Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wines: Some Whites

Stella Pinot Grigio from Italy: Richard from Maumee Wines ranted about how fabulous this wine was. In the moment of wine-buying we were with him. Right now after drinking it, not so much.

Maybe I just don't understand white wines like reds, but this wine tasted good without being anything special. It's fine with pasta, fish, or chicken, but it wasn't anything special.

$8.99, Maumee Wines, Maumee.


On the other hand, if the 2008 Mapema Sauvignon Blanc from Argentina was a girl, she'd be one of my best friends.

It's sassy and has swagger.

It reminds me of the time when I took FD on his birthday to a Steely Dan concert in Cleveland and this group of sassy women started cheering when they said, "Here's 'FM.'" The group of women started jumping, grinding, and singing. And trust me, these were sassy women, not some crazed fans.

I was scared.

I was fascinated.

Emotions this wine re-kindled.


Dinner: Pasta, Beets, & Bleu (Not the Dog) Cheese

I LOVE my local farmer.

Yes, I have a local farmer.

Who I know.

Who delivers to me.

Who knows how to cook her veggies.

So when I email her about the beets I ordered she says, "My educated guess is that the three beets we gave you would be very close to the 2 pounds you need. Just peel them ahead of steaming and you'll be all set."

That's RAD.
And when I emailed her the recipe I wanted to make tonight, she suggested, "Since the recipe wants you to cut the beets into wedges anyway, to save a lot of time and energy, why not just cut the beets into the sizes you want to and then steam them until they are tender (use a fork)."

Okay, what I'm trying to get to is--buy from a local farmer, trust your local farmer, and talk to your local farmer about how to cook their foods.

Your end result could be:

Pasta with Beets and Bleu Cheese (from Everyday Food Magazine with revisions)
You can substitute two 16-ounce cans of whole beets for the fresh ones. Drain them and pat dry, then cut into wedges; continue with step 2.
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Serves 4
2 pounds small red or golden beets, scrubbed well
2 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/3 pound gemelli, or other short tubular pasta
6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (1 cup)


Peel and slice beets into wedges. Put wedges in steamer. Steam until tender with a fork.

In a large bowl, toss beets with garlic, orange juice, oil, and coriander; season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot; toss with half of the blue cheese and enough reserved pasta water to coat pasta. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the pasta with the beet mixture; top with basil and remaining blue cheese. Serve immediately.

Dinner: Aimee Mann
Clean-up: Stevie Wonder

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dinner: I Don't Feel Like Eff'ing Making It

Tonight I came home from work and just felt tired, achy, and ready for a meal--out!

But our fridge is packed and we gave up fast food several years ago after reading Fast Food Nation.

And while I sometimes crave Taco Bell so badly that I actually go there and sit in the parking lot, I can never bring myself to order a seven-layer burrito, nachos bell grande and a side of beans with extra cheese. Yes, fast food is easy, convenient and perfect for those nights when you just want to drink wine, watch tv, and veg, but I just can't bring myself to actually order and eat fast food. I haven't eaten fast food in over two years. To break that promise now would be like smoking after quitting for a decade.

In the fridge I have food...and I know where it came from. That food is organic. It's truly nutritious. It has a history, a story. And I paid for that food and it should be eaten so it doesn't spoil.

In a bad mood I began slicing eggplant and zucchini while FD prepared snap peas, chopped onion, and minced garlic.

The teamwork cheered me up a little. FD probably would emphasize "a little."

The end result cheered me up even more. Even more than Taco Bell could have.

Goddamn-It-I-Don't-Feel-Like-Cooking Eggplant Bake (recipe from the British gardener at the BG Farmer's Market with a few revisions)

2 eggplants (or 1 eggplant and 1 zucchini), peeled and cut into 1/4 in slices
1 lb ground lamb (or beef)
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 T butter
4 t flour
1/4 t salt
Dash pepper
3/4 c skim milk
3 T grated parm cheese

Preheat oven to 325.

