Friday, May 28, 2010

green on green

Last night my book group converged on my home to discuss Richard Yates' novel Cold Spring Harbor. Yates also wrote Revolutionary Road and his themes of American angst and domestic unease always suit our group. We are rabid readers of classic fiction and combine our literary passion with lots of eating and wine drinking.
Some times our literary passions get the better of us. A casualty of the table.

Freshly picked flowers from the garden contributed to the Springtime mood of the evening.

Our book discussions are conducted over dinner and they are the highlight of my month. I t is especially fun when it is my turn to host. Spring weather was on the menu. I put fresh greens and herbs into every dish. My trip to Union Square Green Market earlier in the week resulted in armloads of mixed greens and lettuces. I made a braise of artichoke hearts, edamame and peas with a splash of white wine and a large handful of pea shoots. 

Braised Artichoke Hearts with Edamame and Peas

I found a vendor who sold beautiful loose mixed baby greens and I quickly filled a large bag. All I needed to do was heat some olive oil in a saute pan, I then added garlic cloves and chile peppers, cooked garlic till golden, added about a two inch piece of peeled ginger sliced, and then the greens, still a bit wet from being washed. They cooked down to a tender wilt in about three minutes.

Spicy Greens with Ginger

These two simple dishes really highlighted what is best at the farmer's markets right now. Young fresh  greens can go into everything, they cook quickly and are good for you!

Wine pairing, however, may be a challenge. Amanda, What would you serve?

Yes, the wine pairing would be a little challenging. But we could definitely make it work! For the first dish, be sure to stay with something bright and crisp with good acidity. Artichokes are one of those "difficult" vegetables to pair with wine, but I wouldn't say impossible. First, out of curiousity, how long did you braise the veggies? Just wondering how long you needed to let the artichokes cook. I don't have a whole lot of experience preparing them - but I love them!

A nice clean Sauvignon Blanc, or crisp Albarino would do the trick here. Something "zippy" would work well. You could even use the same wine for the braising. These wines are fresh, and I think the crisp, lively quality of these wines would be a great complement to this light, warm-weather dish.

Now, a question about the greens - what type of greens were in the mix? They do look beautiful! But these aren't salad greens, correct? I would think those wouldn't stand up to sauteeing? These look more like swiss chard or collard greens? I can't tell exactly what they are from the picture. Just curious.

Again, for this light dish I would stick with white. Something from Alsace, France would be my first choice. Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris or Riesling would all work well. Whenever I think of ginger, I consider these wine options. Definitely stick with something "dry" for this recipe. Zind-Humbrecht is one of my favorite Alsace producers, and makes many wonderful wines. Their Gewurztraminer is to die for, as are most of their gems! Hugel et fils is another producer to look for, and they have an affordable line-up as well.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

a night of play & a night of work

My very sweet and super cool husband treated me to a night out last week at City Winery in lower Manhattan. I had been very interested to check this venue out, it is the latest venture of Michael Dorf, founder of the highly successful Knitting Factory. City Winery makes and barrels their own wines and for a price will allow you to create and barrel-age your own custom blend on their site. They also host great music and cultural events. We went to hear Laura Marling, the lovely and sophisticated beyond her years twenty year old British singer-songwriter. The music was wonderful and the room was fun, cavernous but with a sense of cozy intimacy from all the wood surfacing. The menu features wine pairings with small plates. So what was not to like? I loved it!  We had great seats, the sound system was fantastic, service attentive, the wine was excellent and the food was...
Ok, I'm a critic, I cant help it. First thing I did was ask the waiter if I could keep the menu so I could scribble notes all over it. The first pairing I sampled was Althea Prosecco Brut from Veneto, Italy paired with a Roasted Tomato-Shallot Crostini. The prosecco was INCREDIBLE!! I really thought it was delicious and it could easily become my most favorite sparkling wine of the season. The crostini was good, but my scribbled notes say: Missing salt, vinegar, herbs, garlic. Just a small comment.
Some beautiful plants I picked up today at the Union Square Green Market that I will stick in my garden: two coleus,  a red veined sorrel (!) and some Thai basil.

Hot house tomatoes have hit Union Square so I decided to try my hand at an improved Tomato-Shallot Crostini for a party I catered this week. The event was a fund raiser to introduce to local Democrats Didi Barrett,  running for State Senate in the 41st district of upstate NY.  Representatives from NARAL were there to endorse her. Good luck Didi! Also among the guests was Jerry Kretchmer, a long time active democrat and restaurateur who opened Gothem Bar and Grill over 25 years ago. I was surprised and happy to see Jerry, who is an old family friend and asked him what he thought of the food (Jerry's son Laurence, who I used to babysit (!) is Bobby Flay's business partner.)  Jerry said he only tried one hors d'oeuvre which he enjoyed, but it wasnt the crostini. Alas.

