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The Uncommon Life

V’reens or Verrines?

September 9, 2010

This French style of cuisine is growing popular among foodies for its ability to bring out not just the taste, but also the texture and color of your ingredients.

What is a verrine? Verrines are layered dishes. Rather than blending or stewing or mixing or baking, when you make a verrine, you layer up all the ingredients.  Verrines give each layer its time to shine, by putting it on display in a special glass.

Last month, Kevin Weeks from NPR did a great piece on the art, science and history of preparing verrines (or v’reens).

A verrine can be an appetizer, an amuse-bouche, a salad, a side dish, a dessert (the most common application) and, I suppose, even a complete meal, with the right combination of ingredients and the right sort of glass.

Verrines are clearly linked to the parfait, a soda-fountain treat popularized in the middle of the last century, as well as other layered dishes, such as the Cobb salad and the English trifle. Verrines, however, are individualized, with a single serving in each glass and yet as carefully arranged as the famous seven-layer salad of Super Bowl Sunday fame.

You might combine — from the bottom up — something green (peas) with something brown (mushroom duxelles) with something golden (sauteed onions) with something white (pureed potatoes). This arrangement also layers — from the bottom up — textures such as slightly mushy peas, grainy duxelles, crunchy onions and silky-smooth potatoes. Each layer provides its own flavors, and all of the flavors, tasted in turn and in combination, bring their own brilliance to the assemblage.

I’m convinced v’reens might be the perfect party dish. They look so complicated, so intricately prepared. But in truth, many verrine recipes are quite simple. Try one the next time you’re headed to a potluck or dinner party. I bet your friends will be oh-la-la-ing over your v’reen creation.

The Uncommon Life

International Foods Week: A Tasty Tagine

September 8, 2010

I was excited when I was asked to give one of our latest products, the ceramic tagine, a trial run.  As someone who enjoys cooking, I’ve always been intrigued by the tagine, but didn’t know too much about it. All I know is that it had a conical top (not sure why) and that it is a really beautiful piece.

Before deciding what to make, I did a little online research about the tagine.  The tagine is the name of the vessel and the name of the food dish you prepare – think “I made a casserole in the casserole.” Turns out, the cone is designed to encourage any steam to come back down into the food to keep it moist – perfect for braising. I was also looking for recipes for vegetarian tagines and saw a similar pattern – lots of veggies, layered in the bottom of the tagine, add spices, oil, liquid – then cook.  Not too complicated.

I decided since it is the best time of year to buy local produce at the market that I would just go and get whatever veggies look the best.  I ended up with tomatoes, okra, eggplant, potatoes, onions, red peppers and zucchini.


When I was ready to begin cooking, Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

International Foods Week: Tasty treats? Czech!

September 7, 2010

This week on the blog we are talking about international foods. Today’s destination? The Czech Republic!

The Czech Republic’s beautiful town of Karlovy Vary is famous for many things, including Wine Wafers – delicious, crispy cookies meant to accompany your favorite wine.  Wine Wafers go as far back as 1640, when they were introduced as a treat for the nobles and visiting upper-class.

The great thing about wine wafers is not only are they a fun, tasty and unique treat to enjoy with wine, but you can also use them to make super easy and delicious cafe and wine bar desserts. So pour yourself a big glass of wine, grab some wine wafers and let’s begin!

Celebration Torte

wine wafers

12 oz. of mixed berries
32 oz. cool whip
24 oz. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
6 Lemon-Vanilla Wine Wafers

Mix half of sour cream with cool whip, add more sour cream to taste.  Spread 3 tablespoons Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Joseph & Joseph Giveaway

August 6, 2010

Congrats to Lindsay, who said, “My favorite thing to make is hearty fall and winter soups. Potato, vegetable, french onion and cauliflower soup. Warm, filling soup … yummy!” She’s winning a set of Elevate kitchen utensils.

And congrats to Amanda, who won the nesting prep bowls. Her favorite meal is, “kabobs! Yum! So simple! So tasty! So easy!”

Thanks to everyone who left a comment! Remember you can subscribe to the Goods via RSS and get a heads up for all our future contests and giveaways.

Happy Friday everyone! In lieu of our usual Friday Scavenger Hunt and in honor of National Inventors month, we’re giving away a set of elevate kitchen utensils and a set of nesting prep bowls from innovative designers Joseph & Joseph!

To enter is easy. All you have to do is leave a comment telling us what your favorite dish to make is. Make sure to leave your email address and name when you submit a comment (Don’t worry, your email address won’t be public – It’s just so that we can contact you.) Also, leave your twitter name if you have one!

Wait there’s more! If you want to triple your chances, tweet your comment to @uncommongoods and leave a comment under the post on our Facebook wall for up to two additional entries. Everything must be posted before 12 noon ET on Sunday. We’ll announce the lucky winners on Monday.

Happy Friday!

The Uncommon Life

Sweet Treats Week: Recipe #4

July 23, 2010

I love buying my groceries from the farmers who actually grew it.

Strawberry image by Bahadorjn, posted under a Creative Commons License

I just started going to the farmers market at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. In the past I’ve frequented markets in Carrboro, NC, DC and Vermont.  It can be hard to get up on a Saturday morning, but it’s worth it. Just check out this video of the farmers market in Burlington, VT!

But once I get home, I’m stumped. I just bought 3 lbs of strawberries! What do I do?

Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

Uncommon Recipe: Fried Pickles

July 2, 2010

Happy Fourth of July weekend, everyone!

Don’t you just love going to county fairs and seeing the frying cart where they fry everything from candy bars to pickles to Oreos to Twinkies…it’s gross, delicious and fascinating all at once! In honor of the wonderful American tradition of frying, my boyfriend Chris and I decided to fry a jar of the People’s Pickles (an extremely appropriate democratic name) and chow down on this all-American delicacy.

Let’s get started!

Fried Pickles


Continue Reading…

The Uncommon Life

Gift Lab #5: Kira’s cupcake craziness

June 9, 2010

1) Product Name: Cupcake Corer and Decorating Set

Cucake corer and decorating kit

2) Background Research: I made Irish Carbomb Cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day, and while they tasted great, they looked really sad — frosting in clumps or sliding off the cupcakes entirely! I like making cupcakes, but I shouldn’t have to convince everyone that they are, in fact, edible.

3) Hypothesis: If I use the cupcake corer and decorating set, my cupcakes will look just as delicious as they taste.

4) Experiment: Make the chocolate buttermilk cupcakes with caramel filling and chocolate frosting from the recipe booklet included with corer and decorating set.

5) Results: I couldn’t help but tweak the recipe, so I used 2/3 cup spelt flour and 1 cup all purpose flour, instead of just APF. Who says that cupcakes can’t be good for you? Also, the recipe mentions 2 tsp of vanilla extract, but the instructions don’t mention when to add it to the batter, so I included it after I added the eggs.

Cupcake Corer Decorating Set

It’s entirely possible that I have a freakishly small cupcake pan, but I ended up with a surplus of batter for the 12 cups.

Cupcake Corer Decorating Set

The instructions say to divide the batter equally between the 12 cups, and so I did, knowing in my heart that they were much too full. I couldn’t just let that delicious batter go down the drain; no, I had to make MONSTER cupcakes. Do not do what I did. This makes the cupcake cores really difficult to extract, since you can’t push the corer down far enough before the base of the corer hits the top of the cupcake. I ended up pushing down too hard on the cupcakes, which leaves a flower imprint on the top. Luckily, the icing could cover that up, leaving none the wiser.

Cupcake Corer Decorating Set

Continue Reading…

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