Charisse – Picpoul, 2016

  • Basic info: Charisse, Picpoul de Pinet, France – Picpoul, 2016
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $17 (Weekly Tasting)
  • Look: Pale yellow with medium legs.
  • Smell: honeysuckle, citrus and lemon
  • Taste: Crisp and clean with some lemon. This one was hard to describe other than clean. Medium finish and tart.
  • Conclusions: Great drinking wine. Could not identify a lot of what the wine tasted like, but it was really enjoyable.
  • Other notes: I was curious about this wine and I really did enjoy it. It was light and crips and very clean tasting, but there was some complexity there.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Weekly Tasting, “Straw color with green apple, pear and an herb butter note, this is a wine with personality!” 12.5% alcohol by volume.

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French-Onion Soup Grilled Cheese

Every now and then I want real comfort food. Food that is hearty and goo-y and a bit salty. I was in that mood the other day and came decided to make grilled cheese. But me being me, decided to make it french-onion soup grilled cheese.

A while back I made a batch of French-onion soup (vegetarian, of course) and removed some of the soup before adding all of the liquid. I froze it thinking I could defrost it, add more water or broth and have soup another day. Instead, I heated it up, boiled off more of the liquid and made grilled cheese.

This really was pretty perfect for me. Slices of Gruyere cheese topped half a hoagie roll. Very condensed onion soup on top of that and a little more Gruyere cheese and a  touch of pecorino completed the sandwich. I broiled these for a few minutes to make sure everything was melty and goo-y.

Yes, those are two different sandwiches. The first one (on the foil) came apart when I pulled it up because the cheese melted onto the bread and foil so it was a total mess. I just took a picture of the sandwich I made the next day (same ingredients) before moving it to the plate.

Caesar-ish Salad

I love Caesar salad. Love it, but can’t eat it about 99% of the time. Most Caesar salads have anchovy in the dressing, and some have it in the salad itself. Even when I’ve asked if there is anchovy or anchovy paste in the dressing at a restaurant, and they say no, it generally does and I figure that out about five to twenty minutes after the first bite. Given this, I haven’t ordered a Caesar salad, or even had a Caesar salad in years.

But … oh thank you internet … I found a vegan caesar salad dressing  on food.com (my computer is giving me problems, so I can’t link to the actual page – just search vegan caesar salad in the website and it will come up) that was pretty perfect. I’m not vegan, so I used regular parmesan cheese (or pecorino if I have that on hand), cashews instead of almonds and mixed pepper, but otherwise, kept it pretty true to the original. I think mine might also have been a little thicker than the recipe as I didn’t measure the cashews and just tossed in a handful of nuts, but Bob said it was the best Caesar salad he has had, with the possible exception of one restaurant. He also asked me to make a batch of it, and he happily ate mashed chickpea sandwiches with the dressing on them, so I’m calling this one a definite win. (Next time I make mashed chickpea sandwiches, I will definitely post it.) Mom even tried the recipe and both she and dad liked it, so again, a win.

Even my salad isn’t traditional Caesar. Maybe I should call this an Augustus Salad. But anyway, this is my new addiction and will feature heavily in my school lunches next year.

  • Caesar-ish Salad:
  • 1 head red lead lettuce
  • <1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated (for salad)
  • olive oil for croutons
  • old bread for croutons
  • salt
  • 1 handful cashew nuts
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 gloves garlic
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (for dressing) 
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • pinch of pepper

Into a food processor or blender put nuts, water, lemon juice, garlic, cheese, soy sauce, olive oil, mustard, and pepper. Blend until smooth.

Take day or multi-day old bread and toss with about a tablespoon olive oil and salt. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 4-7 minutes and the bread starts to turn golden. Set aside to cool or use immediately.

Tear lettuce into bite sized pieces and split between two plates. Add grated parmesan cheese and croutons. Pour dressing over salad – about 3 tablespoons per person (although both Bob and I may have added a bit more).

 

The other side

At the beginning of this month I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the end of the month without going nuts. I worked every weekend this month and long days during the week. I managed to start my internship during one of the busiest times of the school year and we had Leia to deal with in the middle of everything. Thankfully Bob has been absolutely fantastic and understanding about how draining this month has been and I did manage to make it out the other side with my sanity relatively intact.

I will admit, the wine helped. A glass (or two) with dinner or on the back patio after a trying day is great for regrouping and getting thoughts together. The furry boys have also helped. Tigger is still a little unsettled and he is hanging around me more than he did before, but he is also getting along with Arthas really well. They seem to have an understanding, although exactly what that is I’m not sure.

