No More Leftovers…Please!

December 2, 2008 at 12:29 pm (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, )

I am so very thankful that Thanksgiving is over.  Not because I don’t love gathering with family and friends to enjoy a delicious feast, but because I really can’t stomach the leftovers from the feast another day!  No more turkey, no more mashed potatoes, and please no more pumpkin cheese cake with marshmallow frosting.

So even though I would love to share all of the fabulous things we made for our Thanksgiving feast…I just don’t think I can do it.  Just know, that it was AMAZING!

Instead I am going to share how I got creative and took some leftover Ile de France Brie from the cheese plate and made a delightful little sandwich which was a complete departure from the typical Thanksgiving Day fare.  I make this sandwich whenever I am fortunate enough to have a Brie like the Il de France, which is nice and creamy.  It was inspired by a sandwich from a little place I used to visit above Gloucester Tube station while living in London.  It was a nice warm treat on a cold London day.

Here’s what you do:  Take one baguette and toast it lightly in the oven.  Once warm, cut the baguette in half down the center.  Spread the brie cheese over one half of the baguette and a hot and spicy mustard (or Dijon mustard) on the other half.  Top the brie with ham and sliced tomatoes and then the other baguette half.  Put back in the oven until cheese is slightly melted.  Ooh, la, la!  And when I feel a little more feisty, I wash this delicious treat down with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

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Rainy Day

November 26, 2008 at 2:17 pm (Work Stuff) (, )

It’s rainy.  I am sitting with Minkie by the fire watching the Food Network.  Not much going on here except waiting for Turkey Day tomorrow.

Just for fun I will post a link to the Today Show from Monday morning.  One of my new wine brands – Deep Purple Zinfandel –  was featured as a perfect wine to pair with the Thanksgiving meal.  That’s about as exciting as it is going to get right now…enjoy!

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/27890463#27890463

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Practice Makes Perfect

November 25, 2008 at 8:10 am (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, )

One Thanksgiving down…one more to go!roast-turkey

This year we are not traveling to Bass Lake.  Mom had knee surgery and is kind of immobile.  So if not traveling to Grandma’s, and Mom is immobile who is cooking…Natalie, Erin and Dad.  Should be interesting!

Because I have never really cooked anything at Thanksgiving due to all of the Chiefs in the Kitchen, I was really nervous about the whole Turkey and Gravy routine.  Mashed potatoes – no problem, Stuffing – in my sleep.  But, cooking a whole bird on my own and then making gravy without lumps…dangerous!

So when my friend Blake received a turkey from his mom, I gladly volunteered to help cook it…and make the gravy.  Friday night was spent perusing Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines for the perfect recipe.  Saturday day was lists and a trip to the grocery store.  Saturday night was prep and a couple bottles of wine (wasn’t in this on my own by the way…I talked Britt into being my sous chef).  Sunday we got up early to finish the job and supervise the other elves who were making things like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and brussel sprouts with bacon and jalapeno (yummy)!

Brittany and I made the Roast Turkey with Bacon-Herb butter and Cider Gravy (Bon Appetit, November 2008).  And I can honestly say, maybe the best turkey ever.  Maybe it was the bacon, maybe it was the herb butter, or maybe it was the fact that we made it on our own…but damn, it was FABULOUS!

Now I am ready for the real “Turkey Day”.  I will walk into the kitchen with my head held high and tackle that job like nobodies business.  But, of course I do like a challenge so I have chosen a completely different recipe for the Turkey…let you know how that goes!

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Is there such a thing as too much cheese?

November 21, 2008 at 12:17 pm (Cheesewhizzes, Napa Valley) (, , , , , , )

This last week has been filled with Cheese!  Goat Cheese, Cow Cheese, Cheese from Italy, Cheese from France, Washed-rind, Bloomy-rind, cheese made 5 miles from my house in St. Helena.

Why so much cheese?  A lot of fun cheese stuff going on…and no will power to say NO!  I have never refused a good piece of cheese!

