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Did Your Easter Basket Come with Chocolate Souffle?

This month’s recipe is great Easter brunch or dessert. Chocolate souffle. I really don’t now  why so much is written about being afraid of souffles or practicing souffles. They are really quite easy. The key is good ingredients, the proper cooking vessel (I like ramekins) and a very even oven temperature.

scharffen-berger-chocolate

I have used Scharffen Berger chocolate for years, as I prefer the taste and texture of their chocolate. From Berkeley, CA, you can purchase it on-line ScharffenBerger.com or at a fine grocery store. I recommend using the 70% bittersweet chocolate for this recipe.

Ingredients: Serves 6
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanillia
5 large egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions: In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate with the cream over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to 4 hours ahead; press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the chocolate mixture and let stand at room temperature).

Preheat the oven to 425°. Butter 6 ramekins and freeze until set. Butter the ramekins again and sprinkle with some sugar. Rewarm the chocolate mixture over low heat, stirring until just hot to the touch. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue beating until the whites are glossy and firm, about a minute longer. Stir in 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining whites until just combined.

Gently put the souffle mixture into the prepared ramekins, smooth the surfaces and run your thumb around the inside ridge of each ramekin. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for about 15-18 minutes, until puffed and set around the edges. Dust with powdered sugar and serve at once.

First, I would purchase about a dozen or so ramekins. They come in different sizes so look for ones that hold about 6 ounces. I purchase them at restaurant supply stores, such as Smart & Final or Cash & Carry. Make sure they are oven safe, as some are plastic. While you are there, resist the urge to cart home that gleaming 50 qt. stock pot. You don’t need it and you won’t be able to lift it when it is full of boiling water, unless your name is LeBron James. You have to believe me on this.

Next, get an oven thermometer. Oven temperatures vary greatly, so you need to know exactly what temperature your oven is at. Also, preheat your oven. Most ovens (including the high-end ovens) take much longer to preheat than you would think. Be patient, wait and your baking will improve significantly.

Now, just follow the instructions and you will have perfect chocolate souffles for Easter and for years to come. Make some for your family and then polish off the rest yourself. Remember, chocolate is full of antioxidants, so this is really health food.

Tips for Success

First, I would purchase about a dozen or so ramekins. They come in different sizes so look for ones that hold about 6 ounces. I purchase them at restaurant supply stores, such as Smart & Final or Cash & Carry. Make sure they are oven safe, as some are plastic. While you are there, resist the urge to cart home that gleaming 50 qt. stock pot. You don’t need it and you won’t be able to lift it when it is full of boiling water, unless your name is LeBron James. You have to believe me on this.

Next, get an oven thermometer. Oven temperatures vary greatly, so you need to know exactly what temperature your oven is at. Also, preheat your oven. Most ovens (including the high-end ovens) take much longer to preheat than you would think. Be patient, wait and your baking will improve significantly.

Now, just follow the instructions and you will have perfect chocolate souffles for Easter and for years to come. Make some for your family and then polish off the rest yourself. Remember, chocolate is full of antioxidants, so this is really health food.

For the Bride: Choosing a Caterer

Vibrant bouquet, color splashes

Cue music: Here Comes the Bride, George Handel’s Air or some pop ditty like Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop by Landon Pigg.

We like coffee.

You are probably living on the caffeine jolt from it now while walking down the aisle. Hang on! My dress…I’m in jeans! You sit straight up in bed, only to realize it was a dream. Where’s the coffee?

Latte with love - Missy A Kitchell

Latte with love

Got that double-shot of espresso?

Dresses and music are certainly top-of-the-list items, as is finding a caterer for your wedding. Your caterer sets a tone for the event; often orchestrating the details of not only the food to be served, but flowers and atmosphere.

When seeking an establishment to handle the edibles, there are elements to consider; their food, service and attention to detail.   Let’s run through some basic Q&A’s when interviewing a potential caterer.

