Love Is On The Menu!

Friday is about Love (with a capital “L”) here at More Cowbell. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes not so good.  Today, the L-Word is fantastic.

My honey has been out of commission for a few weeks and tonight we have a date planned!! An interlude. A staycation, if you will. Jenny is prepping for romance!

I am going to have Clair, our Friday babysitter (yes, she is THE Clair), wear Baby Girl out with the pool and the walking toys while I put together the menu to end all menus. Of course, we know from the title of this post what the most important part of the menu is. Right? Right!

Check out the dinner plans and let me know what you think. I’ve got some choice wines picked out and what could be more romantic than a home cooked meal with a pretty table and great wine?

I’ve told y’all that I’m kind of a wine addict aficionado, right? If not, you might want to brace yourself.

First Course – Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Figs Stuffed with Goat Cheese

I’ll make the salad with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers from our garden, rather than following the recipe below to the letter. Plus our fig tree is producing so we’re putting figs in everything right now, hence this fantastic fig recipe – since there’s only two of us, I’ll probably cut this in half:

Ingredients

- 6 Black Mission figs, cut in half
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, plus extra for dressing
- Crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- 12 slices prosciutto
- 1/2 log goat cheese
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups baby arugula

- 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved with a vegetable peeler
- Kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat the grill and brush with a grill brush to remove any excess crud and fat. After brushing, run an oiled towel over the grates to pick up any loosened crud or soot.

Drizzle each fig half with vinegar and fill each fig center with goat cheese. Sprinkle a couple flakes of crushed red pepper, if using, on top of the goat cheese and wrap each
fig with a slice of prosciutto. Paint the outside of each fig very lightly with olive oil.

Put the figs on a cooler spot of the preheated grill. The idea here is that we want to grill the
figs gently to cook the fig all the way through but to still get the char on the outside. Grill the figs on all sides so the prosciutto is starting to become crispy and the fig feels soft when squeezed, about 5 to 6 minutes.

The best wine with this would be some really crisp champagne but there’s two reasons why it’s not on the menu tonight:

  1. We don’t drink as much as we used to now that we’ve got a baby and have to be up at a moments’ notice.
  2. I tend to get a headache from anything but really good champagne and I’m not willing to open a $25+ bottle of wine to have a few glasses.

Note: Cava is champagne from Spain and Prosecco is champagne from Italy – they’re often cheaper (and better) than California or French bubbly.

We will be having some lovely Sauvignon Blanc with our figgy salad instead of the bubbly. Our favorite is Mulderbosch, a Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa, but you’ve got to really identify a good  source for this if you want to pay under $20. Here is our source, but we’re lucky – it’s not far from our house so we don’t have to pay shipping costs. Still, Wine.com charges $6 more per bottle than this place…it’s highway robbery!

It’s much easier to find Kim Crawford, a lovely New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – you can usually find it between $12-15 per bottle at most Costco or grocery stores. One of the nice things about both these whites is that they have a screw top so it’s easy to keep them fresh in the fridge if we want to limit our intake.

Suggestion: if you ever have to open a bottle of bubbly for a wine pairing and you have a lot left, champagne will usually keep for about 24 hours if you put a stainless steel teaspoon upside down in the bottle. It keeps the bubbles going really well, better than the champagne sealer corks that you can buy.

Rumor has it that just leaving the champagne open in the fridge reaps the same result but I haven’t been willing to lose any champagne yet. If you try this sans spoon, let me know if you’re still bubbly the next day, OK?

My honey eats veggies like a champ but he’s a steak guy at heart. I’ve bought some filets, which are marinating in the fridge with a liberal sprinkle of Montreal Steak seasoning and Lea & Perrins Worstershire sauce.

My hubby’s most favorite thing to eat with his steak is my stuffed mushrooms, which are crazy simple to make:

Jenny’s Magnificent Mushrooms

Remove stems from white mushrooms, wash the caps and set aside to dry. In a bowl, mix together:

- Whipped Cream Cheese (it’s easiest to buy it already whipped)
- Gorgonzola or blue cheese crumbles
- Ground pecans (if you have a nut allergy, wheat germ works well)

Whip these three ingredients in a bowl with a fork, then stuff the mushroom caps – I do this with my fingers to break apart fewer mushrooms. Bake on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees or until the top of the cheese is golden brown (usually about 20 mins).

BTW, these mushrooms are SUCH a hit as an appetizer at parties!

With the extra pepper on the steak and the strong cheese in the mushrooms, this meal will pair best with either a Petite Sirah, a robust Zinfandel (red Zin…don’t scare me with that pink stuff) or a Shiraz. A Malbec or Barbera would work well too but you’ve got to really look for great ones.

Before we go any further on the wine discussion, please be aware that many people are allergic to the tannins in red wine. I take a Claritin before I drink any red wine to bypass the headache. Especially if there’s any sediment in the wine, reds are a surefire headache for me without Claritin.

