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Yesterday evening Jonathan and I hosted a little wine and cheese tasting garden party for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (the one where you are supposed to eat dairy- basically, my favorite holiday ever!). A friend brought plums from her tree and it was fun to see the early fruits of the garden, including blackberries that will arrive in a month or two.

I am no wine connoisseur, but I did some research online to find wine/cheese combinations that went well together, and then came up with simple, no-cook appetizer ideas using each cheese to pair with 5 different wines (ranging from bubbly to after-dinner port). I learned that when pairing cheese and wine, it’s best to match similarities in flavor (like a light fruity wine with a light cheese/fruit appetizer) or go for complete contrast, (like a sweet robust port paired with a pungent blue cheese like gorgonzola). It’s fun to take your time and pay attention to how the flavors dance in your mouth! I think they are best enjoyed in this order:

  1. Prosecco: spread camembert (a brie-like) cheese on a toasted piece of baguette, top with a peach slice, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
  2. Pinot Grigio: spread fresh whole milk ricotta cheese on a toasted piece of baguette and top with lemon zest and honey. See more details on that recipe in this post.
  3. Pinot Noir: stack a cube of watermelon, a cube of feta and a leaf of mint on a toothpick.
  4. Cabernet Sauvignon: top a slice of sharp white cheddar with a slice of crisp green apple, then sprinkle with honey and black pepper.
  5. Port: put a smear of creamy gorgonzola on a leaf of purple endive and top with a red grape or 2.

Happy summer entertaining!

xx Erin

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Happy Valentine’s Day! In case you’re planning to spend a cozy night in cooking with your sweety (or with friends!), here is a menu idea:

To start: a Pomegranate Cocktail aperitif and Bacon & Basil Wrapped Dates

First Course: Red Valentine Chopped Salad

2nd Course: Red Roasted Carrots

Main Course: Beet, Onion & Eggplant Stack with Pesto (which is great alongside any meat entree´ if you want something a little more filling!). It’s also good with big round slices of fresh bufala mozzarella mixed into the stack.

For Dessert: Spiced Apricots dipped in dark chocolate with chili powder

Cheers!

Thanksgiving Appetizers in Santa Barbara

I’m always looking for easy, tasty holiday party hors d'oeuvres, and these Pesto Puffs were a hit last weekend at my family’s Thanksgiving celebration in Santa Barbara. 

Every year we head to my aunt and uncle’s beach house for a weekend of cooking, eating, and surfing. My job is always to prepare appetizers for everyone to sample as we cook all afternoon. These puffs were easy to make ahead and they work warm or at room temperature. The cheese has a tendency to ooze out a bit when they are baked, so use a baking sheet with a rim. A couple of my cousins were on cocktail duty: there was a big pitcher of spicy Bloody Marys in the morning, and at cocktail hour my cousin walked around with a tray of Manhattans and adorable Apple Cider cocktails garnished with cinnamon sticks. Before dinner, all the ladies take an annual walk to collect flowers, bark, leaves and vines to decorate the table, and then we eat at sunset. When I was in college, I lived just a couple blocks away…ever since then, I’ve decided it’s my favorite place on earth- can’t wait to go back!

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View from the deck at my aunt & uncle's house

View from the deck at my aunt & uncle's house

I have no idea how to cook a turkey (just pretending here!!) I stick to the veggies. Bottom right: my cousin Vanessa passes out Apple Cider cocktails.

I have no idea how to cook a turkey (just pretending here!!) I stick to the veggies. Bottom right: my cousin Vanessa passes out Apple Cider cocktails.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Other holiday party appetizer ideas:

Guacamole Deviled Eggs

Cucumber Caprese Bites

Radishes with Butter

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Bacon & Basil Wrapped Dates! I have made these with real bacon, turkey bacon & veggie bacon. All are good (but real is the best!). Wrapping it in a fresh basil leaf after baking makes it feel a little less indulgent and a little more delish!

By Erin Gleeson for The Forest Feast