The Gleeful Gourmand: July 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Perfect Summer White?

Here's a quick wine recommendation that's absolutely perfect for summertime. It's Cupcake Vineyard's Chardonnay. Now I seem to remember hearing somewhere that the tide has turned against Chardonnays. That this particular grape was the "it" grape a few years ago, and everyone jumped on board, but then drank so much of it that they all quickly jumped off the board. I have no idea about that. I don't typically follow wine trends. I'm usually too engrossed in the food to care. I leave the caring about wine selection up to my husband, who, (ahem) has sworn up and down that he's going to write a blog post soon about his favorite wine picks.

Anyway. Trends be damned, this is an excellent Chardonnay. It's crisp, yet velvety...oh, forget it, I'm no good at describing wines. Here's what the label from the back of the bottle says, and I honestly could not say it better than this:

"Our vineyards work hard to bring you the biggest, richest Chardonnay from California's desirable Central Coast, where the sun-drenched grapes create full and elegantly-textured wines. Decadent flavors of butter cream, bright citrus and vanilla melt into a balance of oak and subtle spice. In other words: Sinful."

See, doesn't that sound good? It is. Tonight we drank it with an orzo salad that had cherry tomatoes, basil, red onions, kidney beans and a light red wine vinaigrette with corn on the cob and strawberry bread. It was perfect. We found our bottle at World Market for just $13. If you want to learn more about Cupcake Vineyards, you can go here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blueberry Pie Calling

In Anne Dimock’s short, sweet book “Humble Pie: What Lies Beneath the Crust,” she talks about how everyone who enjoys making pie eventually finds their “pie calling,” or the pie they most enjoy making. She’s right – in the past I had made tons of pumpkin pies, and a few apple pies, but I never felt any particular affinity for either of them. Then the summer Buck and I got engaged I decided to try my hand at making blueberry pie.

Despite the fact that when I cut into it the filling completely oozed out into the pie plate and I was left with just a piecrust with some filling heaped on the side, it was delicious, and I was hooked. I started fooling with the recipe and perfecting it to my liking. It’s been 7 years, and I look forward to summer each year just so I can start making my blueberry pies. I know this pie inside and out, and I never get tired of making it. I never get tired of making it for my husband, or for potluck dinners, or for friends who have had babies, or are in need of a pick-me-up. It fills me with joy knowing that what I’ve made is filled with a lot of passion and love. And I have to boast that more than one person has claimed it’s the best pie they’ve ever had in their lives. Blueberry is my pie calling.

The recipe is very simple and it comes from Southern Living’s Ultimate Cookbook, with my own additions. Here are some things you need to know about this pie: You need to set aside some time to really pick over the blueberries making sure you have the best ones for the filling. They don’t have to be overly big (in fact, it’s the smaller ones that are usually better), but they do have to be free from stems and general smushed yuckiness. You definitely need to use fresh lemon juice. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, it doesn’t make a difference. But I’m here to tell you that it really does. So don’t skimp on the quality of your ingredients.

Also, I still haven’t made my own piecrust yet, but you’ll see that the recipe guides you in using your homemade piecrust. I use Pillsbury’s prepared piecrust in the refrigerator section. Don’t judge.

Blueberry Pie

5 cups fresh blueberries

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Pastry for double-crust 9-inch pie

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour (I do not level this. I use a heaping cup full)

1/8 tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground cinnamon (I don’t skimp here either)

1 tsp. cornstarch (this is my own addition, it really helps to thicken the filling)

2 Tbsp. butter or margarine

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp. sugar

• Sprinkle berries with lemon juice, set aside.

• Roll half of pastry to a 1/8-inch thickness on a floured surface. Place in a 9-inch pieplate.

• Combine 1 cup sugar and next 3 ingredients; add to berries, stirring well. Pour into pastry shell, and dot with butter.

• Roll remaining pastry to 1/8-inch thickness. Place over filling; seal and crimp edges. Cut slits in top of crust to allow steam to escape. Brush top of pastry with beaten egg, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar.