In a large skillet cook the eggplant (if using zucchini, don't cook it now!) in 1/2 in boiling water, covered, about 6 minutes (but less time if only using one eggplant). Drain.

In the same skillet brown the ground lamb, onion, and garlic until no longer pink. Drain. Stir in tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 5 min. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare sauce. In a small saucepan melt butter. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Stir in skim milk all at once. Bring to boil while stirring consistently until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat; set aside.

Spray a 10x6x2 baking dish with nonstick spray. Arrange half the eggplant in dish (or if using zucchini, arrange raw sliced zucchini in dish first). Spoon meat mixture atop, then top with remaining eggplant. Pour sauce over all ingredients. Sprinkle with parm.

Bake, uncovered in 325 oven for 30 minutes. Optional: before serving sprinkle fresh herbs; basil is perfect, but chives and oregano work well too. Serve.

Dinner: Friends & Food

Last night FD and I met up with some new friends for a fabulous dinner. Nothing brings people together like a deep oak dinner table and some fantastic food.

They cooked:

Chicken Breasts marinated in Bourbon vinaigrette;

Zucchini boats stuffed with bread crumbs, spices, veggies, and cheese; and

Tasty pasta salad with pine nuts.

We contributed a vinaigrette-based coleslaw made with kolhrabi, carrots, radishes, red onion, green peppers, parsley and chives, and for dessert...

Stained Glass Cake, an old school cake from the 50's. One of our friends exclaimed, "This is great! Is it Jell-O? It reminds me of being a kid!"

(And I've served it to a 2 year-old who isn't all that fond of desserts and he loved it so much he asked to take a piece home with him when he and his parents left our house after a 4th of July dinner and fireworks party.

Needless to say, this cake appeals to all ages.)

Back to the story:

I claimed I don't bake, so this is the best dessert I can whip up.

To which FD replied, "You made great fruit crisps the other night."

I retorted, "I don't make cakes and shit like that." To which one of our friends laughed, "Let's pool our money and open a bakery called 'Cakes and Shit Like That.'"

I have no interest in opening a bakery.

I'm offering up the great name Cakes and Shit Like That to the public here on this blog. I only ask that anyone who uses it please make Stained Glass Cake in my honor.

Stained Glass Cake (recipe from Cook's Country by Cook's Illustrated)

12 graham crackers, crushed, 1 1/2 c.
3/4 c sugar
5 T unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
3 (3 oz) boxes of Jell-O (mix and match with flavors you see fit)
4 1/2 c boiling water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3/4 c pineapple juice
2 c heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract
1/8 t salt

For the crust: Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 325. Stir cracker crumbs, 1/4 c sugar, and butter in bowl until crumbs resemble wet sand. Press into bottom of 9 in springform pan and bake until edges are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

For the filling: In 3 separate large bowls whisk each box Jell-O with 1 1/2 c boiling water until dissolved. Pour into 3 pie plates and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours or overnight. Once Jell-O has solidified, cut into 1/2 in cubes and keep chilled. Combine 1/4 c pineapple juice and unflavored gelatin in bowl. Microwave, stirring occasionally, until gelatin is dissolved, 1 to 3 min. With stand mixer set on medium-high speed, whip cream, vanilla, salt, and remaining sugar until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly add juice mixture until combined. Gently fold Jell-O cubes into cream mixture. Scrape into prepared pan and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. Serve.

Broadbent Porto Auction Reserve

I love a good story.

And the label on this Port has a fantastic story. It begin, "Wine is art." I call that a good hook. But then it gets even better: "Auction Reserve celebrates the first 'Fine Wine' auction at Christie's in 1966...Lot 1 of the auction was Port."

Christie's and wine in the same sentence makes my heart skip a beat. Add to it Port, and I'm in love.

