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

-Dario Zucconi

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Garlic/Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

[Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs w/Parmesan-Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Brussels Sprouts]
Have you ever taken your first bite of a meal where you get an explosion of flavors and texture in your mouth, and you just close your eyes so you can slowly savor every second of that first bite? If you love the complex flavors of food as much as I do, you know it when you have tasted something that just gives you an indescribable sense of enjoyment the minute you taste it.

Tonight, I had a culinary experience that I will remember for a long time! I recently found this recipe in Bon Appetit for red wine-braised short ribs that sounded delicious when I read it. So, I decided today was the perfect day to try making it because it was a "chill down" Sunday for our family. We had a long day (and night!) yesterday because, on top of ballet and soccer games, our kids' school had its annual auction. We were up really late. And, with the time change, we were so looking forward to the extra hour in the day.

[Short ribs cut by the Butcher on order.]
[Nice Cab as my braising wine.]
So, yesterday, I went to Berkeley Bowl and got some short ribs. I had the Butcher cut the ribs into pieces for me. When I was ready to cook, all I had to do was season the meat, and it was ready to go. That's less work for me! I used a bottle of J Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon to braise the ribs. It's really important that you use good quality wine when you are braising meat. The quality of your wine dictates the quality of the flavor of your meat when it's cooked. You don't have to use something really expensive, but use a decent bottle of wine - the meat will take on the flavor of your wine. Here is the recipe (modified, as noted in bold):

Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs

5 pound bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2" pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
8 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs oregano
2 sprigs rosemary
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
4 cups low-salt beef stock

[Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs - After 3 Hours of Braising]
Preheat oven to 350°F. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2-2 1/2 hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over mashed potatoes with sauce spooned over.

[NOTE: I braised the ribs for about 3 hours, and the meat fell off the bones, and was literally melting in my mouth. The great thing about braising is that you put it in the oven and forget it until the timer goes off. So, you have time to do your chores around the house, go for a walk or run, or just enjoy a movie with the family. For me, while the ribs were braising, I picked up my 6-year-old son from a play date, I helped my daughter and 4-year-old son with homework, I did laundry, and went for a run.]

Side Dishes?
For sides, I made this amazing, buttery, creamy garlic Parmesan mashed potatoes. Here is a rough recipe:

2 pounds of red potatoes (washed under cool water)
1 whole head of garlic
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons of salted butter
1/2 cup of sour cream (Light is okay)
1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
Salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper (use fresh ground black pepper, if you don't have white pepper)
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (plus 2 Tablespoon for "au gratin" crust)

[Garlic/Parmesan Mashed Potatoes]
Cut off the top from the head of garlic and place the body on a small piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle the olive oil on top. Season it with a couple of rounds of fresh ground black pepper. Loosely close the foil. Place the garlic in the oven while the ribs are cooking, and roast the garlic for about 1 hour (or until soft and you can just squeeze it into the mashed potatoes).

Boil the potatoes (with skin on) until soft and ready to be mashed. When cooked, drain and let cool. Then, peel the potatoes and return the peeled potatoes in the pot. Squeeze in the garlic (without the skin) into the potatoes. Add the butter, and about 1 teaspoon of salt, and mash. Add the sour cream and mix well. Add the whipping cream and stir to mix well. If the potatoes are a bit dry, add a little more sour cream and/or whipping cream. Stir in 1/2 cup of the the Parmesan cheese. Taste to see if you need more salt. If you do, add some more salt and add the pepper.

Once you have a nice creamy (and well-seasoned) mashed potatoes, spoon it into a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Bake it in the oven while the ribs are cooking for about 20 minutes. When the ribs are done, remove everything from the oven. Turn the broiler on HIGH. Return the potatoes in the oven, and broil the top for about 2-3 minutes. Make sure you watch it so it doesn't burn. Remove from the oven, and serve with short ribs.

[NOTE: When you combine a bite of the short ribs with a spoonful of the creamy mashed potatoes, there is a chorus of flavors singing songs of joy in your mouth. The meat is soft and delicious from all the herbs and hours of braising. The mashed potatoes are smooth, velvety, and buttery. I guarantee you, it's very hard to just have one serving.]

Tonight, I also made some roasted brussels sprouts, which I think go very well with braised meats and mashed potatoes. Roasted is the only way I eat Brussels sprouts.

Wine Pairing?
Of course, you can have any full-bodied, flavorful wine you have on hand. But, I think a nice Cabernet goes very well with the short-ribs - keeping the flavor profile. Tonight, we went with a really delicious and inexpensive bottle of Cabernet. It's Robert Hall's 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles, CA) [http://www.roberthallwinery.com/product/2009-Cabernet-Sauvignon].  This wine is about $10 at Cost Plus (regularly $18). It has a beautifully intense dark ruby red color.  On the nose, you are greeted with wonderful aromas of dark ripe plums, black currant, and hint of cocoa powder.  On the palate, you are sure to enjoy delicious flavors of dark red fruits, a taste of dark chocolate and a hint of spice like star anise. The taste is smooth with a very nice finish. The rich and velvety flavors of this Cabernet compliment the exploding and earthy flavors of the short ribs very well.

