Cooking with Chardonnay

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf

Since March is Taste Washington Wine Month, I used a Washington Chardonnay from Maryhill Winery© for the following recipes. After using the Chardonnay in both recipes there is still enough left for two glasses to go with dinner.

Many of us have opened a bottle of wine while we are cooking up a meal, pouring some for ourselves into a glass and adding a splash to the dish while its simmering on the stove. Wine can be a very versatile ingredient to cook with and can add a new layer of flavor to your favorite recipes.

Cooking with wine is an often misunderstood technique used in the kitchen. When you add wine to a dish which is cooking, some or all the alcohol evaporates as it simmers and what you are left with is the concentrated flavors of the wine. It’s important to understand the basic flavor profile of the wine you are using. The sugars in a sweet wine will become far more concentrated as the wine cooks down, and the tannins and acids in a red wine will disperse those flavors as it cooks.

When a recipe calls for a white wine, the most important thing to remember is that the wine should be one that you enjoy drinking on its own. A poor-quality wine can ruin a fantastic recipe. Luckily, you can find great-tasting wines at very affordable prices. So, don’t limit yourself to the typical grocery shelf “cooking wine”.

Using a Vibrant and crisp flavored white wine like a Chardonnay for cream sauces, gravy, and white meat adds another level of rich and creamy flavor. When adding wine to a cream sauce or gravy it is important to reduce your wine prior to blending in the cream to keep the acidity balanced.

“If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.” -Julia Child

For absolutely the best pork loin recipe I’ve ever made, you need to try this Pork Loin with Chardonnay and Herb Gravy. Cooked with wine, garlic and herbs, sliced thin, and served with a beautiful wine gravy. Add a Barley and Mushroom Risotto for a special night at home, or a dish your guests will not forget.

Pork Loin with Chardonnay and Herb Gravy & Barley and Mushroom Risotto

These recipes are all about the wine, fresh herbs and quality ingredients.

Pork Loin with Chardonnay and Herb Gravy

Pork loin cooked on the stove-top with wine and herbs, sliced and served with a delicious, light creamy gravy. If using a pork loin roast, look for one with a little bit of fat for ample drippings.

1/4 cup garlic olive oil
5 cloves garlic (peeled and sliced in half lengthwise)
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves chopped
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves chopped
2 lb center cut boneless pork loin
1 1/4 cups Chardonnay (plus a splash more to deglaze the pan with)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic, rosemary and sage, stirring for about one minute. Add the pork loin to the pan, carefully placing it on top of the herbs. Saute the pork for about 5 minutes on each side, then remove it to a plate. Add the wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan. Cook until the smell of the alcohol has disappeared, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Lower the heat under the pan to low-medium heat. Return the pork to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Partially cover with a lid and cook for about 1 1/2 hours ( Rely on a thermometer to check for internal temperature of 145 degrees), flipping the pork and scraping the bottom of the pan every 20 minutes or so. Keep an eye on it, making sure there continues to be some liquid in the pan. Add 1/4 cup of warm water if necessary.

When the pork is cooked through (if you want to test with a thermometer, it should be about 140-145° internal temperature.) Remove pork to a cutting board to rest and cover with loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil to help retain the heat while it rests.

Meanwhile, increase the heat under the liquid in the pan to medium. If your pan has little liquid, deglaze with a splash of white wine. Stir well to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Allow to cook until the alcohol smell disappears (about 1-2 minutes). Add the chicken stock and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat a few minutes, to allow the chicken stock to heat through a bit. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the cream. Heat gently over medium-low heat, stirring the sauce constantly, until it thickens a bit and is warmed through. Avoid vigorously boiling. A gentle simmer is fine. (*If your sauce doesn’t thicken up, mix 2 Tbsp. cornstarch with 2 Tbsp. water and add a bit at a time to your sauce until it thickens to your liking.) Taste sauce and add salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

When the sauce is ready, slice the pork very thinly and place on to a serving platter. Pour the warm gravy over-top to serve.

Barley and Mushroom Risotto

Barley cooked risotto-style, with beef broth, garlic and mushrooms and a touch of Parmesan. It’s full of chewy, nutty deliciousness.

