Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spanish Basque Chicken and Chorizo Sauté & a Traditional Style Rioja

For a snowy Saturday night in January here is a heart warming option: Spanish Basque Chicken and Chorizo Sauté. Yet, it is yummy any time. In fact, we served a version of this at my daughter's wedding, which was in the heat of a Nashville August. Spicy dishes in the summer makes you sweat, thus having a cooling effect.

The star of this recipe is the divine rich and spicy sauce. And the 2004 Marqués de Murrietta Reserva Rioja made a terrific marriage between food and wine. This bodega produces a traditional versus a modern style Rioja. Traditional Rioja is earthy in contrast to the fruit forwardness of a modern style Rioja. This style mirrors the earthy flavors of the dish nicely.

Moreover, the dry Sherry (Fino or Manzanillo are both dry styles) is a lovely companion for the chef while the dish is cooking (Safety tip: Avoid drinking wine until all chopping has been completed and the knife has been cleaned and put away). A glass of Fino or Manzanillo can be so refreshing during the summer. Fino Sherry is popular at the beach in southern Spain. It's a taste that requires getting use to, but worth it. It makes a fun aperitif before dinner.

Total preparation time: 1 Hr 15 Min
6 Servings

4 ounces dry chorizo sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 Tbls. Extra Virgin olive oil
6 whole chicken legs, split (3 1/2 lbs total)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch-wide strips
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 large thyme sprigs (dried works)
1 cup cherry tomatoes halved (I didn't have the tomatoes so I used tbls. of tomato pasta)
3/4 cup dry sherry (Again, last I substituted dry Marsala)
2 tsp. sweet paprika
3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper ( any hot pepper--I used Scotch Bonnet)
One 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and pressed dry (use marinated artichokes but rinse them thoroughly and dry)
2 Tbls. shredded basil (or fresh Parsley)
Crusty French bread, for serving

1. Heat a large skillet. Add the chorizo and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned and some of the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo to a plate.
2. Heat the olive oil in the skillet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until well browned, 15 minutes. Add the chicken to the chorizo.
3. Add the peppers, onions, garlic and thyme to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until just barely softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes, dry sherry and crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute, scraping up any browned bits from the pan.
4.Return the chicken and chorizo to the skillet. Cover and simmer over moderately low heat, turning occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through 25 minutes. Add the artichokes, tucking them in between the chicken pieces. Raise the heat to moderate and cook uncovered until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a deep platter. Stir the basil into the sauce and spoon the sauce over the chicken. Serve with crusty bread.

Source: Daniel Boulud, published in the 2005 Food & Wine Annual Cookbook (always an outstanding source of fun and easy entertaining recipes).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Miracles, Mother Nature and Reflecting

If we possess any amount of self-honesty, there are few of us, including me, who have the patience and fortitude to face the challenges of producing terrific, or simply good, wine on a consistent basis vintage after vintage. Of course, this holds true for olive oil or any agricultural product. The pain and anxiety caused by the perils of Mother nature each year can shake the most grounded souls. Fortunately for us, there are those who have chosen this path.

Here's a link to Jancis Robinson's summary of the 2008 vintage in Burgundy, She articulates the anguish and uncertainty that vignerons (vine growers), vintners and winemakers often endure to bring this pleasurable treasure to our table. I have always stated that I am no critic, a promoter and supporter only. Reading Ms. Robinson's recount of the challenging 2008 vintage causes me to appreciate and applaud the dedicated folks who devote their lives to bringing us fun and enjoyment. Rather than escaping our daily challenges via a glass of wine, let us pause and reflect and celebrate those who make the miracle of the vine possible. Votre Santé!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Here Comes 100% Tunisian Olive Oil

At the recent Winter Fancy Food Show, January 17-19, in San Francisco, 100% Tunisian Olive Oil showcased producers of this revered liquid gold to U.S. and international trade professionals. Before discussing the attributes of Tunisian olive oil any further, it is best to begin with some basics. Since becoming the U.S. spokesman for 100% Tunisian olive oil, I find myself answering two frequently asked questions: Where is Tunisia? And, (with a quizzical look) Tunisia produces olive oil? So before discussing the attributes of Tunisian olive oil, I will share a bit of the country's background.

