If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that my past two posts included recipes for a no-bake lemon cheesecake and lemon ricotta cake. Last week between voluntary lockdown (I live in Florida, the COVID-19 epicenter,) the Hurricane Isaias threat and heat, I just didn’t feel like baking. So, today’s post is about an unexpected surprise and tasty Upside-Down Lemon Cheesecake made by Pots & Co. that has made its Southern U.S. debut.
In Pots We Bake
Pots & Co. bakes their delicious desserts in ceramic pots because it gives them depth and creaminess, plus doubles their fridge life. Once you’ve tasted one though, I doubt that they’ll be in your fridge for long! In addition, the pots are reusable and besides using them to bake something new, try something decorative. For example, check out this nice display of plants using Pots & Co. pots.
Dessert with Conscience
For anyone watching their weight, no dessert is guilt free. However, in times like we’re now living, I am the first person to advocate for indulging your sweet cravings! Rest assured, the portions are small enough to satisfy them without breaking the calorie-counting bank.
Most importantly, the pots and packaging are eco-friendly. Even if you don’t reuse the pots, they are recyclable. Moreover, if you add them to the regular trash by mistake, they are biodegradable and release only the Spanish clay in which they’re made of, back into the earth.
A Full Range of Yumminess
I received a box of four Upside-Down Lemon Cheesecakes, but as you know I love chocolate (check out next week’s blog for a new recipe.) I think I’ll next try either the Chocolate Fudge Lave Cake, Chocolate & Salted Caramel Lava Cake, or 70% Chocolate Ganache. You can find the complete range of flavors and heating instructions (if needed) here.
From London to Your Fridge
Good news! Since June 15th, Pots & Co. desserts can be found in the U.S. They’ll be sold at Costco in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Yes, Florida! 🙋🏻♀️
In Pots We Trust
In 2014, founder Julian Dyer had a dream with determination. Having grown tired of the restaurant world, he wanted to bring proper desserts to people at home. Julian explains, “I was standing in a lemon dessert factory and there wasn’t a fresh lemon in sight. I’m a chef – this didn’t make sense. So I started making potted desserts using top ingredients.”
There’s something very nice about guilt-free consumption. In Pots & Co., we trust that quality with conscience can be a regular, if not a daily addition to our table and home. I hope you can try them and if you do, let me know in a comment below!
There’s nothing pleasant about living in South Florida these days. This year, the stifling heat and humidity are minor burdens compared to the reality of living in Florida, the COVID-19 epicenter. We’re just sitting and watching our impending, pandemic doom. Read it to believe it here. So, when life gives you lemons, make an easy no-bake lemon cheesecake.
Here’s the recipe below and some history about this famous saying at the end 👇🏼 – just keep scrolling if you’re not making this dessert. However, I suggest that you do because it’s a great finish to a BBQ dinner.
Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugars in a medium-sized bowl. Add melted butter and use a fork to combine ingredients well.
Pour mixture into a 9″ or 10″ springform pan. Use the (clean!) bottom of a measuring cup to firmly pack crumbs into the bottom of the pan and gently press up the sides. Use your fingers to pack crumbs tightly into the sides of the pan.
Place in refrigerator or freezer while you prepare cheesecake filling.
Pour Lemon Jello gelatin mix into 1 cup very hot water and stir well. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, stir cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth and well-combined.
Add sour cream and stir well.
Mix in vanilla extract.
Only once Jello mixture is no longer hot to the touch, gradually pour into cream cheese mixture. Stir slowly at first (to avoid splashing) and then increase speed until mixture is completely combined (pause to scrape down sides of the bowl periodically). Stir very well.
In a separate bowl, pour your heavy cream and use an electric mixer with whisk attachment to beat to stiff peaks.
Fold whipped cream into cheesecake mixture until well-combined.
Fold in lemon zest, if using.
Pour over graham cracker crust and transfer to refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight to chill.
If desired, top with whipped cream before cutting and serving.
I made two versions. For the second one, I used strawberry Jello because I needed a July 4th dessert. It came out pink, so I added a strawberry to the center and outlined the no-bake cheesecake with blueberries and whipped cream. Hooray for the red, but really pink, white and blue! 😊
The lemon version is a much tastier and more sophisticated dessert, because it doesn’t taste at all like Jello. Next year, I’ll just add some red food color to the original, no-bake lemon cheesecake recipe.
When Life Gives You Lemons
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is a memorable proverbial phrase that many of us like to pull out of our pocket and slap on like a Band-Aid, when something goes wrong. The phrase originates from a obituary titled, “The King of Jesters” penned by Elbert Hubbard who was inspired by the life of a disabled, but highly successful, dwarf actor.
In stressful times such as now, we turn to these words of wisdom and hopefully, find positive ways to escape. For me, it would be a visit to a museum, walk on the beach, or lunch with a friend. However, these simple solutions are now like unattainable luxuries as Floridians struggle to stay healthy and economically stable.
I’ll continue to temporarily forget by escaping to my kitchen and “make lemonade (or lemon cheesecake) from lemons.” However, it’s getting harder…
P.S. I am very thankful for all you who have shared this recipe. I was asked to post it in Spanish and Italian, so there are links at the top of the recipe. I am not fluent in Spanish or in Italian, so I used Google Translator. So, excuse any typos! 😊
I’m so antsy, aren’t you? South Florida summers aren’t pleasant, so since I won’t be hopping on a plane any time soon, I need to find ways to bring travel to the table.
Two Spanish Tapas Recipes and Rioja Wine
Take me back to Spain! It’s time relive vacation memories by making two classic Spanish recipes: Huevos Rotas (Potatoes with Broken Eggs,) Espinacas con Garbanzos (Chickpeas with Spinach,) and drink a Rioja Gran Reserva (Tempranillo.)
I’ll get to the WSET 2 studying part near the bottom of this blog 👇🏼. It’s important too, so keep reading…
Traditionally, this is a Tapas dish and not a side or breakfast!
