Tag Archives: wine

Balsamic Rib-Eye Steak With Blue Cheese

14 Feb

My favorite animal is steak.
~Fran Lebowitz

Recipe Source: Food.com

When I think about romantic meals, I always think of steak. I don’t know why that is; maybe I’m a victim of marketing. Or it could be that steak is visceral – it’s rich and hearty, and you have to chew it. About a year ago I started to appreciate the rarer end of preparation, so add to that list bloody. When eating a steak anywhere under medium, there’s no pretense about saving the animals. No, what you’re eating is pink because it used to be alive. It was made of flesh and blood, just like you. And if you’re a mindful person, there’s a sacredness in the act of eating it. Steak is not a meal for dieting, but rather when you need something to savor. If it’s worthwhile it’s also expensive, it’s for pairing with full-bodied red wine and good company, and it’s reserved for special occasions. At least, that’s the attitude toward steak in my house.

So last week as I sensed the holiday approaching, I started digging around for a suitable savory dinner recipe. I wanted steak, and I wanted blue cheese. After years of avoiding the stuff, on an otherwise unremarkable day a few months ago, I grabbed a spoonful at the salad bar – and then another the next day, and the next day, and the next. My love of balsamic vinegar is also somewhat young, so imagine my delight when I found this recipe for steak, blue cheese, and balsamic together!

blue cheese crumbles

I knew the meal wouldn’t be a hard sell for David, a self-professed lover of steak and Costco, which happens to sell a fantastic ribeye. As we left the store with bellies full of samples, we just managed to leave the checker behind – although I think he was hoping for an invitation to dinner (“Steak and blue cheese – now that’s some BUSINESS!” said he).

The preparation for this dish is really so simple, it might seem unworthy of Valentine’s Day. But if the day is about being with the one you love, then the less time spent in the kitchen, the better, right?

grilling steaks

I really like this cast iron grill pan for indoor grilling. It gives you nice grill marks without ever having to go outside, which is a plus in a snowy climate like San Diego (I kid! Sorry, Midwesterners). Our typical method for cooking steak (ok, I learned it from David), is to sear both sides of the meat when the preheated pan is smoking hot, then finish to ‘desired doneness’ in a 400-degree oven.

The next time I make this, I will make just a few changes: I loved the balsamic marinade, but felt extra in the sauce was unnecessary. Blue cheese, however… yes, I will always take more blue cheese on top. I’d also love some sauteed mushrooms on the steak, which I read from a reviewer on the site but tragically forgot to include.

citrusy arugala-jicama salad

On the side, I wanted something light and refreshing (no potatoes here!), so I tossed together a simple spinach-arugala salad with jicama shavings, sunflower seeds, and a dressing of walnut oil, Trader Joe’s orange champagne muscat vinegar, and black pepper. We also had some leftover rice pilaf from the night before (I know, leftovers, good heavens), so we nuked that up on the side. We drank the cabernet we used for the steak marinade and had a relatively no-fuss, yet scrumptuous, quiet dinner at home – which was just what we needed.

Balsamic Rib-Eye Steak With Bleu Cheese

RECIPE – Balsamic Rib-Eye Steak With Blue Cheese

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine (merlot is nice in this)
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 rib eye steaks
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Combine first four ingredients in a ziploc bag or shallow pan. Add steaks to marinade, and marinate for 1-2 hours, turning steaks in marinade frequently.

Grill steaks to desire doneness (about 3-5 minutes on each side for medium-rare/medium doneness). While steaks are grilling, combine vinegar and blue cheese to a creamy consistency. Serve sauce as a condiment to steaks.


Stifado (a Greek stew)

19 May

This is every cook’s opinion –
no savory dish without an onion,
but lest your kissing should be spoiled
your onions must be fully boiled.
-Jonathan Swift

Recipe source: California Wine Lover’s Cookbook, by Malcolm Hebert

For the past two years-ish, I’ve been a part of a wonderful monthly cooking club called Gourmet Friends. At the beginning of each year we vote on themes, then throughout the year we take turns hosting in our homes and everyone brings a dish based on a decided theme. A couple weeks ago, our theme was cooking with wine, and I made this dish. (Jump to recipe.)

I wasn’t sure initially if I was going to blog this, as it wasn’t my favorite. But that’s not any fault with the recipe – I’m just not much into stews, and lately I haven’t been inclined to eat much beef. The recipe is actually very flavorful, the meat is tender, and the cinnamon gives it that heavenly, uniquely Mediterranean touch. It’s also easy-peasy to make. So I figured, someone might like this dish. I don’t have to endorse every recipe I post, because we all have different tastes! 🙂

Now let’s get to it! Begin by chopping up some onions, like so:


Next, season some basic stew meat with some basic salt and pepper.

stew meat

Normally when I cook, I like to get one or two processes in motion, then prep the rest. But in this case, it’s better to do everything at once, since you’ll just be throwing it all together and leaving it for three hours while you [fill-in-the-blank].

In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, red wine, brown sugar, minced garlic, cumin, whole cloves, raisins or other dried fruit, a bay leaf, and a cinnamon stick.

wine mixture

I used a Dutch oven for this, but any large pot would work. Melt butter in the pot, then add the meat and coat with the butter. Immediately add the chopped onion over the top of the meat, then pour over the wine mixture, cover, and simmer for three hours.


Enjoy the warm, spicy, meaty aroma…

Imagine the magical childhood you could have had in Greece, but didn’t…

Think about someday making this for your hearty stock of offspring…

And when three hours have passed, take off the lid of your pot and behold your stew!


