Saturday, August 3, 2019

ROSE WINÉ - Great Summer Wine

Rosé wine is perfect wine of hot summer. They are pretty, pink in color, light in body, but packed with summer fruit flavor (strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, etc) and crispy acidity on palate (summer food friendly; comosed salad, pasta with light sauce, pizza, even for dessert like lemon tart) and they are having a big momentum in America.

Some of them are nicely sweet but many dry versions of rosé wines are made with different grape varietals by each different appellation (region) around globe today. One of new from California is made from expensive Pinot Noir grape. They are a bit pricey but worth a try, but in general many imported roses are reasonably priced.

Well chilled rosé wine is very refreshing taste and nicely summer food friendly. I have been having a glass of rosé wine everyday as soon as I come home from work. And I often make rosé spritzer with adding a lemon slice and fresh mint leaves, making it a bit like Mojito (cannot run out rosé in my refrigerator in summer time). It is very refreshing and tasty!

Dry Rosé wine from Provence, south of France has been known and famous for many years, but it wasn’t many brands available in California until recent years, plus it was a bit pricey if you could find one in wine shop.
However welcome news is that many Provencal rosés  are available even in ordinary large super markets in this year among with many others. I see that my local Trader Joe’s carries at least a half dozen Provence rosé wine among many others, as well as at Safeway market. I was a bit surprised that Safeway near my home carries over 50 different rosé wines from around world. They filled the sheves, top to bottom include California rosé (of course) in this year. It is something that I had never seen it before. 

Interestingly, Provencal rosé wines are easy to spot, because many rosé wines have different unique bottle shape. They are quite artistic that no wonder many great artists have lived there (e.g. Picasso, Miró, Cézanne in the past) and keep attracting many young artists to live and work there (great weather, beautiful sea, delicious food and wine.).

My current two favorit this summer are, De Mont, which has very elegant taste and it got everything Provence rosé wine caractor can offers; light, crispy and summer fruits flavor ($8.99 at Trader Joe's). Magique is slighty sweet but very tasty and good wine. I like it a lot ($4.99 at Trader Joe's).

I also enjoyed Loma Negra rosé  from Chile made with Cabernet and Merlot blend ($4.99) and Emma Reichart rosé from Germany made with Pinot Noir ($4.99). Trader Joe's carry 3 dozens rosé wine this summer, and their price is wonderful, more than just affordable!

Anyway dry rosé wine’s popularity is very obvious that a clerk at Trader Joe’s told me they cannot keep up stocking this year. I should go to check out Rosé wine at Wholefoods market this weekend, wondering what they have stocked.

Here is a good Provence wine information site.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Plum Crumble Tart with Super Natural Organic Plum

We have a big old plum tree in our small backyard. Every year the tree gets a lot of sweet dark red plums (called Santa Rosa), with no tending/any work required, either given water. That is why I call it our “super natural organic plum tree.” (perhaps it is only California) 

This year is exceptionally great year that I have seen it only once every few years since I moved to this place 18 years ago, but probably the best one ever I had. I harvested almost three 5-gallon buckets in last 10 days, plus a lot of plums have fallen to the ground and  need to be discarded. This is a very sad story but my garden enemy, squirrels and I have been a bit overwhelming this year's abundance. I have learned that my backyard birds don’t care about it, either racoons (but the truth is I haven’t seen them eating.).  

I have given plums to my neighbors, friends, and made a lot of jam but plums are still all over my kitchen table, inside refrigerator and yet quite few plums on the tree.  So my backyard and kitchen are filled smell of plums at moments. I am now worried that they are rall ready tofall off very soon. Only last thing I can think about it is making “plum wine” which I have never tried it but I have a bit of temptation to do it.

I normally enjoy my plums just eating fresh fruit, baking simple tart or pie with using almond cream or paste as the base (the are very juicy). However I found this recipe online  and looks very nice  (Bruno Ablouz, at his great baking recipe collection site ( . He also has good instruction video for each recipe which is very professional and fun.). So I made it and it came out perfect for my great Super natural organic plums. 

