Wine Essentials: Part 2

Two hours. Four kinds of cheese. Eleven types of wine. From Burgundy to Bordeaux, this week’s Wine Essentials class covered the classic wines of France. The timing of the class paired perfectly with my current place in culinary school as I finish up our section on regional French cuisine. I find that as I cook more with wine, I also have a greater appreciation for it as a complement to food. My favorite flavor pairing of salty with sweet has evolved from pretzels and vanilla buttercream to fresh goat cheese rolled in chevril and Entre Deaux Mers, Blanc Reserve, Chateau Tour de Mirambeau 2008.

Can I say “Entre Deaux Mers, Blanc Reserve, Chateau Tour de Mirambeau” with confidence (and a straight face)? Not entirely. But I’m getting there!

Wine Essentials: Part 1

You’re presented a bottle of wine. You swirl. You sniff. You sip. And if you’re like me, you do a quick glance around the restaurant and pray that the fake show you just put on was actually accepted by your fellow dining patrons.

I love wine. I just don’t know a darn thing about it.

Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken

From the hills of Hollywood (think Nicole Richie and Ms. GOOP herself) to the stone-cold streets of New York City, this recipe is making the celebrity rounds. But it wasn’t until my stylish sister alerted me to it did I decide to put my spin on it and give it a go. I’ve tweaked the cooking method to include a simple extra step of reducing the leftover sauce. It’s a quick tip I’ve picked up from being in culinary school and it really adds an extra punch of sweet and fiery flavor.

This photograph was selected as the Image of the Day (1/11/10) by Food Porn Daily, a SFW site that’s loaded with sweet and savory food photography.

Cook. Live. Love.

Let’s face it, 2009 melted into 2010 and skinny jeans aren’t going anywhere. So what better way to sizzle (re: fit) into the new year than with an arsenal of healthy recipes that are loaded with tempting tastes and guilt-free flavor.

Check the list below for some of my most popular healthy recipes then slip into those skinny jeans, hit the store and cook your way into a happy, healthy new year.

Healthy Recipes for 2010

(pictured above, clockwise from top left)

Sauteed Mushrooms on Buttered Chive Toast

I wouldn’t go within 18 feet of a mushroom before the age of 20. Now, I can’t get enough of them. They’re delicious raw, irresistible when roasted and unbeatable when sauteed. So when I came across this mushroom appetizer on one of my favorite blogs, I was ecstatic to spruce it up and give it a go. I’ve subbed in Parmesan cheese shavings as the final garnish and found that the saltiness of the cheese works just as well as the suggested coarse salt. And who doesn’t love a hint of semi-melted cheese in a bite of … well, everything!

I also couldn’t help but notice how this recipe seems to be indicative of my current place in culinary school, as I have made the jump from my go-to dish being Paula Deen’s Lots O’Meat Lasagna (which is incredible, by the way) to more exotic fare like Chicken Tagine, Homemade Falafel with Tahini Sauce and Braised Korean Short Ribs.

Just like mushrooms were once off limits, I’ve found that my culinary sense is expanding into realms I never dreamed of entering. From Salmon en Papillote and Roasted Poussin, to Braised Leeks and Tostones with Cuban Mojo Sauce, everyone say hello to the new global gourmand (who still makes Paula Deen’s lasagna with pride, eats donuts like they’re their own food group and isn’t afraid to make a lunch out of Cheetos).