Saturday, October 31, 2009


Happy Halloween!

Sometimes when it is late and I am tired and I have nothing planned for dinner I poke into the fridge to see what the possibilities are. On this occasion I was cooking only for myself so I did not have to consider anyone else's preferences. What I found was a quarter of a zucchini, half a bag of spinach, and third of an onion. It was an algebra problem.

Well, no problem at all if you heat up olive oil, saute several cloves of chopped garlic, add a chili pepper and saute the fractions of leftover vegetables in the seasoned oil. I have taken to putting sliced lemons directly into the saute pan with the vegetables to cook. The lemons warm up and almost melt into the pan coating everything with a bright acidic note which helps to counter balance the weight of the olive oil. I can stand over the stove and eat a meal like this right out of the pot, it tastes so good to me.
I had some pine nuts too, so I threw them on top for some chewy texture.

Over the weekend my husband and I went to a wine tasting in our neighborhood at The Wine Room of Forest Hills.  We love this shop, whose owners, a local couple, keep it stocked with diverse and interesting collections of wines. Whenever we visit we always find something new and exciting to buy. This time Alan got intrigued by a French red blend that we brought home. Domaine Des Cantarelles 40% Cabernet-Syrah 60% was affordable for our weekend splurge at under $12 a bottle.
I love drinking wine from these beautiful Moroccan tea glasses, a gift from my sister in Brooklyn.

Upon tasting it we both struggled to find a way to describe the wine to make Amanda proud. Its distinctive quality was its rough, mineral-ly start that opens your eyes and then quickly mellows out to a very smooth finish. Quite drinkable! I really liked it paired with my sauteed vegetables which actually start out smooth in your mouth from the olive oil and then finishes with a little bitter bite from the spinach.

How did we do Amanda? What would you pair with the greens?

Spinach and Zucchini Saute
4 Tbs. olive oil
4 garlic cloves sliced
1 dried chili pod
1/4 cup of chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced zucchini
8 oz cleaned spinach leaves
4 slices of lemon
2 Tbs. pinenuts (this is optional, it adds a little fancy finish to this dish)

Heat oil in a saute pan, add garlic and chili and cook for 5 minutes till garlic begins to turn golden. Add the onion and the zucchini and saute for a few minutes until the zucchini begins to turn a bit golden in spots. Add the spinach and the lemon slices and let the spinach wilt down until tender. Season with s & p. and top wit pinenuts.

serves one

The Halloween chaos has started. My house has been insane this morning and my neighbors are waiting outside for me. And, it's only 10:30 am. So, I will make this quick. Deb, the recipe sounds delicious as always. I would just be careful of this wine pairing because of the chile. If it's a spicy one, you don't want the heat to be exacerbated by the tannins in the wine, specifically from the Cabernet. And, you don't want the chile to affect the wine either. That would be my only caveat. I am a believer that you should drink whatever you want with whatever you want. As long as you like it. There are no steadfast rules, only tips. I, personally, would go for a fruity white. Something that will quell the chile and work well in conjunction with it. Again, this really depends on the heat the pepper delivers. Perhaps a Pinot Blanc from Alsace, or a Pinot Gris from Oregon.

Now, my children are calling me from outside so I must go outside and face the ghouls. My apologies for the brevity! Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A few tricks for this treat!

If your home is like mine on Halloween eve it is a chaotic occasion of last minute costume changes, children with friends in tow running in and out of rooms trying to get ready, demands for help looking for that scrap of green felt stashed somewhere from the last arts and crafts project to finish off a perfect scary outfit.

This requires me to be standing at the ready with needle and thread and hot glue gun plugged in while I search for shopping bags big enough to hold an unspeakable amount of candy. I myself have given up wearing costumes years ago. My last attempt was sometime in the 90's when I dressed as a very dead Rolling Stone, Brian Jones (I was adorable).

The last thing I want to deal with is making dinner for the home crowd before they head out to their parties and parades. But everyone must eat or they will throw up from eating all that candy on an empty stomach (sadly, I can vouch for this). So a do-ahead meal that can sit out on the kitchen counter and feed people all evening is the way to go.

I'm not going to lie to you, vegetable lasagna is laborious to make. Many steps are involved. But once it is done you can leave it in the fridge for a day or two and it actually gets better. I am using thinly sliced roasted zucchini and mushrooms as the vegetables for this one.

Some tips:
I par boil the noodles leaving them a bit stiff so they are much easier to handle (use the non-boil ones if you like).
Roast the vegetables to get some more flavor, but you can skip this if you want to save time

Put the seasoned ricotta cheese in a plastic bag and "pipe" it into the layers. Much easier than trying to spread it on to wet noodles with a spoon.

Leave yourself time and space to get through this project, and make a big one so you don't have to do it again for a while.

Vegetable Lasagne
1 box of lasagne noodles, par boiled
2 zucchini's thinly sliced (I used a mandoline)
1 lb. baby bella mushrooms, sliced or quartered
2 Tbs. Olive oil
2 lbs. Ricotta cheese
2 eggs beaten
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
s & p
1 Tbs. sugar
2- 24oz jars of Marinara sauce (make it yourself if you like, I'm trying to cut you a break)
1 lb. Mozzarella cheese grated on large holes of a box grater

Pre heat oven to 400F
Toss zucchini with 1 Tbs. olive oil and ground pepper and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Do the same with the mushrooms. Roast vegetables for about 20 minutes.

Mix ricotta with eggs, cinnamon, Romano cheese, sugar and teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Place in a plastic bag and cut a small hole in the bottom to create a piping bag.

Set yourself up to create the layers: (I like to do three layers of filling but you don't have to. Do two instead)

Put 1/2 cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of a pan and spread around the bottom (I put a little water in too to keep it loose)

Put a layer of noodles on the bottom. Pipe a third of the ricotta mixture evenly over noodles. Place a third of the zucchini and a third of the mushrooms on top. Put a quarter of the grated mozzarella on top and then cover with marinara. Repeat two more times. Cover the last layer with noodles, marinara sauce and grated mozzarella.
Cover tightly with tin foil and place in oven. Cook for one hour covered and then and additional 15 minutes uncovered.

serve immediately or allow to come to room temperature before covering with tin foil and storing in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Amanda, what should I pour for myself as the last kid heads out the door and I sit down to my own plate of lasagne?

