Review: Primo Preserves & Tapenade.

Earlier this summer, I was invited to try some handmade preserves from PRiMO.  I received the jars, and a charming handwritten note from the owner, and popped them into my china cupboard: excited to try them but waiting for just the right moment of inspiration to hit.


Days passed, I admired the jars.  I started the beginning of my own summer preserving, and tried to keep up with two active brothers who want nothing more than to be outdoors.  Last week, I had a bit of a break when my 9-year-old was away spending a week in the country with my Mom and Dad.  I have come to the conclusion that it is exhausting being interested in food when you have a picky eater.  I had 6 days where I didn't have to worry one bit about what we were going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and it was the best gift anyone could give me.  We ate leftovers and had a rare dinner out, and I put it on the top of my list to make these jars (or part of these jars anyway) into something special to showcase them. 

PRiMO is a small company in Denver, CO - and what first struck me was just how personable their PR person was.  It seems the whole company is just as down to Earth - and when I tasted their food, I could see why.  It's just like homemade, only with the convenience of not making it yourself.  I have to admit, when I was contacted I wondered why a specialty food company would want my meager opinion of their preserves!  I rarely purchase any jarred foods at all!  But with a single taste of the Raspberry-Habanero preserves, I knew why.  It's just really that good, and it tasted like I made it myself.  Anything sweet and spicy is right up my alley (remember my obsessions with Strawberry-Guajillo Jam and Candied Jalapenos?), and these were no exception.  But as a time-saver, a gift to mail-order, or just a special indulgence, I can absolutely recommend trying out the PRiMO line of preserves and tapenades.

Primo Raspberry Habanero Preserves.

I decided to make a jam tart with the spicy raspberry preserves, like the pasta frolla based crostata I had made for a Daring Baker challenge 5 years ago.  (5 years!  Really?) When I cracked the jar to taste them, they were spicier than I thought (and I'm not complaining), so I quickly decided to alter the crostata to a cream cheese tart.  I briefly par-baked the pasta frolla dough in small tart shells and then filled and finished baking them.  I think they were a success - though I preferred them fresh from the oven than when they had aged in the fridge for a day or two... 

The pasta frolla dough really tastes very similar to a shortbread.  Any tart crust you like could easily stand in for it.  Should you make the pasta frolla, be sure to save the scraps and re-roll them into cookies (dock them with a fork first).  I baked a small dozen at the same time as the tarts, and enjoyed them alongside the morning coffee.

Raspberry-Habanero Cream Cheese Tarts

(4 4 1/2 inch tarts)

Pasta Frolla: (Simona at briciole)

  • 1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon (100 g, 3 ½ oz) superfine sugar (I pulsed a half a dried vanilla bean with granulated sugar in the food pro)
  • 1 3/4 cup (235 g, 8 1/4 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • a heavy pinch of salt
  • grated zest of half a lemon
  • 8 T. (4 oz. / 115 g) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

Pulse the sugar, flour, salt, and zest in a food processor until combined.   Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal.  Empty to a large bowl and form a "well" in the top.  (Basically, like how you would go about making homemade pasta.)  Add the eggs into the center and beat them with a fork, incorporating flour from around the edges until it gets too difficult to use the fork.  Switch to your hands, and gently knead the dough until it comes together into a ball.  Form the ball into a disc and wrap in cling film.  Let it rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

To parbake, preheat oven 400.  Roll the dough on a very lightly floured counter (or between plastic wrap or parchment) to about 1/8 inch thickness.  Drape onto the tart tins and reposition the dough so that it isn't stretching but fully covers the bottom and sides.  Press your fingers or the rolling pin across the top of the tins to remove the additional dough.  (Save the scraps to re-roll for cookies, or to add decoration to the tops of the tarts prior to baking.) Place the tart shells on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until just barely browned.

  • 4 par-baked tart shells, bake them just long enough to set them and very lightly brown - recipe follows
  • 4 oz. (113g.) room temperature cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c. (100 g.) PRiMO Raspberry Habanero Preserves

After par-baking the tart shells, reduce the oven heat to 350.

Mix the cream cheese in a mediums sized bowl with a hand mixer until well blended.  Add the eggs, and mix well, then fold in the preserves by hand using a spatula.  Portion the mixture into the prebaked tart shells (bake any extra filling in a small ramekin alongside the tarts) and return to the oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the filling is slightly puffed around the edges and set in the center.  

raspberry habanero cream cheese tarts.

I liked these best when they had barely cooled to room temperature, but they were still good when chilled overnight.

For the tapenade, I decided to find some nice looking fish and bake it in parchment.  One of my favorite, quick "go-to" recipes is some kind of white fish baked with olives, tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, fresh herbs, and olive oil - I think it was something I read in Gourmet years and years ago. If you are nervous of cooking fish (and I usually am, since I don't cook it as much as I like), put it in parchment and into a 450 degree oven for 10-12 minutes and it's perfect every time.  Using a pre-made tapenade like this one, with just a hint of spice, makes it all the easier.

Primo Chipotle Tapenade fish

You don't really need amounts for this recipe, just top fish fillets with ingredients in the proportion you like.  I'll estimate my amounts for the super intrepid...

Trout with Chipotle Tapenade, Tomatoes, & Sweet Peppers

3 servings

  • 3 fish fillets, I used lake trout, but any white fish will do
  • 1 large heirloom tomato, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 sweet Italian red peppers, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
  • 2-3 T. PRiMO Spicy Chipotle Tapenade
  • drizzle of olive oil, salt & pepper
  • parchment paper

Preheat oven to 450.

