Friday, September 28, 2007

Nice Wine and Fun Grapes!

Had a nice wine last night that I want to share with you. And no, it did not taste like plums even though you see them in the photo. The plums were just hanging around wanting their photo taken so I let them pop in the picture. I enjoyed a 2005 Maison Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay. Vin de Pays Des Coteau De L'Ardeche. A lovely inexpensive French Chardonnay! The good ones are hard to find these days. The Ardeche Chardonnay is from the vineyards of Louis Latour that are located in the Ardeche region of France that is situated to the West of the Rhone Valley. This was a nice crisp, apple fresh flavored wine with a pleasing smooth finish. I sipped it for awhile and then enjoyed it with a simple creamy pasta dish that I whipped up with mushrooms, shallots and a few other goodies. I was so relaxed with my dinner that I did not take any photos! So I will remake my pasta dish sometime this week and post it for you. It is so simple and pairs well with white wine.

Now I must tell you about a little charmer of a fruit that I found the other day in the produce section of the supermarket, Champagne Grapes. I have never seen them before, but they were so cute that I just had to buy them! WOW, what a wonderful sweet tiny treat! They are just so small to have that much flavor in them is what surprised me. Here is the description of them that I found on

A variety of grape that is grown in clusters that produce very small diameter grapes. It is a seedless grape that provides a very sweet flavor for salads, appetizers or as a snack with cheese. The stem, which is also very tiny and tender, is often consumed with the grape rather than attempting to detach the small connector from the main stem. Champagne grapes that are dried are referred to as currants, a named derived from this variety also being called the Zante Currant grape. Although it may be confused with common black, red or white currants that grow on bushes, it is similar only in shape and size, but is not the same type of fruit. The dried grape that becomes a currant is often used like raisins as an ingredient when baking cookies and sweets. In addition to Zante Currant, this grape may all be known as a Black Corinth grape.

I have been eating these little gems just by themselves as a snack, but this morning I picked a few off of the stem and added them to some plain Greek yogurt with a splash of agave nectar for a cool fresh breakfast treat. Just to show you how small they really are, this photo has a muscadine grape sitting next to the champagne grape!

Well, as you can see, it does not take much to make me a "happy camper"! Grapes to eat and then to drink!


Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Little Herb Garden In Key West

After all the stress from the past two days of losing a lovely island canopy tree, I spent some time with my other garden friends, my herbs. As you all know due to space limitations here, I grow all of my herbs in containers. Actually it is pretty convenient as I can move them around so they can take advantage of sun when they need it and I can get them out of the scorching sun during these HOT afternoons. Herbs are such a big part of my cooking. Yes, there is a time and place for dried herbs, which I use abundantly, but there is nothing like fresh herbs to flavor a dish and also bring beauty to the dish. I love to use fresh herbs as a garnish as the aroma and visual affect is so pleasing to our senses. I have heard many times that you eat with your eyes first and, for me, that is true.

The first herb from my garden I would like to spotlight is my favorite, basil. I bet if you ask any cook, if they were to be put on a desert island with only one herb, their answer would be basil. Am I right? The correct botanical name for basil is Ocimum Basilicum. Ocimum is from a Greek verb that means "to be fragrant" and basil is one herb that is power packed with a fresh distinct aroma. The basil I grow mostly is "Sweet Basil". It grows 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall. Leaves are 2-3 inches long, a bit of a wrinkle to them, and are bright green. When it goes to flower, they are pretty dainty white blooms. There are many other types of basil which I have grown in the past like, lemon, purple and globe. Actually, the globe is a lovely small leaf basil that grows, just like it name says, in a globe and is very dainty looking. Still, out of the above selection, the sweet basil is my favorite.

I do not have a specific recipe to give you using fresh basil, as I have too many! But during the summer when the home grown, juicy, sweet tomatoes are in full force at the farmers market, there is nothing like eating them sliced with fresh basil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. Mouthwatering! There are so many uses for these fragrant tasteful leaves. Like I stated above, the best use is with tomatoes and tomato flavored dishes. Oh wait! We cannot leave out pasta sauces, and one of the best uses of basil is in the making of fresh pesto sauce!

