Guanciale is Better than Bacon! There, I said it. What to do with Coconut Jam.

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.

Dear Fellow Foodies:

As you may be aware, the West Coast Ports have finally re-opened but the back log of imports still has many items sitting in warehouses or on the water in their containers waiting to be released by the FDA.  The strike caused many headaches and frustrated both importers and buyers.  We are waiting on many different items so we ask you be patient if you don’t see your favorite in stock right now.  In other food news, the drought in California and the failed olive crops in the EU will cause olive oil to increase in price this year. Cacao crops have also been having trouble with blight in many different areas of the world so yields are much lower causing shortages.

Luckily, I was able to get my shipment of Guanciale.  The following is a classic recipe which uses this cured pork cheek.   Better than bacon!!  Guanciale is pronounced GWAN-CHALL-AY

Bucatini all’Amatriciana

 Serves 4

  • 3/4 pound guanciale, sliced in long, thin pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (we like to use the sweet red pepper flakes)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 package bucatini pasta (approximately 17 ounces)
  • Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano, for grating

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.

In a saute pan, place the guanciale slices in the pan and cook over medium-low heat until most of the fat has been rendered from the meat.  Remove the meat and reserve.  Pour half of the fat off.  Add the onion and cook until soft (about 3 minutes) add the garlic and the red pepper.  Add the cooked guanciale back into the pan and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and simmer for about 12 minutes.

Cook the bucatini in the salted boiling water according to the package directions, until tender but still al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and add it to the simmering sauce. Increase the heat to high and toss to coat. Divide the pasta among 4 warmed bowls. Top with freshly grated Grana Padano or Pecorino.

We also just got back in stock the Hey Boo Coconut Jam.  Similar in texture to a curd but made with Coconut milk, this Coconut Jam is great as a filling for a cake. Just keep yourself from eating the jar with a spoon before you start.  The following cake uses Key Lime Avocado Oil in the cake which adds a nice flavor and great contrast with the Coconut Jam filling.  Go ahead, start singing. . . . “you put the lime in da coconut and shake it all together” you know I did.

 Key lime Coconut Cake with Coconut Jam Filling

2 1/4 Cups cake flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup Key Lime Avocado Oil

1 cup whole milk

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons Coconut Extract

1 Jar Hey Boo Coconut Jam

1 1/2 cups Heavy Whipping cream

Grated coconut – toasted in the oven for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.  Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl.  Stir in the oil and milk, mix completely (approximately 2 minutes).  Add the eggs and coconut extract beat for 2 more minutes.  Pour into the prepared pans and bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto the rack.  Cool completely.

To make the filling:  Whip the cream until medium peaks.  Fold into the Coconut jam and fill the cake.  Top with some of the filling and sprinkle with toasted coconut.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chef Constance


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!

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!


34 Degrees New Chocolate Wafers!

We all know how these things begin. It’s ten at night, dinner was hours ago, and you’ve been reading a good mystery until…  you realize that you’d really like just a little something. A sweet little something. And, before you know it, you’re having a one night stand with a jar of chocolate caramel sauce.
We just got into the Mercantile  new  Sweet Crisps from 34○.  These may even  help you hold on to your self respect.  Get your fix from Smooth Chocolate or Dreamy Caramel, and never have to commit to more than 60 calories with  7 or 8 of these nearly fat-free little beauties. If you want to tart them up with a bit of nut butter or introduce them to a little Greek yogurt, they won’t mind, but we find them crunchily satisfying all on their own.
Come on in and introduce yourself to our cool new friends.   It could be the start of a beautiful relationship.  The best part is they are only $5.25 for 10 servings of guilt-free happiness.

Ganache Stuffed Pears in Chocolate Puff Pastry

We just received a new chocolate puff pastry from Dufour so I had to make these stuffed pears.

Baked Stuffed Pears Serves 4

4 Bosc Pears – Ripe but not mushy, peeled and cored. Leave the stem intact.
8 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate – chopped small
8 oz. Heavy Whipping cream
1 teaspoon Mexican Vanilla extract
1 package butter puff pastry or Chocolate puff pastry – thawed in the refrigerator overnight.

Peel and core* the pears while leaving in one piece. Cut the bottom so the pear sits flat. *Using a melon baller, going through the bottom of the pear slowly scrape out the seeds, leaving a thick, even wall on the outside.

Make the ganache:
Heat the whipping cream until just coming to a simmer. Pour over the chopped bittersweet chocolate and add the vanilla. Allow to sit for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Allow to cool in refrigerator for 1-2 hours or overnight until solid enough to scoop.

