This is a very simple gourmet dinner that takes about 30 minutes. It’s best to open the wine & set the table before starting to prepare this meal. Make the salad first & set aside.

Gourmet Greens, Chickpeas & Shaved Parmesan Salad

  • 1 cup cooked farfelle (small bowtie) pasta
  • 2 cups gourmet mixed greens that include radicchio, Belgian Endive & Arugula*
  • 1/3 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans)


  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ounce shaved fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbs parsley

Cooked the pasta in salted water.  Set aside and let cool while you make the dressing. Put the dressing ingredient in a tight jar and shake vigorously to mix.  Place the greens in a big salad bowl, add the drained pasta & chickpeas.  Right before serving, toss with dressing, then add Parmesan & parsley.

*It’s fun to buy the three lettuces separately but I think it’s more economical to purchase a bag of mixed greens.  If you buy the greens separately, trim the arugula and tear pieces to make 2/3 cup; thinly slice the endive & radicchio (2/3 cup ea). I also use condensed chicken broth in a jar so I don’t have open boxes or cans that go bad.  Put a tsp of condensed broth & a cup of water in a tightly shut jar & keep it in the fridge for a week.

Honey-Glazed Salmon

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 (5 oz each) salmon fillets
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or dried)
  • Olive oil & butter for frying the Salmon
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Cook garlic in small sauce pan for 3 minutes then add wine, honey, vinegar & mustard. Simmer, uncovered for about 3 minutes & remove from heat & cover to keep warm.

Heat the olive oil & butter (for flavor if you desire) to a hot skillet.  Add the salmon.  Add salt & pepper to taste (both sides). Cook on one side for 3 minute.  Turn over.  Return the sauce to the stove and bring to a simmer.  Cook the salmon for 4 minutes.  Put the salmon on individual plates and top with hot glaze.

Finish dressing the salad and serve immediately.

Serves 2.


Serve with Cline Sonoma County Zinfandel, 2007 ($26).  This wine is awesome with the balsamic vinegar, honey & mustard.  It has a flavor that reminds me of BBQ sauce.

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Valentine’s Dinner Menu 2010

The trick to dining in courses is to keep it simple and time everything.  Set the table and decant the wine before you start cooking. Read the complete menu and recipes and have the timing set in your mind.

Hint: Keep the BBQ at a medium temperature. Put the Filet Mignon on about 10 minutes before dinner.  Turn it over right before you sit down and let it cook slowly while you eat your first course.

Another Hint: Serve a wine with a sexy name.

First Course

  • Poached Lobster Tails
  • Lemon Butter
  • Cristalino Cava

Lobster should never be boiled, it should be poached.  Boiling causes it to cook too quickly on the outside and toughens the meat.  Put the lobster in cold water in a large pot and add high quality salt–salt it like the Mediterranean.  Once the water gets hot enough to create tiny bubbles, retain the temperature and poach for 20 minutes per pound. Microwave the butter in individual bowls, add fresh lemon juice before serving.  Serve the lobster tails on individual plates with lemon wedges. Serve with your favorite chilled bubbly.

Second Course

  • Petite Filet Mignon
  • Porcino Mushroom Risotto
  • O’Brien Estate 2006 Seduction

Prime USDA Filet Mignon is wonderful with just salt & pepper.  Sauces are a good idea with Choice cuts (hint–Costco doesn’t carry Prime Filet Mignon.) It’s worth paying a few more bucks per pound every once in awhile. Risotto is fun to make and should be part of every good cook’s repertoire, but frankly, if you can get a good risotto from a local gourmet grocery store (Paradise Foods for me), it makes the 2nd course so much easier.

Third Course

This was a fun pairing.  The bananas and ice cream are wonderful with my new favorite dessert wine.  Bobby bought the mini cupcakes as a gift to me & I bought the cookies as a gift to him.

The best occasions are fun because we don’t take ourselves too seriously.  We enjoy our favorite foods and wines and we share in the preparation of the meal. Bon Appetit!

