Category Archives: Food

Pairing for Salmon with Olive Lemon Relish

pairing for salmon with lemon olive relish: 2012 Champalou VouvrayOne of my favorite salmon recipes comes from Barbara Lynch’s cookbook, Stir: Mixing It Up In The Italian Tradition. I follow her pan-seared salmon method just about any time I’m cooking salmon inside as opposed to the grill. But what has me writing here is to discuss a pairing for salmon with olive lemon relish, a very tasty recipe from Stir.

In this preparation, the salmon gets topped with a relish made from olives and lemon. The lemon includes bits of the fruit as well as the juice. Shallots, parsley, honey and white wine vinegar round out the taste. If you don’t have the book you could probably come up with your own version, though I do recommend the cookbook!

I often go for Pinot Noir with salmon, and that can work pretty well with this dish. But I also had a side dish of pasta with dandelion greens, and was thinking a white would offset the bitterness of the greens better than a red. So wound up choosing the 2012 Champalou Vouvray, 100% Chenin Blanc. The wine has a nice, clean crisp taste and a delicate floral bouquet. Definitely a nice pairing for the salmon as well as the dandelion pasta!salmon with lemon olive relish

Steak with Chanterelle Mushrooms and a Cabernet

Steak with Chanterelle Mushrooms and a CabernetI had a bottle of 2012 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon on the wine rack, awaiting the right dish to open it with.  Beef seemed like a natural, and I figured mushrooms would make the pairing even better. The tasty result was this Sirloin Steak with Chanterelle Mushrooms and a Cabernet recipe I posted over on Cooking Chat recently.

This wine is definitely steak-worthy! The Halter Ranch Cab is deep red in the glass. I got eucalyptus on the nose. I tasted blackberry and cherry fruit, along with notes of charcoal. Tannins are well-integrated. It’s approachable now, but I suspected decanting or aging would really make this shine. So I decanted after the first small tasting pour. Just 15 minutes or so in the decanter really help show a nice long finish on the wine.

No surprise that this robust Cab paired nicely with the steak. In addition to standing up to the beef, there was enough nuance to the wine to play well with the subtle flavors of the chanterelle mushrooms. A winning match for sure!

One more note on the wine: this Cab is comprised of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. I’d say the grapes blended in with the Cab add to the depth and complexity. Halter Ranch is a SIP Certified sustainable winery, too. One more reason to grab a bottle! More details on the winery can be found here on their website.

Full disclosure: I received a courtesy sample of this wine from the winery. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Steak with Chanterelle Mushrooms and a Cabernet from Halter Ranch.

Pumpkin Lasagna with a Halter Ranch Côtes de Paso

pumpkin lasagna with a Halter Ranch Cotes de Paso for #winePW 5

Culinary Camilla photo

Not only did Camilla do a great job hosting the “Fall Fruit and Wine Pairings” for #winePW 5, she came up with a great recipe and pairing for it! I wouldn’t have thought to make a lasagna with pumpkin, but that’s my bad because it sounds and looks great! Then she pairs that Pumpkin Lasagna with a Halter Ranch Côtes de Paso, yum! Here’s a link to the recipe and pairing details on Culinary Adventures with Camilla.

I’ve enjoyed a few different wines from Halter Ranch in Paso Robles, including the Syrah I paired with grilled tuna for the #winePW 4. I’ve got to try their Côtes de Paso blend! I love a Rhone style blend, and in addition to the traditional Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, it has a good bit of Tannat, too. Interesting blend!

Be sure to check out all the other tasty #winePW 5 pairings with fall fruit and wine pairings! Rounded up here. 

Wine with Soup: Butternut Squash Soup with a Pinot

Wine with Soup: Butternut Squash Soup with Mushrooms paired with a Pinot Noir

Pairing wine with soup can be tricky. I’d say it’s because you’ve got texture issues. Eating liquid broth and then sipping wine can lead to a less than harmonious mouthfeel.

