May Flowers


May is finally here and with it comes delicate spring vegetables and flowers.  A fun thing to add to salads and other items (think Lemonade or Cakes) is edible flowers.  Flowers can be something as simple as pansies in a salad or making Lavender Lemonade or Elderflowers on top of a cake.  Also, if you notice your herbs are starting to flower, cut them and use them instead of the herbs by themselves.  You will be doing your herbs a favor by helping put the energy back into the herb vs. the flower and the flowers have the same flavor as your herb.  One of my favorites is to use basil flowers in my pasta dishes.

The following spring salad uses one of our newest flavored White Balsamics.  The Bergamot is an orange usually found in teas.  As a balsamic it is refreshing and fun.

Mixed Green Salad with Poached Egg and Flowers

Increase the salad greens and add one egg per person.  This is easy to do for a crowd and can be done ahead of time.

Salad Greens
1 large chicken egg per person
1/8 cup Bergamot White Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup Blood Orange Avocado Oil
Pansies or other edible flowers (be sure to get flowers made for eating and haven’t been sprayed with pesticides)
sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Be sure to rinse your salad greens well.  In a large sink fill it with cold water and add a Tablespoon of white vinegar.  This will cling to the dirt and clean your greens better.  Swish them in the sink of water and remove to a salad spinner.  If you don’t have a salad spinner, do what my grandmother used to do and put them in a clean pillow case.  Go outside and spin the greens inside the pillow case until there is no more water being released.  This is how my grandmother used to get my brother and I out of her hair when she was making dinner.  Believe it or not, we would fight over who would get to do the salad.

Poach your eggs.  In a pan of barely simmering water, add a splash of white vinegar to the water (this helps the whites solidify).  Gently place the eggs into the water and poach for 5-7 minutes.  The whites will be done and the yolks a little runny.  If you like your yolks firmer, cook for another 2 minutes.  Set aside while you make the dressing.

Mix the Bergamot White Balsamic with the Dijon mustard in a bowl.  Add a small amount of salt and pepper and start to whisk.  Add the Blood Orange Avocado oil s-l-o-w-l-y to the vinegar mixture while whisking.  Mix into your greens and top with flowers and shaved parmesean (optional).  Serve with Lavender Lemonade.

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

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!



Silk Road Burger

Silk Road Burger


It finally happened.  Our grill died.  I guess using a grill for over 13 years in a row, year round, tends to do that.  Of course since we are without our grill we both are craving burgers.  Not any burger mind you, but the ultimate burger.  You know the one.  The burger that makes you stop talking to your friends, close your eyes and eat while juices drip down your chin.  You open your eyes hoping no one noticed and get up to grab a napkin, or in the case of most of our outdoor festivities, a paper towel then smiling to yourself notice all your friends are doing the same thing.


Grilling has been a pastime for many people, but there are those, we are part of that clan, that takes it quite seriously.  The best burgers are not just plain beef.  There is something always special added to it.  Some people put cheese in the center of their burger, some like to add lots of toppings.  We like to tweak the actual burger with spices and add a second meat to the top sirloin beef.  Sometimes we add pork, sometimes we add elk (one of my personal favorites). Here is the recipe for a burger that uses both Harissa and Aleppo Pepper. The pepper is named after Aleppo, a long-inhabited city along the Silk Road in northern Syria, and is grown in Syria and Turkey.


Serves 6

  • 2 tablespoons Harissa Paste
  • 2 tablespoons Light Muscavado Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Aleppo Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground top sirloin
  • ½ pound ground pork (or elk if available)
  • 6 Slices of Rogue Creamery X-tra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 6 Burger Buns – toasted
  • Onion Confit


Mix the Harissa with the Muscavado and spices.  Add this to the mix of beef and pork.  Make 6 patties and chill until you grill them.  After cooking, top with cheese and onion confit and any other toppings you desire. 


Now we need to go to find another grill.  Happy Grilling and Cooking Everyone!



Happy Pizza

Dear Fellow Foodies:

Being from Chicago, Pizza was a way of life for us. ImageWhile reading the latest Bon Appetit I came across a method of cooking pizza that I haven’t
tried before. Since we sell the “00” flour at the Mercantile I wanted to use this to make the “crunchewey” pizza you find in pizza parlors that use a wood burning pizza oven. The secret to this dough is not to mess with it too much. Don’t roll it out. Don’t knead it too much. Go light on your toppings. You will need to start this a day ahead of time to allow it to ferment property. If you follow these suggestions, you will end up with an amazing pizza. In fact, this is so easy you may just opt to make your own from now on. The pizza in the photo has Italian baby artichokes on top as well as using the Jacksonville Mercantile Cherry Tomato Tepanade as a sauce.

