This keto-friendly Tuscan Ragu over Mascarpone “Polenta” will make you forget you’re even on a diet…
Sometimes sides are merely an afterthought…like a mismatched scarf thrown on last minute when you realize it’s windy and you’re late getting your toddler off to school. Then there are times when that Hermes scarf takes your simple black sheath to a whole other level. Not that I’m calling this Mexican-styled slaw Hermes, but you get the gist.
The other day, Andrew came back from Whole Foods with their Habanero and Green Chile Pork Sausage. You probably already know about my endless affinity for green chiles – if not, now you do. Well, there’s countless things I could have done with these yummy tubes of heaven, but I was craving something clean to offset the hefty weight of the sausage and I decided to craft a slaw to suit. What transpired was a recipe that I will use again and again – on fajitas, with fish tacos, on banana leaf-wrapped sea bass – the list goes on. It’s pure, accidental magic. So…
- 1/8 cup sherry vinegar
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (cold pressed)
- 1/2 Tb honey
- 1/2 t ground cumin
- 1/4 t rubbed sage
- 1/2 t sea salt
- ½ head of cabbage, in thin 1-inch slices
- 2 roasted poblano peppers (or hatch green chiles if available), in thin 1-inch slices
- 1 roasted hot Anaheim pepper, in thin 1-inch slices
- 1/4 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 t cumin seed
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
First, roast the peppers under the broiler in the oven on both sides. When the skin is puckered and starting to blacken in spots, pull them out, slide the skin off then chop. Layer the fresh cabbage strips, peppers, cumin seed, black pepper and cilantro then drizzle with dressing. Let this mixture rest for at least half an hour before serving, if possible.
For a truly authentic Irish treat, give colcannon a whirl this St. Patrick’s Day. Sláinte!
Tucked inside an enchanting wine bar on Charleston’s King Street a couple weekends ago, my husband and I shifted into a lower gear to celebrate our anniversary. My Mom (bless her heart!) stayed back in Beaufort with our son while we packed a bag and hit Highway 17 for a quick getaway to the Holy City. Once a sanctuary of religious tolerance in a period when the Church of England was practically de rigeuer, Charleston earned its moniker for the relative variety of churches that sprouted along Meeting Street. The pint-sized yet picturesque city was also a wet hot center of boozy freedom when the southeast was parched dry, which stands to reason why Charleston is arguably the greatest city in South Carolina for wine – and good wine at that.
In any case, my man and I had just sat down in our favorite wine haunt, Bin 152, eponymously named for its address on 152 King Street, when I remembered why I loved this joint so much in the first place. Littered with bucket list wines available through Coravin, the menu boasted producers I simply never encounter in South Carolina. Among greats, imported by New York houses, were also myriad offerings from Berkeley-based importer Kermit Lynch. Now, I don’t intend this to be a post only drummed up for the sake of wine geeks, but Kermit Lynch is a name every wine drinker should come to know and inevitably love. So, before I wax on about the nirvana that was reached in a single bottle of wine, let me first tell you a bit about Kermit.
With a $5,000 loan and a blazing passion for old world wine, Kermit Lynch substantially aided and changed the American wine market forever back in 1972. He sought out French artisanal producers who were crafting wine the way their ancestors had – without manipulation – the way nature intended. These wines had – and still have – that gout de terroir (taste of the soil), that inimitable quality that delivers sense of place and purity of fruit all in one sniff or sip. The wines he introduced to the American lexicon were unlike anything we had yet to experience on our shores. No one was bringing these home-grown, family wines to the States. Although there are numerous importers that now feature small, traditional producers, Kermit Lynch was and remains a trailblazer here in America. He’s won multiple James Beard awards along with France’s Legion d’Honneur, but all you really need to remember is this: when you see, “imported by Kermit Lynch,” on a label, buy that wine.
As I perused Bin 152’s list, I came across name after name that made my heart flutter; it was hard to narrow it down, then at last I came to Jean-Paul Thévenet and I knew I had the winner. A red beauty so full of rustic purity, easy charm and inimitable minerality, this complex yet delightful vixen from Morgon made me remember how I had fallen in love with the Gamay varietal in the first place.
When many people hear the name Gamay or Beaujolais, they usually think of Beaujolais Nouveau – an insipid youngster that reeks of bubblegum (truly) and lack of depth. This was always my take on Beaujolais until I experienced the transcendent magic of a fine Beaujolais Cru. It changed my life. Beaujolais Crus are represented by ten villages in the appellation, which are south of and technically part of the greater region of Burgundy, but their grape is Gamay, not Pinot Noir. And although I love a great Burgundian Pinot Noir more than just about anything on earth, it comes with a serious price tag, whereas fine Beaujolais Cru – even from producers at the apex of the appellation – is shockingly affordable. In fact, I’m not exaggerating when I say that Beaujolais Cru offers among the greatest price-to-quality in the world of red wine – though not all producers are created equal. When seeking out a Beaujolais Cru, look for Morgon or Fleurie (my favorite villages); if Kermit Lynch is an option as the importer, go for it; and keep an eye out for the names Jean-Paul Thévenet, Guy Breton, Jean Folliard and Marcell Lapierre as well as Jean-Paul Brun and Julien Sunier.
