"True wine enthusiasts don’t collect wines.
They collect memories of wines shared with friends and family."

-Dario Zucconi

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Herb-Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib Roast - A Holiday Feast!

My favorite holiday is Christmas.  Growing up in Haiti, Christmas to our family was about the "3 Fs" - Faith, Family, and Food.  Even being here - thousands of miles away, and now having children of my own, Christmas still means the same thing to me as it did when I was growing up.

This Christmas is no different.  On Christmas Eve, we all went to mass.  My daughter sang with her school choir (I was so proud of her).  On Christmas morning, I was so overjoyed watching the children's faces when they ran upstairs to the fireplace and saw that Santa had eaten the cookies, drank the milk, and the reindeer had eaten the carrots and drank the water the kids had left for them on Christmas Eve night.  Then, they reached into their stockings to see what Santa had left for them. The purity of their innocence brought tears of joy to my eyes.

For Christmas dinner, I wanted to make something special for my family.  I made this amazing and delicious herb-and-horseradish-crusted Beef Prime Rib Roast, roasted with red onions and root vegetables (a recipe that is inspired by a dish made by Tyler Florence from the Food Network). I served the Roast with pecan-crusted mashed sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, and a green salad with my own homemade balsamic vinegar dressing.

You may think that a prime rib roast may be overwhelming or expensive.  Actually, it is fairly simple to make.  And, if you buy it at Costco, the USDA Choice cut (the second best cut of beef, with Prime being the first) is about $6 per pound.

For dessert, I made this delicious apple and maple syrup bread pudding (courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine, January 2010) [http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Apple-and-Maple-Bread-Pudding-356873].  I modified this slightly.  Bon Appetit recommends using 2 Tablespoons of apple brandy.  Well, a bottle of Apple Brandy was about $25.  I couldn't justify buying a whole bottle.  So, I just used regular brandy that I had in my pantry.  Doesn't the picture alone make you want to try it?

As for the wine, we tried two special bottles of wine.  One was a bottle of Portalupi Pinot Noir (Russian River, Sonoma, CA).  One of my dearest and closest friends, Tara -- whom I met in College at UC Berkeley years ago -- was visiting from New York for the holidays, and gave us this bottle of wine as a Christmas present.

This Pinot is pure sophistication!   The winemakers describe it perfectly when they say: "Aromas of strawberry/rhubarb mingle with allspice and tea. Flavors of milk chocolate covered cherries along with strawberry/vanilla cream intertwine with intriguing truffle-like nuances. The body is medium weight yet expansively full across the palate. The finish, clean, with lingering call for ..... MORE!!!"  I have never tasted a Pinot this well-structured and elegant. 

Tara, Patrick, and I have made so many wonderful memories when we lived in Berkeley, especially those that revolve around cooking dinners together and experimenting with different types of wine until we found some that we really liked. It was so wonderful to share Christmas dinner with you, Tara.  We can't wait until you move back to the Bay Area so we can continue our dinner parties and sharing more wines together. We've missed you!

The other bottle was Joel Gott "815" Cabernet Souvignon (Oakville, CA 2006) that I bought at Safeway for $13.  This Cabernet was really good with the roast. It is very elegant, well-balanced and simply enjoyable.  It has a nice, deep ruby red color, and evokes aromas of ripened fresh berries, with a hint of mocha.  Its flavors are structured, reflecting tastes of blackberries, mocha, a hint of vanilla and mild peppercorns.  On the palate, it is very silky, smooth, with soft tannins and a nice finish.  What does the "815" stand for?  The winemakers' homepage says that it commemorates the birth of their first child, who was born on August 15, 2003 [http://www.gottwines.com/wines/CA_CS/2006/06CACS.htm].  This statement from the winemakers so perfectly captures the essence of my blog: "Why 815? During the 2003 harvest our first child was born. The 815 moniker is our way of commemorating Lucy's birth on August 15th. At four years old, each continue to thrive and evolve reminding us of the importance of celebrating family and enjoying life."

For the "decor", my very artistic and stylish daughter helped me set the table.  She did a fabulous job writing the place cards, putting the napkins in the napkin rings and setting the knives and forks.  [She loves to help set the table.]

I hope next time you and your family are celebrating something special (or maybe next time you want to make something special for your family to enjoy), you will try these recipes and these wines.  And, if you do, please do write a comment and let me know what you think.

Until next time . . . Happy Holidays!


1 bone-in prime rib beef roast (3 ribs, about 6 pounds)
1/2 cup of combined fresh Italian Parsley, Thyme, and Rosemary (finely chopped)
5 cloves of garlic (crushed or finely minced)
1/2 cup of Prepared Horseradish
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 Tablespoons
About 2 Tablespoons of Kosher salt, plus 1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon of butter
3 Carrots
2 Parsnips (or any other root vegetables you like similar to Parsnips) (peeled and sliced length-wise in 1/4
2 Red onions (peeled and cut cross-wise in 1/2)
4 Purple potatoes (you can use red, or Yukon gold potatoes)
1 whole head of garlic (cut crosswise in 1/2)

1 cup of Beef stock (or broth)
1/2 cup of good red wine (use from the bottle you about to drink with the roast)
1 teaspoon of all-purpose flour
pinch of kosher salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Cooking Instructions
Take the Roast out of the refrigerator and let it stand for about 1 hour before cooking.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Mix together the herbs, garlic, horseradish, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 Tablespoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Butter the roast to keep in the moisture.  Season the roast generously with about 1 Tablespoon of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Rub the herb mixture all over the roast.  Place the roast (bone side down) on a roasting pan.

Season the vegetables with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix them all together to coat the seasoning.  Arrange the vegetables, except for the potatoes around the roast in the pan (you will add the potatoes during the last 30 minutes of cooking).

Place the roasting pan in the oven.  Cook at the 450-degree for 15 minutes. (Rule of thumb: No matter what size of roast you have, it's important to cook it at 450 degrees for the first 15 minutes.)  Then, reduce the heat to 325 degrees and roast to your desired temperature/doneness, which is between 1 1/2 hour to 2 hours, depending on how you like your meat done (make sure you baste the roast every 1/2 hour).  Here is a great website that has suggestions for cooking prime rib roast and how to tell when it is done:  http://www.primesteakhouses.com/how-to-cook-prime-rib.html. 
According to this website, rare meats measure in at 120° to 125° with a bright red center that grows slightly pinkish towards the exterior. Medium rare meats measure between 130° to 135° and are characterized by their extremely pink center portion that grows brown towards the exterior. Medium meats have a light pink center, brown outer portions and readings of about 140° to 145°. Medium well is not pink at all and is achieved at 150° to 155°. Well done is reached at 160° and above and is characterized by a uniform brown color.  Remember: when the meat is done, pull it out of the oven, cover it with a foil, and let it sit for about 20 minutes.  It will continue to cook up to about 10 degrees.