OK, I could go on and on with all the dishes that I include fresh basil, but I am going to end here. Tell me, what is your favorite way to use fresh basil in your kitchen?


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Sad Day In The Life...

Everyday it rains. Not all day, but off and on. When it does rain, it pours. As you can see my frog in the pool does not seems to mind, but it is wearing on me! Day before yesterday we were having one of our "buckets from the sky" afternoon, when I heard a major crash right outside my window. Running outdoors with the rain pouring down I looked up and the Gumbo Limbo Tree between my house and the neighbors split.

The split part fell on their house!

At least no one was hurt, except my feelings. The tree commission arrived and said the tree could not be saved and would have to come completely down. Oh my gosh, this is a tree that has housed the birds that I love and provided a canopy of cooling shade to us on our HOT summer days here in Key West. Tears...

Today has been an even sadder day, as the tree trimmers arrived early with their noisy truck and chain saws. They have been working all day removing the tree. What even brought more tears and sadness to me was during the final cutting of the part of the tree that overhung our house, a few little sparrows were up there trying to save their home. Tears...

Well, as they say, all good things must come to an end...but now I am trying to find a positive thought in my head to pull me through the rest of the day.

I have decided I now will take advantage of a wide open sky that mother nature has just provided me. Tonight I will set up my telescope and view whatever show she decides to give me to sooth my aching heart...
Tomorrow - Time to plant another tree, a new beginning!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wine And Veal Ragu

There is definitely not a chill in the air here in Key West. But just knowing that the first day of fall was upon us, I had to jump into fall mode and make a stew. Actually, it was a Ragu. Last month Dr. Deb's at Good Wines Under $20 posted about the September issue of Food & Wine Magazine. It highlighted "Italy's best recipes" and she noted all the good recipes and how well the magazine did with the wine recommendations. (It is a great issue for Italian wine education!) So I dug my copy out of my stack of "magazines to read" and found a yummy ragu to whip up on this first fall weekend. I did make a few alterations to this recipe. I did not have any corzetti pasta so I used my "maccheroni al torchia". I love to shop for pasta that has unusual shapes and I found this one on my summer trip up to Chicago. I think I may have did a post on the shapes when I purchased them because they were so cool! Here is a photo of them uncooked (left) and cooked (right). OK Deb, move on!

Corzetti Pasta With Veal Ragu (Adapted from the September issue of Food & Wine)

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (I used a mix of dried mushrooms that I had on hand)
3 cups hot water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 carrots (I used 3) cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 celery rib (I used 3) cut into 1/2 inch dice
Two 3/4 veal shanks (about 1-1/2 inches thick) cut into 2 inch pieces, bones reserved
Salt and freshly ground pepper
All purpose flour for dusting
1 cup dry red wine
1 - 14 oz. can peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 marjoram sprig - I used a good teaspoon of dried and I also added a good teaspoon of dried thyme
1 pound corzetti - I used my maccheroni al torchio

Soak your dried mushrooms in the hot water for about 15 minutes. Remove mushrooms with slotted spoon and chop - save the water.

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Add the other 2 tablespoons of oil to hot pan. Season the veal with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Add the meat and the bones to pan and cook over moderately high heat until browned, turning once, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any of those yummy bits that are stuck on the bottom, and cook until wine is almost evaporated.

Return the veggies to the pan and add the tomatoes, marjoram, thyme and the mushrooms. Slowly pour in your leftover water that the mushrooms steeped in, but take care not to get the grit off of the bottom into your ragu.
Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 2 hours. Scoop out the marrow from the bones and stir back into the ragu. Toss the bones.
Cook your pasta until al dente. You can then add the pasta to the ragu or do like me and just put pasta in a deep bowl and ladle ragu on top.

If you like you can add shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese to the dish. Lovely!

I also want to tell you about a wine that I sipped out on the deck the other night, a 2006 California Pinot Grigio called Redwood Creek. It is produced by the Frei Brothers from Modesto, California who established their vineyards back in 1890. Redwood Creek was nice, crisp and went along with my fall theme, as on the palate was the flavor of nice crisp apples, with hints of peach and citrus. Falling under my $10 week night wine budget, I was glad I purchased a couple of bottles as it is truly a refreshing wine!

