‘Twas The Season by Kelly Montgomery

It ‘s been said that there are 3 seasons in the retail year:  Before Christmas. Christmas. And after Christmas. Yes. Absolutely. 

Here’s how it goes at Marcels:

It begins in the spring, giving new meaning to ‘keep Christmas in your heart all year.” Dana and Jill will scour catalogs, scout a few shows and start ordering holiday merchandise. Snow men in June? It’s hard to put yourself in the mindset, but there they are.

Fast forward a few months. It’s late summer and the orders start trickling in through the back door.  And then it snowballs. It’s a fun little perk of our job. We get a chance to preview the merchandise customers won’t see for months. Ha! 

Next thing you know, someone is saying, me included,  “Hey Rita, did you see those mice ornaments? They have new outfits this year!” or “Guys! Come check out the Juliska stuff that just came in!” 

Before you know it, it’s mid-November. You’ll find our retail staff (and a few random awesome people who show up year after year) bringing up boxes and boxes of holiday merchandise and decorating the store. The whole thing.  In approximately 5 hours. It must get done, (since the very next night is Ladies Night Out!) 

And so the season begins—for you, our customer, bringing familiar faces and new ones as well, in varying degrees excited, stressed, dazed, hangry, focused, exhausted, over caffeinated, under caffeinated (or even a little tipsy!) Yes, we know. And it’s OK!

Shockingly early in December customers will begin to triumphantly shout, “I’m done! I had this one gift to get and now I’m finally done!” This, of course, sets off a growing panic here, and across the retail industry, that we haven’t even started!! Nor had we noticed since we all genuinely like working together. It’s fun to see the whole team in action at the same time. Organized chaos!

Somehow or other it all gets done so we can focus on getting ready for our own Christmas now. And soon enough, next Christmas for you all.

This might sound like the Nightmare Before Christmas more than anything else, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Something I didn’t really grasp until this year, when I couldn’t participate much due to a thumb injury and rehab. 

But more than the preparation and start to the holiday bustle, it’s the mulled cider. The private office parties and events. The samples. The smells from the kitchen. Everything. Like one constant Christmas Eve for however many days that I realize I miss. And, I’m missing out on. Cook. Create. Celebrate never meant more than during the holidays.

It has been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Yes. Absolutely.

Happy Holidays everybody.

Chef Talk: Something for Everyone at the Holiday Table: What to Serve Guests with Food Allergies and Diet Restrictions by Lynn Dugan

Your family will be together in a few short weeks and you are already stressing about the holiday meal you are hosting.  Aunt Susie is newly gluten free.  You also think your brother’s girlfriend is a vegan.  What should you do to accommodate these dietary restrictions? Most importantly, how can you be a good host while managing the menu and keeping your sanity?

I can help!  As a Registered Dietitian, I know about meal restrictions and accommodations. I also love to entertain and know the challenges in meal planning and food preparation when dealing with different diet demands.  And, my oldest son has a life threatening nut allergy.  Every holiday, I work with the host to understand the menu and determine what I need to make to supplement the meal for his benefit.

So, here is your game plan in three simple steps:

  1. Understand your guest’s dietary restrictions. 2. Work out the base menu. 3. Communicate the menu and recruit help with preparation.
  1. Don’t begin meal planning until you understand the dietary restrictions. After making it clear to your guests that you look forward to being together, ask the questions necessary to best understand the restrictions. Vegan is a diet free of animal products (including meats, fish, dairy, butter, eggs) but does your vegan guest avoid honey, too? How sensitive is the gluten restriction? I have gluten-free friends who eat bread on occasion but none of my celiac friends can tolerate even cross contamination from cutting boards, knives, toasters, measuring cups, frying oil and baking sheets. The conversations you have with step one are a good place to begin as it shows your concern for your guests, that their well-being is your priority. You can also gauge how open they will be to making and bringing a dish to supplement your meal. That takes us to step #2.
  1. Plan the menu. Your guiding principle for menu planning is to have something for everyone at the Holiday table but not everything has to be for everyone. Consider what I call the ‘red light’ foods for each dietary restriction and pick a menu item that suits everyone.  Red lights for gluten free are always anything made with wheat flour: regular bread, stuffing, crackers, pasta, and rolls.  You’ll be able to offer a gluten-free side dish when using rice, wild rice, potatoes, corn or quinoa to replace wheat.

