Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Black Market Stylist

People, times are tough! The Black Market world of bartering is back and TOTALLY IN FASHION!

"What's this post all about, Sharine?" you ask? Our new Black Market Hair Stylist, or as I call her, The Stealth Stylist!

Seriously, Ron and I were so desperately in need of hair styling that I was considering cutting both our "dreads," and by that I mean, "dreadful hairs!"

But we came upon a new friend from our local community.

Her hair is always interesting and angular, asymmetric and colorful.

And after a brief consultation, she decided she was willing to take on the job of trimming Ron's baby-fine and oft-unruly hair...

AND as the arduous task of styling MY HAIR (have I mentioned my outrageously picky nature before?).

We invited her over for Curry Lentils & Vegetables (with homemade Whole Wheat Pita Bread, of course.... See future post).

We discussed all manner of creativity and capitalism and naturally, FOOD!

Then we formulated a plan for the styling sessions, which took less time than my deciding to make a Curry dish that evening.

The process was fun and the hair styles successful!

Check out the shoes she wore to our humble abode!

I gave her $400 worth of clothes I don't need, and we drove her home.

I love our Black Market Stylist, and all I have left to say is:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cool & Creamy Cucumber Avocado Soup

We have a nice supply of English Cucumbers from our garden this summer. They're so mild and delicious, with itty bitty seeds that aren't bitter or chewy!

I've been making appetizers with them lately, but Ron suggested a cucumber soup.

So I searched the internet and found several different recipes that sounded good.

But because of my creative nature, I just can't help but make my own concoction out of the recipes I read!

So let's get on with it.

Here is the recipe and a few photos (the one below is topped with chopped cilantro):

1/2 cup White Wine
1 medium Onion, diced
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 large Cucumbers, peeled, chopped (I prefer English Cucumbers)
1-1/2 cups Vegetable Broth
2 Tbsp Lime Juice
1/2 cup Soy Sour Cream
1 Avocado
1/4 teaspoon Chipotle Powder (optional?!)

Saute onion in white wine for 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cucumbers and heat for another 3 minutes.

Stir in vegetable broth and lime juice; bring to a boil.

Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.

This could take 15-30 minutes.

Depending on the capacity of your particular appliance (did that sound right?!), you may need to do the following step, blending, in batches.

Place mixture in a blender or food processor, leaving at least 1/3 of the cup unfilled, as the whirling action causes food to move upward and potentially spill out of the cap... making an unnecessary mess!

Then add soy sour cream. Peel avocado and discard seed, then add to blender. Add chipotle powder.

Puree until smooth.

I usually emply the "PULSE" mode. Here's how I do it:

Turn the unit on. Engage the PULSE mode, then push the PUREE button every second, three or four times, to get the process started gradually.

After that, just PUREE until you think it's the right smooth and creamy consistency!

Chill in a covered bowl (I prefer glass or ceramic) at least 4 hours; overnight is even better. Serve cold!

Add a pinch of cayenne, a tablespoon of chopped dill or cilantro, or a few teaspoons of seeded jalapeno peppers before blending. No soy sour cream available in your small town? Omit it completely, or add another half of an avocado! FINALLY, if you can't stand the heat, don't get out of the kitchen! Simply minimize or omit the chipotle powder.

I top each bowlful with a heaping tablespoon of my fresh salsa. Yum!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Maloy O'Neill Members Party 2009 and More

Every August, Maloy O'Neill Vineyard treats its members to a fun and informative lunchtime event.

Our friend Elde, professional photographer, joined the club last September, so this was his first year at the event. Here he is with Jo, a charming MOV staff member, checking out with his wine at the end of the day!

So now that you've seen the end, let's go back to the beginning!

Here's a photo (none of these were taken by Elde!) of Ron, me and Elde at our outdoor table.
Since winemaker Shannon O'Neill is half Irish and half Italian, the event was a celebration of his super-Tuscan red wines.

Shannon and his wife Maureen did a cute lip-syncing presentation to some Italian song about a man unsuccessfully wooing a woman.

Then a representative from ACI Cork company talked about, you guessed it, wine corks! He was informative and later we met him in the barrel room. Turns out he's a fun guy, too.

