a push-back-the-fall appetizer!

It’s Labor Day, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on summer!   I don’t know about you, but though I love the fall, I’m not ready to welcome it with open arms quite yet…

Back in July, my dear friend Arielle sent me an intriguing watermelon recipe.  I had been meaning to try it all summer, and in a scramble to relish the season today, I decided to finally throw it together.

Classy Watermelon

This is what Arielle says:

1. Chop up watermelon into bite size pieces and place in a festive bowl.
2. Sprinkle with a dash of pink sea salt.
3. Top with fresh basil and goat cheese crumbles.
4. Drizzle with a light dusting of balsamic and…

VOILA! A savory way to enjoy a sweet summer treat!

*This is especially lovely with a bandol (bone dry, from the south of France) style Rose wine. 

Happy summer!

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our july girl’s night at screwtop.

As I’ve mentioned before, Screwtop is one of my absolute favorite places.  I go there monthly with three dear girlfriends, and then whenever I can outside of that!  I love being a wine club member, and trying out the new wines they give me every month.  The four of us like to go on Wednesdays, because there is usually a $10 off a bottle deal for a certain type of wine.

This particular Wednesday, the deal was for rosé wines… not usually my favorite type of wine, as the girls know, but Screwtop has changed my previous opinions in other instances before!  This time was no different, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying my glass.  We picked this Jeio Bisol Rosé Prosecco from Veneto, Italy.  The Veneto and Prosecco aspects, as well as the fact that the waitress said it was one of the dryer rosés on the menu, was all what swayed me.  Yum!

Jeio Bisol Rosé Prosecco from Veneto, Italy

For those of you who don’t know, Prosecco is to Italy as Champagne is to France.  Prosecco tends to be cheaper and dryer… both pluses, in my opinion.  :)  Rosé wines are pink, because there is very brief contact with the grape skins during the winemaking process.  By the way, isn’t it crazy how flutes can hold so much liquid?  The whole bottle was drained into four glasses!  An optical illusion.

We ordered a ton of food, as always.  Here is our first platter (five cheeses and one meat):

Spanish Cabra Paprika, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, CA Humboldt Fog, Italian Robiola, NY Kunik, VA Napoli

Most of us agreed it was the best cheese plate we’d ever ordered!  You can see one of the girls’ beautiful documentation and rating system two pictures down.  The Cabra cheese was the same that I used in my Spanish mashed potatoes last month.  I think I liked the cheese better when mixed in the potatoes… but it still served to be different from the other cheeses, and variety is always fun.  Hooray for the Humboldt Fog, which may have converted one in our group to now love goat cheese!  So overall, the plate was a success.

We ordered another few cheeses later on, as well as the grilled cheese sliders (it’s almost impossible for us to go to Screwtop and not order those).  Here is a photo of another little dish we tried:

Avocado Gazpacho

How cool is that?  I’ve already been searching for recipes to recreate it, especially since it was a special on the menu.  Maybe I’ll try out this one sometime soon.

So, as promised, here is the lovely documentation of everything we ordered (I had a glass of Piccolo Cru instead of her glass of Sauv Blanc, however).  The handwriting is so pretty that I just had to include her journal page of the night!

Our Screwtop Order!

Thank you, Screwtop!  Always guaranteed fun and a delight to our palettes!

lazy pasta.

So we got back in town from Cape Cod Sunday night (a fun little getaway around a wedding!), and we were starving.  It’s always such a nice surprise to open up the fridge and realize you have more unspoiled food than you thought!  I love pasta dishes, because you can really throw in whatever you happen to have on hand.  (Omelets are the same way.)  I must say, pasta is sometimes my go-to carb.  If I’m ever craving carbs, and have run out of all things salty and crunchy, I generally cook some pasta!  Lather it up with some olive oil + sea salt, and I’m a happy camper.  This probably isn’t any healthier than most carb snacks, but I like it.  :)

Back to the meal.  This is nothing fancy, but here is what I used in this EASY BREEZY and QUICK-to-make pasta dish:  rotini, broccoli (cooked in the microwave, because I was tired!), goat cheese (later I realized I had some feta that might have been even more exciting!  Oh well!), and homemade pesto (which I retrieved from the freezer!  Thank you, Past Jacqueline, for thinking to make a lot of pesto!).

Pesto Pasta with Goat Cheese & Broccoli!

Like I pleaded with you last month, make your own pesto!  It’s easy, and you’ll never want to buy it again!  Yum, yum.  :)

asparagus, goat cheese, & mushroom quesadillas!

I haven’t been cooking a lot this week.  We were out of town in Blacksburg last weekend, and let me just say that if you ever are in Blacksburg, you MUST go to Gillie’s for breakfast.  I love everything on the menu, but usually order the Red Earth (homemade salsa on top of scrambled eggs on top of potatoes!).  I need to recreate that sometime.  Anyway, this week has just been a busier one of leftovers, eating at Panera, eating at National’s Park, etc!  By the way, we totally missed these new vendors at the stadium.  That’s okay, Ben’s Chili Bowl is still pretty exciting.