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 pounds new potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces if necessary
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Lemon wedges, for serving
Flaky sea salt, for serving
In a measuring cup, combine the olive oil, paprika, red-pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, a generous grind of pepper and 1 cup water. Put the potatoes in a large skillet and pour the olive oil mixture over them. Then, bring the potatoes to a boil, then cover and cook on high until the potatoes are fork-tender, 6 to 9 minutes.
Uncover and turn the heat to low. If the potatoes are sticking or dry, add more olive oil. Next, arrange the potatoes in an even layer, cut side down if halved, then add the onion and garlic surrounding the potatoes. Finally, cover and cook until the potatoes are golden-brown and the onions are softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
Stir the potatoes (if they’re sticking, add more oil). Make 4 nests in the potatoes and crack an egg into each. Season with salt and pepper and then, cover and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny, 4 to 6 minutes.
To serve, break the yolks gently with a serving spoon, then scoop some potatoes and an egg onto plates or into shallow bowls. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and flaky salt.
1/2 cup prosciutto cut into strips (optional) – I skipped this part and substituted baby spinach
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, simmer the onions and garlic in olive oil until they are soft but not browned. Add the chickpeas, crushed tomatoes, parsley, oregano, cumin and prosciutto, if using, and simmer for 30 minutes more.
Taste the mixture and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. If it does not seem moist enough, add a little of the reserved chickpea liquid or some olive oil, or both. Serve lukewarm with a green salad and good bread and butter or garlic oil.
Note: Since I was serving Serrano ham and Manchego cheese on the side, I skipped that part and substituted baby spinach instead. Simply stir in about 2-3 cups into the chickpea mix until the spinach wilts, but still keeps a bright green color.
The Pairing Wine: 2004 Viña Olabarri Gran Reserva
80% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano, 8% Mazuelo
I love Spanish wines, but the majority that I’ve tried are quite powerful. They work well with Spanish and Latin food that’s not spicy, but seldom would I think to drink one without food. However, the 2004 Viña Olabarri Gran Reserva is definitely a Rioja wine that I’d sip while reading a good book. I’ve never had a Gran Reserva wine before, so it was a treat to experience a wine that had been aged for 36 months in French and American oak barrels, plus cellar aged for another 36 months!
Here are the tasting notes provided by Viña Olabarri:
Color: Deep ruby red color with subtle brick red hues on the rim from the ageing process.
Bouquet: Intense aromas of black fruit and spices, with a mineral hint.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, integrating beautifully the rich ripe fruit with the sweet spices provided by the oak.
A pleasant, clean aftertaste of remarkable harmony.
A Little History
Viña Olabarri was founded by Pablo Olabarri Bikandi, who since 1958 spent long periods of time in Haro; due to his love of Rioja wines, in 1985 he decided to buy an old 19th century winery in Calle las Bodegas, in Anguciana.
As a result, the need for bigger, more modern facilities to make the wines took him to build a new winery in the outskirts of Haro in 1989, with capacity to hold 4,000 barrels and up to 800,000 bottles.
His son, Luis Olabarri is currently in charge of the winery.
It’s Test Time!
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I’ve had my nose in a glass and a pile of wine books for some time. I started the Society of Wine Educators Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) course, but was finding it difficult. Although I can master self-study, I really needed to begin my wine journey with some guidance.
One good thing that’s come from the COVID-19 pandemic, is that there has been a plethora of new opportunities to learn online. I’ve wanted to take a Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) course for some time, but found it difficult to find the time. Also, since Florida Wine Academy is located in Downtown Miami, getting there once I finished my workday would have been a challenge. Shortly after participating in a couple Florida Wine Academy’s free Zoom webinars, they announced that the WSET 2 would be offered online. I immediately registered!
Registrants have the option to purchase the wine packs through them, but I found the required wines either near my home or at Wine by the Bay in Miami.
The course is six weeks and I’ve completed that part and now am studying for the exam. It’s been an exciting journey so far and the most important thing I’ve discovered, is that I’m still a Wine Newbie and loving it. This trip will take a lifetime and just when I’ve mastered one part, I realized that there’s so much more to discover.
This education is brain stimulation and tasty and I look forward to many more food and wine pairing weekends!
Wine Newbie Resources
Here are some additional resources that I found useful to enhance the WSET text and workbooks:
“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.”
― Benjamin Franklin
If you have a useful wine education resource to share, feel free to post it in a comment below. Plus, if you have your own Spanish tapas recipes or a Rioja wine to share, tag me in your photos on Instagram! Or, let me know how you bring travel to your table.
Today’s blog pays tribute to my mother and includes two cherished Canadian desserts: Nanaimo Bars and Butter Tarts. My Mom wasn’t a very good cook, but she loved to have people over for dinner and no one ever turned down an invitation. The problem with my mother’s cooking was that she was too limiting, for example: lesser quality ingredients to save money; less salt because sodium isn’t good for you; and she was British. Let’s face it, when it comes to food England isn’t France or Italy. Growing up, I suffered through a fair share of Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, Bubble and Squeak, Bangers and Mash, Trifle and Plum Pudding while silently wishing that I was born Italian.
On the other hand, my frugal Mom could bake and she never skimped on butter, sugar, chocolate, or whatever ingredient was needed to make dessert. The best part about mediocre suppers (as a Brit says) was that on special occasions, we could eat at least two kinds of desserts and Christmas was a sugar smorgasbord! It’s these memories that inspire today’s dessert menu — just keep reading a little more…
It’s now Week 10 of the now relaxed, stay-at-home order. Since I’ve always worked remotely and anyone who I deal with is also doing the same, there’s nowhere yet to really go. I’m not so sure either if I’ll be heading out soon for a socially distant lunch, shopping spree, or nail appointment. Will you be?
In May I Mourn
Today, marks nine years since my Mom passed away. As soon as May arrives, it’s like a dark cloud sits over me. No matter how fast I run from this cloud, it follows me. Like so many people in these current circumstances, who are saying their last goodbyes from a distance, I can relate. My Mom lost her battle with cancer one week after Mother’s Day. I sat in my backyard while she was at a hospice center in Canada, when we cried through one of our last conversations – a Happy Mother’s Day wish. It wasn’t happy, but what could I say?
