It Started with a Cookie, Amarena Cherry Cookie that is

Dear Fellow Foodies:

It all started innocently enough with a fellow foodie coming into the shop with a marzipan cookie.  She asked me “how do you make this?”  After eating it, I realized this could be fun making these.  She told me the bakery in California called them “Cherry Cookies” because they contained Italian Amarena Cherries inside.  So I set out on the quest to recreate them.  These are the first two attempts. So far, using straight almond paste (we carry the organic version from Italy) the cookies have spread and the one she brought to me stayed round.  However, the taste was AMAZING using the almond paste.  Keep in mind, these are not cheap to make.  Almond paste is also rich so make these small.  Your friends and family will thank you.  Your waistline, not so much.  Be sure to share.

amarena cherry cookie

Amarena Cherry Filled Marzipan Cookies

8.8 ounces (one package) Organic Italian Almond Paste
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 egg white
1 pinch of salt
sliced almonds
1 jar of Amarena Cherries – remove cherries and keep syrup for another use – Manhattans perhaps.

Using a paddle on your mixer mix the almond paste with the sugar.  Whisk the egg white with the salt until just foamy.  Add this to the almond paste mix and blend completely.  Using a small spoon or a small scoop measure out small balls of the dough.  Flatten the dough around the amarena cherry and roll until round.  Roll this into the sliced almonds.  Place onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and chill for 15 mintues.  Bake at 350F for 12-16 minutes or until lightly browned.  Allow to cool completely.  Dust with powdered sugar. Devour 3 and share the rest.

Happy Baking!

Chef Constance

A Reason to Raid your Kids’ Halloween Candy Stash

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, order early to have your favorites at your dinner table.

Even if you don’t live near the Jacksonville  Mercantile or you have moved away, you can have your favorites sent to you.  Order on-line from us.  Start here.

PLEASE NOTE:  The Jacksonville Mercantile will be closed on Thanksgiving day.

Dear Fellow Foodies:

When we first moved to Jacksonville, David and I decided that Butterfinger Candy bars would be the best treat to hand out on Halloween.  We learned after no children came to the house that the kid’s trick or treat in the downtown area, not at people’s homes.  So we ended up with lots of Butterfinger Candy Bars available.  This chocolate cake has the crushed candy bars both in the cake and on top of the fudge frosting.  You may end up getting extra bars as an excuse to make this cake.  This has also been a frequently requested cake for both birthdays and Thanksgiving in our home.

Butterfinger Candy Cake

Makes 1- 8″ single layer cake

4 Large Butterfinger Candy Bars or 12 mini bars Crushed
2 Ounces Unsweetened Chocolate (I prefer Scharffenberger for this cake)
1 large egg
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup All Natural Avocado Oil
1 teaspoon Madagascar Vanilla Extract
3/4 cup Espresso (you can use instant espresso for this)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan.  Melt the Chocolate in a bain marie.  Reserve melted chocolate.  Beat the egg and sugar and mix until light and all sugar is incorporated.  Add the Avocado Oil, Vanilla, melted chocolate, and espresso.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Slowly add this to the chocolate mixture and mix well until smooth and blended.  Spread half of the batter in the prepared pan, sprinkle with half of the butterfinger candy bars, spread the remaining batter over the candy and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  After removing from the oven allow to cool for 5-7 minutes and turn out from the pan.  Don’t leave in the pan or it may stick.  The candy bars create pockets of caramel and it will be difficult to remove.  Cool completely.  Cover in Fudge Frosting with additional Butterfinger Candy Bars.

Fudge Frosting

2 Ounces Unsweetened Chocolate chopped into small pieces
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon Dark Corn Syrup (look for organic)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Madagascar Vanilla

Stir together all the ingredients except the vanilla in a heavy-bottomed pan.  Bring to a rolling boil and cook, stirring for approximately 1 minute.  Allow to cool slightly.  Add the vanilla and beat until thick.

Frost the cooled cake with the fudge frosting.  Crush the rest of the butterfinger candy bars over the frosting.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Allow to come to room temperature after slicing and before serving the cake.

Chef Constance

Happy Cooking Everyone!

Everthing is Better with Butter – Homemade Butter that is!

Dear Fellow Foodies:

I just made butter.  So what you say?   Butter is one of those great things to have on hand in the refrigerator to finish a dish.  Cultured butter has a great “tang” to it and adds a depth of flavor that you won’t find in regular grocery store butter.  Compound butters are that extra “boom” you add to your dish right at the end.  These are so easy to make and will freeze for up to 3 months with no loss of quality.    It just takes some heavy whipping cream, creme fraiche and ice water.  The bonus?  You also get REAL buttermilk to use in recipes.

