Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter Wine and a new "Gadget"


Part of our Easter meal tradition, is the Adelsheim Pinot Noir. We may not plan our menu until the last minute, but we always know what wine. Priorities ... people. It all started when Scott and I were first dating and he said he enjoyed Pinot Noirs. We tried out quite a few in those first couple of months of dating, but the Adelsheim was our favorite. Because we drink wine daily, after a couple of months, the budget showed that we couldn't do $30+ bottles "daily." We also broadened our horizons a bit, and found some great value blends, etc. We had one bottle of this particular pinot left at that point, and being that it was our favorite, decided to save it for Easter. Somehow, that transformed into getting it again the next year. When it came to planning our Easter dinner this year, one thing we knew for sure, the wine would be Adelsheim.

I was looking forward to it all weekend. I opened it in the afternoon, and let it breathe while I took the photo. Later, when I started to pull ingredients out of the refrigerator and begin cooking, I took my first taste. Then another. I kept having a few little sips, because I thought maybe my taste buds were off. Sadly, the 2006 vintage wasn't nearly as good as past years. I little more tannic and acid on the palatte. Not terrible, just not nearly as good as I remembered. I even saved one small glass to try the next day to see if it made any difference. Not so much. It still seemed a bit "green." This is exactly what makes wine so intriguing to me, it is rarely ever the same. New favorites replace old favorites, etc. I'm sure we will try the 2007 next Easter...but until then, I'm less enthused.

Onto my latest toy. Being that we love to make homemade pizza, and since my pizza stone is ancient, I had to get this new one at Crate and Barrel today. It is designed to be used in the oven or on the BBQ. I can't wait to try it out on the grill, as we love to do grilled pizza in the summer to save the house (and ourselves) from extra oven heat. Stay tuned!




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Monday, March 24, 2008

Pizza Night!


This past weekend we had another couple over for dinner. Since the primary goal was to relax on the patio with wine in hand, we decided to keep dinner relatively simple. Homemade pizzas and salad sounded like just the ticket this Easter eve.

After watching the sunset on the patio with a glass of viognier and various munchies, we went into the kitchen to quickly whip up these amazing pies.

The first one is topped with pizza sauce, fresh mozarella, spinach, and roasted red peppers. Mmmm...cheesy!


The second one was total experimentation. Homemade onion jam, arugula, and goat cheese. A few tidbits of procuitto were a tasty last minute addition. Mmm...sweet, salt and pepper.

Finally, John made a very traditional pepperoni, cheese and black olive pie. Nothing less than spectacular,we would choose this over take out anyday. Mmmm...salty!
To accompany the pizza, we enjoyed a delicious St. Francis Claret. A blend of cab and merlot with a touch of zinfandel out of Napa. Mmmm...smooth!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

 


A little "non Irish," but green, side dish.

Growing up in an Irish household, every March 17, my mom made the traditional Irish meal of corned beef, cabbage, rhutabagas, and pototoes. I would wrinkle my nose and turn my head to all of it. I still don't care for the flavor of corned beef, but I do like all the veggies included in the "traditional" boiled dinner. But, since Scott is out of town, I probably won't go through the effort of making a traditional meal this St. Patrick's Day.

Instead, I leave you with a little green in a non-traditional way. This is what I'm having with my turkey sandwich for lunch today. It is Anna's wasabi coleslaw. Oh.My.Gosh. If you like wasabi, this is the best coleslaw you will ever eat. I promise. This time, I used broccoli slaw mix, rather than cabbage for a little more green, and a little more nutrition. Either way, this stuff is like crack- very addictive!
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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Paws on Snow!

 


I recently took a trip to Showlow, Arizona for work. Since it was just a quick overnight trip, I took Chase along. On the way home, we pulled over just north of Payson, to give Chase his first experience with snow. Now, I knew Golden's love the water, but I wasn't sure he'd know what to make of the snow. The verdict...he loved it! In the few minutes that we were there, he dug holes, hopped, and rolled to his heart's delight. I didn't have a camera along to catch the excitement, but at the last minute, I took a few shots with my cell phone. (Excuse the poor quality photography.) Nice and muddy, he hopped into the backseat, and panted happily the next hour and half back to Phoenix. Spoiled. Dog.
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Sunday, March 9, 2008

My Favorite Appetizer



Hello Lover. Vietnamese Summer rolls are my absolute favorite thing on an appetizer list. Unfortunately, except for Vietnamese (and sometime Thai or other Asian Fusion) restaurants, it is rare to find them when eating out. There is something about the fresh, simple ingredients, that when wrapped in rice paper and dipped in peanut sauce, has a magical transformation.

