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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Seared Citrus-Ginger-Soy Sea Bass with Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc

My husband loves sea bass, and I wanted to be able to make him a nice sea bass dinner at home. I originally found a citrus-soy steamed sea bass recipe which over time has evolved into the recipe below. The flavors of this are delicate, and they enhance with over-powering the sea bass. I marinate the dish, and then cook the marinade while searing and cooking the fish. The marinade is then drizzled over the fillet. I also love to steam broccoli and pour sauce over that too; it is a delicious combination. Since sea bass can be pricey, this can be used for a sophisticated yet easy special occasion meal. Or you can watch for sea bass to be on sale. Of course, if you make this in lieu of going out to a nice dinner it becomes a lot more affordable. I purchased two 7 oz. sea bass fillets at Whole Foods. Each fillet was roughly 2 inches thick; adjust cooking times for your sea bass based on its thickness. I have also provided instructions as to how to tell when the sea bass is done.

The first time I made this I used half orange juice and half pineapple juice. Since then, I saw the Safeway in my neighborhood sells small cans of Dole pineapple orange juice in the juice aisle. This was a less expensive alternative that I can use just for this recipe without having two open jugs of juice in the fridge.

WINE: 2009 Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford (Napa)
Sauvignon Blanc is an easy pairing with this dish. Like the fish, the Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc is delicate which balances nicely with the flavors of the fish. This light and refreshing wine almost has an effervescence when it comes out of the refrigerator. Its grassy and melon notes complement, without competing with the fish.

RECIPE: Seared Citrus-Ginger-Soy Sea Bass
Servings: 2

• 1 cup pineapple/orange juice or ½ cup pineapple juice and ½ cup orange juice
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 3 tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 2 tbsp. sesame oil, divided
• 2 sea bass fillets
• chopped green onion, to taste

1. Mix together juice, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper and one tbsp sesame oil.
2. Add fish and turn to coat all sides.
3. Refrigerate for ~2 hours.
4. Remove fish from refrigerator about 5 minutes before cooking.
5. Heat a cask iron skillet (or normal skillet if you have don’t have cask iron) with one tbsp of sesame oil over medium high heat until skillet sizzles when drops of water are flicked in.
6. Turn broiler on.
7. Swirl oil in skillet if necessary so it spreads. Add fish to skillet. If skin is still on fish, put in pan skin side up. Pour the marinade from fish into a small sauce pot.
8. Bring marinade to a boil. Boil for 2 – 3 minutes then reduce to simmer until fish is done.
9. Cook fish in skillet for a couple minutes or until bottom begins to brown.
10. Slide the skillet into oven under broiler (if your skillet is not oven safe, transfer to a cooking sheet). I leave rack in the second position in oven.
11. Broil 3-4 minutes watching to make sure it does not burn on top or on the bottom. Flip early if it looks like it will burn.
12. Flip the fish over and continue broiling for another couple minutes. If necessary or if desired, turn fillet on its side so it does not burn. This actually works nicely if your fillet is thick to sear the sides as well as top and bottom. Sea bass is done when a toothpick slides in and out of the thickest part without resistance.
13. Plate fish and drizzle sauce over top. Pour remaining sauce into bowl and have available at table.
14. Sprinkle with green onions.

RECIPE: Citrus-Ginger Soy Broccoli

• One bunch of broccoli
• Cooked marinade used for Sea Bass

1. Trim broccoli into florets.
2. After fish goes into oven, steam broccoli in the microwave for 4 minutes.
3. Plate broccoli and fish. Drizzle cooked marinade over broccoli and fish.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thai Chicken with Mushrooms and Basil with Scheid Gewürztraminer

This is one of my favorite recipes and does remind me of Thai dish I used to get at my favorite Thai restaurant in Athens, Georgia. With that said, I honestly can’t say if this is an authentic Thai dish. However, this is what we call it our house. It is a very clean and fresh tasting meal that is also full of flavor and low on fat. It is also very versatile and can easily be adjusted to fit personal tastes. I have made this successfully with shrimp a couple of time, but prefer it with boneless skinless chicken thighs. Of course, you can make it with chicken breasts. I personally am a big fan of using chicken thighs or legs in chicken dishes when I am not marinating the meat for at least 24 hours. The thighs have more flavor, are harder to overcook and cheaper. I also believe that the texture feels more authentic in Asian dishes.

I wrote the recipe to use 1 tbsp of Sriracha, a chili hot sauce. If you do not like things spicy, do not fear. When mixed in with the other ingredients this adds flavor not heat. If you like it spicy, add more. I like things pretty mild, so I add about 1 ½ tbsp. My husband then squirts at least another tablespoon or two over his plate. So, put what you are comfortable with into the sauce and more can be added to taste later. The Sriracha and fish sauce should be readily available in the Asian section of your supermarket. I have never had a hard time finding either. The rice vinegar is sometimes with the vinegars and sometimes with the vinegars. On the off chance, your grocery store doesn’t carry these items, an Asian Market or Whole Foods will have them.