When you are ready to make the gravy, move the roast and vegetables from the pan onto a platter, and cover the roast with the foil.  Remove some of the top grease from the pan, but leave the browning bits on the bottom of the pan.  Turn on the stove to medium-low heat.  Add the wine to de-glaze the pan.  Stir in about 1 teaspoon of the broth in the flour to liquify the flour.  Pour it into the pan.  Then, pour the rest of the stock into the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let it simmer until the sauce is slightly thicker (not too thick).  Pour the gravy into a gravy bowl, and serve with the roast after you carve the slices.  Enjoy!

4 Large sweet potatoes (or yams)
4 ounces of mascarpone cheese (about 1 small container)
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 cup of chopped candied pecans (Trader Joe's has some that are delicious)
1/2 Tablespoon of unsalted butter

Cooking Instructions
Grease a baking dish with the butter on all sides.  Bake the sweet potatoes, with skin and wrapped in foil, while the roast is cooking for about 45 minutes (or until soft).  Remove the potatoes from the oven, and let them stand for 30 minutes (or until cooled).  Peel the potatoes, and mash them.  Stir in the mascarpone cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.  Pour mashed potatoes in the greased baking dish.  Top it with the pecans.  Bake for about 1/2 hour, and remove from the oven.  When the roast is out of the oven, turn on the broiler to medium.  Broil the top of the sweet potatoes until the pecans have a nice golden brown color (about 3 minutes; watch out so you don't burn the pecans).  Serve the potatoes with the roast.

About 1 pound of brussels sprouts (washed) 
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil 
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

Cooking Instructions
Steam the brussels sprouts for about 5 minutes (just until they are softened up a bit, but still firm).  Place the steamed brussels sprouts in a shallow baking dish.  Season them with salt and pepper, and the olive oil.  Mix them so they can coat with the seasoning.  Bake them in the oven (with the roast in) for about 30 minutes or until they have some nice grill/golden color, and are soft when you insert a fork in them.

APPLE AND MAPLE BREAD PUDDING (Bon Appetit, Jan. 2010, as modified)
6 large eggs
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons apple brandy [NOTE: I used plain Brandy to save $$, and it was still delicious]
1 1-pound loaf pain rustique, all crust trimmed, bread cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes (6 1/2 to 7 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 5), peeled, quartered, cored, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices (about 7 cups)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup plus additional for brushing (preferably Grade B)
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
Cooking Instructions

For custard:
Whisk eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt in large bowl. Add milk, cream, and brandy and whisk until well blended. Add bread cubes and press to submerge into custard. Let soak at least 30 minutes, occasionally pressing on bread cubes to submerge.
For apples:
Meanwhile, position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Generously butter 9x5-inch glass or ceramic loaf pan with at least 3-inch-high sides. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add apple slices and sauté until deep golden and beginning to soften, stirring and turning apple slices frequently, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup maple syrup, then brown sugar. Simmer until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens to syrup, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Mix half of apple slices into bread custard mixture. Transfer bread pudding mixture to prepared pan. Arrange remaining apple slices atop bread pudding in 2 lengthwise rows. Spoon any remaining syrup from skillet over apple slices. Place loaf pan on rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills during baking).

Bake bread pudding until puffed and cracked on top, apples are deep brown, and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pudding registers 170°F to 180°F, about 1 hour 30 minutes (pudding will rise high above top of pan). Remove from oven and let rest at room temperature 45 minutes to 1 hour (pudding will fall). Brush apples on top of pudding with additional maple syrup. Spoon pudding into bowls and serve warm or at room temperature.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Pesto Chicken w/Roasted Potatoes and Sweet Corn and Petite Sirah

Okay, I know it's been a while since I have written up something. You know, the holidays are a little crazy.  So, tonight I made one of the easiest, simplest, and most delicious dinners ever: Trader Joe's Pesto Genovese (basil-based) Chicken Breast (from the fresh meat section); roasted Trader Joe's Teeny Tiny Red Potatoes; and Roasted Fresh Sweet Corns with Onions and Bell Peppers.  And, as a wine pairing suggestion, we tried a glass of the 2006 Concannon Petite Sirah Limited Release.  As a special treat: I made these yummy chocolate chip cookies, recipes are courtesy of one of my clients ("Mary").  Check out the Recipes below.

Pesto Chicken
A package of Trader Joe's pre-marinated Pesto Genovese Chicken Breasts [you can find it in the fresh chicken section]. 
2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Cooking Instructions
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick, oven-proof sautee pan. Sautee the chicken breasts for about 3 minutes per side (or until they have a nice golden brown color).  Then, place the whole pan in a 350-degree oven, and cook a little longer for about 5 minutes (until the chicken has no pink when cut through; make sure you don't overcook it). That's it!

Roasted "Teeny Tiny" Red Potatoes
1 package of Trader Joe's Teeny Tiny Red Potatoes (which can be found in the produce section).
1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Cooking Instructions
Rinse the potatoes under cold water, dry them out with a paper towel, place them in a cookie sheet, season them with salt and pepper, and the Italian seasoning.  Then, I drizzled the extra virgin olive oil on them, and mix them well.  Place them in a 375-degree oven and cook them for about 20 minutes or until they are all tender, but still whole.

Roasted Sweet Corns and Bell Peppers
4 corns on the cob (Trader Joe's has a package of 4 in the salad section)
1/2 each of a red, orange, and yellow bell pepper
1/2 red onion
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Cooking Instructions
Remove the kernels from the cob, using a knife while the cob is standing upright in a bowl.  Slice and dice the bell peppers about the same size as the corn kernels.  Dice the red onion about the same size of the kernels.  Place the corn kernels, bell peppers and onions in a baking dish or sheet.  Season the corn mixture with salt and pepper, and the Italian seasoning.  Then, drizzle the corn mixture with the extra virgin olive oil.  Mix everything well.  Then, place the corn in a 375-degree oven, and bake for about 20 minutes.

[NOTE: This is one of my favorite side dishes.  It's easy, delicious, and good for you.]

2006 Concannon Petite Sirah-Limited Release (Livermore, CA)

This wine is a surprisingly enjoyable and versatile wines for a very reasonable price (on sale at Safeway for $6, $14 regular price).  Petite Sirah is not a wine that I typically buy and drink by itself. Usually, it's part of a blend.  But, tonight I wanted to try something different -- branch out a bit.  Well, I am glad I did. 

This Petite Sirah is a full-bodied, intensely flavorful wine.  It has deep ruby red color and inviting aromas of ripe and scrumptious berries, smooth and toasty oak and a hint of spice.  Even at the first sip, it leaves on your palate flavors of delicious berries, oak, and vanilla.  For this price, the wine is surprisingly well-balanced, leaving a long-lasting and finish on the palate.

