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Dat Salad Tho

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I’m always looking for new ways to dress up my usual kale salad. My favorite combo involves some type of grain and a lemon based dressing, but I always have to find new ways to keep it interesting. That being said, I never get sick of this salad. The tahini dressing adds a faux creamy element when combined with avocado, but it’s way healthier than something like Ranch. Plus, these chicken thighs are so delicious and can be repurposed throughout the week if you make a big batch.


Chicken Thighs (serves 2)

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs

Kale Salad (serves 2)

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 TB tahini
  • 2 TB water
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 8-10 leaves Tuscan kale, removed from stemmed and thinly chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely diced red onion
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 3 TB pine nuts
  • 4 basil leaves, julienned

Make the marinade for the chicken: combine lemon, spices, mustard and olive oil and whisk vigorously until combined. Place into a sealed container or Ziploc with chicken thighs and refrigerate overnight.

Heat a nonstick pan over a medium-high flame. Add chicken thighs and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Remove from pan and chop into slices. Add back to the pan and cook for another 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Drain on paper towel, then set aside.

Meanwhile prepare the tahini dressing; combine lemon and tahini and whisk until thick. Add water by the teaspoon and whisk until smooth. Combine kale and onion in a large serving bowl, then add 3/4 of the tahini dressing to the bowl and toss to coat. Add tomato, avocado, pine nuts and basil. Top with chicken and a drizzle the remainder of tahini over the salad, then serve.



Pack it in, bring it in

Pack it up, bring it in

This is the perfect post-workout salad, full of nutrients and protein. It’s also easy to divide into lunch for the next day; just separate the quinoa and chicken into one small container, the tahini dressing in another, and the rest of the salad in a large container. Microwave the quinoa and chicken for a minute and a half before tossing with salad and dressing. Delish!

Tiny Explosions of Salty Goodness

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When I first pored over the March edition of Bon Appétit, I dogeared “The Providers’ Pantry” article. It offered a few ideas for simple things to create from pantry staples when the fresh food in your fridge starts to dwindle over the week. One particular offering for simple and speedy pasta caught my eye when I saw capers referred to as “tiny explosions of salty goodness” (insert dirty joke). I finally decided to give this recipe a go this week. Even though I had plenty of fresh produce in my fridge, I was craving a bowl of salty pasta after a few days of green smoothies and kale quinoa salads. I jazzed it up a bit with some anchovy paste (mmm more salt) and fresh basil.IMG_1472

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Capers, Anchovy and Breadcrumbs (serves 2)

  • 4 oz whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup capers
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3-4 basil leaves, julienned

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add spaghetti and cook for 9 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan over a medium-high flame. Add garlic, shallot and red pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add capers and anchovy paste and continue to sauté for another minute until anchovy paste has dissolved into the mix, then add breadcrumbs. Continue to sauté over medium-low heat until browned – about 5 minutes.




Add pasta to the breadcrumbs and toss until combined. Add cheese and basil and toss again. Serve immediately in shallow pasta bowls.


This satisfied all my cravings for salt and carbs, and I think this recipe is really easy to adjust based on what you have. If anchovy paste isn’t your thing, incorporate some chopped crispy bacon for that extra bit of salt. No fresh herbs? Try a nice salt-free Italian seasoning. And if you don’t have whole wheat spaghetti on hand just use whatever you’ve got. Make it your own!

Pair with that half bottle of wine that’s leftover in your fridge. In my case, it was a single vineyard St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc that my friend (who shall be known as Space Cadet from this point forth) left behind after my Sunday BBQ. Speaking of which, I just bought my first charcoal grill and ordered a pizza stone attachment at the advice of Space Cadet, who is teaching me the art of being a grillmaster. Stay tuned.

Pre-Winetasting Hash

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Not THAT kind of hash; although I’m certainly not opposed to that, it’s not really the kind of thing you want to get into before wine tasting. But THIS kind of hash is the perfect pre-wine tasting meal, with enough carbs and protein to coat protect you from getting too buzzed before lunch, without leaving you too full.


