Category Archives: vegetarian

Summer Snacks ~ Chive Blossom Dip

In the “good-ole summertime” I love creating recipes that are simple to prepare and will hold up in the heat when we entertain outside.  Here’s one of my new favorites Chive Blossom Dip:

Pink rose blooming next to chive blossoms in my herb garden.

Chive blossoms in bloom in my herb garden.

Chive Blossom Dip

Easy prepare in two minutes!  In a small bowl, combine 5.2 ounce package Boursin Shallot and Chive Cheese with 3 to 4 tablespoons milk. Mix each tablespoon of milk into the cheese and add more milk as needed to make the dip smooth and dip consistency. Put dip in a pretty serving bowl.  Garnish with fresh chopped chives and a chive blossom in the middle of the bowl. Serve with Terra Exotic Potato Chips or your favorite kettle cooked potato chips (kettle cooked potato chips are usually heartier and stand up to the humidity in  the summer better than other types of potato chips).

Boursin Cheese

Creamy, spreadable cheese flavored with garlic and herbs.  Other flavors are now available:  shallot and chive, pepper and cranberry and spice.  (You can make dip out of these flavors too – just change the garnish to crumbled crisp bacon for the pepper boursin and chopped toasted pecans or walnuts for the cranberry and spice boursin.)

To learn more about Boursin Cheese, please visit:  http://www.cheese.com/boursin

Easy recipes that do not require cooking are especially important to me right now…our kitchen/dining room remodel is about half-way completed. Granite countertops are being installed today. Can’t wait to get back in the kitchen and start cooking again!

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Lovin’ Local Spring Greens and Rosé Champagne!

Christina Nifong, Culinary Instructor, Food Writer and Blogger Extraordinaire!

Local For Lunch: Welcoming Spring!

Christina’s culinary classes include lunch she creates out of local ingredients, many of them right out of her own garden!

Please visit Christina’s website and subscribe to her newsletter where she shares lots of her cooking and gardening expertise and fabulous recipes:  http://christinanifong.com

Christina’s Local For Lunch classes at the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op are always colorful!  Pictured above Radicchio (a type leaf chicory, sometimes known as Italian chicory.  It is grown as a leaf vegetable which usually has white-veined red leaves. It has a slightly bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when it is grilled or roasted) that is sold at the Co-op.  Rainbow carrots mixed with radishes (from Christina’s garden) are in the middle photo and fresh mint from Christina’s garden is pictured at the right.

Christina introduced us to kale flowers for salad.  The kale in her garden had bolted and bloomed so she cut the flowers and chopped them up to add to the lovely green salad she made for us.

Another delicious salad ingredient that Christina introduced us to is Black Rice sometimes known as “Forbidden Rice”.  I love Christina’s recipe. She cooked the rice in vegetable broth and added about 1 tablespoon (to one cup uncooked rice) coconut oil to the rice while it was cooking. These flavors made the rice taste rich and yummy. She served the rice cold to serve alongside our salad greens.

Black rice is an ancient grain that was once reserved for only Chinese royalty.  It contains many healthy elements including disease-fighting antioxidants.

After attending Christina’s classes I have gained more respect and love for fresh seasonal produce, but I must admit, I still LOVE the dressing!  My favorite part of this class was Christina’s Poppy Seed Dressing.

Poppy Seed Dressing

by christinanifong

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sweet onion (about a quarter of a large onion)
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey (local if you can get it)
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup canola or avocado oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, using the knife blade, chop onion, with salt, until ingredients are ground into a liquidy paste.
  2. Add vinegar, honey and mustard. Process until all is well-mixed.
  3. Mix two oils together in a pitcher or measuring cup with a spout. Slowly (so slowly!) pour oil into the food processor while processing. The slower you go, the better incorporated the oil will be with the other ingredients.
  4. Add poppy seeds and mix gently. Pour salad dressing into an air-tight container (such as a Mason jar) and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. If dressing separates, shake to recombine.

Another fun find at the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op:  Lacinato Kale or “black cabbage” in Italian is well-known in Italian cuisine. Slightly sweeter and more delicate than curly kale. This is the green that we see so often in Italian soups and pastas.

