Archive for category Appetizers, Sauces and Sides

Two Great Green Aps

I’m always happy to accommodate a request from a tasting room guest!  So here are two of my favorite GREEN aps for St. Pats Day.

Boniet – pronounced bun-yet (Sounds gross, tastes fantastic)
2 bunches of fresh Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (don’t use the yucky curly kind)
1 small can (50 grams) of anchovy filets, drained
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
4T cider (or red wine) vinegar
8T Good extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 T tomato paste

Chop off the bottom 2″ of parsley stems, then thoroughly wash and spin the parsley dry in your salad spinner.  Give the parsley a rough chop, then toss it in the bowl of your food processor with all the rest of the ingredients.  Whirl until you have a paste the consistency of pesto.  Serve this with warm crusty sourdough.  Make it the day ahead if you can – it’s even better the second day.  NOTE:  If you are into the “zen” of the chop, you can do all this chopping by hand but it takes less than 5 minutes to put together in the food processor. 

Bonus Points:  If you have any left over, grab a Boboli thin wheat pizza crust.  Top the Boboli  or other flat bread (I am now loving “pocketless” pitas) with the parsley spread, then add sliced mushrooms, sliced tomato, grated mozzarella and diced up leftover Rotisserie chicken.  Bake the Boboli per package directions.  Absolutely Fantastic. 

Super Easy Pesto

1 large bunch Basil
1/4 C. olive oil
3 large cloves garlic
1/4 C. Parmesan cheese
2 anchovy filets (if desired, also great without)
No Nuts – nope, just don’t like nuts in my pesto

Wash the basil in your salad spinner.  Pick the leaves off the stems.  Give the garlic a rough chop.  Then put everything into your food processor and whirl it around.  Put it on . . . anything.  If you are looking for a lower calorie version of Pesto, use 1/4 C of evaporated non fat milk instead of the oil.  It makes a nice creamy pesto that’s great over veggies!

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Roasted Olive Appetizer

EZ Roasted Olives (Thanks, Costco)

This EZ party appetizer was the hit of the Labor Day wine club party.  Roasting really mellows the astringency/bitterness of olives.  This makes A LOT of olives, but you will find that they all manage to disappear.

1 21-ounce jar of stuffed queen olives (Costco sells these in 2 packs)
2 C. Kalamata Olives (I ALWAYS have the big Costco jar in my kitchen)
2 T. Chopped fresh rosemary
1 lemon
1/4 C. Olive Oil (yep, I use the big Costco bottle – you want good olive oil, but it doesn’t have to be artisan/expensive)
1 bulb of garlic (*see note below), cloves separated and peeled in whichever way you find fun (I like the smash-em-good-with-the-flat-of-your-knife-method)
4 cranks of freshly ground pepper (let’s call it 1/4 teaspoon)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Pour the big jar of olives and the 2 C of Kalamata olives into a strainer to drain, pat them dry with paper towels.  Put them into a large baking dish or roasting pan.  You want them in a single layer if possible.  Sprinkle the chopped rosemary on top of the olives.  Use your microplane grater to grate the lemon peel over the olives (don’t have a microplane grater – YIKES they are the best kitchen tool ever!).  Halve the lemons and squeeze the lemon juice over the olives.  Scatter the whole garlic cloves among the olives*.  Drizzle the olive oil over the top.  Sprinkle the pepper.  Mix it with a spoon to make sure the olives are coated with olive oil.

Place the baking dish in the oven and let the olives roast for about 30 – 40 minutes (oooohhhhh, your house is going to smell good).  Stir the olives a few times to make sure they cook evenly.  You can tell you are there when the olives soften and wrinkle a bit and the garlic is a bit golden/brown around the edges. Roasting really tames the astringency/bitterness in the olives and makes the flavors sooooooo mellow. This makes A LOT of olives.  The good news is that they will hold for a week in the fridge.  Great all by themselves or make a salad plate with a couple of slices of goat cheese, a few olives and a couple of thin slices of baquette.  Be aware that these things are addictive.

NOTE:  When I made these in the tasting room for our pick up party, I actually used an amazing product called Majestic Garlic, Raw Pickled Garlic with Cayenne instead of fresh garlic cloves.  This is a great raw foods product that someone gifts us with.  I think you can get it at Whole Foods or other gourmet specialty markets.  If you find this, use 1/2 jar, drain them before adding to the olives and omit the black pepper.