Interview potential caterers

Before you begin the process, set a budget. This will allow you to set realistic goals. A full-service, sit-down dinner might not be financially feasible, but a sumptuous buffet could fit the bill. Focus on what can be provided within your budget.

Discuss the setting. Will the caterer be bringing food to an off-site location such as a park, church or event space? Some caterers have standing arrangements with certain locations. For instance, our site is Widgi Creek Golf Club. The scenery is spectacular, sheltered under tall pines. Your particular location will impact some food choices and the need for service staff.

Talk candidly about your wishes for your wedding day.

Ask about service staff. Will you need a bartender or servers to pass the canapés? Buffet service requires less staff than does a formal sit-down dinner.

Speak with potential caterers about sample menus and a food tasting. Your caterer should be able to customize menus to accommodate food preferences and any dietary restrictions. Inquire about how ingredients are sourced and used. Is it fresh and local? Just like when you are at the market and folks are offering samples, tasting sways and swoons our desires.

Listen to word of mouth references. Ask your friends who they have used for parties and gatherings. Check out the referrals and portfolios of caterers. Happy customers’ thoughts are valuable tidbits to have.

Put it in writing. Have a contract with your caterer that specifies the menu, services to be provided, the number of staff members, dates, times and dollar amounts.

Away into the sunset - Photo from Widgi Creek Golf Club

Away into the sunset – Photo from Widgi Creek Golf Club

We love happy endings & details

Now, for a little personal horn tooting…you can be assured that we, at The Well Traveled Fork will rise to exceed all of the tips we’ve outlined. Our intention is to provide exquisite food and service for your celebration. The menu items will be prepared perfectly with seasonal, organic foodstuffs gathered from local farmers and growers. We work closely with several vendors to ensure the quality of the ingredients that we use. Details matter; we pay attention.

So, put that cuppa down before you get too jittery. You need some food, and we’re really good at preparing it.

Cookies, Cookies – Sweet Molasses

Sweet Molasses Cookies - Missy A Kitchell

Sweet Molasses Cookies

 

Baking is  therapeutic for the mind, soul and certainly the body when eating the spoils. There’s something about carefully measuring the cups of flour, leveling it out with a quick scrape of a knife and then adding the free pinches of extra spices. And…oh, the consuming of warm-from-the-oven cookies, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Let’s talk about molasses for a moment. Molasses is the thick, sticky liquid that is left after boiling down cane sugar and sugar beets into the refined white stuff we sprinkle gleefully on cereal, fruit, breads and what have you.

There are several types of molasses; each as a result of the cooking down of the sugar cane or beets and it is inherently good for you. It contains the essential minerals calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorous, chromium, cobalt and sodium, as well as Vitamin B6 and niacin.

 

Like black gold, molasses drips off the spoon - Missy A Kitchell

like black gold, molasses drips off the spoon

 

Light Molasses – is the first rendering. It is light in color and sweeter than other varieties as less sugar has been extracted. It is used for baking, marinades, rubs and even dripped over hot cereal or toast.

Dark Molasses – known as second molasses. More sugar has been extracted, so it is darker, has a thicker consistency and is less sweet. Dark molasses is commonly used for things like gingerbread.

Blackstrap Molasses – the result of the third boiling process. It is very dark, syrupy and somewhat bitter, so is not used as a baking ingredient. However, Blackstrap contains the most nutrition. One tablespoon contains 3.5 milligrams of iron.

The bittersweet news is that a century ago molasses was the main sweetener in American diets. Nowadays, the half-used jar sits at the back of the baking shelf, all sad and dusty, just waiting until an inspired cook decides to whip up a batch of gingerbread or molasses sugar cookies. So, dig through your cupboard, pull out the lonely little jar and get cooking.

 

Fragrant, spicy Molasses Sugar Cookie dough - Missy A Kitchell

fragrant and subtly spiced molasses sugar cookie dough

 

We’re sharing a recipe for Molasses Sugar Cookies, but don’t be limited to sweet riffs with this ingredient. Think outside of the norm, by adding it to a glaze for thick, juicy pork chops, BBQ sauce to slather on slow-cooked ribs or swirl a few spoons full into a pot of savory baked beans. Let your imagination go wild…but for today, we are baking; it is a good thing.