Another way to customize this meal is to add a veggie for more nutrients. My favorite is haricot verts, but I have added regular green beans, snow peas, sugar peas, and broccoli before. I just steam the veggie and stir in at the end. I encourage you to try other veggies and let me know what you think.

WINE: Scheid 2008 Gewürztraminer

I have wanted to write this recipe up for a while as I usually make it twice a month. However, it is one of those dinners that we usually don’t drink wine with. When I first starting drinking wine, I really enjoyed Gewürztraminer, but it had been a while since we’d purchased one. A couple of weeks ago while doing a wine tasting at Scheid, I sampled this bottle and decided I had my wine for this meal. This off-dry Gewürztraminer’s nose is dominated by pear but includes floral and spicy aromas. The pear and nutmeg notes continue on the palate and mingle with the slight sweetness of the .7% residual sugar. The spicier you make this dish the nicer the hints of sugar complement the meal.

RECIPE: Thai Chicken with Mushrooms and Basil

Servings: 3-4

• 1/2 cup rice vinegar
• 2 tbsp. brown sugar
• 1/2 cup fish sauce
• 1 tb. Sriracha (this is not spicy…add more if you want it spicy or add to individuals plates of food to taste)
• 1 tbsp. peanut oil
• 1 medium onion, cut into slivers
• 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into strips
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tbsp. finely chopped gingerroot
• 2 tbsp. soy sauce
• 4-8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced ( I usually use a lot but can get fresh shitake mushrooms cheap at our farmers market)
• 1 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil, cut into strips
• OPTIONAL: Haritcort vert, snow peas, green beans broccoli (~6 oz)
• OPTIONAL: steamed jasmine rice or udon noodles

1. Heat oil in large skillet (or wok) over medium heat.
2. In a small bowl, mix together sauce: rice vinegar, fish sauce, Sriracha and brown sugar until brown sugar dissolves; set aside.
3. Heat oil in wok and stir-fry onions, garlic and chicken for 2-3 minutes or until onions are becoming translucent.
4. Add soy sauce, ginger, and mushrooms cook until chicken and mushrooms are done.
5. OPTIONAL: Steam vegetables while chicken finishes.
6. Add basil.
7. Add sauce (rice vinegar, brown sugar Sriracha, and fish sauce) mixture to chicken and take off the heat.
8. OPTIONAL: Stir in steamed veggies
9. Serve over steamed jasmine rice or udon noodles.
10. Add more Sriracha if desired.

CAUTION: If you double this recipe, I would be cautious with the soy sauce. Perhaps try 2-3 tbsp and then add more to taste.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mushroom and Fennel Tortellini, Apple Gorgonzola Salad and Georis Merlot

Today was not the greatest of days. I locked myself out of the house, ran several unsuccessful errands and experienced poor customer service. My patience was very low. Thankfully, I had planned an easy dinner. I first made this about a month ago and must admit this recipe came together somewhat accidentally. Trying to find other uses for the sherry I had bought to make crab bisque, I had found a simple recipe for mushroom tortellini. I also had bought some fennel that I had forgotten about and needed to be cooked. I decided to slice that and include that in the meal. Immediately I noticed the beautiful aromas from the fennel which intensified when I added the thyme. Before stirring in the tortellini, I sampled the sauce and decided that some smoky bacon would complement the earthy flavors. And it did! However, I think my vegetarian friends can happily leave the bacon out. I haven’t tried it but some shredded smoked mozzarella may add some smokiness for those that want to forego the bacon. As I mentioned this meal is easy. I also enjoy how the flavors personify wintertime without the heaviness that can accompany a hearty meat dish. It’s not the most dazzling meal I have ever made, but a yummy Monday night supper.

WINE: 2005 Georis Merlot, Carmel Valley (Monterey)

Wine was not on the original menu for this evening. However, when driving home from my frustrating day, I decided that needed amended. I knew the fennel, mushroom and thyme in the pasta would pair nice with an earthy wine. I chose the Georis 2006 Merlot as most of the Georis wines fit this bill. This smooth Merlot was more fruit forward than I remembered with touches of spice and chocolate. It was probably not the perfect wine to pair, but I believe it played a big role in my being in a much better mood after dinner. Next time I think I will try a Syrah or perhaps I will stumble upon an earthy wine with anise notes. Hmmm, the 2006 Le Mistral (Syrah, Grenache and Alicante Bouschet) with its berries, herbs, and spice would be another fun one to test.

