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Category: Recipes and Pairings

Spicy Lamb Ragu and Barbera D’Asti

With this pandemic, everyone is cooking more. For me, that meant it was time to get creative. Spaghetti and meatballs are soooooo yesterday. I decided to kick it up a notch and do a spicy lamb ragu with pappardelle. Pasta is such a comfort food. The weather should be getting cooler soon and I am here for it; I love fall. It’s the basic bitch in me.

This dish is as spicy as you want it to be. I made it a little too spicy by going wild with the red pepper flakes, but it was so tasty that I pushed past the heat. I paired this with a Barbera D’Asti. Right off the bat, I was thinking that a spicy dish may not go with a red. I thought the wine would just make my mouth feel even more on fire. But no! It absolutely did not! The Barbera D’Asti paired so well. It was juicy and fruit-forward and the acidity of the wine really meshed well with the acidity of the sauce. The sauce is very tomato-y because of the concentrated flavor of the tomato paste. Finishing it all off with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley was perfect.

I think once we’re able to gather again, this is a dish you can scale up and make for a crowd. Or, this is a nice meal to enjoy by the fire. Yes, I’m willing it to get cold enough for fires!

You’ll need:

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound of ground lamb
1 yellow onion, minced
1 cup finely chopped fresh cremini mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 3/4 cups of reduced-sodium chicken or beef broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
2 small fresh rosemary or thyme sprigs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound dried pappardelle
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese,
plus more for serving
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

  1. Brown the lamb. In a non-stick frying pan large enough to hold the sauce and the pasta, heat the oil over high heat. Add the lamb and saute, stirring to break up any clumps, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a plate.
  2. Saute the vegetables. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan and return the pan to medium heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, and red pepper flakes and saute until the mushrooms have released their moisture and the onion is translucent and soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Finish the sauce. Return the lamb to the pan and add the broth, 1/2 cup of water, the wine, tomato sauce, tomato paste and rosemary. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered until the sauce has thickened slightly, 25-30 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook for 1 minute longer. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.
  4. Cook the pasta. About 15 minutes before the sauce is ready, bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil. Add the pappardelle and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes or according to the package directions.
  5. Finish the dish. Raise the heat under the sauce to medium. Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce, and toss and stir to combine. Add the 1/4 cup of Parmesan, the parsley and again toss to combine.
  6. Plate the dish. Divide the pasta among warmed shallow bowls and serve right away. Pass additional Parmesan at the table.

La Fête Du Rosé and Ginger & Cilantro Baked Salmon

Just go ahead and get the 3-pack. Trust me on this.

At some point in your life, you need to be able to put together a fairly healthy, flavorful meal.

This dish for me was one of the first really impressive dishes I learned to make. It’s a favorite of mine, though I hadn’t made it in a really long time. The other day, I began thinking about what would pair well with my new rosé. A lightbulb came on over my head and I pulled this old recipe from the hollows of my mind.

I should tell you that the recipe originally called for tilapia. I used salmon and pretty much always have. You can experiment with various types of fish if you’d like. I might even try this with chicken one day.

La Fête Du Rosé is an absolutely delicious French-style rosé, so it’s very dry. This wine has a deep pink color and I definitely thought I detected cherry on the nose. To be a rosé, this is a BIG wine. I mean, it really is very flavorful and hits your entire tongue with different flavors. I detected a bit of citrus.

The wine and fish paired very well. I can’t imagine a lighter rosé being able to stand up to big flavors of sesame oil and soy sauce and the like, so I definitely recommend this particular one.

Ginger & Cilantro Baked Salmon

Ingredients:
The ingredients, including a little jalapeno, hiding behind the cilantro.

1 pound of fish

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (about 1 tablespoon)

1 jalapeño pepper, roughly chopped (optional)

1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Scallions, chopped for garnish

Extra cilantro, to garnish

Directions:
  1. Heat the oven to 475°F. Pat the fish dry, season lightly with salt and pepper, and lay in a 9×9-inch or 8×8-inch ceramic or glass baking dish.
  2. Combine the garlic, grated ginger, chopped jalapeño, cilantro, white wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small food processor. Process until blended.
  3. Pour the sauce over the fish, rubbing it in a little. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through.
  4. Serve immediately over brown rice or orzo, garnished with the additional scallions and cilantro.
I opted to serve my fish over orzo finished with blood orange olive oil and steamed green beans.