A little history here, Thévenet, Breton, Folliard and Lapierre were lovingly dubbed, “the gang of four,” back when they forged an ambitious movement to turn back the hands of time and started crafting natural wine that bucked the local trend of over-cropped, manipulated, carbonic macerated Beaujolais Nouveau – aka plonk. They farmed biodynamically and organically, eschewing chemicals, in favor of letting nature take its course. They opted for indigenous yeast for fermentation and aged their wines in large, neutral Slovenian oak foudres or cement, which allowed the true nature and minerality of the wines to speak for themselves. Fast forward a handful of decades and many youngsters are following in their footsteps – the result: the world is once again beginning to take notice of Beaujolais. Luckily, the prices are still ridiculously reasonable and the quality has never been higher.
The sweet nectar of the Gods I quaffed back in Bin 152 was a Beaujolais Cru from Morgon, crafted by Jean-Paul Thévenet. One of the original gang of four, third-generation Jean-Paul has been sharing his wealth of knowledge with his son, Charly. His small five-hectare domaine boasts vines that are between 45 and 110 years old! He keeps his yields low, farms biodynamically, harvests and sorts by hand then ferments with indigenous yeasts his whole clusters – low and slow – in cement. After which the wine is aged on its lees (spent yeasts) in 5-7 year old Burgundian oak, which leaves the wine unmasked by a heavy-handed oak signature. The wine is bottled without fining or filtration, which allows every nuance of terroir as well as varietal purity to speak.
Jean-Paul Thévenet only makes 2,000 cases a year – seeking quality over quantity. So to find this rare gem in our little haunt in Charleston, South Carolina made it all the more enjoyable. Every sip ushered in a wave of appreciation for the man that made the wine, the importer who had the guts to gamble on an unknown and all the trailblazers out there who seek out something pure instead of the sole quest for the almighty dollar. What we experienced was pure beauty and in that moment, away from home and responsibility, my husband and I remembered not only that we loved one another, but that we really still dig each other. To my husband, to Kermit, to Beaujolais Cru, to Charleston and to you for reading – Cheers!
Tasting Notes: The tantalizingly pure and perfumed nose charms with aromas of freshly picked wild strawberry, red cherry, pomegranate and raspberry laced with dew-kissed peonies, violets and black tea. The refreshing and vivid wine expands on the palate to deliver even more complex notes of orange zest, cranberry, a hint of grape seed, a touch of tree bark, subtle licorice, white pepper, herbs de Provence and unmistakable granitic minerality that lingers on the palate like a haunting tune that echoes in the mind. Although its energy and depth are there in spades, this wine isn’t heavy handed – it’s refreshing, delightful and has the uncanny ability to disappear before your very eyes.
For your perusal:
Seasonal eating has been chic for a while now and the glorious farm-to-fork movement across the United States has only reinforced the old-made-new trend all the more en vogue. Years back, when I was living in Los Angeles, the craze was already deeply embedded in the haute cuisine of the state – thanks in no small part to retro pioneers like Alice Waters and her NorCal set. I thought I had an appreciation for such things when I lived there. But let’s be honest, living in a city where the perfect specimen of food from around the globe was available practically 365 days a year and nearly any hour of the day made eating seasonally more of a whim than a way of life. And although I reveled in the state’s bounty of fresh produce and the availability of any type of organic produce imaginable, a sense of place never materialized in the cuisine the way it has in the small towns I’ve lived in across the US and Canada. Los Angeles is truly akin to Hemingway’s Moveable Feast – I changed cuisine there like my undergarments.
All that changed when I moved to Cold Lake, Alberta. Practically at the end of the road north, produce was shipped up to us at such a distance that it was mealy, near tasteless and only faintly resemblant of the original majesty of its virtue and freshness. Eating seasonally became paramount to anyone with even a hint of a palate. What sounds like a desperate desert of a culinary environment, and it was for the first year, turned into something of a blessing. I began to look forward to the onset of each season and the harvest of a particular fruit or vegetable. I began to live by the seasons with almost religious fervor. And in doing so, I experienced a gastronomic explosion that I never could have imagined and a greater appreciation for the joy of each changing season.
While the winters were LONG, I came to relish the pop of the jar I had canned…the joy of a hearty stew that warmed the bones and a love for the rewards of hunting season.