First night was at Oxbow Market.  Barbara and Rex Bachus who have been making cheese on their property in Napa Valley since 1972.  What makes their cheese so special is the fact that it is made from La Mancha goats that feed on the hillsides right on their property.  Lucky for me we got to taste four types of their famed Goat’s Leap Cheese:
1.  Dafne – named after the Greek bay leaves (daphni) that adorn the top of the wheel during aging.
2.  Kiku – Aged in a fresh fig leaf that is doused in Sauvignon Blanc.  Seasonal and only made in small amounts.
3.  Eclipse – The wheel is crowned with a whole star anise.  Mid-way through the barrel the cheese is slashed with ash…which is an ancient method of preservation.
4.  Carmela – Comes in a 5# wheel, and is the most aged.  Very, VERY rare!

The next night was a cheese class through the Napa Valley Extended Education program that was taught by John Raymond, the famous Cheesemonger.  John has been all over the world studying the production of cheese, aging methods, and migration patterns through the rise and fall of civilizations.  Needless to say – he is a Cheese Expert.  During the course of the three hour class we tasted through 20-25 cheeses, and learned the difference between things like a “washed rind” or “bloomy rind”; fresh versus aged; milk type characteristics.  There was so much information divulged, I actually stopped taking notes toward the end and just listened…I had a cramp in my hand from writing too much!  Hands aren’t in writing shape, but definitely in typing shape.

NVS

NVS

Two nights later, Helen Jane and I hosted another Cheesewhizzes.  The theme was cheese from the good ole USA, the location was Acme Wine Co., the results…a huge success!  One of My favorite cheeses from the table was the Franklins Teleme by Mid Coast Cheese Company.  It was brought by Jessica Pecota who purchased it at the Napa Valley Olive Oil store.  I will definitely be purchasing this to share with family and friends.  Helen and I went in on a whole wheel of Sally Jackson Goat Cheese from Washington.  That stuff is pure hedonism.

And to keep with tradition after the Cheesewhizzes event we took the leftover cheese to Malcom’s and made the famous Mac and Cheese.  What is fun about making Mac and Cheese after every Cheesewhizzes is that each Mac and Cheese turns out different because the cheeses always come from different areas or themes.

So no cheese for me right now.  Taking a HUGE break!

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Cookbook Club – The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey

November 14, 2008 at 1:31 pm (Cookbook Club, Napa Valley) (, , )

Since bocce is over, the Cookbook Club is now my favorite form of entertainment.  The girls gathering, sharing food and wine, and discussing what worked with their recipes – or not!

israeli-food-book1Of course I was extra excited when our chosen cookbook for November was The New Book of Israeli Food.  I love me some Israeli food! 

This cookbook is not only rich in historical information about the foods and region, it also contains amazing photography of the food and day to day lives of such an ancient place.  Even if you are not a huge fan of food, this book is still interesting for the historical context it gives on the food and how the Israeli table is a conglomeration of many ancient cultures in the Middle East.

It was very hard for me to choose what to make because everything in this book looked delicious!  I finally decided on the “Everything Salad” because I definitely wanted to have something refreshing with all the more rich food.  The salad included many of my favorite ingredients…tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and feta cheese all with a creamy herb dressing…yummy!  Below I have listed all of the things that were made for the dinner:

Roasted Eggplant and Goat Cheese Mousse – a fluffy dip that was great with pita
Baked Lamb Patties in Tahini Sauce – Tahini has numerable uses in Middle Eastern cuisine.  A base for hummus, and in this case serves as a sauce for the lamb.
Complete Hummus – Hummus made from scratch in incomparable to anything pre-packaged in a store.  This one was served with a special sauce made from hot pickled peppers.
Tabuleh – An Arab salad using bulgar and surprise…pomegranate seeds!
Spicy Moroccan Carrot Salad – A nice and spicy side.  Reminded some of us of the pickled carrots served at taco trucks.
Celery and Kashkaval Cheese Salad – A Middle Eastern version of the Cesar. 
Lentil and Vegetable Soup – Simple and fulfilling. We served in mini-coffee cups.
Diana Lamb Baharat – Grilled Lamb Kebabs…you can’t go wrong!
Apple, Cinnamon and Walnut Cake – Perfect for any fall meal!
Flour less Chocolate and Pistachio Cake – something delicious, without the flour.

