Sort-of Oaxacan Tostadas

tostadasCinco de Mayo is right around the corner, and any excuse to make Mexican food is reason enough to do it. So… let’s make tostadas!

A good tostada needs a good salsa. While freshly homemade salsa is best, it’s April, so that’s not really feasible. Tomatillos aren’t yet in season. There are some good pre-made salsa options, and if you’re in a bit of a time crunch, that may be your best option even if you’re making this dish in August. I chose a variety I knew from experience had good flavor with a bit of heat. A caveat — this tostada recipe isn’t as authentic as something you’d find in a Mexican restaurant. It’s still really tasty, though.

This meal is medium-hot on the spicy factor — the perfect reason to pair it with beer. A lighter style is your best option, be it lager, wheat, or pale ale. I opted for Lost Coast’s Tangerine Wheat. Its sweetness and crispness complimented the fatty chorizo and tempered the heat from the green salsa and the meat.


makes 12

12 small corn tortillas
1 jar green salsa
1 avocado, chopped
2 Tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
1 pound chorizo, casings removed
6 ounces queso fresco

Preheat a pan over medium heat. Cook chorizo until browned on all sides, breaking into small chunks as you stir.
While chorizo is cooking, add salsa, cilantro, and avocado to a bowl and mix well.
Crumble queso fresco into another bowl and set aside.
Drain cooked chorizo onto a plate lined with lots of paper towels in order to soak up the extra grease. Set aside.
Heat your stove top grill over medium high heat.
Place six tortillas on the grill, turning every 30 seconds until they begin to brown and puff up. Sprinkle chorizo onto the top of each tortilla. Allow the meat to warm and the tortilla to crisp. Remove from heat and repeat the process with the other six tortillas.
Sprinkle each tostada with queso fresco and then drizzle with the salsa mixture.
Serve with your beer of choice and plenty of napkins.

Candied Bacon for Easter

stout candied bacon

My sister’s never been a fan of that traditional, Easter staple, ham. It’s just not her thing. While clicking around on Pinterest the other day, I found something that I think she’d enjoy, kind of a honey-glazed ham cousin – candied bacon with beer.

The recipe I found was from Tide and Thyme. As is my wont, I changed the recipe to fit my own tastes, and the result was compulsively good. Warning – if you have difficulty stopping your snacking tendencies when something is savory, sweet, smoky, crispy, and chewy, you may want to make sure that you only make this when you’re surrounded by a party of people. This creation is that delectable. Your taste buds will scream, “More, more, more!” and it’s so hard to say, “No!”

The fact that this is a finger-food makes it that much more appealing, as my family will be spending Sunday playing the Settlers of Catan, and that will make it very easy to snack on. Holiday tabletop – woot!

The pairing of this melt-in-your-mouth, sweet, fatty stick of wonder is pretty obvious. It goes wonderfully with the rest of the beer you used to create it. For me, that just happened to be Six Rivers Brewery’s Paradise Moon Porter, a chocolaty porter infused with Kona coffee. It’s amazing on its own, and it makes one Hell of a candied bacon.

Candied Beer Bacon

serves — well, that’s up to your degree of self-restraint

12 oz applewood smoked bacon
1/2 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup porter or stout

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Whisk together sugar and beer and set aside.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place a wire cooling rack or baking rack on top. Lay the pieces of bacon on the rack. A little overlap is fine. Put in oven and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven. Using a grill or marinate brush, coat each piece of bacon with the syrup. You may need to give the syrup mixture another quick whisk if the sugar has settled. Turn the bacon over and brush the other sides. Cook for another 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and repeat the brush/flip/brush. Return to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and repeat the previous steps one final time. Cook another 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool for one hour.
Stuff your face and be glad we live in a world with bacon, sugar, beer, and tabletop games.

A Perky Steak and a Sexy Wine

steak with a coffee spice rubSince I regaled you with my Healdsburg trip last week, I thought it only right that I share a recipe to go with one the wines we purchased on our mini-vacation.

I chose Wilson Winery’s “Carl’s Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley.” It’s such a lovely, well-balanced Zin — actually, quite a seducer with its smoky, white pepper nose and coffee, chocolate, and plums on the palate. Mmmm. I wanted to make a dinner that would complement this Casanova to the utmost, and because of its lovely tannins and inky fruit, I knew a steak would do nicely.

But not just any ol’ steak. I wanted something that would help bring out all of those wonderfully rich flavors in the glass, something that could be just as provocative on the plate.

