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Braised Boudin

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We’re having a heat wave in the Bay Area. It got up to 90 degrees in San Francisco yesterday (which is CRAY for SF) and 103 degrees in Napa. Fortunately for me, I was inside my chilled office for the majority of the day. It gets so cold in there that I find myself layering my summer dress with a Pine Ridge fleece that I keep on the back of my chair. Yesterday I even had to step outside for a minute to warm up! I quickly went back inside when I realized my error.

But the heat won’t keep me out of the kitchen! I purchased some rabbit boudin from Fatted Calf about a month ago when I had some friends in town. We were going to grill them with a bunch of other goodies but I decided the rabbit was unnecessary, so in the freezer it went. Then last night when I opened the freezer to put my head inside it, I felt beckoned by the tell-tale Fatted Calf sticker. I pulled together some random ingredients that I thought would go well with the flavor of the rabbit, and came up with a delicious braise that I will surely recreate.

Braised Rabbit Boudin with Fennel and Kale (serves 2)

  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, fonds removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 purple carrot, halved lengthwise then chopped
  • 2 rabbit boudin, or rabbit sausages
  • 1 TB Dry Sherry
  • 1/2 cup of chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chopped Tuscan kale
  • 1 cup cooked white quinoa

Heat the olive oil over a medium flame in a large pan. Add shallots and sauté for 1 minute, then add fennel and carrots and continue to sauté for 5 minutes then push to the side of the pan. Add the sausage to the other side of the pan and brown for a few minutes on each side. Add the sherry to the vegetables and sauté to combine.



Move the sausage to the center of the pan, nestling them into the vegetables. Add chicken broth, Herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. Cover the pan and decrease the heat to medium-low. Cook for 5 minutes, then remove the lid and add the kale. Saute so that the kale is tucked into the rest of the vegetables. Cover and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, or until all vegetables are cooked and the chicken broth has reduced to less than 1/4 cup. Serve over quinoa and enjoy!



Pair this dish with a Central Coast Pinot Noir such as Chamisal Vineyards Stainless Pinot Noir, one of my favorites for the price and a light enough to pair with poultry. Or if it’s too hot to drink red wine – such is my case – you could try a Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Chablis or White Rhone blend. I can’t wait to go back to Fatted Calf and figure out more ways to prepare this delicious rabbit boudin! Any suggestions?

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.

Pesto + Farro

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I wasn’t going to post this recipe, since it was sort of just a scrambling together of the last of my summer ingredients (similar to last week’s post). But after sharing the photo below on social media, I had some requests for the recipe – and I would hate to disappoint my loyal readers – so here it is!


Pesto Farro with Roasted Tomatoes and Shrimp (serves 3-4)

  • 1 TB olive olive oil, plus 1 tsp
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (I used vine-ripened and cherry)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup homemade pesto, plus 1 TB
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, julienned
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan fit with a lid, heat 1 TB olive oil over a medium flame. Once hot, add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds, then add chopped tomatoes. Toss tomatoes then cover and reduce heat to medium-low, cooking for 20-30 minutes or until tomatoes have released enough juice to create a sauce.

Meanwhile, prepare farro. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tsp olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add farro and toast for about 3 minutes, then add chicken broth and water and bring to a boil, cooking for 8 minutes or until farro has reached a desired consistency. Before draining, reserve about 1 cup of the broth and set aside. In the empty pot, add 1/2 cup of the pesto and 1/2 a cup of the reserved broth; stir to combine into a sauce. Add the farro back into the pot and stir to coat.

Add the rest of the pasta water to the pan of tomatoes. Coat shrimp with remaining TB of pesto, then add to the pan with the fresh basil. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Add farro to the pan and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve with shaved Parmesan cheese.

I took a much-needed break from alcohol last night after my gluttonous reunion with my brother this past weekend in Fort Collins, CO (which, by the way, is an excellent town for beer aficionados, but also very cocktail and foodie friendly). If you’re looking for a proper pairing, try an acidic white like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. You could also pair it with a light red such as a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir or Carneros Merlot.

