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August 28, 2014

Spanish/Portugal Wine and Food Dinner

Spain is the 3rd largest producer of wine in the world covering over a million acres. The wines are usually less expensive than the wines found next door in France and they pair very well with a variety of foods, both spicy and sweet.

Though there are hundreds of grape varietals in Spain, the highest quality wines holding the top label honor come from the DOC designated regions of Rioja and Priorat. Fortunately our most recent wine dinner focused heavily on the reds from Rioja, each being paired with a wonderful Spanish tapa.

As is our usual custom we began the evening with a sparkling wine. Cava, Spain’s most popular sparkling wine is made in much the same way as Champagne. The unique qualities of this wine come from three distinctly different grapes. Macabeu is the primary grape used in Cava production. According to Wine Folly, "Macabeu tastes somewhat simple. It has faint floral aromatics, a lemony flavor with a slightly bitter finish that tastes similar to green almonds. Xarel•lo (sounds like ‘Cheryl-ooh’) on the other hand, is much more aromatic with rich floral aromas and pear/melon-like notes. The last grape, Paralleda, is blended for its ripping high acidity and zesty citrus flavors. Together the three Spanish grapes create a balanced fruity sparkling wine that’s less sweet than Prosecco but not as nutty as Vintage Champagne."

The Cava was paired with Smoked Salmon canapés with capers and cream cheese.

In keeping with a Spanish food and wine theme, the next tapa was a Chorizo, Manchego and Membrillo (guince paste)grilled sandwiche. Quince looks and taste like a cross between a pear and an apple and makes a wonderful jam, used in this recipe to tame the heat in the chorizo.
The sandwiches were served with Vina Eguia Reserva 2007 from Rioja, Spain. This wine has a bright, ruby red color, with complex flavors of vanilla, spice and aromatic herbs that pair well with the sweet and heat in the sandwiches.

The next dish was Cod layered with ground Chorizo and Potatoes, topped with Cherry Tomatoes. The presentation was amazing and so were the flavors.

The cod was paired with a 2012 Spanish Viura Finca Cerrada that boasts of Lemon and pineapple aromas and a minerality that adds a great level of complexity and interest. This wine is easy to drink and when paired with the fish took on more intensity.

I think he was checking it out waiting for us to drop a small bite for him. I don't think that happened, poor guy.

The Piquant Cocktail Meatballs were paired with a Spanish Rioja from Muga winery. The wine had very soft tannins with a long finish. On the nose there were hints of red and black fruit, caramel and vanilla with a little oak and spice. The complexity of the wine was a good match for the meatballs accenting the herbs and spices. The meatballs were served with roasted red peppers and a tomato based dipping sauce that completed the unique flavor combinations.

The next dish was a very spicy bean dish. Although I don't have the recipe, I can tell you that the beans were cooked to a thick broth and had just the right amount of spicy rich flavor. What was interesting was the wine that was served with this dish was the same wine that was served with the next dish, Chicken Casserole with Spiced Figs and the wine worked really well with both dishes, but the dishes were so very different; the beans were spicy hot and savory while the figs gave the chicken a slightly sweet flavor that was surrounded by a very rich and delicious sauce. The wine, a 2006 Anares Reserva had just the right structure and acidity to compliment both dishes. So cool.

Moving on to Portugal.
The next dish was amazing. The pork roast was fall off the bone tender and the sauce that was served on the side was so flavorful that I could have drank it if it wasn't for the fact that it was served with a wonderful wine from Portugal so I decided to drink that instead; a Monsaraz 2012 Reserva.

This wine came straight from Portugal during a visit there this past summer. It is so wonderful to have friends who travel the world and share there delicious foods and wines. The dish was one they tried at the home of their host.

We finished the night with Ferreira Quinta Do Porto, a 10 year Port from Portugal. Wine Spectator gave it a 91, claiming that it may be their favorite 10 year Tawny Port to date. The rich dried fruit and spice flavors, with aromas of sweet chai, orange peel and dark fruits create a very well balanced style making it an excellent pairing with the "eggless" Chocolate cake. One of our wine dinner members is allergic to eggs. I wasn't sure until I tasted it and it was very impressive, quite fabulous in fact. I am still hoping for the recipe and when I get it I will pass it on to you.