Lunch was delicious: antipasto platters, grilled chicken and lamb, salad, bread, and a yummy chocolate raspberry brownie type thing!

And of course the wines were all spectacular! We're not members there for no reason!
This year, the event presented another opportunity for Shannon to sample the wine we're making at home.

Most of the grapes came from his vineyard, and we feel like his proteges! And it so happens that Shannon loves our wine!

The above photo shows Shannon standing on a stool in the middle, preparing to test our wine for sulfites to determine whether it is time to bottle the stuff.

Ron is to the left, the guy in the checkered shirt is Tim, the new cool Tasting Room Manager, and then Elde is on the right. Yours truly snapped the pic.

Next is a close-up of Shannon with the testing apparatus and a sample of the wine.

By the way, our blend includes 7 (yes, seven) red grapes and we're calling it Lucky 7: Rebel Red, due to the fact that we (inadvertently!) picked some of Shannon's reserve grapes.

Anyway, Shannon concluded that the sulfite level was exactly where it should be prior to bottling, but that we could also wait a month or two without diminishing the quality of our blend.

So that's our plan. We'll need to add a final shot of Potassium Meta Bi-sulfate to the barrel and then move it to the garage a couple of weeks prior to bottling day.

The wine needs to rest!

Then we left Maloy O'Neill before the crowd started getting too toasted to be fun.

We pit-stopped at Penman Springs vineyard, one of our personal faves.

Penman Springs is very low-key in decor, but owner Beth makes the place lively. Beyond lively! Beth is like your crazy-cool aunt who is always the life of the party and makes you feel welcome.

Elde also plays some pretty mean Jazz piano (he has a grand piano at home). He treated us to one of his favorite songs using block chords.

Then we stopped at our favorite local market and picked up a lovely piece of super-fresh Halibut for the grill, and headed back to the homestead.

Here we are on the front patio, looking not-altogther-buzzed, but very happy, indeed!

I think my teeth look a bit purple, for some reason, but Ron and Elde seem determined not to show the evidence ; )

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bottling Art's Red Wine


What a fantastic time Ron and I had yesterday!

Our friend and winemaking pal, Kevin, invited us to help another couple, Art and Susan, bottle their red wine blend.

Here's a picture of Art on his back deck, where we did the bottling.

He's holding a glass of the wine we bottled.

It was a beautiful setting on a nice August morning, in spite of the smoky atmosphere due to 7 wildfires raging through California.

Fortunately, none of those fires were in Central Coast.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Kevin and I went to Art's the previous afternoon.

We tasted and helped him decide the proportions of each of the three red varietals to go into the blend!

It was really fun.

And after several different concoctions, we all loved the 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah, and 20% Cabernet Franc.
As it would happen, that particular blend worked out perfectly with the amount of each varietal that Art had in barrels.

This is a photo of the "lower" apparatus:

A food grade tank for holding the wine blend to be bottled,

A filter, and a pump with hose to transport the wine to the deck above.

The wine ascends from ground level with the flick of a switch.

And here's where it goes!

The wine travels through a raised white small food grade container.

It's in the upper left of the photo.

The wine feeds into the stainless steel tank of the bottling mechanism, shown at center.

As Art has experienced, it's important to keep the level in the white container at a level not too low to prevent bottles from filling completely.

On the flip side, the container must not become too full, or it turns into a fountain of red wine (lovingly called "Purple Rain!").

The wine bottles came from overstock at a winery that went out of business recently.

The bottles have been in storage, collecting dust and who knows what else!

So they must be washed.

The bright red apparatus that you see to the left is a bottle washer and drying tree.

Kevin is expertly operating the bottle washer.

Basically, the dish on top holds liquid SO2.

When you press a bottle onto the upward pointing nozzle inside the dish, the solution rinses the inside of the bottle and decontaminates it.

Bottles are stored temporarily on the "tree" below.

Then it's time to fill the bottles with the beautiful blend!

Here I am, filling no less than six bottles at a time with Art's "vintage" (ha-ha) 1940s bottling machine.

Each nozzle can be adjusted to fill the bottle, via spring-loaded action, to the exact amount you wish.

And no, that is not my glass of wine in the distant background!