 

Hint: when preparing to measure out molasses or honey, lightly oil your measuring cup. The sticky liquid will slip right out into your bowl.

 

Grandma Buzzini’s Molasses Sugar Cookies
These cookies are gently spiced with a crisp sugar coating and soft, chewy interior.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup Brer Rabbit Molasses 
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Additional sugar for coating cookies

Method

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat; let cool.
  • Add sugar, molasses and egg; beat well.
  • Sift together flour, soda, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and salt; add molasses mixture. Mix well; chill dough until firm.
  • Form dough into 1 inch balls, roll in granulated sugar and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Press each cookie with a fork across one way and then across the other to lightly imprint.
  • Bake for 8 minutes at 375 degrees until cookies are set. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Store in an air tight container.

For the bride: Organization

Cin-Cin! - Missy A Kitchell

Cin-Cin!

The question was popped, with a resounding “yes” answer, and now you are tying the knot. We’re thrilled for you to start your happily-ever-afters as Mr. and Mrs.

A few days pass and the initial excitement and flurry of emotions quiet down. That’s when it happens, actuality smacks you upside the head, “Sweet biscuits and gravy, I have really big party to plan!” After scarfing that plate of biscuits and gravy out of a sheer Mad Hatter state, the light bulb clicks on – you need a strategy.

  For the Bride word of advice:  be organized.

Much like what magazines peddle at the beginning of the New Year, clean-up and organize the piles of ideas that accumulate.

  • Set-up a timeline, beginning with your wedding day, then work back to the now. Walking backwards will give you a good perspective on when you need to have certain items ticked off of the list. Besides, walking backwards is a kick, remember when you were a kid?

 Determine your budget. It is much easier to make arrangements when you are aware of the dollar amount available; enabling you to set your priorities. An example: You’re not so into tuxedos, but you adore champagne which can be a big-ticket splurge. You opt for jeans, crisp white shirts and buy heaps of bubbly and dance under the stars.

 Purchase a binder, or better yet, an attractive accordion file, in colors that echo your wedding, to hold those paper thoughts and ideas.

 Start a Pinterest Board to electronically save photos, recipes, creative cakes, flowing gowns and flowers. We’ve recently started a board ourselves. It’s in the growing process, but will be an archive of tablescapes, poignant photographed moments, plated food and oodles of nuptial fun.

 

  • Collect, collect, collect from lifestyle magazines, foodie reads, fashion blogs and unquestionably those gorgeous bridal prints. The montage will help you to untangle the mood and atmosphere you want for the grand party.

Be kind to yourself – breathe!

Here are a few calendar elements to get you going:

Locate and reserve the venue, including booking the officiant
Choose the bridal party
Start working on the guest list
Scope out photographers, DJ’s, florists and caterers – mind you, we’re going to toot our own horn here.  We know good food and prepare it impeccably.  Want to know a secret?  We’re acquainted with a few other folks that can lend you a helping hand
Visit dress shops – try some on! Even if you’re not ready to decide on a gown, the trying on is a blast

One last assignment, have an impromptu “we’re-getting-married” bash. Nothing fancy, text a few best friends and meet up at your favorite spot to toast and cheer.

Now, go lick that plate of biscuits and gravy, then get crackin’ on the organization factor.

 

Mardi Gras and all that jazz

Gaudy masks of gold, purple and green

Gaudy masks of gold, purple and green

Purple and green and gold, masks, costumes and much raucous revelry; opulence and decadence taken to the extreme – yep, this describes a scene in New Orleans during Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French. However, NOLA is known for off-the-chart food, giant party or not.

Last month I traveled to the crescent city for a convention. While there was business to be conducted, there were also fabulous homegrown delicacies to be consumed.

