When Chef Peter Minaki Cooks For You

When Chef Peter Minaki Cooks For You

Chef Peter Minaki
Photo Credit: Kalofagas

One of the best things about food blogging is connecting with interesting people. One of these interesting people is Chef/Author/Blogger Peter Minaki. Peter’s based in Toronto, Canada and his niche is Greek food, libations and travel. You can read his popular food/travel blog at: www.kalofagas.ca

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Peter several times, both in New Jersey/New York where I live and also a couple times in his beautiful hometown of Toronto. For selfish reasons, I kept telling Peter he had to come host some of his cooking classes/pop up dinners in my area and a few years back, he did just that. Greek food is by far my favorite cuisine, so Peter’s food is right up my alley.

I’m part of a 4-couple wine group that meets every 6-8 weeks for dinner over glasses of stellar wines. A couple years ago, I proposed to the group that we have Peter cook for us when he came down to teach cooking classes and to host pop up dinners, and, to my pleasure, all loved the idea. Peter cooked at my home and we shopped for food together. The evening was a huge hit and thus, we decided to do it again in early summer this year.

Peter and I shopped for the food items together again, a fun activity in itself, and he cooked at fellow wine group friends Jen and Harry’s home. We voted on our favorite dishes and I worked with Peter to create a very extensive menu for the evening. Some of the dishes featured were: my favorite – grilled octopus, grilled lamb chops, branzino baked in a salt crust and Peter’s signature chocolate ganache tart. There were MANY other memorable dishes that evening with some spectacular wines.

I highly-recommend this experience, ideally with Peter. The cost per guest is very affordable, especially when wine comes from our cellars and not a pricy restaurant.

Get to know Peter on social media (yes, you’ll be drooling on your keyboard over the amazing food and travel photography he shares):

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Kalofagas1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kalofagas

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kalofagas  

Opa,

Veronique

Victory V Twelve Liquid Luxury

Victory V Twelve Liquid Luxury

Had this bargain beer ($8~) at a party recently and really enjoyed it.

Appearance: Dark honey with small head.

Smell: Dried fruit, caramel with yeasty notes.

Taste: Malty, brown sugar, ripe fruit and a little hoppy on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Little jammy and mouth-coating.

Overall: Solid brew that’s true to the style and pretty boozy.

Brewed by: Victory Brewing Company, Pennsylvania, USA

Style: Quadrupel. Belgian Strong Ale

Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 12.0%

Format(s): corked 750ml bottles

Ideal Glass: Chalice, goblet

Cheers,

Veronique

Bird Dinner at Crystal Springs Resort

Bird Dinner at Crystal Springs Resort

Chefs Bucco & Viana

Award-winning Crystal Springs Resort is hosting a fun collaboration between its Chef, Anthony Bucco, and Chef David Viana of Heirloom Kitchen on Sunday October 8th at 7pm in the Chef’s Garden at the resort.

The three course menu will feature each chef’s unique preparations of different birds and fall seasonal vegetables, all cooked in the Chef’s Garden wood fired ovens and stoves. Dishes will be true collaborations with elements from both chefs on every plate.

Some dishes include Chef Bucco’s Pheasant Sausage paired with Chef Viana’s roasted pears and walnuts and Chef Viana’s Stuffed Quail served with Chef Bucco’s baked heirloom beans. Black Dirt Applejack cocktails, Naked Flock hard cider and wines from Alba Vineyard will be paired with the menu.

Seats for the dinner are $105 (tax & gratuity additional) and reservations can be made by calling 855.698.2283.

Chef’s Garden is located at 3 Wild Turkey Way, Hamburg, NJ; www.crystalgolfresort.com/dine/garden/.

Cheers,

Veronique

Coconut Milk Roasted Chicken

Coconut Milk Roasted Chicken

I had a couple of whole chickens in the freezer that I wanted to cook now that fall is here and I need the space in the freezer for bags of foods from my summer crops.

This recipe follows in my goal to make tasty dishes even when “there’s nothing to eat in this house” so I opened the pantry and gathered leftover produce and made a roasted chicken with tons of Thai/Indian flavors that was a huge hit at my home.

I know roast chicken and white rice isn’t the easiest to photograph BUT, this was definitely a tasty dish that took about 20 minutes to prepare (plus roasting time).

