Moroccan Pickled Carrots … Oh Yum

The flavors of Morocco where spices such as cinnamon, coriander and cardamom take center stage are rich, pungent and completely captivating. Who could fail to fall in love with Moroccan cuisine? France and Morocco have had a long and complicated relationship. French remains the primary language of Morocco. As a result (and luckily for me), excellent Moroccan cuisine is available throughout France.

I am readying my next EatWith offering – “Dinner in Marrakesh … Exploring Moroccan Cuisine.” I will write more about it in a future post, but I want to share with you my first dish. Moroccan Pickled Carrots are infused with traditional Moroccan spices plus garlic, lemon and red pepper. They are spicy hot, and they are addictive! Since they are refrigerated rather than canned, the brine is much less salty. I use Cigalou Piment de Cayenne entier. They are readily available in nearly any French grocery store, and I always bring a bottle back with me.

Moroccan Pickled Carrots are easy to prepare. Make a batch for yourself, and bring a bit of Morocco to your kitchen. Get the recipe here. I hope you’ll come eat with me soon!
Bon appétit!
Tess

Setting the table, à la Française

If you’d like to set an authentic French table, this is an excellent article on how to do so. If you’re planning a trip to France, you can learn what to expect in restaurants and homes. Bon appetit!

From French Country to Paris Chic

French Dinner table

Receiving guests around a dinner table is a a very important part of French culture. Having guests over for a religious occasion, anniversary or other important date requires flawless planning and execution. Every person sitting at the table will become a judge of the affair and any faux pas will necessarily become a subject of gossip for years to come.  This may seem a bit exaggerated (and it is) but I do remember my mom really stressing trying to prepare Easter or Christmas dinners for a dozen family guests. So here are a few dos and don’ts for successfully setting a French table:

Silverware: They should be organized in the order in which they will be used from the outside to the inside.

Forks: Left of the plate, facing down.

Knives: Right of the plate, the cutting side of the blade facing toward the plate.

Dessert spoon…

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Fall and French Comfort Food

In Columbus, Ohio it’s sunny, hot and definitely doesn’t feel like Fall. Still, once the calendar turns the page to September, my thoughts turn to Autumn cooking. For my EatWith offerings, that means Parisian bistro fare. I also particularly love the cuisine of Normandy in the Fall. I just added a Normandy offering featuring apples, Calvados (apple brandy), Camembert and, of course, cider. I hope you’ll check it out! You can read a Columbus CityScene article about my EatWith offering here.
Bon Appetit!
TessIMG_0972.JPG

Mint Love

Mint is one of the easiest, most pleasurable herbs to grow. It’s perfect for patio gardens as it is both ornamental and functional. It’s also a perennial in most climates. Because mint is very hardy and invasive, it should only be grown in containers. Learn more about growing mint here. Mint comes in several flavors such as apple, orange and ginger. One my favorites is chocolate mint both for its flavor and appearance. Here, chocolate mint trails beside standard mint in my mint pot.

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I love to place mint stems in small vases on windowsills and in bathrooms. Paired with lavender and rosemary sprigs, they make a lovely, aromatic display. In my kitchen, herb bouquets stand ready for culinary use.

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As a little girl, my mother showed my how easy it is to root mint. Simply place a small vase of mint sprigs in a sunny window. In a week or two, your sprigs will have roots. I was always so amazed at this. I still am! If you have little ones about, they will be fascinated with the process.

IMG_0979.JPGOnce your sprigs have a nice set of roots, simply pot them, give them some water and voila! A new mint plant. I like to repurpose pots and containers by planting mint sprigs and giving them as gifts.

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I use rooted sprigs to replenish my own mint pot. As the summer wanes and my annual pots start to look a bit bedraggled, I often perk them up with mint like this patio container.

