Friday, January 31, 2020

Always Be My Maybe Recipe Round-Up #FoodNFlix

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This month, I hosted the first Food'N'Flix event of 2020; and I asked the bloggers to watch Always Be My Maybe and, hopefully, be inspired into the kitchen.

You can read my invitation: here.

Not surprisingly, since the female lead character is a chef who makes largely Asian cuisine, we all leaned that way. I had been hoping that someone went for a dish that drew on the scene with Keanu Reeves in what I'm going to call the avant garde restaurant. I mean...dishes that play with the concept of time, an all-black monochrome course, soup extracted in a centrifuge, or sugar bubbles?! All sounded so ridiculous as to be intriguing. Ha.

That scene reminded me of a $400 per person dinner that I was lucky enough to get as a work assignment years ago. This was one of the courses with new age-y foam.

On the menu it was just described as "sculpted avocado with hand-foraged seaweeds." No foam listed. My husband scoffed when he saw my photos - I didn't take him, I took a girlfriend who I thought would appreciate the experience more - saying that it looked like a spittlebug crawled across the plate and made a mess. It was definitely an experience...not quite as off-the-wall as the venison sous vide that came "with headphones so you can hear the sound of the exact animal you are about to consume, illustrating nature's life to death cycle."

But enough of that. Here's the #FoodNFlix Always Be My Maybe round-up...

Wendy, of A Day in the Life on the Farm, was the first in and offered up Mandu and Korean Meatballs and the Weekly Menu. Wendy comments, "The cast is completely Asian which is pretty unusual.  Marcus is Korean American and his family often takes in Sasha whose Vietnamese parents must leave her home alone while they work.  Sasha learns a love of cooking from Marcus' mother and often helped her in the kitchen.  The death of Marcus' mother and the animosity Sasha feels towards her parents paint the background of their lives."

"There is a lot of food, mostly Asian.  I decided to make pot stickers and then found that in Korea dumplings are called Mandu."

Kimberly of Coffee and Casseroles was next and shared Deep Fried Wraps. She admits the film wasn't for her: "I didn't really care for this film. I've said before, I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies, and this really felt too formulaic for me. The highlight for me were the scenes with Keanu Reeves playing a hyped up version of himself."

But she was inspired into the kitchen regardless. Kimberly writes, "I was thinking about the potstickers and I ended up going with a super simple snack. A deep fried wrapped banana. Super simple, simple, simple dish (3 ingredients so can't really call it a recipe) with just sliced banana, chocolate and eggroll wrappers."

Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures posted Manduguk (Korean Dumpling Soup). The movie, for her, was a one-timer; she enjoyed the movie but doesn't plan on watching it a second time. She was inspired by one of the opening scenes, sharing, "Sasha is cooking with Marcus’ mom, making soup.  I looked it up and it was a kimchi-based soup, which, while likely delicious, would be a really hard sell with my family.  I kept searching and found Manduguk, a Korean Dumpling Soup, very similar to wonton soup."

Then she opted to make the entire soup from scratch, including the dumpling wrappers. Very impressive, Amy! She did caution that it was a longer process than she anticipated. "I ended up starting this recipe at 5:00 on a weekday (we often eat around 5:30, though sometimes as late as 6:30).  The recipe is intensive, and we didn’t eat until almost 7:30!  Nearly unheard of in my house!  Thankfully, it was delicious and enjoyed by all!  Just maybe start a bit earlier…unless you like eating really late!"

The group's founder, Heather of All Roads Lead to the Kitchen, joined us with her version of Kimchi Jjigae. She wrote: "The whole Kim family is in the kitchen preparing dinner, and Mrs. Kim (aka Judy) is walking Sasha through the process of making Kimchi Jjigae. She tells her that she does such a good job and asks her if she's sure she's not Korean, which earns a huge smile. We see a montage of the kids growing up and spending lots of time together, while Sasha continues to cook with Judy." That "thermos soup" is one of our family favorites. I'm glad someone shared it for this movie.

Debra of Eliot's Eats offered Pork Tenderloin Stir-Fry with Kimchi for her post. She admits "OK, all of this food is too frou-frou and weird for me. I originally felt compelled to make Kimchi Jigae, a comfort food that Sasha moves to elevated cuisine. If you’re interested, this was the recipe I was going to use.  Then, one Saturday I was watching Milk Street and I decided this recipe might be even more delicious." I'm glad she opted for that one because I can't wait to try it.

I ended up making Siguemchi Namul (Korean Spinach Salad) because of the scene between Sasha and Marcus' mom when Judy says, "...we Koreans use scissors for everything. Vegetables, noodles...our children."

I went in search of something to chop with my kitchen scissors and finally decided on sigeumchi namul, an easy side dish (side dishes are called banchan in Korean) made with spinach. This really is little more than blanching the spinach and seasoning it. But it was delicious and so simple to make.