Arthas … well, he is really a good boy. He tries to be good and to listen, and he mostly does. He is still a puppy (he’s two) so he has some maturing to do, but in general, he’s a happy boy. He has also decided that he gets a chair outside when we hang out on the patio. Like most dogs, he thinks he is part human.

What a decade brings

This month is was ten years that I have had the kittens. Ten years since I lost Patches and created a whole new family with three little furry creatures to help the big furry creature get back to her normal self. Ten years since I went from a normal-ish person to the crazy cat lady and back to relatively normal. So what did the last decade bring? Well …

  • I lost Patches at 21 years old. That’s a long time to have a cat.
  • I adopted the three kittens and brought them home.
  • Bob and I started dating.
  • I sold my house in Jersey.
  • Bob and I bought a house.
  • Jessie, the kittens and I moved to Florida.
  • I found a temporary job.
  • I found a permanent job.
  • Bob and I got engaged and married (4 months – I can count that as one).
  • I quit my job and found another job.
  • I started grad school.
  • We lost Jessie (I still miss that little girl).
  • We adopted Arthas (he is awesome and I love him, but it was not an easy few months).
  • We lost Gracie (just picture tears. Still).
  • Leia and Arthas started getting along (thank heavens).

In these same ten years we have also visited five countries (or six if you count Scotland and England as separate countries and not as the “UK”), eight U.S. states, and multiple U.S. cities (I tried to count and just ended up forgetting some so … multiple). We have gone from eating almost everything to trying almost no grains to going mostly vegetarian. Friends and family have had children and we have seen them start school and develop personalities completely independent of their parents (probably the coolest part of interacting with other people’s children, but has to be scary as anything for the parents).

So yeah. Ten years ago this month four precious kitties found a home. (Erin also adopted a cat when I got the kittens, but she was sensible and stopped at one. And I have to admit, there was something about Rosie that everyone just had to love.) Two of them are gone, and the hole they left will be felt for a long time. But two remain, and they are still as lovable as ever. I don’t regret a second of it, but I am fairly certain I’m not adopting three cats at one time again.

Quinoa Burger

Lately I have felt like I’m in a food rut. I know I have experimented with a few things, but they felt the same as many other things I’ve made. Between work and school and the pets, I just haven’t felt it. But after a week off work, a weekend away and getting a bit ahead on school, I wanted to make something different. Something that I don’t ordinarily make, but I wasn’t sure what.

Earlier in the week I made quinoa tacos. I love quinoa tacos and think Dana at Minimalist Baker is pretty much a genius with vegetarian recipes. I have raved about the quinoa taco meat and stand by my belief that the quinoa taco is better than a regular meat taco. I made tacos earlier in the week, and I even experimented with the leftover taco meat and tried to make quinoa mole enchiladas. These were … edible. Not good. Just edible. I didn’t even save the leftovers. The sauce was good, the filling was good, it just seriously did not come together well. Even after the mole enchiladas I still had quinoa taco filling and I decided to try my hand at a veggie burger with it.

I looked at recipes before starting this, but none seemed like something I wanted. There was always an element that looked off to me, so I decided to wing it and invoked the experiment rule. (The experiment rule in our house is simple – the food is an experiment and if it isn’t good, we order pizza. No forcing ourselves to eat something that is terrible just because.) Bob was game.

Here is the thing about any veggie burger – they are not hamburgers and the goal is not to replicate the taste of a hamburger. You will never convince someone that it is a hamburger or that any grain/vegetable burger tastes “just like” a hamburger. They are different species. Tigger is never going to be mistaken for a lion or a tiger no matter how I cut his fur or dress him up like one. (Not that I would do that to the boy, but you get the idea.) A veggie burger isn’t about making something to mimic a hamburger, it’s about making something to replace the hamburger. I want flavor and texture, but not the same flavor and texture of a regular hamburger.

So … I started with a cup of the quinoa taco meat. I had increased the spice level a little – adding more garlic and chili powder when I made the enchiladas, but in general, it was just the quinoa taco meat. I took one can of while beans and mashed them with a fork in a bowl. I added the quinoa and some shallot and carrot, chopped. I decided a little binding would be helpful and used some panko bread crumbs and one egg. I mixed it all together, took 1/2 cup of the mixture and made patties. Since it was time to feed the pets, I stuck them in the freezer just to give me a little time and so Arthas would not try to steal them. (I will fully admit to being pretty excited that these looked like veggie burgers; there may have been a little squealing involved.)

