Veal, Vegetables, Rollotini

When a wine is very good, it doesn’t always need to be expensive.  Look no further than Montepulciano D’Abruzzo.  Whether it is the Vignetti we carry, or another, the wine is very good and always very reasonably priced.  

When I was in Sicily this summer I went a local butcher in a small sea town called Castellemare del Golfo every other day.  The meats were veal, lamb or chicken and the quality and pricing were just superb.  The old world skill of the butcher was only second to his comical and charming personality.  I purchased veal cutlets a few times and they were the most delicious pieces of veal.  SO, I decided to replicate the meal here at home.

First I went to a butcher and asks for veal and they only had cutlets already sliced and pounded, they wanted almost $40 pound.  I asked if he was crazy, probably slightly rude.  I went to 2 other grocery stores and could not find any veal.  Finally I went to Shoprite and found 3 packages of veal, large cuts with a lot of bone, but it was all I could find and it was only $6.99 pound.  I bought all 3 packages.  

Once at home I cut out all of the bone while trying to leave as much intact as possible.  I then sliced the veal into ½ to ¾ inch slices and placed each piece between two plastic bags.  Using a large square hammer, called a tenderizer, I began to pound the meat.  It was amazing how much the pieces grew in surface area and how thin they became.  When I was done with all, I had about 15 cutlets from only 1.5 pounds of meat after the bones were removed.  I was really surprised how far it went.

Next I heated a steel skillet with about ½” of olive oil.  While heating, I dipped the cutlets in egg then bread crumbs.  The bread crumbs I made earlier with leftover bread and a food processor.  It’s the best way, no preservatives or additives.  Once the oil was heated, I put the cutlets in the oil.   They cooked about 3 minutes on each side, then removed and drained on paper towels.  

An hour later, after they cooled, I rolled ricotta and mozzarella into the veal, creating veal rollotini.  I placed the rolls into a baking pan then covered with red sauce and baked for 30 – 45 minutes  on medium heat.  

We also made number of vegetables and sides, but this was the main meal and OMG was it incredible.  Not quite as good as what I made in Sicily, but it was excellent.  Unfortunately my kids ate all of it within 10 minutes and they asked why I made so few.  Can you imagine, they should have gone to try and find veal themselves….  We had a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and it was absolutely PERFETTO!

Vigneti Del Sole Montepulciano D’Abruzzo – Featured Wine

This juicy red displays notes of cherry, strawberry and sweet spice. Bright, mouthwatering acidity makes it especially food friendly and it will make the perfect dinner companion at your next pizza night.

Rob’s Review

Vigneti Del Sole Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is hands down my favorite red wine for under ten dollars.  The wine displays beautiful red fruit on the nose and palate, fresh and inviting.  The cherry and strawberry flavors are balanced nicely with refreshing acidity and smooth tannins.

This wine is perfect to sip on after a long day and pairs nicely with foods such as pizza and pasta with red sauce.

For another professional review please just click right here!

The VinoVin Loyalty Program

We are proud to announce the launch of our all new loyalty program! 5 points for every dollar you spend, but plenty of opportunities to earn points without spending anything.

Go to our website, VinoVin Online and click on the “Rewards Program” tab on the bottom of the screen, then “learn more,” to see all the ways you can earn points.

 

Cod and Roasted Vegetables

For Amazing images of our meal, check out our Instagram account- vinovinonline

Cooking fish for some of us can be a harrowing, choose your own seafood adventure.  This recipe however is very simple.  This can be a perfect meal to be shared with a larger group (or just a group with larger appetites,) as it is easy to prepare, relatively quick, and satisfyingly filling.

This meal was one that allowed a red wine pairing with fish; this can be tricky sometimes as most people would think the wine and food would not compliment each other, however in some instances red wine is very much an appropriate pairing.  

Cod

 The meal is super easy to prepare and please remember most of these meals are for 8 – 10 people, so reduce portions for fewer.  Also, in case you have not noticed already, I am not specific with my measurements or amounts or quantities.  Cooking for me is not a science, it is a passion.  I don’t typically measure or weigh most items or ingredients, I use what feels right.  Just make sure you keep tasting along the way and adjust on the fly!