IMG_0978.JPGAugust is not the time most of us are thinking of starting new plants, but mint can be started any time. It will thrive outdoors until the first hard frost, and can be grown inside as well. Learn more about cultivating mint indoors here. There are many uses for mint. Once you have your own mint pot, look for ways to enjoy it. Some of my favorite recipes are Yogurt Mint Sauce, Strawberry, Mint and Black Pepper Jam and The Tranquillo, an absolutely delicious cocktail. Of course, we can’t forget that Cuban classic, the Mojito. You can usually find mint plants at your grocery store. I get mine at Trader Joe’s. Pick one up and, like me, you will fall in love with mint!
Bon appetit!
Tess

French Pickled Garlic

When pickled, garlic retains all the flavor of fresh garlic without the “bite” or oder. This is because the acid in vinegar breaks down the the oder-causing components in garlic. Pickled Garlic has long been a part of French cuisine and is often served as an appetizer. It’s particularly popular in Normandy. I prepared a  batch last night in preparation for my EatWith “Dinner In Normandy” offering which will go live in mid-September. You can find the recipe for French Pickled Garlic here. 

I’m leaving for a month in France tomorrow and will begin my stay with a week and a half at Casa Belle. Gilles, who is both host and chef, has kindly invited me to observe him in the kitchen. Such a treat! Since Pickled Garlic needs to brine for four to five weeks, it will be ready to enjoy when I return in a month….and enjoy it I shall!

Bon appétit!

Tess

Shop Fresh. Shop Local. Shop at a Farmers Market!

When was the last time shopping at your local big box grocery store made you feel good? That’s what you’re missing if you’re not shopping at your local Farmer’s Market. Here are some GREAT reasons to shop local.

Discover Variety, Freshness and Flavor
You will find heirloom tomatoes and many more unique varieties of produce that aren’t farmed in mass on mega farms. The flavors will surprise you. Find out what a “real” tomato tastes like!
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Enjoy the season.
While we can now get produce of any sort at any time of year, mass-produced, hothouse-grown fruits and vegetables lack flavor and freshness. There’s a lot of pleasure to be had from eating what’s in season when it’s in season. It gives one something to look forward to and relish when you have it. Rather than settle for tasteless, bland produce that’s available year around, allow yourself the pleasure a treat…a treat that’s not always available.
Support Small Farms.
Family farms need your support. With the rapid growth of agribusiness and mega farms, family farms are struggling to compete. Without them, we will no longer have farmers who are personally involved with and truly care about what they produce and who cultivate varieties that, without them, will be lost. When you support a family farm, you make a difference, AND you know exactly where your food came from!
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I shop at the Uptown Westerville Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons. If you go, make sure and check out Bird’s Haven Farm for a large selection of fresh produce including heirloom tomatoes, fresh herbs and outstanding cucumbers. You can find a Farmers Market near you with the USDA Farmers Market Directory. Visit a Farmers Market and discover how much better food tastes when it’s fresh, local and seasonal!.
Bon appetit!
Tess

State Fairs…Only In America!

There’s nothing the world over like State Fairs. These surreal, magical cities spring to life just once a year, rising pheonix-like from lonely, clapboard buildings, weedy fields and dusty tracks. The stuff of rich childhood memories, they are anticipated, revisited and relived with pleasure. While agricultural fairs have existed for thousands of years, the State Fairs Americans know and love, unique to the United States, did not emerge until after the Civil War. Prior to that time, the majority of Americans lived and/or worked on farms. Small local fairs were the norm and the focus was entirely agricultural (with a bit of horse racing thrown in). As manufacturing increased and urban areas grew, fairs began to add attractions to entice urban Americans. Freak shows, oddities, carnival rides, carnies, sky gliders, hoochie-coochie girls and so much more were added. The State Fair was born.

Yesterday, I attended the Ohio State Fair, just as I have nearly every year of my life. Oh, how my sister and I looked forward to the Ohio State Fair when we were children! Months before the big day, we would start begging for chores and saving our pennies for THE FAIR. Every State Fair has it’s own special traditions, and one of Ohio’s is the “Butter Cow” and it’s attendant butter sculptures. In 1903, the first Butter Cow and Calf, sculpted entirely of butter, made their debut. In the ensuing years, attendant Ohio-themed butter sculptures were added. This year’s were sculpted with over 2,000 lbs of pure butter! You can read more about the Butter Cow here.20140727-142721-52041090.jpg

Agriculture still plays an important role in State Fairs, particularly in major agricultural states such as Ohio. The oldest structure on the Ohio State Fairgrounds is the Poultry and Rabbit Pavillion, erected in 1903. It is the largest poultry fair in the United States.

