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“Chef in the Vineyard”: fresh and simple recipes from great wine estates

Chef in the Vineyard by John SarichAt yesterday’s IFBC kick-off event at Ste. Michelle, we were each given a copy of John Sarich’s fifth book “Chef in the Vineyard”.  Beautifully photographed, the book is a visual tour through Sarich’s ten favorite wineries.  With over 140 recipes, each is complemented with the author’s wine recommendations.  The recipes are easy and make great use of Pacific Northwest ingredients.  On first go through, I loved the history and information that John shared about each winery.  This is a man who clearly loves what he does and his passion is evident through his writing.  I can’t wait to immerse myself in his recipes and pairings.  From experience (I have John’s other four books), his recipes are easy to make, use readily available ingredients, are extremely flavorful and great to share with family and friends.  His pairings are usually spot on for my palate.  With more cookbooks on my shelves than I like to admit to, this is a welcome addition and I suspect will become a cooking staple.

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Dinner Without Apron Strings – Summer Recipes

With summer technically not ending until September 23rd,  I tend to cling to recipes that paint a picture using summer’s vivid reds, greens, and yellows.  With close friends coming over for dinner and one traveling all the way from France, I pictured a menu with simple prep done ahead, so we could spend maximum time catching up over a glass of wine.  Here’s my apron-less adventure:

Isa Dinner Heirloom Tomato, Mozzerella, Peach Raspberry Salad 9 10Fresh heirloom tomatoes are still available at one of my favorite hang-outs, the Issaquah Saturday Farmer’s Market, so I picked up some meaty, sweet red and yellow Brandywines; the almost nutty Green Zebras; and my true summer love – a Cherokee Purple which is sugary and rich with a hint of smokiness to it.  While I knew the colors would play beautifully together on the plate,  what was most tempting was the idea of intermingling the distinctive flavors that only come from vine-ripened tomatoes.  They were quickly sliced and layered on top of a bed of shredded Asian cabbage, alternating with slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella.   A couple of ripe peaches on the counter-top caught my eye and became a part of the salad, as did some raspberries leftover in the fridge, along with some quickly shredded basil.  Ten minutes max and a salad was ready to go, on the counter-top (room temp brings out the flavors beautifully) and just waiting to be dressed in some peppery Spanish olive oil and a bit of balsamic.

Isa Dinner Roasted Asparagus & Patty Pan 9 1 10Browsing the stalls, I found some gorgeous, hearty green and white asparagus, as well as vibrant scallopped mini patty-pan squash.  Couldn’t decide – so typical girl-style, grabbed all.  Back in the kitchen, they were quickly rinsed, trimmed, tossed in some olive oil with salt and pepper, and pan roasted in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Again, great at room temp, they were plated and set out to rest.  A loaf of crunchy artisan bread was ready to be popped into the oven to warm, leaving only the entree and dessert to deal with.  Again, sticking with a plan of no apronstrings when the company arrived, I decided that enlisting my hubby to light up the barbecue, was the way to go.

Isa Dinner Blackberry Salmon 9 10What could be more evocative of summer in the Northwest, than salmon?  We serve only wild fish at our house – no farm raised, but also no-problem.  A quick stop at any local grocery or in this case, the local seafood vendor, produced a gorgeous center cut piece – perfect for even cooking over the coals.  All I needed to make was a sauce.  Braiden Rex Johnson has one of my all-time favorite recipes in her Pike Place Market Cookbook :  Alaskan Salmon with warm Blackberry and Shallot Compote.  The fruit was literally in my backyard – wild blackberry bushes galore.  If you aren’t that lucky, this is the perfect time of year to find them in your farmer’s market or grocery.  For the 2 1/4 pounds of fish, purchased to serve 5, I used 5 medium shallots – peeled and thickly sliced; a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil; a 1/4 cup sugar; 2 1/2 cups of blackberries; and a 1/4 cup of raspberry vinegar. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the shallots, olive oil and sugar together in a bowl and then spread them on a rimmed cookie sheet.  Let them cook for 15 minutes, remove them from the oven, and scrape the shallots and syrup into a glass mixing bowl.  Then add the blackberries and raspberry vinegar, mixing them gently.  Make it ahead of time and cover.  Once the salmon comes off the barbecue – top with the sauce and voila!

Dessert?  I made tiny ice cream tarts that afternoon using 2 1/2″ ring molds.  This recipe makes enough for 6.  Purchase a half gallon of your favorite ice cream and a box of plain chocolate wafer cookies.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, while you crunch up 1 ½ cups of the chocolate wafers in your cuisinart – adding 1/4 cup sugar and a ½ stick of melted butter.  Place the ring molds on a cookie sheet or flat baking pan and press the cookie mixture onto the bottom and half way up the sides of each mold.  Bake them for 8 minutes.   Let the cookie crust filled ring molds cool completely, leaving the molds on the pan,  and place the carton of ice cream on the counter to soften for 15 minutes.  Fill the rest of each mold with ice cream and level off the top with a knife.  Pop them in the freezer for a minimum of two hours, still on the pan.  When ready to serve, warm the ring with your hands and slide out each tart onto an individual plate, pushing from the bottom of the ring mold.  Try topping them with grated chocolate, fresh berries or even chocolate sauce – whatever you have around.  Happy eating! ~Norma

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Slice of Favorite Apple Recipes



 I found one of my family’s favorite fall dessert recipes many years ago in a magazine in a high school library, where I had gone to kill time between classes as a substitute teacher.  The origin has long ago disappeared, but boy, do we love this tart.Apple Photos for Blog

When I first tried making it, I somehow didn’t grasp that dry jack cheese was not regular jack.  The regular jack in the crumble topping melted, rather than holding its shape and while the taste was okay, it was not nearly as fruity or rich  as using dry jack or even similar in intent.  Dry jack is harder and more akin to parmesan in texture.

Yesterday, when I went to PCC to buy dry jack, I was told that they had discontinued carrying it.  Without the time to start scouring greater Issaquah, a long discussion ensued with the cheese-monger on a good substitute.  I came home with Mt. Townsend Creamery Rustic Whole Milk Tomme.  While this cheese is nuttier and a little sharper, it worked well.  It’s also fun to create a dish featuring local ingredients – Washington State granny smith apples and cheese.


(Serves 8 – 10)


2 cups flour

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

5 ounces sweet butter, chilled and cut into ¼ inch bits

1 egg

1 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom

(Makes two 9 inch tart shells)

  1. Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter and quickly mix until it resembles coarse corn meal.  Add egg and quickly mix until dough forms a ball. Gather and press dough together, wrap in plastic and chill two hours or overnight.  Roll out half the dough and line a 9-inch tart pan.  Prick with a fork several times.  Freeze the other half of the dough.


4 large granny smith or other tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced (about 4 cups)

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 Tablespoon white granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon flour

1 teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Mix all ingredients together well and fill tart shell evenly.


½ cup sugar

½ cup flour

3 ounces cold butter, cut into bits

½ cup grated dry jack cheese

1.  Combine sugar, flour, and butter and rub together with fingertips until it looks like coarse oatmeal.  Add cheese and lightly mix.

2.  To finish tart, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Scatter topping evenly over filled tart.  Bake for 40 minutes until top is golden and apples are tender.  Cool slightly before serving.  Serve with a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream.

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