Sounds like you'll definitely need a glass of wine on Saturday, as will I! Fortunately, my kids are still at the age where all I really have to do is push the "buy" button on a website to order a costume. My son will be Darth Vader, and my daughter, Jasmine. Nice and easy. The stressful part of Halloween is finding a costume for myself, which I still have not done. I've been invited to a "grown-up" Halloween party - my first in probably 25 years. Nothing like waiting till the last minute. I will consider any, and all suggestions.

I would enjoy this dish paired with a Negroamaro. This red varietal, which produces rustic, earthy wines with beautiful aromatics, is native to Southern Italy. It is grown almost exclusively in Puglia, in particular, Salento. Castello Monaci makes an incedibly delicious and wonderfully affordable Negroamaro called Maru.  It retails for about $11.99, and is what I would label a true "crowd pleaser". I think it's a perfect match for Deb's Vegetable Lasagne! You can pair this wine with anything that has tomato sauce as an ingredient. It's also pairs incredibly well with hard cheeses. Here is what The Wine Advocate had to say about it:

"The 2007 Negroamaro Maru is a pretty, fresh wine with floral aromatics and plenty of bright red fruit. Medium in body, the Maru possesses tons of balance in a highly pleasing, supremely drinkable style. Needless to say, it is a terrific value."
My husband and I have a holiday block party every year in December. This recipe would work perfectly as one of the dishes! Thanks, Deb!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Unbelievably Delicious...and Simple!

The other day I made such an incredibly delicious, and simple dish that I appealed to Deb to give me a shot at doing a recipe this week. Thank you for your confidence in me! So Deb - how about giving the wine recommendation on this one? I must confess, I never realized how difficult it is to actually create a recipe. For example, my recipe involves broccoli. I was presented with the challenge of conveying to the reader exactly how much broccoli should be used. A cup? Half a cup? The whole broccoli, stalks and all, or the florets? A pound? A head? Half a head? What type of measurement should I use? Help! It's daunting for the non-chef, first-time recipe creator. So, that being said, I can only promise this dish is absolutely delicious. I will provide amounts of ingredients, but really - feel free to use the idea...I won't be hurt if you adjust quantities.

I was really craving brussels sprouts. I love to clean them up, slice them in half, and toss them with a little olive oil. Then, I put them face down on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes. That's all I do to them and they are wonderful. But I also love roasting an assortment of veggies. So simple yet so satisfying. This particular evening, I chose to add broccoli and sliced red onion to the mix. My original thought was just to eat them by themselves, but I was craving more.

I prepared some angel hair spaghetti to serve alongside my veggies. Now, the idea to toss the veggies with the pasta may seem a no-brainer to many of our seasoned readers. But to my usual "I-need-a-recipe-to-be-inspired" way of thinking, this thought was akin to Newton's getting hit on the head with an apple. I was so excited by the idea of combining the ingredients as opposed to enjoying the pasta merely as a side. So, I roasted the veggies until the cut side of the Brussels sprouts were nice and brown. I put the broiler on for the last minute or so to let the florets also get a touch browned, as well as the onion.

On a mission, I sliced up a lot of garlic, thin. I sauteed it a bit in some olive oil. I like to cook the garlic to the exact point where it is about to get crisp, but is not quite there yet. It's almost "chewy". I love the nuttiness this method contributes to it. Then, I tossed the angel hair right into the pan, as well as salt and pepper to taste, and a bit of crushed red pepper. Finally, I added the veggies. While still in the pan, I threw in some shaved parmesan. Now, I have cooked a lot of pastas in my day. A lot. This was probably the most delicious, satisfying one I can remember in a long time. And, just so simple!

Well, you get the idea. This is one you can just take and adjust to your own liking. But here is a guideline!
Simple Roasted Veggies with Pasta
Half a head of broccoli florets broken into medium sized pieces
10 Brussels sprouts cut in half
1 red onion sliced thin
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
Angel hair pasta (not sure what quantity I used. But you can do what I do: cook the whole box and use it for dishes all week long...)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp crushed red pepper (or adjust to your tastes)
shaved parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Prepare pasta according to directions.
3. Arrange all veggies in a roasting pan and toss with a tablespoon of the olive oil. I like to put the Brussels sprouts cut size down so they caramelize a little. Roast for about 15-20 minutes. Again, I like to put the broiler on the last minute or so, until the broccoli is browned in spots.
4. Heat remaining olive oil in a pan with the sliced garlic. Cook 2 minutes over low to medium heat. Toss in the quantity of angel hair you will be using. Add salt and pepper to taste, and crushed red pepper. Continue cooking for about 4 minutes, tossing it periodically.
5. Add roasted veggies. Cook another minute or so. I add the parmesan while everything is in the pan. This gives it a chance to melt a little and really combine with the rest of the ingredients. This way, it will not just be on top, but will rather blend entirely with the veggies and pasta.
Should serve four. I like to make more then enough for leftovers! Enjoy!

A VERY good description of how to cook garlic in oil to...
the exact point where it is about to get crisp, but is not quite there yet. It's almost "chewy".
Amanda, you have said a mouthful! Garlic oil sure makes everything taste good. And this dish looks so good too. Your recipe highlights for me one of the best reasons to cook your own food; you get to make it taste the way you want it to. My first reaction to the recipe was one of slight skepticism. I would not be inclined to pair Brussels sprouts with pasta. Given that, I would never think to further combine it with broccoli. Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are in the same cruciferae or cabbage family. They both would bring a nutty, pungent flavor and rough crunchy texture to the dish. So my question was could it possibly be redundant? However, the addition of the red caramelized onions is inspired and brings a sweet depth to your sauce. I am intrigued and would be THRILLED to try this dish if you made it for me :- )
Is the bottle half empty or half full?

