Archive for category Mrs. Vino’s Ramblings

Harry’s Beef Burgundy & 2nd Chance Pinot Noir

Tonight we are excited to have the amazing History of Painters playing for our Friday Night Live Music series, so it will be a late, late night.  That means it’s 5 Minute Friday!

Tonight’s prefabricated 5 minute dinner (OK, it’s actually a 7-8 minute dinner) is another choice from Costco – Harry’s Beef Burgundy with noodles.  Hmmmm, what’s the perfect pairing with Beef Burgundy??? It must be a burgundy-style Pinot Noir!  We are so lucky to have amazing Pinot Noirs on the Central Coast, but to pair with this meal, I’m going with a classic traditional European style Pinot.  And, I don’t need to go too far – 2nd Chance Winery is just across Landing Passage from Morovino.

2nd Chance Winery’s 2009 Pinot Noir made from Clone 667 is earthy, rich and lighter than some of the California styled Pinot Noirs.  I love the minerally, loamy notes to it.  Harry’s Beef Burgundy has a nice light sauce.  You can definitely taste the red wine in it.  The beef is tender and the noodles are perfectly al dente after 7 minutes in the microwave.

Sure, it’s not a trip to France.  This nice microwave meal is tasty all on its own. But when you pair it with the beautiful and elegant 2009 2nd Chance Pinot Noir – it’s as close as I’m going to get at 8 p.m. on a Friday night.


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Five Minute Friday

Welcome to a new feature in The Practical Kitchen – 5 Minute Fridays!

As much Mrs. Vino enjoys her time in the kitchen, there are just days when it is just NOT gonna happen.  I’ve discovered a couple of things:

1.  There are some really tasty pre-cooked dinners out there that can be microwaved in 5 minutes.
2.  When those meals are paired with the right wine, it elevates the whole experience to something special!
3.  If you light a couple of candles and play some nice music while you are eating your 5 minute meal and suddenly you aren’t as tired anymore.

Morovino is now doing live music on Friday evenings from 5 – 7 p.m.  This means that Mrs. Vino usually gets home around 8 p.m. and is way, way too tired to cook.   So every Friday, The Practical Kitchen blog will feature a different prefabricated 5 minute meal paired with a different local wine.  If you have favorite pre-cooked meals, I’d love to hear about them.

Costco’s Monterey Gourmet Foods – Seafood Lasagna paired with Peloton Cellars 2010 Albarino

I always approach prefabricated seafood a bit cautiously.  But the Monterey Gourmet Foods Seafood Lasagna offers really tasty, tender shrimp, scallops and fish.  The sauce is creamy, the noodles are tender, it has great seafood flavor and it’s not overly salty.

Peloton Cellars 2010 Albarino is an amazingly crisp, full bodied white that  has the perfect balance of acidity and creaminess to pair with the lasagna.  It’s beautiful Citrine color sparkles like a jewel in the glass.  It has great citrus notes and a lightly floral nose that I just love.  But if you want to try this wine, hurry.  I believe Peloton is almost sold out of it!

So fire up the microwave, light the candles, turn on some George Winston or Liz Story, take a deep breath and . . . enjoy.

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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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Happy New Year from Mrs. Vino

Wow, I cannot believe that 2012 is already here.  I SWEAR it was April last week.  At the turn of the year, I wanted to take a few minutes to express my thanks to all our friends, fans and wine family members.

Since I turned 30, every year has gotten more “interesting.”  Some were bad years (the year I lost my mom).  Some were good years (my first gold medal as a winemaker).  But every year had interesting and important lessons to teach me.

In 2011, I found my confidence as a wine maker and learned to trust my palate.  It was the year I learned to take constructive criticism without becoming defensive (still a work in progress, but much better).  2011 taught me to listen to David when he said we could “amp it up a notch” (or as I call it, “turn it up to 11”).  Thanks for the double gold medal, David, I love you. In all, 2011 was a year of exceptional growth, joy, frustration and life lessons learned (Mother Nature is still the boss of me).

