Basil Pesto with Walnuts or Pecans

I had copious amounts of basil and Italian parsley in my garden this evening. In past years I’ve waited too long and the basil would be blooming before I had a chance to harvest it.

This time I was able to pick it while it was still tender and bright green.  By cutting it back I hope to get a second batch in time for my tomato harvest later in August.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy a bit of this batch on boiled eggs, stirred into pasta, smeared on a sheet of puff pastry, rolled, cut and baked into crackers or nappéd on a serving of grilled fish or roasted vegetables.

1  cup (3 ½ oz) walnuts or pecans, coursely chopped, toasted and allowed to cool
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
1 cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves, rinsed and dried
2 – 3 large garlic cloves
1 cup good extra virgin olive oil, or enough for desired consistency
1 cup (4 oz) freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
Juice of ½ medium lemon
Kosher Salt and freshl ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place walnuts or pecans in a cast iron pan or other oven proof sauté pan and roast for 10 -15 minutes or until toasted. Remove the walnuts from the hot pan to a bowl and set aside to cool; then coursely chop. Place basil and parsley leaves in the bowl of a 6 qt food processor.

Sprinkle walnuts and garlic cloves on top of leaves. Using the metal “S” blade pulse a couple of time to get the ball rolling and then with the machine running drizzle in the olive oil.

Add cheese, lemon juice and salt and pepper and pulse until just blended. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula and pulse a few more times. Taste for seasonings.

Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Add more olive oil before serving, if taken straight from the fridge.

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Cardamon Shortcakes with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote and Maple Cream

Cardamom paired with strawberries and rhubarb is a classic combination. Though if the taste of cardamom isn’t for you, freshly ground black pepper, or a bit of freshly minced thyme or rosemary in the shortcake would also be great flavor combinations.

I am fortunate that rhubarb grows like a weed where I live. It’s usually one of the first vegetables to poke its leaves out of the ground, sometimes even through a late spring snowfall.

There’s nothing more satisfying too, than the taste of a local strawberry. If you’ve never had the experience of savoring one, I encourage you to make a beeline to your local farmer’s market. The only problem — the difficulty of ever again eating one out of season. Here in Minnesota, as soon as the local strawberries are here and gone one is advised to stop harvesting rhubarb due to the increase of oxalic acid; at least according to the website Gardena.

You can absolutely skip the rhubarb altogether or the entire compote process. Instead, just slice some strawberries in a bowl. Sprinkle them with sugar according to the berries natural sweetness and serve on the cakes with whipped cream.

I also experimented with different pans in which to cook-off the shortcakes. A half sheet pan was too large and they spread too much for my visual taste.  They didn’t stay round in my 9-inch cast iron skillet so the next time around I’m going to bake them on a ¼ sheet pan.  Also, you could leave them in a 2-inch square but I kind of like them round. That’s the beauty of recipes you can adapt them in so many ways.

Makes 9 servings

3 large eggs
½ cup (4 oz ) heavy cream
3 cups (13 ½ oz / 385 g ) unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons (¾ oz / 20 g) baking powder
½ cup (3 ½ oz/ 100 g)  granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon cardamom, ground using a mortar and pestle
zest of an orange, organic if possible
10 tablespoons (5 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice
¼ cup sliced almonds
Sanding sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a ¼ size baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup whisk 2 eggs in heavy cream. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Measure out the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, cardamom, and zest. Place in the bowl of a food processor. Using the metal “S” blade pulse a couple of times to combine the dry ingredents.  Toss half the butter on top of the flour mixture and pulse until the butter is pea-size. Add the remaining butter and pulse again until the second batch of butter becomes pea-size bits, 10 to 12 times.

Stop the machine and pour the cream mixture over flour mixture. Pulse until some large clumps begin to form, 25 to 30 times. Tip out onto a counter, gather the dough and form until it can hold its shape and pat out to a 6 x 6 inch square. Cut dough into nine 2 x 2 inch squares. Leave as squares or form each into a 2-inch disk (think small hockey puck).

Place shortcakes on the parchment lined baking sheet. Whisk the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon water. Lightly brush shortcake tops.  Press a few almonds slices on top of each. Brush the almonds with additonal beaten egg and if using sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until cooked through and golden.