I hope you and your family had a wonderful weekend, and took advantage of the extra hour from daylight savings time.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Left My Heart at Villa Vignamaggio (Chianti, Tuscany)

(Chianti with 100% Sangiovese Grapes produced by one of our favorite villas in Tuscany.)
Nine years ago, Patrick and I went to Italy for two weeks. After spending a few days in Venice and a few days in Florence, we took the train to Tuscany where we spent a full glorious and memorable week.  My daughter was just a little baby then - she was about 9 months old (now, she is 10 years old). And, my little sister, Tanicha, was about 7 years old at that time. We took her with us. That was probably the best vacation that Patrick and I have had.  Tuscany is where I want to retire, die, and be buried. I love it there.

(Villa Vignamaggio, Greve in Chanti, Tuscany (Italy), circa July 2003.)
We stayed at this beautiful Villa in a little town in Chianti, called Greve.  The Villa is called Villa Vignamaggio. http://www.vignamaggio.it/index-english.html. It was breathtaking!

The grounds were immaculate. I loved the rolling hillsides with the vineyards and olive trees. The surrounding areas were the quintessential picture of what the Tuscan countryside is.

The villa itself was gorgeous and very clean and comfortable. They had a pool, which we were able to enjoy since we went there in July.  They also had a children's play area, which our daughter enjoyed.

With our package, we enjoyed a 4-course dinner, with amazing wine, two nights per week.

They gave us tours of their winery and the caves where they stored their wines. The tour was great.  

We also got to try many of their different wines.  The wines were fabulous. I particularly loved their Obsession.  http://www.vignamaggio.it/english/product.html?_id=9e6476c1-3e5b-4fec-9c99-e7148da279b2

They also make their own olive oil, which we could taste until our heart's content. I loved the labels on the olive oil.  http://www.vignamaggio.it/english/product.html?_id=87282c23-b5ea-4b0f-b572-b045e31ef188
We actually brought some wine and olive oil back with us to the United States, and shared with family and friends. We had wished that we were allowed to bring more, but Customs had limits.

As you can tell, we absolutely loved this place. The inn keepers and winemakers were incredibly hospitable and wonderful hosts. We haven't been to Italy since. Tuscany is one place where Patrick and I are planning to return to in the near future. And, every once in a while, I day dream about Villa Vignamaggio and their wines.

Well, sometimes dreams do come true! This past weekend, as I was walking back from getting coffee at the Peet's Store across the street from the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, I decided to go into this wine shop, the Wine Thieves, to say hi to the owner and just browse his selection. http://www.winethieves.com/. I am always curious to see what "real" wine shops carry and how expensive. And, since his shop is called the "Wine Thieves", I was doubly curious about the prices.  As I was looking around the different selections, what did I find in the "Tuscan/Super Tuscan" section? A Villa Vignamaggio Chianti Classico (2008). I was speechless. Actually, I let out a huge shout of "Oh my Gosh!" The owner jumped up from behind the counter, walked over to where I was, and asked if I was okay. I told him yes, and apologized for scaring him. I told him the story about our trip to Tuscany, and our stay at Villa Vignamaggio. I told him how Patrick and I really enjoyed the wines, and that was the best vacation experience since we've been together almost 20 years ago. I told him I couldn't believe that he had this wine so close by (less than 5 miles away), and I didn't know. He said it's not an easy wine to import to the U.S., but, he had some connections who helped him bring this wine over. He said it was one of his favorites too. It was such a nostalgic moment when I walked to the car with the wine bottle in a brown bag, told Patrick I had a surprise for him, and pulled out the wine. He had the same reaction as I did. He said "Oh wow, where did you find that?"

This Chianti is made of 100% Sangiovese grapes.  It's a deeper, fuller Chianti, with a beautifully intense red color.  It has aromas of ripe red berries (like cherries and raspberries).  It is smooth on the palate, and goes well with most Italian dishes. Last night, we had it with some Pesto Pasta with Italian sausage.  It was just perfect!  Here is a description of the 2010 vintage: http://www.vignamaggio.it/english/product.html?_id=bb34dc19-7cff-4802-9077-80619eb9017e.  

When Patrick and I first begin to experiment with red wine about 18 years ago when we met at UC Berkeley, we started with drinking Chianti. We found it a little bit lighter and easier to drink. Maybe it's fate that I found this wine at the Wine Thieves. Maybe it's a sign that we need to plan another trip to Tuscany. Whatever the reasons, Patrick and I were very happy to enjoy this bottle of Chianti, look through some old pictures of our trip, and reminisce about one of our best vacations ever in Tuscany. We can't wait to go back . . . soon! (Tara: I hope you are reading this post. Let's plan this trip soon! -:) Tanicha: You'll be coming with us too. Luv U! -:)

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin; Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples

(Maple Syrup, Mustard, and Fresh Thyme Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples)
Do you ever find yourself flipping through a fashion or entertainment magazine, and find your inspiration for your next family meal? I sometimes do. This past weekend, as I was getting a pedicure, I was flipping through the November 2012 issue of Self magazine. It's not typically my kind of magazine, but the pickings were slim at the nail shop - there were so many people getting pampered on Saturday.  Anyway, as I flipped through pages after pages, without really finding any articles of interest, I came across this recipe for Maple Pork Roast http://www.self.com/fooddiet/recipes/2012/11/maple-pork-roast.  That captured my attention. I was particularly drawn by the side ingredients - rather than the main protein.  The dish calls for sweet potatoes and Fuji apples.  Sweet potatoes are one of my top favorite vegetables, if not my favorite. Apples (particularly Fuji apples) are probably my favorite fruit. When you have both of these ingredients in one dish, and it's the Fall season, I was so inspired to make the dish.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to make it over the weekend. But, on Sunday, while grocery shopping for the week, I picked up some of the ingredients that I didn't already have at home. I called my favorite Butcher Shop in Oakland (Ver Brugge in Rockridge) and had them hold a beautifully cut pork tenderloin for me.

