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Bastille Day & a Little Liberté


Que faites-vous La Fête National? 

Although we were a day late in celebrations…we imbibed with France in mind.  Enter the Lillet-based Liberté cocktailWe’ve been inspired to purchase some eccentric liquors lately (and by we…I mean, the husband!) and have been mixing many a summer cocktail.  Bastille Day or the day the French stormed the Bastille prison and sparked the French Revolution seemed reason enough to celebrate! Recipe courtesy of The Kitchn.

Lillet is an aperitif wine containing 85% Bordeaux wines and 15% macerated liquors.  It is also considered a tonic wine as it does contain quinine from one of the liquors included in the blend.  It has strong citrus  and floral notes!

Liberté Cocktail (by Nicole Cloutier and Jacqueline Patterson for Lillet, used with permission)
makes one cocktail

3 ounces Lillet Blanc
1 ounce Hendrick’s gin
2 dashes Fee Brothers orange bitters (we used Urban Moonshine’s Organic Citrus Bitters)
garnish: orange peel

Stir ingredients together with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a thin slice of orange peel, twisted over the drink to release its essential oils.  (No oranges on hand, but thank goodness we have a Meyer lemon tree…the peel worked perfectly!)

We served our early summer evening cocktails with smoked salmon and caper spread from our favorite South Pas restaurant and market.

C’est Parfait!

Poppy Seeds + Strawberries + Mascarpone = Cake!


I’ve become a big blog reader.  It is certainly cutting into my reading of real pages made of paper…but it is still reading.  From the moment I read the title of this blog – Not Without Salt…I was hooked!  I have a small addiction (read: complete obsession) with salt and the amazing things it can do.  Anywho…she made this amazing cake with mascarpone and poppy seeds, and anything with this much fruit has to be (somewhat) healthy…right?  That’s what I thought!  With the impending quarter century birthday of this lady, I had the perfect occasion to bake this beauty up.

As mentioned…the recipe for Poppy Seed Cake with Strawberries and Mascarpone Frosting can be found here and is the work of Ashley over at Not Without Salt! (I’ll let you visit her blog yourself and discover it for yourself!

In a similar fashion to red velvet cake, there is a touch of vinegar in the cake recipe and she uses Champagne Vinegar…which just makes everything a bit fancier.

The buttery, eggy color of this makes me think it would be a great wall color…maybe just not for me!  I added in a little bit of lemon zest into the batter as well.

Can we talk about poppy seeds, please?  Small, crunchy and delicious…they add interest to everything from bagels to cookies, cakes and muffins, and one of my favorite applications is tossing them with buttered and salted wide egg noodles served alongside pork chops!  Since I love poppy seeds, a recipe that calls for ¼ cup could use up the entire small spice bottle that these little-stick-in-your-teeth-seeds typically come in.  If you can, try to buy them in bulk.  I’ve had good luck finding small bags at World Market (aka Cost Plus).

The recipe can make either 3 cakes in 8 inch cake pans or 2 cakes in 9 in cake pans.  I only had the 9 inch pans, and wish I had gone with the 8 inch ones for an additional layer.  Next time, I’ll still use the 9 inch pans, but perhaps slice them horizontally to make it a full 4 layers…’cause who doesn’t like more strawberries and mascarpone frosting!?

Another trick is to grease the pans but also use a parchment round on the bottom.  I know they sell these rounds already cut out and perfect…but there’s no need to buy when you can DIY!  Get out your parchment paper, and tear off a piece that is plenty big to cover the bottom of the pan.  Fold in half width-wise, then fold in half again, and again, and again, and maybe even again!  You should end up with a thin and very long triangle’ish shape.  Using the point of the parchment and getting it close to the center of your pan, estimate where you should trim it – cut the shortest side of the triangle.  Now, unfold, you’ll have something pretty close to a circle, and you can see if it will fit into the pan – if not, fold it back up and cut a little more off the edge…I try and err on the side of it being just slightly too small rather than smushing the corner of the cake by wrapping around.  (see photo above for parchment that is slightly too big)  This trick works well as an impromptu lid on a pan…and is perfect for glazing carrots – it nests right now on top of the veggies!  (thanks Cordon Bleu!)

Yummmm…strawberries!  It’s berry season…actually, it’s now getting a little past some of the berries prime.  These beauties came from our CSA and were perfect for the job of adorning this cake!

All they needed was a quick wash and some drying time!

