Tuesday, January 4, 2011


This wine-friendly salad was adapted by New York Times writer Christine Muhlke from "Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi. You can prepare the beans and peas the day before and finish making it the day of your picnic. It works with pretty much any wine and is as beautiful as it is delicious. Sorry - we forgot to take a picture.

1/2 pound French beans, trimmed
1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed
1/2 pound green peas
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, roughly crushed
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1 fresh mild red chili, deseeded and finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
Coarse sea salt

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Blanch the beans for 4 minutes, then lift them out of the pan and into a bowl of ice water to refresh. Drain and dry. Using the same boiling water, blanch the snow peas for 1 minute. Refresh, drain and dry. Blanch the green peas for 20 seconds. Refresh, drain and dry. Combine the vegetables in a large bowl.

Put the coriander seeds, mustard seeds and oil in a small saucepan set over medium heat. When the seeds begin to pop, pour the contents over the vegetables. Toss, then add the onion, chili, garlic, zest and tarragon. Mix well and season with salt to taste. 
Makes 4 salad servings, 6 as part of a picnic spread. We enjoyed this with olives, cheeses, bread, cured meats, and of course wine on the patio at Milagro Farm Vineyard and Winery. 


Without a doubt, Taste Cheese is our favorite purveyor of artisan cheeses to enjoy on our picnics.  Owner and cheesemonger Mary Palmer offers something new every week at three San Diego farmers markets: North Park (Thursday afternoons), Little Italy (Saturday mornings), and Hillcrest (Sunday mornings). Stop by Taste's booth to sample your fill until you've found your favorites, or ask Mary or one of her super-knowledgeable helpers to put together a selection for you and suggest wine pairings.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Salmon and Trout
Look for a thick piece of softly hot-smoked salmon or use cold-cured lox. Our favorite of the former (in San Diego) comes from Point Loma Seafood. This preparation is also very good with smoked trout.

½ lb. hot-smoked or cold-cured wild salmon
about ½ C. crème fraiche
about 1 C. thinly sliced cucumber
about ½ C. thinly sliced red onion
about ¼ C. capers, chopped
thin slices of pumpernickel bread or baguette
To eat, spread bread slices with a thin layer of crème fraiche and top with a cucumber slice and some salmon. Sprinkle onions and capers on top. Yield: 4 small servings

Wines: dry whites, light reds


This is fabulous as part of a seafood-themed feast. It can be made a day or two ahead. Use an oily fish such as the Blue Hill brand at Whole Foods. It’s important to incorporate the oil before the lemon juice; otherwise the parsley will discolor. Serve at room temperature.

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
5 T. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
½ C. coarsely chopped smoked whitefish
1 T. lemon juice
freshly ground pepper

In a food processor fitted with a steel knife blade, process the garlic and parsley until the garlic is well incorporated, scraping the bowl several times. Add the olive oil and smoked fish, then the lemon juice. Season with pepper. Yield:  About 2/3 C.

Wines: dry whites, light reds


Farro, or spelt, is an ancient grain with a delicious, nutty flavor. This salad is also good without the tuna. If you make it the night before your picnic, take it out of the cooler an hour or so before eating so all the flavors stand out.

3 T. olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 C. farro
3 C. vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 T. lemon juice
½ C. pitted and sliced green olives such as lucques or picholines
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
7-8 oz. oil poached tuna (recipe below), flaked, or one 7-oz. can olive oil-packed tuna
1 C. baby arugula
In a saucepan, heat 1 T. of the oil. Add the carrot and onion and cook, stirring, over moderate heat for about five minutes.  Add the farro and garlic and cook, stirring, a minute longer. Add the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the farro is tender. Drain off any excess liquid and season with salt (if needed, depending on how salty the broth was) and pepper.

Combine the remaining 2 T. olive oil with the lemon juice, olives, and fennel. Stir this mixture into the farro. To serve, fold in the tuna and arugula. Yield: 4 servings.

Oil-poached Tuna
Preheat oven t 250 F. Put the tuna in a baking dish just big enough to hold it and at least an inch taller than the tuna’s thickness. Pour in olive oil to cover. Add a crushed garlic clove and some thyme sprigs. Place the dish in the preheated oven. Check after 20 minutes; the outside of the tuna should be just opaque. If necessary, bake 5-10 minutes longer. Remove the tuna to a plate. You can save the oil for other cooking uses; it does not pick up a fishy taste.

