New California Pinot

Was checking out some wine tastings yesterday and had a (red) wine recommended to me that was not on the tasting menu.  As we got to talking about great grapes and new world wine (my favorite), the pourer/sampler/whatever you’d like to call them, recommended Meiomi Pinot Noir from California.  The grapes are from 3 regions in the state — Monterey, Santa Barbara and Sonoma.  Quite unique — definitely a light color (very Pinot), but was tough to nail down the flavors at first.  Got a bit a spice, then some light vanilla/candy, and a bit of fruit.  Also, a vintner who’s using screwtops, if that’s something that catches your attention.  Worth trying.  At the great store of Rodman’s in DC (a wine lover’s pitfall, among two others in the area) it was $16.



Portuguese Green Soup

January, cold, soup weather.  It was the perfect day to make something nice and hot for dinner, especially since I hadn’t made a one-pot wonder for awhile.  I flipped through several cookbooks looking for a recipe I hadn’t made yet (because I wanted to try something new) and came across a Portuguese Green Soup in my Bon Appetit book.  Basic ingredients, could make some changes to use what I had, and sounded delicious.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch collard greens, center stems cut away, leaves thinly sliced  — or sort of chopped/cut into pieces
1 pound fully cooked spicy sausage (such as linguiça, andouille, or hot links), cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds — I used venison roast that I had and cubed it
5 3/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 3/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, diced — why peel them?  There is great stuff in the skin!
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper



Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic. Saute until onion is soft and golden , about 5 minutes. Note:  my apartment smelled SO good.


Add collard greens and saute until wilted, about 4 minutes.


Add sausage (or venison in my case) and saute 5 minutes.


Add broth and potatoes. Simmer soup uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.


Transfer 2 cups soup (without sausage) to processor. Blend until smooth; return to pot of soup and bring to simmer.  Mix in crushed red pepper. Season with salt and black pepper.

This is where immersion blenders are heaven!!!  Now, it was hard to totally avoid the meat here but it made it kind of cool in the end.  I made it not super smooth but not super chunky.




It was a very nice soup.  As mentioned, the meat was sort of ‘smoothed’ out from the immersion blender.  I had to add more salt — don’t know if it’s because sausage can often have more salt (and the recipe doesn’t call for any to begin with, they mention to add it at the end).  I added some garlic salt to give it some more kick.  But, I like this recipe.  It says 4 dinner servings.  Definitely!  I have plenty of soup to go around.


A friend was traveling in Europe a few months back and was very kind and brought me back some German brew.  Finally popped it open during the football games last weekend.  It’s Holzar-Bier, which comes in a nice flip top, 1/2 L bottle.  It’s 5.2% ABV and a dark amber.  A tiny bit bitter, in a good way, and very unique.  Will definitely see if I can find it around here.




Kale Salad with Cashews and Lime

I love getting my Bon Appetit magazine each month and there is one recipe in there I’ve been eyeing for awhile from the January issue.  Finally got around to making it last weekend while watching (yelling, screaming, cheering, crying, and finally celebrating) the Seahawks game.  It was the Collard Green Salad with Cashews and Lime (they mention you can easily substitute kale for the collard greens, which I did).  Delicious, filling, vegetarian, can make it lactose-free (as in non-cow milk).


1 cup unsalted, roasted cashews, divided (love being able to buy in bulk at my Whole Foods)
4 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino, divided, plus shaved for serving (I used Manchego! — tastes just as good and I can eat it)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 anchovy fillet packed in oil, drained, finely chopped (I used anchovy paste — I didn’t want to open a whole can of anchovies for 1 fillet)
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice  (just used bottled, was lazy)
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns, crushed, plus more for serving (didn’t get that fancy)
½ bunch collard greens, ribs and stems removed, leaves coarsely torn



Process ½ cup cashews, 2 Tbsp. grated cheese, and 3 Tbsp. water in a food processor (I used a mini prep — fun!), thinning with more water as needed, until a smooth, creamy paste forms; season with salt and black pepper. Set cashew paste aside.



Whisk anchovy (paste), oil, lime juice, 1 tsp. pink peppercorns (for those who follow recipes to the dot), and 2 Tbsp. grated cheese in a large bowl; season with salt and black pepper.