A wonderful blogging friend, Valli over at More Than Burnt Toast has tagged me for a MeMe. You must visit Valli's site as she was lucky enough to go to Greece last year and attend a cooking school. She shares with us her wonderful photos, as well as the lovely dishes she learned to make while at the school. OK Valli, just a few notes about me.

My favorite appliance, if you call it that, is an outdoor grill. I so enjoy cooking outdoors and do so about 3 to 4 times a week. I like using charcoal, but mostly cook on a gas grill. I will try cooking anything on the grill!

A major pastime of mine is reading food and wine magazines and best of all is cookbooks! Cookbooks rule and I have a substantial collection!

As you can tell, cooking has been a passion of mine since the days I would spend cooking with my grandmother on her farm. So much of a passion that our son is now a chef and graduated from the Culinary Institute of American in New York!

A gadget I cannot live without is my salad spinner! I hate wet, limpy lettuce and greens!

I do not have a sweet tooth, so I am not much of a dessert person unless it involves chocolate! I would much have an extra appetizer than dessert.

I so enjoy being outdoors as much as I can, unless I am behind the stove. I do container gardening, mostly growing herbs and hot peppers with a couple of tomato plants when the season permits. One day, either in this life or my next, I would love to have a small farm where I could have an extensive garden and a few chickens. Oh, and maybe a goat!

Last but definitely not least is WINE! Every meal with wine is so sublime! Wine is the perfect way to start the end of your day!


Sunday, September 23, 2007

First Day Of Fall

Ah, the first day of fall. Being in the deep south, we do not get to experience the beautiful color change of the trees that happens in the north this time of year. Instead, we do get to experience beautiful cloud formations and their mysterious shapes and colors.

Happy First Day Of The Fall Season!


Friday, September 21, 2007

A Glass Of Wine And A Good Book

There is nothing as satisfying to me as to have some time to myself, grab a glass of wine, head out to the deck and read. What do I usually read - cookbooks. I must say even thought I get tons of inspiration from the blogs I read, information on the net, magazines and TV shows, I still enjoy my cookbooks. I enjoy any type of cookbook, but really treasure the ones that tell a story along with lots of great recipes. This one caught my eye a few years ago because it is about 2 of my favorite pastimes, cooking and gardening. Now, if it just would have added wine to the cover, it definitely would be a best seller!

If you are like me and enjoy reading cookbooks, here is one I highly recommend. "The Cook And The Gardener" A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside by Amanda Hesser. The jacket fold reads like this: The ancient link between the gardener and the cook is at the heart of this remarkably evocative cookbook, in which Amanda relates the story of a year she spent as cook in the 17th century chateau in Burgundy. Before long, her culinary life becomes inextricably bound to the seasons of the Yonne River Valley and to Monsieur Milbert, the seemingly impervious, charmingly sly peasant caretaker of the chateau's kitchen garden. The aging Milbert, as much a part of the chateau as its gnarled pear tree and dilapidated pigeon house, reluctantly opens up to Hesser, sharing his gardening knowledge and lore, from the timing of plantings tied to saint's days to highly effective rodent-eradication programs to the secrets of making apple brandy. Ultimately though, the Cook and the Gardener is a cookbook, and Hesser brings a sure hand and a keen eye to more than 240 recipes that will inspire cooks in every season.

I really like the way the book is set up. After the introduction and general cooking notes, the book starts with the Spring Season. She does an essay about herself and Milbert before each Part of the book which is very entertaining. Part I starts with Spring and she gives you Spring Basics, like stock, etc. Then she breaks it down into the Spring months starting with March. The March chapter begins with a list of recipes she prepares during that month. Part II starts the Summer months with the same basic layout. She then follows through with Autumn and Winter. Before each recipe she talks about the lore and ingredients of that dish. At the end of each recipe she follows up with serving suggestions.

For any of you folks out there who love good stories, the French Countryside and wonderful recipes, I highly recommend this book! I have owned it for quite a few years now and I go back to it in every season to see what Amanda is cooking up for that month.

