Tag Archives: spring

spring pea + arugula + spinach ravioli

This past week has been a crazy one. I think I repeat this line quite often. We have been in the midst of changing over our wines-by-the-glass list at the restaurant, which requires a lot of tasting, note-taking, and discussion amongst the sommeliers. It is an arduous but exciting process. After we make the final decisions, we send the menu proofs to the printer, make revisions, and begin the task of educating the staff on the changes. It really sounds simple on paper, but selecting the wines is also a battle of politics – which distribution company needs support, which winery needs recognition, which varietals are our guests demanding…and, the most important question, which bottle would I most likely reach for at the end of a long shift for a much-needed sip?

Sigh.

On a brighter note, the garden is progressing quite beautifully, and our seedlings are growing up, with only minor casualties along the way. I did lose a few basil sprouts due to the indecisive weather patterns we have been dealing with; however, two of our cold-hardy plants, arugula and parsley, remained alive over the winter and have already given us an early spring harvest. There really is nothing like heading outside to the garden, clipping fresh vegetables and herbs, and, moments later, cooking up something fresh and delicious with them.

I was recently inspired by a post from one of the new contributors at the Kitchn, Sarah Crowder. She is also the author of the blog, Punctuated with Food. Her recipe for Minty Pea & Arugula Wonton Ravioli was visually captivating and sounded delicious. I had never used wonton wrappers to make ravioli, so I was up for the challenge. It was the ease of the process, however, that sealed the deal on my trying a twist on her recipe.

I poured myself a glass of Chardonnay and set out to clip some of the aforementioned spring arugula. It was about to flower, so it had to be harvested soon, in order to preserve its optimal flavor. I called up a good friend and asked her to join me for a glass. One glass turned into two, and this quick and simple recipe turned into a lovely afternoon snack.


Spring Pea + Arugula + Spinach Ravioli


  • 1/2 cup spring peas {about 24 pods or 3 1/2 ounces}
  • 2 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 1 cup loosely packed spinach
  • 1 tablespoon high-heat oil, like safflower oil
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped white onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning {I use my dried herb blend from the garden}
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup Ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream {more, if you want a creamier filling}
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten, plus 1 tablespoon of water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil, for the sauce
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, for garnish
  • micro-greens, chives, or sprouts, for garnish
  • 72 wonton wrappers

Begin by setting aside a large bowl of ice and water. In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 inch of water to a boil. Carefully toss the shelled peas into the water and cook for only one minute. Add the arugula and spinach and continue boiling for another 15 seconds. Drain the water and transfer the veggies to the ice water bath. Strain the veggies, removing any cubes of ice. Set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat the safflower oil over medium-high heat. Toss in the onion and garlic, along with a pinch of salt, and sauté for four minutes, until the onions are slightly caramelized and toasty. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a food processor, combine the peas, arugula, spinach, and onions & garlic mixture. Add the Italian seasoning, cheeses, and heavy cream to the food processor. Pulse to your desired consistency. I like a coarser filling. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you desire a richer consistency, add a little more heavy cream or pulse the mixture a little longer.

This is the fun part – stuffing the wonton wrappers to make the ravioli. Set out 36 wrappers on a baking tin or other surface. Measure 1/2 tablespoon of the filling and place in the center of each square.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water together to prepare the egg wash. Brush the egg mixture on the outer edges of the wonton square and carefully place another wrapper on top, pressing lightly to seal. Try pressing out any air pockets by lightly squeezing from the center toward the outer edges. I enjoy a little less “pasta-y” {not exactly a word, but I think you get the idea!} ravioli, so I used a ravioli cutter and trimmed them a little. I think they turned out pretty darned adorable!

Like Sarah mentioned, you can freeze the uncooked ravioli, if you are not ready to enjoy them right away. This is a perfect solution for make-ahead meals. I will definitely experiment with other fillings over the summer and pack them away for future enjoyment!

To cook the ravioli, toss 6 pieces into boiling water for a strict 2 minutes. I found that if I cooked them longer, they would burst. For the sauce, I tried two variations – a simple browned butter sauce {shown in these photos} and a simple toss of extra virgin olive oil, with a squeeze of lemon juice. I liked both options equally. The browned butter sauce was rich and savory, whereas the olive oil and lemon juice combination was vibrant and fresh. I garnished the ravioli with fresh chives from the garden, toasted pine nuts, and micro-greens.