As already mentioned, the red light for vegans are any animal products – meats and poultry, fish, dairy products, honey. Make sure you offer a menu item that contains a significant protein source like adding beans or legumes to a wild rice casserole, or offering a quinoa-based dish or any dish featuring legumes or lentils. A bowl of mixed nuts on the table can also offer an additional source of protein for the vegan diet.

Side dishes that can work for everyone are typically potatoes, vegetables, salads, fruits and nuts when prepared without the red-light ingredients and prepared with dairy substitutes like soymilk and vegetable oil spreads.

  1. Share the menu with your guests and recruit help. Most people like to bring something. And they are best able to adapt to their own dietary restrictions. While sharing the menu, it is important to communicate any diet restrictions that they might not be familiar with (like telling the gluten-free aunt you have a vegan guest coming). Let your guest know you’ll need them to keep track of any ‘red light’ ingredients in their dishes so you can communicate those during the holiday meal. If your party is small, you can easily point out acceptable dishes. If your party is large, it may be helpful to mark foods as GF or Vegan using a tented name card/place card. Remember, your goal is to have something for everyone but not everything has to be for everyone! 

By following these three steps and making some easy adaptations to the traditional Holiday dinner, your guests will feel welcomed, special and included.

I have highlighted my Warm Sweet Potato Lentil and Apple Salad Bowl.  It is vegan and gluten-free.  Each step of the recipe can be made in advance and assembled warm just before mealtime.  Happy Holidays!

Warm Sweet Potato, Lentil and Apple Salad Bowl
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2 pounds sweet potatoes peel and dice
  3. 1 small red onion, large dice
  4. 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  5. Salt and pepper
  6. 8 ounces mushrooms (button or cremini), sliced
  7. 2 cloves minced garlic
  8. 2 stalks celery, sliced
  9. 4 small tart apples (Jonathon or Cortland), dice
  10. 1 cup cooked lentils
  11. 1 cup balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven 425 degrees.
  2. Make balsamic glaze: place balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and gently simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the glaze is reduced by half, is thick and coats the back of a spoon (consistency of chocolate syrup). Set aside.
  3. Place potatoes and onions on baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper. Roast high in oven for 20 minutes, until tender.
  4. Meanwhile, sauté mushrooms, garlic and celery in 1/2 tablespoon oil until mushrooms and celery are softened. Salt and pepper, to taste. Add apples and cook until just warm.
  5. Pour contents of sauté pan into a large bowl. Add roasted potatoes and lentils; stir to combine. Garnish with balsamic glaze.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Chef Talk: Turkey Sanity by Robin Nathan

 Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It’s all about family, friends, food, and gratitude – a combination that’s hard to beat.  With one possible exception… roasting the turkey. How can one successfully roast this holiday classic without being accused of turkey-cide?

 

For years I have experimented with different methods.  One year, I butterflied the turkey (sometimes known as “spatchcocking” ), a simple process of cutting out the turkey’s backbone and flattening the bird in an effort to reduce cooking time.  Bad move.  It wasn’t until after I had removed the backbone and flattened the turkey that I realized I didn’t have a pan big enough to accommodate the sprawling bird other than a sheet pan.  Please believe me when I tell you that you cannot successfully roast a 13 pound turkey on a sheet pan without starting an oven fire and setting off every smoke alarm in your home.

 

Other attempts, perhaps less dramatic, include flipping the bird from back up, to breast up, half way through the process to insure a juicy breast – messy and not particularly effective; and brining – a step that is easily avoided by shelling out a few extra bucks for a kosher turkey (which is brined as part of the koshering process).

