Saturday, September 26, 2009

Turning Point Dinner

Last night I was off to the suburbs – to the lovely land of Sugarloaf in Duluth, Georgia. Yours truly, a couple of super assistants, a generous family and fun guests all participated in a benefit dinner for Turning Point, a women’s healthcare center in Alpharetta. The hosts selected a Mediterranean themed menu for the dinner, so I paired the courses with the following wines – all widely available and all great values for the quality of wine!

Burgans Albarino Rias Baixas, Spain
A perfect partner for grilled or smoky flavors of cumin and smoked paprika, also for Spanish Tapas like olives and roasted peppers. Albarino is often considered the premier quality white wine from Spain. The name of the wine and the grape are the same. Burgans is a great value for the money – fantastic with grilled fish as well. Wonderful aroma of peaches and apricots with a good hit of lemon and tastes of limes and mangos.

Henry Estate Pinot Noir Umpqua and Williamette Valley, Oregon
Pinot Noir is often praised as the most versatile and accommodating red wines, and this one is no exception. Pinot Noir is an excellent choice as an “entry level” red wine, and can often bridge a gap when you’re not sure what to choose, red or white. Delicious fresh cherry aromas are what you smell and when you taste the Henry Estate – those cherries are evident along with a nice snappy acidity to back them up. Pinot Noir, (the prominent grape from Burgundy, France and in the wines of the same name), has made an excellent home in Oregon, where the weather is ideal for the cultivation of the sometimes difficult-to-grow but incredibly delicious grape.

Domaine La Garrique Cotes du Rhone Cotes du Rhone, France
From the Southern end of the Rhone Valley, comes this ripe blackberry/blueberry tasting wine with a fragrance of dark black cherries, smoked herbs and a hint of leather or tobacco. Grenache is the dominant grape in this wine along with a quarter Mourvedre and a little Syrah. Cotes du Rhone is always an unrivaled choice with roasted meats or chicken. One of my favorite easy to drink quaffers to accompany a casual dinner for friends. 

Vinosia Primitivo Salentino, Italy
Primitivo, the “cousin” grape to our much beloved California Zinfandel is a wine loaded with fragrant deep dark dusty flavored black fruit, berries and spice. Fruity and Jammy, this one is easy to drink by itself or with any red sauced pasta. Pairs well with anything off the BBQ and matchless with a traditional Chicago pizza topped with meat and anchovies.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Taste Club South America

Too much fun at the Taste Club last night! That's my monthly wine and food pairing dinner held at Cooks Warehouse Brookhaven. We tasted 9 wines from South America and ate like cowboys - 
Churrasco style Steak with Chimichurri Sauce and Peruvian Potatoes. Here's a couple of pictures from the kitchen - the fabulous assistants and the beautiful food. Couldn't do it without the assistants - they make everything go run like clockwork. I feel very fortunate to have such good help!  I'll share the recipes in a couple of Friday Fours, but until then - here's my list of wines from last night. South American wines are such an incredible value for the quality. And it's so easy to recognize the wines - almost all their wines are labeled by the grape variety. Every delicious wine we had last night cost less than $20 - can you believe it? 

Crios Torrontes: Argentina's answer to Chardonnay. Light and crisp with peach and honey aromas, followed by a crisp citrus taste. If you like Viognier - you will like this as well.
Montes Sauvignon Blanc: Somewhere between a French Sancerre and a New Zealand Sav Blanc this makes a perfect accompaniment to shellfish
Alfredo Roca Pinor Noir: Not your ordinary Pinot! This one is light and red berry filled - One of the best surprises of the evening
Casa Lapostolle Merlot: Tasty Merlot from one of Chile's biggest vineyards
Montgras Reserva Carmenere: One of the six grapes that are allowed in a Bordeaux, Carmenere is a up-and-comer grape from Chile. Similar to a Merlot but with more leather, toasty flavors.
Catena Malbac: Classic dark purple Malbac from a wonderful producer, can't get much better than this...
Maipe Malbac: The winner! Who knew a wine this good could be bought for less than $10? Amazing find from Costco
Norton Privada: This 92 rated blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbac is a beautiful big powerful red that was a perfect evening "ender" with our chocolate almond cake

Couples Retreat

We had a grand time at the Wellness Center's Couples Retreat last weekend - including making our own lunch! I provided the recipes and a little assistance, and everyone just jumped in. How much fun it is - to cook and eat together. Thought I'd share our dessert recipe. We served the fruit over "Whole Fruit" brand sorbet. If you haven't enjoyed "Whole Fruit" sorbet, you need to try it - so delicious. My favorite two flavors are lemon and mango, but there are lots more to try. The fruit topping is so easy, and looks beautiful, too. A perfect ending for a fun day together.