Wines: dry whites, light reds

CITRUS-CURED HALIBUT (from JSix Restaurant, San Diego)

Rinse and re-wrap the cured halibut at home. Keep it in a cooler until picnic time.

zest of 2 oranges
zest of 2 lemons
zest of 2 limes
½ C. salt
¼ C. sugar
10 oz. of very fresh Alaska halibut
Mix all of the curing ingredients together.  Rub the halibut with them and wrap the fish and curing mixture in plastic. Place the wrapped fish in a shallow bowl or baking dish. Put a plate on top of the fish and add a weight, such as a 28-oz. can of tomatoes, on top. Refrigerate for 2-6 hours.  Unwrap and rinse the halibut. Slice thinly to serve. Yield: 4 small servings.

Wines: dry whites


It's fine to mix the herbs and spices with the salmon a few hours before serving, but save the lime juice for the last minute.

Herbs and Spices:
2 T. minced cilantro
1 T. minced shallot
½ t. peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 t. safflower, canola, or peanut oil
½ t. kosher salt
6 grinds black pepper
½ lb. very fresh wild-caught salmon
2 t. lime juice
½ small red onion, sliced paper thin
1/3 English cucumber, sliced thin
about 18 large caper berries or ¼ C. chopped capers
fresh baguette

Combine the herbs and spices in a shallow non-metallic bowl or dish with a cover.

Cut the salmon into approximately ½-inch chunks.  Refrigerate.

To serve, mix the herb and spices with the salmon, then add the lime juice.

 Serve with baguette, onions, cucumbers, caper berries, and cilantro leaves.  Yield: 4 small or 2 medium servings

Wines: dry whites, light reds


Photo: Andrew Scrivani, New York Times

This recipe is from Melissa Clark of the New York Times. We enjoyed the rich savory bread with a picnic of salads and cured meats. You can bake it a day in advance.

Olive oil, for greasing pan
210 grams all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup homemade mayonnaise (see below)
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (1 cup)
3 tablespoons pitted, chopped kalamata olives. 

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, egg and milk. Fold the wet mixture into the dry until just combined. Fold in the cheese and olives.

Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake until golden and firm, 40 minutes. Let bread cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and over turn onto a wire rack. Cool 20 minutes before slicing and serving. 

Yield: 8-10 slices


2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cold water
1 1/2 cups neutral oil such as safflower or canola

In the bowl of a food processor, whip together the yolk, lemon juice, mustard, salt and 1 teaspoon cold water. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until mayonnaise is thick and oil is incorporated. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011


This is a somewhat more complicated (and worthily so!) version of everyone’s summer favorite. The croutons can be made ahead; the rest should be done shortly before you leave for your day of wine tasting and picnicking so as not to destroy the tomatoes' flavors by putting them in the refrigerator. If it’s very hot outside you can put the salad components in the warmest part of your cooler during transport. This dish should be served at room temperature.

½ lb. country white bread
½ C. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. fresh oregano leaves
½ clove garlic
1 ½ T. red wine vinegar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
½ pint cherry tomatoes
3 lbs. heirloom tomatoes of assorted sizes, shapes, and colors
1 t. fleur de sel or Kosher salt
2 T. sliced opal basil
2 T. sliced green basil
1 lb. burrata cheese
½ C. thinly sliced shallots
¼ C. flat-leaf parsley leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the crust off the bread and tear what’s left into rustic 1-inch pieces.  Using your hands, toss the bread pieces with 2 T. olive oil, squeezing the bread gently to help absorb the oil.  Toast on a baking sheet 12-15 minutes, stirring a few times, until the croutons are golden brown and crispy on the outside but still a little soft and tender inside.

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the oregano, garlic, and a heaping ¼ t. salt to a paste.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the vinegars.  Whisk in the remaining 6 T. olive oil and taste for balance and seasoning.

Stem the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half.  Core the heirloom tomatoes.  Cut half of them in wedges and set aside.  Then one by one, hold the remaining tomatoes on their sides and cut them into ¼-inch slices. Season the slices with a little salt and pepper.  Place the slices overlapping in a large shallow container (your serving dish) with a cover, spoon a little of the vinaigrette over them and scatter a little basil on top. Cut the buratta into twelve slices, and tuck them in and around the slabs of tomato.

In a large glass or plastic bowl with a cover, gently toss the heirloom wedges and cherry tomatoes with the sliced shallots, ½ t. salt, a little pepper, and 3 T. of the vinaigrette.  Taste for seasoning, adding more vinaigrette if you like. 

To serve, gently toss the croutons into the tomato-shallot mixture and then spoon it in the center of the serving dish, piling it up so that the sliced tomatoes and burrata still show.  Scatter the parsley and remaining basil on top. Yield: 6 servings.

