Versatility and Peace

I'm one of those people that finds winter weather depressing. The constant overcast gloom dampens my spirits and makes it hard to crawl out of bed in the morning. In the summer, I practically bound down the stairs at 6 am everyday to go for a run, I'll surprise my family with breakfast (I hate cooking in the morning), and the house will always be spotless. In the winter, I may wake up by 8 am unmotivated to exercise, I usually skip breakfast (I know it's terrible), and I will procastinate vaccuuming for a few days. There's only one place I can go during this dismal season, aside from a tropical vacation, that keeps the winter blues at bay: My kitchen. It is my domain and the only place right now I can find peace. My oven may be falling apart, my bird may screech when I go there and he can no longer see me, and I may have to suffer through my neighbor's attempts at learning an instrument, but once I turn on the overly loud exhaust fan I feel like I'm in my own little bubble away from the world.

I love how the ingredients to any given recipe by themselves are unexciting but when you put them all together you can get something amazing. The same goes for wine; Have a glass by itself and it can be mediocre but pairing it with that perfect dish can make it sing in your mouth. As much as I may enjoy the game of wine pairing, sometimes I just want to open a bottle and relax without having to fuss too much about matching it to my food. Especially this time of year. On those nights,  I resort to my go-to "Pairs-With-All-Red-Wines" pasta dish that not only is ridiculously simple to make but my 6 year old will devour it without complaint. It's so versatile you can use whatever sausage you want, any shape of pasta you want, any soft herb you happen to have on hand, and you can probably swap in whatever vegetable you fancy at the time.

Whether you're suffering from the winter blues, too tired to think about wine pairings, or maybe just feeling lazy, uncork a bottle of whatever red wine you grab first and settle in with a bowl of pasta. Hopefully, you can find a little peace along the way.

Pairs-with-Any-Red Pasta

olive oil
1 pound hot or mild Italian sausage
1 onion, sliced
2 red bell peppers, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1-15 ounce can crushed or petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
1 handful parsley, basil, and/or taragon, chopped
1 pound pasta (any shape), dried or fresh
Parmesan or any hard cheese (optional)

1) Cook the sausages according to package directions. When the sausage is cool enough to handle, cut it into 1/2-inch slices.

2) In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta according to package directions. Be sure to save about 1 cup of the starchy pasta water when you drain the noodles.

3) While the pasta is cooking, add the onion, peppers, and salt to taste to the pan you cooked the sausages in. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium high heat, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the white wine or vermouth and reduce for about a minute and then add the tomatoes, the reserved sausage and any accumulated juices, and the herbs, and bring to a simmer.

4) Toss the pasta with the sauce, adding the pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Top with grated parmesan and a little chopped parsley if desired.

Mellow and the Challenge

Fall is full of challenges. The challenge to wake up without an alarm when the sun isn't beaming in at 5 am. The challenge to explain to a first time student why you need to keep your hands to yourself. The challenge to know whether to risk wearing shorts or be safe with a rain jacket. About a month ago a customer gave me an unintentional challenge that I've taken to heart. We were discussing wine pairings as he proclaimed, "What I really want is a wine that goes with eggs." This man was a die-hard red-wine-only enthusiast, so there was no convincing him that plenty of whites would pair nicely with a quiche or frittata.

The main problem with eggs is how delicate their flavor is. All of Beresan's reds will overpower eggs made in the common ways and on the flip-side eggs will make most red wines taste odd and sharp. My mind kept going back to "eggs pair with white wines and champagnes only" so I had to think outside of the box and put the egg element on the back burner. I wanted a dish that could be eaten for any meal, have enough body to stand up to a red wine, and could have eggs added in some form.

Over the course of a week I formulated a plan, although I do admit to having help. I asked my son, Aiden, "What's something you would eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?" He answered with, "Pancakes." Pairing wine with eggs AND pancakes would just open a whole new can of worms, but what if we didn't make a traditional sweet pancake. What if instead we made a savory one? I decided on a shredded sweet potato "pancake" as a median between the two extremes. Instead of the classic maple syrup, I wanted something wine-friendly and decided on tomato sauce (think hashbrowns with ketchup). I always incorporate something green into my meals when it's feasible, so I went with arugula which has a wonderful peppery zest to it that pairs amazingly with all red wines. Now to decide on the egg: scrambled, poached, fried, boiled, omelet, fritatta, or a quiche. I again went to my resident 5 year old for help and after much thought he decided he liked fried eggs best.

