Redd Wood – Yountville, CA

Whether you’re spending your day wine tasting or are just looking for a great spot for lunch (or breakfast/dinner), you should definitely stop by Redd Wood in Yountville.  Located next to the boutique hotel North Block Hotel (and not far from French Laundry), it’s the perfect place to have an easy, unpretentious meal that’s satisfying, not super heavy and overall a place that you’ll want to go back to.  This is Michelin-starred chef Richard Reddington’s second Yountville spot, his first being Redd which is equally fabulous but oh so different.  *You’ve got to try that spot if you haven’t already!

The decor is very current/urban and comfortable.  Kind of reminds me of a place you’d find in Soho with a California feel.  There’s outdoor seating which is always a great option, especially for someone like myself who doesn’t get the opportunity to eat outside a ton at home.

I stopped in midday for a bite in between wine tastings and was very happy with my order – the shaved summer vegetable salad which couldn’t be fresher and the proscuitto, arugula and parmesan pizza.  I’d love to go back for dinner to try some pastas and main courses.

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I’ve never been a huge peanut butter fan which completely baffles my husband.  I’m not sure if it’s just too sweet for me or what.  Once almond butter became a fad, I started using it and liked the fact that it wasn’t as sugary however, I was frustrated by the grainy texture.  That is until I found out about Barney Butter from my Cooks Illustrated magazine.  Each month they do a review of products (from BBQ’s to dried pasta) and Barney Butter was at the top of their list.  Something that really stood out to me in the description was that Barney Butter is made without the skins of the almonds which gives it the smooth texture like traditional peanut butter…exactly what I was looking for!  They even have a crunchy version if that’s your preference.

In comparison to peanut butter, Barney Butter has only 7% saturated fat (vs. 18%), 14% fiber (vs. 8%), 8% calcium (vs. 0%), 8% iron (vs. 2%), 25% Vitamin E (vs. 13%), and 20% Magnesium (vs. 13%).  Although the calories are almost identical to peanut butter, I think the increased amounts of other nutrients/vitamins makes this the clear winner!

Go to your local Whole Foods or order some HERE

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Agrodolce – Seattle, WA

Located in the old 35th Street Bistro spot in Fremont, Agrodolce has knocked it out of the park!  The atmosphere is welcoming and charming and our server couldn’t have been more enjoyable which was very refreshing.

The food was to die for!  I seriously would go back tonight for the exact same meal I ate last night.  We started with the burrata with beets, a citrus honey gastrique and mint…as delicious as I expected!  For my main course I chose the ricotta ravioli with roasted garlic, green garlic and stinging nettle.  Everything about this dish was perfect!  You would have thought I had licked my plate based on how clean it was at the end of the night.  Do yourself a favor and go get this before they take it off the menu.We also got the seared broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts to share…all of which I would order again.  For dessert we got the rice pudding fritters with a citrus honey, vanilla dipping sauce and powdered sugar.  Nothing to complain about there!

Something notable about Agrodolce is how organic the menu is.  It took us a bit to realize that the few things on the menu that are unlined are those ingredients that are NOT organic.  Just to be clear, there are hardly any.  Pretty impressive!  Not to mention on the reverse side of the menu there are vegan and gluten free options.  This isn’t something I’ve seen yet in Seattle but I think it will soon catch on.

Overall, Maria Hines has outdone herself and I can’t wait to go back!

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Joe Jack’s Red Snapper

I blogged about Joe Jack’s Fish Shack in Puerto Vallarta because of this dish.  Every time I go down there this is #1 on my list of things to eat.  It’s so fresh, full of flavor and light at the same time.  Hands down one of my favorite dishes and now I have the recipe for myself thanks to the oh-so-friendly owner who had no hesitation in giving it to me the last time I was down there (thank you!).  And now I’m sharing it with you!