Mine is out of the camera shot ; )

Next, the bottles must be fitted with a suitable cork.

Here's Ron, the crazy corker, putting the wine to rest.

Ron and Kevin traded corking duties because this is a labor intensive job!

Hand corking is perfect for small volume vintners.

But corking requires major arm strength and that meticulous final "snap" to reach the desired depth in each bottle.

Corking is a thankless job, unless you cork with us!

We all really appreciate our corkers by giving them copious amounts of the wine being bottled, while they slave tirelessly!

For really sweet operations like Art's, the process and product are near pro.

The next stage is the sealing of the foil. You can see the

apparatus to Herb's left. The machine spins around the foil to fit it snugly around the bottle top.

Herb is enjoying a sample of wine while breaking from the intensive job of foiling.

Foils, or the metal cap surrounding the wine bottle, must be carefully separated.

The technique is to retrieve each foil from the stack without denting, dinging or otherwise damaging it.

Art's wife Susan and Herb, their friend, neighbor, cat-sitter, both handled foiling.

Susan had gone in the house and began preparing a lovely lunch for all of us who participated in the bottling extravaganza.

But wait!

There was still wine in the holding tank.

AND one more empty bottle that would perfectly complete the final case!

Art and Ron worked together to snatch the last drops of wine from the holding tank.

They actually poured it from that huge tank into a tiny food grade plastic beaker.

Above, you see Art funneling the wine into the last bottle.

Meanwhile, Kevin started to clean up.

People, making wine at every stage of the game is a messy operation!

Even without "Purple Rain!"

Wine spills everywhere: on your clothes, hands, shoes, the floor, the sidewalk, even into your mouth!

You need a quality clean-up team to make sure the process is professional from start to finish.

Actually, Art told Kevin to stop.

He said he'd tidy up later so that we could all take a break and enjoy the lunch Susan made.

And sample some more of that wine we just bottled!

This is a shot of Art pouring his sweet wife Susan a glass of the wine we all just bottled, while we all look on and enjoy the moment.

Kevin was looking through the camera lens!

Everyone ate sandwiches and fresh produce, olives, and a delectable smoked salmon from a local vendor that was the best I'd ever had!

(The salmon, not the vendor. Keep it clean!)

Then Art opened a bottle of a previous vintage from their Tijerilla Cellars.

It was a delicious Cabernet Franc.

We just about polished that off before heading home for a little snoozy.

Oh, and isn't that label just cute as two bugs doing the Tango?!

Signing off for now, wine makers, wine lovers, and wine drinkers!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Farmer's Market

Ron and I go to the Farmer's Market in Templeton, CA every Saturday morning!

It's close to home and we like that it's held at the community park.

This is the entrance to the Farmer's Market.

Aside from drivers who don't know what "Park Parallel" means, parking is usually available, except during holiday/parade days.

Sometimes we go straight for the Tomato stand on the corner.

When we have more time, we go to the end of the row and work our way back.

But today, we went to our favorite vendor for our usual massive amount of vegetables!

While Elde was sleeping in (just like a real vacation!), we loaded up on:

7 heads of Romaine
8 Zucchini
6 heads of Broccoli
1 head of cauliflower
1 three-pack of Strawberries
and 1 bunch of cilantro.

Sergio works the vegetable & fruit stand every week.

I can't remember a Saturday that he hasn't been in the stand.

And we've only missed three weekends in the last four years!

Sergio let us photograph him for my blog!

I'm looking forward to posting this and giving him the URL next week.

The two men who work here every week are very nice and they are VERY good and fast at math!

We also bought a bag of spicy lettuce mix from another vendor.

Total for today's Farmer's Market trip: $16.25. For ALL THIS..............!

We take several bags with us each week to avoid using more plastic bags.

But sometimes, it's necessary.

We also use a foldable, rolling cart to carry our produce around the market and back to the car.

On days like today, we have more than the cart can hold.

So I carry a bag or two. But here's the Vegetable Porter!

My work continues in the kitchen........

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wine Tasting with Elde!

Our good friend Elde came for a visit this past weekend. Unfortunately, his girlfriend Angie couldn't make it. But we managed to have fun by going wine tasting in north San Luis Obispo county, then grillin' and chillin'!

