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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Edamame Goat Cheese Ravioli, Rosemary Bread, and Boekenoogen Chardonnay

Recipe: Edamame and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Shitake Butter Sauce
Recipe: Rosemary Bread
Wine: 2007 Boekenoogen Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands

Once upon a Saturday, my husband and I stumbled into the unpretentious tasting room at Boekenoogen (BOO-KA-NOO-GEN). After the tasting, we stuck around for a bottle of 2008 Chardonnay and took a Pinot Noir and a Syrah home. Obviously, we enjoyed the wine. However, Mike was a bit disappointed they weren’t sampling their 2007 Chardonnay which not only sounded delicious, but scored 96 points in Wine Enthusiast Magazine. A few weeks later, a friend and I stopped by Boekenoogen (by the way, I just love to say Boekenoogen). Unfortunately, Mike was in class and missed the opportunity to try the French Oaked Chardonnay. Although I am not normally a fan of 100% Oaked Chardonnay, this was an exception. The oak gave it a wonderful creaminess yet it maintained wonderful tropical fruit flavors. However, the best part was the finish reminiscent of crème brulee. Being the nice wife that I am, I brought a bottle home for Mike and told him I would cook him something special to go with it. The bottle was temporarily forgotten until Mike’s birthday when he began to contemplate what he wanted me to make him for dinner. He finally settled on Edamame and Goat Cheese Ravioli, and I knew it was the perfect time to break out the Boekenoogen.

Edamame and Goat Cheese Ravioli may sound like a strange combination. Trust me, pour some shitake mushrooms cooked in butter and garlic over the ravioli and it is absolutely delicious. This recipe is time-consuming, but not difficult. The ravioli can also be made ahead and freezes well. I adapted this recipe from one shared with me by my mother-in-law. She also bought me a ravioli/dumpling maker. It is a simple hand-held gadget that helps seal each ravioli. You can also seal each ravioli by pressing it closed with a fork. You can serve this as an appetizer or a vegetarian meal. We usually do it as a meal swerved with rosemary bread to soak up the extra yummy sauce. Any buttery and/or creamy Chardonnay will work perfectly.

Serves 4-5 (as a meal, makes about fifty ravioli)

1 pound shelled edamame
8 oz. goat cheese
4 oz. cream cheese
½ tsp salt
50 potsticker wrappers
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup salted butter, or more if you like (you can also supplement some butter with olive oil)
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms
Grated parmesan cheese, to taste (optional)

1. Boil edamame until tender, about five minutes. Drain.
2. In food processor, combine edamame, salt, goat cheese and cream cheese until smooth.
3. Cover and chill for at least three hours or overnight. I often make the filling the night before.
4. Once filling has chilled, beat one egg.
5. Take a single potsticker wrapper and place 1 tsp. of filling in the middle.

6. Brush edges with beaten egg. Fold over the wrapper and seal with dumpling maker or fork. Transfer to a parchment line baking sheet.

7. REPEAT until out of wrappers and/or filling. Chill for at least two hours or overnight. I would freeze if going to spend more than a day in refrigerator.
8. Boil a LARGE pot with water. As this often takes a while, I do not start cooking the sauce until pot has or is about to boil.
9. Stem shitake mushrooms and thinly slice.
10. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat.
11. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
12. Add mushrooms and cook until tender, 3-4 minutes
13. When you add the mushrooms to the butter, gently place ravioli in boiling water (do not thaw if previously frozen). Cook 3-4 minutes until ravioli float to top.
14. If you have a slotted spoon, use this to drain and remove ravioli. A colander works, but often some of the ravioli will open.
15. Pour butter mushroom sauce over ravioli. Top with parmesan if desired. Serve.

2 Loaves. This is my absolute favorite bread recipe. After trying, my seven year old nephew excitedly exclaimed after trying, “those green things are bursting with flavor.”

1 tbsp. yeast ( a standard packet is ¾ tbsp. yeast)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 cup warm water
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. salt.
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. rosemary
Additional olive oil to coat
Sea Salt, to taste (optional)

1. Grease a large bowl with butter or oil.

Bubbly yeast
2. Pour one cup of warm water into a clean bowl. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over water. Allow to sit about 10 minutes until bubbly.
3. Mix in 1 tbsp. olive oil, salt and rosemary. If using dried rosemary, allow to sit for a few minutes to re-hydrate.
4. Mix in two cups of flour.
5. Sprinkle flour over cutting board and transfer dough. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth, elastic and not sticky. You will likely need to add flour as kneading.
6. Put dough in greased bowl and cover with a towel. Rise for about one hour or until doubled in size.
7. Punch down dough and let it rest for five minutes.
8. Divide dough in half. Shape into two rounded loaves. Rub olive oil over dough. Place on greased or oiled baking sheet. You can also sprinkle with sea salt.
9. Let rise again until doubled, 45 minutes - 1 hour.
10. Preheat oven to 375°F.
11. Gently slide loaves into oven (be careful not to disturb dough). Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
12. Serve anytime with anything!

