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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.