One of the reasons I bought this wine was the description on the label.  It reads (partly): "Concannon is the world's first winery to bottle Petite Sirah, and has been doing so for over 40 years.  This Limited Release Petite Sirah is the essence of Concannon, displaying fantastic depth and character.  It is full-bodied, rich with cherry flavors and has a hint of toasty oak for a smooth, silky finish.  Enjoy your Limited Release Petite Sirah with dishes like filet mignon or your favorite lamb dishes."

Give it a try and write a comment to let me know what you think.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies
Finally, for dessert.  My daughter and I made these chocolate chip and walnut cookies.  I got the recipe from one of my clients ("Mary"), which she got from her friend "Elicia."  Here is the recipe, as given to me by Mary and modified slightly by me.  Give them a try. . . they are to die for! 

Cream Together [use an electric mixer if you have one)]
2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 Cup of brown sugar
3/4 Cup of granulated sugar

2 eggs
2 teaspoon of vanilla

Sift together and then add to the wet ingredients:
3/4 Cup of cocoa powder (Mary uses dutch processed cocoa, but I just used Hershey's from my pantry)
1 3/4 Cup of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Then mix in:
1 Cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Cup of white chocolate chips
1 Cup of milk chocolate chips and
1 1/2 Cup of chopped nuts [I used walnuts]

Drop spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet [make sure they won't touch when they bake].  Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes.  When done, remove the cookie sheet from the oven, let the cookies stand for about 1 minute.  Then, remove them from the cookie sheet, and place them on a rack for cooling.  Enjoy!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baked Turkey Cutlet w/Spinach Fettucine: A Healthy and Delicious Meal in Under 45 Minutes

Do you normally only think of Turkey on Thanksgiving day?  Well, here's a recipe for an amazingly easy, delicious, and healthy turkey meal that you can make for your family (or your special someone) throughout the year.  The ingredients are relatively simple (most are things you have already in your refrigerator and/or pantry, the rest you will find at your local grocery store).

Baked Turkey Cutlets
1 package of Turkey cutlets (about 6 pieces) [I bought mine at Trader Joe's in the fresh meat isle]
1 cup of Italian-style bread crumbs
1 cup of buttermilk
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of paprika for flavor (if you have it; if not don't worry)
1/2 cup of parmasan cheese
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 package of spinach fettucine (I used a dried package I got from Trader Joe's)
1 tablespoon of freshly chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Cooking Instructions
As you prepare the ingredients, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and boil a pot of water for the pasta.

Season the turkey cutlets with some salt and pepper.  Pour the buttermilk in a shallow bowl.  Season the buttermilk also with some salt and pepper, and the paprika, if using.  Mix the bread crumbs with the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese in another shallow bowl or dish.

Dip the cutlets in the buttermilk to get them slightly wet on all sides (shaking off any excess milk).  Then, coat the cutlets with the bread crumb mixture, and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick sautee pan over medium heat.  Sautee the cutlets until they are slightly brown on both sides (about 3 minutes per side).  Place the browned cutlets in a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake in the oven (uncovered) for about 10 minutes (or until cooked through - turkey should be white, not pink).  Remove from heat when cooked, and place in a platter.  Cover it with aluminum foil to keep warm.

In the meantime, boil the pasta according to the package instructions.  Drain the pasta, toss with the olive oil,
parsley, and the Parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top of the pasta.  Serve the pasta alongside the Turkey cutlets.  For some vegetables, serve it with a side green or ceasar salad.

Wine Suggestion
An absolutely delicious wine that I would recommend with this dish is Toasted Head "Untamed Red" 2007 (Woodbridge, CA).  This wine is a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Petit Sirah.  I bought this wine on sale at Safeway for $10 (it's usually $15).  It was one of those wines that I bought just to try it out because the blend of grapes and the description sounded very inviting.  The description on the label states: "Uninhibited, even slightly unruly, this signature blend combines rich juicy berry notes, a touch of spice and a commending backbone.  Ignite your free spirit!"  The label features a bear breathing fire through its mouth.  Well, the wine bottle looked fun.

When Patrick and I tried this wine, we instantly loved it.  It is a medium-bodied but powerful wine, with a beautiful deep red color.  On a first sip, it hits you with a wonderful taste of fresh ripened blackberries and raspberries, and touch of spice.  It has a nice, but not overwhelming, finish.  So, it is perfect with this turkey dish.  Another cool thing about this wine is that it has a removable back label, so you can tear it out and save it so you can remember it next time you go shopping for wines.  Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Birthday Dinner . . . Just Perfect!

Happy birthday to Mommy, Happy birthday to Mommy, Happy birthday to Mommy, Happy birthday to Mommy!

Today is my birthday.  The kids, Patrick, and our Au Pair Ten celebrated my birthday tonight with a very special dinner and my favorite cake.  The dinner was breaded veal chops with a tomato ragu sauce, served with mushroom risotto and baby arugula salad.  The cake was an Almond Vanilla cake from Katrina Rozelle Bakery on College Avenue in the Rockridge District of Oakland - one of my favorite bakeries. 

Patrick got a great bottle of wine from Paul Marcus Wine located inside Market Hall in Rockridge: Rosso di Montalcino (2006) by Talenti.  This wine is from Tuscany, Italy -- my favorite part of the world.  It is made from Sangiovese grapes.  It has bright red colors, with enticing aromas of ripened red fruits, and mild acidity.   It is well-balanced, full-bodied, with a lingering finish on the palate.  I have learned that this wine is a younger version of the classic Brunello from Tuscany, which is a full-bodied, strong, and powerful wine also made from Sangiovese grapes.  The San Francisco Chronicle recently reviewed this Rosso (see http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/20/FD8616G78T.DTL).  I really enjoyed this wine with the veal. 

Thank you, Baby, for a wonderful birthday dinner.  I love you!  Thank you, kids, for my cards, camera, butterfly (made by my baby girl in her ceramics class) and for reminding me every day of how blessed I am to have you in my life.  Your smiles and constant "I love you Mommy" melt my heart every day.  I love you so much!  Ten: Thank you for my "oh so cute" purse and for celebrating my birthday with me.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Halloween Weekend To Remember: The Kids' Smiles; Great Wines; and The Company of Friends

This past weekend was Halloween.  The kids had a blast trick or treating around our neighborhood.  It is amazing how many children were running around trick or treating.  The grown-ups also had a fun weekend.

