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Category Archives: pairings

New Yearakkah

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With Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years Eve all falling within the same week during this past holiday season, Canuck and I really got into the spirit of things. It was the day before Christmas Eve and I was able to buy the last tiny 2-foot tree at Whole Foods (directly from their display, might I add) and I decorated it with our combined seven ornaments and some battery operated rainbow LED light as Canuck made massive batches of candy cane cookies (his family recipe) and rugelach. The next day, we drove the single hour – hardly enough time to listen to the entire Hamilton Mixtape – over the mountain to my parents home in Woodland; a welcome change from flying six hours to New York in a middle seat on an overpacked red eye.

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Canuck’s Christmakkah Cookies

As we passed through the bottom of Lake Berryessa, it dawned on me that this would be the first time in my unreligious lifetime that I would be celebrating the first night of Hanukkah with my dear grandmother, Mema. I knew we would be lighting her beautiful peacock-like menorah, a piece that I’ve admired for years. So much so, that I claimed it “mine” when she began packing up her home in San Diego, preparing for a move to Davis to be closer to her family. What I didn’t know is that she intended to give it to me this year, as long as I continued the tradition of lighting the candle and saying the blessing each night of Hanukkah – or, joining Canuck when he said the blessing each night as I tended to the candles.

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We made sure to light the eighth candle just before our guests arrived

To round out the holiday season, we decided to celebrate New Years Eve by throwing a fancy dinner party – the first of many dinner parties in our new home. And since New Years Eve landed on the eighth and final night of Hanukkah, I thought it would be appropriate to make gravlax for the first course. Naturally, Canuck made deliciously crispy latkes to pair with the gravlax, and also secured a tin of white sturgeon caviar that he served on homemade potato chips with crème fraîche.

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That salad, though…

I ended up eating so much food during the first course (along with the delicious appetizers that our friends brought) that I barely had enough room in my stomach for the main course: leg of lamb with Moroccan couscous, crispy roasted potatoes, and green leaf salad with apples, aged gouda, dried cranberries and roasted walnuts. Canuck – being a professionally trained chef and the best boyfriend ever – took the lead on almost everything, but I was responsible for the salad (my specialty), cocktails, and the gravlax. Since I only had three jobs, I took each one of them very seriously, especially the gravlax.

Gravlax – a Nordic dish of raw salmon cured with salt, sugar and dill – is very easy to make and costs a lot less than store-bought lox. And when done right, it’s a luxurious treat that will impress any guest. The whole process involves a few quality ingredients, about a four day wait, and a really, really sharp knife. The only real variables are the ratio of salt to sugar, the curing time and any additional flavors you choose to add to the curing mixture.

Since it was my first go at this seemingly simple dish, and this was an important occasion (the long awaited end of 2016!), I wanted to insure that I made the best version of Gravlax, using the most gratifying combination of variables. To do so, I went to Serious Eats – a trusted source of Canuck’s – and found a recipe that was developed by Daniel Glitzer after a bit of testing. I was ready to go.

Gravlax With Caraway & Coriander (serves 10+)

  • 1 (2-pound) skin-on, sushi-grade salmon fillet, pin bones removed by fishmonger
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 4 TB of kosher salt, plus more for washing salmon
  • 1 TB sugar
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 or 2 large bunches of dill

Mustard-Dill Sauce

  • 3 TB distilled white vinegar
  • 2 TB roughly chopped dill fronds
  • 5 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 TB sugar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a mini food processor, combine vinegar with dill, mustard and sugar, and blend until dill is very finely chopped. Add oil and blend until a smooth sauce is formed. Season with salt and pepper.

Start with a short salt water bath: fill a large bowl with cold water and add enough salt to make it taste like the sea. Add the salmon and set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast caraway and coriander seeds in a skillet over high heat, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind finely. In a small bowl, stir together salt, sugar, ground caraway and coriander seeds, and white pepper until thoroughly combined.

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The caraway and coriander were a nice touch

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Remove the salmon from bath and pat dry with paper towels. On a clean work surface, turn salmon skin side up and sprinkle about half of salt mixture all over, rubbing in with fingers. Arrange half the dill all over the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold salmon (and wide enough to fit a weight, like a pot of water). Set salmon skin side down on the bed of dill and rub remaining salt mixture all over top and sides of salmon. Top with remaining dill and cover with plastic, then top with a weight. I used a smaller baking dish with a pot of water on top, but you can also use canned beans or anything heavy. Place in the refrigerator.