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Easy French Food

When I  lived in San Francisco years ago, French restaurants were popular with the guys I dated.  I found the food to be strange and fattening.  One place only had souffles on the menu, one was ubër-elegant with an overload of  waiters fluttering about, and another was way too romantic for a first date.  Frankly, I preferred Italian food at the time…I lived in North Beach & loved all the neighborhood restaurants. (I still know more about Italian wine than French.)

When I moved to Marin and starting cooking (for the first time in my life), I put a laptop in my kitchen to find recipes and inspiration. One of my favorite sites is Kim’s Easy French Food all the elegance…none of the fuss. I learn little tidbits about the French way of eating & discover new recipes. Her monthly emails remind me to check it out, which I appreciate!

PS: The picture is Kim’s logo. And..she just told me that she lived in North Beach at one time too! Such a small world…

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Finally I brought my camera in to the kitchen.  What fun!  I hope you enjoy these pictures.  Setting up a video camera soon!


  1. Preheat oven to 400° for bread.
  2. Heat toaster oven to 400° for roasting potatoes.
  3. Prepare the potatoes & onions and start roasting them (20 minutes total).
  4. Start the chicken.
  5. Open the wine to breathe.
  6. Put the frozen bread in the oven.
  7. Place the plates on top of the toaster oven (my plate warmer!)
  8. Finish the chicken.
  9. Ask Hubby to set the table including lighting a candle and pouring the wine.
  10. Everything will be done about the same time!

Chicken in Wine for 2

  • 3 strips chopped bacon
  • 1 boneless chicken breast cut into 2 pieces
  • 3/4 cups Merlot or similar red wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tbls thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbls butter

Fry the chopped bacon until it begins to crisp. Remove bacon. Pour out excess fat and add chicken to remaining hot drippings. Brown chicken 3-4 minutes and remove. Add onions and mushrooms and stir until slightly brown. Add wine, broth, thyme and bacon bits. Simmer until slightly reduced. (Sauce will not be thick.) Put chicken back in, cover and cook 4-5 minutes. Put chicken on warm plates. Finish the sauce by stirring in butter and adding salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken.

Roasted Potatoes & Onions

Cut 5 small potatoes (white or new) in halves or quarters.  Chop a thick slice of white onion into good size chunks.  Place everything in a bowl and mix with olive oil.  Add thyme & salt & pepper to taste.

Roast at 400° for 10 minutes, turn and roast for another 10 minutes.

Freshly Baked Bread

Buy small sourdough bread from the frozen isle at the grocery store.  Place directly on oven rack for 10 minutes. When it’s done, let sit for 5 minutes.  Gently slice (don’t squish it and don’t slice all the way through it).  I use a small paté knife (pictured) to place butter into the slices. I always serve bread in a basket wrapped in a cloth napkin to keep it warm.

Add parsley to the chicken and potatoes for a touch of elegance before serving.


Lots of rustic wine will go with this dish.  I served it with Kunde Merlot, 2005 Sonoma Valley

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New Year’s resolution: I’ll take pictures of my cooking!  Until then, I paired this meal with a fine wine from Kunde, one of the Pick’s in my book.  Here’s a picture of the VIP Pass that you get when you purchase the book. Cheers!

Absolutely love this recipe.  I served it at a dinner party and it was a huge hit.  You can also cut it into little squares and serve as fancy appetizers.

Lamb & Goat Cheese Phyllo

  • 1 lb lamb sirloin (you can use ground lamb, but sirloin is a bit more gourmet)
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 5 oz packages of goat cheese
  • 2 tbls milk or 1/2 & 1/2
  • 2 tsp shredded lemon peel
  • 2 tsp each salt & ground nutmeg
  • 10 oz of fresh chopped spinach
  • more salt & pepper to taste
  • 10 sheets thawed phyllo
  • 1 stick butter melted
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Chop the onion & garlic, medium.  I like the onion to be noticeable, not too finely chopped. Chop the sirloin into small pieces like you were giving it to a toddler. In a non-stick pan, saute the first three ingredients on medium heat until the lamb is medium rare.
  2. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl.  Mix in the cheese.  Add enough milk to make it a bit creamier.  Add lemon peel. Set aside.
  3. Melt the cube of butter in the microwave and arrange the phyllo on a clean work surface. Take one sheet of phyllo and using a basting brush, generously cover it with melted butter. Be sure and go all the way to the edges. Continue adding layers one on top of the other, basting each one. Stop at 5 layers.
  4. Put the lamb mixture back on the stove in the frying pan, turn on low-medium heat.  Stir in the salt and nutmeg.  Place the fresh spinach on top and add a little more salt & pepper to bring out the flavor. Cover for a few minutes until the spinach wilts. Return to the mixing bowl and stir.
  5. Put the filling on top of the phyllo evenly. Layer the last 5 sheets of phyllo over the filling, basting with butter in between each sheet.  Finally, cut into 4 equal pieces. close the edges by pinching them together and using butter if necessary. Move the strudels to a non-stick cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes , depending on your oven. They should be golden brown on top and not burned on the bottom.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

