Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pine Ridge - Cabernet Sauvignon - 2005

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This distinctive Bordeaux style blend is complemented by the “Rutherford Dust” characteristics of this historic Napa Valley appellation. The style is created to broaden and fine tune the palate as well as extend the finish. The Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, produced since the inception of Pine Ridge in 1978, reflects the attention to detail afforded the entire portfolio of fine wines. The Pine Ridge estate-grown Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon is blended in the Bordeaux style with 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 6% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot.

This Cabernet is very aromatic with layers of red cherry, blackberry and blueberry is marked by mixed aromas of coffee, tobacco and vanilla. Elegant in structure and balance, this medium to full-bodied Cabernet is teeming with sweet cherry, currant, vanilla and tobacco flavors with firm, cloaking tannins giving way to an extended finish of berries and toasty oak. This wine may be enjoyed now or cellared for ten years.

Recommended Food Pairings:
Grilled Steak with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Red Wine Braised Short Ribs served over Creamy Polenta
Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles

Cost:
$67.00

Monday, March 30, 2009

Coconut and Macadamia Squares



These cookies are rich with flavor and crunch from the macadamia nuts. You can make them in various shapes - circles, triangles or rectangles - up to you! Always a crowd pleaser and terrific to bring a batch to your kids school, work or the local fundraising event.

Ingredients:
1 c. (2 sticks) butter
¾ c. powdered sugar
4 t. vanilla
2 ¼ c. flour
1t. salt
1 c. chopped; dry roasted, salted macadamia nuts

1 egg white plus 1 t. water, beaten in a small bowl
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut

Use an electric mixture, beat butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the ¾ cup powdered sugar until combined. Add the vanilla extract and salt. Add the flour gradually until all combined. Add the macadamia nuts and mix until incorporated. Chill dough for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325. Divide dough into 3 balls. Work with one ball at a time. Flatten into a disk that is about ½ inch thick. With a knife, slice one inch wide strips. Each strip is then cut into one inch squares. Repeat the above process until all the dough is used. Place onto cookie sheets. Brush each cookie with a pastry brush the egg white mixture. Place a small pinch of the sweetened coconut on top of each cookie.

Bake for about 18 minutes. Remove and place onto wire racks to cool. Transfer to an airtight container to store.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rotisserie Chicken and Tortellini Soup

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Rotisserie Chicken and Tortellini Soup is a super simple to make and feeds your entire family. Serve with a salad and great crusty Italian bread for a complete meal. Wonderful for a cold winter evening.

Ingredients:
1 Roasted Rotisserie Chicken
5 stalks celery - sliced
4 medium carrots – cut into coins
1 large yellow onion – diced
4 T. olive oil
¼ t. garlic powder
1 t. fresh thyme
½ t. Lowry’s seasoned salt
8 to 10 grinds of pepper
¼ c chopped flat leaf parsley
8 c. chicken stock
2 c. frozen cheese tortellini

In a large pot, saute celery, onions and carrots with 4 tablespoons of olive oil until soft. Add the seasoned salt and pepper.

Remove the meat from the rotisserie chicken and shred. Add the chicken stock to the sauteed vegetables. Add the thyme and garlic powder and stir. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes or until hot. Add the chicken. When ready to serve, add the frozen cheese tortellini and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the ¼ cup of flat leaf parsley right before serving. Taste to see if you need more salt and pepper.

Serve in big bowl and top with Parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh flat leaf parsley.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Helen's Lasagna




A few years ago my husband and I took a weekend trip to Tahoe with our friends Helen, Phil and their son Graydon. We each took a night to prepare dinner and Helen made this super simple Lasagna. Since our trip, I have added my own twist to her recipe. The flavors come from the ricotta mixture and the spicy Italian sausage.