It’s always nice to celebrate Spring with a little rosé bubbly.  We popped open a bottle of Paul Déthune Brut Rosé this weekend. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay grapes.  Absolutely delightful with notes of wild strawberry, peach and Meyer lemon. Very fine mousse. $50 range.

We also had the opportunity to taste Lagard Altas Cumbres Extra Brut 2013 from Mendoza, Argentina this weekend.  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sémillon blend prepared under the Charmat (tank) method. Young, fresh and fruity with light citrus and apricot flavors. A fun little sparkling wine for casual sipping in the $10 range.

We toasted our kitchen remodel (kitchen and dining room demolition completed, next step is plumbing and electrical) with Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot Les Meuniers de Clemence NV.  Look what we found in the wall ~ Garst Brothers Dairy paper milk container.  This container has probably been in the wall since our house was built in 1952.

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Discover The Secret In The Sauce ~ Herb and Cheese Parisienne Gnocchi

Herb and Cheese Parisienne Gnocchi

Zoe Campbell, Pastry Chef, demonstrates preparation of Herb and Cheese Parisienne Gnocchi during the  Center Stage Catering Country French Culinary Workshop.

from: http://www.ouichefnetwork.com

from Thomas Keller’s cookbook –  “Bouchon”

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chervil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 1 cup loosely packed shredded Emmentaler cheese
  • 5 to 6 large eggs

Method:

  1. Set up a heavy-duty mixer with the paddle attachment. Have all the ingredients ready before you begin cooking.
  2. Combine the water, butter, and the 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the flour all at once, and stir rapidly with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean, with no dough sticking to it. The dough should be glossy and smooth but still moist.
  3. Enough moisture must evaporate from the dough to allow it to absorb more fat when the eggs are added: Continue to stir for about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent the dough from coloring. A thin coating will form on the bottom and sides of the pan. When enough moisture has evaporated, steam will rise from the dough and the aroma of cooked flour will be noticeable. Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl. Add the mustard, herbs, and the 1 tablespoon salt. Mix for a few seconds to incorporate the ingredients and release some of the heat, then add the cheese. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one. Increase the speed to medium and add another 2 eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Turn off the machine. Lift some of the dough on a rubber spatula, then turn the spatula to let it run off: It should move down the spatula very slowly; if it doesn’t move at all or is very dry and just falls off in a clump, beat in the additional egg.
  4. Place the dough in a large pastry bag fitted with a 5/8-inch plain tip and let it rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature. (If you have only a small pastry bag, fill it with half the dough two times.) Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a simmer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Because this recipe makes such a large quantity of gnocchi, your arm may get tired: An easy way to pipe the gnocchi is to place a large inverted pot, canister, or other container that is slightly higher than the pot on the right side of the pot (left side if you are left-handed) and set the filled pastry bag on it so that the tip extends over the side and the container serves as a resting place for the bag. Twist the end of the pastry bag to push the dough into the tip. (From time to time, as the bag empties, you will need to twist the end again.) As you squeeze the back of the bag with your right hand, hold a small knife in your left hand and cut off 1-inch lengths of dough, allowing the gnocchi to drop into the pot. Pipe about 24 gnocchi per batch. First, the gnocchi will sink in the pot. Keep the water temperature hot, but do not boil. Once the gnocchi float to the top, poach them for another 1 to 2 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon or skimmer and drain on the paper towel–lined baking sheet. Taste one to test the timing; it may still seem slightly undercooked in the center, but it will be cooked again. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  6. When all the gnocchi have drained, place them in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to a day. Or, for longer storage, place the baking sheet in the freezer. Once the gnocchi have frozen solid, remove them from the baking sheet and place in a freezer bag in the freezer. Before using frozen gnocchi, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and defrost in the refrigerator for several hours.

