Most of you know that risotto is Mrs. Vino’s favorite 30 minute comfort food. It’s such a great backdrop for . . . any flavors. Chopped up rotisserie chicken, sauteed mushrooms, avocado and tomato salad . . . you can put just about anything on top of a risotto and it’s delicious. Risotto has a reputation as being a bit hard to make. I don’t believe this is necessarily true – but it does require a bit of focused attention at the stove (pretty much constant stirring). Sometimes Mrs. Vino is totally into the Zen of stirring a risotto. Then again, sometimes she’s not. That’s why I was so excited when I opened up my most recent issue of my fave Cooking Light magazine and saw this tip for no-stir risotto.
I’ve tried some other recipes for no-stir risotto (usually baked). And they are OK, but just don’t have the creamy, chewy richness of a more traditional risotto. And I actually did not believe that the technique in this link would be any better. But the technique looked so easy that I just HAD to try it.
I cannot believe that the super simple step of rinsing the rice in the chicken (or other) stock that you use to make the risotto would make a difference. I was completely blown away that this made the best, easiest risotto I’ve ever had.
If you love risotto – or if you’ve been afraid to make risotto because it seems hard – please give this a try. You will be so glad you did.
Mrs. Vino recently had an interesting life experience that reminded her to count her blessings every day. A few days ago, I had more blessings to count than usual because a member of our vino family came to pick up a wine shipment and gifted me with a beautiful bag of dried Morel mushrooms. Coincidentally it was the same day that I received my favorite cooking magazine – Cooking Light – which had a great feature on . . . Morel Mushrooms. So with HUGE thanks to our Club Member Maria L., here is my tweak on Cooking Light’s Spring Pasta with Morels.
SPRING PASTA WITH MORELS
1 T butter
1 t. olive oil
1/2 medium onion finely minced
1 T chopped fresh thyme
1 t Herbs d’Provence
1/2 t. Kosher Salt
2.5 ounces dried Morel mushrooms (1 package of dried Morels)
1 C. chicken stock
1/2 lb of Asparagus
1/4 c. half-and-half
grated rind of 1 lemon
3 ounces low fat cream cheese (softened)
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
Shaved Parmesan or Asiago to garnish
Your favorite dried pasta
PREP: Put the chicken stock into a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup or large coffee cup and microwave for 1 minute to warm. Immerse the dried mushrooms in the chicken stock and let rehydrate for 15 minutes. With a vegetable peeler or mandoline (watch your fingers!!!), shave the asparagus into long thin strips. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
COOK: Scoop the mushrooms out of the stock with a slotted spoon. Give them a rough chop. Save the stock. Melt butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, Herbs d’Provence, salt and mushrooms. Saute for 4ish minutes. Add the reserved stock – pour it out slowly, there will be some grit from the dried mushrooms in the bottom of the cup and you do NOT want gritty pasta sauce. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer until liquid is reduced by half (about 2 minutes). Pull off the heat.
Add the dried pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook per package directions. When there are 2 minutes left in the cooking time of the pasta, add the shaved asparagus to the boiling water. While that is finishing -
Add the half-and-half to the mushroom mixture, then return the mixture to medium heat. Add the cream cheese, lemon zest, pepper and thyme, stirring until the cream cheese melts and the sauce thickens (about 2 minutes). Drain the pasta/asparagus and toss it with the mushroom/cream mixture. Put on pretty plates. Top with the shaved parmesan. We had this with Morovino’s new Merlot and it was just amazing. Mr. Vino made happy food noises.
OK, I’m moving this amazing recipe to the blog page so it’s searchable and easier to find, because we’ve had SOOOOOOOO MANY people asking for it. Enjoy!
BLEU CHEESE BISCUIT DONUTS
1 package large/grand refrigerated biscuits (you know, the Pop-the-tube-against-your-counter kind)
4 ounces bleu cheese crumbles
honey for drizzling
a dab of butter
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Pop the biscuit roll against your counter (I just LOVE doing that). Then cut each biscuit into quarters.
Lightly butter a 9 x 13 baking dish. Place the quartered biscuits around the bottom of the 9 x 13 dish nestling them pretty snuggly together (do NOT reassemble the biscuits they should be in a sort of haphazard pattern).
Scatter the cheese crumbles across the top. Make sure the bleu cheese crumbles get into any gap between biscuit pieces. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits are browned.
Take the pan out of the oven, let cool a few minutes then drizzle the top of the whole shebang with honey. This is a great appetizer (my friend Alexandra calls them Bleu Cheese Biscuit Donuts). Or a yummy side dish to a main course salad (like poached pears, bacon and arugula). These Bleu Cheese Biscuits are highly addictive, so it’s a good thing they are easy to make.