Posted by terri at 03:36 AM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2014

Salmon Cakes

Some may use canned salmon when making salmon cakes but it is so much better and very simple to cook fresh salmon or here's an idea- when you have salmon for dinner be sure and save enough to make salmon cakes the next day.

Makes about 20 appetizer size or 10 full size


  • 1/2 pound fresh salmon
  • Olive oil for brushing salmon
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup small-diced red onion
  • 1 cups small-diced celery
  • 1/2 cup small-diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 3 slices stale bread, crusts removed
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten


    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    Place the salmon on a sheet pan, skin side down. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until just cooked. Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and refrigerate until cold.

    Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onion, celery, red and jalapeno peppers, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay seasoning, salt, and pepper and cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

    Break the bread slices in pieces and process the bread in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. You should have about 1 cup of bread crumbs. Place the bread crumbs on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for 5 minutes until lightly browned, tossing occasionally.

    Flake the chilled salmon into a large bowl. Add the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. Add the vegetable mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Shape into 2 inch round patties for appetizer size or 4 inch rounds for larger

    Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. In batches, add the salmon cakes and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels; keep them warm in a preheated 250 degree F oven and serve hot.

    Serve with lemon caper sauce: Mix 2 teaspoons capers and 1 tablespoon lemon juice + the zest from the lemon to 1 cup mayonnaise or sour cream.

    Cooking Wiser
    Use low fat sour cream or salad dressing to replace the mayonnaise for less calories

    Make it your own

    Add more heat with a little hot sauce
    Use cilantro to replace parsley
    Add more color with yellow pepper, add about 1/4 cup

    Posted by terri at 02:42 AM | Comments (0)

    August 20, 2014

    January 2014 Wine Dinner

    Our January 2014 wine dinner was a very small, intimate group; four to be exact. But as always the wine was delicious. I don’t even remember the food but the wines were great.

    One of the wines we opened was a wine we picked up while we were in France. I was particularly happy to be in the Burgundy region and I tasted several wines that were far better than the French wines we have at home. Maybe it was because we were in France or maybe what the French say is true. They keep the best wine for themselves and they send us the rest. The Fixin Burgundy was an especially good Pinot Noir. It was well balanced with wonderful red fruit flavors. Fixin is a village at the northern end of the Cote de Nuits sub-region of Burgundy. The style of wine produced in Fixin is similar to its neighbor region Gevrey Chambertin, being full flavored and well structured.
    Our guests are particularly fond of Italian wines so they brought a Brunello di Montalcino, a red wine produced in the wineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino, in the Tuscany wine region. In Montalcino the name Brunello evolved into the designation of the wine produced with 100% Sangiovese. In 1980, Brunello di Montalcino was awarded the first Donominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita designation and today is one of Italy’s best know and most expensive wines. We enjoyed this wine with a variety of imported cheeses.

    We needed a white wine so we opened a Chamisal Chardonnay from the cooler climate of California’s Central Coast. The flavors are a mix of apple, pineapple and peach with a clean lingering acidity.

    Posted by terri at 02:43 AM | Comments (0)

    August 18, 2014

    Mardi Gras Wine Dinner

    We’ve had so many fabulous wine dinners that I can’t keep up with all of them.
    In Feb 2014 we had a Mardi Gras theme complete with wonderful Cajun food.
    This is what I remember 6 months later

    We started with the lighter fish dishes

    Crab cakes were served as open sandwiches on toasted French bread and paired with a 2012 Anselm San Vincenzo. This Italian white blend of Garganega, Chardonnay and Soave Trebbiano has ripe pear and lemon flavors with a hint of oak making it a great pairing with seafood.

    Next up was a very tasty
    Salmon Cake that was paired with a 2012 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. The wine had a clean, crisp and refreshing flavor with hints of citrus fruits. A wine with citrus flavors always is a good choice for fish even a heavier fish like salmon.

