Poached Pears in Pudding

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Poached Pears in Pudding 

When summer turns to fall, one of my favorite recipes to make is my mom's vanilla pudding. I can eat it by the bowlful, still warm from the bubbling pot. Yesterday, while on a six-hour road trip home from Ohio, I kept thinking of that pudding and the idea of serving it with another fall favorite, poached pears in wine sauce. This recipe is a combination of two favorites, and I must say it's a rather decadent dessert - perfect to serve during the upcoming holiday season.

Monday Market Meals - White Crab and Zucchini Omelette

Monday, September 26, 2016

White Crab and Zucchini Omelette

I've invited Susana Villasuso from London to share a guest post on the blog today for Monday Market Meals. A former culinary chef, Susana knows the importance of going after a dream. Spending years in culinary school to master a degree before joining the love of her life in marriage, she learned that doing what one loves sometimes requires sacrifice. Later, when their first child was born, she realized that sacrifice again as she set aside her career, choosing to be a stay-at-home mom to their daughter, Lily. While she may not wear a chef's hat in London's trendiest eating houses, Susana creates dishes equally as tasteful at home using ingredients from local markets or the butcher around the corner - recipes infused with the flavors of central Mexico so reminiscent of her childhood.

Read on for Susy's post...

The Sailor's in the Kitchen

Friday, September 23, 2016

In a tiny galley kitchen, Lauren Weisenthal cooks dinner aboard their 42-foot sailboat, Nightingale Tune.

After packing up their Brooklyn apartment last summer, Lauren Weisenthal and her husband, Brian, did what many people only dream of doing. They sold everything, bought a boat and prepared for a life at sea. Living on their boat for three months in the New York harbor before pulling up anchor, the Weisenthals eased into this radical new lifestyle while still surrounded by family and friends.  She wrote on her blog, "We feel lighter now without furniture, excess clothing, books, and all of the other stuff that once filled our closets, shelves, and drawers. I’m so glad that we made this big change within the context of our jobs, friends, and all of the things we love about living in New York. Once we leave the dock this fall, the work and mental energy necessary just to cover our daily needs will become exponentially more complex, but thanks to our experience the last three months, will not feel overwhelming or intimidating."

"We feel lighter now without furniture, excess clothing, books, and all of the other stuff that once filled our closets, shelves, and drawers."

Then, at 4:00 AM on October 7, 2015, as the moon hung bright over Manhattan, their dream became reality as Nightingale Tune pulled away from the New York City dock. By the time the sunrise glinted red across the water, they had left the channel and entered the 6-foot swells of the Atlantic Ocean, beginning their voyage down the East Coast.  And after sea sickness, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands and 3500 nautical miles, they are now tucked into a cozy harbor in Grenada, West Indies, where for the past three months they have been waiting out the hurricane season.

Life at sea has been a grand adventure for this young couple, now with a year of sailing under their belts. They've conquered fears, survived storms, mended sails, dealt with boredom and felt the keen ache of loneliness. They've also formed new friendships, explored islands and cooked with the locals. But life before that wasn't too bad either, as both held successful careers in the Big Apple. Brian owned a software development company and Lauren (a trained pastry chef and Certified Sommelier) managed programs for Etsy. So what made this couple ditch city life for boat life?

I was able to catch up with Lauren despite bursts of infrequent WiFi, and she graciously gave me the following interview. And to read the full story of their journey, go here. (I dare you to stop reading in the middle. It's like a book waiting to be published.)

Brian at dinner with their cat, Nico.

Living on a sailboat sounds like a dream. Tell us what prompted this adventurous life at sea.  Our life aboard began with an obsession of my husband’s. We were living in New York City, it was a terrible, snowy winter - the kind when it snows every single day -  and he was burnt out at work. One day, he read a book about a sailing adventure, and being a technically-minded guy, became hungry to learn everything about how sailboats work. That set him into a frenzy of positive distraction - he was reading technical sailing manuals before he ever set foot aboard a boat, and loving it! I decided we needed to get out on the water, the sooner the better, and booked a week long sailing lesson in the Virgin Islands. We lived aboard with an instructor and learned all the ropes. That trip clinched it for us - we were hooked after that. We started sailing every weekend in NYC and looking at boats for sale.

