artizone

Ricotta Pancakes with Banana Pecan Syrup

Nothing really beats the smell of pancakes and bacon cooking on the stove in the mornings. It's a wonderful way to welcome the weekend and even a better excuse to stay in your pajamas just a little bit longer. And when it's a Paula Lambert recipe that involves whipping some of her house made ricotta cheese into the batter-- life doesn't really get sweeter than that.
Dallas Mozzarella Company (owned by Paula Lambert) makes some of the best cheeses hands down. Having won numerous awards from the American Cheese Society, Paula has been serving up fresh made cheese in Dallas for over 24 years -- that's almost a quarter century of cheese making folks. This woman is damn serious when it comes to cheese and the flavors of her products says it all.
I really fell hard for this recipe because of the light airy texture of the pancake, resulting from the whipped egg whites that are gently integrated into the batter.  Plus there's ricotta cheese in the batter, need I say more? I think the base would also serve for a great savory version as well -- maybe topped with some creme fraiche, smoked salmon and chives... Do I smell a weekend project coming on? Perhaps. But for now, enjoy this recipe!
Ricotta Pancakes with Banana Pecan Syrup

Recipe Type: Breakfast
Author: Paula Lambert
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 4
Light fluffy pancakes dotted with rich creamy ricotta cheese topped with a warm banana and pecan syrup. Yes. This is what heaven tastes like.
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter Unsalted
  • 1/2 Cup Pecans Chopped
  • 2 Bananas Thinly Sliced
  • 1 Cup Cane or Maple Syrup
  • 2 Cups Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 eggs Separated
  • 2 Cups Milk
  • 4 Ounces Ricotta
Instructions
  1. Banana Syrup: Melt the butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add the nuts and sauté for about one minute, or until fragrant. Add bananas and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring to combine the ingredients. Add the syrup and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, or until syrup is well heated and thick. Remove from heat and set aside in a warm place.
  2. Ricotta Pancakes: Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt together onto wax paper or a plate. Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with a hand beater until stiff, but not dry.
  3. Beat the egg yolks, milk, and ricotta together in a large bowl until well blended and smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix gently with a large spoon. Stir a spoonful of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites with a spatula.
  4. Warm the platter in a low oven. Heat a flat nonstick griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Grease with butter or vegetable oil. Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup batter per pancake onto the pan when it is hot. Pour as many additional pancakes as the griddle will comfortably hold. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until air bubbles form on the surface, and then flip the pancakes over using a large flat spatula. Cook on the other side for 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and place the pancakes on a warm platter.
All the ingredients for this recipe can be ordered through Artizone - a grocery delivery service that finds the best artisans in the city and showcases their goods in the form of an online market . I've been working with the company since the beginning when there were just 5 vendors. Two years later, they now have over 40 vendors and have expanded to Chicago and recently started to ship nationwide.  It's been a great experience meeting all of the vendors, exploring their passion in their craft  -- it has allowed me to take the time to appreciate the love that goes into all of their products and further more, being able to support and buy from local businesses. It's fun, addicting, and quite frankly freaking awesome.
Give it a whirl, make breakfast for your family or maybe even your boo. But whatever reason you have to cook, always cook from the heart and embrace the messes. Happy cooking and have a great weekend!
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On a side note, I was recently contacted by Love With Food to review one of their specialty food boxes. Based in California, this company not only sends you tasty snacks from great vendors they find, but with each box they donate a meal to help feed hungry kids across America. Pictured below is the box of goodies they sent me, I especially loved the hot fudge sundae sauce. I use it to top my coconut gelato nightly :) Lucky for my readers, Love With Food is actually offering a giveaway for a free 1-month trial. The winner must provide their credit card number in order to qualify and you may choose to cancel your membership at the end of your term or continue ordering away!  Also anyone who is curious to try it out can also get $2 off their next order using the coupon code JOYVIP.
To win your free one month trial for Love With Food simply leave a comment below and I will draw a number randomly next week and announce the winner. Good luck!

Artizone

 

The older we become the busier we get -- busy building our careers, busy taking care of children, busy trying to make every thing work.  Time for yourself slowly becomes a distant memory and all you ever hope and wish for is "more time in the day".   All you want is to come home to a nice dinner and the only option of a restaurant around the corner has become bland.  Yet lack of time always seems to stand in the way - no time to organize a list, no time to run to the grocery store, no time to deal with lines and traffic.   