Day 1 - Halloween Night
On Halloween night, our friends Evelyn and Rene (and their daughter) came over for dinner before we all went out trick or treating.  They brought over this absolutely amazing bottle of wine that they had picked up from Napa during a recent visit.  It is the Decoy blend (2007).  When Rene showed me the bottle, the first thing I said was I loved the label.  Then, he and Evelyn described the wine to us, and their recent tasting at the winery (Duckhorn).  All I can say is: I wanted to pack up a bag right there and head to Napa for the night.  Well, I can dream, right?  I could not go to Napa that night.  But, we had a great time enjoying the bottle of wine with pizza, while watching "Babe" before going trick or treating.

This wine is a blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot grapes.  It is produced by Duckhorn Winery in Napa Valley, CA (http://www.duckhorn.com).  The aromas of this wine reminded me of ripened raspberries and freshly baked cherry pies with a hint of spices on the nose. The wine was so smooth to drink.  It had flavors of fresh cranberry, cherry, and raspberry, with a hint of coffee and chocolate, and traces of white pepper on the tongue.  It had supple tannins, and a very long and enticing finish on the palate.  This wine would be a perfect wine to drink with a holiday meal.  Evelyn and Rene: Again, thank you for an absolutely amazing bottle of wine, and even better company!  Let's go to Napa soon for another wine tasting trip.

Day 2 - Day After Halloween
On Sunday (day after Halloween), we had a guest over for dinner (Michael) and he brought us a delicious bottle of Malbec from Argentina.  It was Tierra Brisa Malbec (2007).  This wine was really good.  I love Malbecs, and the Argentinians really know how to make a good Malbec.  And, Michael: You really knew how to pick a great bottle of Malbec.

This particular vintage was full-bodied, smooth and elegant.  It had deep red color, aromas of fresh ripe cherries and some spice (like cloves).  It contained flavors of black currant, some raspberries, and a hint of spice.

For dinner that night, we started out with some roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, basil and Feta cheese Tapenade that I made.  Then, for entree, we had Lamb Shank braised for 4 hours in a medley of carrots, celery, onions, garlic, chicken broth, served with whole grain spaghetti.  I don't have a good picture of the complete dish, but I'll be sure to update this entry next time I make it.

 For dessert, Rene made this amazing "dessert pannini" made out of pound cake, nuttella, and fresh strawberries pressed until the pound cake is slightly crispy.  Rene said this recipe was inspired by Giada De Laurentiis (from the Food Network show Everyday Italian).  That was delicious.  Thanks Rene!

Overall, the weekend was absolutely amazing: Great fun with the kids and enjoyable time with friends. My perfect weekend -:)

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Cheesy Broccoli and Potato Soup; Fig and Blue Cheese Stuffed Red Snapper

While I was on the BART train coming home from work last week, I was reading Parents Magazine.  In their Healthy Eating section was a very simple recipe for a broccoli and cheddar soup.  It sounded pretty simple to make, and best of all it is loaded with great vitamins and nutrients, and it's a creative way to get our kids to eat vegetables (hey: Kids love anything sprinkled with cheese, right?).  I made the soup last week as an appetizer, and it was pretty tasty.  My 7-year-old actually liked it.  You can actually double this recipe and make a meal out of it by serving it with a nice salad.  I have posted the recipe below in case you want to try it.

 That night, I also had some fresh Red Snapper fillets (boneless/skinless) from Ver Brugge (our local butcher).  I decided to do something different and interesting with the fish.  I stuffed each fillet with chopped dried fig and goat cheese, sauteed the fish in a sauce pan for a few minutes to brown the sides, and baked the fish in the oven.  I made a quick white wine and cream sauce to serve on top of the fillets.

As side dishes, I made some potato au gratin (see the recipe below) and steamed green and yellow beans.

Given the slightly sweet and naturally buttery taste of the fish, we decided to try a glass of another Riesling (Columbia Crest Grand Estate 2007).  This wine is medium-sweet, but well balanced.  It has refreshing and inviting aromas (it just smells like a nice tropical fruit salad).  It offers tastes of fresh, ripe fruits such as juicy peaches, apples, and honey-suckle.  Normally, it is $10, but BevMo has it as part of its $.05 sale: Buy one for $10.99, and get another for $.05).

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
2 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cups of broccoli, chopped
3 cups low-salt vegetable stock (I used chicken stock as this was what I had in my pantry)
1 cup reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I used regular white cheddar cheese)

Cooking Instructions
In a large stockpot, heat oil and saute the onion for 5 to 7 miutes over low to medium heat.  Add potatoes, broccoli, and stock. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until broccoli and potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Remove the mixture from the stove top; allow to cool a bit.  Pour mixture and cheese into a blender, puree. (Alternatively, you can use a handheld blender to do it right into the stockpot, which is what we did).I also sprinkled some cheese on top of each bowl.

Fig and Goat Cheese Stuffed Red Snapper
3 Snapper Fillets (about 1/2 pound each)
1 cup of finely chopped dried fig
1/2 cup of crumbled goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
some twine or string to tie the fish so the stuffing doesn't come out

Cooking instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse the fish, and pat dry.  Season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides.  Lay the fish down on a flat even surface.  Divide the chopped fig evenly down the middle of the fish.  Then, devide the goat cheese evenly on top of the fig.  Roll the fish with the stuffing from one end to the other.  Tie the twine or string across (lengthwise) so the stuffing stays nice and tight inside the fish.

Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Sautee the stuffed fish on all sides (about 2-3 minutes per side).  When lightly browned, place the whole skillet in the oven.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes (depending on how big your fillets are).  Make sure the thickest part of the inside of the fish is white (no pink) and the fish is flaky.

When done, remove from skillet and set aside in a plate (cover it with some aluminum foil).  Put the skillet on a burner on the stove top.  Turn the heat on to medium-low.  Add the wine, and scrap all the bits from the pan.  Season with some salt and pepper (if needed).  Add the cream and stir for a minute until heated through.  Serve the sauce on top of the fish.

Potato Au Gratin
1 pound of mixed Yukon gold and red potatoes with skin (can use russet potatoes if that's what you have, but I would discard the skin).
1/4 cup of finely chopped onions
1 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese (or white cheddar cheese, or whatever hard cheese you like)
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of butter

Cooking Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom of a baking dish with the butter, and set aside.  Boil the potatoes in a pot of water so they are slightly soft, but not mushy (they will cook in the oven, so don't over boil them).  When they are softened up a bit, remove them from the heat, rinse them under cold water, and slice them diagonally into 1/4-inch pieces.  Arrange the potatoes on the baking dish, one layer at a time.  On top of each layer, season the potatoes with salt and pepper, sprinkle some onions and the cheese on top, then add some of the whipping cream.  Make sure that you've split the ingredients evenly among the layers.  Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes appear soft when you insert a fork in them (the time may be shorter or longer depending on how thick your slices are and how cooked the potatoes are).  When done, remove from heat, let cool for  5 minutes or so, and then serve.

