Spread the Goodness

From the Book: Pomodoro Sauce from Classico E Moderno

 

Jan has a large cook book collection, hundreds of cook books.  These books inspire and educate, but mostly they sit there.  Too often we save the recipes from cook books, for special occasions or guests. Isn't it a special occasion every we time cook?? I certainly think so, and I know Jan does too. We cook together everyday, most times off the cuff, with the ingredients at hand, the cook books just serving to clarify a technique we want to try or an ingredient combination we haven't quite mastered.  I personally do not enjoy following recipes, I like to improvise, so following book recipes will be a change of pace to say the least. 

The first recipe I'm trying is from Chef Michael White's book Classico E Moderno. Last summer while in New York for the Fancy Food Show, we ate at Chef White's Marea Restaurant, it was a true fine dining experience.  Chef White is a renowned for his interpretation of Italian classics, so who better to get a sauce recipe from. Tomato sauce is one of those basic recipes that everyone should be able to execute, it can be done ahead of time or the day of. Its something that we can always find a use for. 

Salsa Pomodoro- Tomato Sauce with Basil (Recipe by Michael White)

1/4 cup Olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic

1/4 of a large red bell pepper (cored, seeded, and diced)

1 28 ounce can of San Marazano (whole) tomatoes with juice

Leaves from 1 small bunch of basil

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

pinch of red pepper flakes 

 

As I prepared the ingredients for this recipe, one of the first things I noticed was that it didn’t call for any onion. I was surprised, in every pasta sauce I had ever made I always started with onion. In any case I proceeded according to the recipe. 

Preparation:

Heat the oil in a medium bottom pot until glistening, almost smoking

Add the garlic and cook until brown.

Once the garlic is brown add the diced red pepper and cook for about a minute.

Add the entire can of tomatoes including the juice, and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, and half of the basil. (The basil should be in chiffonades)

Heat the entire mixture until simmering and then reduce heat to low, and cook for an hour or until sauce thickens.

Stir in the other half of the basil

Like the ingredients, the recipe for this sauce was very simple.  Still, a recipe this simple hinges on the execution of simple tasks, for example browning the garlic. The recipe says to heat the oil until its glistening, almost smoking, and then add the garlic. Well I got the oil too hot and almost burned the garlic. Burnt garlic gives off a bitter taste that would permeate the sauce. Fortunately I realized the garlic was browning too quickly and removed it. (I added it back later, once the sauce was going)

This recipe also does not give measurements for the seasoning, which I liked. Seasoning and how much to add is really up to the cook, it’s a question of your tastes and should be left up to you, not a measurement.

 

 

 

 

 After I combined the ingredients and began to cook the sauce, I became concerned about the amount of liquid in the sauce, there just wasn't much.  The stove I was cooking on doesn’t heat evenly, and the pot I was using heats up quickly, and retains the heat, not the best combo for a sauce you need slowly simmer. The sauce never scalded or burned but I considered abandoning the recipe and adding some chicken stock.  For me this is where the real cooking occurs, in not abandoning the recipe but in finding ways to adapt to your equipment and capabilities. I moved the pot to a smaller burner and occasionally covered it to retain some of the liquid. In the future when I make this sauce, I will use a different pot.  After an hour of simmering, I was left with a silky smooth, and flavorful sauce, with chunks of tomato, easily the best sauce I have ever made. Depending on the number of people you plan on serving I would double the recipe, I found that it yielded enough sauce for 2-3 people. I served it over freshly made angel hair pasta, and we added some turkey sausage to the sauce. Did I mention it was the best sauce I have ever made?  

 

 

Sweet Potato Cheesecake??

As important as a moist turkey is on Thanksgiving, a good dessert is just as important.  Traditionally we associate Thanksgiving with some sort of pie, whether it's pumpkin or apple, or some other type of fruit. Initially we had the thought to do a Sweet Potato Pie with Tangerine, but then we thought lets do a Sweet Potato Cheesecake.  This Sweet Potato Cheesecake is light and delicious, the tangerine is a perfect compliment to the Sweet Potato, and did I mention it has Grand Marnier too!!

 

Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Tangerine Marmalade and Grand Marnier

2 large Sweet Potatoes

1/2 stick of unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

4 oz Grand Marnier

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 jar tangerine marmalade

1/4 heavy cream

2 eggs

8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)

Just Jan's Tangerine Marmalade 1/2 a jar

Gingersnap Pecan Crust

2 cups Gingersnap crumbs

1/3 cup melted butter

1/3 cup finely chopped pecans

Boil the sweet potatoes until fork tender. Let them cool and peel them and put them into a mixer. Add the butter, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, mix until the potatoes break down. Next add the brown sugar, tangerine marmalade and grand Marnier. Mix until smooth. Add eggs, and cream cheese, and heavy cream, mix until combined with sweet potato mixture. 