 

Chef Robin’s Herb Roasted Turkey (12-14 Pounds)
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For the Butter
  1. 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  2. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  3. 1 large handful mixed herbs, minced (thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley)
  4. sea salt to taste
  5. 1 12-14 Pound Turkey, giblets removed
  6. sea salt
  7. 2 yellow onion, quartered
  8. 4 stalks celery, halved
  9. 4 carrots, halved
  10. 1 cup water or chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Make the butter by combining all ingredients in a small bowl. Following the directions in the above article, place the butter beneath the skin of the turkey’s breast. Rub any remaining butter on the turkey and sprinkle with additional salt and pepper. Place the half the vegetables inside the turkey’s cavity. Place additional vegetables on the bottom of the roasting pan. Pour the broth over the vegetables in the bottom of the pan. Place the prepared turkey on top of the vegetables.
  2. Place the turkey in a preheated 400 oven and roast, undisturbed until the breast registers 160. Pour in up to another cup of broth if the vegetables on the bottom threaten to burn. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and let rest 20 minutes. Take the temperature of the thigh. If below 175, cut the breast from the carcass and set it aside, and return the dark portion to the oven until it reaches 175. Carve both and serve with gravy made from drippings, if desired. It will take approximately 1 ½-2 hours to reach 160 if the turkey is unstuffed and you do not open the oven door to baste. Now relax and enjoy the holiday!!
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/
What makes roasting a whole turkey so darned frustrating in the first place?  The biggest obstacle to overcome is that the dark meat is considered “done” at 175-180° and the breast is done at 160°.  The other complicating factor is that the turkey must rest, depending on its size, for 30-45 minutes, which will allow juices to redistribute and keep you from frying your hands while you try to carve it.  Another complicating factor is stuffing.  I highly recommend NOT stuffing the turkey.  First, it’s a health hazard, as stuffing must cook to a different internal temperature (165°) than either the breast or the dark meat, and just as importantly, significantly increases the roasting time.  What else significantly increases cooking time?? Basting.  Please stop basting that turkey.  Basting does not add flavor or moisture to a turkey – nothing is getting through that skin, believe me, and all you are doing is reducing your oven’s temperature by 50 degrees every time you open that darn door. 

 

So what’s the answer/answers?? Here’s what I recommend.

First, consider purchasing turkey parts.  If you are cooking for a large group, especially a group that has preferences of dark meat or white meat, and it’s not important for you to show off a whole bird, buy one or two breasts and enough drumsticks and thighs to satisfy your group.  This will allow you to start the dark meat first, giving a head start to 175, and pop the breast in about 30 minutes later.

 

Second, make a flavorful compound butter to put BETWEEN the turkey’s flesh and skin.  Mix room temperature unsalted butter with your favorite fresh or dried herbs, a drizzle of maple syrup or a squirt of sriracha if that’s your thing.  Slide your hands carefully between the turkey’s flesh and breast skin, breaking the tiny tendons that hold it in place.  Scoop up some of the butter on a spoon, lift the skin and slide in the spoon, using your fingers on top to slide the butter off.  Smoosh it around to flatten it and keep going until you’ve created a large pancake of butter on both sides of the breast.  Rub any remaining on the skin.  This will flavor and moisten the breast.

 

Third, if you must roast a whole turkey, do not stuff it or baste it.  Use a probe thermometer (which snakes through the oven door and beeps at the temperature you’ve set) inserted into the thickest part of the breast.  BREAST, not thigh.  Roast to an internal temperature of 160.  Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest 30 minutes, keeping an eye on the internal temperature of the thigh.  After the turkey has rested 15 minutes, if the thigh meat is below 160, cut the breasts from the turkey and return the dark meat to the oven until it’s reached 175, which won’t take but 15-20 minutes longer.  You can pump up the oven temperature if you like – it’s impossible to dry out dark meat.