RECIPE: Mushroom and Fennel Tortellini
Servings: 3
• 1-2 tbsp olive oil, divided (or more to taste)
• 10 oz to 1 lb. mushrooms, mixed crimini, porcini, mushroom, shitake or any of these by themselves
• 1-2 fennel bulbs
• 4 cloves of minced garlic
• OPTIONAL: 3-4 pieces of bacon
• 1 tbsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
• 1 tsp salt
• ½ tsp pepper
• ½ cup dry sherry
• 1 lb cheese tortellini
• Fresh parmesan, to taste

1. Cut mushrooms in half or fourths depending on size.
2. Thinly slice fennel.
3. Start water to boil for tortellini
4. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and fennel.
5. Cut bacon and mince garlic.
6. When mushrooms and fennel are almost tender add bacon, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until bacon is done.
7. Add tortellini to boiling water; cook for about 8 minutes or according to package directions.
8. Add ½ cup sherry to mushrooms, fennel etc. Reduce heat and simmer until tortellini is done, or at least five minutes.
9. Drain tortellini and add to a pan.
10. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over tortellini and mix with mushroom, fennel etc. Simmer for a couple minutes.
11. Plate and top with grated parmesan.

RECIPE: Apple Gorgonzola Salad

This is my all-time favorite salad, copied from one of my favorite restaurants, DePalma’s in Athens, Georgia. Although the wine did improve my mood, my patience has not been completely restored. I suspect that my readers have all made a salad before. I will trust that you can decide the portions that match your preferences and mix them together in a bowl. Of course if you have any questions about this or anything else, I will happily answer them! Tomorrow.

• Romaine Lettuce
• Red Onion, Chopped
• Capers
• Granny Smith Apple, chopped or sliced
• Walnuts, chopped
• Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
• OPTIONAL: Cooked Bacon, broken into pieces
• Balsamic Vinaigrette

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Homemade Pizza and Wine Garage Bordeaux

I love pizza, good pizza. I guess it is the same way I feel about my wine. Although I am often willing to pay a higher price for wine, I don’t like to do it for pizza. Perhaps it’s because it would be way more difficult for me to make my own wine. I have noticed over the last couple of years that pizza inflation is out of control. When we lived in San Diego, we would drop $20 for a large cheese at my favorite pizza joint. I decided it was time to master the making of my own pies.

Before you attempt to do this at home, I must ask “Do you have a pizza stone?” If the answer is “No,” then buy one. I got mine on Amazon over two years ago for $30 (that’s a 1 1/2 pizzas in San Diego). In order to make authentic tasting pizza at home, I believe a pizza stone is mandatory…not optional. You put the stone in the oven on the bottom rack and turn the oven on to 450-500° (I did 500° with my old oven but found with my current oven that the crust was a little crispier than I liked). Thirty minutes later, slide you pizza onto the stone (it may help to remove upper oven racks before heating so you have more room when transferring pizza to stone).  In less than ten minutes you have a delicious pizza including a crispy outside and chewy inside crust. I also strongly recommend bread flour as this results in a chewier, genuine crust.

Besides saving money, I like the convenience of making pizza at home. I can make the dough and the sauce ahead of time and put in the refrigerator or freezer (freeze if not going to make in a day or two). I do suggest rubbing olive oil over the ball of dough before placing it in a Ziploc bag. It will make it easier to remove. When I know I am going to have a hectic day, I just pull dough and sauce out of the freezer that morning. When I get home, I place stone in the oven and turn oven on. The dough will need to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature (conveniently the same time as the oven needs to warm up). I use the time to chop toppings, relax and/or tackle a household chore. Then I roll the dough out, top and bake. It might have taken 45 minutes to get dinner on the table, but only about ten minutes was actually active.

Since the majority of the work is done ahead of time, this is also an awesome entertaining meal. I make pizza every time we have guests for a few days. We can be gone all day, but I can easily make dinner when we get home. I also like to make this when we have more than 2-4 people over to dinner. Everyone likes it. It’s easy to adapt toppings for vegetarians. People like to help make it. I can have more dough handy than I need and keep making pizzas until everyone is full (then just freeze remaining dough and sauce).

Last Friday night, we invited some friends over for wine and pizza. My carnivore friends, Tony, Mariana, and Mike B. came over first, so I made a red sauce pizza with pepperoni, bacon, and Italian sausage (I precooked the bacon and Italian sausage). While eating that, Tony wanted to help with pizza number 2. He rolled the dough and topped with pepperoni, baby bellas and black olives. My vegetarian and non-cheese-eating friend, Jean arrived later and wanted half a pizza sans cheese. I suggested she help me make her pie. I rolled out Italian seasoned dough, and I asked her if she wanted red sauce or white sauce. She picked white with basil. Jean chopped up a bunch of baby bellas and oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms, fresh baby spinach, marinated artichoke hearts and some chopped onions were layered on top of the sauce. I completed the second half with a mozzarella/ provolone cheese blend (my favorite pizza cheese), sliced roasted red peppers, mushrooms, goat cheese and bacon. Omit the bacon and you still have a delicious yet vegetarian pizza. I sprinkled both halves of the pizza with Italian seasoning before baking. When the pizza was done, Jean drizzled a little more olive oil on top as well as a little red sauce.