Tonight, when I got home, I made the tenderloin dish for dinner. Amazingly enough, it only took about 1 hour from start to finish. I got home at around 6:00. My daughter had volleyball practice until 7:00. By the time my husband went to pick her up from practice, dinner was served. And, it was delicious! The sweet earthy flavor from the maple syrup, combined with the acidity from the vinegar, and the whole grain mustard, plus the fragrant aromas of the thyme made the pork an inviting and delicious main dish. Then, the sweet potatoes roasted with the Fuji apples were a wonderful accompaniment. The dish really makes you feel like it is really Fall. It so happens that today was the first day of our "rainy" season around the Bay Area. It must have been fate that I flipped through that particular issue of Self magazine and found this recipe. It surely is a recipe that I will keep in the "Adel's Favorite Recipes" binder.

With this Autumn-type dish and the cold wet weather we're having today, I decided to open up a bottle of one of my favorite red wine blends.  It's Bennett Lane's Maximus (2006 Napa Valley, CA) http://www.bennettlane.com/Winery/Wines/Maximus2005NapaValley/tabid/123/Default.aspx. This wine was a true find at Cost Plus World Market, and there is actually a story behind it. One Friday, I went to Cost Plus.  As I walked into the Store, there was a display with the Maximus right up front. I was first drawn by the label. Then, I read the description. I looked it up on my iPhone. The wine typically sells for about $35 a bottle. But, Cost Plus had it on sale for $15. I also found out that this wine won Double Gold in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. I decided to pick up a bottle to try. When we tried it, it was really good. We decided to go back and buy more. When I showed up to the same store on Monday, they were completely sold out. The wine clerk at the store told me that the wine had gone on sale on that Thursday, but by Saturday, they were sold out. He called about 3 different Cost Plus Stores for me. Unfortunately, they were also sold out. We finally found a couple of stores in San Jose that still had some bottles left. So, my husband picked up a few more bottles for us on his way home from work. This wine is a full-bodied wine that is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Malbec.  It is smooth and velvety, and very easy to drink.  It has wonderful flavors of dark cherries, blackberries, and hints of chocolate. It's always worth enjoying this wine whenever we have it.

I hope you have a great week ahead. If you are somewhere where it's raining or snowing right now, stay dry, warm, and safe.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Slow-Baked Pot Roast with Carrots and Red Potatoes

(Pot Roast with carrots and baby red potatoes.)
Tonight, we had one of the meals that I had intended to make last weekend, but was not able to because of a jammed-packed schedule. It's a pot roast recipe that I found on Food and Wine Magazine's website (http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/cda/recipe_print/0,1946,FOOD_9936_33765_RECIPE-PRINT-FULL-PAGE-FORMATTER,00.html).

(Boneless Chuck Beef Roast.)
I changed the recipe up just a bit.  I used a boneless Chuck beef roast because that was on sale at the store, and a boneless roast cooks faster and more tenderly. I also used red baby potatoes, instead of Russet potatoes because I like them better.  I also baked the meat for about 3 hours at 325°, instead of 2 hours at 350°.  I like the meat to cook very slowly, and be extra tender.  It paid off big time. The meat was juicy, tender, and delicious. It is loaded with flavors. The honey gave it a nice and mild sweetness that balances very well with the savory flavors of the beef stock, red wine, thyme and garlic.

(Roast after browning.)
I actually made the roast last night (while watching the Presidential Debate), and stored it in the refrigerator for dinner tonight. Pot roasts are great because they store well, you can have lots of leftovers, and they are versatile. You can have it with rice, with pasta, or as tacos. Tonight, some of us had the roast with steamed Jasmine rice. My 6-year-old son had it in tacos. Everyone loved it! Even the kids, which is always my hope whenever I make a new dish. When my daughter walked into the house from her Ballet class, she sniffed and asked "what's for dinner? It smells delicious." That was music to my ear! This recipe will be added to my favorite recipes.

The Vino

A roast like this calls for a yummy, full-bodied red wine. I had just the right "weeknight" bottle in mind: Gundlach Bundschu's Mountain Cuvee (2009 Sonoma, CA). It's a red wine blend, made up of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  It is a big body wine with an amazing texture on the palate. It has loads of deep dark berry fruit flavors, such as black cherry and blackberry.  Its tannins are soft, making it easy to drink. But, it has a smooth lingering finish, making it the perfect accompaniment to this roast. I picked up a bottle of this wine from Safeway recently. It's normally about $20, but it was on sale for $14.  We usually like the Gundlach Bundschu wines. (Their winery is beautiful.) I wanted to check out this vintage. I will go back to pick up more bottles to stock up. http://www.gunbun.com/index.cfm?method=storeproducts.showdrilldown&productid=a8de8347-e678-ca33-cde6-cb2d7a8534b2&isMarketingURL=1&.