I did want to share one of my favorite easy and quick veggie meals.  I consider myself a flexitarian (yes, that word is for real!), so I love eating vegetarian whenever I can.  Here is a recipe for goat cheese and asparagus quesadillas… and I always add mushrooms!

Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Mushroom Quesadillas

I’m starting to wonder if I only eat the same ingredients all the time?  I do love asparagus, goat cheese, and mushrooms.  :)  You can make these in a pan on the stove, but I’ve started using our little George Foreman grill instead.

I’m making a Mexican casserole this weekend for our friends who just had a baby, and then we’re having a couple over for Mexican food on Monday… so those are my next cooking adventures!

a sediment-al night.

Monday night, we had a dear friend over for dinner to drink a special bottle of wine that he gave us for our wedding!  A 2000 Domaine Cros Minervois Vieilles Vignes.  Most wines people buy these days are made to drink right now.  This wine is unique (for modern wine-drinking), because even at 11 years old, it was still hitting its peak!  All wines were once made this way… built to grow better with time.  Very cool.

The 2000 Domaine Cros Minervois Vieilles Vignes

I didn’t do the best job of pairing the meal with the wine (steak probably would have been a better fit), but the cheese I selected for a pre-dinner appetizer matched beautifully.  I highly recommend this French Morbier cheese, bought at Trader Joe’s!  It was stinky, pungent, and it brought out lovely dark berry flavors from the wine.  The vegetable streak through the middle of the Morbier is crazy!  (Crazy good.)

The French Morbier Cheese

Even though the meal might not have been the best choice for the wine, it sure was delicious!  I served prosciutto-wrapped grilled chicken stuffed with goat cheese & herbs, along with sautéed squash, steamed broccoli, and French bread.  The chicken was as easy to make as it is to write out!  I took chicken breast fillets, made a slit with a sharp knife, then stuffed in goat cheese (this particular cheese came already mixed with fresh herbs… you could also mix in your own!).  I tried to seal up the opening as best possible, then cooked the fillets in our George Foreman counter grill for about 5 minutes.  After that, I took the chicken out and carefully wrapped each fillet in prosciutto.  I cooked the chicken for about 2 more minutes, and the result was delicious!  It was like the prosciutto had been welded on — yum!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken, Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Herbs

It was a sediment-al night, because I have never seen such crazy sediment from a wine!  Truly an Old World style wine.  :)

Sediment!

i just can’t get enough goat cheese & pesto!

Some foods are just made for each other:  Peanut butter and jelly.  Chips and salsa.  Goat cheese and pesto!  This heavenly combo won me over in pizza form on Saturday night.  This morning, the memory was lingering so strongly that I decided my usual bagel with cream cheese just wouldn’t do.  (Sometimes when I find a food combo I love, I become a serial eater.)

First, the pizzas.  I had been intrigued by a recipe in Food & Wine Magazine’s Quick From Scratch Italian Cookbook (can also be found here).  We made some adaptations though.  Chris and I don’t like eggplant, so we used portabella mushrooms instead.  We also added some chopped onions and pizza sauce, because I don’t know about you, but when I’m really in the mood for pizza, a sauce-less one just will not make the cut.  Finally, whenever we’ve been making pizzas lately, we use garlic-and-herb pizza dough from Trader Joe’s.  It adds a lot of party to a pizza.

We are unfortunately between pizza stones right now, so we used a quiche dish (actually turns out beautiful results!) and a 9 x 9 pan.

Pizzas in the Oven

By the way, Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest newsletter was on homemade pizza.  I think the main things I took from it were: 1) Don’t use too much sauce, and 2) I really want a wood-burning oven someday.

Trader Joe’s was our source for wine again.  A Lazy Bones 2009 Cabernet Franc from Paso Robles (very cheap, as usual).  Chris has been loving Cabernet Francs lately.  Though this one was from CA, it is a very popular grape in VA wines.  He read to me from The Wine Bible that Cabernet Francs usually have pepper and violet aromas.  I’ve never noticed the violet aspect, but the pepper definitely always stands out to me.

Goat Cheese, Portabella, & Pesto Pizza with Cabernet Franc

Finally, my Memorial Day brunch meal.  It felt like such an elegant way to start a day-off.  Basically, I toasted a plain bagel very lightly.  Then I brushed it with olive oil, adding freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.  Then came globs of goat cheese, drizzles of pesto, and some chopped sweet red peppers.  I popped it all back in the toaster oven for a few more minutes, and the meal turned out AMAZING.

Goat Cheese, Pesto, & Red Pepper Bagel

Also, I highly recommend making your own pesto.  It is SO easy, and SO worth it!  I always use a recipe out of a vegetarian cookbook I have, but it is similar to this.  You can refrigerate the pesto for up to a week, and freeze it for even longer!