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Ingredient of the Week: Fennel

Fennel (c)2012

The daffodils are blooming, fields are taking on a green hue, and my shoulders are warmed by the sun, even though cool breezes brush my skin. Spring is here, there’s no denying it. This week at la Domestique, we open up the spring pantry. It’s an exciting time. The kitchen cupboards are full of bright, fresh ingredients for cooking lighter fare. Gone are the hearty stews and rich casseroles. Now is a time for salads, light soups, crudités, delicate fish, pasta, and cooking outside on the grill. Spring is not an aggressively flavored season, it’s about nuance- the mild flavor of fresh chives growing wild in the meadow, sweet and dainty pea shoots, tender lettuces and fresh garlic. If summer is obscenely bountiful, spring is a series of small celebrations: finding asparagus at market, the thrill of short-seasoned purple sprouting broccoli, that first radish pulled from the soil. We want fresh veg so badly we can almost taste it, but mother nature makes us wait until it’s time, dolling out the occasional reward for our patience. The first ingredient of the spring pantry is just what we need right now- something green, fresh, and herbal: fennel.


Cook in the Moment: Citrus Recipe Round-Up

Grapefruit (c)2012

Every Tuesday I contribute a column to the Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder Website. Check out my citrus recipe round-up by clicking on the icon below. I’m cooking in the moment with grapefruit, lemons, and the many varieties of oranges before their season comes to an end. You’ll find recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.


What citrus recipes are you cooking before the season ends? Share them (with links if you like) in the comments section. Click Here.


la Domestique on Instagram

Hello there! I’m taking the week off here at la Domestique to clean out the cupboards and transition from winter to spring. This week, the husband, Minnie (our dachshund), and I are moving to a new apartment in a neighborhood close by. It’s all very exciting and chaotic right now as I pack up the kitchen and photography equipment. However, I still wanted to put a few fun posts up on the blog in lieu of ingredient of the week. I’m obsessed with Instagram, the application for shooting and filtering photos on the iPhone. I love it when bloggers share what they’ve been up to- it’s such a neat look into the daily life that doesn’t always make it on the blog. So, I’ve gathered a few pictures taken this year with my phone. Follow me on Instagram for behind the scenes kitchen photos, pictures of my sidekick, Minnie, and a peek at my adventures out and about. My username is ladomestique.


Cook in the Moment: Roast Chicken with Mustard and Pumpernickel Croutons

Roast Chicken with Mustard (c)2012

Only 7 days left before the move. Next Thursday we get the keys to our new place, a different apartment in a different neighborhood not far from here. My mind is cluttered with thoughts, wondering why I packed ________, which I really need right now, and how much of our furniture will actually fit in this smaller unit, measuring in at 900 square feet. Packing paper and cardboard boxes threaten to take over, while empty closets hold only the echo of memories. My husband and I spent two years here, a long time for us. I like this place, with its many windows and sun-drenched views of meadow and pond. Our lease is up, though, and the rent is only getting higher. It’s time to move on.

I get a thrill from moving on, always welcoming a fresh start- the feeling that anything is possible. My mom says it’s a trait from my dad’s side of the family. We don’t hold on to the past, we don’t dwell on memories. My dad left us when I was 12 years old, never looking back. After that, mom wanted out of the home my little sister and I grew up in- too many memories, too many ghosts. There would be many more moves, from duplexes to apartments, each time with the promise of a fresh start for the three of us. I carried with me the belief that things would get better, encouraging my mom and holding onto my sister. All that moving means there’s not a lot left of our childhood memories. I keep a box with a handful of photos and a doll my mom made for me, my sister is the caretaker of a tiny nativity in a cigar box that belonged to our dad. Now she and I are grown and married, and things have gotten better. I married an Irish rover with itchy feet, a man who gets a thrill from new places, new discoveries. I like that about him. No matter where we go, together, we are home.