I have successfully frozen second loaf. Reheat from frozen at 350°F for about 15-20 minutes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cajun Scallops with Bacon Spinach and Wrath Sauvignon Blanc

RECIPE: Cajun Scallops with Bacon Spinach
WINE: 2008 Wrath Sauvignon Blanc Destruction Level, Monterey

After a hike at Pinnacles National Monument on a particularly hot day, my husband and I popped into the charming Wrath Tasting Room in Soledad, CA. As I raised a glass of the 2008 Destruction Level Sauvignon Blanc to my nose, I was intrigued by the smokiness on the bouquet. I took a sip and the combination of the smokiness and intense grass immediately invoked a childhood memory. I envisioned myself running through the freshly cut grass as my father fired up the grill. My husband and I purchased several wines and then headed outside with a glass to relax on the patio. We sat overlooking a pond back dropped with grapevines and I pondered over what to pair with such a unique wine.

I stuck the wine in the fridge and waited for inspiration (and a hot day). Sitting at a traffic light after a long, hot and sweaty day at work, it hit me. I must admit I felt silly for not thinking of it earlier. One of my favorite tasty and easy recipes is Cajun Scallops with Bacon Spinach. I knew sauvignon blanc is fantastic with scallops and I suspected the smokiness would pair well with the bacon. I contemplated altering the recipe to wrap the scallops in bacon, but again it had been a long day. I opted for the fifteen minute version. I was rewarded with an excellent meal that paired nicely with a cool glass of wine!

Serves: 2
1 lb sea scallops (thawed if frozen)
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoon cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon oil
1 (10 ounce) package prewashed spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon water
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 pieces of bacon (I use microwavable, pre-cooked bacon)
Salt, to taste

1. Rinse scallops and pat dry with paper towel.
2. Mix the flour and cajun seasoning in a Ziploc bag.
3. Toss scallops in bag to coat. Then lightly salt.
4. Heat the oil in a large skillet on high. It is hot enough when you can toss water drops into skillet and they sizzle.
5. Add the scallops and cook for approximately 2 (maybe 3) minutes until each scallop is opaque from the bottom almost to the middle (hopefully it will be nicely browned too). Flip and cook on other side until almost opaque to middle, another 2-3 minutes. (It will finish cooking on its own).
6. Remove scallops from skillet, keep warm.
7. Reduce heat on skillet to medium and add garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes.
8. Add spinach to skillet and sprinkle with water.
9 Cover and cook over medium heat until spinach is wilted; about 2 minutes.
10. Heat bacon in microwave about 10 seconds and tear into pieces.
11. Drizzle spinach with vinegar and toss well to coat. Salt to taste.
12. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Adventure in a Bottle: Why I Love Wine and Cooking

Why I Love Cooking

My college boyfriend once threatened to send me to “Granny’s for some women training.” At the time this did not motivate me to improve my kitchen skills. Perhaps it did inspire me to find a new boyfriend, and it must have struck a cord subconsciously. Once that relationship was over, I found myself wanting to learn to cook. A friend once told me if you can read, you can cook. So I bought a copy of Cooking for Dummies and began reading and cooking. When I met my husband, he was the head chef at our house and could just pull items out of the pantry and create a new concoction. He did not seem to understand that I was not born with a natural ability to know what and in what quantity things would taste well together. However, he was patient, supportive and complimentary as served simple dished from recipes I found on the Internet. During this time, I actually began to enjoy cooking. I have never been able to draw or paint, but I realized I can create dishes that make people happy. Through cooking and baking I can show my appreciation for my friends and family. I now browse recipes in my spare time. And more often than not I combine multiple recipes and use my “developed intuition” to add to or edit the ingredients. And maybe, just maybe, my ex would be impressed with the meals I serve as the newly appointed head chef of my house.

Why I Love Wine

Friends who have known me a long time are often surprised at my passion for wine. I rarely drank alcohol until my late twenties when I discovered wine. Early in our relationship, my husband introduced the joy of wine and wine-tasting to me. In our mass-produced, over-standardized culture, I became enamored by the unique characteristics provided by every bottle of wine (particularly boutique wines). There are thousands of grapes that can be used for wine. Better yet, even when comparing single varietals, each will taste unique based on geography, vintage, and winemaker. In addition, the wine evolves with age so the same bottle will taste different in a year. I began to realize that every bottle of wine was an adventure. A way to bring the joy of discovering something new home to the dinner table. And when you look at it that way, higher price tags are easier to wrap your mind around.

Now that I am living in Northern California, I am blessed with the opportunity to try almost all wine before buying. Not only do I always take home things I love, but I can plan the perfect recipe for each bottle. I share these here and hope others will enjoy the recipes and be inspired to find these bottles of wine or others with similar characteristics.