I used 4 pounds of cod, cut up into single serving pieces, placed into baking pans.  Generously salt the oftened but with a little crucod (kosher or sea).  In a bowl add olive oil and fresh lemon juice (from a lemon not a plastic container) and whisk until you have think mixture, called aioli.  Then add in 2 quarts of grape tomatoes, each cut in half.  Mix together thoroughly with a spoon.  Using a full head of parsley, chop finely.  Add half of this to the tomatoes mixture and mix again, then spoon the mixture over the fish in the baking pans.  Add some of the remaining parsley to the fish as well.  Add just a touch of white wine to the baking pans and put in very hot oven 20 minutes before ready to eat.  Remove fish after 15 minutes and check to make sure cooked.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

The sides were roasted sweet potatoes, sauted asparagus and cauliflower salad.  They are all very simple to make, no more than 30 minutes prep time for everything.

Asparagus

Cut the tough bottoms off of the asparagus then put in a pot to steam them.  Best is if you have an asparagus steamer, place stem side down.  If not, any steamer will work.  Steam for only a few minutes then remove.  Cut up a few shallots and sauté in a pan with butter, add asparagus and sauté until they begin to turn a little crispy on edges, just barely.  Add more butter and salt and serve.

Cauliflower

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt to water.  While water is heating, cut up an entire head of cauliflower and also 2 – 3 red peppers.  Once water is boiling, add all of the vegetables, this is called blanching.  Leave them in the boiling water for 10 minutes or so, but check periodically.  They should be softened with a little crunch.  Remove from water and drain.  In a separate LARGE bowl, add olive oil and red wine vinegar, capers and olives.  Mix together well.  Add the vegetables to this mixture, add salt and herbs, try oregano, and mix well with a spoon.  Taste as you mix, you will probably need to add vinegar, oil or salt.  This dish can be served room temp, so prepare in advance.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Really really easy……  Wash the sweet potatoes, but leave the skin on.  Cut up into bite sized pieces, about 1 inch cubed.  Place on baking sheets, but do not stack, only one layer of potatoes per sheet.  Drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with salt.  Bake in oven at high heat, half the time in lower rack and half on upper rack.  When they are crispy but soft enough to eat, they are done, probably 40 minutes.

Wine

We had an incredible wine with this meal.  We drank a Burgundy (Pinot Noir) from France.  Hautes Cotes De Nuits, Louis Auguste 2013.  It went incredibly well with the meal, carrying the flavor of both the fish and the vegetables.  Don’t believe us? Try it yourself!

If you liked this recipe or decided to try it, please leave a comment below!

Lamb and Meatball Roasted Vegetable Stew

For Amazing images of our meal, check out our Instagram account- vinovinonline

Winter is a time for comfort food.  With the cold weather we’re more prone to go in for something that will fill us up and put us to sleep.  I’m not sure what it is about this time of year that drives us to consume this way (feel free to comment on this post if you have insights) but either way, the recipe this week is about as perfect as it gets for the winter time.  A meat and vegetable stew with two beautiful Italian wines.  Enjoy!

This week I decided on a one pot meal: lamb and veal meatball and roasted vegetable stew.

Start with the vegetables so they can roast while preparing the meatballs.  Use any vegetables you prefer, I used peppers, Brussel sprouts,  cabbage and broccoli.  Chop everything into bite sized pieces, place on baking sheets, in oven at 400 degrees or higher.  Cook until they start to turn dark, remove from oven.  

While veggies are cooking prepare the meatballs.  I used 6 lbs total, 3 each of lamb and veal chopped-meat for 12 people.  In a large bowl, mix 2 eggs, all chopped-meat, salt and herbs.  Chop up fresh sage and thyme in advance.  Use about one third in meatballs.  Using you hands rolls all the meat into balls about 1 ¼ “ in diameter.  Heat ½” of olive oil in a large steel or cast pan.  Place the meatballs in the oil, leave space between each meatball.  Turn the meatballs every few minutes until all sides are lightly browned.  Remove from oil as they are done, they should cool and firm up.

