Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Archiving the blog

I'm turning this set of pages into an archive (all posts before 2016) and re-starting this blog with my husband. We'll be posting travel and food updates, as usual, but hopefully more frequently!

Current posts can be found at www.wanderlustandappetite.com

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Honey Vanilla Cheesecake

My mom recently made a delicious buttermilk pie using gluten-free graham crackers for the crust, and I was so in love with the results (the graham crackers melted into the filling, giving it this amazing caramel-like layer that was soo good) that I wanted to try to replicate the effect in a cheesecake. I found quark (a fresh cows' milk cheese that is popular in Germany) at the farmers market and figured it would be perfect. so I embarked on making a gluten-free version of Kaesekuchen, but with a graham cracker crust. Kaesekuchen (cheesecake) is typically a bit more fluffy than an American style cheesecake, and made with a pie crust. I combined recipes and styles and came up with this recipe, which turned out awesome. The crust, however, did not melt into the cake. Oh well, it was still wonderful & I'm going to have to assume my mom's pie was just a happy accident...

Honey Vanilla Cheesecake
Makes 1 9-inch cheesecake

4 ounces gluten-free graham crackers
4 ounces gluten-free ginger snaps
3 ounces butter, melted

16 ounces quark
8 ounces cream cheese
4 eggs 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup honey (or to taste)
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 inch spring-form pan.

Pulse graham crackers and ginger snaps in a food processor until ground into fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until defined. Firmly press crumb mixture into bottom of the spring-form pan. Place in the refrigerator to set until the filling is ready.

For the Filling: Beat the quark & cream cheese until smooth and free of any lumps.

I mixed the cheeses by hand, feel free to use an electric mixer!
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cheese, then add the honey, vanilla, and cornstarch.

Add the eggs and egg yolk, 1 at a time, and continue to beat slowly until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the beaters once or twice.

The batter should be well-mixed but not overbeaten. Pour the filling into the crust-lined spring-form pan. Set the pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and fold up the sides around it. Place the spring-form cake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the foil; the foil will keep the water from seeping into the cheesecake. Carefully place in the oven to keep the water from sloshing into the foil.

Bake in the preheated oven until the filling no longer moves when you shake the pan, about 1 hour. Remove from the water-filled pan and let cool to room temperature for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours. Loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Unmold and serve.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Jalapeno & Bacon Sausage

My fiancee thinks this is the best sausage, ever.

Jalapeno & Bacon Sausage
Makes 5 pounds

4 pounds pork shoulder
1 pound bacon
10 jalapeno peppers
1 head garlic
5 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1½ teaspoon oregano
32mm hog casings

Rub the head of garlic with oil and wrap in foil. Place the garlic and jalapenos on a medium-heat  grill. Cook until the skins of the peppers is black and blistered, then remove from the grill and place in a paper bag to steam for at least 10 minutes. Remove the garlic when the cloves are soft and slightly browned. Let cool and peel the paper off of the cloves. when the peppers have steamed, remove the blackened skin, stem, and seeds. 

Cube and then chill the pork and bacon. Grind meat, jalapenos, and garlic through a ¼-in. plate. Mix in the salt and spices.

Stuff sausage meat into casings and tie off into 5-inch links. Store in the refrigerator or freeze until ready to cook or grill them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Texas" Hot Sausage

I have no idea why this is called Texas sausage, but that's the name I found the recipe under on the internet, so I'm keeping it.  I made a few changes to the spice mixture and added ground bacon to half of the sausage mix (because bacon!). It's good either way...

"Texas" Hot Sausage
Makes 5 pounds

7 pounds pork shoulder or butt, coarsely ground
1 12-ounce bottle of (gluten-free) beer
1/4 cup minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons cayenne
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground bay leaves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground thyme

Grind all of the dry spices in a spice grinder. Mix spices and garlic into the beer. Pour the spiced liquid over the ground pork and mix well. Stuff into hog casings

Note: Try substituting 1 pound bacon for 1 pound of the pork. Grind them together, the rest of the recipe is exactly the same.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Beer & Bacon Bratwurst

More sausage! The flavor develops better if it sits overnight in the refrigerator before making it into links (or patties, although in my opinion bratwurst are best as links and cooked on a grill).

