Posted by TIM On July 12th, 2014
It’s Bitters with a great attitude!
Ancient Eqyptians created bitters using grape based alcohol (wine) and, later in history, distilled spirits were used to draw and refine the herbal essence of plants in an effort to create a tincture to cure what might ail you.
This drawing of punctuated flavor into liquid form, most often extracted with the use of a alcohol (which acts as a solvent and preservative), creates a flavor-rich environment which then allows the marriage of what might not have been now possible.
Used for so long as a method of healing, it is now used, with a recent revival of popularity in the US, in the afternoon and into the evening as a way of curing of ones whoas.
When added to baked goods, such as cookies, you can enhance or add a flavor or curing properties such as Gentiana. But it is not just the adding of flavor that Bitters is good for, it is indeed best if thought as an enhancer or propagator (Quantum Field Theory) of an already existing ingredient like orange or grapefruit.
And when modern bitter taste advances to today, small batch places, like Cocktailpunk, create amazing flavors and twist it all up to make you scrunch your nose and think like Feynman, and dream of new ways to make a cocktail.
This is what they say about the sampled, tasted, tested and hands-down store favorite; Cocktailpunk Bitter Smoked Orange;
“Smoked Orange is the new black. Orange zest is cold-smoked with alderwood, and the result is smoky but not overly intense; a finishing touch of mint adds interest. Built for and absolutely killer in tequila and mezcal drinks, but there are also unexpected and wonderful effects in combination with darker spirits.” Raymond
Any of the Cocktailpunk bitters are a treat, we chose these three to add to our line.
Posted by TIM On May 23rd, 2014
The Villa Jerada brand Harissa represents the story of my returning back to my Moroccan roots. In every Moroccan Souk, store and home you will find this spicy condiment used as either a base for cooking, or as a garnish to add spice to your meal. Harrissa remains a staple in the Moroccan kitchen, much like Ketchup, Tabasco or Siracha is in many American homes. Though some key ingredients remain essential to every Harissa recipe, variances do exist, setting some apart from the other.
How is Villa Jerada’s recipe any different from what’s in the market today? Well first, though this sauce remains prevalent in Morocco, its influence on this recipe goes beyond the geography of my native country and past the vibrant street culture that comprised of my upbringing, to the center of where my love for food began.
My mother’s kitchen was abundant, with delicious smells and full of love. It is an enduring memory that guides me on my journey of exploring and sharing my culture through food.
To be honest, though, the process of doing the latter through Harissa was no easy feat. It has taken three years to get to this point.
The Harissa production journey began with the realization of Harrisa’s market demand, which naturally turned my distribution itch to quickly finding a reliable Moroccan source. That quest slowly switched to trying to produce the product locally with a Chef friend of mine, because reliability in Morocco’s Harissa market was hard to come by. I almost gave up on the idea when we failed to get the recipe right.
When reflected upon, feelings of defeat have a way of bringing out the best in us. An idea that seemed so far out of reach suddenly felt so close because I realized that in the whole process of trying to produce a recipe, I forgot the key ingredient of why Harissa was so important to me in the first place.
It was unique because of the recipe my mother shared with us at home. It dawned on me that my upbringing and the fact that I speak to my mother every day on the phone gave me the tools to produce a Harissa that pays tribute to that experience.
The most important leg of my Harissa journey began with daily skype teachings from my mother’s kitchen to my Seattle home. My mom shared while I practiced and gained confidence to make a few minor changes to the recipe as a means of personalizing it, as well as giving it the global-to-local touch.
We asked ourselves a few questions.
First, Morocco has amazing peppers but can we find better ones? Such as the ones from their native lands, like New Mexico, California, or Mexico? The true answer is yes! So we chose to work with peppers of great quality grown on here.
Second, olive oil is a key ingredient and we have one from Morocco (one of the best oils!) so that was perfect.
Third, spices are a key ingredient to any Harissa and we have been sourcing some of the very best organic spices from places like Egypt and Turkey for our chefs. This was also an easy decision.
Fourth, we needed the perfect mint and we found the best here in our own back yard in the Northwest.
Finally we wanted to include our own preserved lemons we make at home. But that was not practical so my Mom found a wonderful source in Morocco.