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After chilling for one day, remove from the fridge and carefully unpack the salmon, reserving the dill. Place the salmon back in, skin-side up. Repack with the dill, cover with new plastic and set the weight back on top. Refrigerate for another 2-3 days, until the salmon is firm and sufficiently cured, then unpack the salmon and remove the dill. Gravlax can be kept refrigerated tightly wrapped in plastic for approximately 5 days after curing.

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Perfectly cured and ready to slice

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Sliced super thin and topped with a little dill

When ready to serve, remove the salmon from the fridge and place on a clean, heavy cutting board. Using a very sharp slicing knife, thinly cut gravlax on the bias. Glitzer suggests serving the Gravlax on pumpernickel bread with dollops of mustard-dill sauce (recipe above) and bits of dill. I used the last bits of leftover gravlax to try it this way a few days after New Years, and it did not disappoint. But it didn’t hold a candle (no pun intended) to the pairing of gravlax and latkes that we had on New Years Eve. Topped off with some mustard-dill sauce (a little goes a long way), and you have the most delicious mouthful of Jewishness that ever occurred. And, although not Kosher at all, the caviar certainly didn’t hurt.

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The most delicious way to ring in the New Year!

Bayside Panzanella

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Last summer I took my family to Hog Island for the first time. The event was part of a week-long thirtieth birthday celebration, and I had made the reservation months in advance (as one needs to). None of them really knew what they were getting into but they knew there were oysters involved and that’s all that really mattered at the time. Since my family hadn’t yet moved to Northern California, they were visiting from New York and they rented a minivan for the week. So my parents and I, my brother, his girlfriend (Hillz) and her sister (Livy) all piled into the car, trucking a leaky cooler full of beer and wine, a dozen sausages, the makings of a panzanella salad and a few picnic supplies. We set out towards the coast – Tomales Bay, to be exact – along a winding, cliffside road that made my vertigo-suffering mother and carsick ridden girls lose a bit of faith in me. I kept insisting, “it’s just around the corner, we’re so close, I promise it will be worth it…” but they couldn’t believe that something could be so good to make this treacherous ride worth the trip. Then we finally got there, and it sunk in: we were in oyster Heaven.

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IMG_6355Last weekend the same crew made the trip again, our second year in a row of what will be a long-standing tradition. This time was a little different in that everyone was more prepared. The cooler was in tip-top shape, filled to the brim with light beers and oyster-friendly wines like Rosé, Chenin Blanc, Riesling and sparklers; we bought pre-cooked sausage links from Costco and Fatted Calf that wouldn’t burst over a direct flame; we had a table cloth and ample plastic picnic supplies, including a cutting board, grill tools and an oil brush (we’ll get to that). We were pros now.

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Livy requested that I make the same panzanella salad again, and I couldn’t deny that I was already planning to do it. It’s the ideal grill-picnic salad because you can prepare the tomatoes at home and put them in a sealed container to marinate while you make the drive, then put the other ingredients in the cooler to keep them fresh, and use the oil from the marinade to coat the bread before grilling. Perfection!

Panzanella Salad with Fresh Ricotta (serves 8 as a side dish, 4 as a main)

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 10 oz arugula
  • 5 ounces fresh ricotta, crumbled

On a cutting board, using the flat side of a chef’s knife, mash the garlic clove to a paste with a pinch of salt; transfer to a large container. Add the tomatoes, onion, vinegar and the 3/4 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let the mixture stand at room temperature, stirring a few times, for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours.

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Using an oil brush, generously apply the oil from the marinade to each side of the ciabatta. Grill the bread, oil side down, for about 7 minutes, or until brown and crispy, then flip to the other side and grill for 3 more minutes. Once cool, slice into 1½-inch chunks. Transfer the tomato mixture to a large platter and top with arugula and ricotta, then toss to combine. Top with the grilled bread chunks and serve.

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This is the perfect salad to serve alongside a tray of four dozen shucked oysters, as a prelude to a heartier protein like sausage or another grilled meat. But if that’s not quite your plan, it also goes well with just about anything you would find at a cook-out. The freshness and acidity is great for a hot summer day, but it’s still substantial enough of a salad to soak up a booze-filled afternoon. You could swap the ricotta for burrata, but personally I think the ricotta keeps it nice and light whereas burrata might make the dish too heavy.

