Asian-inspired Salad Excitement

Asian Inspired Salad ExcitementIt’s hot. Boy, it’s hot — maybe too hot to even contemplate eating. But if you do have an appetite of any sort, this Asian-inspired dinner salad might be just what’s needed, and you don’t have to turn on the oven.

I wanted to make something that was as chock-full of textures as it was of flavors. There’s crunchy, crispy, and soft elements — and everything in between. It’s also a salad that’s open to substitutions, so don’t feel that you have to be married to the idea of roasted edamame if you can’t find any at your local grocery store. The ones I used are displayed by the cash registers as snack options at our local food co-op.

Serve dinner with a nice, cold Sauvignon Blanc or Sake. If you’re planning on leftovers for the next night, store the ingredients separately and toss right before serving.

Asian-inspired Salad Excitement


Serves 4

1 pound chicken thighs, cubed
6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
1 Tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 medium carrot, shaved into thin slices
1 cup roasted edamame
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 cups baby greens
4 green onions, chopped
juice from one lime
a drizzle of teriyaki salad dressing

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Drizzle oil and coat the bottom of the pan. Add chicken, Hoisin, and soy sauce and cook until chicken just begins to brown. Add mushrooms and cook a bit longer, until the shiitakes soak up some of the sauce and become soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Add all ingredients into a large bowl, drizzling everything with the lime juice and salad dressing. Toss everything together and serve right away. For even more crunch, crumble some ramen noodles on top.

Tortellini Summer Salad

Tortellini Summer SaladI know, I know… I kind of fell off the end of the blog world for a bit there. I’ve been in the midst of the worst case of writer’s block I’ve experienced in a long time, but I’m coming out of it, creating new recipes, and am happy to be sharing with you again.

This week’s creation occurred when I realized I had been a bit too enthusiastic in my tomato and avocado purchasing. When those first “Grown in California” produce options roll out, it’s so hard to say, “No.” It’s so easy to get greedy at the start of summer, and suddenly, you have more ripe produce than you can easily consume.

I added to the abundance of tomatoes and avocados with items I had in my pantry and freezer — and counter top. I paired it with a red blend of Italian varietals. The fruit forward flavors of red fruit and leather, along with a nice structure, made it the perfect combination with the sweet, savory, and tangy tastes in the salad. While you may not have access to a bottle of Montoliva Vineyard and Winery’s Sierra Bella, other options would be Montepulciano, Super Tuscan, or even a Primitivo.

Tortellini Summer Salad


Serves 6

2 cups of dried cheese tortellini
4 oz of pancetta, browned and chopped
1 small yellow onion, sliced
juice from one lemon
3 tomatoes
2 avocados
10 oz grilled red peppers (I used frozen and defrosted them by draining the hot pasta over them in a colander.)
balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Boil a pot of water and add tortellini. Cook until pasta is softened, about 14 minutes. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water to remove most of the heat.
While the pasta cooks, warm a pan over medium heat and brown the pancetta. Remove to cool and, using the same pan, saute onion slices. Pour a drizzle of balsamic vinegar over the onions and stir, cooking until the onion has browned. Remove from heat.
Chop tomatoes and cube avocados. Add them to a large bowl and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, another drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and black pepper. Add onions, drained pasta, grilled peppers, and chopped pancetta. Toss together and taste to see if any more olive oil, vinegar, or pepper is needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for about an hour.
Toss again to redistribute the liquid, and serve.

Hello There, Spring!

Strawberry CrostiniI love springtime — the changeable moods of the weather, how amazing everything smells, all the new growth — even with the pounding my immune system gets due to allergies. It’s such a gorgeous time of year.

Food seems to reflect the pastel wonder of the awakening world as well. It’s a time for roasted asparagus, tender greens, and new cheese. Plus, strawberries. I really love strawberries! The crostini shown above is super simple, and could almost be used as a dessert, it’s so creamy and decadent. We had it for dinner with a side salad. Serve it with a lovely glass of rosé, and celebrate spring.

Spring Crostini

  • Difficulty: super easy
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Serves 4

half a loaf of a crusty sourdough baguette sliced into thin pieces
extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. fresh soft sheep cheese (I used Pennyroyal Farm‘s sheep milk Laychee)
12 strawberries, sliced
balsamic vinegar

Place sliced bread onto a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
Turn on broiler and set bread underneath. Cook for a couple minutes, or until the bread begins to turn golden.
Remove from oven and allow bread to cool.
Smear a bit of cheese onto each piece of bread. Arrange strawberries on top and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

(For even more savory, green flavors, try sprinkling the crostinis with some chopped basil.)

Dinner Salad with Farro

dinner-salad-with-farroLast week, Charles and I went to the Alsace Festival in Anderson Valley, something that has become a yearly tradition for us. It’s always a wonderful weekend filled with equally wonderful wines and sumptuous food, but after a few days of rich food and maybe a little bit too much wine… it’s good to have simpler fare.