2 quarts strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
1 cup (7 oz ) granulated sugar, divided
Zest of one lemon, organic if possible
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Juice of one orange, organic if possible
1 pound rhubarb (8 – 10, 16″ stalks), sliced ¼-inch thick, organic if possible
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger

In a medium bowl toss the berries with ½ cup of sugar, lemon zest, lemon and orange juices. Set aside for about 3o minutes, stirring occasionally and allow the berries to release some liquid.

Afterwards, using a fine mesh strainer, strain the berries, collecting the accumulated juices in a medium saucepan. Return the strawberries to the bowl and set aside.

Add the rhubarb, remaining sugar, salt, and ginger to the saucepan along with the strawberry juices and bring to a boil over medium heat over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is soft and liquid has thickened. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Mix the rhubarb mixture with the strawberries. Serve with the cardamon shortcakes.

Maple Whipped Cream:
1 pint heavy cream
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Whisk together in a bowl until a light cream forms. Serve with the shortcakes and compote.


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Gâlette des Rois

I have yet to be in France in early January. That’s the time you see these delicious gallettes topped with a gold paper crown in the windows of patisseries. They are generally served on Twelfth Night. But no one would complain if you served one a week or so after to continue celebrating the New Year.

The other tradition is that the baker hides a fevé (as it was often a fava bean) in the pastry. It can also be a small porcelain figurine or nut of some sort like a whole almond or hazelnut. Do I need to add a warning:  “Do not Choke”?  Whoever gets the fevé in their slice is crowned king or queen for the day.

With the traditions known, the most important element when working with puff pastry is keeping the dough cold which means working quickly to get it rolled out. If the butter starts to ooze out or if it’s being stubborn and springs back on you it’s time to stop, return it to a sheet pan and put it back in the refrigerator.

The next tip is to ever so lightly, flour your counter-top to prevent the dough from sticking. (I use a piece of marble for rolling out pastry dough, as the surface stays cold.) After the dough is rolled out to the desired size, use a pastry brush to remove any excess flour. You’ll thank me later for reminding you to do this.

As you see in the ingredient list there are lots of options. I had chestnut flour so added the 30 grams that were languishing in the freezer. Orange zest would be a great addition.  If I had I remembered the orange on the counter; organic no less, I would have added the zest. If the flavor of alcohol is not your cup of tea, by all means omit it and add orange flower water..or not.

Some recipes called for a bit of apricot jam.  I had some from another recipe test so I added it. And I’m just going to say it, I saw a YouTube video where a pastry chef added slices of poached pears as part of the filling. I had poached pears from another recipe too, so in they went. I’m not even adding pears to the ingredient list. By all means the classic version, using only almond flour with no optional ingredients is absolutely amazing. I hope I didn’t get carried away.

If time does not allow you to make the puff pastry yourself you can generally find frozen puff pastry in the freezer section of a well-stocked supermarket. Avoid brands though that list any fat other than butter in the ingredients.

1 cup (100 g) almond flour*
3 tablespoons (30 g) chestnut or hazelnut flour* (optional)
1 tablespoon (8 g) cornstarch
Pinch kosher or sea salt
7 tablespoons (3.5 oz / 100 g) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (3.5 oz / 100 g) granulated sugar
Zest of orange, preferably organic (optional)
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, cognac, rum, or orange flower water*
Fevé such as a fava bean, whole almond, hazelnut, candied fruit, or porcelain trinket
1 ¼ pounds (~ 500 grams) all-butter classic or quick puff pastry, preferably homemade
2 tablespoons apricot jam*

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Paper crown for decorating

In a small bowl measure out 130 g almond flour or if using another flour too, measure out 100 g almond and 30 g of hazelnut or chestnut flour. Add the cornstarch and salt. Set aside

In a medium bowl mix together the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon. Mash in the butter until it’s completely incorporated. (The reason to use the wooden spoon and not a stand mixer is that you do not want to incorporate air into the batter.)

Add the almond flour mixture, and orange zest if using to the butter mixture. Stir in the eggs one at a time, along with the liquor (if using) and almond extract. (The mixture may not look completely smooth, which is normal.) Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On lightly floured surface, roll one piece of puff pastry into a circle about 11-inches round. Using a pot lid, plate, expandable cake ring or the bottom of a tart pan as a template, trim the dough into neat circle.