Now I am on the spot for a wine pairing. My first suggestion would be my safe go-to wine: La Vielle Ferme Cotes Du Luberon, a nicely balanced white with a bit of a green overtone that would certainly compliment the vegetables. Another possibility is a wine I picked up over the weekend that I am head over heels about: Masi Masianco Pinot Grigio & Verduzzo. As expected with a Pinot Grigio it has a grapefruit flavor, but this is followed by sweet apricot, and finishes with a velvety vanilla, almost like sweet potatoes. Crazy, no? It is perfectly balanced and just outright delicious (too delicious). I bought it for about $12. 
My knowledge of wines is so limited I can barley do this pairing justice. But thanks for asking Amanda! And thanks for that great recipe.

Friday, October 23, 2009

no one can resist

Alright children, listen up. I'm going to get tough with you now. If you don't eat this next dish, well, honey, you just don't know what's good. Yes, it's Brussels sprouts. Yeah they are smelly when you boil them. But we are going to saute them! In butter! and lemon zest! What do you mean "what is zest?"
It's the skin of a citrus fruit grated up small. You love it! You loved it in that apple crumble I made. And those cranberry muffins. Come on, try the Brussels sprouts. please. please. They are good. really.

Amanda, YOU talk to them. please.

Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Zest and Pecans
2 Tbs. Butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 garlic clove minced
2 pounds of Brussels sprouts, rinsed trimmed and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Zest from one lemon

Melt butter and oil in pan, add garlic and cook till it starts to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add sprouts and saute for about 5 minutes, till sprouts start to wilt. Lower heat and cover for five minutes to let sprouts soften completely. Uncover and add pecans and lemon zest and s & p to taste. Cook another minute before serving. Allow dish to come to room temp if you are planning on freezing.

I am a HUGE fan of Brussels sprouts! I will do all I can to get my kid to try this one! Sounds great. I love the idea that it is "freezable". Maybe I'll get a jump start this weekend and start prepping for the holiday!

Just to recap my thoughts on wine for Thanksgiving that I touched on earlier in the week:  Riesling is a perennial favorite Thanksgiving white. A great accompaniment to turkey and all the sides. White Burgundy (which is always Chardonnay) works beautifully as well. As for red, Pinot Noir is always a safe bet, as is Beaujolais. For the latter, the Beaujolais Nouveau is always a Thanksgiving staple. But, for something a little more sophisticated and complex, go for a Cru Beaujolais. You can't go wrong with any of these suggestions!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

apples and eaters

One of the many treats of the season is apple cider. I buy it from the farmer's markets and drink it on the spot. If I neglect to drink it I find it begins to get fizzy within days, which is quite wonderful because it means there are no preservatives and it is ALL NATURAL! Love that sour sweet taste. Don't really love the fizzies. So I buy small containers and use it up quick.

Deborah Madison, the goddess of all things natural in cooking has a fantastic recipe for winter squash braised in apple cider. It was an instant winner in my kitchen when I first tried it a few years ago. This is a recipe which I think would freeze well and it is a very very very wonderful addition to the Thanksgiving table.
A skill I picked up in kindergarten; I love to collect Fall leaves and make arrangements.

One of my friends has very rightly scolded me about my last post where I discounted children from the head count of sophisticated eaters at my holiday table. If you can get your kids to eat everything presented to them, well more power to you. I for one, encourage everyone to try. Healthy eating habits are so important to develop. In that spirit I am going to add one extra leek to the baking dish this year and cut it into eleven pieces and place a piece on each child's plate. Hopefully at least one of them will look up at me and smile.
Butternut squash growing from a hanging vine at Liberty Sunset Garden Center in Red Hook, Brooklyn

Butternut Squash Braised in Apple Cider
-adapted from the recipe in Deborah Madison's book Local Flavors
1 Tbs. Butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 cups apple cider

melt butter and oil in a saute pan, add squash and cook, stirring to coat all the squash with the butter and oil for about 5 minutes, till the squash begins to soften. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes until the squash is tender. Uncover and allow the  cider to reduce a bit so you are left with a glaze.

serve immediately or allow to come to room temp and freeze.

serves 8 very mature children

Well, you can always try my m.o. Put the leeks on everyone's plate, and all of the picky eaters who try it get a star. It works in my house. I bribe my children to try new food. I, personally, never had an issue trying new foods. In the 70's, before sushi was "fashionable", I was eating it at age 11 at Hatsuhana in NYC - the first popular restaurant at which to enjoy sushi.  It was pretty much the only "in" place to go at the time. My parents never forced it on me. They just introduced me to "interesting" and "different" cuisine at an early age. I can remember ordering mussels as a main course at age 8 or 9 at an Italian restaurant. Preparing myself a plate of chopped raw onion, roasted red peppers, and anchovies at the same age (as I saw my father do). I can only hope for such adventurous palates for my children. To date, they are extremely picky about what makes it onto their plate.

So, I came up with a plan. I stuck a chart to each child's bedroom door entitled "new foods I've tried". Everytime they try something new, I write down what it was, and they get a sticker. We set a goal each time of 10 new stickers. When they reach this point, they receive a pre-decided upon treat of their choice. It works like a charm. I always tell them the same thing - "I don't care if you never eat this again in your entire life - so long as you've tried it".  That's all I can ask for.

Holidays always provide great opportunities to get children to try something new. Take Yom Kippur. I got both my children to try smoked salmon for the first time this year.  One loved it, the other not so much. This Thanksgiving, I will be sure to have my children try leeks and squash! By the way - this year they fell in love with apple cider!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jumping ahead


For anyone interested in getting a jump on holiday cooking I am devoting this entire week of posts to do-ahead Thanksgiving dishes that can be frozen. Thanksgiving seems to be one of the most laborious cooking holidays and I set aside at least two solid days of cooking for my own family's meal during that last week in November.
Many don't have the time nor the inclination for this kind of labor. In fact a reader requested that I come up with these freeze ahead recipes that can be tackled now and crossed off the to-do list for the big day.

I like to freeze things judiciously and find I rarely make meals in advance to be frozen because:
A- Then I have to remember to take them out of the freezer in time to get them hot for the meal and
B- I love cooking so much that it doesn't ever feel especially laborious to me to actually be doing it.