The wine that accompanied me on my trip to Burgundy was not a French wine I am sorry to say. But a neighboring country, Spain, brought it's sunshiny grapes to my table. I popped open a 2005 Osborne Solaz White Wine made from the Viura grape. The winery has been in the Osborne family since 1772 and is still family operated. This was a nicely balanced wine with lovely floral notes, smooth, fresh and fruity on the palate. A perfect match to my book in hand, even though not in the same country.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Primitivo Wine and Grilled Lamb Chops

The past few posts, I have neglected to tell you about some of the wines I have been tasting. So I want to tell you about a new wine that we unscrewed last night with our grilled out lamb chops.
A-Mano 2005 Primitivo was our choice for the evening. Primitivo is actually Zinfandel, but in Italy they call it Primitivo. A-Mano is from the Southeastern Region of Puglia in Italy. This was a luscious wine with juicy fruit flavors of ripe black berries and a hint of spice on it's nice finsih. It was an enjoyable wine without those heavy tannins, but just enough to give the wine a nice personality. The alcohol content was 13.5% and the price was under $10.00. It paired perfectly with our dinner.

I was in such a hurry to get the photos of our dinner so we could chow-down while it was still hot that there is not a very good shot of the wine bottle in the food photo. But, here above, you can see the label clearly.

Since it is still quite toasty here in Key West, a heavy meal is still not the order of the day. So we fired up the grill and fixed lamb chops. To accompany them, a simple cool sauce of Greek Yogurt with fresh chopped mint and a dash of red wine vinegar. Also a fresh salad of chopped tomatoes, diced cucumber, sliced red onion, chopped olives, fresh chopped oregano, tiny bits of feta cheese, a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. This simple but full flavored salad hit the spot with the chops. Cipolline onions, which are Italian pearl onions, were just sauteed in butter and olive oil, so simple but sweet and tender. We also had a few of those potatoes that I talked about yesterday, just sauteed and tossed with butter and chopped fresh parsley.

A perfect meal and wine to start the end of our day!


Monday, September 17, 2007


Out of all the vegetables in our world, I do believe the potato has to be my favorite! I can remember staying with my grandma during summer vacations out on her farm and there being a bowl of mashed potatoes or a bowl of boiled small red potatoes always ready for the eating. I remember coming indoors from playing with my cousins down in the woods by the pond. They would grab "icing balls" (yes, just what the words say) as their treats and I would grab a cold boiled red potato! Sometimes I would even pocket a few to much on outdoors while playing!

When we lived in Ohio and had a few acres of land, we would grow potatoes in our garden, that is until our English Bulldog "Reggie" would dig them up for his own treat! We had another English Bulldog "Mug-Z" who loved French Fries so much that when we had him in the car with us, if we did not stop at a Wendy's for a burger and fries, he would bark until we turned the car around and hit the drive-thru! Thank goodness our cats were not into potatoes!

Potatoes have been around a long time. There is even evidence that shows the potato was being cultivated 2,000 years ago in Peru. Potatoes arouse strong passions, not the sort which the aphrodisiac properties which potatoes have been supposed to have but do not in fact possess, but partisan passions. Some think mashed potatoes with good milk and butter are incomparable, and so they are for certain dishes like bangers and mash. The Irish claim that plain boiled potatoes, when prepared correctly, are the best of all (drain when cooked, leave to rest a few moments in the pot with a clean teacloth on top and shaken slightly). And who would not assert that chips/frites/French Fries have no competition in the world, but they may falter if they had a nice dish of golden-topped butter and cream enriched scalloped potatoes that the French enjoy. The Swiss may argue with you that the best potato dish is the Rosti! What about the classic Sunday Pot Roast that has those wonderful whole potatoes nestled beside the meat roasting away with the pan juices! Now, are you ready to fix some potatoes for dinner tonight!