We believe that we have accomplished a perfect “Global” marriage blending superior ingredients from all corners of the globe. You can see it in the color!
Villa Jerada’s Harissa stands out amongst other brands because of its “home-made” flavor, as well as its great quality.
You can taste the quality difference in Villa Jerada’s Harissa. The clean flavors with distinct spices blend together to create a wonderful home cooked taste!
Posted by TIM On May 18th, 2014
It’s a confusing name for sure. Honeydew? It’s a fruit, right?
These words help one to understand this amazing honey :
Rare, conifer, Coccoidea Margaro-didae, sap, pine, fir, mostly female, manna from heaven, Sternorrhyncha,
and trisaccharide melezitose, a sugar, which turns out to be not easily found in nature. Interestingly, the production of this amazing honey especially fascinates entomologists; you know, bug people.
Without diving into too much detail, many phloem-feeding bugs, specifically many bugs in the aphid family including Marchalina hellenica, Gennadius, and Coccoidea Margarodidae, feed on the phloem sap of honeydew-producing plants – in this case, conifers. They ingest large quantities of this highly concentrated sugar substance, unusually high in disaccharide sucrose or oligosaccharides, and then expel as much as 90% of the ingested sugary substance in regular intervals as droplets. This sugar-rich liquid is called “honeydew”. The bees then gather these sugary droplets and create an amazingly deep, dark honey.
In history, this honeydew has been referenced to as a life saver, or “manna from heaven,” for the Israelites during their escape from Egypt, and as “the milk of paradise” in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, Kubla Khan. Not only do the bees take this honeydew and create a heavenly food, but so do …..
A Honeydew of a Vinegar
Honeydew Vinegar from Giuseppe is as exceptional as what it starts from; with a savory aroma that shines with the honey from which it’s made. This is one amazing vinegar. Light in body, but full of deep flavorswith a hint of residual sweetness that softens the finish, making it seem less acidic than its 6% indicates. The simple mixture of honey and water, if accidentally forgotten, ferments into a delicious alcoholic beverage. Eventually known as mead in much of Northern Europe, it was probably the easiest alcoholic drink to make. Leave it alone long enough and, like all alcoholic beverages open to the air, it will become a feast for wild acetobacter, the microscopic critters that convert alcohol to acid.Guiseppe Cagnoni mixes his organic Honeydew Honey with water, cooks it down to the desired consistency, and then allows it to alcoholically ferment into hydromiele – a process that takes from 1 to 1-1/2 months. The hydromeile is then diluted with more water and exposed it to the open air for over a month to allow the concentrated vinegar “mother” to develop. This culture is added to a larger volume of hydromiele in steel tanks to acidicly ferment for 4 to 5 months, until it turns to vinegar.
Each year the process is begun again, from scratch, and the result is a new set of flavors that represent the honey produced that season.
Honeydew Vinegar makes an interesting and delicious alternative to both Banyuls and Sherry vinegars. And last month, when Dana Cowan, illustrious editor of Food & Wine Magazine, came to visit, all it took was one taste and she tweeted and touted our Honeydew Vinegar!
Posted by TIM On May 14th, 2014
XXI Century Oil
A smokey Olive Oil
The other day, one of our local store regulars came in and announced he would really like us to carry a smoked oil. Like you, our customers know so much about food, and we learn so much from you all! And, when someone mentions a product they are looking for, we jump on it. Though not everything makes it to the shelves, we still enjoy the “taste”!
This oil, from Castillo d Canena (whose oils we love), has an oil that tastes so good! And it isn’t “smoky” like the others. No liquid smoke added … Castillo d Canena uses a process of smoking organic oak wood to flavor the oil.
The experience is indeed XXIst! Let us start with the bottle. Wrapped in a turquoise orMediterranean Blue “wrap”, it is eye “grabbing”. Graphically labeled with the look of a fairy tale story, you can’t help but read it everytime you see it.
Open it and smell the smokiness emit itself upon your nostrils. The taste is like, well it’s shocking, the smokiness comes first, then the oil dissolves and then, then the heat burns and makes you cough. Wow! IT is a lot of … bacon in a swallow!