I think my version takes the City Winery's concept a little further and it is a pretty and easy little nibble to prepare for summer entertaining.

Tomato-Shallot Crostini
for the crostini:
1/2 loaf of baguette or fiscelle
3 Tbs olive oil
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Thinly slice bread into about 1/4" thick pieces. Lay out on a baking sheet and brush the bread with the olive oil. Bake for about 10 minutes until golden and crisp. Store in an air tight container for up to 2 days.

For the topping:
4 tomatoes
1 teas. salt
3 shallots
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs. Butter
1 teas. balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic
4 basil leaves, cut into thin chiffonade strips

Peel tomatoes with a vegetable peeler, cut them in half, scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut tomato halves into a small dice. Place diced tomatoes in a bowl and sprinkle with half the salt and let it sit while you prepare the shallots.
Peel and finely chop the shallots. Heat the butter and 1 Tbs. of the olive oil in a small saute pan. Add the shallots and the rest of the salt and slowly cook at a low temperature for about 15-20 minutes till shallots are soft and golden. Add the vinegar to the shallots and cook for 2 more minutes and then remove form heat.
Place the rest of the olive oil and the peeled garlic cloves into a small saucepan and cook at a low heat for about 5-8 minutes, till the garlic is golden. Remove garlic cloves from oil and discard or reserve for another use. With a slotted spoon, scoop the diced tomatoes into the garlic oil, draining out most of the liquid that will have accumulated from the tomatoes. Cook tomatoes for just 2 minutes to soften slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the shallots. Place the tomato-shallot mixture in a small bowl and let it cool to room temperature before putting on the crostini. The mixture can be store in a covered container in the fridge overnight.
Garnish with the basil and serve.
Makes about 1.5 cups of the topping

The City Winery sounds like such a cool spot. They certainly don't have anything like that in Bergen County, NJ! I might have to make a trip into the City to check it out! I love this simple, little recipe. On warm nights, I often sit outside on my patio with several friends, sipping wine, eating hors d'oeuvres-type food, and watching the children play. This crostini would be perfect to enjoy on such evenings.

And, most often, Prosecco is among our selection of wines. This sparkler from Italy is really perfect with almost anything. A current favorite among my neighborhood friends is the Riondo Pink Prosecco. It can be found in any backyard on my block, on any given night. Deb's crostini, a nice hard cheese, some chips and guacomole, olives, and a little crudite would be a great combination of "nibbles" to enjoy with this crisp, fruity Prosecco. This is typically what our get-togethers consist of. Simple, easy, light.

This beautiful pale, pink bubbly retails for $9.99. Really - Prosecco is a must-have at any warm-weather get-together. And, with its affordable pricetage, it's worth stocking up on for the summer. Always delightul; always a crowd-pleaser. Everyone loves this wine!

Monday, May 17, 2010

what's in a name?

To continue with our grilling theme I offer you my version of grilled vegetables with a fresh herb &  black olive pesto tapenade vinaigrette. A what? I know the name is a bit in-elegant. I generally resist fancy, overwrought names for dishes and prefer to call things as they are.  This one has me stumped because it is all and none of the sum of it's parts. That is to say, it is not strictly a pesto, nor tapenade, nor vinaigrette- but more of a bastardized version of the attributes of all three. OK, I'll shut up.

Beautiful colors!- These vegetables are cut into slabs or wedges so they will cook quickly and evenly.

The cut vegetables are arranged on the hot part of the grill with just a brush of olive oil at this point.

A grill basket would come in really handy now. The risk-all approach means there inevitably will be a few veggie casualties.
I tossed a little scotch bonnet pepper on the grill and when it got to my plate and I took a bite- YEAOCH!! that baby was very hot :-)
The cooked vegetables get put into a pan to keep warm. I toss the vegetables with a few spoonfuls of "the sauce" and serve the rest on the side.

fresh herb &  black olive pesto tapenade vinaigrette

1/2 cup pitted black olives (not canned!)
1/2 cup fresh leafy herbs- a single herb or any combination of the following: parsley, mint, basil, cilantro
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. pine nuts

Put all ingredients in food processor and blend till combined. 
makes about 1 cup. Store in a jar in the fridge and use on everything (grilled veg and meats, on bread, pasta, cheese!)