Ingredients:
1 package (8oz) Lasagna Noodles
1 16 oz. package of Mozzarella Cheese grated
1 15 oz. container Ricotta Cheese
1 egg
2 t. dried oregano
2 t. dried parsley
1 T. garlic powder
½ t. salt
6 grinds of pepper
1 large onion (diced and sautéed in 1 T. of butter until translucent)
2 lbs. (10 links) spicy Italian sausage
1 c. parmesan cheese
6 c. spaghetti sauce (two 24 oz. jars or 6 cups homemade)

Over medium heat in a large skillet, cook sausage. After 5 minutes of cooking, cut each one in half to speed the cooking time. Continue to cook until completely done. Let cool for a few minutes. Place half into a food processor and pulse into small pieces. Continue until all sausage is processed. Place into a bowl and set aside.

Cook lasagna noodles “al dente” according to the packages instructions. Once they are done, drain the water and set aside. Toss a bit of olive oil over all of them to prevent sticking.

In a bowl, add the ricotta, egg, dried oregano and parsley along with the garlic powder. Add the salt and pepper. Stir until combined. Grate the mozzarella cheese and set aside.

To assemble:Preheat oven to 350. Use a 9 x 13, glass, ceramic or cast iron pan. Spread 1 cup of spaghetti sauce over the bottom of the pan. Place 5 noodles in the bottom of the pan, covering completely. Spread 2 cups of spaghetti sauce over noodles and then spread the ricotta mixture over the sauce. Sprinkle half of the sausage along with half of the sautéed onions. Sprinkle one cup of the grated mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese.

Place the other 5 noodles on top and cover completely. Spread 1 cup of spaghetti sauce over the noodles. Add the other half of the meat over all the noodles along with 1 cup of the grated mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle the rest of the sautéed onions and 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese.

Top with the remaining 2 cups of spaghetti sauce and spread evenly. Sprinkle 2 cups of Mozzarella cheese to cover entire pan and sprinkle 1/3 cup of the parmesan cheese.

Bake for about 1 hour at 350 until brown and bubbly. Let sit for about 5 minutes prior to cutting. Heat up additional spaghetti sauce and place each square slice on top of the sauce for extra richness and flavor. Enjoy!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Black Forest Ham and Jarlsburg Cheese Pinwheels

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These are so simple to make and a bit hit with your guests. The earthiness of the ham and cheese along with rich pesto is a treat for any palate. If you are looking for an easy appetizer, this can made a day ahead of time. Simply wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Ingredients:


1 sheet puff pastry
2 - 3 T. prepared pesto
5 thin deli slices of Jarlsburg cheese
4 thin slices of deli black forest ham

Makes about 18 pinwheels

Defrost a sheet of puff pastry until able to unfold without cracking. Place onto a large plastic cutting board. Using a rolling pin and a pinch of flour sprinkled over dough, slightly flatten to smooth the dough.

Spread 2 tablespoons of prepared pesto over the puff pastry. If you need the other tablespoon, use it. Place four of the Jarlsburg slices in each of the four corners. Break one in half and place in the middle. Place the four pieces of the ham over the cheese. Carefully roll tightly the entire piece of prepared puff pastry. Chill for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the dough every half inch until the end is reached. Should be approximately 18 slices and you can simply double recipe to make more. Place about 12 per cookie sheet, giving about an inch in between to allow for cooking expansion.

Use a spatula to lift each one onto a beautiful serving platter. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Meritage - Tin Barn Vineyards - 2004

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Tin Barn Vineyards is a collaborative effort of winemaker Michael Lancaster and his four partners. Their dream came together in the “Tin Barn”. It is a classic Bordeaux blend or Meritage, with an outstanding combination of flavors and textures. This wine has a deep, dark red color with hints of luscious clove, spice and deep berry notes. The ultra smooth tannic structure is a result of the Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend with finishes of toasty oak.

Recommended Food Pairings:
Wild Mushroom Tart
Roast Lamb with Pancetta and Rosemary
Smoked Chicken Salad with toasted walnuts

Cost:
$29.00

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Top 10 Host and/or Hostess Gifts


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Whether you are attending a dinner party, cocktail party or open house, it is customary to practice good etiquette by bringing a gift to your host and/or hostess. Hostess gifts are given upon arrival at the party and are an extra added touch to thank the host and/or hostess for the gracious invitation. The presentation is almost as important as the gift as itself. Even a simple gift is extra special, when wrapped in an artful way with beautiful wrapping or unique gift box with an eye catching ribbon.

