A new season is finally here! How about a few wine suggestions to go with Spring? I’ve got a red, white and sparkler for you to kick off warm weather. Give these California dreamers a swirl:
[Bubbles] Gloria Ferrer Sonoma County Brut, NV $18ish (I believe you can find this baby at Trader Joe’s for around $15). A gracious sparkler with great taste and a surprisingly low price. Bright spiced apple with golden pie crust flavors and a smidge of strawberry. Made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, she’s a spirited little sparkler by herself or with food. Serve with sushi or roasted chicken.
[White] 2018 Gundlach Bundschu Estate Vineyard Gewürztraminer, $25. GB is one of my favorite wineries to visit in Sonoma. Their historic tasting room, like their wines, is steeped in tradition. Check it out if you find yourself visiting California wine country. This wine smells like fresh peaches and blooming jasmine- heady and fragrant. With 10% oak aging it is a subtly round and rich glass with flavors reminiscent of Charentais* melons. Crisp and Dry.
[Red] 2017 Benziger Family Winery, Monterey Pinot Noir. OK, so this might be my other favorite Sonoma Winery. I was lucky to stay there as a guest many years ago. As a gardener, I LOVED visiting their vineyard and learning about bio-dynamic farming. Super kind folks with a collection of consistently good wines. This one has the lovely earthiness you’d hope for in Pinot Noir. It also tastes like strawberries. With a little warm spice in the mouth, this one’s a crowd-pleaser. Perfect with grilled meats. $20
*Pro Tip: Charentais is a French musk melon. Kind of like cantaloupe but better.
Beans and rice are inexpensive, nutritious foods that, when combined, form a complete protein. Your body needs protein to build and repair tissue AND you need to eat. This simple but satisfying dish is high in protein, iron, dietary fiber and B complex vitamins. When visiting New Orleans this month and still very limited in what I can eat following bariatric surgery, I chose a cup of beans & rice at most restaurants I visited. (#BariHack- loads of protein and the soupiness makes it very easy to eat.) The dish is available everywhere, very tasty and usually offered in the small portion I was looking for. It was less than $5.
In researching the origins of the dish, I discovered that Mondays have historically been the day associated with Red Beans and Rice in the Crescent City. Why? Well Mondays were traditionally laundry day. Since this was a weekly chore and completed by hand in olden times, it took the greater part of the day. Ladies needed a nutritious dinner that they didn't have to devote much attention to. A culinary masterpiece and tradition were born.
The restaurant who's version I enjoyed the most was a fun but touristy joint on Julia Street: Mulate's. Billed as "The Original Cajun Restaurant" it was packed late on a Sunday night and filled with live Zydeco music. To be fair, it was the only version I had that was made with spicy sausage, but I loved it and tried to recreate it below. Give it a whirl and see if you don't start adding it to your Monday routine, too.
Red Beans and Rice (A Nod to Mulate's Restaurant in NOLA)
1 lb. spicy cajun sausage (I like Aidell's Cajun Style Andouille), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 sweet bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. red beans, rinsed
11 cups water
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
4 cups cooked rice (Mulate's used white, but I like brown and wild a little better)
In a stock pot, brown sliced sausage over medium-high heat, remove from pot. Add onion and sauté until it begins to brown. Add bell pepper, garlic and celery to the pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook until veggies have softened. Add beans, water, salt, and cayenne. Boil gently, uncovered over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add browned sausage and 1/2 cup warm, cooked rice to each bowl before serving.
Pro Tip: While I LOVE the spicy sausage, smoky Tasso ham would be a great substitute for sausage.
Pro Tip: RB&R freeze well.
@Mulates @NOLA #redbeansandrice #barihacks
I’ve been in New Orleans all week, enjoying some excellent food and wine. One of the loveliest parts of fine dining that most of us don’t think to include normally is an after-dinner drink. Many have properties to aid in the digestion of food and some are just a lovely treat. One such wine is Madeira and it’s popularity has been growing in the last few years. Again.
Madeira is a fortified wine that’s made in Portugal. They are made of different grapes and labeled with accordingly. From driest to sweetest they are: Sercial, Verdehlo, Bual and Malmsey.
When serving Madeira, be sure to have it at room temperature and never serve it over ice. Pour a few ounces into a glass, ideally with an elongated, tapered bowl. This provides plenty of room for wine to display its aromas for you to enjoy while sipping.
If you’re new to Madeira, these three are winners!
Blandy’s NV Alvada 5 Year Old Rich Madeira, $15. Not too sweet, this one boasts walnut and dried fig flavors. With a somewhat acidic finish, this would be delish served after steak or with some strong blue cheese. Amber in color.