First, Tunisia lies in the southern Mediterranean in North Africa nestled between Algeria and Libya. Tunisia achieved its independence from France in 1956, thus French and Arabic are the prevailing languages. The country's first president, Habib Bourguiba, dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. It's not uncommon to find women holding high-level positions in the government and they are prominent, entrepreneurial players in the country's olive oil industry... Looking for your next vacation spot? Tunisia's resorts and beaches are the destination of choice for holiday-seeking Europeans. Here is some good news. The current currency exchange offers fabulous value for your maligned dollar.

Next, does Tunisia produce olive oil? The short answer is yes. Tunisia has a 3000 year marriage with the olive tree. Until now, the historical role of Tunisian olive oil has been the supplier of the European bulk olive oil companies. The labels of those bottles of olive oil on the mass supermarket shelves in the U.S. usually state, "Imported from Italy," "Packed in Italy," and often "Product of Italy." These bottles are comprised mostly of olive oil from Tunisian and other countries. Unfortunately with these, they often fail to receive the best of care and handling and do not offer Extra Virgin olive oil of high quality. Sadly, there are reported instances where these bulk oils have been adulterated with other seed oils, despite being labeled Extra Virgin.

Now, here comes 100% Tunisian Olive Oil. The Tunisian government is determined to position its nation's largest agricultural export in more favorable light. The mission of 100% Tunisian olive oil is to promote and seek import representation for these individual growers who are bottling and labeling the nectar produced from their own hard earned efforts. The producers highlighted at the Winter Fancy Food Show are listed here (flavor style in parenthesis):

a.. Al Jazira (mellow);
b.. La Medina-Jerba (robust);
c.. Riviére d'Or (three Extra Virgin olive oils-reserve, organic and conventional-ranging from medium spicy to robust);
d.. Terra Delyssa (organic and conventional-mellow);
e.. and Virginia (medium spicy).

Currently two of these producers are represented by distributors in the U.S, Riviére d'Or (contact Fateh Jebara, Mediterranean Expo in New Jersey at, email: and Terra Delyssa (contact Wajih Rekik, Mediterranean Delight in Houston at, email:

Now, please stay tuned for future postings as we journey through the world of Tunisian olive oil and discover their marvelous indigenous olive varieties, Chemléli and Chetoui.

Meanwhile, for more information, check out the Web site and Twitter @tunisianevoo Check out the Facebook Fan page at

Photo: The team: Al Hamman, Hamman Marketing Associates; Hager Fenniche and Mahdi Djebali, PackTec-Tunisia; and Bill Sanders, Crush and Press

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Calistoga Wine Tastings at von Strasser, Failla, Zahtila, Vincent Arroyo and August Briggs

Despite the continuing down pour of rain, the past two days of wine tasting in Napa have been about quality, not quantity. My many thanks to Mark Skinner, general manager, at von Strasser Winery in the Diamond Mountain District near Calistoga for a splendid barrel tasting of their 2008 portfolio. These are outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon wines with their added specialty, Petit Verdot. Thanks for recommending the duck burger at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen for lunch. Yummmmmy!

This afternoon the entire team at Failla Wines rolled out their warm hospitality. Special thanks goes to Kathy and Jessica for a superb tasting. Many thanks to husband and wife owners, Ehren Jordan and Anne Marie Failla, and their charming daughter, Audrey, for the warm and gracious welcoming. These European (French) style Pinot Noirs and Syrahs beckon my heart.

Yesterday Laura Zahtila walked me through her excellent Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons. Her Oat Hill Zin rocks. Tastings at Vincent Arroyo (Petit Syrah at its best) and a solid portfolio at August Briggs brightened an uncustomary rainy day in Napa.

Good juice!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

US Spokesman for 100% Tunisian Olive Oil: Visit Us at the Fancy Food Show, Booth #3438

I'm very proud and excited to announce that I have been named the US spokesman for 100% Tunisian olive oil. Here's the official press release.
Tunisian has been producing delicate and fragrant high quality olive oil for centuries. I'm thrilled to be affiliated with my new Tunisian friends. After all, Crush and Press has always been about promoting small producers of olive oil and wine. This alliance aligns perfectly with 100% Tunisian olive oil's mission to promote the individual growers of this marvelous country and its rich heritage (and gorgeous, sunny beaches). This a history buffs dream.

If you haven't already, I urge you to consider adding Tunisian olive oil to your kitchen pantry. If your attending the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco stop by exhibit booth # 3438 and taste this liquid gold.