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Southern Greens Shakshuka | BHM Virtual Potluck

Southern Greens Shakshuka

February is Black History Month and to celebrate, I have joined up with 27 of the best black food bloggers from around the globe for a Virtual Potluck! From African to Creole, Caribbean to Southern there is something for everybody; with each blogger contributing their very own recipes in a number of categories (Meat Entree, Seafood Entree, Vegetarian Entree, Beverage and Dessert) to share with you each day of Black History Month. Check out and try some of the other amazing recipes from our participating bloggers listed at the end of this post!

Those who know me well, know that I love a good brunch. If I’m totally honest, I would tell you that I pretty much live for brunch. Thoughts of where we’re going for brunch on on the weekend tend to dominate my late-week thoughts. I may or may not have a spreadsheet showing which brunch places in town serve bottomless mimosas… Read More

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FEED Supper 2016

About four years ago, my husband and I attended a charity dinner in town called Project Dinner Table. It was the first long table dinner I had ever attended and I’ve been obsessed with hosting one ever since. There is something about being seated at a dinner party with 100 other people that stirs my imagination in a profound way. It isn’t just the food; it is the communal experience– a feeling of being a part of something really special and really BIG.

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Last weekend after about 8 weeks of planning and cooking for what seemed to be forever, I was finally able to make that long table dinner party dream a reality and hosted my very first FEED Supper. It was an incredible experience, combining the things that I enjoy the most: feeding a lot of people, eating great food, and making a difference!

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Each year, beginning on September 16 and culminating on World Food Day, October 16, hosts around the globe join together to “truly share a meal” with their dinner guests. The premise is so simple: host a supper and ask your dinner guests to donate meals to the FEED Foundation in lieu of bringing a bottle of wine. 100% of the proceeds raised during a FEED Supper goes to provide meals to children and families facing food insecurity.

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Additional donations received during the dinner pushed our tally to 8,181!

 

This year, FEED Suppers adopted a global theme and hosts were able target specific regions around the globe to which they could give: the USA, India, Mexico and Ghana. I invited 22 friends to gather on October 22, 2016 to share a meal with our fellow Americans who may not know where their next meal is coming from. Everything about this dinner was an amazing success and we raised enough money to provide over 8000 meals through the Feed Foundation and their giving partners!

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The Menu

Signature Cocktail:  Spiced Pear Collins

1st Course

Butternut Squash with Dungeness Crab Relish

2nd Course

Fennel and Orange Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette

Main Course

Homemade Potato Gnocchi with Oxtail Ragu and Horseradish Crumbs

Dessert

Kabocha Squash Panna Cotta with Poached Persimmons and Pomegranate

Take Home Gift

Balsamic Pickled Cipolline Onions

It was important to me to cater this dinner myself, because that’s what I love to do. I was committed to choosing dishes that featured seasonal produce and that I could make ahead of time. I am especially grateful to Melissa’s Produce, who generously donated most of the fresh fruits and vegetables that were used to make this dinner. They were amazing to work with and I cannot recommend their produce enough–everything was so fresh and beautiful!

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Fennel, Orange and Arugula Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette

 

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Homemade Gnocchi with Oxtail Ragu and Horseradish Crumbs

This dinner taught me so many things. Over the past 6 weeks, I learned how to make homemade gnocchi; tested and re-tested recipes; canned 9 pounds of cipolline onions; tested cocktail recipes (I am not complaining about that at all) and braised close to 18 pounds of oxtail!

In order to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed by the thought of cooking for so many people, I adopted the mantra of “3×8”. The thought of cooking a sit-down dinner for 24 people would have sent me trembling to the back corner of my kitchen, but dinner for 8 is no problem. So, I focused on cooking dinner for 8, three times.

I learned how to be “in the moment” and to enjoy the process. I am a results person. I delight in the finished product–the quintessential “are we there yet?” kid. Learning to enjoy the weeks of preparation in order to get to the big payoff was huge for me. There were so many times I thought “this is crazy; why am I doing this? and “oh my god I’m going to crash and burn”, but then I found the calm in simply doing the tasks at hand. I grew to enjoy shaping gnocchi by hand, over and over again…for weeks. I’ll be sharing that recipe and process with you in the weeks to come and trust me, it can be quite meditative!