Beer & Bacon Bratwurst

Makes 2 1/2 pounds

2 pounds pork shoulder
1/2 pound bacon
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup (gluten-free) beer
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
35mm hog casings

Pass the garlic through a garlic press and mince up any remaining pulp; add to the beer and let seep for 1 hour.

Cut the meat into about 1-inch cubes, and then partially freeze. Grind the pork and bacon through a medium plate. Add the salt, spices, and the beer -garlic mixture to the meat and then mix well. Let sit overnight to develop the flavors, then stuff into hog casings, making links about 4-5 inches long. Cook, refrigerate or vacuum-pack and freeze.

Irish Soda Bread

Since St. Patrick's day is coming up, I did some experimenting with soda bread recipes. I tried a traditional recipe using gluten-free flour, one that was all almond flour, and this one with a mix of tapioca and almond. The almond & tapioca came out as the clear winner with both gluten-free and non-gluten free folks. It has the added benefit of being paleo as well.

Irish Soda Bread

2 cups almond flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, well beaten
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 -1 cup almond milk (or substitute buttermilk for the almond milk and vinegar)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8" pan.

Combine the flours, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and mix well. Add egg, honey, and vinegar. Mix into the dough, adding almond milk a little bit at a time as you mix to form a moist dough.

Place the dough into the prepared pan and cut a shallow  "X" across the top with a sharp knife.

Bake for 40-50 minutes (you can cover the top with foil if it is getting too brown too early). Let cool on a rack for 20 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage

A classic, mild  fennel sausage, great on pizza!

Sweet Italian Fennel Sausage
Makes 2 1/2 pounds

2 1/2 pounds lean ground pork butt or shoulder
1 tablespoon fennel seed
2 bay leaves, ground fine
1 tablespoon dried parsley
3 cloves roasted garlic (can use raw also)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients carefully, let stand for 1 hour, and mix again. Shape into patties or stuff into casings. Keeps 3 days in refrigerator or 2-3 months frozen.

Best Breakfast Sausage

This really is the best breakfast sausage, ever. I like to make it into links, but it's perfect as patty sausage as well (I generally make 5 pounds into links and keep 5 pounds as loose sausage for scrambles and sausage hash). 

Best Breakfast Sausage
Makes 10 pounds

10 pounds ground pork
4 1/2 tablespoons kosher (coarse) salt
1 tablespoons ground white pepper
2 tablespoons rubbed sage
1 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon thyme
1 pint ice water

Combine all ingredients, mix well & stuff into sheep casing or make into thin patties

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Chorizo Verde

Many years ago, I was staying with friends who live outside of Ensenada, Mexico. For breakfast one morning they cooked these little, bright green sausages & I've been dreaming of them ever since. Chorizo Verde is, as far as I can tell, impossible to find in the Bay Area. Some internet research yielded this recipe, which is really, really good & full of cilantro & chilies. It's hotter than the Chorizo Verde I remember, though, so next time I'll probably skip the Serrano chilies and add an additional poblanos.

Chorizo Verde
Makes 5 pounds

5 pounds pork shoulder, ground
½ pound fresh poblano chilies
½ pound tomatillos
3 Serrano chilies
2 bunches cilantro
¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin seed), toasted
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
5 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon ground chipotle
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon oregano, ground
1½ teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground

Roast the fresh chilies and tomatillos directly over a gas flame until charred on the outside (can also place on a baking pan under a broiler). Place into a paper bag to steam for 10 minutes. Remove the charred skins  and seeds from the chilies. Stem and coarsely chop the cilantro.