If you are looking for some earthy, delicious, and comforting dish to make this weekend, try this roast. I hope you enjoy it.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mouthwatering Lasagna with Savory Homemade Meat Sauce

My children love lasagna. Actually, they love Auntie Evelyn's lasagna. They always have seconds and thirds of my friend Evelyn's lasagna. This weekend, I wanted to make a lasagna. I was inspired by this Food and Wine Magazine recipe that I found online (http://m.foodandwine.com/recipes/grandmas-lasagna). But, as I normally do, I changed it up and made it "my own."  I bought all the ingredients over the weekend. But, we had such a busy weekend that I didn't have any time to cook.

On Monday after work, I decided to make the lasagna for dinner on Tuesday. I made the meat sauce from scratch.  Since the sauce takes a long time to simmer, I started the sauce immediately when I got home from work. I let it simmer while we ate dinner and got the kids ready for bed. Once the kids were in bed, I worked on the filling and finished assembling the lasagna. I stopped at the point of baking, and placed it in the refrigerator overnight. Then, on Tuesday night (between my son's soccer practice and my daughter's volleyball practice), we popped it in the oven to bake. The lasagna turned out scrumptiously delicious!  My kids actually loved it. Here is the modified recipe, and a break down of the different components. [NOTE: You can use jars of marinara sauce for this too.]

The Meat Sauce:
(Meat sauce bubbling on the stove.)
  • 1 pound ground beef sirloin
  • 1 pound ground extra lean turkey
  • 6 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 small red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Two large (28-ounce) cans Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped, with juices
  • One large (28-ounce) can tomato puree
  • 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4-6 fresh thyme sprigs, tied together with kitchen string
  • 1 teaspoon of white sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

(Meat sauce reduced after 1 1/2 hours of simmering.)
In a large Dutch oven, heat about 2 generous Tablespoons of the olive oil over medium- high heat. Add the sirloin and pork, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the meat is brown (no pink). Once cooked, drain the meat on a paper towel and set aside.  In the same pot, add another Tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions, with a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper, and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Then, add the garlic, oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper and cook until aromatic. Return the meat to the pot and stir to mix with the onion/garlic. Add the tomato paste, stir with the meat, and cook until the meat is mixed well with the tomato paste. Add the two cans of chopped tomatoes, including the juices.  Then, add the can of tomato puree. Stir gently. Add the chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper (to taste).  

Bring the sauce to a boil. Turn down the heat to low, and simmer (uncovered), stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced by about 1/3, for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Turn off the stove, and let it sit while you prepare the filling and boil the pasta. [NOTE: You can use this meat sauce for regular pasta too. Feel free to make extra and refrigerate.]

The Filling and Lasagna Noodles:
  • 1 large (32 ounces) container of fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons basil (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups of shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 1 pound bag)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 package of dried lasagna noodles (I used whole grain as it's a little healthier)
(Assembled Lasagna.)
Bring a large deep pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the lasagna noodles until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water. Lay the noodles out between layers of paper towels to dry.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, with the chopped parsley, chopped basil, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Add 2/3 of the shredded mozzarella cheese.  Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the egg.

(Lasagna all layered up.)
Take two 9-by-13-inch glass baking dishes. Spread about 1 cup of the meat sauce in the bottom of each baking dish. Line 4 noodles over the sauce in each dish. Spread 1/4 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, 1 cup of the sauce, and another 3-4 noodles. Repeat the layering with the remaining ricotta, 1 cup of the meat sauce. Top each dish with 3-4 noodles and cover with 1 cup of sauce. Mix the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan.  Sprinkle the cheese over the lasagna.

(Lasagna ready to bake.)
[NOTE: If you are making the lasagna ahead of time, STOP HERE. Let the lasagna cool for a few minutes. Then, cover with aluminum foil, and store in the refrigerator. When you are ready to bake, take it out of the Fridge while the oven is preheating. Then, continue with the baking.]

Preheat the oven to 375°.  Bake the lasagna for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly, the top is golden, and the edges are crisp but not dry. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.

My kids will always love Auntie Evelyn's lasagna. But, I am happy to say that they also loved Mommy's lasagna. I hope you give this a try. 

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Portobello Mushroom and Goat Cheese Chicken w/Fingerling Potatoes

Chicken stuffed with portobello mushroom and goat cheese, rosemary fingerling potatoes
I am grateful for many things, particularly for my children and my family.  This week, I am reminded that my most difficult challenges are easier to overcome with the love of family and friends.  I am thankful to have extended family around this week.  As a person who loves cooking and experimenting with new ingredients and recipes, I am also grateful to be able to enjoy the fruits of my friend's agricultural labor. This week's post is about some goodies from my friend Keith.  Keith loves gardening.  He doesn't have a backyard, since he lives in a Condo.  But, he has a small garden on his balcony where he grows all kids of fruits and vegetables.  This week, he brought us some of his vegetables and herbs to try.  They included fingerling potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, basil, and parsley.

Basil and Italian Parsley from Keith's garden
Tonight, our family Sunday supper consisted of a lot of ingredients courtesy of Keith. We are thrilled to have my sister-in-law Shauna, her husband Brad, and the kids with us tonight.  I love having the dinner table full with people. I love hearing the kids ask questions before the meal, like: "what's in this chicken?" "Why would you stuff chicken with raisin?" "Is the chicken sweet?"

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken
For a main dish, I made chicken thighs stuffed with a mixture of sauteed baby portobello mushrooms, red onions, chopped basil, chopped parsley, goat cheese, chopped dried Crimson golden raisins, salt and pepper.