To stuff the pears, take some cool ganache and fill the cavity of the pear. Lay on its side so the ganache doesn’t come out of the bottom.

Cut the puff pastry into squares – approximately 8 X 8″ (or larger if your pears are larger). You want to wrap the puff pastry around the pear and end with the stem just poking through the top. Pinch the pastry around the pear, and if you want the pastry to stay in place better while baking, use an egg wash to seal. Place wrapped pears back in refrigerator for 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat your oven to 375F while pears are resting.

Bake the pears for 25-30 minutes and puff pastry is nicely browned (if you want additional glaze, use an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar before resting). Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. When you cut into the pear, the ganache creates a chocolate sauce on the plate. If you bake ahead, just reheat at 350F for 10 minutes to melt the ganache again. Garish with powdered sugar.

Ready to stuff

Stuffing the Pear

Using a Pizza Cutter is great to cut puff pastry without crushing edges

Getting ready to wrap the pear

Ready to be chilled then baked

Serve warm and the ganache will become a sauce for your pastry pear

Marzipan Pear Tart

Finding myself with several tubes of Marzipan in my cupboard I wanted to use this to make something besides cute animals or flowers.  I then realized that I could substitute the Marzipan for Almond Flour and sugar.  This turned out so tasty that I made two the same day so I could give some away and have enough for a few dinner parties.

Tart Crust:
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons Caster Sugar
4 Oz. (1 stick) Cold Unsalted Butter
Ice water
Mix the flour, salt and sugar together.  Cut the butter into the dough using a pastry cutter or you can use a food processor.  When the butter is mixed into the flour correctly the butter will be the size of small peas.  Slowly add ice water 2 Tablespoons at a time and fold the dough together.  You will add approximately 6-8 Tablespoons of ice water.  To test to be sure the dough will hold together, squeeze some of the dough and it should hold together but not be wet.  Knead the dough to combine completely.  Place between two pieces of plastic wrap and roll out to 13 inches.  Cover with the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Remove from the refrigerator and place into a 9 inch removeable bottom tart pan.  Fold the excess dough over itself and build the walls of the tart crust.  Roll the rolling pin over the top to smooth the edges and remove any additional excess dough.  Prick the dough with a fork and rest in the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.  This prevents the dough from shrinking down the sides of the tart pan when baking.  Bake the tart shell at 375F with a piece of parchment or foil inside with weights to keep the bottom flat for 20 minutes.  Remove the parchment or foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  The tart crust can be made 2 days ahead.  Store at room temperature in a sealed container.
Tart Filling:
1 Package Odense Marzipan
4 Oz. Butter (1 stick)
2 Large Eggs
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Madagascar Vanilla
1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract
2 Ripe Pears – Peeled
Cream the Marzipan and butter together until smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time until combined.  Add the flour and extracts.  The dough will be like stiff pancake batter.  Spread this into the tart shell with an off-set spatula until smooth.   Core and cut the pears in half.  Slice the pears almost to the stem side, but not all the way into 8 slices.  Press down on the pears to fan them.  Place on top of the filling.  Do this with the remaining pears.  Bake at 375F for 35 minutes or until brown and puffy.  Allow to cool and glaze the pears with melted apricot preserves that have been strained.  Dust with powdered sugar and serve.  This can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days, don’t refrigerate this or the marzipan filling will get soggy.

Caveman Blue Cheesecake

We go to many more dinners at friends’ homes in the summer and always want something to bring that is easy but different.  Our local creamery just had a cave sale and I was able to get some amazing blue cheese on sale.  This is a fun thing to serve as a part of a cheese course.  Keep in mind when you serve a cheese course after dinner, you want to have a few different cheeses available such as a mild cheese, firm cheese and pungent cheese.  Serve this with fruits or honey to add interest.  We like to serve fig bread, chestnut honey and Marcona Spanish almonds with our cheeses.  This Blue Cheesecake is quite amazing with Truffle Honey drizzled over it served with a crispy baguette.  Also, when you are serving a cheese course the portions are SMALL for each type of cheese.  You don’t want to give your guests a gallbladder attack by overdoing the portion size.

Blue Cheesecake

  • One 8 oz. block organic cream cheese or neufatchel cheese
  • 4 oz. Good quality blue cheese (we used Cave Man Blue from Rogue Creamery in Central Point, OR)
  • 1/2 tsp. Freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 whole large eggs

Prepare the ramekins by greasing and flouring the insides.

Mix the cream cheese and blue cheese with the eggs until smooth.  Add the nutmeg and white pepper.  Blend until incorporated.    If you want your cheesecake to be lighter in texture add the yolks to the cheesecake and then whip the whites and fold into the cheesecake mixture separately.  This makes approximately two 8 oz. Ramekins.  You can also make smaller cheesecakes, just bake for less time.

