Friday, October 26, 2007

Using the CSA Produce and our new favorite merlot

Merlot is one of the few red wines that I have never been enamoured with. I might drink the occasional glass at a wedding or dinner banquet, but never go out of my way to order a glass or buy a bottle. That has all changed with the Avila Merlot. I tried this first while having dinner at Skye. I was looking for a suggestion on what wine to pair with my dinner, and the waiter brought me a taste of this. A generous pour later, I offered one tiny sip to Scott. This was a good move, as he promptly called the waiter over, and ordered us each another glass.

Since that night I have scoured the valley to find it retail. My old stand-bye is to call AZ Wine Co. It was a special order. I started with one bottle, to avoid the syndrome I have of over buying wine, and not having any more room in the wine fridge. Also, we wanted to make sure it tasted as good as we remembered.

We opened it Sunday night with this salmon dish. It was definately as good as I remembered it tasting at the restaurant. It's a big merlot, that is bursting with ripe fruit, almost jammy like a zin. But, it turns into a nice mix of tannins and toast. The rich berry flavor melded perfectly with the salmon, which was topped with brown sugar and dijon. To make the pairing even better, the salmon was grilled on a cedar plank, which brought out just a little "woodsiness" of the wine.


I served the salmon with a mix of braised black eyed peas and grilled asparagus. We are on the third week of getting our CSA produce. Some of the vegetables are new to us and are getting us to expand our veggie horizons. For instance the fresh black eyed peas are something I had never cooked before. Not to mention the turnips, okra, and daikon. It is fun experimenting with new recipes to use some of the new-to-me produce. Not only did I use the black-eyed peas from the CSA in the side dish, but I made good use of the tops of the turnips by adding them as the "greens" in this braised dish. I didn't really follow a recipe. The black-eyed peas were braised in a chicken broth, scallion, garlic and onion mix for aproximately 45 minutes. I added the turnip greens and a dash of sherry vinegar. After turning the heat off, I threw in a generous handful of goat cheese.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wine Pairings

I ran across this simple guide on the Food and Wine website. I particularly like the simplicity and would use it as a good "rule of thumb." We've been paying a little more attention to what wines we choose with certain meals.
Of course, I still tend to more often go with the "drink what you like" philosophy.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Saying good-bye to summer

Although the mercury is still hitting 90 during the day, Phoenicians are rejoicing. With nighttime temperatures dropping down to almost "chilly" (i.e., 65 degrees to you non-Arizonans), we're finally able to think about putting on some long sleeves. Last weekend I was in the mood to make a light summery meal to toast the end of summer, and the beginning of our "nice" weather.

In terms of wine, nothing says summer more to me than a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The crisp acidity, the bright flavors, and the light grassy taste go so well with summer greens. At the end of a long day in and out of the 100+ degree heat, I crave this wine. Still in my summery mood, I started with this Brancott Sauvignon Blanc and created dinner to match.

I saved this recipe for the cilantro miso pesto on the internet so long ago that I do not remember the original source. The original recipe calls for it as part of a soba noodle salad. However, I chose to prepare the pesto and serve it on some beautiful scallops I picked up. It was a delicious combination: the pesto was flavorful, but didn't overpower the subtle sweetness of the seared scallops. Served over spaghetti squash, it was a perfect match for the sauvignon blanc. As much as I adore any New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I will tuck them away for the winter and wait until the next season. From here on out, it will be buttery chardonnays and big, spicy reds.

Cilantro-Miso Pesto over Pan Seared Scallops

1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup white miso
1/2 tsp. crushed or grated ginger
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1/2 tsp. wasabi powder, or to taste
1-2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice (my addition)
1 lb large scallops


Place cilantro, miso, garlic, wasabi powder and rice vinegar in a food processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until smooth. Adjust the seasonings, adding salt if necessary. Set the pesto aside for 10 min. so the wasabi flavor can develop.

Pat the fresh scallops with a paper towel to dry. Lightly salt and pepper. Heat a saute pan to medium heat and add about 1 Tbsp. butter. When it is slightly browned, add scallops. Sear approximately 4-5 minutes per side - depending on thickness. Do not overcook. Serve on top of noodles, spaghetti squash, or rice. Drizzle with pesto.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sometimes the mystery is best left alone - aka the "?"-able wine

Have you seen this wine? Have you tried this wine? What's the name of this wine? ???

As I have mentioned previously, I love to try new wines. New varietals, new blends, new vintages...whatever, it's all good. If a particular wine is not good, I usually don't write or talk about it, because, why focus on the negative? But, just like taste in food, we may all have different tastes in wine. So, I am going to take a step into the unknown, and tell you about this one, which was a dud for us.

I picked up this bottle of ? at Trader Joe's last weekend. I apologize that I don't remember the winery/vintage,etc as I tossed the bottle. Yeah that's right - tossed it. It sounded interesting as it was a red blend, cab and syrah - I think. It was only $7 or $8, so no big deal if it wasn't great. Sunday evening we opened it while getting ingredients out for dinner. A little swirl, a little sniff of cherry and vanilla, then I took a sip. Nothing. I swirled a bit more, and took another sip. Without saying a word, I handed my glass to Scott. (I didn't want to bias what he thought.) Scott tasted it and said he didn't think there was anything going on. We decided to let it breathe in the decanter for awhile, and went along with starting dinner. (A lot of times, as the wine opens up, it's flavor becomes more apparent.) After 30 minutes or so, we tried it again. Still, absolutely nothing. Again, I swirled, tried a bite of bread, etc. but, we decided the wine had even less flavor than the first sip. Life is to short to drink bad wine, so we opened a bottle of a tried and true merlot. (Review on that next.) So what is that "?" on the label all about? Our best guess is that it is there to leave you guessing - should it have some taste? what should it taste like? why are you drinking this when there are so many other (better) options out there in wine?

I'm curious if anyone has tried this wine and had a better experience. Let me know if you have.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Our First CSA package!

In effort to get more fresh vegetables in our diet, we signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture.) Each week for the next 12 weeks, we will get an allotment of locally grown, organic vegetables. It's also a great way to expand our veggie horizons, as we received a few things that I have not had, or cooked in the past.
This week we got:
Armenian cucumber (giant one in lower right of picture)
2 green bell peppers
Japanese white turnips
red potatoes
Japanese eggplant
mustard greens
green black eyed peas
personal sized watermelon

So, I'm calling on all you fabulous cooks out there to leave me some ideas on what to do with some of this fabulous fresh produce...
Posted by Picasa