Caper, Shallot and Lemon Schmear

Who doesn’t love a good schmear on their bagel? Or maybe a better question would be– what kind of schmear (a.k.a. cream cheese spread) is the ultimate for your bagel? With Easter brunch menu-planning in the works for everyone over the next few weeks, thought I’d share my favorite toppings, as well as offer you my Caper, Shallot and Lemon Schmear.  It’s the simplest, easiest and *tastiest* of bagel spreads you can serve up at your next brunch or holiday breakfast gathering. It’s so good…it’s sure to be a hole in one (so bad,  I know).  Continue reading

Cherry, Rhubarb & Rosé of Pinot Noir Chutney

Sweet and tart… and pink.
cherry, rhubarb & pinot noir rosé chutney
fresh cherries
fresh rhubarbHonestly, I didn’t intend for most of the ingredients to be pinky-rosey colored. It just sort of happened. I DID however want this Cherry, Rhubarb & Rosé of Pinot Noir Chutney to be a clever way to use up some fruits and veg that were a little tired-looking, and in definite need of a new lease on life before they completely conked out. The cherries had really intensified in flavor after sitting in the fruit bowl for a week. Their skins had begun to turn a much deeper red too. The rhubarb was a few lonely stalks I had picked for a friend, but then found out she’s not a fan….so in the fridge they went. I kind of forgot about them to tell you the truth. And the lovely glass of Rosé, well, that was the last glass in the bottle after having thoroughly enjoyed this local sip which had been opened a couple nights before.

Wanting to keep this chutney bright, lively with some acidity, but deep in the sweet flavors of the fruit, I opted for just a few ingredients. Cherries, rhubarb, dates, shallots, red wine vinegar and wine. That’s it. Some of you may be asking at this point if this condiment falls into the compote or chutney category. Here’s the scoop: compotes are fruits (fresh or dried) cooked in sugar syrup, whereas chutneys are fruits, again fresh or dried, that have been cooked in sugar, vinegar, and usually a few spices. I’d describe compotes as more ‘sweet’ and chutneys more ‘tangy’….due to the addition of vinegar.
chutney ingredients
Rosé For The Bay

Once this chutney had cooked down, the shallots proved to be the best representative of the onion family here. I almost always cook with shallots (instead of onions or garlic). I think shallots are much more mild (never seem to over-power) and taste good raw or cooked. They nicely balanced the sweet cherry and piquant rhubarb notes. Cherries (and rhubarb too come to think of it) are typically an aromatic and palate descriptor of Pinot Noir, so it seemed only fitting to use this wonderful Rosé of Pinot Noir from Tricycle Wine Partners for the acidity component. Grown in the Carneros region, this dry, but fruit-forward and lush Rosé, showed hints of strawberry and cherry so I knew it would work well with the fruit components. This wine also happens to support a great cause–read more here. By using more wine than vinegar,  I still got the nice pop of acidity that I wanted without the harsh vinegar after-taste. The medjool dates were the perfect substitute for processed sugar. Their natural sugars and stickiness helped to bind the chutney as well.
cherry, rhubarb and pinot noir rosé chutney

Cherry, Rhubarb & Rosé of Pinot Noir Chutney
yields 1 – 1 1/2 cups | printable version

1- 1/2 cup cherries, fresh or frozen, pitted and halved
1 cup fresh rhubarb, medium diced
1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted and diced
1 large shallot, diced
1 cup Rosé of Pinot Noir
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine cherries, rhubarb, shallots, and dates in a medium-size sauce pan over medium-low heat. Allow the fruit to release its juices, stirring often. Once the fruit has begun to soften and release, add the rosé, vinegar, salt & pepper. Stir to combine and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes on low. Allow to cool in the pan for 1-2 hours so all the flavors can thoroughly combine. Put 1/4-1/3 of the mixture into a blender and pulse until a semi-smooth consistency develops. Mix that back into the remaining chutney. You still ought to have chunks of cherries and rhubarb throughout the chutney. Spoon into jars. Depending on how much liquid was in the fruits, you’ll get anywhere from 1 – 1 1/2 cups of finished chutney. Keeps in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks if sealed well.
cherry, rhubarb & pinot noir chutney
cherry, rhubarb & pinot noir chutney
Serve with roasted chicken, grilled pork spareribs, use as a spread on a roast beef or lamb sammie, or my favorite way is to add it to a cheese plate to accompany a pungent blue or ash-rind cheese. I’ve just discovered a goat’s milk from France’s Loire Valley called Couronne de Touraine (shaped like a doughnut), and me oh my, is it good! It’s a soft-ripened, pasteurized goat’s milk with a bloomy rind. Delicate, with a barnyard aroma (that’s actually a good thing, trust me). On the palate– a noticeable tang and notes of wet stone, sea salt and hay. This one is also a runner folks, so best to coral it on a small plate so it doesn’t ooze out all over the other cheeses. The sweet & tart flavor of the chutney is the perfect partner for this cheese atop a thick slice of seeded whole grain bread. And to drink? What else — but a nice glass of chilled Rosé. Enjoy!
(wine was graciously provided by winery; all text, photos, thoughts and opinions are my own).