Chicken thighs (boneless and skinless; about 8-12 depending on how many people you have eating)
1 pound of baby portobello mushrooms (wiped with a damp paper towel and diced)
1/2 red onions (diced)
1 Tablespoon of fresh basil (finely chopped)
1 Tablespoon of fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley (finely chopped
1 large log of Goat Cheese
1/2 cup of dried Crimson golden raisins
1 cup of dry white wine (to soak up the raisins)
1 Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Kitchen twine (or string)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place the raisins in a bowl, add the wine, and let it soak for about 20 minutes.

Rinse the chicken under cool water and pat dry with paper towel.  Season chicken generously with salt and pepper.

In the meantime, heat up the extra virgin olive oil in a large sautee pan.  Add the onions and mushrooms, and cook until soft (about 6 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper AFTER cooking to reduce moisture. Remove from heat, put in a medium bowl, and let cool completely.

When the mushroom and onion mixture is cool, add the chopped parsley and basil. Then, add the goat cheese. Mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff the chicken thighs with about a spoonful each of the mushroom mixture.  Roll the chicken pieces around the mixture to seal (it won't be perfect).  Tie each piece of stuffed chicken with some kitchen twine (tie it around twice, if needed, to keep the stuffing from falling out.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Arrange the stuffed chicken on the baking sheet - leaving a little bit of space between them.  Bake for about 30 minutes (or until cooked through).  Remove from heat. Let cool for a few minutes. Serve with some rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes (see recipe below) or your favorite side dish and/or vegetables. NOTE: The chicken would also go well with steamed rice.

Fingerling Potatoes

Fingerling potatoes from Keith's garden
As a side, I roasted the fingerling potatoes from Keith's garden with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh rosemary.  NOTE: You can use dried rosemary from your spice cabinet.  After you clean the potatoes, add the oil, salt and pepper, rosemary, and mix. Put the potatoes in a baking dish, and roast at 375 for about 30 minutes.  You can cook them at the same time you're cooking the chicken.

The fingerling potatoes were delicious.  They were actually tastier than some potatoes I have bought in the store.  They were soft, creamy, buttery, and earthy.  They were a perfect accompaniment to the stuffed mushroom chicken.

Heirloom tomatoes from Keith's garden
Heirloom Tomatoes and Mixed Green Salad
Our family loves to have side salads with meals. My sister-in-law, Shauna, particularly likes my mixed green salad, with fresh heirloom tomatoes. It was a real treat to have so many different varieties of tomatoes from Keith. 

Garden of Adel!

My itty bitty garden, being nurtured by Keith.
Keith knows how much I love fresh fruits and vegetables. I, unfortunately, am not a big gardener. I tend to kill plants and vegetables when I try to plant them.  So, Keith has created a small garden for us in the backyard.  Last year, he planted sweet potatoes, which were great.  This year, he planted a variety of vegetables, including sugar snap peas (my favorite!), broccoli, heirloom tomatoes, basil, thyme, and rosemary. The garden is coming along pretty well. I can't wait to try some of the vegetables and herbs from there.

Grab a Cab!

Tonight, we decided to have a Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner. We opened one of our bottles from Robledo Winery (2009 Napa Valley). http://www.robledofamilywinery.com/media/6735/2012_august_newsletter.pdf

This Cab is a full-bodied wine that has wonderful flavors of dark fruits such as plums and blackberries.  It paired very nicely with the portebello mushroom, dried raisins, and goat cheese mixture.  The stuffing has a lot of bold flavors, including the flavors from the parsley and the mushroom.  This Cab also is one of our favorites.

I hope you had an enjoyable weekend with your family. Until next time . . . Cheers!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Baked Cheesy Stuffed Pasta Shells: A Make-Ahead Creation

Baked Pasta Shells - prepared on the weekend, and baked during the week
In the last post, I mentioned that last Sunday I had made a baked pasta dish for a weeknight dinner. But, I didn't describe the dish because I wanted to wait until I had baked the pasta so I could have a picture to show you. I baked it tonight, and have a beautiful, mouth-watering, picture to include in this post. The flavors of this dish is out of this world good!

The recipe is also from Food and Wine Magazine (October 2012 issue). What I did was prepare the dish on Sunday up to the last part - the point of baking it - and placed it in a Pyrex baking dish. I covered the Pyrex baking dish up with Aluminum foil and put it in the Refrigerator.  Tonight, as I was leaving work, Patrick put it in the oven to bake. When I got home, he had just taken it out of the oven.  It was nicely hot and bubbly. We made a side green salad, using some delicious heirloom tomatoes from our neighbor Sujata's garden.  As I usually do, I made my own Balsamic Vinegar dressing. It was a really wonderful "weeknight" dinner.  It was extra special because my sister-in-law, Shauna, just flew in tonight from Arizona with her 3 kids to visit for a week. All the kids (except for her 1-month-old baby girl -:) loved the pasta and the salad.  Some of them even had seconds - surprising for my kids!

Below is the recipe.  If you have some time to make this dish, I guarantee you, your family will love it. And, it stores pretty well for easy and delicious weeknight dinners.

Ricotta-and-Fontina-Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 medium heads of radicchio (10 ounces total), chopped
12 ounces jumbo shells
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
6 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
3 cups Best-Ever Marinara or jarred sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream 
Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter in the oil. Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes; add water as needed to keep the vegetables from scorching. Add the radicchio and cook until very soft, about 10 minutes, adding water as needed. Scrape the vegetables into a bowl and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and cool under running water. Pat the shells dry.