Steak with a Coffee Spice Rub

serves 2
1 ribeye steak, cut into two equal pieces
1/2 cup freshly ground coffee (I used a light roast Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
Pinch of salt

Combine coffee and spices. About an hour before cooking, rub the coffee mixture over the steaks, then toss everything in a sealed bag for a nice, even coating. Keep in the fridge until ready to cook.

Preheat a cast iron griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle the griddle with grape seed oil and carefully lay down the steaks. Cover with a large lid and cook for 3-5 minutes, then turn over with a pair of tongs. Lower the heat, replace the lid, and cook another 3-5 minutes, until medium rare.
Serve with sweet potato fries that have been cooked just long enough to brown at the ends, creating a caramel crisp edge.

Cheesy Tuna Muffins

cheesy tuna muffinsMy birthday is coming up, and it’s also the two year anniversary of Sapid Cellar Door, so I thought it would be fun to make one of my favorite childhood dishes to celebrate.

My mom would make me the dinner I requested for my birthday, and I always asked for one of two things – porcupine meatballs, or even more often, tuna muffins.

Man oh man, I loved those things! Even after moving out on my own, they were still my “special treat” meal. I’ve made these muffins a lot through the years, and as I created them last night, shaping the tops with a spoon, it was all still muscle memory. I didn’t really have to think about what I was doing. I just did it.

I paired these muffins of memory with my absolute favorite food wine, Gazela Rose. It’s a refreshing, lightly fruity wine with a lovely, mineral finish and hint of effervescence. Whenever I’m not quite sure what to pair with a meal, I grab this wine, and it never disappoints. Plus, it’s wonderful on a warm summer’s evening, sitting on the deck, watching the wildlife begin to stir. We always try to have a case of it on hand.

Cheesy Tuna Muffins

serves 6-8

2 cups cooked rice (I used jasmine white rice.)
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
15 ounces Albacore tuna
1 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon season salt (I used Spike.)
1 teaspoon dried dill
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons half and half

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease two muffin pans.
Mix all ingredients together. Pack into the muffin pans, rounding the tops with a spoon to resemble muffin tops.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the outside of the muffins begins to brown.

I like to eat my tuna muffins with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. A little drizzle of melted butter is also very nice.

Quiche for Pi Day

quicheYesterday was Pi Day, so in celebration, I made us a savory pie, i.e. quiche, for dinner last night. Honestly, could I have done anything else?

This year’s math day also occurred when spring has sprung in California. (Sorry if you’re not there yet in your neck of the woods.) There are tender, green veggies all up in the place right now, so I figured our savory pie required more than a serving of vegetables to fully celebrate 3.14 as well as the changing of seasons. Inspired by the technique used by theKitchn, I assembled this quiche a bit differently than I have in the past and was quite happy with the results.

We paired our spring quiche with a glass of Riesling. The bright acidity stood up to the green flavors of the pie and kept the custard and cheese from being too heavy.

Spring Quiche

serves 8

2 9-inch gluten-free pie crusts (I used Wholly Wholesome GF pie shells)
8 slices of bacon, chopped
10 oz mixed mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1/3 pound baby spinach
2 cups Gruyere, grated
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dried dill

Cook crusts according to package directions.
Keep oven at 350 degrees F after removing the pie shells.
In a large skillet, cook bacon until browned. Add red onion and stir. Pour in mushrooms and stir. Scatter asparagus and cook two minutes, then stir. Sprinkle spinach on top and cook for two more minutes. Stir veggies until spinach is wilted and then pour everything into a colander and let drain.
In the baked pie shells, scatter half of the cheese. Pour the veggies and bacon into each crust. Scatter the other half of the cheese on top.
In a large bowl, beat eggs, cream, milk, and seasonings together. Pour an equal amount into each pie shell.
Put into oven and cook for 40 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with a nice, dry Riesling.

Portobello Burger

portobello-burgerThere are a lot of good veggie burgers on the market, but since I’m very Hobbit-like when it comes to food choices, if I’m presented with a mushroom, I’m going to eat it.

One of the nice things about making portobello burgers is that the patty is already made for you. All you have to do is brush off any lingering dirt, and there you are. I like to rub on a little gluten-free Worcestershire sauce to give it more of a robust, meaty taste. (Make sure it’s GF if you’re sensitive. Worcestershire sauce usually contains wheat.) I do that to my hamburger too, so it’s not just a veggie thing. Then it’s time for my stove-top grill, and it’s done before I can even contemplate getting impatient. Suddenly, there’s a meatless meal that’s still incredibly hearty.

