Summer Recipe: Easy Bruschetta on the Grill

Up your summer Bruschetta game!

Grilling your bread instead of toasting in an oven adds a smoky element. And wiping the hot toasts with sliced garlic both cooks and softens its harsher flavors.

Prep/Cooking Time: About 20 minutes, start to finish! Serves 4-6 (or a main course for one!)

Ingredients

  • Sweet Baguette
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes (mixed colors), roughly chopped
  • Big fistful of Basil leaves, rolled into a cigar shape and sliced into thin strips
  • Really good olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large clove unpeeled garlic, sliced lengthwise
  • One med-hot grill

Procedure

Once ingredients are assembled, light your grill.

While waiting for your grill to hot up, slice the baguette on the bias (Right), then prepare the tomatoes, basil and garlic (below).

In a bowl, combine and lighlty toss:

  • The chopped tomatoes
  • 3/4 of the basil
  • A very generous splash of olive oil
  • The Balsamic
  • Salt & pepper to taste.

Brush or spray each slice of baguette with a thin layer of olive oil and place on the hot grill. Monitor closely – those shown here are too crisp/overdone. The goal is to get a bit of flavor and an outer crispness with a chewy center. After flipping, immediately swipe the hot toast once or twice with the raw garlic. Each garlic slice will last for half a baguette, depending on how much garlic you like.

Once toasted and rubbed with garlic, place them on a serving plate and spoon the bowl contents onto the toasts. Top with remaining sliced Basil. Test one or two and adjust seasoning, make sure the wine works, open one or two more bottles and keep testing until the perfect pairing is found. Once all your testing is complete, serve both remaining bruschetta immediately. (kidding)

Wine Pairings

The acid in this dish (tomatoes, vinegar) will defeat most red wines, so I recommend sticking with crisp summer wines – light reds slightly chilled, dry Rosés and crisp whites – exactly like those you’ll find here

Cheers!

Recipe: Chicken & (Variations on Bittman’s) Overnight Waffles

Delish Recipe - Chicken & Waffles

It may seem crazy to include waffles among my wine-friendly recipes. They’re usually a breakfast item and few wines pair well with the usual waffle toppings of fresh fruit, whipped cream and maple syrup. I can think of about one wine that would be up to the task (very sweet TBA Riesling, anyone?) but even that is far from a perfect pairing, at least to my palate.

No, the reason I include this recipe is because it is not only the best waffle recipe in the world (go ahead, make it and then try to argue the point), it is waaay better than most of the waffles they serve at even the best Southern restaurants that serve Chicken and Waffles. And adding chicken to a waffle creates a sweet-savory combination that expands the wine options significantly (see recommended pairings, below).

Pro Tip – The waffles need a little extra time in the waffle iron – about a minute longer than the  iron’s warning light thinks they need – to achieve the crunchy outside and soft inside that is the very definition of ‘waffle perfection’.  And while they are best when eaten within a minute or two, they freeze beautifully and come to life after a quick visit to the toaster.

Now if I could only bring my fried chicken up to the same level as my waffles (I’m trying this recipe from Delish now – see Bryce Johnson’s tempting food shot above!)

Ingredients:
1/2 teaspoon Instant yeast
2 cups All purpose flour
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 cups Milk (use Buttermilk for a more savory version, or substitute 1C sour cream for 1C of the milk)
8 Tbsp butter melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract optional
Canola Oil for brushing on waffle iron
2 room-temperature eggs

Directions

The yeast will need 8-10 hours of fermentation to bring its full flavor and consistency to the batter, so advanced planning is required (but well worth it!). When preparing the initial batter, combine all the dry ingredients and then stir in the milk. Once combined, stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside at room temperature for 8-10 hours.

When you’re ready to prepare the waffles, preheat the waffle iron as you separate the eggs, integrating the yolks into the batter and beating the egg whites to soft peaks before gently folding them into the batter – don’t over-mix or you’ll lose the critical airiness that creates the perfect waffle texture. 

Most waffle irons sold today are made for the deeper, Belgian waffles that are perfect for this recipe. Pour 1/3 cup of the batter onto the waffle iron and bake until the waffle is done, usually 3 to 5 minutes, depending on your iron. Serve immediately or keep warm in a low oven until the chicken is ready to plate.

Remember, in the unlikely event there are any left over, they freeze well for weeks and can be easily called into action by a good toaster.

Wine Pairings – Off-dry, aromatic white wines from cool-climate growing areas. Candidates include Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Muller-Thurgau or Riesling!  Shop our aromatic White Wines here

Recipe: Frico Friulano

Cheese. Potato. Onion. What could be simpler? Actually, this regional dish requires a bit of finesse to turn out properly, but the yum factor is well worth it.