I love the Broadbent NV Malmsey 10 Year, $49. Reminds me of Raisinettes: grapey and chocolatey with just the right amount of sweetness. This one is rich and full bodied and an excellent choice with dessert. Golden. I enjoyed a few sips after an exceptional dinner @GWFins.
My very fave is from a series of highly stylized Madeiras. Rare Wine Company NV Historic Series Charleston Sercial Reserve Madeira, $40 (pictured above). The idea of the series was to replicate America’s deep history with Madeira and each wine is named for a city where the wine was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Not sweet and like an enormous mouthful of caramel.
Try a glass after dinner. Cheers!
@BlandysMadeira @Broadbent Madeira @RareWineCompany
#MadeiraWine #Portugal #NOLA #GWFins
July 3, 2018: I've been struggling since then with a decision. Should I, or should I not keep my health journey private. Typically I put my cards on the table but this has been different. I grow, cook and teach other people about food for a living. Have you ever heard the saying, "Never trust a skinny cook"? This has been on my mind.
A bit of background is helpful here. I have struggled most of my life with my weight. I've always loved food. Exercise, not so much. Between 1995 and 2000 were the healthiest years of my adult life. I was recently married and pre-babies. I was working in the restaurant industry, but wasn't working super late nights. I was starting to garden and life was pretty fun. Fast forward 20 years and an easy 100 pounds later: I knew I needed to make some changes.
Looking back its easy to see how I stacked the deck against myself (sorry for taking this card analogy all the way). I bought a restaurant in 2001, promptly required major back surgery and followed that up with two beautiful babies in three years. The baby weight never left and the rigors of restaurant and bar life took hold. It was rare that I ate dinner before 10 p.m., I never went to be prior to 2 a.m. and those babies, well let's just say that I rarely slept more that 5-6 hours. My husband also worked in the industry and we found our struggles multiplied by two. Oh, and the stress. For those of you who haven't worked in the hospitality industry and skip Gordon Ramsay on TV, restaurant work is stressful. Kitchen folk work hard and play hard. All these pieces came together for me in a nasty way.
Over the years I'd tried just about every diet out there with little success. I sold my restaurant in March of 2018 and after a few months of decompressing and enjoying circadian rhythms, I was ready to get to the root of the problem: Why was my relationship with food so toxic? I certainly had the technical skills to create healthy dishes that didn't skimp on the delish. Yet, I didn't. So I started a journey last summer. I spent almost 8 months in a medically supervised weight-loss program in preparation for gastric bypass surgery. Yes, I know. That's pretty drastic. What I learned over the course of eight months was that I needed to do a ton of "mind work" about food. (If you need resources on this topic- drop me a line as I've got mad suggestions.)
That work has been done and I finally felt prepared for surgery at the end of February. I'm pleased that I decided to add this powerful tool to my arsenal. I'm having great success with my weight goals, but the best part is that I can love food in a healthy way again. I was truly conflicted about ditching the livelihood that has been so good to me & felt as though I'd be some sort of culinary Judas. Not so. I'm striking a balance.
Why am I sharing all this? First, I think many of us battle issues with food and I wanted to be transparent about my own challenges. Food addiction is a crazy thing. No other addicts in the world HAVE to indulge in their obsession to live, except those with food addictions. Everyone has to eat to live and this makes a food struggle unique.
I also want to be clear that I'm much more cognizant of nutritional value than I have ever been. Always a proponent of whole foods and growing what we eat, I will present a subtle shift in my work that stresses health. I often share Pro Tips with my recipes and you will start to see some Bari Life Hacks for those on a @bariatricjourney. I pinkie-promise that every recipe I share will still be a triumph.
For those who use my Private Cheffing, I will be working with clients to address and accommodate dietary challenges. Collaborating with your doctors, allergists, trainers and homeopathic consultants is becoming a focus. More on those home services will be added in the upcoming days.
#privatechefindy #gethealthy #eatfreshcookfresh
When I was in high school, most of my friends and I worked at a hip gourmet pizza place called Some Guy’s Pizza Pasta Grill. If you find yourself in Indy, Some Guy’s is still around and I highly recommend it. A few years into business, the owners of the restaurant decided to build a traditional wood fired pizza oven and developed a kick-ass menu to go along with it. Correct me if I’m wrong, Charley Sterne, but I believe it was the first of its kind in Indianapolis. A hulking brick behemoth, it became the restaurant’s showpiece: visible to the entire dining room.
