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Fresh Leftover Pizza

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It’s beginning to be my favorite food time of the year, filled with persimmons, pomegranate, squash and apples. I officially welcomed fall when I made a big pot of chili last Sunday, despite the fact that it was a hot Indian summer night (and I followed up my two bowls of chili with a walk to a gelato shop). Quite fittingly, today was cold and rainy and I said goodbye to summer by finishing the last of my home-canned heirloom tomato sauce. I also had to get rid of some hot and sweet peppers that had been in my fridge for a while, and I remembered that I had some mozzarella cheese leftover from when I made lasagna. So of course, it had to be a pizza night.

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Saucy Pizza with Hot Peppers and Sausage 

  • 1 pizza crustpeppers
  • 1 cup homemade tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1/3 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4-5 small peppers, sweet and spicy
  • 2 TB shaved parmesan
  • dried oregano
  • fresh basil

My neighbor (who shall be known as Jimmy from this point forth) introduced me to TJ’s par-baked organic pizza crusts, which are an okay substitution for my sorely missed Giorgio’s rolled-out doughs. They come with two per package, and can be found in the freezer-section of TJ’s near the other pizzas. These are perfect for a night when you just need to throw some leftovers on a pizza, which is exactly what I did!

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and place a baking sheet in the oven to get hot. Meanwhile, brown sausage in a nonstick skillet for about 8 minutes. Drain the oil, wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then coat with a thin layer of cooking spray. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, then add peppers and continue to sauté over a medium flame for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

sausage

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Remove baking pan from oven and cover with parchment paper, then place dough on top of paper. Top pizza dough with tomato sauce, then mozzarella and Gruyère. Add onions and peppers, then sausage, and top with shaved parmesan and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove and let cool for 3-5 minutes before cutting. Top with fresh basil and enjoy!

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Between the sausage and the hot peppers, this pizza was pretty damn spicy! It called for a fruity yet powerful Zinfandel, like the 2011 Seghesio Old Vine or the 2012 Ridge Lytton Springs – both from vines that are 90-100 years old in Dry Creek and Alexander valleys. These wines exhibit red fruit with spicy pepper and sweet, firm tannins, and stand up well to spicy, Italian food.

The Hunt for Red Zinfandel

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<<CHRISTMAS PRESENT SPOILER ALERT>>

Dad: if you’re reading this, stop now. Close the window and read in three weeks. Got it?

As part of my father’s Christmas present this year, I’m putting together a variety pack of wines from Northern California – mostly from wineries that don’t distribute to NY, where he lives. I want a good representation of varietals in the gift, and Thanksgiving weekend I was determined to find a Napa Valley Zinfandel that could be included. Success!

A few wineries kept coming up in my search for the best Napa Zin, including Brown Estate, Elyse, Chase Family Cellars and Storybook Mountain. I tried getting an appointment at Brown Estate, but they were closed for the holiday. And I had already gifted some Storybook Mountain Zinfandel to my father last Christmas, so that left Elyse and Chase to be visited.

Elyse

Tasting room and cottage at Elyse

The day before Thanksgiving, Annie P. and I stopped by Elyse on our way up to St. Helena. The tasting room is in the Oak Knoll District, just off Highway 29 on Hoffman Lane, and features gardens, a cottage-style tasting room, a winemaking facility and a really cute Portuguese Water Dog. The tasting room is pretty small, and there was only one other group of three present so we had a lot of opportunities to talk to the tasting room host, Luke.

Madison, the Portuguese Water Dog pup

Madison, the Portuguese Water Dog pup

Some non-Zin highlights of the Elyse tasting were the 2008 Le Corbeau from Hudson Vineyard, the 2008 Jacob Franklin Cabernet Sauvignon from the Hoffman Lane estate vineyard, and the delicious 2006 Elyse Cabernet Sauvignon Port from Napa Valley. Le Corbeau is an easy drinking blend, and the Jacob Franklin Cab had hints of mint and eucalyptus with a chocolatey finish. As for the Zinfandel, Luke had two different bottles open: 2009 Elyse Zinfandel from Morisoli Vineyard and the 2010 Elyse Zinfandel from Black-Sears Vineyard. I had a hard time choosing between the two; the Morisoli Vineyard from Rutherford was very smooth and had a good balance of fruit and acid, and the Black-Sears Vineyard from Howell Mountain had more pepper and fresh strawberries. In the end, I went for the Morisoli Vineyard because it had better aging potential (and Morisoli sounds like an Italian version of Morrison, my last name!).

The line up at Elyse

The line up at Elyse

For the Friday after Thanksgiving, Annie P. and RayJay and I stopped by Chase Family Cellars after our lunch at Redd. To my surprise, we were greeted by my favorite Skyler White look alike, who recently moved from Biale to Chase. We took a seat outside, overlooking the estate vineyards in the unseasonably warm weather, and started off our tasting with some 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from St. Helena and 2012 Rose of Zinfandel. Both were light and tasty, but I was excited to dive into the red offerings.

The patio at Chase Family Cellars, overlooking the Hayne Vineyard

The patio at Chase Family Cellars, overlooking the Hayne Vineyard

We tasted the 2010 Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel, 2010 Hayne Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel2010 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Calistoga Petite Sirah. We also got a little taste of the 2009 Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel , which is made from Old Vines and blended with their 1988 batch – which also happens to be my brother’s birth year. All the Zinfandels were very elegant, with bold fruit, balanced acids, and a touch of earthiness. Even though I already accomplished my mission at Elyse, I couldn’t resist buying a bottle of the 2009 Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel – but who will be the lucky giftee?

"Hi Horsey. Want to take a selfie with me?"

“Hi, Horsey. Want to take a selfie with me?”

The visit to Chase Family Cellars was made even more special when a pair of horses (and owners) strolled on up to the patio to say hi. I took a selfie with one of them; of course, I asked permission first.

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