Starting any small business is always a struggle.  In 2011, I believe that Morovino turned the corner and that we are poised for great things.  And none of that could have happened without you.  Please remember that if you live in wine country – ANY wine country – support your small, family owned wineries and be rewarded with excellent wines and great relationships.

As I look back on the past 5 years with Morovino (gosh, I cannot believe it’s been that long), I am humbled by the number of new friends Morovino has brought us.  I wish you lasting peace and unlimited prosperity in the new year.  And most of all – great vino!


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Rich’s Caponata (thanks, Dad!)

Many of you know that cooking wasn’t my mother’s passion. But my father came from a long line of wonderful cooks. In fact, it’s impossible for me to remember my father without thinking of food.  Because he was a typical 50’s dad, he didn’t end up in the kitchen much when we were kids, but he was the ultimate hunter/gatherer. He loved his vegetable garden – he grew the largest zucchini in town (I was 21 before I realized zucchini were only supposed to be 4-5″ long, not the 24-36″ size he loved). He was an avid fisherman. He introduced to clamming in Pismo Beach at a very early age!

Dad always told my mother that he was going to take over all cooking duties when he retired – something my mother completely supported. And he started collecting recipes from many different sources. He always told me he was going to write a cookbook for my brother, my sisters and me. Dad was absolutely in love with bizarre ingredients. Today, he’d rival Andrew Zimmern and have his own show on the cooking or travel channels.

Unfortunately, Dad never made it to retirement. A few months after his passing, when we were putting away some of his belongings, I found his file of recipes. I laughed and cried my way through his folder of “Hot recipes from Sumatra” and his folder on “Tripe and other organ meats.” That year, I compiled the cookbook he was never able to complete and gave it to my family. “Rich’s Recipes” was a huge hit, although I don’t think my siblings actually prepared many of the recipes in there. Me? I take after my dad. I worked my way through most of “Tripe and other organ meats,” but I did put my foot down on the Sumatran recipes.

Here is one of my favorites from his cookbook: Eggplant Caponata. Miss you, Dad.
RICH’S CAPONATA Pair with Morovino Barbera or Dolcetto

2 medium eggplant, stems trimmed
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
2 large red, yellow or green bell peppers
1 large onion
2 large ripe plum tomatoes, seeded
½ c. red wine vinegar
2 t. sugar
1 bay leaf
½ c. green olives stuffed with sundried tomatoes (or other green or black olive-stuffed is better)
¼ c. olive oil
1 ½ t. salt
1 bulb garlic, cloves peeled, but whole
1 large bulb fennel (optional, but it really adds to the dish)

Fire up the oven to 400 degrees and let it preheat. Cut eggplant into 1” cubes. Place in a colander with 1 ½ t. salt. Let stand for 20 minutes to draw off the liquid, rinse lightly, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Cut zucchini into 1” cubes. Cut red pepper into 1” cubes (notice a trend here?). Cut the fennel into (say it with me) 1” dice. Cut the onion into large dice. Place all cut veggies into an 11 x 17” roasting pan.  In a blender, food processor or big measuring cup with your stick blender, whirl the tomatoes, vinegar and sugar until smooth. Add the tomato mixture, the olives, the garlic and the bay leaf to the veggies. Drizzle on the olive oil and stir well to coat.

Put the roasting pan with the veggies et. al. Into the oven. Pop your favorite movie into the DVD player, cuz these guys are gonna roast for 90 minutes to 2 hours. Stir every half an hour or so – when you get up to get a glass of wine! The caponata is ready when the veggies are very soft and most of the liquid is evaporated. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

You can make this dish ahead – cover and chill it for up to a week. How to use it?? As an appetizer with garlic toast (ummmmm). As a vegetable, either warm, chilled or room temperature. Or, in my classic family tradition, spread a big dollop between two pieces of rye bread, top with Asiago cheese and eat it as a sandwich!