My careeer at SG was multifaceted. I started out as as a hostess and buser, before begging to work in the kitchen (almost exclusively male back then). In the kitchen, I began as a dough roller before mastering salads. After what seemed like eternity, I was trained on the regular pizza line before I finally moved to the wood oven. I learned to make delicious appetizers, pizzas and baked pasta dishes. Not only was making the food fun, but keeping the oven and fire at appropriate cooking temps and learning to rotate the food so it cooked evenly and never burned was a challenge. Once I had the hang of it, I was hooked. For perspective, I left SG to open my own place in 2000 and haven’t cooked in that oven since. In all the world and out of all the ovens I’ve cooked in, that one is still my favorite.
I’ve always made pizza at home and dreamed of having my own wood oven one day. Well, friends, that day is coming. Last summer, I extended and expanded my back patio. I added a dining area that’s covered by a pergola. I added tons of landscaping and even a permanent brick barbecue. My elder son, Franky is a champion charcoal barbecuer and had been dying for one. We researched, watched a bunch of how-to videos and did it. The grill and prep areas exceeded our expectations and Franky barbecued all summer.
As our confidence as budding brick-layers increased, we decided that we’d make plans for a pizza oven. Alas, by the time we started, summer had turned to fall and it quickly got too cold for us to complete BUT we did get half the base built. Our midwestern forecast shows some 60 degree weather in the upcoming days and we’ll be back at it. Stay tuned for progress photos.
Not only am I psyched to make some old favorites, but I’m looking forward to new challenges like baking bread. That’ll be a blast to experiment with and I’m sure my neighbors will enjoy the extras. What excites me the very most? Being able to pull veggies from the garden, rinse them under the hose, toss them with handfuls of fresh herbs and chuck them in the new oven to roast. The produce won’t even make it into the house. Can’t get much fresher fare than that.
Some Guy’s famous lasagna nestled near the fire in their wood burning oven (below). Photo Credit: Charley Sterne.
@someguyspizza @nancycarey @charleysterne #woodfiredovens #brickpizzaovens #cookingalfresco
I’ve had great fun playing with bread recently. I thought I’d share a tiny triumph today. You know, one of those wee victories that comes about when you take a chance?
One of my go-to boule recipes calls for a decent amount of salt. I was running low on regular so I took a look at my fancy (aka finishing) salts to see if something could sub.
I decided on one that wasn’t subtle and crossed my fingers. In full disclosure I picked it because I had a ton: @SanFranciscoSaltCompany Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt.
The result is a lovely rustic bread with a subtle smokiness. This is THE perfect bread to play off the bacon on your BLT. It also would be amazing as grilled ham and cheddar. My family will enjoy warm slices tonight with their pot roast.
Dont be afraid to experiment! Sometimes you’ll end up with a winner.
My kids are huge fans of banana bread. I’m fairly certain they always leave a few bananas to over-ripen on purpose. While I’ve had a tried and true recipe for years, I’ve recently developed this version for my eldest son, Franky. He’s one of those Nutella freaks!
This recipe is chocolate-hazelnut banana bread. Not too sweet, but full of flavor.
CHOCOLATE-HAZELNUT BANANA BREAD
1/2 pound coconut oil or 2 sticks unsalted butter
11/ps cane sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
3 ripe bananas
1 cup yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
4-6 oz Dark Chocolate Bar, chopped
It’s too early to start seeds. Plans have been made and varietals selected. Garden season is pretty dormant in Indiana for the next month or so. As a result, I’ve turned to my pantry. As spring approaches, I try to use up the remaining frozen and canned goodies from last year’s harvest to make room for what’s coming.
Lots of spaghetti sauce-based dinners are happening at my house. Grilled cheese with tomato bisque and spoonfuls of eggplant caponata, too. Sausage and mad kraut. It’s fun to get creative with what’s on hand and tidy up at the same time. An organized pantry and freezer bring me joy. @MarieKondo
Using home-grown foodstuffs allows me to know precisely what’s in the food my family eats and lightens the grocery bill, too. I highly recommend trying to preserve at least one thing you grow, each summer.
Because of a very prolific cherry tomato plant, I made a ton of dried tomatoes last year and packed them in olive oil. Not only are the tomatoes sweet and chewy, but the flavored oil is delicious for dipping or sautéing. I have an excess of those little jars so I decided to make a batch of an old favorite.
Though I thought I’d never miss this dish (it was the top seller at my restaurant for nearly 20 years and I was OVER it), I find that I have. It is delicious and versatile. Many people have asked for this recipe over the years, and because it was a signature dish, I didn’t share it. It’s time to spread the love. I give you: Gemelli Pesto.
