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


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!


Cherry Salsa

Dear Fellow Foodies:

Summer is finally here and so is cherry season.  Cherries are one of those fruits that has such a short window that we want them in everything when the season is here.  Jois and I just spent a few hours picking cherries at a local orchard on their opening day.  Both pie (sour) cherries and several varieties of sweet cherries covered my counters for a day.  I tend to pit and save the pie cherries because I want fresh cherry pie in December (not gonna happen unless you thought ahead) and pit and eat the sweet cherries in Clafoutis, tarts and one of my favorites to eat them on top of Bellweather Farms Ricotta.  A word of warning for those who decide to undertake pitting lots of sweet cherries:  do this outdoors, wear black and don’t let anyone take your picture because you’ll look like an axe murderer from the spatter patterns.  Also, try really hard not to eat all of your hard work, your tummy will thank me later.

Since David always wants to grill this time of year, we created a cherry salsa that we used on grilled pork tenderloin.  The following is the salsa recipe.

Cherry Salsa for Pork

1 Cup Fresh Sweet Cherries  – pitted and chopped
1 Jalapeno pepper – seeds and ribs removed – chopped fine
1/2 yellow onion – chopped fine
2 Roma tomatoes – seeds removed and chopped
2 Tablespoons Lemon Avocado Oil
4 Tablespoons Barrel Aged Balsamic
Lemon Sea Salt
Cracked Black Pepper

Mix everything together and allow the flavors to meld for approximately 1 hour.

If using Pork Tenderloin, slice horizontally and marinate for 20 minutes in additional lemon avocado oil and barrel aged balsamic.   On a hot grill, place pork and grill until done. (this will cook quickly since it is thinly sliced).  Serve with the cherry salsa, good friends and an icy cold beer (if desired).

Happy Cooking!

Pantry Challenge – Corona Beans and Tuna

Dear Fellow Foodies:

More from the pantry challenge. We just brought in some amazing dried beans from Italy. The following recipe is so simple it’s almost comical. All you need to do is open two packages and one jar and have an incredible meal for 14 people. Crazy huh? The only items we had to pick up at the grocery store were parsley and cherry tomatoes. If it was summer, these items could have come from the herb garden on the deck. This recipe uses Corona beans. These huge plump beans are similar to the Coco Blancs you find in France or the Giganta beans found in Europe. Known as the “poor’s meat” these beans are creamy and hearty. With the addition of Spanish Bonito Tuna in oil, this was a very satisfying meal hitting all the right notes. Even meat and potato folks would enjoy this!

This also is a wonderful gluten free meal. Since the Corona beans are high in protein, this would also make a great vegetarian meal, just omit the tuna.

corona beans

Corona Beans with Spanish Bonito Tuna

One Bag of Corona Beans – soaked overnight

One Jar of Spanish Bonito Tuna

One package of Boscaiola Dried Pasta Sauce from Italy

Parsley – chopped fine

Cherry tomatoes – cut in half

Salt and Pepper


When cooking any kind of bean you need to soak them overnight for best results. The instructions on the packet of beans recommended soaking for 12-14 hours and cooking for 30-40 minutes. After soaking the beans overnight, they actually needed an hour of cooking time to get them creamy enough. Be sure when you are cooking any kind of legume or bean that you don’t salt the water. You know the saying “tough beans”? That is what you will get if you cook them in salted water. Wait until they are almost cooked completely before salting.

Soak the Boscaiola Dried Pasta Sauce in a cup of water and bring to a simmer. Cook off the water from the sauce and reserve. You may add olive oil to this if you like. These dried pasta sauces from Italy are great to have in your pantry for adding to pasta, risotto or in this case, beans.

When the beans are done, taste and season again with additional salt and pepper if desired. Open the tuna and pour the olive oil onto the beans. Crumble the tuna into the beans and add the tomatoes. Add the cooked Boscaiola to the bean mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle additional olive oil over if you desire.

We were able to have this dish for lunch for several days and also had enough to bring to a friend’s home as a side dish. Ta da!!

Happy Cooking!


Warm Squash Salad with Arugula

Most folks don’t think of using squash in a salad, but when roasted and paired with goat cheese it becomes a hearty meal in itself. This was part of the pantry raid week. We had a wonderful cinderella squash left from our grower’s market that needed to be used. Feel free to substitute the hazelnuts for any other nut and you can leave out the bacon for a vegetarian option.