New to drinking Port, commonly known as a dessert wine, I found this one to be the best yet. It was rich but subtle. Smooth but fiesty. And it pairs fine with quality chocolate or even a Reese's Peanut Butter cup. We had it with a "light" fruit crisp and I imagined my mouth a 70's swinger lounge: plush carpets, rich velvets, dim lights, lots of love.

This Port was a bit on the expensive side because it is sold by the half bottle (which is perfect for a 2 person household or a small dinner party), but I assure you it is worth every single penny.

$17.99 Maumee Wines, Maumee

Wine: Altos Las Hormigas Malbec 2008 Argentina

We opened the Altos Malbec two evenings ago--amidst multi-tasking with laundry, food prep for a gathering the next evening, getting the dog his dinner, helping a friend who locked her keys in her car, etc. etc.--to have with our Leftover-Love Casserole.

I didn't really think about the wine or reviewing it that evening. I was busy.

But then I thought about that wine this morning in the shower, and I actually remembered it.

The first taste was like 4th of July in my mouth. The moment is rolled over my tongue it was like a big firework surprise--the one that kicks off the spectacle! Then a few moments of smaller bursts that I appreciated. Then a grand moment after a particular big sip.

This Malbec was fruity and spicy. Complex but fun.

However, I would not label this Malbec as a drinking wine. It's best with food to bring out a spiciness--like the hot chili pepper in the Leftover-Love Casserole--or to spice up a boring meal.

While I would get this wine again, I would rather experience other Malbecs so I can learn more about them.

$8.99, Maumee Wines, Maumee

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dinner: What I Call "Leftover-Love Casserole"

Tonight we're heading over to our friends' house for a cookout, so last night that meant I was cooking up a storm, which meant I wasn't going to cook dinner.

I took Jamie Oliver's recommendation to turn his fantastic pasta dish into a casserole. I shredded some parm cheese over the top of the leftover pasta, eggplant, and tomatoes, covered the dish with foil, and popped it into a 325 degree oven for about 40 minutes.

In the meantime, I made the graham cracker crust for the Stained Glass Cake I'm taking over to our friends' and I shredded kohlrabi, carrots, radishes, red onion, and green peppers for the coleslaw with vinaigrette dressing.

During the casseroles last 10 minutes FD took the foil off, sliced the leftover venison steak, and added it to the casserole. The dish got all bubbly and the venison heated up without overcooking.

I finished my food prep and sat down to a wonderfully tasty casserole with a fresh green side salad prepared by FD.

Quite an easy, tasty treat!

The added bonuses: I didn't have to cook dinner and made something new from leftovers.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dinner: Rigatoni (Not Really) with Sweet Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella (Jamie Oliver)

First, I must give my deardeardear friend Babine a shout out for "turning me on" to Jamie Oliver.

Before: English Gardener at the BG Farmers' Market.

After: For recipe please support your local bookstore or local library for Jamie Oliver's cookbook Jamie's Dinners: The Essential Family Cookbook.

*Meal was PERFECT with House Wine.

Playing during dinner: Goonies on TBS.

Wine: House Wine by Magnificent Wine Co., Mattawa Washington


I LOVE this wine. It's buttery, savory, not dry. I taste berries, but I also taste ocean--is that even a wine adjective?

As Goldilocks says, "It's just right."

It's a perfect drinking wine. It's a perfect dinner wine. Other reds are more complex, but this wine tastes great.

I definitely would buy a case. Probably one of my favorite wines in quite awhile for the price.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wine: CA Cabernet Sauvignon Snap Dragon 2007

Who in their right mind only opens one bottle on a Saturday night?

As a second bottle, drinking wine, Snap Dragon is perfect. Heavy but fruity. Makes me wanna go berry picking. Or walk the dogs...

We did open it to bathe the dogs, which was fantastic. They were mellow; we were mellow.

Like a said, a perfect drinking wine from someone who prefers to drink wine—bottle after bottle.