With the help of a food processor, we quickly shredded the sweet potatoes and within no time had our "pancakes" frying. We then made a quick tomato sauce and fried the eggs in the same pan. Assembling the meal was just as easy: a sweet potato "pancake," a healthy handful of arugula, a ladle of tomato sauce, followed by two fried eggs. Voila! A wine-friendly egg dish!

At this point I realized I'd put so much thought into the dish itself, I'd completely ignored the wine. I opened my wine cooler and pulled out each one. Cab Sauv? No, too bright. Malbec? No, too bold. Ten wines later, I finally found the one: Beresan's 2007 Merlot. Dinner's getting cold, so I don't have time to deliberate. I open, decant, pour, and sit down with a sigh. My first tentative sip of wine with dinner is rewarding. The Merlot is full of stewed dark fruits with hints of a mineral earthiness and a nice mellow finish. The meal is hearty and zesty enough to compliment the Merlot beautifully and the eggs aren't overpowered. Mission accomplished.

Yes, fall is full of challenges, but it's nothing that eggs, pancakes, and glass of Merlot can't solve.

Sweet Potato & Egg Mile-Highs
(very loosely based on a picture I saw in Vegetarian Times)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled & shredded
  • 10 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes with onion and garlic**
  • 1 lime
  • baby arugula

1) Combine sweet potato, 2 eggs, 1/2 tablespoon cumin, 1/2 tablespoon coriander, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.

2) Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Divide the sweet potato mixture into quarters and scoop into the skillet, using a spatula to gently flatten into 4 patties. Cook 5 minutes per side. Set aside; keep warm.

3) Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and remaining cumin and coriander. Stir until fragrant, about 10 seconds, add crushed tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in lime juice.*

4) Wipe out pan, add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, and fry the eggs over-easy.* Season with salt and pepper.

5) To serve, place one sweet potato pancake on each plate, top with a large handful of arugula, enough sauce to wilt the greens, and 2 eggs. Don't forget a glass of Beresan's '07 Merlot!

*You could also leave the sauce in the pan, stir in the lime juice, make 8 little wells in the sauce, break the eggs into the wells, and poach them with the lid on for about 5 minutes. This will save you from cleaning a bowl and I'm sure it's a bit healthier.

**If you can't find crushed tomatoes with onion and garlic, you can always just buy the normal kind and fry up 1/2 an onion and 1 clove of garlic in the pan before you add the tomatoes.


Uncomplicated and Bear Safety

"Are we going camping today?" my five year old, Aiden, asks, his eyes still foggy with sleep. "As soon as your Dad wakes up,” I answer. Immediately, all sign of sleepiness disappears as he shoots back up the stairs to what I imagine will be a rude awakening for Andrej. "Serves him right," I think, smiling inwardly. I've showered, eaten, packed, had my coffee and have been chomping at the bit to leave since I woke up. I dislike waiting on people especially when my favorite pastime is on the line. Our last backpacking trip was slightly disastrous due to an unreliable guidebook and although we still had fun, I am anxious to end the season with a more enjoyable trip to Pyramid Lake in Northern Idaho. 

Eventually we get on the road and four hours later we arrive at the trail head. I always choose trails that either have long mileage or hard passes to climb since they tend to give me the most solitude. Unfortunately, when selecting trips that Aiden is accompanying us on, I have to look more for easy hikes which usually means they draw in more people. The trail head is full of cars and I cross my fingers that they are all at one of the other destinations or just day hiking. While Andrej divvy's out the beer between our backpacks, another car drives up and a lone hiker emerges and is soon off down the trail. I see that he's carrying bear mace and all of sudden notice that the trail head is plastered with bear safety posters. My reasons for not buying bear mace seem frivolous when I'm surrounded by giant bold warnings about my impending death via grizzly. Luckily, we have the best bear-deterrent known to man: Aiden. The 2 miles to the lake is non-stop chatter about anything from boulders to counting bridges to pirates. Any nearby bear, or person for the matter, would've retreated as fast as possible to escape the onslaught. 

Upon arriving at Pyramid Lake, I sigh with relief when I see we're alone. The lake is fairly picturesque, the sun is warm, and the sky is clear; couldn’t ask for anything more. After setting up our tent in a dusty, slightly overused campsite, we relax on a big rock overlooking the lake to enjoy some lunch and take in the scenery. We soon hear screaming and as I'm thinking, "I'm glad the bears chose some other victim" a horde of children come running down the trail, stripping their clothes, and leap into the lake. They spend the next few hours, swimming and screaming, and overall quashing the serenity of the lake. Cold gusts of wind eventually send them shrieking back to wherever they came from, but their departure marks the arrival of a steady stream of campers. 

While searching for a cool place in the water to stash our beers, we discover the lake is infested with 5-inch long leeches that wiggle out from under rocks like vicious predators at the slightest splash. All of Aiden's hopes of swimming are dashed when he learns what leeches eat and he keeps well away from the water so he "doesn't lose any blood." 

Too soon, the sun goes behind the mountains and the relentless assault of mosquitoes begins. We eat dinner, drink warm beers (the lake was too shallow to keep them cool), attempt to make cake-on-a-stick, and then retreat to our tent for the night. At some point during the night, I'm rudely awakened by a giant animal crashing through the bushes towards us and am subsequently serenaded by elk chuffs and stomps for an hour or two.

The next day we day hike to Ball Lakes, eat lunch, and return to our campsite for an uneventful evening around the campfire. 

The whole weekend is a trip of firsts: first time using our new BioLite camp stove, eating dehydrated meals I dried myself, seeing leeches, being kept awake by an annoyed elk, and enjoying warmish beer.

The worst part about returning home for me is cooking dinner that first night when I'm tired, sore, sunburned, and mosquito bitten. It's one of the few times I take shortcuts and don't make anything from scratch. With little effort, I throw boxed cornbread mix into the oven, toss pre-shredded coleslaw mix with dressing, and pan-fry some pork chops coated with BBQ sauce. Viola! A post-backpacking I'm-too-exhausted-to-do-much-else meal in less than 30 minutes. To make it a square meal, I open a bottle of Beresan's 2010 Buzz, the one wine I know that's uncomplicated enough to go with anything I make. Full of plum and blackberry flavors, hints of vanilla and spice, and a light peppery finish, you'd be hard pressed to find a dish the Buzz doesn't compliment. It's a wine meant for food, friends, and lazy nights where thinking and getting off the couch are optional.

Barbequed Pork Chops

(From Sarah's I'm-Too-Exhausted-To-Do-Much-Else Repertoire)

4 Bone-in Pork Chops, 3/4-inch thick

Salt and Pepper

Vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/3 cup orange juice

1/2 cup BBQ sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Add the pork chops and brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate.

Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add orange juice and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in BBQ sauce. Return the pork chops to the pan, turning to coat.

Transfer pan to oven and bake 6-10 minutes, until just the chops are just barely pink in the middle. Serve with coleslaw, cornbread, and Buzz.

