Sunday, June 29, 2014

Orzo Salad with Kale Pesto for #SundaySupper

Orzo Salad with Kale Pesto for #SundaySupper picnic! Cooking Chat recipe

Confession: I don't actually do much cooking for picnics. A summer social gathering is more likely to be a cookout in our family. But I was eager to join another Sunday Supper event, having not done so yet this month, and the Big Virtual #SundaySupper Picnic was hard to pass up! Thanks to Jane of Jane's Adventures in Dinner for hosting.

I often make some version of orzo salad for summer gatherings, and typically include my traditional basil pesto. Following last week's Sunday Supper theme about healthy approaches for family favorites, I thought I'd try making my orzo salad with kale pesto for an extra boost of nutrition. That way I'd get to share something new with my Sunday Supper friends; and I'm happy to report this healthy recipe packs a lot of flavor! This dish is certainly fit for bringing along for your next picnic. It also makes a great cookout side--I served it alongside some Grilled Ribeye Steak with Garlic Cumin Rub, which just so happens to be something I served up for a previous Sunday Supper.

kale ready to be prepped for pesto.
For the Kale Pesto
3 cups kale, rinsed and thick stems removed
1 cup arugula
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
generous pinch red pepper flakes
salt and  pepper to taste
1/2 cup (or a tad more) grated pecorino romano cheese
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Other Ingredients
2/3 of a large yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
8 ozs grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans, or other white beans would do
handful of sliced kalamata or black olives
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

extra cheese to pass at the table

Start a pot of water boiling for the orzo.

kale, arugula, walnuts and garlic ready to become pesto.

Make the pesto Add the kale, arugula and garlic to a food processor, coarsely chopping to create enough room for the other ingredients. Add the other ingredients and puree until it comes to a nice smooth consistency. Set the pesto aside while orzo cooks

Cook the orzo according to package instructions, taking care not to overcook. Strain the orzo when cooked to your liking. If you are making this to serve later, after draining the cooking water, leave the orzo in the strainer and rinse with cold water. This helps prevent sticking and further cooking of the pasta. Take care to thoroughly drain the water, then return the cooked orzo to a large mixing bowl. Skip the cold water rinsing if you are serving right away.
kale pesto getting stirred into orzo.

Stir the extra tablespoon of olive oil into the cooked orzo, then gradually stir in the pesto. Get the orzo thoroughly coated with the good green stuff, but don't put all the pesto in right away. After you've got a good coating of pesto, stir in the peppers, followed by the beans, tomatoes and olives.

Orzo with Kale Pesto served with grilled steak. Cooking Chat recipe

The pesto has a good bit of kick, so once the orzo is nicely coated with it you might want to set some pesto aside for people to add some extra if they are so inclined. If you are serving this for a small number of people, as I was recently, you can also reserve some of the tomatoes and add that as an individual topping for a nice presentation. Of course, if this is actually being served at a picnic, you just want to toss all the ingredients in advance. Take the orzo salad out of fridge for 30 minutes or so to get it closer to room temperature when serving it for a salad or a cookout side. Toss in a bit of extra pesto and dash of olive oil to freshen it up right before serving.

2011 Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano, Cooking Chat recommended #wine.
Wine Pairing: This salad can certainly be served as a main dish. Matching just to the salad, Sauvignon Blanc is a classic choice for pesto. I also like to serve pesto with Picpoul de Pinet. In this case, however, I wanted to pair a red that would work with the steak as well as the pesto. I thought a good Italian red might fit the bill, given pesto's Italian roots. I went with a 2011 Tenuta di Gracciano della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano, which supplied enough depth to work with the steak along with some finesse to go with the orzo salad. 

Be sure to check out the other tasty #SundaySupper creations!

Sandwiches and Wraps
Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Join us for Wine Pairing Weekend #2: Refreshing Summer Wine Pairings

Wine Pairing Weekend #2 focuses on "Refreshing Pairings". Could the Banshee Pinot Noir with salmon qualify?
Update: Our Wine Pairing Weekend event for July on Refreshing Summer Pairings was a big hit! The post below lays the pre-event details for the month. You can find links to the pairings the #winePW bloggers came up with here in this overview post. Our #winePW 3 the theme is "Wine for Summer's Bounty"--get the details on this intro post.

