Eggplant & Porcini ‘Meatballs’

I love trying new recipes and not long ago I made one that made me remember that I:

-do love cooking

-appreciate that I love cooking

-understand why some people detest cooking

-need to remember to always read the entire recipe before making it for the first time

-will always always always love the kitchen

The recipe was for Eggplant and Porcini ‘meatballs’.  Took awhile to track down dried porcini from stores having them out of stock, to others not carrying them to being in sticker shock.

I started making this at 9am and finally finished around 4pm (no, it was not continuous, and I did make a double batch).  I was lucky to be using and AMAZING kitchen while doing this.

Some of the basic overviews:

-Roasting the eggplant for about an hour — end result below

IMG_1609-Dried Porcini



-Soak ’em for half an hour.




-You eventually get to chop them, and some onions.




-You sautee those onions with some garlic…ahh, the kitchen smells so good.


-Throw some canned tomatoes in the blender to make them nice and smooth.



-Add those tomatoes to the onions and garlic.


-Throw in some parsley.IMG_1608

-This simmers for awhile.  While this is happening you can go back to the eggplant which has had a lot happen to it.


-Shape into ‘meatballs’.


-Whip out the pan to cook them.


-And in the end, you add them to the tomato sauce for a final product…


These were good.  I think I’m not saying amazing because they took more effort than I was expecting but everybody whowas had them loved them so that’s all I needed to hear.





Wine Class #2

Had my second wine class the other day and learned more about that great beverage.  There was interesting info about labeling and the differences between Old and New World wines.  Think about when you buy a bottle of French vs. a bottle of California wine.  Which label is easier to read — ignoring any potential language barriers?

For Old World, they must (still and will likely always) include:

-Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
-Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)
-Color (red, rose, white)
-Sweetness (dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet, sweet)

For New World, simple:

-brand name
-grape varietal(s)
-geographical areas (Sonoma, Western Cape South Africa)

After that we discussed the background and intricacies of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and of course had to sample some.  This week we tasted 8 wines (2 were not of the aforementioned varietals):


#1 2012 Sylvaine & Alain Norman La Roche Vineuse
Macon – Burgundy, France


#2  2011 Butternut Chardonnay


#3 2012 Hendry Unoaked
Napa Valley, California


Pinot Noir

#4 2011 Domaine Bernard Moreau et Fils Bourgogne Rouge
Burgundy, France


#5 2011 Baileyana Firepeak
Edna Valley, California


#6 2009 Maude
Central Otago, New Zealand (this is the most southern wine area in the world)



#7 2011 Chateau du Basty Regnie
Beaujolais, France



#8 2012 Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage
Stellenbosch, South Africa


I do believe in spooks

This is the first thing that came to mind when I was walking through Target the other day and I was surrounded, and that is a light word, by Halloween candy and food. I can’t say all, but many manufacturers put that little twist on what they make/package to draw the attention of consumers for that extra sale. Not quite point-of-purchase (POP) but definitely strategic marketing. It tastes the same but lures that eye. This is the point at which I’m really glad I’m lactose intolerant and can’t eat/consume/splurge/inhale/spend way too much money on most of this stuff.

This is a snapshot of what I say in the Halloween section:
















Size Can Matter

The world of wine is constantly in a state of flux.  First corks started going from true cork to synthetic.  Then we started getting these screw top things.  I will say at first I was not impressed but I am starting to like them, but I will always love traditional corks.  And now, the size of the container of wine you buy is changing!  The 750ml bottle should always be around, there can be the standby 1.5L and maybe the splits or tiny ones that you use for cooking or slipping into your pocket.

But now you go into the store and talk about eye candy!  I was in World Market last weekend and just had to take pictures.  Talk about kid in a candy store.  So there were 3 other size options (I’d seen some of them a couple times but they overtook the wine section).

#1 350ml bottle, screw top, metal bottle (that might not be what it’s truly made of, but looks that way).  This could totally pass for a non-alcoholic drink (if you peeled the label).  And check out the caps — white for white, red for red.  Genius!  These were about $6/bottle.



#2 500 ml — I don’t know what you want to call it — paper bottle.  I know there is a better name.  Plastic screw top.  Each container has 3 glasses of wine.  Or, hey, if it’s yours for the night, either get a straw or drink straight from the bottle!  The cost for these was about $5.




#3 3L Box Wine.  Box wine’s been around for awhile but is getting good now.  There are 4 bottles per box.  Per ‘them’ there are 24 glasses in a box — are there really 6 glasses in a bottle?  This one was selling for about $16.