I think the most important personal growth lesson in all of this was learning to put my inner perfectionist on the back burner. So many things didn’t come out “perfectly”–things that were out of my control and things I could have done differently. For instance, I thought, being late October, that it would be cool, autumn weather. I pictured sweaters and boots, a fire in the fire pit. I even bought a bunch of cozy throw blankets for the occasion. Nope. It was 90 degrees that afternoon. I had to let that vision disappear so that the reality (which was still really good) could coalesce. It turns out the weather was perfect for our dinner–there was no wind and the temperature cooled to a reasonable 80 degrees once the sun set. 24 hours later, a storm blew in with high winds and rain!

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The first course, the butternut squash puree, was a bit of a failure in terms of plating and presentation, but it tasted great.

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Because it took me so long to set the table, I barely had enough time to run home, shower and get ready. So…my hair looks like it was styled by squirrels!

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But then there were the perfect moments: like, my husband who worked the bar like nobody’s business! I caught a glimpse of him from across the yard, shaking cocktails like a pro and holding court with our guests and I was just blown away and so in love!img_2134

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While I was at home getting ready, my friends all pitched in and finished setting the table, put the finishing touches on the appetizers and lit the candles.

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My friends Adam, Shawn, Cher, Virginia, Sandra and Terrence all had a hand in creating the tiny details and magic moments that make a dinner party feel complete. My friend Cher kept me organized in the kitchen and kept me from forgetting Every. Single. Thing. I have since decided that I need her with me 24/7 telling me what to do and keeping me focused–but unfortunately, she declined that job!

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img_2675And then there was the moment when I looked over at all the happy faces at the table. Friends, both old and new, their faces illuminated in the twinkling lights, breaking bread together and celebrating that we not only met, but exceeded our fundraising goals. That, right there, was all the perfection I needed.

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There are so many people I have to thank who were all a part of making this dinner so successful: All of my friends who attended and gave generously from their hearts to the foundation; my wonderful friend Adam who opened his beautiful home to host this dinner and who with his partner Shawn, made everything look amazing. Our generous sponsor, Melissa’s Produce, for providing the amazingly fresh and beautiful vegetables used in each dish. My talented friend London Mace who generously provided the photography for the event and is the photographer behind all of the images used in this post. To my husband who supports my every venture, no matter how crazy: I love you and I thank you. Everything was so great and I could not have done this without all of you.

Photography: London Mace Photography

Menu Graphic Design: Mitchell Hagan Studio

Calligraphy: Cher Chang

Fresh Produce: Nick Quintero and Jennifer Salzburg with Melissa’s Produce

Table and Chair Rental: Rebel Party Rental

Vintage Silver Service: Adam Throgmorton and Shawn Bicker

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Easy Gatherings with Uncommon Goods

This post was created in partnership with Uncommon Goods, purveyors of unique and wonderful things!

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I cannot believe that we are halfway through September, which means only two more weeks until my favorite month and my favorite season of the year! Seriously, after a long, terribly hot summer, I am so ready to crawl out of my self-imposed indoor seclusion and get reacquainted with the world again.

I think every September I go through a kind of nesting syndrome. In January, I’m ready to throw everything away–remember my attacks of minimalism?  But by September, I’m ready to decorate EVERYTHING. But here’s the thing they don’t tell you about minimalism: after a few years of it, you come to the realization that you don’t have any things! I know…that’s kind of the point. But after I while, I’m starting to get the feeling that I want to be surrounded by a few more pretty things.

So, it was perfect timing when Uncommon Goods reached out to me to collaborate on this post. At first, I was actually paralyzed with indecision. You know what I mean, right? “Analysis paralysis”? There were so many interesting and unique products that I was completely overwhelmed. What I found truly intriguing was Uncommon Goods’ mission. They are committed to selling products that are either handmade, recycled or organic and they don’t sell items that caused harm to animals or humans (no leather, fur or feathers).  I love that the products are lovingly made and truly unique. Their commitment to sustainable sources of products made me feel great about choosing some goodies for use in my own home. Since I’m still a minimalist at heart, I chose two items that were really adorable, but are ultimately quite useful.

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Since I love to entertain, I naturally gravitated towards the kitchen and barware collection. Oh, my goodness, I am a kid in a candy store with these items!  I chose this great little cheese slate shaped as my home state of Nevada from their special occasion  serveware site and this set of wine cork place card holders from their kitchen and barware collection!