So here we are in the midst of a Lowcountry winter. The fruit is desperately sad for someone who shares my irreconcilable disdain for apples. Nevertheless, the vegetables of winter are some of my favorites. Watermelon radishes! Rainbow carrots! Crisp, bright fennel! What a bounty! Our Port Royal Farmers Market is open year round and is such a treasure! There are several vendors who I love – particularly the mushroom man who delivers premium chanterelles for $6 a pint during their season! But this Saturday I stopped by Adam’s Farm tent where I can always find local produce at its most fresh and pure. Dedicated to sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices, their produce is as beautiful as it is delicious. On this particular trip, I snagged some watermelon radishes, golden and candy cane beets as well as kale. I had an idea for lunch in mind and the results were even more sensational than the sensory expectations I had conjured up in my head. I grabbed some bacon from a local rancher and cruised home to the sounds of Bowie’s Suffragette City with a giddy grin on my face.
I threw on a record, poured a cup of coffee and set to work on a warm winter vegetable salad that would knock my family’s socks off. Even my two year old, who normally turns up his nose at salad, gobbled this bowl of beauty up in record time.
Warm Winter Vegetable Salad
- 1 pint of watermelon radishes
- 1 pint of assorted beets (golden and candy cane – although red will do the trick)
- 1 bunch of kale
- 1 clementine, zest and juiced
- 2 teaspoons dried lavender
- 1 teaspoon cornflower
- 6 strips bacon, cut in lardons
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt salt (I used fleur de sel)
- freshly cracked pepper to taste
- olive oil
First, clean and scrub your beets and radishes then quarter them with the skins on. Line two ovenware dishes (I use old school corning ware with lids) with foil and drizzle olive oil in the bottom. Place the beets in one dish and the radishes in the other. Grind ½ teaspoon of lavender, sprinkle ½ a teaspoon of salt and 1/3 of your Clementine zest over each dish then drizzle with olive oil. Cover the radishes and beets with foil and then place the lid on top. Cook in the oven at 425 until a fork glides – the radishes will be ready a good 20+ minutes before the beets. Take the radishes out when they’re cooked. Then, when the beets are ready, uncover both of the dishes and broil on high for 3 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the bacon lardons (¼ inch x 1 inch) in a skillet then set aside on a paper towel. While the beets and radishes are broiling, quickly sautee the kale in a tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle a teaspoon of lavender, ½ teaspoon of sea salt and the remaining clementine zest over your kale. This should only cook for about two minutes. The last 30 seconds, drizzle the juice from the clementine over the kale and toss. Arrange the kale in salad bowls, top with beets, radishes and bacon then garnish with the cornflower and serve.
If you’re looking for a wine to uplift this savory lunch, opt for an Austrian Grüner Veltliner. The bright crisp notes of fresh herbs and radishes in this refreshing yet complex white wine will bring this dish to a whole other level! If you’re unfamiliar with Grüner Veltliner, it’s a varietal you really should seek out. It has an inimitable flavor profile but will suit your craving for a crisp Sauvignon Blanc with effortless ease. It’s also one of the best white wines in the world in terms of price-to-quality. If you have options when you’re out shopping, look for “Kamptal,” “Kremstal,” or “Wachau,” on the label – nestled along the great Danube River on dizzingly steep slopes, these three are the greatest villages in Austria for the varietal.
And as always – bon appétit!
Gazing up the steep hills along Highway 200, about 45 minutes northwest of Puerto Vallarta, the picturesque, tile-roofed villas and undulating terrain is enough to convince the stoutest Francophile they’re cruising along France’s Cote d’Azur. A charming pocket of Jalisco, Mexico, this stretch of Banderas Bay, is a hidden gem that’s yet to be overdeveloped. The gifted local artisans and serious gastronomes offer a slice of Mexico that is simply unparalleled in the larger, resort-filled cities.
My folks have a house in the small community of Punta de Burro where we revel in the chance to unwind and bask in the warm, moderate climate during the winter months. Although we spend ample time lounging on the beach and playing in the surf, a highlight of every getaway is inevitably the Sunday Market in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. An overabundance of bespoke goods, farm-to-table food and fresh produce, this market rivals even the most lauded markets of Provence. Vendors from all over western Mexico vie for a spot to showcase their wares. The organizers maintain meticulous standards and only allow vendors that offer original, hand-crafted products – no reselling allowed. Fashion designers feature their own creations, weavers bring blankets they’ve dyed and woven personally, coffee roasters bring their sustainably-farmed beans down from the mountains and the food stands send your olfactory senses into a state of sheer nirvana.
The venue is no less impressive with a location along the La Cruz Marina that now includes the local fish market where the freshest fish on Banderas Bay is sold to locals as well as restaurants. But my favorite aspect of the market has to be the vendors. A varied array of talents, the people behind these products are true artisans and are more than happy to chat about their craft or share anything that strikes you about this special corner of Mexico.