If you haven’t ever made browned butter and feel a little intimidated, this visual tutorial helped me conceptualize the process. You’ll feel even more accomplished and versatile as a home cook, when you can make a good browned butter sauce!

I paired this recipe with one of my favorite Chardonnays. The wine really shines with the browned butter preparation. I also added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the finished dish to add a needed dash of acidity. The flavors and textures really came together. A wine with great acidity, like a squeeze of lemon, also fills in the gap, when acidity is missing from a dish. A mouth-watering sip of crisp wine encourages the next bite and brings balance to the pairing.


Paul Lato “le Souvenir” Chardonnay, Sierra Madre Vineyard, 2011


  • On the eyes – brilliant, pale straw.
  • On the nose – toasted hazelnut, baked apple tart, squeezed lemon, orange blossom, with hints of vanilla.
  • On the palate – rich-textured, exhibiting notes of baked apples, Meyer lemon, honeyed hazelnuts, with a lingering finish and medium acidity.
  • On the table – perfect alone or with poached halibut, roasted chicken, and pasta dishes with either lean or rich sauces.
  • On the shelf – about $75 {yep, I splurged}.
  • On the ears – paired with Phantogram’s “Black Out Days” from their recent album, Voices. Steve and I saw them perform at the Ogden here in Denver last month, and I have listened to their current album at least 50 times. Truth. I think I chose this track not only because of the harmonic layers and trance-like beats, but also because I can really identify with the “crazy voices in my head” theme, as of late. Good wine always helps quiet those crazy thoughts, though. 😉

Have a great weekend, sip something delicious, and, even better, share it with a friend!

Oh, I almost forgot. I am also posting more about wine on my new Tumblr blog, Sommthing to Talk About. Steve thinks the title is a tad silly, but I dig catchy, witty plays on words! I will be directly linking to all of the wine posts that I write for the Kitchn, so it will be easier to follow those. It is wine-focused and is still taking shape, but you can find me there now, as well! Cheers!

the bee’s knees cocktail

The Bee’s Knees, served over ice with a splash of soda, garnished with a sprig of fresh thyme… #springinaglass

Well, hello, April!  How did you all of a sudden arrive on the scene?  I completely blame spring for my absence on the blog.  The volume, pace, color, intensity, bandwidth, frequency, and, well, the “crazy” factor have all increased over the past few weeks, and I just couldn’t set the time aside to document along the way.  Has the rush of spring been like that for you?

I have been bustling away in the garden to make sure that the gardening season is set for us.  Steve and I started our seeds indoors for the tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.  We built a two-section compost bin.  We sowed the cool season crops in succession.  And then I wrote about it here, here, and here.  As if that weren’t enough, I painstakingly planned out the entire growing season and mapped out a planting calendar.  I feel confident we did as much as we could, and I am definitely feeling a little obsessive right about now!  And maybe a bit thirsty…

I have also been temporarily trading in my cozy and savory bourbon cocktails for some bright, aromatic, refreshing gin-based libations.  Gin is my absolute favorite spirit to mix or just enjoy on its own, and one of the best ones out there is the Botanist.  It hails from the island of Islay, Scotland, and is bursting with floral notes.  I was crestfallen, when it was temporarily unavailable on the shelves at my local spirits shop, so when it returned, it was only logical to swipe up a few – one for cocktails and the other two for a barrel-aging project I’ve been working on.

My favorite springtime gin? The Botanist. Floral, balanced, and complex. It’s stellar for a simple gin and soda.

Have you ever tried a Bee’s Knees cocktail?  Its bright, honeyed notes are perfect for sipping on a spring afternoon in the garden.  This Prohibition-era cocktail has made quite the comeback, since its humble beginnings as a means to cover up undesirable characteristics of the “bathtub gins” of the 1920s.  I always envision Carol Burnett’s classic portrayal of Miss Hannigan in “Annie,” when I hear the words, “bathtub gin”.  Remember the scene, where she belts out the song, “Little Girls,” while lazily stirring gin into her tub?  I am sure I am not alone here, but just to refresh your memory, watch this.