“Grab your largest stock pot or braising pot. This is where it starts to come together”

Heat it up, add a little olive oil and 2 very large sliced onions. Saute onions until they start to caramelize then add 1 pound of sliced mushrooms.  Mix well and cook for 10 mins.  Add a bottle of red wine, I used Vignetti Montepulciano D’abruzzo.  Cook until it starts to thicken, then add a liter of beef broth.  Bring to a boil, add another third of the herbs, all veggies and meatballs.  Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer and cover for at least an hour.  Serve stand alone in bowls or with rice.  A nice hot crusty italian bread adds perfection.  

We drank 2 red wines with this meal.  2013 Mocali Rosso di Montalcino and a 2007 Dolce D’alba. Both were decanted for 2 hours before serving.  

Lamb Sausage and Braised Artichokes

For Amazing images of our meal, check out our Instagram account- vinovinonline

I think we all have people, places, things, and even meals that provide a special comfort  This meal, lamb sausages, some vegetables, and a little grain… is just that.  A perfect, simple meal with a great group.  Hopefully, you’ll find this one useful to you as well.  If you don’t live near Arthur Avenue, any farmers market may have seasoned lamb sausage, which will still be great.  

I decided to try something new.  I have eaten braised artichokes often in Italy but have never made myself.  They were good for my first try, but they need to be better.  Here is what I did…

I purchased 8 whole artichokes and peeled the exterior tough leaves.  Once peeled down to the soft leaves, I trimmed the artichokes with a paring knife down to the base, see the pictures.  Once trimmed they went into a bowl of water with lemon, this keeps them from turning brown.  

Separately I diced some peppers, a plum tomato, olives, parsley, capers, and mushrooms.  Then I cut each of the artichokes lengthwise, in half and spooned the mixture into the artichokes and placed in the pan.  The add a little water, olive oil, fresh lemon juice and some white wine until the liquid almost covers the artichokes.  Add salt as well.  Cover the top and turn down heat to simmer, check every 15 mins until soft.  Should take 30 – 60 minutes.  Remove carefully and plate, adding fresh olive oil and parsley.  This was served as a side dish.

The protein was a lamb and parsley sausage.  I love this sausage!!!  I buy it in the Italian market on Arthur Ave. in the Bronx.  I made six pounds for 9 people and it ALL WENT!  This is super easy to make, you can simply grill on a BBQ or on a frying pan on the stove.  Either way only takes 15 – 20 minutes.  No seasoning or oil is needed, just cook.

Earlier in the day, I blanched 3 heads of broccoli rabe, only for 3 minutes in boiling water.  Remove the broccoli rabe and place in the colander to drain and dry for a few hours.  The about 15 minutes before you want to eat, saute garlic and olive oil in a pan with some sun dried tomatoes for just a few minutes, then add the broccoli rabe and saute for 15 mins, turning regularly.  Serve this on a platter and place the sausage on top.  This is a very typical southern Italian meal, sausage and broccoli rabe.  It is very simple and very good.

I also made a pasta with caramelized onions, herbs de province and butter.  Slice the onions, add to a saute pan with some olive oil and salt and saute until they start to caramelize.  Add a stick of butter and herbs, when butter is melted and coats the onions, it is ready.  Take the pasta out of the water, add to the onions in the large saute pan and toss.  If not enough liquid, you can ladle some pasta water from the pot and add to the sauce.  Once tossed, plate and eat.

The wine chosen for this meal is a very simple Montepulciano D’Abruzzo.  We drank Vignetti, which is the ultimate value, it was $7.99 per bottle.  This wine comes from south central Italy exactly where the broccoli rabe and sausage dish eliminates.

Buon appetite!

Rack of Lamb

We had an incredible lunch this Sunday, the first day of the NEW YEAR!  It was very simple but just perfect!  Local grass Fed Organic Rack of Lamb, Braised Kale and Arancini (Italian Rice Balls).

