A Cheese Board with Pear & Chive Compote

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One of the most welcome parts of a European celebration meal, or even just Sunday lunch, is the cheese board: a selection of three or more fine artisan cheeses, perhaps with some biscuits, nuts, fresh fruit or fruit compotes as accompaniments.  In England, the cheese comes after the sweet dessert – a slice of Stilton and a glass of port after the pudding is as traditional as one can get — but in France, the cheese comes before the dessert.  Or the cheese can take the place of the sweet entirely.

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Tarragon Potica

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One evening several years ago, a Slovenian colleague and I were discussing our shared Central European heritage – I’m half Croatian, as well as Anglo-Celtic – and we turned our talk to food, specifically potica.  The Croatian potica I grew up eating and helping my aunts to make was the traditional walnut variety, filled with ground walnuts, golden raisins, and cinnamon.  The traditional Slovenian potica he grew up with, made by his grandmother and mother, was filled with pehtran.

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Artichoke & Black Olive Gratin

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A temporary shortage of fresh tarragon in northeastern metro Phoenix has interrupted my holiday baking schedule for the moment, but that’s ok.  There is another, actually greater, issue at hand right now, and taking care of that challenge may also help with ideas for your own holiday meals — and that challenge is, clearing out the freezer and cupboards in preparation for one very big move.

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Chocolate Whisky Mac Cake

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… “Never explain, and never apologize.”  – Julia Child

Last Sunday evening we dined with our friends D. and J., and what a wonderful meal it was: a shrimp and rocket salad, and a main course of salmon and pasta with a light sauce containing capers and bits of red onion.  As she multi-tasked, J. and I chatted about the food she was preparing, as cooks do together. But what concerned me as we talked were her concerns about the meal — her belief that the recipe must be right, and that her instinct to tweak it to her own taste was wrong; her apology, in advance, for any deficiencies in her culinary skills; and overall, her unfounded lack of confidence in her own natural talent as a cook.

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