Wines: dry whites, light reds, fuller-bodied reds
Compliments cured meats, other cheeses

Saturday, January 1, 2011


1 C dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and drained
½ small yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 small carrot
½  lb. yellow wax beans
1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 large radishes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/3 cup small basil leaves or chopped basil
In a large saucepan, cover the drained cannellini beans with 2 inches of water.
Add the yellow onion and carrot and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cannellinis are tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Drain the cannellinis and discard the onion and carrot.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the wax beans to the saucepan and cook until just tender, 3 minutes. Drain the beans and chill them quickly in the ice water. Drain and pat dry.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and Vinegar; season with salt and black pepper.

In your picnic container, toss the cannellinis and onion slices with the dressing. Place the wax beans, radishes, and basil on top. Just before serving, mix everything together and check for seasoning. Yield: 5-6 servings.

Variation (pictured) substitute green beans and/or early harvest shell beans for the yellow wax beans. Cook the shell beans separately; they will take a couple minutes longer than the others.

This salad works with just about anything!


 The potato salad without the radishes and scallions can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature (or close) before adding the radishes and scallions.

1 ½ lbs. baby Yukon Gold or fingerling potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
½ C. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. champagne vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 celery heart, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
4 small scallions
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly. Slice the potatoes ½” thick.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl with a cover, whisk the olive oil with the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Gently fold in the potatoes and celery. Let stand at room temperature until cool, about 30 minutes.

Just before serving, fold in the radishes and scallions and season with salt and pepper. Yield: 6 servings.

Wines: dry whites, light reds, fuller-bodied reds
Compliments cheeses, cured meats, seafood


These can be made a few hours in advance and kept cold in a covered container. You may want to boil an extra egg or two to allow for peeling mishaps.

6 eggs
2 T. finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 T. good olive oil
1 T. capers, chopped
2 T. (finely flaked) tuna packed in olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Place the eggs in a saucepan and add cold water to barely cover. Cover the pan and bring to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 12 minutes. Remove the eggs to a bowl of ice water.
Peel the eggs, cut them in half lengthwise and remove the yolks to a mixing bowl. Cut a very thin slice off the rounded base of each egg white so that the egg halves will stand upright.
Add the tarragon, olive oil, capers, and tuna to the egg yolks. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the yolk mixture into the egg white shells.

Wines: dry whites, light reds, fuller-bodied reds
Compliments seafood, cured meats

SUMMER POTATO SALAD (adapted from Deborah Madison)

This salad goes very well with seafood-themed picnics. You can make it a day ahead. Serve more-or-less at room temperature.

1/2  large red onion, finely diced
¼ C. apple cider vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ C. olive oil
1 ½ lbs. firmtextured potatoes (nice to mix red and white skins)
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 ½ T. capers, rinsed
½ bell pepper (any color), finely diced
½ fennel bulb, finely diced
2 T. chopped marjoram
2 t. chopped thyme
Put the diced onion in a strainer. Bring a teakettle of water to a boil and pour it slowly over the onion. Shake onion dry and put it in a large bowl. Add vinegar, olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While you’re waiting, slice the potatoes about ¼” thick. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add 1 T. salt and the potatoes. Cook until they’re just done. Strain and rinse once with cold water (to stop the cooking but not make the potatoes cold). Add them to the onion mixture along with mustard, garlic, and capers. Stir gently. Add the pepper, fennel, and herbs; toss again. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Yield: 6 servings.

Wines: dry whites, light reds
Compliments seafood

SHAVED ASPARAGUS SALAD (adapted from Jonathan Waxman)

You can prepare the hazelnuts, asparagus, and cheese the night before. Variation: substitute zucchini or brussel sprouts for the asparagus.

¼ C. hazelnuts
1 lb. asparagus (thicker spears are better)
Juice of one lemon
¼ C. soft extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish is good)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 T. grated parmesan
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Toast the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet for 5-8 minutes. Cool, and then roll the nuts together in your hands to get off most of the skin. Crush them in a plastic bag, using the flat side of a chef’s knife or a rolling pin.

Snap the asparagus spears at their base; discard the tough ends. Using a vegetable peeler and/or a sharp paring knife, shave the spears lengthwise into long, thin slices.  Put them in the container you intend to serve from.

Mix the lemon juice and olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

Right before serving, toss the dressing with the asparagus and hazelnuts; top with a dusting of parmesan.  Yield:  3-4 servings, depending on the size of the asparagus spears.

Wines: dry whites, light reds, fuller-bodied reds
Compliments cured meats, cheeses


Use good olives here!  It’s not important to get the proportions exactly right – it’s always delicious, can be made a day ahead, and keeps for several days if you happen to have leftovers.  Black Bottle in Seattle serves the salad that inspired this recipe with salami on the side but it isn't necessary; this dish stands on its own.  Serve more-or-less at room temperature.