One solution to the mouthfeel dilemma that comes pairing wine with soup is thickening the soup by puréeing it. The wine then has a lighter body than the soup, setting up a nice contrast. I tend to like my vegetable soups puréed anyway, and that’s the direction I went in when I came up with this recipe for Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Sautéed Mushrooms.

Wine with Soup: Bouchard Aine & Fils Pinot NoirI have found squash soups do pretty well with Pinot Noir. There’s a enough fruitiness in the wine to match nicely with the flavors of the squash. The pinot choice was clinched for this one when I added the sautéed mushrooms to the soup. The earthy elements of Pinot Noir match perfectly with the mushroom flavors.

Soup also tends to suggest a fairly simple wine. So for this soup, I paired it with the 2012 Bouchard  Aîné & Fils Pinot Noir, a great reliable value from France. I turn to this bottle often for simple weekday suppers. It’s a nice choice with this soup, but I’d love to hear what pairings you come up with for soups you make as the weather gets cooler.

Grilled Tuna Paired with a Syrah

grilled tuna paired with a Syrah from Halter Ranch for #winePW 4.Could a Syrah paired with fish work? It sounds like an unorthodox pairing, but I like to try new things! I had a bottle of 2011 Halter Ranch Syrah from Paso Robles that I wanted to use for the September Wine Pairing Weekend event. I’ve enjoyed this before paired with steak, but in the spirit of trying something new, I wondered if grilled tuna paired with a Syrah could work.

There were a few factors that helped make this a good pairing. For starters, a meaty tuna steak is very substantial, matching the body of the Syrah. Then I added some spice to the dish, by serving the tuna with grilled eggplant with spicy peppers. These veggies bridged to the wine nicely, as did the cumin garlic mixture I rubbed onto the tuna steak. Get all the recipe details over on Cooking Chat.

Now, more about that Halter Ranch Syrah. This wine has a big fragrance of violets and forest floor. I got blackberry jam and white pepper taste. I had my initial taste before I started grilling the tuna. By the time we settled down to eat about 10 minutes later, the Syrah had really opened nicely and was showing a lot of finesse on the long finish. This helped it make a nice harmonious pairing with the tuna–plenty of substance for this meaty fish with the spice element to work with the food. A good wine and a nice pairing! In fact, one thing that reminded me to blog about it this morning is I’m making it again for a gourmet get together with friends tonight!

Grilled Tuna with Eggplant and Peppers

Grilled Steak with a 20 Year Old Rioja

A 1994 Rioja to pair with grilled steakWe decided it would be fun to celebrate our recent 20th wedding anniversary with a tasty meal at home along with a special bottle of wine. There were a number of bottles that sounded like interesting possibilities at the wine shop. But I was intrigued by the idea of finding a bottle from our wedding year, 1994. We came up with a 20 year old Rioja to go with our grilled steak.

Now, it would have been nice to have a big collection of older wines in our cellar to draw from for this dinner. But most of our wine at this point is for current consumption.

There isn’t generally a big selection of wines from 1994 at this point at most wine shops. But Ray from Pairings Wine and Food was able to poke around the shop and came up with a 1994 Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Rioja. I’d enjoyed a newer vintage from this winery, one of the top Rioja producers, and was ready to try this older bottle.

We had some Trader Joe’s BBQ Rub with Coffee and Garlic on hand that we hadn’t tried yet–mostly because I figured our nine year old wouldn’t go for it. He wasn’t on hand this evening, so it seemed like a good time to try it on some grilled NY strip streak. Plus, I thought the coffee in the rub might go with the Rioja.

So, the steak was on the grill, and it was time to open the wine. Figured at this age it didn’t need much breathing time! The cork was looking like it wouldn’t last a bit longer, but fortunately it had held together to keep this wine in good shape.