Authentic Suburban Gourmet's Top 10 Hostess Gifts:

(1) Wine or Champagne
Bring your favorite Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay wrapped in a decorative wine bag or elegantly wrapped box of Veuve Clicquot with a satin ribbon. As the recipient, write the names of the people who gave you the wine or champagne and the date. When you uncork and enjoy, send a quick email or handwritten thank you note to let them know how much you enjoyed the gift. Just adds the extra special touch that most people forget to do.

(2) Candles
Keep a few extra candles in your gift closet that are wrapped in pretty paper with a gorgeous ribbon. You can shop for high-end brands such as: Diptyque, Fresh, Jo Malone, L’Occitane or Voluspa. A great tip for budget conscious Authentic Suburban Gourmet readers is to shop at TJ Maxx and stock up on great candles at a value.

(3) Handcrafted Gifts
It always adds the extra special touch when you give something handmade. These can display your culinary or artistic talents.

My “Surprise English Toffee” is a crowd pleaser and quite easy to put in a plastic gift bag tied with a pretty ribbon or beautiful tin canister. (See bottom left corner for photo and refer to “cookie/candy” category for recipe)

One dinner party, I wanted to create a unique place card holder, so I took four wine corks and hot glued them together. Glue three together, so they are vertical. Next glue the fourth one on top of the three. Put a small incision with a razor blade to hold the name card. They were such a hit; I packaged them with the name cards, four place cork place card holders and a small pen. Makes a terrific addition if you are bringing a bottle of wine. (See middle of the picture above)

(4) Personalized CD
Create your favorite imix on itunes and copy to a CD. You can create music to match the theme of the party if appropriate. Make it even more special by designing the CD cover to personalize it for the host and/or hostess.

(5) Flowers
As much as this is a traditional gift and thoughtful, the busy host/hostess may not have time to find a vase, cut stems, fill with water and arrange. If you decide to give flowers, have them already in a nice vase or have them delivered the day before from your favorite florist with a personal note.

(6) Diffuser
This gift keeps on giving with the lovely scent lasting for months, provided you “flip the sticks” every few days. I think these are such a wonderful gift and the hostess will always think of you as they pass by and smell the extrodinary scent. Can be found at TJ Maxx or high end retailers such as Neiman Marcus.

(7) Candy

A beautiful box of Godiva Chocolates or alike, is always a thoughtful gift.

(8) Gourmet Food
A lovely bottle of great olive oil, flavored vinegars, locally harvested honey, handcrafted jams or chutneys make a memorable gift that anyone would enjoy. Present it in a nice box, decorative bag or simply tie with a fabulous ribbon.

(9) Decorative Wine Stopper
These are widely available from your discount retailer to the small boutiques in town or local wine shops. Wrap in a beautiful box or decorative tin. Can give in conjunction with a bottle of wine or alone.

(10) Stationary
Keep a few boxes of unique and traditional boxes of stationary on hand to give as a host and/or hostess gift. The art of the personal note is alive and well.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon & Garlic Sauteed Spinach



Pan Seared Salmon with Sautéed Garlic Spinach

2 half pound salmon filets
¼ cup flour
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
3 T. olive oil

In a bowl mix flour, salt and pepper. Rinse and pat dry with a paper towel, the salmon filets. Dip each one into the flour mixture and dust off excess.

In a medium, oven proof skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Place the filets into the pan and sear for a minute or two on each side. Start with the non-skin side. Place into a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the salmon is just firm.

Sautéed Fresh Spinach with Lemon and Garlic

2 ½ pounds of fresh spinach
3 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
2 cloves minced garlic
4 T. fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Then add the spinach and toss until wilted. Finish with the lemon juice and salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baked Salmon with Sour Cream

When I was growing up, my Mom would make this dish and I just loved it. The combination of the onion, lemon juice and sour cream are a terrific match for the salmon. You can serve in individual gratin dishes, like I did or in a casserole pan. It is such a simple dish but will wow your family and friends.
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Baked Salmon with Sour Cream

2 half pound salmon filets
2 juiced lemons
1 small onion grated into a puree
1 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Paprika

Use two small gratin dishes. Place one salmon filet in each gratin dish. Divide the onion mixture in half and spread over each salmon filet. Pour half of the lemon juice over each one of the salmon filets. Sprinkle salt and pepper over each one. Carefully spread ½ cup of sour cream over each filet. Sprinkle each with paprika.