Not only is this a great recipe, it’s an awesome technique! Don’t have Bleu Cheese and honey? No problem. Put the biscuits in the baking dish, then brush the top with your favorite jarred pesto and sprinkle parmesan on top. OR brush the top of the biscuits with a nice, fruity olive oil, then sprinkle Feta cheese and Kalamata olives on top. You are limited ONLY by your imagination (try sprinkling grated cheddar, bacon bits and green onions on top – mmmmmmmmmmmmmm).
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??:
AVOCADO SALAD DRESSING
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.
Yes, it’s the Holiday Season and that means that schedules can be the tiniest bit frantic! After a day of holiday shopping (shop local, please) sometimes the temptation is to pick up fast food. But you can make a great delicious easy dinner with ingredients from your pantry – all in the time it takes to boil a pot of spaghetti. Here’s this year’s THE HOLIDAYS ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY quick dinner!
SPAGHETTI WITH PEAS AND TUNA
Make with Morovino Dry Rielsing, serve with Dry Riesling or Barbera
16 oz Spaghetti or Fetuccine
2 T Olive Oil
6 cloves of garlic, slivered/sliced
1/2 C. chicken broth
1/2 C. Morovino Dry Riesling (or other dry white wine)
2 cans tuna packed in water, drained
1/2 onion, diced
2 C. frozen peas
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper (seems like a lot, but you really do need this much)
1/8 t. salt (or to taste)
1/2 t. dried tarragon
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 C Parmesan cheese – grated or shredded
1 T butter
Fill a saucepan with water and put in on the stove on medium heat. While the water is coming to a boil (about 3 minutes on my cooktop), dice the onion, sliver the garlic and zest the lemon. As soon as the water comes to a boil – add the pasta and cook according to package instructions (about 9 minutes). While the pasta is cooking, put a saute pan on the stove over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and the onion. Cook six minutes – you want to sweat the onions, not brown them. Stir occasionally. When they have softened, add the slivered garlic and saute for 1 minute. Then add the wine, lemon juice, chicken broth, peas, tuna, salt and pepper and tarragon. Stir gently until the peas are heated through – about 2 minutes. While this is heating, the pasta should be finishing up. Drain it. Pull the pea mixture off the heat. Add the cooked pasta, the parmesan and the butter to the saute pan with the peas and stir until the peas, tuna et all and pasta are mixed together. If your saute pan isn’t big enough to hold the tuna/peas and the pasta – just dump everything into a big bowl and stir until mixed. Spoon onto plates and garnish with a bit more parmesan, a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper and the lemon zest. Nutritious. Delicious. Time elapsed – 12 minutes. Serve with Morovino Barbera or Dry Riesling!
Wait! What’s that wonderful aroma in the tasting room??? It’s November so it’s Mulled Wine Season. This year I think the Mulled Wine is the best ever (OK, I’m pretty sure I say that every year – but this year I mean it). For those of you who misplaced your recipe for Mrs. Vino’s Holiday Mulled Wine in all the holiday craziness – here you go:
1 bottle of 2011 Cabernet Franc by Morovino*
1/2 bottle of tap water (use the Cab Franc bottle)
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 package Morovino mulling spices
1/4 c. dried fruit (used dried cherries, plums, raisins, apricots or blueberries for best results)
OK, last year Mrs. Vino took a LOT of guff because the recipe she was handing out in the tasting room was not exactly the same recipe she used to make wine for the tasting room – it was the easier version of the recipe that she uses when she makes Mulled Wine at home. SO, this year, here are 3 different ways to make your mulled wine – based on time and inclination.
To make mulled wine EXACTLY like the tasting room version: 1) Put the Cab Franc, water, sugar, dried fruit and spice package (take tag off, leave cork on and spices in bag) all in a saucepan. 2) Simmer over low heat (do not boil – it will volatilize the alcohol) for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Mrs. Vino usually makes her mulled wine for the tasting room the night before she serves it – that’s the difference. So for this version, when the wine has finished simmering, 3) take the pot off the stove and cover it. Let it cool down a bit. Then put it in the refrigerator overnight (leave the spice bag and dried fruit in it). When you are ready to serve it, put it back on the stove top on low heat and bring it back up to a simmer. Discard the spice bag and ladle into glasses as desired. NOTE: Mrs. Vino usually uses a combination of raisins and dried apricots for the tasting room mulled wine.
To make Mulled Wine like Mrs. Vino makes it at home, follow steps 1 and 2 – and serve immediately. Still delicious, but leaving the bag and fruit in the wine overnight does concentrate the flavors a bit.
To make Mulled Wine in your Crock Pot, put the wine, water, sugar, spices and dried fruit in your slow cooker and simmer covered for 1 hour on high and then uncovered for at least an additional 30 minutes on low. Keep the slow cooker on low and serve directly from the slow cooker.