Next to the famed ham of San Daniele, Frico Friulano is perhaps the most iconic dish of the Northeastern region of Italy known as Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. This region is found just South of Austria and West of Slovenia, with its unique cuisine influenced by both. The foods you’ll enjoy here still feature pasta, but their exotic spices and sweet-savory influence are unique within Italy. 

Map of Friuli Venezia Giulia
Courtesy of Vineyards.com – https://vineyards.com/wine-map/italy/friuli-venezia-giulia

And the region is gob-smackingly beautiful. Though much of the region is over-shadowed by Venice, the entire region is postcard-worthy. Vineyards and fields of sunflowers provide a scenic stage for the chalky hills of the Dolomites and dramatic skies and cloud formations.

But enough about geography. Let’s get on with the food. Before making Frico Friulano you must first understand that there are two types of Frico – one is simply grated cheese placed in mounds on a silpat and baked until browned, then served as cheese crisps. Delicious and worth a try, but not what we’re here for today.

The second type is what’s pictured above – and both types of Frico call for the same Friulian cheese called Montasio. It can be hard to find on this side of the pond, but use it if you can and if not, reach for the Grana Padano or a good Parmesan instead.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Montasio, grated
  • 1 medium potato, about 1/2 pound, peeled and grated
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat for a minute. Heat the oil for 10-15 seconds, then add the onion and cook until fragrant, another 3-4 minutes before adding the grated potato.  Toss the potato and onion until well mixed, add salt/pepper and cook, tossing frequently, until golden and crispy on the bottom – about 10 minutes.

Add the cheese and combine well, working quickly with a non-stick spatula. Once combined, scrape the sides of the pan and spread any excess over the top, smoothing it into a pancake-like disc.  Lower the heat and let cook untouched until the bottom is brown and nicely crusted (~5 minutes, but this will vary depending on your cooking surface). 

Flipping Frico – Loosen the Frico by shaking the pan, place a large flat plate over the pan, flip everything and then slide the Frico back into the pan, exposing the beautifully browned cheese on top. If your Frico breaks during this process, just piece it back together in the pan and nobody will be the wiser. Cook until the bottom is browned, about 5 minutes more, before sliding onto the serving plate.

Slice into wedges and serve with a simple green salad.

Wine pairing – any crisp, aromatic white will be good, but if you can find a white wine from Friuli the pairing will be perfect!

The Frico Friulano at Frasca da Gianni
Frasca da Gianni
Frasca da Gianni – outdoor patio

Recipe: Scallops in Herbed Brown Butter

This is a favorite dish at our home!

But Scallops are pricey, so we usually splurge on them as an appetizer, sometimes served simply as shown at left, sometimes atop a small hill of mashed potatoes and turnips (boiled together, 1:1 ratio) or mashed sweet potatoes.

When shopping, be aware that you’re likely to find two types of scallops (aside from size), only one of which I recommend! Ask your fish monger for “dry” scallops, which are free of preservatives and the most unpleasant tin-like taste you’ll find in the cheaper version.

And yes, the “dry” scallops are FAR pricier, but the only scallps worth the money. Dry Scallops are also easier to sear and that’s important – the beautiful brown exterior is a taste treat!

Ingredients

2 “Dry” Scallops per person

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Fresh herbs, chopped (any combination of basil, tarragon, parsley)

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

(Optional: mashed potatoes/turnips or mashed sweet potatoes to serve as a base)

Preparation

Over med-high heat, warm a pan large enough to hold all of the scallops at once – you don’t want to do this in batches if you can avoid it as they should be eaten within minutes of plating.

Season the scallops with the salt and pepper (to taste). Heat the olive oil for 30 seconds or so, then place the scallops in the pan and brown for about 3 minutes. Turn the scallops and immediately add the butter and herbs. Spoon the butter/herbs over the scallops until the scallops are cooked through and the butter begins to brown (after the foam subsides) and to smell nutty.

Add the lemon juice, swirl to blend, and plate the scallops. Spoon the butter evenly across the finished plates and serve immediately.

Wine Pairing

Pairing wine with seared scallops can be a challenge. Scallops combine elements of sweetness and brineniness that fight many of the usual wine choices. If paired poorly, the wine finishes with a most unpleasant, lingering fishiness.