I can’t wait to try many more things from this book!  Yummy!

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Winner, Winner Indian Chicken Korma Dinner

November 12, 2008 at 7:49 am (Good Eats & Drinks, Napa Valley) (, )

I was cold.  I was tired from a 10-hour work day.  I wanted a home-cooked meal.  Requirements – it needed to be fast and tasty.  Lucky for me I had a recipe stashed away just for an evening like this from my friends at loulies.com Quick Indian Chicken Korma.  It only took me an hour and 20 minutes, and this included a much needed stop at Sunshine Market.  Pretty quick for a store stop and braising a stew.  And, it really was delicious!

Warning:  This recipe calls for a random assortment of spices that might not be in everyone’s pantry/spice cupboard.  Since I cook a lot of Indian, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, etc. I already had these ready to go!  If you don’t have these spices in the pantry and are on a budget be aware…this could be an expensive dish to throw together!

For those of you who want a little history:
Braising (korma)is an important technique in Moghul cooking, the process of braising is very similar to the Western method, with one difference – the braising liquid used in korma is much thicker (it includes yogurt, cream and/or fruit and nut butters).  It yields a rich, velvety sauce that heavily coats the meats and vegetables.  Serve with basmati rice.

Quick Indian Chicken Korma
Serves 6

1 1/2″ pieced fresh ginger, peeled
4 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 t cumin seeds
1 medium onion
1 t ground cardamom
1 T ground coriander
1 T ground cumin
1 large can of tomatoes, chopped
3 # skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 t cayenne pepper
1 t kosher salt
6 T heavy whipping cream

1.  Chop ginger and garlic into chunks.  Add to a blender with 1/4 C water and blend to a smooth paste.
2.  Heat oil in a large frying pan on high heat.  When it is very hot add bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and cumin seeds.  Stir a couple of times and add onion.  Cook until onion softens.  Add garlic and ginger paste from blender, and then add ground cardamom, coriander, and cumin. 
3.  Add tomatoes, and chicken, salt and cayenne pepper.  Give a stir and then add 1 1/2 C water.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, turn the heat to medium and let cook for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Remove the cover and add cream.  Cook on high heat for another 5-8 minutes, or until sauce has thickened.

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Party at the Castle

November 11, 2008 at 9:02 am (Good Times, Napa Valley) (, )

Here in the Napa Valley, you don’t have to be a Princess to party at a castle.  You just got to have a fab friend like Tony T. get you on “the list”.

The Event:  Napa Valley Red Cross Fundraiser

The Location:  Castello di Amorosa (between St. Helena and Calistoga).  The Magic Kingdom meets Tuscany.

The Crew/Culprits:  Joanie Loves Bocce team (minus a few players)

The Results:  It never felt better helping raise money for a good cause.  Good friends, food, and wine all in one Friday night.

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Obama – 08 – Oh my!

November 5, 2008 at 9:10 am (Napa Valley)

vote1Election day has come and gone.  We have a new president, thank God!  This was the most interested I’ve been in politics in years – from the Obama and Hilary battles to Sara Palin on SNL – it was quite the race/circus/show.  I can honestly say, I haven’t watched this much news since I lived in Europe and tuned into BBC on a daily basis.  CNN has been the first thing I turn on in the morning and the last thing I watch before bed.  No more “Girls Next Door” late night TV for me!

But on top of my relief that we finally have a breathe of fresh air breezing into the White House, I am extremely disappointed in my fellow Californians.  Prop 8…Prop 8…Prop 8.  Why support the hate?  Disturbing!

Some recent “personal” highlights over the past couple of months – some a high point during the race, and others a low (but pretty entertaining).

  • McCain’s congratulations speech – the right message to all of his supporters
  • The New Year’s Eve-like revelry in the streets of our great cities
  • The resurgence of “socialism” – REALLY!
  • Tina Fey as Sara Palin on SNL
  • Joe 6-pack and Joe plumber
  • Obama winning Ad Age’s “Marketer of the Year” – never underestimate the power of social networking

Cheers to Change!  Is was about time!

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Pigalicious

November 3, 2008 at 5:08 pm (Good Times, Napa Valley) (, , )

After sequestering myself inside for the rainstorm on Saturday, 4 Little PiggiesSunday left me a little stir crazy.  Must leave house, must be social.  So last night I attended the Amuse Cochon event at Silverado Vineyards. 

The theme: “Five Chefs, Five Pigs, Five Winemakers.” – A tribute to heritage and heirloom breeds, the chefs that turn them into delicious treats, and the winemakers who create great wines to wash it all down with.

The “Skinny”:  Each chef prepares a heritage breed hog from head to toe.  Each 70# pig could be pre-cooked, braised, grilled, pressed, pickled, rubbed, smoked, seared, sauced, spiced, injected, marinated, cured in any way, or otherwise prepared.  Guests and professional judges determine the winner based on creativity, classic preparation, and best overall flavor.  The winner was crowned  the “Prince of Porc.” 

The Chefs:
Chris Consentino, Incanto – San Francisco
Allan Benton, Benton Smoky Mountain Country Hams –
Peter Pahk, Silverado Resort – Napa
Taylor Boetticher, Fatted Calf Charcuterie – Napa
Ryan Farr, Orsen – San Francisco

Wineries:  Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyard, Hill Family Estate, Saddleback Cellars, Palmaz Vineyards, and Thomas Michael Cellars

The 5 Piggy Breeds:  Gloustershire Old Spot, Tamworth, Yorkshire Berkshire, Duroc and Magnalitsa

Scrambled Eggs and HamMy favorite piggy bite was by Allan Benton.  It was a buttermilk biscuit topped with fresh ham and smothered with jalapeno jelly…OMFG it was sooooo good!  My second favorite piggy bite was from Peter Pahk with Scrambled Eggs and Ham – yes just that simple, some scrambled eggs and deliciously fried pork belly.  A breakfast dish for champions!  But, really there were so many fabulous things to try – some that I didn’t even want to know what part of the pig they came from. 

All the chefs prepared winning dishes in my book, but with any competition a winner needed to be declared.  So here they are:
Creativity:  Ryan Farr
Classic Preparation:  Allan Benton
Best Overall:  Chris Cosentino

So much pork, so little time!

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October means Harvest

October 30, 2008 at 9:04 am (Napa Valley) (, )

One more day and October will be gone, just another month to cross off in this quickly disappearing year. 

October is my favorite month in the Napa Valley for so many reasons.  Warm days and cool nights.  Harvest parties.  The colors and smells.  And nothing is more beautiful and majestic than a big harvest moon.  If I had to describe October in the Napa Valley to someone who had never experienced it, I would say things like…

It smells like smoky bonfires, crushed leaves and fermenting grapes.
It tastes like my favorite Morrocan stew that I make at this time every year.
And its colors are butternut squash, russet and olive green.

October in the Napa Valley means harvesting the grapes.  Picking those little bunches of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and transforming them into world-class wine.  The hours are long and the work is hard, but these people love what they do and I do to because wine is definitely my beverage of choice!  But, the best part about Harvest is the Harvest party when the wineries invite family and friends to join in the celebration of their hard work with good food, music, and of course lots of wine and beer.

Lucky me, I attended such an party last night at Venge Vineyards off of the Silverado Trail just south of Calistoga – a rustically beautiful spot.  Because it is placed up on a knoll, the wrap-around porch gives great views of the surrounding vineyards. The long tables were lit by lights strung through the olive trees, and decorated with sunflowers in Mason jars.  They served carnitas and I drank lots of Venge wine – my favorite is the White Blend and Syrah. 

Afterwards, we went over to Malcom’s house for Pumpkin Carving.

The perfect October evening!

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