Monday, November 26, 2012

My Favorite Wines

Sometimes, a good meal is enhanced even further thanks to the drink you serve with it. At least that's been my experience. Likewise a bad wine -- and I've suffered through a few of those, as well. Those aren't wasted, either. I simply use them for sauces and cooking (unless they're really bad, and then they're poured down the drain).

I've been buying a variety of wines lately, and by accident (and recommendation of the clerk in the store), I've come across some absolute favorites.

DiSeno Torrontes (Argentina, 2011): One of the smoothest, nicest whites I've had (and I don't care for whites in general). There's a floral taste, along with bit of fruit (apricot comes to mind). Just a pleasure to drink. And cheap -- I paid $8.99 a bottle.

Seven Daughters White Blend: This was a fun one. It's blended from --you guessed it -- seven different whites. It's got texture, fruit, and spice. Cost me about $13.

Ghost Pines Chardonnay (Sonoma County, 2010): Thank you to our neighbors for bringing this one to the Halloween party. A satisfying wine with a balanced fruity taste. Won't set you back too much at $16.

Cesari Mara Ripasso (Veneto, 2009): I've read mixed reviews on this $20 bottle, and frankly I'm surprised. I found this when I couldn't find a suitable replacement for the pricey Amarone I wanted. At one-tenth the price, this ripasso is exquisite. I've bought several bottles over the years, and it's my go-to choice when I want a great red.

Barefoot Merlot (Modesto, Calif.): I can't believe it's possible to get an award-winning merlot for $6 a bottle. This stuff is solid. There's a good hint of cherry, and there's a tiny undercurrent of chocolate. Maybe that's why it's one of my favorite reds.

Sterling Vintner's Collection Meritage: Okay, not my absolute favorite, but a nice choice for every day. It's a blend, so you get five different reds in one, and the aftertaste can be a tad astringent at times, though I've had very good bottles.

What are some of your favorites?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gourmet the Meatless Way

On  a recent trip out west, we stayed at this lovely house near the ocean. The owner must be a true foodie, for that kitchen was the best-equipped rental I've ever encountered. Spices galore, a stockpile of pots and pans, great appliances, and cookbooks.

One in particular caught my eye. It contained recipes from inns across the country. I decided to give the baked French toast a try.

WOW. It was easy and with fresh ingredients, it was fantastic. That prompted me to buy the book, and when I got home, the book was waiting.

I was trying to find a way to make this meat-heavy cookbook more vegetarian friendly. So I started with one of the fish dishes -- sesame crusted salmon. I tweaked, and this is the result:

Sesame-crusted Tofu with Apple-Mango Salsa

1 package tofu, drained and sliced into eight pieces
2 Tbl. soy sauce
2 Tbl sesame oil
2 tsp. rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger

Mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and vinegar in a covered container. Place the tofu slices in this, turning to coat it all. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours to a day.

Meanwhile, make the salsa.

1 mango, peeled and diced
1 apple, peeled and grated
1/2 jalepeno, seeded and minced
1/2 poblano, seeded and minced
1 Tbl. fresh cilantro
1/4 cup diced onion (Vidalia works well)
1/2 Tbl. brown sugar
1 tomato, seeded and diced

Mix ingredients in a bowl and cover. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Now for the cooking:
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I use plain whole wheat)
2 Tbl. black sesame seeds
2 Tbl. white sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together in a shallow pan or bowl.

Heat non-stick pan or iron skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge tofu through the bread crumb mixture, then fry in the lightest layer of oil for about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to your plate, top with some salsa, and enjoy!