Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's All In The Jam

I am a jam aficionado of sorts. Several years ago I really got into buying the freshest produce and making my own. When I went to Paris I discovered these beautiful jams by and artisan jam maker from Alsace, Christine Ferber. Christine is not only the master jam artist, she has two books out as well, Mes Confitures & Mes Tartes. She uses the best regional ingredients, she sticks to true French recipes that use unusual items to Americans such as violets, lavender or roses. I am eating this lovely tiny bottle right now that has violets in it. It is heaven, and I use it for only the best occasions...on myself. Once I caught my husband about to make a pbj for my little boy with it. Tsk, tsk!

Christine's jam can not be found in America. AT ALL! So, to me these little jam pots are like gold. They taste the BEST on crunchy french bread....from France. I have thought about sending away to Poilane Bakery in France for bread. They ship all over the world. The bread ships FedEx over night...well I think it works out to be about three days by the time it is baked until it gets to your door. M. Poilane says that it takes three days for the true taste of the bread to come out anyway.... Sure it does. I liked it just out of the oven when I was in France myself.

Something I do recommend with jam, butter, and crunchy french bread is have a cup of hot chocolate. I brought this bag of hot chocolate mix back from Paris. Andgelina's is a famous tea house where you can get this wonderfully thick hot chocolate and a sinfully sweet pastry to go with it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Real Deal

It seems in this day and age that there is a "chef'" popping up whenever you turn on the t.v. The Food Network has exacerbated this phenomenon. For the past 15 years or more the once little Food Network has made many foodie stars; some from real restaurateurs, and others from what it seems thin air. Sadly, I must say, some who have been the real deal have "sold out" to commercial America. I thought of this while walking down the aisle of my local Target yesterday. There in the kitchen section was a "Paula Deen" line -- a fabulously butter loving cook from Savanna, GA whose career the Food Network launched into outer space. She was not my beef, because she was a pull yourself up by the bootstraps cook. It was Giada de Laurentis. Her line hit me like a pie in the face. Giada was a French Cordon Bleu graduate with a decent show on the Food Network, Everyday Italian. As of late, however, her new show has gone down the toilet with mediocre quick fix foods. As I starred at her pasta sauce for $2.99 I thought of Marcella Hazan. The master of REAL Italian cooking. A woman who has not sold out, but has left a legacy of tried and true Italian cooking. I came home, opened my favorite cookbook, and began to cook her bolognese meat sauce. Here it is. Not like any other sauce you have tasted or made. Not even close to a bottled sauce Giada! It is the REAL DEAL!

Put 1 Tbsp olive oil & 3 Tbsp butter in a pan. Turn heat to medium and cook 1/2 c. chopped onion until wilted. Add 2/3 c. chopped celery & 2/3 c. chopped carrot. Cook for two minutes.
Add 3/4 ground chuck & a large pinch of salt & a few grindings of pepper. Cook, crumbling the meat with a fork, until all the red is gone. Add 1 c. whole milk. Stir frequently until the milk bubbles away. Add a small grinding of nutmeg -- 1/8 tsp. -- to the meat. Add 1 c. dry white wine. Let it simmer until it has completely evaporated. Stir thoroughly every so often. Add 1 1/2 cups canned ITALIAN IMPORTED tomatoes, cut up with their juice. It is very important to use the real deal, or it won't taste right. Stir everything well, and when the tomatoes start to bubble, turn the heat low. Let the sauce cook uncovered for 3 hours. Stir it from time to time. When sauce is done toss with cooked, drained penne (my favorite) with Parmesan on the side.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cupcakes Again!

I know that I have posted about cupcakes before, but I just can't resist! It happens every so often when I get the craving for a GOOD cupcake. I mean just look at these little cuties! These are from Cakes de Fleur in Salt Lake City, UT. Aren't the little flowers precious! The butter cream frosting is to die for! I personally think the vanilla butter cream is much better than the chocolate butter cream. Cakes de Fleur also sells beautiful cakes. They sell them in a little store called "The Store", a little local grocery.

This cupcake is from So Cupcake in Holiday, Utah. She flavors all her icing, and maybe her cakes too with almond extract. When I go to this place I have to sneak them because my son is allergic to tree nuts, and although almond extract is really made from an apricot kernel, many who have tree nut allergies have a reaction to apricot kernels as well -- almonds are in the same flowering family species as the apricot tree -- go figure. All the allergy boringness set aside....just look at that close-up! those little sprinkles in the midst of that fluffy icing!