Tag Archives: wine pairing

Gina’s Variation of Spaghetti & Meatballs

Pasta is better inhaled like a vacuum cleaner. It’s so much fun!

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti & Meatballs

 

Spaghetti & Meatballs is a comforting Italian-American dish. It is not a traditional Italian dish because the Italians prefer to eat their pasta alone without the meatballs. Meatballs are known as “polpette” in Italian, and they are consumed as a tasty second course (secondo). I have many different versions of tomato sauce, and sometimes, I use Italian sausage for added richness. Today, I am sharing with you a simplified sauce that is rustic and is a crowd-pleaser. For a smoother sauce, simply pure’ the San Marzano tomatoes. This blog post is not sponsored, but I am using the brands that I like. There are times when I combine ground beef and pork, and in that instance, I don’t use the sausage. Alternatively, you can use ground turkey for a healthier version. I use seasoned breadcrumbs instead of the traditional slice of bread soaked in milk. Generally, I don’t use grated cheese, except in my Veal Meatballs with Pecorino. Put your apron on, and follow me in the kitchen. Don’t forget your glass of wine or cider! This recipe is crafted for 6-8 people depending on their appetite. You can easily divide the ingredients to feed fewer people.

 

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti & Meatballs

 

Ingredients for the meatballs

1 ½ lbs. ground sirloin
1 ½ lbs. ground chuck
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon oregano
½ small onion, grated
1½ teaspoons sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large eggs
½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs, Progresso brand
1 handful of flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish

Preparation:

Mix well all the ingredients by hand (I use a glove because I have long nails) and form the meatballs using an ice cream scooper with a spring. Spray a large tray and place the meatballs on there. Bake them for 10-12 minutes in a 350-degree oven, turning them once. You can also pan-fry them in olive oil for tastier meatballs but this process is less convenient. Set aside.

Ingredients for the Tomato Sauce: 

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 (26.46 ounces) container of Pomi -strained tomato
1 (26.46 ounces) container of Pomi – finely chopped tomatoes
1 (28 oz.) Flora’s San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound of spaghetti
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano to taste (a lot)

Preparation:

In a large stock pot, on medium heat, heat olive oil and sauté the garlic quickly, and add the tomato paste. Stir constantly until it’s caramelized. Add the strained, chopped, and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a gently boil, stir occasionally. Add the meatballs. Lower the flame. Cover with lid tilted. Stir occasionally to avoid the sauce from sticking on the bottom. Allow 1½ to 2 hours until all the flavors marry beautifully. Toward the last 15 minutes, bring your pasta water to a boil. Add a handful of salt, and cook according to package directions. I like mine al dente so cook it for at least 1 or 2 minutes less. The best way to find out how you like it is to taste the pasta before draining it.

Mix the pasta with the sauce until every strand is coated. Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Garnish with parsley

Wine pairing suggestion:  Sangiovese-based wines such a Rosso Di Montalcino or Chianti Classico will work harmoniously with the acidity in the tomatoes.

Happy Cooking & Happy Sipping from Gina’s Kitchen!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier & Italian Wine Scholar Student (Prep course completed)
Winner of 2019 Italian Wines “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award, held in Puglia, Italy
Brand Strategist

Tiffany’s Three Moons Wines

Filet Mignon & Tree Moons Winery

Filet Mignon & Three Moons Winery Estate Reserve 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Filet Mignon

 

While a top notch wine can easily stand on its own “legs”, it can also make a magical  pairing with a luxurious meal.

