Best of

“Best of” Recipe & Wine Pairings—February 2021

What started out as an idea to create a monthly culinary column highlighting the best of OCWS Mini-Tastings’ award-winning recipes and wine pairings has now become, thanks to great interest in recipes from the Seminar Series’ wine and food presentations, a Best of OCWS Recipes and Wine Pairings. I will continue to review Mini-Tastings from the past but will now venture into Seminar pairings, and anything else from a culinary standpoint, that may appeal to our members. This is an ever-evolving column and suggestions are always welcome, so please don’t hesitate to email me at Fran@ocws.org. I would love to hear from those of you who love food and wine as much as I do, and I know there are a lot of kindred spirits out there.

There is one recipe in particular that has recently been requested time and again. It was featured in the holiday Sparkling and Sweets seminar held in December, and since I happen to love Champagne and this treat in particular, I’m publishing the recipe for this yummy dessert before the taste leaves my memory. I am usually the recipient of this dessert when asked by my daughter, Sara Yeoman, what I would like from her, as it is her recipe and is totally amazing in my book. I hope you find it as scrumptious as I do.

I find that too much chocolate paired with a dry sparkling, which is my drink of preference, leaves me with a heavy head, but a cream-based dessert fits the bill and satisfies my urge for sweets perfectly. Extra Dry, Extra Brut and Brut sparklings have a natural acidity that cuts through cheese, butter and cream and pair well with desserts such as Panna Cotta, crepes, shortbread and, my favorite, Lavender Cheesecake. I hope you will be drooling by the time you finish perusing the recipe and consider putting it on your “must try” list.

LAVENDER CHEESECAKE
WITH EARL GREY WHIPPED CREAM

CHEESECAKE INGREDIENTS:

1 3/4 cups shortbread cookie crumbs

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

4 (8-ounce) bricks Neufchatel (low-fat) cream cheese, softened

1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. fresh lavender buds, finely chopped (measure first, then chop the buds)

4 eggs

WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING INGREDIENTS:

2 cups heavy cream

Powdered sugar

1 Earl Grey tea bag

TO MAKE THE CHEESECAKE:

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9-inch springform pan. Crumble the shortbread cookies into crumbs and whisk with butter, salt and 1/4 cup of the sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Press firmly onto bottom of the pan (or up the sides, if desired). Bake for 10 minutes, remove, and let cool. Reduce oven heat to 325°F .

Once the pan reaches room temperature, carefully wrap the outside of the pan in 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, being sure that there are NO gaps where water could seep through. Place the pan in a large roasting dish (or any pan larger than the springform) and bring a tea kettle or pot of water to boil in preparation for the water bath. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed for 3 minutes until smooth. Add the remaining 1-1/4 cup sugar and beat for an additional minute until well blended. Add Greek yogurt, vanilla and lavender, and beat for an additional minute, stopping partway to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until blended. Do not overbeat! Pour into crust.

Place the double pans in the oven on a shelf on the bottom third of the oven. Very carefully use a tea kettle (or large measuring cup) to pour the boiling water in the larger pan to form a water bath around the springform, so that it comes up about 1-inch around the springform.

Close the oven door, and bake about 1 hour 40 min, or until center is almost set. (The center of the cake should still jiggle ever so slightly.) Turn oven off, and open oven door slightly. Let cheesecake set in oven 1 hour. Then remove cheesecake from oven, carefully run a knife around the edges of the cake, and then let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove springform rim, and top cheesecake with whipped cream just before serving. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

TO MAKE THE WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING:

To make earl grey homemade whipped cream, first bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add a tea bag and steep for 4 minutes, then remove the tea bag. Refrigerate cream until cool.

You can make homemade whipped cream with a:

Stand Mixer: Make sure that your bowl and whisk attachment are nice and chilled, as well as your heavy whipping cream. That’s the main thing to remember — you want everything nice and COLD for making whipped cream. Add in your heavy whipping cream and some powdered sugar to the bowl of the mixer and whisk it together on high speed until soft to stiff peaks form, your choice.

Food Processor: Same steps, just pulse the cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form.

Blender: Same steps, just blend the cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form

Mason Jar: This one takes quite a bit more muscle. Place a mason jar (along with its lid) in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Then remove it, add the whipped cream and powdered sugar (you only want the jar about half full, since the whipped cream volume will expand), and then shake the heck out of it for about 5 minutes until stiff peaks have formed.  

Bowl + Whisk: Or of course, you can make whipped cream the truly old-fashioned way. Just grab a mixing bowl (metal, preferably, or glass) and place it in the freezer until it’s nice and chilled. Then remove it, add the whipped cream and powdered sugar, and use a large whisk to whisk the cream by hand until stiff peaks form.

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer

“Best of” Recipe & Wine Pairings—January 2021

The holidays are over, 2020 is, thankfully, gone, and we are beginning a new year with great hopes for a happy, well year ahead for all. As much as I thought about highlighting a “comfort food” recipe to gently ease into the new year, the more I thought about it, I thought that it’s time to change it up and bring the new year in with amazing, fresh flavors and, to put it bluntly, a kick in the a** and the taste buds.