1 C. each green and black olives (Picholines or Lucques and Kalamatas; throw in some Cerignolas if you want less intensity)
½ of a medium-sized fennel bulb plus some fennel fronds
1/2 C. diced tomatoes or quartered cherry tomatoes
2 oz. French feta, crumbled (about ½ C.)
about 10 grinds fresh pepper
about 3 T. good olive oil
butter lettuce leaves for serving

Pit the olives by pressing them beneath the broad end of a chef’s knife or cleaver.  Put them in a glass or plastic bowl with a cover.

Slice the fennel in half lengthwise and then crosswise, as thinly as you can.  Stir this into the olives along with the tomatoes, feta, and pepper, and 2T. olive oil. Chop the fennel fronds and place them on top of the salad. 

To serve, spread the butter lettuce leaves on a plate and arrange the salad atop them. Drizzle with the remaining 1 T. olive oil. Yield: About 3 Cups (4-6 servings).

Wines: light reds, fuller-bodied reds
Compliments cured meats, cheeses


This is best served close to room temperature, on thinly sliced bread or crackers.  It goes well with olives and soft goat cheese.  It will keep, refrigerated, for at least 5 days.

¾ C. dried white beans (about 2 C. cooked)

2 t. salt


1 large head garlic


1 medium shallot, peeled and quartered

1 t. dried thyme leaves (or 1 T. fresh)

1 t. dried rosemary leaves (or 1 T. fresh)

½ C. olive oil

½ C. packed fresh sage leaves, no stems

2 T. lemon juice

½ t. Tabasco sauce

6 grinds black pepper

1/2 t. salt, or to taste


Cook the beans according to your favorite method until they’re falling apart, using 2 t. salt.  Drain.

Wrap the garlic head in foil and roast in a 350 F. oven until soft – about 30 minutes.  Discard foil and let the garlic bulb cool until you can handle it.  Slice through the fat side and squeeze out the roasted garlic.

Put the shallot in the work bowl of a food processor with steel knife blade. Pulse a few times to chop.  Add the beans, garlic, thyme, and rosemary.  Pulse a few more times.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until the sage is finely chopped and everything is well mixed.  Adjust seasonings.  Yield: About 2 cups.

Wines: dry whites, light reds, fuller-bodied reds
Compliments mild cheeses, cured meats


This salad tastes best at room temperature. It can be made a day ahead. If someone in your party doesn't like beets, just marinate them separately from the potatoes.

about a pound of freshly harvested raw beets
about ¾ lb. small potatoes such as Yukon Golds, cleaned and cut into 3/4” pieces
2 T. finely chopped fresh mint
5 green onions, finely sliced
1 T. balsamic vinegar
A pinch of castor (superfine) sugar (optional)
4 T. good olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 T. roughly chopped flat‐leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 400º F. Wash the beets and trim the tops off. Place them in a baking pan or wrap together in foil and roast until tender. This will take 4575 minutes, depending on how big the beets are. Remove and let them cool. Peel and cut into 1/2 –inch pieces.

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. While they’re cooking, mix the vinaigrette ingredients together. Drain the potatoes; combine them with the beets and vinaigrette. Stir in the parsley; adjust seasonings.

Make ahead: Prepare the salad as above, leaving out the parsley. Refrigerate. A few hours before serving, remove salad from the refrigerator. Stir in the parsley right before serving.  Yield: 4-6 side-dish servings.

Wines: dry whites, light reds, fuller-bodied reds
Compliments cured meats, cheeses, or seafood


6 small or 3 large freshly harvested red or yellow beets
1 C. French lentils
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs thyme
½ t. salt
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. lemon zest
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
¼ t. salt
freshly ground black pepper
5 T. olive oil
1 preserved lemon about the size of a lime (available in specialty shops and sometimes at places that sell bulk olives)
2 T. chopped fresh mint
½ C. chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 400º F.  Wash the beets and trim the tops off.  Place them in a baking pan or wrap together in foil and roast until tender. This will take 45-75 minutes, depending on how big the beets are.  Remove and let them cool.  Peel and dice into ½-inch cubes.  Sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

Meanwhile, place the second group of ingredients in a saucepan and add water to cover by about ¾ inch.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender: 20-25 minutes.  Discard the herb sprigs and bay leaf, drain well and transfer to a large bowl. 

For the vinaigrette, combine lemon juice, zest, shallot and ¼ t. salt.  Let stand for about 15 minutes. Add olive oil; season with more salt and pepper as desired.
To assemble the salad, quarter the lemon and scrape out the soft pulp.  Discard seeds.  Finely chop the pulp and stir 2 t. of it into the vinaigrette.  Finely chop the lemon skin and add it, along with the beets, vinaigrette, chopped parsley and mint to the lentils.  Toss. Yield: 6 side-dish servings.

Wines: dry whites, light reds, fuller-bodied reds
Compliments cheeses, cured meats, seafood