Wednesday, May 29, 2013

R. Dumont & Fils, Brut Rosé Champagne, NV

This brut rosé is a great deal for a true Champagne. As with many Champagnes, this wine is slightly chalky. It has a deep pink color, tiny bubbles, a soft mousse, and has a nose and flavor of strawberries and raspberries.

Price: $37.00

Taste: 4.5
Value: 5
Drinkability: 4
Effervescence: 5
Overall: 18.5

Caramelized Onions, Sautéed Mushrooms with Red Wine Reduction, and Robusto Burger

Robusto is a deliciously nutty hard cheese from the Netherlands. It is often one the cheese samples at Whole Foods. If you can't find robusto, gruyere would be a good substitute.

1.25 lbs. 85/15 ground beef 
1 tbs. worchestershire 
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder 
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
Vidalia onion, sliced 
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced 
1 tbsp. thyme
1/4 cup dry red wine 
4 burger buns, toasted


Coat large saute pan with 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and heat on low heat. When pan is hot, add sliced onion. Sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 45 minutes.

While onions are cooking, preheat grill on high and make sautéed mushrooms.  

Melt butter with 1 tbsp. olive oil in large sauté pan and heat on medium. When pan is hot, add mushrooms and thyme. Cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add wine and reduce until the sauce can coat a spoon and when you drag a spoon through the sauce it separates and does not immediately go back together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Combine ground beef in a large bowl with worchestershire, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Form into 4 patties. Make deep thumb print in center of each burger on one side. 

Put burgers on grill and cook for 3-4 minutes on one side. Flip burgers and cook for about 3 more minutes. Place cheese slices on the burgers and cook about 1 more minute until cheese is melted. Spoon mushrooms and caramelized onions on burgers. Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bedin, Prosecco Brut, NV

I served this Prosecco from Veneto, Italy with my homemade gnocchi with basil pesto. This wine has a creamy mousse, which allows it to hold up to a meal. It is very refreshing with tastes of peach, grapefruit, pear, and apricot.

Price: $14.00

Taste: 3.5
Value: 4
Drinkability: 4
Effervescence: 2
Overall: 13.5

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Homemade Gnocchi with Basil Pesto

I served this gnocchi dish as the main course when friends came over for dinner. It is great on its own, but if you are looking to add some protein to the dish, my marinated grilled chicken would be great in the pasta. (Just leave off the chimichurri.)


Gnocchi: (can substitute with store bought gnocchi, but homemade is so much better)
3 lbs. russet potatoes, cleaned
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt

Basil Pesto:
5 cups packed basil
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup pecorino
3/4 cup parmesan
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 - 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


Place potatoes in large stockpot and just cover with cold water. Bring to boil over high heat and boil potatoes until soft, about 45 minutes. You should be able to easily put a fork into the potato and remove it. While potatoes are still warm, carefully peel them and pass them through a food mill onto a large board. Spread out the potatoes and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Beat egg and pour over the potatoes. Then sprinkle the flour and salt over the potatoes. Stir everything together with a fork. Once combined, knead the dough with your hands. The dough should feel dry, not sticky. Add more flour if the dough still feels sticky.

Cut the dough into tennis ball size portions. Roll each portion into a log, about 3/4 inch thick. Then cut each log into 1 inch pieces. Put gnocchi in a single layer on a sheet pan and cover lightly with flour until ready to use.

Bring water to boil in large stockpot. Blanch basil for a few seconds and transfer to an ice water bath. This will ensure that the basil retains its color and your pesto will be beautiful and green. Drain basil in paper towels.

In a food processor, add the garlic and pulse until minced. Then add basil, pecorino, parmesan, pine nuts, and lemon zest. Pulse all ingredients while slowly pouring in olive oil. Continue to add olive oil and pulse until pesto is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When boiling, add gnocchi. Cook until floating and tender, 4-5 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and then drain. Immediately mix gnocchi with the pesto in a large bowl or serving dish. Add pasta water as needed to create a smooth sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mixed Greens Salad with Strawberries, Goat Cheese, Toasted Pecans, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

This is a great summer salad with fresh seasonal ingredients. There is a pick your own strawberries farm by my house, so I picked the strawberries and bought the rest of the ingredients from the local farmer's market. You often see strawberry salads with sweeter dressings, but I think the balsamic vinaigrette is a perfect accompaniment to fresh strawberries.

1 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 oz extra virgin olive oil (might need a little more olive oil depending on the sweetness of your balsamic vinegar)
Bag of mixed salad greens
2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup pecans, chopped and lightly toasted (put pecans in sauté pan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant)
2 oz goat cheese


In small bowl, add dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar. Whisk together. While whisking continuously, slowly pour in the extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. You might need to give it a quick whisk before using.

In a salad bowl toss mixed greens, strawberries, pecans, and goat cheese. Dress with balsamic vinaigrette and serve.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Manchego Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates

I served these for my hors d'oeuvres when I had some friends over for dinner. They are simple to make and will be a huge hit at your next dinner party. I would make about 2 dates per person.

10 Medjool dates, pitted
Manchego cheese, cut into about 1 inch by 1/4 inch rectangles
5 slices applewood smoked bacon, cut in half

Preheat oven to 400°. Stuff piece of Manchego into the hole in a pitted date. Pinch the open end of the date so that it closes. Wrap strip of bacon around the date and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining dates. Place dates onto parchment lined baking sheet. Roast dates until bacon starts to get crispy, 5-8 minutes. Turn the dates over and cook until the bacon is crisp, about 5-8 minutes. I left the toothpicks in mine for serving to make it an easy bite for my guests to eat.

