Monday, November 18, 2019

Simple Supper with a Stunning Wine - 2015 Domaine de Verquière "1928" Rasteau #Winophiles

This month the French Winophiles are focuing on Rasteau. When I first saw that on the list of topics, late last year, I tracked down a few bottles. Then the month's host was able to wrangle some samples for us. Because I ended up with multiple bottles, I am posting multiple pairings and tasting notes.

You can read more about Rasteau and Domaine de Verquière in my official post for the month: A Birthday Tradition + Side by Side Sips of Domaine deVerquière Rasteau where I paired the 2015 and 2017 Domaine de Verquière Rasteau with lasagna.

In the Glass

This Rasteau - the 2015 Domaine de Verquière "1928" Rasteau - was one of my favorites of the bottles I've tried. From old vines, the 2015 Rasteau Cuvée 1928 has that quintessential Rasteau earthiness with a more full-bodied heft. Full of red fruit and delicious herbs, the finish was surprisingly fresh.

On the Plate

I poured this mid-week with a simple supper of braised lentils, roasted sweet potatoes, fresh tomatoes, and an herb omelette. The sweet potatoes complemented the sweetness of blackberry in the wine while the fresh thyme and rosemary in the lentils enhanced those aromas in the wine.

And Mother Nature treated us to a stunning sunset to go with this stunning wine. I'm grateful to live on California's Central Coast and to be able to eat outside for most of the year.


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Cocoa-Mo: Black Onyx Cocoa Powder #BlendsBash #SongBlends #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the Book Club Cookbook.
I received complimentary product for the purpose of review and recipe development,
but all opinions are honest and they are my own. This page may contain affiliate links.

I recently heard from my contact at The Book Club Cookbook, asking if I would be interested in trying our a couple of their new spice blends. Ummm...yes! Did you really have to ask?!? I am always up for some culinary adventure; and when it ties reading to cooking...well, let's just say I will make time in my calendar for that no matter what. 

So, I perused the choices - of their Book Blends, TV Blends, and Song Blends - decided on Cocoa-Mo, a Black Onyx Cocoa Powder and Of Spice and Men, Indonesian Korintje Cinnamon. I selected these based on spices I needed for upcoming recipes, but I love the play on words for all of the blends, especially The Sage of Innocence, Dried and Prejudice, and Of Cumin Bondage.

I had never heard of Black Onyx Cocoa before, so I did some reading to find out what makes it different from other cocoa powders. And, certainly, I was humming the Beach Boys' Kokomo as I did!

It turns out this is just cocoa powder has been alkalized to the extreme, resulting in an almost purplish black powder. The resulting cocoa powder lacks the natural bitterness of some cocoas, but it also lacks a percentage of the fat content. So my research cautioned that I might need to add more butter or fat to a recipe or use a heavier milk.

I used this in my version of a German Chocolate Cake for a joint birthday party on Friday - Cocoa-Mo chocolate layers with coconut-pecan filling and a coffee buttercream. I'll share that recipe soon, but, for now, are a few pictures from our party. Happy birthdays to Pia and Mike!

Everyone loved the cake, by the way...even the smallest of us who also happens to be the pickiest eater. Comments about the cocoa powder, with which I dusted the cake, were that it was almost smoky. So, it lent an interested, savory aspect to the cake. I loved it and can't wait to try it in a batch of holiday cookies I'm testing today.

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*Disclosure: I received product for free from the sponsor for recipe development, however, 
I have received no additional compensation for my post. My opinion is 100% my own and 100% accurate.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Defining Cuisine, Getting Inspired, and Shaking Hands with Chef Sean Brock #FoodieReads

During the summer, I noticed that Bookshop Santa Cruz was hosting a conversation with Chef Sean Brock in conjunction with the release of his new cookbook, South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations.* I immediately ordered tickets as Brock is one of D's very favorite chefs. No matter that it was on a school night or that it's about an hour's drive each way. We were definitely going!

Ever since we watched season two of Mind of a Chef that featured Brock, D has looked to the first cookbook, Heritage, for southern inspiration. We have made versions of his Rabbit Stew with Dumplings more than a couple of times; we love to celebrate with his Lowcountry Seafood Boil; we tried our luck with savory Hand Pies; and I adapted his Chocolate Chess Pie for a bookclub post. I would say that we reach for that book more than any other on my shelf. Now that's saying something!

This new one, South, might give Heritage a run for the title of 'most inspiring' though. Time will tell. But we've already decided to create a tasting menu from South for D's 16th birthday lunch next month.