RECIPE – Stifado, a Greek stew

3 1/2 lbs. lean beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 lbs. small onions, peeled
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
3/4 cup dry California red wine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 small cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons currants or raisins

Season meat with salt and pepper. Melt butter in Dutch oven or heavy flame-proof casserole. Add the meat and coat with butter but do not brown.

Arrange the onions over the meat. Mix together all the other ingredients and pour over the meat and onions.

Cover and simmer gently until meat is very tender, about 3 hours, or bake covered in a 300-degree oven until meat is very tender. If baked, check occasionally to see that sauce is not becoming too dry. Add a little more wine if necessary. Stir gently just before serving.

Serves 6.

[red] Spaghetti Bolognese, Strawberry Tarts

11 Apr

Hola! Today starts out ROYGBIV Week with red, which awesomely, is an easy color to find in the vegetable family. Red foods include strawberries, tomatoes, apples, red peppers, pomegranates, radishes, rhubarbs, cherries and raspberries, to name several.

I’m hardly an expert on the chakras, but here’s what I’ve come to understand. The theory comes from Samkhya philosophy, which influenced yoga and tantrism. In it, the human body has several hundred spinning chakras (chakra being the Sanskrit word for “wheel”) positioned throughout. These are part of the ethereal, not physical, body, although they have influence over the physical body. The chakras spin in a circular vortex, absorbing and radiating energy from the surrounding environment. Of the hundreds of chakras, seven have been identified as most important. They are stacked from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, and each is associated with a specific color and sound, as well as physical organs and aspects of the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual life. Chakras have been called lotus flowers, and when a chakra is healthy, the lotus is opened. An imbalance in any area of life can weaken the chakra system. One of the ways to nourish the various chakras is to eat foods associated with their color. A plant’s color is representative of the rays of sun energy that gave it life.

For a deeper explanation and test of your own chakra energy levels, check out ChakraEnergy.com.

Today’s chakra: Muladhara – Root of Tree (Root)
Color: Red: vitality, strength & courage
Location: Base of Spine
Associated body organs: Legs & feet, large intestine, adrenal gland, lymph & blood
Controlled emotions: Physical identity and self-preservation


For the first recipe of this week, I decided to go with a classic bolognese sauce. (I don’t think Indians eat beef, but…) I can’t say for sure if I’ve ever actually made one. My end result was a combination of a few different recipes I found online.

My mamma never put red wine in her spaghetti sauce, but when it occurred to me to do it, the choice was a no-brainer.

Two-Buck Chuck!

I also never would have thought to add carrots and celery to this sauce, but since I saw it in a few recipes, I thought what the heck.

Cook the meat and veggies together until the meat is no longer pink. Drain, then add wine, diced tomatoes and tomato paste, herbs and spices, and reduce to desired consistency. Also begin cooking pasta around this step.


1 lb lean ground beef
1 cup white onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup dry red wine
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fennel seed
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
grated parmesan to sprinkle on top

For dessert, I decided to make strawberry tarts, because we went to San Diego Desserts recently and got a tart that was to-die-for. What I ended up making was a modification of Ina Garten’s recipe; modification because I didn’t have time to make the tart shells from scratch, don’t own any kind of tart pan even if I’d had the time, and then couldn’t find frozen tart shells at the store. (Good grief, Charlie Brown!) So I bought frozen puff pastry shells instead. Was still delish. I like puff pastry. 🙂

The recipe for the shell is below. But if you decide to use puff pastry shells, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, then bake them for 20-25 minutes. They will go from looking like this

womp, womp

to this!


Scoop out the “tops” out and let them cool.

For the pastry cream, I didn’t have cognac, so I substituted brandy instead. Unfortunately, step-by-step pictures of this process are conspicuously missing from this blog because I was napping while David did this part. But I can tell you that Ina Garten’s instructions are VERY good. Be sure to look at the link for scalded milk too, because we had no idea what that meant.

The pastry cream is a long process, but really does come out exactly like the Contessa says. The pre-whisking “curdling” part happens extremely fast – the cream went from liquid to chunking in “two seconds,” apparently, so just stick patiently with the stirring. Here’s the end result:


Cover the cream with plastic wrap placed directly on the cream and refrigerate until cold. Then scoop into shell and top with strawberries. Final product:

That's MRS. Tart to you!

Tart Shell
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons cold shortening (recommended: Crisco)
1/4 cup ice water
2 cups Pastry Cream, recipe follows
2 pints whole strawberries, hulled and halved
1/3 cup apricot jelly
3 tablespoons shelled pistachios, halved, optional

TO MAKE TART SHELLS – Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and shortening and pulse about 10 times, or until the butter is in the size of peas. Add the ice water and process until the dough comes together. Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the dough and fit into four (4 1/2-inch) tart pans with removable sides, or one 9-inch tart pan. Don’t stretch the dough when placing it in the pans or it will shrink during baking. Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of each pan. Line the tart shells with a piece of buttered aluminum foil, butter side down, and fill them with dried beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, prick the bottom of the shells all over with a fork, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Pastry Cream
5 extra-large egg yolks, room temp.
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups scalded milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cognac
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream

TO MAKE PASTRY CREAM – In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.

With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Don’t be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, cognac, butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold. Yield: 2 cups

ASSEMBLE – Before serving, fill the tart shells with the pastry cream. Arrange the berries decoratively on top of the cream. Melt the apricot jelly with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the top of the tarts. Sprinkle with pistachios, if using, and serve.