Mango season.

And before this fascinating change in lifestyle, what was your occupation? Prior to leaving New York, I managed projects and worked with sellers at Etsy.com, a job that I loved. Brian was the co-founder of a 12 year-old internet company, which he sold before we left. We made a deal that we wouldn’t work during our first year out sailing, but I haven’t exactly followed through on that promise. I’ve been lucky enough to freelance a bit, mostly marketing and writing projects, during our time away.

When purchasing items for their kitchen, everything had to be unbreakable. 

Where did you grow up?  Tell me something about your childhood.  I grew up in a tiny New Hampshire town, on a small farm with a few horses and a huge garden. Our family spent summers in Maine, at our cabin on a lake. My mother believes that busy kids are happy ones, so my sister and I were always on horseback or skis or playing music (I play the French horn), when we weren’t doing chores in the barn. 

Life looks different now for this former business owner turned sailor.

Have you had any funny experiences while cooking or learning to cook?  When we left NY we were really keen on learning to fish. Brian is a natural at a lot of things that he picks up - sailing, sports, dancing - and I think he sort of assumed that fishing would be the same. As soon as we hit warmer waters on our way down the East Coast, we started throwing out the line, and on the very first day, we caught something - but then what? We had absolutely no idea what to do with this 2 foot Little Tuny we’d snagged! With the fish flopping helplessly on the deck, Brian yelled for me to grab the one book we carried for the occasion, Fishing for Cruisers. While Brian did his best to calm the jumping, flapping fish, I thumbed through the index. One recommended method was pouring booze into the gills, but after wasting a nice bottle of rum, that damn fish was still moving. Next, it said, try an icepick through the brain. Um, where is that? We finally went with their third suggestion, wrapping the fish in a towel and knocking it out against the deck. It was a success, but the boat was a crime scene - I’m still scrubbing the blood out to this day. And I still feel terrible for that poor fish. Typical city folk - can’t even kill a fish without an instruction manual.

Grocery shopping.  

What is your favorite kind of food to cook?  We are dedicated to eating as locally as possible on the islands we visit. We make an effort to learn about local food, and shop in the places locals shop. Here in Grenada, the island where we’ve spent the past few months tucked safely into a bay, waiting for hurricane season to end, agriculture is alive and well. We’re being exposed to many fun new ingredients; callaloo, golden apples, christophene, green figs, chenet,  jackfruit, as well as the best bananas, avacados, and mangoes we’ve ever tasted. Grenada is the island of spice, and the cuisine is heavily influenced by Indian flavors. Whenever we encounter something new, we just ask the ladies selling in the markets “what is this?” “how would you cook it?” And then they tell you, exactly. There’s only one right way to cook the dishes of Grenada, but I still enjoy creating interpretations of local dishes in my own style of cooking.

Too big for dinner. 

What is the most exciting food adventure you have had while sailing?  One weekend, we met up with a bunch of our friends’ boats in one of our favorite places - Maho Bay in St. John, part of the USVI. Brian was gung-ho to learn to snare Caribbean spiny lobster, and he got his chance to learn from our friend Peter, who is a master lobsterer. I went along for the ride to snap some underwater shots of the action and ended up holding many squirmy lobsters on the end of the snares. 

The hunt is thrilling. The lobsters are hard to spot - but Peter knew the good spots - and you have to dive with nothing but a snorkel mask and fins, down very very deep and pounce upon the lobsters. 

Thanks (mostly) to Peter, we had enough to feed the whole crew of 12 adults and 6 kids - as long as we got creative. I decided pizza was the way to go - but the challenge was that there was no way to bake enough pizzas using my tiny boat oven alone. Being the one with restaurant experience, I organized a six boat plan to get the pizzas finished at the same time. I mixed a huge batch of dough and let it proof in our engine room. 