Rack of Lamb

I pulled from the freezer the day before, 2 rack of lamb, from 2 lambs we purchased from a local farmer this past year.  Cooking a rack of lamb is very simple.  I used a cast iron pan, placed the racks in partialy standing up with both sets of ribs resting onto each other to hold them upright.  Place the fat side of the lamb facing down towards the pan. (see the pictures)  Generously salt the meat with kosher salt, add herbs de provence and I cut up a lemon and placed the wedges in the pan.  Add a little water and a some wine to the pan.  Cook in oven at a very high temp, 400 or 500 degrees, until about 140 degrees using a meat thermometer.  Remove from oven, place on stove top and let rest for 10 – 15 minutes.  The meat will continue cooking to perfection.  When you cut the ribs, the lamb should be pink in color, or medium to medium rare.

Braised Kale

We found a beautiful large head of local Kale, such a deep color green.  After washing, cut thick stalks into small ½ inch pieces while extending the size of the pieces as you get leafier.  The stalks are tough, but if you cut them small, they soften up easier and they don’t go to waste.  I also added a few red peppers, thinly sliced.  Vegetables went into a pot, add kosher salt and a small amount of water, but not much, especially if the kale is still wet from being washed.  The water adds steam which helps cook or braise them.  Separately in a bowl whisk together a fresh squeezed lemon and olive oil into an aioli.  Once thick add 4 – 6 minced cloves of garlic.  Whisk again and once kale is cooked to the tenderness of your liking, add the kale to this mixture and toss.  The mixture does not get cooked.  Ready to serve, it is delicious!

Arancini

I had quite a bit of left over rice from the day before and arancini are a perfect use.  Basically they are fried rice balls.  You can use any rice you have, but in Italy they are typically Arborio rice.  The rice I used was basmati.  I mixed 3 eggs in a bowl then added about 2 cups of cooked rice.  Using my hands I mixed all together.  In a separate bowl I had flour and bread crumbs mixed, also pre heat a skillet, preferably cast iron with a ½ inch of olive oil.  Roll the rice into balls the size of small meatballs then roll them in the bread crumb mixture and place them one at a time in the hot oil.  Leave some space between each in the pan.  You will need to keep rolling them in the pan every few minutes so all sides cook and get golden crunchy brown.  When all sides are brown, remove and continue the process until all rice balls are cooked.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and you have arancini !    Enjoy

Wine

We had a wine not so typical with this type of a meal, but I wanted to open this bottle and try it.  It was a 2011 Joel Gott Cabernet.  I typically prefer old world wines but this wine actually aged quite nicely, had some tannins and was smooth.  It had started to lose its fruit, which made it pair nicely with the lamb.  I had this wine stored for a few years.  I don’t think this is a wine most would consider aging, but I did and it was a very good choice.          

Grilled Shell Steak

For Amazing images of our meal, just check out our Instagram account- vinovinonline

There were nine of us this week.  We all learned a lot this week on Sunday after a quick google search, grilled steaks, and a trip to the hospital.  Firstly, one of the kids was inspired by a recent course on ancient Egypt and found out that any modern person can go out in the style of the Pharaohs of old by being mummified for a small fee of $67,000.  I’ll leave it to you and your financial advisor to determine if this move makes sense for your estate.  

Second, It was either Harrison Ford (The Fugitive) or Jim Carey (The Mask) that said: “It wasn’t me, it was the one-armed man!” Either way, another one of the kids perfected it- breaking his arm, doing a backflip, in the snow.  After much trial and tribulation, everyone is fine… well enough, in fact, to sneak seconds and thirds from a Tupperware full of cookies that had been set aside for Christmas.  In all the cookie-stealers’  defense, however, there were enough cookies to feed the French Army…  which depending who you ask, may or may not be a large number.   If there was a theme this week, it was something like “Don’t you open that Tupperware if you know what’s good for you!”  I think she meant it.  

I decided to prepare an Italian steakhouse meal, very simple and fulfilling.  I thought I made a huge quantity of food, but almost all of it was eaten.  That is always a good sign!

Today’s meal included grilled grass fed shell steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, peas, Brussel sprouts and a tomatoes salad.