Most anyone who knows me realizes that frosting is not my thing.  Chocolate is better than plain old buttercream, but I actually prefer cake with little to no frosting…which is why I’m shocked that I liked this frosting.  Let me repeat…I. Liked. This. Frosting.  It’s even hard for me to write it.  But I did…I can’t lie.  Sweet, not overwhelming, good texture…delicious!  From here on out…mascarpone frosting and I are besties!

Spread the frosting all over the first layer.

Pluck the tops off the strawberries and slice them into quarters.

Pile them on top of the first layer, squeezing as many in as you can.  (Unless you have a couple more layers in there…then ration them to make sure you have enough for all layers and for the top as well.)

This looked so good, I had to hold myself back from cutting a slice right there and then…this was after all, a birthday cake!  Patience!

Add the second cake layer on top and press down just a bit.  Frost the top generously and top with the prettiest strawberries of the bunch!

Since I was taking this into work, I refrigerated it overnight, brought it in and left it on the counter for an hour or so before we served it!

Happy Birthday Miss Jennie!  I will eat cake for you anytime!

Apologies for the cell phone picture…but is was delicious and needed documenting – also…this photo reinforces my recommendation for slicing the two 9 inch cake rounds horizontally to get more layers of frosting and strawberries!

Savory Lentil Salad (with a side of dinner on the patio)


Don’t you wish that more dinners looked like this?  I certainly do!  And summer is the perfect time to institute the no-cook, bits-and-pieces, smorgasbord-dinner-on-the-patio, evening!

The heart of the meal is the Lentil Salad (recipe to follow).  Every time I have lentils I end up asking myself why I don’t eat them more often?

Moving on…starting at the top in the center are some Lucques olives – they are a bright fresh tasting and meaty olive from France that needs nothing more than to be popped in your mouth and savored as-is.  Almost out of the picture, we have Brillat-Savarin cheese which can only be described as the most wonderful thing I’ve put in my mouth – creamy, dense and buttery and sweet as all get-out!  Next some crusty bread, sliced nectarines, lentil salad, Bellweather Carmody – a semi-firm young Jersey cow’s milk cheese from Sonoma County, salty-date and almond raincoast crisps (my favorite new cracker), sheep’s milk Brebiou cheese from France, and last but not least some dry-cured Chianti salami!  This is probably enough for at least 4 people…but Woody and I managed to polish it off just fine!  Onto the lentil salad…

Savory Lentil Salad (recipe courtesy…my Dad)

Lentils
2 cups water
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. salt
1 bouquet garni
1 medium carrot
celery leaves
1 small onion
6 cloves
1 cup lentils

Dressing
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp. olive oil (or walnut oil)
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste

Garnish
2 scallions, sliced
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup chopped parsley
6-8 sun-dried tomatoes

Start off by measuring your lentils and then putting them in a strainer or colander to rinse them under cold water.  This is an important step because a) it helps rinse off any remaining dirt from the packaging plant and b) sometimes small rocks or stones make it into the bag of lentils…they look very similar…and no one likes to bite down on a small rock!

Stud the onion with the cloves.  Combine all ingredients except the lentils in a pan and bring to a boil.  Add the rinsed lentils and return to boil for 5 minutes.  Cover, reduce heat and cook for 10-15 minutes until lentils are cooked but still crisp.  Drain, remove the vegetables from the cooking liquid.  I cut the carrot up to add a little color to the finished salad…but otherwise, they can just be discarded.

Blend the dressing ingredients – the walnut oil is preferable as it enhances the nutty flavor of the lentils, but olive oil will work just fine – and then pour the dressing over the warm lentils.  We love this recipe and have made it word for word many a time…but we changed it up a bit.  First I kept one of the carrots from the cooking liquid and cut it into a small dice and added it back to the lentils.  We didn’t have any sun-dried tomatoes on hand, so we skipped them entirely…and Woody is not a fan of the walnuts, so we left those out as well.  We added in the scallions and a bunch of parsley.

It’s important to pour the dressing over the lentils while they are still warm, and then you’ll want to let the whole thing sit for a bit, in the fridge or on the counter to let all of the flavors come together.  Before serving, make sure you taste it again, most likely you’ll need a little bit more vinegar…they’ll soak it up and mellow out.  It’s great as a light salad served over a few greens or a slice or two of some crusty bread and sliced tomatoes.

I’m working on having more cold salads to bring for lunch at work – do you have any favorites that work well for you?  Are you a bring-your-lunch-from-home or a run-out-and-get-a-quick-bite person?

Happy 4th!  Enjoy the weekend…it’s a hot one!

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