Using the VHF radio to communicate with our friends’ boats, I scared up 5 sheet pans, and some additional mozzarella and basil, all of which were delivered to me by dinghy. I shaped the pizzas, sauced them and topped them, and then, one of our friends came by to deliver the raw pizzas to each of the boats. Thanks to the VHF, each boat had been preheating their oven so it was ready by the time their pizza arrived. Once they were baked, we rendezvoused for dinner all together. It was the most coordinated dinner effort in the history of sailing, and a whole lot of fun.

A lobster party.

Have you had any scary adventures on the water?  The first time we chartered a boat by ourselves, we neglected to check all of the rigging and a line that controls the jib (the big sail on the front of the boat, the one you use to change direction) broke free in the middle of a gnarly cut between two jagged rocks. The boat was being tossed like a cork in 6 foot waves, the wind was howling, it was very scary. But, Brian and I took a moment in the middle of the chaos to stop and talk over our options. We calmly came up with a plan - that I would have to leave the safely of the cockpit and inch all the way to the front of the boat  and try to catch the end of the freed line on the end of a pole with a hook on the end. My mission was successful, we recovered control, turned on the engine, and got the hell out of there. Ever since then, we double check our equipment before heading out to sea.

Grilling at sunset.

"Life itself is the proper binge." - Julia Child.

Lauren posts their adventures on a well-written blog, Sea Biscuit.

What inspires you?  I am constantly inspired by the cooks, farmers, fishermen, and artisans we meet in our travels. The Caribbean especially is such a mutt of different traditions, cultures, and sensibilities about food. As we sail on, the cuisine shifts, and each island we visit is an opportunity to taste something new and learn how it came to be.

Nightingale Tune, Lauren and Brian's 42-foot ketch which they share with their cat, Nico.
For a tour of the inside, click here.

How long will you continue sailing?  Forever?  Ah, you've asked the million dollar question! We plan to be out for another year at least. I am desperate for us to spend a summer aboard sailing New England and maybe Nova Scotia, but you know what they say, a sailor's plans are written in sand at low tide.


Callaloo Soup 

Callaloo Soup

As we sail from place to place, I make an effort to learn local dishes and enjoy putting my own spin of them. Callaloo is a hearty, large-leafed green vegetable that is featured prominently in Grenadian cooking. This soup made from the leaves is my take on a classic dish, made more velvety with the addition of coconut milk and cooked to near-puree consistency. No two Grenadians make callaloo soup the same way, yet each cook will tell you that their way is the only way. For cooks outside tropical climates, chard, spinach, or a blend of the two, may be substituted for callaloo leaves.

3 lbs. callaloo, spinach, and/or chard leaves, roughly chopped
3 large yellow onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chopped green onions
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped finely
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 12oz can coconut milk
1 cup water
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a large pot set over medium-low temperature, saute garlic and onions in olive oil, stirring frequently, until they are translucent and softened. Stir in thyme, green onions, and jalapeño. Pour coconut milk over the onion mixture and stir to release any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the chopped greens and simmer, until the greens melt and easily fall apart. Remove from heat, and allow the soup to cool for 15-20 minutes.

Chopping mangoes in preparation for baking scones. 

Mango Scones

A long time ago, I took a break from my career and studied classic pastry and breadmaking, which I adore. While it's too hot to work with the fancy laminated doughs I used to love, I do enjoy adapting old school, favorite recipes with fresh ingredients from the islands we visit. When we anchored in Guadaloupe, mango season was just kicking off in the East Caribbean, and we've been gluttonous mango eaters for the past few months. Fragrant mangoes were literally falling out of the trees onto our heads as we walked down the street. I started including mangoes in baked goods, like these buttermilk scones.

4 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, very cold
1 cup buttermilk, plus a little more for brushing on the tops
2 cups chopped mangoes, very ripe

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add sugar, salt and stir to combine. Scatter the chilled butter cubes over the dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender or the back of a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Be careful to work quickly with light hands. Work the mixture until it resembles a gravel road - blended with a smattering of irregular, pebble sized chunks.