When Lior from Artizone approached me a few months back with an idea to launch an online artisan shopping community in Dallas I knew he was on to something BIG.  Though we live in a city with the most restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the United States, sometimes all we want is a home-cooked meal.  It's the intimacy of being able to cook something in your own home, to work and experience your food firsthand, and being able to taste, pick and adjust the entire way through before serving your final culinary masterpiece to your family or friends. 

That's where the beauty of Artizone comes in -- they've searched far and wide for the TOP artisans that Dallas has to offer -- VGs Butcher Shop for highest quality meats, Scardello for their vast gourmet cheese selection, FM1410 for the tastiest herbs and freshest produce, Flavors from Afar for the best Italian imports, JJ&B for gourmet jams, jellies and butter and of course last but not least, La Duni for the most decadent desserts.  If it's one thing that I constantly reiterate time and time again when it comes to the keys of successful cooking is good quality ingredients, Artizone has not only found them but has launched a way to deliver the products from these top artisans all in one package to your doorstep. 

As celebration of the launch of Artizone, all the vendors came together in the back of Tom Spicer's garden (from FM 1410) for a celebratory feast.  Pictured above is Tom's beautiful salad and herb garden, a lot of products featured in Tom's store is picked fresh from his garden and ends up on your table that morning or afternoon.  It was refreshing to finally taste vegetables and herbs that truly captured the essence of "fresh"  opposed to what you find at regular grocery stores, where the produce sold is at least 3-4 days old. 

Tom was the head chef for the night and boy did he have a spread!!  We had steaks, salmon, fresh salad greens, grilled chicken, fresh asparagus, freshly shelled beans, potato salad with sea beans -- the list goes on forever, it was hard to take pictures of everything and not get hungry.  I think my favorite dish of the night had to be the salmon dusted with the fresh fennel pollen -- I've never tasted anything like it but as a result I have now fallen in love with fennel pollen :)

It was exciting to see all the vendors gathered together, sharing their passion and stories that made them into the successful artisans they are today.  To truly be defined as an artisan, one must be highly skilled in a craft --- it takes much practice, dedication, patience and most importantly, heart.  It's heart that makes their products special, you can taste the love and attention that went in to each and every item.   We all deserve to be spoiled all the time every once in awhile, and these artisans will leave you feeling like a king (or queen!). 

Imagine, after a long hard day at work you come home to neatly wrapped boxes of goods from the top artisans in Dallas -- vegetables, oils and vinegars, meats, jams, cheese and even dessert, top quality and always in perfect condition.  It's literally an instant "pick me up", a culinary high-five, a giant bear hug of all the best food you could imagine.  No need to deal with traffic or lines and finally being able to find that moment to have for yourself -- to unwind and relax, open up a bottle of wine and cook a dinner that tastes better than most restaurants you've been to.  What honestly could be better? 

Artizone brings you the luxury of that convenience -- what once was a mere dream has now become a glorious and fabulous reality.  Plan a dinner, a party, or even a wine and cheese pairing  a couple nights before and have the ingredients delivered either in the morning from 10-12 or in the afternoon from 6-8.  I've used the service for the past week as part of the trial run and I've been absolutely blown away by the organization, efficiency and of course the phenomenal quality of the products that I ordered. 

Pictured above is Tom Spicer from FM 1410 and Alex Zeltcer, CEO of Artizone toasting to new beginnings, success of the Artizone company and bringing a revolutionary concept to the city of Dallas. Artizone has brought together a strong team of artisans, the best in the city to help you achieve your culinary dreams and desires. In less than a few weeks, Artizone will open their doors to their first online shoppers and soon you will be able to experience the beauty of Artizone.  In the meantime sign up so you can be posted on new developments and most importantly, the grand opening of the site -- www.artizone.com  You won't want to miss it!

We ended the night with Tom playing a little Kalimbass, an instrument designed by Tom himself (is there anything this man can't do?)  As we listened to the beautiful tones and rich melodies flowing through the Kalimbass I could feel the energy and the excitement surrounding the crowd -- I think we all knew this was something that the people of Dallas would use and love. This was just the beginning to a truly wonderful story. 

 Artisan Quality.  Artizone Convenience.

VG Butcher Shop & La Duni

So for the past week artizone has been delivering artisan groceries to my home and let me tell you, a girl can get use to this treatment!  Not only do they deliver groceries to my front door step but the products are better than what you can ever buy at a normal grocery store -- what could be better?  I never really appreciated the convenience of an artisan grocery delivery service til now.  Some days my schedule really is too busy to run to the grocery store, buy products I'm not always thrilled with but are available and not to mention dealing with that asshole mean man that always takes your parking spot.   

