This month, Megan and Sarah are cooking with wine. Salut!
Valentine’s Day. Wine and chocolate. I’m such a cliché. But really, there’s a reason Valentine’s Day is about wine and chocolate. A good reason: they’re amazing. Amazing, together. Like sweethearts, right?
But seriously, red wine and chocolate are the most perfect food pairing I know, cliché or not. They’re decadent and delicious and sexy and dark and rich. So I don’t care about the cliché. I love it. I happen to have a sweetheart, and I don’t hate Valentine’s Day, as de rigueur as it is to call it a “Hallmark holiday” and snark away about Feb. 14.
We don’t make a big fuss over it. We don’t go out for extravagant dinners (Are you kidding? The wait! The expense!) or do fancy gifts (Cut flowers die! I would rather have a pair of slippers), but I always try to do a dinner for my husband (is pot roast sexy?) and because he loves chocolate — truffles in particular — I make him a batch of them. And because I love wine, we do that too.
At home, after the toddler goes to bed, we toast to another year of best friendship and flannel pajamas, and call it a day. Sexy? Probably not. Romantic? You bet your PJ-clad bottom.
So when Sarah suggested wine for the February Delicious/Nutritious, I decided it was a good time to perfect my Valentine treats. I thought I could make a dessert that included both wine and chocolate, and still leave something in the bottle to consume the old-fashioned way. You can make both of these treats with one bottle of wine, and still have two glasses left with which to toast and drink.
Wine and Blueberry Granita
1 cup fruity red wine
Juice of one orange
8 ounces blueberries (either frozen or fresh)
1 cup water, divided
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
First, pour the wine into a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the orange juice, and 1/2 cup of water. Add the vanilla and lemon juice. Then bring the sugar and the other 1/2 cup of water to boil over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add to the other liquids.
In a food processor, blend the blueberries with a bit of the liquid until they are completely pureed, then add to the rest of the wine mixture. Then, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth to remove the pulpy blueberry parts.
Cook the mixture over medium heat for five or six minutes, and then transfer to a container for freezing. I just poured mine into a big plastic container. Stir a bit every hour or two, scraping the sides of the bowl to make an even crystallized freeze.
This, my friends, is what heaven tastes like. But it’s even better when it’s complimented by these wine truffles.
1 bag good semi-sweet chocolate chips (like Ghirardelli)
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup red wine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa
Extra cocoa, sugar, and/or powdered sugar, for coating
In a saucepan, heat the cream and butter to almost boiling; be careful not to scald.
Put the chocolate chips into a glass bowl and pour the cream mixture over, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Then add the wine and vanilla, and stir.
Put the mixture into the freezer for an hour or two, then remove. Add the cocoa powder and stir — or rather, knead — to incorporate. Back into the freezer for another hour, and then you are ready to form balls.
Scoop a tablespoon or so of the “ganache,” roll into a ball, and then coat with whatever floats your boat. Cocoa, sugar, powdered sugar, even coffee grounds are good.
I’m telling you, if you have a sweetheart, this will only deepen his or her love. If you don’t, use this combination of wine and chocolate, and the object of your affection will be powerless to you. POWERLESS. Cheers!
Honestly, if I cook with wine, I’m generally drinking it while making something, rather than adding it to a dish.
Because we don’t often do meat in my household and many recipes that have wine on the ingredient list also include a meat of some sort, I don’t normally have a chance to even try. That said, I do have a couple of really good soup and chowder recipes that have a wine component. They’re easy, they’re yummy and they’re staples.
But I wanted to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone.
So I did. Sort of.
When it came with cooking with wine, I did something 100 percent new (to me). As for the rest of the ingredients … well, they’re basically the winter food equivalent of a Snuggie: pears and sweet potatoes.
Yes, we’ve already mentioned both pears and sweet potatoes in previous installments of Delicious/Nutritious. Yes, they’re clearly in my comfort zone. And, yes, I totally lunged for them when presented with a hurdle.
But you know what, it’s 100 percent worth beating down a challenge with a familiarity if it tastes so amazingly yummy.
So, for our wine challenge, I settled on mixing those aforementioned seasonal superstars of taste and nutrition with raisins and pecans. Then, I topped the whole thing with a mixture of olive oil, sea salt, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and, of course, wine.
Bonus: My recipe only uses two tablespoons of wine. Therefore, there’s MORE than enough for you and your Valentine to enjoy before, with or after dinner.
Roasted Pears and Sweet Potatoes with Spiced White Wine Sauce
4 small to medium or 2 large (about 2 pounds) sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 firm Bosc pears, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup pecan halves
2 tablespoons white wine (any is fine, but dessert is best)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup raisins (I used Thompson, but you could use any kind)
Olive oil spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop your half cup of pecans into halves, so as to up the volume without increasing the number of pecans.
In a large bowl, combine yams, pears and pecans. In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, wine, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and sea salt. Pour oil mixture over the yams, pears and pecans and mix well with a spatula to coat.
Spray a 3-quart glass lasagna pan with olive oil spray. Pour the yam mixture into the pan and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. (Now is a good time to pour yourself some wine.)
When the 30 minutes are up, take the dish out of the oven, remove the foil and add the raisins. Stir. Return the pan to the oven, uncovered. Set the timer for 20 to 30 more minutes and stir at least three times. Enjoy when cool enough to eat. Serves 4 to 6.