Slow Cooking Solution

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This past weekend was, in a word, magical. Six months ago I booked a stay at the VML Cottage in Healdsburg; staying at the vineyard in this cozy cottage is one of the many perks that come with being an original member at VML Winery (they no longer offer this perk to new members). Naturally, I invited three of my favorite wine-loving ladies – GGD, Starry and J³ – and planned a blissful weekend of wine tasting. On Saturday we visited A. Rafanelli, Preston Vineyards, Truett Hurst, Portalupi, and attended the MacPhail release party before finishing off the day sipping Rose on our porch at VML. On Sunday we drove South and tasted at Copain, Scherrer, Marimar and Red Car. There were many highlights of the weekend, and I was especially excited to check out some wineries I had not been to before (namely, Scherrer and Red Car). Stay tuned for reviews on these fine wineries…

Dusk at VML

Dusk at VML

We knew we wouldn’t want to go out to eat after a day of hopping between tasting rooms, and we wanted to take advantage of our prime accommodation. And while the cottage was clean and cozy, the kitchenette was not the ideal venue for cooking a big post wine-tasting meal. So at the suggestion of the VML staff, I brought my slow-cooker and set it up before we headed out on Saturday. By the time we got back to VML, the aroma of slow cooked pork was wafting through the cottage. I even did some homemade vegetable pickling last week, and brought those up to go with the tacos. I also made a zucchini and herb salad and GGD made a mango-avocado salsa. With some gourmet tortillas, chopped cilantro and crumbled Cotija cheese, we were good to go! And I must say, it turned out to be quite the epic feast.

Quick Pickled Vegetables 

  • 2 jalapeños, sliced crosswise
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, sliced lengthwise, and cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 TB kosher salt

Pack the vegetables in a glass jar fit with a sealed top (I did the jalapeños in a separate jar from the radishes and carrots so as not to get everything too spicy), leaving about 1 inch of room or more at the top. To make the brine, toast the mustard seed and peppercorns in a small saucepan over medium heat for about two minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved, and bring to a boil. Immediately pour the brine into the jars, making sure to cover the vegetables completely. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Seal the jar with a tight fitting lid and shake to evenly distribute the brine and spices. Store in the refrigerator for at least 1 day and up to 1 week before using. The pickled veggies can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 month.

Zucchini and Herb Salad (serves 4)

  • 2 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise with a mandoline
  • 1 head frisee lettuce
  • 1 head radicchio
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced with a mandoline
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TB olive oil

Sprinkle zucchini evenly with salt and place in a small colander in the sink for about 5 minutes. Rinse the zucchini under cold water and lay out on a clean dishtowel. Carefully fold the towel over the zucchini and roll to squeeze out the excess water and let sit. In a small food processor, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon, anchovy paste and black pepper. Process to combine, and add oil in a slow, steady stream. Assemble the frisee, radicchio, herbs, and onion with the zucchini. Toss with dressing right before serving.


Mango-Avocado Salsa (makes 2 cups)

  • 2 manilla mangos, peeled and cubed
  • 2 avocados, chopped
  • juice of 2 limes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and toss to combine.

Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos (serves 4-6)

  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 whole pasilla or poblano chile pepper
  • 2 whole Anaheim chile peppers
  • 1 whole serrano chile pepper
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 TB extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 TB honey
  • 1 TB Champagne vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 1 TB kosher salt
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder (untrimmed), cut into a few chunks
  • freshly ground pepper and salt

Since I wasn’t sure what the VML Cottage kitchenette would be supplied with, I made the sauce for the pork at home in San Francisco and brought it up to Healdsburg with all the other groceries (now that I mention it, I also pre-made the salad dressing and brought my mandoline with me… high maintenance chef? Maybe). Not only did this make the process a lot easier, but I think letting the sauce sit for a day really helped to meld the flavors.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, add the garlic and whole peppers with 2 TB of water. Microwave on high for 2.5 minutes. Peel the garlic. Remove the stems from the peppers and slice down the middle. Run under cold water to cool, removing the seeds, then chop into 1 inch pieces. Transfer the garlic and peppers to a food processor fit with a steel blade. Add the chipotles, onion, 2 TB olive oil, honey, vinegar, 1 TB salt, and oregano to the food processor and puree until smooth.