Happy Pizza Dough

5 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 1/2 Cups “00” Flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
4 teaspoons flake sea salt (I used Murray River)
3 Cups Very Warm Water

Mix all your dry ingredients together. While stirring add your water to the
flour mixture (I did this in a mix master with a paddle). Take out the
dough and place on a well floured surface. Knead until all the flour is
incorporated. Place this into a bowl that is large enough for the dough to
expand by two and a half times. Do not oil the bowl. Cover the bowl with
plastic wrap and set out at room temperature for 24 hours. The dough will
look bubbly and will have expanded by twice the size. Remove the dough from
the bowl onto a well floured surface. Spread out the dough with your
fingers and then cut into 6 or 8 even pieces. Roll each dough piece into a
ball and cover with plastic wrap for an hour before baking. At this point
you can wrap the dough balls in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3
days. This dough does not freeze because of the limited amount of yeast.
Maybe it is time for a pizza party!

If you have a pizza stone this is the time to get it out of the closet. If
your stone seems dirty, do not wash it in water. The best way to clean a
pizza stone is to brush it off and when you are cleaning your oven, place
the stone in the oven at the same time. Use a wire brush to scrub off any
leftover bits. If you have accidentaly gotten your stone wet, do not use it
for a few days. This will prevent your stone from cracking or exploding in
the oven.

Now it is time to make your pizza! This is the fun part and the new method
I just read about. Preheat your oven to 500F or 550F if it goes that hot
with the pizza stone in the top 1/3 of the oven for one hour.

To form your pizza, take a rested pizza dough ball and place on a well
floured surface. Using your fingers, start spreading the dough outwards.
Take the dough and invert over your fists, allowing gravity to stretch the
dough further. Place onto a pizza peel or the back of a cookie sheet that
has more “00” flour or polenta on it to prevent sticking. Rub the dough
with olive oil, truffle oil or any oil of your choice. Put your toppings on
(go light on the toppings) and a light sprinkle of flake salt and cracked
black pepper.

When you put your pizza onto the stone turn on your broiler. Yes, really.
The heat from the broiler coming from above and the hot stone recreates the
wood-burning pizza oven effect. Keep your eye on the pizza. These cook
quickly. Your pizza will be done between 5-7 minutes. Take it out of the
oven and allow to rest for a few minutes on a wooden board or wire rack.
Cut and serve hot. To make more pizzas, turn off the broiler and set the
oven temperature to 500F or 550F. Allow 3-5 minutes between pizzas to let
oven get to the optimal temperature.

Happy Pizza Cooking Everyone!!

Chef Constance Jesser

Lavender Honey Tea Cake

Dear Fellow Foodies:

March is one of those strange months.  Sometimes it feels like spring, sometimes it still feels as though winter is going to be here forever.  When we lived in Chicago we had a fabulous French Bakery in our neighborhood that would have the standard green cupcakes in March but what we always remembered were the tea cakes they had available.  This tea cake is like the ones we used to enjoy.  Time to break out your bundt pan for this one.  Anyone else remember “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and the reference to bundt cake?   To increase the lavender flavor, leave the lavender leaves in the milk.  If you want it to be very subtle, just strain it out.  Be sure you are using culinary lavender (known as French Lavender) not regular lavender.  Culinary lavender doesn’t have a strong taste of camphor (like bath soap).  If you want to increase the lavender flavor, grind it in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle then add to the powdered sugar before making the glaze.

This would be a wonderful cake to bake for a tea party.  Pair this with the Sweet Cream tea from our local tea blender Devi Tea.  Or the latest arrival of Tarantas Spanish Cava works well after dinner with this.

Lavender Honey Tea Cake

Pre-heat your oven to 350F
Grease and flour a bundt cake pan

To flavor the cake:
1/2 Cup Whole Milk
2 Tablespoons Lavender Honey
1 Tablespoon Culinary Lavender blossoms

Heat the milk with the honey and lavender.  Allow to steep for 30 minutes.  You may strain out the lavender blossoms for a subtle flavor or leave in for more pronounced flavor.

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
7.5 ounce tub Creme Fraiche
1 Cup Caster Sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter – room temperature
3 large eggs

Whisk dry ingredients together.  Mix the creme fraiche and milk in a bowl until smooth.   Beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Add 1/3 of the flour mixture.  Add 1/3 of the creme fraiche mixture.  Add more flour and then creme fraiche mixture until smooth.  Place in prepared bundt pan and smooth the top of the batter (it is fairly thick).  Bake in a pre-heated 350F oven for 45 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on rack completely.  You can either dust with powdered sugar and more lavender blossoms or make a glaze.

1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon finely ground lavender blossoms (use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Mix the glaze.  Pour over the top of the cooled cake.  Allow the glaze to set up.  If the glaze is too thick add a few drops of lemon juice, if too thin add more powdered sugar.

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