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Monday, October 3, 2011

Maple-Bacon Cinnamon Rolls and Orange-Peach-Mango Mimosas

“Will you marry me?” and “These should be illegal,” were some of the responses I received after serving these maple bacon cinnamon rolls.

“You never should have made these?” was my husband’s response. He didn’t mean they were bad. He explained that they were too dangerously good. This is a recipe that needs to be reserved for that once a year on Christmas morning kind of indulgence. These cinnamon rolls were inspired by a maple bacon funnel cake my husband had at a fair in Washington (Blues, Brews, and Beautiful Views post). The next day we went to Springhouse Cellars in Hood River, Oregon winery and loved a Syrah that had suggested pairings as bacon and pancakes with maple syrup. An idea was shaping... a delicious, naughty, absolutely not nutritious recipe was developed. I share it here.

These cinnamon rolls are not technically difficult, but take a long time to rise. You need two –three hours before they are ready to bake. My recommendation is to make these the afternoon/evening before you want to serve these and bake in the morning. You can also easily make the icing for the glaze in the morning too. Just refrigerate the buns once they have finished rising.


Even though a Syrah inspired this dish, I felt mimosas were a better choice for breakfast. When making mimosas, I skimp on sparkling wine quality and get the cheap stuff. I am a huge fan of mango juice over plain OJ. Today, I could only find Orange, Peach, Mango juice which was also delicious. Just mix half a glass of sparkling wine (or champagne) and half a glass of juice.

Yields 1 dozen

• 1 package dry yeast (3/4 tbsp)
• 1 cup half-n-half
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup butter, softened
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 eggs
• 4 cups bread flour
• 2 tsp Cinnamon and sugar mixture (roughly 2 parts sugar, 1 part cinnamon)
• 12 pieces bacon, cooked and cut into 1 inch pieces (I used nice thick slices of Apple Maple Bacon)
(FYI: Ingrediens for filling and icing are listed below with recipes for these)

1. Put half-n half in microwave for one minute. Pour into large bowl.
2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm half-n-half.
3. Add sugar, butter, salt, eggs, and 2 cups of flour. Mix well.
4. Stir in one cup of flour.  I used a fork at this point to stir as it was too thick for my electric mixer.
6. Add fourth cup of flour. Knead in by hand. I transferred to a cutting board and kneaded for a couple of minutes. You may need to add ¼-1/2 cup of flour so it is not sticky. Knead the dough into a large ball.
7. Put in a bowl, cover with towel and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size. This took about an hour and a half for me. While rising, make filling (recipe below) and cook bacon.
8. To make it easier to manage, I cut the dough in half before rolling out.
9. Roll half the dough out on a lightly floured surface or parchment paper . You want to get it as close to a rectangle as you can. You want the dough to be about ¼-1/2 inch thick.
10. Spread with half of filling (see recipe below).
11. Sprinkle with half of cinnamon & sugar mixture.
12. Spread out half of bacon pieces in six rows.

13. Start rolling the dough at the shorter end until you have one roll. Cut in half then divide the remaining pieces equally into 3 parts each (So you have six rolls).

14. Repeat steps 9-13 for other half of dough.
15. Grease two nine inch round pans.
16. Place six rolls in each pan around the edges leaving space between. Leave the center empty. This will allow for even baking.

17. Cover with a towel and allow to rise for another hour. You can refrigerate over night once they have risen in the pan.

18. Preheat oven to 375° degrees.
19. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown.
20. While the rolls are baking, make the icing (see recipe below).
21. When the rolls are done, spread generously with icing. Serve warm.

• ½ cup butter softened
• 2 tbsp maple syrup
• 1 ½ cups confectioner sugar
• 1 tbsp brown sugar

1. Combine above with a mixer in a medium bowl.

• 1/2 cup half n half
• 4 cups confectioner sugar
• ½ tsp maple extract (or a little more to taste)

1. Combine above with a mixer in a medium bowl.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Goat Cheese and Sun-dried Tomato Grilled Chicken and Grated Zucchini with Mercy Chardonnay

Here’s a good way to jazz up a simple chicken breast if you want something different or a little fancier –looking and tasting. The zucchini is also a fun and unique twist on this vegetable. Suggestion: the leftover goat cheese, basil and sun-dried tomatoes make excellent pizza toppings. Throw in some kalamata olives and you have one of my favorite pizza pies!

WINE: 2009 Mercy Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco (Monterey)

Mike and I discovered his Chardonnay at a recent wine festival. It was our favorite wine of the day. The aroma is full of tropical fruit with a hint of honey. The buttery mouth is simultaneously round, silky and creamy. It opens with pineapple and a touch of banana then finishes with butterscotch and a little vanilla. In a word….yum.

Chardonnay was a great pairing with this dish. If you want to try a red, I would experiment with a Grenache or Rhone blend. A medium body Pinot may be nice too. You need something with some body to stand up to the sun-dried tomatoes.

RECIPE: Goat Cheese and Sun-dried Tomato Grilled Chicken
Servings: 2

• 2 chicken breasts
• 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
• 1/2 tsp salt, divided
• 1/2 tsp pepper, divided
• 1/4 tsp dried thyme
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• ¼ cup white wine
• 2 tbsp lemon juice
• 2 tbsp butter
• 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
• ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
• 2 oz goat cheese (this works best if room temperature)

1. Heat grill to medium heat
2. Brush chicken breasts with 1 tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle ¼ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper and thyme on each side.
3. Grill chicken on medium heat until cooked through. This will largely depend on size of breasts. I find that it usually takes 6-8 minutes per side.
4. Once chicken is on grill, sauté garlic in 1 tbsp of olive oil for 1-2 minutes in a medium skillet over medium heat.
5. Add wine and lemon juice. Increase heat to medium high until it begins to bubble then decrease heat to a simmer. Simmer until wine and juice has reduced to half.
6. Stir in butter to skillet.
7. Add sun-dried tomatoes, basil, ¼ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper to skillet. Stir, remove from heat and set aside.
8. As soon as chicken is off grill, top each chicken breast with 1 oz of goat cheese. Spoon half of sun-dried tomato and basil sauce over chicken.

RECIPE: Grated Zucchini
Serves: 2

• ~ 1 lb of zucchini
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• ½ cup shallots, minced
• ¼ tsp of pepper

1. Grate the zucchini, using a cheese grater. I cut the zucchini into quarters first.

2. Toss with ½ tsp salt.
3. Place in a colander and let drain for 5-10 minutes.

4. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter into the olive oil
5. Add shallots and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until shallots are tender.
6. Stir in zucchini and pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes until zucchini is tender.
7. Serve.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pesto Shrimp Quinoa Bowl with Thatcher Controlled Chaos

My day began with our coffee pot breaking, followed by a mad dash to Starbucks which caused me to be late to work. Throw in an unexpected and an especially busy day, and the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was deal with dinner. This is a simple and healthy dinner that is perfect when you need a little lazy at dinner time. In addition to easy, this recipe is extremely versatile. You can use cooked shrimp, cooked chicken or langostino tails (I like the ones at Trader Joes). I have made this recipe with all kinds of different veggies: asparagus, broccoli, snap peas, green beans…whatever you like or have on hand. Tonight I went with langostino and asparagus! You can make your own pesto or use store bought.

Quinoa is one of those superfoods we keep hearing about. This whole grain is a complete protein and full of fiber. It is also higher in is higher in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc than other grains. It is also an anti-oxidant and is believed to fight diabetes and breast cancer. The only down side I have found with quinoa is that it needs to be rinsed before eating, and the seeds are so tiny that I have not found a way to do this without rinsing half down the drain. I solved this problem with spending a little more money on spouted quinoa at Whole Foods which doesn’t need to be rinsed.