Toss the mangoes into the mixture.

Add the buttermilk all at once along with the blueberries and mix gently with a wooden spoon until the dough holds together. The dough will be just barely wet, and very crumbly.

Dust your work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Using your hands, pat each portion into a circular disk about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Brush the top with additional buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar. Cut each disk into 6 pieces.

Transfer the triangles to baking sheet. 

Bake until the tops of the scones are lightly browned, about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow scones to cool on a wire rack before serving.

Makes 6 scones

Follow Lauren's journey on Instagram @seabiscuit and on her blog  Sea Biscuit.
Photos by Lauren Soutiere Weisenthal and used with permission.

Monday Market Meals - Catfish, Beans and Peaches

Monday, September 19, 2016

Catfish, Beans and Peaches 

Today's guest post for Monday Market Meals comes to us from Austrian blogger, Simone Weinwurm who lives in the picturesque region of Payerbach, about an hour's drive from Vienna. Simone says that unlike a typical farmer's market where vegetables are brought to a central location and vendors set up booths with their produce,  the people in their mountainous community buy directly from the local farmers who have something resembling a 'yard-sale' on their farm offering meat, eggs and vegetables.  The benefit of that is you can see where your food is coming from in addition to having the pleasure of talking with the farmers while you shop. You can't get much more local than that!   Read on for Simone's post where she talks about the tradition of vegetable-growing in her family.

Olia's Culinary Odyssey

Friday, September 9, 2016

Olia Hercules 

Olia Hercules' cookbook, Mamushka, hit the shelves last year with a flurry of recognition even as this young chef was named a rising star in The Observer's list of people most likely to make waves in 2015. Hercules, whose cookbook features recipes gathered from her family's culinary heritage throughout Eastern Europe, lives in North London with her son, Sasha, where she is a regular contributor to The Guardian Cook, as well as doing food styling, pop-up dinners, and recipe development.

Olia was born in southern Ukraine in 1984 when the Soviet empire was crumbling.  Times were lean and food was rationed, but in spite of the barren political and economic landscape, Olia and her family thrived on the fresh produce from her mother's well-tended garden.  Her formative years were spent wandering through pea fields and orchards of her childhood home in Kakhovka where "the winters were mild and the summers long and hot." 

The Kitchen of Eden

Friday, September 2, 2016

Fresh squeezed.

Lyndsey Eden, a photographer and food blogger from Vancouver Island on Canada's west coast, gained a painfully new appreciation for life when she lost her father to cancer in 2011.  As a result, she set out to re-define her lifestyle by cleaning up her eating habits and finding ways to reduce stress.  Eden, whose photography embraces life's "beautiful, delicious, wild and free moments" carries a firm belief that diet plays a large role in our health, and has set out to develop recipes that are refined sugar free and made with very few grains and starches. 

She says, "I don't want to label how I eat, because I just hate labels. I mostly try to listen to my body, see how it reacts to certain foods and just give it what it what it will thrive on and what makes it feel the very best." 

Her philosophy on food and life carries a profound message for all of us, as fad diets bombard our media with what's in and what's taboo in modern food culture. Lyndsey's ability to find balance in culinary creations and to take pleasure in the simplest things inspires those around her to do the same.

Her blog carries a variety of recipes ranging from breakfast, lunch and dinner to sweets and smoothies, and are enjoyed with her best mate, Paul, in picnics along the coast or in farm style dinners at home. Read on for my interview with this talented home cook.

Lyndsey Eden - freelance photographer, stylist, and recipe creator at LyndseyEden.com

Tell me about your life, Lyndsey.  I live on the beautiful west coast of Canada, on Vancouver Island in Victoria, BC. I feel extremely grateful for where I live, surrounded by ocean air, close enough to the mountains, and our luscious forests are like no other. I live with my boyfriend (faux husband) of 10 years and our dog Solomon (the most sweetheart-ed Rottie you will ever meet).  I am a lifestyle photographer, stylist, recipe creator and story teller. I am also a legal assistant with hopes of making the former full-time one of these days. I also do a little bit of consulting and run the social media platform for a couple of restaurants in town. My big dream is to one day run workshops out of my home or maybe in far away places; a mixture of  photography, styling and cooking. 