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 pound whole chicken, washed under cool water and patted dry with paper towels
  • 1 tsp. each salt and black pepper
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped lemongrass
  • 1 Tbsp. grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. garam masala (use curry powder if you don’t have)
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 13-ounce can coconut milk (I used light)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or 14.5-ounce can)
  • Slurry – 1 Tbsp. cornstarch whisked with ¼ cup water
  • Squeeze of lime juice (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Rub the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, combine garlic, lemongrass, ginger, thyme and olive oil to create a paste.
  4. Rub half the garlic mixture on the chicken, reserving the other half. You can use the chicken right away or store it for a day, wrapped in the fridge.
  5. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, allow the vegetable oil to warm for a minute. Add the chicken, breast-side down and brown for about 5 minutes then turn and brown the other side of the chicken for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the chicken from the Dutch oven to a platter.
  7. To the hot Dutch oven, add the second half of the garlic mixture, the paprika, the garam masala and the cayenne pepper and cook for a minute until fragrant.
  8. Add the diced onion to the spices and cook until softened, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
  9. Add the coconut milk and the broth to the onion mixture and stir.
  10. Return the chicken to the Dutch oven, cover and place in the oven. Cook for 1 ½ – 2 hours, until very tender, basting the chicken with the broth periodically.
  11. Remove the chicken from the pot to a serving dish and place the Dutch oven on the stove over high heat. When the broth is simmering, add the corn starch slurry and whisk for 2 minutes until the sauce has thicken.
  12. Carve the chicken and serve with Easy Basmati Rice and the sauce. I love adding a squeeze of lime juice to this dish, but it’s optional.

Serves 6.

 

Inspired by this recipe.

Salmon with Maple Glaze

Salmon with Maple Glaze

I’m Canadian – you know I have to put maple syrup on things! This is a VERY simple and delicious recipe for salmon, which can be a boring fish. Serve this with green beans or asparagus and you’re in business on busy weeknights.

Don’t have a grill? Live in the frozen tundra and don’t want to go outside? Sear the salmon skin side down in an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat then finish in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped ginger
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 salmon fillets, 6 ounces each

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the brown sugar, maple syrup and butter. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil and ginger.  Let cool.
  2. Preheat grill to medium heat.  Brush salmon skin with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Place the salmon skin side down on the grill. Brush some of the glaze over the salmon fillets.  Grill for 10 to 12 minutes to medium doneness, with the lid of the grill closed.

Serves 2.

Easy Apple Crumble

Easy Apple Crumble

Last week, I visited family in Quebec where it’s apple season. While I love a crisp apple picked right off the tree in our orchard, I’m not typically a fan of apple desserts. It’s really not the apple part I don’t like in those desserts, it’s the cinnamon that seems to always be prominent. I do NOT like cinnamon! I know, I’m weird. Come to find out my sister is also weird and doesn’t like cinnamon either, so when she made an apple crumble for dessert one night, she just left out the cinnamon – delish dessert!!

This easy dessert is best served with vanilla ice cream and warm.

Ingredients:

  • 8 medium apples, peeled and thinly-sliced (used Cortlands)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup quick cooking oats

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter (or coat with cooking spray) a 3-cup baking dish or an 8” pie plate.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the apples, sugar, lemon juice and the water. Place in the baking dish.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter for a minute. Add the brown sugar and beat for another minute. Add the flour and oats and beat until just combined. Cover the apples with the flour/oats mixture. Bake for 45 minutes, until top of the crumble is browned and slightly caramelized around the edge.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Yields 6 servings.

Brooklyn Brewery Hand & Seal

Brooklyn Brewery Hand & Seal

Wow just wow with this baby. This was a very limited release by Brooklyn Brewery that I feel privileged to have tasted.

Appearance: Medium copper in the glass with a head that’s almost non-existent.

Smell: Nice sweet mocha aromas on this bourbon barrel-aged barleywine ale.

Taste: Caramel and mocha flavors with some vanilla on the finish.

Mouthfeel: Just a mellow, round and smooth brew.

Overall: Brooklyn Brewery calls it “one of the richest, tastiest beers to ever emerge from our brewery”. If you can locate this beer – buy it…but it’s doubtful. Great for pairing with a charcuterie plate and with grilled sausages.

Brewed by: Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY

Style: Barleywine-style Ale Aged in Bourbon Barrels

Alcohol by Volume (ABV): 13.3%

Format(s): 750ml cork-finished bottle

Ideal Glass: Chalice, sniffer

Cheers,

Veronique

Paco & Lola Wine Tasting

Paco & Lola Wine Tasting

David Geary

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a wine pairing dinner featuring the wines of Paco & Lola from Galicia Spain. The dinner took place at a local restaurant and wine bar, Tree Tavern, and a representative from the winery, David Geary, was on-hand to offer interesting information about the wines, the winery and Galicia Spain, where the winery is located.

About Paco & Lola

Paco & Lola is a relatively young winery founded in 2005 that’s committed to making wine in a modern, fresh way and for exuding a sophisticated-yet-fun image for wine drinkers with its polka dot branding.

Paco & Lola was born from a business initiative of a group of independent winegrowers from O Salnés who wanted to take their production to a professional level. These winegrowers formed “Sociedad Cooperativa Vitivinícola Arousana” which is now the largest cooperative in the DO Rías Baixas with over 400 members.

Paco & Lola is a producer of Albariño, considered THE white grape variety grown in Galicia. It’s an early ripening grape variety with small, tightly-packed clusters of sweet, deep golden berries that are renowned for their outstanding sugar-producing ability and remarkable high acidity.