Chateau de L'Aulée, Touraine Brut Intense, NV

I served this sparkling wine from the Touraine region of the Loire Valley in France for Mother's Day with my Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto and Grilled Lobster Tails with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette. This wine is made in the methode traditionelle, which is the same method used to make Champagne. This light brut has tiny bubbles, tastes of green apple and pear, and finishes with a hint of hazelnut.

Price: $17.00

Taste: 4
Value: 4
Drinkability: 3.5
Effervescence: 4
Overall: 15.5

Grilled Lobster Tails with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

I served this with my Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto for Mother's Day and paired it with Chateau de L'Aulée, Touraine Brut Intense, NV.

4 lobster tails, split lengthwise in half
Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat grill on medium heat. Whisk zest, juice, garlic, olive oil, and butter together in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Brush some of the vinaigrette onto the skin side of the lobster tails. Place the tails skin side down on the grill. Grill for 3-4 minutes and flip lobster tails so that the shell side is down. Baste lobster tails with vinaigrette. Grill for 3-4 more minutes until lobster is opaque. Baste one more time with the vinaigrette and serve. Drizzle any extra vinaigrette over the lobster tails.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

This served as the starch and the vegetable for Mother's Day dinner. I served the grilled lobster on top of the risotto and paired the dish with Chateau de L'Aulée, Touraine Brut Intense, NV.

6-8 cups chicken stock
1.5 lbs. assorted fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tbsp. thyme
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a pinot grigio)
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
Zest of 1 lemon

While prepping the asparagus and mushrooms pour the chicken stock into a stock pot and bring to a simmer.

Fill large stock pot half way with water and bring to boil. Salt water. Add asparagus and blanch for 3-4 minutes. Immediately put asparagus into an ice bath. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, add 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter and melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Coat a large stock pot or dutch oven with 2 tbsp. olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Add rice and stir for 2 minutes to toast. Add wine and stir until the wine is completely absorbed by the rice. Add between 1/2 and 1 cup chicken stock to the rice. (I used a soup ladle and don't measure exactly.) Stir until completely absorbed. Continue to add chicken stock by the ladle-full, stirring each time until stock is absorbed before adding more, until the rice is tender and creamy, but still firm to the bite. This should take about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add in one final ladle-full of stock, 1 tbsp. butter, parmigiano reggiano, lemon zest, mushrooms, and asparagus and stir until butter is melted. Garnish with additional parmigiano reggiano and serve.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mussels Mariniere

I made this dish as an appetizer for Mother's Day. One of my mom's absolute favorite dishes is the mussels from Fat Hen in Charleston, SC. When we were at the Fat Hen, I asked about their recipe and was told that there were 2 pounds of butter in the mussels. Using the Fat Hen mussels as inspiration, I cut down on the butter and added a few other ingredients for my own take on mussels mariniere.

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 leek, halved, chopped, and washed (leeks have a lot of dirt and sand in them, so washing before cooking is necessary)
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 springs thyme
1 cup dry white wine (I used pinot grigio)
2 lbs. mussels

Let mussels soak in bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. Scrub mussels and remove the beard from each mussel. Discard any mussels that are broken or will not tightly shut. Set aside.

In a large stockpot heat butter over medium heat. Add leek and shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add mussels and thyme to the pot and stir. Add wine and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let steam for 8-10 minutes or until mussels open, shaking the pot a few times while cooking. Discard any mussels that didn't open. Serve with a crusty bread or baguette for dipping.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pico de Gallo

3 lbs. tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 small red onion, diced 
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 jalepeño, minced 
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cumin

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and let chill before serving; this allows the flavors to really come together. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013


3 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 lb. vine ripe tomatoes
Zest of 1 lime
1 tbs. olive oil if avocados not ripe
1/3 cup minced red onion
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 jalepeño minced (seeds removed)

Mix avocado halves and lime juice in a large bowl. Mash with fork or potato masher until desired consistency achieved. Add olive oil if necessary. Mix in cilantro, tomatoes, onion, cumin, salt and jalepeño.

Fish and Shrimp Tacos with Citrus Vinaigrette Coleslaw

Cinco de Mayo is typically one of my favorite holidays. This year, however, I spent Cinco de Mayo driving in the rain with a U-haul for 11 hours after moving my sister out of her  college apartment. Since we missed out on Cinco de Mayo we decided to celebrate Seis de Mayo with these fish and shrimp tacos. The fish and shrimp have a bold flavor because of the marinade and taste great in a taco with my cabbage slaw.

1 lb halibut (or other white fish)
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
Flour or corn tortillas
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Chipotle in adobo, 1 chipotle chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp. olive oil

Combine cilantro, chopped chipotle, 1 tbsp. adobo, cumin, ancho chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, zest of one lime, and 3 tbsp. olive oil in ziplock bag. Stir well. Add fish and shrimp and let marinate 1 hour. Preheat grill on medium. Add juice of 1/2 lime to marinade and let marinate 5 more minutes. Don't add the lime juice until the last 5 minutes or the lime juice will cook the fish and shrimp. Skewer shrimp. Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill fish for 3-4 minutes per side or until flaky. Grill shrimp for 1-2 minutes per side or until cooked through. Serve with tortillas and slaw.

Citrus Vinaigrette Coleslaw:

1 head cabbage, julienned
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil

Whisk lime juice, olive oil, and cilantro in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with cabbage in large bowl. Serve with fish and shrimp tacos.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tiziano Prosecco NV

This past weekend my youngest sister graduated from college. My family went out for a celebratory dinner and toasted with this bottle of prosecco from Northern Italy. It is light and refreshing with a hint of honey and notes of peach and pear. I would serve this as an apertif or with a light meal.

Price: $12.00

Taste: 3
Value: 3
Drinkability: 4.5
Effervescence: 2
Overall: 12.5