Archive for category Soups and Salads

Avocado Salad Dressing/Dip

New Year, New Diet.  I found the recipe for this creamy Avocado salad dressing on Facebook, and, with a few tweaks, it has become my favorite! It also makes a great “guacamole” style dip for veggies.  How Easy is This??:


1 baseball sized Avocado
2 T Golden Balsamic (or lemon juice)
1/2 C. Low Fat Greek Yogurt
1/2 t. Chili Garlic Paste (or other hot sauce)
1/4 C olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 t. salt

Put all ingredients in blender.  Whirl.  Put on salad!

(Mrs. Vino’s Note:  I tried using less salt, but the result just wasn’t as good so I suggest using the full amount.  And, depending on the size of your Avocado, this dressing can get pretty thick.  Try thinning it down with a little extra balsamic or water if you need to – it’s still delicious).

Have a favorite recipe?? I’d love to share it.

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Edamame Hummus

At the recent wine club party, Mrs. Vino debuted a “hummus” made with Edamame. It’s one of my FAVE super easy, super healthy appetizers.  It’s a beautiful fluffy dip for veggies or rice cracker.  It’s also pretty good tossed with Asian noodles as a cold salad.  This dish is absolutely wonderful with Morovino’s new Dry Riesling.  There were numerous requests for the recipe, so here you go!


1 16 ounce bag of frozen shelled Edamame, thawed
2 T yellow Miso (red or white Miso works too, but Yellow seems to be the most readily available)
2 T warm water
2 T grated ginger (use your microplane grater and it’s about 2″ of ginger root)
2 T rice wine vinegar
1/4 t. Chili Garlic Paste

Mr. Vino is not a fan of very spicy dishes, so Mrs. Vino uses 1/4 t of Chili Garlic Paste.  If you prefer a spicier dish, just stir in more chili paste at the very end of the dish.

Disolve the Miso in warm water to create a paste.  Add all the ingredients into the bowl of your food processor.  Process til smooth.  Add a bit more rice wine vinegar or water if you need to thin it out a bit. Put it in a pretty bowl, then top it with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil if you like.  YES, it is just that easy.

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Spinach Salad with Quinoa (for Loreen)

I recently invested in a cool new kitchen tool – a rice cooker.  I’ve been making rice for decades, and I consider myself a good cook, but rice is usually hit-and-miss with me.  As we eat a fair amount of rice, it seemed like a good investment.  As it turns out, the rice cooker does a lot more than cook rice.  In fact, I played with my rice cooker for two weeks before I actually tried to cook rice in it!

One of the things that my rice cooker does REALLY WELL is Quinoa.  I love Quinoa – it’s healthy, it’s got nice texture, a great nutty flavor and you can do sooooo much with it.  When I cook it on the stovetop, it frequenly comes out gummy.  However, in the rice cooker (use the white rice setting) it turns out fluffy and light and perfect.  The only downside to making Quinoa in my rice cooker is that you need to make at least 2 cups.  That is lots of Quinoa.   So here’s a great recipe to use up some of your leftover cold Quinoa.  This salad is healthy and delicious.

1/2 bag of prewashed spinach (or get 1 bunch and wash it really, really well)
1 pear, cored and sliced
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. crumbled bleu cheese
1 c. prepared Quinoa, chilled
4 green onions, sliced lengthwise, then crosswise in 1/2″ pieces.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (steamed in your rice cooker)

2 T olive oil
1 T cider vinegar
1 T Orange juice
1 small dollop of honey (let’s call it 1/2 t.)

Another great use for the rice cooker is steaming –  one of my new fave easy meals is to make brown basmati rice in the bottom of the rice cooker while  simultaneously steaming salmon filets in Teriyaki sauce in the steamer basket.  Wow.   More on that later.

Back to this recipe – let’s steam the chicken.  Put water, 1 garlic clove and 2 bay leaves in the bottom pot of your rice cooker.  Then put the steamer tray in the top.  Put the boneless skinless chicken breasts in the steamer tray, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and steam for 18-20 minutes (or however long your rice cooker booklet says).  Prewashed spinach is one of those amazing cheats that I don’t feel at all bad about using.  Toss the Spinach, Quinoa, bleu cheese, pear slices, green onions and cranberries together in a large bowl.  Whisk together the dressing ingredients.  Toss the dressing with the salad greens. Put 1/2 the salad on each of 2 dinner plantes. Top each salad with one of the sliced cooked chicken breasts.  Sprinkle with a bit more of the crumbled bleu cheese.  Yum-o-licious.

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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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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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Quick and Easy Leftover Steak Salad

Serve with Morovino Barbera.

This is a great 10 minute main course salad for those days when you DON’T have 30 minutes to prepare a meal, but you DO have leftover steak.  This is one of Mrs. Vino’s favorite uses for left over flank steak.

