#WineWednesday – Fall Harvest Sunday Night Dinner Edition

As you all know, one of the main focuses of my blog is finding great-priced, attainable, delicious wines. When roaming the liquor store, I tend to stick to a $20 price point (this may seem outrageous for my American readers, but I assure you this is reasonable here). While there are places to splurge: a special occasion, champagne, port, table wine needs to be accessible and affordable. Luckily, there are a lot of affordable wines out there so I’m happy to share them with you all!

I really like doing wine pairings with my meals. It may seem fussy (not what I’m about) but I assure you with a few tips and tricks, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. I wanted to serve a white with the butternut squash soup and harvest salad, a red with the chicken and a port for dessert. I often tend to stick to this variation: start with the lightest wine, move to a heavier option for dinner, and finish with the heaviest (and sweetest) in small quantities. Sometimes, I throw all of the rules out the window, but for the most part I like to progressively get heavier with the wine pairings. By the end of my dinner parties, after a nimble of port, you’ll be ready to snooze (or dance).

Read below for my pairings for the Butternut Squash Soup & Harvest Salad, the Chicken Marbella, and the Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes.

Bringing in the bottlesSip October-47 Sip October-46moschofilero boutari + harvest saladFirst wine of the night: Moschofilero Boutari

Moschofilero Boutari 2012 with Butternut Squash Soup and Harvest Salad

At $15.99 (this wine is on special until Nov 1), this Greek white really surprised and delighted me. Greek wine has a reputation for being very light – which is perfect with Greek food, but doesn’t lend itself to heavier flavours. The Moschofilero, on the other hand, is bursting with aromatic flavours and floral scents and stood up perfectly with the soup and salad.

With the Butternut Squash Soup, the wine tasted crisp, had hints of apple flavours, and cut through the creaminess of the dish. It was a perfect start to the meal, especially with the contrast of warm soup and refreshing wine. The wine brought out the sweetness of the soup while still injecting a hit of acidity. A great way to end the summer and start the fall.

With the Harvest Salad, the crispness of the wine matched the salad perfectly. It was a foil for the gouda honey thyme cheese as, again, it’s zesty profile cut through the creamy cheese and brought out the stronger herbaceous flavour.

This is the type of wine you can drink by itself or with light dishes.

red to go with the chickensecond wine: cotes du rhone brunel de la gardine

2012 Brunel de la Gardine Côtes du Rhone with Chicken Marbella

It is rare to leave the liquor store with a great French wine that is under $20. At $17.99, this wine’s value is unparalleled. Upon first taste there are hints of blackcurrant and light tannins on the end. Throughout the meal, the wine completely opens up and shows more of its complexity. For this reason, I would reccomend pouring it into a decanter even just for a few moments to allow some oxygen through the wine. It has a good balance and the after taste is reminiscent of green pepper and blackberry.

It’s light, which allowed the strong chicken flavours to stand out, and fruit forward, which complemented the sweet undertones of the dish. The slight chocolate flavours allow the richness of the chicken filled with capers, bay leaves and olives to come to the surface. This is one of those reds that most people will gravitate towards, and is a safe bet for those who are new to red or new to wine pairing. It can be aged in your cellar (or wine rack) due to its Mourvèdre grape, allowing the smokey undertones to develop more and more.

cap off the night with some port: dow's ten year old tawny portport + pumpkin spice cupcakes

Dow’s Ten Year Old Tawny Port and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

When planning the Harvest Dinner, I wanted to keep it pretty simple. This, for me, meant buying dessert. While this may have been eschewed decades ago, in this day and age, sometimes you simply don’t have time to do it all. Enter Sweet Bake Shop, my go-to bakery in Yaletown for desserts and birthday cakes alike. Luckily, they had added some fall items to their menu, namely this Pumpkin Spice Cupcake which was perfect for finishing off the meal with. And, what is more perfect then some port at the end of a long dinner party?

At first sniff, the port is jammy and reminiscent of brown sugar and raspberries. As Port is much higher in alcohol, you can smell this ruminating off of the glass, but it is cut with the sweet undertones.

With the Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes, the intense dried fruit flavour allows you to sip slowly and enjoy. Surprisingly, the port cuts the sweetness of the cupcakes, allowing the spiced flavours to stand out and linger.