The Reasons Why I Blog
Yes, I won’t deny it – I do blog for SEO. What writer or business owner doesn’t? However, my “call to write” is because of the following:
I write because I can express myself so much better than in spoken words.
I want to be heard because sometimes the people closest to me aren’t listening. I also want to be heard by others and I do appreciate the feedback received on social media.
Expanding on the latter point, I hope that someone else identifies with my subject and is inspired to cook, bake, drink wine, learn more about art, etc.
Finally, I write to leave something behind. When you lose a loved one, you hold tight to memories and material things such as photos, birthday cards, letters, Fine China – anything to keep that person close long after they’re gone. This blog is for my own children. Currently, they are slightly annoyed that they can’t eat before I get the perfect photo. However, maybe one day they’ll treasure these recipes and ramblings.
Unless you’re from Quebec, it’s really hard to define Canadian food. However, I’m delighted to share a couple of my favorite desserts that are apparently indigenous to Canada (not England.) There’s an interesting history to Nanaimo Bars (named after a city in British Colombia) and I suggest you read it here. If you visit B.C., you can follow the Nanaimo Bar Trail! Although there are many versions of this recipe, I’ve adapted the one created by the winner of the 1986 Best Nanaimo Bar Recipe contest held by the then, Mayor of Nanaimo. You can find Joyce Hardcastle’s recipe here.
½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter (preferably European-style cultured butter)
5 Tbsp (75 mL) cocoa powder
¼ cup (50 mL) granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ¾ cups (425 mL) graham wafer crumbs
1 cup (250 mL) shredded coconut
½ cup (125 mL) almonds, finely chopped (Note: I didn’t use nuts. See Blog Bloopers below.)
1. Pour 2 cups (500 mL) water into bottom of double boiler. Place on stove over medium heat and bring water to simmer.
2. In top of double boiler; combine butter, cocoa and sugar; place over simmering water. Heat, stirring, until butter has melted and mixture is smooth.
3. Add beaten egg; stir until thick. Remove top of double boiler from heat. Stir in graham wafer crumbs, coconut and almonds.
4. Scrape into parchment paper-lined 8-inch (2 L) square baking dish. Press firmly to create even bottom layer.
5. Tip: If you don’t have a double boiler, half-fill a saucepan with water and heat over medium heat until water begins to simmer. Then, place a metal or glass bowl over the simmering water and proceed as directed.
½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp + 2 tsp (40 mL) whipping or heavy cream
2 Tbsp (30 mL) vanilla custard powder
2 cups (500 mL) icing sugar
With a mixer, cream together butter, cream and custard powder. Gradually add icing sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Scrape over bottom layer, smoothing top with spatula or palette knife.
4 oz (115 g) semi-sweet chocolate
2 Tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter
In clean double boiler, melt chocolate and butter together. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. When cool, but still liquid, pour over custard layer.
Cover and refrigerate until cold. (About six hours.)
Unless I’ve forgotten, my mother never made her own Butter Tarts. It was a dessert staple and a cheap sweet treat. There are versions of this recipe that include raisins, but I never liked them included then so certainly will not add them now.
2 ¼ cups flour, pastry flour is best to use but all-purpose will do
1 tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening, Very cold and cut in cubes
1/2 cup butter, Very cold and cut in cubes
6 tbsp ice water, approximately, enough to bring the dough together
1. Pulse the cold butter and shortening into the flour sugar and salt using a food processor until the shortening or butter is reduced to pea sized pieces.
2. Sprinkle the water over the surface and toss with a fork until the water is just incorporated into the dough. Do not over work the dough; handle it only enough so that the dough stays together.
3. Form the dough into two rounds about an inch thick.
4. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for about a half hour.
5. Roll out on lightly floured surface. Cut into rounds with 4 inch cutter. Fit into muffin cups. Chill in the fridge or freezer while you prepare the filling. Cold pastry heading into a hot oven will always be flakier.
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
(Optional: ½ cup raisins, substituting, pecans, walnuts or chocolate chips.)
1. Combine all filling ingredients except raisins.
2. Mix well.
3. Sprinkle raisins in a single layer in the bottom of the pastry lined muffin cups.
4. Fill 2/3 full with syrup mixture.
5. Bake on bottom shelf of oven at 425 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes.
6. Cool completely on a wire rack and remove tarts from from pans.
Baking is an exact science and if you want to improvise, stick to cooking. A few things went wrong:
(1) For the Nanaimo Bars, I only had a rectangle baking pan and an 8-inch round, springform pan. Because of a nut allergy, I added more graham cracker crumbs to make up the difference. With too much crust crumbs on my hands, I had to decide between discarding some of this mix to fit in the round pan or fill a rectangular pan. I did the latter and what a mistake! There wasn’t enough custard filling and spreading it thinly was a disaster (see below for the lesson learned.) I then made more ganache to cover up the mistake and avoid a sweet tragedy!
(2) For the Butter Tarts, I did not make my own crust, but plan to do so in the future so I left that part in. As you know, some items are hard to come by, so I substituted store-bought pie dough for pastry flour to make a dough from scratch. I then cut the full size pre-cut pie dough into small circles by using a glass. Note: anticipating a gooey baked mess, I also used foil cupcake liners that I later removed once the tarts had cooled.
Wine of the Week: Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Crozes-Hermitage Silene 2017 from Wine by the Bay.
(3) When conceiving a blog post, I usually plan the wine and prepare the meal before I take the photo. Because I had already opened this bottle the night before for dinner, I had just presumed that a Syrah would work with a chocolate dessert. While this pairing wasn’t bad, it wasn’t perfect. The Crozes-Hermitage Silene 2017 is a gentle beauty and a nice expression of this style. It paired well with my French-inspired dinner and I’ll write about it next week!
Can Actions Speak Louder than Words?