Cultured and Compound Butters

1 Quart Heavy Whipping Cream (40% butterfat is best)
1/3 Cup Creme Fraiche

Mix the cream and creme fraiche in a non-reactive bowl and cover and allow to rest at room temperature overnight or up to 2 days if you prefer more flavor.

Place this into a mixing bowl and refrigerate for an hour to chill.  Now whip this on high speed (don’t forget to use a splash guard or plastic wrap to eliminate spatters on your walls) for approximately 4-5 minutes or until it “breaks”.

Drain off the buttermilk (save this for amazing buttermilk pancakes) and knead the butter a bit to release the liquid.

In a separate bowl, rinse the butter with ice water and knead to release the rest of the water from the butter.  Do this about 2-3 times.  Discard the liquid and place the butter into clean cheese cloth and squeeze any remaining liquid.  Wrap your butter in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator or double wrap and freeze.

For Compound butter do this:

While the butter is still malleable using a paddle on your stand mixer or by hand using a heavy wooden spoon, mash the butter and add different spices, herbs or dried fruits.  You get the idea.  Find a flavor you want to add to your food and blend into your butter.  You’ll thank me later.  Here are some compound butters to try:

For fish or seafood:

8 ounces fresh cultured butter
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon cracked fresh pepper
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Salt

For Meats or Pasta:  (this is the easy way to get truffle butter and you can have it any time you want vs. having to try to purchase it somewhere)

8 ounces fresh cultured butter
1/2 teaspoon Truffle Salt
3 Tablespoons Truffle Paste

For Vegetables:

8 ounces fresh cultured butter
1 clove finely minced garlic
1 Tablespoon Key Lime Avocado Oil
1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder or smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked cherrywood salt

For Grilled Foods:

8 ounces fresh cultured butter
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon finely ground juniper berries
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon minced capers

For pancakes, waffles, etc.

8 ounces fresh cultured butter
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
1 Tablespoon Honey

Some different things to try:

1. Kaffir Lime Leaves – dry and grind in a spice grinder, add lime zest and fresh ginger

2. Pearl Sugar or Maple Sugar, ground cloves, finely chopped dates

3. Chopped shallot, minced Aji Amarillo Peppers, lime zest, chopped cilantro

You get the idea!   So go ahead, mash it up, dish it up.  Melt it, smear it.   Things can be better with butter.

Chef Constance

Ricotta Gnudi

Ricotta Gnudi
Once in a while the Jacksonville Mercantile gets Bellweather Farms Jersey Whey Ricotta.  This Ricotta is like eating ice cream it is so creamy and incredible.  This is one of the ways I loved to enjoy it (besides just eating it straight from the tub with fruit).
Gnudi is the big brother of Gnocchi.  Larger in size and tender these are easy to put together on a weeknight.   Just use one of the many Pasta Sauces found at the Jacksonville Mercantile and some freshly grated cheese and you’ve got dinner on the table in no time.

16 Ounces Fresh Ricotta
1 large egg + 1 large yolk, beaten
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 Cup Freshly finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano + more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt (I like Murray River or you can use flavored salt)
1/2 Cup + more if needed All Purpose Flour
1 large bunch Basil, chiffonade (if desired)

Mix Ricotta with eggs, grated cheese and salt.  Add flour and mix (mixture will be soft).  Add more flour if too wet.  Shape into Duck Egg sized balls and hold on a floured baking sheet until ready to cook.  Cook Gnudi in boiling salted water (the water should taste as salty as the sea) and bake for 5-6 minutes until done.  Be sure to cook at least 5 minutes or the inside will remain gummy in texture.  Serve with a Pasta Sauce and additional grated cheese and chiffonade of basil if desired.

If you aren’t lucky enough to get some of this amazing Ricotta, you can make your own.  Take the cheese making class and learn how to make Ricotta and fresh Mozzarella.  Coming up June 17th, just in time for tomatoes and mozzarella salads.

See you at the Mercantile!

Chef Constance

Emmer with Squash

Dear Fellow Foodies:Everyone I talk to lately has been trying to eat more whole grains and at least have one “meatless Monday”. As we get older, it becomes more important to watch what we eat. But nobody wants to give up flavor. The following recipe comes from my Against the Grain class. This is flavorful and easy to make. It also heats up well for leftovers.