I got violet and coffee on the nose. Taste of berries, prune and coffee. The tannins had integrated well for a deep, complex taste, great mouthfeel. The coffee notes worked nicely with the steak. A nice pairing to enjoy on our 20th! The we had another good pairing for dessert, the Grilled Figs with a Sauternes.

grilled steak to enjoy with a 1994 Rioja

Grilled Figs Paired with a Sauternes

grilled figs paired with a Sauternes

Passing through the produce aisle at Whole Foods, on the way to pick up a store made dessert, the fresh figs on sale caught my eye. Yes, during the middle of a busy week, I was trying to keep our 20th anniversary dinner pretty simple. But my mind quickly got racing to pairing ideas…a dessert featuring grilled figs paired with a Sauternes sounded worthy of a special occasion, I thought. (we already had a special bottle lined up for our main course…stay tuned for a post about that soon!)

2007 Chateau de Malle Sauternes pairs nicely with grilled figsSo I grabbed the figs and came up with a simple yet tasty recipe, recapped below. Then I headed to the wine shop to grab a bottle we’ve enjoyed before, the 2007 Chateau de Malle Sauternes. 

Ingredients

6 fresh figs, stems trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup honey plus 1 extra tbsp honey
pinch of cinnamon
dash of dried sage
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted lightly (optional)

Preheat a grill to medium high. Combine the olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the balsamic and the sugar in a bowl. Gently toss the figs in this mixture, and set  aside while the grill heats up.

Combine the mascarpone with 1 tablespoon of honey in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1/2 cup of honey in a small pan on medium heat, and stir in the cinnamon and sage. Once the honey has liquefied a bit, turn the heat to low keep warm while the figs are grilled.

grilling figs to pair with a Sauternes

Grill the figs. If you have a grill pan, use that to avoid losing any figs to the grill. Set the figs skin side down the grill pan, or carefully set them directly onto the grill. Grill about 4 minutes on the skin side, then carefully turn over to sear the other side by grill for about 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove the figs to a plate.

Serve the dessert by adding a tablespoon or two of the mascarpone to each plate. Then place several figs on top of each plate of mascarpone. Finish the dish by drizzling the heated honey over the figs and cheese, and sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top if you are using them.

grilled figs with honey and mascarpone

Enjoy with a Sauternes! Sure, a lot of things go well with a Sauternes. But this grilled fig with honey and mascarpone with a Sauternes is definitely a great pairing! The 2007 Chateau de Malle Sauternes has notes of honey and hazelnut, and a super-long, luscious finish. It could be a nice dessert on its own, but pairing the Sauternes with this sweet and savory dessert is a great combination.

If you’re not familiar with Sauternes yet, I encourage you to get acquainted! This wine from Bordeaux is made from a blend of made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, known as “noble rot”. There is surely a lot of interesting info on the web about it, but the Wikipedia entry is a good starting point.

Red Wine Pairing for Indian Food

wine indian (2)A red wine pairing for Indian food? I tried a few times and thought it wasn’t possible. I had hopes for one zinfandel that wound up creating a big clash with the spicy food. That one sent me back to more white wine and Indian food pairing, like this Gewurzstraminer I mentioned recently.

Then someone pouring a Carmenere at a Pairings tasting mused that it perhaps could work with Indian, based on the hint of cumin spice in the wine. So I grabbed a bottle of the 2009 Apaltagua Reserva Carmenere to try for myself.  Soon thereafter, I ordered some beef curry and aloo palak to try this red wine pairing for Indian food.

A bit of decanting softened the wine, showing blackberry fruit along with the spice. There was a bit of oak, which gave the wine structure to stand up to the beef curry, and the spice and fruit in the wine’s taste blended fairly harmoniously with the flavors of the food. We had aloo palak (potatoes in a creamy spinach sauce) along with the beef; as you might suspect, the Carmenere tasted better with the beef.

I would not call this a perfect pairing, but good enough to try red wine paired with Indian food again! Have you found a red wine pairing for Indian food that you like?