So the time crunch factor is what I am really responding to here. The recipes I am offering this week are not specifically designed to be frozen ahead, but if they strike your fancy, they can successfully be frozen ahead. I also encourage any one who can manage it to cook the day before Thanksgiving, allowing certain dishes to sit over night, where flavors can develop rather than making things weeks ahead and freezing. I'm just saying.

Hiking this weekend in Ellenville, trying not to think about Thanksgiving AT ALL!

I would like to come back to leeks because they are one of the real treats of Fall. This recipe, if I remember correctly, originated out of Gourmet magazine years ago and was adopted by my family as a "must have" every year. I usually figure on one large leek for two persons and I don't count the kids as people because I have yet to see any of them try one (I have four nieces, three nephews, two stepdaughters and two of my own children at the table every year, so I am an authority on generational divide when it comes to hot onions). Adults like this dish, but not the picky picky eaters. I LOVE IT. Good enough.

It is easy to prepare once you have cleaned the leeks and I am beginning to see the charm of being able to pull this out of the freezer Thanksgiving morning and shoving it in the oven without another thought. Other than trying to find oven space. Does it not seem that EVERY dish for Thanksgiving has to go in the oven and how the heck do you get everything in there and hot at the same time? Someone else will have to figure that out.

Amanda, what are we drinking?

Leeks Baked in Mustard Cream
for 8 non-picky eating adults

4 large leeks
1 1/4 cups of heavy cream
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup of bread crumbs

heat oven to 400F
Trim the green tops from the leeks and the root end till you have just the white and palest green stalks. Score a shallow cut lengthwise a few layers deep into the leek and then cut them into 2"crosswise chunks. Put the trimmed leeks in to a large bowl of water and swish them around to loosen any sand and dirt caught in the layers. Let them soak in the water 10 minutes or so until the sand and dirt sinks to the bottom of the bowl. Remove leeks from the water and drain. Butter a baking dish with 1 Tbs. of the butter. Place drained leeks in the buttered baking dish in a single layer. Mix the cream, mustard, s & p in a cup and pour over the leeks to cover. Top with the breadcrumbs and dot with remaining 1 Tbs. butter.
Bake for 1 hour until the leeks are tender when you pierce them with a sharp knife.
Serve immediately
OR allow to come to room temperature, cover with foil and either
refrigerate overnight  to serve the next day OR freeze.
Reheat in hot oven till warmed through (timing will depend on how many other dishes are crammed in there trying to get hot. Half hour maybe?)

Thanksgiving is different when it comes to food and wine pairing. If you think about it, very few families are going to choose a different wine to go with each course. Yes, there might be wine-loving families who will do this. But the reality is, while you may have a few connoisseurs at your table, chances are the wine is not going to be the focal point of this favorite traditional feast. Take my family, for instance. They enjoy wine, but they are by no means "picky" and critical when it comes to my choices. (I am the wine provider at our family gatherings). No one is going to judge that a particular wine was great with the turkey but wreaked havoc on the stuffing. Or "how could she think that wine would work well with sweet potato topped with marshmallow"? To me, both avid food and wine lover, the gathering is more about the idea of enjoying a traditional meal with my family and close friends. In this case, wine takes a back seat. Don't get me wrong - I bring good wine. But I am less concerned with how it will "complement" the food. It's nice to take the time to perfectly pair recipes with wines, but only when you have a room full of people that are "into" this sort of thing. At Thanksgiving, most likely you will not need to ponder how the seasoning of the side dishes works with the wine. The majority of individuals are there for the food and the company, not a food and wine pairing. So, the pressure's off.

In the shop, we typically recommend wines that provide all-around enjoyment. Riesling is a "common" Thanksgiving wine. It's a very food-friendly, versatile white that can accompany a variety of dishes, which is really what you look for on Thanksgiving. It's a great wine to bring if you are the guest and are not sure how the Turkey will be prepared (if you eat Turkey of course). It could have a barbeque flare, as my brother's does, roasted on the grill and seasoned with coffee grinds and other interesting flavors, or it could be roasted with the traditional touches. Any way it is prepared, Riesling is a safe bet. Another sure hit is a white Burgundy. Stay away from over-oaked Chards from California which will be overpowering.

For red, there is the perennial favorite, Beaujolais. It doesn't have to be Beaujolais Nouveau which comes out every November just in time for Thanksgiving. If you are looking to impress, seek out a wonderful Cru Beaujolais. Still 100% Gamay, these wines are of higher quality and are still affordable, usually under $20. The Cru Beaujolais have more complexity and depth than a Beaujolais Nouveau or Beaujolais Villages. "Cru" means the wines are more site specific, which gives the wine higher status and assures the quality is superior. Pinot Noir is another Thanksgiving favorite. Soft, elegant, with a wonderful velvety mouthfeel, Burgundy is always a big hit. If you prefer something fruitier, and "bigger", and therefore probably more crowd-pleasing, look to California for this varietal.

My family enjoys wine, but they don't care if it's Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. So I don't put a great deal of thought into it. I buy something fun and different, that will please a variety of palates and I think they will enjoy. That's as far as I take it. And every year, we have a blast!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kiss Your Diet Goodbye

It was a totally casual comment from my brother-in-law that set my mind ablaze. I had been visiting my newest nephew, four month old baby Carl, in his new home in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn this week and had to run off early because, I told my family, I needed to make an Eggplant Parmesan for a client. This is when Carl's father Lee, also a food professional, told me that he had recently heard about some chef making a fennel Parmesan. Fennel Parmesan? Fennel Parmesan?  FENNEL PARMESAN!
That was it. I was aquiver with desire. I had no idea how to make it, but I was determined to figure it out.

I picked up a fennel bulb on the way home and planned on making a small batch for myself to see how it would go. The mental picture I conjured just sent me wild with anticipation. I don't know why, but it just sounded like it would be SOOOOOOOOOO Good!!

Fennel has a lovely mild celery/liquorish flavor. When cooked it retains its moisture so the process of batter dipping, pan frying and then baking under lots of cheese made sense. I knew it would hold up to the assault and come out a winner.