Great to see what’s happening in wine world.  Size can matter based on the situation…BBQ, tailgating, night out, night in, sample, and more.  Taste on, my friends, taste on.

Wine Class/School

Last week I has my first, of five, classes with the Capital Wine School for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Award.  Going to school for wine?  What more could one ask?  There are a variety of people in the class, from wine distributors looking to learn about products, caterers, retirees pursuing their passions of wine and getting background for potential work in wine stores and others of us just learning more about wine for kicks.

During the first session, we learned about various elements of wine, from environment to storage.  But the primary focus was the Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine.  Before you taste the wine, you have to analyze several aspects of it, with specific, pre-identified terms for each level.

Appearance — clarity, intensity, color.  For this, you always want to have the wine against a white background.


Nose — condition, intensity, aroma characteristics (you use the characteristics below).  Swirling is optional, personal preference, but what do you have to lose?

Next, the fun part — tasting the wine!  They like to call it palate. There are several areas to determine/analyze here — sweetness, acidity, tannin, body, flavor characteristics, finish.

For the Aroma and flavor characteristics, there are many of them to base it/them on:

Floral/fruit — floral, green fruit, citrus fruit, stone fruit, tropical fruit, red fruit, black fruit, dried fruit

Spice/Vegetable — underripeness, herbaceous, herbal, vegetable, sweet spice, pungent spice

Oak/other — simplicity/neutrality, autolytic, dairy, oak, kernel, animal, maturity, mineral

Conclusions — quality

What was interesting to learn while doing this is that you have a blank palate — you do not lean a certain way.  It is what is present in the wine.  You might not like the wine, but it’s the flavor, aromas, characteristics, x,y,z that are there.  You analyze that wine to present it to the innocent bystander who is looking for a ‘wine that will pair with ‘this” or a wine with ‘x flavors.’

We tasted 6 wines last week.  They provide you with spit/dump buckets and water so you could keep going strong.

#1  2012 Mara White Grass Sauvignon Blanc


#2 2010 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay


#3  2011 Karl Erbes Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett


#4 2011 Henry Fessy Morgon Cru Beaujolais


#5  2010 Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon


#6 2011 Bodegas Volver Tarima Mourvedre (Monastrell)


As mentioned earlier, it was tough to say, ‘this was a good wine,’ because there are a few that I put personal notes about what NOT buy at the store.  But it is so neat to start learning about what goes into what sommeliers learn when they provide you all the info on the grapes we enjoy.

Class #2 is later this week.  So, more to come.

Three weeks, three people, three new tastes

Good things come in threes, right?  So I’ve met some great people over the past few weeks and all of them have introduced me to some new drinks, all in different ‘categories’ — liquor, beer, wine.  Great way to keep the mind and palette active.   Wanted to share them so more people can learn about them (or nod and say — oh yeah, I’ve been loving that for ages, glad she’s finally caught on).

#1 — Gin & Tonic, the wonderful G&T, with cucumber vs. lime.  The important part about this concoction is that you MUST muddle the cukes to release the juice, you need good gin (everybody does have their favorite — mine is Bombay Sapphire but I will never turn down a host who provides Hendrick’s) and apparently if you don’t use Q tonic, why bother making it?  The things you learn.  There are apparently some measurements to this drink which could/would not be revealed…





#2:  Westmalle Trappist  Ale Tripel.  It was the kickoff to college football.  Great Belgian beer to enjoy while sitting on the couch watching sports for many hours.  This stuff is potent — 9.5% alcohol!  It’s good to be watching football because you don’t want to drive for awhile and the food you eat while being sedentary for hours on end soaks up that percentage.  My friend served it in the appropriate glass to which you fill to the 33cl line.



#3:  Bloem Red.  Amazing wine from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.  Since I’m headed there next year I want all the ‘amuse-bouche’ I can get.  It had a light-medium body with fruit and spice.  Was enjoying this over Labor Day weekend and it was served with just that perfect chill for a red that made it even better.  It’s a blend of about 65/35 Syrah/Mourvedre.



May these inspire you for the weekend to come.


…might kill the cat, but it only creates a (better) cook.

I had this huge bunch of basil left from a recipe I made yesterday and was trying to figure out what I could/should do with it.  Didn’t want tomato-basil salad, pesto wasn’t striking my fancy so decided to walk into my kitchen and see what I could do.  I opened the freezer and scanned what was in there that I could be creative with and also looked around the counter.  And the wheels starting spinning…

I was going to make a unique (?) dressing with fresh basil, fresh lime juice, shallot, pepper, black sea salt (decided that after the first blend) and a bit of olive oil.  Wanted to play with appliances so threw it all in the mini-prep.  That’s all it took.  WOW!