Kale salad with Peekytoe Crab from Emeril's

Kale salad with Peekytoe Crab from Emeril’s

A sampling of the gastronomic wonders included sausages stuffed with alligator and washed down with a local brew. Emeril’s place knocked it out-of-the-park with his kale salad. I know, you’re thinking, kale…but this ditty had peekytoe crab. Peekytoe is slang for what was once just a throwaway to lobster fishermen. It’s more commonly known as rock or sand crab and is now highly sought after my discriminating chefs. Not to be forgotten was King Cake for breakfast. This sweet treat is yeast-based and filled with brown sugar, chopped nuts, spices and a tiny plastic baby. Whoever is lucky enough to find the tacky bauble is to host the next grand party.

All of this is piece of the beauty of travel – eating like a local – which, by-the-way is part of our mantra! Eat what you have when it’s available.

In the spirit of over indulging to celebrate the end of the ordinary season, here are a few Southern dishes to devour on Fat Tuesday:

Classic Gumbo – Gumbo is a flavorful stew named for the West African word for okra, gombo. This dish starts with a roux (browned fat and flour) and is seasoned with garlic and the Louisiana trinity – onion, bell pepper and celery. The most common ingredients are chicken, sausage, shrimp and crab. The savory mix is served over rice.

Étouffée – is a fancy pants name for Cajun comfort food. Étouffée is zesty, spice-filled dish of crayfish, shrimp and crab with onions and peppers in an enticingly nimble gravy. It too is served over a bed of steamy white rice.

Red Beans and Rice – New Orleans also has their own version of beans and rice. Like other regions, this traditional pairing changes from cook to cook. The basics remain: red beans and white rice. Many recipes include ham hock and Andouille sausage, along with the quintessential onion, celery and bell peppers.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Jambalaya – this one-pot dish is Creole goodness in the form of a casserole. Spicy, smoked sausage is simmered with Cajun seasonings, peppers and stewed tomatoes, with big ol’ shrimp tossed in for good measure.  Cajun spice mixes include salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, cayenne pepper, thyme and the likes.

The list of spectacular foods from the South could go on, however, all things must come to an end, but not without a festive toast with a timeless cocktail – Sazerac. This jazzy number (don’t mind the pun) is a swirl of simple syrup, rye whiskey or bourbon, bitters and anise liqueur garnished with twisted lemon peels.

Happy Fat Tuesday – Cheers!

 

Chocolate, dear, decadent Chocolate

Hey, dear heart

Hey, dear heart

Hey, dear heart, have you noticed cupid chaotically flinging arrows and the heavenly aroma of chocolate that is suspended in the air? It’s the romantic month of February, full of hearts and flowers and other mushy stuff, including wedding planning season.

Yep, all of you starry-eyed lovebirds out there grab your iPads, notebooks or schedulers; we have thoughts (lots of them), designs and well, whimsy to share with you. In our years of working with couples we’ve gleaned some go-to ideas and concepts. Flowers, invitations, the dress…cake and food – of course we’ll talk food; all struggling for your attention. Keep an eye out for these tips to show up in our weekly blog.

What about the love arrows and suspended chocolate, you ask? Not to leave you hanging, but do you know what’s really going on inside of the neatly wrapped, decadent bar of chocolate? Cacao, that’s what;  the raw form of chocolate dates back some 4,000 years. Referred to as the food of the gods, the Mayan people are believed to be the first to roast, grind into a powder and then add liquid for the original cups of luscious cocoa. We’re guessing there were no mini marshmallows involved in the procedure.

To further educate you on the culture of chocolate, do you know the difference between cacao and cocoa? No, this isn’t just a play on vowels, each has distinct properties.

Cacao, pure, raw, unrefined

Cacao, pure, raw, unrefined

 

Cacao is a pure, raw, less processed form of chocolate; having the highest amount of antioxidants. The Theobroma Cacao tree produces pods which are cracked open to release the beans. They can then be handled in a variety of ways such as powder, nibs, butter and roasting to create cocoa and other chocolate commodities.

Cocoa is the result of roasting the cacao beans. While the high temps reduce the amount of antioxidants, it still contains good-for-you-stuff; just pay attention to the amount of fat and sugar. Budgetary boon: cocoa is easier on the wallet.