Some tasting notes from the wines we tasted at the dinner:

Paco & Lola 2016 Albariño – 100% Albariño ($29.99)

In the Glass

Light straw yellow with a touch of green.

Nose

Lovely fragrant aromas of juicy pear, green apple with a bit of tropical fruit and some floral notes.

Palate

Tropical fruit continues on the palate with some Meyer lemon notes. Medium-full bodied wine with nice amount of acidity on the long-ish finish.

Food Pairings

Fish, seafood, white meats

Nº12 by Paco & Lola – 100% Albariño ($19.99)

12 were the days that the must fermented in the tank number 12.

In the Glass

Light straw yellow with a touch of green.

Nose

Meyer lemon and floral aromas with a hint of tropical fruit.

Palate

Big mango/lychee fruit flavors with good acidity.

Paco Red 2014 – 50% Tempranillo, 50% Garnacha ($18.99)

While Paco & Lola focuses on Albariño, it produces this red out of the DO Navarra, where Tempranillo- Garnacha grapes from old vines are harvested in vineyards of the Valdizarbe subzone. It was recommended this wine be served a bit on the cooler side, at around 56 degrees and I completely agree.

In the Glass

Dark cherry red with some purple hints.

Nose

Big red berry aromas with some floral notes.

Palate

Juicy dark berries and cherry flavors.

Food Pairings

Solid Tuesday night wine ideal for pizza, red sauced pasta, grilled burgers.

 

Paco & Lola 2010 Vintage – 100 % Albariño ($54.00)

Special high-end wine made in a limited edition of the best harvest of 2010. There were 400 bottles produced, I wouldn’t expect to find this in stores.

In the Glass

Intense straw yellow.

Nose

Candied tropical fruit with notes of nutmeg/cumin spices.

Palate

In love with this wine from the first sip – mouth-coating texture with big ripe fruit flavors and yeasty/toasted bread notes. Great acidity on a long finish.

Food Pairings

Lightly spicy foods (Thai, Indian), seafood, fish, roasted chicken or grilled pork.

Paco & Lola is expanding its reach in the USA and I highly recommend you check its wines out.

Cheers,

Veronique

Cremini Mushroom Freekeh

Cremini Mushroom Freekeh

I try to stay faithful to Meatless Mondays and that’s a bit easier when I can incorporate “meaty” mushrooms to my recipes. This is one of my “not really a recipe” recipe that takes very little effort to make and is pretty darn tasty.

I use freekeh from Freekehlicious, the leading importer of Greenwheat Freekeh, a product of Australia and toss it with some slowly sautéed Cremini mushrooms. Yes, you could totally make this with regular button mushrooms, but I like the beefiness of Cremini. I’ve also topped this dish with some grated Parmesan and it was delish.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups vegetable broth (could use water or chicken or beef broth)
  • ½ cup freekeh
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1½ pounds small Cremini mushrooms (or large ones cut in half)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the broth to a boil. Add the freekeh, stir, turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes (or follow package directions). Turn the heat off, keep the lid on and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Warm the oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat then add the mushrooms. Cook for about 10 minutes, tossing frequently, until the mushrooms are browned and softened. Add the garlic to the mushrooms and cook for a minute. Add the Worcestershire sauce, the soy sauce, the sage and the salt & pepper and cook for another minute, tossing the mushrooms in the “sauce” to coat.
  3. Add the cooked freekeh to the mushrooms and toss to combine.
  4. If using, top the freekeh/mushroom mixture with the parmesan.

Yields two servings.

Win Big at Calandra’s First Annual Pig Roast

Chef Palmieri

Il Vecchio Cafe, located at Calandra’s Italian Village, is excited to host its first Pig Roast! The event will be held on Sunday, September 17th, 2017 from 12:30 PM to 7:30 PM.

This outdoor*, family-friendly event will focus on food, fun and amazing giveaways thanks to Calandra’s partnership with MetLife Stadium. The highlight of the menu will be the roast pig, but other entree and featured side dishes including pulled pork sliders, corn on the cob, grilled salmon, oven roasted BBQ wings, and more will be served.  There will be BBQ-style games for all, as well as grand prize sports tickets and other fun prizes. All of this is included in the $30 price for adults, $12 for children and children 3 years old and under eat and play for free! [Add in that drinks are additional]. WDHA, 105.5 The Rock of New Jersey, will be live broadcasting the event with music and a special guest appearance!

This fall, Calandra’s will also be featuring all Sunday football games at our outdoor bar so catch the games as you enjoy delicious BBQ and a drinks on our patio.

*The roast will be held rain or shine. If weather is inclement, the party will move into La Taverna, the restaurant’s indoor bar area.

For additional information and reservations, please call Il Vecchio Cafe at 973-226-8889 option 1.