Green and Yellow Beans
I just blanched a small bag of green/yellow beans from Trader Joe's in a medium pot of boiling water for about 3-4 minutes. I drained the water out.  Then, I added about 1/2 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil, seasoned the beans with some salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Voilà!  It's done. 

I hope you try one of the above recipes, or the wine.  If you do, please be sure to write me a note in the Comments section, and let me know what you think.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Baked Penne Rigate with Roasted Chicken and Broccoli

Ever wonder what to do with that half of the left-over roasted chicken you have in the refrigerator besides just eating it plain?  How about the bunch of broccoli that is in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator that your kids don't want to have anything to do with?  Well, wonder no more!  I have an easy-to-make, delicious baked penne rigate pasta with roasted chicken and broccoli for you that will make everyone in your family scream for seconds -- even the kids.  Chances are you already have pasta and pasta sauce in your pantry.  And, with this dish, you can make enough to have two dinners during the week.  So, here it goes!

1/2 roasted chicken, shredded (or a couple of chicken breasts, boiled, then shredded)
1 package of fresh organic broccoli (or about 2 bunches of broccoli)
1/2 red onion
1 clove of garlic
1 box of penne rigate pasta (or ziti pasta, if you don't have penne)
2 jars of Tomato/Basil pasta sauce (or whatever flavor pasta sauce you have in the pantry)
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped (or use 1 tablespoon of dried parsley)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Cooking Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom of a large Pyrex baking dish.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add about 1 tablespoon of salt to the water.  Cook pasta according to package instructions for about 1/2 the time so the pasta is very al dente as it will continue to cook in the oven.  During the last minute of boiling, add the broccoli in the pot with the pasta to soften just a bit.  Drain the pasta and broccoli immediately after the time is up, run under cold water, and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, saute the onions in a large sauce pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic for about 1 minute.  Add the chicken to the pan, stir to mix in with the onions and garlic.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and stir.  Add the pasta sauce and stir.  Let the sauce simmer on low heat for about 5-10 minutes to warm up and flavor the chicken.

Once the sauce is heated through, add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the pot (or use a large mixing bowl to mix the pasta and the sauce).  Spread evenly 1/2 of the pasta in the greased Pyrex baking dish.  Spread evenly 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese, 1/2 of the ricotta cheese, and 1/2 the parmesan cheese onto the first layer of pasta.  Sprinkle 1/2 of the chopped parsley on top of the cheese.  Then, repeat with the remaining pasta, cheeses, and parsley.  Cover the dish, and bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the edges are bubbling and the cheeses are melted.  During the last 5 minutes of cooking, uncover.  When done, remove from the oven and serve.

Wine Pairing Suggestion
For this hearty, red pasta sauce dish, I have two wine recommendations: One is a more sophisticated wine (a bit pricier).  The other is a little more casual, and less expensive.  Take your pick and enjoy!

The first wine recommendation is Villa Antinori Toscana -- a Super Tuscan wine (from Tuscany, Italy) that sells for about $17 at BevMo or Safeway.  It is a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah.  This wine used to be labeled as a Chianti Classico.  But, the Antinoris recently started using a different blend of grapes than those allowed by the region of Chianti Classico in Tuscany.  So they can't call it Chianti Classico anymore.

This wine is medium-bodied, smooth and elegant.  It has flavors of blackberry and raspberry, with soft tannins and a nice persistent finish on the palate.  Its has intense deep ruby red color.

This wine is one of my and Patrick's favorite Italian wines. We first became acquainted with the Villa Antinori wines when Patrick and I visited Italy more than 8 years ago during my last year of law school.  We went to a wine-tasting event in Florence, Italy where we tried the wine.  Then, we went to dinner one night at a restaurant in Florence called Buca Mario (http://www.bucamario.it/restaurant).  We had a bottle of Villa Antinori there.  Oh my gosh!  We had the best meal of our lives there and one of the best nights ever!  In fact, we were the last ones to leave the restaurant there.  The waiters kept bringing us food and wine samples. That is where we first tasted Limoncello, which is an Italian lemon liquer made out of lemon zest, alcohol, water, and sugar.  It is delicious.  Well, I'll save that for another blog entry when I feature some yummy dessert.

The point is, I still dream about that meal at Buca Mario even now.  As you can imagine, Patrick and I fell in love with each other all over again in Italy during that vacation. Since then, each time we have a bottle of Villa Antinori, it brings us back to that vacation.  I hope you try this wine and make your own special memory.

Another wine that I would recommend is Novella Synergy, which is produced by EOS Winery in Paso Robles, CA.  You can normally buy this wine at Trader Joe's for about $7.  This wine is a blend of 56% Petite Sirah, 39% Zinfandel and 5% Sangiovese. It has deep purple color.  Once you taste it, it has flavors of raspberries and blackberries, with some notes of dried fruits, oak, and spices (such as fennel and pepper).  It has an excellent finish that leaves your mouth with a hint of chocolate.  It is a great wine to have during the winter or on cold nights, with a nice plate of comfort food like the penne above.  I also hope you try this wine and let me know what you think.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Tribute to Friendship

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

For those of you who know me, you probably know that I love to have friends over to my house just to hang out, share a meal, and enjoy one another's company.  Well, tonight my friends Evelyn and Rene (and their 9-year-old daughter) and my friend Keith came over for dinner.  The five of us try to have dinner, along with the kids, about once a month, and we take turns cooking the meal.  This time, Keith was the Chef in the kitchen.  He made this amazing braised chicken with artichokes and peas from Gourmet Magazine.  This dish is very scrumptious and comforting.  It is ideal for sharing with friends, and to save as left over for dinner during the week.  I have copied the recipe below, if you'd like to try it.  Keith served this dish with angel hair pasta.

To accompany this delicious dish, Keith brought over an absolutely wonderful bottle of wine: Bogle Phantom (2006).  This wine is a blend of Petite Sirah, Old Vine Zinfandel, and Old Vine Mourvedre grapes.  The 2006 vintage was released in August 2009.  This wine is a full-bodied wine that has bold, spicy and complex flavors.  Its rich and deep color makes the wine an inviting wine when you pour it into a glass.  On the nose, the wine hits you with aromas of vanilla, anise and sweet fig.  From the moment you take your first sip, you can taste traces of lush blackberries, vanilla, and black pepper.  Apparently, this wine is of limited quantity.  So, if you have a chance to try it, I strongly recommend it.  This wine sells at BevMo for about $17.  Here is a link to the winery: "http://www.boglewinery.com/bogle_phantom_facts.htm".

Keith: Thank you for a wonderful meal.  I am sorry I gave you a hard time about making a mess in my kitchen when you cook.  But, you know I am just messing with you.  I love you!  Hey: With great dishes like this, you can make a mess in my kitchen any day.