The Pepper and Bliss

Hot, hot, hot. Maybe it wouldn't feel so hot if there had been a transition period. Isn't that what spring is for? To let your body have time to acclimate to the weather before Mother Nature turns up the thermostat? One day it was raining and still a little chilly and the next I'm cursing at my AC. Since right now I feel like every action requires a shower and a nap, it's hard to find the motivation to cook anything for dinner let alone walk to the kitchen. Although my son would probably enjoy subsisting on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during the hot months, I require unique foods and vegetables to keep me sane and happy. During my last visit to Beresan, my dad (Tom Waliser) graciously gave me a leg of lamb and my mom threw in a bottle of the 2010 Carmenére, a year I had yet to try. Only one obstacle prevented this ambrosial feast: oppressive heat. Looking ahead at the forecast, I spy one day amid all the 90s that looks promising for a roast. Lamb & Carmenére Day arrives and I wake up exhausted. Due to poor planning on my part, I had to wake up multiple times during the night to check on foods I was dehydrating for backpacking meals. I force myself to go for my morning run before it gets too hot and the catcalling college kids emerge. I eventually return home and pull out all the needed coffee paraphernalia only to find my coffee grinder has mysteriously died during the night. Inwardly weeping, I make tea and lazily lounge on the couch the majority of the day. Eventually the time comes to unstick myself from the couch and be productive. First of all the leg of lamb is small; weighing in at only three pounds, I struggle to find any guidelines for bone-in lamb that size. I'm too tired for perfection, so I take a shot in the dark and throw the seasoned lamb and some carrots in the oven for an hour. In the meantime, I make rice pilaf and wonder if the local meteorologist just drew his prediction out of a hat. With the oven going at 400° and the outside temperature at 95° it's a veritable broiler in my kitchen. I spend as little time by the oven as possible and my usual 5 year old assistant is hiding from the heat elsewhere. Amazingly, the lamb comes out of the oven perfectly cooked and the carrots beautifully caramelized. After a day of disappointments, sitting down to my favorite meat, vegetable, and wine all in the same meal seems like bliss. Carmenére and red meats go together like green eggs and ham and the 2010 doesn't fail to disappoint. With a raspberry and cranberry backbone, a hint of nuttiness,  and bold peppery finish, you'll find that no matter the vintage, Carmenére pairs beautifully with red meats, spicy foods including curry and Cajun, and hearty vegetables. Although I may have suffered through the day, it was worth it in the end to enjoy my favorite foods and delicious wine with a welcome evening breeze flowing through the window.


The Bubbly and Summer

"Is it summer yet?" Aiden, my 5 year old son, asks hopefully. I can understand his confusion; a month ago he was teased with summer weather only to be disappointed the following week with dreary cold rainy days. It seems the hot sunny weather has returned to us and I can finally count down the days to backpacking trips I spent the whole winter planning and fantasizing about. There's something about winter and fall weather that leave me longing for hot sun, juicy summer fruits, and the only time of year my family tolerates salads for dinner. On the flip side, when summer is at its peak, I find myself yearning for perfect white snow, seeing the cold on my breath, dark beers, and the only time of year my family tolerates soup. Today's forecast of a promising high of 88 degrees and Aiden's unshakable belief that it is in fact summer now, leads us to an impromptu fishing trip along the Clearwater River. Not having any clear plan of where we're going, we stop at the first obvious fishing spot and endure vicious mosquitoes and broiling sun while fish jump merrily around us and ignore our worms. Although we come back bitten, sunburnt, and fishless, it was a satisfying summer adventure that leaves me with a sense of peace as I finally get to sit down and relax. Too soon, Aiden declares he's hungry and interrogates me about what's for dinner. At this point in the day, I'm too hot and tried to really put much effort into cooking and decide on a pasta dinner salad. Before we left for fishing, I'd had the foresight to put a bottle of Beresan's 2012 deVine into the fridge, knowing a cold drink would be necessary later in the day. With a quick searing of the steaks, Aiden's help making pesto, and boiling of noodles, dinner should have come together in a flash. Unfortunately, the rice noodles' instructions were in Chinese and my guesstimate of a 2 minute cooking time was overkill. The congealed mass of noodles in the colander necessitates a quick trip to the store for a fresh box of pasta (thin spaghetti this time) and hopefully a successful dinner the second time around. Twenty minutes later, we sit down to a now cold steak salad and the long awaited glass of deVine. With a strong apricot backbone, fruity finish, and a bubbly, almost champagne-like feel this wine is made for light dinners on hot summer days on your back porch... Or at your coffee table watching Arrested Development while your 5 year old regales you with big fish stories and tall tales. Whenever you're in need of a taste of summer or an escape from the heat, try pairing deVine with any light vegetable or pasta dish, grilled chicken, fish, or an impromptu outdoor adventure.