Happy summer! I write this post as we officially welcome the season known for warm weather, beaches, cookouts and other such fun stuff. Where does wine fit in the summer fun? Sure, there is wine for the food coming off the grill, but we covered that last month for Wine Pairing Weekend #1. Today, as summer begins, we are putting out a call for Refreshing Summer Wine Pairings, which will be our theme for Wine Pairing Weekend #2 on Saturday, July 12. Imagine a 90 plus degree day, you're sitting on the deck waiting for the grill to heat up, and you're sipping on something refreshing. What's in your glass, and what might you nibble with it? Or perhaps you want to tell us about a light summer main course with a wine pairing that meets the "refreshing" theme. Get creative, and join us for the #winePW fun!

Before I get into the details about how you can join use for #winePW 2, let me give a shout out to the bloggers who joined us for the first of these events: Curious Cuisiniere, Meal Diva, Pull That Cork, Grape Experiences, Vino Travels, Culinary Adventures with Camilla, and Tasting Pour. A great group, and we'd love to add you to the list for #winePW 2 if you are a blogger!

Details for participation
Are you ready to jump in and participate in the second #winePW? Here are the details:
  • Send an email to tell me you're in: Include your blog url, Twitter handle, link to your Pinterest profile, and any other social media detail. If you know your blog post title now, include that...but you can send me that a bit closer to the event, I'd like to get a sense of who's participating and give some shoutouts and links as we go. The email is winepairingweekend AT
  • Send your post title to me by Tuesday, July 8 to be included in the preview post. I will do a preview post shortly after getting the titles, linking to your blogs. Your title should include "Wine Pairing Weekend". Update: The preview post has been published here, but you can still join in if you read this by July 12!
  • Publish your post between 12:01 a.m-7:00 a.m. EDT on Saturday, July 12. I know a lot of wine bloggers will be at the big Wine Bloggers Conference, but you can always schedule your post in advance to publish while you enjoy the WBC!
  • Include a link to the other #winePW participants in your post, and a description of what the event is about. I'll provide the html code you can easily put in your initial post--which will link to people's general blog url--then updated code for the permanent links to everyone's #winePW posts.
  • Get social! After the posts go live, please visit your fellow bloggers posts' to comment and share. I'll follow-up later with some specific strategies for that social sharing.
  • Sponsored posts OK if clearly disclosed. Please be sure to disclose if your post is sponsored or if you are describing wine or other products for which you have received a free sample.
  • Live #winePW Twitter Chat July 12, 11 a.m. ET: Participating bloggers and others interested in the subject will connect via a live Twitter chat. It's a nice bring way to bring in others interested in the subject who didn't get a chance to share a blog post. You can definitely still join the blog event if you're not available for the live chat.
OK, that's all I can think of for now. Please let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments; or you can also email me at winepairingweekend AT Cheers!
What wine do you like to sip on the patio? Share it with us for #winePW! The Chateau Simone is great on patio or anywhere.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lamb Sliders with Provençal Pesto

Lamb Sliders topped with Provencal Pesto. Easy and tasty Cooking Chat recipe!

Last month I was hosting a #LanguedocDay tasting event for a group of ten foodie friends. After researching the food from the Languedoc region, I concluded I didn't have the 24 hours or so needed to make cassoulet. Rather than trying a tradition dish from the area, I wanted to come up with something that would pair well with the earthy red wines.

Lamb seemed like a good bet. I tried a grilled leg of lamb the weekend before. It was good, but a bit more effort than I wanted for our event, which was going to be focusing on the wine tasting. Sticking with lamb, I came up with these Lamb Sliders with Provencal Pesto as an easy recipe for company. I often use mint with lamb, but to conjure the flavors of the region, I added some rosemary and basil as well. You could play with the herb combination, thyme or lavender would also be good to have in the mix. These sliders were easy to make for company, and were definitely enjoyed. Keep them in mind next time you are cooking for a crowd!

2 lb ground lamb (makes 12 sliders)
Slider buns

For the Provençal Pesto
1 large clove garlic
¾ cup mint
handful basil leaves
2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

Optional: top with grilled or sauteed onions (I had some on hand from another dish)

First, make the pesto. Puree all the pesto ingredients in a food processor. Set the pesto aside while you make the lamb sliders.

ground lamb shaped for sliders.

Take the lamb out of the fridge about 15 minutes before preparing the burgers so it gets closer to room temperature. Divide the ground lamb into 6 equal portions per pound of lamb. I was making this for a gathering of 10, you could easily half the recipe or scale it as needed. Shape into thick, somewhat round patties. Basically, a bit thicker but smaller diameter than a regular burger in order to fit the slider bun and concept. Sprinkle with a bit of salt.

Lamb Sliders await the Provencal Pesto. Cooking Chat recipe.