Choose great quality honey to make the most flavorful honey syrup. I had some leftover honey from a recent trip to California. It was a $10 splurge and was the only honey I had on hand, so it was a little over-the-top this time!

Along with their Honey Chamomile, DRAM’s Hair-of-the-Dog and Wild Mountain Sage bitters are staples in my kitchen.


The Bee’s Knees Cocktail


  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounces honey syrup
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • dash of DRAM Honey Chamomile bitters {optional}
  • spring of thyme for garnish {optional}

First, prepare the honey syrup.  It is easier to make than you’d think.  Place equal parts honey and water in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until dissolved.  For two or three drinks, I used 1/2 cup of honey and 1/2 cup of water, and the amount was perfect.  Set the honey syrup aside on your countertop to cool.

When you are ready to make the cocktail, build ice in a shaker tin and add the gin, honey syrup, lemon juice, and bitters.  Shake well and pour into a glass.  I still need to get some great coupes, so I used a short martini glass. For a fun variation on the classic preparation, serve this same cocktail over ice and top with soda water.  You still get to enjoy the intensity of the honey and lemon, along with bubbles and less of a bite.

A few tips?  Never settle for anything other than freshly squeezed lemon juice.  It makes all the difference in the world in a great cocktail.  Quality spirits make quality drinks.  You don’t have to go overboard with your spending, but do try to catch quality spirits on sale and stock up.  I have especially enjoyed using DRAM Apothecary’s bitters to bring balance or a burst of flavor in my cocktails.  Their Honey Chamomile bitters are excellent dashed in hot tea, as well.  Then again, you can always craft your own.


The Buzz on the Bee’s Knees Elsewhere


  • Lavender Bee’s Knees from Epicurious – Lavender pairs perfectly with the flavors of honey and lemon.  I’ll be making one of these soon.
  • PUNCH Drink‘s spin on the Bee’s Knees – A different ratio than mine, but still delicious.  They always nail their cocktails.
  • The Bee’s Knees by Post Prohibition – Their well-organized and informative site will stir your creativity even further, but their Bee’s Knees cocktail is a great place to start!

I am closing with some photos from late March and early April.  Steve helped me celebrate a lovely birthday in late March.  I’ll include some Instagrams in the collage and add some captures from the early April backyard garden.  I’d L-O-V-E to hear about any spring-inspired or gin cocktails you are making.  Have a spectacular Thursday!

Part of the deal with living in Colorado: dealing with the snows one day and 70-degree, sunny weather the next. I salvaged these daffodils by covering them with a bucket. What we do for our treasured flowers! ;-)

Part of the deal with living in Colorado: dealing with the snows one day and 70-degree, sunny weather the next. I salvaged these daffodils by covering them with a bucket. What we do for our treasured flowers! 😉

This portion of the garden will transform over the next few months.  I am so excited to add more wine barrels to use with pepper, tomatoes, and beans.

This portion of the garden will transform over the next few months. I am so excited to add more wine barrels to use with pepper, tomatoes, and beans.

My workstation! Ha! A nice pour of Miner Chardonnay, and I am good to design any garden!

Sunning the seeds. Making the donuts.

Our two-bin compost system. We built it ourselves, using mostly materials we already had in our barn. I seriously get happy just bringing out scraps to toss in!

Finishing the compost bin plans! Some serious air here…

Black Krims, Romas, Brandywines, Sun Golds, Sweet Cherries, and German Johnsons.

Taking a well-deserved break after building the compost bin, Steve enjoys a Bee’s Knees cocktail.

don’t fear the pink

Pink…

What words come to mind, when you see this color or hear its name?  What associations, emotions, pictures, people?  I see beautiful sunsets, gorgeous azalea blooms from my home state of Florida, Sunday dresses, spring ties, sprinkled cupcakes, seersucker suits, brightly colored parrots, a singer by this name, ripe strawberries, and, of course, flamingos.  Not to mention delicious rosé wine, my subject of choice today.