Summer Beef Noodle Salad

(From Tyler Florence's Tyler's Ultimate with my notes)


Extra-virgin olive oil

2 New York strip steaks (about 1 1/2 lb. total)


1 pint cherry/grape tomatoes


1 1/2 bunches of arugula (I used 1/2 of a 5 oz. container of baby arugula)

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup roasted peanuts

1 Thai bird chile (I used a Fresno chile)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


1 pound thin rice stick noodles (I used thin spaghetti in the end, but angel hair would also work)

1 bunch of arugula (I used the other half of the 5 oz. container of baby arugula)

Handful of mint leaves

1/4 cup roasted peanuts

Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the noodles.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put a large, ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in a 2-count of olive oil and heat until the oil is smoking. Sprinkle the steaks all over with salt and pepper and sear in the hot pan for a couple of minutes on each side. Shove the steaks to the side. Add the tomatoes to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and give them a stir to coat with the oil. Then put the pan in the oven and roast 8-10 minutes. Remove the beef to a plate to rest for 10 minutes while you finish things up. Dump the tomatoes into a large bowl.

For the dressing, put the arugula, lime juice, peanuts, chile, and olive oil in a food processor and puree. Season with salt.

Cook the noodles until al dente. Drain in a colander (Save some pasta water in case you need to loosen the sauce) and add them to the bowl with the tomatoes. Add the lime dressing, arugula, mint, and peanuts and give the whole thing a good toss. Cut the meat into thick slices and serve on top of the noodle salad.

The Veg and the Playdough Pasta

As the first rays of sunlight shimmer through the curtain, I go through my mental checklist of things I need to do today: laundry, empty the dishwasher, clean the bird cage, make ricotta cheese, pasta, and tomato sauce for dinner, and do tasting notes on the Cabernet Franc for Mom (that's Debbie of the tasting room to you). I promptly roll over and try to go back to sleep but my attempts at laziness are thwarted by the "stomp-stomp-stomp" of Aiden flying down the stairs, ready to start the day. The promise of wine later in the evening pulls me out of bed and I trudge down the stairs. Aiden always remembers what I tell him and so the second he glimpses me on the stairs the onslaught of questions about dinner ensues. "Are you making noodles for dinner? Can we make cheese now? Noodles need sauce.... Are you making tomato sauce?" Still asleep, I stumble to the kitchen ignoring his questions for now and mentally reminding myself to stop telling Aiden my plans in advance. I pull out my coffee press and boil water while Aiden rambles on about how I'm making dinner wrong, "Noodles definitely don't have coffee and water in them." "Patience," I tell him. With a "hmph" he leaves the kitchen to build the world's tallest tower and I'm able to wake up in peace. Eventually I complete my morning routine and with the help of Aiden's relentless reminders, I know it's time to start the cheese. Ricotta cheese was one of the first things I stopped buying at the store; the gritty flavorless store-bought variety made me demand something better and I discovered how incredibly easy it is to make cheese. The transformation that takes place in a pot of milk and lemon juice excites Aiden and me both and we hover over the pot watching the curds form. "Can I taste some?" he asks every five minutes. Once the ricotta is formed and the whey drained, we pop it into the fridge to cool down. Sometime later, as if he has a psychic connection to the cheese, Aiden runs into the kitchen hollering that's it's cold enough to make noodles. When it comes to making homemade pasta, I've learned to give myself extra time or be prepared for a late dinner, so I relent and follow him. I use the food processor to make quick work of mixing the ingredients and plop the green spinach pasta dough on the counter for a little kneading. "Are we making playdough noodles?" Aiden asks. While the dough rests on the counter, I get started on the tomato sauce. I generally view it as sacrilege to use high quality wines for cooking, but I only need a little to deglaze the pan and it gives me an excuse to start drinking before dinner. The first taste of the 2008 Cabernet Franc is so-so and I'm disappointed it isn't as bold as previous years. However a few minutes later, I'm able to discern underlying flavors and complexities the older years lacked. With a definite vegetal quality about it, I'm excited to not only taste it in the tomato sauce but being paired with dinner it promises to be a match made in heaven. Now that the sauce is ticking away it's time to start rolling out the noodles, a task I tend to dread but excites Aiden immensely. I roll out the dough into a big round, cut out little nuggets, and roll into little asparagus tip shaped noodles. Aiden proudly eyes his handiwork and declares he can't wait to eat the noodles he's made. While I wait for the noodles to cook, I sip more wine and try to place my finger on the mysterious berry notes but to no avail. Frustrated, I sit down to eat and take my first tentative drink of Cabernet Franc paired with dinner. The Cab definitely comes alive next to the tomato sauce and transforms a first so-so taste into an extraordinary wine. With the vegetal backbone, mystery berry notes, and dare I say a hint of cinnamon, I would pair this wine with any roasted or grilled meats and even fish. However, I think the real stars that brings out the best in this Cabernet Franc is delicious tomato sauce, homemade pasta, and time spent with a 5 year old clown.