I don’t consider myself a collector of a great many things, but cheese boards are kind of my thing, so this Nevada cheese slate is right up my alley.  I absolutely love setting out a little cheese and charcuterie plate when I have people over, plus I get to show a little Nevada pride as well (the slates are designed for all 50 states)! The cheese slate came with chalk and a little card with details about the maker of the product, which was a very nice touch. With the chalk, you can write the names of the cheeses or meats right on the slate.

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I don’t normally utilize a place card to tell people where to sit when they come over–I can at least rein in my inner control freak that much. So, I instead used them to label the different dishes on the table. The place card holders are made of resin and they have a nice heft to them–they won’t roll over.

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I am actually really excited to do some more shopping on their website because they have so many items that would make great gifts. I have my eye on this pineapple tumbler for instance–can you just imagine sipping a Mai Tai from it? And since the weather is finally cooling down I’ll be doing a little shopping on their outdoor dining collection to add a few needed items to my stash of barbecue tools.

Armed with the cheese slate and the place card holders, I invited a few friends over for a little impromptu wine and cheese gathering. I made a few very easy appetizers: lamb chops with chimichurri (because I like to be fancy), fingerling potatoes with aioli, caprese skewers, and of course and assortment of cheeses, olives, crackers, and charcuterie. Start to finish these small bites take about an hour of time in the kitchen, which in my book, is very little time. If you’re suddenly hit with the urge to throw a last minute get-together, then this is the menu for you!

Caprese Skewers, Fingerling Potatoes and Chimichurri Lamb Chops

Caprese skewers

Now, you know this doesn’t need a recipe. It was simply grape tomatoes threaded onto wooden skewers alternating with a ball of mozzarella (ciliegine) and basil leaves. Finish the skewers with a sprinkle of flaky salt and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

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Fingerling Potatoes with Harissa Aioli

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These potatoes are so simple, but it’s also easy to overcook them, making them mushy and unsuitable for dipping. To combat that, only boil them for a few minutes and then let them steep in the hot water until they are tender. Cover the potatoes in water in a saucepan. Add about a 1/4 cup of kosher salt (I know that seems like a lot, but trust me here), throw in a few cloves of smashed garlic, plus a sprig or two of rosemary, sage or thyme. Bring the potatoes to a boil and boil for about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and cover the pot. While the potatoes are steeping, work on something else (like the caprese skewers). By the time the potatoes are cool enough to handle (about 30 minutes later) they will be tender and perfectly seasoned. I sliced them in half and sprinkled them with chopped parsley.

The aioli is equally simple. I originally planned to make an aioli from scratch, but for whatever reason, it would not emulsify. I settled for using mayonnaise, and you know what? It was awesome and so much easier and less messy. A nice dollop of harissa adds so much flavor and just a hint of heat.

  • 1/2 cup mayonaise
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed with a mortar and pestle along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Alternatively, you can smash the garlic into the salt using the flat edge of a chef’s knife.
  • 1 tablespoon of store bought harissa.
  • Mix all the ingredients together and allow it to sit for a few minutes to let the flavors get to know each other, then serve. That’s it–simple!

Lamb Chops with Chimichurri

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I’m sure there are purists out there who will say that this is not a true chimichurri, but work with me, people. It’s very similar, if not authentic and it makes a great marinade for chicken, pork, lamb and beef. Seriously, this sauce is everything and I make it so often that I don’t even use a recipe. Feel free to substitute different herbs as well. I’ve been known to add a handful of basil or oregano to the mix.

  • 1 rack of lamb, frenched and separated into 8 chops
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • handful of cilantro
  • handful of parsley
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Pulse all the ingredients, except for the lamb, in a food processor until thoroughly combined, but stop before it becomes a puree. Use half of the sauce to marinate the lamb chops and reserve the remainder for serving.

Marinate the lamb in the chimichurri sauce for at least 30 minutes. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or broil at 525 degrees for 3 to 4 minutes each side. Allow the lamb to rest 5 at least minutes before serving. Serve with the sauce for dipping.

Disclosure: I was compensated by Uncommon Goods as well as provided with the products featured in this post. The recipes and opinions are my own.