3 Tbsp butter, divided
1 shallot minced
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms about
1/4 tsp fresh thyme leaves plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup Chardonnay or other white wine
4 cups beef broth hot
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated

Begin by heating the 4 cups of beef broth in a saucepan and keep warm.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, stirring until they begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and thyme leaves then season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring regularly until the mushrooms are tender and lightly golden, about 5-6 minutes. Add the barley and the remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until the wine is absorbed, 3-4 minutes.

Add 1 ladle of the hot beef broth and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until nearly all of the broth has been absorbed. You want a consistent simmer, adjust heat to that point. Continue adding ladles of broth one at a time, allowing to cook until the liquid is absorbed before adding another. Cook until all the broth is added. Test the barley, you want it to be al dente. If it is not quite there, add another ladle of hot water and cook a bit longer. When cooked, stir in grated Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with additional grated Parmesan.

With the addition of the Barley Risotto this isn’t a quick, weeknight meal, but it’s not a huge time investment either. Two perfect recipes for a weekend dinner or entertaining, and Chardonnay left from the bottle to enjoy.

These recipes were adapted from a Food & Wine version.

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

Saying Goodbye to the Winter Blues with Blueberries

I am fortunate to live in a town that has one of the best You Pick Blueberry Farms in the state of Washington. Each year around the first of August Bybee Farms Blueberry Farm opens for a short season that usually only lasts about two weeks. For the last 10 plus years I have been there on opening day first thing in the morning with buckets at the ready to fill with the beautiful dime size blueberries that are bursting on the plants. As a family we eat a lot of blueberries year round, in smoothies, muffins, on yogurt for breakfast and of course in blueberry pie. For this reason we pick between 40-50 pounds of blueberries on opening day and then process them to store in the freezer in 2 cup bags to be enjoyed until it is blueberry season again.

Flash freezing the blueberries on a cookie sheet in the freezer makes bagging the blueberries easier.

Today I want to share two recipes that are perfect for frozen blueberries.

Blueberry Tequila Sour Cream Pie

Begin by putting 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, thaw and drain really well) in a bowl with 2 Tbsp fresh chopped mint, 1 Tbsp lime juice and 1/4 cup of silver Tequila. Mix well and let it set for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. For this recipe I used a Blanco Tequila from Tequila Corcel.

Prepare 1 deep dish unbaked pie crust with your favorite pie crust recipe or a store bought pre-made pie crust.

2 Tbsp flour
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg

3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp cold butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare pie crust by covering the crust’s edges with foil. This will help to keep the edges from getting too brown.
To make the filling, combine sugar and flour together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat in sour cream, egg, vanilla, salt and nutmeg over medium speed for about five minutes. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Pour batter into pie crust and bake for 30 minutes.
While pie is baking, prepare the topping by crumbling together the flour, sugar, and butter with a fork.

Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle on the topping. Return to the oven and bake for 10-15 more minutes until topping is golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly before slicing.

The rich creamy Tequila Blueberry Sour Cream Pie pairs perfectly with a Syrah wine or a similar red like this Ruah Proprietary Red Blend from Washington Winery Desert Wind. With a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah, this Ruah offers cocoa notes that linger on the finish, with a mixture of plum and vanilla bean flavors.

Served slightly warm with a glass of wine, this dessert is guaranteed to chase away the winter blues.

Blueberry and Pink Peppercorn Margarita
A Blueberry Margarita is just the right winter drink to use frozen blueberries. With the addition of pink peppercorns this Margarita gets kicked up a notch. This drink has a flavorful balance of sweetness from the blueberries and peppery essence from the pink peppercorns. The pink peppercorns add a unique twist to a typical blueberry Margarita.

For this Blueberry and Pink Peppercorn Margarita I used a Resposado Tequila from Tequila Corcel.

The first step to making the Margarita is to make a Blueberry Concentrate. Combine 3 cups of frozen Blueberries with the zest and juice of 1 lime and 1 tablespoon of crushed pink peppercorns with 1 cup of raw sugar in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, while stirring bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until blueberries have broken down, continue to cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.
Strain blueberry mixture through a cheesecloth or fine sieve; let cool.