Inspiration on the shelf. 

Where did you grow up? I grew up in the Provence of Alberta and moved to the west coast when I was 10. My absolute favorite childhood memories are the times I spent on my Grandparents' rural farm. There are no memories that stand out more than those. It is where my love of cooking began. I would spend my days gopher hunting or foraging in the garden with my Grandpa and then my Grandma and I would clean all the garden goodies and she would whip up the most delicious, mouthwatering meals. We would sit around their old kitchen table laughing, eating and just being in the moment. I think spending so much time on a farm when I was little paved the way for a lot of my beliefs today, such as eating local organic produce, free-range, grass-fed meat, eggs and dairy. this is important to me and definitely stems from being around that so much when I was younger. 

The simple things of life: tea, cake and flowers.

How did you come to love cooking and baking? Was there an early influence in your life? Cooking has always been something I have loved and enjoyed. I have a lot of home cooks in my family from my Grandma to my aunts, to my Mom and even my Dad. My Dad was an awesome cook, but not so much a baker ( my Mom and Grandma were the bakers). I surely got my cooking skills from him. He wasn't a recipe follower. He would just mostly make things up on his own, throwing a little of this in the pot and a little of that. I think this is actually the best way to cook. Recipes are great to have as a guideline but the best meals come from within you, when you trust your senses and let go a little. I want people who use my recipes to make them their own (baking aside, that can be tricky to change too much), allowing their palate to determine the outcome of the final dish. There is nothing better than that.  I believe bringing people together around a table filled with an abundance of fresh, local, beautiful foods, prepared in their most natural form is the crème de la crème of life.  

"Recipes are great to have as a guideline but the best meals come from within you, when you trust your senses and let go a little."

Plums in a cake-baking experiment.

Have you always been in your current profession? I went to college when I was 20, not really knowing what I wanted to do, but I knew I needed some kind of credential. I got my diploma as a legal assistant and have been doing that ever since. I had always thought of starting a recipe blog throughout the years but never really had the courage to put myself out there to do it. Then in 2011, my Dad passed away very suddenly with cancer and that changed everything. It gave me a new outlook on life, and I made a vow to him that I would live as healthy and happy as I could. Life is short and to not take the risk of living exactly how I wanted to wasn't an option anymore. I know that is what he would want for me. He truly is with me in every moment. I feel him and I know he is just beaming with the choices I have made and what I learned from losing him. 

Peaches - a favorite summer stone fruit.

What inspires you? Oh so much. I would say my number one inspiration is nature. I find so much stability and grace when I am in nature. It has a way of lifting my energy and opening my heart. I believe everyone should get out into nature at least once a day, even if it is just for 5 minutes. It can truly change things around for you. I take inspiration from so much beyond just other foodies, recipe books and  blogs. I find inspiration when I travel, through interior design and paintings, through listening to others and listening to myself. Our intuition (gut feeling) is full if inspiration when you are truly connected to it. 

Celebrating beauty and friendship over glasses of wine.

Have you had any funny experiences while cooking or learning to cook? Paul is not quite sure how I still have all of my fingers. It is crazy how many times I either cut myself, scrape my hand on a cheese grater, or burn myself with oil splatters, on the oven, on a pan. This one time when we were camping, we were making s'mores and I had my marshmallow on a metal rod. I clearly was NOT thinking and I decided to get the marshmallow off the rod with my mouth instead of my fingers. The inside of my lips were not happy, to say the least. 