So look for a rich, off-dry wine with some brine notes as well as herbaciousness.  Really?  Yes! Look to the white wines of the Western Loire Valley, or the coastal whites from Italy or Spain. I avoid dry Rosé with scallops, as they rarely work well – a rarity for these most food-friendly wines. But Riesling, one of the other “World’s most food-friendly wines” works nicely, as does an off-dry sparkling wine.  Shop white wines here, and Sparkling wines here.

Enjoy!!

Recipe – Caldesi’s Six Elements for A Perfect Salad

Back in the Before Times, I was often found filling a tiny seat in economy class, headed to parts unknown.  On one of these sojourns, the in-flight magazine featured an article on Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi, who run London’s eponymous restaurant/cooking school/cookery shop – “Caffe Caldesi” (118 Marlybone Lane, W1U 2QF) and La Cucina Caldesi (4 Cross Keys Close, W1U 2DG) and the “Caldesi in Campagna” at Bray, Berkshire.

They’re also the authors of the cook book you see here – Around the World in 120 Salads. While researching the book, Vietnamese chefs told the Caldesis that the world’s best salads share six key elements.  The result is a set of guidelines you’ll find useful for the rest of your salad-eating days (note, a single ingredient often checks off more than one of the six boxes):

  1. Dry – Salt, pepper, dried spices or herbs add a bit of kick
  2. Wet – Fresh citrus slices or other sources of juiciness
  3. Sweet – Often it’s a pinch of sugar, a drop of maple syrup or honey, or fructose from ripe fruits of choice
  4. Sour – Providing a counter-point to the Sweet element, citrus juice, vinager or other sources of tartness
  5. Soft – Examples include avocado, cooked beans, dried dates or edible flowers…
  6. Crunchy – carrots, sliced scallions, toasted nuts, fried onions or other toothsome textural ingredients

Wine Pairing Advice – It’s difficult to pair wines with a salad course until the details of the salad are known.  Here, the basics of food-and-wine pairing (match body weight, and be sure the acidity or sweetness of the wine exceeds that of the dish) don’t help much, as salads often feature sweet and acidic elements in the same dish. This makes your pairing task truly perplexing, as acidic wines rarely work well with sweet elements, and vice versa.

As a general rule, I opt for a wine on the acidic side but that also offers some richness of fruit – a very dry rosé, an Alsatian white, unoaked chardonnay, etc.  In general, the salad course is the domaine of white wine – in fact, I can’t think of a red that would pair well with salad, though as soon as I say that, someone will write in with a notable exception – please do so!

Dave at the Wine ShopCheers!

Dave The Wine Merchant

Recipe – Grilled Bacon Kebabs

Grilled Bacon Kebabs imageFunny, this – “Living high on the hog” used to mean one could afford the prime cuts of meat farthest away from the pig’s belly – the luxurious loin.  But today you can’t walk down a block at lunchtime without running into an urban hipster biting into some form of pork belly.  Eating low on the hog is decidedly trendy.  

This recipe feeds that craze, featuring bacon in a rather unusual but delicious preparation – skewered and grilled. The recipe originated with Chris Morocco  over at Bon Appetit (photo by Ted Cavanaugh), but I’ve simplified it a bit so more people can prepare it using ingredients already in their pantry – unless the back corner of your condiment shelf is hiding a jar of the spicy Asian concoction known as sambal oelek, in which case add a couple TBSPs of it to the relish, by all means. 

When planning your meal you may find it easiest to purchase the bacon by the number of slices you’d like to serve each guest instead of by weight. If this is your main protein, you’ll want a good five or six slices per person.  If serving as an appetizer or side dish, perhaps just two or three.  I prepared this recipe with a thick-cut pepper bacon and can’t imagine how it would work with anything thinner.  

There are three sections to the recipe – the glaze, the relish and the meat.

The Glaze – used during the last two minutes of cooking. Can be prepared in advance and refrigerated. This recipe is sufficient for 8 slices of bacon.  Increase the recipe accordingly as your party gets larger.  And when you’re serving these, it’s bound to do so.

  • 2 Tbsp honey or agave
  • 2 Tbsp sambal oelek or Sriracha
  • 1-2 Tbsp unseasoned Rice Vinegar

Combine all ingredients and set aside.  Told you this was easy.

The Relish – liberally disperse over the dish immediately after removing from the grill.  Let sit at room temperature while preparing the grill so the flavors infuse.

  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced (just up to the green part)
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeded and diced
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1+ tsp ginger, peeled and grated, to taste (substitute powdered ginger, if you must)
  • 1/2 tsp light brown sugar or squeeze of honey or agave syrup

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

The Meat

Indirect bbq heatAt this point, prepare your grill – you want a medium fire on just one side of the grill – you’ll need to use indirect heat to prevent charring.  Using metal (preferably) skewers, weave them through the meat (not the fat) every few inches, then stretch the bacon out flat, as shown in the photo above.  