My mother never told me that she loved me. It’s strange to grow up never hearing those three words and although I struggle to say it myself, I make sure that the ones I love hear it maybe not every day, but enough. I honestly can’t understand why it was so hard, but as I failed to evenly spread the middle layer of Nanaimo Bars, I thought of my mother’s perfect centers: yellow and creamy and not a crumb from the first layer mixed in. (I guess it may have taken her a few times to get it right.)
It’s at that moment when I realized that maybe what she couldn’t express in words, she was able to say in her dessert making. A way for her to communicate, like writing is to me.
The kitchen is where we deal with the elements of the universe. It is where we come to understand our past and ourselves. ~ Laura Esquivel (Author of Like Water for Chocolate.)
If you are grieving loss or have lost a loved one during the COVID-19 Pandemic, here are a few helpful articles.
Wake me up because I’m tired of dreaming. It’s Week 9 of the stay-at-home order, although some of you may have started quarantine either later or earlier than me. I typically never recall my dreams, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been able to vividly retell what took place during REM before I’ve had my morning espresso. Some nights I’m being screamed at by someone because I forgot my mask, or I’m lost in a supermarket, or living back in Canada (I’ll get to that next week.)
I wondered if I was the only one who was having weird dreams, so after doing some searching, I discovered that scientists have documented why and how the coronavirus is affecting our dreams. There’s even a website called Lockdown Dreams and you can share your experiences with others. I’m sure that’s therapeutic for some people, but frankly, I’m tired of remembering. Why would I want to read about other people’s life-like nightmares?
I began running around five years ago, but really started taking it more seriously and working on a mind-body regimen about a year ago. Where getting in a car to go basically nowhere hardly gives me pleasure, running now gives me a sense of freedom and purpose to weekends with nowhere to go. Running is my superpower. What’s yours?
Daydreams Are Different
For a week I daydreamed about making Risotto with Sausage, drinking Barbaresco (see below,) and most importantly, taking a virtual trip to Italy. Thanks to Wine by the Bay in Miami, a Saturday tour of Pier Paolo Grasso’s Azienda Vitivinicola Pier (located in Treiso, Piemonte) gave me a chance to forget those stressful trips to the supermarket and an inbox filled with work requests mixed with a barrage of breaking news headlines.
The Zoom event was perfectly orchestrated by Wine by the Bay’s owner, Stefano Campanini. After signing up, a small group of “travelers” received a bottle of Barbaresco and video link to a pre-recorded demo by Sara, Pier Paolo Grasso’s wife who explained step-by-step how to prepare the dish. While we had lunch in our kitchens, the Grasso’s enjoyed dinner overlooking their vineyard! The video tour was divided into three parts starting with a 360° look of the estate; followed by the cellars; and concluding with the bottling and packaging areas. In between, we chatted, ate lunch and drank the wine pensively, but filled with excitement because we could hear insights from the winemaker himself!
Possibly it was the 14% ABV, but by glass number two, I felt like I was sitting in the same room with everyone. Imagine, guests from Washington, Texas, Florida, Quebec, and Piemonte enjoying this great experience together!
The Wine: Azienda Pier by Pier Paolo Grasso – Barbaresco Riserva Piccola Emma 2007
The Nebbiolo grapes used for this Riserva come from La Fenice vineyards. After vinification in steel, Piccola Emma 2007 was matured for ten years in 50hl oak barrels. Bottling took place in December 2018.
The wine sports a charming garnet color, a rich and elegant olfactory emerges, initially dominated by notes of red currant and morello cherry jams which, in a short time, reveal hints of dried violet and undergrowth as well as a slight blood tinge; a vertical balsamic vein runs through the bouquet giving it an intriguing olfactory three-dimensionality.
Note: I didn’t write this description. You can read the full review here and run it through Google translator if you don’t speak Italian. You can find some more history of the winery and a nice photo of Pier Paolo and Sara here.
If you hadn’t read this far, you would have missed out on the best part, or maybe the second best part, or equal parts. Alright, the wine and recipe tie for first place!
While it was not the first time that I’ve made risotto, it was the first time that I’ve made it with a newly opened bottle of Riserva red wine. Trust me, those tears shed from losing a half cup of Pier Paolo’s Barbaresco to this dish will quickly dry up when you taste your perfect pairing!
1 c arborio rice
4 – 6 cups of hot chicken stock
1 small onion
1 tsp of Thyme
¾ c of chopped Baby Portobello mushrooms
1/2 c of Piccola Emma (or quality red wine)
4 sausages each cut into thirds (I simmered the sausage in a bit of water until almost cooked and had acquired a little bit of color.)
2 tbsp butter
1 c of grated Parmesan cheese (save some for topping the dish or shred some more and reserve until the end)
1 tbsp chopped Parsley
Using a wooden spoon, gently sauté the onions in olive oil and a dash of salt until translucent.
Add the mushrooms and Thyme and stir until soft adding more olive oil if needed.
Stir in the Arborio rice and coat with oil and lightly toast.
Add the wine, stir and simmer until it evaporates.
Add the first 3 or 4 ladles of stock until the rice is just covered with broth. Let the rice gently simmer, stirring frequently.
Repeat this step a few more times until the rice is “al dente.” When you run your spoon down the bottom of the pot, the rice will separate and you see a clear line.
Remove from heat and stir in first the butter until it is melted and combined, followed by the Parmesan cheese.
Cover for a 5-10 minutes before serving.
Note: Since I had prepared this ahead of time because I had a work commitment before the trip, I left the rice warming over another pot filled with some steamy, hot water. If your rice dries up, you can add a splash of broth (or cream) to make it creamier.
The End Is A Beginning
This pandemic has thwarted our sense of purpose and to work without the reward of time off or a vacation is extremely hard. However, dreams help us prepare for adversity. So when you wake up, keep remembering that where the bad dream ends, there’s still a day filled with possibilities, plus a daydream or two to keep us going — This too shall pass.
“I have had dreams, and I’ve had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.” – Jonas Salk
Note:Dr. JonasSalk first tested his vaccine against the polio virus in 1952 before announcing to the world in 1955 that a viable vaccine against the feared virus was now a reality. Albert Sabin followed Dr. Salk a few short years later by licensing an oral version of the polio vaccine in 1962.
