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July 28, 2013

Grilled Foods and Wine

Round up your friends, add a grill, in this case 3 grills, a fabulous menu and excellent wines to taste and you’ll have the makings for a great party. And that is exactly what we did. Our hosts had three grills going for our last wine dinner party- the theme: grilled foods. And the flavors just melted in our mouths.

The greeter food and wine pairing was a grilled roasted red pepper stuffed with goat cheese, paired with a sparkling wine. It is always a great thing to come to dinner and receive a glass of bubbly and a smile. It sets the tone for the evening. Sparklers are such food friendly wines. They will go with just about anything and in this case the smoky theme was working for us. Roasted red peppers completely change their flavor profile when grilled. They take on a sweet smoky flavor. If you don’t like red bell peppers, don’t sell yourself short; try one that has been roasted. They are oh so good.

Our next course was a cold Red Pepper Bisque with crab and avocado.

I am betting that the red peppers were grilled, if not maybe it was all the smoke going up and I just imagined it. The wine was a very tasty Sonoma Valley 2011 Ferrari Carano full bodied Chardonnay. The citrus and apple notes balanced out the vanilla and toasted oak flavors. This wine’s creamy texture was in perfect balance with the creamy soup and crab giving it all a great mouth feel.

Next was a little bit of this and that including grilled red peppers, marinated, grilled asparagus wrapped with prosciutto, grilled paprika lime summer squash, and grilled eggplant that was basted with a rich tomato sauce. Add a good salami and pepperoni and you have a great
antipasto platter served with a 2011 San Vincenzo white wine from the Veneto’s Soave district.

Roberto Anselmi chose to label his wine as Veneto IGT to avoid following the Soave DOC, demonstrating dedication to superior quality. This wine is a blend of 80% Garganega, 10% Chardonnay, 10% Sauvignon Blanc providing a crisp wine that compliments grilled food. You’ll get scents of lemon, lime, apricot and yellow apples with a medium body.

Next up was a grilled chicken breast seasoned with wonderful Indian spices including cumin then marinated in yogurt.

The flavors were perfect with the 2010 South Australia Viognier from Yalumba winery, one of the premier wine producers in the country. While a Viognier’s light straw color might lead you to believe that it is a sweet wine, it is actually a dry wine with a large gamut of flavors ranging from citrus, apricot, to ginger.

Following was another highlight, grilled marinated tenderloin

served with two very different style Zinfandels. Both Zinfandels were delicious with the tenderloin but the 2010 V. Sattui from the Dry Creek Valley, Ramazzotti Vineyard seemed to be everyone’s favorite with the grilled flavors. The tasting notes describe this wine as a spicy, dusty, blackberry-laced Zinfandel that craves the company of spicy, grilled meats. The other was 2009 Tobin James French Camp Vineyard from Paso Robles. This was a big spicy wine with lots of juicy fruit and some thought the fruit was a little sweet, but we all thought it was a really tasty bottle.

The tenderloin had so much flavor. It was marinated then grilled. It was served with your choice of 4 great sauces. I didn't think that the tenderloin needed anything at all so I ate the sauces separately like dips. They were each amazing and all very different:
creamy horseradish
citrus and herb
sautéed mushrooms

The flavors were amazing but we're not done yet. Can't forget about our sweet tooth. We finished the evening with grilled pineapple and pound cake, served with a light slightly sweet white wine.
Recipes are to follow

Wow, what a wonderful grilled food and wine dinner!

See my tips for successful grilling

Posted by terri at 03:05 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2013

Ah fresh produce

There’s nothing better this time of year.

The sweet flavor of fresh picked corn and juicy, ripe tomatoes only comes around once a year so you better enjoy while it lasts. In the south, we begin harvesting strawberries and lettuce in May; squash, green beans, cucumbers and peaches in June and blueberries, blackberries, okra and corn in July. If you time your garden just right you might get most of it together for a wonderful meal.
Since I enjoy reading cooking magazines and books, I find lots of new recipes to try. And this year there have been more unique recipes than usual, something different that sounds enticing. I’ve really stepped out of my comfort zone, thrown caution to the stove, and got rid of the crazy notion that it might take too long or it might not turn out as well as a good ole standby. Trust me these dishes are delicious and not at all difficult to make, and as a bonus the ingredients call for all the great treats growing in our gardens this time of year.