Fold the ricotta, 1 cup of the Fontina and the parsley into the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the eggs.

In another bowl, mix the marinara sauce with the heavy cream. Pour 1 1/2 cups into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Stuff each shell with a slightly rounded tablespoon of the filling and nestle the shells in the sauce as close together as possible. Drizzle 1 cup of the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Fontina.

Bake the shells for about 40 minutes, until golden. Let rest for 15 minutes. Warm the remaining sauce and serve on the side.

[NOTE: I made my own marinara sauce - recipe below - because I wanted to try it. It was spectacular. But, if you are short on time, pick up a jar at the Store.]
Best-Ever Marinara 

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 peeled and halved garlic cloves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
One 35-ounce can whole peeled Italian tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch of sugar
2 basil sprigs 
In a large saucepan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the garlic cloves and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and crush them with the back of a spoon; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the sugar and basil sprigs and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 3 cups, about 30 minutes. Discard the basil sprigs and garlic.

I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week and a great weekend.  If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Happy Fleet Week!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Make-Ahead Weeknight Dinners for Busy Moms (and Dads!)

This week was a roller coaster for me.  But, ultimately, I am grateful for being alive and able to enjoy what was a beautiful Sunday in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Today, I decided to make a few meals for next week -- hoping to ease some of the stress and anxiety that inevitably come with working full-time, commuting to and from work, and taking care of 3 school-aged children (while juggling homework, soccer, volleyball, ballet, etc.). Yep, school is fully in session!  I was excited to pick up the new issue of Food & Wine Magazine this week, which has some great "make-ahead" recipes for busy moms like me.  I decided to make three of them tonight.  I will describe two of them in this post  (the salmon and the chicken). For the other (a baked pasta dish), I will reserve for another day because I want to post it after I finish baking it (so I can get a nice picture of the finished product).  For the two that I finished tonight, here are the recipes!

Wild Salmon, Orzo and Arugula Pesto en Papillote(Courtesy of F&W Magazine. http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/wild-salmon-orzo-and-arugula-pesto-en-papillote)

10 ounces baby arugula
1 pound orzo pasta
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 medium shallot, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Six 6-ounce, skinless, center-cut wild salmon fillets
6 tablespoons dry white wine
Freshly ground pepper
2 lemons, very thinly sliced 
Preheat the oven to 375. Fill a bowl with ice water and bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the arugula to the boiling water and stir until just wilted, 20 seconds. Transfer to the ice water to cool; drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Transfer the arugula to a food processor.

Boil the orzo, stirring, until almost al dente, 9 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, add the cheese, garlic, lemon zest, vinegar, shallot, Tabasco and sugar to the arugula and pulse to chop. With the machine on, drizzle in the olive oil and process until smooth. Season with salt. Add the pesto to the orzo and toss.

Arrange six 16-by-12 1/2-inch sheets of parchment paper on a work surface. In the center of each sheet, mound 1 heaping cup of the orzo and top with a salmon fillet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of wine over each fillet. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the lemon in a single layer on the fish. Bring up 2 opposite sides of the parchment over the fish and orzo and fold to seal.

Arrange the papillotes on a baking sheet, leaving space between them. Bake for 18 minutes, until the packets are slightly puffed. Transfer to plates, open the packets carefully to release steam and serve. 

Chardonnay-Braised Chicken Thighs with Parsnips

(Courtesy of F&W Magazine. http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/chardonnay-braised-chicken-thighs-with-parsnips)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 medium chicken thighs (about 2 3/4 pounds)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 small shallots, peeled and quartered
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 3-by- 1/2-inch batons
1 rosemary sprig (about 6 inches)
1 cup California Chardonnay or other dry white wine
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish  

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large, deep ovenproof skillet, melt the butter in the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust with the flour, tapping off the excess. Add the chicken to the skillet skin side down and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned, 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the shallots, parsnips and rosemary to the skillet and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Nestle the chicken skin side up in the skillet, tucking it between the parsnips. Transfer the skillet to the middle rack of the oven and braise the chicken uncovered for about 25 minutes, until cooked through.

Turn the broiler on. Broil the chicken for 3 minutes, until the skin is crisp. Return the skillet to high heat and boil until the sauce is thickened, 3 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprig. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to bowls, garnish with parsley; serve.

NOTE: I will serve this with steamed rice during the week.

I hope you had a great weekend, and have a super week (with minimal stress) ahead!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Say Cheese! Homemade Fresh Crab and Shrimp Mac and Cheese

Today's post is about conquering a culinary fear, and making a homemade fresh crab and shrimp Mac and Cheese, courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa (aka Ina Garten) of the Food Network (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lobster-mac-cheese-recipe/index.html).  This dish really does not need many words to describe it, other than "this mac and cheese is very very very good," as my 6-year-old told me after he took his first bite.

My children have this ritual, which I absolutely love. Every time they walk into the kitchen, and they see me standing there stirring, chopping, or mixing something, they ask: "What's for dinner?"  I usually give them a short answer, like "chicken", or "fish", or "pork," or "beef," or "pasta".  When it's pasta, they usually ask "pasta with what?" If I say: "pasta with meat sauce", they usually ask: "Can we have the sauce on the side", which usually means, "I'll eat the pasta first, and then, we'll negotiate about the meat sauce." If we're making meat or fish dishes, they (especially my 6-year-old son) usually ask: "Can we have that in a tortilla as a taco?"  This usually means: "can you please bury the meat [or fish] inside some shredded cheese, sour cream, and avocados?"

