Tag Archives: Maria Speck

Unfinished (Wine) Business & A Cookbook Recommendation

 In my previous post about the new Back Forty West I recalled a terrific brunch-slash-wine tasting I had enjoyed at its older sibling, Back Forty. Although I spelled out the menu I neglected to include the specific Bouchaine Vineyards wine each course was paired with, prompting two commenters to ask for details.  Having to go back and read my hand-scrawled notes from almost two years ago proved humbling – for one thing, my handwriting deteriorates with each course – but here goes:

Market Hodgepodge Salad with artisanal ricotta, lemon verbena oil, fresh herbs, and spring market vegetables Bouchaine Vineyards 2008 Estate Chardonnay & Bouchaine Bacchus Collection 2009 Rose of Syrah.
My notes say that the lemon verbena oil brought out the sweet notes of the rose very nicely

House Smoked Trout with sweet potato pancakes, creme fraiche, and baby butter lettuce salad Bouchaine Vineyards 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir In the pre-brunch tasting I praise this wine’s “true pinot aromas” and “balance,’ then note how it nicely brought out the light smokiness of the trout.

Housemade Maple & Sage Sausage with fried egg, creamy grits, spinach, and toasted pecans So here’s where things get murky. I did not record the wine pairing although I strongly suspect it was the Bouchaine Bacchus Collection 2008 Rockin’ H Vineyard Syrah A “nice mid-range syrah, not too heavy or oaky” my notes tell me.

Blintzes with Housemade Farmers Cheese and strawberries, balsamic, and fresh basil Bouchaine Vineyards 2008 Bouche d’Or The blintzes and this late-harvest chardonnay-based dessert wine constituted my favorite pairing of the day. I call it “a perfect match” and note how the balsamic and basil flavors did not compete with the honey and ripe-fig notes of the wine.

Whew!

Cookbook Recommendation: Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

In a different previous post I mentioned that I was scheduled to attend a cooking demo and presentation at Miele Princeton by Maria Speck, the author of the above cookbook. Both the book (currently nominated for the Julia Child Award) and Ms. Speck exceeded my already high expectations.

Before you click to read all about it in my latest In the Kitchen column in The Princeton Packet (including recipes), here are some photos from the session and just a few of the many excellent tips for working with grains that she passed along during her presentation, which I didn’t have space in my column to share.

In the foreground is Lemon Quinoa with Currants, Dill, & Zucchini, the recipe for which is reprinted in my column.

Holly Curry of Miele (left) and Maria Speck. Two Miele culinary professionals, Curry and Mary Mould, made the day’s dishes using the Miele Steam Oven.

Ms. Speck’s Almond-Peach Clafouti – the only recipe that day that was cooked in a conventional oven.

Maria Speck’s cooking tips, as I recorded them:

*She experimented and found no difference whether you rinse whole grains or not before cooking. She thinks today’s grains are much cleaner than they used to be.

*She likes to add fresh herbs both at the beginning of the cooking process and again at the end.

*For baking, she recommends weighing ingredients on a kitchen scale rather than relying on traditional dry and wet measures of cups, teaspoons, etc. Kitchen humidity makes a big difference, especially in flour for bread baking where, she says, humidity affects the measurement by up to 25 percent. And can result in a too heavy loaf.

*She is an advocate of using olive oil in place of butter in a lot of breads and sweet baked goods. “It adds a wonderful crumb. And don’t worry: it won’t taste like salad dressing. Don’t use light olive oil, but don’t use a premium extra virgin, either. Use a mid-level, fruity rather than peppery extra virgin.  Extra virgin adds a subtle fruitiness that you won’t be able to pinpoint.”

*For recipes that call for raw onion, she “takes the sting out” by finely chopping and mixing with salt and lemon juice (or other acid, like vinegar). “Let it sit for ten minutes, and they’ll become sweet, and more digestible.”

*She particularly likes the grain kamut because it is truly ancient. Unlike other grains, it has never been hybridized.

And lastly, a reminder: There’s still time to win a copy of the 2011/12 NJ Zagat Restaurant Guide. See my prior post for details.

Here again is the link to my Packet story on Ancient Grains.

Steakhouse 85 Review; Upcoming Events

Lots to share today. First up: these 3 fun things happening in Central NJ.

Mrs. G’s – This appliance store and showroom on Route 1 in Lawrenceville now has its own in-house chef, Mary Beth Madill, a Johnson & Wales grad. It only makes sense, since the store carries many brands of high-end kitchen appliances. On Saturday the 18th, from 2 to 4, Madill is teaming up with guest chefs: three sisters who have their own catering company in Trenton called ABC Dadlites.

Debbie Schaeffer of Mrs G's, ABC Dadlites & Mary Beth Madill

They’ll be demoing and serving Southern home-cooking favorites, including mac & cheese, fried chicken wings, & bbq pork. The event is free but seating is limited, so RSVP to info@mrsgs.com or phone 609.882.1444.

Slow Food Farmers Market – The final winter market sponsored by the Central NJ chapter will have 12 vendors on hand on Sunday, the 19th, from 11 am to 3 pm at Tre Piani (pictured at right) in Plainsboro’s Forrestal Village. Tre Piani in Forrestal Village Besides the top-tier vendors, owner/chef Jim Weaver, who founded this Slow Food chapter back in 1999, will be on hand signing copies of his new book, Locavore Adventures. You may recall that, uh, I am the subject of Chapter 7, since I am one of the co-founders. For a list of Sunday’s vendors, click on the Central NJ Slow Food website (which I’ve also added to my blogroll).

Miele hosts acclaimed cookbook author – Are you aware that at their Michael Graves-designed showroom on Route 1 in South Brunswick  the folks at Miele hold food and wine events? Last year I attended a fascinating wine tasting conducted by Maximilian Riedel that pitted his family’s famous glassware against others. On Thursday, February 23rd from 11 am to 2 pm Miele will host Maria Speck, author of the red-hot book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. The NY Times rightly named it one of 2011’s most notable cookbooks. Cost to attend is $25, for which you receive an autographed copy of the book and enjoy samples from it, prepared in Miele’s Steam Oven. Spaces must be reserved in advance – and I’ve already grabbed one of them! To reserve yours, phone Vicki Robb of Miele at 800.843.7231, ext. 2515.

And finally: click to read my review of New Brunswick’s Steakhouse 85, which is in the February issue of NJ Monthly.