Coarsely chop remaining ½ cup cashews. Add nuts and collard greens to large bowl.


Toss to coat, gently massaging dressing into leaves with your fingers to bruise and slightly wilt.  (Spread some reserved cashew paste onto each plate and top with salad and shaved Pecorino; sprinkle with more crushed pink peppercorns.)


This salad was delicious!  Very hearty and lots of flavor.  Next time I make it I think I’ll throw some garlic in there, too.

Calamari Steak

Was roaming around Whole Foods the other night looking for something to make for dinner and came across something I hadn’t seen before — Calamari Steak.  I’ve had rings and thin calamari tubes, but this stuff was amazing. About 1/2″ thick and 1/2lb per steak. Had to give it a try.



Unfortunately neither of the guys at the seafood counter had any idea how to cook it so did a little research while waiting in line to check out.  I found info that said season and pan sear for about 1 minute per side.  That sounds easy enough.  I just used for garlic salt and Florida Seasoning from Penzey’s for seasoning.


To pair with this, I also sauteed some kale and mushrooms in sesame oil.


When I was at Whole Foods I also came across some Manchego that was on sale.  Love Manchego because I can actually eat it because it’s made with sheep’s milk vs. cow’s milk.  Lactose intolerant folks can bear it!


So, with all said and done, enjoyed a great meal of calamari steak — which was a bit chewy, in a cool way, kale & mushrooms, manchego and olives.  Not too shabby, at all.


I passed!

In the fall I took the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) II wine course (which I posted about after each class) through the Capital Wine School.  We learned about wine, from start to finish, how to smell it, taste it, know it, rate it, x, y, z.  Then, there’s of course a test when you take a course.  This thing was hard.  I hadn’t studied for an exam for awhile (at least a non-open book one) and you would think studying about wine would be fun.  I didn’t get around to making flashcards, but was close (and some people did).  I studied for hours and it was a multiple choice test!  When all was said and done, I passed.  I have know successfully completed the WSET II Course.  Debating III…it’s pricey and apparently that test it even worse.  Multiple choice, essay and blind tasting.  But, we’ll see, it could be fun.  Taste on, my friends, taste on.


Koper Pennie Wortel Slaai (Copper Penny Carrot Salad)

Last week I had my monthly supper club and the theme was Food From a Place You Want to Visit/Love to Visit.  South Africa is on my (near future) itinerary so I did some searching for a dish from there.  I finally decided on Koper Pennie Wortel Slaai (Copper Penny Carrot Salad).  It’s fresh veggies and quite the ‘dressing’.



1 kg Carrots
3 Onions (I used white)
3 Green Chillies or if you prefer Green Pepper (I did that — nice green bell peppers)

Sauce/Dressing (note — I did some major amount adjustments to these)

250ml water
1 packet of tomato cream soup (I used a can of tomato soup because of lactose intolerance, so eliminated the aforementioned water)
200 ml Vinegar – used about 2 tbsp white vinegar
250 ml Sugar — used about 2-3 tsp
125 ml Oil — used about 1/4 cup olive oil
10 ml Worcester Sauce — used about 1 tsp
7 ml Mustard — used about 1 tsp

IMG_2545To make:

Cut carrots and onions into rings.  Boil carrots 15 minutes with a little salt. During the last 6 minutes, add the onions.


Dice green peppers or chillies.  Add carrots, onions and chillies or green peppers in a low bowl. (Remember not to use stainless steel bowl, as it will cause a reaction due to acidity).


For the sauce/dressing, combine all ingredients and bring to boil for about 5 minutes.


Pour hot sauce over the vegetables.  Refrigerate for at least one day.  Enjoy!


For the balance of the meal, some food came from Italy with a Tuscan Bean soup, the Southwest with some great spicy beans, Northern Africa with some Moroccan Chicken.  Delicious all around!




Wine Recap

Over the past month, I’ve had a nice spread of new wines that I’m finally getting around to posting about.  From red to white to bubbly, I love trying new happy grapes to add options to my wine rack.

#1 — Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand. Citrus, apple, crisp, light, but still a nice weight to it.  Price seems to range from $10-$16/bottle (when looking online).