Red Potato Hash with Chicken Sausage (serves 2)

  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 6 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 tsp lemon herb salt
  • 1 pre-cooked chicken sausage (Aidell’s or TJ’s brand are my favorites), diced
  • 2 eggs
  • Sriracha, to taste
  • 1 TB chopped chives

In a non-stick pan fit with a cover, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Once hot, and onion and garlic and sauté until soft – about 4 minutes. Add potatoes, lemon herb salt and 3 TB water; cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and add sausage; sauté for 4 minutes or until beginning to brown.


Push the hash to one side of the pan, creating enough space on the other side of the pan to fry two eggs. Lower the heat to medium-low and crack two eggs into the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes, or until a thin white layer begins to cover the yolk. Remove from heat and transfer the hash to two bowls, then top each with a fried egg and some drops of Sriracha and chives.


Now you’re ready to taste some delicious wine! By the way, this also doubles as a good hangover breakfast.

Frills on Frills on Frills

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Bon Appetit released their ‘comfort food’ issue last week, and it’s very nearly everything. From soups to pantry meals to pastas, I dog-eared 5 pages and 14 recipes. One recipe that stood out was their Reginetti with Savoy Cabbage and Pancetta. Since I was already buying pancetta for my massive batch of minestrone soup, I figured I might as well add a few more ounces and work this recipe into my week’s grocery shop. And then Miriam’s Tuesday night plans suddenly fell through and I invited her over for dinner so that I could share this batch of frilly pasta with someone who would equally appreciate it.


Bon Appetit March 2015, p. 55


Campanelle with Savoy Cabbage and Pancetta (serves 3)

raw pancetta strips

raw pancetta strips

  • 10 oz Campanelle pasta
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 4 oz thinly sliced pancetta
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 small head of savoy cabbage, tough ribs removed, leaves torn
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino or parmesan
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt


This recipe suggests “Reginetti, or other short pasta.” I didn’t see anything short and frilly enough after checking out the pasta aisle in a few routine grocery stores; I decided to swing by Genova Deli on my way home, because I knew they would have what I was looking for. Sure enough, they carry Barilla’s Campanelle pasta, the perfect substitution for “Reginetti” – whatever that is.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and a pinch of salt and cook for 8 minutes, until very al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking liquid.

cooked pancetta

cooked pancetta

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add half of the pancetta and cook for 2 minutes, then turn and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then cook the second batch in another tablespoon of olive oil and transfer to paper towels.

Deglaze the pan with dry sherry, then add the cabbage and cook undisturbed until deeply browned in some spots – about 3 minutes. Using tongs, toss the cabbage then cook undisturbed for another 2 minutes. Continue to cook and toss until cabbage is charred in some spots and bright green in others and beginning to wilt. Add butter and thyme and continue to cook, tossing often for 2 minutes.


Add cheese, pasta, and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and cook, tossing often until sauce is thickened and emulsified and coats pasta, about 5 minutes. Add pancetta and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then serve immediately in shallow bowls.


IMG_1267Miriam devoured this pasta; she didn’t even speak for a few minutes other than “mmmm” and “ommmggggg”. After I was finally through with snapping photos, I dug in and joined in the chants of “mmmm”. It was almost like a carbonara, but much lighter and greener and just as delicious. The addition of the sherry not only worked to clear the burnt oil from the pan, but also added some braising liquid to the cabbage. Also, this dish just looks good with all the frills.

Miriam (unaware of the fact that Porter Creek is my favorite Sonoma winery) brought over a bottle of 2012 Porter Creek Timbervine Ranch Syrah. We enjoyed it before, during and after dinner. The wine is soft enough to be enjoyed on its own without food, but made the perfect companion to the pasta dish. With soft earth tones, hints of raspberry and meaty spice it worked well with the salty pancetta and sweet cabbage.

Soup’s On!