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BA’s Best Bread – A step by step review

 

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I’m not normally a person who obsesses over things. But when I received a copy of the February issue of Bon Appetit in the mail, I couldn’t stop obsessing over the cover photo. In the photo was the darkest, crustiest loaf of homemade bread, nestled in the cast iron pot it was baked in and the article inside promised a homemade bread that would rival those found in professional bakeries. The recipe was daunting. In fact, it was a recipe that would fill a weekend.  I’m more of a mix-up-a-batch-of no-knead bread kind of woman, not a woman who spends an entire weekend kneading dough. But as the months went on, I couldn’t quit this bread. The magazine kept appearing on my desk, its cover photo beckoning to me.  Once it landed on my kitchen counter, I knew there was no point in resisting anymore. So, finally, a couple of weekends ago, I tried it. The bread was high maintenance–just as I knew it would be. It stretched the boundaries of what I thought bread dough should look like, feel like and smell like. I even managed to Snapchat the process. This bread recipe was powerful. Powerful enough to get me to spend a whole weekend on it, and powerful enough to bring me back from a nearly one-year blogging hiatus (sorry guys!).

I have a lot of magazines lying around. Every month, there’s a new recipe I want to try, but with so many, I tend to get “analysis paralysis”. Then I started thinking about the sheer number of magazine recipes and wondering how many actually get attempted by the readers? And I thought maybe I’ll try some of these big weekend project recipes and tell you if it’s worth it to spend a weekend in the kitchen. As I worked my way through this bread recipe, I started noticing that there were little things that I would have benefitted from knowing in advance. I made a few little tweaks to the written recipe as I went along in order to get the results I wanted and knew to expect.

My homage to the Bon Appetit cover photo

My homage to the Bon Appetit cover photo

The recipe can be found here: http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/primers/article/how-to-make-bakery-bread

Day 1.

The recipe requires you to make a poolish, which is a mixture of water, yeast and flour that serves as the starter. I started my poolish on Friday night around 10:30 p.m. The recipe indicated that the poolish needed 14-18 hours to reach maturity. I started checking the poolish at the 14 hour mark and performed the “float test”. The pinch of dough quickly sank to the bottom of the bowl, so as the recipe stated, I waited another 30 minutes to check again. At the 18 hour mark, the poolish still wasn’t mature, and I reasoned that it never would be. The original recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon of yeast. Instead of chucking the entire batch of poolish and starting over, I stirred in an additional 1/8 teaspoon of yeast, 2 tablespoons of water and a tablespoon of all purpose flour. Early the following day, the poolish was bubbly, and I performed the float test–Eureka! it floated, and I was able to proceed with the Day 2 activities.

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Day 2 (actual day 3 for me due to the poolish snafu):

Autolyse: this is the point where the dough gets its initial mix. This was easy and uneventful. You’re just mixing some additional water with the flours (whole wheat and all-purpose). I should tell you that I substituted about a 1/2 cup of bread flour to the mix since the recipe called for a higher protein flour, such as King Arthur Flour. I was pretty sure that the AP flour in my pantry was from Whole Foods, so I substituted about 1/2 bread flour just to boost the protein a bit. The dough rose perfectly well at room temperature for about 2 hours.

Mixing and Kneading. For this part, salt is sprinkled over the dough and an additional 65g of water is added to the dough. Oh, before I forget, DO use a kitchen scale for this recipe. Be aware that there is a typo in the original recipe where it calls for 17 g of salt or 2 tablespoons. 2 tablespoons is incorrect. 17 g is more like 1 tablespoon. A glitch like this could have produced a really salty loaf. Into the mixer it went, and the directions say to mix until the dough “clears the sides of the bowl” and clings to the dough hook. Well…this didn’t exactly happen like this. The dough was the consistency of a thick pudding, but it was not “developing a shape”, nor was it clearing the sides of the bowl or clinging to the dough hook. I added additional all-purpose flour, one tablespoon at a time until it started to take shape. It never did cling to the dough hook, however, and I tapped out at about 3 additional tablespoons of flour.

It got weird. The kneading process was the strangest experience I’ve ever had kneading dough. I felt like I was kneading soup, it was so wet! The way to knead bread like this is through a process of man-handling. You scoop up the dough, then you slap it on the counter. Over and over again. The recipe says to do this for 10-12 minutes. And, you know what I’m going to say, right? It totally took longer than that! I slapped and folded for 26 minutes–as my fitbit can attest! Yep–I got credit for 26 active minutes (high fives! happy dance!). Finally, the dough firmed up passed the window-pane test–the hallmark of well-developed gluten. I was ready for the first part of bulk fermentation.

