• Pandemic Pantry: Recipes from You

    May 27, 2020 06:14

    Pandemic Pantry: Recipes from You

    During the last 11 weeks we have been on a kitchen journey while staying at home. Most of us have discovered the joys of working with what we have on hand or finding new ways to cook chicken. Many famous chefs are making short videos as if you are cooking with them-Jacques Pepin is my favorite. Ordering online for groceries became a new norm for some, curbside pick up for others or we suited up and went to the store with list in hand-something about being masked made me forget half of the things I needed on my first couple of trips.

    Needless to say eating is one of those things we all have in common, right up there with enjoying wine. One of the joys of writing my newsletters and these posts is receiving messages back from you, my readers. And every once in a while I get recipes which is like opening up a surprise gift, I am an avowed collector if you didn’t know. In the last couple of months I have received notes about home cooking and what you were fixing that night along with which wine to go with the meal or what you were experiencing while trying to be creative. You sent me recipes or I found them on Facebook. Either way here are three from the last 2 months and thank you all for sharing your recipes!

    Pollo a la Romana: This recipe comes from our club members the Kings, Donn & Judith. I saw the photo of the finished dish on Facebook and requested it for this story. While this isn’t the typical recipe laid out it is the way I cook-improvisation!

    Seriously, you know how it goes; you start with a recipe, add and modify and adjust for quantity, and hope it comes out good. Pollo a la Roma is essentially an Italian chicken stew, reduced and thickened, and served with any pasta; orzo is good.

    I improvised on a recipe by using quartered artichoke hearts, a package of exotic mushrooms, a big yellow onion, bacon instead of prosciutto, red wine instead of white, and I used canned tomatoes from our garden from last season, and chicken tenderloins (whatever they are). I used at least 10 ounces of red wine to get the liquid volume that I wanted, along with the quart of cooked tomatoes. I used 2.7 lbs of tenderloins.

    Otherwise, you brown the chicken; set it aside; sauté the bacon, onion, red and yellow pepper. Then add in a quart or so of diced tomatoes. Add in your spices, and salt and pepper. We used Italian parsley, thyme and rosemary because we grow it. I think you could use any herbs that you want. One thing I do is- I don’t sauté garlic anymore. I add the fresh, chopped garlic into the tomato sauce, and let it stew. I feel that sautéing garlic is too hot for the garlic and you lose flavor.

    Then you add back the chicken, adjust the salt and flavors, simmer for at least an hour, and stew it down to your preferred consistency. Serve with pasta of your choice. Donn asked me to make certain to tell you the pictured wine was not used for cooking!  Of course, we drank the pictured wine (2016 Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel) with our meal and thought it was spectacular. 

    Montse ReecePaella a la Montse: our winemaker and I were asked for recipes to pair with our wines for a New York retailer promotion for cooking at home. Knowing this is one of Montse’s favorite dishes as well as a taste of home (she is from Spain) I asked her to share it-along with her wine recommendation.

    My paella recipe (for a seafood paella):

    1 lb of clams

    1 lb of shrimp, peeled

    1 lb small scallops

    1 green bell pepper

    ½ onion

    1 can of small diced tomatoes

    4 garlic cloves minced

    Olive oil

    Saffon 1 pinch

    Pimenton or smoked paprika 1 teaspoon

    Spicy pimenton or cayenne (optional) ½ teaspoon

    Turmeric (optional) 1 pinch

    1 lemon

    Rice: bomba or medium size 2 cups

    Fish broth (4 cups)-recipe included below.

    Salt & pepper

    Note: It is important to use a Paella pan or a flat wide base pan, a cast iron pan is good too.

    You need to make the fish broth separately. This is a quick way to do it: In a pot add 4 ½ cups of water, salt, the clams (previously clean and scrubbed) and a pinch of saffron. Bring to a boil. Remove the clams when opened (discard the unopened clams) and set them aside. Remove broth from heat. Reserve.

    Heat olive oil (2 tablespoons) in Paella pan over medium high heat.  Add shrimp, salt, cook each side until pink. Remove them from pan and set aside. Add onion, cook 5 min or until translucent, add diced bell pepper and garlic. Cook for another 10 min. Add diced tomatoes and all spices. Mix well and cook for 5 minutes. That’s what we call the Sofrito. 

    Add rice and mix well with the Sofrito.  Add broth, shrimp, clams and scallops, (salt and pepper to taste).  Cook at medium heat for 5 minutes, then cover and cook to low heat until rice has absorbed all broth.  Remove when done and let it rest, covered for 5 minutes. Serve with a wedge of lemon. Enjoy with our white wines, rosé, Sangiovese or even our Pinot Noir.  Salut!


    Date Nut Cake

    Date Nut Cake: this was sent in by Bill Kammer. I made this right away knowing my family loves this kind of combination. He said, “We got the original recipe from a sweet lady of Swiss decent – we miss her as she passed away quite a while ago. Most of the parenthetical comments are our modifications. It will fool you into thinking it is a Chocolate cake, so I have it with a Pedroncelli Red."

