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!




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!


The Elegant Lentil

The following is a recipe I have adapted from our wonderful employee Jois. Lentils du Puy are a great way to add texture, flavor and protein to your diet. The advantage of Lentils du Puy is that they don’t get mushy like other lentils. Be sure you are getting the authentic lentils vs. the ones from Washington state. The package should state A.O.C. or A.O.P. The A.O.C, or Nomenclature of Controlled Origin, is the denomination of a country, region, or locale used to designate a product of the region and of which the quality and the characteristics are exclusively or essentially derived from the geography. The AOP, Protected Origin Nomenclature, is its analogue at the European level. In Europe, there is an immense richness and variety of food products ; but when a product acquires a remarkable reputation, it can find itself confronted in the market by imitation products that try to usurp its name. This disloyal practice not only discourages the producer but also leads the consumer astray. This is why, in 1992, the European Community created a system of protection and valorization of agro-alimentary products (AOP, IGP, STG).The Nomenclature of Protected Origin (AOP) designates the denomination of a product of which the production, transformation, and elaboration ought to have a place in an area geographically determined with a recognized and stated know-how.
Phew! Basically, it means it is the real deal and not an imitation. That said, the Lentils du Puy do cost a little more but are well worth it and seeing a cup of lentils feeds 6 adults it isn’t that expensive after all.

Lentils du Puy with San Marzano Tomatoes

1 Cup Lentils du Puy – picked through to be sure there are no stones

1/2 sweet onion – minced

1 carrot – minced

2 Tablespoons Onion Avocado Oil

1/4 cup Red wine or Vermouth (or for non alcoholic option use Red Verjus)

1 – 28 oz. can San Marzano Tomatoes from Italy – chop tomatoes and save juice

1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock

Sea Salt and Pepper

Heat the avocado oil until hot, add the onion and carrot and cook until soft (approximately 5-7 minutes) Deglaze the pan with the wine or Verjus. Cook this until almost dry (au sec) Add the chicken stock or vegetable stock and the juice from the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer then add the lentils. Cook this for approximately 25 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for approximately 7 minutes more to heat through. This is wonderful with sausage sliced on top or with a crispy trout filet or salmon filet. Anyway you look at it, Lentils du Puy are one heck of a wonderful base for many healthy, hearty meals.

Happy Cooking Everyone!


Dijon Mustard Mousse

I love roasting brussel sprouts vs. steaming them for a different flavor profile.  When we had dinner at a friend’s home, one of their guests put Dijon mustard on their brussel sprouts and it was good (although a bit strong).  So I created a Dijon Mustard Mousse to go with roasted brussel sprouts.  Light, creamy and you can use the Dijon mustard mousse for dipping veggies as well.  Anything to get people to eat more brussel sprouts.


Dijon Mustard Mousse

1 Jar Edmund Fallot Dijon Mustard

One 8 ounce tub Crème Fraiche

4 oz. Mascarpone cream

Truffle Salt & ground pepper to taste


Whip the Crème Fraiche and Mascarpone with an electric mixer until stiff.  Add the mustard and whip until smooth.  Add the salt and pepper.  Serve this with  roasted brussel sprouts or use as a dip with raw vegetables.  This can also work in tuna fish for an amazing sandwich spread.

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. 



Grilled Ratatouille

The end of summer is full-blown vegetable season, lots of my friends have been sharing their garden bounty with us.  So naturally I want to make Ratatouille.  Here is a twist on that recipe.  By grilling all the vegetables and mixing at the last minute with flavored oil this lends itself to making this anywhere.  Even on a camping trip you would be able to pull this one off.  Be sure you either use metal skewers or soak your wooden ones in water for ½ an hour to prevent them burning up on the grill.  Also, cook each vegetable separately since they all have different cooking times.  As pretty as it looks with mixed veggies on the skewers it is better to cook them separately.  This can be a side dish or just load your plate and make it an entree.  Either way this is a wonderful way to enjoy all the summer vegetables.


Grilled Ratatouille


  • 1 large globe eggplant – cut into cubes
  • 2 squash – cut into cubes or, if small, in rounds
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 sweet yellow onion – cut into wedges (they fit and cook easier on the skewer this way)
  • ½ cup Basil Pesto – (I use Elki Brand)
  • 1/8 cup Jacksonville Mercantile Tuscan Dipping oil
  • ¼ cup Italian dried olives or kalamata olives (optional) – remove pits
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian capers in salt – rinsed well
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Grill all the vegetables until well cooked.  Using tongs, pull the vegetables off the skewers into a large bowl.  Add the pesto and the dipping oil, olives and capers.  Add salt and pepper to your taste. Mix well.  Serve hot or room temperature.