Bulk Fermentation. During bulk fermentation, you reach into the bowl, grab the edge of the dough, pulling it upwards and the giving it a little shake and folding it over itself. You give the bowl a quarter turn, and repeat the process until you’ve done all four corners. This process is repeated every half hour for three “turns”. After the final turn, the dough rests for 20 to 50 minutes. After my final turn, I was tired of being stuck in the house and wanted to go to brunch, because there is no Sunday without brunch in my opinion. I put the dough in the refrigerator to slow down the process. We were gone for about 2 hours, so after that, I set it outside (it was a warm day) and let  it rest until it was puffed and ready for shaping.

Shaping. Because I’ve baked several loaves of bread before, the shaping portion was not too difficult for  me. You just have to get used to the motion of tucking your hands behind the dough and pulling it towards you to create surface tension on the “boule” (ball of dough).  At this point, the dough feels like a nice, taut…booty. Supple, yet firm (note to self: must get to the gym). After shaping, I popped the dough into a lined colander and into the refrigerator overnight. Whew!

That was a long day of bread-handling, but it actually wasn’t too bad. It was mostly a matter of timing and being somewhat tied to the house for most of the day. Just know that if you need to come to a stopping place, like I did, just put the whole thing in the refrigerator for a bit. When you take it out, give it some time to come to room temperature before starting again.

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Day 3/4: Baking Day

The next day, I was excited to bake this bread that I’d been obsessing over. I noted that the directions didn’t mention anything about removing the dough from the refrigerator to come to room temperature, so I started to have questions. Fortunately, I watched the video of this bread being made on youtube and it answered that important question. The dough is baked cold. Because it was a warm day and I don’t like heating up the entire house with the oven on, I decided to bake the bread outside on the grill.

The score: this shouldn’t have been difficult, but it was because of my own lack of hand-eye coordination and my stubborn adherence to the recipe. I don’t own a “lame” which is tool used to slash the dough before baking. So, I took the suggestion in the article to make one out of a razor blade and a popsicle stick. Because I wanted to do one better, I used a wooden knife and tried to fashion it like a real lame. Do not do this. Just use a really sharp knife to make the slashes, but if you must make a lame from a popsicle stick and a razor blade, just tape it parallel against the stick and BE CAREFUL. Don’t lose any fingertips. Seriously, double-edged razor blades are hella scary (and sharp!).

Because my colander was kind of big, my dough ball was big and spread out. I was pretty certain when I took the dough out of the colander and set it on the plate that it would be larger than my pot. Not good. So, I attempted to rein it in a bit, using the same techniques used during the initial shaping. That seemed to do the trick…but then…

When I scored it, the dough gave an audible sigh and collapsed. It spread back out just the way it was before I attempted to reshape it. I freaked out and all my plans for the pretty scoring patterns in my head just flew out the window. In my now, shaking hands, my makeshift lame and I made a few weirdly placed score marks and I called it a day.

I mentioned that I baked it outside on my grill. I have a large gas grill with 5 burners and when I bake out there, I set the burners to heat the food indirectly. I place a thick baking stone on one side of the grill and one burner underneath the stone is placed on the lowest setting (you don’t want too much heat directly under the baking stone, trust me on this–I’ve burned bread this way). The three burners on the opposite side of the grill are set to the highest setting and one burner closest to the baking stone was completely off. This way the temperature reaches exactly 500 degrees and stays there. If you want to experiment with baking on the grill, know that your grill will likely be different, so play with it and learn how to work those burners!

Thankfully, the dough was exactly the size of the pot (whew!) and not a millimeter too large. I plopped the dough into the preheated pot and cooked it with the lid on for 15 minutes, just as the instructions indicated. Then I removed the lid and baked it for 40 minutes more.

The resulting loaf was a thing of beauty. It was a deep brown color, exquisitely hard on the outside and custardy on the inside. It was chewy and hearty, due to the rye and wheat flour and had the slightest tang of fermentation. I can say quite honestly that it was the best loaf I’d ever made.

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The Verdict:

Even though it was one of the most high maintenance doughs I had ever worked with, I would absolutely do it again. Yes, I could make a no-knead loaf that would be a whole lot easier, but I kind of liked the thrill of a day of playing in dough. Plus, it was challenging, and sometimes I just enjoy being challenged and pushed by a recipe. It was fun getting elbows deep in the kneading process and honestly it was freeing to manhandle that dough without fear that I was going to over-knead it. This recipe is a keeper in my book. If you decide to make it, I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you take a photo of it on social media–tag me (@saltysweetlife on Instagram and @saltsweetlife on Twitter) because I want to see!

