Saturday, November 01, 2014

A Valpolicella for Grilled Swordfish and Eggplant Pasta

Grilled Swordfish and Eggplant Pasta served with a Valpolicella for #ItalianFWT

I was a pretty easy sell for the new monthly Italian Food, Wine and Travel (#ItalianFWT) bloggers event Jen from Vino Travels is launching. Though I'm fairly eclectic in my cooking style, I draw most heavily on Italian foods and flavors. I love the way food and wine from the various Italian regions complement one another, and how I can always be discovering new Italian grape varietals.

Oh yeah, then there's good memories of our honeymoon. The first ItalianFWT event is focusing on the Veneto region. Though it's been twenty years since our honeymoon, I can still quickly conjure up the feeling of enjoying a crisp white wine at an outdoor cafe, watching all the late afternoon activity in the piazza and nearby canal.

Now, time to focus on my first ItalianFWT recipe and wine pairing. I'd like to start with something very authentic, showing how those regional pairings work so nicely. But alas, it's been a very busy fall, and this pairing was driven by need to get something together in time for this first event. I was planning to make this Grilled Swordfish and Eggplant Pasta dish recently. Though it might be more Sicilian in its flavors, I thought I'd pair it with a wine from Veneto in case I didn't have a chance to make a risotto in time for the event. Good thing I did, because I haven't gotten risotto stirring in my pot since this one earlier in the fall.

It may not be a classic dish from Veneto, but the combination of grilled swordfish, eggplant and tomatoes is very tasty! Give it a try, and check out the other recipes and pairings my fellow FWT bloggers have come up with.

Fusilli with Grilles Swordfish, Eggplant and Tomatoes

For the swordfish
12 to 16 ozs swordfish steak
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
dash of salt

Veggies and pasta
2 small eggplants or 1 large, sliced semi-circles 1/2 inch thick
2 cups diced tomatoes--high quality canned tomatoes or summer fresh tomatoes
1 garlic clove minced
1 tbsp parsley
1 head of garlic, roasted (you can easily do this on the grill)
12 ozs fusilli pasta
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
handful of sliced olives (optional)
extra cheese to pass at table

First, spread the eggplant sliced out on a plate in a single layer. Salt the eggplant slices generously, and let the eggplant sit and absorb the salt for at least 30 minutes. I've found this salting process to be a key factor in getting me to add eggplant to the list of veggies I enjoy.

grilling eggplant to toss with fusilli, tomatoes and grilled swordfish.

Preheat a grill to medium high. Spread the salted eggplant out in a grill pan or other such device to keep the eggplant from slipping through the grill grates. Coat with cooking oil spray. Place the grill pan on the grill to cook the eggplant. Turn the slices over after 5 minutes, and grill for another 5 minutes or so until the eggplant is cooked to a nice tenderness and has begun to caramelize. Remove the eggplant from the grill and set aside to cool. Note:  you can grill the eggplant directly on the grill if you don't have anything to put them in, but you'd want to use whole circle slices and turn them carefully. You can leave the grill on to be ready for the swordfish.

When you put the eggplant on the grill, start a pot of water to boil for pasta and prepare the swordfish marinade. Combine the 1/4 olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and a dash of salt in a large bowl. Add the swordfish, and gently turn it over to coat it thoroughly. Let the fish marinade for 10 to 15 minutes at room temp.

As the fish marinades, prep the tomatoes. Gently combine the diced tomatoes with 1 tbsp of olive oil, parsley, 1 clove of minced garlic, parsley and a dash of salt. Set aside.

Put the pasta on to cook just before you start grilling the swordfish. Remove the swordfish from the marinade, and gently shake off the excess marinade. Reserve the marinade. Place the swordfish on a the grill, and grill covered on medium high for about 6 minutes. Turn the swordfish over, and grill until just cooked through, which will take about 6 more minutes. Keep in mind the fish will cook a bit more while resting and you don't want to overcook it. Our swordfish steak was about an 1 1/2 inches thick, if yours is different that would impact the cooking time a bit.