Each fish serves about 2

Ingredients

  • 1.5 -2 lb red snapper or other whole fish (scaled and gutted, very important)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of “huacho salt”
  • 4 Tablespoons of slivered garlic olive oil
  • 5-8 cloves of garlic poached in butter
  • 5-7 whole dry chile de arbol
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice

Huacho salt

  • 2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons whole black pepper
  • 5 ea. Clove
  • 1 stick cinnamon (broken)
  • 4 chile de arbol (seeds o.k.)
  • 12 Tablespoons kosher or sea salt

yields about 1 ½ cups

Directions

Huacho Salt:

Toast all spices except salt and black peppercorns in a sauté pan on very low heat until smoking. Let cool and add black peppercorns. Grind in a spice grinder (coffee grinder) or blender or morder and pestle. Combine with the salt.

You can save and use this on anything. It will add a great interesting flavor to anything you can imagine.

Poached garlic:

IMG_6782To poach the garlic, slowly heat butter (enough to cover) and garlic cloves until cloves  just give to the touch. You can do more of this as well and just keep it in the fridge to use later in the week, but not too long as it will get rancid.

Whole Red Snapper:

IMG_6787Score the fish three or four times (or more if its bigger fish) on each side and liberally season with the salt mixture. Liberally douse the fish with the slivered garlic oil on one side and place on a medium temperature griddle or grill or large sauté pan or even a baking dish (preheat oven to 425˚F if using oven method), again liberally slather the top side with the same.  (feel free to stuff the fish with garden herbs and lemon or lime and if it’s a bigger fish also liberally salt the inside of cavity as well)

Place on griddle or grill or sauté pan on one side and cover. If its in an oven do not cover (cook for approx. 30 mins, 15 mins on each side or when done).

When fish is about half done on topside, flip the fish to the other side and cover again.

When the “new” topside is just cooked or rather almost cooked to the bone (the scores let you peek). You are pretty assured that the downside is also done.

Note:  an important thing to remember is that over cooked fish is way worse than under cooked fish. Most likely the residual heat from the cooking, will continue cooking the fish at the bone.

Place the fish on a serving platter.

IMG_6794In a separate hot sauté pan, put in the butter and poached garlic, a pinch of salt, and four or five more whole chilies. When the butter starts to brown, add the lime juice, and pour it all over the fish.  Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, lime halves, and serve with fresh tortillas and beans and rice.

Osteria delle Tre Panche – Florence, Italy

For those that love truffles, consider this place heaven!  I have NEVER seen more truffles in my life!  First off, this teeny little locals spot is about a 5-10 minute taxi ride from the center of Florence.  Some have said they’ve walked but at night I would recommend the ride.  Reservations are a must and don’t expect to see any tourists here.  “Tre Panche” translates to three benches which is exactly how much space there is in this restaurant – it’s small!  It’s truly a hidden gem.

Because we were only in Florence for a few nights, we indulged in every meal.  We ordered way too much but I have no regrets.  There are definitely dishes I would recommend, and others that I would say you can skip.  For water, 2 bottles of wine (yes…we had 2 bottles of wine:)) and 7 dishes, our meal ended up being €148 which is about $192.  The truffle beef tartare was exactly what you would expect – a delicious starter to the meal.  The artichoke pie with truffles was very good!  Large enough for a group to share and smothered with truffles.  The cheese ravioli with fresh truffle was rich and creamy as it should be.  Not something I could eat an entire plate of but perfect to share with someone.  The cheesecake for dessert is a MUST!!!  It’s unbelievable!  I’m not even sure how to give it justice so just know that you need to save room for it:)  Truly the best I’ve ever had!!!

Dishes to skip are any without truffles…well, maybe that’s just me:)  As much as I love ragu, this one was over salted which was a shame because we probably would have eaten the entire plate no problem.  I would probably give it a second chance though.  The fried veal milanese was a disappointment.  It was pounded so thin that after being breaded and deep fried – you couldn’t even taste the veal.  I wanted it to be great but it was a definite miss.

Next time you’re in Florence, make this a must but shhh…don’t tell too many people about it!