Maybe the best part — there are so many ways in which you can pair this burger! A Sangiovese or Sangio blend would be stellar. I had our previous blend winner, Montoliva’s 2009 Sierra Bella. It’s sold out, but our newest blend winner will soon be available. The 2009 is really coming into its own — lots of good tannin structure, ripe, well-rounded fruit… it was a wonderful pairing with dinner. Or you could have a good Pinot Noir. Its earthiness would compliment your portobello wonderfully. This was actually my first instinct. Of course, if you’re feeling like a good burger deserves a good beer, you can’t go wrong with a porter. Deschutes Black Butte Porter comes to mind… I may need to go make a few more just to play with the pairings.

Portobello Burger with Goat Cheese

serves 1

1 portobello mushroom, stem removed and cap brushed clean
a sprinkle of gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
1.5 oz chevre (I used Laura Chenel Cabecou)
1 leaf of escarole
1 roasted red pepper in olive oil
1 teaspoon horseradish sauce
1/2 a small avocado, sliced (Use the side without the seed so that the rest of the avo can be saved for later. The side with a seed still in it tends to oxidize slower.)
gluten-free hamburger bun (I used Rudi’s.)
extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Preheat grill over medium heat. Rub a bit of Worcestershire sauce on the cap of the mushroom, flip over and rub in a bit more. Place bottom-side-down onto the grill and cook for three minutes.
Flip over and place chevre on mushroom. Cover with a lid and cook for another three minutes.
While burger is cooking, drizzle the inside of the hamburger bun with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder and set on the grill to crisp and brown. Flip when you flip the portobello.
Remove bun and burger from heat. Place burger on the lower half of the bun. Spread the horseradish sauce on the inside of the upper bun. Layer burger with roasted pepper and avocado. Sprinkle a bit of coarse salt and grind a bit of black pepper on top. Lay your crisp piece of escarole on top, set on the top bun, grab a bunch of napkins and your drink, and dig in.

Scallops in Butter Sauce

scallopsMmmm… scallops — one of those dishes that seems so fancy and actually is incredibly easy. In many ways, we’re still celebrating the Alsace Festival, so I’ve been cooking up ways to enjoy more Anderson Valley wines.

While cooking scallops is incredibly easy, they’re definitely one of those things that you have to keep an eye on. Leave a scallop on the heat for an extra 30 seconds, and your dinner can go from succulent to kind-of tough just like that. *snaps fingers* We paired our dish with Handley Cellars 2011 Estate Chardonnay. The sauce brought out creamy, butter flavors in the wine, and the lemony flavors of the Chard brightened the scallops. It was one of those combos where each made for a greater whole, taking both food and wine to new flavor heights. The 2011 is no longer available, but the next vintage is.

Seared Scallops with Herb Butter Sauce

serves 2
1 pound scallops
1 lemon
2 TB butter
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
a pinch of Herbes de Provence

Warm up a skillet over high heat. (Make sure to turn your range hood on high, too.)

While the skillet is heating, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small pan with the zest from the lemon, the herbs, and a little salt and pepper. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of the wine you’ll be serving with dinner. Stir together and strain if you want a bit-free sauce. Put aside.

Rinse scallops and pat dry. Pour olive oil on skillet, followed by the butter. The butter should melt right away. Set scallops on skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and squeeze the juice from half of the lemon over the top. Cook for one and a half minutes and flip. Squeeze the other half of the lemon over the scallops and cook for another one and a half minutes.

Place on plates and drizzle with the butter sauce. Serve right away.

Quesadilla Fusion

quesadilla fusionThere’s nothing like a good fusion to get those taste buds popping. Such was the case the other night when a small taste of summer in the form of sun dried tomatoes and basil came my way. Since wheat and I are no longer friends, a caprese sandwich was out of the question, so what could I do?

There are lots of great options for gluten-free tortillas, and melted mozzarella never goes amiss, so how about a quesadilla fusion? A bit of Mexican styling and an arrangement of Italian ingredients made for a colorful, delicious result. Charles enjoyed them so much, he asked for them again the next night. That, my friends, is what I call success! Serve up your new fusion sensation with a good microbrew pale ale.

