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.

Jan 162012

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 15 min

Level: Easy

Serves: 6 servings


36 slices (1/2-inch thick) baguette bread, about 1 loaf
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces Gorgonzola, sliced
3 tablespoons honey


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the sliced baguette on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil. Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Arrange the cheese on the toasts and bake until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Drizzle the toasts with honey. Place on a serving platter and serve immediately.

Jan 032012

Pasta and Chicken are always a favorite at my house, and this dish is no exception. The fresh tastes of the tomatoes and basil come through. Using a store bought chicken broth makes this recipe ideal for the beginner cook; however, for an even better flavor, you might try making your own broth by simmering a whole chicken.

CQ- Chicken Penne Al-fresco

4 Garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
3 cups uncooked mezze penne pasta
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup dry white wine such as Chardonnay
1/2 tsp each salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, divided
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup packed)
2 cups diced grilled chicken breasts
Additional grated fresh Parmesan cheese and coarsely ground black pepper (optional)

Spray baker with olive oil spritzer. Slice or press garlic into baker  Add tomatoes. Cover; microwave on HIGH 4-5 minutes or until tomatoes begin to burst, stirring after 2 minutes. Crush tomatoes. Add pasta, broth, wine, salt and black pepper.
Return baker to microwave; cover and microwave on HIGH 16-18 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring after 10 minutes. Meanwhile, coarsely chop basil. Reserve 2 tbsp for garnish. Grate cheese.
Carefully remove baker from microwave and remove lid, lifting away from you. Add remaining basil, cheese and chicken to baker ; mix well. Garnish with reserved 2 tbsp basil, additional Parmesan cheese and black pepper, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutrients per serving: Light (about 1 cup): Calories 240, Total Fat 2.5 g, Saturated Fat .5 g, Cholesterol 25 mg, Carbohydrate 35 g, Protein 17 g, Sodium 450 mg, Fiber 2 g

Cook’s Tips: An additional 3/4 cup chicken broth can be substituted for the wine, if desired.

Any tube-shaped pasta requiring 9-11 minutes cook time, such as penne or rigatoni, can be substituted for the mezze penne pasta.

To grill chicken in a Grill Pan, season 2 chicken breasts, about 6 oz each, with salt and black pepper. Heat Grill Pan over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Spray pan with oil. Cook chicken 4-6 minutes or until grill marks appear. Turn chicken over; cook 4-6 minutes or until center of chicken is no longer pink and Digital Pocket Thermometer registers 170°F.

Another favorite chicken recipe of mine is Chicken Bourguignon with White Wine

Jan 032012

Most of us have found some sort of Italian cuisine that has become a favorite for our families and ourselves. Unfortunately, far too many of us discount the possibility of bringing Italian cooking into our very own American kitchens for fear that many of the recipes are far too difficult. Learning to cook Italian food just might make your home the favorite drop in dining spot for friends and family all over.

Believe it or not, most great Italian recipes have an easier version that can be made with very similar effects when it comes to flavor and aroma. Also, despite the commercials of old, all Italian cooking does not require an entire day of simmering in order to achieve great flavor. You do not have to let your friends and family in on that little secret though.. You do not have to let anyone in on your best-kept secrets when it comes to preparing these often simple dishes.

The biggest challenge that most Americans face when it comes to Italian cooking is basically learning a new set of essential ingredients. The cheese, meats, or grains that are used in their creation most often identify or define Italian cuisine. It’s the combination of these primary ingredients that create some of the most distinctive flavors on earth. Learn about these ingredients. Identify the flavors and study the combinations of flavors and you should be able to not only follow many great Italian recipes but also to invent a few of your very own Italian inspired recipes.

The greatest thing when it comes to cooking Italian food is that most of these dishes are rather difficult to destroy. This of course does not indicate that it cannot be done, only that it isn’t as simple as with some of the more delicate cuisines around the world. Italian food is durable and flavorful but for the most part not too terribly delicate when it comes to flavor. You can go a little heavy with some spice or cheese without completely ruining the dish in most instances. If you are anything like me, this is a regular occurrence when cooking and one of the reasons I enjoy cooking Italian food so much. Fresh ingredients is the key to an authentic Italian meal. Fresh herbs like basil can be purchased in most chain grocery stores. You don’t have to grow it yourself or even stop by a farmer’s market. Fresh basil, fresh garlic and some good quality extra virgin olive oil and you are well on your way to success.

Another thing you should keep in mind when cooking Italian food is that nothing seems to bring out the flavor of Italian food better than a good bottle of wine to match. Perhaps this is the reason that it is difficult to ruin an Italian meal, no matter how bad it is, the good wine paired with it, will erase all ill will and tastes in very short order. You will want to spend a little time researching and studying the science (though some will argue that this is truly an art form) that goes along with pairing a good bottle of wine with the right flavor combination when it comes to Italian cooking. Once you’ve mastered this, there is nothing to prevent you from being the diva of all things Italian when it comes to food preparation.

The most important thing for you to remember when cooking Italian food is not to take the cooking too seriously. Good Italians know that the enjoyment of the meal is far more important than the process of preparing the meal. Make your meal an event with plenty of time for pleasant conversation and enjoyment of your company in between courses. You should also never rush a good Italian meal or you will find that all your efforts cooking Italian will be for naught as the true pleasure of Italian cuisine has been lost somewhere in translation. For now check out this extremely easy “Grilled Chicken Penne al Fresco” that is posted on my site – more will come later.