For us, that usually means lots of greens and other healthy options. In fact, our bodies were craving tons of leafy greens and whole grains, so I threw together a salad which revisited our plates a couple more times during the week while we recovered from our libations. Other than lots of layering, this salad is about as easy as they come. We paired the salad with a lovely Muscat Blanc from Navarro. While we didn’t pick it up on this trip, it was an amazing Anderson Valley wine and was a nice companion to the many savory and sweet flavors of the meal.

Dinner Salad with Farro

  • Difficulty: super easy
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Serves 6

1 1/2 cups farro
12 cups mixed baby greens
1 pint fresh blueberries
4 Tablespoons nutritional yeast (for a savory, almost cheesy flavor)
1 pint white button mushrooms
1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
5 oz. soft goat cheese (optional) (I used Truffle Tremor for a compliment to the mushrooms and nutritional yeast.)
12 green olives, sliced
6 Tablespoons slivered almonds
extra virgin olive oil
pear balsamic vinegar

Place farro in a fine sieve and rinse under cold water. Drain and put in a pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook over low heat for thirty minutes. Remove from heat and drain any extra water. Rinse under cold water to cool down the grains and let drain completely.

Evenly divide all ingredients (except olive oil and vinegar) onto six plates. Drizzle salads with olive oil and vinegar to taste and serve. This is a dinner that will make your belly feel good!

Quick Veggie Burritos

Quick Veggie BurritosThere’s nothing quite as quick and delicious as stopping by the local taqueria and picking up a couple of burritos. While it may be easy, those quick calories can start adding up on your waistline while depleting your wallet — or at least, that’s been my experience.

So, I decided to create something a bit healthier, though still pretty simple to make, and crafted a quick and tasty veggie burrito. I kept things inexpensive by using frozen veggies and prepped a few days of burrito fillings in advance so that I can spoon some mix into a tortilla and warm it slowly on the stove top soon after I get home from work. Not only are these almost as easy as dropping by the taqueria, they’re just as hearty, and they’re bursting with healthy vegetables. And seriously, these things are yummy!

Pair them with a nice ale or lager, or a white wine that can play nicely with all the different flavors, something like a Fumé Blanc.

Quick Veggie Burritos


Serves 4

high heat oil
garlic salt to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup mixed mushrooms
1 cup precooked butternut squash, cubed (I even got this frozen!)
4 Tablespoons canned tomatillos
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons sliced black olives
1 cup walnut pieces
handful of cheese (A combo of mozzarella and cheddar is nice. So is queso fresco.)
1 avocado, cubed
4 spinach wraps or other large tortillas

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
On a cookie sheet, scatter the broccoli, mushrooms, and squash in a single layer. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper flakes. Cook until the veggies begin to brown, about ten minutes if they’re frozen, about five if they’re fresh.
Preheat a griddle or large pan over medium low heat.
Remove veggies from oven and put in a large bowl. Dump in the rest of the ingredients and stir together.
One by one, place tortillas on griddle and flip after a minute, leaving just long enough for the tortillas to be warmed and become more flexible.
Spoon approximately a cup of filling onto the middle-side of each tortilla. Fold tortilla and roll until a burrito is made.
Place on the griddle and cook on each side until lightly browned, about a couple minutes per side.
Serve with chips and salsa.

Dal

DalHappy New Year! I’m back from my blogging hiatus and ready for a full year of healthy cooking.

Every year I choose a word I want to focus on, and for 2016, I chose “active.” I was so busy last year, it seemed like every bit of potential free time was spent indoors, which definitely took a toll on my physical health. Though I was doing some awesome, creative things, it also took a toll on my mental well being, as I didn’t have time to focus on the things that keep me happy and productive. For me, my year of “active” means also being more involved in the things I find fulfilling. Blogging is one of those things, filling my wellspring back up.

Since it is a new year, and everyone is focused on healthy eating and improvement, I thought I’d focus on an easy, tasty vegetarian meal — Dal. I grew up thinking lentils were boring, never realizing that what they really needed was some spice. Of course, Indian grandmothers have been in the know about that for generations. What’s even better, lentils are an incredibly inexpensive food source. The recipe below is for four servings for around $3, and is so tasty, I’m making another batch tonight, per Charles’ request for more.

I served this with a dry Riesling. It would also be quite good with an amber ale, or if you want to go the non-alcohol route, coconut water would be nice, too.

Dal


Serves 4

water
1 cup dry, red lentils
2 cups water
1 sweet onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, diced
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
salt, to taste

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder

4 small handfuls chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Cover the lentils in water and let sit for a half hour or so. Drain and rinse.
In a small pot, add two cups of water, lentils, onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and jalapeno. Bring to a boil over medium heat then cover pot with a lid and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
Whisk the lentils and smash some with a large spoon in order to thicken. Add a pinch of salt and stir. Turn off heat, but keep the pot covered.

In a small pan, heat grapeseed oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add cumin and mustard seeds and cover for a few seconds. Add the powder and let them bubble for about 30 seconds. It can burn easily, so keep an eye on the spices. Pour the oil into the lentil mixture, stir, and serve with a garnish of cilantro.

Learning a New Skill

Montoliva Wine Tasting SignYou all may have been wondering why I haven’t been posting as often of late. Part of that, of course, was the move, but it’s also because I’ve been taking a video production class this semester. It’s required almost every extra bit of time I have. I’ve been loving it, but it’s meant a bit of a hiatus for Sapid Cellar Door.