WINE: 2007 Thatcher Controlled Chaos, Paso Robles

I wanted a lazy dinner, but I also wanted some wine. When trying to decide on a bottle, I saw this bottle of Controlled Chaos. After my crazy day, I had to select this 42% Zinfandel, 37% Mourvedre and 21% Grenache. The unusual blend was full of fruit, spice and all that was nice. Was it the perfect wine for my dinner? Probably not. Was it the perfect wine for my day? Definitely.

A Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc would be two good white varietals to try with this dinner. If you are looking for a red, I would suggest a robust Pinot Noir or a more traditional Rhone including GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre).

RECIPE: Pesto Shrimp Quinoa Bowl
2-3 Servings

• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 cup quinoa
• 2 cups chicken broth (adjust if directions for quinoa call for a different amount)
• 12 oz cooked shrimp, langostino tails, or cooked chicken breast
• ~1 1/2 cups of chopped asparagus (1 inch pieces), snow peas, snap peas, broccoli or whatever vegetable you want etc
• ¼ cup Basil pesto (see below for recipe or buy some!)

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions using broth instead of water.
2. Heat olive oil on medium heat.
3. Add shrimp, langostino tails, or chicken and veggie to pan. Cook about 5minutes until shrimp etc is heated and veggies are tender.
4. Drain any excess water from shrimp and veggie pan.
5. Stir in lemon juice.
6. Add cooked quinoa and basil to pan and stir. Serve.

RECIPE: Basil Pesto
Makes about 1 cup (you can freeze remaining)

• 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1/4 cup pine nuts
• 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• ¼ tsp salt
• ¼ tsp pepper
• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place all ingredients in food processor or blender.
2. Combine well.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Marinated NY Strips and Caramelized Onion, Bacon and Gorgonzola Mashed Potatoes with Christopher Cameron Red Wine

I had a nasty cold for almost two weeks, so I was not preparing a lot of exciting meals. Now that I am healthy and caught up on everything else, I wanted to make my husband a special dinner. This marinade was inspired by some wine that was left over and forgotten from Friday night. If you want you can cook the remaining marinade and drizzle over the steaks themselves. The steaks were extremely tasty but the potatoes and the wine stole the show tonight. I have made several versions of these potatoes before. Tonight I actually used shallots instead of onions as it was what I had on hand. I have also used blue cheese instead of gorgonzola. I have peeled Yukon gold potatoes for guests who don’t like potato skins. It all works great. Tonight was actually the first time I added bacon to these. If you want a vegetarian option, I think you will still very much enjoy this dish without the bacon. However, the addition of the bacon took these mashed potatoes over the top. Ridiculously good! Now I just need to go to the gym.

WINE: 2005 Christopher Cameron Red Wine, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma)

This meal needs a substantial wine to stand up to the steak and the bold flavors of the mashed potatoes. A great Cabernet or Bordeaux/Meritage is the perfect accompaniment. Tonight I decided on this Christopher Cameron’s Bordeaux blend. Forgive me if I get ultra cheesy here as my taste buds are dancing. This wine is phenomenal!!! It smells so good that a couple of times I forgot to sip after breathing in the complex and delicious nose: berries, spice, hints of licorice, a little earthiness. Subtle cola and tea notes mingle with the plum, berry and spice on the palate. So smooth, so intricate. The the late spicy vanilla finish hits, and I can’t help but smile with every time taste. I am so glad I used some leftover Syrah in the steak marinade so I can savor every last drop of this bottle.

RECIPE: Marinated NY Strip Steaks
Servings: 2

• ½ cup red wine, dry (not cooking wine)
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 3 tbsp soy sauce
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
• 1 tbsp garlic
• 1 tsp dried basil
• ½ tsp dried thyme
• ½ tsp red pepper flakes
• 2 NY Strip steaks
• Fresh cracked pepper, to taste

1. Whisk together everything but steaks and fresh cracked pepper.
2. Add marinade to Ziploc bag.
3. Place steaks in bag and marinate for `~8 hours.
4. One hour before cooking remove steaks from marinade and refrigerator. Let sit out at room temperature.
5. Heat grill to high. Wait about 10 minutes until grill is ~500°.
6. Carefully place steaks on grill, do not slide. Cook on covered grill about ~5 minutes letting them get a nice sear. Flip, uncover grill and cook for ~5 minutes. This cooked our steaks to a nice medium-rare.
7. Remove steaks from grill and let rest 5 minutes before eating.
8. Top with fresh cracked pepper and sauce if desired.

OPTIONAL: Sauce for steaks
1. After removing steaks from marinade, save marinade in fridge.
2. When steaks are placed on grill, put marinade in small sauce pan. Bring to boil for about a minute then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until it’s time to eat.
3. Drizzle over steaks.

RECIPE: Caramelized Onion, Bacon and Gorgonzola Mashed Potatoes
Servings: 4

o 11/2 lbs red potatoes, cut into sixths or eighths
o 1 tablespoon olive oil
o 3-4 shallots or 1 medium (sweet) onion, diced
o 3 cloves garlic, minced
o 1 tsp dried rosemary or 2 tsp fresh rosemary
o 3-4 pieces of bacon, pre-cooked and chopped
o ¼ cup butter
o 1/3 cup half-and-half
o 1/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese
o 1/2 tsp teaspoon pepper
o 1 tsp salt

Caramelized shallots
1. Heat oil in a skillet at medium heat. Add shallots (or onions) and cook, stirring frequently. Cook until they caramelize ~15 to 20 minutes.
2. Bring potatoes to boil in a large pot of water, cook until tender ~ 20 minutes.
3. Add garlic to onion/shallots and cook 3 minutes.
4. Stir in rosemary and bacon to shallots/onions and garlic, cook for one minute and then remove from heat.
5. Drain potatoes and add to mixing bowl.
6. Add butter, half-and-half, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix with electric mixer until blended. Taste. You can add more of any of the following if like.
7. Stir in onion/shallots,garlic, bacon and rosemary mixture.
8. If timing is off, transfer to an oven safe dish and place in warm oven until steaks have rested.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Nutella Cookies with St. Barthélemy Barbera Port

I fell in love with Nutella when I spent a summer as a Nanny in France. I was searching recipes using the chocolate hazelnut spread, and I found several for biscotti. However, I like cookies soft and chewy, so I modified a biscotti recipe to make these cookies. And they came out just as I like them.

WINE: 2002 St. Barthélemy Barbera Port, Lodi

This dessert wine boasts floral notes on the nose. The palate is full of cherry giving way to licorice and spice. The body is full yet not as sweet as many Ports I have had. Port and chocolate is a natural pairing, but I like that this one is not too sweet. I also think a slightly sweet Prosecco or Cava would be a fun pairing too. And let’s be honest, any red wine will work with chocolate!

RECIPE: Nutella Cookies
Makes ~32 cookies

• 1 1/3 cups flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 1/2 cup Nutella
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
• 1 cup white chocolate chips (~half a bag)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in sifter. Set aside.
3. In mixing bowl cream together the butter, Nutella, brown sugar and sugar. This is much easier to do this with an electric mixer as the Nutella is a little thick. With the mixer it takes a few minutes to get this well combined.
4. Add the egg and vanilla and mix for another minute until smooth.
5. Sift in the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt). Stir until all is well-mixed. The dough will be very soft.
6. Fold in hazelnuts and white chocolate chips.
7. Spoon out about a tablespoon onto a cookie sheet.
8. Bake for about nine minutes until the edges are just beginning to brown. The cookies will not look done, but this is the key to soft cookies. Let cool then enjoy.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Spice Rubbed Maple Cedar Salmon and Spicy Potatoes and Asparagus and McIntyre Pinot Noir

I love recipes that are easy but also have a certain “wow” factor. Everything came together wonderfully with this meal. I had eyed the cedar planks at Whole Foods for a while and finally purchased a couple that came with salmon fillets. This salmon recipe is modification of the recipe that came with the planks and fish. The planks can be re-used until there is not enough left to cook on. You can wash them with soap and water and air dry after use. You do need to soak the planks for at least an hour before using. Click HERE to buy some cedar planks on Amazon.