See – easy peasy! For your first wine pairing meal, trying pairing one or two wines and work your way up to it! It’s a fun process so enjoy!

Photos: Christie Graham Photography

Flowers: The Flower Factory

Wine: The Bacchus Group

Styling: Sophie Collins of Sip Savour Share

Where To Eat Tonight: Don Francesco’s

Last night I was treated to an incredible meal at Don Francesco’s in Vancouver. Those who live in Vancouver surely know of the established restaurant. It is Italian fine dining at its best. Warm, inviting room, live music, fabulous wines, and of course, a delicious menu. The meal blew me away. I can’t wait to go back for special occasions and dinner dates. IMG_3055IMG_3056

Right on Burrard near Robson, it’s the perfect downtown location for a date night. Walk around later and grab some roasted chestnuts off the street near the Vancouver Art Gallery.

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We had a funny conversation about kale at the table. It happens to be one of my favourite foods, but others are not so inclined. I was quick to share my kale chips recipe, sure to convince any non-kale lover of its attributes. The salad was amazing. I felt great about eating it due to the generous portion of kale, but there was a nice side of burrata and tomato to even things out.

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When you order rack of lamb at restaurants, you usually expect a few chops here and there. This was the real deal. Beautifully cooked, tender lamb atop potatoes, white & green asparagus, and fresh carrots. It was wrapped in a parmesan crisp and topped with lamb jus. Truly unforgettable.

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The dessert was, in a word, fantastic. It was so hard to choose my favourite, so I won’t. From left to right you have Tiramisu (so delicious), Chocolate Ganache Cake (so rich and smooth), and Creme Brûlée (a perfect version if you ask me).

I would sum up our night by saying this: I will definitely be back.

Happy weekend!

Fall Panzanella Salad

I’m always so inspired by the colours, people, and bountiful displays at the farmer’s market. This weekend’s was no different, except that it’s fall, which means turning over a new leaf and embracing cooler weather, greyer skies, and turning the heat on. I have to admit, I love the shift from warm to cool and look forward to this time every year. It means I can cuddle up with a hot mug of tea and my favourite cookbooks concocting what I want to make next. Today, we had some classic fall vegetables like tomatoes and brussels sprouts. I had seen something on Pinterest called a “winter panzanella salad” and wanted to make a fall version with what I had on hand. I used a bunch of different recipe methods and came up with something that worked for our ingredients. It’s certain to become a new staple.

IMG_2740 IMG_2743 IMG_2744Fall Panzanella Salad
Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp white wine vinegar
pinch of salt
1 lb brussels sprouts, quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tsp fresh sage, torn
6 small tomatoes, cut into pieces the size of the brussels sprouts
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley

2 tbsp salted butter
2 cups of fresh bread, cut into cubes
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tsp dried thyme
3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan, plus more for topping
pinch of salt and pepper

1) Add onion and vinegars to a bowl and put aside.
2) Heat oven to 400F.
3) Toss brussels sprouts with olive oil, sage and salt & pepper.
4) Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly crispy.
5) Melt butter on stove top. When bubbling, add garlic and thyme.
6) When garlic is fragrant, add fresh bread and toast.
7) When bread is slightly brown, put on baking sheet and put in oven with parmesan cheese and salt & pepper. Bake for 15 minutes.
8) Whisk olive oil into onion dressing.
9) When breadcrumbs are done and brussels sprouts are ready, combine with tomatoes, dressing and top with parsley and a little parmesan.

What are your favourite fall recipes? Leave them in the comments below!

 

Scallops with Beurre Blanc Sauce

Sometimes I like to dress up a weeknight dinner by trying something new. I’d been meaning to find a good scallop recipe for a while, and I was absolutely sure I’d found the right one when I stumbled upon TheKitchn.com’s Scallops with Beurre Blanc Sauce. It had all of the makings to be a delicious, easy weeknight dinner, so I tried it out! The results were incredible: delicious scallops, lemony orzo and an incredibly flavourful, yet almost light sauce. Keep reading for the recipe!

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These measuring cups were a gift from my friend and I use them all the time because they’re so cute!
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IMG_1531We’ve finally pulled out our spring table cloth (I’m hoping it will bring some sunny and warmer weather). I’d pair this dish with a sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, or even a rose.

Enjoy!