Today, I present you with the Three Moons Winery Estate Reserve 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from the acclaimed Howell Mountain located in Napa Valley. Tiffany Moon is the name behind the label. She is a medical doctor and a cast member on the famous show “Real House Housewives of Dallas”.
In 2009, during her residency, Tiffany and her now-husband, Daniel, would travel to Napa to visit wineries. They were invited by a local winemaker to partake in harvesting grapes, learning about the aging and the bottling process of the wines. This experience led them to make their own barrel of a big bold red Cabernet Sauvignon in 2009. They would share the wine with family and friends. Daniel named the wine Three Moons to honor his father who founded Sam Moon stores, and his brother. Tiffany jokes that her three moons represent her and her twin girls. The Moons recently launched their private label that includes this Cabernet Sauvignon, a red blend and a Sauvignon Blanc. They turned their passion to a brand!
This Cabernet Sauvignon is not your typical weeknight wine. It’s one that you splurge on special occasions or purchase to add to your wine collection. I enjoyed this wine with my Waterford Crystal glass to elevate the experience. Every sip of this wine was seductive and boasted aromas and flavors of juicy black cherries, blackberries, crème de cassis, with a nuance of spices and freshly ground black pepper, offering a dust of dark cocoa on the mid palate. It had just the right amount of tannin with a polished astringency and not at all aggressive, well-structured, bold with remarkable fruitiness. The finish was majestically grand.
I paired it with Filet Mignon cooked medium-rare with a homemade Béarnaise sauce. (not easy😅) The richness of the wine and that of the meat created a gourmet-esque combination of flavors on my palate. This wine can be found on Three Moons Wine website.

Filet Mignon & Tree Moons Winery Estate Reserve 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Filet Mignon & Tree Moons Winery Estate Reserve 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Hope you enjoyed this food & wine pairing edition.

Happy Cooking and Sipping from Gina’s Kitchen!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
Brand Strategist

Gina’s Succulent Crab Cakes

It’s the holiday season and I want to jazz things up with some festive crab cakes and Champagne. Every once in a while I make crab cakes, and I always strive to come up with the best possible recipe. I think, I finally succeeded tonight. Generally, Blue Crabs from Maryland are used and they are famous for their crab cakes. My family gave my Maryland-style crab cakes rave reviews, and I am happy to share my version with all of you. It makes a dazzling meal but it will break the bank! I’m not gonna lie, just make up for it in January!

Servings: 6 – 8 Degree of difficulty: Medium. Yield about 12 regular-sized crab cakes or 14 smaller ones. This recipe can be divided in half to serve about 3-4 people.

Ingredients:
1/2 red bell peppers, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, chopped
Salt to taste (go easy)
1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter for frying veggies, plus more olive oil to pan fry crab cakes
2 lbs. ( 2) 16-ounce containers jumbo lump crabmeat
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. stoneground mustard
2 tsp. Creole seasoning
Sprinkle of garlic powder
4 eggs
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Freshly ground pepper

Crab Cakes and Champagne

Crab Cakes and Champagne

 

Crab Cakes and Champagne

Crab Cakes and Champagne

Bread and goat cheese

Bread and goat cheese

Beets and goat salad

Beets and goat salad

 

Preparation:

1) Over med-high heat, in a medium-sized pan, heat up olive oil and butter, add celery, onion and bell pepper, salt to taste. Sweat for about 3-4 minutes al dente to give it a crunch. Let it cool.

2) In a large bowl, combine crab meat and all the remaining ingredients. Add the veggies, and mix well with your hands (using gloves). Form crab cake patties, just like you would make a hamburger, place on a tray and chill in the fridge for at least 20-30 minutes.

3) Heat up enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large pan, on medium-high heat, (make sure the oil is hot) place at the most, 4 patties, AND LOWER HEAT TO MEDIUM, otherwise, crab cakes will come out too dark. Cook on one side for 4 minutes, then flip gently with a spatula, cook the other side for about 2 minutes. Remove promptly and place on a dish lined with a paper towel. Repeat the same process. Add more oil if necessary. You can broil them for a healthier version.

I served them with a rémoulade sauce comprising of 2 tbsp. ketchup, 1 tbsp. mayo, 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard, creole seasoning to taste. Mix well.

It would not be complete without a dazzling beet salad with goat cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar from Modena, along with crusty French bread. My family had fun smearing the cheese all over the bread for a fun experience. I hope, you will give this recipe a try, and I am certain your family will love you for it.

Wine suggestion: I paired it with a citrusy and toasty Champagne.