I had planned to make the sliders on the grill but weather didn't permit. I'd encourage you to grill if you can, but I made them in the skillet as follows: Heat the skillet with a bit of oil on medium high. Cook for about 6 minutes on one side, then flip and cook another 5 to 6 minutes on the other side--that made burgers that were medium rare.

Serve the sliders on slider buns, topped with about 2 teaspoons of the pesto each, and the optional onions. Enjoy! We had this along with some orzo with mushrooms and spinach, plus some pork sausage.
Lamb Sliders topped with Provencal Pesto. Easy and tasty Cooking Chat recipe!

Wine Pairing: The lamb sliders were paired with the 2009 Campagne De Centeilles, a 100% Cinsault from Minervois. I don't know about you, but I don't have too many 100% Cinsaults! This wine definitely had that garrigue thing going on--its aroma and taste had the fragrance of wild herbs like rosemary and lavender. The wine was a great match for the lamb sliders topped with Provencal mint pesto! It was big enough to stand up to the meat, and the herbal qualities in the wine paired nicely with the pesto.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with a Bonny Doon Syrah for Wine Pairing Weekend

Bonny Doon Syrah paired with Grilled Pork Tenderloin for #winePW. Cooking Chat recipe
No, it's not just any grilled pork tenderloin that I prepared for the first Wine Pairing Weekend (#winePW), which has the theme "Wine Pairings for Grilled Meat". I'm featuring my Cilantro and Lime Marinaded Pork Tenderloin with Chipotle Cream, which I like to serve with a side of Sweet Potatoes Smashed with Cumin Sage Butter. 

There's a lot of flavor involved with this grilled pork tenderloin and the side dish. I needed something big enough to go with the meat, and with flavor elements that could pick up the spice and smokiness--the latter coming from both the grilling and the chipotle. I thought a Syrah might fit the bill nicely, and recalled the Pousseur from Bonny Doon worked with with a steak dish I had that had some similar spice elements. I tweeted winemaker @randallgrahm to see if he thought the pairing would work, and he confirmed my pick with this tweet: "Will work absolutely perfectly. Think chimichurri!"

Based on this input, my pairing for grilled pork tenderloin was the 2009 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Pousseur Syrah with grapes from California's Central Coast. I got a whiff of a summer meadow on the nose, and was struck by the polish on this wine from the first taste. Supple cherry fruit and a bit of leather. I'd previously had the bold, peppery 2010 vintage of this wine with steak, and the more refined older bottle was perfect to go with the more nuanced flavors in this grilled pork. I'm pleased with my first #winePW selection, and would encourage you to give it a try!

I love the variety the inaugural Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers up with! Cabernet, an off-dry Pinot Gris, a good Italian with BBQ, and a couple of interesting pairing experiments. Be sure to check out each of the posts in the links at the end of this post. But first, I need to get you my recipe for Cilantro and Lime Marinaded Pork Tenderloin with Chipotle Cream:

Le Pousseur Central Coast Syrah from Bonny Doon. Good with Cooking Chat's Grilled Pork Tenderloin.
1 pork tenderloin, about 12-16 ounces
For the marinade
3 to 4 tbsp fresh lime juice
2+ tbsp chopped cilantro
2 clove garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
For the cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp adobo sauce from small can of chipotles packed in adobo

Combine all the ingredients except for pork in a small bowl to make the marinade. Place the pork  in a large plastic bag, pour the marinade into the bag to cover. Close the bag, shake it up to coat the pork. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. The one hour is enough to impart good flavor, but if you can do 4 hours or so that's even better.

Heat the grill to medium high. Remove tenderloin from the marinade, scrape off the bigger pieces of garlic. Place on the grill, 15-20 minutes on medium/high heat should do it, turning once. Pork tenderloin should still have a bit of pinkness, it will continue to cook when resting. Remove from heat and tent with foil while you make the cream.

To make the cream, pour the heavy cream into a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 5-10 minutes, until it is reduced to about 3/4 of a cup. Stir in the adobo toward the end of cooking.

Slice the tenderloin and serve with a bit of the cream, passing extra at the table. Pour a glass of Le Pousseur or another Syrah of your choosing. Enjoy this dish, and check out the other Wine Pairing Weekend ideas below and decide what else you want to try!

Cilantro Lime Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potatoes and Salad. Cooking Chat recipe.

Wine Pairing Weekend #1 Bloggers: Be sure to check out the great pairings my fellow bloggers have come up with for the first Wine Pairing Weekend! 