For the Crust; pulse some Ginger Snaps, and the pecans in a food processor until they are broken down into crumbs. As you break down the gingersnaps pour in the melted butter.  Use enough ginger snaps to yield about 2 cups.  Line a 9 inch spring form pan parchment paper and pour the crust into the bottom. Flatten out the crust, making sure it is evenly spread and covers the entire bottom of the pan. Bake in an oven at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until set. Let the crust cool completely, then pour in the cheesecake mixture. Once the mixture has been poured into the pan, drop the pan on a table a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. 

Place the pan in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 70 minutes. Check the cheesecake and if it still seems loose in the center put it back in the oven. The cake is done when you insert a skewer in the center and pull it out cleanly with no cake on it. Allow the cheesecake to cool over night and firm up. Slice and enjoy.

Pomegranate Molasses Sweet Potatoes

It's November and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I love Thanksgiving it is the official start of the holiday season and one of my favorite times of year. Cooking for Thanksgiving and getting to share what I love doing with loved ones is such a joy. I also like Thanksgiving because it's when the diet goes out the window, and you eat with abandon. In that spirit we created this recipe. Its fun, sweet and a change from your regular candied yams. 

Pomegranate Molasses Sweet Potatoes

3 Pounds sweet potatoes (or yams)

1 stick of unsalted butter

1/2 cup of molasses

1 jar Just Jan's Pomegranate Spread

Finishing Salt 

To prepare, begin by scrubbing the sweet potatoes with cold water. Don't scrub so hard that you remove the skin, just enough to remove any excess dirt. 

Once the potatoes have been scrubbed, place them in a pot and fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. 

Place the pot on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Cook the potatoes until a fork pierces them easily. Once the potatoes are tender remove them from the water and allow them to cool.

After the potatoes have cooled, peel them and slice them into 1/2 inch thick rounds. 

Place the slices in a baking pan or casserole dish, overlapping the slices so that they fit in one layer.

Place a stick of butter in a small pan on medium to high heat. The butter should melt and begin to foam and even pop a little. Let the butter brown a little, and then add the molasses. After you add the molasses turn down the heat and begin to whisk the mixture together. Once the mixture has been mixed, turn the heat back up and leave the pot on until the mixture foams and thickens. Once this happens turn the heat off. Add the pomegranate spread and just whisk it in.  

Take this mixture and pour it over the potatoes, then put the potatoes in a preheated 450 degree oven. Leave the potatoes in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. 

Remove the potatoes once they appear browned and glazed. 

Optional:

Just before serving you may want to apply a nice finishing salt for some added flavor. We used a smoked sea salt.

 

Cheesy Polenta with Balsamic Onion

I wanted to do a side that was a little different for Thanksgiving, after all we always have mashed potatoes. Polenta is a great alternative and takes much less time and effort. You can make polenta take on any flavor you want, for this version I wanted something rich, creamy and cheesy. I combined polenta with cheddar cheese, and my Balsamic Onion spread, and topped it all off with bacon. YUM.

Cheesy Polenta with Balsamic Onion and Bacon

2 cups Polenta

1 cup half and half

5 cups milk

2 tbsp butter

3 cups shredded white cheddar

3 slices of  cooked bacon

1 cup Just Jan's Balsamic Onion

Combine the milk, half and half, and salt in a medium sized pot. Slowly bring to a low boil, being careful not to let it boil over. 

Once the liquid is boiling add the polenta and begin whisking. The polenta will thicken quickly. 

As the polenta thickens mix in the cheese. 

When the cheese is incorporated add the balsamic onion and mix. 

Top with chopped up bacon.

National Sandwich Day

When most people think of how to use Just Jan's Spreads, they immediately think of toast or PB&J. But we like to think our spreads uses are as diverse as your imaginings, we know restaurants that use the key lime curd on a sandwich. So don't be afraid to experiment and come up with your own ideas and recipes. Today is National Sandwich Day and in honor of that we came up with two fun easy recipes to put a twist on your typical sandwich. 

The Cubano Sandwich or Cuban is a well known pork sandwich featuring roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, dijon mustard and pickles, pressed until the sandwich is thin and crispy.  For the Just Jan's version we stripped it down and made something you can prepare in minutes in your kitchen. 

Just Jan's Cubano Sandwich

Smoked ham 1/4 lb

2 slices Sheep's milk cheese 

French bread

Just Jan's Mango Chipotle Spread

Sliced dill pickles

Butter

To assemble, spread Just Jan's Mango Chipotle on both pieces of bread

Place cheese on bottom slice.