Beurre Blanc
The “secret” to this sauce is 2 pounds of butter!

source:  Larousse Gastronomic

Yield:  1 quart

1 fl. oz. white wine vinegar

4 fl. oz. white wine

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. white pepper

1 oz. shallot, minced

2 lb. whole butter, chilled

  1. Combine the white wine, white wine vinegar, salt, white pepper and shallot in a small saucepan.  Reduce the mixture until approximately 2 tablespoons of liquid remain. If more than 2 tablespoons of liquid are allowed to remain, the resulting sauce will be too thin.
  2. Cut the butter into pieces approximately 1 ounce in weight. Over low heat, whisk the butter a few pieces at a time, using the chilled butter to keep the sauce between 100 degrees Fahrenheit  and 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, remove the saucepan from the heat. Strain through a chinois (or fine-meshed sieve) and hold the sauce at a temperature between 100 degrees Fahrenheit and 130 degrees Fahrenheit for service.

 

To serve:  toss the Herb and Cheese Parisienne Gnocchi with the warm Beurre Blanc.

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Celebrating The Flavors Of France ~ Country French Cooking

Center Stage Catering Country French Culinary Workshop

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending this deliciously informative workshop where, in the French tradition, simple fresh ingredients were transformed into mouth-watering delicacies.

Pictured above (left) Herb and Cheese Gnocchi tossed with Beurre Blanc and (right) Ratatouille with Roasted Asparagus

Pictured above (left) chicken marinating that will be the main ingredient in  Coq Au Vin and (right) Fresh Green Salad with sliced Potatoes and Bacon Lardons tossed in a Champagne Vinaigrette.

The workshop took place at Center Stage Catering in Rocky Mount, Virginia.

Center Stage Catering Commissary Entrance : Only Elves, Oompahs, Rock Stars, Grandmas, Hipsters, Sexy Cooks, Vikings, Cool Organic Farmers, Sales Reps, (& occasionally Food Brokers), Artists, Philosophers, Magicians, Poets, and World Leaders allowed…everybody else must find another door to enter!

Center Stage Catering

Rocky Mount, Virginia

Pictured above (left to right):  John Schopp, President/Executive Chef, David Carachure, Sous Chef, Jonathan Hart, Chef de Cuisine

John Schopp, CEC, CEPC, CCA, CE is a full-time culinary instructor at Virginia Western Community College. He is president of Center Stage Catering, Inc., a full-service event/catering company.  Schopp has also been the Chef for Victor Wooten’s Center for Music and Nature, outside of Nashville, for the past 15 years.  He writes food columns for several local and regional publications and is an avid primitive cooking enthusiast. In addition to recently appearing on the Food Network’s “Halloween Baking Championship”, Schopp is heavily active in the American Culinary Federation at both regional and national levels.

David Carachure is a graduate of the Al Pollard Culinary Program at Virginia Western Community College, Roanoke, Virginia.

Jonathan Hart is a graduate of the Art Institute of Tampa.

Pictured above:  Zoe Campbell, Pastry Chef

Zoe Campbell is a graduate of the Al Pollard Culinary Program at Virginia Western Community College, Roanoke, Virginia.

Pictured Above: Ingredients for Becky’s Sparkling Coq Au Vin

I love this original Country French Culinary Workshop Coq Au Vin recipe, but…no surprise here…I wanted to make mine with sparkling wine. My additions/suggestions are listed next to the original ingredients.

Coq Au Vin

Yield:  8 servings, 2 pieces each

2 whole chickens (2 lb. 8 ounces – 3 lb. each)

Flour, as needed for dredging

salt and pepper, to taste

Clarified butter

Brandy (I appreciate the flavor brandy brings to this dish, but I omitted this ingredient because I don’t like to ignite the burgundy in my small home kitchen…afraid I will ignite the entire kitchen!)

Bouquet garni:

1 4 inch carrot stick

1 4 inch leek, split

fresh thyme

bay leaf (I omitted this ingredient because I neglected to get a bay leaf at the market!)

6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (I omitted the garlic because the sweetness of the sparkling wine and the garlic did not seem to compliment each other…just my personal preference)

24 fluid ounces red wine (I substituted sparkling white wine Lagarde Dolce Espumante)

16 ounces chicken stock

Bacon lardons (I substituted 6 ounces of country ham cut into Julienne strips) – lardons are small strips of bacon that are fried later in the recipe

18 pearl onions, peeled

1 leek, white part only, split in half and cut into small pieces

10 medium mushrooms, quartered

(my addition) 1 Russet potato, peeled and chopped into small pieces, sautéed in butter until almost tender

Beurre manié, as needed (Beurre manié (French “kneaded butter”) is a dough, consisting of equal parts of soft butter and flour, used to thicken soups and sauces) I found that the flour on the dredged chicken thickened the Coq au Vin enough that I did not need to add the Beurre manié.