I have also been doing quite a lot of reading about cooking salmon until it medium instead of cooking until it all flakes as this usually produces a dry fish. It is perfectly safe to cook salmon to medium and this will result in a more buttery, mouth-watering moist piece of fish. A good trick to knowing when the fish is cooked to medium is looking for when the edges begin to flake. If you want to test it you can stick a fork in the thickest part of the fish. Bring the fork to your lips or back of wrist (you want sensitive skin), if it is warm to hot, remove the fish even if it does not look done in the center. With this recipe it is especially important to remove the fish as they will continue to cook on the plank. In general, most salmon will cook a little bit more once removed from heat.

WINE: 2008 McIntyre Vineyards Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey)

My husband and I had the 2007 vintage of this wine at an event and loved it. I finally found this 2008 and was not disappointed. Smoky, cherries, robust…all the things I like in a Pinot Noir. And it was an amazing paring with this meal. This Pinot is made in limited production (the bottles do not even have bar codes), so it may be very hard to find. I am personally a big fan of Santa Lucia Highland Pinot Noir as well as Pinots from Russian River. In fact, these are the only two places I will buy Pinot from if I do not get to taste it first. Again, I like bigger Pinot Noirs and this recipe does need one with at least medium body to stand up to all the flavors.

RECIPE: Spice Rubbed Maple Cedar Salmon
Servings: 2

• 2 cedar planks
• 1 tsp paprika
• ½ tsp chili powder
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper
• ¼ tsp cumin
• ¼ tsp brown sugar
• 1 tsp salt
• 2 salmon fillets
• 1 tsp olive oil, divided
• 1 tsp maple syrup, divided

1. Soak Cedar Planks for at least an hour.
2. Heat grill to medium-high.
3. Combine paprika , chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, brown sugar and salt in a small bowl.
4. Brush each salmon fillet with ½ tsp of olive oil and half of spice rub.
5. Place empty planks on grill. Close lid. After five minutes, flip over. Add salmon to heated side of plank.

6. With grill closed grill salmon for ~ 12 minutes (adjust for thickness of salmon and plank) or until medium (see above).
7. Drizzle ½ tsp of maple syrup over each fillet and serve.

RECIPE: Spicy Roasted Potatoes

• 1 lb red potatoes, cut into eighths
• 2 tbsp chili oil (or olive oil)
• 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
• ½ tsp paprika
• ½ tsp cumin
\• ½ tsp cayenne pepper
• ½ tsp salt

1. Heat oven to 400°.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together everything but potatoes.
3. Stir in potatoes, tossing to coat.

4. Add potatoes to cookie sheet.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until desired crispiness (I cooked them for about 40 minutes, but I like them crispy!).

RECIPE: Spicy Roasted Asparagus

• 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed
• 1 tbsp chili oil (or olive oil)
• ¼ tsp onion powder
• ½ tsp Cajun seasoning
• ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (or more for extra spice)
• Salt, to taste (my Cajun seasoning has salt in it, so check this before salting)

1. Heat oven to 400°.
2. Combine onion powder, Cajun seasoning and red pepper flakes.
3. Place asparagus on cookie sheet and drizzle olive oil over asparagus.
4. Sprinkle with seasoning. I then distribute the seasoning and oil with my hands. Don’t be afraid to get messy.
5. Cook for 10-12 minutes until asparagus begins to caramelize. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Moroccan Chicken and Feta Watermelon Salad with Le Mistral White Wine

I’ll be honest. I should have paid more attention while I was eating this. But I was hungry, so I inhaled my food. I know it was tasty. I do remember particularly enjoying the feta-watermelon salad. I especially enjoyed the saltiness of the feta with the sweet watermelon. This salad is phenomenal when it is hot outside. It is not hot in Monterey, but I know it is excruciating in most of the country right now. I know it may sound like a strange combo, but give it a try! I don’t remember too much else in terms of how the whole meal came together. However, I do know I was happy while I was eating.

I had forgotten about this Moroccan chicken recipe until I found in an old folder. I tweaked it a bit from the original recipe and do think I enjoyed it more than before. I am going to stick with the Moroccan chicken name although I have no idea if that name has any merit.

WINE: 2009 Le Mistral White Wine, Monterey County

A mix of Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne this Rhone blend won an award for “Most Unique White Wine”. The nose is full of Honeydew. This continues on the solky palate along with apricot and pear. As it opens, toffee and butterscotch contribute to the finish.

I would try this dish with any of these varietals or other similar blends. I would also hazard a guess that a dry Rose or a Pinot Noir would be enjoyable too.

RECIPE: Grilled Moroccan Chicken
Servings: 4

• ½ cup olive oil
• 2 shallot bulbs, rough chopped
• ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
• 1/4 tsp turmeric
• 1 tsp salt
• 2 tsp cumin
• 2 tsp paprika
• ¼ tsp cinnamon
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• ¼ cup fresh cilantro
• ¼ cup fresh parsley
• 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 chicken breasts (I used thighs tonight)

1. In a blender, mix together everything but chicken.
2. Add marinate and chicken to Ziploc bag. Refrigerate overnight.
3. I use different cooking times and temperatures for breasts and thighs.
     a. For thighs: I heat grill to high and cook thighs on an open grill for ~ 4 minutes per side.
     b. As breasts are thicker, I heat grill to medium. I cook breasts with grill closed until cooked through.
     This will largely depend on size of breasts. I find that it usually takes 6-8 minutes per side.

RECIPE: Feta Watermelon Salad
Servings: 4

• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• ½ tsp salt
• ¼ cup red onion, sliced thin
• 1 cucumber, diced
• 3 cups of watermelon, cubed and seeded
• ½ cup feta, crumbled (the nicer the quality the tastier)

1. Whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt together in a medium to large bowl.
2. Add cucumbers and red onion. Stir. If possible, let the cucumbers and onion marinate for about an hour in the fridge. I didn’t have the time tonight and it came out fine without doing this, but I think it is a bit better this way.
3. Add watermelon and feta. Stir together and serve.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Grilled Salmon and Olive Couscous with Storybook Mountains Zinfandel

This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy salmon. The prep is easy and like all my favorite recipes can be done the night before. I basically threw together the couscous with things I had on hand. It was quite tasty and can definitely be altered to include different olives or other things you have on hand. I may add a little fresh parsley or fresh basil next time I make it. The couscous can be served warm or made ahead and served cold. Grilled or roasted asparagus also goes nicely with this meal.

WINE: 2007 Storybook Mountains Eastern Exposure Zinfandel, Napa

This supple Zinfandel also has a touch of Viognier probably lending to a slightly higher acidity. The nose is ripe with strawberry and allspice. The jammy blackberry body also has a hint of mineral and spice. When we purchased this bottle from the winemaker, he suggested pairing it with salmon. I usually pair salmon with Pinot Noir, but knew that the sun-dried tomatoes needed something richer. This was an awesome pairing, and I think Zin will be my go-to wine with this dish in the future.

RECIPE: Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Grilled Salmon
Servings: 2

• 2 7 oz. Salmon fillets
• ¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
• 3 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
• 6 cloves of garlic, minced
• ¼ cup olive oil
• ½ tsp salt

1. Combine basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and olive oil in a bowl.
2. Place salmon in Ziploc bag or a dish. Cover with marinade. Refrigerate overnight.
3. Oil grill so fish does not stick then heat grill to medium.
4. It took my fillets about 12 minutes to cook. I covered the grill and did not flip as I had put the marinade on the non-skin side. I did remove the fish when it was just shy of done. This is when the fish is beginning to flake. It finished cooking on its own and did not dry out at all. It stayed moist and delicious.