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And if you’re an oyster-lover and Northern California is accessible to you, make Hog Island your day trip destination. It’s truly the best place in the world to consume oysters, and my father still has a hard time describing it to people who have never been. It definitely has a Maine-like East Coast vibe that appeals to my family of transplants, but to me it’s as California as California gets.

Local Innovation at The Bewildered Pig

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Last week I traveled to Mendocino with Canuck for an early birthday celebration! He let me do the majority of the planning – including two breweries (no, I don’t just drink wine) – but did suggest a dinner spot in Philo for our first night of the trip: The Bewildered Pig. I trust Canuck’s picks, especially when it comes to food, and after checking out their menu and hearing that his friend from culinary school is the sous chef, I got pretty excited about this place.

The Bewildered Pig is the brainchild of Chef Janelle Weaver and her partner, Daniel. After spending several years as an executive chef at a prestigious Napa winery, Janelle ventured out on her own culinary endeavor with the goal to create an unpretentious restaurant with a large focus on farm to fork, sourcing everything locally (their pigs come from down the street) and from their own gardens. The dishes are elegant yet casual, refined yet rustic, sophisticated yet simple; dualities that I learned Janelle possesses herself after chatting with her throughout the course of the night.

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The wine list is a combination of selections from Anderson Valley and Sonoma County and an extensive list of Old World favorites. Keeping with the local theme, I selected the 2014 Balo “Suitcase 828” Estate Pinot Noir. The wine was more feminine on the nose, with aromas of white flowers, bright red fruit and an element of freshness. But the palate was bold and earthy, reflecting more of a masculine tone. One of the things I love most about Pinot Noir (especially Pinots from Anderson Valley) is how androgynous it can be, which makes it a versatile wine for food pairings. Sure enough, it paired perfectly with nearly everything that we ate.

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We started off the evening with a delectable amuse-bouche from the kitchen: Penny Royal Laychee Crostini with a Pea & Fava Pistou. (Side note: Penny Royal is a local farm and creamery that offers tours and tastings Thursday through Monday in their new shop on Hwy 128. They make a variety of cheeses that are also available at one of my favorite Philo wineries, Navarro Vineyards.) Our delicious cheesy bite was followed by a house made Mendocino County Heritage Pork country pâté with Dijon mustard and shallot chutney – the perfect combination of salty, sweet and spicy.

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On to the vegetables. Canuck selected “Celebration of Carrots” and I chose an assortment of seasoned radishes with salt and butter. The radishes were simple yet so satisfying, and it felt good to eat some raw vegetables after an afternoon of beer tasting (be sure to stop in Anderson Valley Brewery on your way into Philo). The carrot plate was indeed a celebration and quite possibly the best vegetable dish I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. The plate is composed of a seven different uses and varieties of carrots: confit tiny Thumbelina and French, pickled rainbow, housemade carrot crackers, fried carrot fronds, carrot top pesto and garlic aioli. I talked about this dish to anyone who would listen for several days. I’m still holding out hope that Canuck will find a way to recreate it…

And as if those were not enough starters, we picked two more to share: smoked local black cod potato salad, and Gulf prawns with garlic lemon aioli and what Janelle and her team affectionately call “fluff,” an array of herbs, flowers and stuff. The cod is local (Princess Seafood out of Fort Bragg) and smoked by Angelo’s in Sonoma. It’s served with heirloom potatoes, confited in olive oil, and fresh shaved Petit Teton horseradish, bloomed mustard seeds, whipped crème fraîche, herbs, watercress… and probably a few other amazing things that I am missing. Not only was it beautifully presented (like all of the evening’s dishes), but the combination of flavors was beautiful to eat.

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Last but not least, we each ordered the Lamb Duo (despite the fact that Canuck usually prefers not to order the same thing as his dining partner). It was written on the menu with all of my favorite Spring things so it was impossible to resist. In hindsight, we agreed that it easily could have been shared considering the amount of food we had leading up to our entrées, but we still managed to finish the majority of our dishes. The Lamb Duo was composed of lamb loin and confit cap, sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi, fresh tarragon, chives, lemon zest, fava beans, asparagus, fava leaf and garlic puree, served with a lamb anise hyssop reduction. I never imagined that all of these things could exist so cohesively on one plate, but it was near perfection.