Warm Squash Salad with Arugula and Goat Cheese
  • 1 small kobotcha squash or cinderella squash 3-4 pounds – peeled, seeds removed and sliced into 1/2″ slices.
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 3 Tablespoons smoked brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Piment D’Espellette or smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Maldon Flake Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup White Balsamic
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
  • 6 ounces mild goat cheese
  • 4 ounces hickory bacon – cooked and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 pound arugula – washed and trimmed of any stems

Warm your oven to 475F. Mix all the ingredients except the hazelnuts, goat cheese, bacon and arugula to create a vinaigrette. Toss the slices of squash in the vinaigrette and bake 10 minutes on a non-stick baking pan. Turn over and bake 10-15 minutes longer or until soft, but not mushy.

Form the goat cheese into small rounds and roll into the finely chopped hazelnuts. Reserving the remaining hazelnuts and vinaigrette.

To serve:

Arrange 3-4 squash pieces on a plate. Sprinkle with bacon and a small amount of hazelnuts. Place a few rounds of goat cheese on top. Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon of reserved vinaigrette. Toss the arugula in a small amount of vinaigrette (you may not use all the vinaigrette) to lightly coat. Top the warm squash with the dressed arugula and serve with additional flake salt and cracked pepper. Enjoy with a Southern Oregon Viognier. Serves 6-8.

Happy Cooking!


Fresh Fava Bean Panzanella with Home Made Croutons

I just taught a class on how to cook from the Farmer’s Market recently. Since most of my students didn’t know how to cook a fava bean (or even what they were) we decided that we would have them for part of our meal.  Since I had help cleaning the fava beans, I got 8 pounds.  Then they realized what a pain in the butt they are to clean and cook, but they are SO darned good.     I know, I know, you think that is a LOT.  Nope, just enough with a small amount left over for me today.  We made a wonderful spread with the favas but I wanted something else.  This got me to thinking about Panzanella salads.

I’ve also been on a bread baking kick. Not just any bread baking, but the rustic loaves you get at the grower’s markets with the crusty, crispy exterior and the large holed interior that just melts into your mouth.   I made my starter and fed it for a few weeks.  My friend Jois told me that I should name my starter so I wouldn’t let it die.   I named it Henry.   When it gives me trouble I call him Hank, and when I attempt French Bread I’ll call him Henri.  Henry has helped me bake some amazing loaves and of course I started to have half loaves all over the house.

I made some croutons with olive oil, herbs de Provence and a pinch of salt. Then came the dressing. Using the juice from my quick pickle recipe and the oil from the Italian Olives in Lemon I made the vinaigrette. Sliced up some wild ramps (you guessed it, Farmer’s Market) and mixed this all together with a few leftover tomato pieces from David’s dinner the night before.

I have never eaten a salad where I was grunting and groaning over it and I was happy no one was close enough to hear me .  Sometimes the best meals are right in front of you while you stand at the open refrigerator door.  This was one of them.

Next time maybe I’ll share – then again, maybe not.  Grunt, grunt, grunt, ooooohhhhh.

Quick Pickles

  • 1 cup Reisling Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 small seedless cucumbers – cut in small pieces
  • 3 small ramps – sliced thin
  • 1 Tablespoon Harissa Paste
  • Mason Jar to store

Heat the vinegar until warm, add the sugar, harissa and the salt.  Stir until melted.  Pour over the cucumbers and ramps in the jar.  Allow to sit chilled for 2 hours or longer.  Use this as your vinegar for your vinaigrette.

Paella on the PCT

Dear fellow foodies:
Happy New Year!!  Now that the holidays are over and the hectic pace is behind us, it is time to slow down and savor our time with our family and friends.
 I just recently got back from a snowshoeing trip on the Pacific Coast Trail and I was the chef for the weekend.  An easy and delicious way to feed a crowd (up to 16 people) is Paella.  Paella can be vegetarian or with different types of meats and seafood.  What you have on hand, or what you like is what you should use. This dish was originally a peasant dish and depending on the wealth of the family depended on what was put into the Paella.   The only things that are not to be substituted in Paella is the rice and saffron.    This dish is started on top of the stove and then finished in the oven.  If you have a paella pan you will get a better crust on the bottom of the paella (called socarrat).  This is the “crunchewey” part most prized by paella lovers all over the world.  The other great thing about this dish is you cook it in one pan and then serve from the same dish.  Came in really handy since we all were in a rented cabin with a kitchen that wasn’t stocked with everything.

A Note About Bomba Rice:  Of the two types of classic short grain rice grown in Calasparra, Bomba is the supreme strain.

Until recently, many feared that the strain would become extinct. Bomba had all but disappeared from the land because it requires intensive care in order to flourish. Fortunately, alert gourmet chefs created a demand, so that today Bomba is once again available for the pleasure of discriminating food lovers.

The basic difference between Bomba rice and others is that Bomba expands in width like an accordion rather than longitudinally, as do other rice strains. It differs from Italian Arborio rice, which is bred to be creamy, and Asian rice, which is meant to be sticky. Bomba absorbs three times its volume in broth (rather than the normal two), yet the grains remain distinct.