We started off at a place none of us had been to previously, Wild Horse Winery in Templeton.

According to my meticulous tasting notes (this is a practice I just started), we all fell in love with the 2008 Malvasia Bianca, a young white wine with a bold fruity nose and luscious fruit flavor.

The next pick is a varietal called Blaufrankisch, a unique 2007 red that is rich in flavor and color.

Another all-in fave is the 2006 Unbridled Syrah, a reserve red that has all the best characteristics of that varietal.

Finally, we all selected the 2007 Pinot Noir.

Nancy, our tasting room pourer, was kind enough to snap the photo above of Elde, me and Ron in front of the Wild Horse vineyard.

Then we traversed north county to Tablas Creek, out on Adelaida Road in Paso Robles. Ron and I had been to this winery nearly three years ago with friends and winemaking partners Maryella and Kevin. But it had been so long, I didn't recognize any of the wines, and the tasting room has been transformed.

We didn't take any photos because our pourer, Cindy, was lots of fun. Oh, and the wines were spectacular! Here are our top picks from Tablas Creek:

The 2008 Cotes de Tables Blanc is a refreshingly simple but elegant white wine. Two additional whites caught our palates by pleasant surprise: the 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, and the 2007 Roussanne, which we purchased and thoroughly enjoyed back at home!

As for reds, the 2006 Esprit de Beaucastel and the 2002 Las Tablas Estates Glenrose Vineyard both rocked our taste buds!

We had originally planned to head back out to the 46 West and bring Elde to Zin Alley, but we were SO CLOSE to Halter Ranch, we altered our route. Both Ron and I felt that Elde would LOVE Halter Ranch, and we were right!

It's difficult to find something unpalatable at Halter Ranch, their wines are so nice. But I'll list our picks so you can compare notes:

The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, simple and perfect; the 2006 Ranch Red -- a must buy! -- as well as the 2006 GSM. I especially enjoy the 2005 Merlot as it is lightly blended with Malbec, a personal fave, and Petit Verdot.

The 2004 Ancestor is peaking right now, and the guys really dug the 2005 El Pecado Port, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend. Ron's pick was the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon... he IS a Cab man!

Back at home, I slathered a slab of Sockeye Salmon with a coarse grain mustard and white wine rub and Ron lit the grill.

I prepped some green, yellow and red peppers along with some of our garden zucchini, then made a humungous Greek salad with all of our light-hearted ingredients.

And the night before, I had made a thick, herb-packed marinara to sauce up those grilled veggies. It went well with a roasted potato, carrot and garlic mash-up, too!

And the bottles of wine we purchased ; )

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sweet & Spicy Triangles (Curry)

Hey, food lovers! Dinner was a delicious success tonight! Main Course: a vegetarian version of spiced lamb phyllo triangles. Let me tell you ALL about the recipe, which is TOTALLY worth all your beautiful effort:

1/4 cup Golden Raisins
1/4 cup dried Cranberries
8 pieces dried Apricot Halves
3/4 cup Boiling Water
1/4 cup Red Wine
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Onion, finely chopped
6 oz. vegetarian Chicken-style Sausage (or make your own, see other posts for recipe!)
1/4 cup Vegetable Stock
1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Chicken Seasoning
1 teaspoon Curry Powder (or more, to taste)
1/8 teaspoon Garam Masala (or use a few pinches each of Cinnamon, Allspice, Cloves)
Chopped Parsley, 2 teaspoons dry or 1/4 cup fresh
Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste
Cayenne Powder to taste

Phyllo Pastry:
8 sheets Phyllo Dough (10" x 14")
1 Egg White whisked together with a few drops of water

2 tablespoons Red Wine
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup Tomato Sauce
2 teaspoons Cumin
1/2 cup Dried Fruit Liquid Reserves (see Method)

A few drops of Olive Oil or thin pat of Butter, or Parchment Paper (for prepping pan)
Vital Wheat Gluten or Wheat Flour (to thicken Sauce)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place dried Raisins, Cranberries and Apricots in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes until soft and puffy. Save the water for making the Sauce in a separate dish, and chop rehydrated fruit into small pieces.