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If you don’t already have enough reasons to visit Anderson Valley – the plethora of unique and inexpensive wineries, fishing along the Redwood lined highway, bountiful farms and orchards, whimsical seaside villages, adorable inns and a brewery in a town with their own made up language – add this dining experience to the list. The Bewildered Pig is truly a destination restaurant, worth every mile traveled, and I intend to make it a regular pilgrimage. In fact, I can’t wait to go back and see what other seasonal items they have on their fantastic menu.

Big thanks to Janelle, Izzy and the entire team for such a memorable evening!

Asparagus Affection

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I was recently feasting on an asparagus and pea shoot salad with Canuck as I proclaimed, “I really think Spring is my favorite food season. I will be so sad when it’s over.” He quickly reminded me of the existence of tomatoes, and then I felt better. Still, I will deeply miss the abundance of perfect asparagus that I have been enjoying nearly every day for the past several weeks. Some of my favorite recent renditions of asparagus include: a delicious Fatted Calf sandwich with prosciutto, ricotta and lemon oil; fired up over a charcoal grill with sea salt and cracked pepper; blanched and served with a simple lemon aioli; and shaved with Parmigiano, Meyer lemon, poached egg and crispy lonza (thanks Oenotri for offering some fresh veggies on your brunch menu).

But my favorite asparagus-themed meal that I have come across this Spring is (of course) a Bon Appetit recipe that my mother turned me onto. I’ve had it once at the hands of my mother and have now made it twice for friends with a couple slight tweaks that I think improve on the recipe.

A sight to behold

A sight to behold

Pasta with Peas, Asparagus, Escarole and Speck (serves 6 to 8)

  • 2 TB unsalted butter
  • 2 TB extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzlingIMG_5533
  • ½ lb spring onions; white parts cut into ¼-inch-thick slices, pale green parts cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 2 TB minced shallot
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ pounds thick asparagus, cut crosswise into ¾-inch pieces
  • 2 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 2 pounds peas in pods) or 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 pound campanelle or gemelli pasta (I prefer the locally made Baia pasta)
  • 1 head of escarole, cored, leaves cut into ¾-inch-wide slices
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano plus additional for serving
  • ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced speck, cut crosswise into ½-inch-wide strips

The original recipe calls for butter lettuce, but I think escarole has more flavor and texture. It also calls for prosciutto – which is delicious and I encourage you to use it if you can’t find speck – but speck offers a bit of smokiness to the dish that compliments the flavors nicely (credit to Space Cadet for the suggestion).

Delicious speck from Fatted Calf

Delicious speck from Fatted Calf

I've used fresh shelled and frozen peas for this recipe and the difference is minimal

I’ve used fresh shelled and frozen peas for this recipe and the difference is minimal

Melt the butter with 2 TB of oil in heavy large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add onions and shallot and sprinkle with coarse salt and cracked pepper. Sauté until tender (do not brown), about 8 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid is reduced to glaze, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer; set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook asparagus until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus. After 2 minutes add the peas and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer asparagus and peas to large bowl of ice water. Drain vegetables and set aside.
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Return water in pot to boil. Cook pasta until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, reheat onion mixture. Add drained asparagus and peas and stir until heated through. Then add pasta, 1 cup Pecorino Romano, escarole and parsley. Toss to combine, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by the ¼ cup if dry. Once the pasta has reached your desired consistency, add the speck and taste for seasoning, adjusting if needed.

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Transfer pasta to large shallow bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Serve, passing more cheese alongside. This dish pairs nicely with a medium-bodied red blend, a Provençal style Rosé, or a coastal Chardonnay.

Salade Lyonnaise

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The other night I had some girlfriends over for dinner to celebrate Space Cadet’s birthday. Initially, Space Cadet just wanted to pick up some Taco Bell (has anyone tried the new quesalupa??), but my friend – who shall be known as Georgia from this point forth – and I were able to convince her to elevate the menu a little. I realized that I had all the necessary ingredients for a Salade Lyonnaise, which is basically a fancy breakfast salad. It’s pretty hard to screw up, as long as you nail the poached egg. Luckily for me, I assigned the egg poaching to Space Cadet and since she is a perfectionist they turned out wonderfully.