Homemade Spinach Garganelli

(From Rachael Ray's My Year in Meals with a few adjustments from me)

1 (10 ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and wrung dry

12 ounces ricotta, drained of excess liquid

Freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large egg yolk

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup semolina flour, plus more for dusting

Place the spinach in a food processor and pulse-chop it even further into little bits. Add the ricotta to the food processor with a little dusting of nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Drizzle in the olive oil; add the yolk, and flours. Process until combined. Remove the dough from the processor and knead it lightly, then cover with a kitchen towel and let it relax for 30 minutes.

Roll the ball of dough out into a long oval, a couple of feet long and 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. *I had to cut the dough in half and roll it out twice due to lack of counter space* Cut into thin ropes about 1/4 inch wide. Cut the ropes into little 1 1/2 inch pieces. Use your hands to roll out a thin noodle, about 2 inches long.

Dust a big baking sheet with semolina flour. Once the pasta is rolled, you throw it onto the backing sheet until you're ready to cook (or freeze for later). Cook for about 5 minutes in boiling, salted water or until they float just like gnocchi and don't taste gummy anymore.

Sicilian Sauce

(From Rachael Ray's My Year in Meals)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 to 8 anchovy fillets

1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup red wine

1 (28 ounce) can plum tomatoes

8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, torn

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the anchovies, cover the pan with a lid, and shake until the anchovies begin to break up (they'll stop spitting so violently). Reduce the heat a bit, uncover, and stir until the anchovies melt into the oil. Add the chile, garlic, and oregano. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and let it cook out for a minute before deglazing the pan with the red wine. Add the tomatoes and basil. Simmer until thick, about 30 minutes.

spinach garganelli[1].JPG

The Workhorse and the Squooshy Patties

"Let's get cooking!" my five-year old, Aiden, excitedly exclaims. I groan inwardly, looking at the clock. I know I need to make dinner, but I've already spent the whole day in the kitchen. It's my husband's birthday and he has requested homemade veggie burgers. I'm generally a selfish cook; I like red chiles, lots of garlic, and I don't have much of a sweet tooth, much to the angst of my son, so when a real request is made I can get pretty gung ho. After my morning coffee, I get started on homemade hamburger buns which sadly turned out as slider buns. "Why are they so small?" my son asks. "Well these ones are just for you!" I lie, pulling the container of dough back out of the fridge with a sigh. While the new batch of hopefully bigger buns rests on the counter, I cook the lentils and quinoa required for the patties and Aiden helps make a carrot cake. Unfortunately, the cake promptly falls apart when I release it from the springform pan. My day in the kitchen is not going well and at this point I want to scream, but Aiden is looking expectantly at me. "Well, it's a good thing we're going to frost it." I half-heartedly say. My husband texts me "Do you need anything from the store?" which I know is code for "Do you need me to bring home beer?" Burgers and beer go together like peanut butter and jelly, but I'm not one to follow the rules. "Birthdays are special days and should be celebrated!" I convince myself as I peer inside the case of wine recently procured from Beresan. I contemplate googling wine pairings for veggie burgers but immediately toss the thought aside. "Life's more of an adventure if you take risks" I tell Aiden. I vaguely remember Julia Child saying "Rosés can be served with anything" and pop it in the fridge. My experience with Rosés is very limited and I'm not sure what to make of this pink wine. Is it a white trying to be a red or a red trying to be a white? "Let's get cooking!" Aiden says again and starts to pull out random pots and pans. I sauté the veggies and toss them all in the food processor with the previously cooked lentils, quinoa, and chickpeas and decide that whatever food processor Rachael Ray uses is not what I have. I dump out half of the patty mix and coax my sub-par food processor into doing its job. From previous experience, I know that veggie burger patties don't hold their shape as well as their meat counterparts, so I gently lay them in the pan and think to myself "The worst has to be over now, I'm home-free!" Unfortunately, when I flip the patties they squoosh out to double their previous circumference and threaten to fall apart completely if attempt to resize them. I top them with provolone and cover the pan with foil so I don't have to look at them. I split the still-too-small-hamburger buns and slice my finger open. "Band-Aid!" I yell to my husband as I pour a glass of wine. My stressful day is soon forgotten with the bright fruity flavors reminding me of summer and the surprisingly bold finish makes me want to sip more. "This is the ever burger you ever just made!" Aiden proclaims. "What the heck does that mean?" I ask laughing. "You did a good job." 