  1.  Cut each chicken into eight pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings with tips cut off and 2 breasts – breasts can be cut in half) and dredge in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.

  1. Heat the clarified butter in a 12-inch braiser, brown the chicken in two or three batches.
  2. Add the brandy and ignite (omit this step if not using brandy).  When the flame dies, add the bouquet garni, garlic, wine and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Cover the pan and simmer until the chicken is tender, approximately 40 minutes.
  4. In a separate pan, sauté the bacon (if using country ham, add a little canola oil to the bottom of the pan before sautéing the ham). Add the onions, leek and potato and sauté until they begin to brown.  Cook the bacon (or ham), onions  and potato covered, over low heat, until the onions are tender.  Add the mushrooms and cook them until they are tender.
  5. Remove the chicken from the pan and adjust the sauce’s consistency with the Beurre manié and a little extra chicken stock if needed. Strain the sauce through a china cap and adjust the seasonings.  Spoon the bacon, onions, potato and mushrooms onto a serving plate, place the chicken over them and ladle the sauce over the finished dish.

I will share more of the French Country Recipes from the workshop in future posts…Apple Tarte Tatin, Herb and Cheese Gnocchi with Beurre Blanc, and Ratatouille…oh la la!

Our Country French Culinary Workshop Class!

Until Next Thyme!

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PAIRED – Champagne And Sparkling Wines ~ Bubbly Book Review

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Pairing wine and food can be quite a conundrum. Champagne and sparkling wines are among the most mysterious when it comes to pairing so it was refreshing to discover this lovely food and wine matching recipe book: PAIRED – Champagne & Sparkling Wines

Just in time for the holidays ~ this lovely book will make a fabulous gift ~  as soon as it arrived on my doorstep I couldn’t wait to commence to tasting and cooking!  Bubbly FUN!

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This cookbook starts out with a splash! …a photo of one of the authors sabering champagne on the Australian coast. We know from the first page that this is going to be a FUN book! (Photo credits: All photos (unless otherwise noted) complements of  Fran Flynn & David Stevens-Castro at paired-media.com)

PAIRED received a ‘Best in the World Award’ in the Food & Wine Matching category at the prestigious Gourmand World Cook Book Awards in May, 2016.  http://www.cookbookfair.com

The forward by Tyson Stelzer, International Wine and Spirit Communicator of the Year 2015 and International Champagne Writer of the Year 2011 supports my motto:  DON’T WAIT TO CELEBRATE! Champagne has a place at every meal and occasion and pairs with so many foods.

Bubbling over with refreshing information about pairing champagne and sparkling wines with food, this cookbook was written by David Stevens-Castro and Fran Flynn. David and Fran’s mission is to help us make magic combinations with wine and food pairings.

Following is the authors bio compliments of  paired-media.com:

David Stevens-Castro grew up in Chile playing in the vineyards on his grandfathers farm and inspired by his Aunt and Uncles wine analysis laboratory. Fast forward a few decades, with a degree in Agricultural Science under his belt (specialising in fruit and wine production) and a passion for food and wine in his belly, David set out exploring Australia and enriched his career as a sommelier in several five star locations. These days he is a highly respected wine expert, whos admirable palate is regularly employed for food and wine selection and menu design. Meanwhile Fran Flynn honed her skills in all things creative in the Emerald Isle of Ireland – before setting off on adventures that meadered through five continents. After working her way up through many creative agencies, this award winning photographer and designer settled in Australia and has enjoyed ten years running her own successful business. Their worlds collided on the salty, sunny, romantic, stage of Byron Bay, Australia and eight years later (now living on the Gold Coast, Australia) they have combined their skills to present what they know and love with a narrative that is unique, compelling and accessible to everyone.

I received a complimentary copy of Paired- – Champagne & Sparkling Wines in exchange for my review of the food and wine recipe matching book on my blog.