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In it, you will see an absolutely astounding array of chickens of all colors and sizes! I never miss it.

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Near and dear to my own heart, canning and preserving holds it’s own honored place at the Fair. With the resurgence of interest in home preserving, there’s been a steady growth in entries.

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You can see photos and learn more about the fascinating history of the Ohio State Fair here. I have, on occasion, had the pleasure of taking European visitors to the Ohio State Fair and witnessing their absolute amazement (and befuddlement). Truly, there is nothing in the world like a State Fair. I was happy to be in Ohio yesterday.
Bon Appetit!
Tess

Summer’s Perfect Salad

Here in Ohio, summer is at its peak. Tomatoes grow exceptionally well in Ohio. A visit to an Ohio farmer’s market in July will reward you with lots of tomatoes to choose from, often including heirloom varieties such as the yellow tomatoes pictured above. The flavor of fresh tomatoes is one of the best arguments for eating seasonally. Because tomatoes are highly acidic, they can be canned in a water bath. So easy! Learn more about canning tomatoes here.

One of the easiest herbs to grow is basil. Basil does exceptionally well in containers, loves the sun and grows quickly throughout the summer. One large plant (like this one in my container garden) will keep you supplied with fresh basil throughout the summer. Plant an extra one or two and you’ll have basil to make pesto too! Pesto cannot be safely canned at home, but it does freeze extremely well. If you are freezing the pesto, omit the cheese as it doesn’t freeze well. You can add it after you thaw the pesto. Learn how to make pesto here.

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Plant some basil and discover for yourself the taste of your own fresh picked basil. Basil plants are often available at your grocery store.

Now for the Perfect Summer Salad! We’ve all had that most traditional of Italian salads, the Caprese. Made with just four ingredients…tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil and balsamic reduction…the Caprese comes into it’s own at summer’s peak when the freshest tomatoes and basil are available. You can reduce your own balsamic vinegar. Find out how here. It will take a few hours and must be watched closely to prevent it from over reducing. I find it much easier to purchase a prepared reduction.

I particularly like Gia Russa.

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Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, putting your Caprese salad together couldn’t be easier. Just follow these steps:
-Slice your tomatoes into approximately 1/2″ slices. Spread the slices out on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let the tomatoes sweat for 30 minutes.
-While the tomatoes are sweating, pick and rinse your basil. Pinch the the leaves off the stems and set aside.
Slice a log of fresh mozzarella in 1/2″ slices.
-After 30 minutes, arrange the tomatoes on a platter and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Tuck the mozzarella slices and basil leaves in between the tomato slices. Drizzle balsamic reduction over all.

And there you have it! Summer’s Perfect Salad.
Bon appetit!
Tess

Chill Your Wine In No Time!

As Ohio’s first and only EatWith host, I always want the right wine ready for the table when my guests arrive. No one wants to drink warm sauvignon blanc, right?  That’s what I TRY to do, but it doesn’t always work out that way! It’s best to chill wine is to leave it in the fridge overnight and remove it about 30 minutes before serving.  If you forget or if you didn’t chill enough, don’t worry. There is a shortcut! I’ve tried it and it works!

  1. Fill a container large enough to hold your bottle(s) half way with cold water. If it’s just one bottle, a large food storage container works. If it’s several bottles, try a cooler.
  2. Add one cup salt (any kind will do) and stir.
  3. Immerse your bottle of wine
  4. Add ice until container is nearly full.
  5. Combine ice and water. Move bottle around, making sure it stays immersed. Repeat every few minutes.

In just TEN MINUTES, your wine will be perfectly chilled! 

You could also stick your bottle in the freezer. However, not only will it take longer, you might just forget it (like me). You DON’T want to forget it, trust me.

Once my wine is ready for the table, I really love using my terra cotta wine cooler to keep it at just the right temperature. I’ve had a few of these for years. You simply fill it with cold water for ten minutes, empty the water and it’s ready to go. No ice bags or buckets to fuss with.

Salut!

Tess