Place the skewers over the indirect heat side of the grill and turn every minute or so for about 8 minutes.  Don’t leave the grill, these do require a bit of constant attention.  You don’t want the bacon to burn, but it should sizzle as it renders its fat and crisps up.  While still slightly limp but almost ready, brush the bacon with the glaze and turn every 30 seconds for another 2-3 minutes or until you can’t wait to bite into one.  The glaze burns easily, so don’t leave the grill, put your wine glass down, and focus.

Wine Pairing

The heat in this dish can prove tricky for most wines, and it is really best with a low-alcohol, off-dry white (think Riesling) or Rose. However, the “Red Only” crowd prefers to pair hot dishes with fruity, high-alcohol wines such as a CA Zinfandel.  To each his/her own, but if I were forced down the red-only lane I’d opt for a Russian River Pinot. Shop for wines here.

Enjoy!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Wine-Friendly Recipe – White Bean Crostini (Appetizer)

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for  drizzling
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced and 1 whole clove, peeled
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked white beans, or drained and rinsed canned beans
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 baguette, cut into 24 1/4-inch rounds
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional), shaved into strips

Directions:

In a small fry pan over medium heat, warm 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a liquid measuring cup.

In a food processor, combine the white beans, rosemary and lemon juice. Pulse until the beans are partially pureed, 5 to 10 seconds. With the motor running, pour in the garlic oil and process until a smooth puree forms, 5 to 10 seconds more. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. 

Arrange the 24 crostini on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 450 until lightly browned, then immediately, while still hot, swipe with a whole clove of peeled garlic.

Spread about 1.5 Tbs. of the white bean puree on each crostini. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with a grind of fresh pepper and the parsley.  If using, place a slice of Parmesan on top and serve.

Wine Pairings

This dish makes it a great pairing with dry sparkling wine and most white wines with ample fruitiness.  Reds-only drinkers will be happiest when paired with lighter reds.

Seared Chicken Breasts with Perfect Pan Sauce

Phot credit - Food Lab, a great recipe source!
Phot credit – Food Lab, a great recipe source!

I’ve known how to make great seared chicken breasts for many years, but always found the sauce too thin and runny, even when I allowed extra time for reduction or finished with an extra dollop butter.  But when I ordered the same dish at a decent restaurant, the sauce was always beautifully thick and satisfying.  So I asked if the chef would share his/her secret.  Here’s what came back – add gelatin!

I tested it, and then googled it and found the Food Lab’s recipe (click image above to open in new window), and compared both versions.  I share the highly satisfying result with you here.

Ingredients:

  • One boneless chicken breast per person (this assures leftovers) – I prefer skin on – allowed to dry in refrigerator for at least four hours, or overnight.
  • ½ cup dry white wine, unoaked or lightly oaked
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1½ tsp powdered gelatin (tapioca powder also works)
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (about one clove)
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • Fresh herbs, minced (any or all of chives, parsley, tarragon and chervil)

Procedure
With oven rack placed at center height, pre-heat oven to 450.  Liberally season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. 

Combine wine and chicken stock and sprinkle gelatin on top.  Set aside.

Heat a wide, flat, oven-proof skillet (stainless steel, if you have it) over medium high for 3-4 minutes; add the oil and then the chicken breasts, skin-side down.  RESIST touching the chicken for about five minutes, then check on progress – flip the breasts when the skin is deep golden brown, usually about six minutes if your heat is right.  After flipping, transfer your skillet to the oven.

When a thermometer (inserted into the thickest part of the chicken breast) registers an internal temperature of 150 degrees (6-10 minutes, depending on the size of the poultry), place the skillet on a burner and transfer chicken to a cutting board to rest before carving.

Pour off all but ~1 Tbsp of chicken fat from the skillet, then set your fire to high heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and stir until fragrant – just 30 seconds or so.  Add the stock/wine/gelatin mixture and deglaze the pan, stirring up any of the fond – the brown bits from the chicken.  Reduce by 2/3 (4-6 minutes, depending on your heat) then finish your sauce by whisking in the butter and soy, cooking for several seconds at a high boil until emulsified.  Remove from heat, stir in the minced herbs, and add any salt/pepper to taste.

Slice the chicken breasts into ¾ inch slices and transfer the whole breast to individual plates, overlapping the slices before spooning on the sauce.  Serve with choice of potatoes and green vegetable. 