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Photo compliments of Bubblybee.net

I will enjoy giving PAIRED as a gift this holiday season…

The recipes are easy to prepare and bubbly pairings are included on each recipe page.

It is a handy reference book…for the novice or the experienced bubbly lover there is an explanation of every type of bubbly – Champagne, Cava, Prosecco  New World Sparkling, Crémant, Sparkling Rosé, Moscato, and Sparkling Reds.

The photos are fabulous ~ colorful and inviting…the food photos encourage us to get cookin’! And the photos of bubbly make us want to start celebrating!

Here are my favorite recipes and pairings from this lovely book:

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Photo compliments of Bubblybee.net

Gnocchi With Asparagus And Butter Sauce

I love to make gnocchi and this recipe is perfect for making those little pasta puffs of perfection.  Love how they brown the gnocchi in butter before adding the sauce. My hubby raved about this dish! Awesome pairing with champagne.

Roast Duck With Cherry Sauce

duck

Photo compliments of Bubblybee.net

The balsamic vinegar in the cherry sauce recipe perks it up while the rosemary gives an additional layer of earthiness to the duck. The combination is heavenly! Since roasting a whole duck is not always in the cards,  I served the cherry sauce on seared duck breasts and it was equally delicious as the whole duck recipe. The authors recommended pairing this recipe with Sparkling Shiraz, ideally aged.

stuffedmushroom

I will be preparing Stuffed Mushrooms With Ricotta And Sun-Dried Tomatoes during the holidays. My husband loved them and I know my holiday guests will love them too. For “pop-in guests” during the holidays I will serve a mini version of the stuff mushrooms, following the exact same recipe and replacing the large Portobello mushrooms with baby bella mushrooms. So easy to prepare with just a few ingredients. They are rich, flavorful and festive! Vegetarian too! 

Fun to pair these stuffed mushrooms with a dry non-vintage prosecco ideally from Veneto, Italy.

mushrooms

 Photo compliments of Bubblybee.net

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Photo compliments of Bubblybee.net

Obviously I am NUTS about this cookbook!  One pairing that stood out with me after reading this book is Cava with almonds and walnuts. I enjoyed this pairing with one of my favorite Cavas ~ Segura Vuidas Reserva Heredad.  I love the bottle with the silvery embellishments as much as the elegant bubbly inside.

Cheers to Fran Flynn and David Stevens-Castro!  I am eagerly anticipating future volumes ~ Whites and Reds ~ of PAIRED.

Toast

Here’s a link to purchase PAIRED Champagne and Sparkling Wines: https://www.amazon.com/PAIRED-Champagne-Sparkling-matching-everyone/dp/0994348509/

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It’s Time To Celebrate Cider!

“Will Garden For Cake” is a wonderful place to visit…this blog will take you on a fun frolic from garden to kitchen with fabulous stories and tons of delectable recipes. My fellow Virginian and  blogger friend Alisa Huntsman is the author of this spectacular blog:

https://willgardenforcake.com

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Alisa is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who has been baking professionally for over 30 years She is the author of Sky High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes and Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe. Photos of her lovely cookbooks are pictured above.  It would be worth taking up sky diving just to dive into her Sky High cakes! I urge you to delve into her Loveless Cafe cookbook to find treasures including blue-ribbon pies, country cakes, crisps, cobblers, short cakes and tea cakes…oh my!  Besides baking, Alisa is a Master Gardener, Beekeeper and a Chicken Herder and can be found at willgardenforcake.com and @janeofmanytrades(Instagram).

Please visit and follow her blog…you’ll be glad you did!