My first challenge was how to cut the fennel bulb. Plunked on the cutting board it reminded me eerily of a human heart. Should I slice lengthwise and make wedges or crosswise and make rings? Fennel is similar to an onion in that it has layers. I opted for wedges.

The rest of the recipe was a no brainer. I dusted the fennel wedges with flour (which did not really stick to the dry fennel, oh well), I dipped the wedges in egg wash, and then rolled them in panko crumbs and grated parma cheese. Pan fried till golden, laid in a pan, topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, I plowed through all the stages. It baked in the oven for 25 minutes until I pulled it out. Hot, hot, hot, but I wanted to taste it right away. Burned my mouth in the process.

I don't know what to say. It was so good I had tears in my eyes. I ate half the entire pan within minutes of it leaving the oven. It tasted absolutely as good as I had hoped. I could live on this. Seriously.

Amanda, this dish is just screaming for a great wine pairing. I would happily serve this to guests with a salad or some sauteed spinach. I am getting woozy with desire.

Fennel Parmesan
2 fennel bulbs cut into *wedges
1 cup of flour
1 egg beaten with a Tbs of water
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 24 oz jar of good tomato sauce (make your own if you wish)
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese sliced

*figure about a 1" wide wedge or slices cut in half lengthwise. I trimmed out the core after cutting the wedges so that the fennel wouldn't completely fall apart. Don't stress too much over this. the dish is going to taste great no matter what.

Pre heat oven to 350F
Set up your battering station (sounds so violent!):
Put flour in a bowl and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Put egg wash in another shallow bowl and season with a pinch of s & p. Put panko crumbs and grated cheese in another bowl and season with a pinch of s & p. Dip each fennel wedge into each bowl, flour, egg, panko in that order and lay on a baking sheet.
Heat oil in a saute pan and cook the fennel until golden brown, turning once, about 5 minutes per side. Lay pan fried fennel in a single layer in a baking pan and top with the tomato sauce spooned over the fennel in an even layer. Top the fennel and sauce with the sliced mozzarella.
bake in oven for 25 minutes, until the cheese is golden and melted.

serves 4

This just sounds (and looks) crazy delicious! Never in a million years could I come up with something like this. Who would've thought? Fennel Parmesan??!! What could be bad? I love the mild flavors of licorice fennel offers. And cheese? You could put melted cheese on tree bark and I'd eat it. Add tomato sauce and I'm in heaven. Not sure I could get many takers in my household though. Deb, do you think this dish would freeze well? If not, I will use it as an excuse to have a "mom's night out" at my house. Your enthusiasm for the dish is contagious! I have not even tried it and already I think it's spectacular! My stomach growled and my mouth watered just reading your description.

Deb, you mentioned the need for a great wine. As it so happens, I am sipping the perfect partner to this dish at this very moment. It is the Di Majo Norante 2008 Sangiovese. Wonderful. The Wine Advocate calls it "incredibly delicious" and gave it a 90 point rating. The shocker? It's $8.95 per bottle. An absolute bargain. The wine has everything going for it to complement this dish perfectly. It is bright red in color, medium in body and full of fruit. Hints of leather introduce themselves on the palate. And, I get just a touch of licorice and pepper on the finish. It's not too powerful as to overpower the meal. It is delicious and the pricetag makes it even more so!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Chili in the air


Vegetable chili is one of those recipes that I improvise with every time I make it. The backbone is the chili sauce and beans. The added vegetables are what ever is on hand.
Onion harvest from Hook Mountain Growers

Bell peppers, onions, zucchini, winter squashes, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, corn kernels have all found their way into my chili pot. I especially like this recipe when I am trying to feed those who don't think they really like vegetables. In other words, kids and other picky eaters. I love the addition of the winter squashes like pumpkin in this recipe because they add a sweetness to balance out the heat of the chilies and a thickness to create a belly-filling satisfaction.

A staple of all vegetarian restaurants, vegetable chili is worth making at home because it is easy, inexpensive AND you can make it taste the way you want. I think of recipes like this as something very fluid. It can morph in many wonderfully different ways. Thick or thin, sweet or spicy, chunky or fine, crunchy or soft. Or a little bit of all. That is the beauty of it. Dip into a chili recipe and boldly trust your instincts to guide you.

Vegetable Chili with Pumpkin
2 Tbs. Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
s & p  to taste
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
1 small zuchini, chopped into bite size pieces
4 Tbs. chili powder
2 Tbs. flour
1 Tbs. Tomato paste (I love to buy tomato paste in a tube, rather thank dealing with a partially used can)
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (you can used canned)
1 1/2 cups cubed calabaza pumpkin (substitute acorn or butternut squash if you like)
1/2 cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
1 14oz. can kidney beans (white, pink, or black beans are good too)
1 teas. dried tarragon
1 teas. dried oregano
2 cups water
1 Tbs. sugar - optional

Heat oil in a large sauce pan and saute onions and carrots, seasoned with salt and pepper for 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add the garlic and the zucchini and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the chili powder and cook for a minute, stirring it into the oil in the pan to create a paste. Add the flour and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, the tomatoes, the pumpkin, corn, the beans and the dried herbs and stir to combine the contents of pan. Slowly add the water till most of the vegetables are covered. You want this to turn into a sauce, not a soup. Only add as much water as you need at this point. Stir pan again to loosen the tomato/chili paste into the water. Lower heat to a simmer and allow chili to cook slowly uncovered for 20 minutes. Look at the pot every once in a while to make sure the chili doesn't get too dry. Add more water as needed. After 20 minutes taste the sauce to check on the balance of flavor. Adjust seasonings as needed. If you like your chili a bit sweet, add a Tbs. of sugar to the pot. Allow to simmer a another five minutes until vegetables are tender.

Love the idea of pumpkin in vegetarian chili. So perfectly "Fall".  Maybe just the idea that pumpkin is actually in a dish will interest my 5 and 4 year olds to try it! Right now all they know is that pumpkins should either have faces painted on them, or faces cut out with candles burning in them.