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Pistachios

I was given this recipe by my trainer and nutritionist – Breanne Curran at the Magnuson Athletic Club – and served it the other night to my girlfriends as a healthy dinner option for the night after Thanksgiving.  It’s hearty and filling while at the same time “light”.  She recommends subbing the feta with nutritional yeast (mild, nutty flavor) for those that are vegans.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup feta, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted pistachios, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • Pinch red-pepper flakes

Directions

Heat oven to 425ª F.  Brush squash with 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast cut side down on two baking sheets until tender and caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring quinoa and 2 cups water to boil in a small pot.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  OR – cook quinoa in a rice cooker according to directions.  Let cool, then fluff with a fork.  In a large bowl, combine quinoa, parsley, feta, pistachios, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and vinegar.  Season with salt and red-pepper flakes.  Divide filling among squash and serve.

 

Pancetta, White Bean and Swiss Chard Pot Pies


From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

One of the food blogs I love to follow is the Smitten Kitchen.  If you’re not familiar with it be sure to check it out.  Written by Deb Perelman, a wife and mother of one, she manages to make incredible food out of her teenie NYC apt which is even more inspiring!   I recently came across this incredibly delicious comforting winter recipe and couldn’t wait to make it.  It was unanimously a hit and I’m looking forward to making it again…possibly with some sausage added to make it even more hearty.  You can easily omit the pancetta to make it vegetarian.

Serves 4

Lid

  • 2 cups (250 grams) all- purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 13 tablespoons (185 grams or 1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 6 tablespoons (90 grams) sour cream or whole Greek yogurt (i.e., a strained 
yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) ice water
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
  • 4 ounces (115 grams or 3/4 to 1 cup) 1/4-inch-diced pancetta
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves from an 8- to 10-ounce (225- to 285-gram)
 bundle (4 cups); if leaves are very wide, you can halve them lengthwise
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons (25 grams) all- purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups (765 ml) sodium- free or low- sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups white beans, cooked and drained, or from one and a third 15.5- ounce 
(440-gram) cans

Make lids:

In a large, wide bowl (preferably one that you can get your hands into), combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut them up and into the flour mixture until it resembles little pebbles. Keep breaking up the bits of butter until the texture is like uncooked couscous.

In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water, and combine it with the butter-flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula, stir the wet and the dry together until a craggy dough forms. If needed, get your hands into the bowl to knead it a few times into one big ball. Pat it into a flattish ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Make filling:

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium- high heat in a large, wide saucepan, and then add the pancetta. Brown the pancetta, turning it frequently, so that it colors and crisps on all sides; this takes about 10 minutes. Remove it with a slotted spoon, and drain it on paper towels before transferring to a medium bowl. Leave the heat on and the renderings in the pan. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil if needed and heat it until it is shimmering. Add onions, carrot, celery, red pepper flakes, and a few pinches of salt, and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened and begin to take on color, about 7 to 8 minutes.

Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the greens and cook until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with the additional salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer all of the cooked vegetables to the bowl with the pancetta, and set aside.

Make sauce:

Wipe out the large saucepan; don’t worry if any bits remain stuck to the bottom. Then melt the butter in the saucepan over medium- low heat. Add the flour, and stir with a whisk until combined. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring the whole time, until it begins to take on a little color. Whisk in the broth, one ladleful at a time, mixing completely between additions. Once you’ve added one- third of the broth, you can begin to add the rest more quickly, two to three ladlefuls at a time; at this point you can scrape up any bits that were stuck to the bottom — they’ll add great flavor.

Once all of the broth is added, stirring the whole time, bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cook the sauce until it is thickened and gravylike, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the white beans and reserved vegetables into the sauce.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Assemble and cook pot pies:

Divide the filling between four ovenproof 2-cup bowls. (You’ll have about 1 1/2 cups filling in each.) Set the bowls on a baking pan.

Divide the dough into four pieces, and roll it out into rounds that will cover your bowls with an overhang, or about 1 inch wider in diameter than your bowls. Whisk the egg wash and brush it lightly around the top rim of your bowls (to keep the lid glued on; nobody likes losing their lid!) and drape the pastry over each, pressing gently to adhere it. Brush the lids with egg wash, then cut decorative vents (small as they led to lots of draping) in each to help steam escape.

Bake until crust is lightly bronzed and filling is bubbling, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Do ahead:

The dough, wrapped twice in plastic wrap and slipped into a freezer bag, will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge, and for a couple months in the freezer. The filling can be made up to a day in advance and stored in a covered container in the fridge.

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