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Coffee and Herb-rubbed Lamb Chops paired with The Hess Collection Small Block Syrah

This exquisite lamb dish was provided by The Hess Collection. A very special thank you to The Hess Collection for sponsoring this post and providing this wonderful wine.

In my opinion, few meals are as impressive to serve or as pleasurable to prepare as a rack of lamb. Lamb is always accompanied by the feeling that “something special is happening”  and I usually reserve it for special occasions: Valentine’s Day, anniversary dinners, or birthdays. I remember when I was young, and my brothers were little, my mother would buy a tiny package of lamb chops and squirrel them away for a rare, quiet morning when she could make them for her breakfast–always with a sunny-side up egg and a side of buttery, steaming grits. My picky little brothers would have sooner eaten soil than that exquisite meal, but I knew better and would hover around the kitchen, hoping that she’d save a bite of lamb chop for me. I suspect those lamb chop breakfasts were few and far between because the lamb was (and still is) very expensive and because of that, I still approach lamb with a bit of hushed reverence.

Salty Sweet Life - Coffee and Herb-rubbed Lamb Chops paired with The Hess Collection Small Block Syrah

That reverence came into play when I was given the opportunity to make and photograph an amazing recipe for Coffee and Herb Rubbed Lamb Chops with a Chanterelle Mushroom, Fig and Haricot Verts salad to pair with The Hess Collection’s Small Block Series 2012 Syrah.

Salty Sweet Life - Coffee and Herb-rubbed Lamb Chops paired with The Hess Collection Small Block Syrah

The Hess Collection Small Block Series Syrah‘s full-bodied, blueberry and black cherry notes accented with vanilla and spicy clove pair perfectly with the tender, spice-encrusted, Icelandic lamb chops. The Chanterelle, Fig and Haricot Verts salad has as much complexity as the lamb chops with its combination of  peppery arugula; earthy, caramelized Chanterelle mushrooms; jammy, fresh figs and crisp-tender haricot verts, drizzled with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

This elegant dish and bold, rich wine is a perfect pairing for a special holiday meal. I absolutely loved the smokiness imparted by the coffee and herb rub, which, in turn, brought out the sweetness in the Small Block Series Syrah. The rich, umami of the mushrooms made the salad the perfect counterpart to the lamb and the wine.

Salty Sweet Life - Coffee and Herb-rubbed Lamb Chops paired with The Hess Collection Small Block Syrah

Coffee and Herb Rubbed Lamb Chops with Chanterelle Mushroom, Fig and Haricot Verts Salad

Recipe provided by The Hess Collection

Chanterelle mushrooms can be quite expensive and are sometimes difficult to find. Feel free to substitute another type of mushroom if you desire. I used a combination of chanterelles and oyster mushrooms and the salad was just as wonderful. Use a meat thermometer and remove the lamb chops from the oven when they reach an internal temperature of 125 degrees. The lamb will reach 130 degrees while it rests and the meat will be cooked perfectly to medium-rare.

For the Lamb Chops

  • 2 lamb racks, frenched
  • 1/4 cup coffee, finely ground
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon coriander, ground
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper, ground
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • salt, to taste

For the Salad:

  • 4 ounces olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 pound chanterelle mushrooms, large ones cut into quarters
  • 1 pound haricot verts, blanched
  • 6 mission figs, quartered
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons parsely, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Season the lamb racks with salt and pepper. Let sit for 15 minutes or longer.
  3. Combine coffee, paprika, oregano, thyme, brown sugar, mustard, pepper, coriander, cayenne and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle generously over the lamb racks.
  4. For the salad: place the garlic and olive oil in a small sauté pan. Cook over low heat until the garlic is translucent and soft – approximately 5 minutes. Drain well, reserving the garlic and oil separately. Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add one ounce of the reserved oil and heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms are slightly caramelized and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and place in a large bowl.
  5. Add the garlic, haricot certs, arugula and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Combine the balsamic and all but 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil. Whisk well and adjust seasoning.
  7. For the lamb racks: Heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon reserved oil and the lamb racks. Cook over medium heat to brown all over, being careful not to burn the spices. Place the seasoned meat on a rack in the preheated oven. Cook until an instant-read meat thermometer reached 130 degrees. Transfer to a platter, tent with foil to keep hot and rest for 10 minutes until ready to serve.
  8. To serve: dress the salad with the balsamic vinaigrette, then add the figs to the salad and gently toss. Slice the lamb in 6 pieces (3 per rack). Place a spoonful of the mushroom salad slightly off center on the place. Lean the lamb chops against the salad and drizzle with any remaining vinaigrette.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by The Hess Collection.