Serve it with cookies, holiday carols, and friends – it’s a perfect pairing!
**If you don’t use Morovino Cabernet Franc, use a light, fruity red wine like Merlot, Grenache, Sangiovese, or Barbera. For wines other than our Cabernet Franc, start with 1/4 cup of sugar. Then taste and add more if necessary. Too much sugar is when Mulled Wine goes horribly, horribly wrong!
Now that the weather is getting a bit chilly – it’s time for COMFORT FOOD!! I recently tweaked this recipe from Cooking Light magazine for chicken pot pie. It was way, way better than the chicken pot pies of my childhood (sorry Swanson’s). I was impressed with how easy it was and the way it filled my kitchen with the aromas of chicken and Herbs de Provence. It’s become a fall staple in the Vino household. In fact, one recent rainy day I was craving something warm and comforting and couldn’t decide between the pot pie or a loaded baked potato. Voila, the Chicken Pot Potato was born. Recipes below – thanks to everyone who asked me to post them. Enjoy.
CHICKEN POT PIE
(Adapted from Cooking Light)
Serve with Morovino 2011 Cabernet Franc
1 T Canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 C chicken stock (unsalted, low fat)
2 C shredded chicken *SEE NOTE
1 package refrigerator biscuits (like Pillsbury) or your own biscuit dough
1 c. frozen peas
2 heaping teaspoons of Herbs de Provence (read the label and make sure it includes lavender – that’s what makes the dish)
2 large russet potatos, baked (for Pot Potato)
Preheat the oven to 425. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and saute 4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and saute an additional 1 minute. Sprinkle the veggies in the saucepan with the 1/4 C of flour, the salt and pepper. Stir constantly for about a minute. Add the 4 cups of broth and bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionially until the sauce thickens. Add chicken, Herbs de Provence and peas, simmer for 5 minutes until peas are warmed. You won’t believe how good your kitchen smells at this point. (Note: time elapsed is about 18 minutes – 23 if you include chopping time. Mrs. Vino thinks the popular belief is that comfort food is complicated and takes a long time to prepare – not so!)
For Pot Pie – Pour filling into a 2 QT baking dish. Top with the refrigerator biscuits (you don’t have to use all of them – any biscuits that don’t fit on top can be baked on a piece of foil beside the baking dish). Biscuits should just touch each other. Put baking dish in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown on top. Serve with a nice green salad and a glass of Cabernet Franc for the perfect comfort meal.
For Chicken Pot Potato – take the baked russet potatoes and split them in half lengthwise. Then split them in half again. Put two potato quarters on each plate and spoon a heaping helping of the pot pie filling on top. Top with a dollop of Greek Yogurt and a sprinkle of green onions. Add a side salad and a glass of Cabernet Franc. Serves 4.
A NOTE ABOUT THE CHICKEN: You can use any cooked chicken for this recipe – rotisserie chicken from your grocery store, left over chicken breasts. I usually use poached boneless skinless chicken breasts for this. I usually poach the breasts the night before (for the most juicy and delicious result). And I usually double this recipe – cuz chopped poached chicken breasts freeze beautifully. They are great to have in your freezer for . . . emergency chicken pot pies.
BONUS RECIPE: Poached Chicken Breasts – in a large saucepan, place 1C chicken broth, 1/2 C. wine, 1 smashed garlic clove, some pepper and a bay leaf. Add 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thawed). Bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer (don’t boil – it makes the chicken tough) for about 30 minutes (or until internal temperature is about 165 degrees). Pull the saucepan off the heat and let the chicken cool in the broth. If you do this the night before, just cover the saucepan and put it in the fridge overnight. Prior to serving/cooking – take the breasts out of the broth and shred or cube the meat. Beautiful juicy chicken every time!
I came up with this recipe on a very foggy day in June when I was craving Split Pea Soup, but didn’t have all the usual onions/parsley/garlic/celery I usually use. I decided to give the soup a whirl with what I had in my kitchen. The real difference here is using a smoked pork shank instead of the more typical ham hock. The soup is less fatty, less salty and the meat that’s returned to the cooker is tender and just adds another layer of flavor.
EASY SPLIT PEA SOUP
1 16-ounce bag split peas, rinsed and sorted
1 2-lb smoked pork shank (less fatty than a ham hock)
2 large carrots, diced
6 cups low fat chicken broth
¼ t. salt
¼ t. ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
Put it all the ingredients in a slow cooker (at least a 4.5 quarts). Cover and cook on high for 6 hours (or until you get home from work). Remove the pork shank and bay leaf from the cooker. Pull the meat off the shank and dice. Check the seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed. Return the meat to the cooker. Ladle it into bowls and serve with French bread and a glass of Collaboration. THAT’S IT, it’s just that easy. PS, I can’t wait to try this with the new Cabernet Franc.