Scallops with White Wine Beurre Blanc & Lemon Orzo (from thekitchn.com)

Serves 4-6, and can be easily scaled up or down

For the beurre blanc:
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cubed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the orzo salad:
1/2 pound dried orzo pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
2 tablespoons chopped chives

For the scallops:
Sea scallops, preferably dry-packed, 4-5 per person
Wondra flour for dusting (optional), See Notes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the beurre blanc, bring the wine, wine vinegar, and shallots to a boil in a medium stainless steel saucepan. Cook the mixture until reduced to a very thick glaze, about 8 – 12 minutes depending on the size of the pan. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids, and return the liquid to the saucepan.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream. Vigorously whisk in the butter, cube by cube, not adding another piece until the last is almost fully melted. If the butter stops incorporating, return the pan to low heat and continue adding the remaining cubes. The sauce should be thick, creamy, and glossy. (If not, whisk in a few more cubes of butter if desired.) Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Hold on lowest heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve.

While the beurre blanc is reducing, cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain well. Toss with the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and the chives. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust other oil and lemon to taste.

For the scallops, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, pat the scallops dry and dust the tops with Wondra, kosher salt, and pepper. (Be generous, as you will loose 40% of the seasoning to the pan.)

Add a glug of canola or vegetable oil to the pan. Once it is shimmery and hot, add the scallops, salted side down, around the outside of pan in a clockwise direction starting at 12:00. (This allows you to know which scallop to flip first and continue turning in the same clockwise direction.) Once they are in the pan, dust tops now facing up with Wondra, salt, and pepper.

Allow the scallops to sear, undisturbed, for a minute or so. When you start to see a golden brown crust beginning to rise up the side of one, it is ready to flip. (If you cannot visibly see a crust, or if you have to lift the scallop to peek at the bottom, it isnot ready to flip.) Once the scallops are flipped, continue cooking for about another minute or so, until they are firm but still a tad uncooked in the center. (They will finish cooking with the residual heat.) Transfer the scallops to a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up any cooking juices.

Serve the scallops atop the lemony orzo with a generous drizzle of beurre blanc (lots of extra on the side!)

 

Simple Pork Chops with Sauteed Spinach

Whenever I’m trying to eat really healthfully, I cook up some protein and serve it with two sides of veggies – my go to are kale and arugula, but sometimes I love the taste of sauteed spinach. Sauteeing spinach is such a great way to get a whole lot of nutrition in one dish. I threw a whole box into the pan and served it alongside Julia Child’s pork chops (I thought I’d link to the recipe as it’s not original!)

A couple of years ago, Adriana got me two volumes of Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking (amazing gift and just shows she knows me as well as I know myself!), and while I haven’t quite mastered it, these books have helped a lot! French cooking can actually be a lot less fussy than you would imagine: these pork chops came together with a few simple ingredients and tasted amazing. I don’t often cook pork chops, but I think after discovering this recipe I will start!

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More pics and sauteed spinach recipe after the jump…

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Lemony Arugula Pasta

I’m always looking for ways to make my favourite food just a little bit healthier. This pasta combines all of my favourite things: lemon, arugula, chili flakes, garlic and makes a great weeknight dish, or a great side dish for a big dinner party. Trying to skip pasta these days? You could also do this with quinoa and toss it up the same way. It’s a dish of endless possibilities!

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Arugula is an absolute staple in this household. I use it on so many things, sometimes as an accompaniment, and sometimes as a main course tossed with fried chick peas. Either way, it adds the most incredible texture, peppery taste and is fabulous with lemon.

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So easy to throw together – this is hardly even a recipe! That’s what I find the best recipes are: mixing a bunch of ingredients you already have on hand and creating something delicious, nutritious, and beautiful!
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Lemony Arugula Pasta
Serves 2 as a main dish

2 cups arugula
1 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp chili flakes
150g spaghetti
grated parmesan
salt and pepper

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta while preparing the rest of the meal.
2. Reserve some pasta water in case you need to add it to the final dish.
3. Heat olive oil over medium heat.
4. Cook garlic and chili flakes until you can smell the garlic (about 1.5 mins)
5. When pasta is done cooking, add it to the pan with garlic and chili flakes.
6. Add arugula and lemon to dish.
7. Toss, adding parmesan, salt and pepper as desired. If needed, add some pasta water.

Best wine pairing: a light sauvignon blanc

Buon Appetito!