You’ve gotta love any recipe that is drain, stir, bake, stir, eat.

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Chunky, Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

Mrs. Vino was introduced to tomatillos last year in her Cal Poly Organic Farm Harvest Box.  I’d never cooked with them before, but they quickly became one of my very favorite “bright” ingredients.  Tomatillos are typically used cooked or roasted, but this fresh salsa is great on just about everything.

Chunky Tomatillo Salsa
1/2 lb Tomatillos, husked and rinsed, core/stem removed
1 small onion
1 handful fresh Cilantro
1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
2 T rice wine vinegar
2 t. sugar
2 garlic cloves

Now you can do this two different ways. Mrs. Vino finds a certain Zen focus in chopping things. There are times when she just needs to get out her knives and chop things into very, very small bits. So, the Zen version of this recipe involves taking all the veggies and chopping them into 1/4″ dice by hand. Very soothing. Then combining the veggies with the vinegar and sugar in a non reactive bowl and refrigerating for at least one hour before serving.
The instant gratification version of this involves giving all the veggies a couple of good whacks to cut them in pieces, putting them in your food processor with the sugar and rice wine vinegar and giving them a little whirl. THEN, putting the salsa in a non reactive bowl and refrigerating for at least one hour before serving.

Either way, this salsa is fresh and delicious. Mrs. Vino uses it on: scrambled eggs, chicken breasts, grilled cheese sandwiches, pork tenderloin, enchiladas, chilled avocado soup . . . the list is endless.  For a fabulous summer salad, try this over a “Carpaccio” of very thinly sliced summer squash drizzled with olive oil.  This salsa will hold for several days covered tightly in your fridge.

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What to pair with a REALLY dry Rose

Well, the new 2011 Dry Pinot Grigio Rose has been launched and several people have asked me about pairing food with dry rose style wines.  Really, a good dry rose is the ultimate food wine – crisp acidity, smooth on the palate and a hint of astringency on the finish that really helps match the wine with hard-to-pair foods.  Our new dry Pinot Grigio goes well with:

1.  All by itself, sipping on a sunny deck.
2.  Slightly bitter things like Arugula, Asparagus and Broccoli Rabe (recipe follows)
3.  Very acidic foods like Ceviche (one of my faves) or a Grapefruit and Watercress Salad (recipe on the wine’s page)
4.  Asian or Thai flavors
5.  Tart cheeses like goat cheese
6.  Salty foods like truffled popcorn

We will be enjoying the new rose on Oscar Night at The Vinos (heck, maybe we will even use a SodaStream machine to sparkle it – works great).  As we munch our way through appetizers experimenting with matching foods to this awesome wine.

Pair with 2011 Avila Beach Sunset – Pinot Grigio Rose

1 large bunch Broccoli Rabe (also called Rapini)
1/3 Cup olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Mrs. Vino loves Broccoli Rabe!  So when it went on sale at her local grocer she went a bit crazy.  This meant she had to find some new ways to prepare it and this is the easiest, most delicious Broccoli Rabe dish she has ever tasted!  Preheat your oven to 400 degree.  Cut the bottom 2” of stem off the Broccoli Rabe (maybe more, maybe less – depends on how big your bunch is.  Basically you want to cut off any really woody end bits).  Wash and dry the Broccoli Rabe thoroughly (I like to use the salad spinner – it’s a great tool for this).  Put the whole stems of Broccoli Rabe in a large bowl and toss with 1/3 cup olive oil.  You want to lube up the Broccoli Rabe really well or it will stick to your baking sheet.  Pile the Broccoli Rabe onto a rimmed baking sheet (I have one I use exclusively for roasting veggies).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Put the baking sheet in the oven and let roast for 15 minutes (toss once during cooking). The stems and florets get beautifully carmelized.  The leaves turn into little Broccoli Rabe potato chips.  Un.  B.  Leev.  Able.

I like to do this dish with roasted chicken thighs. If you put one oven rack about halfway down in your oven and the other rack at the bottom, you can cook both the Broccoli Rabe and the chicken thighs at the same time.  Sprinkle the thighs with your favorite seasoned salt and garlic powder.  Put them in the oven on the rack in the halfway down position.  Give them a 15 minute head start.  Then put the Broccoli Rabe in the oven on the bottom rack for 15.  They will finish at the same time.  Add some crusty French bread and call that a gourmet meal.