Wow! What a versatile recipe! There are so many ways I'd love to use this pesto-tapenade-vinaigrette. Wine pairing is tough, however, with a sauce/dressing like this as a result of the vinegar's high acidity. Stay away from soft, rich wines since the acidity will render them "flat" and blah. Definitely stick with something more lively and bright. I am thinking this recipe is on the salty side with the black olives and added tsp of salt. Therefore, why not sip something with a touch (just a touch) of sweetness to act as a counterpart to the dressing's saltiness? We all love that sweet/salty combination, right? Think chocolate covered pretzels. In addition to the "sweet" or slightly off-dry characteristic, I would choose something with good acidity.

Riesling would be my first choice. Nothing too sweet though. The other day we tasted a Riesling specifically made to complement all types of food. The creators' goal was to produce a wine to go with anything - hence the name Anything Goes Riesling. Well-priced at $9.99, I was impressed with this fun, everyday white. It is crisp, bright and lively - a perfect match for this "zippy" vinaigrette. The wine is part of the portolio of German producer Schmitt Sohne.  Whatever your choice, just be sure to avoid anything too tannic, too "big", or too rich! You don't want the sauce to be overpowered by the wine; and conversely you don't want the acidity of the sauce to stamp out any of the wine's flavors or characteristics.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

welcome honored guests!


My absolute favorite catering job of the year is always the Rainforest Alliance's private dinner welcoming the guests who will be honored at their annual Gala held the next evening. The gala honors the companies of the year who are being recognized as Leaders in Sustainability. The pre-gala dinner allows the honorees, who come from all over the world, to relax and get to know one another before the big formal event the next night AND it allows me the chance to showcase some of our local produce. I really look forward to this event every year and continue, myself, to be honored as the chosen chef of these evenings!

This year's dinner began with a chilled pea soup that gets pureed at the last minute with a handful of fresh mint. I garnished the soup with dollops of sour cream and sprigs of pea shoots. This recipe takes advantage of the freshest ingredients at the farmers market and is quick and easy to prepare. It was a perfect light and tasty starter course for our buffet supper of grilled entrees.

Chive blossoms and mint leaves also make a pretty garnish.

One of the honorees at the dinner, the Williamette Valley Vineyards out of Oregon, was being recognized for their sustainable corks(!) I have heard a lot of talk in wine circles about the demise of the cork as we know it. They cause too much wine spoilage (cork taint) and traditional cork harvesting methods can be environmentally damaging. This company is the first vineyard to use certified sustainable cork and have added that to their solid list of sustainable business practises. Congratulations to all the honorees this year!

Chilled Pea Soup with Mint
1 tbs. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
salt & white pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 head of romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1 potato peeled and quartered
2 cups of fresh peas (frozen is fine)
1 quart stock or water
1/2 teaspoon cayanne pepper
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh pea shoots or small whole mint leaves

Heat olive oil in a soup pot and add the onion and salt and pepper. Sweat the onion slowly at medium heat until in begins to soften and turns translucent. Add the chopped garlic and cook another two minutes. Add the romaine, the potato and the stock or water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then add the peas and the cayenne pepper. Cook for another five minutes. Remove from heat and allow soup to cool before blending. Puree soup in batches in a blender, adding in the mint leaves to each batch as you puree. Put soup in a serving bowl and stir in the heavy cream. Taste soup and adjust seasonings. Chill for at least one hour before serving. Ladle chilled soup in to bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and the pea shoots or mint leaves.

serves four

Sounds like a great event! I would love to hear about what else you served! One word about the sustainable corks - a lot of wineries all over the world are now switching to screwcaps, high-end wineries included. I have customers who come into the shop but refuse to buy anything with a screwcap. Please - do not let this be a factor when purchasing wine! A screwcap is no longer a measure of quality!! Some of the greatest, highest rated wines now offer this easy-open method. I, for one, love screwcaps. If I don't finish off a bottle  in one night, I can put the closure back on, and it will remain fresher than if re-corked. No air can get in with a screwcap. Whites will stay fresh longer in the fridge. And, there will be no "cork taint". Many peoples' palates cannot discern a "corked" bottle from one that is fine. Trust me - a lot of wine is "corked". Statistically, 10% of all bottles are corked - that's 1 out of every 10. So, if you were to buy a case (12 bottles), chances are one of them is corked. Many a bottle that I open are "off". Screwcaps greatly reduce the chances of getting a bottle that is "off".

