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

-Dario Zucconi

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014: Greek-Inspired "Mezze" (Small Dishes), Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib Roast, Marinated and Fried Brussels Sprouts

Greek Mezze Platter: A little something different for appetizers

I love embarking on new culinary adventures. Yesterday's appetizers for Christmas dinner were inspired by the talented Chef Ina Garten and her new book "Make It Ahead". I think I did the Barefoot Contessa proud (if I may say so myself).

The picture above shows my platter (top) with Ina's platter (right). Toasted pita triangles - not pictured - were yummy. Even the kids loved them.

My version of Ina's homemade Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (top) with Ina's Hummus (bottom).

Ina's Easy Tzatziki (top) with my version (bottom). Very easy to make.

Delicious Marinated Herbed Feta Cheese - Ina's (top) with my version (bottom). This was Patrick's favorite!

My version of the Thyme Roasted Red Bell Peppers. Aromatic and delicious.

My special twist - Thyme and Lemon Roasted Zucchini.


Horseradish,, Garlic, and Fresh Herbs Crusted Prime Rib Roast - roasted to perfection - thanks to Patrick - who is usually in charge of the roast - once it's in the oven. This roast, which is inspired by Food Network Chef Tyler Florence, is one of my favorite holiday roasts. I love the leftovers, which taste even better.

Not pictured - because I got preoccupied - were some fried Brussels Sprouts. These were inspired by a recent visit to Barbacco (San Francisco) with my friend Kate. Kate and I saw the waiter carrying the Brussels Sprouts, which looked really good. So, we decided to order some. I asked the waiter how the Chef prepared them, and he described the preparation to me. I decided to give it a try yesterday. (Kate: They came out pretty good!)

I peeled the layers off, and sliced the Brussels Sprouts in half (no water). I then marinated them for a couple of hours in a mixture of good olive oil, chopped anchovies and capers, chopped fresh parsley, fresh lemon juice, white wine vinegar, and Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Then, I deep fried them in really hot Canola Oil - for about a minute (flash fried). Even some of the kids had seconds - of Brussels Sprouts! I was speechless. . . .

The roast was also served with Cheesy Bacon Au Gratin Potatoes.

A trio of delicious wines - Absolutely perfect pairing with the meal. I got the Thomas Fogarty Meritage (Red Wine Blend) during our Legal Department Offsite a couple of months ago at the winery, which was breathtakingly beautiful.  A special thank you to Gail and Nadine as well as Rene and Evelyn for the other wonderful wines (awesome choices!).

For dessert, we had a mix of delicious treats - brought by my good friends  and some homemade chocolate truffles we made with the kids this week. They included homemade Christmas cookies - including red velvet and delicious thumb print cookies (Nadine and Gail), special chocolate wafer cookies (Evelyn and Rene), and delicious macaroons (Tara).  A special cheer to my friend Tara for spending part of her Christmas with us. It's always great to see you and catch up.

The table was decorated simply, but beautifully!

My family and I wish you and your family Happy Holidays and a blessed New Year 2015.

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Cooking Slowly in Busy Holiday Season: Korean Short Ribs and Ina Garten's Famous Roasted Chicken

If you have children, and you celebrate Christmas - or any other holiday where kids get "presents" - you'll relate to this description: It's Christmas morning. The kids have opened up all their presents from Santa, Grandma/Grandpa, Mom and Dad, Uncles/Aunts, etc. Now, their next question is: Can we open these and play with them? They don't mean just one present, they mean ALL of them - now! Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. But, you get the point.

Actually, the point that I want to make here - at least - is that when I get a new cookbook or cooking magazine, I'm like a kid on Christmas morning. I often have a list of recipes that I want to try making. . . . now! That's what happened the past couple of days. I got a couple of cookbooks from the kids for my birthday. The books are awesome. If you love cooking, put them on your Christmas list.

I've read both of these cover-to-cover now, and marked a few recipes that I want to try. I've tried some yesterday and today.

Korean Short Ribs - Cooked Slowly

Yesterday was my sister Tanicha's last day with us for the Thanksgiving break - she flew back to college this morning. Since she's going back to dorm food, I made her something yummy before she left. I made the Korean Beef Short Ribs (slow roasted for 5+ hours) from the Cooking Slow book. Surprisingly, even the kids loved them. There were no left-overs. I also made the "One Pot Mac And Cheese" from the same book. That too was a big hit! 

My favorite thing about making these dishes was putting them in the oven (200ยบ) in the morning - and just let them do their thing until dinner. And, the other thing I love is the fact that I could make Mac and Cheese (which the kids love!) without all the fuss - doing a roux or boiling the noodles.

Ina Garten's Make It Ahead Roasted Chicken

Then, tonight is my Mommy's last day with us - after spending a week with us. So, as our "see you later" dinner, I made Ina Garten's famous Roasted Chicken - the one she always makes for her husband Jeffrey. She always raves that this is the best roasted chicken. And, to be honest, I was skeptical until I had it tonight.

I marinated the chicken last night - as suggested by Ina - I sealed it up and put it in the Fridge. I modified the meal a bit. Instead of using bread slices in the Cast Iron Skillet, I used root vegetables, which are a little lighter and healthier. I also prepared the vegetables last night - I cut them up and placed them in a Ziploc bag. When Patrick got home this afternoon, he did the actual cooking. Basically, all he had to do was put the vegetables in the skillet, brush olive oil on the chicken, and roast the chicken and veggies. While I was driving home (stuck in traffic), Patrick sent me a text with a note from my 8-year-old son who said the chicken smelled really good. That's from the aromas of fresh thyme, garlic, and lemons. Then, when I got home, all we had to do was cut up the chicken and eat up. I served that with leftover Mac and Cheese and a Caesar salad - with Ina's homemade Caesar dressing. The dressing was relatively easy - and I may not buy Caesar dressing in the store any more. Mom was happy!

We'll miss Nanna very much. But, I feel blessed she was able to come up to spend a few days with us. The kids especially loved having her around.

If you're looking for some great dishes to make for your family - while reducing the stress that comes with the holiday season - try one of these. I would especially recommend the roasted chicken. It's so easy to make, and absolutely delicious.  http://www.barefootcontessa.com/recipes.aspx?CookbookID=34

Here's hoping you have a great week ahead.  Until next time . . . Cheers!