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I hear it’s been getting cold back east. How about that! I really don’t know what that’s like, since we don’t really have any serious form of winter where I live. In fact, it’s been in the high 70’s the past few weekends, and I even got in some much needed pool time over Valentine’s Day weekend.

pool time

“Winter” in Napa

I’ll stop rubbing it in. Because even though it’s nice to wake up to a fresh blanket of beautiful snow – especially if it means a snow day – and sit by the fire with a glass of port, drinking away the bitter winter temperatures, it gets old real quick. So this new Bon Appetit recipe is for you freezing east coasters. This spicy minestrone will warm you up and last all week long, so you don’t have to go back out into the cold to get dinner!

Spicy Kale Minestrone with Pistou (serves 8)

  • 3 sprigs oregano
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon (or more) crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 Parmesan rind (about 2 ounces; optional)
  • Two 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces baby Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, cut into ½” pieces
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into 1” pieces


Pistou (makes 1 cup)

  • 2 garlic cloves 
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt

Using cheese cloth and kitchen twine (or in my case, a tea filter bag), bundle oregano, rosemary and bay leaves, then set aside.

Makeshift herb bundle

Makeshift herb bundle

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot over a medium-high flame. Add pancetta and sauté until browned, about 3 minutes. Add onion, leek, carrots, celery, garlic, and red pepper flakes and season with salt. Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes. Then add tomato paste and continue to cook until slightly darkened, about 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes and juices, crushing with your hands as you go, then the herb bundle, Parmesan rind, and 6 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add kale and beans and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove parmesan rind and herb bundle and remove from heat.

I made my soup, partially covered it, then ran out to the movies to see Still Alice (which I highly recommend, even though I sobbed through almost the whole thing). When I came home a few hours later, the soup was still a little warm but cool enough to divide into various tupperware containers. I took out a portion and reheated it for about 5 minutes in a smaller pot, while I made the pistoupistou

To make the pistou, plus garlic and basil in a small food processor. Transfer to a small bowl and add olive oil, lemon zest, and a generous pinch of salt. Serve the soup topped with a large spoonful of pistou.


There were so many things I loved about this soup. First of all, it was easy to make (as most soups are), and only took about an hour, including prep. I loved the combination of the herb bundle and Parmesan rind to enhance the broth, creating layers of powerful flavors, as well as the red pepper flakes to kick it up a notch. It was very hearty with the addition of potatoes and cannellini beans, but still very fresh tasting with the pistou topping. Bon Appetit suggests topping with roasted pumpkin seeds or a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parmesan – both of which I plan to try throughout the week as I devour my leftovers.

Spicy Stewed Sausage with Fennel

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Panini Girl posted a recipe for stewed sausage with fennel a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been eyeing it in my inbox ever since. She found the April Bloomfield recipe in the January issue of Food & Wine, in a feature about women chefs. This simple dish is full of flavor and easy to make. It’s ideal for a dinner party but if you make it for a smaller group the leftovers will last for days and only get better. I chose to make it for a group of six that Miriam and I hosted last week. As the recipe suggests, we served it over cheesy polenta, which Miriam had made. It was the perfect starch to soak up the spicy sauce.


I did make a few adjustments to make it more saucy and kick up the spice, but I may have made it too spicy! I couldn’t find the chiles that the recipe calls for so I grabbed a few small orange ones, but I think they were way too hot – especially since I left the seeds in. Oops! Good thing most of the dinner guests like spicy food; there was one self-proclaimed spicy food wimp, but he was able to eat a sweet sausage with very little sauce after his wife taste-tested it for him. So cute.

Stewed Sausage with Fennel (serves 8)

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 sweet Italian sausages
  • 5 hot Italian sausages
  • 2 fennel bulbs—trimmed, each bulb cut into 8 wedges, fronds chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 x 28-ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes, crushed with your hands, juices reserved
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2-3 chiles – quartered with seeds left in if you want it more spicy, otherwise leave them whole


Heat half of the olive oil in a large pot over a medium-high flame. Place the sweet sausages in the pot and sear on all sides for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, then add the rest of the olive oil to the pot and sear the hot sausages, then transfer to the plate with the other sausages.