This evening, my 6-year-old son walked into the kitchen as I was stirring the cheese sauce (roux), and asked: "What's for dinner, Mommy?" I said: "Mac and Cheese."  He asked: "Trader Joe's Mac and Cheese?" [TJ's Mac and Cheese is his favorite!]  I said: "No. It's Mommy's Mac and Cheese." His eyes widened. He peeked into the pot. He looked at the cooked shrimp in the pan. Then, he said: "Hmmm. Okay."  He walked over to the kitchen table to draw some pictures.

So, I finished preparing the Mac and Cheese (up to the point before mixing the bread crumb and putting it in the oven to bake). I put it in the refrigerator, with a note for my husband to bake it when he got home from work, while I took my daughter to Ballet class.  When I returned from Ballet, I was happy to see an amazing looking "homemade" Mac and Cheese.  When we sat down to eat dinner, my 6-year-old son continued to interrogate me about what was in the Mac and Cheese - the "non-Trader Joe's Mac and Cheese."  I told him: "cheese, crab, and shrimp." He asked: "What kind of cheese?" I said: "Gruyere and Cheddar." He knew what Cheddar was. But, he didn't know what Gruyere was. So, of course, he asked me what it was. I said: "yummy cheese, just try the Mac and Cheese."  He took his first bite.  He turned to me and said: "Mom. This mac and cheese is very very very good. Really." I smiled from ear to ear, and gave him a big kiss on his forehead.

Actually, everyone really enjoyed the Mac and Cheese. I told them that the actual recipe called for Lobster. However, I chose to use 1/2 wild shrimp and 1/2 crab meat (Wild Alaskan Crab meat from Berkeley Bowl) since Lobster is a lot more expensive.  My son said: "I don't like Lobster anyway." The thing is, I don't think he's ever had Lobster. My 9-year-old daughter was quick to point that out to him. Kids!

So, today, I took a risk and decided to make homemade Mac and Cheese. It's a risk because I am actually terrified of making roux because of how quickly you can burn the flour and butter, or have the milk accidentally boil over. Roux, like baking, requires precision in the kitchen. If you know me, you know that I like to "experiment" in the kitchen; I don't usually like to stick to exact measurements. But, it really was not that bad. You just have to pay attention and keep an eye and hands on everything for a few minutes.  Now, I don't think I will be buying the Trader Joe's Mac and Cheese anymore. Thank you, Ina!

Here is the recipe from Food Network Magazine (October 2012 issue).  I modified this recipe in two ways: (1) I used fresh crab meat and shrimp instead of lobster (more budget friendly) and (2) I cooked it in a large baking dish instead of individual gratin dishes (less work, more "busy mom" friendly").  For the shrimp, I bought peeled and deveined shrimp (makes life easier for me!). I rinsed the shrimp under cool water, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and sauteed the shrimp with about 1 Tablespoon of butter until the shrimp has no more pink (about 3 minutes per side). I added the crab meat and the cooked shrimp in the place of the lobster. The dish came out better than I expected.  Simply delicious! We ate the Mac and Cheese with a side green salad.  It was a perfect meal for the whole family - kids and adults alike!

NOTE: If you don't care for crab or shrimp, I would suggest using crispy bacon or even roasted chicken. I think you would still get a delicious mac and cheese.  Also, make sure to use good quality cheese; it will make a difference in the flavor. I used a Gruyere that was aged for 11 months. I would suggest using a Gruyere that's aged for at least 6 months.

Lobster Mac & Cheese 
(Ina Garten - aka the Barefoot Contessa, as modified by me!)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups grated Gruyere cheese (12 ounces)
  • 2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 pounds cooked lobster meat, 1/2-inch-diced
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Add the oil to a large pot of boiling salted water, add the pasta and cook al dente according to the directions on the package. Drain well.

Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't allow it to boil. In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of the butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper and nutmeg and stir until the cheese melts. Stir in the cooked pasta and lobster. Pile the mixture into 6 to 8 (2-cup) gratin dishes.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine with the bread crumbs and sprinkle on top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on top.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Memories: Roasted Red Snapper; Apple and Cherry Crisp

This weekend went by so fast and, as most weekends are for our family, it was fully loaded with lots of activities. It feels like one minute it was Friday morning and we're confirming play dates and wishing the kids good luck with their tests, and the next minute it's Sunday night and we're getting ready for the week ahead making sure school uniforms are clean, and lunch boxes are ready. Despite the lightening speed of the weekend, I love Sundays! Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved Sundays. My memories of Sundays usually revolve around going to mass in the morning and enjoying delicious Sunday dinners with my family. For some reason, those Sunday dinners usually gave me a boost of energy to tackle the week.  I try to give my children the same experiences and help create the same memories that I had growing up by making (as often as I can) something delicious for dinner on Sundays. With busy weekends, I try to make dishes that are easy to make and that lend themselves to "make-ahead" preparations.

Tonight, I roasted a whole Red Snapper, which I marinated in a fragrant and savory mixture of fresh ginger, garlic, cilantro, lime, soy sauce, dijon mustard, and extra virgin olive oil. I served that with a side of steamed Jasmine rice and roasted carrots and tri-colored beets. 