Lemon Ricotta Cake and Moscato

Lodali Moscato d’Asti

Whenever someone mentions Moscato, I frown. I don’t even try to hide it anymore. Why? Because it’s been bastardized. What is actually a light, floral subtle wine has been served any and everywhere and with everything. Winemakers are adding tons of residual sugar, giving it a syrupy taste and really losing the beauty of the grape.

But, not all Moscato is bad. In fact, if you pick a good one and you pair it correctly, it can be a pleasant experience. It’s a dessert wine and works extremely well with summer desserts. Think berries and lemon. It doesn’t work with chocolate.

In my attempt to find a good Moscato, I came across Lodali’s 2019 Moscato d’Asti. I was specifically looking for something a little bubbly and this was it. Having never tried it before, I was just hoping for a good experience and that it would go well with the Lemon Ricotta Cake I was making.

It was PERFECT! This wine retails for less than $20 – somewhere in the range of $12-$16. It was effervescent without being too bubbly. Just enough to create some fizz in the glass. Lodali delivered on the florals typical of a Moscato, but also came with a slight citrus that cut through the sweetness. It played really well with the richness of the cake.

I almost never buy ricotta cheese, but I was making stuffed shells and had some cheese left. This recipe is so simple and doesn’t use a ton of special ingredients. It’s a great one to bring to any summer gathering.

Lemon Ricotta Cake

The ingredients, except for the topping

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (scoop and level to measure)

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese

Topping

1 lb. fresh strawberries, diced or sliced

3 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided

1 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together sugar, butter and lemon zest until pale and fluffy.
  4. Mix in eggs one at a time (mixture will appear lumpy), blend in vanilla.
  5. Add in half of the flour mixture and mix just until combined, add ricotta and mix just until combined. 
  6. Add in last half of the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Gently fold batter to ensure ingredients are evenly incorporated. 
  7. Pour batter into prepared springform pan and spread into an even layer. Bake in preheated oven until cake is set (a toothpick can come out moist but no batter), about 45 – 50 minutes.
  8. Let cake cool 10 minutes then run a knife around edge to loosen any edges that may have stuck slightly, remove springform ring and continue to let cool.
  9. Once cool, slice and serve with macerated strawberries and whipped cream.

White Peach Sangria

Photo by Ian Baldwin on Unsplash

Nothing screams summer like a nice, white sangria. Since we’re almost there and the weather is heating up, I thought I’d share my very simple recipe. Also, there’s no better way to get completely tipsy when the weather’s hot.

I find that when I am having parties, it’s better to do a big batch drink. This peach sangria is my go-to. It’s a great combo of refreshing and relaxing. And, the fruit from it is a whole afterparty! Y’all know I don’t use real measurements, but this is really too easy; you won’t mess it up.

You’ll need:
-1 Jug of dry white wine (the cheap stuff)
-1 small bottle of peach brandy
-1 jar of peaches (jarred peaches taste better than canned)
-1/2 cup of sugar to start
-A few cinnamon sticks
-A few fresh mint sprigs

1. Soak your peaches in the brandy overnight and be sure to refrigerate your wine.
2. Add your peaches, brandy, and sugar to your pitcher or dispenser.
3. Stir it up and try to dissolve your sugar. You can add more if you would like.
4. Add in your wine and stir. Taste.
5. Muddle your mint and add it.
6. Add your cinnamon sticks.
7. Serve over ice!

*Remember those peaches you soaked? Warn your guests about them!





Mulled Wine: A Toasty Way to Get Tipsy

Now that the temperature has decided to be VERY fall-like, I’m hibernating. And you’ll only get me to come out with the promise of wine. Mulled wine, specifically.

There are tons of mulled wine recipes out there. Personally, I don’t like mine all that sweet. And I like to throw in a little brandy at the end, for that extra something special. I’m aware that not everyone keeps these ingredients on hand (unless you bake – I don’t). But it’s worth it to get them now so you can have mulled wine until the weather warms up. You can do this on the stovetop or in your crockpot. I like the Crockpot option because I throw everything in and go tend to something else and slowly, the house starts to smell all warm and spicy.