Plum Crumble Tart
Recipe adapted by by Bruno Ablouze

Makes one 7.5x 2-inch or 10x 1 -inch Tart Pan with removable bottom
Yield 6-8 servings
The plum crumble tart can be refrigerated for a couple of days. This pie should be eaten at room temperature.

For the Tart:
One 10 ounces (300g) Sweet Pastry Crust/ Pate Sucée*
A few slices brioche, challah or bread crumbs
2 cups Almond Crumbles**
A few slices brioche, challah or bread crumbs (optional)
2 pounds (900g) pitted red plum (also nectarine and peach as well)
2 ounces (60g) brown or granulated sugar ( lower the amount of sugar by half if using nectarine or peach)Garnish (optional)

Powdered sugar and fresh currents (optional)

*Sweet Pastry Shells (Yields 2 tart shells):
5 ounces (150g) unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
3 ounces (90g) powdered sugar or ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (280g)  all-purpose flour

Place the SOFTENED butter and salt in the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl if whisking by hand and cream until completely smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and continue beating until homogenized. Mix in half of the the flour until just incorporated and add remaining flour and mix just until it forms a ball. 
Flatten the pastry into a square, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour or until firm (can be placed in freezer for about 30 minutes). The dough must be completely chilled before being used. The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days or freeze for a month.

**Almond Crumble:
2 ounces (60g) whole almond
5 ounces (150g) almond paste***
½ cup (60g) all-purpose flour
2 ounces (56g) butter, cubed, chilled
Zest of one whole lemon

Almond paste is made from 50% equal proportion of almonds and sugar.
Marzipan has a higher ratio of sugar (up to 75% sugar) plus other ingredients. The larger proportion of sugar makes the marzipan cheaper, smoother and easier to roll out. Marzipan is only used for covering cakes and making edible models.

***Almond Paste: 
 Makes about 1¼ cup (about 250 grams)

1 cup (100g) blanched almonds
1 ½ cup (100g) confectioners’ sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon almond extract
A pinch of salt

In the bowl of food processor, process the almonds to fine ground about 1  minutes.
Add the sugar, egg white, almond extract and salt, process until smooth paste about 2 minutes.

Remove the paste onto a surface of board dusted with confectiones’s sugar and form into a log shape. Wrap the log in a plastic and refrigerate it until firm. It can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.

To assemble the tart
Placet the rack in the center and preheat the over to 375°F (200°C).

The original recipe does not state prebaked the tart shell however I recommend it to do so lightly to be dried the shell (about 15 minute with pie weight and another 5 minutes without weight.)

Spread 1½ cups almond crumbles  on the tart. Lay slice breads if using. Sprit the plums and and remove the pits. Arrange plums nicely over the bread.
Sprinkle brown sugar and then the rest of almond crumble ot the top of fruit.
Place the tart in the oven and bake about 45 minutes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


We have passed the summer solstices last week and it is now officially summer season’’ on our calendar but here in Bay Area, we already had record high of scorching hot days weeks before. It is now that the air is hot, the sun is high, but smell of varieties of fresh summer fruits and scent of summer flower, such like Jasmin are fantastic.

We are having perfect California weather this week (hot days and cool night). Summer means no doubt for the great fruit season. Strawberries are all over the market, cherries and plums are ripe, apricot, peach and nectarine started available, and other fresh berries and watermelon are coming soon. It is truly the season for fresh fruit lovers. Their vibrant colors, rich sweet smells and juice flavor, all are more than irresistible and make us very happy.

We have a long season of cultivated local strawberries in California but its prime is perhaps to its peak now (April to June), and I am now waiting for to tasting those wild berries like small organic strawberries that are coming to our farmers’ market soon. 

Popularity of strawberry is so huge today and Commercial strawberries on the market are so massive in all seasons, but nothing look bright, vibrant red color and luscious sweet flavor of strawberries in its historical season, spring to early summer are exceptional (magic of nature). 

Strawberry is very easy to grow in your backyard even on the terrace of sunny apartment. I started experiment with only on large pot with few plants a few years ago and I have few pots and dozen plants this year. You are not going to get a pint of strawberries every few days but you may enjoy few of them in every couple days.  It takes about 3-4 weeks to harvest ripe strawberries after their blossom of white flowers, but having fun to watch them growing and ripping day by day. For me it’s a big joy tasting real thing.