This chili sounds great, and I love to improvise. Depending on your seasoning, and whether you prefer it sweet or spicy, will determine what wine to use. But I would opt for red either way. If you like to "spice it up" a bit, as I do, choose a wine that will not exacerbate the heat, but rather complement and "mellow" it. Something with sweet fruit flavors. Perhaps a Shiraz. Australian Shiraz has a lot of concentrated fruit, with thick, jammy flavors. Lots of spice as well. So, I would either go in this direction, or look to a red from the Southern Rhone in France. Grenache and Syrah (same varietal as Shiraz) blends would be appropriate. Again, the wines provide a richness of fruit which will soften the spice. Be sure not to pick a red that is too tannic, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, as the spice in the food will make the tannins more pronounced and unappealing. A Zinfandel would also be wonderful with this dish. You don't want a wine that is too subtle as the bold, spicy flavors in the chile will wage war with the wine, the food ultimately claiming victory.  Heat in a dish can reak havoc with your taste buds, and a wine that is too mellow will be lost on them. So, something bigger and bolder like a California Zin with lots of spice will work well in conjunction with the firey flavors of the dish.

If you don't necessarily like firey hot chile, the flavors of the spices themselves call for any of these varietals. I would specifically stay away from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for this particular recipe. If red is not your "thing", try a Rose or perhaps a Riesling.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Last Chance

This time of year cooking is all about abundance. The harvest is in and we must use it or lose it. This is when preserving methods come in to play. After harvesting my garden herbs I make logs of herb butter to freeze and use all winter. If I am lucky to get my hands on them I will make batches of stewed tomatoes to use in soups, stews and sauces to last me through the growing drought.  I have already cut up the last great peaches I came across and have them in my freezer.

Sage makes a really tasty herb butter, so good on roasted squashes.

Bell peppers are on my mind right now and it is all about roasting. What better way to bring out the flavor and extend their shelf life? I keep all types and colors of roasted peppers topped with olive oil in the fridge and use them in so many dishes like frittatas, salads and pilafs.

Roasting methods are pretty basic, either on top of the stove directly on the burner, or in the oven on a sheet pan or on the grill. Oven baking at 400 F takes about 25 minutes. I have used all these roasting techniques interchangeably, depending on what I am doing in the kitchen. I try not to turn on the oven to roast a few small peppers if I am not cooking anything else in there. In those cases I will use the stove top method, which is a bit messier because you  have to clean up the juices that inevitably escape from the pepper onto the cook top, and well, I don't really like cleaning up as much as I like cooking. If I have peppers on hand when I am grilling outdoors I try to remember to throw them on the grill even if I am not serving them at that meal because they keep so well and they taste so good.

In all cases the roasting process is simple. Cook the whole pepper, turning them a few times to get all sides of the skin softened and blistered. Once cooked, remove from heat and cover the peppers to allow them to steam at room temperature. Sometimes I just put a bowl over them or throw a dish towel on top to do that job. I hate to waste a large clean zip-lock baggie for that task as I so often see being instructed in cookbook recipes and in cooking demos. It doesn't have to be an airtight seal, you just want to trap some of the steamy heat coming off the pepper to help remove the skin. Leave them to steam until they are cool enough to handle and the skin should slide right off. This is an easy task, but not necessarily a neat one. Remove the seeds too and you will be left with a deep glossy flesh. I will then cut the peppers into strips and store in a small container covered with olive oil to keep in the fridge for as long as they last. Usually not long.

A very yummy treat is a roasted pepper and feta cheese dip that tastes great with crudite or chips. I made some this weekend and slathered it on top of sandwiches. It stores well and tastes even better the next day.  It makes a really elegant dip that would be nice with a great wine to start a meal. Any ideas about that Amanda?

Roasted Pepper and Feta Dip
2 roasted red peppers, skin and seeds removed
8 oz feta cheese
1 garlic clove peeled
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 teas. paprika
1/4 teas. cayenne pepper
1/2 teas. salt
1 Tbs. lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend till smooth. Store in a container. Serve with crudite or pita chips. Make the night before to allow flavors to develop (but it tastes good immediately  after making too!).

Yum Yum! This sounds terrific and rather straightforward. Before getting to my wine comments, I wanted to mention the delicious cauliflower soup that I made from your recipe yesterday. Though I had every intention of making it last week, it actually came to fruition only yesterday. There's never a shortage of interruptions in my household! The soup was easy to prepare,  which is great if your time is limited. I added some carrots I had on hand and wanted to use up, as well as some onion. As mentioned, I also bought some kale to include as well. Love to get those dark leafy greens in anyway I can. It was great. Perfectly comforting! I will enjoy it all week for lunch. Thanks for sharing it!

Hmmm. Roasted red pepper and feta dip. Sauvignon Blanc. Look for Sancerre, which is located in the Loire Valley region of France. It is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and has wonderful acidity and minerality. Think crisp green apple flavors. Pascal Jolivet produces wonderful Sancerre. His wines should be pretty easy to find as well. But if you want to be adventurous and try something new, you could also consider Feta's Greek routes and stick within that "theme". Moschifilero is a white grape which produces highly aromatic, fresh and floral wines. Flavors of melon and citrus abound. It is grown in the AOC region of Mantinia, in the Peloponnese. A well-known producer of Greek wines is Boutari, and they make a terrific premium white made from 100% Moschifilero grapes. With all of the holidays coming up, this would be a perfect combination to bring to a get-together. And fun, too! Especially if the crowd includes wine lovers. Why not bring a bowl of this dip, some pita for dipping, and a bottle of Moschifilero!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Gourmet beginning

The news of Gourmet magazine's closing hit me like the loss of an old friend I haven't seen in years. Memories of our time together came flooding back, along with a certain chagrin that I hadn't kept in touch. Having moved on to other sources for culinary information and inspiration years ago, Gourmet magazine was now a source of nostalgia, profound nostalgia as it turns out.

