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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.