Margarita Ingredients for one drink:
1.5 ounces of tequila
1 ounce of lime juice
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce of Blueberry Concentrate
½ cup of ice
Garnish: Wooden skewer of blueberries and salt with crushed pink peppercorn rim

In a cocktail shaker add tequila, lime juice, triple sec, blueberry concentrate, and ice.
Shake and pour serving into glass with salt and peppercorn rim. Top off the margarita with a splash of club soda.
Garnish with blueberries on a wooden skewer

A winter treat with the taste of summer in a glass.

Now all that is left to do is sit back and wait for Spring to arrive. Cheers!

Home Cocktail Ginspiration.

Creating great tasting cocktails at home is easy once you have some recipes that really inspire you. Today I would like to give you some Ginspiration with two refreshing fruit and herb Gin cocktails and a classic Dry Gin Martini.

Two of the best ingredients for a delicious cocktail are fresh produce and a well crafted spirit.

A well-crafted home Gin cocktail begins with a quality Gin that can stand alone and stand out when introduced to other ingredients. Over the last several decades there has been an impressive amount of innovation in the production of gin. Many new distilleries are experimenting with the botanicals used to flavor gin, which has enormously expanded alternative aromas and flavors. Drawing from seasonal botanicals, as well as foraged wild plants, there is an explosion of new gins which span the spectrum of traditional to unconventional.

The current gin revolution has been spurred by the creative minds of the new artisans.  The United States now has over 600 craft distillers, many of them are starting with Gin production because unlike brown spirits that require a period of extended maturation, gin requires little or no aging. While new distiller’s brown spirits are quietly maturing, clear spirits like Gin and Vodka allow a new distillery to create revenue.

For these cocktails I have selected three distinctive American Gins that paired perfectly with the cocktail ingredients. For the Red Grapefruit Gin Fizz, I used California Distillery Loch & Union. This Gin has a classic flavor that I think is enhanced by the additional ingredients in the drink. The Blackberry Gin Fizz recipe incorporated a Gin produced by Northern California Distillery SipSong Spirits, and was chosen for the Gin’s unique Italian Juniper taste. Keeping true to a Classic Dry Gin Martini I wanted to highlight the Gin, so I chose Builders Botanical Gin from Restless Spirits crafted in North Kansas City, Missouri. Thinking about the flavors of the Gin that you use in your home cocktails will definitely enhance the overall outcome of the drink.

Red Grapefruit Gin Fizz
Serves 2

Infused Cardamom Rosemary Syrup
8 cardamom pods
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 rosemary sprigs

2 oz infused simple syrup
3 oz Gin
1/2 cup red grapefruit juice
splash of Prosecco

Garnish rosemary sprigs

In a small saucepan bring sugar, water to a simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add cardamom pods and rosemary sprigs and allow to infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the rosemary and cardamom and use right away, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

To make the cocktail add infused simple syrup, gin and red grapefruit juice over ice in a cocktail mixer and stir. Using a strainer, divide the mixture in two and pour directly into glasses filled with fresh ice. Top with Prosecco and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

A splash of Prosecco.

Blackberry Gin Fizz with Juniper & Thyme

12 frozen blackberries
1/4 lemon, chopped into little pieces
2 sprigs of thyme
10 juniper berries
1 cup Raw Sugar/1 Cup Water
Club Soda

Simple Syrup Instructions:
Combine water and raw sugar with crushed Juniper Berries and Thyme sprigs into a small pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Remove from heat and strain mixture to discard juniper berry and Thyme. Use immediately or keep refrigerated for up to a month.

Divide the blackberries and lemons evenly between each tumbler. When you’re ready to serve, use a muddler to mash the berries and lemon until the fruit is crushed. Add 1 oz Infused Simple Syrup to each glass and fill each glass with ice. Top with 1.5 oz gin and a dash of club soda, stir well and serve.