It’s good, and but I haven’t grasped what to do with it yet. Perhaps a salad, soup, beans? I think beans! What do you think? Try it! You might love it or not, it’s worth having.
Posted by TIM On May 10th, 2014
Sweet tooth satisfaction in a brittle
If you haven’t figured it out by now I have a wicked sweet tooth.
And recently, I’ve been very much on a memory kick for childhood foods that I used to eat. Some are probably not worth eating and for sure, the memory is infinitely better than the reality; and, although I crave the thought of a fluffernutter sandwich, the reality is that my teeth can’t take it anymore!
One thing I do really love is peanut butter, and have been enjoying gluten free PB& J cracker sandwiches.
But where I am truly enjoying “life in the past lane” is with brittle. You might have noticed we now have three very different brittles. One version is silky smooth, melt-in-your-mouth, one is covered with chocolate, and one is cashew heaven,hot, that crunches and spices you up!
And now we have one more! It showed up on the doorstep and we couldn’t turn it away. It has peanuts, it has crunch, and most importantly, it doesn’t stick to the teeth like a fluffernutter! It’s good! And whilst I was tasting, I ate a whole box to just to be sure.
Though not old, and in fact it is brand new, it is very similar to the brittle that Thomasina loves and ate as she solved Fermats last theorem.
If I had to choose just one, I wouldn’t; I would take them all. They will go in my emergency kit.
Posted by TIM On May 7th, 2014
Dessert Olive Oil
Your first task is to find the deepest richest darkest chocolate ice cream you can. I prefer one that is less sweet and has more cocoa flavor, so that when you top it with the Bergamot olive oil and flaky sea salt, the flavors will blend without being overrun by sweetness.
You can imagine that this really is a savory dessert that has a touch of sweetness, comprised of ice cream, sea salt and, yes, Bergamot olive oil.
As you know, when you eat chocolate you crave salt. And when you can have one fat, it’s good, but when you have two fats, it’s way better!
So on this Sunday, think Sundae made of chocolate ice cream, Bergamot olive oil topped with a perfectly placed sprinkling of very flaky Sea salt.
It’s hard to describe the end flavor. With anticipation and trepidation, the first spoonful is always exciting.
You know what the chocolate ice cream will be like and you think you know how the sea salt will work with it, but the Bergamot olive oil, with its citrus tartiness, is the unknown.
The first spoonful will satisfy, the combination divine, and satisfactions is fulfilled with just one scoop! A perfect way to celebrate the first of the warm sun filled weather!
Posted by TIM On May 5th, 2014
The very best Smoked Sea Salt!
Starting with deep sea water from off the coast of Japan, the ocean water is slowly heated in a large pot over a fire of burning wood. Over three days, the water evaporates creating a crystalized salt rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium.
The “iburi” , or smoking process, is achieved by using pure cherry wood and allowing the salt to absorb the subtle nuances of the roasting wood. The result is a salt that is complex in flavor without the use of chemicals or liquid producing a fabulously wonderful, “sweet” smelling ingredient.
The result, when used to create classic BBQ style football based meats, will wow your guests with a flavor they will love. But don’t just think BBQ. Smokiness, when thought of an ingredient and not a “type”, can expand into many great ideas!
If you think of traditional Japanese dishes like sashimi or tempura, you realize that a crystal here or a crystal there could transform them from your plate to the ocean. Add a touch to split pea soup or baked beans to twist the finish of your dish.
But if you like smoky, from a hint to a lot, add it to your seafood to enhance the ocean feel. Or add it to your roasted chicken. Everything is enhanced with the Iburi-Jio roasted salt!
Posted by TIM On April 30th, 2014
A Bark that has some Bite
Organically grown Ceylon Cinnamon
Look at the bag and see a tree, see the bark and wonder how it can be, something like this is so de’lish’iss’ee! Break a little loose, pop-it-in-your-mouth and in a second or two the cinnamon tingles your tongue and the flavor imparts, leaving a eidetic memory.
Freshly cut from a small stand of trees in Hawaii, when it comes in like this, we jump for joy as it reminds us why we chose it in the first place. The man who planted the trees to harvest, chose Ceylon for it’s good health properties, it’s chemical properties and also for it’s “taste”.