Grilled Shell Steak:

Remove the steaks, place in a large bowl and salt both sides of the meat with kosher or sea salt.  Then do the same with oregano, but you can use any spice you desire (or none).  Let sit for 30 – 60 minutes while you prepare everything else.  10-15 minutes before you are ready to eat, put the steak on a preheated grill and cook on high heat for 10 – 15 mins.  Only turning the steak once, try to cook to medium rare, it’s the most flavorful.

Green Beans:

Boil the green beans in salted water until just barely crunchy, removed and drain water.  30 minutes before ready to eat, saute garlic and olive oil until color turns then place green beans in a pan and cook until just crunchy on the outside.  Use add’l salt as needed and squeeze a lemon over the beans just before serving.

Smashed Potatoes:

Very simple – boil potatoes in salted water with skin on until soft.  Remove water from pot and add a generous amount of butter, at least a stick.  Also add some coconut milk, not too much but a cup for every 3 pounds should work.  They use a hand masher and smash the potatoes to a rough mash with skins.  Salt to taste.  If you have leftovers you can cook the next morning in a cast iron pan until very crispy on each side, great with eggs!

Brussel Sprouts:

Cut the Brussel sprouts in half while heating a pan with garlic and oil.  When garlic is ready, saute sprouts until they get crispy.

“Midway through, add a small amount of finely diced turkey bacon.  When all contents are crispy, they are done.  Drizzle a small amount of balsamic vinegar over sprouts so it steams up and coats the sprouts.”  

Use a cast iron pan, they work the best for this.

 

Peas with Bacon: (my favorite)

Dice an onion, saute in a pan with olive oil and diced bacon.  You can use any kind you desire.  In Italy, it is always pork and could come from many parts of the animal.  In the US only bacon is readily available.  Once bacon begins to cook and just start to crisp, add the peas and butter.  Serve when all are hot.

Tomato Salad:

Heirloom tomatoes work best, but I could not find any so I used Campari.  Any tomatoes will work well, though.  Slice them in half then each half into thirds.  Place in large bowl.  Next thinly slice a red onion, make sure it is thin.  Add these to the bowl.  Douse with olive oil and vinegar.  Typical is red wine but balsamic works as well.  Add salt and oregano, mix well and move to a serving bowl.  

WINE WINE WINE:

We drank an amazing pair of wines with this meal.  Both were Cabernet from California.  I know, they are not Italian, but Cabernet tastes incredible with grilled steak.  We had a Robin K Cab and a Cab from a producer named Laely.  The RobinK is very good and is very reasonably priced, but the Laely Napa Cab was simply amazing!  Decant the wine for at least 2 hours before drinking.  You should also taste it a few times from opening bottle until drinking with your meal so you can experience how the wine opens.  The wine truly made the meal and although pricey at $35 bottle, it is actually a great value since it reminds me of a much more expensive California Cabernet, in line with a Paul Hobbs/Stewart Cellars entry.  

We finished off the meal with an espresso, cappuccino and incredible cookies my wife made earlier that day.  The best are the thumbprint cookies filled with jam.

Sunday Lunch

A gathering of our growing family, once a week, where we bicker, share laughter, stories, and catch up on everyday life, coined by us as “Sunday Lunch”.

Sunday Lunch is a very special time I look forward to each week.  Our immediate family including 4 children, one spouse, brother in law and a grandmother, plus periodic showings by friends, relatives and girlfriends.  We include at least 8 people each week.

Most Sunday’s  begin with a visit to various supermarkets to pick up the essential ingredients for Sunday Lunch.  Upon arrival home I turn on the music, open and decant multiple bottles of wine to be served with lunch and begin to prep the food for our feast.  It usually takes 2 – 4 hours to prepare and cook our meal and people start arriving between 1 and 2 pm.  It begins with a cacophony of banter and play fighting between our eldest who is married and our youngest, who has to prove he is finally stronger than she.

The first to arrive is my wife’s brother, the only early arrival, ever.  My mother shows up exactly in time to sit down, not a moment earlier and the married children, well they have yet to learn to read a clock!