OK, back to the wine. I’ve got a lot of favorite wines (obviously), but my MOST favorite come from a little vineyard in Paso Robles, CA called Gelfand Vineyards. It’s run by a husband and wife team who distribute via wine club only.

I’ll have to tell their story sometime but, if it gives you a clue, their slogan is “Drink the Dream.” If it’s in your budget, check to see if their wine club is still open and join it. Their Petite Sirah is the best I’ve tasted, bar none. If I pair that with tonight’s steak, my honey
will be putty in my hands. *rubbing them together with glee*

Since I promised recommendations for a good mid-price Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Shiraz, here’s what you can do instead of the elusive Gelfand:

Aaron Wines 2007 Petite Sirah “Swell” – Paso Robles (it’s no Gelfand but it’s darn good and much more modestly priced)

Opolo 2009 Zinfandel – Summit Creek – this is from Paso Robles as well and it ROCKS. The title is hyperlinked to the vineyard but it’s cheaper at Hi-Times.

D’Arenberg 2008 Footbolt Shiraz (Shiraz is Australian Syrah) – Our lovely Hi-Times
Wines
wins the price war on this one too. The title is hyperlinked to Wine.com if you want to compare.

p.s. If you LOVE reds and plan to take a wine tasting vacation to California, skip Napa and go to Paso Robles. The tastings are cheaper and the wines are amazing.  August through  October are the months to go if you want to go to Winemaker and Harvest events. It’s a lot of fun (and you better let me know you’re coming!).

What about you? What makes up a romantic evening for you? Do you have any fig recipes to share since the tree is literally dripping with figs right now?

Happy Friday!
Jenny

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About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! My passion is finding those qualities that are unique in every person and every piece of fiction. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com). Write on!
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31 Responses to Love Is On The Menu!

  1. Gene Lempp says:

    Sounds like a great meal, Jen. Made me hungry. You are so right about red wines, headache juice. I’d never heard of the Claritin trick so I’ll have to keep that in mind if I ever have wine on the menu.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      What do you mean “if you ever have wine on the menu?!” You mean you’re not going to dive right into Hi-Times and be a connoisseur right beside me at the next conference we attend as a WANA group??

      Just FYI, beer goes great with this meal too. I know where your love lies (and it ain’t with wine).

  2. Jillian Dodd - Glitter, Bliss and Perfect Chaos says:

    Your meal sounds wonderful and the wine pairings are a great way to make it even more special. Enjoy your night and be sure to start it off with a toast to sleeping children!!

  3. Sherry Isaac says:

    Jenny, I wish you and hubby a tender evening reconnecting. Am thinking about that post a week or 2 back – way to a man’s stomach… Nope. Won’t go there!

    Have fun! Hope you made plans to sleep in a little tomorrow.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, but Sherry that post was about GETTING the guy. I held my cooking talents in check until I had him. It’s just an easy way to show him he’s my Love Muffin. (He would wince if he saw me just write that, but I’m leaving it…)

  4. Catie Rhodes says:

    Wow! You know a lot about wines. My husband would love talking with you about them. I don’t drink, so his interest in wines is something he does alone.

    The stuffed mushrooms sound really good. When you say the white mushrooms, you mean the inexpensive ones? I really enjoy fresh mushrooms, but rarely buy them because I don’t have many recipes for them.

    As for the figs….you now I”m a Southerner. Mamaw fixed the best fried fruit pies in the world. Papaw liked them with raisins for a filling. I’d probably see if I could make fried fruit pies with figs in them.

    It all sounds wonderful. Have a good time. ;)

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I love wine. It’s so social and so subjective, which is great. Your palate changes as time goes on and you start liking different things so there’s always new stuff. It’s fun. I’m glad your hubby has fun with it too.

      The stuffed mushrooms are with the regular old white inexpensive mushrooms you find in the grocery store. They are really, really yummy (and easy). Just a few tablespoons of the chopped pecans and the tangy cheese adds so much pizazz.

      Ooooh, I don’t know anything about fried fruit pies! Are you gonna come back and give me a bona fide Southern recipe?

      p.s. My great grandma was called Mamaw. :-)

  5. Laura Drake says:

    Love the tip about Champange in the fridge – but just one question . . . exactly what is “left over Champagne?”

    Buhhhhahhahahah! It is Friday! Hope you get you some, Girlfriend!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Yep, leave it to you my friend to get to the brass tacks. You are ALLOWED to leave some wine for the next day if there’s just the two of you. I swear.

  6. Stacy Green says:

    Yum! I’m not a big wine person, but I do love a good glass of white every once in a while. I’m totally making your stuffed mushrooms. They sound delicious. My hubby won’t eat them, but oh well. More for me!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Stacy,

      The great part about these mushrooms is you can make as much or as little as you like. Trust me, he’ll be jealous. They go great with a nice chardonnay. :-)

  7. Yum, now you’ve gone and made me hungry. And I’m so with you on the Zin…a nice red not that ‘watered’ down pink stuff, LOL You and I must get together and chat wines one day :)

    Enjoy your date!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Raelyn, we’d have a fine time, wouldn’t we? Especially if we were drinking while we chatted. Most of my family loves “cute pink wine” and there’s nothing wrong with that. I just can’t touch the stuff – all that sugar is an instant headache and I’m just not a fan.