Chocolatte!

Chocolate!

Shopping for brown gold can be mind-boggling. There are boxes and bars and powders labeled dark, milk, Swiss, Dutch – you name it. Look for bars and powders with at least 70 to 85 percent cocoa solids. It will be less sweet and the flavor definitely more intense. Be brave and try some of the more exotic combinations like a chocolate bar laced with chile and lime, get that sweet-salty fix by nibbling on a goodie with bits of bacon or go the floral route with violet infused chocolate. So much scrumptiousness and we haven’t even mentioned sipping chocolate, which would be lovely on a cold winter’s day. Before we wander too far into chocolate wonderland, cocoa and cacao can be used interchangeably in recipes.

Back to the lovey-dovey prattling, those struck by cupid’s arrows do you think in chocolate … for dessert, a wedding cake or your secret afternoon indulgence? Go ahead, get all mushy, the calendar does say, romance.

Super (Bowl) Wings and Drinks

Super Bowl Sunday is known for football (duh), cutting-edge adverts that cost millions of bucks for 30 seconds of fame and, of course, a license to munch on manly man-food. We’re talking, there’s-nothing-green-on-the-table type of spread; piles of meat, cheesy stuff that we power through, not wanting to know what’s in it and icy cold drinks. Now the question is how to put a foodie spin on the menu so your mouth will do the same happy dance that Marshawn Lynch does after a touchdown.

Number one rule: Snacks and drinks aren’t an option, they are a necessity. You simply can’t watch beefy guys on the field throwing a football and barreling past anyone who gets in their way, without wings and poppers and a brewski, or some sort of N/A form.

Enter the foodie version of wings that are smothered with piquant mustard, sweetened up with sticky honey, for all of the lick-your-fingers goodness. The beauty of these babies is that you can plop ‘em on the grill or stick them in the oven. Serve them with obligatory carrot and celery sticks, but also toss in spears of cucumbers and really go out on a limb with slices of jicama.

Honey-Mustard Chicken Wings - Missy A Kitchell

Honey-Mustard Chicken Wings

Honey-Mustard Chicken Wings
(Makes about 12-15 appetizers)

You will need:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 2/3 cup coarse grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 to 5 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 2 ½ lbs wings

What you’ll do:

  • In a small saucepan, combine honey, mustard, butter and spices; stir over medium heat until butter melts and all ingredients are well blended.
  • Oven: Arrange chicken in a 9×13 baking dish; cover with honey mixture.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 30 minutes; turning after 15 minutes.
  • Grill: Prepare grill. Wings will need to be cooked over a slow heat. Dip wings into the honey-mustard sauce, allowing excess to drip off. Place wings on the grill. They will take approximately 25 to 30 minutes to cook. Turn and baste chicken every few minutes with the sauce, until caramelized and internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

All that sideline spectator jazz leaves one parched. Must-have-something to quench this thirst sets in. Fill up tubs, the sink or bathtub with beer (awesome choices here in Central Oregon), soda, juice and definitely water. Then, bring on the foodie translation of the liquid, which is interpreted as a concoction of lime and gin.

Lime-Gin Fizzy - Missy A Kitchell

Lime-Gin Fizzy 

Lime-Gin Fizzy Punch
(Recipe adapted from Southern Living)
Makes 3 ½ quarts

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 fresh mint sprigs
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1 (750-ml.) bottle gin – try a local variety
  • 1 3/4 cups fresh lime juice
  • 1 (750-ml.) bottle dry sparkling wine, chilled
  • Garnishes: fresh mint leaves, citrus slices

Preparation:

  • Stir together sugar and 2 cups water in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add mint and vanilla bean; cool completely. Discard mint and vanilla bean.
  • Stir together gin, lime juice, 2 cups water, and 2 1/2 cups mint-vanilla syrup. Cover and chill 4 hours. Combine gin mixture and sparkling wine in a large glass jug.