RECIPE: Olive Couscous
Servings: 3-4

• 1 cup chicken broth
• 1 cup couscous
• 2 tbsp pine nuts
• 1/2 cup red onion, diced
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• ~24 green olives, chopped
• 2 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled
• 3/4 tsp salt
• ¼ tsp pepper
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 ½ tbsp Lemon juice

1. Prepare couscous as package directs replacing water with chicken broth. When ready fluff with fork. You can serve this dish warm or cold.
2. In a dry skillet, toast pine nuts over medium heat until they become fragrant and start to turn brown. Do not let them burn.
3. Add pine nuts, red onion, garlic, olives and feta to couscous.
4. In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
5. Drizzle over couscous etc. Mix together. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fish Tacos and Grilled Corn on the Cob with Springhouse Cellars Sauvignon Blanc

This is a great summer dinner, fun for the weekend yet easy enough for a weekday. I had not eaten a lot of Fish Tacos until we moved to San Diego. They are served almost everywhere, and I soon began craving them on a regular basis. I finally found a marinade that I really liked and starting making these tacos at home. For the fish, I prefer a firmer white fish like halibut, swordfish or shark. Red snapper also works quite well. Tonight I went with halibut. A yummy sauce can be thrown together in minutes (recipe below). However, when I am really lazy I use ranch dressing which is funny because I don’t like ranch dressing on anything but these tacos.

WINE: 2009 Springhouse Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Gorge

Mike and I discovered this wine on our recent trip to the Columbia Gorge ( It’s a nice crisp and fruity Sauvignon Blanc. There is more grass on the nose than the palate which is dominated with melon and a little pair. A touch of lime adds to the finish. This was a great pairing with these tacos. I also think a Pinot Grigio or Rose would pair nicely too.

RECIPE: Halibut Fish Tacos
Servings: 2

• ¾ - 1 lb halibut (or swordfish, shark, etc)
• ¼ cup lime juice (or juice from 2 limes)
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• ¼ cup fresh cilantro
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 tbsp cumin
• 1 tbsp chili powder
• ½ tbsp oregano
• ½ tsp pepper
• 6 corn tortillas or 4 flour tortillas
• Shredded cabbage, for garnish
• Fish taco sauce (recipe below)
• Pico de gallo, garnish (recipe below)

1. Mix lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and pepper together in Ziploc bag or shallow dish.
2. Add fish. Marinate for at least 2 hours.
3. Grease grill. Turn on grill and heat grill to medium heat.
4. Grill fish until easily flakes with a fork. I had a .85 halibut fillet. It took about 6 minutes per side on the grill to finish.
5. I have found that the fish often cools very quickly as soon as it is off the grill. I heat my small cast iron skillet in the oven at 350°F for about 10 minutes then serve fish on that.

RECIPE: Grilled Corn on the Cob

• Corn on the Cob
• Garlic salt, to taste
• Butter, to taste

1. Peel off a few of the outer layers of the corn on cob.
2. Soak corn in the cob in cold water for 15 minutes. I put corn in a large bowl and fill to brim. Then a put the lid on to keep the corn all the way in the water.
3. Heat grill to medium heat.
4. Pull the remaining husks back, but do not take off. Remove the silk from the corn.
5. Sprinkle garlic salt on cobs.
6. Wrap husks back around cobs.
7. Grill for 15 – 20 minutes rotating frequently. Corn is done when husks are nice and brown and corn is firm but easily punctured with a fork.
8. Remove husks and serve with butter if desired.


• ¼ cup sour cream
• ¼ cup mayonnaise
• 1 tbsp lime juice (or juice from half a lime)
• 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
• ½ tsp chipotle chili powder
• ½ tsp garlic salt
1. Mix sour cream, mayonnaise and lime juice until well combined.
2. Mix in remaining ingredients.
3. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

RECIPE: Pico de Gallo

• 1 tomato, diced
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
• 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
• ¼ tsp salt
• Juice of 1 lime

1. In a small bowl, mix together tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro and salt.
2. Squeeze lime juice over everything and then stir.
3. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Refrigerate if letting sit longer.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Calamari Steak and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Talbott Chardonnay

I never even knew that calamari steak existed until I moved to Monterey. Now it has become one of those things I do not know if I could live without having every once in a while. I grew up with a lot of chicken fried steak, and I have to say that I like this a whole lot better.

This recipe is super easy to make and it is a shame I waited so long to cook this myself. In addition, calamari is low in calories and fat. This recipe does have a fair amount of oil and butter, but at least you are beginning with something that by itself is very healthy

Since a lot of calamari is caught in Monterey, calamari steak is very easy to find here. I have no idea if this is
 something other Whole Food locations or fish markets carry. I would love to know as we are moving in six months and I will still want to make this. This is what they look like:

WINE: 2007 Talbott Chardonnay, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey)

Talbott Vineyards only make Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And they do it very well. The Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay boasts pineapple with a little honey and vanilla on nose. Very silky, subtle lemon notes mingle with tropical fruit and butterscotch on the palate. This Chardonnay is awesome, but one with more buttery notes would fair even better with this dish.

RECIPE: Calamari Steak
Servings: 2

• 2 calamari steaks, pounded thin if not so already
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1/3 cup flour
• 1 egg, beaten
• ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
• ~4 tbsp olive oil, divided
• 1 shallot bulb, thinly sliced
• 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
• ¼ cup white wine
• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 tbsp capers
• ½ tbsp lemon juice

1. Heat a small pan over medium heat for sauce. Add 1 ½ tbsp olive oil.
2. Heat a large pan (cast iron works well) over medium high heat for calamari steaks. Coat bottom of pan with olive oil. Amount depends on size of pan.
3. Begin cooking shallots for 2-3 minutes in small pan.
4. Add garlic to shallots. Cook for another minute or two.
5. Set up a station with flour on one plate or in shallow dish, egg in another plate or shallow dish, and breadcrumbs on a third plate or shallow dish.

6. Sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides of calamari.
7. Dip both sides of calamari in flour.
8. Dip both sides of calamari in egg.
9. Dip both sides of calamari in breadcrumbs.
10. Add calamari to large pan. Flip after 1 ½ minutes when bottom is browned. Repeat on other side. These will cook quickly. Remove from pan when finished.
11. Add white wine to shallots and garlic. Turn up heat for one minute.
12. Reduce heat. Add butter, capers and lemon juice. Stir. When butter is melted, sauce is finished. Spoon sauce over calamari steak.

RECIPE: Roasted Garlic Red Potatoes
Servings: 3

• 12-15 cloves of roasted mashed garlic, see below
• 1 lb. small red potatoes
• 1/3 cup half-n-half
• 2 tbsp butter
• ½ tsp salt, or more to taste
• ¼ tsp pepper, or more to taste.

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
2. Quarter potatoes and add to pot.
3. Boil for ~15 minutes or until a fork slides easily in and out.
4. Drain.
5. In a large bowl, use a mixer and mix together potatoes with garlic, half-n-half, butter, salt and pepper.

Techniques for Roasting Garlic.

You can roast whole heads of garlic or garlic that is already peeled. I tend to buy already peeled garlic, so roast it more that way. Roasted garlic is much more mellow, so you want to use more than you would if it was unroasted. You can do this ahead of time and use in a variety of things!

Roasting Peeled Garlic
1. Heat oven to 350°F.
2. Place peeled garlic in center of aluminum foil and drizzle olive oil on top.
3. Wrap foil around garlic in a tight package.
4. Bake for 30-45 minutes until garlic is easily mashed with a fork.