French Strawberry Tart

For one 9 to 10-inch tart, serves 6.

2 pints of ripe strawberries about 23 ounces (700g) try to get similar size of berries
One baked tart shell, bout 9 to 11-inch
1½ cups pastry cream
2 tablespoons raspberry, strawberry or apricot glaze or powder sugar on the top of strawberries.

For Tart Shell (PÂTE SUCRÉE /Flaky Sweet Pastry):
For one 9 to 10-inch tart

4 ounces (120g) unsalted butter, softened at “room temperature”
A pinch of salt
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 large egg (50g)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/¼ cups (180g) unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted

Place the SOFTENED butter and salt in the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl if mixing by hand and cream until completely smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and continue beating until homogenized. Mix in half of the flour until just incorporated and add remaining flour and mix just until it forms a ball. 
Flatten the pastry into about 6-inch disc, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm (can be placed in freezer for about 30 minutes). The dough must be completely chilled before being used. The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 5 days or freeze for a month.

For Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière):
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
1 vanilla beans or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
2tablespoons flour or corn or potato starch

In a saucepan heat up the milk with a half portion of the sugar.
In a small mixing bowl, mix with the rest of the sugar, flour (or starch) and egg yolks. Pour ½ of the hot milk in the bowl and quickly whisk mixture well. And then return to the saucepan and stir constantly the cream over low heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Immediately plunge the sauce pan into the large bowl of ice water to cool. If sauce is a bit too lumpy, strain through a sieve. 

Assembling the tart:
Spread the pastry cream onto the bottom of prebaked pastry shell. Slice the strawberries way you like, also way would like to decorate. Glaze, brush the warm jam on the top of berries and decorate with small mint leaves.

Note.  You can bake the tart shell and pastry cream a day or two in advance. So you need clean and slice the strawberries on the day you serve. (Recommended)

For chocolate fan, melt 3 ounces (90g) of dark chocolate and spread over the bottom of the tart before spreading chilled pastry cream. It is also preventing tart shell become soggy quickly (good idea for two reasons!)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Flourless Chocolate--Walnut Cookies, Ultra-chocolatey!

“Gluten-free” has become almost a food fashion statement in recent years, but I am always wondering how someone can live without good pizza, pasta, baguette, croissant and many delicious sweet creations.

After many years in the business of providing "real food," I now receive increasing requests for gluten-free meals. I am trying to understand that there are quite a few people who need specific diets, but it seems to me that in most cases these are instances of dislikes or dieting fads, rather than medical necessity (I have heard many… “I am a vegetarian, but shrimp is OK,” or “I cannot have sugary foods, but ice cream is an exception,” etc.). Rather than debating the merits or legitimacy, I just try to offer what people request.

As a matter of fact, there are many cuisines that don’t use much, if any, wheat/gluten ingredients, such as Japanese, Mexican and Indian cuisines. Even France has its famous soufflé, clafouti, chocolate mousse and many other low-or no-wheat specialties.

Anyway, this cookie is for everyone – whether you eat gluten-free, or don’t. When you bake these cookies your entire house will smell like warm chocolate ... perfect for the cooler season. Yes, chocolate season is coming!

And be sure to save those egg yolks... for pastry cream, flan or crème brûlée – all good, traditional and gluten-free!

Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies, Ultra-chocolatey

Recipe adapted from Chocolate Epiphany, by François Payard

Makes 36 cookies

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups walnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup of dark chocolate chips

Position 2 racks in the upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

In a medium-size bowl, combine the cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Mix well and stir in the walnuts. Add the egg whites and vanilla. Mix until the mixture has slightly thickened. Do not overmix. Stir in the chocolate chips.

With a one-ounce ice cream scoop or tablespoon, drop the batter onto baking sheets. They will be about 2-inches in diameter. Bake cookies until tops are lightly cracked and glossy, about 15 minutes.