The last two vendors I'll be featuring for artizoneare VG's Butcher Shop and La Duni.  If you're like me, nothing is better (or more important)  than a quality cut of meat.  For the past 10 years I've cooked and shopped at grocery stores I never thought of looking for a private butcher, I mean why would I?  All the meats at the grocery stores are already cut and neatly wrapped in packages, the meat glistening a nice red and rosy color, not to mention the awesome price (4 ribeye steaks for $20! I am there.)  But then a voice called common sense sets in...now, why would you get so much meat for such a cheap price?  Why is it that the color of the meat is nice and red on the outside but then you go home and cut into it and inside the meat is a dull putrid brown? WHY???

The majority of meats you buy from large grocery chains are generally poor quality -- you have no idea what conditions the animals are raised in, what they're being fed and how many antibiotics they've pumped in to keep the spread of disease down.  A lot of other stores pump their meats full of a magical combination of CO2 gas and Nitrogen to keep the colors of their meats nice and red for up to THREE weeks -- while the outside of the meat is deceivingly fresh, the inside has been rotting away the entire time.  Bon appetit, that sounds delicious.  NOT.

At VG's Butcher Shop you don't have to worry about ever encountering the scary world of meat production nor do you have to worry about ever receiving a poor cut of meat.  Greg just would never let that happen, he takes pride in knowing where his meat comes from -- like his 120-day corn-fed, dry-aged Nebraska beef, fresh lamb from Colorado, juicy veal from Illinois, free-range chicken from Delaware and all-natural pork from Kansas.  Ranked by Texas Monthly and D Magazine for being one of the best Butchers in Texas, you are always in good hands when ordering meats from Greg.  He cuts steaks fresh to order, to any thickness/thinness you prefer and ALWAYS at a phenomenal quality. 

The first time I had a ribeye from VG's a tear rolled down my face -- it really was that beautiful.  The meat cut like butter and the earthiness and the beautiful aromas while it was cooking was out of this world.  I usually can't eat much meat in one sitting but that night, I finished the entire 8 oz steak to myself.  It made me realize and appreciate the importance of finding good quality ingredients because yes, it really does make all the difference in the world.  Since finding Greg I haven't gone back to buying meats from the grocery store since, why would I?  Who wouldn't want their meats cut by the best butcher in Dallas?  Another plus in buying good quality meat is not having to mask it with some froufrou garnish -- I simply sear mine with a little bit of kosher salt and pepper and serve it alongside some veggies.  I made some Rosemary Honey Carrots and had organic tomatoes and arugula from FM1410. 

Preheat oven to 400F.  To cook the steak, simply heat an iron skillet on high heat, you can test the temperature by adding a couple drops of water to the skillet, if it sizzles then it is ready for action.  Sprinkle each side of the steak generously with kosher salt and pepper.   Drizzle skillet with Olive Oil (I use Ariston from Flavors from Afar) or butter and once the oil is smoking or the butter is bubbling, place the steaks in the skillet.   Allow to sear for 2 minutes or until the steak forms a nice golden brown crust, flip it over to the other side and allow the meat to cook the rest of the way in the oven.  If you enjoy medium-rare cook for 7 minutes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips on Cooking Steak

  • By generously sprinkling each side of the steak with kosher salt and pepper, the combination of the high heat and butter will form a crust around the steak.  It will have a nice caramelized outside while keeping all the juices inside the meat.
  • Allow the steak to sit for 10 minutes before cutting it, this allows the juices in the steak to redistribute instead of seeping all over your plate.
  • If you do not have a cast iron skillet you can use a frying pan.  Make sure it is at high heat when you are searing your meat.
  • If you like your steak rare, place it in the oven for no more than 2-3 minutes.  If you like your steak medium rare place it in the oven for about 6-8 minutes.  If you like your steak medium place it in the oven for 9 to 11 minutes. If you like it well done leave it in there for 12-14 minutes.  Remember, the steak will continue to cook after you take it out so plan accordingly.

Now, what's the best way to finish a meal?  That's right, DESSERT!!!  MY FAVORITE :) It's the perfect ending to a meal.    A good dessert can warm your soul, it can bring friends and family together, it can even temporarily mend a broken heart -- at La Duni they have all the decadent cakes, cookies, and cupcakes anyone can dream of.  Rated Best Pastry Chef by D magazine, Dunia Borga invites you to taste the delectable treasures from her kitchen inspired from her life and family. At La Duni, the cakes are not just “cakes” but exquisite creations of love. Whether the occasion is for a wedding, baby shower, birthday, anniversary, or even a wake, a cake from La Duni can make any moment memorable.