      • I used to only drink white…still love me a nice Piesporter Michelsberg on occasion :)

        Then a friend introduced me to an amazing Zin and I’ve never looked back. I always have a bottle or two of Shiraz in the house…it’s my go to wine these days :)

  8. amyshojai says:

    You are EVIL! EVIL, I say…this sounds delightful and my tummy already rumbles. I love wine–great tips re: the spoon, and the Claritin to counter the tannin headache.

    We’re fixing a rice and chicken baked Iranian dish and it’s driving me nuts cuz the chicken roast smells so good–but then must be marinated in yogurt/saffron/orange peel before mixing with rice to bake again tomorrow.

    Maybe some M&Ms will help staunch hunger pangs.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      It is evil to show yummy food so early in the day, isn’t it? BUT, you have the fab-sounding Chicken dish going on, which would go great with my sauvignon blanc, but probably better with a dry riesling or an Albariño. Go you, Amy!

      I’m all about the M&M’s if they’re peanut!

  9. Gee. What’s cooking in the greater DFW metroplex? About a gazillion residents. ACK! Heard some moron (er, person) talking about the prospect of breaking the record for consecutive days over 100 (69) as if it were a good thing. Puh-leeze! My fave take-away (other than the brown paper sack I wish I could bring to your back door for leftovers)? Stuffed mushrooms! Sound DEELightful!

    Don’t take the COWBELL to the bedroom w/you tonight, Jenny. Might wake the bambina.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Cowbell in the bedroom!!! Can’t. Stop. Laughing. God, that’s funny.

      I’ve been hearing about the record-breaking temps in the Dallas area and I’m sooooo sorry. Yes, my stuffed mushrooms would heat up your kitchen for a bit, but they are wonderful. Perhaps if you ate on the patio?

      • Catie–
        Would love to have your fruit pies recipe! I have a tree full of figs. But raisins rock too. My mom used to make a cookie she cut with a biscuit/donut cutter (bottom was a simple round, and the top had the hole cut out so the raisin filling showed, all plump and sweet and brown.
        Lou

  10. Jenny,
    I’m so glad to hear your sweetie is recovered enough for a sinfully delightful evening!

    Using fresh basil from my garden, I made a bolognese sauce two days ago and used it for a lasagne tonight. The sauce recipe called for one cup of dry white wine so I used champagne left over from one of my writers’ meetings. It fizzed for several minutes as it cooked, which was interesting, and deepened the flavors.

    I was glad to have the BBQ fig recipe since I have a tree laden with them. I’ve canned, dried, and candied them, but haven’t played with BBQ ideas yet, and now I will.

    By the way, next time you fire up the Bar-bee, cut open a few ripe peaches, drizzle with melted butter, honey, and cinnamon, and BBQ the same way you would the figs, slowly, gently, for about 5-6 minutes. You can put them directly on the grill cut-side up, or sunny-side-up on tin-foil. This is such a delicate and unique twist on fresh peaches that it’s perfect to finish a romantic al fresco meal. Try them naked…or filled with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. I leave it to you, Jen, to choose the perfect wine!

    Lou

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Yummy, Lou! I’ve never tried using champagne as my white but it is a dry white so I can see it working. The grilled fig recipe was a HUGE hit. So good we had to make them for the gathering we went to this evening. :-)

      i’m gonna have to make those peaches! I sure wish I had a peach tree…

  11. Romantic evenings… If my date can bring me to unfamiliar locations and make me try unfamiliar things, then it’ll be romantic (hint, hint: bungee jumping, laser tag, etc.). I like to do things that’s not been overly done. Doing the same things over and over gets tiring.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Bungee jumping would be a sure way to scare me away from dating someone EVER AGAIN because I’m afraid of heights, but I agree on the new things. Just knowing that a guy invested the energy into planning a cool date always made me happy. Laser tag sounds like SUCH a fun date!

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  13. You are one fancy cook! I hope you had a wonderful date night with your man. Honestly, any time I get my guy alone is a date for me. We had our very own date night Friday night – Mexican food and margaritas. Of course, the Texas heat ruined the nice buzz we had and then we felt like a big pile of lard the rest of the night.

    I’d never heard the Claritin trick! Do you think this works with beer too? I get horrible headaches when I drink draft beer. Occasionally with wine too.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’m not a fancy cook (to me that’s like sauces and such) but I do like to make fresh food. It’s fun and communal (and romantic!).

      I’ve been using the Claritin trick for a while. If you’re allergic to beer, I’ll bet it would work.

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