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes until salmon is completely cooked. Double recipe to serve four.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Corned Beef and Cabbage



Corned Beef and Cabbage

The term “Corned” comes from putting meat in a large crock and covering it with large rock-salt kernels of salt that were referred to as “corns of salt” This preserved the meat. The term Corned has been in the Oxford English Dictionary as early as 888 AD. Corned Beef and Cabbage is basically an American tradition on St. Patrick's Day started by Irish-Americans in the mid 1800's
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Ingredients:
3 pound pre-seasoned corned beef
1 t. all-spice
1 T. black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 head of green cabbage
20 fingerling potatoes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place corned beef in a large pot and cover with water. Add the all spice, black peppercorns and bay leaf. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer approximately 1 hour per pound or until tender.

About one hour before you are ready to serve, prepare the roasted fingerling potatoes. In a baking dish, place the potatoes. Drizzle olive oil until coated and salt and pepper. Toss under combined. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes at 350 or until lightly brown and fork tender.

Right before you are ready to eat, remove the corned beef and place on a platter. Cover with foil. Cut the cabbage into quarters and cook in the corned beef liquid for about 2 to 3 minutes. Cut the corned beef in slices. Serve with your favorite mustard if desired. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

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Roasted Cauliflower Soup

2 heads cauliflower
4 cloves garlic
1 small onion, chopped
2 T. olive oil
6 cups of chicken stock
1 cup half & half
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1/3 c. salted marcona almonds
Black truffle oil to garnish

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut cauliflower into 1-inch florets (about 10 cups). In a large baking pan toss cauliflower, with oil to coat and roast in middle of oven about 30 minutes, or until golden. Five minutes before removing from the oven, add the onion and garlic.

In a 4-quart pot simmer chicken stock, roasted cauliflower mixture, bay leaf, 30 minutes, or until cauliflower is very tender. Remove the bay leaf and use a hand emulsion blender to puree soup until smooth. Stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste. Heat soup over moderate heat until just heated through.

Ladle into individual bowls. Swirl the truffle oil onto the soup and top with a large pinch of marcona almonds into the center of each bowl. Grind fresh pepper over each one if desired.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Grilled Peach and Caramelized Onion Bruschetta




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The combination of flavors is simply magical. The smokey toasted bread along with the earthiness of the goat cheese, caramelized sweet flavor from the onions and grilled sweet peaches is a unique paring but it will not disappoint. The toasted hazelnuts on top finish the bruschetta! Enjoy with your favorite Sauvigion Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
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Grilled Peach Bruschetta

Ingredients:
4 one inch thick slices of chibatta bread
Olive oil
6 oz. of goat cheese
1 T. half & half
3 T. butter
1 large onion
1 t. sugar
½ t. pepper
½ t. salt
1 large peach (cut into 16 slices)
¼ cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts

Caramelized onions:
Peel and cut in half lengthwise the onion. Then proceed to thinly slice each half of the onion. Melt the butter gently in a large saucepan and add the onions. Toss to completely coat the onions with the melted butter. Add the sugar, salt and pepper. Cook the onions over medium heat until caramelized. (Lightly brown)

Chibatta bread:
Brush each slice of chibatta bread on both sides with olive oil. Place onto stove top grill. Grill each piece until toasted and has grill marks. Be careful not to burn. Set aside to cool.

Goat cheese mixture:
In a small bowl, put the goat cheese and half & half. Cream together.

Preparing the peaches:
Cut the peach into 16 slices by quartering it and removing the pit. Then slice each quarter into four slices. Brush each slice with olive oil and set onto to grill. Watch carefully and remove once both sides have grill marks. Put onto a plate to rest.