Almond Plum Upside Down Cake with Chocolate Ganache 

Describe a favorite travel experience. We have been pretty fortunate in the last couple of years to have done as much travelling as we have. But one of my favorite memories is of a couple years ago when we were in India. Paul is half East Indian and we were visiting some of his family there. Every day they would cook the most delicious food for us. His Uncle had set up a sweets making area in their back courtyard with huge cauldrons of bubbling syrup. Men from the village were whipping up bowls of sweet, syrupy, warm gulab jamun (an Indian sweet). There is nothing like getting one handed to you fresh, warm and soaked in syrup, to devour in seconds, and promptly go back for more. Mostly, though, any travel experience Paul and I have together is amazing, enlightening and so much fun. 

Vegan bars made with chickpeas, peanut butter, chocolate, honey and rolled in oats.

How do you support your local community? I do support my local community quite a bit, as I  buy everything local (I don't shop at big box stores for anything - I am a bit against them actually). I am quite lucky to be surrounded by a lot of farms with fresh produce, and tons of egg stands around my area. There is also a local butcher I  adore and would never buy my meat anywhere else. 

Everything is better with flowers.

What are your hobbies or favorite activities? I am lucky enough to say that I love photography and besides it being a job it is also a hobby. I would be shooting whether I am getting paid or whether I am doing it just for myself. My favorite activities are super simple: going for brunch, cooking a home meal with Paul and Solomon lingering around, going for hikes or spending time down ocean side. I am quite the homebody so even just time at home with a cup of tea and a good book make me extraordinarily happy. 

A glimpse of Autumn in this cake.

Are you married and do you have a family?   Paul and I are not married, although we have been together for almost 10 years. We have a house and dog together so it pretty much feels as though we are married. Whether we will ever make it official or not I don't know. It is not really important to either of us. We are extremely strong in our relationship and at this point it wouldn't change anything. Neither of us want a big wedding either so if we did get married it would probably be some spur of the moment private ceremony while we were away travelling or maybe even just a trip down to the courthouse. We were actually set up by my Mom and his sister. It started out long distance on the phone for months and then we finally met in person and have been together ever since. This may sound far-fetched but during our very first phone call I knew I was going to be with this man forever. It was just a gut intuition. Our child is our dog, for now he is enough! 

"I believe bringing people together around a table filled with an abundance of fresh, local, beautiful food prepared in its most natural form is the crème de la crème of life."


Pecan Date Paste Cinnamon Buns 

Pecan Date Paste Cinnamon Buns With Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Date Filling
1 1/2 cups of water
20 Medjool dates, pitted (about one cup)
1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tbsp of cinnamon

2/3 cup buttermilk, divided (1/3 & 1/3)
4 tbsp honey, divided
1 envelope of active dry yeast
2 large egg yolks
1 large eggs
1 cup spelt flour
1 tsp of Himalayan salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp maple syrup

Date Filling
In a medium sauce pan, bring dates, salt and 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring and mashing occasionally until the dates start to fall apart and the water is evaporated, bringing it to a thick paste, about 10-15 minutes. Let the dates cool slightly, then stir in butter and cinnamon. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat 1/3 of the buttermilk and 1 tbsp of honey in a small saucepan until lukewarm. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine warm milk and honey mixture with the package of yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes until the yeast is foamy.
Next add in the egg yolks, 1 egg, the rest of the buttermilk, spelt flour, salt, all-purpose flour and remaining 3 tbsp of honey.
Mix on medium speed until dough is smooth, shiny and elastic, about 5-8 minutes.
With motor running, add 1/2 cup of room temperature butter, 1 piece at a time, waiting until each piece is incorporated into the dough before adding the next. Once all the butter is added mix for one minute and then increase the speed to medium-high and mix for another 6-8 minutes until the dough is smooth, soft and supple.
Butter the inside of a medium sized bowl, place dough in and cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel. Let dough rise in a warm spot (next to the heater is perfect) until it has doubled in size, 1-1 1/2 hours.

Assembling The Buns
Take the risen dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough 6-8 times then, roll the dough out into one large rectangle 1/4 inch thick. Evenly spread the date mixture over the dough and sprinkle with the chopped pecans (if using).
Roll the dough up into one large log and then lightly pinch the seam together. Using a serrated knife, with a slow gentle slicing motion cut the log into 1 1/2 inch rolls.
Place the rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet or in a parchment lined cast iron skillet.
Cover buns with a clean dish towel and let rise in warm spot until almost doubled in size, 40-50 minutes.
Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes for the barely baked kind and 20-25 for a more golden brown cinnamon bun.