Emmer is also known as Farro in Italy, is a low yielding, awned wheat. This ancient grain was sometimes incorrectly called Spelt. It is not available fresh only dried and is prepared by cooking in liquid until soft, but still chewey. It may be eaten plain, though it is often used as an ingredient in dishes such as salads and soups. We like it in the following preparation. This is cooked in a similar manner as risotto. The results are a “crunchewey” grain.

Emmer with Squash
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 small squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 medium zucchini cut into small cubes
  • Flake salt (such as Maldon), freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 bunch red Russian or other kale (about 5 ounces), center stems removed, leaves torn – dried in oven for 20-30 min at 250F
  • 1 tablespoon Toasted Onion Avocado Oil
  • 3/4 cup Emmer (farro)
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 small garlic clove, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or Vermouth
  • 3 cups vegetable stock, hot
  • Hot water (if needed)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss cut squash and zucchini in the toasted onion avocado oil, add salt and pepper. Roast squashes, spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender, 30-45 minutes. Reserve

Lower oven to 250F. Remove ribs from kale. Place kale on parchment lined baking sheet and dry in oven for 20-30 minutes or until crisp. Remove from oven and reserve. The kale will crisp as it cools, don’t overcook or it will become bitter.

Heat Toasted Avocado oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add farro; toss to coat. Cook until lightly browned. Reserve farro in a separate bowl.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; stir until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to high. Stir until almost evaporated (this is called au sec or almost dry),roughly 2 minutes. Add browned farro and 1/2 cup warm stock mixture. Stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Continue cooking, adding broth by 1/2 cupfuls and allowing broth to be absorbed between additions, until farro is tender, about an hour. You may need additional stock or water depending on the farro. The Organic Bluebird Grains Farro we carry is very freshly dried and packaged from a local Northwest area farm.

Fold in baked squash and zucchini, add 1 tablespoon butter (for flavor), and grated cheese; stir gently until butter and cheese are melted and vegetables are heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Crush dried kale on top. Serve immediately.

If you want this to be vegan, omit the butter and cheese.

Happy Cooking Everyone!Constance

Lettuce Wraps with Buffalo and Balsamic Desserts & Drinks

Here is one of the recipes we made in the Delicious Diets class.  This also falls into the gluten free meal category.  You can substitute ground turkey or chicken or even tofu for the ground meat.

Lettuce Wraps with Ground Buffalo in Spicy Tomato

When cooking ground red meat, if you use a non-stick skillet and add water prior to cooking the meat you will get better results and no added fats. You may substitute veal, which is very low fat, for the buffalo or beef. Venison, ground turkey or ground chicken is another option.  The salt is also healthful in this recipe.  Himalayan salt contains the 83 minerals naturally found in the human body, so in theory you absorb it easier and you can use less for bigger flavor.

  • Ground Buffalo or Ground Beef (use the lowest fat content available) 4 oz. Per person
  • Yellow Onion – minced
  • Garlic – minced
  • 1 can San Marzano Tomatoes – drained (keep the juice for another use)
  • Chipotle powder
  • Pinch Himalayan Salt
  • 1 head butter lettuce or other lettuce that can wrap easily.

Cook the ground meat with the onion, garlic and a little water or stock (this recipe is under 250 calories as shown).  Add the tomatoes, chipotle powder and salt.  Cook for 5-8 minutes longer for the flavors to meld and any additional liquid to cook off.  Serve with a large plate of lettuce leaves to wrap the meat in.  So simple, you can also make this on a work night.

For dessert:

 Baked Pears with Balsamic

Serves 4

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Place the pears cut side up on a baking sheet.  Bake until warm, not hot (about 10 minutes).  Place the pear on a plate and drizzle with the Vanilla Fig Balsamic or Balsamic of your choice.

You can add some blue cheese to the baked pears for a twist on dessert (or would this be a cheese course?).  Blue cheese and balsamic are an amazing combination.

Strawberry Balsamic Sake-Tini

If you have had the opportunity to go to Chozu Gardens in Ashland, they use our Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar for one of their popular cocktails.

  •   1 Part (1 ounce) Jacksonville Mercantile Strawberry Balsamic Vineger
  •  4 Parts (4 ounces) High quality Sake
  • 1 Part ( 1 ounce) Sweet Vermouth
  • Ice

Shake these together and serve up in a martini glass.  You may also substitute Vodka for the sake.  Use 3 parts vodka and 1 part sweet vermouth.

Happy Cooking!