Assembly:
Spread the goat cheese mixture evenly over all four slices. Divide onion mixture among the four slices and spread over goat cheese. Place four peach slices on each and top with the toasted hazelnuts. Serve with a simple salad for a great lunch or dinner meal.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Caramelized Onion Dip

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Several years ago at a party, I had this dip and fell in love with it. Wanted to kick it up, so I added the brandy and it gives it the added richness. The caramelized onions can be made ahead of time and heated in the microwave when ready to assemble. Enjoy.

Ingredients:
3 T. butter
1 large onion
¼ t. salt
¼ t. pepper
1 t. sugar
1/3 cup brandy
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped toasted pecans
6.5 oz. package of Alouette Garlic & Herb Spreadable Cheese
Crackers or sliced baguette

Peel and cut in half lengthwise the onion. Then proceed to thinly slice each half of the onion. Melt the butter gently in a large saucepan and add the onions. Toss to completely coat the onions with the melted butter. Add the sugar, salt and pepper. Cook the onions over medium heat until caramelized. (Lightly brown) Take the pan off the heat and add the brandy. Let the alcohol cook off for one minute until returning to the burner. Add the cranberries and cook over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Take off the burner and cool slightly.

Spread the Alouette cheese onto your favorite serving platter until it is about eight inches in diameter. Top the cheese with the caramelized onion mixture. Add the toasted pecans and serve with crackers or sliced baguette.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Baked Brie

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Ingredients:
Half pound of creamy brie
2 t. finely minced fresh rosemary
5 large dried shitake mushrooms
¼ cup chopped toasted almonds (marcona are wonderful)
½ cup small diced red onion
Olive oil to drizzle

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl of boiling hot water and cover with a small plate to push the mushrooms into the hot water. Let steep for about 10 minutes or until completely soft.

Split the brie in half to expose the creamy center by titling on its side to cut. In a medium oven proof ceramic dish, place rind side down, one half of the brie.

Dice the onions and set aside. Finely mince the rosemary and set aside. Toast and chop the almonds and set aside until ready to assemble. Once the mushrooms are soft, squeeze exceed water and dice into small pieces. You will want to discard the tough stem.

To assemble:
Place half of each of the following ingredients onto the exposed brie – onions, rosemary, mushrooms and almonds. Place the other half of the brie onto of the mixture with the rind side up. Pile on top the other half of the onions, rosemary, mushrooms and almonds. Drizzle olive oil on top.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with your favorite crackers. Enjoy a great Cabernet. We had the Lewis Cabernet that is highlighted in "Wine Tasting Notes" label.

Lewis Cellars "Mason" Reserve - Cabernet Sauvignon - 2003

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My husband and I had a long week at work and typically on a Friday night, we share a great bottle of wine. I hunted in the cellar and pulled out the Lewis Cellars “Mason” Reserve – 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon. It certainly exceeded our expectations.

Lewis Cellars is a small family winery established in 1992 by Debbie and Randy Lewis, and recently their son Dennis joined the family business. The total production is somewhere between 8,500 and 9,000 cases and highly sought after by collectors. Randy was a professional race car driver and Debbie had many years of experience in the wine business from wholesale marketing to retail management in a wine bar. Wine spectator consistently scores between 90 and 95 point rating from Wine Spectator magazine.

This release is filled with fruity layers of ripe raspberry, plum, dark cherry and espresso flavors combined with a hint of black truffles and soft tannins. I tasted a hint of cedar and tobacco. This was a “divine” wine!

Recommended Food Pairings:
Grilled Fillet Mignon with sautéed mushrooms
Flank Steak on a bed of arugula
Aged gruyere cheese
Baked Brie with shitake mushrooms, red onions, rosemary and marcona almonds (see appetizers for recipe)

Cost:
$60

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring Onion Risotto with Four Cheeses



Creamy and tender Risotto is an art form unto itself. The secret to great risotto is to enjoy the process by allowing the starches to release slowly, to create the creamy texture. Once you master this technique, the possibilities are endless with the wide variety of ingredients available year round.

Spring Onion Risotto with Four Cheeses

7 to 8 cups chicken stock
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced spring onions (you can substitute with scallions)
1 ½ cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
½ mascarpone cheese
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
½ cup grated asiago cheese
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of finely diced chives

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a gentle simmer and maintain over low heat.