Cut large sheets of parchment, and fold them in half (they should be large enough to encase the fillets with 1 inch to spare all the way around after they're folded), and cut them into hearts the way you used to make valentines in the 2nd grade (here's a good tutorial, and I swear, I thought about 2nd grade valentines before watching it!).  Arrange a fillet on each, and top with tomato, peppers, and the tapenade.  Fold the packet starting at the bottom edge and creasing incrementally on the way up around to the top.  Place packets on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

fish in parchment

Alongside, I made one of the recipes from Maria Speck's excellent new book Simply Ancient Grains.  I have quite a lot of rainbow chard growing, and made just a half recipe of the saffron scented yogurt to top the bulgur salad she includes.  Our plates seemed so full, but the food wasn't heavy at all and best of all it was ready in a very short amount of time.

It was nice having some free time to get some projects out of the way - and this project of tasting and reviewing was definitely a highlight.  If you find yourself short on time, or just in need of a hostess (or personal) gift, look for PRiMO's line of handmade foodstuffs.   I thoroughly enjoyed them!

Disclosure:  PRiMO sent me the preserves and tapanade to try at no cost, but as always my honest thoughts and opinions are my own.

Babies and Brandy.

brandied tart cherries
brandied tart cherries.

More than two weeks have floated by, after the birth of my second son.  He was born swiftly and smoothly on a beautiful Summer evening, 7 years to the day after his older brother.  To say that you can fall head over heels in love with another human being so quickly is an understatement of epic proportion.  He fits into our family in a way I couldn't have anticipated, and the darling boy even let me bake bread the day after I arrived home.

Physically, I feel like I can do anything.  Recovery time has also been fast, much faster than with my first son - and I feel like I have all of the energy I need to make up for lost time in the kitchen.  Grains have been sprouted, ferments set to bubbling, farmer's markets attended, and the only area I feel lacking in is actual meal planning.  Sporadic baby interruptions just before the dinner hour have slowed me up a little, and "piece catch" meals hit the table in great thanks to my freezer, garden basil, and last minute imagination.  When I was first married and working full time, I recall I used to actually plan meals in a little notebook... and I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea to bring that method back.

But meanwhile, things are good in my world.  Babies have a way of making everything feel fresh and amazing.  Kind of like a fresh bottle of brandy.  Before the comments of nursing mothers and alcohol come flooding in, I'm not actually drinking the brandy - and to be honest, despite brandy being the most often purchased liquor in my state, it's really not even my favorite.  But used to cook with or inoculate fruits?  It might just be my favorite thing ever.

Dorie's brandied chicken.
click the photo for the recipe.

Alcohol in general is still not on my grocery list.  On the continuing path to our household economic recovery, (and fresh off the path of 9 months of abstinence anyway...) I can't see spending a red cent on something as trivial as alcohol - especially since it isn't really a necessity.  But my parents were here for a Sunday dinner when my newest babe was just 5 days old, I knew I had to have them try one of my favorite chicken-in-a-pot recipes from Dorie Greenspan's Around my French Table.  It's a recipe that calls for Armagnac, which is a spirit that I find completely wonderful, though prohibitively expensive to me.  Fortunately, if you enrich the much cheaper brandy with dried prunes and cook it with chicken, the flavor is stellar nonetheless. My Mom and Dad visited the first liquor store they have probably been in since before I was born to get me a bottle of brandy for the dish, and I've been making good use of the rest of the bottle in the days since that chicken was earnestly devoured.

brandied raspberries

My neighbor has a tart cherry tree in her back yard.  She generously offered them free for the picking, and another neighbor graciously offered to pick some for me, since we were in the midst of a heatwave.  The cherries were deliciously deep red, tart, and perfect, and I instantly knew I had to make brandied cherries.  The last time I made them was maybe 3 years ago, and I still have a handful of faded cherries submerged in liquor stashed in the back of my fridge.  I couldn't remember what ratio or recipe I used, so I went with one I found on Serious Eats.  The general ratio for that recipe was one part sugar (I used raw sugar), one part water (or cherry juice) to two parts brandy.  I didn't pit the cherries, and didn't bother to poke a needle through each one either:  I figured a bit of time on the counter and more time in the refrigerator would take care of any of that extra work for me - and I was right.  I let them sit out on the counter for a few days before transferring, and already the brandy was dark red and the cherries nicely spiked with flavor.

brandied raspberries

Some new friends recently transplanted back to the Midwest from Oregon stopped by yesterday to visit and thoughtfully brought me perfectly ripe raspberries.  I decided to try brandying the raspberries using mostly the same method, but using the ratio of 1 part each sugar (white granulated sugar in this case to preserve the true flavor of the raspberry), water, and brandy.  I packed the raspberries into clean pint jars, heated the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar just dissolved, and then added the brandy off the heat.  Just standing overnight led to color saturated liquid that is less potent than the tart cherries, but so excellent tasting I can hardly wait to have an excuse to make a pound cake or some shortcakes, maybe even a "poke" type cake that can make use of the bright, spiked raspberry juice.  There are some words I hate using to describe food, and luscious is one of them... but these berries truly are luscious.

I might be silly to compare my new babe to a bottle of brandy.  But in a way, it fits.  When you don't have something for a long time, you can really appreciate it all the more, and that is how a second baby is for me.  I am reminded of how wonderful every new moment was with my first little son, and just what is is store for me with my second.  I marvel over impossible long eyelashes and tiny fingernails, I get to know all the expressions and nuances of a brand new personality, and savor each one for the fleeting moment in time I now know it is.  Like the bottle that empties too quickly, but lives on in what it has preserved, I document in both mental and physical photographs the new life I've been blessed with.  I will most happily decant both in the future and be able to feel as full of emotion as I am right now.