Pommery is a great Champagne House. The Brut Royal is made with the 3 main grapes, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, with refreshing notes of lemons and toasted bread. This Champagne is not dry nor complex and is very enjoyable. It’s lively with a touch of finesse. For $34.00 dollars, it has a great QPR (quality price ratio) and is perfect to add holiday cheers.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, &
Bon Appetit from Gina’s Kitchen!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier & Italian Wine Scholar Student
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
All rights reserved.

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

Barbera D'Alba

Barbera D’Alba

Pasta alla Norma originated in Sicily and is perfect for a small gathering. It is believed to be named after the famous opera called Norma. It’s easy and made with a few ingredients including my favorite veggie: eggplant! In this recipe, I am using whole canned tomatoes but you can use fresh tomatoes if they are in season. This is a great meal for vegetarians depending on their diet lifestyles (with or without the cheese). I served a salad with the pasta and my family ate to their heart’s content. Put on your apron and follow me in the kitchen.

Level of difficulty: Easy to intermediate

Serves 6-8 as a main meal

Ingredients:
• 1 medium eggplant, chopped in medium size
• ¼ – ½ cup of olive oil
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 – (28) ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 5-6 basil leaves cut in chiffonade, plus more for garnish
• ¼ cup pasta water, as needed
• Ricotta Salata cheese, for garnish
• 1-pound penne, rigatoni or spaghetti

Preparation:

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, on medium-high heat, heat up oil, sauté the garlic, 1-2 minutes, add the eggplant, cook while stirring for 5-7 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary. Add the tomatoes, salt, basil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes covered with lid tilted. Stir occasionally.  If the sauce is too thick, add water toward the end. (before draining the pasta). Turn the burner off.

2. While the sauce is cooking, bring pasta water to a boil. Add salt and cook al dente. You will be doing a little juggling.

3. Add drained pasta to the sauce and mix well. Serve in a large pasta bowl. Garnish with the cheese and basil.

I paired this meal with a lovely aged Barbera D’Alba from Ca’ Viola winery and it worked magically.

Other wine pairing suggestions: Nero d’Avola, a red grape variety from Sicily or any medium-bodied red wine of your choice.

Happy Cooking from Gina’s Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

Food & Wine Pairings, Thanksgiving Edition 2018

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

IMG_8053This is the third Thanksgiving season without my daddy, and I miss him every day.  Finally, I can say I am somewhat getting back into the spirit of the holidays. We don’t get to appreciate the beauty of autumn in South Florida, but at least, we have slightly cooler weather to make this time of the year more enjoyable. This is a period where families and close friends gather around a bountiful table and celebrate with food and wine. Thanksgiving is literally around the corner and it’s time to show gratitude to our loved ones. For those of you who are hosting, I am sure that your menu is in place but don’t forget to add this wine selection to your list. Today, I will help you pick some delightful wines to serve with your Thanksgiving feast. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. There are many reasonably- priced wines that will work wonders.

I want to keep this as simple as possible without getting technical with fancy wine terms. Wine pairing is subjective and everyone’s palate is different. Let’s not stress over which wine goes with what food. These are my wine suggestions to add a little pizzazz to your party and make it fun for your guests.

I recommend Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as basic wines for your cheese platters and appetizers, including seafood. Make sure the white wines are not overly chilled because this effect can take away from the flavor profile of the wines (herbaceous, lime, peaches, pears, oranges…) If you want to impress your guests, add other interesting whites such as Vermentino, Verdicchio, or a white Rioja. The list is endless and the choice is yours. Keep in mind not everyone has a palate for white wine, be sure to have some light to medium- bodied red wine such as Gamay, Pinot Noir, or a Chianti Classico.

White wines such as Riesling, and Gewurztraminer are classic choices for your Thanksgiving dinner. They both add sweetness (unless you pick a dry Riesling) and intoxicating aromas of spices, which complement the holiday theme beautifully.

Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc pair deliciously with vegetables such as asparagus and green beans.