Cucumber Rounds with Hummus and Yogurt

Prosciutto Wrapped Salad with Red Wine Dijon Vinaigrette

Sweet Corn Cake with Blueberry Lavender Compote

Posted by terri at 04:06 AM | Comments (0)

Cucumber Rounds with Hummus and Yogurt

I saw these in fine cooking magazine and they looked so refreshing, light and simple to make that I had to try them. They were also great tasting.

Makes about 40


  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, freshly ground
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste
  • 1 large seedless cucumber
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted until golden brown


    Put the chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, cumin, pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons water in a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Use a vegetable peeler or zester to peel the skin lengthwise at 1/4 inch intervals to create a striped pattern. Slice the cucumber crosswise into 1/4 inch rounds and set them on a platter.

    To assemble, lightly salt the cucumber rounds. Top each with a generous teaspoon of hummus and top with a small dollop of the yogurt. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

    Cooking Wiser
    To save time use your favorite commercially prepared humus, I think sundried tomato or roasted red pepper would be yummy and colorful.

    Posted by terri at 03:47 AM | Comments (0)

    Prosciutto Wrapped Salad Greens with Red Wine Dijon Vinaigrette

    Prosciutto is the Italian word for ham and is thinly sliced. The flavor tops off these creative bundles that can be served as a salad or appetizer.

    Makes 12 wraps


  • 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ pound mix salad greens, washed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto


    In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and thyme. Toss the lettuce with the vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper. Add Parmigiano.

    To assemble, place a slice of prosciutto on cutting board. Place a large spoonful of salad at the narrow end of the prosciutto. Roll the prosciutto into a tight log, jelly roll style. Slice the roll into 2 inch pieces diagonally. Repeat with the remaining prosciutto and salad greens and serve.

    Create your own by tossing the salad greens with any of your favorite vinaigrette or dressings.
    Use all spinach or arugula to replace the mixed greens.

    Posted by terri at 03:37 AM | Comments (0)

    July 13, 2013

    Sweet Corn Cake with Blueberry-Lavender Compote

    The lavender will infuse into the syrup creating a wonderful flavor. Double the recipe and use it to sweeten tea, lemonade or for making mojitos.
    The blue berries and yellow corn create colors that look amazing when plated with the corn cake.

    Serves 10-12


    For the cake

  • 6 ounces unsalted butter, softened and a little more for cake pan
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 1/3 cup sifted stone ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup cooked fresh corn kernels
  • ½ cup sour cream, room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten

    For the compote

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries


    For the cake, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter and lightly flour the sides and bottom of a 9x2 inch round cake pan.

    Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk in the cornmeal. Set aside.

    Puree the corn kernels in a food processor until smooth. Strain the puree through a fine sieve, pressing to extract the liquid. Scrape any puree off the bottom of the sieve into the liquid and then discard the solids. Measure ¼ cup of the strained corn liquid and transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the sour cream.

    Beat the butter and sugar with electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and continue mixing until incorporated.

    Add 1/2 of the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Add ½ of the sour cream mixture and mix until blended. Add remaining flour alternating with sour cream mixture. Do not over mix.

    Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake until cake is golden brown and test clean with cake tester in center of cake, about 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool about 10-15 minutes, and then remove from pan onto cake rack. Allow to cool completely.

    For the compote, combine the sugar and 2/3 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved completely. Remove from the heat. Add the lavender and stir.

    To serve the cake, stir the corn and blueberries into the syrup. Cut the cake into wedges and top each serving with some of the compote.

    Cooking Wiser:
    Manage your time: puree the corn and mix with the sour cream and make the compote the night before.

    If you can't find stoneground yellow cornmeal use plain yellow cornmeal, you won't be able to tell a big difference.

    Posted by terri at 03:38 AM | Comments (0)

    July 11, 2013

    Stir Fried Noodles with Shrimp, Chiles and Lime

    This is one of the most popular dishes from Thailand. Thai food doesn't have to be hot so you can control how much heat you want by adding more spice.

    Serves 2

    For the sauce
    2 tablespoons fish sauce
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
    1 teaspoon red curry paste

    For the Stir Fry
    3 ounces dried wide rice noodles
    1 tablespoon cooking oil
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
    6 ounces medium shrimp
    One 4-ounce can fire roasted green chiles, sliced into long slivers
    1 cup bean sprouts
    2 tablespoon unsalted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
    1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
    ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
    1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

    For the sauce. In a small bowl combine all of the sauce ingredients.

    For the stir-fry.
    Boil noodles in lightly-salted water until 'al dente', veering on the side of undercooked (you will be stir-frying them later so avoid overcooking them now). Drain and add 1 tablespoon of the stir-fry sauce you made earlier to prevent sticking. Set aside.

    Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl around, then stir-fry the garlic and ginger about 1 minute.

    Add the shrimp plus 1-2 Tbsp. of the stir-fry sauce - enough to keep ingredients frying nicely. Stir-fry 2 minutes, until shrimp are pink.

    Add the green chiles and the noodles plus remaining stir-fry sauce. Using 2 utensils, lift and turn the noodles in the pan to combine with the shrimp. Stir-fry in this way 2-3 more minutes, or until you are happy with the softness/texture of the noodles. During the last 1 minute of cooking time, fold in the bean sprouts.

    More chili can be added if you prefer it spicier.

    Serve immediately in bowls or plates, topping with peanuts, cilantro, mint and lime.

    Create your own
    Replace shrimp with chicken- 2 breasts cut into cubes and cooked as before until juices run clear

    Posted by terri at 03:47 AM | Comments (0)

    July 03, 2013

    A fabulous 4th of July Menu

    The idea to have friends or family over to celebrate the holidays sounds like a good one but if you are anything like me you spend all your time working. The guests have a great time and you wonder what they were all laughing about while you’re getting the food out.

    It’s time to put an end to that, throw a party and enjoy yourself. Here are a few tips and easy recipes to help you throw a fabulous party without losing out on all the fun.

    Tips for success:

  • You could hire someone to cater the event, or at least someone to put the food out and clean up at the end. But if that isn't your style then try a few of these tips:
  • Ask everyone to bring small plates or appetizers and you finish the party with a delicious dessert.
  • Or prepare the entrée and ask everyone to bring sides and desserts. Put out a plate of crackers and cheese that you arranged the day before (cover and refrigerate, remove from refrigerator one hour before serving)
  • 3-4 days before the party, clean flatware, decide on disposable plates, napkins and cups, purchase if necessary and set out day before party
  • If using real flatware, place a bucket of soapy water next to the sink and ask everyone to put their forks etc. in before throwing away disposables
  • Make lemonade, tea or punch the night before, refrigerate. Put drinks out before guests arrive. Put ice in buckets 10 minutes before guests arrive
  • Set tables up the morning of the party
  • If guests are bringing dishes ask them to also bring the serving utensils. They’ll take them home, less for you to clean

    If you like to prepare the food try these simple, quick recipe ideas

    Spinach Dip
    Bean Bruschetta

    Prepare the appetizers the day before and place in disposable serving dishes ready for the table. These should go out 30 minutes before your guests arrive. Arrange toasted bread rounds on a platter one hour before the party begins, cover tightly and set aside until ready to serve with the dip

    Salad: Prepare a plate of sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil pesto, ready-made or make the day before if you have fresh basil.

    Entrée: Grill mixed sausages, Polish, Kielbasa, Italian, etc. Serve a variety, some made with either pork, chicken or beef to appeal to everyone and even a vegetarian choice if applicable for your guests. Grill the sausages any time before the party even the day before. Place in a slow cooker on low for serving.

    Side: Any side that you can prepare in advance is the best suggestion. Select one of these that keep well for 1-2 days refrigerated. They are served cold so all you will have to do is place them out.
    Creamy Potato Salad

    Texas Caviar

    Make the morning of or the day before
    Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

    Posted by terri at 03:21 AM | Comments (0)

    July 01, 2013

    Quinoa Salad with Mango and Dried Cranberries

    Quinoa is very versatile and so easy to prepare. The seed of a goosefoot plant, it is considered to be a complete protein containing all 8 essential amino acids and albumin. Because quinoa has a nutty flavor, I decided it would combine well with fruit.

    Serves 6-8
    Prep time: 10 minutes
    Total time: 40 minutes + 1 hour to chill


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup mango juice (peach or pineapple juice could also be used)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 mango, cubed
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


    Heat oil in skillet on medium high and add quinoa to toast about 2-3 minutes. Add water and juice and bring to a boil, cover, then reduce the heat to simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add dried cranberries,cinnamon and salt. Recover and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Add mango and celery and gently combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

    Serve over mixed salad greens or arugula.

    Cooking Wiser:

    To save time, keep a supply of cooked quinoa in refrigerator, add to your favorite recipe. Follow package directions for cooking

    Make it your own:
    Add sliced almonds and peaches or pineapple. Diced apples and walnuts are also a good choice.

    Posted by terri at 02:59 AM | Comments (0)