• Bake at 400˚ for 35 minutes or until golden. Cover edges with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning if necessary. Yields 8 servings.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What's In A Name?

Savannah and Delia are one month old today! My, how the time flies. One whole month ago today we were checking into the hospital, and then before I knew it, I was delivering our girls by C-section, and getting updates from Buck about how they were faring in the NICU.

And now, one month later they are home and thriving! It’s a great feeling to watch them literally develop before our eyes as they gain weight and slowly but surely become a little bit more alert. But mostly they just sleep most of the time, eat, and poop. Which is just fine by us – we’ve already settled into a great routine and a nice schedule, but we’re looking forward to moving them from a 3-hour schedule to a 4-hour schedule. As far as we know, there is still about a pound difference between them even as they grow, and that’s how we’re able to tell them apart.

The only bumps in the road we’ve hit are with Liam. Being a 3 ½ year old and having all these major changes occurring in our home was bound to create some backlash. While he is incredibly loving and sweet with the girls, he’s taking all that frustration out on us. We expected it, but that doesn’t make it any easier as we try to love him through this season, while also trying not to lose our cool. I know we’ll all get over this hurdle together, but sometimes it really does feel like someone has replaced my son with a lookalike who has a completely different personality. It kind of feels like no matter how much attention we pay him, or how much love we heap on him, and how occupied we keep him nothing is going to keep our family from having to go through this storm. We just keep reminding ourselves that it's just for a season, and with enough consistency he's going to mellow out and move past it, but it's really tough at times, and the worst always seems to hit when we're at our most tired.

Anyway, a lot of people have remarked on our daughter’s names, and how southern they are. We never meant for them to be so southern, but here’s how we came up with them: Savannah Jeanne was the name we had picked out for Liam if he had turned out to be a girl. It was nice knowing we already had one name chosen. Savannah, Georgia is one of our favorite cities in the world, and Jeanne was my grandmother’s name. She passed away a few months ago, but not before I was able to tell her over the phone that one of the girls bore her namesake. Delia was the name of my father’s aunt and a name we both really dug (though I also really liked the name Fern, after one of my favorite books, “Charlotte’s Web”). Her middle name, Grace, was Buck’s favorite name, but it was kind of cool because Grace was also the name of my father’s grandmother, which we didn’t know beforehand. So we know they’re a little southern, and also a little old-fashioned, but there definitely was a purpose behind each name.

Happy One Month Birthday Savannah Jeanne and Delia Grace!

P.S. - Caption the photo in the comments!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Well, I Do Declare!

I am not a mixologist. I think the most I've ever "mixed" drinks I could count on one hand, and they were all the blender variety. I enjoy it when other people mix me drinks, but my idea of a good drink that I can make myself that isn't wine is a little American Honey on the rocks. Or Bailey's. And that's it.

So, imagine my trepidation when I decided for Father's Day to get Buck something he's been wanting for a while: mint julep cups. And not just any mint julep cups, but cups done in the Virginia design, actually called "The Richmond Cup." I also researched the best bourbon to use in said mint juleps and purchased Buffalo Trace. I was really excited to make this drink for us, and so I did even more research and found out that there are about 15,000 variations on how to make the mint julep. Okay, I made that up. There are only 14,000. Honestly, it seemed to be pretty simple - the hardest part was choosing the right bourbon, or so I thought. And then I got to the part where you have to "muddle" the mint and the sugar together.

Well, I followed the chosen recipe to the letter, and for some reason, it didn't quite turn out the way we remembered. While the bourbon was excellent, it wasn't sweet enough, and we could barely taste the mint. I'm not sure where I went wrong. Maybe it was my muddling. Maybe after feeding babies all the livelong day my wrists have given out and the muddling suffered. Or maybe it was the recipe itself? Who knows. But that's why I'm opening it up to you, dear readers: Do you have a tried and true, no-fail mint julep recipe or technique?Please educate me on this in the comments!

P.S.- The above picture is the actual mint julep I made. Impressed? Yeah, me neither.