Just a few of my favorite vedors:
Siruela es Ropa de Autor
Siruela’s hand-crafted garments are so light and whimsical, you’ll feel like you’re floating inside of them. Organic materials, crafted in Mexico, in their small, quaint workshop, these dresses feel like a modern-day cross between Stevie Knicks and Zelda Fitzgerald. The designer, a pint-sized Mexican beauty, is as enchanting as her dresses and is a genuine auteur – or autor. http://instagram.com/siruelaropadeautor
El Fortin de San Sebastian Coffee
Sustainably farmed in the mountains around the town of San Sebastian, El Fortin’s beans are roasted in-house and deliver a pure, aromatic delight that rivals personal favorites like Intelligensia and Savannah’s Perk. If you miss the Sunday Market, they also have a café in Sayulita that is well worth seeking out.
Ukranian-born, Oksana Oliinyk, aka – the spice connoisseur, offers an array of beautifully packaged spices that will send any gourmand’s heart aflutter. While she offers guajillo chiles, epazote and a host of locally grown, organic herbs and spices, Oksana’s thoughtful selection also includes high-end offerings from around the world including exotic sea salts, coneflower, Iranian Saffron and Ukrainian chives – just to name a handful. Her breadth of wisdom is not limited merely to the culinary arts but includes a near-encyclopedic knowledge of medicinal properties of each herb and spice as well.
Nothing quite satisfies like a steaming bowl of soup when it’s cold out. As much as I love a good stew, I’ve been craving something not only warm and soothing, but cleansing and restorative after the culinary sins of the holidays. As I perused my olfactory rolodex, I came across a concoction that I turned to time and again during our years in Cold Lake, Alberta – a Thai-inspired coconut soup.
One blessing in disguise during our northern exposure was a total lack of Thai food within about a 4-hour radius. Andrew and I both look to Thai cuisine as comfort food, especially when it’s chilly. So, due to sheer lack of availability, I forced myself to learn the fundamentals of Thai cooking at home. I stocked up on supplies during a trip to Edmonton (also four hours away) and set my hand to learning some of our favorite dishes. Over time, I tweaked Tom Kha Gai into something of my own and the result is this recipe, which has become a winter favorite in our house.
What I really love about this dish is the therapeutic quality gleaned from some of the ingredients. Ginger is not only beneficial to the tummy, it’s a rockstar at fighting off cold and flu. Cilantro is another delicious ingredient with serious medicinal power. It actually acts as something of a coagulate for toxins and heavy metals and is incredible at flushing them out of the body – talk about a cleanse! Garlic and lemongrass are not only natural antibiotics, they’re also anti-viral and anti-fungal. So whether it’s a healthy alternative to your favorite stew or just speaks to your current cravings, give this soup a whirl.
- 1 chicken breast
- 2 bone-in thighs
- 1 jalapeno, halved & sliced (set aside)
- 1 red chile, halved & sliced (set aside)
- 4 white mushrooms, thinly sliced (set aside)
- 8 asparagus spears, ½ inch slice (set aside)
- 2 green onions, ¼ inch slice
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 inch ginger, half minced & half thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon lemongrass, minced (you can substitute edible lemongrass essential oil)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- juice of ½ lime
- 1 can coconut milk
- sea salt & white pepper, to taste
- vermicelli noodles (or substitute zucchini noodles for a grain-free dish)
- chili garlic paste
- cilantro, chopped
Although you can use packaged chicken stock for this recipe, I prefer to make a quick, thai-inspired stock. It’s quick, easy and will finish up while you’re chopping. First, cut most of the meat off your bone-in chicken thigh and put it in a pan. Add 12 ounces of water, 1 kaffir lime leave, a few slices of jalapeno, a dash of minced garlic and a couple of ginger slices to the pan. Bring to a boil then immediately turn to medium-low to simmer.
In the meantime, chop all your veggies and thinly slice the chicken (think Pho for thinness). In a wok (a dutch oven will also do), heat up your coconut oil and add 2 kaffir lime leaves, ginger, garlic, carrots, the whites from your green onions, sea salt, white pepper and lemongrass. Sautee the ingredients for a couple minutes then add coconut milk, chicken and the chicken stock you’ve been simmering. This should simmer for about 4 minutes.
In the meantime, boil your vermicelli noodles if you’re using them. If not, steam the zucchini noodles for a couple minutes. When these are ready, strain and put them in a bowl. Add the jalapenos, red chili, mushrooms, asparagus and green onions to the pot and allow them to simmer for about one minute – you want these guys al dente.
Pour the soup over the vermicelli or zucchini noodles and garnish with ample cilantro and a dollop of chili garlic paste. Enjoy!