*Note: the lemon peel creates a nice little surprise.  I don’t recommend skipping it.  You can also add wild mushrooms to this dish.

Wild Rice with Dates & Dried Apricots

  • Trader Joe’s wild Rice Medley
  • Chicken broth
  • Fresh dates (Dromendory’s in the bag are great.)
  • Dried Apricots

Fix 2 cups of rice according to instructions using chicken broth rather then water.  Chop the dates and apricots and stir in after the rice is down.

Serve a Mediterranean Salad on the side.

Serves 4.


I served a 2006 Kunde Barbera, Block 3BB04, Sonoma Valley and it was wonderful.  It’s a hearty, earthy yet fruity variety.  Kunde’s is beautifully rich, not too light.  You might try any Italian wine that has some depth to it.  I also tried it with a Hawley Viogner just for fun.

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Quivira Wedding Spot

I love dates but I prefer them in meals as opposed to desserts.

Here’s some ideas & tips:

  • Buy the pitted ones in a bag. They’re still moist, not dried.
  • Three little dates make a quick snack & for me, a great breakfast!
  • Make a small slit, push in a sliver of dried Parmesan and a walnut piece. Serve alongside a pork dish or as an appetizer.
  • Add to wild rice (chop in half & add dried apricots)
  • Make a cheese plate for lunch.  Contrast the sweetness with Gorgonzola or a similar cheese. Add crisp apple slices.
  • Your choice of wine depends on the other flavors you are serving with the dates.  If you are using them in a wild rice dish, try a Merlot or something similarly earthy with kicky fruit.  If you are involving blue cheese, try a Dry Riesling or Viogner.
  • Keep your dates in the refrigerator after opening.  They’ll be fresh for a bout 2 weeks.

*Picture: It’s not a date tree, wish it was!

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Wine Robot

Wine Robot

Wonderful & easy recipe to go with any white wine with “pineapple” flavor such as Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay & occasionally Sauvignon Blanc.  Look on the label for descriptors or get this fab book.

BBQ Salmon

Squeeze a fresh lemon and salt & pepper on a salmon fillet on both sides. (I only put lemon on fish when I’m serving it with a citrusy white.  I never use it when I pair Salmon with Pinot Noir.)  Place fillet directly on hot grill and BBQ until pale pink in the middle.

Pineapple Salsa

  • 1/2 small red onion (chopped)
  • 3 tbls honey balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1 tsp Cilantro
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano
  • 1/2 lime

Using a small saucepan, saute red onion with honey balsamic vinegar.  When the onions are translucent, stir in the pineapple.  Add cilantro and oregano and fresh lime juice.

Notes: You can add honey to regular balsamic. Trader Joe’s has frozen cilantro pods that are easy to use off-season. Oregano grows almost year-round in my neighborhood.

Serve with large artichokes and melted butter with garlic.  Add a toasty baguette topped with salted butter and Basil/Toasted Garlic Chavrie Goat Cheese.


Lynmar Russian River Chardonnay 2004

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I wouldn’t have thought to use spreadable cheese in an entree if I wasn’t asked to pair cheese for the Alouette & Chavrie brands.  The first thing I learned is that Alouette, (spreadable cheeses in the deli case) is All Natural, very cool!