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Wild Mushroom Pâté

If you’re looking for a fool-proof appetizer–and you love mushrooms, then this is your lucky day. Caution: this dish may result in your friends hovering over the plate in a mad feeding frenzy–glasses of Pinot recklessly colliding without regret–as they devour every last morsel! It has been known to happen- I’m just saying. Seriously though, this earthy, rich and decadent Wild Mushroom Pâté is loaded with fresh button mushrooms, an assortment of dried fungi including chanterelle, shiitake, porcini, trumpet to name a few, fragrant herbs, maybe a little drop of booze– plus a heathenly dose of creamy mascarpone cheese.  I created this recipe eons ago, and it never fails me. In fact, I made it for an event recently when I was at the winery. The caterer working with us loved it so much, he asked if he could add it to his own arsenal of go-to spreads. And so, it is with great pleasure, that I share this party-favorite recipe with you all as well!
My inspiration to make this dish came from a happenstance-find of the Pistol River brand of dried mushrooms in my local market. A foodie friend of mine who keeps up on such things as *the best* dried mushrooms recommended them to me. Pistol River Mushroom Farm is based in the quaint town of Gold Beach, Oregon (very near to where my family lives actually- hi everyone!), so I just had to try them. Plus I love supporting the small artisan farmers who focus on just one thing, and do it oh-so well. They’re a family-operated business along Oregon’s southern coast, and what started out as a small venture back in 1999, has now blossomed (was going to say “mushroomed” but um, well, that would’ve been beyond groan) into a thriving world-wide distribution of over seven varieties, gourmet cooking blends and more. They specialize in farming fresh Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms for part of the year, and then once the fresh season is over, source other dried varieties from parts of the world where each one grows best. The aromas of their dried mushrooms are pungent and deep, which is exactly what you want. Now, onto to this tasty, mushroom-y spread!

Wild Mushroom Pâté
yields two molds- 5-inch x 1 1/2 deep. Serves 4-6 as appetizer | printable version

1/2 ounce dried wild mushroom mix (about half a packet)
1/2 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms (ditto above)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 ounces or one punnet of fresh brown button mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry or tawny port
1 8-ounce container of mascarpone cheese
sea salt & pepper to taste
fresh chives and thyme for garnish
individual tart pans, long terrine pan or other serving vessel

Combine dried mushrooms into a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside for 8-10 minutes to allow dried mushrooms to soften and rehydrate.

In a large pan (preferably cast iron), melt butter and olive oil. Add fresh brown buttons and shallots. Sauté until mushrooms and shallots just become translucent and release their liquid. Add in the dried mushrooms and half of their soaking water. Reserve the other half of the soaking water for later. Then add in thyme sprigs, soy sauce, hot sauce, sherry/port and continue cooking on medium-low heat until all the liquid has been absorbed, approximately 10 minutes.

Allow mushrooms to cool slightly, and then transfer to bowl of food processor. Pulse until mixture is roughly chopped. Add in mascarpone cheese and pulse again until desired texture is achieved. Salt & pepper to taste. I like this pâté to be more of a “country-style” with small bits of mushroom for some texture, but you can process until completely smooth if you prefer. If the mixture is too stiff, add in a tablespoon of the reserved soaking liquid.

Choose desired serving vessel and spray with a non-stick spray or line with plastic wrap. Transfer mixture evenly to vessels; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, overnight is best. To unmold from a tart pan: remove vessel from fridge and put into a hot water bath so that the water reaches 3/4 of the way up the sides of the vessel. Let sit for 3-4 minutes. Place serving tray/plate over pan and flip to release the pâté. Garnish with remaining thyme & finely chopped chives along with crackers or bread of your choice.


Note: this was a bit tricky for me to shoot –haven’t learned yet how to make this type of food shine. But picture-in-training of finished pâté aside, this is really quite tasty. Do hope you try it. With a stellar glass of Pinot of course! ;>)

As always, I like to showcase the lesser-known purveyors when I can, and especially those who produce such great food/ingredients. No sponsorship was provided for this post. 

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