Difficulty: Easy-Medium.  Time required: 45-60 minutes, depending on wine consumption.

Wine Pairing: This dish is rich enough to compliment medim-full bodied white wines, most Rosés, and even light reds such as Pinot Noir, Sangiovese or lighter Zins.

Variations: this basic recipe can be taken in a million different directions.  Think about adding sautéed mushrooms to pull it in an earthy direction, or dried cherries/cranberries for a sweet/savory direction.  Pound out the breasts and add lemon and capers and you’ve got Piccata.  Or add a bit of cumin, raisins and pine nuts and head towards Morocco!

What Wine Pairs With Spring Salads?

White wines with Spring salds

March 17th, 2014

Spring arrived early this year.  And though I am covering my optimism with some naked puts on late frosts, we are enjoying our warm spring weather as we live in denial of California’s ongoing drought.

One of the early indicators of Spring at our olive ‘farm’ in Boonville is the arrival of Miner’s Lettuce (AKA Winter Purslane.  See photo.) along or walking route on Anderson Valley Way.  Foraging for this tasty but short-lived treat has become part of our seasonal ritual.  Dress these greens very simply with a squeeze of lemon, our Lila Farms EVOO and a bit of crunchy, flaky sea salt – our favorite comes from Mendocino’s Bob La Mar, or simply “Captain Bob’s” in our household.

We’ve harvested many baskets worth of Miner’s Lettuce over the past few years.  It has a thicker texture than most lettuces, with less veins and more leaf.  One might say it’s meaty in its texture, though that description seems a bit lacking – the flesh of an animal used to describe a vegetarian delight?  Maybe it’s best described as just this side of baby spinach, with the hopes that you know what that delight is like.  But don’t steam or saute this treat or you’ll miss it’s toothiness.

Recommended Wine Pairing
The wine to pair with Miner’s Lettuce doesn’t differ all that much from the wines that pair with most spring salads.  Spring greens exude an enthusiasm for life, a fresh greeniness that the wine needs to compliment.  For this reason, and I hate to dissapoint the “I drink red with everything” crowd, you really must eschew anything with more than a tint of color.  Crisp, dry Rose’s work well.  Heavy Chardonnay does not, Chablis-style does.  Sauvignon Blanc is brilliant, though the extreme versions from New Zealand would over-power.  Crisp whites from Northern Italy or Iberia are brilliant.  But, when are they not?

A Word on Acidity
Salad dressing is the one ingredient that ruins most wine pairings, so the wise host will focus the wine choice around the dressing.  Here’s your fool-proof guide – pair acid with acid.  In other words, if you have a dressing that features vinegar or citric acid, ask your local fine wine merchant for a white wine with similar acidity.  Because the wine world has its own vocabulary, you might hear words such as “Crisp” and “good structure” or “acidic backbone” when referring to such wines.

Dave at the Wine ShopCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

What Wine Pairs With Donuts?

The trend spotters have all reported in and it’s safe to say the cupcake fad is dead.  In its stead, I bring you (drum roll) the donut fad! (Or the doughnut fad, depending on your spell checker)

“Yeah, so?” you ask, “what’s that have to do with a wine blog?!”

Glad you asked.  Everyone knows donuts don’t pair with wine.  Many have tried, few have lived to tell the tale.  And, given my oft-repeated advice that a wine needs to be slightly sweeter than the dessert it’s paired with, few wines would stand up to the test.  Pairing donuts with a dry wine would be about the most unpleasant culinary experience I can imagine, though it seems a just sentence for those nutters who claim “I drink Cabernet with everything“.  For the rest of us, we’d be nuts to pair donuts with dry wine.

Um, until now.

Today, Urban Daddy reported a new company called ‘Bespoke Doughnuts’ has introduced savory doughnuts to San Francisco’s adventurous eaters.

Savory Donuts

For example, here is Bespoke Doughnuts lineup for this week.

Appetizer: A carrot-ginger doughnut.

Main course: A Hawaiian-barbecue doughnut with a grilled-pineapple filling, sweet teriyaki glaze, and taro or lotus root chips and kalua pig on top.

Dessert: A Snickers-inspired doughnut. 

Guess I’d better get over there and start researching some new wine pairings.  You know, just in case this fad catches fire.  Meanwhile, Urban Daddy reports Bespoke Doughnuts can be found in two locations in San Francisco – Saturdays, 9am until sold out, at Mélange Market, 3153 17th St, and Sundays, 1 to 6pm, at Beaux, 2344 Market Street.