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the Arborio rice and stir until each grain is well coated with the oil and toast for about 5 minutes. Add ¾ cup of the spring onions. Add the wine and stir until completely absorbed.

Add the simmering stock a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Wait until the stock is almost completely absorbed (but the rice is never dry on top) before adding the next ladleful. Reserve ½ cup stock to add at the end.

When the rice is tender to the bite but slightly firm in the center and looks creamy, about 20 minutes, remove from the heat and add the cheeses. Stir until combined. Add the remaining spring onions. Taste - season with salt and pepper. Add more chicken stock to create a soft creamy texture. Top with chives and serve.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bacon Candy

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When I was a kid, my Mom would make bacon wrapped water chestnuts with soy sauce or better known as Rumaki. I wanted to put a twist on the old classic, so I wrapped Madjool Dates with bacon. During a cocktail party I threw, one of the guests asked me, what was in the appetizer and I told him. He said these taste like “Bacon Candy” and the name stuck.

Bacon Candy

36 Madjool Dates or packaged pitted dates
12 slices of thin center cut bacon
36 toothpicks

Prepare the dates by taking the pits out of each one along with the hard end pieces where the date was attached to the plant.

On a large cutting board, cut each bacon slice into thirds. Lay all 36 pieces of bacon out and top with a prepared date. Wrap bacon tightly around each date and secure with a toothpick.

Use a glass baking dish to the bacon candy. Lay so they are close but not touching. Bake at 375 for about 20 to 25 minutes. Flip over halfway through the cooking process. If you like them crispy, then cook a bit longer, without burning them. Let them cool for a few minutes then enjoy!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chocolate Torte with Pecan Crust



This dessert is a complete winner and very simple to make. The "wow" factor will amaze your friends and family.

Pecan Crust:
1 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

Chocolate Filling:
15 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups heavy cream

Caramel Sauce:
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Make the pecan crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray side and bottom of 9-inch spring form pan with vegetable cooking spray. Place pecans, sugar, flour and butter in food processor bowl. Cover and process until nuts are ground and mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Make the chocolate filling:
Place chocolate chips in a glass or metal bowl over a double boiler. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in egg yolks.
Heat heavy cream in small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Slowly add chocolate mixture to cream, whisking until smooth. Pour filling over crust. Chill for 4 hours or overnight. Loosen torte from side of pan. Remove side of spring form pan. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.

Make the caramel sauce:
Stir sugar, water and lemon juice in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat; boil without stirring until the mixture turns deep amber brown. This should take about 9 minutes. Take off the stove and hold over the sink before pouring the cream mixture into the sugar mixture. It will boil and bubble. Once calmed down, add to back to the burner and reduce slightly over medium low heat for about 8 minutes. Chill until thickened. Put into another container and slightly heat when ready to use.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stuhlmuller Vineyards - Cabernet Sauvignon - 2005

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Estate grown, “bordeaux style” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc grapes delivers a rich and enchanting experience loaded with dark fruit flavors of black current, blackberry, cassis, anise, cocoa and hints of eucalyptus. It has subtle oak and balanced tannins along with licorice, violets, tobacco and moist earth undertones. Will be at its height around the year 2011, if you have not already opened this delicious wine.

Stuhlmuller Vineyards is located at the southern edge of the Alexander Valley, where it converges with two other highly regarded Sonoma County appellations, Chalk Hill and the Russian River Valley. On its eastern edge, the 150-acre vineyard borders the Russian River. Situated in a unique location that is part river benchlands and part hillside, the vineyard benefits from its alluvial gravel soils and the more rocky soils that comprise the hillside sections of the vineyard.

Recommended Food Pairings:
Lamb chops with a reduced cherry balsamic sauce
Grilled steaks
Aged Gouda Cheese

Cost:
$36

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Textbook "Mise en Place" - Cabernet Sauvignon - 2006

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The "Mise en place" Cabernet Sauvignon comes from two very special single vineyard sites located on the extreme eastern side of the Oakville District abutting the rugged and dry Vaca Mountain Range. This sub-section of the Oakville AVA is renowned for superb, richly-textured Cabernet Sauvignon and its terrain is characterized by steep hills which bask in warm, sunny afternoons offering an ideal growing environment. The first is located next door to Screaming Eagle and the second next to Rudd Estate, Pine Ridge, and Plumpjack.

