paired with a shot of whisky became extremely popular. And this recipe for pickle-brine chicken is so delicious and flavorful.  Pickling liquid could also be used as part of a vinaigrette on a salad.  I’ve also read that a few sips of pickle juice could relieve heartburn or make that hang-over go away. The good news is that pickles aren’t going anywhere so let’s celebrate them in all of their glory this month and beyond!  We’re offering 10% off our collection of Rick’s Picks Pickles through the end of the month with code PICKLEMONTH10

Happy Friday,

Julie

Cool Down with a Salad!

Summer is officially here and I try my best to cool things down in the kitchen when the weather heats up outside.  I like to have make-ahead sides that can be served at room temperature and often serve salads for dinner. Cooking in the morning before the weather really heats is a good way to beat the heat in the kitchen.  Here are the key components to a successful entrée salad.

  • A good base of GREENS: whether it be kale or Romaine or a mix of baby greens you need a base for your salad. Greens come in all flavors from mild to strong and provide the perfect back drop to a delicious salad.
  • Protein: Having a protein is key for turning a salad from a side dish to an entrée. I love grilled salmon on a salad or hard boiled eggs. Both of these can be made ahead to beat the heat at dinner time. If you really don’t feel like turning on the oven or stove, open a can of tuna or add some canned beans to your salad to provide protein.
  • Some Crunch: This could come from something as simple as toasted almonds or a crisp apple.  Adding some crunch to your salad gives it some texture and makes it more appealing to all of your senses.
  • Something Salty: If you are feeling simple, sprinkle your salad with some Jacobsen Salt Co. Flake Salt. If you want to dig deeper add a salty cheese or maybe some crushed tortilla chips or perhaps some salty meat like a cubed salami.
  • Something Sweet: I love putting some dried fruit on top of my salad… raisins & apricots are always a good choice. Candied nuts are a great option to add something sweet and crunchy!
  • Dressing: This could be the most important component of your salad as it provides lots of flavor to your meal.  I am partial to line of amazing dressings from Farmhouse Lab. I would say my favorite is the Berry Olive but the truth is I love them all.  A dressing should add flavor and bring all of the other components in  your salad into one dish.  If you prefer to keep your dressing simple, I would recommend FIVE Extra Virgin Olive Oil and FIVE Aged Balsamic Vinegar.

With these key components and a combination of your favorite fruits and vegetables you are sure to have a delicious salad on hand for dinner tonight.  The best part of having a really good salad for dinner is saving the leftovers for lunch the following day!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Spring into Summer

After Memorial Day, I really start to feel the transition from spring into summer.  Spring is one of my favorite seasons. Everything starts to turn green and we get to be less bundled as the temperature begins to creep up. Produce also begins to turn green and there is a new variety of vegetables and fruits to use in the kitchen! Now that we have passed the unofficial start of summer, I can dig out those white pants from of the back of my closet(Just kidding!) and embrace even more produce.  These days we do start to wear shorts more than pants and there are more days when I go out without a jacket.  School is slowly coming to an end and we can all look forward to the care-free fun of camp during the summer. 

One of my favorite parts of summer is the ability to serve something that requires little to no cooking.  Salads become staple on our dinner menu. I dare you to count the number of times I post a tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad this summer. I’ll be changing them up slightly each time by using different sized tomatoes, perhaps using a dressing from Farm House Labs one week and the following week simply drizzling the salad with 5 Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  I plan to cook vegetables ahead of time and serve them with a light vinaigrette to greet the freshness of summer.  The wine in our house also begins to change from red to white and maybe with a rose mixed in.  With the summer heat, a chilled wine is always appreciated and this summer we are ready for drinks on the terrace with plastic wine glasses!

One downside of the heat is that we need to ship some of our products express to make sure they arrive in their best condition.  You can check out all of our summer shipping guidelines here.

