Veggie Wrap with Green Bean Fries

veggie wrapOh, fresh vegetables, you call to us during the winter months, promising crunch and flavor and energy…

Sometimes, I marvel at the world we live in, where we can get tasty, vitamin-packed veggies out of season. I started the week off on a less than healthy note, eating Chinese take-out for two days straight. I had neglected my usual grocery shopping the weekend before, so before take-out, I think we ate something like frozen cheese pizza. These things happen occasionally, but man was my body screaming for fresh food after that stint!

Wraps are always good for containing a great deal of vegetable goodness in an easy-to-eat format. To turn our veggie consumption up to 11, I made a side of green bean fries to go with it. We paired dinner with a Pinot Noir. There was just enough fruit in the wine to be a nice companion to the roasted red bell pepper and tomato, plus the lovely mineral characteristics were great with the mushroom.

Veggie Wraps with Green Bean Fries

Serves 2-4

2 spinach wraps or large tortillas
1 tomato, sliced thinly
4 Tablespoons of grated carrot
1/2 avocado, sliced
2 pieces of roasted red bell pepper, sliced
2 Tablespoons of thinly sliced spring onion
1/2 portobello mushroom cap, sliced
2 handfuls of baby spinach
choice of condiments (I used a drizzle of ranch dressing and a smear of stone ground mustard per wrap.)

2 cups of green beans
sprinkle of grated Parmesan
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Turn oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook green beans until they turn bright green.
Drain in a colander. Toss with olive oil and Parmesan.
Spread onto a cookie sheet and cook until the beans — and Parmesan — just begin to brown, about as long as it will take you to assemble your wraps.
inside wrap
On two plates, place spinach wraps. Add condiments, and then layer up the vegetables, staying to just right of the middle of the wrap. Turn the plate so the right side is now the bottom. Fold in the sides of the wrap. Using your thumbs, fold the bottom of the wrap over the veggies and then slowly roll until the vegetables are fully encased, making sure the sides stay in as you go.
Cut the wrap in half, add the green bean fries, and eat right away.

Baked Pasta with Veggie Crumbs

baked pastaThe words, “pasta bake” have been floating around my head for the past month. Pasta! Cheese! Creamy sauce! How could I go wrong?

While I wanted to make this Mediterranean casserole of gooeyness, it wasn’t until I saw a post on “veggie crumbs” on epicurious that my desire became a must-happen. I mean, it’s easy to find gluten-free pasta these days, if that’s what you need, but an extra serving of vegetables in the form of crumbs? You had me at food processor.

A pasta bake is also an amazing vehicle for vegetables of all sorts. I packed a head of broccoli, 4 cups of baby spinach, and 2 cups of mushrooms into mine, as well as an entire head of cauliflower for the crumbs. Sure, there was cheese in there too, but, vegetables! There were lots and lots of vegetables!

The mushies and light, creamy sauce meant a Pinot Noir was the pairing choice. I chose Husch Vineyards‘ 2010 Pinot. It was scrumptious with the food and amazing on its own.

Baked Pasta with Veggie Crumbs

Serves 6-8
1 package of noodles such as fusilli or rigatoni, cooked to package instructions
1 head of broccoli, chopped into small pieces
2 cups of mushrooms, cooked (I used a variety of mushies.)
4 cups of baby spinach
1/2 cup caramelized onions
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella
25-32 ounce jar of creamy marinara sauce (I combined Alfredo I made from scratch with a jar of spicy marinara sauce — yum!)

1 head of cauliflower, romanesco, or broccoli, separated into florets
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a processor, toss in florets and Parmesan. Pulse until the the cauliflower is the same size of bread crumbs. Drizzle in a little bit of evoo, and pulse until everything is nicely coated.
On the stove top, mix all ingredients together (except cauliflower and Parmesan) in a large pot. Once the cheese begins to melt, turn off heat and run a spoon over the top of the pasta until it’s level. Sprinkle “crumbs” evenly over the top and cook for 22-25 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
Turn on broiler to high and cook about two minutes, until the crumbs have turned a golden brown.
Remove from heat and serve right away.

Mulled Wine Poached Pears

Mulled-Wine-Poached-PearThanksgiving is coming up, with the other winter holidays not far behind. That means it’s fancy food time!