God, I hope I don’t get gout.

A steal at $8.99.

Dinner: Vension Steaks with Herbed Potatoes & Beans

Venison steaks from a family friend with a red wine reduction and herbed heirloom potatoes--both herbs and potatoes from Homestead Gardens--and green beans from BG Farmers Market.

Teamwork: it's how FD and I cook. He was on the venison & I was on the veggies.

As awesome as this meal was I want to quickly note a few revisions I would make:

Cook reduction a bit longer and the venison a bit shorter. Separate the veggies--to cook, simply stem, add butter and parsley, mint, chives, and basil--from the meat. Roast the potatoes after steaming. Add more rosemary to the venison meat.

What to keep the same: WINE, ingredients, china (Kate Spade Gramercy Park), company (FD, my fav foodie companion for life), and music (Hank Williams: cooking & dinner; The Amps: dish washing.)

(Dan just rushed in my office, saying, "Everything we cooked tonight was Ohio based, except for the flour, wine, and vegetable oil." We don't count our Spanish Blood Orange EVOO because we buy it from the Olive Tap in Medina, Ohio with thanks to my sis-in-law Tra. If we broke down the cost, we don't have a meat cost and with the veggies we got about 4 servings, which would be about $.75 per person. Not bad, especially when the majority of the profit goes to local farmers! Oh, and FD simmered the reduction for 5 more minutes and it was perfect. Still learning; as G.I. Joe would say, "Knowing is half the battle!")

* To keep it "everyday" photos are taken with my iPhone. No fancy photography, just quick snapshots, then on to the eating.

Wine: 2005 Cabernet-Sauvignon by Domaine Des Cantarelles (Red Rhone Wine from France)

Richard at Maumee Wines recommended this wine to us when we asked for a Bordeux.

After one sip I felt like the first time I was allowed to eat at the adult table. This wine is complex and rich. I say this fondly--I taste the exhaust fumes from my '79 VW Super Beetle. I'm assuming that's what Richard meant when he said he tastes "tar and leather" with this wine. Though, I had vinyl seats, not leather ones. I get a sense of oak and tart cherries and butter too. If I could afford to do so I would buy 5 cases of this wine. I adore it. But it's not for the faint of heart. For example, I wouldn't recommend this wine to my mother who's beginning to get into red wine; she would probably say, "It's too strong and dry."

Will definitely buy this one again. $16.99.

Recipe: Light Basil Pesto

As a Weight Watcher alum, in order to maintain my goal weight I've been searching for "light" recipes that actually have flavor. Additionally, these "light" recipes give me an excuse to splurge when we go to Revolver or Lola Bistro.

Apart from putting this pesto on Buitoni Tortellini, yesterday for lunch, I made a pesto grilled cheese with about 2T of the pesto, 2 thin slices of Mozzarella cheese from Happy Badger's Food Club, and 2 slices of Canadian bacon. Normally my husband is the gourmet sandwich maker, but yesterday I made him jealous.

I got this "Light Basil Pesto" recipe from Cook's Illustrated The Best Light Recipe cookbook.

4 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 cups basil, stems and buds discarded
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 c part-skim ricotta cheese
1 shallot, minced (or 2T red onion worked fine too)
2T EVOO (Used the Basil EVOO from Olive Tap)
Salt & Pepper

1.) Toast the garlic in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Transfer garlic to a plate to cool, then peel the cloves and press through a garlic press.
2.) Place the basil in a heavy-duty gallon-sized zipper-lock bag. Pound the bag with a rolling pin until all the leaves are lightly bruised.
3.) Process the ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds, stopping to scrape the sides as needed. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (The pesto can be covered with a sheet of plastic wrap pressed flush against its surface and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

2 1/2 T = 80 Cal.

Maumee Wines: Maumee, Ohio

During our visit to Revolver Restaurant this week, we asked their wine expert, Rachel, where she goes to her wine, and she recommended Maumee Wines in Maumee, Ohio.