This ceylon cinnamon is grown on a certified organic farm on the Big Island of Hawaii. His trees grow 4-5 years before harvesting (Most trees are harvested after 2-3 years). Not only does waiting increase their yield, but they feel that the cinnamon then has a stronger flavor and has a little more kick to it.
Posted by TIM On April 24th, 2014
Jesse Bakes a Cake
2 + 2 : two days to make, two days to eat
Do you remember that layered chocolate cookie with whipped cream frosting “cake” recipe that came with those round chocolate wafer cookies? The recipe was on the packaging. It really was a brilliant way to sell a whole package of cookies and, well, as a kid I really liked the way it tasted. What could be better than chocolate cookies slathered in milky whipped cream, and then all frozen together? Dinner!
Well, Jesse’s Chocolate Almond Mousse Cake Recipe is a bit more complex than the chocolate cookie roll cake I remember from childhood. But it is also much better. Much Better!
Jesse spent two half-days in our kitchen making this splendid cake. Not only was it fun to watch Jesse do his work, but we learned a lot as we went along. And the best part? We got to eat cake for two days afterward!
Jesse is a culinary graduate in baking — and he has a magic touch when it comes to cakes. This recipe is perfect for a dinner party or an intimate dinner for two. It can be made a few days in advance and kept frozen in the cake ring until the day of the celebration when it can be defrosted and then decorated. Bring this cake to a party or share it with a few friends or colleagues.
If you look here you can see step-by-step photos of how Jesse used his creative process to decorate an already beautiful cake.
No matter how you eat it, even if you eat it all yourself, you and everyone else will be impressed by how amazing it looks and tastes!
We also wanted to let everyone know, Jesse, who has packed 90% of your boxes from almost the beginning, is making a big change; he is leaving “home” and going “home” to San Francisco. (if you need a baker…) And it’s not true that we kicked him out to the street because he is a 49ers fan, it’s just that we are a Seahawks company….
Posted by TIM On April 19th, 2014
Applewood Smoked Heritage Pork
Right now the dining room table is covered with over 50 new products to taste.
But don’t get too excited!
Unfortunately, out of those 50 maybe three will make it to the shelves. We taste them all and the ones we like get moved to the top of the list. The rest we taste again and again three more times. Just to make sure that we didn’t miss something in the first bite. It’s funny how the mood of the day has an effect on how the tummy feels, and just about everything else will affect how something might finally taste.
There’s a lot of tasting going on. It’s definitely not helping me lose weight so I can fit into an old suit for the fundraiser event at the end of the month in LA.
But one has to do what one has to do, and eating lots of food comes with the territory.
So when my son asked me (it’s vacation week) to have pancakes for lunch, I was more than happy to oblige, especially considering he wanted to mix-it-up as well. Then the request came for bacon. I didn’t have any readily available so I rooted around in the freezer and found two frozen lumps. One was Ricks applewood smoke bacon and one was from my cousin in Vermont, from a long time ago. I am pretty confident that it’s from a Mangalitsa. Even with a little freezer burn, the bacon was fabulous.
With the little bit of batter left I made one pancake, made two fried eggs in the bacon fat, a couple of slices of barbecue pork. Now that’s good! So much for my diet
The take away from all this is why foods, like Rick’s bacon, make it to the list, because they withstand real living. Even when freezer burned past it’s prime, it’s still awesomely good! Taste testing works.
Posted by TIM On April 13th, 2014
Sometimes, we have to wait for great things to come together. In this case, crushed together. Olives and citrus are a wonderful combination; a fractal relationship if you will.
The smell first fills your nose with citrus sweetness. Fill a big spoon, and every whiff is a pleasing fill. On the first “tip” of the spoon the oil coats the lips and the tongue dips in. The aroma fills the void above the tongue and the lemony vapor snippets at the sensors around your teeth.
When the lemon oil migrates to the back of the mouth, your tongue presses to the roof, there is a tingle and sometimes a poke at the back of the throat, like any good olive oil will. A touch of new oil burn.
The Sorrento lemon is a wonderful match with the Giuseppe’s Umbrian Olive Oil, where the lemon is allowed to shine through.
