Happy January

It’s January.  Time for new beginnings, hopeful thoughts and prayers, and warm comforting drinks and stews.  We’ve started this little website to hopefully generate more work for ourselves and to start to make something of our own.  While we try to keep up with life, I thought I’d share some of what we’re up to.

January is when we get back to the vineyards.  The cycle starts over again and we prepare for the promised growing season which will start this spring.  The wine grape vines are dormant; we prune them back to encourage the best and new fruiting growth when it starts to warm.  This week Francisco was in northern Napa Valley taking care of a vineyard, pruning all day.  Here’s a photo he took:


My happiness came later that day when I made a warm stew for dinner.  For me it’s relaxing to cook, fun to experiment, and satisfying to take care and contribute to my family. Below is the recipe I used (my modifications to the original from Martha Stewart Living, May 2013 “Lamb and Bulgur Stew with White Beans”) to fit the ingredients we had at home.

Winter Stew

2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 lb. ground turkey
2/3 cup quick-cooking bulgur
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tbs dried oregano
28oz canned diced tomatoes
2 cups boiling water
14.5oz can white kidney or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and water squeezed out
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Heat oil in large pot. Add chopped onion, meat, bulgur, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. The original recipe called for lamb, but that isn’t as easy for me to find (I admit I could’ve waited ’til the farmer’s market was open and paid more for really nice meat and figured out a way to grind it myself, but you know) and we’ve been trying to eat leaner and more healthily. So, turkey worked just fine. Cook until the meat is cooked through, stirring to break up the meat and keep the bulgur from burning on the bottom of the pot.  Add paprika and stir constantly to toast, until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add tomatoes and water, bring to a simmer and simmer covered until bulgur is tender, adding oregano about half way through the simmering time. We have a Trader Joe’s grocery store nearby and for little more than a dollar I was able to pick up quick-cooking bulgur which really reduced the over all cooking time. I needed about 10-12 minutes simmering instead of 25.

Last step, stir in beans, spinach, and feta. Cook for a couple minutes just to melt the cheese a little and warm the beans. I served the stew with tortilla chips and for my husband, fresh habanero peppers to bite into and kick it up a notch spice-wise. Yum!

Suggested wine pairings: If you prefer white wine, aim for something crisp/dry to stand up to the acid of the tomatoes, and something with a little minerality to compliment the depth and roundness in this dish, maybe even something semi-sweet to pair with the heat if you make it spicier: a Pinot Gris or Riesling. If red is more your style, I’d go Sangiovese or Cabernet Sauvignon. If you were fortunate enough to cook lamb, the typical pairing is a fuller bodied Petite Sirah. Cheers!