I enjoyed spending time with my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf at the event. And we went for sushi before...and ice cream after. He's a pretty fun date.

Brock defined cuisine as being comprised of people, place, and products. In the book he writes about the "combination of three important factors: the people cooking the food and the cultural experiences and history they bring to the table; the physical geography of the place where the food is cooked; and the plants and animals that grow there" (pg. 9).

And he pointed out the microregions of the South, showing us a map of the American South that is roughly the size of continental Europe. It makes sense that there are just as many variations in cuisine in the American South as there is in Europe!

He is articulate and passionate about food. And I found it refreshing that he was stepping back from the kitchen - in fact he hasn't cooked in about a year - to embrace projects that really showcase Southern foods and recipes. His new restaurant that will include a seed bank of sorts is named for his maternal grandmother, Audrey. Sweet. I am grateful that he is one of my kid's heroes...and not some of the vapid celebrities that other teens idolize.

Thumbing through the book before the talk and since, D and I are excited about trying many of the dishes, including Deviled Crab, Sea Island Red Pea Spread with Cucumber-Tomato Salad, Ladies' Cabbage, Limpin' Susan, Hominy Miso, Ramp Sauerkraut, Grilled Quail with Red-Eye Gravy, and Potlikker-Steamed Sea Bass with Corn Dodgers. Stay tuned for our versions before the end of the year.

With our tickets we each received a cookbook that Brock signed. D asked, glumly, "Are you going to give one of these away?" Nope. You get one and I get one. We're not sharing!

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Click to see what everyone else read in November 2019: here.

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Birthday Tradition + Side by Side Sips of Domaine de Verquière Rasteau #Winophiles #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the November #Winophiles event.
Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.

This month the French Winophiles are sharing pairings of Rasteau with Michelle of Rockin Red Blog at the helm of the discussion. You can read her invitation: hereRhône Valley Vineyards sent samples to several bloggers and I am showcasing one of those samples with this pairing.

If you are reading this early enough and are so inclined, join us on a live Twitter chat: Saturday, November 16th at 8am Pacific. Or search for the hashtag - #Winophiles - and read all the tweets at your convenience. For now, take a look at the articles the French Winophiles are sharing. Cheers.

The Rasteau Party

In the Glass

When I first saw 'Rasteau' on the list of topics, late last year, I tracked down a few bottles. Then this month's host was able to wrangle some samples for the group. And I ended up with two different vintages of the same wine, so I'm doing a side-by-side pairing. But first, a bit about Rasteau.

Rasteau is both a small medieval village and an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) for wine in the southern Rhône wine region of France. Just a few key facts: the red wines must include a blend of at least 50% Grenache and 20% Syrah and Mourvèdre; Rasteau was initially past of the Côtes-du-Rhône, then became Côtes-du-Rhône Village Rasteau in 1966 before being elevated to Cru status in 2010!

Rhône Valley Vineyards* sent me a bottle of the 2017 Domaine de Verquière Rasteau as a sample - merci beaucoup! - and I already had the 2015 on-hand. 

The Verquière estate has been passed down from father to son for many generations and is now managed by brothers Romain and Thibaut Chamfort, the family's fourth generation of winemakers. Following longheld traditions and sustainable practices, the estate was recently certified organic. 

With a suggested retail price of around $15 for each one, these wines could easily be a midweek sippers. But they are also elegant enough for a special occasion! Both years are comprised of a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah, the 2015 was just a touch more smooth than the 2017. However, both had a fruit forward start that finished more earthly with a tinge of bitterness, like a dark chocolate.

On the Plate: A Birthday Tradition

So, when it came time for me to pair the Rasteau wines, I looked at the calendar and realized that it was time for our annual joint birthday party for two of our best friends - Pia and Mike. The French Winophiles had originally listed this is a Thanksgiving wine pairing event, but, for us Thanksgiving starts early.

Every November I host a dinner party for Pia and Mike. It's a tradition. And it is one of those events that kicks off my month of reflecting on things for which I am grateful. And life-long friendships definitely tops my gratitude list.

Anyway, three years ago, I made a lasagna dinner for the birthday duo. Well, that sealed the deal. It's been lasagna ever since!

I used to use five different cheeses. One of them asked, "You make it with seven cheeses, right?" The other upped it to twelve cheeses. Hmmmm...I was able to get it up to eight for this version.