The Classic Gin Martini

2 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
​1 dash orange or Angostura bitters
Garnish: 3 olives

TRAGANO GREEK ORGANICS GREEN OLIVES from Zēlos™ Authentic Greek Artisan

Steps to Make It:
In a mixing glass filled with ice cubes, combine the gin and vermouth, pouring more or less vermouth to your taste.
Stir for 30 seconds.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Add a dash of orange or Angostura bitters.
Garnish with Olives.

Each of these exceptional gins highlight different botanical flavors, from juniper berries to pine needles to lime peels. The continuing rise of Artisan Distilleries make it so easy to create fantastic gin cocktails. Have some fun mixing and matching with different kinds of ingredients to bring out the flavors of the gin or keep it classic with a Dry Gin Martini.


More information about the Gins used in these recipes can be found here:

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

2019 Seattle Wine and Food Experience

Highlights from this years fabulous Grand Tasting event of the Seattle Wine and Food Experience held at the Bell Harbor International Convention Center in Seattle.

Celebrating in the Emerald City at the 11th Annual Seattle Wine and Food Experience.

With an itinerary of four distinctive epicurean events, the eleventh annual weekend of local feasting and tasting included Comfort (Thursday, Feb. 21), POP! Bubbles & Seafood (Friday, Feb. 22), the extremely popular Grand Tasting (Saturday, Feb. 22), and a brand new event Sunday Supper (Sunday, Feb. 23).

This annual Grand Tasting extravaganza of all things edible and drinkable included a variety of scrumptious small plates.

The Grand Tasting featured restaurants and chefs who were included in the February issue of Seattle Magazine’s list of 100 Best Things to Eat. These mouth watering dishes were a major highlight and included many top culinary talents serving delicious gourmet bites.

The Chef In The Hat, Thierry Rautureau, the talent behind Loulay Kitchen & Bar and Luc restaurants, brought a French twist to the Grand Tasting with his Hot Chocolate and Toast. Hot chocolate, made with fresh milk and powdered cocoa from Seattle’s own Theo Chocolate. Chef Rautureau’s toast incorporates pieces of brioche, grilled to perfection and served with salted butter.

Sweet sensations were plentiful and included some of the best baked goods in the Pacific Northwest. Baker Mi Kim of Raised Doughnuts was serving up some beautiful Raspberry Doughnut Holes, Seattle’s A La Mode Pies and Chef Chris Porter offered a variety of small bite pies. Chef Chera Amlag of Hood Famous Bakeshop wowed with a Ube Cheesecake and Seattle’s Wandering Goose Chef Heather Earnhardt baked up a rustic Cherry Hand Pie.

A Beautiful 2015 Columbia Valley Vineyard Syrah from Woodinville’s Damsel Cellars.

Washington and Oregon Wineries played a key role at the Grand Tasting, providing wines to suit any palate. I really enjoyed the diversity of the wines, and the conversations with the producers added to the overall experience. Event organizers hit the mark by arranging the venue in a way which allowed you to easily stroll, or taste your way through the Convention Center.

A few of my favorite sips from the Grand Tasting included wines from Silvara Cellars in Leavenworth, WA., Pearl and Stone Wine Co. in North Bend, WA., Double Canyon and Seven Hills from Walla Walla, WA., and some absolutely fabulous Mead Wines from Sky River Mead in Woodinville, WA.

The event brought Spirits front and center displaying some of the best selections of an ever growing number of innovative distilleries making handcrafted, locally-distilled spirits from local ingredients. The unique and large gathering of distilleries at the Grand Tasting included WhistlePig® Rye Whiskey from Vermont, Idaho Distillery 44° North® was pouring their flavorful Potato Vodkas, and from Snohomish, WA. Skip Rock Distillers shared their variety of spirits.

Brews and Ciders helped round out the beverages offered. Matchless Brewing from Tumwater, WA really caught my attention with their ingenious use of flavors and easy drinking brews.

For a Good Cause

The Seattle Wine and Food Experience benefits Northwest Harvest, Washington’s leading hunger relief agency. Supporting a statewide network of 375 food banks, meal programs, and high-need schools with a focus on improving equity in Washington’s food system.