The Tasting Pour is posting "Pairing Food and Wine: Cabernet Cliché"
Culinary Adventures with Camilla is pairing "Lemon Marmalade-Glazed Duck Legs + Holman Ranch's Off-Dry Pinot Gris"
Vino Travels - An Italian Wine Blog will share "Food and Wine Pairing: BBQ with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo"
Grape Experiences is sharing "Wine and Dine: Sinfo Rosado 2012 with Chicken Enchilada Burgers"
Pull that Cork posted "Rolled Pork Florentine on the Grill, Which Wine Pairs Best?"
From Cooking Chat, "Grilled Pork Tenderloin Paired with a Bonny Doon Syrah"
Meal Diva blogged about "Grilled Sausage Kabobs and White Wine"
Curious Cuisiniere paired "Wine Grilled Chicken with Lewis Station Winery's Oaked Chardonnay"

Join the #winePW conversation: Follow the #winePW conversation on Twitter throughout the weekend and beyond. If you're getting this early enough, you can join us for a live Twitter chat on our theme "Wine Pairings for Grilled Meat" on Saturday, June 14, 10 to 11 a.m. Eastern Time. You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later! Stay tuned for the July Wine Pairing Weekend, which will focus on "Refreshing summer wine pairings" on Saturday, July 12.
Bonny Doon Syrah awaits the grilled pork tenderloin.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wine Pairings for Grilled Meat: Preview of the First Wine Pairing Weekend

Wine pairings for grilled meat was easy choice for the first Wine Pairing Weekend blog event coming up this Saturday, June 14. After a slow and cold start to our spring here in the Boston weather, grilling weather seems to have finally set in to stay. In addition to seeing last weekend's temps pass 80, Father's Day is coming up Sunday. I know beer might be the choice for many Dads when enjoying grilled food, but I'm sure there are plenty of Dads who want to enjoy their meal on this special day with a good glass or two of wine. If you're looking for inspiration along these lines, the Wine Pairing Weekend event is just for you!

Wine pairings for grilled meat is the theme for the first Wine Pairing Weekend. Cooking Chat post with links to the participating bloggers.

As I explained in my post introducing Wine Pairing Weekend, I find plenty of online events focusing on food and wine separately, but not too much looking at the interplay of food and wine. Wine Pairing Weekend (#winePW for short and on Twitter) will be a monthly event featuring bloggers posting about a pairing in response to a particular theme, along with discussion on social media about the topic. This will include a live #winePW Twitter chat at 10 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday June 14. Anyone interested in the subject can jump into the conversation on Twitter at that time, which can also be accessed on our Twubs page for easy viewing and tweeting.  

Below I'm linking to the bloggers that have let me know they plan to participate. Thanks to the early responders to this first #winePW! If you're reading this before June 14, you can still jump in with a blog post of your own. Just check out the intro post for more of the blogger details and email me at winepairingweekend AT  If you've come upon this after that date, considering joining us for #winePW 2 on July 12, which will have the theme "Refreshing Summer Wine Pairings".

Wine Pairing Weekend #1 Bloggers as of June 10
The Tasting Pour is posting "Pairing Food and Wine: Cabernet Cliché"
Culinary Adventures with Camilla is pairing "Lemon Marmalade-Glazed Duck Legs + Holman Ranch's Off-Dry Pinot Noir"
Vino Travels - An Italian Wine Blog will share "Food and Wine Pairing: BBQ with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo"
Grape Experiences is sharing "Wine and Dine: Sinfo Rosado 2012 with Chicken Enchilada Burgers"
Pull that Cork will post "Rolled Pork Florentine on the Grill, Which Wine Pairs Best?"
From Cooking Chat, "Grilled Pork Tenderloin Paired with a Bonny Doon Syrah"
And posts coming from Meal Diva and Curious Cuisiniere--and perhaps another addition or two, maybe from you?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

#LanguedocDay Wine Tasting Notes and Food Pairings

lineup of 6 wines sampled for #Languedoc day. Some great wine values!

Would I be interested in hosting a tasting event as part of #LanguedocDay 2014 on May 30? I had tried enough wines from the Languedoc region to appreciate that this is a source of great wine values. The opportunity to learn more about the region and sample more of its wine sounded like a great time to me! So this past Friday evening we gathered with ten friends to sample a lineup of six wines from the Languedoc with the region, paired with some food that I thought would enhance the tasting experience. Oh yes, and there were a couple bottles of wine from other parts of France brought by guests, but we'll save talk of those for another time!