My favorite item by far would have to be the Cuatro Leches Cake – layered with mantecado vanilla sponge cake, then soaked in cuatro leches sauce and topped with a caramelized Swiss meringue.  This cake is incredible, upon opening the box I GASPED at it's magnificence!  The Swiss meringue topping was toasted to a beautiful perfection, so picture pefect it was honestly hard for me to cut into.  But don't worry the hesitation didn't last long,  nestled beneath the meringue was the moist vanilla sponge cake that was so rich in flavors of vanilla and milk yet so light in texture.  When soaked in the cuatro leches sauce, the cake actually holds its shape instead of disinegrating into a goopy mess -- how do they do it?!?! It must be magic.  The crunchy flecks of the toasted meringue in each bite sent the textures of the cake to another dimension (one that I never wanted to leave from!).  It made me wish that my birthday was everyday because folks, this is heaven in cake form right here. 

For all you chocolate lovers out there, La Duni's Venezuelan Triple Chocolate Truffle Cake was ranked Best Chocolate Cake in America by Food Network's Show "5 to Die For".  You should probably pull out a napkin to wipe off the drool for the description that's coming up -- a moist dark espresso chocolate cake layered with three types of chocolate ganache (white, milk and dark) then studded with toasted hazelnuts dipped in milk chocolate.  This cake causes you to close your eyes and fall into a dream like state, the way the chocolate melts throughout your tongue, the depths of flavors developing across your pallete, it seems as if all attempts of speech has failed and all you're able to mutter is a zen-like hum of "MMMmmmmm". 

 

OH and the NUTELLA cupcakes, how I love thee.  Shall I compare you to a midsummer night's dream? These tender vanilla cupcakes are generously topped with a nutella based icing and sprinkled with caramelized hazlenuts.  I think the addition of the hazlenut pieces really brings the cupcake together -- they are crunchy, mesmerizing -- the texture is almost similar to that of "pop rocks" how the pieces of nuts just POP in your mouth leaving an intense caramel and nutty flavor, it really brings out the richness of the nutella. 

The beauty of La Duni is perfectly crafted into each and every dessert they offer.  You literally are able to taste the love, experience the wonder and truly understand the importance of a good dessert.  All of their products are made from all-natural ingredients and contain no preservatives or articial colorings.  It's what dessert should always be: beautiful, delicious and comforting.  Make life a little sweeter and invite La Duni to become part of your family’s memories, as they say "Life is short.  Eat dessert first!" :)

Starting next week, you'll be able to order all of these artisan products and more through artizone.  Stay tuned next week for the grand opening!!!  

 

 

 

 

Scardello Artisan Cheese and JJ&B Artisan Spreads

So it's time to join me on a food adventure where we will tour the top artisans in Dallas that will be featured through Artizone -- this week I will be featuring Scardello Artisan Cheese and JJ&B Artisan Spreads.

Scardello Artisan Cheese, rated by D magazine for Best Cheesemonger has a selection that would impress even the pickiest foodie. Rich searches for the best European and local cheeses in so many different varieties that the combinations seem endless.  At JJ&B, Kathy makes magical combinations through her artisan spreads -- Apple Pie Jam perfect over ice cream or Sweet Onion Jam to garnish a steak.  It adds the perfect touch of elegance and wonder into any meal or dessert.

I decided to combine their artisan powers and produced two simple recipes.  Using a creamy brie from Jasper Hill Farms in Vermont, the Moses Sleeper has a mild, gentle and savory flavor that taste of milk, hay and butter.  I melted the brie and paired it with JJ&B's Toasted Pecan Pepper Jam and crackers-- a simple, elegant, heavenly appetizer that would serve well for any occasion.  I also made beggar's purses made of phyllo which I stuffed with goat cheese and JJ&B's Sweet Onion Jam.  A sweet and savory combination that would please any crowd!

Ingredients for Warm Brie and Toasted Pecan Pepper Jam Appetizer: (serves 10-12)

  • 1 lb Scardello's Moses Sleeper Brie
  • 1 jar  JJ&B Toasted Pecan Pepper Jam
  • crackers for dipping

Preheat oven to 350F.  On an oven-proof plate, place the Brie in the oven for 5 minutes or until fully melted.  Place jar of Toasted Pecan Pepper Jam on top and serve with assortment of crackers.  Best served immediately.