Pinot Noir is an excellent red wine to pair with the turkey especially if you have mushrooms in your stuffing; it will bring out the characters of earthiness. There is a vast selection of Pinot Noir in the market. Check out some Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley region In Oregon. They tend to be more rustic with notes of cranberries, and they are on the earthy side. These wines are often compared to those from the Burgundy region. California and New Zealand also make great Pinot Noir. If you are on a budget, I recommend Josh Cellars Pinot Noir, Mark West, or Mark West Black Pinot Noir.

Since I am not hosting Thanksgiving, I decided to prepare a delicious turkey for my family last night. I stuffed it with a blend of wild, brown and red rice, mushrooms, sweet sausage and sage and served it with my delectable homemade gravy. I also made a green salad to complement the meal. This was all done in one day, and I didn’t have the time for the classic sweet potatoes. Sigh! The entire meal was paired with a luscious Chianti Classico Riserva that went together marvelously. The baked spices, dark fruits, and the oak in the wine intertwined perfectly with the allspice and the sage in the turkey. It was a Grand Slam with an explosion of rustic flavors.

Mark West Black Pinot Noir

Mark West Black Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

When in doubt, you can always rely on bubbles. They’re festive and vary in prices, from the least expensive to the most sophisticated. Sparkling wines and Prosecco are fantastic choices and won’t break the bank. If you are having a fancy affair, Champagne and Franciacorta are always a good idea.

Dom Perignon

Dom Perignon

de Venoge Champagne

de Venoge Champagne

Dessert wines: Fortified wines are a great choice to pair with decadent desserts. Tawny Port pairs nicely with pumpkin and cherry pies, Muscat d’Asti with apple pies, Mavrodaphne with baklava, chocolate mousse cake with Brachetto d’Aqui.

This is not a wine tasting party, and it doesn’t have to be precise. Use this blogpost as a guideline to help you decide which wine to serve at Thanksgiving. The holidays are already stressful and there are far more important things to stress over. I am also featuring one of dad’s favorite wines called Quattro Mani, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. It’s very inexpensive and has lovely hints of vanilla.
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Opus One

Opus One

Opus One is a sophisticated and complex wine, and would complement a lavish Thanksgiving dinner. It certainly would take a big chunk out of your wallet. In the end, it’s not about the money you spent, whether it’s little or a lot, what matters is the quality of time that you cherish with your family and friends.

I hope you will have some fun with these ideas and enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Wishing you a peaceful Thanksgiving from my family to yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas/Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
Culinary Personality – Certified Level 2 WSET and Sommelier
Cookbook Author: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
To purchase my book, please click here: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/

 

 

Opus One, an Iconic Wine

 

Opus One

Opus One

Opus One paired with Rack of Lamb

Opus One paired with Rack of Lamb

As my birthday is approaching, (October 26th) I thought, I’d crack open a seductive bottle of 2013 Opus One, a Bordeaux blend from Napa Valley. It’s made with 5 varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. This opulent red wine is made in the exact same fashion as a Bordeaux First Growth. The color is an intense crimson red with slow-moving legs and a 14.5% ABV.  All you have to do is, take a good whiff of it to realize that this wine is in a class of its own. The nose boasts intense aromas of cedar, chocolate, dark plums, and intoxicating spices. It has a luscious mouthfeel with hints of dark cocoa, tobacco, leather, and black pepper. The wine is dense with layers of complexity. The tannins are velvety and the finish is extremely persistent. This is a special occasion wine and I paired it with a mouth-watering rack of lamb and a delectable eggplant dish called ratatouille. The earthiness of the veggies weaved magically with this iconic wine.  A wine of such magnitude is made to age in the cellar in order to enjoy the optimal flavor profiles. However, since I have no patience, and life is passing by so quickly, I decided it was time to open it up and enjoy “Gina’s Dolce Vita” to the fullest.

The wine is perfectly balanced, and all the other elements come together harmoniously. I enjoyed sharing it with my loved ones, and it was a memorable evening. I used a decanter called vSpin to aerate it, and it opened it beautifully.