Resource: Talking about your dreams may be a good idea if you are feeling anxious. Read more here.
It’s Week 8 of the Florida stay-at-home order, although things are slowly starting to open up. However, if you take a look at traffic and social media, you’ll know that people are flocking to the marinas and any open recreational spaces – public beaches are still closed. We may have to redefine “slow.”
It’s also May 5th or Cinco de Mayo. Typically, bars and restaurants are crowded with people who don’t mind invading each other’s personal space while downing Margaritas and Mexican-ish finger food. You’ll have to grab your Mexican food curbside this year and hopefully, bought your Margarita Mix and Tequila earlier than today. Since liquor sales are way up, you last-minute planners may find yourself drinking wine, like me!
DYK that May 5th is the 126th day of the year since 2020 is a leap year? According to Wikipedia, this day marks the approximate midpoint of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and fall in the Southern Hemisphere. There are also 239 days left in the year. However, who’s counting because since the start of the pandemic, we’re just taking life one day at a time. And, even if you remember what day of the week it is, it just doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
Cinco de Mayo
I don’t know much about Cinco de Mayo other than it’s a day when people get drunk and eat tacos. So just in case you don’t know much more than me, I figured it’s time to dig a little into the history. First of all, it’s not Mexican Independence Day – that’s on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo officially commemorates the anniversary of an early victory by Mexican forces over French forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is not the anniversary of the defeat and expulsion of the French forces by the Mexicans, which occurred in 1867.
It’s also not a United States national holiday, but is meant to be a day to celebrate Mexican culture, plus the achievements and experiences of Mexican-Americans. So narrowing down the day from celebrating achievements and culture to a drunken, Tequila fest is really sad. However, not surprising: 💰kaching 💰.
Feeding Five Under 25 $: Making Soft Tacos/Tostadas from Scratch
Since this is a recipe blog post, I’m not going to go far into taco history. If you’d like to feed your food geekiness, I urge you to read this article by Smithsonian Magazine. Otherwise, I see tacos in this way: You can purchase a bag of Maseca® corn flour and chop up and season leftover meat, quickly feeding a lot of people for just a few dollars! So, that’s what I did.
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons water
Note: The original recipe says peel the garlic cloves, but I left them on and then removed them from the skins once broiled.
While the tomatillos, garlic and peppers cool, chop up the onion that has been rinsed under water.
Add all of the ingredients into a blender and blend to the desired consistency.
Soft Tacos/Tortillas/Tostadas (Found on Kitchn, but this recipe is also on the corn flour bag)
2 cups masa harina
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups hot water (hot tap water is fine)
Mix the flour and salt and then add the hot water. Stir until combined.
Knead the dough with your hands directly in the bowl. Add more water or masa (sparingly) to get the desired consistency: it should feel like playdough.
Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for 15 – 30 minutes. Note that it won’t rise like regular bread dough.
Roll a few tablespoons of the dough to make golf ball size balls.
Flatten with a tortilla press that is covered with plastic. ]
Note: I don’t own one so the bottom of a small pot worked and then I just tossed it by hand to thin it out a bit more. The plastic wrap separating both of the flattened ball helps.
Warm a cast iron skillet on medium heat until you can feel the heat an inch above the surface.
Cook the tacos on each side for about 2 minutes.
Remove and keep tacos warm in a dish towel.
I’ve used, on two separate occasions, leftover beef and chicken combined with sausage as the filling. Gently warm the meat in a pan and add some of the homemade taco seasoning. Combine and add a few tablespoons of water and then simmer until the water evaporates. Remove from heat and cover the pan to keep the filling warm and moist.
I used shredded cheese, homemade guacamole, salsa verde, tomatoes, sour cream and a dash of sriracha. However, choose your own and what you have on hand.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope you are planning to make your Cinco de Mayo just a little more authentic and before you get drunk, think about the great things that Mexican-Americans have contributed to the US.
Mexican food is far more varied than people think. It changes like dialects. ~ Gael Garcia Bernal
Recommend Reading:Gael García Bernal: ‘The pandemic has taught me that I need something to say.’ Or, if you don’t have time to read this article, give his statement some thought: There’s something more straightforward now in how we see things – it’s stronger, more elemental and pulsating. We’re so emotionally charged. Artistic expression can affect us for the better, making us feel we’re all in this questioning together.
TGIF and Happy #GarnachaDay! Following a hurricane postponement of the Miami Home Show and rushing to get all of my work done and in place before flying to Spain, I began ignoring emails and was too busy to send what looked like junk to trash.
A quick glance at one particular email made me think it was a press pitch or sales offer. I was in fact, ignoring a politely written message offering me wine from Cariñena. A few days later and on the same day that I’m flying to Madrid, a follow-up email came through. I responded with an apology and passed up on the opportunity, quickly noting that I was on my way to Spain in pursuit of interesting wine stories.
After declining an invitation to have it sent to my hotel in Spain, to my delight the sender insisted that the wine be sent to my home so that it arrived in time for Garnacha Day, September 20th.
So, here I am on September 20th writing a little tribute. Due to the time crunch, I’m not going to be very original here, so if you need to find the source of the facts below, I heartily ask you to visit my gracious host, Vinos Cariñena (DOP) here: https://wineregiontowatch.com/
You can also follow them on Instagram and Twitter @vinoscarinena
Since it will take me a while to do some further research, here are some important facts:
The Aragon region of Spain is the land where Garnacha cultivation began in Roman times.
The vineyards of Cariñena lie in northwest Spain, rooted in the dry rocky soils that cover a 32-square-mile plain on the south side of the Ebro River valley, halfway between coastal Barcelona and dry, inland Madrid, in the autonomous community of Aragon which was once a medieval kingdom.
In Aragon, there are 5 Denominación de Origens (DO) of which Cariñena is one. Can you name the other 4?
DO members had to resist the temptation to uproot their gnarled heritage vines ranging in age from 40 to over 100 years that each yielded, on average, a measly two pounds of grapes.