Roasting a Whole Head of Garlic
1. Heat oven to 350°F.
2. Chop off the top ~1/2 inch of the garlic head. This helps you to remove the garlic once roasted.
3. Place garlic in a shallow pan.
4. Drizzle with olive oil.
5. Seal pan with aluminum foil.
6. Bake for ~45 minutes until garlic is soft enough to be easily mashed with a fork.
7. Squeeze head to remove garlic.

Monday, July 11, 2011

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies with Equinox Champagne

My husband jokes that he married me for these cookies. I like to think that there are other reasons, but I’m glad that a little baking can make him happy. While developing this recipe, I learned some great tips on making perfect cookies:

1. My grandpa made awesome cookies and swore by salted butter.
2. Sift the flour to create an airy cookie.
3. Most important: ALWAYS undercook. If the cookies look done in the oven they are overcooked. Pull them out early when edges just begin to brown and allow to finish cooking out of the oven on the pan.


I decided a bubbly would be a nice pairing with these cookies. Mike and I had purchased a bottle of the Equinox Champagne from the wine maker himself. We liked how this bubbly was a nice balance between sweet and dry. It also has subtle almond notes without any addition of almond extract. I think a sparkling wine that was a little sweeter like a nice extra dry Prosecco would have been a better match. Regardless it was fun to drink some bubbly and eat cookies with good friends!

Labels on Sparking Wine are quite confusing. A brut has less sugar than an extra dry. In order of least sugar to most sugar, sparkling wines may be labeled…

1. Brut Nature or Extra Brut (these are the only kind that will have no sugar, but may have a tiny amount)
2. Brut
3. Extra Dry, Extra Sec or Extra Seco
4. Dry, Sec or Seco
5. Semi-Sweet, Demi-Sec or Semi-Seco
6. Sweet, Doux or Dulce

Serving: Makes ~24 cookies

• 1/3 cup shortening
• 1/3 cup salted butter, softened (not melted—this will result in a flat cookie)
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 ½ cup flour
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp salt
• 2 oz macadamia nuts
• 6 oz. white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cream together shortening, butter, sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl.
3. Add egg and vanilla, blending well.
4. Sift flour, salt and baking soda into bowl. Mix well.
5. Fold macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips in dough.
6. I use a rounded tablespoon to spoon dough onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
7. Bake for 9- 10 minutes. Remove cookies when the edges begin to brown. Cookies will not look done. Leave on cookie sheet for ~5 minutes as they finish cooking.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beef Fajitas and Black Bean Couscous Salad with Laird Jillian’s Blend

Even though I had a long day, we had such a yummy dinner this night. On nights I work late, I like having easy filling recipes that I can start the night before and quickly put together when I get home. I marinate the beef the night before as well as make the salad. The salad does not need to be put together more than thirty minutes before dinner. However, I do think it tastes better after sitting in the fridge for awhile. This side dish is very easy to put together. It is also healthy and satisfying. As it is a cold dish, it is also a great choice for potlucks and picnics.

WINE: 2007 Laird Jillian’s Blend, Napa Valley

This lush and beautifully layered wine is blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. The winemaker did an excellent job of balancing fruit and earth. Berry and plum mingle with subtle spice and clove. The wine finishes with smoky clove and long tannins.

This was a fantastic pairing. I chose it as I could not decide whether or not to pair a Cab or a syrah with this dish!

RECIPE: Beef Fajitas
Servings: 4

• 1 14.5 oz can beef broth
• ½ cup olive oil
• 2 tbsp lime juice
• 1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
• 3 tsp. cumin
• 1 tsp salt
• ½ tsp chili powder
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
• 1 ½ lb. skirt steak
• Dozen tortillas, warmed

• OPTIONAL: Shredded cheddar cheese
• OPTIONAL: Pico de Gallo (See recipe below)
• OPTIONAL: 1 green Pepper, sliced
• OPTIONAL : 1 onion, sliced
• OPTIONAL: Sour Cream
• OPTIONAL: Guacamole (I am not including a recipe for this since I am allergic to avocado and never make this myself.)

1. Combine all ingredients from beef broth through cilantro in Ziploc bag. Seal and shake well.
2. Add skirt steak and marinate overnight.
3. Heat grill to medium high.
4. Without closing cover, cook steak for 3-4 minutes on each side until it is springy to the touch. This will result in medium rare steak.
5. Allow meat to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it.
6. Slice into inch long pieces. Allow individuals to place meat in tortillas with optional toppings.
7. OPTIONAL: I like to heat my cast iron skillet in oven at 350° for ~ minutes. I then place sliced meat on this to serve.
8. OPTIONAL: Before I turn on grill, I slice green peppers and onion and sauté them with a little oil while I get everything else ready. When they are done, I serve them under fajita slices.

RECIPE: Black Bean and Couscous Salad
Servings: 6

• 1/2 cup uncooked couscous
• 1 cup chicken broth
• ½ red onion, diced
• 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
• 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
• 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed (I like the frozen roasted corn from Trader Joes_
• 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 3 tablespoons lime juice
• 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 tsp salt
• ½ tsp pepper

1. Cook couscous according to package directions using the broth in place of water.
2. When couscous is cooked fluff with fork and set aside to cool.
3. In a large bowl, mix together couscous, onion, red pepper, cilantro, corn and beans
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, red wine vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper.
5. Pour over salad and stir.
6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

RECIPE: Pico de Gallo

• 1 tomato, diced
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
• 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
• ¼ tsp salt
• Juice of 1 lime

1. In a small bowl, mix together tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro and salt.
2. Squeeze lime juice over everything and then stir.
3. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Refrigerate if letting sit longer.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Favorite Grilled Chicken Breasts and Corn and Green Bean in Lime Butter with Cobblestone Chardonnay

I have tried lots of different recipes for grilled chicken breasts and this is my absolute favorite. I marinate the chicken for 36-48 hours. I would not recommend anything less than 24. The result is a super moist and flavorful, almost succulent piece of chicken. I usually put everything for the marinade in the blender. Although I have also chopped everything finely and whisked it together. Either way yields delicious results. I always make extra and use the leftover chicken on top of salads, in chicken salad, or in a wrap.

This is a dinner I make frequently and have paired with all kinds of side dishes such as grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts. In the summer, I love making this with corn, green beans, shallots, mixed together in a lime butter. The vegetables are gorgeous and yummy.

WINE: 2007 Cobblestone Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco (Monterey)

A Chardonnay is an easy pairing with this dish and this Chardonnay worked well with the chicken. By itself, the wine was good, not great. The nose smelled delicious boasting banana and butterscotch. Perhaps this raised my expectations for the palate. I did really enjoy the mouthfeel which was round, almost elegant. The wine displayed notes of banana, pineapple and butterscotch, but the finish fell shorter than my liking.

RECIPE: My Favorite Grilled Chicken
Servings: 4


• 1/2 cup olive oil
• ¼ cup lemon juice
• 1/2 shallots, rough chopped for blender (or finely chopped if whisking)
• 4 garlic cloves, rough chopped for blender (or finely chopped if whisking)
• ¼ cup parsley, rough chopped for blender (or finely chopped if whisking)
• 1 tsp thyme, dried
• 1 tsp marjoram, dried
• ½ tsp pepper
• 1 tsp salt
• 4 chicken breasts

1. In blender or by whisk, mix all ingredients together, except chicken.
2. Place chicken in shallow dish or Ziploc bag. Cover thoroughly with marinade and allow to marinate for 24-48 hours.
3. Grill on medium heat until cooked through. This will largely depend on size of breasts. I find that it usually takes 6-8 minutes per side.

