October 26, 2021 09:24
My husband Ed is doing great these days-and appreciates all the follow up emails, texts, cards and phone calls following his bypass surgery in August. When he was in the hospital people would joke with him about how bad the food must be. Maybe it was because he was in the Cardiac Care unit but I’ll let you in on a little secret-he loved it. It was Heart Healthy and also very tasty, even without the extra salt. He was there so long he rotated through the menu a few times and proudly hacked the choices when realizing he could add extra fruit or extra veggies for his midday snacks. And he lost weight even while mostly immobile with all of his IVs and monitors.
Once released from the hospital I had some trepidation about what I would be cooking for him. Would it be tasteless, salt free, boring? How would I keep him healthy while still enjoying our usual Spice Road inspired and full flavored meals? The upshot from his cardiologist was to eat low fat, use little added salt, to watch sodium overall and to include low fat or fat free dairy. So farewell to Parmeggiano Reggiano, arrivaderci charcuterie, au revoir Brie, so long chips and crackers and goodbye to canned and processed foods high in sodium. Hmm, what was a wife to do?
The good news is while Ed was recovering he went online to help out with the menus and found an abundance of great recipes with lots of flavor. I went through our cupboard and refrigerator and began assessing what we had that needed to go. Not much really. We don’t eat a lot of processed or pre-prepared foods as we do like to cook. A couple of friends sent us vegan cookbooks (thank you Betsy and Nestor) and they have some very good spice road flavors which we love-not sure we are going plant based just yet but happy to have such a deep well to draw from in the way of choices.
Then there was the lingering question-does he get to drink wine?? The answer is yes, in moderation. So pairing up our wines with his heart healthy food isn’t much different than before-just less fat, salt and healthier meals.
When planning the week we are now adding one or two plant based options and for two meals with fish (we are fans of the frozen Mahi Mahi filets from Costco because they defrost quickly and are very easy to flavor up). Boneless skinless chicken breasts and lean pork and a little beef here and there fill out the menus. Here are some of our favorite recipes for your kitchen:
Tomato & Olive Stuffed Portobello Caps
Serve with our friends.red
Spicy Tunisian Grilled Chicken
Serve with our Mother Clone Zinfandel
Apple & Fennel Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Serve with our Merlot
Baked Curried Brown Rice & Lentil Pilaf
Serve with our Sonoma Classico
Poached Salmon with Creamy Piccata Sauce
Serve with our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Mahi Mahi with Orange Shallot Sauce
Serve with our Signature Selection Chardonnay
I'll continue to add more to the new section in our Recipe page as we continue our health conscious journey.
November 2, 2020 14:40
I still remember the first time I attempted making sautéed mushrooms for dinner when I was around 18. It was the rare chance that my mom was out of town and it was just my dad and I kicking around for dinner. The recipe? I 'didn't need one' and boy was that a mistake. I wanted to try mushrooms in a red wine sauce. It was an unmitigated disaster-it was just mushrooms in red wine-no butter, shallot, garlic, salt or pepper. Yuck. My dad also scratched one of my mom's frying pans making his steak. Needless to say we didn't eat the mushrooms.
Well I am here to tell you if I stopped then I wouldn’t have developed a love for these bites of tastiness. Over the course of many meals either homemade or enjoyed at friends’ homes and restaurants the mushroom (or should I say funghi?) is one of the foods I think matches well with wines. Sometimes it’s the sauce, the protein or the combination of herbs and spices. In my opinion it is the most versatile of all the vegetables and there are unlimited options for pairing up with the right wine.
There is another way to test out the funghi factor. I learned this from the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) program. One of the tests is designed to help find out how foods interact with wine and they chose the mushroom as the trial pairing. Pour a sample of wine-white or red-and eat a bite of raw mushroom and assess. Then put another mushroom in the microwave for a few seconds to ‘cook’ it or roast a mushroom and then take a bite with the same wine. And there you have it, a way to find out how food and wine, in raw and cooked form, work together.
The cooler weather (between yesterday and today we went from 86 degrees to 61 degrees) makes me think of all the dishes I can make with the wonderful mushroom-either as the star or as a supporting player. This is the best time of year according to my sensibilities! I love the weather change, the meals that come with the cooler season including slow cookers, braising, stews and soups. In my humble opinion I truly believe mushrooms were made to go with wine!