Before the recipe for sun-dried tomato pesto you’ll need to know what the other ingredients are and how the dish is assembled. Gemelli is a noodle shape: a pasta twist, about two inches long made from two pieces of bucatini (hollow spaghetti). To prepare a serving, you have already cooked the pasta “al dente” and drained it. 1.5 cups of cooked noodles per person is the portion I use. The sauce (again, per person) is as follows: 1/4 cup of Sun Dried Tomato Pesto (recipe below) in a skillet over medium heat. Whisk in a 1/8 cup of heavy cream. When the sauce begins to bubble, toss in the noodles and stir gently to combine. Pour the dressed noodles onto a dinner plate and top with 1/8 cup of fresh chèvre, chopped fresh basil and slices of warm, grilled chicken breast. Multiply as needed. Bon Appétit.
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (sunflower seeds are fine, too)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
1/8 cup crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a blender or food processor, combine all but the last ingredient. Blend until very smooth. Slowly pour in olive oil and continue blending until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days. Also freezes well. Oh yeah, it's spicy.
Every new year brings trends in fashion, design, food and music. Entertaining is no different. 2018 saw everything from ultra-violet décor, loads of copper everything, wonderland-themed weddings, geometric shapes in table scapes, lucite accents (the clear chair!), comfort food and let’s not forget the Über trendy “Hygge” style of laid back and cozy Danish entertaining. Whew!
So what’s on the horizon for 2019? First up is certainly anything that is PANTONE color of the year: ”Living Coral”. We haven’t seen this beauty since the early nineties and it promises to be all over the hippest soirées, especially weddings. Graceful swans are in the spotlight too and may show up on cakes, invitations, showers and even kid parties. Other hotties will include “orb balloons” and we’re still seeing monochromatic color themes.
Looking for party-ware? Since “sustainable” is the name of the game, real plates, glass and silverware is new again. That’s right, no more paper if we’re all trying to reduce our carbon footprint. Pull out those lovelies hiding in your dining room and put them to use. And you thought you’d never end up using that wedding china! I’m thinking about high tea in my garden! Domestic diva, Martha Stewart is sharing how-tos for an eco-friendly fiesta.
I’m happy to report that vintage is still cool and the traditional Cocktail Party is back at the pinnacle of hip (was it ever really gone?) but make it current with do-it-yourself drink stations featuring ALL THE FRESH HERBS (Bourbon Bars and Tequila Tables) and “mock tails”.
But the entertainment. Thank heavens the photo booth is on the way out and being replaced by more golden oldies: Tarot Card Readers, ventriloquists and caricaturists. Fun! Coordinate your music with a DJ playing all the Motown or wow the hipsters with bluegrass (Broad Ripple’s oldest show, “A Touch of Grass” plays house parties (email@example.com). I see you, too, Polka Band! For the kiddos, add a play area to your event, with jumbo building blocks, bingo or Twister.
For actual kid parties, Liz Bates (Bates Black Tie- Event Planning | firstname.lastname@example.org) takes play to a new level in ’19. “ Although traditional parties for kids are always a hit, expect to see parents take more of a hands-on approach in the DIY area. This makes for a unique and fresh take on the modern day kids party which the entire family can enjoy.” In the warm months, the fam could pitch in to build a new dog house to welcome a new puppy (great birthday gift) or duh, plant a garden! The possibilities are endless.
With so many fun, but not over-the-top party ideas in this new year, entertaining can be fun, unique and affordable. Be extra. Be EXTRAordinary. Cheers!
Looking for a special Valentine bottle? Show your love some love with one of these great options that won’t break the bank. I’ve got three pretties to share: a white, a red and a sparkler. Just because its good doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Cheers!
The white is Hugel Gentil, 2014 is an Edelzwicker (blend) from Alsace, France. It’s heavy on the Gewurztraminer with smaller amounts of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat. A full-bodied and refreshing wine with a beautiful perfumey nose. In the glass are crisp fruit flavors with a lean, lemony finish. A great choice with fish and shellfish alike. This wine is an old favorite of mine that is consistent from year to year. Dry and $15.
2015 Charles Smith Wines “Velvet Devil” Merlot, $14, is from Washington. A dense red wine that begs for beef dishes or dark chocolate dessert. Expect a mouthful of dark cherries and blackberries, big cedar and sweet tobacco. Velvet Devil offers big flavor in a luxurious, velvety smooth finish. This one goes down fast and easy.
This unique sparkler is bone dry and dark red with pretty pink foam. Midici Ermete I Quercioli “Secco” is a Lambrusco from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and will set you back about $15. This works beautifully with cheesy pasta dishes like Ravioli and is also a successful choice with clams, mussels & oysters.
@Hugel @CharlesSmithWines @MidiciErmeteIQuercioli #ValentineWine #WinesUnder$20
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.