DYK? In 1932, Cariñena is the second wine region in Spain named an official “Denomination of Origin.”
While older vines yield less fruit, their grapes yield more complexity and more concentrated flavors than those grown on young vines.
During the ripening season, temperatures drop 30°F (15°C) helping grapes hold their acidity levels high as they build sugars and phenolic ripeness in daytime. This results in flavor intensity and structure particularly in the appellation’s Garnacha and Cariñena/Mazuelo vines.
Single-varietal Garnacha wines are common throughout D.O.P. Cariñena. Old, bush-trained Garnacha vines abound here, some more than 100 years old.
Characteristics of Garnacha from Cariñena are: cherry, mandarin, red currant, white pepper and licorice
Founded in 1953, Bodegas Paniza is named for the village where the winery is located, and where growers have cared for their vineyards for generations. The winery is situated in the highest elevation area of D.O.P. Cariñena to the south, at the rise of the Sistema Ibérico Mountain range, which brings cooling influences even in the peak of summer.
The flagship of the winery is almost 200 acres of old vines, ranging from 50 years in age to a vineyard first planted in 1906 with Garnacha, Cariñena, Tempranillo and Moristel varieties. These singular plots produce very low yield, highly complex fruit and are entirely hand-harvested to preserve them for future generations.
Fábula Garnacha from Bodegas Paniza | 100% Garnacha
Black cherry colour with violet bues. Intense aroma of forest fruit, especially blackberries and black cherries. On tasting it is smooth, open, fleshy and well-structured.
Grandes Vinos has the distinction of working with vineyards in each of the 14 growing areas of D.O.P. Cariñena.
About one third of the company’s total production is dedicated to Garnacha, although the company is also well known for the local Cariñena variety and many others. The range of vineyard plantings allows the winemaking team to isolate a tremendous specificity of styles and to parcel-select wines for young, value seekers such as Beso de Vino, or cellar-worthy selections, including Anayón.
Beso de Vino Garnacha Viñas Viejas 2017 from Grandes Vinos | 100% Garnacha
A lively purple color with fresh and fruity aromas of blackberries, strawberries and cocoa powder. It’s easy drinking with flavors of crushed berries, cherries and a touch of toast.
A leading winery since 1944, Bodegas San Valero (Grupo BSV) has the longest history in Cariñena and has benefitted from access to some of the most prominent vineyards in the region for over 70 years.
San Valero focuses on indigenous varieties which account for 70% of plantings, including 25% dedicated to Garnacha. A long history in the region brings key advantages – some 20% of their Garnacha is classified as “old vines”, ranging from 30 to 100 years of age and situated at extreme altitudes in very rocky soils. These low-yield plots are cultivated with meticulous care to produce complex wines with rich flavors and a signature minerality drawn from ancient layers of stone.
Sierra de Viento 2018 from Bodegas San Valero | 100% Garnacha
Attractive cherry red color with blue sparkles. Elegant and fine aromas with a touch of ripe red fruits over a flowery background. Fresh and tasty in the mouth with an ample and elegant finish.
I’m not sure which wine I should try first and I will also need to find a suitable pairing. To be continued…
There are some days when I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction. ~ Salvador Dali
Until next time, keep your glass empty and your inbox full. You never know what tasty surprises may arise before you click delete.
I’m back from Spain and what better way to celebrate Wine
Wednesday than with an authentic Spanish food and wine pairing?
Unlike Madrid, it was a challenge to find a good
selection of wine by the glass in Granada. Possibly, it’s a cost consideration
or because many restaurants cater to tourists who even without knowing Spanish,
were able to say, “Tinto, Ribera or Rioja.” (Note that Ribera del Duero is a
mouthful, so saying Ribera is good enough.) While a glass is a bargain at about
3.50 Eu, you can get a glass of Granada wine for 2.50. Even the cheapest wine
is good wine, but expect only simple and pleasant juice.
Luckily, if you want a better choice, buying a bottle of wine is very affordable and if you want good food, it’s best to stray from the tourist path. In the case of Granada, that means wandering the hilly streets, turning sharp corners and getting lost. I found the best way to find a good restaurant was not to look at the menu, but see which ones were inhabited by locals.
The lower end of El Albaicín (Albayzin in Arabic) is filled with tea houses and Moroccan restaurants. While I’m sure many are great, the streets are crowded with tourists and peddlers. Head up to Paseo de los Tristes where the street opens up to a stunning view of the Alhambra. On Saturday, there is an artisan market and whether you are sipping on Cava like me or just soaking in the views, you’ll enjoy being serenaded by gypsy musicians or even more so, gentle breezes that flow between the River Darro and Alhambra set high above on one side and the hills of El Albaicín on the other. This district is worthy of its own blog post, but if you need to know more, here’s a good start. One very important thing not mentioned in this article is that in 1994, El Albaicín was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Typically, I find the dish to match the wine, but since I’m not the one cooking, the star of this post is the food. I am reluctant to say fusion because today, that seems to denote trendy experiments. Perhaps, the synonym “blending” would be more accurate. Southern Spanish/Mediterranean cuisine with international flare, while uniquely paying homage to Azafrán/Saffron – the world’s most prized and expensive spice. DYK that saffron was once used as currency? Read more here.
In a recent interview with Ruta del Azafran’s Head Chef, Antonio Martínez, he says: “The gastronomic panorama of Granada is difficult, but full of possibilities.” Martínez elaborates that gastrotourism is minimal in Granada and the majority of tourists are seeking Tapas and drinks. Read the full interview here.
Here’s what I ate for lunch on two separate occasions.
(If my stomach and time allowed, I would have tried the whole menu!)
Milhojas de manzana y queso de cabra con
reducción de Pedro Ximénez
On this trip and in pursuit of wine education, I was
determined to discover wine beyond Tempranillo and regions other than Rioja and
Ribera del Duero, as well as focus on modern Spanish winemaking. As mentioned
above, I was disappointed not to find much selection in Granada, but
fortunately as time went on, variety found me and most times by accident.