Once all have arrived, we usually start around 2:30.  Often we squeeze around the kitchen table but on occasion when we hit 9-10 people we move to the dining room.  Meals vary in style and selection but Italian food is predominant, given my penchant for loving everything Italian.  We eat, drink, laugh and chit chat for a few hours.  The meal is always large as anyone could expect in an Italian home, complete with homemade desserts and espresso, more often than not followed by a digestivo such as Amaro.

Throughout this blog, we will recant not only our fun filled afternoons, but focus on the foods we prepare and eat.  We will include recipes and videos as often as possible, as  my son has become quite the videographer.  We will talk about the food in detail,  the wine (of course!) we have chosen to drink with this meal.  Why did we choose this wine?  What makes it so perfect a match for not only the meal but for us?  We hope everyone reading this blog will come to see that wine is a big of every Italian household meal.  There will be pictures and pictures of the food, the wine and wonderful deserts, which are prepared by my wife,  which are often times even gluten free (though you may be surprised when you see it.)  We may even include stories of various European visits, which almost always revolve around food and wine.

The most important take-away I hope everyone gets from this blog, will be to convey what a short time we spend on this planet. I think the most important anyone can do in life is  to slow down, take a breather and just sit, relax and laugh with the most precious part of your life, your family…  or as we say in Italian, La Famiglia!     

Seared Red Snapper

Lights.  Camera.  Transformers.  We spent the first fifteen minutes of lunch this week talking about alternative plot lines for the upcoming Transformers movie, all of which are sure to be better than whatever mess they end up with.  One story line included a line of robot dogs, and another featured garbage collectors called Recepticons, loosely based on a combination of Oscar the Grouch from Sesame street and Gary Busey, were he a Transformer.  

What does this have to do with lunch, or wine? Nothing.  We just want to provide a little levity for anyone who may take wine, meals, or life a little too seriously.  For images from the meal, just check out our Instagram account.  

Sunday was a light day, with only 7 people.

I went to the market and perused the fish counter for a few minutes.  Among the refuse of smells, I found great looking (and smelling) red snapper. I asked for 3 – 4 pounds of fillets, which were wild caught in US waters.

The meal included pan searing the fillets with roasted root vegetables, roasted fingerling potatoes and gilled brocollini, and a prawn.  We always try to eat with the seasons, and right now in the middle of winter, root vegetables are in vogue.

Directions: 

Heat a large skillet; I used a double burner cast iron grill on top of my stove burners. First, I brushed on 2 tablespoons of olive oil them place the fish skin side down, but make sure the pan is very very hot before you place the fish. I sprinkled with kosher salt, brushed the top of fish with olive oil then used a red fish seasoning, no additives, simply spice. When the fish was 2/3 cooked I flipped the fish and finished it for about 5 minutes. While that was cooking I placed the 8 prawns in another hot skillet and cooked on each side for about 4 minutes and just before down hit it with a splash of white wine and lemon.

Long before the fish cooked I prepared the root vegetables, which included beets, parsnips and carrots. I just cut into chunks, nothing fancy, tossed in olive oil, thyme and sage, and spread them around in a roasting pan. Same for the fingerling potatoes. Both went into the oven for about an hour at 450 degrees.

The brocollini was placed in another skillet or saute pan with olive oil and a splash of water to create steam. Cover the pan so the vegetables not only grill but steam as well. When complete squeeze a half lemon, add salt and more olive oil to taste.
All were plated the same way, root vegetable and potatoes in center of plate, fish on top and prawn on top of that, with broccolini on the sides. Garnished with olive oil, oregano and chives.

We served a great, and perhaps little known, Italian white from Sicily called Tenuta delle Terre Nere – Etna Bianco. Tenuta (bianco) is a white wine from Mount Etna in Sicily – it was wonderful and a perfect match. We also had a California Pinot with the cheese; the California Pinot was of course our very own Why Whine.

After dinner we had a course of cheese which consisted of parmigiana, fiore di sarde (Sardinian pecorino), brie and a semi soft French sheeps milk cheese.
This was followed by espresso and cappuccino and Averna Amaro, also from Sicily.

All of the food above was pretty easy to cook and prep, taking only a few hours with good family, good friends, great food, and great wine.