A few months ago, I was invited to join nine other bloggers for the Sip, Bite & Blog conference at Kendall-Jackson Winery in Sonoma. And if you’re wondering why I was invited, you are in EXCELLENT company, because I have no idea. I actually called the winery to make sure the whole thing was legit, because everything I knew about wine-making, I learned from that grape-stomping episode of “I Love Lucy.”
Always been more of a bourbon girl.
But last week, I flew to Sonoma for a whirlwind wine education. Food and wine pairing workshops. Vineyard hikes. Winery tours. Not to mention the “pinch me” moments, like sitting at a dinner table across from Ruth Reichl, geeking out with her about Scott Peacock’s upcoming memoir.
It was pretty fantastic, but the best ideas I picked up were things you can do right at home:
- Eat outside as often as possible. I usually skip it, too, because of the heat and humidity and flies and mosquitoes big enough to ride chickens, but it’s much easier to relax when you’re not thinking about dirty dishes. Out of sight, out of mind, Baby! And everyone looks better in the moonlight.
- When in doubt, grab a bottle of Chardonnay and a bottle of Pinot Noir. They’re your most versatile white and red wines.
- A nice meal at the table shouldn’t be just a holiday thing. Break out the good dishes on a weeknight. Track down your cloth napkins. Wipe off your fried chicken fingers before you use the remote. KIDDING! But especially if you have kids, you might want to brush up on Ye Olde Table Manners. You could even make a game out of teaching them how to pass food around a table (to the right), choose the right fork (outside to inside) and remove food from their mouths on the DL. Verrrrrrry important.
- Walking through a garden feels more luxurious with a glass of wine in your hand. I’m sure it would work for working in a garden, too. Who’s up for Wino Weeding Wednesdays?
- Fried green tomatoes taste even better with Chardonnay. Sweet tea is the “house wine of the South,” but Kendall-Jackson’s executive chef, Justin Wrangler, is from North Carolina, so we tried several Southern-inspired food and wine pairings. Like pork belly sliders with Syrah. Buttermilk panna cotta with a Late Harvest Riesling. Absolutely delicious.
Three days after I got back, my body was scaling Mount Washmore, but my mind was still in Sonoma. So, I made myself something nice for lunch, this Spinach in Puff Pastry. First, I sautéed some chopped onions and garlic in butter, and then I combined them with thawed spinach, scallions, cheese, bread crumbs and toasted pine nuts to make my filling. Then, I placed a sheet of puff pastry on a baking sheet, spooned my spinach filling into the center, and draped a second sheet of puff pastry over the top, sort of like making a bed. Once I sealed the edges with a fork and brushed some egg wash on top, it was ready to pop in the oven for about 40 minutes.
I almost didn’t want to slice it. The puff pastry seemed too thin and crisp, and I just knew the spinach filling was going to fall right out. But it slices beautifully in long, buttery strips, and the spinach does stay put. This pastry would be right at home served with warm bowls of soup or featured on a party buffet table – especially since you can assemble it a day in advance and bake it right before you friends come over.
It also goes nicely with three baskets of laundry and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Knowledge really is power.
Full disclosure: Kendall-Jackson Winery paid my expenses for the conference, but they asked for nothing in return. Not a blog post, not a tweet, not a text to my mom. They’re just so excited about what they do that you can’t help but get excited, too.
Spinach in Puff Pastry
This can be assembled and refrigerated a day in advance and baked before serving. If you’re not feeding an army, feel free to cut the recipe in half and follow the same directions for a smaller pastry.
Adapted from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris”
Makes about 20 long slices
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
- 2 (10-ounce) boxes frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
- 1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
- 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs, plain or seasoned
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry (such as Pepperidge Farm), defrosted
- Egg wash: 1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- To Toast the Pine Nuts: Place the pine nuts in a dry sauté pan over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper of Silpat®, and set aside.
- Heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, and cook them for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the garlic, and cook for 1 more minute.
- In the meantime, squeeze the water out of the spinach, and place it into a large bowl. Add the onion mixture, scallions, Gruyere, Parmesan, eggs, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and pine nuts. Mix well. Set aside.
- Unfold one sheet of puff pastry, and place it on your lined baking sheet.
- Spread the spinach mixture in the middle of the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border.
- Brush the border with the egg wash.
- Lightly flour your counter or a board, and roll out the second piece of puff pastry until it’s an inch larger in each direction.
- Place the second sheet of pastry over the spinach, and seal the edges, crimping them with a fork.
- Brush the top only with egg wash. (Don’t let it drip down the sides, or the pastry won’t rise.)
- Make three slits in the pastry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the pastry is lightly browned. Transfer to a cutting board, and serve hot. (Slice with a long serrated knife, if possible.)