“Opus One is the realized dream of two men: Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux and Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi. Together, our founders set out to create a single wine dedicated to the pursuit of uncompromising quality. This singular mission shapes every vintage, today and for generations to come.” ~ Opus One Winery

“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.” ~ Robert Mondavi

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

I hope you have enjoyed my delightful food and wine experience. I have recently published a cookbook that contains a treasury of recipes and some wine pairing suggestions. If you would like to obtain an autographed copy, please click on this link:  https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/

CCC-Cookbook-Cover-FrontJpeg

Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust) Level-2
Level-2 Sommelier
Culinary Personality and cookbook author of: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover, LLC

Disclaimer:

Trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners, and no claim is made to them and no endorsement by them of this blog post and my cookbook is implied or claimed.

Easy Pasta Primavera

As you know by now, I love eating pasta. It is definitely my favorite starch and one of the most versatile food to prepare.  For us South Floridian, it feels like summer already but for most of you, it’s still springtime. The flowers are blooming, and some veggies are in season.  It’s Pasta Primavera time, a simple pasta dish made with fresh vegetables in a cream sauce. It’s easy and delicious.  You can use any pasta shape of your choice, but today I am using a small farfalle. They’re commonly known as bow-tie, and the meaning stands for butterfly in Italian.

Serves: 6-8 as a main meal Level of difficulty: Easy – It takes about 20  minutes from start to finish depending how fast you prep your ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. small farfalle pasta
  • 1/2 head of garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more to drizzle
  • 15 oz. whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup pasta water, (reserved)
  • 3-4 basil leaves, cut in chiffonade

    Preparation:

    1) In a large frying pan, on medium-high heat, heat up olive oil. Sautee onions for 2-3 minutes, add the garlic, and sautee until you smell the beautiful aroma. Set aside.

    2) Bring the pasta water to a boil. Add a handful of salt, and cook pasta according to package directions. About 5 minutes or so before the time is up, add the asparagus and cook in the same pot to save time. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup or so of pasta water.

    3) Turn the burner back on with the onions and garlic on low, drop the pasta, season with Italian seasoning and black pepper. Add the tomatoes and  asparagus. Slowly incorporate the ricotta, pasta water and basil.  Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Garnish with some veggies on top to make it enticing. Drizzle with olive oil.  Voila! It’s that easy!

    Wine pairing suggestions: Verdicchio , Gavi or a Sauvignon Blanc will work beautifully with this spring dish.

    Cook’s Tips

    You can use a variety of vegetables such as zucchini, green or red bell peppers. The choice is endless.  For a more flavorful version, roast the veggies in the oven, however, keep in mind, this recipe is meant to save you time. Put your own twist on it, and make it your signature dish.

    A recipe is to be used as a barometer, if you are on a salt-restricted or low-fat diet, cut back on the salt and use a part-skim ricotta cheese.

    Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Easy Pasta Primavera

Recipe by Foodiewinelover
Photo by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

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Heavenly Cheeses, Food & Wine Pairings

Hello everyone! This is probably my longest blog post to date, because it is my favorite, and most passionate subject,  Food & Wine. This explains my blog name, Foodiewinelover.  I have put together a compilation of my dining and wining experience on Heavenly Cheeses, Food & Wine Pairings.  Please do not forget to read the descriptions on all my photos.  Cheeses are among my favorite food groups, and when I’m entertaining, I love pairing them with delicious wines. There is an abundance of cheeses, and wines from all corners of the world, but unfortunately, there aren’t enough time to mention all of them.   Ideally, I love pairing cheese with the wine from the same region, or country, especially when I’m having a themed party. However,  there are no set rules about it, and, you can mix and match food and wines from different countries, as you please. There are hard, soft, and semi-soft cheeses. One of my favorite cheeses is Parmigiano-Reggiano, an Italian Parmesan cheese, aged 36 months, that I brought back with me from Italy. To me it’s considered the king of Italian cheeses, and has a lovely nuttiness to it.  According to Giada de Laurentiis, a famous Italian Chef, it’s best if you pick it with a knife, to get into all the nook and crannies, for optimal flavors.  In general, white wine is ideal to pair with cheeses because of their higher acidity content, and boost up the layers of flavors of cheeses. However, If you are not a big fan of whites, don’t fret, red wines  also make a nice pairing. Ultimately, you decide what works well with your palate. I am also sharing with you some delectable food that goes with some interesting wines.  Here are a few suggestions to impress your friends at your next gathering.