Note: to prepare a kid-friendly beverage, substitute ginger ale for the gin and sparkling lime-flavored water for the wine.

Okay, snacks and drinks are covered. You’re on your own for the half-time extravaganza. But might we suggest nachos dripping with cheese and a sprinkle of cilantro – for the green factor, and a pot of white chicken chili, ramped up coleslaw and crumbly cornbread? Oh, and gooey chocolate brownies maybe with ganache (fancy for chocolate frosting) for more finger-licking action.

The coin will be tossed and the pig-skin will be kicked. At the end of the day, the winners will go to Disneyland and get a big fat ring, but your game day fans will be doing the full belly end-zone jig. Go, Hawks! Can we say that?

Onions + Stock + Spices = Soup

IMG_4211

Caramelized onions swim in a rich beef broth infused with fresh thyme 

Pots of bubbling soup date back to the stone ages, literally. Historians tell us these humble potages are almost certainly as old as the history of cooking. It makes perfect sense, food was in short supply; no mega markets to shop, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. Simple, scavenged ingredients could be tossed into a cooking vessel, drenched with water and allowed to simmer, yielding a nourishing, grubbed-out supper.

IMG_4224

Thyme Scented French Onion Soup with Gruyere Crostini 

French onion soup, infused with fresh thyme and capped with cheese-encrusted crostini sounds froufrou, but is actually a rustic, peasant-style soup. After all, onions are cheap and easy to grow. Some of the original recipes were really basic: onions, water, salt and pepper; cook over a fire, devour.

Slowly cook the onions to a caramelized mixture - Missy A Kitchell

Slowly cook the onions to a caramelized jam-like consistency


To obtain the sumptuous, deeply desired flavor profile, the onions must be slowly caramelized; essentially turning them into an amber-colored jam. Patience truly is a virtue when it comes to this process. The result will be an earthy, broth soup which is crowned with cheesy goodness. 

Thyme Scented French Onion Soup
Makes 4 main dish servings or 8 appetizer portions

You will need:

  • 12 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely minced
  • 1 cup dry sherry
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 quarts beef stock
  • 1 loaf sourdough baguette cut in ½” slices
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1 cut clove of garlic

What you’ll do:

  • In a 4-6 quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes then reduce heat to low, adding salt and sugar. Continue cooking until onions have achieved a deep caramelized color. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer.
  • Stir in sherry. Allow most of the sherry to be absorbed by the onions. Slowly pour in the beef stock and thyme. Raise heat and bring to almost a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat, adding the balsamic vinegar. Taste for salt and pepper.
  • Gruyere Crostini: Placed sliced baguette on a baking sheet. Rub with a clove of garlic and top with cheese. Place under broiler and toast until cheese melts.

To serve: Ladle soup into wide soup bowls. Top with the crostini. Garnish with sprigs of fresh thyme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get fresh with fennel

Fennel adds a bright anise-licorice flavor

Fennel adds a bright anise-licorice flavor 

Bulbous on one end, slender and wispy on the other, fennel is one of those vegetables that you should get to know. Resembling dill, fennel has a delicate anise flavor from the tips of the feathery fronds down to its well-endowed bottom.

Fennel is related to the parsley family; keeping company with the likes of carrots, cumin and coriander, but who are we to drop names? Being a bit of a Goldilocks, fennel grows best in temperate conditions – not too hot and not to cold. It is widely available from late fall until early spring in local grocery shops as well as farmer’s markets.

Choose produce that looks lively without brown blemishes. The bulb of the fennel should be firm and tightly compact with fronds that are bright green. Remember, every part of fennel is edible. The fronds can be used as a zesty garnish on top of soups or tossed with salad greens.

IMG_4309

Deeply hued carrots pair well with fennel 

When munched on in the raw fennel, is crisp and crunchy. Try hooking up thinly shaved fennel with snappy apple slices, trickling a good quality olive oil and cracked black pepper over the top for a palate tantalizing winter salad.