Next month Heather will be hosting as we watch Nina's Heavenly Delights. I am completely unfamiliar with that movie and hope I can get my hands on a copy. Stay tuned.

Hardworking Kids, Fresh Pasta, and a Red Wine from Vallevò #ItalianFWT

This month the Italian Food Wine Travel bloggers are focusing on wines made from a cooperative. Kevin of Snarky Wine is at the lead; you can read his invitation: here. Susannah of Avvinare was able to arrange for some samples from Prestige Wine Imports Corp. But I live on the wrong coast and timing was tight. So, my wines from the cooperative, Val d'Oca, didn't arrive in time to be featured for this event. Stay tuned...I'll be featuring those bottles soon!

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to jump into the conversation about Italian wine cooperatives with the #ItalianFWT bloggers. We'll be live on Twitter on Saturday, February 1st at 8am Pacific time. Follow the hashtag #ItalianFWT and be sure to add it to your tweets if you chime in. I will be linking to all of the articles which will be live between Friday, January 31st and early Saturday, February 1st.

Hardworking Kids + Fresh Pasta

If you're wondering how this ties into this month's theme, read on. Our robotics team just hosted a fundraising dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants...and at the end of the night, I had a red wine from a wine cooperative in Abruzzo. It was serendipitous for this month's event.

Jake and I have known Anna and Emanuele Bartolini for years. We met them just before their opened their first restaurant in Carmel, La Balena. It's been eight years or so. They have watched our boys grow up both in person and virtually on social media. This was at Anna's birthday party several years ago at La Balena.

So, when Anna saw that the boys' robotics team was fundraising for an upcoming trip to China, she offered to help.

Through a handful of messages, they offered to open up Il Grillo - La Balena's sister restaurant - if the kids wanted to make pasta. Originally we just talked about them selling their fresh pasta. Then it morphed into them cooking and serving it. I got the word out...and lined up five team members to head over there at noon on a Sunday.

Emanuele gave them a brief tutorial on how to use the pasta maker.

Anna did a demonstration and prepped the ingredients for batch after batch.

Oh, my goodness, that machine is magical. They tossed in the semolina, added water, and the machine did all the mixing. They chose the pasta shape and chopped off the pasta coming out of the extruder. They started with fresh spaghetti.

 Finished pasta went into trays and were dusted with more semolina.

 They moved on to strozzapreti.

And the team captains made a batch of egg dough that they kneaded by hand. But we forgot about that dough when it was resting in the fridge. So, I have that here at home and we'll make something with it soon.

As time pushed towards our start, Emanuele came back from La Balena and showed the kids how to cook the pasta and make some sauces. This is one of my favorite photos of the night: one of our co-captains running the stove. She had so much fun.

photo by R, the other co-captain of the robotics team

We put up a sign to let people know the restaurant wasn't open with its regular menu.

While kids greeted diners, seated them, and started serving salads, I bagged up some of the fresh pastas to sell. We offered 4 servings for $10.

And I let people know that cooking fresh pasta is very different from the dry stuff.

Boil the water, add the pasta, as soon as it floats, it's done. But, it'll probably only take two minutes to cook.

At the end of the evening, the crew finally cooked for themselves and we sat down for the family dinner. Phew. I hadn't been off my feet in eight hours! Neither had the kids, but they're young and energetic.

And, as luck would have it, Anna mentioned that the wine was from one of her favorite wine cooperatives in Italy. What?! I was so tired, I just made a note of the bottle and figured I'd do some research after the fact.

So along with my fresh pasta, Jake and I sat down with a red wine from Vallevò. Anna poured herself their Rosé. 

Red Wine from Vallevò

Vallevò is a small co-operative winery in the Abruzzo region of Italy located near the village of Chieti on the Adriatic. A wine cooperative, like any other cooperative, is an organization run jointly by its members who also share in the benefits or the profits.


Over the past four decades, Vallevò has grown to more than 500 members with nearly 2,000 acres of vineyards. This coop produces a large variety and volume of wine. They bottle 10%, or so, of the wine and sell it at very reasonable prices. The remaining wine is sold to other producers - some big names! - and sold under those labels.

I have often seen wines described as 'quaffable.' And though I love the look of that word, I've never used it to describe a wine. Till now. This Montepulciano is quaffable, that is to say easy to drink. And Anna shared that it is also easy on the pocketbook. Win, win!

With a bold nose of black fruit, the aromas match the taste with those same black fruits on the palate with a touch of damp earth, dry herbs, balanced acidity, and moderate tannins. This seems a great everyday wine and would pair nicesly with everything from burgers to pizza. And it was delightful with the fresh pasta and Bolognese ragù that the kids served.