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Make your own Whole Grain Mustard

Just one of my many, many new obsessions.  I love whole grain mustard, but it’s soooooooo expensive.  Who’d have thought it was this easy to make.  NOTE:  for those of us who live on the Central Coast and really don’t have a good gourmet food store, you can get yellow  mustard seeds at New Frontiers and brown and black mustard seeds at  Go for bulk sizes – those little tiny spice jars are waaaayyyyy too expensive.  Sometimes garden stores will have mustard seeds as they are used for ground cover to keep land from eroding.  Make sure the seeds haven’t been treated.

A recipe for easy, easy mustard crusted salmon follows, too.

Make your own YUMMY Whole Grain Mustard:

4 T. Mustard Seeds *
1/3 c. Cider Vinegar **
½ teaspoon each salt and sugar***

Put the mustard seeds in a pint mason jar or big coffee cup.  Cover them with the 1/3 c. of vinegar – make sure that the seeds are completely covered- then cover with the cup with Saranwrap or put the lid on the jar.  Let the seeds soak on your counter for up to 5 days.  Top up the vinegar as needed.  The mustard gets spicier the longer the seeds soak – I ‘m a 3-day girl–that’s about all the “spicy” I can handle.  Pour off any remaining vinegar and reserve.  Using your blender, immersion blender or mini chopper, grind the mustard seeds to your desired level of graininess. Traditionally this is done in a mortar and pestle.  You can still do it that way if it floats your boat – but I love technology in the kitchen.  Stir in ½ t salt and ½ t sugar.  Use a little of the reserved vinegar to thin the mustard as desired.  Refrigerate the finished mustard to stop it from getting stronger.  The mustard is VERY sharp once you finish grinding it up.  It needs to settle for a couple of days in the fridge before you use it.

*  The yellow seeds are tangy.  The brown seeds are spicy.  The black seeds are hot.  My favorite blend is 2T yellow and 1 T each of brown and black.

**You can use white wine, red wine or beer instead of vinegar.  When you get to the blending stage, add vinegar to taste.

***You can use honey or any other sweetener instead of sugar.

My last batch was Stout and Molasses which I was awesome on mustard glazed salmon (recipe follows).

mustard glazed salmon

Salmon glazed with home made whole grain mustard

Serve with Morovino Barbera

4 6-ounce pieces of salmon or steelhead filet, skin on
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1 T olive oil
1 minced green onion
Salt and Pepper

Set up your oven racks – one rack should be 2nd notch from the bottom and the other should be 2nd notch from the top.  Preheat your oven to 400.  Take out your rimmed baking sheet and line it with foil.  Place the salmon filets on the foil, skin side down.  Salt and pepper the fish.  Stir the mustard, olive oil and green onion (OK, you could use chives, but I ALWAYS have green onion and I NEVER have chives) together in a little glass bowl.  Place 1 big spoonful of mustard on top of each filet and spread it around.  Put the baking sheet in the oven on the bottom rack and roast for 6-8 minutes, depending on how thick your filet is.  After 6-8 minutes, switch your oven from bake to broil.  Let the broiler heat, and move your baking sheet to the top rack until the mustard gets brown and crusty – about 3 more minutes.

FLASH FROM MRS.VINO:  Mix 1/4 c. Panko bread crumbs and 2T grated parmesan together, then sprinkle on top of the mustard crusted salmon just before your broil it – it makes an amazingly crunchy crust that really enhances this dish.

Pull the baking sheet out of the oven.  Using a spatula, remove the fish from the skin.  Somehow, miraculously, the skin sticks to the foil and the fish comes right off – it’s kind of scary how easy it is.

Serve with crusty bread or baby potatoes and your favorite veggie.  Delicious and very easy.

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Mrs. Vino has a new obsession!

(actually several)

Over the holidays, I got a bit more time to “play” in the kitchen.  And, I’ve discovered several new obsessions that I just have to share!  My holiday gift this year was a microwave potato chip maker from the “As Seen on TV Store” – more on that later in the week.  Our holiday dinner was a roast duck – the side benefit of roasting a duck is the amazing jar of pristine duck fat you end up with if you do it right – more on that later, too.

Right now I want to share with you my newest obsession – yes, I actually dream about it (and so does Mr. Vino)!  CHICKEN BACON.