I first encountered the magazine as a young 11 year old girl at my mother's side. My mother was a young girl herself at that time. At age 29, she was a new bride beginning a second marriage with three children from a previous marriage in tow. My mother's cooking at that point was simple and serviceable, with specialties being spaghetti and meatballs and meatloaf. Her new husband was European and so our mother decided that we needed to learn how to cook more sophisticated food for him, to sweeten the domestic pot as it were. He was, in fact, Scottish and his culinary viewpoint was even more narrow than our own, but we did not know that then. He resembled George Harrison, had a cool accent and was putting up with three kids, so impress him we must.

My mother embarked on her subscription to Gourmet magazine and each month would pass the issue around to my younger sister and I to mark off recipes we wanted to try. My mother had no qualms about setting us youngsters up at the stove and the results were staggering. We were making fancy, delicious dishes out of what seemed to us piles of unrelated ingredients. Following the instructions as closely as chemistry lab experiments we tried out our first gazpacho, our first curries, our first cassoulet. Culinary courage and curiosity exploded in our home as we poured over the beautiful pages that represented exotic sophistication to our young inexperienced selves.

As the years went by and my family grew, my brothers were also drawn into the kitchen. We became known to our extended family and friends as the cooking family. No occasion was lost for a group cook-a-thon with way too many of us in the kitchen, but fortunately no spoiled broth. My mother continued her subscription throughout her life and as an adult I would look forward to curling up with copies of the latest issues when visiting her and my step-father for weekends in Sag Harbor. My mother died way too young at age 65 in 2003 and now Gourmet is gone. I will always have them linked in my mind. And I am grateful for the culinary push they both gave me.
A prize specimen from my local nursery in Forest Hills, Queens.  Cinderella would be proud to ride around in this!

In the spirit of culinary adventure I thought of this soup which can be made from any of the winter squashes including pumpkin. The most recent version I made was with acorn squash. I like to roast the squash first to really intensify the flavor and get some caramelization going. Winter squashes tend to be sweet and can handle a lot of strong flavors as a counter balance. So don't fear the cayenne. It will give the soup some integrity. The addition of the apple brings some tart, acidic sweetness to the mix and is a trick my mother picked up from reading Gourmet.
Chili peppers are the spice of life!

Acorn Squash Soup with Ginger and Coconut milk
1 Acorn squash, peeled and chopped into large cubes
1 green apple, peeled and chopped
2 inch piece of peeled ginger
4 cloves of peeled garlic
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 teas. salt
1 onion, chopped
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Butternut squash makes great soup too.

Preheat oven to 400 F
Lay the acorn squash and the apples in a single layer on a large roasting pan. Sprinkle with a little s & p and roast in the oven for 20 minutes until the squash begins to soften and brown a little bit.

If you have a mortar and pestle pound the ginger and garlic into a paste. If you don't have one, put them in a food processor with a tablespoon of water to blend into paste.
Heat the oil in a large sauce pan and add the ginger-garlic paste. Cook over a medium low heat until the paste begins to slowly turn a golden color, about 2 minutes. Add the onions and salt and cook till softened and translucent, about 5 minutes more. Add the roasted squash and apples and the stock or water and bring to a simmer. Let the pot simmer for 25- 20 minutes until squash is completely tender when poked with a fork.
Turn off heat and allow soup to cool for a bit before adding to a blender or food processor (try to wait because hot food really expands and splashes out when blended). Blend until very smooth. Pour soup back into the pot and TASTE IT.
At this point you want to adjust the seasonings. If it is too bland, add a little salt and/or sugar ( a pinch at a time, keep tasting). Once the flavor tastes balanced to you add the coconut milk and the cayenne and bring the soup up to a simmer. Let soup simmer for 5 minutes till all the flavors are blended and the soup is warm enough to serve.


Beautiful commentary on Gourmet magazine, Deb. I loved the magazine as well, but it obviously holds a much deeper connection for you. I always referred to the magazine around the holidays - no magazine could compete with their Thanksgiving issue!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Not all bad

So many fall lovers have been extolling the pleasures of the season to me since my last post. Don't get me wrong. I really do love fall, all those crunchy leaves underfoot, long shadows on the streets, sweaters out of the closet finally. My problem seems to be that my little backyard just doesn't have much pizzazz this time of year. It looks so dreamy in the Spring with pale green shoots and flowering bulbs. And in Summer while I don't get enough sun for a satisfying vegetable garden, my plants stay green and cool even on the hottest summer dog days. I tend to have more passion than skill when it comes to gardening, but I'm working on it.
Not every garden in Queens is as pitiful as mine this fall. 
Don't those kale leaves look wonderful? Perfect in soup!

Fall brings finality to all my summer garden ambitions and then there are those darn short days. BUT change is good and fall recipes are great! Sticking to the theme of soup this week I am offering up my lentil soup recipe. This is one of those recipes that can accommodate massive improvisation. I urge anyone who tries this to have fun and play, yes play with your food.

I think of the recipe in four stages:

One- vegetables/aromatics that get gently softened in oil.  This would include onions, garlic, celery, carrots, fennel, celery root, bell pepper, leeks, etc. These are the vegetables that won't completely fall apart or be grossly mushy after an hour of cooking.

If you like things spicy, why not add some chili peppers like these beauties growing at Stone Barns Center for Agriculture

Two- the liquid and seasonings get added now. For liquids think of vegetable or meat stock, tomato juice, tomato paste, or even water.  For seasonings I might add herbs or curry powder or chili powder, what ever I'm in the mood for. Again, you can play and experiment.

Three- When the liquid is simmering I add the lentils, along with maybe rice, potatoes, cubed pumpkin. This is the starchy stuff that will thicken the soup.

Four- Finishing the last 5 minutes of cooking with green vegetables like chopped swiss chard, green beans, broccoli florets, anything that will taste good with a brief blanch in the soup liquid and will add color or a little crunch of texture.

Even pale wax beans will look pretty in the soup

Depending on the flavor direction I have been going in I will also add any of the following: some grated cheese, a splash of vinegar or lemon juice, a dollop of pesto, a drizzle of olive oil.