Seattle Wine and Food Experience is a whole weekend filled with the best wine, food, and beer that the Pacific Northwest has to offer, with over 200 vendors. This sampling from the Saturday Grand Tasting event is just one of the reasons for you to mark you calendar and get ready to attend the 12th Annual SWFE next year! With four days to choose from there will be something for everyone.

I hope to see you there next year.

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

A Celebration of Citrus

Citrus, the beautiful versatility of these fruits is the result of the combinations of sugar and citric acid, which create the sweet or sour tastes. Eaten alone or used in a variety of dishes, the entire fruit can be used for various culinary purposes. The rind, zest, pulp and juice can add amazing flavor to baked goods, marmalade, salads, meat dishes and cocktails.

“Taste, which enables us to distinguish all that has a flavor from that which is insipid.”
– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Today I want to share two ways to enjoy the citrus season and to take advantage of this bounty while it is available in the grocery stores and farmers markets.

Bringing some sunshine to the season with a Winter Fruit Salad.

Fresh Mandarin Oranges are usually available in the store starting around mid January.

Winter Fruit Salad with Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

In the winter fresh fruit salads can be made with the last of the Fall Harvest fruits such as Apples and Pears along with year round fruits that are available in the produce section like Raspberries, Bananas and Kiwi. When the height of Citrus season arrives a variety of these citrus delights can be combined to complete a bright and delicious Winter Fruit Salad.

For the Salad start by peeling and chopping 4 Honey Crisp Apples and 2 Bartlett Pears. Place them in a strainer filled with water and ‘Fruit Fresh’ to help the fruit from turning brown for about 15 minutes. Then drain and allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the fruit.

Peel and slice 4 ripe Kiwi, 2 Bananas and put them in bowl. Peel and segment 8 Mandarin Oranges, and 2 Grapefruits. Rinse a carton of fresh Raspberries and allow them to drain. When your fruit is drained of excess moisture, place it all together in a large bowl. One option is to add the sliced Banana and fresh Raspberries when ready to serve.

The addition of fresh citrus to a Winter Fruit Salad adds a taste of sunshine to a cold Winter Day

Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

A mild sweet dressing with a splash of Orange Liqueur.

I added the juice from a Cara Cara Orange and the zest from the fresh Mandarin Oranges, which gives a unique combination of Orange flavors to the dressing.

3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice & Zest of 1/2 an Orange
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ounce Orange Liqueur -Optional

In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients together. You may also place the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well.

The Orange Liqueur is optional but you will be surprised by the added depth that it gives to the Orange flavor.

I like to keep the Winter Fruit Salad and the Orange Poppy Seed Dressing separate and serve the two combined in single serve bowls.

Keeping the dressing separate from the salad allows the fruit to hold up better for a couple of days in the fridge.

“Mindful eating is about awareness. When you eat mindfully, you slow down, pay attention to the food you’re eating, and savor every bite.” – Susan Albers

Blood Orange Thyme Bourbon Cocktail

With the produce section of the grocery store tempting me with Grapefruit, Mandarin and Blood Oranges, my thoughts instantly go to making a delicious citrus cocktail with the fresh squeezed juice.

The key ingredient to this cocktail is the fresh squeezed Blood Orange Juice.

For 2 cocktail:

1/2 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice
1/2 cup bourbon
4 tablespoons Thyme simple syrup
Seltzer water
Few dashes orange bitters

For Thyme simple syrup: Add 1 cup water and 1 cup of Raw Sugar in a saucepan bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Add 5 Sprigs of fresh Thyme, cover and let cool for 15 minutes

For cocktail:
In a large measuring cup mix together fresh Blood Orange juice, Bourbon and Thyme simple syrup.
Add ice to 2 short cocktail glasses. Fill each glass half way with juice/bourbon mixture. Top with seltzer and a dash of bitters, garnish with a slice of Blood Orange.

A Cocktail to Celebrate the Citrus Season. Enjoy!

Purchasing your fruits and vegetables during their peak seasons, will not only allow you to enjoy them more, you’ll save money while maximizing their nutritional value.

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.