Monday, March 21, 2016

It's that Wine Time of Year

This year marks the 4th Annual Winefest Renaissance, held for the benefit of the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen. This year the Winefest will be held on April 9th, at the Ward Hotel. And, once again, I will be creating foods to pair with wines of my choosing.
Parmigiano Stuffed Prosciutto Wrapped Medjool Dates
Parmigiano Stuffed Prosciutto Wrapped Medjool Dates

After a brief scan of the list of wines to be available, I opted for an Italian theme, selecting a Roscato Prosecco, a Barone Fini Pinot Grigio, a Chianti and a Secco-Bertani (a mix of Corvina and Merlot). I had never tasted any of these particular wines before, though I have had other Proseccos, Pino Grigios, and Chiantis. The Secco-Bertani was new to me. I had to quickly make a decision on what foods to pair with these wines, so I followed my normal route of first going online to find all the information I could about each particular wine, vintner, flavors, pairings and such. Then I looked through my own lists compiled over the last few years, with a table of the wine varietal and what foods pair well with each. 

I sent in my wine choices and the pairings I had decided on, only to find out that after all, the two reds would not be available. Drat! Meanwhile, I went ahead with my planning for the foods to pair with the two white wines.

Parmigiano Stuffed Prosciutto Wrapped Medjool Dates
Parmigiano Stuffed Prosciutto Wrapped Medjool Dates
For the Roscato Prosecco, which is described as "sparkling, fruity with a hint of sweetness," I went through my table list. I felt that a date would provide sweetness, though too much sweetness and the wine will taste sour. A fine balancing act is required. I know that antipasti platters are said to pair well with Prosecco, so I though of wrapping the date with prosciutto. To add balance to those sweet dates, I also combined enough chevre goat cheese with shredded Parmigiano Reggiano to hold it together and stuffed the dates with this mixture. After tasting one made up in this way, I felt that they still needed another component. I happened to have some Blue Diamond BOLD Habanero Spiced Almonds on hand, so I pressed two of them into the cheese stuffed date before wrapping with the prosciutto. This seemed a bit better. I am planning to open a bottle of Prosecco to taste with them, later. Meanwhile, I took a few down to my husband's office for the people there to taste and critique.

Parmigiano Stuffed, Prosciutto Wrapped Medjool Dates

Makes 22 - 24
making Parmigiano Stuffed Prosciutto Wrapped Dates
making Parmigiano Stuffed Prosciutto Wrapped Dates

12 ounces Medjool dates (about 22 to 24 dates), pitted
2.25 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
4 ounces Chevre or Montrachet goat cheese
45 - 50 Bold and Spicy Almonds (Habanero or Sriracha spiced)
6 - 8 ounces Prosciutto
Mix together the Parmigiano Reggiano with the goat cheese, to form a thick paste. Divide the mixture into about 3/4-inch diameter balls (weighing approximately 0.25 ounce each). There should be at least enough balls to fill the amount of dates. Be sure your dates are pitted. If not, slice into one side of them down the length to reach the pit and remove. Lengthen each of the cheese balls into logs and stuff them inside the dates. Press in two of the spiced almonds.

Most prosciutto comes in about 4 x 8-inch thin slices. I sliced down the length, making two thinner lengths out of each slice. Roll each of the filled dates with one of these halves of the prosciutto slice and secure with a toothpick, if needed. These may be made ahead a couple of days, if needed.

For the next wine, a Pinot Grigio, I went with the flavors of lemon, artichoke, parsley and chicken. I made a Lemon Artichoke "pesto," which was absolutely fantastic on its own, and then cooked up a chicken breast, cooled and finely minced the chicken, adding it to the pesto mixture. I set this atop a toasted baguette slice, and Oh My! These are so good - all I can hope is that they do well with the Barone Fini Pinot Grigio at the event. Unfortunately, though these wines are on a list to be available for the event, they are not currently available for sale in the local stores. 

Lemon Artichoke Pesto with Chicken atop Toasted Baguette Slice
Lemon Artichoke Pesto with Chicken atop Toasted Baguette Slice
Lemon Artichoke Pesto with Chicken atop Toasted Baguette
Lemon Artichoke Pesto with Chicken atop Toasted Baguette

Lemon Artichoke Pesto with Chicken atop Toasted Baguette

Makes about 50

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt, white pepper and dill for sprinkling
1 packed cup parsley
zest of 1 lemon (save lemon for juice later)
2 - 4 cloves garlic + white vinegar
3 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, in cubes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon each: salt and pepper
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
1 teaspoon capers, drained
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil

A baguette, sliced about 1/4 inch
olive oil for brushing

First, set the artichokes to drain in a colander and set aside. Butterfly the chicken breast so it lays flat and about 1/2 inch thick. Season both sides well with salt, white pepper and dill, and place in a very hot skillet with the tablespoon of olive oil. Fry to a deep brown, then turn and brown the opposite side. The browning provides wonderful flavor, so do not eliminate this step. Lower the heat to low or medium low and allow the chicken to cook through, about 10 minutes, total. Allow the chicken to cool while making the pesto.

Lemon Artichoke Pesto before adding chicken
Lemon Artichoke Pesto before adding chicken
Finely mince the garlic into a small bowl. Cover with the vinegar and allow to set for a few minutes. This helps eliminate the strong raw-garlic taste. When ready to use, drain off the vinegar.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the parsley, lemon zest, the drained garlic, the Pecorino Romano cubes, walnuts and salt and pepper. Run the processor to finely chop. Stop to scrape down sides, then process until very fine. Add in the drained artichokes with the capers and lemon juice and process to a paste. Add in the olive oil to combine. Pout out into a bowl, replacing the processor bowl.

Cut the cooled chicken into cubes and place in the vacated processor bowl and pulse until the chicken is fine, but not pureed. Fold into the pesto.

To serve, brush the baguette slices with olive oil and set them on a sheet pan. Preheat the broiler with the rack in the highest position and broil the breads until nicely toasted, about 1 1/2 minutes. Watch closely! Scoop a small amount of the Lemon Artichoke Pesto with Chicken onto each slice.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.