Here’s what you’ll need:

-Red Wine – cheap, dry. The quantity will depend on how many people you’ll serve. One bottle could be good for 2 to 4 people.
-Cinnamon sticks – no you may NOT use the powder here. Your finished product will be slimy and muddy. Invest in the sticks. 
-Whole star anise
-An orange
-Whole cardamom pods
-Apple cider
-Optional sweetener if you must
-Brandy.

1. Pour wine into the pot or Crockpot. Heat very slowly, so keep it low.
2. Throw in 1 cinnamon stick for each bottle of wine you use.
3. Slice up your orange and throw that in. Half an orange should be good unless you are using many bottles of wine. And in that case, use more orange. There’s no exact science to this.
4. Throw in just a FEW star anise and cardamom pods. We’re going for subtlety here.
5. Pour in half a cup of cider for each person you’ll be serving.
6. Let it get warm and then taste. Does it need anything? You can add sugar or honey at this point if you need to.
7. Add brandy to individual mugs just as you are about to pour in the mulled wine. The quantity will depend on what type of drinker you’re serving.

If you’re trying to be cute, and you should ALWAYS be trying to be cute, garnish with a slice of orange and a cinnamon stick.

Bonus: Story time. This one time, I was at a winery and they had mulled wine. I was excited! That excitement DIED as soon as I tasted my drink. It was overly sweet AND the only spice they used was cloves. My entire mouth went numb. That wasn’t delightful. If you do decide to use cloves, 1 or 2. Seriously. Numbing someone’s mouth isn’t the objective here.

Braised Short Ribs (With red wine!!!)

Braised short ribs are one of those meals for which there is no short cut. They won’t appear on any “Easy Weeknight Meals” or “30-Minute Meals” or whatever easy-way-out, quick dinner lists you might find. And honestly, that’s ok.

There are few meals to which I’d devote this much time. This recipe looks intense. That’s because it is. If I had to give this a difficulty rating, I’d say it was damn near expert level.

Fresh herbs always make anything better, and this recipe is chock-full of them! Braised short ribs with a delicious sauce over mashed potatoes is an impressive meal. I wouldn’t just make it for anyone. They’d have to be deserving foodies who would appreciate the different flavors and the wine I’d pair with it.

You’ll Need:

5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 750 ml bottle dry red wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon)
10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
8 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs oregano
2 sprigs rosemary
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
4 cups low-salt beef stock

To Do:
Preheat oven to 350°. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 Tbsp. drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, 2–2½ hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over mashed potatoes with sauce spooned over.

Brownie Pudding

Those who know me know I’m not really a fan of chocolate. I know, I know. A woman who doesn’t love chocolate – an oddity. But this brownie pudding is delightful! It’s not an easily whipped up recipe, but what I can promise is that it’s worth all the work you’ll put into it. I’d definitely save this for something special.

You’ll need:

2 sticks of unsalted butter (plus extra for buttering your baking dish)

4 large eggs at room temperature

2 cups of sugar

3/4 cup of GOOD cocoa powder

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

1 tablespoon of your favorite liquor (optional)

Toasted nuts

What you’ll need to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter a 2-quart oval baking dish. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
  2. In an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes. You want it to be very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.
  3. When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, liquor, and cocoa powder/flour mixture. Mix only to combine – DO NOT OVERMIX! Pour in your cooled butter and continue to mix until everything is combined.
  4. Pour everything into the oval dish and place it in a larger ban-marie (tub of water that will come halfway up the side of your brownie dish. Look, I told you this wasn’t easy. But do this because it’s worth it.) Bake for 1 hour, taking care not to overbake. The center will look undone.
  5. Get fancy and sprinkle toasted nuts on the top. I’m a fan of pecans, but you can use almonds or walnuts.

Mind-blowing, huh? So of course we have to pair something with this. Because this dessert is so decadent and so delicious, I’d go all out with the wine. Something bubbly. You can go with Champagne, if you’d like. But I’m going out on a limb here. Hear me out: Almond Sparkling Wine. I get mine from Trader Joe’s for a mere $6 a bottle. It’s crisp and effervescent, which we expect of anything bubbly. But this is different. This has an extra layer of “oooh la la” by having an unmistakable amaretto taste. It’s subtle, but you won’t miss it. This is my pick for the brownie pudding because, together, it feels so damn decadent! Treat yo self.