I have come to enjoy "Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes" lately. They are petite little yellow potatoes that have a wonderful smooth texture and rich flavor. Leave the skin on and cut the potatoes into quarters. Heat the oven to about 400 degrees. Put the cut potatoes in a bowl, sprinkle with a good bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss well and put onto a cookie sheet and spread them out so they are not touching each other. Roast for about 10 minutes, then stir them, roast another 10 minutes or until they are golden brown. I love it when they have a nice outer crust on them. Also, as a variation, instead of the salt and pepper coating, I use a seasoning. Take for instance a Creole seasoning or even an Italian mixture of dried herbs, or you can use fresh herbs such as Rosemary. You can dress the potatoes to match the rest of the dishes you are having for dinner. These little guys are so versatile!

Did you know that the skin on the potato is not really nutritious but the layer immediately under it, which is only millimetres thick, contains most of the potato's vitamin C content. It also holds most of the flavour also. So next time you are peeling the potato for a dish, give it a second thought whether you need to peel or not!

Cheers and we will wine it tomorrow!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Wine And Shrimp Pasta Served In Key West Last Night

I find it very intriguing to just "put together" a meal. What I mean is, you may have one key ingredient that you know you are going to work with that evening but, you have no idea how you want to use it. Last night I had some fresh shrimp, Key West Red's, in the fridge. I took them out and laid them on the counter. Then I picked up some garlic, a leek, a dried cayenne pepper, fresh parsley and some tomatoes. I opened the pantry door and a box of pasta fell out! What did that tell me? OK, let's have a pasta and shrimp dinner! I did have my pasta dinner but many more ingredients went into the pot before the dish hit the plate.

But first, as I always do before starting my preparations, I pulled out a bottle of wine from the fridge. A nice white chilled Aveleda Vinho Verde kept me company while preparing my shrimp pasta. I have really been enjoying these Portuguese wines this summer. Of course I picked up this one because it was on sale AND the label looked very lovely. Aveleda is produced by Quinto da Aveleda in the region of Vinho Verde. It is a combination of Trajadura, Loureiro, Arinto and Azal grapes. The alcohol content is only 10.5% which makes it a nice wine for summer sipping. This was a nice clear, bright wine with gentle aromas of fresh fruit which followed smoothly and delicate on the palate. This one did not have as much effervescence as the Pavo I had the other night, but it still had a nice crisp, bright flavor to it. Very enjoyable!

So I started my sauce for the shrimp pasta with the ingredients shown, but ended up adding fresh herbs from my container garden, white wine, a shallot, a pinch of sugar and butter. So easy to assemble and all of these ingredients, while cooking, filled our house with mouthwatering aromas! I am going to give you this version of shrimp pasta, but hey, do like me and just add whatever you may have in your fridge and pantry to make it your special dish!

Deb's Throw Together Shrimp Pasta

Olive oil
1 sliced leek
3 cloves of chopped garlic
1 chopped dried pepper
1 shallot chopped
1 little bunch of fresh parsley chopped
2 tomatoes chopped
A pinch of sugar
1 little bunch of thyme and oregano chopped
1 glass of while wine
1 big plop of butter
Fresh shrimp shelled and deveined
Enough spaghetti pasta for 2 cooked

Basically I just sauteed the leek, garlic, shallot and pepper in the olive oil with a grind or 2 of sea salt for a few moments. Then I added the herbs, sugar, tomatoes and white wine. I let all of this simmer for about 7-10 minutes. Then I added the shrimp till they were cooked and then put in the butter at the end to make it a bit creamy. Cook the pasta, drain, add shrimp mixture and serve. So easy and so tasty for a quick summer supper!

I would surely enjoy hearing some of your "throw together" dinners that you whip up at the end of the day with whatever you have in your pantry!


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Refreshing Summer Appetizer, Fall Lamb Stew and Anytime Wine

It is still very HOT in Key West and will continue to be that way for a bit yet. I know a few of you who are up north are starting to enjoy a few of those nice cool fall days, but I am still in the heat of summer. So a nice light refreshing appetizer was on my mind. You know, one of those that has all the elements - sight appeal, color, texture and must be light in the tummy! OK, what sounds good!