One sign of the Languedoc region's consistent quality is that there was no clear consensus favorite wine from the evening, nor was there one wine that didn't have at least one champion among our group of ten tasters. As we sampled the different wines, we had a map of the Languedoc region, and the 30+ AOCs (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) found there. You can reference the map we were looking at, available here as a pdf file. Now, on to the recap of the wines we enjoyed and the food we paired with them.

Whites: We got the evening going with two Picpoul de Pinets. This was a good place to start, as Picpoul is a grape varietal native to the region that I've come to enjoy. First, the 2012 Saint-Peyre Picpoul-de-Pinet was poured. I taste a bit of lemon on this, with a hint of salinity--perhaps coming from Picpoul-de-Pinets proximity to the sea? This medium bodied wine has nice round mouthfeel.
Saint-Peyre Picpoul de Pinet pairs well with pesto. Great value white wine from Languedoc!

The Saint-Peyre was followed by the 2012 Domaine Felines Jourdan Picpoul-de-Pinet. I get a bit more acidity on this one. I prefer style of the Saint-Peyre, but the Domaine Felines Jourdan was definitely enjoyable and food friendly. I do have a bias toward the Saint-Peyre, as I get it frequently--at around $10 a bottle it makes a great everyday wine, and many of the guests were asking where they can find it. I get this at Pairings in Winchester, MA, where this wine is typically in a bin right near the door due to its popularity. I should note several guests indicated they preferred the second Picpoul.
Picpoul de Pinet pairs with scallops. #wine

What to pair with these white wines from the Languedoc? Seafood is the classic choice. With this in mind, my friend John prepared some tasty baby scallops that went great with the Picpouls. Jen from Vino Travels tweeted that Domaine Felines Jourdan Picpoul was "Drier in style w/mouthwatering acidity.  Great with scallops."   I've also come to really enjoy Picpoul with pesto, so I made some of my pesto crostini to enjoy with the whites. While I was at the crostini making process, I also topped some with some store-bought olive tapenade. Jen also brought some great cheeses, including a brie that went nicely with the Picpouls.
Chateau de Lancyre Rose paired with salad and pate. A nice Languedoc #wine pairing.

Rosé: We followed the Picpouls with a sampling of the 2013 Chateau de Lancyre Rosé from Pic Saint-Loup. The wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 10% Cinsault. Everyone had good things to say about this rosé, Jen captured it nicely in this tweet.
The salad referenced was made with spinach, tossed with parm cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a vinaigrette following this simple method. For good measure I added a bit of the extra pesto, which everyone seemed to like! We also had some tasty green peppercorn pate from Pairings with the rosé, and continued to nibble on that and our cheeses with the reds as well.

Reds: We started with the 2011 Jacques de la Jugie Minervois, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan. This is one of two that we had from the Minervois AOC. This was the one in the lineup I didn't care for much. I was busy finishing up the food to go with the reds when I tried it so didn't get detailed notes on it. One person thought it could have improved with decanting or a bit more aging. Yet again, the diversity of the wines also yielded a variety of opinions, with one person liking this one best of the reds.
2011 Mas Du Colombel Grenache Syrah blend from Faugeres in the Languedoc. Very good #wine!

I really enjoyed the next red, 2011 Mas du Colombel Faugeres, a blend of Grenache and Syrah from the Faugeres AOC. Nice jammy fruit, soft mouthfeel and polished finish. This was probably my favorite red, especially to drink on its own, but the next pairing rivaled how well the Picpoul went with the scallops and pesto.
Campagne de Centeilles from the Minervois in Languedoc, paired well with lamb sliders. #wine

The final red of the night was the 2009 Campagne De Centeilles, a 100% Cinsault from Minervois. I don't know about you, but I don't have too many 100% Cinsaults! Perhaps more than any others we had, this one seemed to have that garrigue thing going on--its aroma and taste had the fragrance of wild herbs like rosemary and lavender. This wine was a great match for the lamb sliders topped with Provencal mint pesto I made! We also had some pork sausages with the reds, a common pairing in the Languedoc.

If I've piqued your curiosity to learn more about the Languedoc region, you can get more information from the Languedoc Adventure website.  If you are in the Boston area, there are events going on throughout the month--check out the schedule for your chance to sample some wines from the dynamic wine region. I had the chance to get to one yesterday with Boston's own "Languedoc Lady", Jo-Ann Ross, over at Pairings. Definitely worth getting to one of these events if you can!
Languedoc red wines ready for tasting! #wine

Full disclosure: I received these wines as free tasting samples from the #LanguedocDay event organizers.