Place the dough on the parchment lined baking sheet. If adding the jam, carefully spread it over the center of the dough, leaving a 1-inch exposed border. Pop the pan with the dough in the freezer. (Why put the jam-smeared dough in the freezer? It allows the jam to freeze making it easier to spread the almond filling on top of it later.)

Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper, then roll the other piece of dough into an 12-inch circle, trim it and chill this dough in the refrigerator for about thirty minutes.

Remove the almond filling and dough from the refrigerator; and the other dough from the freezer. Spread the almond filling over the center of jam-smeared dough, leaving the same 1-inch exposed border. If you wish, place the almond, hazelnut, piece of candied fruit or trinket to act as the fève (prize) somewhere in the almond filling.

Brush water generously around the exposed perimeter of the dough then place the other circle of dough on top of the galette and press down to seal the edges very well. (At this point, you can chill the galette since it’ll be a bit easier to finish and decorate, although it’s not necessary. After it is decorated it can be returned to the refrigerator overnight or wrap it well and freeze it for up to a month.)


To bake the galette, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Flute the sides of the dough (as shown in the photo) and use a paring knife to create a design on top.

Using a fork whisk together the egg yolk and sugar and brush it evenly over the top. Avoid getting the glaze on the sides, which will inhibit the pastry from rising at the edges. Use a paring knife to poke 4 – 5 holes in the top, to allow the steam to escape while baking.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the galette is browned on top and up the sides. (During baking, if the galette puffs up too dramatically poke it again once or twice with the paring knife to release the steam.) Remove from the oven and slide the galette off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack.

The galette will deflate as it cools, which is normal. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with the paper crown if you were lucky enough to find one.

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Quick Puff Pastry

Here’s my earlier recipe for Classic Puff Pastry. Every baker at some point in their life should master this recipe. Trust me, contrary to popular belief, it’s not difficult. It just takes patience, meaning you need to give the dough time to rest in the refrigerator. While it’s resting you can too, or go about doing whatever it is you like to do.

The recipe below comes together quicker than the classic version and works just fine, though it might not puff quite as high. But who’s going to measure? Use the best butter you can find and either recipe whether it’s the Classic or Quick version will give you superior results.

The recipe below is adapted from the one by Jacques Torres in his book Dessert Circus. His recipe is three pages in length. If you can get your hands on his book it is well worth the read not only for this recipe but there are many other gems in it. If you can’t find his book I encourage you to hunt/google for at least a couple of recipes to get other “takes” on making puff pastry. As they say, knowledge is power!

The recipe below makes about 2 1/2 pounds of dough

7 tablespoons (3.5 oz / 100 g) unsalted butter, melted, cooled to room temperature
4 cups (17.6 oz / 500 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons (0.6 oz / 15 g) kosher salt
Scant 1 cup (8 oz / 220g) cold water
1 1/4 cups + 1 ½ tablespoons (10 ¾ oz / 300 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, frozen

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the melted butter, flour, salt, and water. Using the paddle attachment stir the ingredients on the second speed and mix for about 1 minute. Stop the mixer when the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.

Scatter the frozen butter cubes around the dough and mix on low speed just long enough to distribute the butter throughout the dough. This should take all of about 15 seconds. It’s important that you still see large pieces of butter throughout the dough.

Remove the dough from the mixer and quickly pat into an 8 x 10-inch rectangle about 1-inch thick. Make sure the butter is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours. This resting time gives the gluten in the dough a chance to relax. It gives you time to relax too and to pat yourself on the back that you made it this far.

When ready to proceed remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly floured smooth counter. It’s important not to add too much flour though as it makes the dough tough.

Roll out the dough lengthwise into a 10 x 23-inch rectangle. You should still see the butter, though after rolling it will be smeared into the dough. (see picture below) Also, do your best keep the dough at an even thickness as you are rolling it out. If it starts to break or pull back, put it on a sheet pan and pop it back in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This gives the gluten additional time to relax.