My Favorite Things by Jennifer Dorn

Remember the song “ My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music or Oprah’s Favorite Things List? This song and theme have been going through my mind since joining Marcel’s team in May. I had shopped at Marcel’s for over 5 years and I did have a “MY favorite things list” – that go to hostess gift and favorite pantry items. My recipes were never without a little help from the  S.A.L.T. Sisters (Mojo Seasoning Blend) or a Garnier-Thiebaut French dish towel ready for a house warming gift. Since I joined the team here, I have been asking the staff about their favorite products and have added many more to my list!

 

I must admit it has been a bit overwhelming learning about all of the 100’s of products here at Marcel’s. So I started by asking each staff member to tell me about their favorite things. I could not wait to try Teri’s Hot Pepper Bacon Jam, Kathy’s Filotea linguine pasta or Dana’s Beef Goulash soup mix… so many favorites you get the idea – and so much fun for me to learn about these new things!

 

I recently added the linguine pasta to our family’s favorite Shrimp Scampi – ahh YES, a success! Come taste this in my demo on November 28th.  

 

So stop by the store and I may sing you a song and show you a few of my favorite things – and I hope to learn about some of yours. I still have my list and it’s growing!   

Pesto Pronto by Brandy Fernow

As a chef instructor, people always ask me “do you cook like this at home every night?” And my answer is a swift “nope!” Yes, I am a chef, but I am also a busy mom of two active 1st and 2nd grade boys. That means I’m running all week from school, to sports, to cub scouts, volunteering, doing homework, playdates, cleaning, cooking, and of course teaching classes at Marcels!

So no, I don’t cook every night and it’s certainly not a gourmet meal every night either. We do eat at home every night and I have learned to cook smart. Cook one night, then turn that into 2 more meals that I can make in 15 minutes or less.

One of my favorite go-to’s for this technique is a simple pesto sauce. What probably comes to mind is the traditional basil, parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil. I certainly make this version to toss over pasta or accompany chicken, but I also use the same fundamentals to make a dozen other “pestos” which to me is generally an herb, nut, cheese and oil – whipped together in seconds with the help of my food processor.

Now – to make this a million other ways, you just swap the herb, nut and cheese combos. For example, Mexican night – use cilantro, pepitas, queso or cotija cheese, and a dash of red pepper flake. Or sweeten it up a bit by swapping arugula for basil, pecans for pine nuts, adding 2 tablespoons of honey and ½ cup ricotta. Or try parsley, almonds, and asiago.

This way you can pour over ANYTHING! Pesto variations are great poured over steak pork, chicken or fish, tossed with pasta, quinoa or favorite grain, drizzled over roasted veggies, you name it.

Bonus – you can freeze in portions and re-use. Why haul out that food processor more than once? Make big batches of a few kinds and freeze in portions. Pull out and enjoy on that frenzied night you’re trying to get something fresh, but fast on the table.
I’m featuring this favorite pesto technique in a private event this month at Marcels for a group of moms looking to cook once, eat twice. We are serving the pesto over flank steak, then recycling it to a pasta for the next meal. If you have a group that is looking to learn something specific or want to have a good time with your friends, let Marcels know and they can customize your own private event!

Fresh Basil Pesto
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  2. ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  3. Zest and juice of a lemon
  4. Handful of fresh parmesan
Instructions
  1. Add all to a food processor and add olive oil until you have you preferred consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Salt & Pepper by Jamie Bordoshuk

I’ve been teaching kids how to cook for the past 15 years and I feel like I have the best job in the world. My students range from 6 year olds who can barely see over the counter to teens whose favorite foods include sushi, crispy seared duck breast and roasted bone marrow. 