You will love this oil because it can be gentle with your lettuce salad and join the heat with a wonderful fish. Blend with a long spaghetti, calamari and garlic and you will have a bite of heaven. This Sorrento Lemon Olive Oil is one of our all time favorites and ranks as essential for your pantry!
Posted by TIM On May 17th, 2012
All About Ceci Flour- by Lesa Sullivan
No good Italian cook is without his or her own favorite recipe for preparing beans. Though ancient Romans considered the pulse to be peasant food, its presence in Italian cookery is considerable. Beans are boiled for elegant soups and rustic stews, whipped up into sweet confections, candied, mashed with olive oil and salt for a spread, roasted for crispy, salty snacks, and milled for flour.
As Marcella Hazan mentions in her book, Marcella Cucina, the preference for a particular kind of bean is regional. Liguria, in particular, prefers the ceci to other popular Italian beans, like cannellini and borlotti beans.
The History of the Ceci Beans
The Italian love for the Cicer arietinum (“little ram’s head”) doesn’t stop at the border. Dishes for ceci beans are found in most regions that ring the Mediterranean, as well as other nearby continents. The ceci bean originated in the Middle East and migrated to India, Africa, Greece and Turkey and later to France, Spain and Italy. Eventually they crossed over into the new world and were cultivated in Mexico. The bean has made its way up the American continent and now these worldly beans are now cultivated here in the northern US.
Cooking with Ceci Bean Flour
Ligurian fried and baked goods made from the finely milled flour of the ceci bean, called farina di ceci. Italian bakeries draw lines of people who wait for the first warm bite of Ceci Bean Focaccia, a baked cake of farina di ceci, olive oil and water. It is eaten straight out of the pan, or sliced into pieces, topped with thinly sliced onion or cheese or herbs and broiled. Waverley Root in the book, The Food of Italy, describes a polenta-style preparation called fritura di crema.
It begins with a sofrito of parsley and onions, to which the flour is added along with hot milk or cream. It is stirred until it becomes very thick. Egg yolks are beaten in and the mixture is turned out onto a plate to cool. It is then dipped into the whisked whites of the egg, dredged in cornmeal and deep fried.
Or try the simpler Ceci Bean Polenta (Panissa) – popular in Liguria region of Italy. Panelle, or farina de ceci fritters, is a favorite snack food southern Italy. Again, the flour is mixed only with water and oil (or combined with sugar for a sweet treat), making a batter thick enough to scoop up in spoonfuls and fry. The dough can be refrigerated to allow it to “set” a bit. Once cooked, the panelle is eaten right away. In southern France, farina di ceci (in French, farine de pois chiches ) is a necessary ingredient in socca, a savory crepe. In India it is called gram flour or besan, and it is used to make pakora. Shoroe, a sauce made from chickpea flour and mixed with anise seed, ginger and turmeric, is a common Sephardic dish from Ethiopia.
Here in the US, creative gluten-free cooks have discovered the joys of this versatile flour. Combined with other flours such as fava bean, rice and nut flours, it can create a lofty and tender bread or a crunchy cracker. You can try making your own Ceci and Rice Flour Crackers. It is easier than you might think – the hard part is finding the flour. Even if you’re not living gluten free, farina di ceci is an excellent thickener, and can be mixed with water as an egg substitute, and you can even use it to make a silky version of hummus. The flavor of farina di ceci varies depending on the way it’s used: when toasted it’s very sweet, when baked in crackers or bread it has a pleasant buttery flavor. Cooked as a thin batter over very high heat it takes on an egg-like consistency and taste. Whether it’s used as a substitute for wheat flour or in a traditional chickpea flour recipe, the taste is very smooth and pleasant.
Ceci Bean Flour – A Nutritious Alternative to Wheat Flour
The flour, like the whole beans themselves, is very high in protein, iron, trace minerals and “good” carbs. The soluble fiber is very good for stabilizing blood sugar, and its insoluble fiber is excellent for preventing digestive disorders like diverticulitis. When eaten regularly, it can help lower your LDL cholesterol and lower your risk for heart attack. But eating this wonderfully versatile flour only for its health benefits is like eating ice cream only to get more calcium; the sheer pleasure of cooking with farina di ceci is its own reward. Click here to find organic Ceci Beans Click here to find organic Ceci Bean Flour (c) ChefShop.com®, 2012