Fresh Berry Parfaits with Frozen Yogurt or Sorbet

2 -4 Cups Fresh Berries
1 Orange
1 Lime
1/4 Cup Raw Sugar
Citrus Sorbet

Step One
Wash the berries, and if necessary hull them

Step Two
In a large bowl, macerate (crush gently with a spoon), the Berries with 1 freshly squeezed orange and its zest, and 1 freshly squeezed lime and its zest and 1/4 cup raw sugar. Set aside for 15 – 30 minutes. Serve over frozen citrus sorbet or yogurt.

Piedmont Auxiliary Makes Things Happen!

I had the pleasure of catering a brunch for the 
ladies of the board of the 
Piedmont Auxiliary 
last week. 
How much fun to hear 
about all their activities
for the hospital and Cancer Wellness at 
Piedmont. It took them over and hour just to 
report back in on the projects currently going on! 
I shared some of my recipes for the morning, 
but I've received so many requests for my 
Mini Italian Frittatas, I thought I'd share 
them here, too. Here's the recipe along 
with a couple of pictures of the 
goodies we ate that morning.

Mini Italian Frittatas

Non Stick Cooking Spray
2 – 12 Hole Mini Muffin Tins

1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ Cup Minced Shallot
¾ Cup Chopped Speck - Smoked Prosciutto (you can find this at Costco. If you can’t find it, use regular Prosciutto)

¾ Cup Reduced-Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Grated (I like Cabot brand)
2 TB Chopped Chives, plus more for garnish
¼ Tsp Italian Seasoning
¼ Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt
¼ Tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
4 Large Egg Whites
2 Large Eggs

Step One
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the muffin tins with non stick spray. Warm the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shallots and sauté 3 - 4 minutes or until wilted. Add the speck and sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step Two
Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and whisk. Add the cooked shallot and ham mixture. Spoon into 24 miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until just set. Serve with additional chopped chives for garnish.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Seasonal Delights - Eat Like There's No Tommorrow

My friend and fellow chef, Hans Rueffert appeared on the Cooks Warehouse Stage at the Decatur Book Festival today. Hans loves fresh, seasonal food and his demo did not disappoint: beautiful fresh zipper peas and fennel. His book, Eat Like There's No Tomorrow is a celebration of all things beautiful and delicious. Check it out at 

In the spirit of the fat and luscious tomatoes we are still enjoying - here is a fantastic veggie dinner that is a snap to make:

Fresh Tomato and Zucchini Summer Stew

1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Red Onion, Minced
2 Zucchinis, Sliced and Drained*
¼ Tsp Ground Cumin
¼ Tsp Ground Turmeric
½ Tsp Smoked Paprika
1 Can Drained Chickpeas
6 Large Red Tomatoes, Chopped and Drained*
Kosher or Sea Salt to Taste
Cracked Black Pepper to Taste

For Garnish
0% Fat Greek Yogurt (salted lightly)
Chopped Fresh Herbs

To Serve
1 Baguette or County Loaf cut into Croustades (long slender sticks) and sprayed with Butter Flavored Spray (or brush lightly with olive oil). Toast in a 350F oven until brown and crispy about 8 – 10 minutes.

Step One
Sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil over medium low heat for 20 - 30 minutes or until beginning to brown. Add the zucchini, cumin and paprika and cook and stir until wilted about 10 minutes. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes and cook until warm. Taste and add the salt and pepper. Serve, topped with a dollop of salted greek yogurt and chopped herbs.

*When using vegetables with lots of liquid, like tomatoes, cucumbers or squash, chop the veggies and place them in a colander over a bowl. Salt lightly and let drain for at least 30 minutes before using them. Your finished dish will not turn out watery.

And, a drink for before dinner:

Fresh Fruit Aqua Fresca

6 – 8 Cups Ripe Watermelon
½ Cup Pomegranate Juice, (or Raspberry Juice)
¼ Cup Fresh Lime Juice

Puree the watermelon in a blender. Strain the watermelon in a strainer to remove solids. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Serve over ice and enjoy! This would also be delicious with a little sparkling wine:)