Note: I originally wrote about this pairing on Cooking Chat awhile back. I’m gradually pulling together my Indian food and wine pairing posts here on Wine Pairing Weekend to make them easy to find. I’ve found Indian food and wine pairing to be one of the most sought after pairing articles I’ve shared. You might more readily find a more recent vintage of this Carmenere, or find something with similar qualities.

Sauvignon Blanc Paired with Pesto

A Taft Street Sauvignon Blanc paired with pesto

A classic: Sauvignon Blanc paired with pesto.

What makes it a classic? Here’s how the 2012 Taft Street Sauvignon Blanc worked with the pesto I made for the August Wine Pairing Weekend.

I get grassiness and grapefruit on the nose of the wine. I take a sip, and get peach, cherry blossoms, and mineral undertones. I eat a couple bites of the linguine, getting the garlic bite and saltiness in the pesto along with the freshness of the basil and acidity from the tomatoes. A lot happening on the palate. More wine. The crispness of the Sauvignon Blanc refreshes, cleansing the palate to be ready for another burst of flavor from the pesto. The makings of a classic pairing!

Ready to try this classic pairing for yourself? Typically on this site I link over to where you can find recipe details. But my pesto recipe is so simple (yet so good) that I’ll go ahead and re-share it right here:

Taft Street Sauvignon Blanc paired with pesto for #winePW 3Cooking Chat’s Basil Pesto Ingredients
2 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and tightly packed
4 cloves garlic
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp pine nuts

The Method: Have a food processor at the ready. Rinse the basil and pluck the good leaves from the plant, add to a measuring cup. I use up all the basil I’ve gotten. If I wind up with more than two cups basil, I scale the recipe accordingly and have more pesto on hand. If you have extra basil and a school age child on hand, enlist them in the process of calculating the recipe proportions, keep those math skills sharp over the summer! Put the basil into the food processor, and give it a quick whir to begin chopping the basil and make room for the other ingredients.

Next, add the garlic, and hit that food processor button again to get the cloves chopped up with the basil.

Add the remaining in ingredients, and then puree to get everything well combined. Open the food processor, scrape the sides to get bits of garlic and basil that haven’t been incorporated, then give the processor a final whir. Presto, you have tasty pesto! If you’re going to be eating within the next hour or so, just leave the pesto out. If you’re making in advance, refrigerate, but take out an hour before serving to bring the pesto to room temperature. Serve over hot pasta.

Wine Pairing: Well, we already covered Sauvignon Blanc being a classic to pair with pesto.  Want to go in a different direction? I’ve also had luck pairing Prosecco with pesto, and Picpoul with pesto is also very good, if you want to try a lesser known wine with your pesto.

a classic pairing: Sauvignon Blanc with basil pesto

A Syrah For Grilled Steak With Garlic Cumin Rub

Grilled steak with garlic cumin rub paired with a SyrahI get to experiment with pairings for this Grilled Steak with Garlic Cumin rub fairly often. The rub packs enough flavor for grownups, but my 9 year old also loves it, so it gets used often! A lot of big, bold reds can work with the meaty dish, but there’s also the spice element to pick up. That gets me going more in the direction of a Zinfandel or Syrah for this grilled steak recipe.

You could do well with any of your favorites in the Syrah or Zin department, but one specific pairing for this grilled steak recipe that has worked very well for us is the 2011 Halter Ranch Syrah from Paso Robles.  It’s got big berry flavors to stand up the beef, and some nice spices to pair with the flavors of the rub. Give it a try or let me know with you come up with for a pairing! (you are going to try this super-easy rub, aren’t you?).

Here on Wine Pairing Weekend, I typically just link over to the original recipes. But if you’re in a hurry, the rub is simply equal parts cumin, garlic powder and salt, and you can add a pinch of cinnamon and/or other dried herb (sage is nice) to vary the flavor.

2011 Halter Ranch Syrah pairs nicely with grilled steak