May 072012

While enjoying a fantastic glass of your favorite fine Italian wine with dinner, consider also using the nectar of the gods as an ingredient in your favorite dish. Cooking with wine has never been more popular and endless recipes abound that incorporate all different types of wine into favorite dishes and unique spins on classic cuisine. When you cook with Italian wine, the alcohol evaporates, so the dish will be appropriate for individuals unable to consume alcohol, underage eaters, or individuals who do not wish to imbibe any alcohol. Many international dishes include wine, especially Italian, French, and Spanish favorites. You can use any type of wine or alcohol to cook with, but Italian wine has substantial fan following when it comes to cooking with wine. Whether you want to add a unique flavor or a powerful zest to your dishes, adding your favorite Italian wine will have everyone raving over your cooking skills and the dishes you serve.

1. Choose Good Quality Italian Wine
The key to cooking with wine is to choose good quality Italian wine. Just as quality directly affects the drinking enjoyment of a glass of Italian wine, the quality will also affect the end taste of dishes that are prepared using wine as an ingredient. Remember, quality wines are not necessarily the most expensive wines, so avoid associating price with taste. It is safe to say that if you enjoy drinking a particular vineyard’s wine, you will also enjoy cooking with the same wine.

2. Cooking with Red Wine vs. White Wine
Also, you should carefully choose an Italian wine appropriate for the dish. Generally, the recipe you choose will come with the appropriate Italian wine included, but the traditional rules for serving wine with food applies to including the wine as ingredients with food. Many individuals choose to cook with white wine for a tangier, crisp taste and choose red wines for heartier dishes, including those filled with tasty cuts of meats.

3. Why You Would Boil Wine
Even though water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, alcohol has a much lower boiling point, around 175 degree Fahrenheit. For this reason, you can quickly remove alcohol in Italian wine, in fact, approximately 40 percent of the alcohol is boiled out in approximately 15 minutes. Eventually, the Italian wine will turn into a thick syrup if boiled long enough. This syrup is perfect for use as a glaze with meats or vegetables. Once the alcohol has been evaporated, the flavors are emphasized. Also, alcohol, including Italian wine, brings out the flavor of tomatoes and other ingredients. Consider adding a bit of white Italian wine to tomato sauces to bring out the flavors.

4. Cooking Wine – A Bad Idea?
There are a variety of cooking wines on the market, but you should avoid these products, since they are of lower quality than a fine Italian wine and usually contain a high amount of sodium. However, if you are a collector of fine Italian wine, save these delicious drinks from the heat, since the alcohol will only be evaporated and the importance of the wine will be lost. There are a variety of quality Italian wines on the market that are perfect for cooking.

5. Cooking Tips for Red and White Wine
Choose rich, fruity wines for dessert dishes and strong white wines for sautéed or baking dishes.  Also keep in mind the red wine will turn your chicken purple, so when cooking chicken or fish, white wine is probably best.

Apr 232012

For the 16th anniversary of Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Contest and Cook-Off®, the search forAmerica’s best burger, judges are looking for entries to include a maximum of 16 ingredients. And here is the winner back in 1990. It still sounds like a 5-star burger today!

Napa Valley Basil-Smoked Burgers
Makes 6


2/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons prepared basil pesto


2 pounds ground sirloin

1/4 cup Zinfandel

1/4 cup minced fresh basil

1/4 cup minced red onion

1/4 cup fresh Italian bread crumbs

8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, finely chopped

2 teaspoons garlic salt

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack

8 large fresh basil sprigs, moistened with water

6 large seeded sandwich rolls, split

6 slices Monterey Jack cheese

6 red leaf lettuce leaves

6 (1/4-inch-thick) large tomato slices

6 paper-thin red onion slices, separated into rings

6 fresh basil sprigs

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

Combine the mayonnaise and pesto in a small bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

To make the patties, combine the sirloin, Zinfandel, basil, onion, bread crumbs, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic salt in a large bowl. Handling the meat as little as possible, mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form them into patties to fit the rolls.

When the grill is ready, brush the rack with vegetable oil. Toss basil sprigs directly onto the fire. Place patties on the rack; cover and cook 5 to 7 minutes on each side. During the last few minutes of cooking, place rolls, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly. Top each patty with a cheese slice. Cook 1 minute.

Spread the mayonnaise over the cut sides of the rolls. On each roll bottom, place a lettuce leaf, a patty, a tomato slice, an onion slice and a basil sprig. Add the roll tops and serve.

With 16 ingredients, this burger took the grand prize in 1990


For dessert try the Take Your Breath Away Chocolate Pie

Apr 132012

Tuna can be an excellent substitute for red meat on the grill. Look for tuna steaks cut about 1 inch thick. You can wrap each steak up in aluminum foil with your choice of: butter or olive oil, soy sauce or teriyaki marinade, green onions, ginger, or pineapple slices, and some salt and pepper. In less than 15 minutes you have a delicious, healthy main dish. Try grilling summer squash, pineapple chunks, or Vadalia onions to have on the side. Add a salad and you have an amazingly delicious, healthy meal. It’s so easy; I hope you’ll enjoy this gourmet side of grilling like we have.