I am by no means an expert on wine. I'm just a passionate foodie that enjoys the challenge of selecting a perfect wine to compliment the meal I inevitably put too much time into. I don't follow the rules and I make mistakes, however this time I was spot on. The 2012 Beresan Sangiovese Rosé melded perfectly with the earthy veggie patties and brightened up the meal enough to make a stressful day in the kitchen worth it in the end. I think Julia Child is right and you can serve Rosé with just about anything, making it (in my mind) the workhorse of wines. When in doubt, go with the Rosé! Unless it's carrot cake.... 

Mediterranean Veggie Burgers with Provolone and Italian Ketchup 

(From Rachael Ray's The Book of Burger with my improvements)

Serves 6

Italian Ketchup:

I (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic, grated

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and Pepper

Veggie Burgers:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small carrot, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

12 cremini mushroom (the brown ones), chopped

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

4 cloves garlic, chopped

A small handful dried porcini mushrooms

2 1/2 cups cooked brown lentils *see note*

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa *see note*

1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup pine nuts or almonds, toasted

1/4 cup dried currants or raisins

1 large egg

6 slices provolone cheese

6 crusty hamburger buns

Arugula, dressed lightly with lemon juice and olive oil

Make the ketchup: In a small saucepan, combine ketchup ingredients and bring to a bubble. Turn the heat to low, and simmer and thickened to the consistency of ketchup, 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the burgers: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the carrot, onion, and mushrooms and sauté until tender. Add the thyme and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook another minute or two. Turn off the heat and cool.

Put the dried mushrooms in a food processor. Process to finely chop and then add the lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, nuts, and currants. Season with salt and pepper and add the cooked vegetable and egg. Pulse until well combined. You may have to do this in batches. Form 6 patties.

Wipe out the pan used to cook the vegetables and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the burgers 5 to 6 minutes, then flip carefully and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Turn off the heat, top the burgers with the cheese and tent with foil to let the cheese melt while you toast the hamburger buns.

Smear the buns with the Italian ketchup, place the burgers on the roll bottoms, then top with the dressed arugula. Set the roll tops in place. Pour your glass of Beresan Rosé and enjoy!

*Notes to make this better*

First of all, make your patty mixture either the day before or early on the day you plan to make it so it can be well chilled. I discovered the following day, when frying up a patty for lunch that the "squooshed-out-patty problem" was basically eliminated.

For me, 1 cup of dry lentils came out to 2 1/2 cup cooked. Put the lentils in a saucepan and add 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to a low simmer with the lid slightly ajar. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Also, 1/2 cup of dry quinoa gave me the 1 1/2 cups cooked needed. First put the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse with cold water while rubbing with your hands for a minute or two. This makes the quinoa deliciously nutty and not bitter. Drain well. Heat a saucepan to medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the quinoa and stir until toasted. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes then take off the heat and leave the lid on for 5 minutes.