Maple Cream Cheese Icing
In a stand mixer, beat the the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add in the icing sugar a little at a time, making sure it is incorporated well. Add in the vanilla and maple syrup, and mix for another minute or two. You can add a little milk if the consistency is too thick, I would only add in 1 tbsp at a time, until you get the desired consistency.
Spread the icing over the buns while they are still warm and serve immediately.

If you do not have a stand mixer, let the yeast, milk and honey stand in a large bowl. Then whisk all of the ingredients into the yeast. knead dough on a clean floured surface until it comes together (5-8 minutes). Knead in butter until it is well incorporated.

Farro Salad with Kale, Roasted Carrots and Sesame Miso Cashew Cream 

Warm Shallot Fried Farro Salad with Kale, Roasted Carrots and a Sesame Miso Cashew Cream

Farro Salad:
– 1 cup of farro
– 4 cups of water
– 1 shallot
– 3 kale stems
– 3 cloves of garlic
– one bunch of radishes
– two bunches of carrots with the tops
– 2 tbsp of sesame oil
Sesame Miso Cashew Cream
– ½ cup of soaked cashews
– 2 tbsp of sesame oil
– 2 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
– 1 tbsp of tahini
– 1 tbsp miso paste
– 1 tsp honey (optional)
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 1 handful of fresh cilantro (about 3 tbsp or to taste, I like lots)
– half the juice of a lemon
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1 tbsp of water at a time until you get the consistency you would like
Soak your cashews for at least 4 hours or overnight.
In a medium sized pot add 1 cup of farro and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then cover and bring the heat down to a low simmer. Cook for 35-45 minutes until tender, or according to the farro package.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Trim the tops of the carrots down to about ½ inch and toss with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on a parchment paper lined baking tray and roast the carrots for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Then turn the oven up to 400 degrees and roast for another 10 minutes.
While the farro is cooking and the carrots are roasting you can make the cashew cream.
Drain and rinse the soaked cashews and throw them into a high speed blender or food processor with all of the cream ingredients; sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, tahini, honey, miso paste, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Blending until you get a creamy consistency, you can add a couple of tablespoons of water to get the consistency you like. It should be thick and creamy but still drizzle like.
Once the farro has cooked, heat up a large pan on the stove and add 2 tbsp of sesame oil. Finely mince the shallot and fry in the pan until browned. Add in the farro and de-stemmed kale (torn into small pieces), cooking until the kale is lightly wilted.
Thinly slice the radishes for topping the salad. 
For plating, add a large scoop of the shallot fried farro, then the carrots and radish slices and drizzle with cashew cream. Or alternately you can just pour the cream over the farro and toss it all together.
All photos courtesy of Lyndsey Eden and used with permission.

From Vineyard to Table

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Michael Helton, of Hanover Park Vineyards 

Swishing through wet grass in muck boots, bucket swinging at my side, I joined the crew at Hanover Park Vineyards last fall for a day of picking Chardonnay grapes. The morning sun glinted across the vines, showing off water droplets clinging to leaves, while underneath the grapes hung heavy in ripened clusters. 

There were 15 of us in the field that morning; mostly seasoned Hispanic workers and a few others like me who simply wanted to experience a grape harvest firsthand. Together we listened as Michael Helton, co-owner of Hanover Park, instructed us on the harvesting process—grab a cluster of grapes with one hand, snip with the tool in your right hand, inspect the cluster to remove shots (the brown shriveled-up grapes), and then plop the cluster into the bucket.