It is called "Mise en place" to reflect the preparation and diligence exercised in the vineyards and winery. We believe it is a "textbook" example of this noble variety grown in this outstanding appellation. It can be enjoyed over the next decade.

The 2006 release is the best yet to be released, starting with the aromas of dark fruit, blackberries, espresso, and cocoa that least to a rich, smooth and velvety palate. The oak is layered among the black fruit. It will peak 2012 to 2014, but can be enjoyed today. Only 12 barrels made!

Recommended Food Pairings:
Grilled filet with portobello mushrooms
Juicy hamburger with applewood smoked bacon
Grilled cheddar sandwich

Cost:
$49

Monday, March 2, 2009

French Onion Soup

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One of my absolute favorite soups is French Onion Soup. Through many testing sessions, I have come up with a terrific recipe that is rich, satisfying and cheesy. I must admit, cooking with liqueur just adds that extra POW to the dish!
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Ingredients:
4 one inch thick sourdough bread slices (for croutons)
1 large yellow onion
3 T. butter
1 T. sugar
4 c. beef broth
1 c. quick veal stock* (shortcut – 1 cup boiling water and 2 T. veal demi-glace)
½ c. brandy
4 T. brandy to top each bowl right before backing
1 t. finely minced garlic
2 tightly packed grated Jarlsberg cheese
½ c. Parmesan cheese
½ t. salt
½ t. pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Cut from a really great loaf of rustic French bread, four one inch slices. Each slice should be cut into 8 cubes. Place onto a large cookie sheet and bake until lightly brown. About 15 minutes. Set aside until ready to assemble.

Peel onion, but in half lengthwise and slice thin. Turn burner on medium and place the 3 T. of butter in 5 quart pot. Once melted, add the onions, salt & pepper and sugar. Stir together. Caramelize the onions until lightly browned and the flavor surrounds the room. Add the garlic. Cook for one minute.

Take pot off the stove. Add brandy and stir. Return to the burner. Cook for one minute. Add beef stock. To make the quick veal stock, add 1 cup boiling water to glass measuring cup and 2 T. store bought veal demi-glace. Let sit until demi-glace is soft and combines with the water to produce the stock. Add to the onion mixture. Stir to combine. Simmer for 10 minutes.

To assemble – place four croutons at the bottom of each oven proof bowl. Add 1 T. Parmesan cheese and 1 large ladle of the onion soup. Repeat above step with each bowl. If there is extra onion soup, ladle if desired. Place ½ cup of the grated Jarlsberg cheese on top of each soup bowl. The extra touch is to add 1 tablespoon of brandy on each soup before baking. Add more cheese if desired or add some Gruyere for added pizazz!

Place in the oven and bake at 350 for about 20 to 25 minutes until brown and bubbly. Serve with a simple salad and a great Cabernet!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

D.R. Stephens - "Hudson" Chardonnay - 2004

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Carneros is the “up and coming” region for producing premier Chardonnay in California. Prior to being one of the top quality wine producing viticulture areas in the world, Carneros was primarily used for sheep grazing. It is named after the Spanish word for sheep, “Carneros”.

DR Stephens first Chardonnay crafted entirely from Hudson Vineyard chardonnay shows Carneros' cool-climate character at its finest. With the trademark fresh orange-blossom, apricots and tropical fruit notes dominating the aromas, and a selection of Burgundy's finest barrel makers supporting the fruit with the nuances of toasty vanilla and oak, this wine is a bright, gregarious, full-bodied rendition of the variety. Other flavors found in the wine include, wildflowers, clover honey, vanilla, nectarine and delicate oak. Cinnamon and nutmeg are found in the under tones of the wine. Simply a very elegant, age worthy wine that will become more graceful over the next five years.

Recommended Food Pairings:

Crab cakes with lemon aioli
Pan sautéed filet of sole
Triple crème cheese with pears and toasted walnuts

Cost:
$45
 
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