1 large head of butter lettuce (or 1 bag of your favorite salad mix-Mrs. Vino is a practical woman!)
2 ripe tomatoes
2 green onions
2 ribs celery
1 can hearts of palm (if you like them)
8 baby portabella mushrooms, sliced (button mushrooms OK, too)
8 thin slices of left over grilled steak (Flank Steak, New York or whatever you have)
¼ c. (1 small can) sliced black or green olives
¼ c. crumbled bleu cheese
Your favorite Italian Salad Dressing (I like Newman’s Light Italian)

Next time you grill steak, put an extra one on the barbecue! Then refrigerate or freeze until you need a quick, hearty meal. Wash the lettuce and tear into small pieces (or, if you have been working all day, dump the bag of lettuce in a bowl). Chop the tomatoes, slice the onions, mushrooms, celery and hearts of palm and dump them into the bowl. Add the olives and the cheese. Warm the steak up in the microwave for about 45 seconds (thaw it in the fridge first). Slice the steak thinly. Toss the salad with the dressing and put the sliced steak on top. Top with a bit more cheese if you like. Serve with ranch rolls or interesting artisan bread

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10 Minute Shrimp Salad

Pairs perfectly with Morovino Barbera (yes, I know that’s a red wine–rules are meant to be broken).

For those of you who have visited the tasting room – this is the salad that Mr. Vino talks about that demonstrated the power of the perfect food and wine pairing!

1 lb. Of the largest shrimp you can find (is that an oxymoron??). Mrs. Vino uses at least 15/20 count—and buys them pre-cleaned and flash frozen. As we’ve said before, Mrs. Vino appreciates a good shortcut. If using frozen shrimp, please thaw first (I know you already knew that).
¼ C. White wine vinegar (red wine vinegar is JUST as delicious)
3T. Soy Sauce
¼ C. (about one small handful) cilantro (wash it first, my dears)
3 cloves garlic, or 2 medium size spoonsfull of the crushed, jarred stuff
1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded, membranes removed, quartered (like really spicy food—feel free to use 2!)
1T sugar (no fake stuff)
1 red onion
5ish leaves of romaine lettuce, thinly sliced (yes, Mrs. Vino knows you aren’t supposed to cut lettuce—so sue her!)
¼ head of small red cabbage, thinly sliced
Your olive oil mister (Don’t have one? You should. Great cool tool.)

Preheat your broiler on high. Quick trick to clean the Jalapenos: cut them in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and the membranes. Do NOT scratch your nose or touch anything sensitive after handling Jalapenos—Learn from Mrs. Vino’s mistakes. Roughly chop the Jalapeno and put the Jalapeno, vinegar, soy sauce, cilantro, garlic, and sugar in a food processor—it actually fits in my mini-chopper, if you don’t want to get the big processor dirty. Process until finely chopped/smooth.

Place shrimp on a broiler pan and mist with olive oil. Grill until they turn pink and are just cooked through—turning them once—this will take about 4-6 minutes. While shrimp are grilling, slice lettuce and cabbage and dice onion. In a medium bowl, combine veggies and toss with about ¾ of the salad dressing. In a small bowl, toss shrimp with the remaining dressing. Pile the salad on your plate, pile the shrimp atop the salad. Pile forkfulls of this into your mouth—Absolutely delicious and sooooooo good for you. Serve with a nice whole wheat roll. And, a nice glass of Morovino  Barbera.

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Miso Soup with Soba Noodles

Serve with Morovino 2009 or 2011 Pinot Grigio.

Mrs. Vino loves soup.  Does that mean I’m getting old?  It’s just so comforting and warm and light and easy to prepare.  This is one of our favorites.  Enjoy!

1 package shitake mushrooms—these are usually about 3-4 ounces.
9 C. fat free chicken or vegetable broth
1 5” piece of fresh ginger—peeled (no substitutions, this makes the dish)
1 whole head (yes I said head) of garlic, peeled and smashed with the flat of your knife
3T yellow miso paste (or red or white–whatever miso you can find. You should be able to find this in the refrigerator/deli section of your grocery store.  If Central Coast grocery stores carry it – EVERYONE carries it)
1 14-ounce package of extra firm tofu drained and cubed
1 T dark sesame oil
1 T olive or vegetable oil
¼ t crushed red pepper flake
12 ounces buckwheat Soba noodles or 1 package whole wheat thin spaghetti or vermicelli or angel hair pasta (optional—if you are serious dieting, this soup doesn’t need them)
1 ½ C (about ½ head) of shredded napa cabbage
½ C shredded carrot (I get the bags, I’m waaaayyyy to busy to shred carrots)
½ C finely sliced green onions

Remove the icky woody stems from the mushrooms. Set them aside. Slice the mushroom caps into ¼” strips. Then set them aside. In a large pot, combine the broth, shitake stems (ONLY the stems), ginger and garlic. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Drain the soup through a strainer into another pot—sorry, it’s a bit of a pain. Add Miso to strained broth and give it a good whisk in. Keep miso broth warm over low heat.

Back to the Shitake caps: heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced mushroom caps and red pepper flakes and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until browned. Add the mushroom mixture and the sesame oil to strained broth (they should simmer with the broth for at least 5 minutes. More is better. )

While the broth is simmering, chop the cabbage, open the bag of carrots, chop the green onions and dice the tofu. Boil some water and cook the noodles according to package directions.

Now, assemble: In cool little asian bowls (or big soup bowls, depending on how hungry you are), put a small handful of noodles (like 2/3 cup). I twirl noodles on a fork to make a little nest-looking pile. Pour 1 and ½ C of broth over the noodles (that’s about 3 ladles full). Top each bowl with a handful of cabbage, a couple of tablespoons of carrot, tofu and green onions—all to taste. Drizzle with a tiny bit of toasted sesame oil. HEAVEN. Makes great left overs. Just put the left over veggies and tofu into a little baggy. Take the soup to work in a Tupperware. Heat soup up. Add veggies and slurp away.

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