While my Mother was not a gourmet cook, she was a master in the kitchen. Cooking for her was more than a necessity, it was a true labor of love. For her, measuring was an option and not a rule. Her ‘go-to’ spices were salt and pepper. And she was one of those people who could turn three ingredients into family dinner in under 30 minutes. I’m thankful that she passed that skill down to me, and find myself sharing her wisdom and tips with my students every time I teach a class. 

There’s nothing better to me than having one of my students come back to see me at Marcel’s or sign-up for another class or kid’s camp. They tell me stories of how they made dinner for their family from the recipes that we learned in class. To hear how excited they were to show off their talents, explore different foods and cultures and how much their families enjoyed their meal is wonderful. That to me makes teaching our next generation a real treasure. 

At the end of each class, I always ask my students the same question, “What makes almost every dish taste better?”. And they all shout in unison, “Salt and pepper!” Thanks, Mom.

Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb ground beef
  2. 1/4 cup onion diced
  3. 1 egg beaten
  4. 2 tablespoons of ketchup
  5. 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, divided
  6. 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, divided
  7. 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
  8. 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  9. 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  10. 2 tablespoons of bacon fat or olive oil, divided
  11. 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  12. 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered
  13. 2 tablespoons of flour
  14. 2 cups beef broth or consommé
  15. Parsley to garnish
Instructions
  1. In a bowl combine the ground beef, diced onion, egg, ketchup, one tablespoon of mustard, one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, Panko breadcrumbs and salt and pepper. Knead by hand until combined. Form into 4 oval patties to give them a "steak" appearance.
  2. Heat a large non-stick skillet until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of bacon fat or oil and then patties. Sear patties to a crispy brown on each side for several minutes until no longer pink inside. Remove from pan and set aside on a paper towel lined plate and cover to keep warm.
  3. Add the other tablespoon of bacon fat or oil to the pan and sauté the sliced onion until golden brown over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, remaining tablespoon of mustard and Worcestershire sauce and cook for several minutes. Mushrooms will release water so cook mixture down for several minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir, cooking for another minute. Slowly add the beef stock and stir to mix and lower heat to low. Simmer for several minutes, sauce will thicken. Season to taste.
  4. Add the “steaks” back to the pan and nestle in the sauce. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes to heat through. Serve over mashed potatoes and pour mushroom onion gravy over each Salisbury steak. Sprinkle with parsley to garnish.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

A Taste From Our Kitchens by Teri Hiben

There are so many things I have enjoyed about working at Marcel’s for the past 6 years – yes, it’s been 6 years!  I learn so much interacting with our talented and generous chefs who share their tips and recipes.  It’s been a joy to work alongside so many great people here on staff who have become dear friends.  And I am thankful to continue to get to know so many of you as you come through the store, talking food and entertaining, sharing recipes.  One of my favorite roles has been sharing one of my recipes during our weekly Tuesday demos.  Did you know we have free demos every Tuesday?  One of us, on staff, at Marcel’s prepares a favorite dish each Tuesday between 11am and 2pm.  Everyone is welcome to stop in for a quick taste, grab the recipe, or to sit and enjoy a bite while watching the entire process as we make the entrée, side dish, appetizer or dessert.

And, for those who are working or otherwise unable to come to our demos, each demonstrated recipe is available on our website.  Over the years we have compiled quite a nice collection of recipes from these demos.  Also on the site are chef recipes for you to enjoy making and serving at home.  Some of these dishes have become favorites in my home.  Have you tried Janie’s Penne with Beef and Arugula?  Jill’s Mussels with White Wine?  Or Rita’s Mardi Gras Jambalaya?  I highly recommend them – and so many others!

With the start of the fall schedule, our Tuesday demos are again in full swing.  Here’s what’s ahead in the next weeks:

Aug. 29 Julie’s Easy Lemon Sole Meunier

Sept. 5 Sharon’s Chicken with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

Sept. 12 Deb’s Quick and Simple Asian Tilapia

Sept. 19 Julie’s Wheatberry Waffles

And on Sept. 26, our 6th birthday, I’ll be dishing up a special Anniversary treat! Please join us in the kitchen on Tuesdays.