Cheese and Spinach filled brioche a la Macrina Bakery

Dear Fellow Foodies:

Fall has shown up quickly and squash, pears, apples and root vegetables are starting to become available at the markets. I had a great visit to Seattle (including a trip to Pike Place Market) a few weeks back and was completely inspired. One of the most delicious pastries I had was at Macrina Bakery in Seattle. It was a velvety brioche ring filled with fresh sautéed spinach, fromage blanc, goat cheese, garlic and Parmesan sprinkled over the top. Served warm with a great dark roast coffee it was the ultimate treat on a rainy afternoon. The following is a brioche recipe I use quite often. To make the rolls you will roll into balls, flatten slightly and top with the cheese mixture prior to baking. This would be great to make for the day after Thanksgiving to give as a gift to your departing guests or just serve the next morning as breakfast with your favorite coffee or tea.

Cheese Filled Brioche Rolls

1/3 Cup Warm Water

1/3 Cup Warm Whole Milk

5 teaspoons (2 envelopes) dry yeast

3 3/4 cup All Purpose flour

2 teaspoons sea salt

3 large eggs

1/4 cup caster sugar

12 ounces Unsalted Butter – room temperature

1/2 cup fromage blanc

1/2 cup fresh chevre goat cheese (soft) I like Mamma Terra

2 Tablespoons fresh garlic – mashed

2 Cups Fresh spinach – washed, stemmed, wilted

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Mix the fromage blanc, goat cheese, garlic with cooked and cooled spinach. Reserve (you can make this up to 3 days ahead). The Parmesan is used right before baking.

To make the Brioche: Place the warm milk and water in a bowl. Add the yeast to the milk and water mixture. Wait for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to bloom. Add the flour, salt and mix. Add the eggs, one at a time allowing the egg to incorporate before adding the next egg. Add the sugar and mix. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time and allow to incorporate into the dough before adding the rest of the butter. The dough will look loose, that is OK. Cover the bowl and allow to rise one hour at room temperature. Punch down the dough, cover and allow to rise one more hour at room temperature. Punch down dough again then cover and put into refrigerator overnight to allow the dough to retard and flavor to develop. When you are ready to make the rolls, remove from the refrigerator and form the dough into balls the size of a golf ball. Place onto a floured surface and flatten slightly; pressing with the back of a large spoon, place the cheese mixture into the center, sprinkle with an herb salt and allow to rise 2 hours. Sprinkle with a small amount of Parmesan cheese just before putting into the oven. Bake in a 400F pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes. Check rolls after 20 minutes. You want these brown but not extremely dark.

Happy Cooking!


Truffled Pasta with Oven Dried Cherry Tomatoes

oven dried cherry tomatoes

Dear Fellow Foodies:

Cherry tomatoes are finally in season and I love to eat them tossed into a pasta with fresh Burrata cheese.  If you aren’t familiar with Burrata it is a form of fresh Mozzarella with a twist.  The insides are filled with bits of mozzarella and cream so when you cut into the cheese, it oozes.  Perfect for pastas or salads.  The following recipe uses the tomatoes just a little differently.  I dry them in the oven until they are slightly chewy (not completely dry) and when you add to your pasta with the cheese it creates a sweet sauce for your pasta. A little white truffle oil at the end sends this dish into foodie heaven.  You’ll find yourself licking your plate (I suggest using a piece of crispy bread to sop up the goodness).



Truffled Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Burrata

Serves 6

One package Gentile Mafalde Pasta
2 pints fresh cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup white truffle oil
Maldon salt flakes
Cracked Black Pepper
One 8 ounce ball of fresh Burrata cheese

To make the oven roasted cherry tomatoes, wash and de-stem all the tomatoes.  Cut in half and place onto a baking sheet cut side up.  Sprinkle with a small amount of salt, pepper and drizzle a small amount of the white truffle oil on top (go easy, you don’t want oily tomatoes).  You may also add a few garlic cloves for fun (since the oven is on – why not?)   Now roast your tomatoes at 180F for 3 hours or longer until they are still a little moist, but not wet.  They will dry a bit more as they cool.  Reserve.  I like to make a very large batch of these and use in salads, as a snack and of course other pasta courses.  As long as you are making some, make more for later and for the people who can’t keep their hands off of them as they pass through the kitchen.

Heat a large pot of water and add some gray sea salt to the water.  Bring to a boil and cook your pasta until done.  Before draining your pasta, save 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Drain and tear the burrata into smaller pieces.  Toss this into the pasta with a small amount of the pasta water, add the cherry tomatoes (as many as you would like) and drizzle with white truffle oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Serve hot with your favorite Rogue Valley Red wine (we liked the double gold wining Malbec from Jacksonville’s very own Daisy Creek) and some good friends.

Happy Cooking!