So Chris, our son chef, was here the other afternoon and we decided to hit the store and he would fix dinner. Cool! It is such a treat when he cooks. Actually it is a fun day because we will go to the supermarket together and pick up all the goodies we will need to make a fabulous dinner. So I was in the mood for light fare and he was in the mood for a nice fall dish, as it was raining outside and he decided we were having a snow day!

I decided on something light with smoked salmon and he decided on lamb stew. I knew I had a white wine at home to go with the appetizer, but needed a bottle of red to go with the lamb stew.

My eyes caught the sight of a Red Bicyclette Syrah. I have had the Rose' and Chardonnay of this wine, but not the Syrah. So into the basket it went. The Red Bicyclette Syrah is a nice inexpensive red wine made with 100% Syrah grapes sourced from the Gard, Herault and Aude regions located in the south of France. It had an alcohol volume of 13%. The Syrah was a nice full bodied, soft tannin wine with lots of deep, dark, rich fruit flavors of black cherries. It paired well with the lamb stew with its smooth full taste.

We started our evening with an appetizer that anyone can whip up in a hurry, but has a nice presentation and awesome flavor!

Sliced Cucumbers With Yogurt Sauce, Dill, Capers and Smoked Salmon

Cucumber - sliced
1/2 of a small container of Greek Yogurt
Chopped Dill - about a good tablespoon and springs for the top
1-1/2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
Whole capers
Smoked Salmon thinly sliced

Make your sauce of yogurt, dill and mustard
Assemble - cucumber slice, topped with a bit of sauce, slice of salmon, a caper and a small sprig of dill. Done! So easy and very handsome!

This was followed by Chris' Lamb Stew, which I will have to try to get the recipe from as there were so many ingredients that I lost track during preparation. I know, I know, pay attention Deb.

So, all in all, I got my cool summer appetizer, Chris got his fall Lamb Stew fix and Mike enjoyed all, as he is happy to have whatever we serve him as long a he has his glass of red wine to accompany!


Monday, September 10, 2007

Harvest Time In Key West With Chilies

Just look at those pretty little pods. Who would think that one little nibble would set your mouth on fire! These are my Thai peppers that were picked off of a bush grown in my container garden.

Chillies are a great plant to grow in Key West as our climate is like a hot house! But actually these little bombs like the weather to be a bit cooler when they start out. I planted these peppers in January and February when the humidity slacks off a bit and we get a few cool nights, like down in the 60's and 70's.

I also grow cayenne peppers. The ones in the photo have been dried. I use my chili peppers in alot of dishes that I cook as Mike like his food very spicy. I use my peppers fresh and dried.

Chillies, also called chili peppers, can vary in size, shape, color and most of all in taste. The taste can be from very mild to extremely hot. Most chili peppers you see are long, thin, and pointed as you can see in the cayenne's, but like the Thai's, they can come in many shapes. Chillies are hot because, as we all know, they contain capsaicin. Capsaicin, an irritant alkaloid is found mainly in the interior tissue to which the seeds adhere. Capsaicin has at least 5 separate chemical components; three give us an immediate sensation in the throat and at the back of the palate, the other two a slower, longer-lasting, less fierce hotness on the tongue and mid-palate. I find it amazing that, even though each chili is rated on an average hotness, the peppers from the same bush can vary greatly in their capsaicin content. Take for instance on my cayenne plant, I can add one whole pepper to a dish and that dish be very spicy. I can pick another pepper from the same bush, add it to a dish and the food seems to be too mild and I have to add a second pepper.

Cooks use chili for flavour, not merely for hotness. However, people accustomed to chili do like the heat, and as they become inured to it they need more and more to generate the same sensation in the mouth. Therefore when cooking Mexican or S. Indian dishes for people whose mouths are not so hardened, it is important to use much less than the "authentic" amount of chili in order to produce an "authentic" effect. Even folks who have never tasted chili peppers will usually agree that when they encounter them for the first time in a mild form, where the flavor is subtle, its gentle warmth stimulates not only the taste buds, but appetite and digestion also. So if you are new to chillies, go easy and build up your taste for them. They really add a spark to your dishes.

One of my favorite recipes to use chillies in is my Fish Stew.