Ingredients makes 1 pan; we doubled this to have enough for the dinner and leftovers
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 5 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 C fresh tomato sauce
  • 1/2 C red wine
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 C fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 T fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 T fresh basil, chopped
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • no boil lasagna noodles
  • 3 C shredded cheese (I used a mixture of provolone, aged mozzarella, asiago, and pecorino)
  • 1 C shredded parmesan
  • 1 C small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 C ciliegie (small fresh mozzarella balls)
  • 1 C whole milk ricotta

In a large, flat-bottom pan, saute the onions and garlic in a splash of olive oil until the onions are softened and translucent.

Add in the ground meats and cook till browned through completely. Pour in the tomato sauce, wine, and water. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, stir in herbs, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. To assemble the lasagna, layer meat sauce, noodles, shredded cheese blend, cottage cheese, ricotta, and more meat sauce.

Repeat till your pan is full though the last layer should be meat so that the noodles are completely covered.

Cover with foil. Bake in the 375 degree F oven for one hour. Remove the foil. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan. Return pan to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese melted. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Serve hot.

We served this with bread and salad. Then we finished the meal with two different birthday cakes. Recipes to come soon.

But, for now, this a wrap on the November #Winophiles event. And we'll be finishing up 2019 with an event focused on Vouvray with host Jeff of FoodWineClick! Stay tuned for more information about that.

Find the Sponsor...
Rhône Valley Vineyards on the web, on Instagram, on Twitter
*Disclosure: I received sample wines for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Bacalhoada (Portuguese Salt Cod Stew) #FishFridayFoodies

It's time for Fish Friday Foodies' November event. We are a group of seafood-loving bloggers, rallied by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, to share fish and seafood recipes on the third Friday of the month. And I am hosting this month's event.

I invited the group: "Weather is getting colder, let's inspire each other with soups and stews from around the world. Think Provençal Bouillabaisse, African Caldo de Peixe, Brazilian Moqueca, and more!" Here's what they made...

Our International Soup Pot

Portuguese Salt Cod Stew

When I was debating on what to share, I knew we had just made Moqueca as a school project; I considered a version of Somlar Machu Ktiss (Cambodian Hot and Sour Coconut Soup); I couldn't track down fresh crab or I would have made Chilpachole de Jaiba; and Cullen Skink is a family favorite, but what made the decision for me: I had some salt cod in the fridge as I had just made Less than Traditional Pastéis de Bacalhau (Salt Cod Fritters) for our virtual #EattheWorld trip to Portugal. So, I decided to make Bacalhoada, a Portuguese Salt Cod Stew.

  • 1 pound salt cod fillets, preferably skinless and boneless
  • water
  • 3/4 to 1 C olive oil
  • milk 
  • 2 large onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 pounds potatoes (I used sweet potatoes because that's what I had, but regular are traditional), sliced
  • 4 eggs, hard boiled and halved
  • 1 C olives (I used Kalamata olives because that's what I had)
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste

Because the cod is salt-cured, it needs to be soaked ahead of cooking. Soak salt cod in cold water and refrigerate it for 24 hours. Change the water at least two or three times during that day.

Put salt cod in a saucepan. Add enough milk, water, or a mixture of both to just cover the fish. Bring mixture to a simmer and let simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the fish and set aside.

In a large casserole dish or pot (I used a Dutch oven), place a layer of sliced potatoes and onions. Break up the drained salt cod with your fingers and place them in a layer over the potatoes. Add in half of the olives. Drizzle with olive oil and repeat with another layer of potatoes, onions, cod, and olives.

Pour 1/2 C water over the top. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Garnish bowls with halved hardboiled eggs. Serve with sides of rice and salad.

+ A Wine Pairing

As a bonus, I am offering you a wine pairing today. I poured the 2017 Pieropan Soave Classico with the Bacalhoada. Before last year, I had never even heard of Soave. So, the first thing I realized as I was researching: Soave isn't a grape varietal; it's a geographical appellation - like Sangiovese is to Chianti. Made almost entirely, and sometimes completely, from the Garganega grape, Soave can contain up to a third Trebbiano di Soave. The Garganega vines date back to the Medieval times and is incredibly prolific. You'll also find it as the mainstay behind other appellations such as Gambellara, Bianco di Custoza, Colli Berici and Colli Euganei. Color me intrigued...I was more than a little excited to uncork this bottle as I've only tried one other Soave.

With a bright yellow pour, it has amazing aromas of both almond blossoms and marizan. On the palate, it was savory and fresh, with a zingy acidity and bright minerality. This was a fun pairing to go with the Portuguese soup.

Next month Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories is hosting us as we prepare The Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian American Christmas Eve tradition. I've done this for decades. Very excited to see what the group presents!

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