For ease of finding all the recipes I talk about here I have put them into one easy to find folder entitled Mushrooms on our website.
Salads & Sides:
I developed the Portobello and Parmigiana Salad for a wine dinner I hosted a while ago. I was trying to find a way to bridge the salad dressing with the wine (Pinot Noir) and I came up with adding some of the ‘jus’ from the roasted Portobello. -the great thing about the dressing is I included a small amount of the mushroom ‘jus’ to the dressing-bridging the salad with the wine for a flawless pairing.
This warm and lemony spinach salad takes the chill off of a cold evening. If you want to add some flavor I’d substitute bacon fat for the sauté of the mushrooms and garlic. Paired up with a nice glass of Chardonnay. Spinach Salad with Mushrooms, Croutons and Warm Lemon dressing.
Local chef Michele Anna Jordan always puts together great wine-friendly recipes. This one uses root vegetables as a base for the mushrooms. Roasted lamb or beef would make a great side to this side: Sautéed Mushrooms Over Parsnip, Celery Root, & Potato Purée
Would you like to wow your guests over the holidays? Try this bowl of deliciousness featuring mushrooms and tangy goat cheese. Our Rosé would go nicely especially with some turkey on the plate. Focaccia Bread Pudding with Mushrooms & Goat Cheese
Stews & Soups:
I have been making this Wild Mushroom Soup ever since I found it in a newsletter by Julee Rosso (of Silver Palate fame). I was lucky enough to subscribe over a couple of years and many of her recipes are in my rotation. This one however gets the most play especially now during the holidays. Serve it as an appetizer, pour it in demitasse cups for a buffet or serve up a bowl during the week-made ahead it just gets better. Pinot Noir is my choice as a pairing.
Ed and I came up with this recipe in our early years of marriage-a take on Beef Bourguignon-Beef Mother Clone starring our flagship Zin and we gilded the lily with dried porcini. Long cooking tenderizes the beef and the flavors meld perfectly. I recommend pairing with any of our Zinfandels!
Portobellos are very versatile as you can roast and slice like a steak or make this Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms-don’t skip the prosciutto which adds a nice salty kick. Pair up with our Merlot for a tasty combination.
Ribeye Steak with Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Blue Cheese, from local chef Michele Anna Jordan, has a secret ingredient-Porcini Powder. Along with the black trumpet mushrooms (if you don’t have any of these you can substitute shitake or morel) you have an amazing steak dish with depth of flavor. Pair with any of our Cabernet Sauvignons-you won’t be disappointed!
Slow cookers are the greatest kitchen help during the fall and winter-I always love walking in the door and taking in the wonderful aromas of a long cooked meal. The Slow Cooker Beef with Pasta & Porcini is one of those fragrant and virtually easy dishes to make with deep flavors to boot. Pair up with our Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.
August 31, 2020 16:19
The recipe for the Moroccan Chicken with Roasted Lemons and Green Olives seen above was another effort to flavor up the bird.
In the early years of our marriage, which came with a ready made family including two step-children, I became the cook. Ed and I worked full time and I needed to come up with recipes that were quick and on the table early enough to get everyone fed and into bed so they were ready for school the next day. Chicken typically played top billing in the weekly menus.
First let me back up for a moment. These #pairitwithped posts are written with my son Joe in mind. He came up with the title that I now use each month when I share stories about food, wine and experiences. He is also the one who came up with "Chicken...again?" when he was a boy about his sons' age. While it was a joke in our house in those early days that we indeed ate too much chicken-boneless skinless chicken breasts to be exact, the refrain became common. I bought them by the score at Costco and, while we didn’t exactly have it EVERY night for dinner it was on the table frequently. And Joe would ask “Chicken….again?”
In those early days I learned the finer points of flavoring up this bland protein mostly with garlic and onion. Chicken itself is a great vehicle for many different types of flavors from Chile Lime to Garam Masala to Five Spice. Marinating in white wine, garlic and rosemary is still Ed’s favorite way to fix it these days as well as his more recent Chile Lime concoction. I’ll have to admit we buy whole chickens or chicken thighs these days-our tastes have changed. Could it really have been too many boneless skinless chicken breasts? We prefer the flavor of the whole bird, skin and bones add flavor and keeps the chicken moist. On hectic evenings or boat nights I am known to pick up an already roasted chicken at the store-time saving and so convenient! But there is nothing like time on our hands these days during the pandemic to sharpen our culinary skills. Spatchcock anyone? Here are some of my favorite dishes including my notes on each recipe.