When the fish is done, place on a platter and loosely cover with aluminum foil to keep warm as you put together the pasta dish. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it and combine with 1 tbsp olive oil, the roasted garlic (squeezed out of the garlic skin after it has cooled enough to work with) and eggplant. Next stir in the cheese and olives, followed by one-half of the tomato mixture, saving the other half of the tomatoes to top off the dish.

To plate the dish, divide swordfish to have a piece ready for each diner. Plate a serving of pasta, followed by a piece of swordfish, then spread some of the reserved fresh tomato topping. A tablespoon or so is good to start, and pass the tomatoes along with romano cheese for additional toppings. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: My dish might not be classic Veneto, but my wine qualifies! I do have a Cab/Merlot blend from the region on hand, but opted for the Valpolicella, much more typically associated with the region. The bouquet of the 2013 Ca' La' Bionda' Valpolicella Classico reminded me of an overgrown garden in midsummer, with notes of prune. Tart acidity, with plum fruit and hint of cinnamon. The acidity plays nicely with the tomatoes. Like many Italian wines, much more enjoyable with the food than on its own.
2013 Ca' La' Bionda' Valpolicella Classico

I've long enjoyed Pinot Noir with swordfish and salmon, but have been pushing the envelope lately with other red wine pairings for seafood. Valpolicella might not become a classic seafood pairing any times soon, but it worked pretty well with the combination I had here with the swordfish, tomatoes and eggplant.

Thanks for joining our 1st Italian Food, Wine and Travel event on the Veneto, but it doesn't stop here.  Follow along with some other great blogs featuring different aspects of living in the Veneto and what it has to offer.

Here are our featured articles this month:
Food Wine Click - Veneto Food and Wine From Half a World Away
Curious Appetite - Traditional Artisan Cheeses
Just Elizabeth - Venetian Shadows
Italian Journeys - Asolo and Basana del Grappa
Monica Cesarato - Veneto off the Beaten Path
Vino Travels - Sensational Soave

Make sure to join our bloggers' conversations on Twitter throughout the day at #ItalianFWT. We also post on #ItalianFWT throughout the month, so feel free join us all the time and share your Italian experiences! Make sure to check back on December 6th for our 2nd Italian Food, Wine and Travel event. Next month's month's feature will be one of my favorites, Piedmont!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Turkey Chili and Wine Pairing

Turkey Chili and Wine Pairing

Sure, I know beer is a more typical pairing choice for chili. Some folks even swear by milk! But wine is definitely my beverage of choice to enjoy with a meal, so I've been working on getting chili and wine pairing down to a science.

During my latest chili and wine pairing adventure, I started with the wine I wanted to serve. I had another bottle of the 2012 Halter Ranch Syrah from Paso Robles waiting in the wings. It paired nicely with this grilled tuna, which was served with a mix of grilled eggplant and spicy peppers. I had a notion that it could also do very nicely with a chili.
Turkey Chili and Wine Pairing

One key that I've found to chili and wine pairing is to make a chili that is flavorful but not overwhelmingly hot. You start making 5 alarm style chili, then you are going to need to defer to beer. I made this chili with some healthy ground turkey, and a nice blend of spices to give it plenty of flavor without overwhelming heat. Though I prefer wine with the chili, I did use some beer in recipe. And yes, a little bit of chocolate goes in to deepen the flavor.

Here are the details:

turkey chili topped with avocado. Cooking Chat recipe.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped, most of the seeds removed (a few left for a bit of extra kick!)
1 carrot, chopped
1 lb. ground turkey
2 cups canned tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups red kidney beans, cooked (I started with dried)
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp each of cumin, coriander, and paprika
1/2 tsp oregano
generous pinch cinnamon
juice from 1/2 lime
about 1/2 cup beer
1 tsp bittersweet chocolate
for toppings: grated cheddar, chopped avocado, sour cream

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the vegetables through carrot as they are chopped.