Braised Chicken w/Artichokes & Peas Gourmet | January 2007
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 large chicken thighs with skin and bone (2 pounds total)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, and halved lengthwise
1 cup frozen baby peas (not thawed)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation and Cooking Instructions
Put flour in a shallow bowl. Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then dredge, 1 piece at a time, in flour, shaking off excess. Transfer to a sheet of wax paper as coated.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté chicken, skinned sides down first, turning over once, until deep golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate (chicken will not be fully cooked).

Add onion with remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown around edges, about 6 minutes. Add wine and boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, 1 minute. Stir in broth, artichokes, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return chicken to skillet along with any juices from plate and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover skillet and reduce heat, then simmer until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in peas and simmer, covered, 5 minutes. 

If you try this recipe and/or the Phantom wine, please do write a comment and let me know what you think.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mustard-Cream Roasted LingCod Fish, Rosemary Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, and Steamed Baby Carrots

Friday was a typical San Francisco Bay Area October Day -- sunny and warm!  For our family movie night, I wanted to make something a bit light, but ultra tasty for dinner.  The day just screamed fish.  When I was growing up in Haiti, I ate fish a lot and I just love fish.  So, I made a mustard-cream roasted Lingcod fish, served with rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes and steamed baby carrots.  This dish was inspired by an episode of Barefoot Contessa when Ina Garten -- one of my favorite chefs on the Food Network -- made a similar dish using red snapper.  But, our local Butcher -- Ver Brugge on College Avenue in Oakland -- recommended the Lingcod.  They had just gotten the whole fish delivered yesterday from a local supplier, and they cut me the pieces that I needed when I got there.  You can't buy fish fresher than that.  I love Ver Brugge.  Thanks, Guys!

Lingcod is a saltwater fish that has lean, flaky white meat and is mild flavored.  When cooking Lingcod and you want to check whether it is done, you should use the tip of a sharp knife and cut through the thickest part of the fillet. If the fish has been properly cooked, the meat will appear opaque but will still be moist.

This dish is absolutely delicious.  The fish came out moist and buttery.  It soaked up the mustard-cream topping so wonderfully.  The fish, coupled with the rosemary potatoes, and the sweet baby carrots left an explosion of flavor in my mouth.  And, you know what the best thing was?  This dish is so quick and low maintenance to make, it gave us plenty of time to enjoy Finding Nemo -:) with the kids.

For dessert, I made something simple, fresh, and delicious.  I mixed 1/2 small container of Mascarpone cheese (about 4 ounces) with some light whipped cream, 1/2 a teaspoon of lemon zest, and 1/2  teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Mascarpone is a tripple cream cheese, and is the main ingredient in Tiramisu.  I layered the cheese mixture in between a medley of fresh berries (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry) in a martini glass. I topped it off with a couple of pieces of thin milk chocolate crisps that I got from Trader Joe's. My daughter had a blast making this dessert with me.

Along with this yummy meal, we had a glass of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling (Columbia Valley, Washington, 2008).  Riesling is a white wine that originated in Germany.  This particular Riesling has a nice scent of orange and peach blossoms, honeysuckle, and sweet lemons on the nose.  When you taste it, it has a refreshing taste of juicy peach, ripe pears, apricot and citrus flavors.  This Riesling leaves a nice unexpected lingering finish in the mouth.  It complemented the Lingcod dish very well.  Surprisingly, this Riesling is inexpensive (usually sells for $9, but Safeway now has it for about $6).  I strongly recommend it if you are looking for a light, refreshing, semi-dry white wine to serve with fish.

If you would like to try any of these dishes, here are the recipes:

Mustard-Cream Roasted Lingcod Fish
4 fillets of Lingcod boneless, but with skin (or other flaky, mild-flavored fish you like)
1 small (7 to 8 ounces) container of Crème fraîche (Crème fraîche is fresh cream, similar to sour cream)
3 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard, which gives the dish some flavor
1 Tablespoon of whole-grain mustard for texture (whatever brand you have in the refrigerator)
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cooking Instructions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Season fish generously with salt and pepper.  Place the fish skin side down in a shallow ovenproof baking dish.

Mix in a small bowl the Crème fraîche, mustards, shallots, and lemon zest. Add to the cream some salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon the cream mixture evenly on top of the fish. Bake the fish in the oven uncovered for about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish fillets.  [If you use red snapper, it takes about 5 minutes less to cook.  Lingcod takes a few minutes longer because it is a bit thicker.]  Serve the fish with the potatoes and carrots (below) or your favorite side dishes.  Make sure you spoon over the fish the extra sauce from the baking dish.

Rosemary Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
1 pound of fingerling potatoes, rinsed but not peepled or cut
2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter (melted)
Salt (about 1 teaspoon) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 Tablespoon of dried rosemary)

Cooking Instructions
Place the potatoes on a baking sheet.  Mix all the other ingredients with the potatoes.  Bake in the 425-degree oven along with the fish for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

Steamed Carrots
1 small package of fresh baby carrots
1 Teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions
Steam the carrots in a sauce pan on the stove top (or in a steamer).  Once cooked, drain the water, and return the carrots to the pan.  Add the olive oil and the salt and pepper.  Mix well, and cook on low for about 1 minute.

I hope you try this meal next time you are in the mood for fish.  And, next time you are at the store looking for an inexpensive bottle of white wine, pick a bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle's Riesling.  And, please be sure to post a comment and let me know what you think about the fish and/or the wine.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Heirloom Tomato and Basil Bruschetta; Grilled Salmon Fillets w/Cherry, Red Wine Vinegar, and Honey Glaze

One of my favorite appetizers is a Tomato and Basil Bruschetta that I love to make every once in a while for my family.  This weekend, I made this old-time favorite as a special treat.  Along with that, I grilled some salmon fillets with a sherry, red wine vinegar and honey glaze.  I served that with a side of brown rice with some chopped fresh parsley stirred into it.  Here are the recipes below.  Give them a try!

2 large heirloom tomatoes, diced
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1/4 cups of fresh basil, finely chopped (or use about a teaspoon of dried parsley)
1/4 cup of Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus 1 tablespoon for the bread
1/4 cup of crumbled Feta Cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Goat cheese (as much as you want for the bread)
1 sourdough or sweet baguette

Put the tomatoes, garlic, and basil in a medium bowl
Add the balsamic vinegar, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and feta cheese
Stir everything well to mix
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
[Add more balsamic vinegar/olive oil, if you need more flavor]
Cover and let sit for 10 minutes (this gives the ingredients a chance to blend in together)

In the meantime, slice the baguette into 1/4 inch thick slices (use as many as you want)
Brush the bread slices with the remaining olive oil
Toast the bread in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes
Top each slice of bread with a dollop of goat cheese
Spoon the tomato mixture on top of each slice of bread, and serve as appetizer.