10 Ways Tuesday: Prepared Mustard

Prepared Mustard (c)2012

I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with prepared mustard during late winter/early spring:

1.  Pork with Mustard Sauce

The recipe for Pork Cutlets with Mustard Sauce from Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Food Fast, is my husband’s favorite supper, and part of our regular recipe rotation. I’ve made it at least a hundred times, with whatever cut of pork that’s on sale: boneless cutlet, or bone-in chop. The meat is browned in butter, then removed from the pan while the sauce is made. Shallots, white wine, chicken broth, heavy cream, and Dijon mustard come together for a creamy sauce with piquant heat. It’s unbelievably good over mashed potatoes and my husband’s favorite vegetable: petit peas.

2.  Celery Root Rémoulade

Celery root is still in season at the moment, and if you haven’t taken advantage of that, here is your chance. In The Country Cooking of France, Ann Willan calls Celery Root Rémoulade “one of the most famous French Salads.” The ugly, gnarly celery root is peeled with a sharp knife and julienned (cut into thin slices), either by hand or using the grating blade of a food processor. Sauce Rémoulade is a mayonnaise made by emulsifying egg yolks, lemon juice, olive oil, and Dijon mustard. You can also just stir the mustard into your favorite prepared mayonnaise. Allow the celery root to marinate in this dressing for 8 hours, which will benefit both the flavor and texture of this hard vegetable. Find a similar recipe by Ina Gartin here.


Ingredient of the Week: Prepared Mustard

Prepared Mustard Banner (c)2012

Here at la Domestique, I’m wrapping up the winter pantry, and I’ve got a major case of spring fever. We’ve enjoyed a few days of warm, sunny weather in Colorado, and I’m dreaming of early spring produce like asparagus, leeks, and salad greens. The extra hour of daylight that comes with springing forward is playing tricks on my mind, tempting me to box up the sweaters and dig through the closet for my cute sandals. We aren’t out of the woods yet, though, and I must remember that the official start of spring is still a couple of weeks away. During this transition, I’m not only adapting my wardrobe, but also my cooking. I crave green in the form of salads and gently steamed vegetables dressed in bright and tangy vinaigrettes. Roast chicken, pork,  and fish take the place of heavy beef stews and hearty soups. I’m looking for fresh flavors to wake my palate from the hibernation of winter.


Cook in the Moment: Poached Chicken in Ginger Broth

Poached Chicken with Bok Choy in Ginger Broth (c)2012

A Long Journey and the Healing Power of Ginger

The day after we married in October of 2007, my husband and I traveled to St. Lucia for our honeymoon. Below is the story of our journey from my hometown of Arkansas past Florida and the Bahamas, past Puerto Rico, past the Virgin Islands, all the way down to one of the southernmost islands of the Caribbean. It’s a long and winding road, as the saying goes, and we discovered first hand the healing power of strange and wonderful gingerroot.

We arrived in Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, long after the sun had disappeared from the sky, our tiny propeller plane making an abrupt descent and jolted landing. Unbuckling our seat belts, my husband and I let out a sigh of relief. Throughout the day we maintained our excitement, boarding and departing each of the four flights on a journey from Arkansas to the very bottom of the Caribbean. We were all smiles until we encountered a delay in San Juan, Puerto Rico that left us standing in a crowded, sweaty bus parked on the tarmac, while mechanics worked on a problem with the plane. Eventually we boarded this last flight, and settled in for a jarring ride as the aircraft buzzed and hummed, drowning out everything the captain said over the scratchy intercom. I stuffed ear plugs in my ears and tried to pass the time by reading a book. My husband turned on his iPod with noise canceling headphones and went to sleep. No one on the plane even attempted to speak over the buzzing. The window view was nothing but darkness, and I imagined the vast sea below.