In a large saute pan or stock pot, saute Garlic in Red Wine over medium heat until soft and fragrant, 2-4 minutes. Add Onion and a bit of additional Water or Vegetable Broth if necessary, and saute until soft, approximately 10-12 minutes.

Add the Vegetarian Sausage, Vegetable Broth, Mrs. Dash, Curry Powder, Garam Masala, Parsley, Pepper and Cayenne, along with the chopped, rehydrated Dried Fruit.

Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally until liquid is reduced, roughly 15 minutes.

(The Filling can be made up to two days in advanced and kept refrigerated until use).

Place cooked Filling in a large bowl and cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, you can prepare the baking pan and Triangle Assembly Work Station!

Prep Baking Pan:
In between stirrings, prepare a large cookie sheet by brushing with a few drops of Olive Oil or a thin pat of Butter (no more than 1/2 teaspoon) or use a sheet of Parchment Paper.

Prep Phyllo and Work Station:
Dampen a clean kitchen towel and set aside while you unfold the Phyllo Pastry sheets onto a cutting board or the counter top. Immediately cover the Phyllo with the damp towel.

Get out another cutting surface and sharp knife. Set it next to the covered Phyllo sheets, with
the prepared pan on the other side. Place the bowl of Filling and a tablespoon in your work area as well.

Now you're ready for the fun and slightly messy job of assembling the delicious triangles! You might want to have a damp hand towel in the area or wear an apron!

Remove one sheet of Phyllo dough from the damp towel and place it on the cutting surface.

Quickly cover the remaining Phyllo sheets.

Then carefully slice the empty sheet in half.

Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the Filling onto a lower corner of the Phyllo section.

EVER SO GENTLY, fold the Phyllo at an angle to the other side of the dough, forming a triangular shape.

The first fold will look like this.

If you're a lefty, it might turn the opposite direction!

Now, from this point, you would fold up the filled section of Phyllo dough UPWARD.

The next fold will go LEFTWARD.


BEFORE MAKING THE FINAL FOLD, brush a bit of Egg White onto the empty Phyllo triangle.

If there's a bit of excess Phyllo dough, trim the
top edge... if you're compulsive like me!

Make the final fold UPWARD to seal the triangle.

Place your first fantastic Triangle sealed side down on the prepared baking pan!

Continue in the same process, making sure to cover unused full sheets of Phyllo dough after removing a new one. This stuff is REALLY DELICATE!

Let's say you've either used up all the Filling and
your Triangles, or you are thoroughly exhausted from your culinary efforts.

The Triangles are beautifully resting on their very own baking pan.

Now brush them gently with the Egg White mixture.

You may choose to brush each Triangles once or twice to coat tops and exposed sides completely.

It's time to bake these beauties! Stick them in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Then relax and count the minutes until chow-time!

No such luck. If you want a SPECTACULAR DINNER, then it's time to make the Sauce. Sauces are everything, especially in vegetarian and vegan cuisine.

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, saute Garlic in the 2 tablespoons Red Wine. After a minute or two, add the Tomato Sauce and Reserved Liquid from Rehydrated Dried Fruit. Add Cumin. Cover and reduce heat to medium low, cook sauce for 20 minutes and stir occasionally.

Tilt cover to allow steam to escape (but not splatter your stove top and kitchen with sauce!) while slightly reducing and thickening the sauce. If this is not happening so much, stir in a few sprinkles of Vital Wheat Gluten or Wheat Flour.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for remaining five minutes while Triangles are browning beautifully below (or above, depending on your oven placement). And of course, you still need to set the table, or at least get a fork for yourself (these TRIANGLES WILL BE HOT coming out of the oven, my friend!)


You know what that means... the Sweet & Spicy Triangles are currying your favor and it's ALMOST time to savor!

Turn off the sauce. Turn off the oven. Get a potholder and remove the treasured Triangles onto a cooling rack.

WAIT! Let them cool slightly or you will definitely burn your entire mouth!

Place a few on your plate (it would be proper to serve your family and/or guests at the same time), then spoon a little sauce on each serving.

Always, ALWAYS, test heated foods in small amounts first to save a trip to the emergency room... or just ruining all your hard work!

Then, ENJOY!!!!!