Repeat with remaining batter. Store in an airtight container or cookie jar at room temperature for up to a few days.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Blueberry Crumble Pie with Blanc de Bleu Sparkling Wine from Spain -- Liven up your life!

Blueberries have been amazingly popular in America and worldwide in recent years. This has pumped up sales of not only juices, jams and yogurts, but everything from bath/body wash and cosmetics to designer cocktails. Much of this limelight can be attributed to over-hyped and extrapolated health benefits, but regardless, it has led to energetic sales of thousands of different products.

Blueberries are native to North America and available almost year-round (including imported ones), but when out of season locally they can be pricey. Currently they are available from South America and from Canada and the Pacific Northwest, where the season is just ending. Frozen is another good option, at least for use in blended drinks and baking.

I like blueberries, but personally have never been that crazy about them. However, a good friend told me recently that he loves blueberry cobbler and French vanilla ice cream served with blueberry-infused Spanish sparkling wine. Yes, with sparkling wine… now THAT sounds good to me! So I wanted to bake a simple yet classic cobbler, crumble pie to host said infusion.

I like any dessert that is not too sweet. This is not the super-sweet cobbler or pie you can buy at the supermarket. It is delicious and goes great with Blanc de Bleu sparkling wine from Spain. This is a dessert for grown-up wine lovers, not children.  Let me know if you try it!  

Blueberry Cobbler/Crumble Pie

Recipe adapted and modified from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking, by Cathy Burgett, Elinor Klivans & Lou Seibert Pappas

Serves 8-10
You will need:  one 9 ½ inch pie pan, fluted tart pan, or baking dish

1 recipe all-butter short-crust pastry (Pâte Brisée): See recipe below**
¾ cup, plus 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 stick (110 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups blueberries, about 12-15 ounces

Position a rack in the lower third of oven and preheat to 400F.

To roll dough:
Lightly flour the dough and place on cool counter top. Roll out gradually, periodically letting dough rest for a moment before continuing. This makes rolling easier and will keep dough from shrinking back during baking.

Roll dough to a thin round approximately 13 inches in diameter, then trim to make a 12-inch circle.
Lay dough loosely into a 9 ½ -inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom, or a pie dish, letting it relax a bit.

Fold and overlap back inside to make a double thickness, then press firmly against the pan so the finished edge is slightly higher than the pan. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes before pre-baking.

Line chilled pie crust with a piece of aluminum foil. Fill with dried beans, uncooked rice or pie weights. Bake until the crust dries out, about 15 minutes; to check, lift an edge of the foil and carefully remove the weights and foil. Reduce the heat to 350F. Continue to bake until the crust is lightly browned on the edges and dry-looking on the bottom, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the crust to a wire rack.

Increase the heat to 375F.

In a large bowl, stir together the ¾ cup flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, the salt and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Scatter the butter pieces on top and toss with a fork or your fingers to coat with flour mixture. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work the ingredients together until mixture forms large coarse crumbs the size of large peas. Set the topping aside.

In another large bowl, combine the blueberries, the remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar, the remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 4 tablespoons of the flour. Stir gently to coat the blueberries evenly. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon flour and the granulated sugar over the bottom of the pre-baked crust.
Pour the filling into the crust, spreading it evenly.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the blueberry filling. Bake the pie until the topping is golden brown and blueberry filling just begins to bubble, about 40-45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. The pie/cobbler is best served the day it is baked.

Serve pie at room temperature with French vanilla ice cream and Blanc de Bleu sparkling wine!

**Pate Brisee vite faite (short crust pastry—quickly made)

For two 9 ½ to 11-inch tart crusts

2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
5 oz. (150 g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional)
1 egg yolk 
¼ cup (4 fl oz.) cold water or lukewarm milk, more if necessary

In a large mixing bowl, mix well the flour, salt and sugar. Add the butter using your fingers or a pastry blender, quickly cutting it into flour until mixture resembles small peas or coarse meal.
Add the egg yolk to the mixture, combine, and then the water or milk and knead the dough to form a flattened disk. Immediately roll out the dough and place onto a prepared tart or pie pan.
Or wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight. Bring to cool room temperature before rolling.