I made poached pears with mascarpone for New Year’s Eve a few years ago. Charles and I loved them. They were so rich and decadent — a wonderful way to ring in the new year. It was a recipe I wanted to revisit, but when it came to finding the original, I couldn’t locate it. Google gave me many options, but none of them were exactly what I had done before. So, as I do so often anyway, I decided to make it my own.

We just received our final Farm to Table shipment from Pennyroyal for the 2014 season, and I thought using some of my coveted Laychee cheese for poached pears would be amazing. It truly was. I poached the pears in Sobon Estate’s Old Vines Zinfandel. Its fruit-forward richness was a perfect choice to go with the pears and spices. Remember, never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink, but make sure its characteristics will compliment the other flavors in the food — much like choosing a wine for pairing.

For more ideas for Thanksgiving, check out Cranberry Chutney, Drunk Ruby Turkey, Kuri Squash and Bacon Soup, and from my other blog, An Oops Makes a Great Turkey, and My Favorite Green Beans. Please don’t judge some of those photos — many of those posts are from a few years ago. 😉

Mulled Wine Poached Pears

Serves 6

6 Bosc pears, peeled (but keep the stems)
1 bottle red wine
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon mulling spice (I actually used Garam Masala because I love it so.)
pinch of powdered ginger
pinch of salt

4 ounces heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup Laychee or Mascarpone cheese
vanilla bean, split and insides scraped into a bowl.

Put wine, sugar, spices, salt, and the remains of the vanilla bean in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add pears and bring to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes, turning the pears every ten minutes so they get a lovely, uniform red.
Remove pears and continue to cook the liquid. Reduce the liquid until it’s syrupy. You can use this for ice cream or any other dessert where a syrup would be a nice addition.
When pears have cooled, take out the stems and set aside. Core the pears with an apple corer, or like I did, with your peeler. (This is the one I have.)

Add whipping cream and cheese to the bowl with the vanilla bean innards. Stir with a rubber spatula until well blended, then scrape into a reclosable bag. Cut a corner off the bag and pipe the cheese mixture into the pear. Place the stem back on the top for a pretty presentation.

Crispy Pork with Baby Bok Choy

Crispy Pork with Baby Bok Choy Stir FryIt all started when I spied the prettiest baby bok choy in the produce department. It was so vibrant and crunchy and just called out for a dish to be prepared in dedication to its delectable-ness. Well okay then, a stir fry seemed in order.

I grabbed some pork, fixin’s for a sauce, and some other pretty produce and set about to make a meal. When I spoke to Charles about his thoughts for a wine to drink, he wanted to try a Barbera. An Italian varietal with an Asian meal might seem to be a rather bold choice, but the best part of wine pairing is the experimentation. The worst that can happen is that the pairing doesn’t work. The world won’t end. You won’t descend down a shame spiral. Have some water with the meal and save the wine to enjoy as a digestif while binge watching whatever current TV obsession you may be in the midst of. We learn from our choices. Sometimes they pay off. Sometimes they’re rather awful, but they’re always an adventure.

How did that bold Barbera option go with dinner? It may not have been a transcendent experience, but it actually paired pretty well. The wine complimented the pork, and nuances of flavor were brought out by the ginger and sweet chili sauce. The Barbera didn’t play along with the green beans in the dish, but all in all, I’d try it again. I might just tweak the recipe a tad — less vinegar, no beans, a little more soy sauce — in order to allow the wine to sing a bit more. My fall back wine that goes with everything, the Gazela Vinho Verde Rosé, would have worked with dinner, too. As would an amber ale. Don’t be afraid to try new things. It makes a meal more exciting.

Crispy Pork with Baby Bok Choy

Serves 4

1 lb pork loin, sliced thinly and at an angle
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil
4 baby bok choy, coarsely chopped
1 cup green beans
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon sweet chili sauce
chopped green onions for garnish

Heat a stove-top wok or deep sauté pan over high heat.Toss pork with sesame oil, salt, and pepper and put in pan. Let sit for two minutes. Flip pieces and let sit another two minutes. Stir to make sure everything is cooked and crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.
Place pan back over high heat. Add oil. Toss in bok choy and stir fry for two minutes then add green beans, garlic, and bell pepper and stir for an additional three minutes. Turn heat down to the lowest setting.
Add vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and chili sauce to a mason jar. Screw on the lid and shake until everything is completely mixed. Stir in the sauce and toss until the sauce is warmed.
Sprinkle the green onions on top and serve with rice.