Place ham on top of cheese.

Top ham with dill pickle slices. 

Spread softened room temperature butter on the outside of the bread

Place buttered sandwich on panini press

Cook until brown and somewhat flattened. 

Cut in half and serve. 

Avocado Toast is a great snack or meal depending on what you put on it. We kept this one simple, and it is really delicious. 

Just Jan's Mango Avocado Toast

1 slice of french bread

1 egg

1 avocado

Cheddar Cheese

2 tbsp Just Jan's Mango Spread

Salt and Pepper

To begin toast a medium thick slice of french bread. After the bread is toasted to the desired crispness, spread the mango spread over the toast. Set aside.

 

Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Put the flesh of the avocado in a bowl and simply mash it with a fork. The avocado should become smooth and spreadable. 

Next cut a few thin slices of the cheddar cheese, and place them on the toast. 

Spread the avocado over the cheese. Sprinkle the avocado with a nice salt such as Maldon, and pepper to taste. 

In a medium hot pan, fry one egg until the egg is cooked through without fully cooking the yolk.

When the egg is cooked, place it over the toast, and serve. 

 

 

 

 

Figgy Bourbon Milkshake

As the seasons change so do our cocktails of choice.  While Summer is a time for lighter fruit based cocktails, Fall is perfect for some bolder, deeper flavors.  Bourbon is a spirit that can be a bit of an acquired taste, it can take some time to appreciate its complexities.  With that in mind I wanted to kind of demystify bourbon, its not just a drink for cigar rooms, and speakeasies, it has a playful side too. I love my Kadota Fig Spread and am always looking for excuses to experiment with it. Bourbon and fig is a match made in heaven.  Figs have a unique sweetness that perfectly compliments the smokiness of the bourbon. Even with the fig to brighten it up, bourbon is a stiff drink I wanted to mellow it out a little more...so I added vanilla ice cream.  Vanilla, Fig, and Bourbon, talk about a perfect combination. The spice notes of the bourbon blend with the vanilla, and the fig adds a subtle sweetness.  This is a recipe that is sure to please everyone, from the novice to the bourbon aficionado.  Enjoy!!

Figgy Bourbon Milkshake
2 oz. Bourbon Whiskey
1/4 C whole milk
3 TBSP Just Jan's Kadota Fig Spread
Generous 1/2 C. Vanilla bean ice cream
dash Cinnamon
dash Nutmeg

Combine in a blender and serve in a tall glass - sprinkle another dash of cinnamon on top if you like.  YUM!

Pumpkin for Breakfast

 

Fall is a such a fun time of year. The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping, and the end of the year seems like its just around the corner.  When I think of food and Fall, I can't help but think of Pumpkin.  From Halloween to Thanksgiving, pumpkin is just synonymous with Fall.  Earlier this year we made a pumpkin butter exclusively for Sur La Table.  If you want to get your pumpkin fix without getting the whole pumpkin this is perfect for you. In the spirit of the season, and with Halloween right around the corner, I thought it'd be fun to make some pumpkin pancakes. Who doesn't love pancakes? These pumpkin pancakes, are cinnamony and just sweet enough to not need syrup.  I'm sure your little trick or treaters will love this as a breakfast surprise...if you don't eat them all first!!

Pumpkin Pancakes

1 cup flour

1 tbsp sugar

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 & 1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup Sur La Table Pumpkin Butter

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 egg, separated

Combine flour, salt, sugar, baking powder in a medium mixing bowl

Add milk and egg yolk (reserve egg white)

Mix thoroughly to combine

Add 1/2 cup of pumpkin butter and mix together. Then add nutmeg and cinnamon and mix again. 

Set aside. 

Using a electric mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. 

Fold whipped egg whites into pancake batter, its ok if its lumpy. 

To cook the pancakes use a non stick pan over medium heat. 

When you see bubbles form around the edges and in the center of the pancake, it is ready to be flipped. 

This recipe yields 8-10 medium pancakes. 

 

Fall is Here


For me Fall is the colors of the changing leaves, it’s the crispness in the air, and flavors that seem to warm you from the inside.  When Sur La Table approached me about making a pumpkin butter, I was excited to be trying something new.  I had never made a pumpkin butter before, but I knew what I wanted the flavor to evoke; Fall.  Pumpkin is a Fall staple, from pies to bread to coffee, Pumpkin is everywhere.  With that in mind we decided to look for ways to use our Pumpkin Butter that may not seem so obvious. Since I started Just Jan’s I’ve always touted the uses of our spreads as going beyond the ordinary, my Pumpkin Butter is no different.