Four steps with lots of chopping may seem like a lot of work, but you really don't have to pay much attention to what you are doing (not that I'm advocating inattention at the stove). The recipe is very forgiving. Lentils cook quickly and they have a very comforting earthly flavor. This soup will happily feed a crowd, is very cost effective and it can be eaten all week.
I love to serve this soup over macaroni or noodles, which I cook separately.

I am going to sit in my backyard with a bowl of lentil soup and warm myself in the beautiful October sun.

Lentil Soup 
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped into small bite sized pieces
1 large carrot, peeled or scrubbed and chopped into small bite sized pieces
1 clove garlic finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs. tomato paste
4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup lentils
1/2 cup diced potato
1 cup chopped swiss chard
1/2 cup green beans cut into 1" lengths
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs grated Romano cheese
1 Tbs high quality extra virgin olive oil

Part One:
Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan and add the onion, celery, garlic and carrots, the salt and pepper. Gently sweat vegetables till they begin to soften, about 5-8 minutes.

Part Two:
Add the tomato paste, the thyme and the bay leaf and cook with the vegetables for about 30 seconds to mix well. Add the stock and raise heat a bit to bring to a simmer.

Part Three:
When the liquid is simmering add the lentils and the potatoes. Cook at a simmer for about 25- 30 minutes until the lentils are soft.

Part Four:
Add the chard and the green beans and cook for another 5 or 10 minutes till the green vegetables are cooked but not mushy. Finish with the vinegar, cheese and a drizzle of good quality of extra virgin olive oil.

serves 4 and can easily be multiplied

I have to say that each post and each recipe sounds better than the last. This presents a bit of a problem for me. Case and point: Yesterday, I went to the market and purchased the ingredients to make the Cauliflower soup (I also added Kale to the mix). My plan was to make it this evening. This Lentil Soup recipe just about resulted in the abandonment of the said previous plan. I was on my way to the store this afternoon to pick up what I would need to make the Lentil Soup this evening, when it occurred to me there was an expectant head of cauliflower and bunch of kale in my fridge eagerly awaiting my return home from work.  "One thing at a time" I convinced myself, and ultimately decided to let the Lentil Soup wait a few more days.

But - I do at least have a wine (or wines) in mind. Definitely not too big or too bold for this meal. (Remember - it is difficult to pair wine with soup...) My thoughts immediately turn to red - something earthy, perhaps mushroomy, light-medium bodied with soft fruit and spice. Pinot Noir, maybe? Not the big, ripe, highly concentrated Pinots from California. I'd like to say Burgundy, and I know it would work well. However, though I'm confident this meal is wonderful, does it merit the high price demanded by Burgundy? Wines simply labeled "Bourgogne" can include grapes from all over the region and typically run between $15-$25. This would be the best bet for Burgundy. Even so, it's not cheap for a bowl of Lentil Soup (even a spectacular one at that!)

The Marlborough region of New Zealand provides an alternative. The wines typically have bright red fruit flavors, but also a smoky, herbal quality that would work well here. In the wines from this region, there is a similar "terroir" characteristic as is found in Burgundy, as well as those funky, earthy, savory flavors. When I think of lentils, I think of similar flavor descriptives, so I think this would be a match made in legume heaven!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Little Comfort

The weather is changing. The cheeks I am kissing are cool to the touch. It is officially fall. I am slow to accept this change. My garden looks awful. The mint looks mangy, my echinechia is black. I have been so busy cooking I have not had a chance to tidy up back there. I need some comfort food to console me for the inevitable farewell to backyard picnics for a while.

Comfort food for me is represented by one orange clogs wearing package, Mario Batali. Don't ask me why, I'm not Italian. Somehow Batali's food speaks to my inner soul. Simple yet rigourous cooking techniques combined with excellent ingredients is how I would characterize his style. I loved his TV show, I adore his cook books and I would eat in any of his restuarants anytime I am invited. :- )

It is always in the fall and winter that I turn to Battali's recipes. I am thinking now of a cauliflower soup I watched him demo on Molto Mario a few years ago. It was so basic and so smart and when I made it soooooooo good. Cauliflower is often a hard sell in my house, but this soup manages to woo even the most skeptical. The flavor is earthy and nutty, warming to the mouth and soul. When I make it for myself I sometimes leave out the tomatoes. I also don't always have homemade stock on hand and so will use store bought (with out compromising anything except bragging rights).

I did a little search on the web to see who else likes this recipe and it turns out just about everybody. Every cooking blog and cooking web site has it posted. Ok, maybe not EVERY site, but almost. Which just proves that it is GOOD! So give it a try and get yourself a little comfort.

(My version of) Mario Batali's
Cauliflower Soup: Minestra di Cavolofiore

2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound cauliflower, cut into florets
4 cups Brown Chicken or vegetable Stock
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 bay leaves
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
In a pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the cauliflower. Stir over high heat for 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is just beginning to get tender. Add the garlic and cook another minute till garlic begins to soften. Add stock, bay leaf, pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes. Add water, if necessary, to ensure that all the cauliflower is submerged in hot liquid.
Add grated cheese to the simmering soup to finish cooking for one more minute. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a little high quality extra-virgin olive oil before serving.

4 servings
I added some shredded collard greens that I had on hand. Batali's recipes are a reflection of peasant style cooking, and lend themselves well to an improvisational style where you use what you have.

I am going to make this tomorrow! I've been waiting for a wonderful, "fall" soup recipe to come into my life! But I must say, you had me stumped on this one. I was having a difficult time coming up with a wine to enjoy along side this soup. I had two things going against me: first, generally, wine is very difficult to pair with soup. Second, cauliflower is a tough match for wine. So, after tossing around a few ideas in my mind, I appealed to my boss, Chuck Russo, owner of Wine and Spirit World. His family has been in the wine industry for 60 years, so I figured if anyone had a recommendation, it would be Chuck. Definitely white, he suggested. We discussed a few options and finely decided that a nice refreshing white would be the best option. Spanish white, such as an albarino would work well. Godello would also be a delicious option. Godello is Spain's answer to Chardonnay. Rich and wonderful, it is one of my favorite white varietals. For producers, look for Val de Sil. They make a few different ones and all are in the $12 to $20 price range.