Heat the remaining 1 TB of oil in a large, deep skillet over high heat. Add the sauce and fry, stirring, until thick and fragrant – about 8 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and reduce until slightly thickened. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon and stir to combine. Transfer to a large container and store in the fridge until ready to cook the pork.

Season the pork all over with salt and pepper, then transfer to a large slow-cooker. Pour in the sauce, then cover and cook on high for 5 hours. The meat can sit and stay warmed for up to 3 hours after that. When ready to serve, shred the pork with two forks. Serve with corn and flour tortillas, pickled veggies, mango-avocado salsa, Cotija cheese and any other toppings you desire!

I have to say, this is the best slow-cooker meal I have ever made – but I must give credit where credit is due. The recipe for the pork was adapted from Food Network, and the pickling recipe came from CHOW. I only made a few changes, mostly due to what ingredients were available to me. The pork was tender, spicy and so flavorful, and the pickled vegetables made the perfect topping, providing just the right amount of crunch to the soft tacos. The zucchini salad made for a refreshing and delicious green side dish, and is one of my favorite spring salads. The girls and I agreed that it was the perfect meal on top of a perfect day.


We paired the tacos with a selection of Chardonnay, Rose and Pinot Noir: Cuvaison 2012 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Trefethen 2012 S.I.N. Rose of Pinot Noir, Porter Bass 2012 Estate Chardonnay, and VML 2012 Floodgate Pinot Noir – all of which were brought with us to the cottage, with the exception of the VML Pinot Noir. All of the choices paired excellently with the spicy tacos, but obviously I preferred the pink wines. After dinner, we took a sunset walk around the vineyard and promptly went to bed – preparing our minds and bodies for another day of glorious wine tasting in the Russian River Valley. Life is good.

The Ultimate Ridge Experience

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There’s no doubt that one of my father’s favorite wineries is Ridge Vineyards. Since I can remember, I’ve seen the all-too-familiar rows of block lettering on the countless bottles of Ridge he has served at dinners past. For his 60th birthday last year, my family gifted him 6 bottles of 1995 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon in the original wooden crate (purchased through a collectors sale on Invino), and I’ve never seen him more excited. And I’ve certainly heard him proclaim more than once that he “has had over 500 bottles of Ridge in the last 30 years and never had one bottle that was corked.” To my father, this is one of the highest forms of complimenting in the wine world, and he was sure to mention it (at least twice) to the staff at Ridge during our epic visit last month.

My father waiting for the Ridge gates to open (we were a little early to our appointment).

My father waiting for the Ridge gates to open (we were a little early to our appointment).


My father is not typically one to enjoy tours during visits to wine country, but when I mentioned that Ridge offered an Estate Tour and Tasting (including their legendary Monte Bello) at their Lytton Springs Estate in Healdsburg, he agreed that it would be worth it. And, was it ever!

Side view of the Lytton Springs Visitor Center

Side view of the Lytton Springs Visitor Center

We visited on a Friday in February when the winery wasn’t too crowded, and luckily we were able to have a private tour and tasting with David (which usually accommodates up to 10 people). He took us on a guided golf-cart tour of the estate, driving through gnarly rows of old-vine Zinfandel, and circling around various ponds and hilltops. David not only explained the history of the Ridge winery and its vineyards, but also gave us an overall history on the geography of Northern California, and what makes Lytton Springs so special for growing Zinfandel. But before I get into that, let me tell you how it all began…

In 1885 San Francisco Doctor, Osea Perrone bought 180 acres on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains – now one of the most highly regarded wine growing regions in Northern California. After planting some vineyards and contracting the winery at Monte Bello, the vineyards were abandoned during the prohibition era. It wasn’t until 1949 when William Short replanted the Cabernet Sauvignon on Monte Bello, as well as first time plots of Chardonnay. Ten years later, three scientists from Stanford University’s Research Institute purchased the property from Short and made a small amount of wine from the ten year old Cabernet vines. In 1962 they formed a partnership that became Ridge Vineyards and began to produce wines for commercial sale. In 1969, Paul Draper joined Ridge as their winemaker, and it was his 1971 Monte Bello that won fifth place among French and California wines at the 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting. Thirty years later, there was a “Judgement of Paris 30th Anniversary Wine Tasting” in London and California, and the Ridge 1971 and 2000 Monte Bello won first place in both the original vintage wine and new vintage wine categories.