Easy huh?
Happy Cooking!

Chef Constance

Caramelized Balsamic Onion Confit

Our friends have a fabulous garden that has been producing these sweet onions.  I was lucky to be a recipient of some of these amazing onions and I made this confit.   This also works really well in a savory galette.   Just brush the edges of the galette with butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds or cracked black pepper.

Balsamic Onion Confit

  • 4 large red onions – sliced thickly
  • 2 Tablespoons Grapeseed oil or Natural Avocado oil
  • ½ cup Barrel Aged Balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil until hot but not smoking, add the sliced onions and cook until they are very caramelized.  This may take up to 25 minutes or longer, keep stirring every once in a while to avoid hot spots and burning.  After the onions are dark brown, add the balsamic vinegar and cook until absorbed.  This should have a consistency of marmalade when done.   This can be cooled and saved in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or will keep frozen for 6 months.

I also like to warm this up a little bit, serve over polenta with crumbled goat cheese on top or over a wheel of Camembert, baked in the oven and served with crackers or bread as an appetizer.

Happy cooking!

Chef Constance

Ox Tail Stew My Way

We have this amazing Mexican Grocery called El Gallo right down the road from us (ok, it is 5 miles from J’Ville) and they have a wonderful butcher.  My Spanish is very bad so I do a lot of pointing and luckily I can count to 10 in Spanish.  The Ox Tails looked amazing the other day and since I spent the day cleaning the house  I wanted something I could just put into my Cocotte and let braise.  I wasn’t about to leave the house again, so I used a tapenade instead of canned tomatoes or sauce, which made it really intensely flavored.

Served this with a Moroccan Carrot Salad inspired by Chez Panisse.

Ox Tail Stew served 4

  • 2 pounds Ox Tails
  • 2 jars Cherry Tomato and Olive Tapenade
  • 1 Quart Beef Stock
  • 1/2 cup Vermouth or White Wine
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion
  • Garlic Avocado Oil
  • Smoked Paprika, Salt and Pepper

Brown the Ox Tails in the Garlic Avocado Oil Add the onion and cook until soft (about 5 minutes)  Deglaze with the Vermouth and cook until almost dry (au sec).  Add the paprika and the tapenade, then add the stock.  Cover and cook in a 325F oven for approximately 2-3 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone.  Remove the meat from the sauce.  Remove the fat from the surface.  Keep the meat warm and reduce the sauce further over high heat (or you can cheat and add corn starch with more vermouth) until thick.  Serve with carrot salad.

Morrocan Carrot Salad

  • 6 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, tumeric,
  • Pinch salt, cinnamon
  • Italian Parsley – chopped

Cook the carrots in salted water until al dente.  Allow to cool.  Mix in the spices and olive oil.  Allow to marinate for one hour or longer.  Add the parsley before serving.

Happy Cooking!

Chef Constance Jesser

Sweet Potato Gratin

This sweet potato gratin has been the go-to dish for every Thanksgiving for the last 10 years or so in our house.  We have tweaked this recipe many different ways, but the best so far has been using a pinch of truffle salt in the dish and if our local mushroom man, Louie, has fresh Oregon truffles we slice those into the dish as well.  If you can get fresh truffles – use ’em, then be sure to cut a huge wedge of this for yourself.

Sweet Potato Gratin

3-4 large sweet potatoes – peeled and sliced very thin (get out the mandoline slicer for this)

1 pint heavy whipping cream

8 ounces Parmesan Reggiano – ground not sliced

8 ounces Pecorino Ginepro (this Pecorino from Italy has an edible rind which is washed with Juniper Berries and Balsamic) ground not sliced

Truffle Salt

Fresh thinly sliced fresh truffles (optional)

Fresh Ground Nutmeg

White Pepper

Spray a glass 13 X 11 dish with pan spray.  Add the first layer of potatoes, sprinkle with truffle salt, truffles, nutmeg, pepper and cheese.  Building layers of potato & cheese ending with cheese.  Using a paring knife, poke the knife down into the potatoes every few inches to allow the cream to penetrate the layers.  Pour the cream into the dish trying not to disturb the top layer of cheese.  Bake in a 375F oven for approximately 40 – 50 minutes or until bubbling and hot and a knife penetrates the layers with no resistance.   Allow to cool completely before slicing.  This is a dish that tastes better the next day.  Just slice then reheat at 350F until hot.