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Veggie Stock – it’s EASY

When Mrs. Vino first started receiving her Cal Poly CSA produce box, she found herself using many more veggies than usual (a good thing). Unfortunately, it seemed to take a VERY long time to clean and prep the veggies after a long, hard day slaving in the tasting room (a not good thing). And sometimes the veggies got a bit wilted before she could get to them (a really not good thing). Then Mrs. Vino remembered something her friend Roxanna had told her about saving the wilted veggies and veggie scraps/off cuts to make stock. Now, Mrs. Vino has a freezer full of delicious, nutritious veggie stock to use for soups, stews, crockpots, risotto (particularly delicious), etc. AND, cleaning veggies is no longer a chore, it’s Cooking! Here’s what to do:

Start with two one-gallon freezer bags. These will be your scrap bags. You will keep them in your freezer – yes, I keep the empty bags in my freezer too, so I know they will always be there. Everytime you go to prep a vegetable – put the peelings and off cuts in the bag in your freezer. These are just some of the things I put in there: onion peels, potato peels, peelings from carrots, cucumbers, beets, rutabegas, beet tops or other greens that have wilted beyond wanting to eat, cilantro stems (be careful how many of those you add, they are strong), wilted basil leaves, peelings from ginger root, tomato tops-not the stem-just the tomato part, cabbage cores, ends and strings of string beans . . . you get the picture! Put any clean, non rotten/non moldy piece of veggie into the bags in your freezer.

It won’t take long for you to fill up two freezer bags (takes me about a week). I usually start my stock when I start making dinner. Take a large pot and put your veggie peelings in it. Rinse out the empty freezer bags and put them back into your freezer. Add water to the pot to cover the veggie peelings (about 6 cups). Add 1 t. salt, 3 garlic cloves split in half (you don’t even need to peel them), 3 bay leaves and a pinch of red pepper flake. Bring the water in the pot to a simmer. Then ignore it for 2-3 hours. OK, the first time you make this, keep your eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. After that, you’ll know the right burner setting to just keep it at a simmer.

After 3 hours, pull the pot off the stove and let it sit there to cool down a bit. Before you go to bed cover the pot and put it in the fridge to steep overnight. And, clear a little space in your freezer, you’ll need it the next day.

The next morning, AFTER COFFEE, pull the pot out and strain it into a container. Pull out your muffin tins (come on, we ALL have them buried in a cabinet somewhere). Use a ladle and ladle the broth into the muffin tins – you will find that each muffin tin holds about 1/2 cup (one standard ladle full) of broth. Place the muffin tins in your freezer and go to work.

After work, pop the broth ice cubes out of the muffin tins and put them in a clean new freezer bag and store them in your freezer. Now anytime you need broth for a soup, stew, risotto, or just to add a bit of liquid to a pan, you can just add a broth ice cube and know that it is approximately 1/2 cup of broth.

I know it seems complicated and seems to take 2 full days. It’s really easy and the end result of the broth is healthy and delicious. QUICK NOTE: If you use beets in your veggie broth it will end up a very interesting pinkish color. I used that to make a risotto that ended up being a bit . . . unusual to look at, but tasted delicous. Just to be aware, in case you don’t like pink food.

Frugal doesn’t mean cheap, it means using the best possible food products and using them to their fullest.

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“The Holidays are Driving Me Crazy” Pasta

Make with your favorite Morovino Red, serve with the rest of the Morovino Red

1 jar Ragu Roasted Garlic Robusto pasta sauce (or your favorite)
½ C. of Morovino red wine of your choice:  Barbera, Sangiovese, Cabernet, Dolcetto
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. dried basil
½ bag frozen chopped spinach fresh pepper to taste
1 lb your favorite pasta

Get home from shopping. Kick off shoes (this dish must be prepared barefoot or in slippers). Dump sauce ingredients in a big pot. Bring to a simmer, but not a boil. Let sauce simmer until pasta is done. Fill a big pot with water and bring to a boil. Dump in your favorite pasta. Cook it until pasta is done. Drain pasta. Put pasta back in big pot. Dump sauce on top and toss. Put on plates and top with grated cheese if you have it. If not, oh well. It’s got spinach and tomatoes in it—in Mrs. Vino’s book that means you don’t need a salad, vegetable, bread or anything else. It’s a complete meal all by itself. Sure it’s a “cheat.” But there is an art to doctoring up canned or jarred products and the holidays are the perfect time to explore that art! I don’t care what anyone says—if you applied heat or cut something, you COOKED it.