Then, the ingredients I found — simple, basic, easy and healthy — what other words do I need?  Like I said, I found them ‘sitting’ around — some were in the freezer and some were fresh.  Sort of mentioned this in another post — use what you have!  Corn, tomatoes, edamame, mango, olives.


Put them in a bowl (some of each — no specific quantities or ratios), toss with the dressing.  Can we say colorful?


Then I served the salad with some pan seared scallops.  Great balance of flavors all around.  And, a pretty healthy Sunday night meal.  Also, with the rest of my tons of basil, I did make pesto — basil, walnuts, olive oil, S&P — that’s it.  Forgot garlic…


Aussie Wine Tasting

Last night there was a call from Down Under to taste their wine.  One must answer!  How can you go wrong?  It was taking place at Bin 201 in Annapolis, MD.  For $10 you taste(d) 8 wines and then you could apply those 10 bucks towards the purchase of a bottle.  And, if more than one person goes, you can combine your ‘credits.’  The two of us who went walked out with a ‘free’ bottle of wine.  Score!  They also serve cheese and crackers at the tasting.

So the night began:


#1:  Pewsey Vale Riesling.  That was originally to be the 2nd in the tasting but turned out to be best as first as some previous tasters decided the notes made it best to go first.  Nice and dry.  You’re not drinking sugar.  The nose was flowery, the taste was lime.


#2:  Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc.  Hand me the green peppers.  Or, if your recipe calls for some and you’re out, you could easily sip some of this instead.  Wow, very poignant, yet nice, nose and taste of them.  Also had some grapefruit notes.


#3:  Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir.  Yes, it’s from New Zealand but they are pretty close together, yet so far away from here.  There was a light note of cranberries in the nose.   For taste, I found some ash and bit of cranberry.


#4:  Misfit Brujeria.  I felt it was ‘thick and chewy’ and couldn’t pick up a flavor.  If I had to put something to it, the most I could say is chocolate, but that’s me.


#5:  Tournon Mathilda.  Light wine with some eucalyptus on the nose.  Also carried the eucalyptus in the taste with a hint of jam.


#6:  Tir Na N’og ‘Old Vines’ Grenache.   What a nose — chocolate and molasses.  Then it was like drinking molasses cookies with a hint of black licorice.


#7:  Yalumba “The Scribbler” Shiraz/Cabernet.  I love their Shiraz/Viognier blend so was excited about this.  I could not pick up a taste from it though, unfortunately.


#8:  Jim Barry “The Cover Drive” Cabernet Sauvignon.  The most I can give is mint!


And the entire menu/notes from Bin 201 were interesting.  I always try to sniff and taste before reading these to avoid the ‘brainwash.’  The Aussie tasting was great and can’t wait to see/taste what’s next.



Use What You Have

It’s amazing what you can find in the kitchen, between both the cupboards and what you recently bought at the store, that can make a great meal.  I got creative tonight and whipped up a tasty salad that required nothing but ‘shopping’ in my own cupboards and fridge.  It took less than 10 minutes but has and will provide(d) hours of happiness, from a full stomach…to multiple meals, aka leftovers.


-(Trader Joe’s) couscous
-(Trader Joe’s) grape tomatoes
-(Trader Joe’s) frozen artichoke hearts
-(Costco) hearts of palm
-Leftover chicken breasts
Tessemae‘s Lemonette


-Cook couscous per directions — boil water, put in couscous, let sit 5 minutes.
-While that’s happening, defrost artichoke hearts, cut hearts of palm, peel and cut grapefruit.  The chicken I had was already sliced from last night.
-When couscous is done, place in large bowl, top with all other (solid) ingredients.  Toss with salad dressing, season to taste.  Eat.

Rough, right?  Just think about all the additions/subtractions/changes you could make to this, too, to fit your tastes.

-add nuts
-add beans (garbanzo (chick peas), black, kidney)
-no meat
-seafood (I’m out of chicken — only had a couple pieces left so salmon or tuna’s going in there tomorrow)
-dried fruit
-different dressing
-more seasoning
-base of quinoa vs. couscous

What’s the most important thing?  You can make SO MUCH out of what is in your kitchen so you don’t have to go out night after night.  What’s the worse case scenario?  You experiment, it’s not great.  You know everything that went in there and you just keep trying.  Cook on my friends, cook on.