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.

Steak Over Arugula

steak-on-arugulaA candlelit dinner with soft music, just the two of you… you want to be at the table, enjoying your significant other’s loving gaze, not sweating in the kitchen. I hear you. I’m the same way.

When you have a quick dish in which the flavors meld into each other in a pleasing way, it only adds to the ambience of the evening. When you find a wine that compliments everything to the point that those candle flames glow a little brighter – well, you know you’ve got a winner.

I poured a Sangiovese from Montoliva Vineyard and Winery to go with dinner, the 2008 Estate Reserve Sangiovese to be exact. It accentuated the peppery flavors of the arugula and was perfect with the steak and parmesan and was even a good compliment for the second green thing on the plate – roasted broccoli with Cypress Grove’s Purple Haze chevre. The pairing ended up being a smack-your-lips delicious combination and would be a lovely addition to any Valentine’s Day plans. Plus, the meal is light enough, it will leave you room for a dessert of your choice.

Steak Over Arugula with Roasted Broccoli

serves 2
1 New York steak
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
2 handfuls of arugula
a few shavings of Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets
4 oz chevre

Preheat griddle over high heat.
Pat salt and pepper into both sides of the steak. Drizzle a little olive oil onto the griddle and place steak onto the griddle. Cook for about two minutes. Flip steak over, turn down heat, and cover with a lid, cooking for another four to six minutes, until an indentation left by a finger slowly bounces back. (Medium rare.) Take off heat and let rest for a couple of minutes.

While steak is cooking, scatter broccoli on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and put under the broiler until florets begin to brown. Scatter with the chevre, crumbling it as you go. Return to the broiler for a couple more minutes, until the cheese begins to brown.

Scatter arugula on two plates and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Grind some black pepper on top. Slice steak into thin strips and lay on top of the greens. Scatter Parmesan on top. Side with the roasted broccoli/chevre combination and serve right away.

Expensive Wines

expensive wines

I really enjoyed the Hourglass, BTW, but not enough to buy it.

Let’s talk about expensive wines.

I think that fine wines are a genuine art form, something to be appreciated and celebrated. That said, I feel like just with other art forms, it should be accessible to everyone. That’s why I never charge grandiose prices for my own work. I don’t think that, for a lot of people, $100 (or more) is a feasible option for four glasses of wine. Actually, I don’t think it’s a viable option for most people. One hundred bucks can buy a lot of food.

Last week, Charles, our friend Joey, and I went to Carrington’s Fine Wines to partake of a flight of expensive reds. It’s something that Cal, the owner of Carrington’s, does every year. The wines are always excellent — they should be for the prices — but we always leave feeling like we’ve had just as good, if not better vino, for much more affordable amounts. In other words, we’re never tempted to throw down a Benjamin just because we enjoyed an ounce of a tasty Cabernet.

We’re not so swayed by prices, but a lot of people are. One study found that many consumers thought their wine tasted better when it was more expensive. It’s not really a surprise that a bias forms when you spend a lot of money on a bottle. I mean, you BETTER like it, right? Still, I hate pretentiousness. Of course, existing in the realms of health food, wine, and art means that I encounter that less-than-stellar human quality often. But that doesn’t make it right. People shouldn’t feel intimidated. They shouldn’t feel like only the wealthy can truly enjoy a good bottle. Everyone should be allowed to savor and glory in a glass of wine. Down with snobbery and obnoxiously high prices! I think John Cleese said it best when he stated that you should enjoy what you like, that if you like it, it’s good wine, and not to let anyone tell you differently.

Where do you all come in on the topic of expensive wines?

Salad Days

nectarine saladThere’s just something about the tender-green of baby kale coupled with the sweet tang of nectarines that I’ve been finding extremely satisfying of late. This crisp salad is a mouthful of summer and delicious enough to tempt me away from evening writing projects.

bellafinaDinner arranged, the challenge of pairing was presented — the sparkle of the dish was heightened with a Prosecco, perfect for a balmy twilight.