“Grab, cut, inspect, plop.”
I made my way through row after row of perfectly trellised vines—grabbing, cutting, inspecting, and plopping—with the September sun growing hotter by the hour. By the time my arms had settled into a dull ache, the announcement of lunchtime brought a sigh of relief. We dumped our filled buckets into the tractor’s half-ton bin and headed to the farmhouse, where Michael’s wife, Amy, had prepared a delicious meal.
I spent the afternoon with Michael while he supervised the tons of grapes coming in from the vineyard, watching as they began weighing, crushing, and processing the fruit to extract the juice. I also listened as Michael talked about the history of Hanover Park and how it was inspired by his and Amy’s monthlong honeymoon in the south of France 20 years ago. The couple planted their first grapevines in 1997 and later converted their 100-year farmhouse into a tasting room. They now grow more than a dozen varietals on their eight-acre farm in Yadkinville, including Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Chambourcin.

I came away that day with a new appreciation for the grape-harvesting process and the N.C. wine industry as a whole. But I also wanted to know more. Why has the Yadkin Valley become such a hotbed for wine in recent years? And what can we expect from this year’s crop?

RayLen Vineyards

The Yadkin Valley Boom
With another harvest season upon us, I met with RayLen Vineyards’ head winemaker, Steve Shepard, to discuss the growth of vineyards in this area as well as the variables which affect the harvest. Shepard, who’s often called “the Godfather of N.C. wine,” came to North Carolina in 1989 when there were only six wineries in the state. There are now more than 100.
“We have a history of making great wine in this state,” he says. “Between the Civil War and Prohibition, North Carolina was the largest wine producer in the country, but it wasn’t until years later that the industry started to grow. The big growth spurt happened from 2000 to 2015.”
Because of North Carolina’s varied geography, climate, and soil, the wines produced here are often as unique as the land itself. According to the website NCwine.org, North Carolina is the only region in the world that grows every major type of grape variety.
So what caused the Yadkin Valley to become the hub of North Carolina wine making? Shepard says it has a lot to do with the earth beneath us. Here in the Piedmont, the red clay and heaviness of the soil puts more stress on the grapevines—and that’s actually a good thing. All that stress on the vines creates grapes that are rich and complex in character.
As for this year’s harvest, Shepard anticipates a lighter crop than last year due to several hard frosts in the spring that thinned the crop. “That’s not a bad thing, though,” he says. “A lighter crop means a better quality wine because it forces a more intense flavor and color into the grapes.”
Steve and his crew generally go through the vineyard and control the yield by dropping some of the fruit in mid-season while the clusters are green, but this year the frost did the job for them.
“All in this Together”
Harvesting a crop that you’ve been waiting on for a whole year is a big deal. Many vintners compare it to giving birth to a child. For months they’ve been tending and pruning, worrying about rain levels, and dealing with variables such as frost, pests, soil conditions, and weather patterns.
Then there’s the tension of figuring out when the exact perfect time to harvest will be, as winemakers prefer the fruit to stay on the vine as long as possible. Grape varieties ripen at different times, causing the harvest season to stretch from mid-August to October.
Shepard says the hands-on care that goes into each grape often surprises people.
“Each vine is hand-touched 10 to 15 times during the growing season,” he says “From trimming to adjusting to pulling weeds to hand-picking the grapes from the vine, it’s all done by hand.”
While he agrees that harvesting can be a stressful and meticulous process, he says it’s also a joyous one. This is when the fruit of their labor literally comes in from the fields.
“We have a full-time crew of five people who work in the vineyards, but during harvest time we reach out to family and friends for additional help,” he says. “We work with a few other local vineyards, too. Their crew helps us during our harvest, and we’ll help them during theirs. We might also sell or trade grapes with other vineyards during this time; for instance, if we have an excess of Merlot and need Cabernet.
“We like to call ourselves co-petitors,” he adds. “We work together, and we compete against each other, but we all want what’s best for the North Carolina wine industry. We’re all in this together.”
With another season’s harvest beginning, we all can appreciate the hard work that happens between the vineyard and the table. Let’s raise our glasses to winemakers like Helton and Shepard whose hard work is paying off as they strive to improve the legacy, in their soil and in their glass, of some of the oldest vineyards in our nation.

As published in Winston-Salem Monthly Magazine, September 2016.