Ingredients for Beggar's Purses with Goat Cheese and Sweet Onion Jam: (serves 10)

  • 1 package of Phyllo dough
  • 16 oz Scardellos' On Pure Ground Goat Cheese
  • 1 jar JJ&B Sweet Onion Jam
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 package of chives, blanched

Cut the phyllo dough into 3" squares and brush with melted butter.  In each square place 1 tablespoon goat cheese with 1 teaspoon sweet onion jam.  Gather phyllo around filling and tie 1 or 2 blanched chives in a knot to close the purse.  Trim the ends of chives if necessary.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until phyllo is a golden brown in color.  Serve immediately.

Artizone is coming to Dallas!

For the past few months I've been working on an awesome project for an international company called Artizone.  It's been very hard to keep this a secret but now that the launch is near, I can finally tell the whole world.  Artizone is coming to town in November 2010, Dallas get ready to have your mind blown.

Soon residents will be able to purchase artisan goods from various top vendors in Dallas and have it delivered in ONE convenient package right at your doorstep.  That's right, I know, it's freaking awesome.

No more being stuck in annoying traffic, or rushing around town to plan that perfect dinner, forget dealing with lines or wasting time driving across town -- artizone has it all taken care of so sit back, relax and shop.  (aaaah...my favorite word!)

Well what the heck will artizone going to be selling? Let me introduce you to the vendors!

Owners Nancy and Gary from Flavors From Afar carries the best imported products from Italy (as well as local products) for everyone to share. You will find delicious homemade pasta sauces and dried pastas, and the best olive oils you've ever tasted both from local farms and imported from Italy.

Nancy and Gary personally tour different olive vineyards in Italy and around Texas every year to discover new products and to make sure that the flavors are always spot on.  Flavors From Afar always aims to make entertaining elegant and simple through a wide selection of antipastas, dips, oils and spreads.  Zero hassel entertaining?  Sounds like my kinda party :)

Aaaah cheese, the perfect partner for wine.  Having a girl's night?  Order the perfect cheese plate at Scardellos where you can choose from over 200 different varieties of cheese!  Talk about endless possibilities people and if you're a cheese newbie, head over artizone's community page for reviews and tips for guidance.

Rich not only carries every cheese imaginable but has the perfect pairings to go along -- dried fruits, canned vegetables (personally made by Rich), a variety of crackers, mustards and honeys. Melt yourself into a cheesy heaven and indulge after a long day's work with a little lot of wine, cheese, and bread -- what could be better?  Oh right, nothing.

Time and time again I've reiterated the importance of a good butcher.  Artizone not only found the best butcher in Dallas but one of the best in the state of Texas.  If all-natural quality meat is what you love, VGs butcher shop is where you go.

No artificial colors, flavors or ingredients here -- just free range chickens, dry-aged steaks, tender veal and lamb chops.  Greg cuts his meat fresh every day, ensuring top quality every time.  Beautiful isn't it?  I wouldn't have it any other way.

I usually buy my herbs from the grocery store and it wasn't until I met Tom that I learned the true beauty of fresh. At FM 1410 you will experience the art of a constant gardener -- the flavors of his herbs and vegetables are so powerful and bold it will leave you speechless.

Tom shows you the true experience of fresh produce -- where the fruits and vegetables you eat actually taste alive. No genetically altered, pesticide ridden produce but wholesome, naturally happy produce.  Why happy?  Because Tom is also a talented musician -- you literally taste the passion in his herbs and vegetables which he cleverly instills through his music.

One of my favorite snacks is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Pump it up a notch with one of JJ&Bs artisan creations like the Plum Jam or Apple Pie Jam -- which goes perfectly on vanilla ice cream and pairs great with a juicy pork chop.

At JJ&B, Kathy makes her jams, jellies and butters in small batches so every experience is fresh, delicious and wonderful.  Using widely organic ingredients and locally farmed produce, the spreads at JJ&B will leave your mouth happily intrigued and begging for more.  Don't believe me?  There's only one way to find out!

And of course I save dessert for last!  My rule of thumb every time I go out to eat is always save room for dessert.  Artizone has found the best pastries and desserts at La Duni -- which currently holds the title for Best Chocolate Cake in America ranked by Food Network.

Are you drooling yet?  You should be!  Make any day sweeter by choosing from a variety of delicious cupcakes, like the Nutella or Quatro Leches.  Party it up like rockstars with one of La Duni's decadent layer cakes like the Triple Truffle Chocolate cake (Chocolate lovers it'll put you in heaven) or the moist Venezuelan Rum cake.  The perfect ending to a beautiful meal.

Stay tuned for recipes from yours truly made from the products purchased from these vendors.  It's going to be wild yall so get ready, get set and go to Artizone to sign up now for early registration!