The semester is almost over, so regularly scheduled programming should be back soon. In the meantime, here’s one of the videos I’ve produced. (Guess what — it’s about wine. I know, shocker!):

Cranberry Chutney

No new post this week, but I thought you might like to see the cranberry recipe my family uses for Thanksgiving every year.

Sapid Cellar Door

Cranberries are as much a part of a traditional Thanksgiving feast as turkey. While there is no evidence that cranberries were served at the very first Thanksgiving, they were a part of the Native American diet and soon became a staple in the new colonists’ diet as well. “By the late eighteenth century an average midday colonial meal included cranberries in some form — mostly sauced,” stated Lynn Kerrigan on globalgourmet.com.

The round, red fruit is still an important part of the American diet today. Besides being added to toothsome muffins and breads, many people use the juice as a preventative for urinary tract problems, and there is some evidence of antioxidant qualities. The American Cranberry is grown mostly in Wisconsin, but it is also farmed in Massachusetts, and to a lesser extent in New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.

For many, their expectation of cranberries as a side dish comes…

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Winter Squash Soup

Winter Squash SoupYou ever spy a bunch of beautiful squash and end up buying them even though you have no idea what you’re going to make with them? No? Just me?

Well, that’s exactly what I did the other day. The winter squash had just been stocked, and it looked lovely. There was my favorite — red kuri squash, but while I was at it, the acorn and delicata looked good too, so…

Once I got them home, I thought the savory flavors of the kuri paired with the sweeter delicata and acorn would make a tasty soup. My instincts were right on. This is honestly in my top five recipe creations of all time. It was so good, rich and creamy and full of flavor. It will definitely be a regular player on the dinner table this winter. I paired it with a Paris Valley Road Chardonnay. While not usually a big Chardonnay fan, this wine was absolutely transformed by the soup, complimenting the sweetness and supporting the creaminess beautifully.

Winter Squash Soup


Serves 4-6

1 acorn squash
1 delicata squash
1 red kuri squash
2 Tablespoons butter
5 sage leaves
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
salt, pepper, and garam masala to taste
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock to make this vegetarian.)
sriracha to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut squash in half and remove strings and seeds. (I kept some seeds for next year’s garden.) Place cut-side down onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and cook until a fork can slide into it, about 20 minutes.
Let cool. Scoop out the squash flesh from the skin. (I did this the night before and kept the squash in a reclosable bag in the fridge until I was ready for the next step.)

On the stove top, heat a saute pan over medium-low. Add the butter and sage and swirl around the pan until butter begins to turn a light brown. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.

Return pan to stove, turn heat up a bit, and cook onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and garam masala until onions begin to turn translucent. Turn off heat.

In a blender or food processor, mix squash, butter and sage, onion mixture, and stock a little at a time (Probably around two cups each try) until everything is blended smooth. Pour blended mixture into a large pot and continue until everything has gone through the cycle.

Place pot back on the stove and reheat on low until soup begins to slowly bubble. Stir in a squeeze or so of sriracha for a bit of heat, and taste to see if any other spices need to be adjusted.

Spoon into bowls and serve with some crusty sourdough bread.

End of Summer Pasta Salad

End of Summer Pasta SaladAs summer winds into autumn, I begin to be lulled into a false sense of satisfaction, as crisp nights cause me to begin to dream of sweaters and boots and cooking hearty meals in the kitchen. Then, BAM!, the hot days come back with a vengeance, a t-shirt feels like too much clothing, and there’s no way I’m turning the oven on after all. Happens every year. You’d think I’d learn.

Despite the heat wave, my body has decided it’s pasta time, remembering the chilly mornings before the 100 degree F days. I thought I’d compromise with my cravings by making a cold pasta salad, something assembled, the only heat required being boiled water. I paired dinner with a Red Meritage, enjoying the play of flavors with the different salad ingredients.

End of Summer Pasta Salad


Serves 6-8

1 lb conchiglie pasta
a few splashes of sundried tomato and garlic vinaigrette
4 oz capers
2 roasted red peppers, diced
3 oz kalamata olives
6 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 basket of cherry tomatoes
1 slicer tomato, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (I used Pennyroyal Farm’s Pepper Moldune. It gave the salad a nice hint of heat.)

Put a large pot of water over high heat. Cook pasta to package directions.
While pasta is cooking, put mushrooms in a large bowl and drizzle a bit of vinaigrette over them. Toss mushrooms until they’re fully coated. Toss roasted peppers, olives, capers, and sliced tomato into the bowl, mix well, and set aside. This will give the mushrooms a chance to soak in the flavors of everything else hanging out with it.
Once pasta is finished, drain and rinse with cold water until the pasta is cool. Work the pasta through your fingers a bit, since conchiglie likes to nest into clumps.
Add cooled pasta, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle on a bit more vinaigrette and toss until everything is happily mingled.
You can serve right away, or cover it and leave it in the fridge until the next day, as it will be even more flavorful after a night’s rest.

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