I decided I can't get these little bundles of love as often as I'd like when dining out, so why not make them at home? Well, after my first experience, I almost gave up. That darn rice paper is very delicate after soaking. After breaking several, I just ate the big mess with a fork. But, I persisted. The next time I learned not to soak the rice paper quite as long, not to fill quite as full, etc. They are know starting to resemble an authentic summer roll. The best part is that you play around with whatever filling choices you want. I almost always begin with some cooked rice stick noodles and shrimp, but after that I play around. Lettuce - yes, carrot shredds - lots of color. In the ones above, I added some thin slices of fresh mango. Avacado takes them up a notch, as does, sauteed shitake mushrooms. Always add a little cilantro, mint, or basil (or combo of them.)

Now really, you can have all the essentials for a great summer roll, but in my opinion, a good dipping sauce is what makes or breaks it. I prefer a peanut sauce, but hoisin based sauces, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar, or a sweet and sour all work.

Here is the peanut sauce we make:

2 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp. fresh minced or grated ginger
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
squeeze of fresh lime
chili garlic sauce - to taste

In this photo, I made a simple sauce with 2 Tbsp. fish sauce, 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp water, and 1 Tbsp honey. It was still a little to salty, and didn't really "stick" to the roll.





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My nice wine pairing with Vietnamese and Thai food is a dry gewurztraminer. My favorite being the Claiborne and Churchill Dry Gerwurztraminer. It hails from Edna Valley, right outside of San Luis Obispo. A little spicy, a little fruity, and bone dry on the finish with hints of mineral. Hmmmm...I think I may have to go get some right now, before I make another batch of summer rolls.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Feeling Golden

Beets that is.


Last week I headed over to the newest Whole Foods in the valley, for the Grand Opening. While I sometimes refer to it as Whole Paycheck, I am enamoured with this new store. I don't know if it's the big aisles, the endless prepared food bars, or the wine tasting they were doing, but I ended up with a few great things in my basket. The star being, locally grown golden beets.


I knew I wanted to showcase these beauties in a salad - especially since I had some arugula in my herb garden that needed to be picked. Throw in some fresh goat cheese...how YOU doin'?


Roasted Golden Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
Ingredients:
2 golden beets
1 cup mixed greens


1 cup arugula
1/4 cup thinly sliced fennel
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese


Balsamic syrup and good quality olive oil

Directions:
Peel beets, wrap in foil, and roast in the oven for ~ 60 minutes or until tender. Cool completely.
Slice or chunk beets into bite sized portions.
Toss arugula, mixed greens, fennel, and onion together.
Place tossed greens onto plate, topping each with crumbled goat cheese and roasted beets.
Drizzle with balsamic syrup and a good quality olive oil. Salt and pepper if desired.





Tonight we enjoyed the 2004 Chateau Briot Rouge Bordeaux. This was a steal at $10.99. (Wine Spectator gave it an 85.) Lush flavors of berry and a hint of cocoa. It wasn't as tannic as I find some of the French reds. A comfort wine that was good on it's own, but also went well with this salad and the pork chops we had for dinner.







Monday, March 3, 2008

The Sincerest Form of Flattery...

Sometimes the cliches are correct. In this case, I decided to try out a recipe from my friend Chrissy over at Chronicles of a Fledgling Home Cook, namely her recent post on Fennel Crusted Salmon with Roasted Fennel, Tomato and Lemon. Salmon craving, check. Fresh fennel in the crisper, check. An overabundance of fresh lemons, check. The only thing I did different was to throw in a tablespoon or so, of capers, and I used scallions in place of the green garlic.

Fennel Crusted Salmon with Roasted Fennel, Tomato, and Lemon
Adapted from Chronicles of a Fledgling Home Cook

Ingredients:

2 large fennel bulbs, sliced (reserve some of the fennel fronds for garnish)
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 stalks of green garlic
1/2 cup of brown onion, sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
lemon juice
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 salmon fillets
2-3 tsp fennel seeds

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine fennel, tomatoes, garlic and lemon slices in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Toss to coat well and place in a roasting pan in the oven for about 25 minutes until vegetable are nearly fork tender.
Meanwhile season your salmon with olive oil, salt, pepper and top with some lightly crushed fennel seeds. Place on top of the roasting vegetables and continue to cook an additional 10-15 min until salmon is done.
To serve, place roasted veggies on a plate, topped with a salmon fillet. Drizzle with lemon juice and garnish with fennel fronds. We loved the simple and sophisticated flavors that surrounded this dish. It is definately going to be a repeater for us.

I wasn't quite sure what kind of wine to serve with the salmon. We've been drinking mostly reds lately. I asked Chrissy, and she suggested a pinot grigio. I pulled out the only one we had in the wine cooler. It was the Danzante 2004 Pinot Grigio. This proved to be a perfect match for the salmon. The citrus notes accented the lemon in the vegetable mixture. Dry and crisp, yet the medium bodied structure held up to the richness of the salmon. I wouldn't hesitate to get this one again.