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Salade Lyonnaise (serves 4)

  • 1 lb of small fingerling potatoes (try the “Teeny Tiny Potatoes” from Trader Joe’s), halved
  • 3 TB olive oil, divided
  • 2 TB dry sherry
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 TB whole grain mustard
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s Crunciferous Crunch Collection
  • 1 lb bacon, roughly chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tsp white vinegar, divided
  • 1 TB chopped preserved lemon peel (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the potatoes in 1 TB olive oil, salt and pepper. Place them flat side down on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, flipping them half way through.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. In a medium jar or bowl, combine 2 TB olive oil, sherry, shallot and mustard. Season with salt and pepper then whisk to combine. Set aside to let flavors meld.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over a medium flame. Add bacon and cook, tossing often, for about 10-15 minutes or until your desired doneness. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain some of the fat.

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Divide the dressing equally into four shallow bowls. Add a cup of the Crunciferous Crunch Collection to each bowl, then top with equal portions of potatoes and bacon.

With about 10 minutes left to the potatoes, bring two medium pots of three inches of water to a low boil. Add a teaspoon of white vinegar (rice vinegar also works) to each pot. Crack each egg into a small dish or ramekin (do not break the yolk). Poaching two eggs at a time (one in each pot), use a rubber spatula to make a whirlpool in the pot, then carefully slide the egg into the center of the swirl. Use the spatula to keep the whites close to the yolk, and cook each egg for about 4 minutes. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and add to the top of the salad. Repeat with the other two eggs.

Top each egg with a touch of cracked pepper and a bit of preserved lemon. Serve and tell you’re guests to slice the egg and mix all the ingredients together, including the dressing on the bottom.

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We all went nuts over this salad. It had enough protein for a dinner, but still leaves you feeling light and healthy. If you want to lighten it up more, use fresh frisee instead of the Trader Joe’s blend (though, I swear by Crunciferous Crunch Collection). I have to give big thanks to Space Cadet for mastering the poached eggs, as the whole salad would have been ruined if the eggs were runny or overcooked – no pressure.

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I also have to give some credit to Canuck for telling me to preserve my own lemons three months ago, because I finally found an opportunity to use one! Just a bit of preserved lemon peel in this dish adds some salty bitterness that compliments the dressing well. In fact, you could probably just add it directly into the dressing. Note: if you’re going to preserve your own lemons, I recommend using Meyer lemons and incorporating 3 parts salt and 1 part sugar, plus cinnamon stick, peppercorn, whole clove and fennel seed. Once ready to use, rinse, remove the flesh, and rinse again. 

We enjoyed this salad with a Twomey Sauvignon Blanc and a Ram’s Gate Syrah – both incredibly different wines but each of them paired deliciously with the salad. In fact, I think this salad would pretty much go with anything, especially your closest silly girlfriends.

 

Little Bunny Ragu

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I’ve been trying to up my meat game lately. I know how that sounds. What I mean is, I’d like to cook proteins other than beef, pork, lamb and chicken. I’d also like to learn how to break down a chicken, but we’ll get to that later. I recruited Space Cadet to help me come up with an interesting dish to cook, initially suggesting duck. I was abruptly shot down and told that we would be cooking rabbit. So we hopped down to Fatted Calf to scope out their meat case, and we we’re very pleased with our findings. We picked out the smallest rabbit and asked the butcher to break it down for us. He happily obliged – because this place is awesome and their staff is really helpful – and suggested that he remove the rib cage so we could use it for a stock. He also packaged up the offals (liver, mostly) for us. You should be able to get your rabbit quartered from your butcher, but if not I’m sure there is a video on YouTube that will teach you. In fact, next time I will attempt myself – after some serious knife sharpening.

Rabbit Ragu (serves 4-6)

  • 1 small rabbit (about 2 lbs), quartered with the rib cage removed (reserve for stock, along with offals if available)
  • 2 TB vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp Bavarian seasoning
  • 2 cups medium-bodied red wine
  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes with basil
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 4 cups water
  • 5 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • frilly pasta of your choice, or creamy polenta
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

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Preheat the oven to 400. Place the rib cage on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over a medium-high flame. Dredge the rabbit legs and loins in flour and transfer to the pot, searing the meat for 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

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In the same pot, add carrots, celery and onion and season with dried herbs. Cook until softened then add wine, tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil then add rabbit back to the pot and submerge into the sauce. Lower heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 2 hours. If it needs to thicken up more, remove the cover entirely and continue to cook at a slightly higher heat for another 30 minutes.

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For the stock, heat 4 cups of water in a large pot. Add braised rabbit rib cage, offals, thyme sprigs and garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce the stock to a cup and add directly to the sauce. Stir to combine but be careful not to disturb the rabbit meat.