Of course, the next day we visited Maumee Wines.

At Maumee Wines, we met Richard Fortney, owner, wine connoisseur, and gourmand. Immediately after introducing ourselves and stating Rachel recommended his wine shop to us, Richard launched into finding wines we like that were in our price range ($10-$15). Initially we vowed to only buy a bottle or two. Anyone who knows us, though, knows that just silliness; we left with a case.

Of our case, we've tried two wines so far:

A 2006 Chianti by Castello Sonnino from Italy: When we cook we usually have a before-meal glass and then wine with our meal. What's interesting about this wine is we didn't like it on its own. It needs food for its body to really come alive. We had it with homemade light Pesto, Buitoni Whole Wheat Tortellini, and Broccoli from Homestead Gardens. Sipping after a taste of food the wine opened up. It was spicy and cut the basil and garlic in the pesto perfectly. The finish was smooth and subtle. A great Italian dinner wine for $11.99. Do not drink without food.

A 2007 Saint-Esprit Cotes-Du-Rhone from France (obviously): A fantastic drinking wine, I could see this bottle pairing well with Indian food (as Richard recommended) as well as Thai or simply pizza. We cracked open this bottle after going to Pizza Papalis and found it to be perfect on its own with the lingering taste of deep dish pizza on our palates. Definitely a wine I will buy again, especially for the price: $10.99.

Maumee Wines is located at 2556 Parkway Plaza, Maumee, OH 43537. (419) 893-2525.

Pizza Papalis: Toledo, OH

We took a welcome break from cooking pizza at home to enjoy a meal with very dear friends--who recommended this joint--at Pizza Papalis in the heart of Toledo, OH near 5/3 Stadium.

Normally a fan of thin crust pizza, I was worried that the dough for Pizza Papalis' deep dish was going to be too rich for more than one piece. I was wrong. The pizza dough was thick but light and flaky like a pie. And the toppings were all fresh; no canned tomatoes can be found in their kitchen. I have no problem admitting I had 3 pieces.

The sauce had a little spicy bite to it, but garlic and tomatoes where at the flavor-forefront.

And the cheese so stringy and melty and perfect. (Papalis offers low-fat cheese, but with a deep dish, why?)

Pizza Papalis is truly Chicago Deep Dish in Toledo, Ohio.

While I wasn't all that impressed with their Garden Salad (it was just your average Garden Salad), my husband enjoyed their chicken wings. But I would recommend getting a small pie if you want to have apps of wings and salad. We ordered a medium and could only finish half during dinner. The other half we're attempting to devour at lunch today.

The restaurant's atmosphere is casual, very clean, and pretty pleasant. During the peak dinner hours, it can get a little loud, but there's plenty of patio seating and inside space that the noise isn't an issue. I was happy we with went with friends who we get lost in conversation with because a deep dish can take up to a 45 minute wait. For us that time flew by, but I couldn't imagine enduring a wait like that with one of my more shy, introverted friends.

Pizza Papalis is located at 519 Monroe St., Toledo, OH. Expect to pay about $19 for a small deep dish. Happy Hour prices for alcohol are reasonable, especially for beer. The wine selections seemed decent for a chain pizza joint. I got a glass of Mertiage for $5.49.

Based on the deep dish pizza alone, I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Aspiring Foodie

I'm not a trained cook. I've never taken a cooking class.

I don't know anything about wine.

I'm a novice to fine dining.

What I do know is I'm obsessed with food. I read cookbooks like my Baptist Grandma McGuire read the Bible. I cried while watching the documentary King Corn. I would rather spend my money on food--at farmers' markets, fine restaurants, or King Arthur Flour--than a buy a house.

My goal here is to track my obsession with food through restaurant reviews, book reviews, recipe reviews, and random reflections and share, like a family-style meal, with those hungry like me.

As they say, "Bon Appetite!"