As I mentioned earlier, I will be receiving a selection of wines from Val d'Oca. So I'll be writing more about wines from a cooperative cellar very soon. But next month the #ItalianFWTgroup will be writing about women in the Italian wine industry with Pinny of Chinese Food & Wine Pairings at the lead. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Frosted Pink Peppercorn Shortbread

I still don't remember what prompted me to make these cookies. I had been staring at a jar of pink peppercorns. Maybe. But I was in charge of all the sweets for our fundraising dinner and decided to make some pink peppercorn shortbread cookies. Then, because I thought people might find them too savory, I added a dollop of beet-dyed pink frosting. Little did I know that these would be the surprise hit of the nine treats I made. I never even got one; but I'll take my husband's word for it that these were good. And you'll probably seeing these in heart-shape for upcoming Valentines' Day!

Also, I scented these with Aquavit which, despite how long Scandinavians have been making and drinking aquavit, it's largely unknown outside of those countries. It's such a shame because, as a spirit, it's completely beguiling.

The name 'aquavit' derives from two Latin words: aqua vitae and translates to "water of life." The French have a clear brandy eau de vie which means the same thing, but has a very different flavor. I've had more fruit based eau de vie while aquavit is decidedly more spicy. Aquavit has many different recipes and flavor profiles between brands, but the dominant flavor is caraway seeds. This one, from Krogstad, has a strong star anise flavor that I love! It is brilliantly clear with spicy notes and aromas that are smooth and seductive. If you can't find aquavit, feel free to substitute with vodka, gin, or any other clear alcohol; you can also use vanilla extract though that will lend a sweeter note to the cookie.

Ingredients makes approximately 3 dozen 2-1/2" cookies

  • 20 T butter (l-1/4 C or 2-1/2 sticks)
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T aquavit
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 3-1/2 C flour
  • 1 t pink peppercorns, crushed or ground in a spice mill

Frosting and Finishing
  • 3 egg whites, or more to thin icing
  • 6 C organic powdered sugar, or more to thicken icing 
  • juice from 1 to 2 organic lemons
  • natural food coloring (the red I used was made with beets), optional
  • pink peppercorns for garnish


Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in aquavit until well combined. Beat in the egg. Add in the flour and ground peppercorns and mix until everything is moistened.

Roll the dough into a long cylinder. Put the dough in plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill for about an hour, until the dough is firm enough to slice.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough cylinder widthwise into 1/4" slices and place, slightly apart, on the baking sheets. Place in the oven and bake for 16 to 18 minutes until slightly browned. 

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar and lemon juice. Beat for another minute. If the icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it's too thin, add more sugar. Beat in the food coloring, if using. This icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To Finish
Spoon the royal icing over cooled cookies and push to the edge as much as possible. Crush one pink peppercorn over each cookie. Let icing set before storing or serving.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Garrigue-y Lamb Sliders + Bending Branch's Petite Sirah #TexasFineWine #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with Texas Fine Wine and Bending Branch Winery.
Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.

Back for the November Wine Pairing Weekend event focused on wines from Texas, I received a bottle of Petite Sirah from Bending Branch Winery.* You can read my post for that: Texas Connections, Beef Flautas, and Bending Branch's Tannat.

I am finally getting around to creating a pairing for the Petite Sirah. Forgive my tardiness.

In the Glass

The 2016 Petite Sirah from Bending Branch Winery retails for $35 and comes from the Newsom Vineyards, one of the oldest vineyards in the Texas High Plains AVA. In the glass, the wine pours a deep, brilliant purple with flecks of a lighter purple. On the nose, we got lots of ripe fruits. Think blueberries and plum. But it was the palate that was so intriguing. It was heavy on the stone fruit with the meatiness of a ripe summer plum but with a tinge of bitter skin of the plum. However, it was the notes of lavender and sage that lent inspiration for my pairing.

On the Plate

Garrigue is a French term for some of the wild vegetation of the Mediterranean. In wine-speak, it is used to refer to the mixed aromas of lavender, rosemary, sage, and juniper that hug the hillsides along the coast. After smelling that in the Petite Sirah, I decided to spice some lamb patties with  those herbs and see how it paired.

Ingredients makes 8 to 9 sliders
  • 1 1/2 lb lean ground lamb
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 t fresh lemon zest
  • 1 t crushed lavender blossoms
  • 1 t crushed rosemary sprigs
  • 1 t crushed sage 
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper

For Serving
  • sliced cheese (I used Colby)
  • sautéed onions
  • buns, if desired (Jake and I skipped the bread, the boys had brioche slider buns)
  • oven-roasted fries (recipe like this one, I used a mix of potatoes and sweet potatoes)

Add all of the ingredients - except the salt and pepper - to large mixing bowl. Mix until well-combined. Form the meat into 8 or 9 smaller patties. Place on a parchment-lined plate and set aside until ready to cook. Salt and pepper both sides, then cook to desired doneness on a grill or on the stove with grill pan or griddle.

For Serving
Just before the burgers are cooked, place a layer of cheese on top and heat until just melted. Place sliders on buns, if using. Top with sautéed onions. Serve immediately.

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*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.