Guidalberto paired with Parmigiano Reggiano

Sexy, seductive, full-bodied, Super Tuscan, Italian wine, blend of Cabernet and Merlot – 2012 Tenuta SanGuido – Guidalberto . The color is a scintillating cherry-red. At first, floral aromas and dark cherries on the nose, then, when I swirl it, the earthiness comes out. I smell barnyard and chocolate. I swoosh it in my mouth, I get hints of tobacco, chocolate, leather, and all the flavor profile I desire in a wine. The finish is succulent and lingering. This wine pairs heavenly with Parmigiano Reggiano.

Cheese and wine pairing

Great cheese and wine pairings: Pulenta Cab from Argentina, Robert Mondavi, Emblem California Cab, & a platter of barrel aged Feta, Ginger and Mango Stilton, Pecorino Romano cheese.

Epoisse

Wine & Cheese for Dinner! Époisses, the stinkiest cheese ever. Lol! Prima Donna, a blend of Parmigiano Reggiano and Gouda, paired with La Crema, Pinot Noir. If you prefer white, you can pair with an Albarino, or a nice Chablis, (Chardonnay from Burgundy)

Manchego and Crianza

Manchego cheese paired magically with Miguel Torres Celeste Crianza, from the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. A beautiful pairing of cheese and wine from the same country.

Malbecandcheesepairing

Girls Night Out! Malbec paired with scrumptious Comte, Idiazabal and Ossau Iraty cheeses. 🍷🍷🍷

MerlotandHumboldtFog

Merlot and Humboldt Fog cheese….Pinot Noir would have been a nice choice as well

BrunellowithDeliceDeBourgogne

Le Delice De Bourgogne cheese paired with a fantastic Brunello.  If you are into white wines, another suggestion for this cheese is an oaky Chardonnay 

 

Foodiewinelover Stonecrabs

Stonecrabs paired with Champagne for my birthday in 2014

 

Foodiewinelover Bubblies

When in doubt, bubblies go with almost everything

 

Espinacas y Garbanzos

Spinach and Garbanzos, paired with a lovely white Rioja

Bai Gorri Rioja

Bai Gorri Rioja, An elegant white wine, well-balanced with intense flavors of oak, paired heavenly with an assortment of Spanish dishes, Shrimp with Garlic, Spinach with Garbanzo beans, Paella, and Manchego cheese. This was at our Spanish-themed wine party.

 

Lamb Loin Chops

Lamb Loin Chops pair beautifully with Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape or a nice red Bordeaux

 

Paella

Paella pairs deliciously with a nice Rose’

Rose' pairs nicely with a Paella

Rose’

 

Beets and Goat Cheese

Beets and Goat Cheese pair lusciously with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc

Gouda and Epoisses cheeses paired with Merlot

Gouda and Epoisses cheeses, caramelized walnuts and fig spread, paired exquisitely with Chateau Lyonnat, a Merlot from the Bordeaux region. Delicieux!