Her cookbooks are available on Amazon.com and here’s their review of Desserts From The Famous Loveless Cafe:

Delicious Southern sweets and treats from a Nashville favorite. Renowned for its Southern charm and superb comfort food, the Loveless Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee, serves some of the best desserts below the Mason-Dixon line. Aficionados of country cooking travel from near and far to sample the restaurant s extraordinary sweets. In “Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe,” pastry chef Alisa Huntsman takes the most beloved Southern ingredients and flavors from sorghum to buttermilk, persimmons to pecans and masterfully combines them to create desserts with a modern appeal. Big Momma s Blackberry Jam Cake, Honey Chess Pie, Bourbon Peach Shortcake, Blueberry Skillet Cobbler, Coconut Chews, and Lady Lemon Bars are just a handful of the more than 100 irresistible recipes included in this ultimate guide to Southern desserts. Easy to make and even easier to eat, all of the favorite Loveless dessert recipes are included. With a foreword by bestselling author Lee Smith, essays extolling the virtues of the Southern palate, and full-color photos showing the delicious confections, this book will help anyone who can t travel to Nashville or wait two hours for a table at this popular restaurant enjoy a taste of the Loveless at home.”

This long-awaited cookbook offers recipes for all of the famous cakes, pies, puddings, and crisps that the Loveless Cafe serves daily to throngs of hungry diners. The recipes highlight traditional Southern flavors such as peaches, pecans, bourbon, buttermilk, and sorghum. Including fruit, nut, and custard pies, layer and pound cakes, cheesecakes, pudding, bars, and cookies, the recipes are easy to follow, but the updated flavor combinations make them suitable for even more experienced bakers. Derived from Southern traditions, the recipes come with interesting stories, which are conveyed in chapter introductions and recipe head notes. Essays extolling the virtues of Southern ingredients and food customs are scattered throughout the book. The down-to-earth charm of the Loveless Cafe is reflected in the full-color photos and the design of the book.

Now Let’s Celebrate Cider With Alisa Huntsman!

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Celestial Merret is a locally produced sparkling apple cider

Fermented cider has a long history in Virginia that can be traced back to the colonial era and Thomas Jefferson is said to have favored a cider made from crabapples.  A quick search on cideries in Virginia will show that there are nearly a dozen around the state.  We happened upon Castle Hill Cider in Keswick, just outside of Charlottesville, and were hooked at the first sip.

Cider is made from apple juice and it is fermented, either in tanks or the bottles and depending on which variety of apple used, it can vary greatly in sweetness and flavor.  At Castle Hill, they use a variety of methods to ferment the cider and if you visit the tasting room, not only can you taste them, you will learn all about the methods and the apples used to make the cider.

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Freshly picked apples sit in the event space waiting to be pressed.

Ranging from dry to sweet, each one is unique.  Personally, I preferred the dry varieties, specifically Terrestrial, but Levity, another dry variety, is a bit more unique.  While both are made with Albermarle apples, Levity is 100% Albermarle while Terrestrial is a blend that also uses Winesap, Levity is the only commercially produced cider in the world that is fermented in a clay amphorae known as a kvevri.

Levity is actually a sparkling cider and is one of two sparkling varieties available, the other being Celestial Merret.  These two ciders are considered dry but are probably a little sweeter than you might expect and while they are “hard,” neither has the alcohol content that a more formal sparkling wine and both come in around 8.5% ABV.  This lower alcohol content still packs a bit of a punch, so drink responsibly.

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The large event space with its stunning view is a popular wedding venue.

Visit the tasting room and ask to sample the ciders, they do charge for the tasting but if you sign up for the cider club, you will get the tasting for free and a generous discount on every bottle you purchase.  Be sure to try the Black Twig and the 1764;   Black Twig gets its name from the variety of apples used and is aged in whiskey barrels from Tennessee, while 1764 is made from a blend of apples and crabapples and is aged in French oak barrels to give it a flavor and alcohol content that is similar to a fine Port.

Whichever you prefer, do go and visit, sit and sip a glass indoors by the fireplace or outdoors, either way, the view is beautiful.  Be sure to grab a couple bottles to take with you!  To learn more about cider in Virginia, visit the Cider Week Festival website.

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Celestial Cranberry Kir Royale

Kir Royales are traditionally made layering cassis and sparkling wine in a fluted glass.  Since cider is made from apples, using cranberries seemed like the obvious choice for this drink.

1 bottle Celestial Merret or Levity cider, chilled

Cranberry coulis, recipe follows

Frozen whole cranberries, for garnish

Place 1 tablespoon at the bottom of a fluted glass.  Carefully pour in 5 ounces of cider taking care to pour it slowly down the side of the glass so that the coulis does not get stirred up.  Drop 2-3 frozen cranberries into the drink to float on top.