While you may not pair sparkling wine with steak, it’s a
suitable pairing for starters, seafood and lighter dishes and of course,
enjoyed just by itself. Dominio de la Vega, Idilicum Cava Brut is made from
100% Macabeo (an indigenous Spanish grape called Viura in Rioja.) Dominio de la
Vega is a family winery located in the Valencian region of Utiel-Requena,
within the Denomination of Origin of the same name.
Background Info on the Winery: “A high plateau of destitute clay and limestone soil, with an altitude that varies from 600 to 900 meters. The climate is continental with a great Mediterranean influence: very cold winters and very dry and hot summers with scarce rainfall. The altitude and the sea’s influence give our cava and wine their features, like their freshness and great maturity.” Read more about the harvest here.
As you may know Cava is made in the traditional method just like Champagne (le méthode champenoise.) If not, it would be labeled as sparkling wine. If you are unfamiliar with this process, a Cava specific introduction can be found here. As noted in this article, the main types of grapes used in the production of Cava are the Macabeo, the Parellada and the Xarel·lo – all of which bring their own unique characteristics to the sparkling wine.
If you are more familiar with wine, you may find this article written by Jancis Robinson quite interesting: Macabeo/Viura – the Cinderella grape? After reading it, I realized how fortunate I was to drink a wine made from 100% Macabeo and hope that in order to inspire the demand for it, you try Idilicum too.
El poema, la canción, la imagen, son solo agua extraída del pozo de la gente, y se les debe devolver en una copa de belleza para que puedan beber, y comprendan ellos mismos. ~ Federico García Lorca
The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink – and in drinking understand themselves.
Federico García Lorca was born in Granada. His works were banned during Franco’s dictatorship and he was executed by the Nationalists during the Civil War. While visiting Cuevas del Sacromonte, I was fortunate to hear an actress from Extremadura recite one of his poems .
Granada is magical. Google Maps won’t take you where you should be. The magic begins once you resign to getting lost.
Until next time, keep your glass empty and let it be filled with spontaneity. Pair it with a dish of curiosity and may it lead you to deeper understanding of both yourself and the world.
If you’ve been following my Blog or are connected with me on social (@AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape,) you’ll know that I’m slowly making my way through the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) Certified Specialist of Wine Guide. I’m on Chapter 11. Don’t ask me when I’ll be done, because I don’t know. I spend my whole professional life a slave to deadlines so, I’m in no hurry and enjoy getting lost in the process.
It’s been a long time since I’ve applied myself to studying
and I’m not sure even when in University, if I ever studied correctly. However,
at this stage of life it just doesn’t seem good enough to memorize facts and
strategize on how to pass a test. I want
to really learn wine, so going beyond the textbook is a satisfying journey.
There’s so much out there: YouTube, podcasts, the internet at large, and of
course, “applied” studies – Cheers!
I’m fascinated by soil and climate conditions and, in the case of Spain, time spent studying Spanish film and art has become so much more meaningful. For example, in the films of Carlos Saura or Victor Erice, the use of metaphor was a means to project ideas about life under the Franco dictatorship without being censored. A desolate landscape (La Meseta,) the countryside and the forest, are symbols of Spain’s isolation from the rest of the world and a sociological emotional state. Now, there’s really no connection to Spanish wine here, but to me every time I read about a region, a scene from a movie pops into my head!
The Wine: 2017 Bodega Javier Sanz Verdejo
This delicious white wine is made from 100% Verdejo grapes
from the Rueda DO ( Denominación de Origen.) Rueda was formed on a former
riverbed of El Ebro river. As part of Castille y Léon
encompasses the northern part of La Meseta Central. Whereas, Ribera del Duero
is known to produce some of the best Tempranillo wines in the country, Rueda
produces the region’s best white wines. Many of the Javier Sanz’s vines are 40
The Rueda region is characterized by extreme weather
conditions — hot in the day and cold at night. The vines grow like bushes,
close to the ground allowing the grapes to ripen at night in soil that has
retained heat, but are protected by extreme heat during the day.
Isn’t nature grand?
Tasting Notes: Javier Sanz Verdejo is the best expression of Rueda and its terroir: Youthful and bright, with light shades of green. In the nose, its shows fresh and lively varietal notes of sweet grapefruit and pineapple, combined with anise and fennel as well as floral aromas. Bone-dry in the palate, its medium body is coupled with a crisp, refreshing acidity that make it perfect to drink at all times. Read more here.
The Javier Sanz Viticultor “philosophy is
based on the conservation of pre-phylloxera vineyards, local grape varieties,
and the recovery of varieties that have almost become extinct.”
The Dish: Baked Red Snapper
I paired the Verdejo with baked Red Snapper
with pine nuts, garlic, slices of fresh tomatoes, lime zest and olive oil. On
the side were roast baby potatoes and sautéed asparagus. A little bit of
research, spontaneity and cooking instincts was my recipe. Oh yummy!
Some Thoughts on Modern Spanish Winemaking
In Spain, modern winemaking is focusing more
on its origins such as cultivating indigenous grapes, revitalizing varieties
beyond Tempranillo and showcasing regions other than Jerez and Rioja. There is
a growing confidence among winemakers to produce wines that have a unique
Spanish character, but moving away from traditions of being fermented for long
periods in oak. Balance, freshness and quality…read more here.
During my stay in Spain, I hope to discover more modern wines and taste some that are made specifically by indigenous Spanish grapes whether that be a varietal or blend.
Just as it is important to preserve culture
and traditions, I think these new ideas of creating a truly Spanish wine
characteristic is exciting!
It is common knowledge that grapes do well in
the poorest soil conditions where they have worked hard to find water and
nutrients. The growers cultivate the plants, making sure that the right type of
pruning and vine training systems correspond to the climate and conditions.
Some of the most outstanding people have come from dire conditions. If things come too easy, we can take life’s opportunities for granted. It’s cliché I know, but we should give it some deeper thought every now and then.
Man takes root at his feet, and at best he is no more than a potted plant in his house or carriage till he has established communication with the soil by the loving and magnetic touch of his soles to it.