My choice of the Bellafina Prosecco was a happy accident, an impulse purchase that had then been absentmindedly shoved into the back of the refrigerator. Maybe it was actually kismet, as the flavors of stone fruits, lemon cream, and almonds were harmonious with the varying sweet and lush flavors of the salad. The wine’s orange bitter finish was paradisiacal with the kale. Isn’t it marvelous how good food and great wine always seem to find each other?

Nectarines & Baby Kale Salad

two handfuls of baby kale
1 nectarine, sliced into thin wedges
1/2 avocado, cubed
a sprinkling of tamari pumpkin seeds
a sprinkling of shredded coconut (Leftover, perhaps, from your coconut shrimp?)
drizzle of poppy seed dressing

Toss everything together and serve right away, appreciating the crisp, refreshing qualities of both the salad and the Prosecco.

Smoky Times Call for Smoky Measures

prawnsSmoke. Fumé. Humo. Rauchen. Deatach. Ysmygu. We’re surrounded by smoke in my neck of the woods from two separate fires. It’s all we’ve talked about at work this week. It’s at the forefront of our thoughts, as our lungs won’t allow us to forget.

Since playing with words is one of my pastimes, and wine is my passion, it’s no surprise that the constant swirling of my atmosphere made me think of Fumé Blanc.

Robert Mondavi invented the term for his Sauvignon Blanc styled after the Pouilly-Fumé wine of the Loire Valley. Choosing the new moniker helped to differentiate his drier style from the sweeter Sauvignon Blancs of the late 1960s. And the rest, as you well know, is history.

Those aren't clouds in the background. It's smoke.

Those aren’t clouds in the background. It’s smoke.

I landed on Murphy-Goode’s The Fumé. It was staring out at me from the shelf in quite an alluring fashion. I then read the label’s pairing suggestions and decided that coconut prawns would be the correct choice of cuisine.

It was a delightful decision. The tropical notes of mango in the wine married nicely to the coconut batter of the prawns. The creaminess of the Fumé went hand-in-hand with the richness of the shrimp, and the sprinkling of lime that the dish received after cooking brought out key lime pie characteristics in the glass. Smoky, silky, with hints of melon — to sum up the wine succinctly, well, it was yummy, and it made for a damn good(e) dinner.

Coconut Prawns

Organic canola oil for frying
1/4 cup Kinnikinnick gluten-free bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
drizzle of sriracha
1 lime
1 cup shredded coconut
2 egg whites
1 pound prawns, deveined and peeled

Heat two inches of oil over medium high heat.
Combine bread crumbs with coconut and mix thoroughly.
Salt prawns. Add sriracha and mix until coated.
Lightly beat the egg whites. Dip prawns in the egg, coat with the coconut mixture, and drop into the hot oil.
Flip prawns over when the batter has turned a dark, golden brown.
Serve with lime wedges and the ever-so-awesome Murphy-Goode The Fumé.

Harvesting Sangio

The sun gifts us with the first light of day.

As it climbs higher in the sky, I will experience a slight ache in my back, an amazing sense of satisfaction, and a very minor buzzing in my head – the ache from harvesting grapes grown in the traditional, Italian way (tight rows and low-hanging fruit), the satisfaction from working as hard and as quickly as possible among the vines, and the buzz from the amazing champagne brunch that is our payment for a job well done.

For the past three seasons, my Charles and I have helped in Montoliva’s harvest of its estate-grown Sangiovese grapes. Each year, it’s gotten easier. In part, this is because we’re getting a bit better, but more of the success has come from nicer weather.

The harvest in 2010 was on Halloween. It was cold and stormy. It had rained the night before, so even though I was wearing a sweater underneath my raincoat, I was drenched and shivering within five minutes. 2011 was warmer and more pleasant, though there had been some moisture, so we dealt with a small amount of rot. Plus, I forgot to bring our gloves, so my Charles and I both managed to nick ourselves with our clippers. 2012 was hot and dry. The bunches were big and beautiful and dusty – no moisture, and therefore no rot, to be found.

This year’s crew was also outstanding. For the first time, the entire estate was harvested on the same day, and not only that, it was harvested in a few hours. Everyone kicked some major ass and took some major names. My Charles and I were home by noon, feeling good, though tired, and cheered by a beautiful, warm morning spent out amongst the vines.

2012 is going to be an amazing year for California wines.

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