I don’t know where I first heard/read/saw/learned about Chicken Bacon.  But a couple of weeks ago, I was removing the skin from some bone-in Chicken Thighs to make Braised Thighs and Greens (on the blog under main courses).  As I was going to throw the skin away, the memory of Chicken Bacon flashed into my head.  The Thighs and Greens were delicious (and healthy) and I saved the skin for th next day.

Chicken Bacon is pan-fried or roasted chicken skin.  I mean SERIOUSLY roasted.  Roasted til it is brown and crispy and all the fat has been rendered off.  It is crunchy.  It is chickeny.  It is bacony.  I couldn’t find a calorie count for it anywhere, but since you render off ALL THE FAT, it just can’t be that bad for you.  And it’s delicious.  Really delicious.  So delicious that I think Mr. Vino would eat cardboard if it had chicken bacon on it.

Here’s how it works.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the skin from your chicken thighs (or breast, or go crazy and get a whole chicken nekkid).  Chicken skin is slimy, so use paper towels to grab it and pull it off if you are having a hard time.  Rinse the chicken skin and pat it dry.  Lay the skin out flat on a rimmed baking sheet.  Please note, that rim on the baking sheet is VERY IMPORTANT – cuz the fat renders off . . . in liquid form.  Meanwhile back to the flat skin – try to get out as many wrinkles as possible.  Sprinkle the skin with salt and pepper.  Or your favorite seasoned salt.  Or MY favorite, a sprinkle of garlic salt.  Put the baking sheet in the oven and roast until the skin is brown and crisp – probably about 40 minutes, but check it after 20 minutes.  Pull the baking sheet out carefully as there will be some liquid chicken fat sloshing around the bottom.  Use a spatula to remove the crispy skin pieces, put them on a paper towel and blot them dry to remove even more fat.  After it cools, either eat it immediately or put it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge where it will keep for several days.

OK, so how do you use it???  I use it anywhere I’d use bacon bits.  So far:  to top a salad, to top a risotto, to make a CBLT (chicken bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich), to top green beans, on a baked potato, eat it straight out of the pan as a salty, crunchy snack (it’s hard not to).  The possibilities are endless.

I’ve seen some recipes where the chicken skin is marinated in a sweet salty sauce (like Hoisin) and they call it Chicken Candy.  Haven’t tried it yet – am still loving it in its pure bacon form!

Frugal cooking doesn’t mean using the cheapest ingredients – it means using the best ingredients thoughtfully and never wasting anything.  As my Grandma Vino used to say:  don’t skimp on anything you are putting in your stomach, but don’t waste it either!


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Marinated Chevre (goat cheese)

This recipe comes courtesy of Tia Vino (Mr. Vino’s Sister-in-Law) who is an outstanding and awesome cook.  Mrs. Vino loves it when Tia and Tio Vino come to visit in early spring to escape the snow.  She loves it for several reasons.  1.  Frequently, she comes home from work to find dinner almost ready 🙂  2.  Said dinner is always delicious.  3.  Scott and Janet are two of her favorite people on earth.  This recipe has become a staple – it makes a great appetizer, starter salad, heck even a sauce for pasta!  ENJOY.

Serve with Morovino dry Pinot Grigio or  Sangiovese.

1 T. butter (because when you are using a full pound of cheese, why not??)
1/3 c. (about 2 large) shallots, finely chopped
¾ – 1 lb creamy goat cheese (I get the logs at Costco)
3 roma tomatoes*
3 T. Balsamic vinegar
3 T. Soy sauce
2 t. Worcestershire Sauce
½ c. NICE olive oil
1 small handful of parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper

OK, it seems like it has a lot of ingredients and is complicated, but it’s not! With a little organization, this comes together in less than 10 minutes. Saute the shallots in the butter over medium heat – we want soft and golden, not brown and burned! Make a small “x” in the bottom of the tomatoes with a sharp pairing knife, then put them in rapidly boiling water for 2 minutes or until the skin starts to peel. Carefully remove the tomatoes (those are some hot tomatoes), let them cool a moment, then peel, seed and dice them.

Here’s where we can get creative. If I’m using this as an appetizer, I cut the cheese log in half lengthwise – don’t worry if it crumbles a bit, the marinade covers a multitude of sins. If I’m using this as a salad course, I slice the log into 1” thick slices. Or, use one of those Tuperware mold things and form a pretty shape.