After having coffee this morning, with a wonderful friend and colleague within the wine industry, I felt compelled to mention a few things on “pink wine.”  We shared stories of how “pink” wines are perceived within the wine-consuming crowd.  As kismet would have it, I had a half-finished bottle of rosé in my fridge, an evening off, and another new book to begin reading.  At 11:00 this morning, I was already imagining a summery beet salad and some goat cheese to pair with my chilled wine.  I constantly question why anyone would limit their enjoyment or palate because of preconceived notions of what a color means to them.

Continue reading

garden mint juleps

I know that I am about a month late to celebrate the deliciousness of mint juleps; the Kentucky Derby, the event that prompts one to don fabulous hats and sip on this refreshing cocktail, happens every second week in May.  Although my timeliness is a little off, the mint in my backyard is, at last, ragingly fragrant, ripe, and ready for the picking.  Fresh mint simply screams for homemade iced tea, mojitos, and, of course, mint juleps.

If you’ve ever planted mint, you know that it takes over your yard, and soon, you have more mint than you know what to do with.  All summer long, you can unabashedly toss it into freshly brewed iced tea, or you can take a small amount of time to make some mint simple syrup that can transform your cocktails, teas, and other concoctions.

Baby mint sprigs ready for harvest. Mint thrives in partial shade environments and will take over your yard or garden, if you let it. It makes a great ground cover and always makes you smile, when you “accidentally” step on it.

How do you harvest mint?  Simply take some garden shears and cut just above what I call a “t” line.  Don’t cut the entire stalk off from the ground.  Select a stalk and count up at least two or three leaves up.  Cut just above the leaves, as shown below.  Easy!

Clipping the mint leaves.

Ingredients for Mint Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar {I use raw sugar}
  • 2 cups freshly cut, coarsely chopped mint {stalks are fine}

Steps for preparing the Syrup

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and dissolve sugar by stirring.
  2. Remove from heat, upon being dissolved.
  3. Place chopped mint into a bowl or Mason jar and pour simple syrup on top.
  4. Set aside for two hours, so that the mint steeps.
  5. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve or chinois and place in an airtight container.  The syrup keeps refrigerated for about a week.

Be sure to set aside a few sprigs of mint to use to garnish your mint juleps.  Snip a few sprigs and place them in a vase of water.  They will survive on your table or counter-top for several days, storing them in this manner.

Making the mint julep cocktail is the easiest part of the process, once your mint simple syrup is made.  Simply pack a cocktail glass full of shaved or crushed ice, pour bourbon on top, add the mint simple syrup, stir the cocktail, and top with a mint sprig!  I found the most adorable glass stirrers from a vintage-modern shop here in town, Lee Alex Decor, one of my favorite places to find cocktail accessories.  I couldn’t resist the garden theme!

Ingredients for the Garden Julep

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of mint simple syrup {to taste}
  • crushed ice
  • mint sprig, for garnish

I picked up this Colorado-made bourbon from Divino Wine and Spirits, off Broadway, in Denver this afternoon.  Peach Street Distillers makes some of the most innovative spirits.  They are a small-batch operation, based in Pallisade, Colorado, and only make about a barrel a day {talk about small-batch!}.  The corn is sourced from the western slope of Colorado, and the final result is an aromatic, hand-numbered, balanced bourbon.  If you can get your hands on it, do so!

One other side note:  mint juleps are traditionally made with crushed or shaved ice.  If you are unable to find some {one friend of mine says that Good Times sells it by the bag!}, simply place ice cubes in a clean t-shirt or cheesecloth, cover, and smash several time with a mallet or hammer.  That’s what I had to do today!

priming the plot

I just got back from an evening session of watering the newly planted vegetables and herbs at the garden plot.  Nighttime watering is relaxing, but it is definitely a one-way conversation with your plants, since you can’t see what is happening!  We are so excited about this year’s gardening plans.  Still going strong in plot 13 at Ellis Elementary School’s community garden, we planted 12 tomato plants there this spring, along with serrano peppers, spaghetti squash, carrots, radishes, basil, cilantro, acorn squash, Swiss chard, and fairytale eggplant.  All are organic, heirloom varieties from one of our favorite garden stores in Denver, Paulino Gardens.

Freshly planted veggies and herbs, nestled neatly in rows…this was about two weeks ago.

Continue reading