RECIPE: Corn and Green Beans in Lime Butter
Servings: 4

• 2 tbsp butter
• 2 shallots, finely chopped
• ¾ lb. green beans or haricot verts, cut in ½ pieces
• 1 ½ cups frozen corn, thawed
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tbsp lime juice

1. Cook shallots in butter over medium heat until they are soft.
2. Add beans, corn and salt. Cook until beans are done and corn is heated. Stirring often helps.
3. Right before serving, add lime juice.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Kalamata Olive Pasta with Wrath Syrah

If you are looking for a simple dinner to make after a hard day of work, I don’t know if I could ever post an easier recipe for you. I throw all ingredients for the pasta sauce in a blender and there you go. It’s not that much more difficult than opening a jar of pre-made pasta sauce, yet you know everything that goes in it. And more importantly what is not in it. No oil, corn syrup, sugar. This vegetarian sauce is healthy, easy and full of flavor. I would recommend that one like garlic and olives before making this recipe. As the garlic goes in raw, it is quite garlicky. You could reduce the garlic and/or mince it and sauté first. I have also made this sauce with parsley instead of basil. I use what I have. The parsley makes the sauce bolder, while the basil lends to a sweeter flavor. The most difficult part of this recipe may be finding pitted kalamata olives. Both my local Trader Joes and Whole Foods carry them. Of course, you could try different olives and see how they work! I also really enjoy this over spinach spaghetti which I also get at Whole Foods.

WINE: 2007 Wrath Syrah 877/Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands (Monterey)

This Syrah is gorgeous with an almost indigo hue. The nose boasts chocolate and hints of pepper. Blackberries and plums dominate the smooth full body. The velvety texture also displays spice and herbal characteristics. An extremely enjoyable and drinkable Syrah. It paired nicely with this dish and would recommend trying it or other Syrahs with this recipe.

RECIPE: Roasted Red Pepper and Kalamata Olive Pasta
Servings 2-3

• 1 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes
• 5 oz. jar of roasted red peppers, drained
• 4 cloves garlic
• 12 pitted kalamata olives (~1/3 cup)
• 1/3 cup fresh basil or fresh parsley
• ½ tsp pepper
• 1/4 tsp salt
• Your favorite pasta, cooked
• Grated parmesan cheese, to taste

1. Combine all ingredients except pasta and cheese in blender and blend until well combined
2. Heat over medium heat until hot.
3. Pour over your favorite pasta.
4. Top with grated parmesan.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Greek Pizza and Dead Letter Office Shiraz

When we lived in Cleveland, Mike and I loved this pizza place that was on the first floor of our building. Our favorite pie was their Greek pizza which included Gyro meat as one of the toppings. Now I don’t have a spit and a broiler to make my own gyro meat, but have figured out a tasty alternative. I made this pizza last week when a lamb-loving friend came over for a week night supper.

WINE: 2007 Henry’s Drive “Dead Letter Office” Shiraz, Padthaway (Australia)

We first discovered Henry’s Drive wines and in particular, the Dead Letter Office when I worked for WineStyles in Coronado. A couple of weeks ago, Mike and I popped in a BevMo and were delighted to find the 2007 vintage. I knew a Syrah or Grenache or a Rhone blend would pair well with this pizza. Our friend also loves Syrah, so thought it would be fun to try an Australian version with the meal.

This Shiraz was a fantastic pizza wine. The nose displays chocolate and berries. On the palate, the wine is lush and smooth beginning with dark berries, cinnamon spice and a chocolate finish. It did need time to breathe, so open it up when you place the pizza stone in the oven.

RECIPE: Greek Pizza

In my Homemade Pizza Blog Post, I give a lot of tips on using a pizza stone as well as my recipe for pizza dough and red and white pizza sauce. I made this pizza with white sauce, but I think it would also be great with the red sauce too (I just haven’t tried it yet).

• Pizza dough
• ¼ cup corn meal
• White Pizza Sauce (or Red Pizza Sauce)
• 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
• ½ lb of “gyro meat” (recipe below)
• 1 roma tomato, diced
• ¼ cup of onion, diced
• ¼ cup feta cheese
• ¼ cup sliced or chopped olives (I prefer kalamata)
• ½ tsp dried oregano leaves

1. Place pizza stone in oven and turn oven to 450° or 500°. Let heat for 30 minutes.
2. Sprinkle paddle or cutting board (whatever you will use to transfer pizza onto pizza stone) with corn meal.
3. Roll out pizza dough. Add more corn meal if dough is sticking to surface.
4. Top pizza dough with white or red pizza sauce.
5. Spread mozzarella cheese over pizza dough leaving a small rim for the crust.
6. Spread gyro meat over the cheese.
7. Sprinkle olives, onions, tomatoes, and feta cheese over pizza.
8. Sprinkle oregano over top.
9. Slide pizza onto pizza stone in oven.
10. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes until cheese begins to brown.
11. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting and eating.

RECIPE: “Gyro Meat”

• 1 tsp olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 lb ground lamb***
• 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
• 1 tsp onion powder
• 1 tsp salt
• 3/4 tsp pepper

1. Heat olive oil in pan on medium high
2. Sauté garlic for 2 minutes.
3. Add ground lamb, oregano, onion powder, salt and pepper.
4. Stir seasoning in lamb and break lamb into small pieces.
5. Cook until no longer pink.

***You only need ½ lb of meat for the pizza. However, I usually find ground lamb in 1 lb. portions. I like to make it all. You can then freeze the leftovers for another pizza. Or you can use the leftovers to make wraps the next day. I use the leftover feta and olives from the pizza, plus diced tomatoes and lettuce. An easy and delicious lunch!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Slightly Spicy Seared Tuna Steaks and Edamame Salad with Snosrap 2007 Cyrano Syrah

The tuna pairs perfectly with the gorgeous edamame salad. This dish is very healthy, yummy, and easy. Don’t skimp on the quality of the tuna as it is best served seared and rare. You can ad more sriracha and/or red pepper flakes to make it spicier. The salad recipe serves four, but I make a whole batch even when it is just my husband and I. The leftovers go great mixed with a can of tuna for lunch the next day.

WINE: Snosrap 2007 Cyrano Syrah

Parsonage is my favorite local winery, and I love this Syrah. Notes of chocolate mingle with the berries on the beautiful bouquet. The palate is full of berry fruit with subtle pepper, spice, and chocolate. The wine was delicious, but I am not sure this is the perfect pairing for this dish. Experiment with it and let me know what you find out.

RECIPE: Slightly Spicy Tuna Steaks
Servings: 2

• 2 (7 oz.) tuna steaks
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 3 tbsp. soy sauce
• 3 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
• 1 tbsp sriracha
• 6 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 tsp red pepper flakes
• 1/2 tsp pepper
• 1 tbsp olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients except tuna and 1 tbsp olive oil in bowl to make marinade.
2. Marinate tuna for several hours or overnight.
3. Heat a cast iron skillet on high with 1 tbsp of oil.
4. Cook tuna about 2 -3 minutes per side to achieve a nice sear but a rare tuna steak on the inside.

RECIPE: Edamame Salad
Servings: 4

• 2 cups frozen corn kernels
• 1 lb. shelled frozen edamame
• 1 red bell pepper, chopped
• ½ cup red onion, finely chopped
• 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
• 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
• 1/3 cup lemon juice
• 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• ¾ tsp salt
• ¾ tsp pepper.