Veal Bolognese

Veal Bolognese over Pappardelle, paired nicely with a Rosso di Montalcino

Porterhouse for two paired with a Super Tuscan

Aged Porterhouse for two paired scrumptiously with a Super Tuscan

If you are a salmon lover, pick a lush Pinot Noir from Oregon, or one from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma county, California.  They both would make great choices. For any white fish, select a crisp white wine, if you want to get fancy, try a delightful Sancerre, (Sauvignon Blanc) from the Loire Valley.  If you are on a budget, stick to a nice chilled chardonnay.  Spicy food pair well with an off-dry Riesling, Viognier or Gewurztraminer. Pungent cheeses such as Gorgonzola, or Blue Cheese stand up to dessert wines, port or cognac. Sauternes, a French dessert wine, with notes of apricots,  is a nice complement to Roquefort cheese and Foie Gras. Let’s not forget about Ricotta cheese which is used in savory dishes such as stuffed shells. They make a great pairing with a nice Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, or any medium-bodied Italian reds.  Ricotta cheese is also used as a scrumptious filling in cannolis, and goes well with a Moscato d’Asti, a lovely dessert wine from the Piedmont region of Italy.  If you are looking for a match made in heaven,  my friend, fellow-sommelier, Certified Italian Wine Specialist, Angela, from Constant Wining suggests pairing a cantuccini, an Italian biscotti, with Vin Santo. We had it at one of our Italian-themed wine party, and it was a major hit, and a fantastic way to end a superb evening with fun friends. Mascarpone, is an italian sweet cheese, and one of the main ingredients in the delectable dessert Tiramisu. It can be paired with either the Vin Santo, or the Moscato d’Asti.

I am posting links to some of the cheeses that I feature in this blogpost,  so you can learn more about their process, origin, and history.

Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano, two Italian giants, are excellent grating cheeses for pasta dishes.  Gorgonzola,  Blue Stilton, Roquefort,  are considered some of the world’s most famous Bleu Cheeses. Feta Cheese is one of the most famous Greek cheeses. Humboldt Fog, is a goat milk and pungent in flavors. Epoisses is a pungent cows-milk cheese.  Delice de Bourgogne, is a French cow’s milk cheese. Manchego is a sheep’s milk from Spain. Comté is a cow’s milk from France. Ossau Iraty is a sheep’s cheese from France.  Idiazabal is a sheep’s milk from Spain.

I hope you have enjoyed some of my food and wine suggestions, and in closing, I would love to share some fun quotes with you.

“All four elements were happening in equal measure – the cuisine, the wine, the service, and the overall ambience. It taught me that dining could happen at a spiritual level.” Charlie Trotter

“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living.” Robert Mondavi

Most importantly, I enjoy sharing food & wine with close friends, and family. It elevates the experience to another level.

Disclosure: All the pictures in this blog post are my own, and were taken either with my iPhone or my Canon Rebel T3 camera.  They were shot at various restaurants, a friend’s house, and my home.

Cheers to good health and a well-lived life!

Gina, aka, FoodieWineLover 

 

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Prepping for Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Prepping for Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

 

We occasionally eat at a classic, go-to Cuban restaurant called Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine . They make a delicious Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers.  I love it so much that I decided to recreate it, and the result is amazing. I am excited to share my version with all of you.

Serves: 4-6 Degree of difficulty: Easy
Prepping time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 13-15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil + more to drizzle
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 bell peppers, green, red and yellow, cut in julienne
  • 3/4 cup garlic, chopped
  • Sprinkles of smoked paprika
  • Salt to taste
  • pepper flakes, optional
  • 1.1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1.1/2 lb. extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Preparation:

1) In an extra-large pan, over medium-high heat, heat up olive oil, sauté onions and peppers for about 7-9 minutes. Add garlic, paprika,  salt, pepper flakes. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes. Deglaze with wine. Let it reduce, 1 minute.

2)  Add shrimp,  let is simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until  shrimp is no longer translucent. Do not overcook them, as they will get chewy.

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce, using yellow peppers

 

I usually serve the shrimp over white rice like they do it at the restaurant. You certainly can use brown rice, or another grain of your choice. Drizzle with olive oil.

Wine pairing suggestions: Either use the same wine you used to cook, (make sure it’s drinkable) or a nice chilled white Rioja.

Buen Provecho!  (Bon Appetit!)

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
All rights reserved.