Fast food--at home? Sure you can do it—I love to find recipes that don’t take forever to fix—a meal in 30 minutes is my favorite type during the week. And a glass of wine is the perfect match. Here is one of my mom’s recipes—delicious with our Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
Growing up "Dry Creek" means we knew what it was to be the "Buckle on the Prune Belt". Prunes were the major part of ag in Sonoma County, and none more than here in Dry Creek Valley. Yes, that wonderful, rich sweet flavor of a dried plum with chiles and chicken-you'll be so happy you made this and paired it with our Zinfandel or Merlot.
30 years ago the organization known as ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) was born because California's grape was unique and unknown to many outside of the state. Margaret Smith was the first executive director and she collaborated with Jan Nix to publish one of my favorite recipe collections: Zinfandel Cookbook: Food to go with California’s Heritage Wine. This recipe is a take on Coq au Vin-get it? Easy to fix, flavorful and a wine friendly combination. Pair it with any of our Zinfandels of course!
Featuring those boneless skinless beauties this is a marinade packed with flavor in seven ingredients. Over the years we have developed many marinades yet they remain in our heads rather than on paper. This one is typical by using a combination of herbs and spices to flavor up the chicken. The fun of finding the right combination has tripled during COVID-cooking at home definitely challenges us to go beyond the usual suspects. Pair with our Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.
There is a moral to the story or perhaps I'd call it karma. Joe mostly cooks chicken these days and his son Jordan ONLY eats chicken… And for more ideas on what to do with chicken visit my Recipe site here.
July 28, 2020 16:13
#PairitwithPed is an idea from our son Joe St. John-who texted me one day from Whole Foods where he had found our Mother Clone Zinfandel on the shelves. He was inspired and suggested I write about pairing wine and food. I added experiences and put them all under this hashtag. They have become a regular feature now.
This month the food is mascarpone cheese-and how the memory of this simple dessert accompaniment has stayed with me for nearly 30 years. I was reminded of it when I was reading Janet Fletcher's Planet Cheese newsletter (Janet is also a prolific cookbook author besides being a cheese maven). She was talking about making ice cream with mascarpone and it brought back memories of the dessert I had at a restaurant in McMinnville OR all those years ago-it was that delicious!
Setting the stage for the experience: It was this time of year when Ed and I traveled to Oregon to work the market. Back in those days I was representing the winery and he was selling cork and winery equipment for fp Packaging. Once our work days were done we would meet for dinner at a local restaurant. We were in McMinnville and had heard that Nick’s was the place to go. After a wonderful meal the dessert list was brought out and the waiter announced a seasonal choice of ripe summer fruits over mascarpone cheese. We ordered it and we LOVED it-with perfectly ripened peaches, nectarines, blackberries, marionberries and raspberries. All topped over freshly made mascarpone in a parfait glass-wow wow wow! We have eaten many meals out over the years and I can think of just one other dessert that topped this one-fresh peaches in Moscato d’Asti when we were visiting Piemonte Italy mid summer-there’s a theme here…
But let me set the record straight-mascarpone is not *really* cheese and when made fresh resembles whipped cream without the air-dense and rich.
The second part of the story is about a cookbook I happened upon just a year later entitled Dinner Party: The New Entertaining by Jane Freiman. While I was leafing through it I came across a recipe for Lemon Tirami Su which included a page on making mascarpone at home. Two ingredients: heavy cream and lemon juice. It does take some time for the whey to drain out and you need a few general kitchen items like a colander and cheesecloth/coffee filters. Sometimes it takes overnight until the whey drains out and makes a cream that is spreading consistency. The recipe for it is here.
Once I was reminded of this dessert gem I made the mascarpone and paired it with fresh peaches. Quite simple and captures summertime nicely. So we have the food, the experience and now for the wine. I would recommend our friends.white to go along with the summer fruits and rich mascarpone. This white wine blend is fruity and floral on its own. A perfect #PairitwithPed combination.
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