Herby Roast Chicken

Nothin’ says “lovin'” like a well-prepared chicken. It’s one of the first things I learned to cook as an adult. Over time, my methods for making it have improved and I’ve fallen more in love with this comfort dish.

I have a tiny little garden right off my kitchen on my deck. I plant about 14 herbs and a few veggies every summer. At first, I thought this was just fun. But then, I found that it was a great way to save money on fresh herbs.

Typically, I like to brine my chicken. I just feel it gets rid of that “poultry” taste. I can’t describe it other than that, but I’m not a fan of that taste. So, with a nice brine, away it goes! You can do what you want.

Here, I’ll give you my basic method for roasting a chicken using fresh herbs. This recipe is great for company, in the winter with mashed potatoes, in the summer with a nice salad, as part of a meal prep because the leftovers are great. Basically, it can be a go-to.

What you’ll need:

A chicken, washed and with all the gunk pulled out

A bunch of rosemary

A bunch of thyme

A bunch of parsley

A bunch of sage

A yellow onion

A few cloves of garlic

Salt and pepper

How to make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place your bird in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Salt and pepper the inside of the bird.
  4. Cut the onion in half. One half, you’ll leave as it is. The other half, you’ll chop up to go around the bird.
  5. Rinse your herbs. Take half of them and bruise them with the back of your knife. Throw these inside of the bird with the onion.
  6. The other half of your herbs should be chopped up and sprinkled on and around your bird.
  7. Rough chop your garlic. Throw some in and around the chicken.
  8. Bake covered until chicken reaches 140 degrees.
  9. Uncover and let the skin get nice and brown. Make sure the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh.

*You don’t need to baste. Too much of a fuss.

*If you can make gravy, please do. The juices from this are well-seasoned and will make a delicious pan gravy to use on the chicken or rice or mashed potatoes.

Recommended wine: Butter Chardonnay. This Chardonnay lends itself well to pairing. The herbs in this chicken play extremely well with this wine. It’s creamy and bright. Butter can typically be found for less than $15 at any of the places you get wine.


Easy Corn and Crab Dip

Chances are, if you invited me to any sort of potluck in the past 10 years, my contribution was this dip. It started out as a simple Mexicorn dip that I doctored up with some crab and spices.

This is a crowd-pleaser. And it has crab in it, so it makes it look like you really went out of your way to make something.

You’ll need:

A half stick of butter (real butter)
Mexicorn (the short can of it)
2 bars/12-16 ounces of cream cheese (not that low fat $hit either)
1 pint of claw meat (it’s cheaper and way tastier than jumbo lump and works better for this recipe)
Old Bay seasoning (You may NOT use another seafood seasoning!)

How to make it:

  1. Throw the butter and Mexicorn in a sauce pan. Let the butter melt.
  2. Throw in your cream cheese. You really need to watch the cream cheese. It can and will burn if you don’t stir it.
  3. Once you’ve got that melted, turn your attention to your crab. Put as much Old Bay as your heart desires into that can of crab. Mix it. Taste it.
  4. If you like what you did, dump it in the pan with everything else. Stir. heat your oven to 350. Throw this into an oven-safe loaf pan (I recommend using the foil ones that come with the plastic lid. Works great for taking this to parties. Face it – no one returns Tupperware anymore.)
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy hot or cold with tortilla chips or crackers.


Red Sangria

There are a gazillion ways to make sangria, the traditional Spanish drink made of wine and spirits. Supposedly, locals don’t drink it and it’s more of a tourist thing. Whatever. It’s a tasty, inexpensive way to entertain.

I like to serve this red wine sangria in the cooler months. The cinnamon makes it cozy. It’s a nice alternative to mulled wine.

Here’s how I make mine.

You’ll need:

A cheap bottle of red wine (dry)

Brandy (I like flavored, you can do plain)

3 cinnamon sticks

1 red apple

1 green apple

1 orange

Apple juice

Sugar to taste

How to make it:

  1. Rinse and cut up your fruit. Core the apples and cut the oranges into wheels.
  2. Put your fruit in the brandy. Do this a day ahead of time.
  3. Add the wine, stir and taste.
  4. If it’s too strong for you, add apple juice. If you’d like it sweeter, add sugar and juice.
  5. Throw in your cinnamon sticks a few hours ahead of time.
  6. Serve over ice with an apple or orange slice.

Warning: The fruit is HIGHLY alcoholic. Careful!

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