Grind the pork along with the tomatillos, chilies, garlic,  and cilantro through a medium plate (alternatively, place the tomatillos, chilies, garlic and cilantro into the blender and puree. Grind the meat separately & mix the puree in). Toast  the pumpkin and sesame seeds and mix with the salt, chipotle, black pepper, and oregano. Grind finely in a spice grinder. Mix thoroughly into the ground meat. Stuff in 32 mm pork casings; air dry and allow to rest at room temp for several hours. Refrigerate for 24 hours for the flavors to develop.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bordeaux (and a little bit of Paris, too)

As part of my world traveling, workaholic ways, I scheduled a work week in Paris on my birthday (which at Mozilla you get to take off as a holiday). Combined with the fact I accidentally scheduled myself to work on both MLK Day & Presidents Day (yeah, I know), I thought it would be nice to bring my fiancee & go somewhere in France outside of Paris for a few days (I've been to Paris on something like 20 work trips over the last 12 years, but only set foot outside of the city a few times). We both love wine, so Bordeaux was a perfect place to visit, even though it is early in the season for wine trips (which turned out to be a good thing).

Trains to Bordeaux leave out of Gare Montparnasse, in the 14th arrondissement (administrative district), so we decided to spend the first night in Paris near the train station so we didn't have to worry about missing the train if anything happened with our flight. This turned out to be a wise choice as our flight was over 2 hours late & the traffic into the city was horrible. We stayed at  l'Hotel Le Fabe, which was a lovely little boutique hotel and quite well priced for Paris.

After checking into the hotel we went out to find something to eat and get a SIM card. On the next corner there was a really cute place that was plastered with Michelin recommendations. I immediately decided we had to try it, but since they were closing we figured we'd come back for dinner. We bought a SIM card from a friendly and helpful gentleman in a phone store, who took the time to make sure everything on the phone worked correctly. Then we wandered around for a while, looking for a place that was open and served food - a tough task at 3:30 in the afternoon in Paris (even on a Thursday). Then it began pouring rain. We'd (of course) forgotten to bring umbrellas, so we huddled under an awning; cold, wet, and starving. My fiancee noticed a bar across the way, and used the universal language of gestures to "ask" guy in there is the place was open and might serve food. It seemed like the answer was yes, so we decided to chance it and dashed over. The guy staffing the place spoke a little bit of English, and we less-than-barely speak French, but somehow he managed to convey that he only had sandwiches available. Since sandwiches are a no-go for Ms. gluten-intolerant, so we decided to just have a couple glasses of wine and wait the rain out. After bringing us the wine & commiserating about the rain, he spontaneously offered to cook us up some steak frites if we wanted it. Now you are talking! After some difficulties communicating how many steaks we wanted (only one; I was determined to have a big dinner later), he went into the back and cooked up a steak and some fries for us to share. While not the best meal I've ever had, it totally hit the spot and he was so nice that it absolutely made up for it. I know that Parisians have a reputation as being unfriendly, but this has never been my experience, and this trip was no exception - the people we interacted with were very gracious and generous.  After lunch, the rain died down and we went back to the hotel, took a nap, and then went down the street a block to dinner.

The restaurant, La Cantine Du Troquet, is an informal Basque brasserie by Christian Etchebest, who has had several TV shows in France. The chef is known for ‘nose to tail’ dining, although we didn't really try any nose, tail, or offal. They don't take reservations; when we showed up at 8:30 the place was packed but we decided to stick it out.  The waitress put us on the list (I'm not sure how, as she didn't take my name, and up until we got called I was unsure if we'd even be -on- the list, but it all worked out). We squeezed into a little space by the bar and ordered two glasses of wine. The wine was accompanied some complimentary charcuterie, which was fantastic and tided us over the 30 or so minutes until we got a table. 

We started with caillée de chèvre et son pistou (goat cheese drizzled with pesto) and  razor clams, both were great but the razor clams definitely won the round. Main courses were bavette steak & duck - both also very good. Actually, the whole meal was wonderful - the server was fantastic, friendly, and really helpful keeping my orders gluten-free, the food was amazing, and the place itself very boisterous and fun. I'd totally head down into the 14th just to go here again.

Razor clams!
The next morning, we got up and headed to Gare Montparnasse. By utilizing a shortcut recommended by the man manning the hotel desk we were able have a coffee before we left (the same guy had checked us in, and he insisted we have a cup of tea when we checked in, and a coffee before we left. It was kind of adorable). A nice touch as opposed to the usual charge as much as possible to the tourists attitude in many places!