Whether you spend your summer in the city, at the beach or somewhere in between I hope it is as relaxing as you want it to be.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Fire up the Grill!

Fire up the grill!

Who doesn’t love to grill…especially on a warm sunny day, am I right?  At my house I typically do the cooking but my husband is always in charge of the grilling.  It isn’t that I don’t know how to grill, it is just that he likes it and it is an easy task for me to delegate to him.  In the city, we have a grill as part of our Wolf Range which isn’t quite as romantic as grilling outside (but better than not grilling at all).  When we go on vacation, we always rent a house with a grill.  On those instances I am pretty sure my husband loves being outside by the grill, sipping glass of wine and enjoying the weather. 

With Memorial Day Weekend starting, summer has un-officially begun and that marks the start of grilling season for most.  When I grill a protein I typically don’t follow  recipe.  The meat or fish is seasoned with one or more spice blends from La Boîte and some kosher salt.  For side dishes I tend to be more of a recipe follower.  Here is one of my favorite grilled side dishes. I first started making this when I lived in London and we had a charcoal grill on our roof top.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Grilled Romaine Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

2 heads Romaine Lettuce

1 red onion

2 ripe avocados

1 pint grape tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Method

-Pre-heat grill to medium high heat. While the grill is heating prepare the vegetables.  Slice the heads of Romaine in half from the stem to the tip.  Peel and slice the onion into ¼ inch slices.  Season lettuce and onion with olive oil, salt and pepper.

-Place onion slices on the grill away from the direct heat.  Allow to grill for about 20 minutes or until no crunch remains.

-Place lettuce on grill and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes per side.

-Slice grilled lettuce into 1-inch ribbons and put into salad bowl.  Chop grilled onion and add to the bowl.

-Slice the grape tomatoes in halve and add to the bowl.  Dice the avocado and add it to the bowl as well.

-Drizzle with a little more olive oil and salt and pepper if desired.  Toss to coat and enjoy.

 

It’s National Pretzel Day

To celebrate National Pretzel Day today I have to share this recipe from Julie’s Eats and Treats for Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Pretzels. I found it on Pinterest a few weeks ago and am just looking for an excuse to try it out.  I’ll be using Cacao Prieto Almond and Salt Bark for the chocolate bark!  If you try the recipe let me know how it goes!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Pretzels

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons butter, softened

½ cup powdered sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

Mini Pretzels

1 bar Cacao Prieto Almond and Salt Bark

Method:

-Line a baking sheet with wax paper and set aside.

-Mix peanut butter and butter together with a mixer until combined. Add the sugars and beat until combined.  You should be able to roll the mixture into balls without it sticking to your hands.  If it is still sticky, add more powdered sugar to reach the desired consistency.

-Roll the mixture into balls. Sandwich the balls between two mini pretzels.  Place in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

-Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Melt in a double boiler, stirring occasionally until smooth. 

-Dip each pretzel sandwich into the mixture and place onto the prepared baking sheet.  Let set  at room temperature and store in an air tight container.

Spring Feasting is upon Us

I know I’ve been saying it a lot, but I am so excited that SPRING IS HERE!   My son and I walk down the street pointing out green buds on trees, blooming tulips and daffodils and the many other signs that spring has sprung.  My favorite place to welcome spring is at the farmers market.  The stands are filled with green asparagus, peas, fiddle head ferns and all the beautiful flowers that come with spring.  I’ve been writing a lot of recipes for Easter lately and what really excites me are the vegetables!

Here is a menu I’ve been dreaming about with spring’s bounty:

Mint Pea & Goat Cheese Dip with baguette crostini

Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Leek and Potato Galette

Lemon Blueberry Poke Cake

The menu is fresh, innovative and really highlights spring.  I have been having a sweet tooth lately too so immediately went to test and modify the cake. Here is my version of the recipe for the Lemon Blueberry Poke Cake made with Gus and Grey Spellbound, Blueberry Lavender Jam.

Happy Friday,

Julie

P.S. Get your Easter orders in by midnight tonight for standard shipping and delivery before Easter.

Lemon Blueberry Poke Cake

Makes 1 9-inch Loaf

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons lemon zest

1 ¾ cups sugar

2 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup plain yogurt

5 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup Gus & Grey Spellbound Jam

Lemon Glaze:

¾ cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh blueberries

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Method:

-Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line the loaf pan with parchment paper leaving a little extra hanging over the side. Spray the loaf pan with cooking spray.

-Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk lemon zest into sugar into a separate bowl until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add eggs, oil and vanilla and whisk until light in color, about 3 minutes. Whisk in half of the dry ingredients, then add the yogurt.  Whisk in the remaining dry ingredients. Add lemon juice and whisk to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan.

-Bake cake until golden brown, 55-60 minutes. Cool for 2 hours or more.

-Once cake is cool, remove from pan and transfer to a baking sheet. Starting at one end, use a 1/8” dowel(or end of a wooden spoon) to make rows of holes in the cake about ¾” apart. 

-Transfer Gus & Grey Spellbound Jam into a squeeze bottle.  Carefully squeeze the jam into the prepared holes, filling them.

-To prepare the glaze whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon water in a medium bowl.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.  Spread the glaze over the top of the cake with a spatula, filling in the holes.  Toss the blueberries in the bowl to coat.  Sprinkle over the top of the cake along with the lemon zest.  Chill until the filling and glaze are set, about 1 hour.

-Enjoy

On top of Spaghetti…

all covered with cheese, I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed!

In honor of National Meatball Day tomorrow, I did some research on the origin of the meatball.  As with most culinary successes the origin is a bit unclear.  While meatballs can often be found in spaghetti and meatballs in the United States, when served in true Italian style they are smaller and typically come without pasta or sauce.  Many believe the true origin of the meatball is from Kofta,  a dish of ground meat mixed with lentils or rice.  Kofta is said to have started as a Persian dish and then was passed along to the Arabs.  The popularity of the meatball perhaps spread north through Europe along with the spice trade.

While the origin of the meatball can be debated, one thing is certain, meatballs are popular in cuisines across the globe.  From Spanish Albondigas to Swedish Meatballs, Kofte from India to Morocco and Polpette in Italy; meatballs are everywhere.  Perhaps this is because of the ease of making a meatball. It is a great way to use of up leftover meat and vegetables and meatballs are easily flavored with a blend of spices.  Not only are they easy to make they are easy to make in large quantities and serve to a crowd… probably why most of us think they are an Italian dish.  Whether you prefer beef in your meatballs or take a more vegetarian approach, I hope you’ll enjoy these recipes and have fun celebrating National Meatball Day!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Traditional Meatballs

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 lbs. Ground Beef

1 small zucchini

3 medium sized carrots, peeled

1 small onion, peeled

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups Due Cellucci Tradtional Tomato Sauce

Method:

-Grate Zucchini, Carrots and Onion

-Over medium heat, heat olive oil in large saute pan.  Add the grated vegetables and cook for about 5 minutes(until vegetables are soft) stirring occasionally.  Allow to cool.

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

-In the 9×13 inch baking pan, mix together the ground beef, vegetables, salt and pepper.  Form into ping-ping size balls and line up in the pan.  Once all of the mixture has been formed into the meatballs top with Tomato Sauce.  Cover entire pan with aluminum foil.

-Baked in preheated oven for 30 minutes.  The sauce will be bubbling and the meatballs cooked through.

-Serve immediately or see my tip above and chill for the next day.

-To reheat simply place in 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes.

-Enjoy with more sauce over pasta or choose spaghetti squash if you are into the low-carb thing!

Lentil ‘Meatballs’

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

¾ cup green lentils, uncooked

¼ cup red quinoa, uncooked

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

3 tbsp water

¼ cup sunflower seeds, ground to a fine powder

½ cup minced yellow onion

½ cup old fashioned rolled oats

½ tsp garlic powder

2 tsp Italian seasoning

¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped

¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 tsp kosher salt

Pepper to taste

Method:

-Cook lentils and quinoa, separately, according to package instructions, then let cool

-Combine ground flaxseed with water

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper

-Add cooked lentils, cooked quinoa, oats, ground sunflower seeds, onion, basil, parsley, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add in flaxseed and water mixture and pulse to incorporate

-Using a 2 tablespoon scoop, scoop mixture and roll between palms into uniform balls. Place on baking sheet  

-Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until golden brown

-Enjoy with Semolina Artisanal Strozzapreti Pasta and Due Cellucci Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce

The Perfect Chocolate Pairings for You and Your Valentine

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and what better way to show your person that you love him or her than gifting chocolate; food of the Gods, a tried and true symbol of romance. Luckily, we and Rococo Chocolates have got you covered, because nothing quite says ‘I love you’ like artisan chocolate paired perfectly with wine, spirits, and food. This year, in addition to a lovely home cooked dinner, a meal at a nice restaurant, a dozen roses, a bottle of wine, or a combination of the previous, make sure to add a bar or two of high quality artisan chocolate to elevate the occasion to the next level and show your special person the true depth of your love. We’ll supply the chocolate, you supply the love.

Rococo Chocolates was founded in 1983 by Chantal Coady who strived to change the way fine chocolate was perceived, and is now known as a luxury British chocolate company. Crafted using only the finest ingredients, Rococo Chocolates Artisan Bars boast an exquisite taste, indulging consumers in a rich tapestry of flavors and balance. Not only is each bar meticulously crafted to ensure pristine quality and flavor, the wrapping  for each bar is also artfully designed to highlight the bars majesty. Luckily for you and your Valentine, our showroom selves are overflowing with Rococo Chocolates Artisan Bars, and using the pairings guide below, you’ll have the tools necessary to create a magical experience this Valentine’s Day.

When pairing chocolate, it’s important to play in harmony, pairing the flavor notes of the bar with complimentary flavor notes of the wine, spirit, or food with which you are pairing; flavors that enhance one another rather than overpower. Going beyond simply taste and rather turning to molecular structure, the best pairings happen when the dominant aromatic molecules of the chocolate are the same dominant aromatic molecules of the paired wine, spirit, or food. For example, when pairing chocolate with herbal teas, one should pair fruity teas with fruity bars, spiced teas with spiced bars, minty teas with mint flavored bars, so on and so forth. Along similar lines, if pairing with beer or wine, it’s lovely to pair sweet with sweet and tart with tart, as long as the beverage is sweeter than the chocolate. When pairing with wine, opt for similar style and weight, matching more elegant, lighter flavored chocolate with lighter-bodied wine, and stronger, more pronounced chocolate with a full-bodied wine, pairings that can be further honed based on the flavor notes of each.

Below, we’ve complied a list of complimentary pairings with Rococo Chocolates Artisan Bars. We hope this list proves helpful in creating a magical experience for you and your Valentine.

Shop the collection today to receive your Rococo Chocolate in time for Valentine’s Day.

Rococo Chocolates

Cheers to chocolate!

Happy Friday,

Payton

White Chocolate  Cardamom: Tokaji Dessert Wine

White Chocolate Cardamom Crackle: Terra Botanical Gin

Milk Chocolate Sea Salt: Caña Brava Reserva Añeja or similar aged rum

Milk Chocolate  Honeycomb Crunch : Aged Tawny Port

Milk Chocolate Christmas Pudding: IPA or Stout

Dark Chocolate  Sea Salt: Smokey Whiskey

Dark Chocolate  Chili Pepper: Crisp, Sweet Reisling

Dark Chocolate  Basil & Persian Lime: Pinot Noir

Dark Chocolate Gold Frankincense and Myrrh: Blue Moon Beer

Dark Chocolate  Earl Grey: Black Tea like Earl Grey

Dark Chocolate  Violet: Chamomile Tea

Dark Chocolate  Mint: Bobby Burns Whiskey Cocktail

Milk Chocolate  Rose : Pinot Grigio

Milk Chocolate Almond, Rosemary and Sea Salt: Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

Dark Chocolate  Rose: White Tea

Milk Chocolate  Gingerbread: Egg nog, of course

Milk Chocolate Orange Blossom Neroli: Light and smokey Mezcal like Los Amantes Mezcal Joven

Calling all Football(Food) Fans!

We’re just two weeks shy of Super Bowl Sunday and I’m already thinking about game day.  I’m not particular if the Patriots, Saints, Chiefs or Rams make it to the big game, but I am particular about what is on the menu!  There are lots of statistics about how much guacamole is served up on Super Bowl Sunday and I’m sure there are quite a few chicken wings and hot dogs gobbled up during the game as well.  Here is a super easy menu for your Super Bowl Gathering. As you know when I entertain, my goal is always to make one or two  really good homemade dishes and fill in the rest with some quality purchased items.  The cake in the picture is from Super Bowl XLVIII when the Seattle Seahawks played the Denver Broncos. The game was on Ground Hog’s Day which is also my husband’s birthday, so we celebrated all 3 events with one cake! If you’re not hosting just put together one of these dishes to take to your friend’s place or bring some of this amazing Champagne bottle sized Miller High Life!

SUPER BOWL SUNDAY MENU

French Onion Dip with Potato Chips – Mix a packet of Onion Soup Mix with and 8 oz Tub of Sour Cream and serve with your favorite chips

Baby Carrots, Sliced Cucumber & Grape Tomatoes with Hummus

Popcorn – I use Tiny But Mighty Butter Flavor Microwave Popcorn and it is ready in 2 minutes

Pigs in a Blanket – Buy the pre-made frozen ones, simply reheat and serve with fancy mustard

Chicken Wings with La Boite Ayala Spiced Aioli – Recipe HERE

Cupcakes with Frosting coordinating to the teams playing

Chocolate Chip Cookies – Find the recipe HERE

Miller High Life

Wine – Selected by my husband

Whether you watch The Super Bowl for the football, the commercials or to see Maroon 5 at Half Time this menu will come together quickly and keep your crew smiling.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Gifts and DIY, Oh My!

Gift giving can be something of a chore but when you find the perfect gift it can be magical. Nothing beats watching someone open your present and seeing their eyes light up and a big grin come across their face.  That is when you know you made a good choice. This can happen for kids of all ages, meaning kids and grown-ups alike, have the same reaction to the perfect gift.  We’re coming down the home stretch of holiday gift giving but there is still time to get that perfect gift and also to have it arrive in time with out paying an arm and a leg for shipping😊You can check out our Experience Gift Guide here to find out how to give the whole experience and not just something in a box.

If you are more of the crafty type, here are some DIY ideas that you could make mostly with things around your house.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix in a Jar – Of course we would substitute chunks of our favorite Rococo Chocolates Bar in place of the chocolate chips but this recipe from Very Best Baking by Nestle hits all of the right notes.

T-shirt Chew Toy for Dogs – I actually made this one and my sister’s dog can’t put it down. We all have old t-shirts laying around, right?

Kid’s Dishtowel Apron – If your kids love to cook as much as mine do, this is the perfect use of one of those extra dish towels spilling out of your kitchen drawer.

With gift giving it is often more about adding a personal touch than it is about how much you spent. As long as the gift is from the heart it will be loved by the recipient.

Happy Friday,

Julie

P.S. Our Showroom will be open today and tomorrow from noon to 5pm for your holiday shopping needs. Stop by for a visit if you are in NYC, we’re at 210 W 80th Street New York, NY 10024.