While a lot of the time pumpkin is used in sweet dishes, pumpkin can also be a savory element.  That is the path we decided to take with our Pumpkin Polenta.  Polenta is a really easy product to work with, and it’s a great vehicle for flavor.  On its own the pumpkin polenta would make a great side dish, but it’s also easy to turn into a main course.  To achieve this we made a mushroom and root vegetable ragout. This dish requires a little prep work, but it’s delicious and well worth it.

Mushroom and Root Vegetable Ragout

Start with the ragout first as it has the longest prep and cook time.

Ingredients:

4 medium carrots, diced

1 lb Cremini mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half

1 half bulb of fennel, medium slice

1 half white onion, chopped

Half a bottle of a beer

¼ cup of Balsamic vinegar

½ Tbsp butter

¼ cup Olive oil

Salt to taste

1 tsp of garlic powder

1 tsp of mustard powder

Place the olive oil and butter in a shallow pot or deep pan on medium heat. Heat the oil and butter until butter begins to foam.

Add the onions, and some salt to the butter and olive oil mixture.  Cook the onions until they begin to lightly brown. About 5-7 minutes.  As the onions continue to brown add the sliced fennel.  Cook until the fennel is softened, approximately 3 minutes. Once the fennel has softened, add the carrots.  By now everything in the pot should be looking caramelized.

At this point add the mushrooms and a little more salt. If the pot is looking a little dry, add some more olive oil. Cook the mushrooms for about 2 minutes then add the Balsamic vinegar.

Make sure the heat is not too high, and let the vinegar reduce down, about 10 minutes.

Once the vinegar has reduced, pour about half of a beer into the pot. After the beer has been added add the garlic powder and mustard powder and stir. Taste the liquid and add salt to your taste.

Be sure to not completely cover the vegetables with liquid, they should be about half submerged. Allow the liquid to reduce by about half again, you should be left with a dark fortified liquid. The vegetables, should still have some firmness.

At this point the ragout is done, and can be set aside.

Pumpkin Polenta

1 cup of polenta

1 cup of water

1 cup of half and half

1 cup of chicken stock

½ cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese

½ jar of Sur La Table Pumpkin butter

7-8 fresh sage leaves

1 tsp of salt

Polenta is a fine ground cornmeal similar to grits. For this recipe we used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Cornmeal Grits.

Prepare the polenta according to the instructions on the package.  Our instructions called for 3 cups of water, however to give this as much flavor as possible we used the combination of 1 cup water, 1 cup chicken stock, and 1 cup half and half.

In a medium pot combine the water, chicken stock, half and half.  

Add sage leaves to combined liquid.

Bring the liquid up to boil slowly, over low heat. We want to infuse the liquid with the aroma and flavor of the sage but the half and half can sometimes boil over, so take it slowly.

As the liquid comes up to a boil, remove the sage leaves, and using a whisk, stir in the polenta. Continue cooking the polenta for about 5 minutes.  As it thickens and tightens, stir in the pumpkin butter and parmesan cheese.  It should be thick yet still have a creamy texture. When it’s finished turn off the heat and allow it rest.

With the polenta finished you are ready to serve. Place a few generous spoonfuls of polenta in a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, get some of the mushroom ragout and place it on top of the polenta. Next using a regular spoon scoop out some of the liquid in the ragout pot and put along the sides of the polenta in the bowl.  Serve and Enjoy!

Optional:

If you want to add some additional flavor you can add some goat cheese to the top of the polenta and mushroom ragout.

Also for a textural contrast you could add some crispy roasted corn, or some roasted pumpkin seeds.

Crispy Roasted Corn

1 ear of Corn

1 Tbsp olive oil

Salt

Red Chili flakes

Shuck and clean the ear of corn.

Cut off the kernels and discard the cob.

Toss the kernels in a bowl with olive oil and some salt.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place kernels on it, making sure the kernels are spread out.  Sprinkle corn with red chili flakes.

Place the pan in a 400 degree oven and cook corn until it is brown. The corn will get crispy as you let it cool .

It's Bourbon for Breakfast...

 

September is National Bourbon Month. Bourbon is one of the most popular spirits in America, but if you're only using it in cocktails you are really missing out. Bourbon has a sweet, complex smokiness that can compliment a number of dishes. We decided to start the long Labor Day weekend off right, with a bourbon french toast. French toast is the perfect vehicle for the sweet complex notes of the bourbon, and the sweet tangy nectarines are the perfect counterpoint, adding a hint of brightness to this dish. 

Bourbon French Toast with Brown Butter Nectarines with Bourbon Maple Syrup