Roasting or braising the fennel bulb releases a melt-in-your-mouth quality.  The veggie becomes soft and caramelized much like slow-cooked onions.  They are simply divine when mellowed alongside pot roast.  Cut into larger pieces and sprinkle in with the onions, potatoes and carrots.  All the tastes will meld into goodness with a hint of the anise essence.

IMG_4319

Pan Roasted Carrots and Fennel

Pan Roasted Carrots and Fennel

You will need:

  • 1 lb carrots (assorted colors if available)
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for pan roasting
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

What to do:

  • Scrub carrots with a vegetable brush and cut into finger sized pieces.
  • Wash fennel under running water. Cut the frond end off, about 2 inches above the bulb. Reserve the fronds. Slice the bulb into ½” pieces, lengthwise.
  • In a large bowl combine carrots, fennel, olive oil and garlic.
  • Preheat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle with oil to coat the bottom.
  • Place veggie mixture into pan. It should sizzle and the vegetables should take on some color. Cover and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots and fennel are done and lightly browned, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Taste for salt and pepper; add as needed.  Sprinkle with the reserved fronds.

Serve as a side dish, add the vegetables to a crudité platter or create a salad by placing on greens and topping with goat cheese.

Citrus season: Rays of sunny flavors

Lemons, oranges and grapefruit - Missy A Kitchell

Lemons, oranges and grapefruit

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy …” so crooned John Denver. Sunny morsels shining in the tummy help chase away the chilly-willies of winter.

Just when a deep freeze or at least not warm temps blanket us, oodles of bright lemons, oranges and grapefruit make a stunning appearance in our markets. Citrus season, in all of its sparkling glory has arrived bringing bites of vitamin C, loads of fiber, potassium and heaps of other phytochemicals that help prevent disease. Did we mention the perky flavor that will add a fresh edge to common soups and stews, casseroles and salads? These beauties have it going on!

With so many varieties to choose from, we’ve found that the best way to discover your faves is to pick an assortment and do a little taste test. It doesn’t have to be one of those concealed, blind-fold affairs, simply slice, nibble and decide. May we suggest a few?

Tangerines – oh, these sweet lovelies are juicy, full of that “orange” flavor and easy to peel. They are perfect for snacking.

Blood Oranges – with their stunning deep orange-red flesh are almost raspberry sweet. Lay them on top of creamy butter lettuce, sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Alternately, squeeze the juice for a delightful cocktail addition.

Ruby Red Grapefruit – fewer seeds than some and on the softer side of the tang chart, Rubies have a brilliant colored interior. Try slicing them in half, giving them a couple spoons of brown sugar and sliding them under the broiler for a warm, caramelized breakfast treat.

Meyer Lemons – here’s the gold standard when it comes to the balance between sweet and pucker. Meyers can be used just like any other lemon for baking, juicing or roasting with a big fat chicken smothered in herbs.

Key Limes – we would never forget you; small, green-yellow orbs of pie heaven. They have a strong and complex flavor and are usually used in juice form.

Kumquat – this not-so-familiar tiny gem packs a wallop of tart flavor. You can eat them whole, yep, skin and all. They are also a nice addition to a compote or chutney.

Like so many fruits and veggies, roasting brings out the natural sweetness, even in tart foodstuff. We came across this lively, palate-pleasing recipe to jazz up roasted meat, chicken or even fish. Enjoy!

Roasted Citrus Relish
Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit – November 2014

Ingredients

  • 1½ pink grapefruits
  • 1½ navel oranges
  • 3 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Slice ½ grapefruit, ½ orange, and 1 lemon crosswise into paper-thin rounds; remove seeds. 
  • Toss in a medium bowl with sugar, oil and kosher salt. 
  • Roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet until golden in spots and crisp, 20–30 minutes; let cool.
  • Meanwhile, cut all peel and white pith from remaining grapefruit, orange and lemons. Working over a medium bowl, cut along sides of membranes to release segments into bowl; discard membranes.
  • Tear roasted citrus into pieces and toss with segments, breaking up larger segments.
  • Stir in parsley; season with sea salt.