I drink wine year around. As a rule I prefer red to white any day but depending on the meal a rich red or a crisp white is the perfect accompaniment to food. During the cooler months a warm and spicy gluhwein hits the spot. Gluhwein, or mulled wine, is a staple at Christmas markets throughout Europe and as I’ve discovered, each county–or region for that matter–puts their own twist on this winter staple. Some may be spicier and others may be sweeter. Regardless of the ingredients, each cup is sure to please. However, hot wine doesn’t excite me during the summer months. Hot weather calls for something lighter and cooler so for this wine drinker, that means sangria. As my recent trip to Spain showed me, there are just as many varieties of sangria as there are gluhwein. Within the greater Madrid area alone I sampled sangria that was sweet or spicy or sometimes both. And this was just the versions made with red wine.
I’ve long had a favorite sangria recipe. My red wine version includes oranges, lemons, and limes making for a citrus filled and refreshing drink. (Be on the lookout for my white wine version later this summer!) This recipe calls for a single liter of red wine but the recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, or more depending upon the size of your crowd. Any dry red wine works for this recipe. If you like it, use it. For larger quantities I used to use Trader Joe’s infamous “Two Buck Chuck” since it was drinkable without being too expensive. (Save your really good wine for drinking as is). Back in our Norfolk, Virginia days I would mix up a cooler full of sangria for our annual Belvedere block party. As the summer wore on I’d make up the same amount to enjoy during our long lazy weekends on our boat. Regardless of the quantity you make, the longer it sits the stronger it becomes. You can easily dilute it by adding more juice or ice. However you make it or where ever you drink it, it is sure to refresh. To me, sangria is the ultimate summer drink.
RED WINE SANGRIA
1 liter dry red wine
1/4 cup (or more) white sugar, depending on taste
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup Triple Sec or other orange liqueur
- Thoroughly scrub the rinds of the fruit to remove any waxes. Thinly slice the fruit taking care to remove any seeds.
- Place the fruit in a large pitcher. Add the sugar and using a wooden spoon, muddle to combine the sugar and fruit.
- Pour the wine, juice, and liqueur over the fruit; stir to combine.
- Let the sangria sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- Before serving, add ice to the pitcher.
In our house roasted chicken is a favorite Sunday night dinner. The aroma of the cooking bird fills the house all afternoon, promising of the dinner that is to come. There are numerous methods and schools of thought for producing the perfect roasted chicken. Some cooks swear by brining their bird first while others baste throughout the roasting process. Personally I’m all about putting it in the oven and forgetting about it but I also love juicy and tender meat. My answer is to stuff the cavity with citrus and herbs and then letting the bird cook itself. Cooking times will definitely vary based on your oven, the size of your bird and even your cooking pan so be sure to use a thermometer to ensure that your chicken is cooked through.
I’m a huge fan of the combination of lemon, garlic and fresh herbs that I use here. It is really so simple but the results are fool proof. Depending upon the size of your bird and the size of your lemons, you may use less or need more lemons. You can add more garlic, thyme or even other herbs depending upon your preferences. Sometimes I’ll even roast two birds then use the leftover meat for sandwiches throughout the week. For convenience sake I use pre-peeled baby potatoes from the grocery store but you can also use baby red potatoes or even cut down larger potatoes into smaller pieces.
LEMON GARLIC ROASTED CHICKEN & POTATOES
1 3 1/2- 4 pound whole roasting chicken
2 lemons, scrubbed and cut into wedges
8 whole garlic cloves
6 thyme sprigs
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 pound baby potatoes
- Move the oven rack to the lowest level and pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Rinse the cavity of the chicken with cool water then place the whole bird, breast side up, in a large cast iron skillet or shallow roasting pan. You want to choose a pan that will be large enough to hold both the bird and your potatoes.
- Fill the cavity of the chicken with the lemon wedges, garlic cloves and thyme sprigs taking care to distribute the garlic and thyme evenly throughout the bird.
- Sprinkle the exterior of the bird with 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1 teaspoon of the pepper and the paprika.
- Place the chicken in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
- Roast the bird for 45 minutes then nestle the potatoes around the base of the bird. Sprinkle the potatoes with remaining salt and pepper.
- Return the chicken to the oven and continue to cook until the juices run clear and the internal temperature of the breast is 165 degrees when tested with an instant read thermometer. This can take anywhere from an additional 45 minutes to an hour.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Serves 4-6 people
The bright and tangy flavor of lemons make for one of my all time favorite muffins. Add in earthy and crunchy poppy seeds and you have a breakfast muffin that will disappear in no time. This recipe from the Brown Eyed Baker has become one of my go to breakfast recipes. It is easy and essentially foolproof making it ideal for both casual breakfasts and more formal brunches. I think these muffins are best when served slightly warm so if you happen to have any left over simply reheat them in the microwave oven for a few seconds and enjoy them with a cup of afternoon tea.
LEMON POPPY SEED MUFFINS
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the molds of a 12-cup muffin pan with paper muffin cups or coat the molds with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest between your fingers until the sugar is moist and the mixture is fragrant.
- Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a separate mixing bowl or large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs. Add the melted butter, sour cream, vanilla and lemon juice and mix well to combine.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients mixing with a spatula until just combined. A few lumps are OK.
- Fold in the poppy seeds.
- Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups.
- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.
Yields: 12 muffins
It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
This dish is a take on a traditional chicken piccata. The olives and capers provide a salty contrast the tangy lemons . And most importantly, the dish is faster to make than one would think. You can buy whole boneless chicken breasts and pound them into thin yourself but if you buy chicken filets you will save time. To get the most flavor out of this dish, serve the chicken with a pasta or risotto that can absorb the sauce.
LEMON CHICKEN w/DRY CURED OLIVES & CAPERS
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and fresh ground pepper
8 thin, boneless chicken breast cutlets
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups, low-sodium chicken broth
1 large lemon, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch moons
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup black olives, pits intact
4 tablespoons capers, rinsed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Spread the flour in a shallow dish and sprinkle liberally with the salt and pepper. Dredge each cutlet in the flour mixture and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the cutlets and cook until light golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add more oil to the skillet if needed and repeat the cooking process with the remaining chicken.
- Add the shallot and garlic to the oil left in the skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and lemon slices, deglazing the pan and scraping up any browned bits. Simmer until reduced and syrupy, about 8 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice, olives, capers, and any accumulated chicken juice. Return the chicken to the sauce. At this point the chicken can sit over low heat until ready to serve.
- Immediately before serving stir in the butter, one piece at a time. Turn off the heat, adjust the salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley.