Food, Wine, Rock & Roll

Part food blog, part jam session

Grilled New Potatoes

Posted by Becca On August - 28 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

This is a super easy recipe that can go with almost anything.  It takes almost no time or effort and the fresh herbs add a wonderful flavor to the tender new potatoes and all the ingredients are incredibly inexpensive.  Using the grill for this side dish makes it perfect for any summer cooking when it is just too hot to turn on the oven.  You can also save any leftover potatoes, which reheat very well, for any other meals during the week.  If you cannot find the fresh herbs at your grocery store, you can substitute with dried herbs but the flavor is not as bright.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups tiny new potatoes, halved or quartered depending on preferred size
  • 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Boil the potatoes until you can just pierce them with a skewer, about 4-6 minutes.  Don’t let them get too soft.

Preheat the grill to medium high heat and brush with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

Thread the potatoes on a skewer, brush with the oil and herb mixture, and place on grill.

Rotate the skewers often until the potatoes’ skins are light brown and crisp and the insides are soft, about 8-12 minutes.

Mushroom Fajitas

Posted by Becca On August - 24 - 20104 COMMENTS

My husband and I love mushrooms.  We could probably eat them on a daily basis.  We had eaten mushroom fajitas at restaurants on numerous occasions and had always enjoyed them so I decided to make them for dinner one night.  I didn’t have a recipe; I just thought of the flavors I like and made this up as I went along.  It turned out to be so delicious that it instantly became a regular in our dining repertoire.

Ingredients

  • 4 large portabella mushrooms
  • 2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded & finely chopped (keep a few seeds for added heat if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • splash of mid-quality tequila (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preparation

Wash mushrooms thoroughly & pat dry.  Slice mushrooms into 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick slices.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, cover.  Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 15 – 30 minutes.

Preheat grill to medium heat (around 350° to 400°).

Cover vegetable grilling basket with aluminum foil & lightly spray with cooking spray.

Place mushroom mixture in basket and grill for 20 – 25 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender, stirring frequently.

Serve on warmed or grilled flour tortillas with black beans.

Optional toppings: Mexican cheese, avocado, lettuce, sour cream, red or green salsa

Drinks

The great thing about this dish is that it is pretty versatile and goes well with wine, beer, and mixed drinks (especially if it’s the “Not Your Mama’s Margarita which, I promise, I will post the recipe for soon).  When I am in a wine mood, I like to pair this with PrimaTerra’s Sangiovese because it is a slightly sweet, yet still very mild red.  If I’m more in a beer mood, any of the Mexican beers are a perfect match for this dish.  I particularly enjoy the Dos Equis Amber.

Music

I like to listen to something that would seem to fall out of my normal musical tastes while making this dish, Tool’s 10,000 Days.  Most people hear “Tool” & automatically think something more along the lines of Heavy Metal.  However, what people fail to recognize is that Tool is an incredibly innovative, creative, and diverse band & nothing exemplifies that more than 10,000 Days.  I like to listen to this album while making this dish because of the surprising spice/heat that is in it, which most people wouldn’t expect in something as simple as mushroom fajitas.

The Art of Wine(ing)

Posted by Becca On August - 20 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

At this point, some of you may be wondering how in the world I know about so many wineries and wines.  You may also be wondering how I can afford to keep so many wines on hand to try out with my various dishes.  I can assure you, I am NOT a wine aficionado nor am I independently wealthy (remember, I am a teacher).  But I do have a few secrets and I have finally decided to share my secrets with you, especially those of you who enjoy wine but are never sure what to get (or those who are in a rut).

Are you ready?

Secret #1: You must be willing to try new things, even if you’ve never heard of it.  Be adventurous!  I can’t even begin to say how many times I’ve been wine shopping, saw a wine I had never heard of, decided to go for it & ended up LOVING it.

Secret #2: Don’t be embarrassed to ask for advice from the people who work at the store.  Most of the time, the employees at liquor stores, wine stores, and higher end grocery stores (Central Market, etc.) are very knowledgeable and can help you find something you will enjoy.

Secret #3 (this is the BIG one): shop at World Market.  I absolutely LOVE this store for anything and everything, but I especially love wine shopping there.  Why?  Because it is so easy to follow my first two secrets there.  It’s one thing to suggest being adventurous but, in today’s economy, it is difficult to “just go for it” when it comes to expensive wine (for me, $20-$30 is expensive).  The wonderful thing about World Market is that they ALWAYS have a large selection of wines on sale.  And I’m not just talking a little bit.  Wines that are normally in the $20-$30 range are often on sale for $10.  In fact, it is not unusual to find quality wine on sale for $5.  It’s very easy to be adventurous when the wine is only $5.

In addition to their normal reduced pricing, you can get additional savings if you belong to the “Explorer Reward Club.”  I am not normally one of those people that will sign up for Reward Clubs because I get very irritated by all the spam e-mails and junk mail sent by most companies.  However, World Market is a company that truly seems to respect the privacy of their customers.  I do get e-mails when there are special deals coming up or when they have special coupon offerings but it certainly is not to the point of annoying.

If you want or need guidance, the people who work in the wine and beer section are generally incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, and always willing to help customers select the perfect wine for their tastes and needs.  On Saturdays, most World Market stores have wine tasting booths set up so you can try before you buy.

So there you have it: my secrets to wine shopping.  Hopefully, those of you hesitant wine-lovers out there can now go out and find something new and wonderful to brighten your meals.

Italian Spinach Braid

Posted by Becca On August - 16 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

This dish has recently become one of my favorites because it is just fun.  It’s fun to make, fun to eat, and incredibly yummy.  It is a pretty flexible dish that can be served as a meal or as an appetizer.  It reheats very well, even in the microwave which I thought would make the bread soggy.  It seems to be a pretty kid friendly dish (just don’t tell them there is spinach in it), particularly when served with pizza sauce for dipping.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf (1 lb) frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 8 oz roughly chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Romano/Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp. fennel seed
  • 3/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • Pizza sauce (optional) for dipping

Preparation

Roll thawed dough into a 12×9 rectangle.  Transfer to a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet coated with cooking spray.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain any fat and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the spinach, cheeses, garlic, fennel seed, oregano and salt.

Spread beef mixture lengthwise down the center of dough.  On each long side, cut 1 inch wide strips 3 inches into center.

Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across the filling.  Pinch the ends to seal.  Brush with egg white.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Serve with pizza sauce.

Drinks

Something that so closely, but not quite, resembles pizza just cannot be paired with a wine.  I love wine but it just doesn’t seem quite right with this dish.  So, instead, I turn to something much more fun (not to say that wine isn’t fun): beer.  While I generally prefer imported beers, there is one American brewery that I enjoy immensely and that is Samuel Adams.  They have a great range of beers that can meet the tastes of almost everyone.  I particularly like to pair this dish with their Summer Ale, one of their (obviously) seasonal brews.

Music

A dish as fun to make as this one deserves music that is equally fun and joyful; music that you just can’t help but get up and move with it is playing.  For this, there is no better musician than Bob Marley whose music is about celebration, love, and carries within it a pure joy for life.   I dare anyone to not be moved to dance and sing along when Marley’s music is playing.  Though I love all of his music, my favorite album to listen to for this dish is Legend, which covers a nice spectrum of his songs.

Spanakopita

Posted by Becca On August - 12 - 20101 COMMENT

Spanakopita is a Greek pastry that is very similar to quiche.  While this is not a difficult recipe, it is quite time consuming and can be a bit frustrating if you have never worked with phyllo dough before.  It takes delicate hands and a great deal of patience but, like anything, the more you work with pyllo, the easier it becomes.  This is such a satisfying dish that it is completely worth the time it takes to make it.  If you have leftovers, warm it in the oven as opposed to the microwave because the microwave just makes it a bit soggy.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh spinach
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1/2 pound phyllo pastry sheets
  • Butter, melted (for brushing on the phyllo)

Preparation

Thaw phyllo dough (still rolled in the package) in refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for a few hours.

Wash spinach and discard stems; dry thoroughly.  Chop spinach into course pieces.

Saute onion in 4 tablespoons of butter until soft.  Add spinach and saute a few minutes longer.  Allow to cool.

Add cream sauce, eggs, cheese and seasonings.  Mix well.

Unroll thawed phyllo dough.  Place 7 layers of phyllo pastry sheets (these are very thin and tear easily.  Make sure your hands are dry and work slowly) in an 11×14 inch pan, brushing each sheet well with melted butter.  Add spinach mixture, then place 8 phyllo pastry sheets on filling.  Again, butter each sheet well.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Cut into small squares before serving.

Drinks

Because this dish is so delicate and light, most wines will overpower it.  However, I have found a Portuguese wine that is incredibly delicate which complements the Spanakopita very well.  Vinho Verde has a hint of lemon and just a bit of bubble (it’s not fully considered a sparkling wine; it’s “fizzy”) that makes it a great match to this delicate dish. Jose Maria da Fonseca [pictured] and Famega Wineries (both from Portugal) offer up beautiful versions of this cool “kinda fizzy” wine.

Music

Since working with the phyllo sheets can get a little frustrating and requires some  patience, I like to listen to music that helps me stay mellow and calm.  Music that is too frenetic just doesn’t seem to work well while making this dish.  For that reason, I turn to my #1 favorite band of all time, Pink Floyd.  I generally turn to two of Floyd’s later albums (A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell) to help create the necessary environment for the execution of Spanakopita.

Baked Chicken with Mushrooms

Posted by Becca On August - 9 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

This dish is just plain old comfort food.  It is not even remotely difficult to make but does take a little time to cook.  None of the ingredients are expensive and, yet again, this meal makes excellent leftovers.  The paprika and thyme coating the chicken adds a nice savory flavor and the mushrooms mellow everything out.  Served with rice, this is a perfect meal for the whole family.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1-2 lbs chicken legs & thighs
  • 3/4 cup white cooking wine
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a shallow dish.  Stir in thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper.

Lightly dredge the chicken pieces in flour, then swish both sides in the butter until coated.

Arrange the chicken pieces in a 13×9 baking dish and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees, turn the chicken pieces over, and add mushrooms and wine.

Cover the dish with foil and continue to bake for 30 minutes longer.

Serve with hot buttered rice.

Drinks

I really, really like anything that comes out of the Bogle Vineyards; every one of their wines is excellent.  For this dish, their Riesling is a perfect pair.  It has a nice combination of crisp and sweet with a hint of spice that goes very well with the hint of spice from the paprika in the chicken with the mellowness of the mushrooms.

Music

Classic comfort food makes me want to go back to some of my all time favorite musicians.  For this, there is no one more classic in my mind than the great Janis Joplin.  I have been an enormous fan of Ms. Joplin’s music for more years than I can remember.  I have always been moved by her ability to combine grit, sorrow, and exuberance into her music.  The Very Best of Janis Joplin is an excellent compilation album that truly has the “very best” of her work.

Shrimp Tacos with Lime-Cilantro Crema

Posted by Becca On August - 6 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

This is another recipe that I decided to adapt the original into something more along my style and taste.  It originally called for red snapper fillets but, as I am not a huge fan of fish, I decided to change it to shrimp and it worked beautifully.  It also originally called for corn tortillas but I use flour tortillas warmed on the grill.  This is a pretty simple dish to cook but is so full of flavor that it seems much more complicated.  If there is any crema leftover, it can be saved for up to a week and can be used with other Mexican dishes (I really like to put it on nachos for a quick lunch).

Ingredients

Creama:

  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Tacos:

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound peeled & de-veined shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Flour (or corn, depending on preference) tortillas
  • Butter or margarine
  • Shredded cabbage or lettuce

Preparation

Crema:

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl.  Allow to sit in refrigerator 10-15 minutes.

Grilled Tortillas:

Preheat grill to medium heat (350-400 degrees).

Very lightly spread butter (you can also use spray butter) one side of each tortilla.  Tightly wrap stacked tortillas in aluminum foil.

Place tortillas on grill and cook each side for 5-7 minutes.

Tacos:

Combine cumin through garlic powder in a bowl with shrimp.  Toss spice and shrimp mixture to evenly coat shrimp.

In a large skillet, allow olive oil to warm over medium heat.  Place spiced shrimp in skillet and cook until shrimp are cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.

Divide the shrimp evenly among tortillas, and top each with cabbage/lettuce and crema.

Drinks

While this dish does go well with any lighter Mexican beer such as Dos Equis, Sol, or Corona, I have found that the delicacy of the shrimp and the smoothness of the crema lends itself more to a slightly sweeter white wine.  I particularly like Clayhouse Vinyard’s Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s light, fruity taste is a nice complement to the spice in the shrimp.

Music

I am currently in love with Jack Johnson.  He is an amazing singer-songwriter whose smooth voice and acoustic guitar combine beautifully with the cooking of this dish.  My favorite album to groove to while making this is Brushfire Fairytales.

Skillet Poblano Corn

Posted by Becca On August - 3 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

Skillet Poblano Corn is a very easy side dish to make and it is very low in fat and calories.  It goes great with any Mexican type meal, adding a nice change to the typical beans and rice.  It also reheats very well.

Ingredients

  • 4 tsp butter or margarine
  • 2 seeded, chopped poblano chili peppers
  • 3 cups frozen whole-kernel corn
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preparation

Melt the butter or margarine in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the chopped chilies and cook, stirring constantly, until tender (about 3 minutes).

Add the corn and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, until heated through.