A poster in the tasting room, describing the results of the Judgement of Paris

A poster in the tasting room, describing the results of the Judgement of Paris

While Ridge is primarily known for their Monte Bello property, Lytton Springs is much easier to get to and also has quite a bit of history. The winery was purchased in 1991, along with the old vineyards surrounding it, and expanded to the western portion of Lytton Springs in 1995 when they purchased more land. In 2004 Ridge completed construction of the new winery and tasting room at Lytton Springs with a focus on sustainability and the production of Zinfandel. The 100+ year old Zinfandel vines that cover the hills of Lytton Springs thrive because the foggy mornings are balanced by warm, sunny afternoons and breezy late evenings. The soils are made up of gravelly clay, providing moisture retention and ensuring that the grapes ripen at a slower pace. In essence, it’s a wine growing area with perfect balance, which is made even more balanced by the foundation of their sustainability practices.

Old Zinfandel vines of Lytton Springs

Old Zinfandel vines of Lytton Springs

After our exciting and information-packed tour with David, he took us up to a private tasting area in their winemaking facility. We tasted side-by-side pours of 2009 Mazzoni, 2011 Geyserville and 2011 Lytton Springs Zinfandel, as well as the 2010 Perrone Merlot and 2010 Monte Bello Cabernet. Included in the tasting was a plate of cheese, spiced almonds and bread, as well as a water glass, dump cup, note cards on the wines, and a blank chart and pen for us to make our own notes. I’ve been to other tastings like this – where expensive, upscale wines are poured side by side in an intimate setting – but this one was different. There was no ostentatiousness or stuffiness, but rather an air of intrigue and enthusiasm; this can mostly be credited to David’s laid-back personality and unpretentious knowledge of Ridge Vineyards.

As for the wines… well, they were spectacular. David told us that all the wines had incredible aging potential, but they tasted pretty great in the moment (he opened them about three hours before we tasted). Of the Zinfandels, my favorites were the Geyserville and Lytton Springs. The Geyserville was very elegant with rich fruit flavors, while the Lytton Springs was a little more complex with notes of licorice and olives. The Perrone Merlot was very good, and it was interesting to compare it to the Zinfandels and the Monte Bello. The Merlot had bright cherry fruit with a good balance of acid and oak, and was very pleasing to the palate. My father’s notes simply read, “AWESOME!!!”. He noticed right away when he smelled the Monte Bello that it was blended with the Perrone Merlot, which was confirmed by David. The Monte Bello was of course the highlight of the tasting, and we went a little nuts over it. It’s hard to say what makes this wine so special, but I think Antonio Galloni puts it best when he says,“dramatic and towering in style.”

tasting setting

After we finished off the last sips of our glorious Monte Bello, David led us back downstairs to the main tasting room where he poured us some samples of other current releases, including the Carignane and Syrah. The assistant winemaker popped his head out to pour a blind taste of something he was currently bottling. I’m ashamed to say that I was a little clueless, but my father immediately guessed that it was the Petite Sirah; and in fact, it was the 2012 Lytton Estate Petite Sirah. I guess I have a lot to live up to when it comes to blind tasting!

If you’re planning a trip to Russian River Valley or Dry Creek Valley, I highly encourage you to schedule a tour and tasting at Ridge Vineyards. Even if you decide to skip the tour, be sure to stop in for a tasting – though, I think David’s tour really enhances the overall experience and is totally worth the money considering the cost of the wines that you’re tasting. Our experience lasted a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes, which runs a little over the usual 90 minutes, but time flies when you’re tasting great wines with even greater people.

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