Monday, February 14, 2011

Nikki Sands Heats up Valentine's Day

If you read the Nikki Sands' Mysteries (aka Wine Lover's) then you know I like to add recipes and wine pairings. In those chapters of the mysteries where the recipes and wine pairings are included I write a little tidbit about the chapter or Nikki or what she's dealing with. Yes it is author intrusive but it works with these stories. it wouldn't work with my Michaela Bancroft mysteries because Michaela isn't nearly as quirky and nutty as Nikki. Michaela takes a more down to earth approach to life and Nikki is my pie in the sky character.

I picked today's recipe from "Murder by the Glass." I thought if you haven't decided what to make for your honey tonight for Valentine's day, you can't go wrong with burger and a salad. Think I'm kidding? I know--you are shaking your head at me thinking, "A hamburger? That is not very romantic." Wrong! Poor red wine and it is--and add the jalapeno for heat and the strawberries on the salad and you have yourself an easy Valentine's Dinner that is tasty and tasty food is romantic no matter what (at least that's my take). Hope you enjoy!


Jalapeño Burger (turkey if you're going with a lower calorie count or don't eat red meat) with Ravenswood Merlot Sangiacomo

When it comes to making a good turkey burger, it’s all about adding seasonings. There isn’t a better choice than jalapeño to turn up the heat, especially if you have a handsome Spaniard seated across from you. Then again, you probably wouldn’t need any spice—but sans hottie bullfighter, chop up the jalapeño and mix yourself up one tasty lunch. If it’s a middle of the week thing and you find you have to go back to work or take care of some little people, (you know, the kind who don’t think you have a life, other than serving them—that’s right, your children), then imbibing probably isn’t an option. Hell, maybe it is.

However, if it’s say, a football Sunday or a rainy Saturday (or Valentine's Day on a Monday) when you might want to pop in a Gipsy Kings’ CD and curl up with a good book, then, by all means open yourself a bottle of Ravenswood Merlot Sangiacomo. This wine is a delicious blend of summer fruits and earth flavors. It has a full, ripe flavor quality, making it a nice balance with dark plum, cherries, blackberries, tobacco, and spice. This wine will be even better with a year of aging. It’s bold enough for the burger and with a hint of sweetness, a delicious blend with the spicy jalapeño flavor.

2 lbs ground beef or turkey

Salt and pepper

Bleu or feta cheese

4 hamburger buns

Tomato slices, onion slices, and lettuce as


1 clove garlic

1⁄4 cup olive oil

1⁄2 cup chopped jalapeño peppers

1⁄2 cup yellow onion

1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro

1⁄2 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

11⁄2 cups sugar. You can supplement Splenda for a lower cal dish; however, read the sugar versus

Splenda sweetness conversion on the label for accurate amounts

21⁄2 cups water


Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan to medium-high. Sauté the peppers, onion and garlic until soft. Add the

vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and water, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat until the mixture is thick and syrupy, about 30 minutes. Season with salt. Let cool, then transfer to a bowl, add the cilantro, and refrigerate until ready to use. Season the meat with salt and pepper and shape into 4 patties. Cook on the grill or pan. During the last minute or so of cooking, top the meat with the cheese to allow it to melt. To serve, place each patty on the bottom halves of the buns and spoon over pepper mixture, then top with accompaniments. Serve immediately.

Gorgonzola and Fresh Greens Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Dressing served with Gloria Ferrer

Blanc de Noi rs

Now if you’re into the Gucci and Prada scene and all about making a statement with your best gal pal (or if you really think hamburgers aren't romantic), then forget the burger dish and mix yourself up a chichi salad. The Gorgonzola cheese with endive lettuce and strawberry balsamic vinaigrette is an excellent fit with Gloria Ferrer’s Blanc de Noirs. This champagne is a full-flavored berry delight. It showcases a mouthwatering blend of black cherry, strawberry, and raspberry flavors. The pretty pink color of the champagne makes it perfect to serve at bridal showers or a ladies’ lunch. The color comes from a special pressing technique that extracts an extra measure of color from the grapes harvested by hand. This wine also has a touch of spice that enhances the flavors of the Gorgonzola in the salad. This is totally an all-girls lunch dish, no guys allowed, because it wouldn’t fill them up and they’d think it too pretentious anyway. It’s perfect for a gossipy good time. Annie Lennox would be the diva to have crooning in the background for this get-together.

1 head romaine or any type of lettuce you prefer. Or, to make it easy, pick up one of those salad bags of mixed greens.

1⁄2 cup walnuts (you can candy these if you prefer by using 1 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp brown sugar. Melt butter in a pan, toss in chopped nuts and brown sugar, cook until sugar bubbles and caramelizes, take nuts out, let them cool and then break them apart to toss into salad).

1⁄2 cup of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.

1⁄2 cup of strawberries (optional), also—any berry will do

as well as a blend—blackberry & raspberry, etc., be as

creative as you like.


1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp strawberry preserves (you can use sugar free if you like)

Black pepper to taste

Blend dressing ingredients in a Cuisinart or blender. Mix salad ingredients together, drizzle with dressing. Serves 4

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