Bake in a 350F oven for 30-40 minutes.  Don’t open the door while baking or it will collapse and bake unevenly.  This will fall a little after it cools.  That is OK.    It is done when a toothpick inserted one inch from the sides comes out clean.

Smile and say Cheese everyone!

Chef Constance Jesser

Strawberries and Cream Cheesecake

It is the end of summer here in Southern Oregon and also the end of our strawberry season.  This means amazing SWEET strawberries that are not huge.  This is my last hurrah dessert before I go on a diet.  The next recipe will have to be low or no fat, my jeans are just getting way to tight. Ugh.  Don’t bother trying to use no-fat cream cheese, it just doesn’t work (tried it, it sucked).  Just eat a small piece and enjoy; then go take a long walk (5 miles should do it).  (We have also tried this with local blackberries which grow wild on the sides of the roads all over town.)


1-1/2 Pounds hulled strawberries (leave whole)

3 Tablespoons light corn syrup  (I used a simple syrup – I don’t like corn syrup but if you don’t have time to make simple syrup use corn syrup)


3 Tablespoons sugar

3 Tablespoons butter, melted

1-1/2 Cups finely ground graham crackers

Cheesecake Base

1 Cup sugar

36 oz cream cheese room temp (4-1/2 boxes)

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

8 oz Mascarpone cheese (1 container)

1 Tablespoon lemon juice (optional if you want some tartness if mix is too sweet but acid always balances flavors in fruit desserts)

For Strawberries:  Pre-heat oven to 300 F and place strawberries in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with syrup and gently coat them.  Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and mash them with potato masher.  Let cool completely.

For Crust:  Raise oven temperature to 350.  stir graham crackers,  3T sugar and melted butter together and press mixture into the bottom of 9 inch springform pan to make an even layer.  Bake crust for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  (I put mine in the frig after a few minutes to finish the cooling process)

For Cheesecake:  Reduce oven to 325.  Put softened cream cheese into bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment and mix on med/low speed until creamy – about 2 to 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides and start to add the sugar slowly, then salt and mix for another 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides again and add one egg at a time mixing well after each.  Add the vanilla and marscapone and mix until creamy and no lumps remain, about 3 minutes.

Transfer about 1-2 cups of the mixture to a separate bowl so that you can use it for the topping.  Take the mashed strawberries and add it to the mixing bowl with the larger portion of cream cheese mixture and blend well.  Pour the strawberry mixture on top of completely cooled graham cracker crust and smooth out until it is even.  Then place dollops of plain cream cheese mixture on top evenly spaced so you can spread it easily to the edges.

Wrap the exterior of springform pan in 2 layers of foil and set in a large flat bottomed, oven proof container.  Place in oven on middle shelf and fill carefully with boiling water about 1/3 the way up pan being careful not to go over the foil.  Bake until set, about 1 hour and 10-15 minutes.  Remove from waterbath and cool completey on wire rack.  Refrigerate until cold, at least 6 hours up to overnight.  I made mine the day ahead just to be on the safe side.  Serve with strawberry sauce.  Enjoy!

Fresh Summer Berry Crisp

I found myself with a refrigerator totally loaded with fresh berries this week.  For some reason I always go nuts when I see those fat, juicy boysenberries or marionberries at the farmer’s market.  Living in Southern Oregon means a bounty of berries in the summer.  Understand that black berries grow on the side of the road around here.  The Black Berry bush is known locally as Oregon’s state weed, and we make fun of people who show up to our house with blackberries they bought at the grocery store.   This is what I made that turned out great and was able to use up lots of those berries.

Fresh Summer  Berry Crisp

Summer always brings a bounty of fresh berries and what better way to show them off is in a crisp.  This fast, simple dessert can be made ahead and reheated or served at room temperature.  This also works well for people who can’t eat wheat since the Amaretti cookies are gluten free.

Serves 4-6

4 cups fresh berries  (use what you have on hand)

2 Tablespoons vanilla powder

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

4 ounces crushed Amaretti Cookies

1- 8 oz. Tub Crème Fraiche

Mix the berries with the vanilla powder, sugar and cornstarch.  Place in a greased baking pan and cover with the crushed cookies.  Bake at 375F for 25-35 minutes or until you see the berry juice bubbling through the cookies.  Cool completely before serving.  Serve with sweetened creme fraiche or your favorite ice cream or gelato.

Does anyone else out there have some good berry recipes to share??
Happy Cooking Everyone!


« Older entries