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Cranberry Coulis

makes ¾ cup and is also wonderful over ice cream.

6 ounces, half of a bag, fresh cranberries-can be frozen

½ cup ruby port (water or juice may be substituted)

1/3 cup sugar

¼ of a vanilla bean, split and scraped-seeds added to the mixture along with the pod

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise pod

1 green cardamom pod

Place all of the ingredients in a pot and place over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring to prevent the sugar from scorching, reduce heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer for 5-8 minutes.  Dump the contents of the pot into a mesh strainer which is set over a heat proof bowl.  Using a spoon, scrape as much of the mixture through the mesh as possible.  You are doing this to remove as many of the seeds ,as well as the skin, as possible so be sure to leave them in the strainer!  Whisk the mixture to combine it and allow it to cool to room temperature.

https://castlehillcider.com/

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Cheers! Toasts And Cheese

When toasting with bubbly it only makes sense to “say cheers!” in the language of the bubbly you are serving:

rose-champagne

French (Champagne):

Santé – pronounce “Sahn-tay”
A la votre – pronouce “Ah la vo-tre”

Toast

Italian (Prosecco):

Salute  – pronounce “Saw-lutay”
Cin cin – pronunce “Chin-Chin”

Cava Bella Conchi

Spanish (Cava):
Salud – pronounce “Sah-lud”

And to go with “toasts”…CHEESE!

burratta-cheese

I enjoyed this article about Burrata cheese in Bon Appétit Magazine so much that I could not wait to taste this creamy delight.  First I sourced it on Amazon.com because I wanted to find a consistent source (knowing I will want to serve it often) and then I found it at our local Tanglewood Kroger grocery (Roanoke, Virginia).

Mozzarella and Burrata Recipes, from Virtuous to Decadent

burratta-cheese-2I  prepared the Caprese Salad pictured above with Burrata cheese, fresh basil from my garden, slices of fresh tomato from the farmer’s market, balsamic vinegar reduction and roasted fresh corn on the cob (kernels removed from cob) and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.  You can make your own balsamic vinegar reduction, but it does tend to “stink up the house” with balsamic vinegar fumes or you can purchase balsamic vinegar reduction in a bottle or purchase very good quality balsamic vinegar that will be almost as thick as the balsamic vinegar reduction.

pimento-cheese

A fun way to serve pimento cheese ~ on a charred board topped with fun berries and pickled vegetables. Add bacon or chopped pecans for an extra flavorful flourish!  Serve with your favorite flatbread.

truffle-cheese

Pecorino With Truffles!

A fresh sheep’s milk cheese with whole pieces of black truffles. Buttery and intense with the aroma of damp pastures, lanolin and earthen fungi.  Smooth, buttery and intensely satisfying, permeated with the essence of truffles.  Serve with your favorite buttery cracker.  Fabulous accompaniment to brut champagne.

peppers-2

I love Ricotta Salata!  The words ‘Ricotta’ means re-cooked and ‘Salata’ means salted. Ricotta Salata is an Italian cheese made from the whey part of sheep milk, which is pressed, salted and aged for at least 90 days. It is milky white in colour with firm texture and salty taste. The cheese is often used in salads and ideal for slicing, crumbling and grating. (Source: cheese.com)

Shishito peppers are East Asian peppers that are finger-long, green (some turn red as they ripen) with a little dimple on the end.  Generally they are mild peppers but about every 10th pepper tastes hot and spicy.  Find them in your local farmers market in late summer.

 Sautéed Shishitos make a tasty, easy appetizer or side dish. Cut the stem end off of each pepper and discard stems.  Heat a little olive oil in a wide sauté pan until hot.  Add the peppers and cook them over medium heat, tossing and turning them frequently until they turn brown and blister a bit (about 10-15 minutes).  When they’re done, toss them with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and add a squeeze of fresh lemon. Place on a serving plate and sprinkle with grated ricotta salata cheese. To eat and enjoy – just pick up the whole pepper and take a bite or two.

I found that these peppers need to be salted to bring out their flavor, without it they taste bland but with the salt their flavor “pops”!

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