Garden Bounty by Julie Szimon

I love vegetable gardening!  Well, let me rephrase that.  I love to get organic plants or seeds and plant them in my garden with organic soil, water them, weed them and see what happens.  I don’t know what the PH level of my soil is.  I don’t use any chemicals to make things grow bigger.  I just plant. 

Growing up in the city, we never had a garden.  We lived in a two-flat on the north side of Chicago.  We did have an apple tree in the back yard that took up most of the space.  Each year I was allowed to climb up the tree and pick the apples on top that no one could reach.  Those apples were then cooked down by my grandmother and made into applesauce.  She would can the applesauce in mason jars so we could enjoy it all winter long. 

When we moved to the suburbs I started a small 4’x8’ vegetable garden.  As time went on, my vegetable garden grew to a 25’x35’ enclosed area with 8 raised beds and an open space for berry bushes.  Each Spring I plan out what worked well last year and I try to add something new.  I love to see how the new plants grow and what culinary creations I can come up with when they are ready for harvest. 

I like to plant peppers and the garden always produces an abundance of them.  Some sweet ones and some hot ones.  I have used them in salsas and salads and I have even pickled them.  Last year I decided to make hot pepper jelly with them.  It was so good!  I made several batches and canned it for myself and gave some as gifts.  My favorite way to enjoy the jelly is on toasted bread or crackers along with some goat cheese.  It’s sweet and hot and delicious! It also came in handy over the winter months when friends dropped in for a glass of holiday cheer. 

This year the peppers are looking good, so another batch of hot pepper jelly will be coming.  The recipe I use is great just the way it is but don’t be afraid to be creative with the pepper mixture.  I added some red peppers for color, cracked black pepper, fresh thyme and some dried lemon peel.

Hot Pepper Jelly
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Ingredients
  1. 12 oz. of jalapeno (or variety of) peppers
  2. 2 cups cider vinegar, divided
  3. 6 cups of sugar
  4. 2 - 3 oz. pouches of liquid pectin
  5. 5 - 8 oz. half pint glass-preserving jars with lids and bands
Instructions
  1. Prepare/sanitize glass jars, lids and bands per manufacturers directions.
  2. Puree peppers in a food processor with 1 cup of cider vinegar until smooth. Do not strain puree.
  3. Combine puree with remaining 1 cup of cider vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add liquid pectin and continue to boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  4. Ladle hot pepper jelly into hot jars leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rim. Secure lid and band. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when pressed in the center.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

For The Love Of Caramel by Paul Lindemuth

One of my favorite cookbooks is “My Last Supper” by Melanie Dunea. It is a journal where 50 great chefs were asked “if you were to die tomorrow, what would you want for your last meal on earth?’ Each chef shared their personal thoughts and requests.

I’ve often been asked a similar question when I’m teaching: “what is your favorite food or flavor?” I know the answer, hands down, to either of these questions:  Caramel.

There is something seductive about caramel and the flavor descriptors are pretty diverse:  buttery, nutty, smoky, toasted, butterscotch, burnt.

I love the chemistry part of working with caramel which begins with melting pure cane sugar and slowly controlling the temperature to turn the sugar from crystal clear to pale amber to deep golden brown. Each stage yields different flavors: pale amber is light and mild, deep amber is rich and complex. Taking the caramel beyond this point to dark caramel yields a more bitter flavor due to increased oxidation (my favorite). Additionally, heating beyond this point (which happens very quickly) will turn the caramel into a black, smoking, bitter mess as the sugar breaks down into pure carbon.

I spent the 4th of July holiday toying with this chemistry while roasting marshmallows to create S’mores. I started with that initial golden-brown crust on the marshmallows, took it one step further to dark brown (actually peeling that layer off to taste it and then putting the remainder back over the fire and tasting again). Then I let a couple of marshmallows actually catch fire and get totally charred…. not so tasty. It sure was fun playing with melted and burnt sugar!