Roasted Whole Red Snapper, With A Ginger, Garlic, Cilantro, Soy Sauce, and Lime Marinade

Red Snapper from Berkeley Bowl, cleaned by Butcher
This fish dish would work well on the grill as well. Roasting or grilling a whole fish may sound daunting. But, it's fairly easy. I bought the fish at Berkeley Bowl (my favorite local grocery store). I love red snapper because it has this beautiful pink color, it's delicious, and it's very versatile for cooking.  This particular fish that I got today was just gorgeous and fresh. I asked the butcher to clean and scale the fish for me - leaving the head and tail intact.  When I got home, all I did was just rinse the fish under cool water and marinate it. I marinated the fish a few hours ahead of time -- before I went on a hike with my daughter and her Girl Scouts Troop around Lake Temescal near our house. When I returned from the hike, I just put the fish in the oven to cook. 

Here is the rough recipe, if you'd like to try it.

Roasted Red Snapper right out of the oven
1 whole red snapper (about 3 to 4 pounds)
1 Tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
1 Tablespoon of cilantro (finely chopped)
1 scallion or green onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 Tablespoon of soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon of dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 whole lime
1 Tablespoon of salt (approximately)
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper (approximately)
A few sprigs of cilantro
Some lemon wedges (about 1 small lemon or 1/2 a large lemon)
3 whole cloves of garlic

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Rinse the fish (whole) under cool water. Pat it dry with a paper towel to remove the excess water. Season the fish (generously) with salt and pepper to make sure that it has enough flavor.

In a small bowl, combine the ginger, cilantro, scallion, garlic, soy sauce, dijon mustard, and olive oil.  Add some salt and pepper to taste.  Spread the mixture all over the fish, including inside the fish cavities.  Place the cilantro sprigs, lemon wedges, and garlic cloves inside the fish. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the whole fish on the baking sheet. Roast the fish for about 20-30 minutes (or until the flesh is white).

[Substitution Note: You can use any white fish, if you can't find red snapper.]

Roasted Round Carrots and Tri-Colored Beets
For the roasted vegetables, I just took some round carrots, red, yellow, and orange beets, peeled them, cut them into quarters, sprinkled them with some salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil, and roasted them in the oven with the fish for about 20-30 minutes (or until soft).  They were simple, but so delicious! I love that you can still maintain the beautiful color of the vegetables after roasting.

Yummy Apple and Dried Cherry Crisp
(The beautifully golden crisp after it came out of the oven.)
For dessert, I made this incredibly delicious apple and dried tart cherry crisp -- a recipe that I found on Food and Wine Magazine's website. [http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/warm-apple-and-dried-cherry-crisp/print]  I was so thrilled when my 9-year-old daughter said she wanted to try it after it came out of the oven. I gave her one spoonful.  When she was done with that, she said: "This is yummy Mom . . . can I please have another serving?" Whenever I hear these words from my kids, I get so happy, even if it's dessert.  The good thing about this dessert is that it has fresh apples, dried cherries, and oats.  My husband also loved it. After he had his first serving, he said: "Now I know why our daughter asked for a second serving . . . this is really good." He said he liked it better than the peach and mixed berry crisp that I usually make, courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/printerfriendly/Peach-and-Mixed-Berry-Crisp-103931). 

I decided to make this apple and cherry crisp because one of the moms at my kids' school had all these Granny Smith apples that she had received from her father, who picked them from his apple trees.  She gave me a bag full of them. My husband loves apple pie as well as cherry pies. I am not a big fan of apple pie.  I don't mind cherry pies, but I often find them either too sweet or too tart.  But, I love crisps because you can get the sweetness and tartness.  Plus, the crust often reminds me of granolas - if you bake them right.  So, I thought that it would be nice to make a crisp using the apples and dried cherries.  I came across this recipe from Food & Wine Magazine (see below), and I am so glad that I did. It is very easy to make and super delicious.  I definitely will make another batch this week, with the rest of the apples.

Warm Apple and Dried Cherry Crisp (Courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine)

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
4 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup dried tart cherries (2 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Unsweetened whipped cream
[I didn't use the whipped cream, as I think the crisp is delicious without any whipped or ice cream.]


Preheat the oven to 400°. Set a baking sheet on the bottom of the oven to catch any spills. In a medium bowl, combine the rolled oats with the brown sugar, flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon and the salt. Add the melted butter and toss until evenly moistened, then pinch the topping into large crumbs.

In a bowl, toss the apples with the cherries, granulated sugar, honey, lemon juice, nutmeg and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Spread the apples in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Scatter the crumbs over the apples all the way to the edge. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the apples are tender, the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden. Let rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream. 
Make Ahead The baked crisp can be refrigerated overnight and rewarmed. 
The Vino!

Tonight, I want to highlight a dessert drink that Patrick and I enjoyed with the apple and cherry crisp. It's Franciscan Vineyards' 2007 Port (Napa Valley, CA). [http://www.franciscan.com/]  I picked up a bottle of this port recently when I attended Franciscan's release party for their 2009 Magnificat (red Bordeaux blend wine) with my friends Evelyn and Rene. We tasted the port, and loved it. So, I decided to get a bottle to share with Patrick since he was out of town and was not able to go to the party with me.  This port is delicious and it pairs so perfectly with the crisp, which is sweet and tart at the same time.

I hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable weekend.

Until next time . . . Cheers!