10 Ways Tuesday: Fresh Ginger

Fresh Ginger (c)2012

I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with fresh ginger during late winter/early spring:

1.  Pickled Ginger

Paper-thin slices of pickled ginger are to be eaten as a palate cleanser between bites of sushi. I learned about the 3 types of pickled ginger common in Japanese cuisine from The Encyclopedia of Asian Food. “Salmon pink,” thinly sliced benishoga is to be eaten with sashimi, pale yellow gari with sushi, and deep pink hajikami shoga (ginger shoots) are used to garnish grilled foods. A method for making pickled ginger found in The Produce Bible calls for a 4 1/2-inch piece of ginger to be peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces, tossed in 2 teaspoons of salt and left in the fridge for a week. When the time has passed, cut the softened ginger into thin slices across the grain. Dissolve a couple tablespoons sugar in 2 tablespoons water and 1/2 cup rice vinegar, boiling in a small pan. Place the ginger in a hot, sterile jar and pour over the marinade. Seal the jar and allow it to marinate a week in the fridge before using.


Ingredient of the Week: Fresh Ginger

Banner Fresh Ginger Root (c)2012

Ginger has been around a long, long time. The Produce Bible traces ginger back to southern India at least 2,000 years ago. According to Whole Living, the name comes from the sanskrit word stringa-vera, meaning hornlike body. It’s a tropical plant, a gnarly root- rhizome, actually, growing horizontally underground, sending up shoots with green leaves and yellow flowers annually. Reading The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion, I learned that most ginger comes from Jamaica, but it’s also grown in India, China, and Africa. The root can be harvested young or mature, and this effects both texture and intensity of flavor. Young ginger is more tender and juicy, with a mild spiciness, while mature ginger can be woody with a thick skin and intense heat. Use whatever you can find at the market, just be mindful of how much spice you’re adding to a dish. Ginger is mildly sweet as well as spicy, with a very unique, almost electric flavor. It’s famous for settling upset stomachs, calming the nerves, and reducing inflammation. Cultures across the globe use ginger in many different ways: brewed with hot sweet tea in India, pickled (gari) to cleanse the palate between courses of sushi in Japan, sliced and simmered in soup to renew energy in China, fermented in ginger beer across Asia, and much more. Fresh ginger is also delicious in stir-fries, vinaigrettes, pickles, jams, marinades, and fruit juices/smoothies. Tomorrow is 10 Ways Tuesday, and I’ve got plenty of creative ideas for cooking with fresh gingerroot during late winter and early spring.


Cook in the Moment: Grilled Chicories

Grilled Endive, Frisée, and Radicchio with Bagna Cauda (c)2012

My husband and I moved to Colorado four years ago from Memphis, Tennessee. Though we came from a region known for its barbecue, I discovered the joy of cooking over open flames in Boulder. Growing up in the oppressive heat and humidity of Arkansas, going outside meant getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Arriving in Boulder, Colorado, I was intoxicated by breathing the fresh, dry air, and the feel of brisk breezes coming off the Rocky Mountains. I felt lighter, and the stunning snow-capped mountain views seduced me, constantly calling me outside. At altitude, the sun shines more intensely, and even on a 30 degree winter’s day, if there is sunlight on your shoulders you’ll be warmed through. Our fourth floor apartment faces open fields where bald eagles nest and coyotes roam, horses gallop around the pond and cows ruminate. This time of year, as winter becomes spring, you can find us on the balcony with a glass of wine and our little Weber grill lit, a trail of savory smoke drifting above our heads. Cooking on the grill is easy, it’s casual, and to me, it’s the essence of Colorado living. As the days grow longer, I begin to pine for patio time, the simplicity of summer cooking, and a slower pace of life. On a warm March day, the husband uncovers our grill and I open a bottle of wine. Tomorrow might bring a foot of snow, but today feels like spring, and we intend to savor this moment.


About Jess

Jess O'Toole is La Domestique

Hi, I’m Jess, aka La Domestique. No matter how busy or cooking-challenged you are I can help you live the good life and enjoy fresh, healthy meals at home every day. Find out more

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