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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.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Shrimp Enchiladas & Leal Chardonnay

Every once in a while, Mike and I will have a “nosh” night in lieu of a regular dinner. We eat cheese, bread olives, maybe some salami. I love using nosh nights as an excuse to try new cheeses. One time I bought some smoked fontina cheese which we both loved. I was inspired to find other ways to use that cheese. It was through that search that I found a recipe that has evolved into the one below. I originally bought the smoked fontina at Safeway and then at Whole Foods. Much to my dismay both locations by my house have since ceased to carry it. The original enchilada recipe did call for fontina, so it is not a tragedy. I do strongly recommend using either fontina or smoked fontina and not subbing it for something else. When I no longer could find the smoked fontina, I started using smoked cheddar in lieu of regular cheddar.

The enchiladas are absolutely delicious and have always impressed dinner guests. The enchiladas do require some time to chop the ingredients, grate the cheese and assemble, but they are not technically difficult. This recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated for a couple days or frozen, which makes it an ideal dish to serve for overnight company as I make the dinner before they even arrive at my house. I served these with my Non-fried Refried Black Beans. The recipe is at

WINE: 2007 Leal Chardonnay, San Benito

My dear friends, Chris and Krissy were in town, so we took then to Leal Vineyards one of our favorite wineries. All their wines are amazing, and I was delighted that our friends loved the Chardonnay. I knew it would be a great accompaniment to dinner. This round Chardonnay features notes of pineapple and butterscotch with a vanilla finish, and I was correct that it was a fantastic pairing. I think the richness of the cream sauce is better suited to an oaked Chardonnay than an unoaked Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. I would also like to try it with a Roussanne blend as I believe that may also stand up nicely to this dish.

RECIPE: Shrimp Enchiladas
Servings: 4

• 7 tablespoons cream cheese, divided
• ¼ cup sour cream
• ¾ lb. baby shrimp, precooked
• 1 cup shredded Fontina cheese (smoked or regular), divided
• ¼ cup shredded cheddar (smoked or regular)
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• ½ cup chopped onion, divided
• ½ red pepper, finely chopped
• 4 oz. can hot green chiles, diced and drained
• 1/2 tsp pepper, divided
• ¼ tsp cumin
• ¼ tsp chili powder
• ¼ tsp dill weed
• Juice of one lemon
• 1/3 cup half-n-half
• ¼ tsp salt
• 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
• ¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
• 8 tortillas (I prefer flour )

1. Grease a 13”x9” casserole dish.
2. Preheat oven to 450° (unless serving at another time).
3. Begin making the filling by combining sour cream and 4 tbsp of cream cheese. It helps to let the cream cheese sit on counter for ~30 minutes or put in microwave for 30 seconds. Beat by hand or with electric mixer until smooth.
4. Add shrimp, ½ cup fontina cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic, ¼ cup onion, red pepper, green chiles, ¼ tsp pepper, cumin, chili powder, dill weed, and lemon juice. Stir until all ingredients are well mixed.
5. Take one tortilla and place 1/8th of filling in the middle. Roll and place seam side down in greased casserole dish. Repeat 7 more times, filling the pan with one layer of enchiladas.
6. Begin making the sauce by heating the half-n-half and 3 tbsp of cream cheese in the microwave for 30 seconds to one minute, checking after 30 seconds.
7. Add salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and beat by hand or with electric mixer until a smooth sauce forms. Pour sauce over enchiladas.
8. Combine tomatoes, cilantro and ¼ cup onion. Spread over top of enchiladas.
9. Sprinkle remaining ½ cup of fontina cheese over enchiladas.
10. Bake about 10-15 minutes uncovered until cheese is bubbling. If refrigerated first, it may take 20 minutes to cook. If frozen, thirty minutes. Cover with foil if cheese begins to burn.
11. Enjoy…my mouth is watering as I write this.