    Step 1: 1 Cup Chopped Dates (the date pieces dusted with flour work best) 1 ½ Cups of Boiling Water & 1 tsp Baking Soda(get the water boiling before you chunk in the dates) Put the dates and soda in a bowl; then pour the boiling water over and let cool.

    Step 2: Cream: ½ Cup Shortening (we use Butter), 1 Cup Sugar and 2 Eggs then: Add to the cooled Date Mixture

    Step 3: Sift: 1 ½ Cups of Flour, ¼ tsp Salt, ¾ tsp Soda

    Step 4: Blend: The Mixture of Step 2 alternately with Step 4 ingredients Then: Pour into a Greased 9 X 13 Baking Pan

    Step 5: Mix: 1 Package of Bitter-Sweet Chocolate Chips, ¼ Cup of Sugar (Optional), ¾ Cup of Chopped nuts Pecans and/or Black Walnuts (we use almost 1 ½ Cups). Sprinkle this mixture over the batter so it stays on top.

    Step 6: Bake 350 degrees 40 – 45 Minutes.

    As Jacques Pepin likes to say ‘Happy Cooking’ and I like to say ‘Don’t forget the vino’.

  • Pandemic Pantry: Julie and Julia

    April 30, 2020 13:29

    A picture is worth a thousand yums don’t you think? How many of us take photos of our beautifully plated dinners in a restaurant? Or at home we’ve made something special and want to show it off? There are many examples across social media when it comes to showing off our creations. I realized there were just a handful of photos included in my recipe section of the website-how interesting is that? So I made a goal starting during this pandemic and working from home to recreate a few recipes a week and photograph them in order to be included alongside the recipe. Kind of a riff off of the Julie/Julia movie.

    In fact some of you might remember how we have been connected to Julia Child over the years. The weekly magazine, Parade, featured photos of celebrities and their refrigerators. Julia is standing in front of her door-lo and behold our Chardonnay is there and the only wine in her fridge! We are also part of the National Museum of American History’s Food Transforming America where many of my family’s artifacts (including my grandmother’s polenta pot) are in the same exhibit near the recreation of Julia’s kitchen. And here we are replicating many of the recipes from the website just like the movie. For a refresher, this is what I wrote 4 years ago:

    Now onto the recipes!

    Braised PorkBraised Pork Shoulder with Butternut Squash and Prunes

    Notes: When I tried this I immediately regretted not doubling the recipe. Such a subtle sweetness that complements the braised pork. Paired very well with our Mother Clone Zinfandel, the fruity notes from the Zin making this a zen meal.


    Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Soy Glaze

    Notes: For a quicker turn around you can make the glaze ahead of time and marinate overnight, then just brown it in the pan and roast in oven-or grill it-either way this is a very tasty combination. It packs some heat and we liked it with our Sonoma Classico or you might even try our with it.

    Spicy Pork Tenderloin



    Braised Fennel and CeleryBraised Fennel & Celery

    Notes: This is a side dish which we paired with steak and roasted creamer potatoes. I suggest pairing the veggies with Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc but with the steak we paired up with our Three Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and it worked. This would be a great side dish for simply prepared chicken or fish.


    Moroccan Chicken with Roasted Lemons and Green Olives

    Notes: This one was a delicious surprise-it was very easy with it all being made in one pan. Browning the lemon wedges and then roasting with the chicken-so tasty. Paired up with our Sauvignon Blanc it was the perfect ending to our busy shelter in place work at home week.Moroccan Chicken

    Sloppy TomsSloppy Toms

    Notes: A crowd pleaser and kid pleaser all in one-from our daughter’s cookbook 30 years ago and we have been making them ever since. You can use beef for Sloppy Joes but we like the taste of the ground turkey. Use your favorite form of bun and dig in along with a bottle of our or Sonoma Classico.


    While the Julie in the movie took a year to make all the recipes in Julia’s Art of French Cooking this might take a little longer. If you make one of the recipes, tell me how it turned out, which wine you paired it with and how you first came to know Pedroncelli. I'll make it worth your while... All you need to do is send to my email address and as Julia would say Bon Apetit!

  • A Note from Home: How are you doing? Really.

    April 18, 2020 10:35

    A Note from Home: How are you doing? Really.

    Well, how are you doing a month into our sheltering in place? No, really. How are you doing? We'd love to hear. Over the past ninety three years we've come to know so many people in so many places. And we feel cut off. So, really: How are you?

    Are you pining for the ‘old’ days? What freedom (!) we had in February. We could go for lunch without giving a thought to spreading germs-now masking up and ordering curbside is the way to go; how about stopping to talk to a neighbor in the street-we are now keeping 6 feet or more away from each other; perhaps a drive to the coast or mountains for some fresh air and now, due to current orders, you are hitting the streets. I’ve started to categorize yards-they have olive trees, they have dogwood trees, they have the most beautiful hedges etc

    Obviously here in Wine Country spring has fully evolved into blooming trees, flowers, birds nesting and the grapevines leafing out (not to mention the pollen count is high).  Mother Nature continues on without realizing the streets are quieter, the air is cleaner, people are staying close to home, and a virus is being slowed down because we are following the order in place. We have a ways to go before we are set free from this cocoon, hibernation, lockdown, staycation or whatever you have come to call it.