Once sauce is done, remove rabbit meat and place into a bowl one at a time. Using two forks, pull meat off the bone. Place the meat back into the pot and discard the bones. Repeat with all pieces of rabbit, then stir to combine and season to taste.

Boil a large pot of salted water. Add 2 cups of pasta and cook for about 8 minutes. Drain out most of the water, leaving about 1/4 cup in the pot. Transfer pasta back to the pot and add 3-4 cups of sauce. Reserve remaining sauce in a sealed container. Simmer and stir frequently until pasta is fully cooked. Transfer to shallow pasta bowls and top with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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Space Cadet and I enjoyed this meal with Galvan Family Cellars 2012 Viejo (also the same wine that went into the sauce). It’s a Solano County red blend of mostly Zinfandel, Syrah, Gamay Noir and Petite Sirah. The wine had a nice complexity with layers of crushed red fruit, baking spice and a strong acidic backbone – the perfect foil for a ragu!

I really enjoyed the ragu and will certainly make it again, although I will hope to be in less of a rush so that I can allow the sauce to cook for longer, building more complexity and flavor. That being said, it was quite delicious as is. Space Cadet agreed, and she’s pretty hard to please.

UPDATE: I used the leftover ragu the following night when I made dinner for another dining companion (who happens to be a chef, so I was pretty nervous about making a meal that was up to his standards). I added 1/2 a cup of water and simmered the ragu partially covered for about 90 minutes. I served it over Parmigiano-Reggiano polenta, which proved to be a much better pairing than the pasta. And my chef friend seemed pleased, even though he did pull out one or two little bunny bones.

Pretty Food Tastes Better

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I was really into the Skinnytaste recipe that landed in my inbox yesterday morning. She did a play on sushi in a measuring cup, flipping it onto the plate and creating this beautiful layered tower of spicy shrimp deliciousness. After sweating it out at the gym with my fabulous and stunning trainer, Miss Brit, I ran by my favorite Mexican market for an avocado and a cucumber. But when I finally got into my kitchen around eight – after my hilarious neighbors sufficiently distracted me – I really didn’t feel like waiting for brown rice to cook, especially since it wasn’t even short grain and probably wouldn’t be sticky enough. So naturally, I turned it into a quinoa bowl.

Spicy Shrimp Sushi Quinoa Bowl

  • 1 TB low sodium soy sauce, plus more for drizzle
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • 4-6 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup of dry quinoa
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 an avocado, sliced
  • 1 tsp furikake
  • 2 tsp Sir Kensingtons Sriracha Mayonnaise

Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, lime zest and half of the lime juice in a small dish. Coat the shrimp and marinate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa: combine with 1/2 cup of water in a small sauce pan, then bring to a boil, simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Fluff and remove from heat but keep covered. Heat a small pan over a medium flame. Cook shrimp for 3 minutes on each side, remove tails, then chop into bite size pieces.

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Now, just because I couldn’t make my dinner into a neat stack sure doesn’t mean I’m not going to make it look pretty, because pretty tastes better. Spoon the quinoa into the bottom of a shallow bowl then top with cucumber, scallions and shrimp. Lay the avocado slices around the edge of the bowl, then top with furikake and drizzles of remaining lime juice, Sriracha Mayonnaise and soy sauce.

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Once you sit down and stop taking photos for Instagram, chop those avocado slices and mix it all together, seasoning as you wish with straight up Sriracha and more soy sauce. Serve with Dry Riesling, Viognier, or Chenin Blanc. I opted for one of my favorites: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier – or, as true fans commonly refer to it as, CB+V.

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thewinelifestyle

So close to wine

Homemade with Mess

who wants life to be tidy when you can have more fun making a mess??!

marina girl eats

Technical Cooking Skills for an Unconventional Cooking Life

The Crafty Cook Nook

Preserving Food, Stories, and Place

Lacy Travels

Feed Your Travel & Inspiration Bug

What's in the glass tonight

I love New Zealand wine

Linda in the Kitchen

seasonal eats & healthy treats, made with Love.

Winelandia

Natural & organic wine delivery in the San Francisco Bay Area

That Great Little Spot

discoveries of the millennial traveler: a writer, photographer, beach bum, adventure junkie and street food connoisseur

fromditchplainstolevanto

favorites from around the globe

The Wine Wankers

G’day, you’re at the best wine blog ever! We're all about wine; without the wankery.