#2 — Oakley Eighty-Two, California Red Wine.  Who makes this one?  One of my favorite vintners — Cline.  Nice red blend that’s a bit heavier (jammy) and can pair with about anything.  Great to have on hand to open and serve (or drink) whenever needed.  Price is about $10-$12/bottle.


#3  — Diseno Old Vine Malbec, Argentina.  Fruit and spice can make a wine so nice.  Price is $8-$10.




#4 — Bleasdale Vineyards Sparkling Shiraz, Australia.  I seek out sparkling reds.  This one is better than some but a bit sweet.  Was drinking it on New Year’s Day, though, so very fun for the occasion.  Definitely worth trying.  Price is $16-$20.  Note, the picture in the link is different than the one below, they might have changed the bottle/label.


#5 — Alvarez de Toledo Roble, Spain.  Just a nice red wine.  I was at a friend’s place for dinner and it was out and it was so nice.  Doing some searching looks like it’s about $8-$10 bottle.

Wente Chardonnay, Livermore Valley, California.  Some apple, some tropical fruit.  Aged in both barrels and stainless steel tanks it’s a very unique wine.  Definitely a Chard I’ll add to my list.  About $12-$14.


#6 — Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz, Australia.  Berries, a hint of chocolate and smoke and a bit of pepper.  Very nice.  About $20-$25.



Brasserie Beck

I was very fortunate this week to be able to return to a restaurant I visited several years ago, though this time it was just for a basic corporate lunch.  It was nonetheless just as amazing.  The location, Brasserie Beck in Washington, DC.  It’s a “contemporary European style brasserie” with a basic yet widespread menu.  Both times I’ve been there they have made amazing accommodations for dietary restrictions (lactose intolerance).  The first time the chef wanted to make something totally new as a challenge.

They are well known for their beer selection, boasting 9 Belgium drafts and over 100 Belgium bottles.  Darn, why was I there on a business lunch this past time?

For my meal I enjoyed an amazing Diver Scallops Salad — Avocado, Citrus, Shaved Fennel and Rocket Salad.  This is where they used oil to pan sear the scallops vs. butter.


My colleagues each enjoyed the Grilled Hanger Steak Salad — Mixed Greens, Charred Scallions, Warm Fingerling Potato Salad, Blue Cheese.

None of us had a bite of food left on our plates.  Would recommend checking this place out for lunch, dinner or just a nice happy hour.

From Spanish to Asian

There was a stat a few years ago that Bethesda has the most restaurants per capita in the country.  Not surprising.  And, as mentioned on a recent post, new places are opening all the time.  What can also be great about living right here is that these new restaurants send you coupons for FREE food.  Ahh, that lovely, rarely heard word.  Love it.  So, recently, another new place that opened its doors is Shophouse.  Ever heard of a place called Chipotle?  Yeah, thought so.  Owned by the same people, Shophouse just took inspiration from another continent.  So, the Asian flair is coming into play now and it’s pretty cool.  You (only) get a bowl (as in no burritos, my friends), pick your rice, meats, veggies, sauces, toppings, check out, eat.  They also note that the entire menu is dairy free and gluten free.


To start, you get brown or  jasmine rice, noodles or salad.

Then you pick meat — grilled chicken satay, grilled steak laab, chicken & pork meatballs or tofu.

Next veggies — broccoli, charred corn, eggplant and thai basil or green beans.

Then sauces — tamarind vinaigrette, green curry, spicy red curry.

To be followed by garnishes — green papaya slaw, pickles, herb salad.

And rounded out by toppings — toasted rice, crispy garlic, crushed peanuts, thai chilis.

You can get samples of everything so it’s a great way to get a taste of things.  They have fires/flames next to options that indicate levels of heat.  As in the green beans, hello!  You can also divide ingredients, as in get half/half.  So, say get corn and broccoli.  But, you can’t go three ways without paying extra.

I opted for a brown rice and lettuce with grilled chicken satay.  Then topped it with broccoli, corn and eggplant (yes, went extra), papaya slaw and herb salad and peanuts.  Then handed them my nice FREE coupon so the price was great (got the 3rd veggie for free because it was my first time there, so nice!). The regular cost for the chicken bowl was about $6.80, and it was huge.  I easily got 2 meals out of it.  So, another place to check out if you want to add to your list.