Grilled Salmon Fillets w/Sherry, Red Wine Vinegar, and Honey Glaze

1/4 cup of Sherry (may leave out, add more vinegar)
1/4 cup of Red Wine Vinegar
3 Tablespoons of honey
1 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce (or use soy sauce, if you don't have Worcestershire sauce)
1 Tablespoon of minced shallots (or onions)
A pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 salmon fillets

Rinse salmon fillets with cold water, pat dry, season with salt and pepper, and set aside
In the meantime, combine all the ingredients (up to the pepper flakes) in a small bowl
Add some salt and pepper, and taste
Grill the salmon fillets on the grill (skin side down first, if they have skin), for about 4-5 minutes per side
Brush each side with the glaze, as the fillets grill
Remove from grill and serve with the rice below

Brown Rice w/Fresh Parsley

1 cup of Brown rice (Brown rice is a bit healthier than white rice)
2 Tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

Cook rice per package instructions (I use a rice cooker; 2 cups of water for every cup of rice; I also add 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the rice cooker to season the rice as it cooks)
Once cooked, stir in the chopped parsley
Season with salt and pepper, to taste (if you add the salt in the rice as it cooks, don't add again)
Serve rice with the salmon fillets

Suggested Wine Pairing
With this meal, Patrick and I tried a glass of a Sangiovese our friends Evelyn and Rene brought over to our house recently.  It is made by the Rios-Lovell Estate Winery in Livermore, California [http://www.rioslovellwinery.com].  This wine is medium-bodied, with fresh strawberry bouquet.  It has flavors of cherry with soft tannins on your pallet.

Evelyn and Rene are members of the Winery's wine club.  They recently took us wine-tasting there.  It was fun and the wines were delicious. If you are in Livermore, we recommend a visit to this winery. Thank you, Evelyn and Rene!  Let's go wine-tasting again real soon.

Another great wine that would go really well with this meal is a Zinfandel that our friends Michele and Bill brought over to our house this weekend.  It is Cline's Ancient Vines Zinfandel.  This winery has special meaning for Michele and Bill because that is where they got married.  We had dinner with Michele and Bill this weekend, and we tried this wine for the first time with pizza, served with a green salad and a home-made red wine Vinaigrette dressing.  But, I think it would pair wonderfully with the salmon.

This Zinfandel is just wonderful.  It is full-bodied, with flavors of raspberry, blackberry, with hints of white pepper, spice, as well as traces of coffee and chocolate.  The ripe fruit flavors are married with a taste of vanilla in your mouth.  The soft tannins make it a very easy wine to pair with most food.  The Ancient Vines Zinfandel is also special because it is made from grapes grown on 100-year-old vines.  Give it a try next time you are shopping for wine.  Here is a link to the winery's webpage: (http://www.clinecellars.com/index.cfm?method=storeproducts.showDrilldown&productid=390f8ac0-fe3c-48a0-54a1-40fba3bfbc81&ProductCategoryID=75119e30-c7d7-cba6-5bf3-611315a990c6&OrderBy=PXPC.DisplayOrder+Asc,+P.Price1).  
Thank you, Michele and Bill!

I hope you try some of these (and all of my) recipes, and the wines.  Please be sure to post a comment and let me know what you think.  Also, please post a comment to add on some of your favorite recipes or wines.  Remember: Food and wine are more enjoyable when shared with friends and family.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Friday, October 9, 2009

Pannini w/Tomato and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

It's Friday night, you are tired from a long week, and it's cold outside.  What's for dinner?  Here is a feel-good, easy-to-make, and delicious comfort meal for the whole family.

Friday nights are "Movie Nights" at our house.  For our "movie night" dinner tonight, I heated up on the stove top one carton of Organic Tomato and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup from Trader Joe's.  This soup is delicious.  The tomatoes give the soup a nice tangy taste, while the red bell peppers give it a semi-sweet taste.  Even the most picky eater in my family -- my 3-year-old son -- had a few spoonfuls.  Of course, it was after he asked me why he had to eat tomato soup.  My response?  It is good for you and you will like it.  He agreed after he tried it.

With the soup, I made some "Panninis."  For the Panninis, I put slices of Havarti and Fontina Cheeses and Rosemary Ham in between two slices of Sweet French Bread.  I sprayed a counter-top griddle with cooking spray, placed the sandwiches on the griddle and pressed them until the cheeses melt and the bread is slightly crispy.  That's it!  We had a whole meal.

Patrick and I paired our Pannini-soup combo with a glass of a wonderful Cabernet that I bought at BevMo during its 5-cents sale.  It is from Argentina, and it is by a winery called Finca Lalande.  This Cabernet is similar to a Bordeaux varietal.  The wine is elegant in style, rich in flavor and very aromatic.  When you drink this wine, your palate is loaded with concentrated flavors of cherry and currant fruits, with a hint of black pepper in the aftertaste.  The tannins leave a nice long finish in your mouth.  The wine is regularly $16.99, but when you buy one bottle, you get the second one for $.05.

Although it is a Cabernet, this wine served very well with the tomato and red bell pepper soup, and the Panninis allow you to enjoy all the flavors of the wine.

If you don't want to go out to dinner, and you're tired of take-out for your family's movie or game night, try this simple, but delicious meal and a glass of this fantastic Cabernet.  And, enjoy your movie with the family!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast w/Roasted Bell Peppers and Polenta Cakes

Think chicken breast is boring?  Well, think again.  There is nothing boring about this Chicken meal recipe that I made for my family tonight.  It is easy and delicious.

4 Chicken Breasts (slice them vertically, but without going all the way through so filling can stay in)
1 Cup of chopped frozen spinach (thawed)
1/2 Cup of shredded Gruyere cheese (or whatever Swiss-type cheese you have at home)
1/2 Cup of Feta cheese
1 small shallot or 1/4 cup of onions (minced)
1 Clove of garlic (minced)
1 Tablespoon of lowfat milk or whipping cream
3 Bell peppers sliced (whatever color you like)
1/2 Red onions (sliced)
1/2 a log of pre-cooked polenta (Trader Joe's has them in the pasta isle)
About 4 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 Teaspoon of Italian Seasoning


Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Bell Peppers
Place sliced peppers and onions in a baking dish
Season with salt and pepper
Add Italian Seasoning
Add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
Mix well so the vegetables get coated with the seasonings and oil
Bake in the oven until soft, about 30 minutes (depending on how big the peppers are)

Chicken Breasts
Mix spinach, cheese, shallot, garlic, and milk in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper to taste
Stuff chicken breasts with the spinach mixture
Fold the stuffed chicken breasts so the stuffing doesn't come out
Tie the chicken breasts with a twine or insert a couple of toothpicks in them to keep the stuffing in
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium high heat
Brown the stuffed chicken breasts on all sides (about 2 minutes per side)
Then, put the skillet in the oven, and cook for 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken breasts)