It's a 3 hour and 10 minute train journey from Paris to Bordeaux, and it passed pretty quickly. We arrived and set off to find the bed & breakfast, La Halte Montaigne,which was really close to the train station and about a 10 minute tram ride from the center of town (and 20 minutes walking).

The hosts were very friendly, the inn itself is a gorgeous old house, and the room was spacious and lovely. They also provided us a 3 day tram pass as part of the price of the room, which was a really lovely & unexpected bonus. We checked in, got ourselves situated, and then headed out into the center of town to explore.

Bordeaux is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and I can understand why - it's a lovely city. 

We wandered around the old town, looked at a lot of buildings, and drank a bit of wine before heading back to the B&B around 10:30 pm to get some rest. 

This is where some of the charm of the place wore off.  I kind of hate to write this, because I really WANTED to love La Halte Montaigne  - the place was lovely, the hosts were amazing, the rooms was perfect, they served one of the best breakfasts ever... and soundproofing is utterly non-existent. I would have been fine with traffic noise and creaky floors (character!), but there was a family staying there with 3 very young children, and the kids screamed and were running around ( with shoes apparently on) until 2:30 am. No sleep for us that night. Or the next. Or the next. In fact, you knew exactly when the family arrived, went to sleep, got up, and left, because it seemed that the kids never stopped screaming while they were awake. Not the fault of the inn, or innkeepers, but damn, it was brutal. Part of me would want to stay there again (the breakfast was amazing & they were super nice), but part of me is too afraid of not being able to sleep, even with the earplugs they provide.

Anyway, bright and early in the morning (well, sleep deprived and far too early), we headed out to an all-day tour of the Médoc area.

We'd debated how to experience the wine regions of Bordeaux - taking a tour vs. renting a car. The tours are hella expensive, but offer the benefit of both of us being able to sample wines freely. Also, we had no idea which chateaus would offer the best experiences and since it was also the first weekend of the season many of the chateaus would not be open to individual tourists (unlike wineries in California, it's not common for French wineries to have open visitation hours, although that is slowly changing). It was a dream trip for both of us, so we decided to suck it up and take two tours - a full day tour of Medoc and a half-day tour of Saint-Émilion. We chose Ophorus tours because their tours have no more than 8 people and had really good reviews. We weren't disappointed. Our guide, Boris, was great. Plus, since it was so early in the season, on the first day we were the only people on the tour.

The Médoc is the wine region located on the left bank of the Gironde estuary north of Bordeaux, and contains around 1,500 vineyards.  Inside of Médoc AOC are several sub-appelations (and sub-sub appelations. Did I mention that French wine classification is confusing?). Our tour was entierly in the Haut-Médoc Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC), which is bordered in the south by the city of Bordeaux. The Haut-Médoc contains six appellations made up of nine communes (Margaux AOC, Listrac-Médoc AOC, Moulis-en-Médoc AOC, Saint-Julien AOC, Pauillac AOC and Saint-Estèphe AOC). All but six of the 61 appellation included in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 are located within Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe. Confused yet? If so, all you really need to know is that Haut-Médoc is where some of the most famous and expensive wines in  France are made (including Château Lafite Rothschild & Château Latour). 

One thing that surprised me on the ride out to the first winery was that the land is flat and very gravelly - totally unlike what I generally picture as wine-growing terrain.

The first stop was Chateau Liouner in Listrac-Médoc. It's a family-run winery, and the owner spent almost an hour with us, giving us a tour of the place and answering questions. I learned that all of the vines in France (and everywhere else in the world) are grown on American root stock to protect against phylloxera.

Chateau Liouner, photo by Garin T
After a lovely visit and tasting several of the Chateau's wines, we headed to the village of Pauillac for lunch.
Pauillac, photo by Garin T
After lunch, we headed to Chateau Lynch Bages, which is right outside Pauillac. The wine produced here was classified as one of eighteen Cinquièmes Crus (Fifth Growths) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.

wine barrel, photo by Garin T

The village at Chateau Lynch Bages, photo by Garin T
The tour was interesting - in addition to the modern facilities they have preserved old winemaking equipment, including the huge wooden barrels that I remember from going to wineries with my father when I was a child. Chateau Lynch Bages also has a "village" with a bakery, butcher, wine shop, and restaurant. After tasting some of  their wines we headed to Margeaux and our final wine tour and tasting.

photo stop at Château Pichon Longueville Baron, photo by Garin T
The last chateau we visited was Chateau Prieure Lichine, which was classified as one of ten Quatrièmes Crus (Fourth Growths) in 1855. The tour here was interesting, and we loved the wine.