Quesadilla Fusion

  • Difficulty: super easy
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serves 2
2 gluten-free tortillas (I used Food For Life’s Black Rice Tortillas.)
¼ lb mozzarella, grated
4 oz sun dried tomatoes
6 leaves of fresh basil
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons guacamole

Place a skillet over medium heat. On half of each tortilla, place tomatoes and basil. Scatter cheese over the top and scatter with a bit of pepper. Fold the uncovered half of the tortilla over.
Drizzle the skillet with a bit of olive oil and cook the quesadillas until the tortilla has browned. Carefully flip them over and continue to cook until cheese is melted. (If your house is chilly, help the process along by covering quesadillas with a lid.)
Remove to two plates and cut each quesadilla into wedges with a pizza cutter. Place a dollop of guacamole in the center of each creation and serve immediately.

Crepes and Grapes

crepeI don’t know if you’ve ever tried to pair wine with eggs, but boy, is it difficult! When you opt for breakfast for dinner — a.k.a. brinner — the challenge can be enough of a struggle that you end up going with a mug of tea.

The other night, I decided that crepes would make for a perfect evening. It’s easy to make the recipe gluten-free, and savory crepes seem so fancy when presented on a plate, scattered with a garnish and filling the house with the tangy aroma of onions and the woodsy tickle of mushrooms. But what to pair with our lavish meal? As luck would have it, Charles and Crystal — whom also works in the wine section — had just sampled an Alsace wine that Crystal thought would compliment the crepes. It was Hugel’s Gentil, and it really was perfect with our savory supper. Maybe I won’t feel quite so intimidated pairing an egg dish after this success.

Crepes with Mushroom Filling

crepe recipe interpreted from Alton Brown’s recipe
makes about 15 to 20 crepes

2 extra large eggs
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup water
1 cup gluten-free flour
3 tablespoons melted butter, plus some for the pan
pinch of dried dill
pinch of dried thyme

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Put in refrigerator for one hour.
Warm a non-stick skillet on medium-low heat. Coat with butter and then pour crepe batter in, turning the skillet, only pouring in enough to cover the bottom of the pan. let cook about 30 seconds and flip, letting it cook another 30 seconds. Remove and let cool on the counter, a cutting board, or a large plate.
Repeat until all crepes are cooked. Any unused crepes — there will be a few — can be put in the freezer for later.

serves two

10 oz of mixed mushrooms
green onions, a couple of handfuls of the greens chopped
2 cups baby spinach
a drizzle of heavy cream
1/2 cup of Parmesan
curly parsley for garnish

In the same skillet, cook the mushrooms down until liquid is released. You may need a teensy bit more butter for the pan to keep the mushies from sticking.
Add the green onions and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted.
Add the cream and Parmesan and cook until until cheese is melted.
Tip the pan so some of the liquid drains off and spoon filling into two crepes. You can either place the filling in the middle of the crepe and fold over each side or place the filling on the right side of each crepe and roll to the left.
Drizzle with some of the sauce leftover in the pan and garnish with parsley.

Serve with a tasty, Alsace wine blend and mmmmm…

Simple and Fresh

kale-pastaI have been a leafy-dark-green eating fiend since the New Year. It began, of course, with collards. I noticed that I was eating them with an almost frenzied passion, so I figured my body must be in a winter greens mode. I always think it’s a good idea to listen to your body’s cravings — don’t go all “I must have rapunzel or I will die!” or anything, but it’s good to be aware.

Currently, the kale is wonderful — tender with just the slightest hint of bitterness. Searching for a way to incorporate it into a meal that we could eat for a few dinners, I decided to make a simple pasta dish with ingredients I had hanging around. It’s a bit healthier than a kitchen sink casserole, but it was still quite filling and delicious.

Sausage and Kale Pasta

serves 6

1 package einkorn spaghetti
2 links Apple Gouda sausage, sliced into half-inch pieces (I used Niman Ranch sausage.)
1 jar sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and chopped (I threw in a few grape tomatoes, as well, for color.)
1 bunch kale, washed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
7 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
salt, pepper, and roasted red pepper flakes to taste

Terroir_CorbieresBring a pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and follow package instructions.
In a large pan, saute sausage until browned. Add kale and cook until leaves turn a darker brown, about five minutes. Toss in garlic and butter and cook until butter is melted.
Take off heat and add the rest of the ingredients, tossing until everything is incorporated. Add pasta and toss again.

We paired the meal with Wine Enthusiast’s 2011 European Winery of the Year, Gerard Bertrand‘s Corbieres. It held black fruit and spicy vanilla notes with a slight touch of Brett. While I’m not usually the biggest fan of ol’ Brett, it was the perfect accompaniment to the kale, and the fruit balanced the sausage and cheeses in a very pretty way.

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