1. Thaw corn in refrigerator for a few hours.
2. Cook edamame according to package directions. Once cooked drain and rinse in cold water.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.
4. Add edamame, corn, red pepper, onion, cilantro and basil to bowl.
5. Stir everything together.
6. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ceviche with Snosrap Sauvignon Blanc

About 10 years ago, I traveled to Panama and ate ceviche for the first time. I loved it. About a year later my brother gave me a junior league cookbook that had this recipe in it. Over the years this has become a staple whenever we host a party. It is one of my husband’s favorite things that I make, so I often half the batch for our personal happy hour or to take along on winery picnics (my husband is always able to polish off the leftovers). This recipe makes about 2 lbs and is always enough (with other appetizers at a party). When serving at a party, I would put out a smaller amount and replenish the serving bowl with ceviche from the fridge or place the serving bowl inside a large bowl with ice.

Ceviche is fish or shrimp marinated in a citrus acid, such as lime juice, that essentially “cook”’ the fish. In reality the acid pickles the fish so appears in taste and texture to be cooked. IMPORTANT: Pickling does not kill parasites or bacteria they way heat will. Use high quality, fresh, clean fish or shrimp!!! I have included pictures with the directions to help you see what the pickling process looks like. I am sure there are hundreds if not thousands of different types of ceviche. This recipe is fairly simple with some Mediterranean flair. I love serving it with the Scoops tortilla chips as this holds the ceviche well. You can also serve in lettuce wraps for a healthier alternative.

This recipe falls into the category of time consuming but not technically difficult. In addition I’ve learned some shortcuts. I used to squeeze a dozen limes to get the lime juice. This always took a long time, and I always seemed to have a small cut in my hand that really stung from the juice. A few years ago, I decided to try a bottle of lime juice instead. It was so much simpler and worked great. My husband never noticed the difference. My Whole Foods usually has fresh, peeled and deveined shrimp. This also speeds up the process by not having to clean the entire shrimp. Of course, using halibut or another fish is also faster. I also have a mini chopper that I use for the onions, olives, cilantro and oregano. The recipe does take some time as the shrimp or fish needs to marinate in the lime juice, and the ceviche should also sit for a while before serving.

WINE: Parsonage Snosrap Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Monterey

Sauvignon Blanc pairs very well with the ceviche. The Parsonage Snosrap Sauvignon Blanc begins with a grassy bouquet with a touch of honey. The palate boasts grass and melon with a hint of pear and lime. I also think an Albariño or Dry Rosé would complement the ceviche nicely.

RECIPE: Ceviche
Serving: ~ 2 lbs

• 1 ½ lbs shrimp or white fish (ex. halibut)
• 15 oz. bottle of lime juice or 12 limes
• 3 large tomatoes, diced
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 6 oz. can pitted green olives, drained and finely chopped***
• ½ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
• 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
• 1 tsp salt
• OPTIONAL: Family size bag of Scoops tortilla chips
• OPTIONAL: Iceberg lettuce to make wraps

1. Peel shrimp if necessary.
2. Cut shrimp (or fish) into ½ inch or 1/4 inch cubes or pieces. Place in large bowl.

3. Either squeeze lime juice over shrimp or pour bottle of lime juice over fish/shrimp. Stir to evenly coat. If all the shrimp/fish does not fit in the juice add more or stir after a couple of hours so all pieces get exposed.

4. Cover and place bowl in refrigerator overnight or for at least five hours.
5. Check that all fish shrimp looks done. Drain and rinse fish/shrimp with cold water.

6. Combine the shrimp/fish and remaining ingredients

7. Refrigerate ceviche for at least a couple hours to let flavors blend together. I usually make this in the morning and serve in the afternoon or evening.
8. Serve with tortilla chips or in lettuce wraps.

* * *Pitted green olives are often the hardest thing to find. My local Whole Foods carries them in a can. I have sometimes found them in jars at various supermarkets. Another option is to look for them in olive bars. Worst case scenario you can pit them yourself, but personally I usually scope out a couple stores before going with this option.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dill-Caper Salmon over Garlic Sautéed Spinach with Lucienne Pinot Noir

When I lived in Athens, GA I loved a salmon and spinach dish at a local French restaurant. I was not so crazy about the price. My boyfriend at the time made this dish for me in as his copycat version. I was very impressed until I realized how easy it was to make myself. I’m not promising that this is as good as my restaurant meal, but it has always happily filled my craving at a lower cost.

Lucienne 2007 Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Doctor’s Vineyard (Monterey)

A Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir are your two best choices for this entrée. I love pairing Pinot Noir with salmon, so chose to open a bottle of that. This Pinot was one of the few in our collection that I had not tasted prior to buying. However, I love Santa Lucia Pinots and was very happy with this purchase. The rich bouquet was filled cherry, chocolate and slightly smoky notes. The chocolate and cherry continues on the palate. This medium body Pinot also contains subtle spice and caramel characteristics.

RECIPE: Dill-Caper Salmon
Servings: 2

• ¼ c olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• ½ tsp dill weed (dried)
• 1 tbsp drained capers
• ¼ tsp. salt
• 2 (7 oz.) Salmon fillets
• Juice from ½ Lemon

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a small sauce pan.
3. Sauté minced garlic for 2 minutes.
4. Place salmon fillets on a cookie sheet (you can cover with foil if you like).
5. Add dill weed, capers and salt. Continue to cook for another minute. Reduce heat to low keeping remaining sauce warm.
6. Pour half the sauce over the salmon being carefully to try to keep the sauce on the salmon.
7. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes or until salmon flakes.
8. When salmon is done, I like to use a spatula to slide between fillet and skin. I then place the fillet on top of the spinach and drizzle remaining sauce over the dish.
9. Squeeze lemon over fish.

RECIPE: Garlic Spinach

I mince the garlic with the garlic for the salmon and start cooking this as soon as salmon goes in oven.

• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 10 oz. fresh baby spinach
• 1 tbsp water
• Salt, to taste
• Juice of half of lemon

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet.
2. Sauté garlic for 2 minutes.
3. Add spinach and 1 tbsp water. Place cover on pan.
4. Let spinach wilt for a couple minutes then toss it. You want to get the uncooked spinach to the bottom of the pan.
5. Once spinach is cooked, salt to taste and squeeze lemon juice on top.
6. Plate as directed above. The sauce from the salmon is delicious with the spinach.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Grilled Thai Chicken Thighs and Thai Garlic Broccoli with Clif Family Rte Blanc

This is one of my husband’s favorite meals. It is a healthy dinner and is another recipe that falls into the category of maximum flavor with minimal effort. The chicken thighs are delicious with a little kick. The amount of spiciness can easily be adjusted with the sriracha for both the chicken and the broccoli. The sriracha can also be added directly to individual dishes once plated if some people like it hotter than others. I prefer to marinate the chicken overnight, though can be marinated just a few hours before. I must also add that this has become my favorite way to enjoy broccoli!

As with my last Thai dish, I am including this disclaimer that I do not know how authentically Thai this recipe is. It is just what we call it at home!

WINE: 2009 Clif Family Rte Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc), Napa

This is recipe is usually one I make during the week when we are not having wine. However, it was an unusually warm day and both my husband and I were craving some Sauvignon Blanc. I happily opened the Rte Blanc made by the Clif Family Winery. If you recognize the name it is because these are the same people who make the yummy Clif bars. Their small winery is in St. Helena and won my “Best Bang for Your Buck” Award on our trip to Napa. The wines were fantastic, and the prices were awesome. The wine was very yummy with this dinner and quite fruitier than I remember with quite a bit of pear. After dinner, I had a second glass of wine and found it to be more complex as the fruit flavors were balanced with some grass and a vanilla finish. Therefore as much as I enjoyed the wine, I feel I must conclude that the food somewhat overpowered it. My husband and I both feel that a really grassy Sauvignon Blanc such as the Wrath Destruction Level (written about in the Cajun Scallops entry) might pair nicely.