If you would like to discover this fine wine as well as others from The Hess Collection for yourself, they have generously offered a special discount for my readers! Use the code THCBLOG when you order to receive 20% off your purchase. Cheers!

Salty Sweet Life - Coffee and Herb-rubbed Lamb Chops paired with The Hess Collection Small Block Syrah

It’s Cherry Season! Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad

Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad - Salty Sweet Life

It’s that time of year again when I gorge myself on ripe, sweet cherries! I just can’t walk by a display of cherries in the grocery store without buying a bag, because it’s the one time that they won’t completely break the bank! Have you seen them priced at $9.99 per pound before? I have and it freaks me out. So, I exercise restraint throughout the year and go cherry crazy right about now.

Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad - Salty Sweet Life

During cherry season, you’ll find me with a bowl of cherries tucked in my lap and munching away contentedly with no need to do anything further to distract from this lusciously sweet treat. Plain cherries are just fine with me, but I suppose if I wrote a blog post about a bowl of cherries, you might look at me a little funny.

Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad - Salty Sweet Life

Recently, on the way to work I was listening to an episode of The Splendid Table as Jen Stevenson, co-writer of the book, The Picnic and member of the Portland Picnic Society (well, of course Portland has a picnic society, doesn’t your town?) was discussing a cherry salad with mint and pistachios. By the time I got to work, I was brimming with excitement to make this salad and go on a picnic–probably not the best frame of mind for buckling down at work!

Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad - Salty Sweet Life

Aside from being at work and feeling antsy about cherries and picnicking, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The mint plants in my garden have finally recovered from the beating they took last month during the windy season and they are now back to being full and lush. I also just happened to have a bag of pistachios “borrowed” from a friend (note to self: must replace the borrowed pistachios). And, as luck would have it, it’s the beginning of cherry season. It was kismet.

Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad - Salty Sweet Life

I love recipes that are essentially non-recipes–it’s free-form and flexible. There are no hard and fast rules or measurements. Just cherries, a handful of fresh mint leaves and coarsely chopped pistachios. You could stop right there and not go any further, but I wanted to add a little dressing to make the dish complete. The simplest combination of lime, shallots, honey and a little walnut oil was a lovely, savory addition that made the cherries sing.

Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad - Salty Sweet Life

The result was a bright and refreshing summer salad, perfect for a picnic or even alongside a juicy steak. It’s a great way to enjoy the bounty of sweet cherries while they’re in season!

Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad - Salty Sweet Life

Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad - Salty Sweet Life

Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: so easy
  • Print

Inspired by The Portland Picnic Society

One thing that caught my attention as I was listening to the podcast was that Jen Stevenson pits cherries the same way I do, with an empty wine bottle and a chopstick. It makes pitting cherries a breeze and it eliminates the need for a cherry pitter. Here’s a link to a video that shows how it’s done.

  • 1 pound ripe cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1 handful of fresh mint leaves, slivered
  • 1/4 roasted and salted pistachios, coarsely chopped

For the dressing:

  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons of honey or agave syrup
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot (about a half of a large shallot)
  • 1 sprig sweet basil, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil (or other neutrally flavored oil)
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • tiny pinch of kosher salt
  1. In a small bowl, stir together the lime juice, shallot, basil, honey or agave syrup, black pepper and salt. Allow the ingredients to sit for at least 5 minutes, or just set them aside while you prepare the cherries. Add the walnut oil and whisk to combine.
  2. Combine the cherries, mint leaves and pistachios and toss very gently with the dressing. Sprinkle with a few extra pistachios and mint leaves and serve. I love this salad at room temperature, but it’s also great chilled.

Sweet and Savory Cherry, Mint and Pistachio Salad - Salty Sweet Life

So, what are your favorite things to do with fresh cherries? If you’re in the mood for something sweeter, try this Cherry Chocolate Crisp from the Bountiful cookbook–so delicious!

Cherry Chocolate Crisp from "Bountiful"

If you’re in the mood for a cocktail this Cherry Drop Martini made with muddled fresh cherries and Hendrick’s Gin should hit the spot–it’s fabulous! Enjoy your weekend and the start of cherry season!

Cherry Drop Martini - Salty Sweet Life