In November of 2019, Big Reds were featured at the Mini-Tasting, with the following three wines taking the top spots:

· 1st 2015 Mount Peak Zinfandel, Rattlesnake Vineyard, Sonoma

· 2nd NV Locations CA-7, Red Blend

· 3rd 2016 Jaffurs Petite Sirah, Santa Barbara County

With winning dishes such as Dino Amico’s Chicken Scarpariello with Pickled Peppers at the Kawai home, to June and Vince Porto’s BBQ Pepper Flank Steak at the home of Judy and Bob Koeblitz; and Zinfandel Braised Short Ribs ala Mary Giedzinski at Shelly and Ed Trainor’s place to desserts such as Mary Mulcahey’s Brownies at the home of Chris and Hank Bruce and Bread Pudding ala Rich Skoczylas at John and Denise Scandura’s, it was a slam dunk for me when I got to the Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup prepared by Laurie Preus. I thought, how lucky were the attendees at Cathy and Greg Risling’s home to taste that dish with luscious red wines? I only wish I’d been there! I sat down to write this article and opened a delicious Malbec and, while salivating through this writing, thought I’m putting my hand to this recipe just as soon as possible. 

For those of you with an adventurous spirit and palette, I hope you join me in attempting this award-winning recipe to help welcome in the new year with a flair. Thanks, Laurie!

Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup

1T olive oil

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 small onion diced

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
3T Thai red curry paste
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk full fat

1T grated garlic

2 cups vegetable stock

1T grated fresh ginger

2T lime juice

2 stalks fresh lemongrass smashed

Cilantro chopped

1T chili garlic sauce

Pumpkin seeds

1 tsp curry powder

Salt to taste

Heat oil, add onions and sauté 5 minutes till soft. Add curry paste, garlic, fresh ginger, chili garlic sauce, curry powder, and turmeric. Mix to combine. Add smashed lemongrass, pumpkin, and stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat  and simmer 20 minutes. Add coconut milk and lime juice and salt to taste. Remove smashed lemongrass. Wait 10 minutes then transfer to blender or use immersion blender and make smooth. Garnish with chopped cilantro and pumpkin seeds.

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer

“Best of” Recipe & Wine Pairings—December 2020

By the time you read this first article in a series of “Best of” offerings, Thanksgiving will be just a fleeting memory, but I’m pretty sure many of you would have had a delicious homemade meal accompanied by an amazing Pinot Noir which, in my house, is the wine of choice to accompany turkey.

With the help of George Cravens who, in better non-COVID times, coordinated the Mini-Tasting gatherings, and with the flavors of the start of the holiday season still lingering in my mind, I am pleased to share with you in the coming months, while awaiting in-person gatherings again, some of the award-winning recipes and wine pairings from the recent past.

Pinot was the wine of choice for the last pre-COVID Mini-Tasting held on February 22 of this year, with the following wines taking the top three spots:

1st Place—Paul Hobbs, Russian River Valley

2nd Place—Bellante Reserve, Dierberg Vineyard,
   Santa Maria Valley

3rd Place—2017 La Brisa Vineyard, Sonoma County

Interestingly to me, none of the winning dishes of the night even came close to resembling turkey. There was Roast Pork at the Cravens’ home ala Linda Downey, Grilled Salmon at Robin McCormick’s ala David Rutledge, Chicken Provencal at the home of the Newall’s ala Linda McLean, Glazed Ham from Kevin Donnelly at the Neutz’ home, Pork Tenderloin from Eric and Carmen Kaines at the Solis’ home, Lasagna ala Kim and Sam Clark at the Topham’s home and, Chocolate Cake by Cheryl Bell at the home of Marcia and James Vaughan. 

I know that just the change in seasons and the reminder of what was sampled that night makes me want to open a terrific bottle of wine and dabble in the kitchen, but the winning recipe that caught my eye and has me salivating was the submission by Barbara White (which, by no coincidence had Pinot in it) of a veal dish that she and her husband, David, presented while hosting the evening at their own home. Thank you Barb for sharing this dish with all of us.

Wishing everyone a Merry and Happy Everything during this month of holiday magic. 

May you all be well and happy and drinking fabulous wines while puttering in the kitchen!

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer


Oven Braised Veal Stew with Black Pepper and Cherries

Ingredients

2 lb. boneless veal stew meat cut into 2-inch pieces

¼ tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. olive or canola oil

¾ cup boiling water

2 Tbsp. veal demi-glace (try Williams Sonoma)

2 cups fresh or undrained thawed frozen pitted cherries

2½ Tbsp. honey

1 cinnamon stick

1 cardamom pod

1 dried bay leaf

1 cup dry red wine (Syrah, B arbara, Pinot Noir) optional

1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

½ package of flat butter noodles

Steps. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place veal pieces in bowl; sprinkle all over with pepper and 1 tsp salt. Sprinkle with flour and toss to coat. Melt butter with oil in 5 to 6 qt Dutch oven over high heat. Working in 2 batches (if necessary), add veal; cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides, 6 to 7 minutes per batch. Transfer veal to a bowl using a slotted spoon; set aside. Pour off drippings from the Dutch oven.

Stir together ¾ cup boiling water and demi-glace mixture, cherries, honey, cinnamon, cardamom bay leaf and optional red wine to Dutch oven; bring to a boil over high heat, scraping bottom and sides of oven to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium low; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover; nestle veal in the cherry mixture.

Cover and roast in preheated oven until veal is very tender, about 90 minutes. Remove and discard cinnamon, cardamom, and bay leaf. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately over noodles.

Optional Thickening. Deglaze the stew. Pour the veal, cherry stew into a bowl through a sieve. Place veal, cherry mixture in a bowl and set aside. Return the sauce to the Dutch oven and add ½ cup heavy cream. Heat over medium heat until the sauce has thickened; 10-15 minutes. Return veal, cherry mixture to the sauce to Dutch oven and reheat over medium heat 10 minutes.

Make Ahead. Stew can be made up to 3 days ahead; let cool then cover and refrigerate. Reheat gently.