    It is amazing how we are always on the same food and wine wavelength. Everyone was keeping the theme going with little themes running throughout the dinner.

    We paired a delicious open faced sandwich of roasted pork, cheese and peppers with a 2012 Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara. This Sea Glass Pinot Noir is light-bodied with bright red cherry and strawberry flavors. Beautifully balanced with vibrant acidity, it’s the ideal complement for pork.

    We enjoyed a 2006 Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel with the Red Beans and Rice. It was a gamble about the pairing since I had no idea if it would work. It was a good pairing. I confess though, I brought the wine because I wanted to drink it. We had cellared it for 6 years and it was time to enjoy with friends. The wine was smooth and richly delicious with typical Zinfandel dark fruit flavors and spice.

    Dessert is always a treat and the Bananas Foster was no exception. The bananas were cooked in brown sugar and cream and finished with rum and cinnamon. It was served with Pedro Romero Cream Sherry that is medium dark amber-color, soft, and sweet, with broad, savory cream and nutty flavors. Yum

    Posted by terri at 04:13 AM | Comments (0)

    Red Beans and Rice

    Begin with dried beans, pre soak over night and add lots of herbs and spices when cooking for ultimate flavor. Adding bacon, sausage or ham hock will also add flavor. For true Cajun food this recipe calls for Andouille sausage, a spicy, smoked sausage.

    Serves 8


  • 1 pound dry kidney beans
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced

  • 2 cups chicken broth (or water)
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 2 cups long grain white rice, I use Basmati


    Rinse beans, and then soak in a large pot of water overnight.
    In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic, and celery until tender

    Rinse beans, and transfer to a large pot with 6 cups water. Add the cooked vegetables to the beans. Season with bay leaves, cayenne pepper, thyme, sage, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until beans are tender.

    Stir sausage into beans, and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, prepare the rice. In a large skillet, heat oil, then add rice and sauté until rice begins to turn slightly golden. Add the chicken broth or water, cover and continue to boil for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until rice is tender. Serve beans over steamed white rice.

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

    August 11, 2014

    Watermelon Strawberry Sangria

    Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay

    A delicious and refreshing summer drink.

    Serves 8-10


  • 1 small seedless watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into large chunks
  • 1 pound strawberries, nulled and sliced, I cup reserved for garnish
  • 1 bottle rose wine, cold
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup orange liqueur
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 lime, sliced


    Combine the watermelon and strawberries in a blender and blend until smooth, add a splash of the vodka if needed to get the fruit pureed.

    Stain into a large pitcher, you will need about 4 cups of juice. Add the rose, vodka, orange juice and liqueur and stir to combine. Add the orange and lime slices, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Just before serving, add the reserved strawberries. Serve in glasses over ice.

    Posted by terri at 03:09 AM | Comments (0)

    Risotto with Asparagus

    This is the best Risotto and Asparagus recipe I've enjoyed to date.
    The flavor is enhanced with beef broth and the asparagus flavor is fresh and crisp.

    Serves 6



  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • salt to taste
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons onion chopped very fine
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 tablespoon parley, finely chopped


    Cut off about 1 inch from the end of the asparagus spears to expose the tender part, wash and blanch until crisp tender about 4-5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Reserve 1 cup of the blanching water.

    Cut the asparagus into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Discard any part of asparagus that is tough.

    Add blanching water to beef broth and heat to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

    Melt 1 tablespoon butter and vegetable oil in a heavy skillet. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add the asparagus stalks (not the spear tips)and cook for 1 minute until coated with butter.

    Add the rice stirring quickly and thoroughly until the grains are coated well. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and cook the rice until liquid absorbs. repeat with remaining broth in 1/2 cups increments until rice is tender.

    The rice should be slightly firm with barely enough liquid remaining to make the consistency creamy. Remove from the heat and add the asparagus tips.

    Season with pepper, remaining butter and grated parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Mix in the parsley and serve.

    Posted by terri at 01:57 AM | Comments (0)