 

Chicken & Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant

Chicken cutlets

Chicken Cutlets

San Marzano Tomatoes San Marzano Tomato Sauce

Eggplant & Chicken Parmigiana

Chicken & Eggplant Parmigiana
I know what you’re thinking!  Is she out of her mind to do all that work. Ok, I got some “splainin” to do. When I don’t cook during the weeknight, I feel like I let my family down, because they enjoy my cooking for the most part. I had class one day, and by the time I got home, I looked at the chicken cutlets, and said to myself, what am I going to do with them? I decided, I wasn’t going to cook, and order in. That’s what we did. The next day, I still had to come up with an idea for the chicken. I wanted to dress it up, and make up for not cooking the night before. I found an eggplant in my veggie bin, had plenty of eggs, olive oil, and seasoned breadcrumbs. The lightbulb went on in my head, how about making a Chicken & Eggplant Parmigiana combo. It was crazy but I had my mind-set on it. I normally make eggplant parm or chicken parm separately, but this time, I decided to combine them. This dish was a big hit, and when I saw the smile on my family’s face, I knew I had redeemed myself. I must admit, I was happy with the result. Of course, my kitchen was a mess, but it was worth all the work. I suggest you make this on the weekend when you have some time to spare, and I promise you, your family will adore you for it.

This is a recipe that I created in My Kitchen, and I’m excited to share it with all of you.

Serves: 4-6
Level of difficulty: Medium-difficult
Total time from start to finish: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Ingredients: (1st set)

  • 1.25 – 1.5 lb. chicken cutlets (thinly sliced)
  • 1 eggplant, sliced
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Lots of seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Lots of extra virgin olive oil, or regular olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. fresh Mozzarella, sliced
  • Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

1) Season eggplant with salt and pepper, let it sit for at least 10-minutes. Dip the eggplant in eggs, then hold it for a second to remove any excess, drench in seasoned breadcrumbs. (always shake of excess) . Do it one at a time, (eggs, +breadcrumbs) Place them on a dish.  Time to pan-fry them.

2) On medium-high heat, cover the bottom of a large pan with olive oil, pan fry the eggplants in a single layer, 3 minutes on one side, and 3 minutes on the other side. Remove, and repeat the same method over.  It’s ok, if oil is a little dirty, add more oil, if necessary. Set the eggplant aside. If you feel like the burner is too hot, just lower the heat a little.

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 1 large can of whole tomatoes, (San Marzano)
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large basil leaf, torn
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup or so of extra virgin olive oil

    Preparation:

    1) In a medium-sized saucepan, on medium-high heat, heat up the oil, sauté the garlic for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, and crush them using a potato masher.  You can also use your hands to crush them before putting them in the pot. Drop the basil, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for about 15 minutes. While the sauce is simmering on low, you will be preparing the chicken.

    2) Season chicken with salt and pepper, dip in eggs, and seasoned breadcrumbs, set aside. In the meanwhile, clean up the pan you fried the eggplant in, (just drain old oil, and wipe clean with a paper towel. Start with some fresh olive oil. You will be using the same method as the eggplant. Pan fry for 2 minutes on one side, and 1 minute on other side. Do not taste the chicken at this point, as it may not be fully cooked. It will finish cooking in the oven. Work in batches, then repeat the same process over.

    3) By this time, the eggplant, the sauce and the chicken are ready to be assembled in a large casserole baking dish.  Spread some sauce on the bottom of dish,  arrange the chicken, (as much as you can fit) add some sauce, grated cheese, Mozzarella, layer with eggplant, and repeat. You may end up with an extra piece or two of chicken, just fit  them somewhere, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You are not building a house, LOL!  Finish with Mozzarella on top.

    4) Bake in a 375 degree F. oven for 15 minutes and broil for 5 minutes.

    Tip: Always make sure oil is hot before frying, otherwise, the eggplant will come out soggy and drenched in oil.

    I hope you will try this delicious dish. If you are on a budget, you do not have to use expensive brands. Any canned tomatoes will do the job, and some regular parmesan cheese. If fresh mozzarella is too expensive, just use the packaged ones.

    Pairing suggestions: A lovely Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile, or a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. You can find the last one reasonably priced.  They are all Italian wines, as I like to pair the cuisine and the wines from the same country together. Sometimes, it can even be broken down by region, especially in Italian cooking,  where many dishes are very regional.  Ideally, you would pair the dish with a wine from the same region.

    Buon Appetito!

    Gina, from Foodiewinelover

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