Wines at Chateau Prieure Lichine, photo by Garin T
The chateau, photo by Garin T
After  Chateau Prieure Lichine we headed back to Bordeaux, and dinner with one of the Mozilla volunteers who lives in town.

The next morning, we took a morning half-day tour visiting the right bank & Saint-Émilion, a medieval town and AOC of the same name. 

After a drive through the fog, we arrived at our first stop, Chateau De Pressac. The chateau has architectural elements dating back to the middle ages, and in 1453 the treaty that followed the French victory at the Battle of Castillon La Bataille, which put an end to the Hundred Years War, took place at this Château. They have been producing wines since the 1700's and are categorized as Grand Cru Classé, a classification for wines in the Saint-Émilion AOC that is updated every 10 years (and is totally different than the classification system used in the Medoc. this trip helped me make a little more sense of how French wines are named and classified, but I'm pretty sure it would require a huge investment of time to really understand it). 

Chateau De Pressac

View of the valley from the chateau

Inside the winery, in the barrel room
After tasting (and buying) a few wines, we drove around a bit to view some of the classic wineries in the area.

In Saint-Émilion, we parked and walked into the center of town to a wine shop, there we tasted 9 wines from the region (and shipped a few home as well).

At this point, the half-day tour was over. However, there is a train that runs every hour on Sundays, so we decided to stay in Saint-Émilion and explore instead of heading back to Bordeaux. We bid our wonderful driver and guide, Boris, goodbye and set off to explore, starting with lunch outdoors in the sunshine (it was literally the only day it didn't rain, how's that for luck).

Saint-Émilion is lovely, and going really early in the season, while a little cold and gray in the afternoon, was fantastic as it was nearly empty. A lot of the shops were not open yet (and we weren't there for shopping anyways), but the most interesting attractions were all open and it was great to be able to wander around without a crowd.

We had lunch right under that tree
One of the main things to see is the Église Monolithe (Monolithic Church), one of Europe's largest underground churches. The church was carved into the limestone rock of the cliff between the 9th and 12th century by monks faithful to the memory of St-Émilion, an eighth-century hermit the town is named after.
The monolithic church
A view of the town & church

We also climbed the Kings Tower, which has fantastic views out over the rooftops of the town. It started getting grayer and colder at that point, so we decided to walk down to the train station and head back to Bordeaux. We hope to visit Saint-Émilion again, but next time we want to stay in town for a night.
on the way out of town to the train station
We had an early train back to Paris Monday morning, and we were worn out from wine drinking, walking, and not much sleep, so we decided to grab dinner by the train station at Cafe du Levant, a lovely art-deco restaurant right across from the train station. The food was quite good, and they had a really interesting take on an Irish coffee...

The next morning we headed back to Paris, checked into Hôtel Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador, and then I headed to the office. After a couple hours of meetings, the lack of sleep caught up with me (and the folks who had just arrived from the US), so a few of us went for a walk and then dinner.

I remembered a wine bar in the 10th, Albion, that we'd stopped at for wine and cheese on our last trip in December (I have such a hard life). The food had looked good then, and it totally lived up to the looks - everything was excellent (interestingly, it is an English-owned wine shop with an Aussie chef, creating modern French food). Sated, we headed back to the hotel and (finally) a good nights sleep.

Not much else to report - I worked the next 6 days straight (with a visit to the Eiffel Tower the night of my birthday), taking a few breaks to escort other visitors (we had 30 people in town for a "hacking" weekend) to my favorite chocolate and macaron shops. Pierre Hermé still makes my favorite macaron. Also had great dinners at two of my favorite places near the office, l'Ardoise &
Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie

I got to have a lovely short vacation and a very productive work trip all rolled into one!