Next, add the ground turkey and brown, about 10 minutes.

After the turkey has browned, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and beans.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the dried spices, cover and simmer for at least an hour.

After an hour, add the lime and beer simmer, and simmer for 1 more hour.

Serve the chili in bowls with the toppings. Avocado is a very nice touch here! I found we needed less cheese and sour cream with the healthy fruit in the mix. Enjoy!

Turkey Chili with Wine Pairing: Halter Ranch Syrah

Wine Pairing: The Halter Ranch Syrah has a big fragrance of violets and forest floor. I got blackberry jam and white pepper taste. The Syrah opens nicely and shows a lot of finesse on the long finish. There's a depth and complexity to the wine that works nicely with the lively flavors of the chili. This wine definitely qualifies as a good pairing for a flavorful, mild to medium chili. Give it a try!

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary sample of the wine from the winery. As always, the opinions and recipe are entirely my own.

Turkey Chili and Wine Pairing

Friday, October 24, 2014

12 Healthy Favorites for #FoodDay2014

Grilled Tuna Steak with Eggplant and Peppers Served with a Halter Ranch Syrah for #winePW 4.

Happy Food Day 2014! I'm very committed to eating healthy food, but also making it taste great. So I had to join in on this day celebrating real food, and share 12 healthy favorites for #FoodDay2014. 

Good, healthy food means something a little different for everyone. For me, it means building meals around vegetables, whole grains (yes, I like whole grain pasta!), and a modest amount of lean protein. We love our cheese, but use it in moderation and always the real deal. Extra virgin olive oil goes quickly in our house. Organic and local when possible; meat and fish that meet humane and sustainable standards. Limiting highly processed foods is a must. If you've read this blog before, you know that many of these wholesome meals are enjoyed with a glass or two of nice wine, typically from a small producer.

I also believe that if most of our eating conforms to the above goals, we don't have to sweat an occasional veering from this path. But I find when you come to appreciate what good, real food tastes like, you will opt for the sweet potato with cumin sage butter over the potato chip most of the time!

OK, that's it for my #FoodDay speechifying. On to 12 recipes that prove healthy and tasty work wonderfully together!

Grilled Tuna with Eggplant and Peppers This one shown at the top of the post gets lean protein from the tuna, and was a creative way to use the abundance of eggplant we had on hand from our farmshare.

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Mushrooms via Cooking Chat

Butternut Squash Soup with Sautéed Mushrooms and Sage This simple vegan soup gets a touch of elegance from the sautéed mushrooms. One of my popular posts to date!

Cilantro Lime Marinaded Pork Tenderloin I had to get a pork recipe in here! Tenderloin is a lean cut of pork, not to mention delicious. The healthiness and flavor of this dish gets punched up a notch by serving it with Sweet Potatoes Mashed with Cumin Sage Butter.

Grilled Swordfish with Garlic Soy Marinade for #WeekdaySupper

Grilled Swordfish with Garlic Soy Marinade This is a quick, easy way to enjoy healthy swordfish. We use the low sodium version of soy sauce in the marinade. Our 9 year old loves it, so we have this a lot.

Salmon with Mixed Mushroom Sauce Probably my favorite fish, it was hard to pick which recipe to feature here. I gave the nod to this tasty one with mushrooms, which goes very well with a nice glass of Pinot Noir (I'm in the red wine is healthy camp!).

Linguine with Kale Pesto. Cooking Chat recipe.

Linguine with Kale Pesto I was excited to come up with this way to make one of my favorite things--pesto--featuring the super-healthy green kale. For someone skeptical about kale, this could be the one to sway them over!

Muhammara Spicy Red Pepper Dip Figured I'd throw in one appetizer here! No cream here like other dips. The flavor comes from plenty of garlic, and it has pomegranate molasses in the mix to get some of that healthy fruit.