One of the reasons, my husband, Mike and I wanted to have friends over was to drink a jug of wine we bought in Napa. Yes, I used the words “jug” and “Napa” in the same sentence. Located in Calistoga, the Wine Garage makes and sells wine out of a converted gas station. Two of their blends are pumped out of kegs via gas nozzles into jugs. Mike and I both really enjoyed their Bordeaux blend, a non-traditional blend of Cabernet, Carmenere, Merlot and Petite Verdot. We also liked the $30 price tag for an equivalent of 2 ½ bottles of wine, so we bought two. We knew it wasn’t a wine to store, so we needed an excuse to break one out. Everyone else agreed that the jug wine was fantastic, totally smooth with lush berry and chocolate notes. And it made an awesome pizza wine! We went through the first jug much more quickly than anticipated, so cracked open jug number two after dinner. I do think I need to make a small disclaimer if you want to order some of these jugs for yourself… “Drinking wine from a jug may result in spontaneous dancing.” I would be lying if I said “Footloose”, “The Humpty Dance” and the “Tootsee Roll” were not played at our house on Friday night.

To read more about our trip to Napa and the Wine Garage see my travel blog: Napa-Calistoga: Persian Palaces to Gas Nozzle Wine 
Servings: Makes 2 pizza crusts. (I made two batches of the dough recipe on Friday night, made three pizzas and froze the last ball of dough).

Ingredients for Dough:
• 1 1/2 cups warm water
•3/4 tbsp. yeast (a standard yeast packet is 3/4 tbsp.)
• ¼ tsp. sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• OPTIONAL: 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning (Recommended for white pizzas)
• 3 tbsp. olive oil
• 4 cups BREAD Flour
Ingredients for Pizza:
• ~ ¼ cup Cornmeal per pizza
• 2 cups shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese per pizza (or just mozzarella or provolone)
• Red Sauce or White Sauce (see recipes below)
• Whatever toppings you want.

Directions for Dough:
1. Grease a large bowl with oil or butter.
Nice bubbly and foamy yeast
2. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water in a different large bowl; allow yeast to foam (about 10 minutes).
3. Stir in salt and olive oil (and Italian seasoning, if desired)
4. Stir in 3 cups of bread flour.
5. Transfer to floured surface.
6. Knead, adding bread flour as needed (you can stop adding flour when no dough is sticky). Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
7. Place in greased bowl and let rise until double (~1 hour).
8. Punch down and let rise again until double. Punch down and divide in half. You can make, refrigerate or freeze at this point.
Directions for Pizza:
9. Sprinkle a paddle or large cutting board with cornmeal.
10. Roll out pizza dough into the best circle you can. You may need to add a little flour of sticking to your rolling pin. Make sure the crust is not bigger than pizza stone. Test that you crust easily slides on paddle or cutting board. If it doesn’t add more cornmeal. (This will allow you to slide pizza into oven with nothing more than a push from a spatula).
11. Top with pizza sauce, cheese & toppings. Leave about an inch rim empty for the crust.
12. Transfer to stone and bake at 500° degrees for 7-10 minutes. Check at 7 minutes. It is done when cheese is beginning to brown. (Remember pizza stone should have been in hot oven for 30 minutes prior to baking.)
13. Let pizza rest for 5 minutes before cutting. You can cut on and serve from pizza stone. The pizza stone also will keep pizza slices warm.

Servings: Sauce for 3-4 pizzas.

• 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, Puree or Crushed (I think a nice brand of tomatoes makes a difference)
• 9 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 1/2 tsp salt
• 3 tsp Italian seasoning


1. Mix all of the above together.
2. Spread desired amount onto crust. Caution: too much sauce can make crust soggy.
3. Divide any remaining sauce into portions for individual pizzas and freeze.

Serving: Individual Pizza

Ingredients (depends on preference and how big your roll your crust):
• Olive oil
• 3-6 garlic cloves, minced
• OPTIONAL: ½- 1 cup chopped fresh basil

1. Drizzle crust with olive oil until it is covered.
2. Spread minced garlic over olive oil.
3. If you want basil, sprinkle over crust. I like putting the basil under the cheese. The basil doesn’t brown and adds a nice flavor to the sauce.