Deb's soup looks, and sounds delicious. I love the simple elegance of this dish. Easy to prepare, yet very impressive. This soup instantly makes me think of sunshine, warm-weather, and brightly colored flowers. I want a wine that evokes the same images. The first wine I think of is Austria's Gruner Veltliner. Typically this varietal will offer lovely aromatics, and peppery, herbal flavors combined with fresh fruit and lively acidity. The mint in the soup will complement the herbal characteristics in the wine, and the acidity of the wine will serve to contrast the soup's creaminess, making a scrumptious combination of textures and flavors.  Generally Gruner is light and crisp, but certainly richer styles are available. I love this versatile, warm-weather white!

Gruner Veltliner can be found in a wide range of prices, for as little as $8 and as high as $40. When experimenting with this varietal, there is no reason to spend a lot of money. I recommend staying in the $10-$15 range. Look for wines made by Forstreiter or Fritsch. One of my favorite Gruners is the Fritsch Steinberg Gruner Veltliner, available for $14.99.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I've Come a Long Way, Baby

Once again, I just have to express my thanks to Deb for her inspirational posts! I cannot tell you how much I have learned from doing this blog with her. In the past year I have come such a long way culinary-wise. I have such a passion for cooking, but always lacked the creativity innate to all chefs. Deb's posts have really helped me along. And as I know my culinary growth is of course not her main focus, (smile), I have the desire to let her know, as well as our readers, how our blog can transform even the least creative of novice chef "wannabees".

Case and point: A few nights ago I wanted something very light and healthy for dinner. So, I went to the supermarket and spotted broccoli rabe. It looked nice, so I bought that and bought some ginger and figured I'd come up with something. Oh yeah - I also bought some nice shitakes. So, I got home and pulled out some garlic. I didn't bother blanching the broccoli rabe and decided to just cook it in a pan as Deb had done a few posts ago. I sauteed some garlic and ginger in olive oil. Threw some sesame oil in as well. (I threw the shitakes under the broiler for a few minutes on each side too). Then, I put the broccoli rabe in the pan with the garlic and ginger, threw in some soy sauce, a touch of mirin, and finished the whole thing off with a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Then I sliced up the shitakes and threw them in. Unbelievably delicious. Like something I would have as a side in a restaurant. I have to admit, I was proud of myself! My point here is that a year ago I would have had to look in Fine Cooking's "what to do with Broccoli Rabe" section to do something with it. I know this "recipe" doesn't require a degree in rocket science, and is very simple, and probably a no-brainer for many of you. But for me it is a big deal to just throw something together like that and have it come out simply amazing.

It's because I've been doing this blog with Deborah that has given me the ability to be more creative and just come up with stuff on my own rather than following a recipe. So, in my long-winded way - thank you, Deb for your inspiration and creativity! I can only hope that my wine insights have been equally educational and fun for others!

Thank you Amanda! My heart is swelling with pride! The confidence you have gained to comfortably improvise in the kitchen is all I could ever hope for in our blog journey together. Cooking is so laborious and such an unavoidable chore for those who want to eat well and healthfully that finding the simple, sensual pleasure in the work can make all the difference.
Some pretty Spring blossoms from my garden.

I too have learned from our collaboration and I now drink more than ever. JUST KIDDING!! What I have learned is to pay a little more attention to what wine I am serving with my meals. I really enjoy good wine, but have found the subject too vast for me to really claim any expertise about it.

During a recent dinner party my very sweet guests brought some wines for us all to share. Inspired by Amanda we decided to do our own little tasting. For the meal I served a classic cassoulet (roughly based on a recipe by Rachel Ray, but with my own twists, starting with beans cooked from scratch). I offered a cava to start because I love to have sparkling wine as a dinner aperitif when the occasion permits. We followed this with two Pinot Noirs and a Cotes du Rhone.
The damage is done. 
The tasters relax after a lot of hard work.

The results are as follows:
The cava was a Codorniu Brut- I chose it because it was cheap (under $10) and it was from Spain and I like things from Spain. The cava was really nice- dry, fruity, not TOO anything. Well balanced and refreshing on a warm day. Would absolutely buy it again and serve with ANYTHING.

Next we opened The Bourgogne A. Rodet 2008 Pinot Noir. My first thought was BUTTERY. My guests were skeptical- buttery wine??? but then they tasted it and agreed. I also thought it was romantic. Someone suggested "good for a first date", but I thought it was more like a third date when you know you are going to have sex and require at least the illusion of romance. I would serve this with some braised fava beans and sweet corn seasoned with tarragon. It just seems like a good idea.