 Mediterranean Chicken with Penne, Red Peppers and Spinach

Mediterranean Chicken with Penne, Red Peppers and Spinach A nice way to get your healthy protein and veggies all into one dish.

Hearty Chicken Stew I make this stew with homemade broth, made from leftover roasted chicken. Packed with veggies along with chicken, I'd anticipate this might be even better for you than traditional chicken soup!

Grilled Swordfish with Pineapple Salsa Swordfish is good many ways, but topped with this pineapple salsa is especially tasty! And pineapple is a good fruit to mix into the diet. In fact, reminds me I haven't chopped one up for us in awhile.

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger. Cooking Chat recipe.

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger Ok, I just posted this recipe, but it definitely qualifies! It's a lightened up version of one I got originally from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons. You get protein from the lentils, some good green spinach, and ginger which is pretty healthy too. Not to mention, it's super-tasty!
12 healthy recipes from Cooking Chat for #FoodDay2014, including Penne with Red Lentils

Farm Fresh Tomato Sauce with Ground Turkey OK, you may need to bookmark this for next summer to make with farm fresh tomatoes. But I needed one more to make it an even dozen here, and this was another one of my post popular posts so thought it would be good to share. That makes dozen of my favorite healthy recipes to enjoy on Food Day or any day!

12 Healthy Favorites for #FoodDay2014, including this Farm Fresh Tomato Sauce with Ground Turkey

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger for #WeekdaySupper

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger. Cooking Chat #WeekdaySupper post.

Fast, inexpensive and tasty: all that you want in a #WeekdaySupper! No wonder why we make this Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger so often. I tend to have most of these ingredients on hand, making it easy to whip up. A great follow-up to the theme of the recent Budget Friendly #SundaySupper.

This dish is based on a recipe from The Vegetarian Planet. I've lightened it up with less butter then the original recipe, offset by an increase in garlic. So it's got healthy going for it too.

We enjoy this year-round, but there's something about sage that says fall to me, making this particularly well-suited to fall. Give it a try next time you are looking for something fast and tasty!

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger. Cooking Chat #WeekdaySupper post.
1 lb. dried penne or other short pasta
3 tbsp butter*
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 2 inch piece of ginger, minced (or ¾ tsp powdered ginger)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced sage, or ½ tsp dried sage
¾ cup red lentils
1 cup water (plus extra during cooking as needed)
3-4 cups tightly packed baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste

*Substitute dairy free spread or olive oil for the butter to make this dish vegetarian.

Begin boiling water for pasta. Melt butter in a medium pan, let it start to brown slightly, then sauté garlic and ginger for a couple minutes over medium low heat. Add the lentils, sage, a bit of salt, cup of water, and a tablespoon of olive oil. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low, cover pan.

Check and stir the lentil mixture every few minutes. If the lentil cooking liquid begins to evaporate, add another quarter cup or so of water. The lentils take about 15 minutes to soften...they should be soft but retain their shape as opposed to turning to lentil mush which can happen if you cook too long or too much water.

Add the spinach after the lentils have been cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring it in so that it wilts slightly.

Start cooking the pasta about 5 minute after you start cooking the lentils. Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

When the pasta is done to your liking, drain and combine the cooked pasta with the lentil mixture and an extra tablespoon of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger. Cooking Chat #WeekdaySupper post.

Wine Pairing:  A chardonnay works well with the lively ginger flavors, or you can also go for a Sauvignon Blanc.

Check out the Weekday Supper lineup!Sunday Supper Movement
Monday – 15 Minute Beef Soup by MealDiva
Tuesday – Salmon with Kale Chimichurri by The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Wednesday – Penne with Red Lentils and Ginger by Cooking Chat
Thursday – Curried Chicken Wraps by A Mama, Baby and Shar-pei in the Kitchen
Friday - Spinach Ricotta Meatballs by Feed Me, Seymour