Fish Stew

1 lb. of fresh shrimp, shelled and devained
1 lb. of a mild white firm fish - I use mahi-mahi as it is firm enough to hold it's shape in the stew while cooking. Cut the fish into bite size pieces.
Olive Oil
1 onion chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic chopped - use more or less to you taste
1 can of chopped tomatoes with their juice
1 8 oz. bottle of clam juice
1 cup of white wine
2 heaping tablespoons of tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 fresh cayenne pepper chopped or you could use dried pepper flakes if you do not have a fresh pepper. You just want enough heat to give it some personality!

Cook your onions, garlic and pepper in some olive oil over medium heat until the onions are tender. Add your tomatoes, clam juice, wine, half of your parsley and tomato paste. Cook over medium high heat until your sauce is slightly reduced and a bit thick.
At this time I add my shrimp and fish and give it a slight stir. Simmer until your fish is opaque in the center. I would say about 10 minutes. When you serve the stew, sprinkle the rest of the parsley on the dish.

This is a very simple stew with loads of flavor. Sometimes I fix the sauce early during the day and then add the fish later when we are ready for dinner. A nice crusty bread and a small salad make the meal complete. I usually serve a nice full bodied white wine with this dish. One that will stand up with the tomatoes and heat from the peppers. I would suggest a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Enjoy!
Holler, this post is dedicated to you! Keep cookin' with those peppers!


Friday, September 7, 2007

Let's Monkey Around With Wine And A Summer Salad

Look at this label on this wine!!! I had a big smile on my face and a chuckle when I came across this bottle of wine at the supermarket yesterday. Of course I had to buy it!! But when I opened Pinot Evil I had another big smile on my face as the wine behind the funny lable was not funny. It was quite good! The wine was located in the French section of the store, but when I got it home and was really "reading" the label I noticed it was from Romania!! Wow, I do not know if I have ever had a wine from Romania! So now I have a whole new country to discover. But for now, I will tell you about Pinot Evil.

The 2005 Pinot Evil is a Pinot Gris from the Cramele Recus winery located in the town of Recus in Timis County, Banat, Romania. This location is in the Eastern part of the country of Romania. This little excerpt was on the back of the bottle: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil. Dating back to the 8th century, this Three Wise Monkey proverb was introduced to Japan by a Buddhist monk from China. Long believed by winemakers to be a challenging grape to grow and craft into wine, Pinot Gris often seems possesssed if not downright evil. We prefer to view Pinot Gris as a guilty pleasure. I think it is nice to be entertained by the bottle while drinking the wine from it! Anyhow, Pinot Evil is a nice crisp wine with a taste of ripe pears and a hint of mineral to it. It is one of those lip smaking wines which are wonderful on a hot summer evenings. I drank this very well chilled. It would be great with some late summer fruits, such as melon or a nice piece of fish on the grill. Or you can just chill a bottle, have some friends over and just "monkey" around!!!

Now for a great little quick fix salad for a summer lunch or with whatever goodie you are putting over a charcoal or gas grill.

Pasta Salad With Peas And Whatever Sounds Good!

8 oz. of elbow macaroni cooked and rinsed in cold water
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup chopped shallots - you could also use red onion or green onions
1 chopped red pepper - you can also add green pepper if you like
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped parsley

For the dressing - I make a double batch. This first half of the batch I use as soon as I make the salad. The second half I use when I pull the salad out of the frig and am getting ready to plate up. This is a double batch recipe.

5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 heaping teaspoons of Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons of extra virgin oil oil
1 teaspoon of honey - you can add more of this if you like it a bit sweeter
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of your pasta and veggies together in a big bowl. Add 1/2 of the dressing and stir. Put salad into frig until it is chilled. When ready to serve, add the other 1/2 of the dressing.

This is so easy to make and works well as a side dish to almost anything grilled outside. Don't be shy to alter the ingredients! If you have some type of bean, say pintos left over, pitch them in or even green beans, whatever. This salad loves leftovers. It also tastes great the next day, if you are lucky to have any leftovers!

I want to thank Valli for giving me the "Droolworthy" award! That was sweet of you Val and I do love coming to visit you on your site!

Cheers !