D71760AA-2D37-4BB5-A3F3-0FC2DBB82E29 (1)Once the dough is rolled out to the 10 x 23-inch rectangle, fold the two ends to meet in the middle, leaving them about an inch apart. Fold one side on top of the other. This is called a book fold. Rotate the dough so that the seam is on your right. This is fold number one.

Repeat the same process as you did above including what will now be the second book fold. (Make a note that you have completed 2 folds by making two slight indentations with your finger in the dough.) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator again for a minimum of one hour or up to 1 day.

Again, repeat the exact same process as you did above including what will now be the third and fourth book folds. Make a note in the dough that you have completed four book folds. Return to the refrigerator for at least another hour.

When ready to proceed, roll out the dough one more time and complete your fifth book fold. You now have 1024 layers of dough or what is called Mill-Feuille – a 1000 layer dough; give or take a few.

Cut the dough in half giving you about two 1 1/4 pounds of dough. Wrap each very well in plastic wrap and store for a day in the refrigerator or about two months in the freezer.

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Pork Rillettes

Prior to adding layer of fat.

Packed and ready for a layer of fat.

A Rillette is a rustic spread made from meat (generally pork, poultry, or fish) that’s been cooked in the method of confit; meaning cooked in some kind of fat. It could be its own, another animal fat, olive oil, or butter. I’ve made duck, salmon, and tuna rillettes, but not pork until now. In this recipe I used a combination of lard and duck fat.

The spice measurements and herbs are deliberately loose. For example, if you don’t like allspice, leave them out and add more peppercorns. You could also had a knob of fresh ginger or a cinnamon stick instead of the mace. If you don’t have a leek, but an onion instead; use the onion. And by all means if you have a rosemary sprig languishing in the fridge add it too.

Once cooked the meat is then shredded and stored in some of the fat in which it was cooked. This method of cooking was a way of preserving meat prior to refrigeration. But since we have electric iceboxes the rillettes can be refrigerated for up to 1 month if the meat remains covered with a layer of fat.

10 – 12 whole allspice berries
1 – 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon mace
1 star anise, broken into pieces
3/4 cup kosher salt
1 large leek, white and light green parts only
3 – 4 strips orange peel, preferably organic
8 – 10 fresh thyme sprigs
6 – 8 garlic cloves, peeled
3 pounds (give or take) trimmed boneless pork butt, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 quart rendered pork or duck fat
1 medium shallot, peeled and  finely minced
Splash brandy or cognac, optional

Using a mortar and pestle slightly crush the allspice berries. In a large bowl mix together the crushed berries, peppercorns, coriander seeds, star anise, and salt. Set aside. Trim the leek, cut in half and then cut into 1/2 inch slices. Add the leek slices to a bowl and fill with cold water.  Toss the slices around to dislodge any grit and allow it to settle in the bottom of the bowl. Gently lift the leeks out of the water into a colander to drain and set aside; leaving the grit behind.

Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife remove 3 or 4 strips of orange zest each about an inch wide and the length of the orange, being careful not to include any of the somewhat bitter white pith.

Toss the pork with the spice blend until well coated. Add the drained leeks, orange zest, thyme sprigs, and garlic cloves and toss again. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The following day when ready to proceed move a rack to the bottom third of the oven and set it to 300 degrees F. Fill the bowl containing the pork mixture with cold water to wash off the salt.  Remove the pork pieces to paper toweling to dry. Strain the remaining ingredients through a fine sieve, rinse again under running water to remove any remaining salt. Set aside to drain.

In a large enameled cast iron pot melt the fat. Add the pork, rinsed spices, orange zest, thyme sprigs, leeks, and garlic. Set a round of parchment paper that has a small hole in the middle on top of the contents (called a cartouche in French). This keeps evaporation to a minimum and the underside of your pot clean. Cover with the lid.

Place the pot on a medium fire just and cook just until the pork comes to a simmer; then move it to the oven. Cook for about 4 hours or until meat is very tender. Check every now and then that the liquid is bubbling at a bare minimum. Raise or lower the oven temperature to adjust. Once the pork is tender, remove the pot from the oven and using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the pork and garlic to the bowl of a stand mixer. Discard the thyme, leeks, and orange peel as they have given everything they have to give.