― John Burroughs
Until next time, keep your feet on the ground and glass full of wine. There’s a tradition to keep and a life lesson to be told.
Just when I thought I knew something about grapes, I
realized that I was wrong. I’ll be forever a wine newbie, but I’m happy about that.
Today, I’ll tell you why.
I’m now working on Chapter 4 of the SWE textbook, I’ve begun reading another textbook that focuses on Italian grapes, plus any other wine literature that captures my attention. I’ve discovered that the root (pardon the pun) of my growing interest in wine is vested in viticulture (or wine growing.) However, the more I read, the more I’m stumped. Pardon the second pun.
G is for…
Grapes: Did you ever wonder why wine comes from grapes and not apples or cherries? For one reason, no other fruit has so many varieties that are grown commercially. And, within the varieties, grapes develop different characteristics based on factors such as soil, climate and the way they are cultivated and harvested aka “viticulture.” Then, you have to examine all of the factors involved with fermentation, aging etc. There are so many variables in the evolution of that little bundle of juice!
Gargantuan: In Italy, there are 590 indigenous grapes for wine and more than one million vineyards. Yes, just in Italy. You can get the global picture here. It’s gargantuan.
Genetics: As you dive into the sea of wine knowledge,
you may find yourself like me drowning in terminology: clone, hybrid, grafting,
mutation, cross, etc. Now, the wine scholars may not appreciate my
oversimplification of wine, but when it comes to genetics, I’ve broken it down
to three major branches of understanding:
(a) Science: If a wine grower wants to attempt to keep
producing a successful wine-making grape, reproduction can’t be left to the
“birds and the bees.” Among other factors, he/she may rely on cloning or what I
like to think of as the single parent, vine child. Read more about clones here.
(b) History: I’ll get more into today’s wine shortly, but genetic
studies of grape varieties have disrupted some popular assumptions. For
example, Italian grapes thought to have originated in Greece may in fact, not
have. It could have been a marketing tactic during a time when Greek wine was
thought of as superior to Roman wine. I’m not making this up. Jancis Robinson,
one of the world’s most respected wine critics and journalists has presented
this DNA focused argument found here.
(3) Research: Climate change and an ongoing need to manage diseases with the least amount of chemicals possible, depends upon grape genetics research while avoiding GMOs. In March, Wine Spectator wrote that the federal government is allocating 68.9 million to build a grape-genetics research lab.
The Wine: Fonzone, Greco di Tufo 2017
Now here’s when things get really interesting (or confusing.) Greco is a grape variety or type and Greco di Tufo is the name of the denomination in Campania. There’s a bunch of other grapes (not another pun?) that sound like Greco, but are not related, genetically speaking. Straying from the letter ‘g,’ Malavia di Lipari is apparently the exact same as Greco Bianco that’s not related to the Greco. Greco Bianco is a grape. Greco di Bianco a denomination. And neither has anything to do with today’s wine. Got it?
The Greco grape of Greco di Tufo, is the oldest grape variety of the province of Avellino in the Campania region of southern Italy. If you ignore the Jancis Robinson article referenced above, Google’s highest ranking articles say that it was imported from the Greek region of Thessaly by the Pelasgian peoples.
FACT: Foreigner didn’t sing it first! A fresco at
Pompeii that traces back to the 1st century B.C. has an inscription
that says: “You are truly cold, Bytis, made of ice, if last night not even
Greco wine could warm you up.”
When learning about a new wine, here’s the part I love the
most: how the technical data paints a sensorial picture.
The Fonzone Greco di Tufo is made of 100% Greco from Santa
Paolina and harvested in early October. SOIL: sandy clay with veins sulphurous
underlying; ALTITUDE: 500 m above sea level; EXPOSURE: south-west; YEAR OF
PLANTATION: 1994; PLANTING DENSITY: 2600 stumps per hectare; VINE TRAINING
SYSTEM: espalier; PRUNING: Guyot
A brief understanding connects your glass to its territory. Do some more research and you’ll find out how all of these conditions affect the final product.
Since we’re playing with the letter ‘g,’ I’ll go briefly into the term “Guyot.” Vines as you know when left to their own devices will run amuck. High quality grape production is the direct result of proper pruning. Guyot also called cane pruning, is named after Dr Jules Guyot, a 19th century French scientist. Simply put, all old growth is cut back to leave either one cane (single Guyot) or two (double Guyot.) Canes are shoots that have reached about one year. This process is labor intensive and can only been done by hand. This technique is used by some of the world’s most prestigious wine growing regions. Read more about pruning techniques here.
I really liked the Fonzone, Greco di Tufo. To me, it was like biting into a luscious piece of pineapple, although the wine is not sweet. Its golden hue is like a perfect summer day.
The Dish: Scallops in a White Wine Sauce
I wanted to make steamed clams in wine, but couldn’t find fresh clams. I felt the recipe needed to be as simple as possible:
Sear the scallops in olive oil and then add ½ cup of wine (I used the Greco di Tufo);
Remove the scallops and make the sauce from 1 ½ cups of wine, 1 tbsp of lemon juice and minced garlic; reduce the liquid by half and them add 1 tbsp of butter and chopped parsley.
G is for Gratitude
When it comes to wine, there’s an infinite amount of information
out there shared through wine critics, journalists, scientists and the ever so
popular, Instagram influencer. While I respect all of these positions (except
maybe the latter), my study goal is not to become one of them.
I’m not interested in ratings or tasting notes other than guides to help me associate and classify my knowledge. Take some time to read an argument on this point written by my wine hero, Eric Asimov.
I am grateful for the ability to learn and totally comfortable
in my place as student rather than expert. I can make mistakes and that’s okay,
rely on just good judgment or instincts and process facts, but not be absorbed
by them. Or, I can say that wine is yummy and leave it there.
It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. ~ Pablo Picasso
Until next time, swirl your glass with gratitude. A story
from the earth will rise to your nose. It’s there to discover: forever a wine
NOTE: If you can’t make it to Calabria, you can find the Fonzone Greco di Tufo at Wine by the Bay.