To cook, I pressed each patty into a little bit of panko and then pan fried them in some light olive oil. I think the key to these was not touching them – no checking, no moving around the pan, just let them cook and flip only once. I got a nice crisp crunch on the outside and then inside was lighter than most veggie burgers I’ve tried. The flavors came through and I have to say – total success. I loved these and Bob did too. He said it was my best effort on a “burger” and we both devoured them. (For serving, I used an onion roll from the grocery store and topped the burger, after tasting it plain first, with a little BBQ sauce and served the whole thing with a cucumber tomato salad and potato chips. Never said this was a healthy meal, but it was good).

Recipe: (makes 5 burgers),

  • 1, 15oz can white beans
  • 1 cup quinoa taco meat
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (plus more for coating if desired)
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 shallot, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • oil for cooking
  • *salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder to taste

Drain and rinse the white beans and place in large bowl. With a fork, mash. You want them kind of smooth, but still chunky in places for texture. Add the quinoa taco meat and mix. Add in the shallot and carrot (and extra seasoning if using), mix again. Add bread crumbs and 1 egg and mix everything together.

Take 1/2 cup mixture and form into a patty. Press together. Press into panko bread crumbs, if you are doing this for the extra crunch. Heat oil in a pan and when hot, place patties in the pan. Don’t touch them! Let them cook for a few minutes (about 4-5) on each side, flipping only once.

*I added extra seasoning to the taco filling when I was making enchiladas, so I don’t know the exact ratios I used. I think I added another teaspoon of garlic power and chili powder to the mix, but I also made a double batch. I don’t think more spice will hurt these, and you could also consider some smoked paprika for the smoked/grilled taste, but I would be very careful with that.

** If you don’t have quinoa taco meat, you could probably do this with cooked quinoa, just make sure to adjust seasoning to give the burger enough flavor.

 

Biscuit Pie

Sometimes I want to make something only to realize that I either can’t remember the recipe or I am missing something to make it. Sometimes that combination leads to to experiment and that experiment really works.

img_2138A few years back I became obsessed with savory pies, especially the chicken, ham and leek pie we had in England. I made a few versions of it and they always came out well, but not exactly the same. Since then I’ve reduced my meat intake considerably, to the point where I eat almost none. Every now and then, especially when the weather gets cooler, I kind of want the comfort food aspect that a lot of meat dishes can give. With that in mind, I decided to do a chicken, ham and leek pie again, but this time, I decided I wanted biscuits on it. Yes, biscuits.

img_2139I started this with a vegetarian base so I could split the filling and have a vegetarian version for later in the week. Leek, onion, shallot, garlic and carrot. Then I made the sauce because, as we all know, the sauce is the best part of any savory pie. A little wine, some heavy cream, vegetable stock and it became perfection. After splitting the filling, I dded the meat and topped with buttermilk biscuit dough (yes, homemade and darn delicious I must say).

img_2140The results were pretty fantastic. Light and savory biscuits with the rich sauce and you have comfort food heaven. I’m actually super excited to cook up the vegetarian version this week as I think it will be just as good without the meat. Maybe better.

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Recipe:

  • 1 pat butter
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts
  • 1/4 sweet onion
  • 1 small shallot
  • 2 smallish cloves garlic
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I used a moscato this go)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 chicken breast plus one chicken thigh
  • 4 oz. ham
  • buttermilk biscuits (I used this recipe from Girl versus dough – incredible and easy!)

To cook the chicken, heat pan over medium high heat. Add chicken breast and thigh and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cover and cook until cooked through, about fifteen minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered for a few minutes then transfer to plate to cool. Shred chicken with two forks.

Dice ham.

Heat oven to 425 degrees

Chop leeks, onion, shallot and carrots into a small to medium dice. Mince garlic. Heat pan with 1 pat of butter (about a half a tablespoon) over medium heat and add vegetables and garlic. Sauté until softened and aromatic. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add thyme and cook for about one minute, stirring frequently. Add wine and stir. Let the wine evaporate a little then add 1 cup of cream. Add flour (or arrowroot or cornstarch for no gluten, but with the biscuits … just use flour) to vegetable stock, stir and add to vegetables. Increase heat to medium high. Allow to cook for a few minutes until bubbling, then reduce heat to medium and let thicken and slightly reduced. (This is where I split the filling, keeping half totally vegetarian and adding the meat to the other half). Add chicken and ham and stir to combine.

Pour filling into an 8×11 pan and top with biscuit dough. Place, uncovered, into the oven for 20-25 minutes until biscuits are cooked through (mine took 23 minutes). Remove from oven and let rest for about five minutes, then serve. I served mine with a kale salad and it was comfort food bliss.