In a small saucepan heat about a 1/4 cup of the fat from the pot.  Add the shallots and sauté until translucent. Turn off the heat and if using, add a splash of brandy or cognac.  CAREFULLY ignite the alcohol with a match and allow it to burn off. Remember to have a lid handy to cover the flame in case it gets out of hand.

Once the meat has cooled break up the pieces, discarding any gristle. Put the bowl on the mixer and using the paddle attachment, stir the mixture on low speed until the pork begins to shred. Add the sautéed shallots along with the fat in which they were cooked. Continue mixing and add more cooled fat until a desired, spreadable consistency is achieved. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and/or freshly ground pepper if necessary. Pack the meat into a ceramic bowl or individual crocks and refrigerate until cold.

Reheat the fat and ladle a 1/4-inch layer of fat top of the pork. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The remaining fat can be strained and saved to make another batch of rillettes or for another use (say pan frying potatoes or eggs).

Serve the rillettes with toasted crostini, cornichons, and a bit of jam or dried fruit compote.

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Butter Cookies

This is a recipe that I demonstrated at the Minnesota State Fair years ago. Use the best organic unsalted butter you can get your hands on because after all, it’s a butter cookie. Recipe from The French Cookie Book by Bruce Healy with Paul Bugat.

Butter Cookies v2 (1)135 g or ½ cup, plus 1 ½ tablespoons, unsalted butter, softened
60 g or ½ cup, confectioner’s sugar
½ cl or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
170 g or 1 cup plus 3 ½ tablespoons, all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
50 g or ¼ cup, crystal sugar

Place butter on counter-top and sift sugar over it. Cream butter with the sugar by repeatedly smearing it across the counter-top with the heel of your hand and gathering back together with a bench knife. When smooth, mix in the vanilla with your fingertips. Work quickly so that butter does not melt.

Sift flour over butter mixture. Mix in flour, either by cutting it in with the dough scraper or by stirring and tossing with your fingertips, until a loose, crumbly dough is achieved. Gather the dough together and finish mixing by smearing it across the counter-top, a little at a time, with the heel of your hand. Gather the dough together again, and repeat until smooth.

Form a cylinder between a sheet of parchment paper to 1-inch in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm or freeze for up to three months.

Prior to baking, preheat oven to 375ºF. While oven is preheating, brush cylinder of dough with beaten egg. Place the crystal sugar on a sheet of parchment paper and roll each cylinder in sugar, coating evenly. Cut each cylinder into slices 3/8-inch thick. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake until bottoms of cookies have browned and edges have begun to brown, 14 – 16 minutes. Cool completely and store for up to one week in an airtight counter.

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Chicken Liver Paté with Port Gelée

I so enjoy paté. Any variation is just dandy with me; whether it’s duck liver (paté de foie de canard), mushroom (pâté de champignons), or this chicken liver with port jello (pâté de foie de poulet au porto gelée).

It’s easy to make. However, I found that using a blender makes for a much smoother paté rather than using a food processor.  If you’re okay with the end results being more rustic (i.e., less smooth) by all means use your food processor. I enjoy a mouth feel that’s perfectly creamy so I switched out my equipment and used my Vitamix. In other words, I did the testing so that you wouldn’t have to!

I’m also a big fan of duck fat and happened to have some stashed away in my refrigerator. Consequently, I used a combination of fats with about 4 ounces of butter and 2 ounces of duck fat.

Paté is perfect to serve on crostini as part of an apéritif with a glass of champagne or rosé.


Makes about six – 3 ounce ramekins

For the Paté:
1 to 1 1/4 pounds chicken livers, well-trimmed and preferably organic
10 to 15 white peppercorns
2 allspice berries
1 clove, whole
3 coriander seeds
3/4 cup (6 oz / 180 g) unsalted butter
1 large shallot, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove, chopped
Pinch of kosher salt or to taste
1 – 2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
2 tablespoon heavy cream

For the gelée:
1 gelatin sheet (3 x 5-inches)
4-5 coriander seeds
2 allspice berries
1/4 cup (2 oz), plus 2 tablespoons port
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

To make Paté
Place the livers in a non-reactive colander or strainer and allow to drain. Remove them to some paper towels to dry. Set aside.