(serves 12-16)
1 bag Bomba Rice

1 Yellow onion – medium dice
3 cloves garlic – sliced
1 Quart Stock or use Demi-Glace added to water
1 Jar  Divina Roasted Yellow Peppers drained and cut into large pieces
1 jar drained artichokes (cut into quarters if large)
1/2 teaspoon Saffron Threads
4 Sausages – cut
6 chicken thighs – cut into large pieces
2 pounds of large Shrimp
1 Can San Marzano Tomatoes – drained
Olive Oil

Smoked Olive Oil

to garnish
Parsley – chopped as garnish

You want to use the largest, widest pan you have available for this dish.  If you don’t have a very large pan, use two. Pre-heat your oven to 400F.

  1. Heat the oil in the pan over medium heat and cook the sausage and chicken until cooked through.  Remove from the pan and reserve.
  2. Add more oil if necessary and cook the onion and garlic until soft (about 5 minutes)
  3. In another pot heat the stock and add the saffron to the stock.  This will be added into the pan after the rice has been added.
  4. Add the yellow peppers and warm through.
  5. Add the artichokes and warm through.
  6. Add the rice and mix until it is coated with the oil and the onions, garlic and peppers are evenly distributed.
  7. Add the can of  San Marzano Tomatoes and mix, cutting the tomatoes into large chunks.
  8. Pour in the stock until the rice is just covered.  Mix well.
  9. Cook on Medium/high heat for approximately 5 minutes.
  10. Add the meat back to the rice.  Pressing into the rice as evenly as possibly.  Cook 6 more minutes.
  11. Add more stock if needed.  Place the shrimp on top of the rice evenly and place into the oven to finish cooking. At this point you do not want to stir the rice any longer.
  12. Bake in a 400F oven for another 20-30 minutes checking every 10 minutes to be sure there is some stock and the rice finishes cooking.  The last 10 minutes you want the rice to absorb all the remaining liquid and create a crust (socarrat) on the bottom of the pan.
  13. Serve Hot right from the pan with a fruity light red wine.  Drizzle with Smoked Olive Oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Happy Winter Everyone!

Israeli Cous Cous with Saffron Honey

Owning a specialty food store has some great perks such as clients sharing amazing recipes with me.   Noticing someone was purchasing a jar of Saffron Honey; we got to talking about different ways we use it.  They told me they make Israeli Cous Cous and drizzle the honey on before serving.  Of course I had to make this that night it sounded so intriguing.  Such a simple thing and so complex.  We served this with panko crusted chicken and beet greens and onions fresh from the grower’s market that morning.

Israeli Cous Cous with Saffron Honey

  • 3 Tablespoons Avocado Oil or other neutral oil
  • 1 Cup Israeli Cous Cous
  • 1 Shallot – minced
  • 2 Cups Chicken Stock
  • Saffron Honey to garnish
  • Chopped Parsley to garnish

Heat the oil until hot and add the shallot.  Cook for a few minutes to allow the shallot to brown, add the cous cous and brown for a few minutes.  Add the chicken stock all at once and cook until cous cous is completely cooked.   To serve place cous cous on plate and drizzle Saffron Honey over then sprinkle with parsley.  We also drizzled some of the saffron honey on our chicken. 



Tuscan Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin w/ Cherry Mango Salsa

Summer heat has finally arrived here in Southern Oregon and David and I were trying to figure out what to cook without having to turn on the oven.  I really enjoy pork tenderloin but usually we cook ours indoors.  Our good friend Katharine made this pork tenderloin dish one sweltering evening.  Since the tenderloin is sliced thin and lengthways, it cooks quickly on the grill so no one is left outside in the heat for too long.

Tuscan Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin  serves 4-6

  • 1 pork tenderloin sliced lengthways into thin slices
  • 1/4 cup Jacksonville Mercantile Tuscan Herb Dipping Oil
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley or a mix of different chopped herbs from the garden
  • sea salt and cracked pepper (to taste)

Soak the pork tenderloin in the Tuscan dipping oil and spices for about 30 minutes.  Heat your grill until hot.  Let the oil drip off of the meat slices (to avoid flare ups) and grill until done.  Serve with a large salad or side of your choice.  We liked this with polenta and a cherry and mango salsa to go over the pork.

Cherry and Mango Salsa

  • 1 cup cherries – pitted and sliced in half
  • 1 ripe mango – cut into small cubes
  • 3 Tablespoons Sour Cherry Balsamic
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • chopped basil

Mix all of the above and let the flavors meld.  Serve over the strips of pork tenderloin.

« Older entries