When you peel back the layers of chemistry and technique of caramel, you can easily create some pretty amazing flavors. Patiently working with one cup of granulated sugar, ¼ cup of water to dissolve the sugar and adding 1 cup of heavy cream to the hot caramel will yield my favorite thing to eat:  perfect caramel sauce.

Salted Caramel Apple Tartlets
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup sugar
  2. ¼ cup cold water
  3. 1 cup heavy cream
  4. ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  5. 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  6. 4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into thick wedges
  7. ¼ cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar
  8. ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  9. 2 tablespoons Calvados or apple brandy
  10. 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  11. 1 package frozen puff pastry thawed
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan combine the sugar and the water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Using a pastry brush dipped in cold water, brush down any sugar particles that cling to the side of the pan. Continue to boil until the sugar caramelizes and turns a deep amber color, being careful not to let it get too dark and burn.
  2. Place the saucepan in the bottom of the sink. Carefully pour the cream into the melted sugar. The sugar will bubble violently and give off steam. Return the saucepan to low heat and stir until the caramel is dissolved and smooth. Add the sea salt and set the caramel aside.
  3. In a large sauté pan melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the apples and toss to evenly coat them with the butter. Sauté the apples until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add ¼ cup of the sugar and continue cooking until the sugar melts and the apples are caramelized, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
  4. Add the nutmeg, Calvados or apple brandy and lemon juice. Toss gently to combine. Set the apples aside. (The apples may be prepared up to 4 hours in advance, loosely covered and held at room temperature.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  6. Gently unfold one sheet of the thawed puff pastry. Cut the pastry into 4 rounds. Transfer the pastry rounds to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Using a smaller round cutter make a shallow indentation into each puff pastry round, being careful to not cut all the way through the pastry. Using a fork, evenly prick the center of each pastry inside the inner circle.
  7. Divide half of the apples into the center of the pastry rounds. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry and apples.
  8. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into thin slices and scatter the butter evenly over the apples. Sprinkle the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the tartlets. Bake the tartlets until the pastry is puffed and brown and the apples are soft, about 15 to 18 minutes.
  9. Remove the tartlets from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to plates. Spoon some of the caramel sauce over each tartlet and serve.
  10. Serves 8
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Food As A Gift by Deb Forkins

After lamenting my less than stellar rhubarb harvest last year, a dear friend brought me over this homemade rhubarb treasure.  She is a fabulous cook, and the pie was delicious….but it was the big D on that pie that was the most delish!  Edible friendship!

One Sunday, I came home from working at Marcel’s to dinner in the oven.  Marc had made his specialty quiche, adding zucchini to my half.  Again, the best part of that dinner was my name on my half of the quiche in zucchini peel.  Edible love.

Sharing the gift of food is a universal gesture of love and friendship, compassion and kindness.  A meal to a family struggling with challenges, chicken soup to a sick friend, cookies to your new neighbor…food has always been a way that we reach out to one another, to connect.  We all know this.  The food itself may or may not be a fabulous culinary creation, but the gesture speaks volumes.

In her cookbook, Food Gift Love, author and chef Maggie Battista shares some tips to make you the quintessential food gifter:

  • Know your recipient. (always best to play to the audience.)
  • Master a signature food gift so you can make it quickly and have the ingredients in your head.
  • Embrace imperfection. (my favorite tip!)
  • Put a label on it. (ingredients and date created)
  • Summer and fall are the best time to make gifts when fruits and vegetables are plentiful and it’s a less hectic time of the year.
  • Reuse old jars, cups and boxes that can be cleaned and repurposed.

At risk of sounding corny, “what the world needs now is love.”  And edible love is just the best. 

(Check out Chef Kelly Sears’ “Pickling and Preserving Workshop” on Sunday, August 27th to learn the tricks of canning and preserving in anticipation of Christmas 2017 Food Gift Giving!)