In addition, I think a off- dry Gewürztraminer would be a great accompaniment. I would also like to try a Grenache or Rhone blend such as a GSM (Grenache Syrah Mourvedre) to see how that fairs with these flavors.

To see more about Clif Family Winery and our trip to Napa see my travel blog entry at: Napa-Calistoga: Persian Palaces to Gas Nozzle Wine

RECIPE: Grilled Thai Chicken Thighs
Servings: 2-3

• 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
• 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
• 1 tablespoon sriracha
• 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
• 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
• 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs

1. If you have a blender or food processor, place all ingredients except chicken in blender/processor and blend. You can also finely chop the basil and cilantro and mix the ingredients in a bowl.
2. Place chicken in bowl or bag, add marinade and marinate for several hours or even better overnight.
3. Heat grill to high.
4. Grill chicken for approximately 4 minutes on each side leaving grill open. Each grill seems to operate differently, so adjust cooking times accordingly.

RECIPE: Thai Garlic Broccoli

• 1 lb broccoli
• 2 tbsp fish sauce
• 1/2 tbsp soy sauce (you can add more if you like)
• 1 tsp. brown sugar
• 1 tsp sriracha
• 1 tbsp Oil (I like to use chili oil, but olive oil, canola is fine)
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• Steamed Jasmine rice (optional)
• 4 oz. Shitake Mushrooms, thinly sliced (optional)

1. Cut broccoli into florets
2. Place in microwavable bowl with 1-2 tbsp on water. Cover and microwave for ~3 minutes.
3. Heat oil over medium heat.
4. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. While garlic is cooking, stir sugar and fish sauce until sugar is dissolved.
6. Add sriracha and soy sauce to fish sauce/sugar. Mix until sauce is combined.
7. Add sauce to garlic.
8. Drain broccoli if necessary and mix with garlic sauce.
9. OPTIONAL: You can serve this over steamed Jasmine rice if you like.
10. OPTIONAL: Add sliced shitake mushrooms when cooking the garlic and toss it all together when mushrooms are cooked.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chimichurri Pork Chops & Christopher Cameron Cabernet Sauvignon

I saw a simple chimichurri sauce recipe in a newspaper one day. It sounded good albeit a little boring. I begin searching for other recipes and experimented until I created a chimichurri sauce that punches you in the face with flavor. This is a simple recipe that looks beautiful on a plate and has a certain “Wow” factor. This is another easy company dish as the sauce comes together quickly and needs to be prepared ahead of time. I can make this the night before or the morning of, spend the day with friends and easily get a yummy dinner on the table.

I usually serve this with roasted asparagus and roasted potatoes. I love spooning the chimichurri sauce on the sides as well. I have not yet tried this sauce on chicken, but think it could work well. Let me know if you try it! I usually make four chops with the sauce below, although I successfully stretched it to five to accommodate my husband, myself and our friends, Chris, Krissy and Adam.

Wine: 2003 Christopher Cameron Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma)

I suppose one could call me biased because the maker of Christopher Cameron wines is a good friend of mine. However, I fell in love with the wines before Chris became my friend. His wines are simply incredible! The wines are made in small production lots, so they hard to find but you can order them from the link above. The 2003 Cab is one of my favorites, but the Red Wine and the Petite Sirah are truly wonderful as well. I will admit I wasn’t planning on pairing this wine with this recipe. I have tried some Pinots in the past and found them just a little too light for this recipe. I was actually planning on trying a Syrah or maybe a Zinfandel next. However, Adam surprised me with a bottle of this Cab. It was a reunion of great friends who all love Christopher Cameron wines. I couldn’t think of a better time to open the bottle.

The wine was soft with smooth tannins. Dark berry fruit gave way to dusty cocoa finish. Maybe it was the all the fresh air we’d gotten on our hike that day. Maybe it was the joy of sharing a meal with fabulous friends. Maybe the wine and the pork were made to go together. Regardless the wine stood up to the pork and the pork balanced with the wine. And we all nearly licked our plates clean and we definitely drained our glasses! And I would most certainly drink Cab with this dish again.

RECIPE: Chimichurri Pork Chops
Servings: 4

• 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 2/3 cup white balsamic vinegar (you can use regular balsamic, but it is a little stronger and I prefer the white)
• 2 tbsp. Lemon juice
• 1/4 cup fresh basil
• 4 cloves garlic
• 2 shallots bulbs, rough chopped
• ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
• 3 tsp. of fresh oregano, or the leaves from 3 sprigs.
• ½ cup fresh Italian or flat leaf parsley
• 1 jalapeño, rough chopped
• ½ tsp red pepper flakes
• 2 tsp salt
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 4 bone-in pork chops
1. Make the chimichurri sauce. I hope you are ready as this is difficult…Place all ingredients, except pork chops in blender or food processor and puree.
2. Try the sauce, but be aware it will be a little tart. I taste it to see if I want to add additional basil or cilantro or anything else I feel it may need.
3. Put pork chops in Ziploc bag or shallow dish and cover with half of the chimichurri sauce.
4. Pour the rest of sauce into a bowl and cover.
5. Refrigerate pork chops and remaining sauce. I would allow the pork to marinate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
6. About an hour before you want to eat remove sauce from fridge so it will warm to room temperature.
7. About 40 minutes before you want to eat, preheat oven to 350° and remove pork chops from fridge.(I preheat oven at this point to make potatoes). Let meat sit out for about 15-20 minutes so the hot pan won’t shock the meat.
8. Heat a cast iron skillet or oven proof skillet to high heat. If you do not have a cast iron skillet (I recommend getting one) but you can use a regular skillet and transfer chops to an oven safe pan or baking sheet.
9. When a drop of water sizzles in pan, place pork chops into pan. Throw away sauce used for marinade.
10. Cook pork chops about 3 minutes or until nicely seared on one side.
11. Flip over and cook for one more minute.
12. Transfer skillet to oven and cook for about 10 minutes. The pork chops I get usually are about 3/4” thick. If yours are thinner, check them at 8 minutes instead of 10. Check the pork with a meat thermometer to see that pork is cooked until 160° or you can make a small cut and see that almost all pink is gone.
13. When pork is done, pull from oven and let rest for 2-3 minutes.
14. Drizzle some chimichurri sauce over each pork chop.
15. Keep remaining sauce in bowl at table as you will likely want more.

RECIPE: Roasted Red Potatoes

• 12-15 red potatoes
• 1 tsp. Herbs de Provence
• ½- 1 tbsp olive oil
• ½ tsp pepper
• ½ tsp salt

Note: Normally I would cook potatoes at a higher temperature, but I only have one oven. Therefore when I make potatoes or roasted vegetables and need the oven for something else, I usually cook them at whatever temperature I am cooking the meat, fish etc. and adjust the cooking time according. I do the same for the asparagus.

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Cut potatoes into eighths or whatever size you prefer.
3. Transfer to baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
4. Sprinkle Herbs de Provence, salt and pepper over potatoes and mix with hands.
5. Bake in oven for about 30 minutes or until they get nice and brown.
6. If you have limited oven space like me, you can remove them when you need to put pork inside. Cover with foil and pop back in to heat for a few minutes while pork rests.
7. Drizzle chimichurri sauce on top when serving or allow individuals to top themselves.

RECIPE: Roasted Asparagus

• 1 bunch asparagus
• ¼ tsp salt
• ¼ tsp pepper
• ½ tsp Olive oil

1. Snap each asparagus to see where it naturally breaks. Or snap one and then line that up with the rest of the bunch and cut off the bottoms at that point.
2. Drizzle with olive oil and distribute the oil using your hands.
3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on thickness of asparagus and oven temperature. I put the asparagus in the oven after I first placed pork chops in skillet on stove. They finished at the same time as the pork.
5. Drizzle chimichurri sauce on top when serving or allow individuals to top themselves.