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Comfort Food/Beef Sukiyaki

Mrs. Vino has written about the concept of “comfort food” before. For me, it is comfort food if the very scent of it being prepared takes you back to your childhood. It doesn’t matter what type of food. What matters is the emotion the food invokes.

When I was growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was a tradition that on your birthday, you got to pick a restaurant and the family went out to dinner. We didn’t go out very often, so this was a real treat. One of my favorite restaurants was on the SF Waterfront and was called Tokyo Sukiyaki. At this restaurant, I had my first sushi, my first tempura and my first Sukiyaki. This restaurant was a favorite of several family members – so we went there quite a bit. And this restaurant inspired my mom to find a recipe for Sukiyaki – so she could prepare it at home. She found a recipe and it became a regular dish in her repetoire. Anytime she took out the electric frying pan (hey it was the late 60’s) we knew what was coming.

When mom passed away, I ended up with her recipe box. It sat in my cupboard, I just wasn’t able to open it. As part of my massive cookbook cupboard clean out a few months ago, I took out the recipe box and looked through it. I found the recipe my mom clipped from a 1968 issue of Sunset Magazine for Sukiyaki. Just reading the ingredient list brought back my childhood. I prepared Sukiyaki for Mr. Vino for dinner the next night. When I brought it to the table and had my first taste, I burst into tears. Mr. Vino is kind of used to this behavior. Food moves me.

Sukiyaki has become a regular part of my repetoire, too. It is my ultimate 15 minute meal. Here is a slightly revised version of the recipe (cuz I don’t cook with lard and I don’t think Japanese people usually do either!) which is light, easy and delicious. Enjoy!

Beef Sukiyaki (hot pot)
Make with Morovino 2011 Pinot Grigio Rose (or sake)
Serve with Morovino 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

3 T brown sugar
½ c. soy sauce (low sodium)
2 c. Dry Pinot Grigio, Sake or other VERY dry white wine
1 onion, very thinly sliced
½ small head of cabbage, thinly sliced
4 ounces of mushrooms (½ package) thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, cleaned, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 2” pieces
3 carrots, peeled and sliced very thinly
1 lb. Beef tri-tip (or boneless rib eye) sliced in 1/8” slices (Mrs. Vino buys Tri-Tip when it goes on sale, cuts in into 1lb pieces and freezes it to save for this dish.
1” of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
¼ t. red pepper flake

If you don’t have the veggies listed, you can use zucchini or other squash, celery, parsnips, green pepper, green beans – pretty much anything that is seasonal and delicious.

The important thing is that you want really, really thinly sliced veggies so everything cooks quickly and takes the same amount of time. For the onion, cut in half through the core (stem-to-root, not across the circumference), then put the cut side on your board and slice very thinly (do you get the idea we are looking for THIN slices??) so that you get long skinny pieces – not onion rings. When you slice the carrots, slice across the width of the carrot, but slightly on a diagonal, so you get THIN slices. To get really thin slices of beef, start with a very sharp knife and put the beef in the freezer for an hour before slicing.

When I cook this dish, I use a 14” non-stick sauteuse (higher sides). You can also cook this in a wok or at the table using an old fashioned electric frying pan. I haven’t tried it with an electric fondue pot yet, but theoretically it should work.

Put the sugar, soy and Pinot Grigio into your pan and bring it to a vigorous simmer – just under the boil. Add the ginger and pepper flake. Now place the meat and veggies into the pan in bunches – I try to put the thickest/longest cooking temperature stuff in first – so for this dish start with the carrots, then onions, mushrooms, then beef, then cabbage, then green onions. Turn the heat down to medium. As everything cooks, make sure to press the beef and veggies into the simmering broth with the back of a wooden spoon. When the veggies are crunchy tender and the meat is still a tiny bit pink in the middle (about 5 minutes) it is done. To serve, put a spoonful of rice (brown sushi rice is my fave) in a pretty Asian bowl. Add a bit from each bunch of veggies and meat. Then top with a couple of big spoonsful of the broth. This is almost a soup, but not quite. It is a perfect pairing with Cabernet.

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