Category Archives: Wine & Recipe Pairings

Tilapia with Lemon Verbena Cream Sauce on Arugula & Potatoes

tilapia with lemon verbena cream sauce

new potatoes and arugula

lemon verbena cream sauce

I recently changed CSA’s from Farm Fresh to You (which I did for nearly 3 years) to Eatwell Farms–I’ve only received one shipment, but was 100% delighted with the first one which included strawberries, red and white spring onions, huge arugula, fava beans, lettuces, braising greens and best of all–fresh lemon verbena. Normally I don’t like my food to smell like bath products I use or my bath products to smell like food, but in this case, it was a new challenge–I’ve never cooked with the stuff. I almost decided to start making home made face products alla Lush cosmetics, but thought better of it and remembered my growling stomach.

Recipe: Tilapia with Lemon Verbena Cream Sauce on Arugula & New Potatoes
For Two

2 filets tilapia*
4-6 cups fresh arugula, chopped coarsly
6 small new (red) potatoes, sliced in 1/2 inch chunks
4 T creme fraiche
2 C fresh lemon verbena leaves**
1/2 small/medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 C wine
4 T olive oil
2 T white wine vinegar
4 T butter, divided
salt & fresh cracked pepper

For the sauce
Combine the onion, wine, and a generous few cranks of pepper in a sauce pan, and cook until almost translucent at medium heat. In a blender or food processor, add the lemon verbena leaves, white wine vinegar, olive oil and the slightly cooled onion mixture. Blend very well until evenly textured. Set aside and let cool. Just before serving, add creme fraiche and blend briefly to incorporate. Can be made ahead and refrigerated for several days. Flavor will mellow, however, and is most fragrant at room temperature, but most creamy/thick cool.

For the fish and potatoes
Using half the butter (2T), heat a large skillet to high heat and fry the potatoes until golden. If using a cast iron, turn off the heat and add the arugula, stirring to wilt. If using other pan, reduce heat to low and stir until arugula is wilted. Set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat another skillet with other 2T of butter, and lightly salt/pepper the tilapia filets. Once butter is at medium high heat, add filets, turning when mostly cooked.

Serve fish on top of potatoes and arugula, topping at last moment with fresh sauce.

Great with a dry white wine like pinot blanc or pinot grigio from the north of Italy (Alto Adige region).

* You can substitute halibut, basa, or other mild fish of your choice.
** Fresh lemon verbena is not that easy to come by and dries out very quickly once picked. You can substitute cilantro, but it will produce a very different but equally delicious sauce.

Scallops in Fava & Pea Puree, Littleneck Clams on White Beans, Sausage & Chard, Creme Fraiche Pannacotta with Strawberries

creme fraiche panna cotta with strawberries (sunday suppers at lucques)

I had occasion to cook last night– a Sunday– and was feeling pretty inspired by a very solid weekend of good eats. Friday night a feast in our back yard, Saturday a hike from our doorstep to the top of twin peaks, down into the mission for a stop at Delfina Pizzeria, an errand at Tartine (here’s a hint: it involved walnut bread, croissants and an eclair) and another at BiRite (which involved this steak) and yet another feast in our back yard.

There is a huge collection of cookbooks in my living room. You can tell they aren’t used often because they’re behind glass, stacked with ornamental things on top that would have to be moved to use them. I woke up around 9 on Sunday and tip toed into the living room to loot a few, returned to bed and did the most serious reading I’ve probably done since college…and the result, my final paper, if you will–this menu.

Scallop in Fava & Pea Puree from Amuse Bouche (slightly altered for scale and for oil content)
With Vouvray

Clams with White Beans, Sausage & Chard from Amuse Bouche (altered significantly)
With Vermentino from Sardegna

Creme Fraiche Pannacotta with Strawberries (From Sunday Suppers at Lucques — perfect as is but would use more milk/less cream next time)
with Moscato di Asti

Chevre Stuffed Fried Zucchini Blossoms

You could also use pumpkin blossoms for this recipe, so long as they are not too large/brittle/old.

I have finally figured out how to make my fried zucchini blossoms less oily, more light and all around prettier. The secret is really two things: 1) Thin batter. The texture of crepe batter. 2) Use something carbonated in the batter. Don’t settle for sake, wine, water. Use champagne, beer, sparkling water.

For the stuffing

1/3lb fresh goat cheese, such as Capricho di Cabra
3 T pepitas (uncooked, dried pumpkin seeds)
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Bring goat cheese to room temperature, toast the pepitas lightly and mix everything together. Stuff the clean, dry zucchini blossoms with the mixture and fold the flowers closed on it. About a tablespoon per flower.

For the batter

1 C champagne, bubbly, beer, etc
3/4 cup tempura flour mix or 2/3 cup flour + some baking soda and salt

May need to adjust the batter ratio; start with the liquid in a bowl and add the flour mixture, gently mix with a fork, it should be somewhat lumpy and thin like crepe batter.


July’s Table Wine: Argentina’s Baguala Corte Tinto (red bargain wine)

A few weeks ago I ventured to my local Whole Foods in search of a case’s worth of new wines.

In my experience, wine selection at Whole Foods locations varies quite a bit by neighborhood and by staff, but the one in SOMA within San Francisco, while small, has a nice selection, with more than 50% of their wines being in the under $20, usually under $15 range. I have no problem paying for a good bottle of wine, but I do enjoy the thrill of discovering a very palatable wine under $12.

And lo, I managed to bring at least one great find home. This red wine from Argentina is really pleasant, drinkable, great with BBQ. It won’t age well, and doesn’t have the longest most interesting finish in the world, but for $8.99 without a case discount, it’s a real bargain with no nasty throat burning, lower acid than most wines in its price range, and its versatility. And, if you can find it locally, I’d definately recommend giving it a try. I went back and got a case.

Here’s one online source to check it out or buy it.

If you are visiting Florence, I have made a guide for you

I have made a Florence google map guide to my favorite places and picks for accomodations, shopping, restaurants and wine bars in Florence along with extensive notes for each marker and some suggestions for what to pair the stop with. I hope you’ll find it useful!