The next Pinot was Augustinos 2008 from Chile. We immediately noticed its light body and peppery finish. This seemed more like a first date; a little exciting and stimulating, but not too serious. Serve it with grilled vegetables.

Finally we hit the Paul Jaboulet Aine Parellel 45 Cotes du Rhone, 2007. One guest called it "slap your mama." He is from Alabama and is comfortable with colorful phrasing. I just hope he treats his mama well. The point he nimbly made was that this wine was a big detour into the land of bold and obvious. Good for a pasta with red sauce kind of thing, I would think. It's the wine you would pull out when you have already been dating for a few years.

Ok Amanda- we are on a roll so I suggest we keep on eating and drinking and tasting and writing!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

grab the tortillas

One of my favorite food blogs is Herbivoracious, written by Michael Natkin, a vegetarian cook who loves good food and fine dining. Michael is from Seattle so his local frame-of-reference is a little different than ours here in NY. I first came upon Michael's blog through the food blog hub Serious Eats. His recipes and food photos really stood out from the over-crowded field. Now that I have found Michael I really look forward to his strictly vegetarian recipes and smart observations about the food industry in general.

My backyard herbs are in full swing. I take cutting every evening to put into my salads.

Today's post on Herbivoracious was Grilled Tofu and Pepper Vegetarian Tacos. It seems like the perfect fit for our current grilling theme. Michael's recipe is a little more labor intensive than we usually offer up here, but I really respect his instincts and have faith that the result will be well worth the work. Michael suggests buying the freshest and best corn tortillas you can find. I heartily concur. Try to find lesser known brands that look like they came packaged straight from Mexico. There are small tortilla companys all over that sell great products.
These Guerrero tortillas are actually from Mexico. Also look for small brands like Tropical which is located in New Jersey. The scent of warm corn tortillas is a joy to behold!

Grilled Tofu and Pepper Vegetarian Tacos
by Michael Natkin
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free
Serves 4

1.5 ounces achiote "brick" paste (aka annatto)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons Tapatio or other hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces extra firm tofu cut into 1/3" slabs and patted dry
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/3" slabs
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
24 corn tortillas
-serve with guacamole and salsa

In a small bowl, break up the achiote with a fork and mash in the oil, a little at a time until it dissolves. Mix in the cumin, hot sauce and salt.
Heat up a grill or grill pan to a medium flame. Brush the tofu with the achiote oil on one side and grill until well marked. Brush the other side, flip, and grill. Repeat with the zucchini. Allow both to cool and then cut into 1/3" dice.
Heat up a frying pan over a medium-high flame. Add 2 tablespoons of the achiote oil. Saute the onion, garlic and bell peppers until very soft.
Add the tofu and zucchini to the pepper mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning. It may need more salt, or a little lime or lemon juice, or more chile heat.
Wrap the tortillas in a damp, clean dish towel and microwave for about 3 minutes until soft and warm.
To eat, lay down two tortillas. Top with a moderate scoop of the filling, a spoonful of guacamole and salsa. Pass more hot sauce for those who want it.

Well, it certainly seem worth the effort! First, Deb - where should I look for the achiote paste? Do you think Whole Foods or Fairway would have it? After that, the rest of the ingredients should not be a problem. And thanks for sharing the Herbivoraceous blog - it's wonderful!

I have mentioned earlier that you should basically choose a fun, simple wine when grilling and not think too much about it. Accept when there is a sauce, or ethnic flair. Because of the spicy nature of this dish, selecting the right wine is important. Spicy foods can have a very negative affect on wine, and vice versa. Stay away from Chardonnay and tannic wines. The heat from the spice will ruin the flavors of the Chardonnay, and the heat from the tacos will only be exacerbated. Avoid Cabernet and Merlot as well.

For white, which would be my first choice, I would definitely pick something with a lot of fruit, and even something "off dry" (slightly sweet). Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley would be delicious. Typically fragrant and lightly sweet, the wine is incredibly versatile and food-friendly. Vouvray is simply wonderful, and has a bit of a honeyed character. There are also an abundance of terrific, affordable Chenin Blancs from South Africa, referred to as "Steen". Mulderbosch and Simonsig are extremely affordable options. Pinot Gris would also be a great choice as well.

