Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper

It's hot. And after a long stressful day at the office, I sometimes just don't want to cook. But also don't want to order unhealthy Chinese take-out. So it's great to find a way to prepare a simple, but quite wonderfully tasty meal. And of course, pairing it with a great wine is a bonus.

Here's an example. Strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar with flavor boosts of fresh basil and black pepper.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper

Slice fresh strawberries and drizzle on a good aged balsamic vinegar. Let macerate (a fancy way to say "sit and stew") for about 20 minutes, then season with freshly ground black pepper and stir in finely chopped fresh basil. It's fine by itself, but I like to serve it spooned onto a couple of slices of fresh mozzarella (Thank you, Paula Lambert, for making the wonderful smoked mozzarella available here in north Texas!) with a piece of crusty bread.

Wine Pairing
This one's easy. A crisp dry rosé will serve as your strawberries in a glass. There are many bottles out there to try, but two of my favorites are the Miner Sangiovese Rosato or the Marques de Caceres from Spain. The Miner, served with these strawberries, was a hit at our recent wine dinner.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Nectarines in Red Wine Sauce

How about this for dessert? Deliciously ripe summer fruit in a decadently spicy red wine reduction. On a scoop of vanilla ice cream, you can't go wrong...

Nectarines in Red Wine Sauce
From Bon Appetit magazine.
Makes 4 cups.
Serve six.

1 cup dry red wine
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 3x1/2-inch strip lemon peel
1 3x1/2-inch strip orange peel3
1/2 cups 1/2-inch cubes nectarines with peel (from 4 to 5 medium)

Stir first 6 ingredients in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil syrup 1 minute. Reduce heat. Add nectarines. Simmer until nectarines are tender but still hold shape, about 10 minutes. Transfer sauce to bowl; cool.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Baked Halibut with Orzo, Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes

I know I've been remiss in my postings. A change in my professional life got in the way last week. Hopefully, I'm back on track.

Here's a recipe that is so easy and delicious that it should provide redemption...

Baked Halibut with Orzo, Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes
2 servings.
Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine.

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 6- to 7-ounce halibut fillets
1 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 cups (packed) baby spinach
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Whisk 2 tablespoons oil and lemon juice in bowl; season dressing with salt and pepper. Place halibut on rimmed baking sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with some of dressing. Bake until just opaque in center, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite; drain.

Add 2 tablespoons oil and garlic to same saucepan; sauté over medium heat 1 minute. Add chopped onion and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add drained pasta, spinach, and tomatoes; stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Cover; let stand 1 minute (spinach will wilt). Divide pasta between 2 plates. Top with halibut and remaining dressing.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sangria Ice

It's too hot here in Dallas today to even think about cooking. So here's a chilly recipe from last week's wine dinner. A delicious granita with the flavors of pitcher of sangria in sunny Spain. It was a perfect palate cleanser after our rich lamb stew. But it would be a perfect end to any summer meal. Or even an unusual addition to your cocktail hour. Think adult Sno-cone!

Sangria Ice
From Cooking Light magazine.
Serves 6 to 8.

1 cup cabernet sauvignon or other dry red wine
1 cup water
1 (16-ounce) package frozen mixed berries
1 orange, thinly sliced
2/3 cup fresh orange juice (about 3 oranges)
1/4 cup sugar
6 orange slices

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Remove orange; discard. Press berry mixture through a sieve over a bowl; discard solids.

Combine berry mixture, juice, and sugar in an 8-inch dish, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover and freeze 45 minutes.

Stir berry mixture with a fork every 45 minutes until completely frozen and slushy (about 4 hours).

Remove berry mixture from freezer; scrape mixture with a fork until fluffy. Garnish with orange slices.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wine Dinner Report

Last Saturday was my annual wine dinner with my family. A multi-course feast with wines to match. We had a great time. Too good a time maybe...no worries, there was an offsite designated driver who arrived to ferry people home.

I think I am recovered enough to give a quick glimpse of what we had. I'll be providing more details, including recipes, in the days and weeks to come.

First Course:
I always like starting a multi-wine meal off with something sparkling. For this one, we opened an interesting (and inexpensive) wine from New Mexico, Gruet. Paired it with several nibbles: a nice baked ricotta on toast, a pan-seared sesame and panko-crusted oyster, and a little bite of spicy oven-fried chicken.

Second Course:
Working from lightest to richest on the wine front, next up was the Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc. To complement it, we had the melon soup with crab I have posted before. Even if you're not serving many courses, it would be a great light way to start a summer meal.

Third Course:
I've noticed lots of chefs serving single ingredients in several ways on the same plate these days. So I took their lead and served four very small portions for this course. Strawberries two ways and salmon two ways. One strawberry recipe is a warm "salsa" with shallots and jalapenos that is perfect with a simply-grilled shrimp. The other was simply strawberries drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar with a little basil stirred in. I put a spoonful on top a slice of mozzarella cheese.

The other mini-plate was salmon prepared two ways. The first I previewed last week. Apple and Horseradish-Glazed Salmon. The second was salmon crusted with crushed wasabi peas and then sauteed. The wine to go with them is one of the most versatile...dry rosé. This one from California, the Miner Sangiovese Rosato.

Tempted your taste buds yet? Then stay tuned for the rest of the preview tomorrow and then the recipes themselves soon...