This is for my sister Kelly who visited and wanted this recipe. Had it again last night and realized I never sent it to you – sorry, Kel! I forgot to take a picture of this before I ate it (it was really good), so I’ll take another one soon and add to post.
10 MINUTE MICROWAVE RICOTTA
2 c. low fat milk
1/2 c. non fat Greek Yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon (or 2T Cider Vinegar)
Zest of Said Lemon
1/4 t. salt
Lemon Pepper to taste (optional)
It’s always easier if you zest the lemon first, then juice. So zest the lemon with your microplane grater (If you don’t have on this is the best food tool ever) and set the zest aside. Juice the lemon and set aside. Take a strainer and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth. OK, now you are ready (time elapsed 4 minutes) Put the milk and the Greek Yogurt in a 4 cup microwave safe measuring cup. Strain the lemon juice into the milk/yogurt mixture (pulp is OK, but you don’t want seeds in there). Give 1 quick stir with a fork to break up the yogurt. Put the measuring cup and milk mixture in the microwave and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Remove the the milk mixture and give it a couple of more stirs with a fork to break up the big clumps of Ricotta. Carefully pour the mixture into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let sit for 5 minutes. After 5, bundle up the ends of the cheesecloth and give the mixture a bit of a squeeze to squeeze out some of the extra moisture. Put the ricotta in a small bowl and mix in the lemon zest and salt with a fork. Add Lemon Pepper if you are using it. Refrigerate ricotta til you are ready to use it.
SO, HOW TO USE IT: My favorite 10 minute dinner is to boil up some Orzo pasta, then toss it in a bowl with some olive oil, salad shrimp, lemon pepper, diced green onions and halved cherry tomato. Top the plates with a couple of heaping spoonsful of fresh Ricotta – easy, light and delicious. Or, it’s great on top of a salad, or double the batch and use it to fill pasta shells. . . the list is endless.
OPTION 2: If you make the ricotta with the lemon juice then add the zest. Add sugar instead of salt and some diced up raisins. Then use it to fill the center of a poached pear and drizzle the whole thing with honey and top with some roasted slivered almonds. Oh yeah, that’s good too.
Welcome to Summer! It’s time for backyard barbecues, picnics at the beach and other jolly outdoor times! It’s the time for chilled crisp white and rose wines and light and luscious barbecue reds. With many parts of the country exhibiting significant heatwaves, Mrs. Vino thought she’d take a moment to talk about wine and heat.
There is one phrase guaranteed to strike chills into Mrs. Vino’s heart in summer. That phrase, uttered after a wine purchase, is “I’ll put this in the car.” While I completely understand the desire to not have to carry around a bottle/six pack/case of wine while tasting and buying wine, let’s take a quick look at what the National Weather Service says happens to a car interior in summer.
The far left column shows the exterior temperature. The columns then show the temperature in degrees over the time frame of 5 to 60 minutes. So at an exterior temperature of a balmy 80 degrees, within an hour the interior temperature of your car is 127. Realistically, exposure to temperatures to over 90 degrees, even for a short time, can “cook” your wine. A great indication that your wine has been in your car and exposed to heat for too long is that either the cork has started to pop out or the neck of the bottle under the foil is sticky and wet. Have a bottle of wine sealed under screwcap in the trunk of your car? You won’t get any hints on that bottle – you won’t be able tell that wine has cooked until you try to drink it.
So what is “cooked” wine? Well it certainly won’t kill you, but it won’t taste very good either. Cooked wines have lost the delicate balance of fruit, tannin, acidity and sweetness. They frequently taste a bit pruney or like stewed fruit. What should you do it your wine has cooked? Well put it in the fridge and try to bring it back down to 60 or so degrees, then drink it as soon as possible. Like today. And be ready to put it aside for cooking, or even pour it down the drain if it tastes off.
When travelling, treating your wine as if it is a carton of ice cream or a basket of fresh, perfect berries. If you are wine tasting during the summer (or warm winter, spring or fall days), carry an insulated cooler and a couple of ice packs in your car. Wine should go into the cooler at the last possible moment. Most wineries will be happy to hold your wine until you have finished your tasting tour – then just swing by and pick it all up on the way out of town. At Morovino, with a 2 bottle minimum purchase, we’ll deliver your wine to any of the local Pismo or Avila hotels! If you are traveling with your wine, it should be in the passenger compartment of the vehicle – hopefully where there is air-conditioning. If you are comfortable with the temperature, your wine should be comfortable too.
So please avoid tragedy and don’t leave your wine (or your dogs or your kids) in a hot car this summer!