Slice the polenta into 1/4-inch sizes
Cook according to package [I browned them in a pan over the stove top, and then sprinkled them with some Parmesan cheese]

Serve everything together with a nice glass of your favorite wine.  When I made this dish, we tried a glass of Challis Lane Old Vine Zinfandel (2007).  I got this wine at BevMo, which is currently having its 5-cents sale.  When you buy this wine for $7.99, you get a second bottle for $.05.   This wine is medium body, loaded with delicious berry fruit flavors, and has a nice finish.  It goes really well with this dish.  It received a 90-point rating by Wilfred Wong.  And, at about $4 a bottle, it is a true deal.  Check out BevMo's website:http://www.bevmo.com/Shop/ProductDetail.aspx?D=challis&Ntx=mode%2bmatchall&Dx=mode%2bmatchall&Ntk=All&Nty=1&Ntt=challis&N=0&ProductID=31270.

If you try the recipe and/or the wine, be sure to write a comment and let me know what you think.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, September 28, 2009

Grilled Molasses and Orange Glazed Pork Chops, with Roasted Root Vegetables, and Honey Lemon Vinaigrette Slaw

Wondering what to make for dinner tonight after a long, hard day of work and on a night when your kid's school project is due? Well, wonder no more. Here's a great meal idea that is quick, easy, and absolutely delicious. It's my grilled molasses and lemon glazed pork chops, served with baked sweet potatoes, beats, and carrots, and a side of slaw with a lemon and honey vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Pork Chops:
What You Need (for 4 servings):
  • 4 Pork Chops (bone-in, thin cut recommended)
  • 1/2 a cup of Molasses (or use honey if you don't have Molasses)
  • Juice from 1/2 an orange
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 clove of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sesame Seeds (not necessary, but adds extra flavor)
  • 1 Tablespoon of light soy sauce
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh chopped rosemary (use dry rosemary, if you don't have fresh)
1-2-3 Step Before Grilling
  1. Rinse, pat dry and season the pork chops with salt and pepper
  2. Combine all the remaining ingredients to make a glaze
  3. Pour the mixed glaze onto the pork chops
Voila! Grill the pork chops (you can use the oven if you don't have a grill or if it's cold out)

Roasted Vegetables (you can substitute any vegetables you like roasted)
What You Need:
  • Sweet Potatoes (w/skin cut into bite size pieces)
  • Fresh/Raw beats (peeled and cut into bite size pieces)
  • Carrots (peeled and cut into bite size pieces)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (just to coat vegetables)
Place cut-up vegetables onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, mix some olive oil on vegetables. Then, roast in a 375-degree oven until tender (about 20 minutes)

Slaw w/Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette
What You need:
  • 1/2 a package of shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1/2 package of shredded carrots
  • 1/2 package of shredded red cabbage
  • Juice from 1/2 of lemon
  • 1 Teaspoon of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
What To Do:
  • Mix the shredded vegetables in a medium bowl
  • Combine remaining ingredients in a jar w/lid (old jelly jar works great; or whisk in a bowl)
  • Pour the vinaigrette on the vegetables
  • Mix and serve
Recommended Wine? Frei Brothers Reserve Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, CA 2007). This wine is has a deep purple color. Its flavor components are berries (maybe Blackberries and Cherries). It is a wine that is ready to drink now, but can be saved for a couple of years. It is complex on the tongue with each sip, but has a long-lasting finish. This wine is typically $22 at Safeway, but I bought it recently for $11. Enjoy!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Farfalle w/Italian Sausage, Vegetables & Tomato Cream Sauce

Some people think Farfalle (Bow-tie pasta) is boring. Well, if you are one of those people, I have a recipe that, once you try it, you will change your mind. It's my Farfalle pasta with mild Italian Sausage, fresh broccoli and bell peppers, and a light tomato cream sauce. [Feel free to use whatever vegetables you and your kids like, if you have kids.]

When I made this pasta dish this past Saturday, Patrick and I had a glass of a Meritage wine by Nine Points from Sonoma, CA. I bought this wine at Safeway for $12 (it is regularly $23). It is a medium-bodied wine, that is smooth to drink, with notes of berries. Nine Points is a line of wine from Stags' Leap Winery.

To start the meal (as an appetizer), I served an amazing salad of purple cherry tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, diced avocados, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. I have never had purple tomatoes before, but they are delicious. They are crunchy, and when they pop in your mouth, they are sweet and scrumptious. My daughter actually asked for them every time as a snack. She said: "These tomatoes are great, Mom!" Who would have thought a 6-year-old would have found something that is actually good for her "great." It makes me so happy-:) I only wish I had bought more than one basket of the tomatoes.

To finish the meal, I served a refreshing and very simple dessert of fresh sliced peaches dropped into a glass of muscat (a sweet dessert wine from Paso Robles, CA). Saturday was very hot, and after running around running errands, and cheering my daughter at her soccer game, this dessert was a great way to cool down. I found this particular muscat (Castoro Cellars) at Trader Joe's for $5.

Here is what you need for the pasta (the rest of the meal is already described above):
  • Box of Farfalle pasta cooked according to the package instructions; ADD the vegetables into the pot of boiling pasta during the last 2 minutes of cooking [Barilla's PLUS brand is great: it is whole grain and enhanced with omega-3]
  • 1 package of mild Italian Sausage (casings removed, crumbled, and browned on in a non-stick skillet on the stove top; once cooked remove from skillet and place on paper towel to drain out some of the excess oil)
  • 1 medium can of diced tomatoes (with Italian seasonings)
  • 1/2 red onions (chopped)
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of red wine (or white if that's what you have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Italian seasoning (or some dried basil and oregano, if you have)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
What to do:
  • Throw away the excess oil from the skillet that you cooked the sausage in.
  • Add olive oil to the pan
  • Add onions, and saute for about 2 minutes
  • Add garlic and saute for 1 minute (don't burn the garlic)
  • Add the diced tomatoes with the liquid
  • Add the Italian seasoning
  • Add some salt and pepper to taste
  • Add the wine and stir
  • Let it simmer on low for just a couple of minutes (to cook out the wine)
  • Add some water from the pasta pot or some pre-made pasta sauce, if you have some
  • Then, add the whipping cream
  • Stir, simmer for about a minute, then turn off the heat
  • Add cooked pasta from the pot directly into the skillet
  • stir; add salt and pepper, if necessary; then mix in the Parmesan cheese
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve
I hope you try this recipe one day. If you do, I would love to hear what you think. So, don't forget to write a comment.

Until next time . . . cheers!