    Perhaps new habits are being formed. I remember reading that it took about two months to form a new habit or break a bad one. I googled habits and came across a recent article by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times published mid February-which now seems like a century ago.  In it there are a lot of good ideas and information and it contained this tidbit about developing a habit: “The study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, showed that the amount of time it took for the task to become automatic — a habit — ranged from 18 to 254 days. The median time was 66 days!” We are 36 days into this and it is looking like at least 30 more-coincidence? I think not.
    My new habits are around working from home. I squeeze in a laundry load so I don’t have a mountain of work to do at the end of the week; I eat lunch on our deck and take in the green view of oak trees and new growth over the fence; I am making one or two recipes a week from my website listings because now we have time to photograph the dish and upload it-slow work but I will make my way through the hundreds listed as the year progresses thereby forming another habit. Discipline is another one-I gained the "COVID10" over the last month because I was snacking and eating things I don’t normally eat like sugar and carbs. April 13 dawned and I knew I needed to make changes-so back to low carbing and no snacking. How about you? Any new (good or bad) habits formed lately?

    Walking is a new normal for us-between 9 and 10 miles a day around town-I mentioned to Ed that this mileage is a one way trip to the winery-but I don’t think I’ll start walking to work after this is over-or will I? Besides flowers and yards another thing I’ve seen on our walks around Healdsburg are chalk drawings and inspiring quotes. This one greeted us today and I think gives us all hope for better days ahead. Until next time stay well while keeping six feet apart.

    Chalk drawing with Jasper

  • Pantry and Wine Friendly Recipes for a Pandemic

    April 1, 2020 14:08

    Pantry and Wine Friendly Recipes for a Pandemic

     In a recent post I mentioned I was trying to come up with wine tips-outside of hand sanitizer-and cooking with it was one of them along with what I have learned about the chemistry of using wine in a sauce. I have gathered hundreds of recipes over the years and always strive for what I call 'pantry friendly' recipes-you know, the ones where you don't have to go to a specialty store to buy an ounce of caviar.

    Let’s begin with one of my favorite recipes because polenta is a comfort food I grew up with-think of it as Italian grits. Parmesan Polenta with Sausage Ragu

    I found this recipe while searching for easy dinners and while it takes a little bit of time between cooking the sauce and the polenta, Sunday dinner anyone?, this brings simple ingredients together deliciously. Here are a few photos when I made this not long ago.

    Pantry ingredientsHere are a few tips: buy fresh basil-nothing like fresh to give a dish the best taste but in a pinch use dried basil-a teaspoon of dried to a tablespoon of fresh herbs. I buy the better grade canned tomatoes-but whatever you have on hand should work. Regarding the type of sausage, I like spicy but you can use the sweet Italian type and will still work, you can also replace pork sausage with turkey sausage very easily. 

    garlic and onions

    pouring in the tomatoes

    Your pantry, my pantry-there may be a difference in what you keep or have on hand. Sometimes Ed just shakes his head at my ‘substitutions’ and I admit they don’t always create the same recipe. Don’t be afraid to be creative-if you don’t have leeks use onions. If you don’t have ground turkey use ground beef. Cooking at home doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow the instructions, measure out the ingredients, take your time-we have a lot of it these days. Planning ahead-there’s another tip. Pre-COVID119 I would go to the store almost daily after work to get a quick weeknight dinner together. Secretly I love grocery shopping but let’s keep that between us. Now I plan ahead to go to the store twice a week so I am following our shelter in place order.

    Now, besides the tips I received about ways to use up wine, like turning leftover wine into ice cubes and later on using them in sauces or drinking the same wine you used in the recipe at dinner, I also received a question about the bank of recipes I have stored on our website-I have been adding to the different categories for many years. I am a recipe hound and have collected quite a few from many sources including family, staff, newspapers, local chefs, authors and recipe sites. Here are some of my favorites and I hope they become yours!

    You know the can of chickpeas taking up a spot in the cupboard? Dress it up by roasting them-use as a snack or in a salad for lots of flavor: Spice Roasted Chickpeas

    This soup is a staple in our household-spicy, tummy filling and healthy: Chicken Tortilla Soup

    Alternately this soup uses up lots of veggies, the kitchen sink approach: Minestrone

    Here is a simple, tasty and easy dinner idea: Chicken and Rice Pilaf

    My mom Phyllis has been making a version of this for many years-both Mom and I find we do it a bit differently each time: Chicken Scallopini a la Phyllis

    Here is a family favorite from our pre-empty nest days-I found this in Adrienne’s cookbook for kids. Easy, flavorful and filling-the trifecta of the perfect family recipe-use beef and make it Sloppy Joes: Sloppy Toms

    Each month I send out an enewsletter and part of it includes 2-3 recipes I find that are wine friendly. If you’d like to be on the email list let me know and send to I'll sign off here like I do in the column: don’t forget the vino!