Using a mortar and pestle pulverize into a fine powder the peppercorns, allspice berries, whole clove and coriander seeds. Set aside.

In a medium skillet heat about 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the shallots and cook about 5 minutes or just until translucent.  Add the garlic and salt to taste and continue to cook about another minute, being careful not to let the garlic brown nor letting the butter burn.  Add the spices and cook for an additional 10 seconds so that the spices bloom.  Remove the mixture to a heat proof bowl.

Wipe out the skillet to remove any bits they may burn during the second round of cooking. Place the skillet back on medium heat and add another 6 tablespoons of fat.  Once the fat is hot, add the livers (in batches if necessary so as not to crowd the pan). Quickly sauté, searing the outside, but keeping the inside pink in color. If cooking in batches remove the livers along with the butter (again if it’s getting too dark) as they cook and reserve. Add more fat as needed along with the remaining livers and cook in the same method as the first batch.

Once all the livers are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and add the brandy or cognac.  Return to the heat and carefully tip the pan (if using a gas flame) or ignite the alcohol with a long match. Allow the alcohol to burn off. The goal is to control the ignition of the alcohol so that it’s not a surprise.

After all the livers have been cooked and the flame has burned out, add the contents to a blender (or food processor) along with the sautéed onions and remaining butter. Blend until the paté is completely smooth. Once smooth add the cream and blend just until combined.

Pack in 3 ounce mason jars or ramekins and allow to cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate until cold.

To make gelée:
Place the gelatin sheet in a small bowl of cold water and allow to bloom (soften). This should take about 10 minutes. While the gelatin is blooming, using a mortar and pestle, pulverize the spices and set aside.  Place port wine, sugar and spices in a small saucepan. Heat to a simmer to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and strain to remove any spice bits. Return the port to the pan and keep hot.

After the gelatin has bloomed, remove the sheet from the water and squeeze out any excess. Add the gelatin to the hot port mixture, stirring until the gelatin has dissolved. Pour into a small heat-proof measuring cup and divide evenly over the ramekins of chilled paté. Allow to cool and then return to the refrigerator.

The paté will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for a couple of months.

To serve, allow paté to come to room temperature. Spread a bit of the gelée and paté in crostini and serve with a glass of champagne or rosé.

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Black Walnut and Coconut Banana Bread

This may be the best banana bread I’ve yet to bake. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop testing other variations. It’s not too dense and has a nice crumb but it’s not crumbly like some banana breads.

I’m also a huge fan of coconut and nuts in general. I’d gladly add walnuts or pecans to most anything. As good fortune would have it, I remembered that a friend had gifted me with a bag of black walnuts; so in went 3 ounces that I had coarsely chopped.

I also had some Cream of Wheat left from another recipe. It’s doubtful that I will ever eat a bowl of cream of wheat so I added half a cup just to use some of it.

IMG_2138Butter for preparing loaf pan
1/2 cup (1.25 oz / 35 g) unsweetened coconut, toasted
Generous 1/2 cup (3 oz / 85 g) chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
1 cup (8 oz) ripe bananas (about 2 large or 3 medium bananas)
1 3/4 cups (8 oz / 225 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 oz / 85 g) cream of wheat
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (2 oz) whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (4 oz / 115 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of 1 (approximately 10 x 5 x 3-inch) loaf pan and line with parchment paper leaving the paper to extend over the sides of the pan.

In a medium bowl weigh out 8 ounces of ripe bananas and mash with a folk. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cream of wheat, baking soda, and salt. In a glass measuring cup, measure out milk and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time continue beating until completely incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the mashed bananas and beat for about 30 seconds. Mix in the milk and vanilla. Add the flour and milk mixtures in 2 batches alternating between flour and milk and stirrring on low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds total. Add coconut and nuts, if desired, and using a rubber spatula fold them into the batter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf emerges clean, about 60 – 70 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to let cool for 10 to 15 minutes then gently lift the bread out of the mold using the overhanging parchment paper.

DO AHEAD: Banana bread can be baked ahead, cooled completely, and kept, wrapped in plastic wrap, up to 2 days, or frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap and foil, up to 3 months.

IMG_2156 (2)

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