Chef Constance

Lamon Beans with Citrus

Dear Fellow Foodies:

This month’s recipe features more of the lovely legume family.  Jois brought this to me for lunch and I had to share the recipe with you.  Bright notes of citrus and lots of protein make this extremely satisfying.  This regal bean was once given as Papal gifts.  Pretty good for a legume, eh?


Grown on the plateau of Lamon and now the synonym of top quality bean, the spagnolèt bean is one of the four varieties grown by the small farmers in the highlands and are marked with protected designation of origin (PDO).


They are large and round, an off-white colour with bright red streaks and the variety is highly popular due to its properties and delicate flavour. They are perfect for salads, hors d’oeuvres and as side dishes.  Creamy and delicate flavors make this bean perfect for any flavor profile you would like to create.  


Lamon Beans with Citrus  



Lamon Beans with Citrus

1 cup Lamon Beans soaked overnight
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
3 Tablespoons Lemon Avocado Oil
Zest of one lemon and one orange
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper
2 Oranges cut into supreme (pith and rind removed) chopped
2 Cups Shredded cabbage
1 Granny Smith Apple – chopped
1/4 cup Pitted and chopped Lemon Olives

Soak the beans overnight.  The next day drain and refresh the water.  Cover with 2 times the amount of water and cook the beans for approximately 45 minutes or longer until soft.  Drain and Reserve.

Saute the minced shallot in 3 Tablespoons of Lemon Avocado Oil, add the lemon and orange zest and the cooked beans.  Cover and cook on low for approximately 15 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste. 

Add the chopped oranges and the shredded cabbage and chopped apples.  Warm through until the cabbage is wilted.  Add the chopped Lemon Olives and the lemon juice.  Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired.  Try this with Lemon Salt to add more flavor.

This is one of those dishes that tastes better over time.  Put some into a container and take with you on a picnic.  Eat some tonight, bring some to your next dinner party with the neighbors. Eat and enjoy wherever.   This paired wonderfully with a Pinot Gris from the Rogue Valley.

Happy Cooking! 

Vinaigrettes perfect for summer salads

Dear Fellow Foodies:

The Summer heat has been here with a vengeance this year. With so many days over 95 degrees, trying to stay cool and also trying to figure out what to make for dinners has been a challenge. I just want lots of salads. Since we just received lots of new infused olive oils and a delicious Grapefruit White Balsamic vinegar to the store’s expanding line up I created a few different vinaigrettes for both salads and vegetables. Voila! No oven necessary (thank goodness). Even David has been happy with the selection of summertime treats. The advantage of using hot veggies with a vinaigrette is that they tend to absorb the flavors more fully.

Steamed Green Beans with Grapefruit Vinaigrette


1 pound green beans, trimmed and rinsed
3 Tablespoons Jacksonville Mercantile Grapefruit White Balsamic
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
pinch Salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 Cup Blood Orange Avocado Oil
1 Red Bell Pepper – seeded and chopped in small dice

Steam the green beans until tender (approximately 5 minutes). Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the Grapefruit White Balsamic, Shallot, Salt and Pepper and slowly add the Blood Orange Avocado Oil by whisking until emulsified. Toss the cooked green beans with the chopped red pepper and about 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette to coat. Serve warm with extra vinaigrette on the side. If you have any left over vinaigrette you can also use this as a marinade for chicken.

A few years back I gave a recipe for French Potato Salad which uses a white wine reduction, olive oil and lots of tarragon. This recipe is similar, but instead of tarragon I use Basil, the newest Spicy Red Wine Vinegar from Italy and some Dijon mustard to round it out. This has a 1-2-3 punch from Basil oil, basil and basil Dijon. Hooray! You can either use your food processor for this or just whisk in a bowl. The food processor will make it a brighter green color.

Warm Potato and Basil Vinaigrette

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes – cleaned
1/2 cup fresh Basil leaves
1 clove garlic – minced
2 Tablespoons Edmund Fallot Basil Dijon Mustard
3 Tablespoons Spiced Red Wine Italian Vinegar
Pinch salt & black pepper to taste
2/3 cup Jacksonville Mercantile Basil Infused Olive oil

Steam the potatoes until tender (about 15 minutes). In a blender or food processor, add the basil, garlic, spiced red wine vinegar, mustard salt and pepper. Blend and slowly add the Basil Olive oil until emulsified. When the potatoes are still hot, but cool enough to handle, cut them in half and toss in a bowl with 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette. Serve warm with extra vinaigrette on the side. This vinaigrette can be used as a marinade for shrimp or fish as well.


Happy Cooking!



« Older entries


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 243 other followers