Next, add the fennel and sauté over medium heat until golden – about five minutes. Add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds and salt and continue to sauté for a few more minutes. Then add tomatoes, wine and chiles and stir to combine. Fold the sausages into the sauce and cook covered for 15 minutes over a low flame. Then uncover and continue to cook for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a serving dish and top with chopped fennel fonds; serve with polenta.


Like I said, the sauce was pretty darn spicy but I still loved it – as long as I didn’t accidentally eat some chile. I has two portions of leftovers, which I ate with 1/2 cup of cooked farro to soak up the sauce. I think that when I made this again I will definitely adjust the spice of the chiles, but still do a mix of spicy and sweet sausages. I also want to try the less saucy version (only one can of tomatoes) at some point. But the best part of the recipe is definitely the fennel. I had no idea how delicious it was when cooked!

Pair this dish with a fruitful red wine with a bit of spice, such as a Washington Cabernet, an Alexander Valley Zinfandel or a Chianti – something that will compliment the acidity of the tomatoes but add some softness to the palate. And if it’s too hot for you, take a shot of milk!

Bakers Gonna Bake

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If you’re a regular reader, you have probably noticed that I don’t really bake. I’m just not that interested in it. I don’t like the use of exact measurements because I like to cook by taste, and you can’t really taste raw batter. I’m also not really into sweets, or baked goods (with the exception of most pies), and I never have the right ingredients on hand. But I think I’ve found something that I might actually enjoy baking, thanks to my new neighbor, who shall be known as The Captain from this point forth.

Until recently, the only food I had tasted that The Captain made was some lemon cake. It was pretty good, but like I said: I’m not really into sweets. I could tell that he put love and thought and a little experimentation into it, so when he invited me over for sweet potato fries and lamb burgers with homemade brioche buns earlier this week, I graciously accepted with intrigue. I was even more intrigued when he told me that he found the recipes on Pinterest – which I have also mainly used for food inspiration.


As I chopped herbs and assembled some tzatziki sauce, he taught me some basics about how yeast works. The Captain heated the milk and explained to me how it needs to cool down a bit before adding the egg and yeast so that they don’t cook. And then I watched him mix all the ingredients in a KitchenAid and knead the dough and cut it into pieces, and I thought, “hey, this doesn’t look so bad.”

40 Minute Brioche Buns (makes 8-12 buns)

  • 1 1/4 cups milk, warmed (about 110F)
  • 2 TB instant yeast
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 1/4 cups to 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg plus 1 tsp water for egg wash
  • poppy seeds or sesame seeds for topping

In the bowl of a mixer, gently stir together milk, yeast, sugar, melted butter and egg. Add in 3 1/4 cups of flour and the salt, then mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until combined. Then switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add in more flour within the first minutes if it appears too wet and sticky, 1 tablespoon at a time.


Divide the dough into about 12 pieces, or less for larger buns, and shape into a ball. Place the dough balls 3 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a dark towel and let rise for 10-12 minutes.


Meanwhile whisk the extra egg and water together and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Once the dough has risen, brush the balls with the egg wash and sprinkle with seeds (I did this part and I rocked it). Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden, then remove from oven and set on a cooling rack. You can freeze the extra buns in a ziploc bag or air tight container.


The buns were so light and delicious, and were infinitely better than store bought buns! And only forty minutes to make – I mean, why wouldn’t you make your own buns? He served the brioche buns with a modified version of these lamb burgers, which were excellent. We also made some sweet potato fries with garlic oil, which were tasty but I urged The Captain to go for disc cuts the next time. The following night he texted me a photo of round sweet potato fries and told me that they were much better, so we both taught each other something! Now I just need to invest in some of my own sugar, flour, and yeast.

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