This took only a few minutes to pull together.  I love the fresh crispness of the iceberg with scallops. Hubby and I thought this was a dynamite salad.

Scallop Salad with Sundried Tomato Basil Cheese

  • Fresh iceberg lettuce leaves for two
  • thinly sliced purple onion
  • 2 tbsp grated carrots
  • 1 small tomato
  • 6-7 small scallops
  • olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Dressing: 3 tbsp good olive oil, 1 small lemon (squeezed), salt & pepper & parsley
  • 1/4 cup Sundried Tomato Basil Alouette spreadable cheese
  • 5 basil leaves*

Arrange the crisp lettuce leaves on two plates.  Top with sliced purple onion and grated carrots. Make the dressing and pour it (lightly) over the lettuce.

Heat regular olive oil on medium in a small frying pan. Add scallops. Squeeze a bit of lemon and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 2-4 minutes depending on size. Don’t over cook!

Remove scallops and place on top of the lettuce.  Top each scallop with a generous dollop of  spreadable cheese. Arrange the chopped tomato in between the scallops.

Chop the fresh basil and sprinkle on each salad.

*I used purple “Chef’s Basil” for color and in the picture I arranged them around the plate (before I thought to chop some for the topping).

Serve with Lobster Bisque (my favorite) and bread.


I thought a Lynmar Rosé (2008 Russian Rover Valley $20) would be nice with the salad and a La Crema Pinot Noir (2007 Sonoma Coast $24) would be better with the soup.  Ends up the Rosé was too tart for this pairing but the Pinot Noir was fantastic!

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Alana’s Spice Rub

I love Michael Chiarello’s spice rubs; they’re yummy, convenient and they come in a cute little tin can and make a great gift.  Wouldn’t it be fun to make your own spice rub and give it away as gifts? Here’s a wonderful rub that I made for salmon. It will work on all kinds of meat & veggies.

Alana’s Salmon Rub

  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp quality salt
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 tsp lemon pepper
  • 4 tsp dark brown sugar

Mix all ingredients together & store in an airtight container.  Use about 1 tbsp on a 3 lb salmon.

I have a measurement conversion chart on my refrigerator, it’s very handy!

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Preston Tasting RoomAlmost all the ingredients were sourced from my summer garden. My husband doesn’t generally like all veggie meals but he loved this one.

Fresh Cool Summer Pasta

  • linguine for two
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium cucumber*
  • 2 tbls mixed chopped oregano & basil
  • 1/2 fresh corn off the cob
  • 1/4 cup grated Reggianito Parmesan**
  • splash balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper

If the corn isn’t already cooked, cook the corn in boiling water for 10 minutes and set aside to cool.  Cook the linguine in salted water (about 9 minutes) while you chop the veggies. Chop the tomatoes into bite size chunks & chop the cucumbers into thick slices then quarter the slices. Finely chop the basil & oregano.  Grate the Parmesan.  Remove the corn from 1/2 of the cob.

When the linguine is ready, drain and put back in the pan.  Stir in the Parmesan and set aside.

Put all of the veggies in a salad bowl and toss together.  Add salt & pepper to taste, herbs and splash of balsamic to taste.

On individual plates, place the veggies over the pasta.

Serve with bread & pesto/olive oil.


This was a great pairing because I approached it not by choosing a varietal but choosing a wine maker’s style.  Preston’s 2007 Barbera (Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma $32) was a wonderful choice.  I had recently tasted it at their farm-like, rural tasting room & was immediately surprised that it was not like other Barberas I’ve met. Sometimes Barberas can be overwhelming and too bold; but this one was gentle & earthy, a good food wine. Preston Vineyards is all about treating wine gently and letting it express the place in which it is grown (terrior). I was also looking for an Italian grape to handle the acidity of tomatoes.  Although I had an Italian Sangiovese available, I guessed that the Barbera would be an outstanding match.  I wasn’t disappointed.

*I grew Persian Cucumbers this year & I love them. They are thin-skinned like English cucumbers & not at all bitter.

**Reggianito Parmesan is very mild in flavor. I’m not sure but I think it is also called Argentinean Parmesan. I found it at Sonoma Market. (They have an on-line store too.)

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