For red, I would look towards something simple, light and fruity. A Beaujolais would do the trick. They are nice when served with a slight chill. Georges Duboeuf and Louis Jadot are two producers whose wines are readily available in most shops, and are consistently good. Perfect summertime wine! An easy-going, inexpensive Tempranillo would also work. And if you have the time, might as well make a nice pitcher of Sangria!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

stepping out

When lilac blossoms appear on the trees (and show up as bouquets in the bodegas around NY) it is time to begin thinking about grilling. There are many ways to approach grilled vegetables, but as you may know, I like to keep things simple. Easy. Not too complicated. Grilling should be fun and a little primitive. You can't help but get a little messy and I always manage to lose a few pieces into the fire, no matter how careful I am.
Amanda and I would like to share some of our favorite grilled vegetable recipes over the next few weeks. As always, technique is key. Once you have that down inspiration can take over. Prepping the vegetables is really where the work is involved here. I like to slice raw vegetables, like carrots and zucchini, thin- about 3/4", so that they cook through quickly and evenly. Par-cooked vegetables can be cut thicker. Leafy heads of lettuce like escarole and radicchio can just be sliced in half, with the core intact to keep the leaves together.
I don't really marinate vegetables, just brush with olive oil and dust with herbs and spices, but I am not opposed to it. Just remember to dry off anything that is wet before you put it on the grill for best results.
A pan of vegetables all ready for the grill. I use the lemon half to scrub the hot grill clean and discard.

For this meal I pulled out what I had in the fridge, always a hodge-podge. I find potatoes cook best when par-boiled or microwaved till almost tender. The grill will give them a nice golden finish. Most vegetables are grilled raw. Asparagus can be thrown on whole and the cauliflower (which turned out to be DELICIOUS grilled) gets sliced into more or less even thickness without driving myself crazy measuring.

To determine doneness I aim for tenderness and a touch of color. For a long time I only grilled the traditional vegetables like carrots, zucchini, onions and peppers, but I am starting to expand my opinion on what works on the grill and will report here some of my new finds. The cauliflower was a revelation, for example, and I can't believe it took me this long to figure it out. 

A PARTIAL LIST of Vegetables to Grill 
Raw: carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, scallions, radicchio, escarole, peppers, asparagus
Par-boiled or micro: potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, Brussels sprouts, leeks

Jury is still out on: broccoli, green beans

Have fun grilling and let us know what you think works.

I am in love with my new grill. It's true. I clean it after every use, so it's shiny "newness" stays just that way. It's my new "baby". Right now I'm all about grilling vegetables. I grill anything "grillable". One comment on Deb's mention of green beans - delicious grilled, raw. A week or so ago, I followed a recipe in Andrea Chesman's wonderful new book, The New Vegetarian Grill: 250 Flame-Kissed Recipes for Fresh, Inspired Meals for grilled green beans. Basically, I tossed them in an Asian vinaigrette, and threw them on a vegetable grilling tray. I grilled them until a little brown. Then, I actually tossed them with some arugula and grilled shitakes, and drizzled a little of the vinaigrette on the finished product. I have to say, it was outstanding. Even my non-vegetable-eating husband thought they were delicious! They actually tasted like something from a Chinese restaurant!

I can't wait to elaborate more on some of the grilled recipes I've tried in future posts! But right now, I want to comment on wine. Unless there is a specific sauce or marinade you are using for your grilled veggies, you don't really need to think too much about what wine to drink. If there is a sauce or marinade, then what you choose will definitely require more thought.

During the summer, I  barbeque A LOT. I have my regular "go to" wines that I enjoy during barbeque season. For reds, Zinfandel never fails for grilled delights. Also - I never select expensive wines. Grilling demands inexpensive, "fun" wines - not overly complex or serious. For wonderful Zinfandel producers, check out Rosenblum or Seghesio. Ravenswood also carries a line of very inexpensive Zins. I also will look to Australia for some affordable Shiraz, or Grenache. D'Arenberg creates some delicious "everyday" wines that are a sure-fire hit every time.

For whites, I like to sip "summery" wines. Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, and Torrontes are some of my favorites. These make perfect choices for simple grilled veggie dishes. You can't go wrong with any of these! And, having plenty of Rose on hand is not a bad option either. Spanish Roses are entirely affordable, fruit-filled wines. These can even be found for $7-$10. There are so many terrific producers, be sure to ask your local retailer for advice.

Remember, keep it simple. Fun wines will work best with barbeque. Save the serious stuff for more serious dinners and special occasions!