Whatever shape you choose, here’s what happens next.  Lay the cheese in a flat dish – I use a Pyrex 9 x 9” baking dish. Spread the shallots over the cheese. Put the diced tomatoes and the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix. Pour the mixture over the cheese. Cover and let set 24 hours to 3 days in your fridge.

Fun serving options. As an appetizer, just serve the cheese log with garlic toasts. As a salad course, place 2 leaves of butter lettuce on a plate, top it with one of the cheese rounds then spoon the extra marinade on top (OMG, this is AWESOME and really fussy looking) If the log gets to crumbly, listen to what it is telling you! Smash the cheese and marinade together, then spread on small slices of peasant bread and warm in the oven.  Or this is a good time to toss the cheese and sauce with hot pasta to make a main course!

*Mrs. Vino Cheat – if the Roma tomatoes don’t look good, or you don’t have the time or inclination to use fresh tomato, you can substitute 1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomato, drained and it still tastes mighty good!

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Kohlrabi/Turnip Slaw

Serve with a crisp white like Morovino 2011 Pinot Grigio Rose

2 Kohlrabi, peeled
2 Turnips, peeled
2 large Carrots, peeled
½ cup non-fat plain yogurt
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 t. sugar
2T Rice Wine vinegar
1T prepared horseradish
Salt & Pepper

Shred kohlrabi, turnips and carrots using a box grater, or, even better, the shredding blade on your food processor.  Dissolve sugar in Rice Wine Vinegar.  Add yogurt, Dijon and horseradish to vinegar and stir well.  Place veggies in a non-reactive bowl.  Add yogurt mixture and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for ½ hour before serving.

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Barbera-q Sauce

Make and serve this great sauce with Morovino Barbera (hence the name!).  Don’t be afraid of this recipe – it looks like a lot of ingredients, but I’ll bet you have most of these in your kitchen anyway.

1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ t. smoked paprika
¼ t. cumin
1 C. Morovino Barbera
1 T brown sugar
½ C. Ketchup
2 t. Sriracha sauce (or other hot sauce)
1T soy sauce
1T cider vinegar
1 t. Worcestershire Sauce
½ C orange juice
2 T orange marmalade

In a saucepan over medium heat, saute garlic and smoked paprika in the olive oil until garlic turns light gold. Add wine and brown sugar and simmer until reduced by half(ish)–about 4-5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, except the marmalade and simmer until they start to thicken a bit. Finish by stirring in the marmalade. Let cool before using. This sauce is lightly sweet and lightly spicy. Try it with meatballs on a sourdough roll for a yummy meatball sandwich. Marinate cut up chicken overnight in ½ the sauce, remove the chicken to the grill, then use the other ½ of the sauce for basting. It’s YUMMY on pork tenderloin, or use with a pork tri-tip in the slow cooker for a pulled pork sandwich.

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Bleu Cheese and Almond Dip

OK, most of Mrs. Vino’s dishes are relatively healthy.  This is NOT one of those.  It’s a splurge – serve it at the holidays or for a fancy party.  You make it a teeny, tiny bit healthier by serving it with fresh See Canyon apple wedges instead of chips or crackers.  Like anything containing bleu cheese, his dish is perfect with a slightly fruity white wine like Morovino 2009 Pinot Grigio or Cosa Dolce.

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 12-ounce jar Marie’s blue cheese dressing (don’t use the reduced fat version – go for the gusto)
1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola or Bleu cheese (about 4 ounces)

Soften cream cheese, and beat in a medium bowl until smooth. Beat in Marie’s Dressing. Mix in ¾ cup of almonds and crumbled blue cheese and stir gently. Put the dip in a pretty bowl, then sprinkle the remaining almonds over the top. Mmmmmmmmmm!

If you can’t find toasted almonds, here’s how to toast your own. Take about 1 cup of regular almonds. Put them in a small heavy skillet or saucepan over high heat (no oil needed). Keep shaking the pan to keep the almonds moving, so they don’t scorch (like making popcorn the old fashioned way, on a stove top). When the almonds are brown and start to smell popcorn-y, pull them off and let them cool. You tell they are ready by smell, not by sight! Then chop them by hand or in a mini chopper. Mrs. Vino recently tried this dip with ripe pears and apples, and fresh veggies instead of chips or crackers. Heaven!

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