Cranberry Bourbon Refresher

This bright cranberry cocktail is a perfect refresher:

Cranberry Bourbon Lime Cocktail

Cranberries may be associated with the holiday season – as well they should – but these plump tart berries are delightful year-round when added to salads, salsas, relishes, and, in this case, cocktails. It’s almost summer, and I think a cocktail is most appropriate these days. The cranberries perfectly balance the honeyed spice of bourbon, acting as a natural bitter, if you will. In this drink, the berries are added in three ways – in a simple syrup, as the base for a muddle, and also as an edible garnish – yep, that’s right, you can eat these berries straight up. They’re that good.

Cranberry Bourbon Refresher
Makes one cocktail

Cranberry Simple Syrup:
2 cups frozen cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 2-inch cinnamon stick

Cocktail:
3 to 4  frozen cranberries
3 to 4 mint leaves
2 lime quarters
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce Cranberry Simple Syrup
1 ounce fresh lime juice
Ice cubes

Make the simple syrup:
Combine the syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the cranberries break down, about 15 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing down on the cranberry pulp. Discard the solids. Cool the syrup to room temperature. (The simple syrup may be stored in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.)

Make the cocktail:
Combine the cranberries, mint, and lime quarters in a cocktail shaker and muddle. Add the bourbon and Cointreau, and then add the remaining ingredients. Shake vigorously and pour into a tall glass or strain into a rocks glass. Serve with whole cranberries, lime wedges, and mint sprigs.

Disclosure: I was supplied with cranberries from Cape Cod Select for this challenge.
For more recipes and Cape Cod Select information follow their links:
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Pomegranate Glazed Baby Back Ribs

The secret is in the sauce with these sticky, finger-licking baby back ribs.
Pomegranate Lacquered Baby Back Ribs

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and if you haven’t had a chance to escape to the great outdoors to do some grilling, then now is the time to dust off the grill, breathe in the fresh air, and cook up a platter of crispy, sticky ribs. When it comes to these baby back ribs, the secret is in the sauce. Infused with pomegranate molasses, the basting and dipping sauce yields a sweet and puckery glaze, ensuring the ribs will crisp to finger-licking goodness over the fire. No grill? No worries! You can also make these ribs in your oven.

Pomegranate molasses is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s a slick reduction of pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon, and a great addition to marinades, sauces, dressings, even drinks. It’s available in the international section of your supermarket and specialty stores. You can also make your own by combining one quart (4 cups) of unsweetened pomegranate juice with 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat, until the juice is reduced to about 1 1/4 cups and has a syrupy consistency, about 1 hour. Cool the syrup slightly (it will continue to thicken as it cools) and then store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Sweet and Sour Pomegranate Lacquered Ribs

Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: about 3 1/2 hours, plus marinating time
Serves 4 to 6

Rub:
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

2 racks baby back pork ribs

Sauce:
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh peeled ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Evenly coat the ribs with the rub. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.
  2. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat to meld the flavors, 12 to 15 minutes.
  3. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over low heat, about 275° on a gas grill. (Or heat your oven to 275°F.)
  4. Grill the ribs over indirect low heat until the meat is tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning and once or twice. During the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, lightly baste with some of the sauce. (If using an oven, arrange the ribs on a rimmed baking sheet and roast on the middle rack of your oven.)
  5. Increase the grill heat to medium-high. Baste the ribs with the sauce and grill over direct heat until slightly charred and crisp, turning as needed, 8 to 10 minutes. (Or increase the oven heat to 450°F and cook until beginning to crisp, turning as needed.)
  6. Serve with the remaining sauce for dipping.

 

Chipotle Chicken and Couscous Salad

Pantry essentials: Chipotles in adobo add sensational flavor to this grilled chicken and couscous salad.Chipotle Chicken and Couscous Salad

Chipotles in adobo are a flavor bomb, packed with a soupy mix of whole smoked and dried jalapeños that are rehydrated and canned in a tangy, sweet tomato sauce. A little dollop adds smoky flavor and heat to robust marinades, sauces, and stews. In this recipe, the chiles add essential flavor to the chicken marinade, which does double-duty as a basting sauce.

When using the chipotles, remember that the whole chiles have a good amount of heat, while the tomato sauce is milder and slightly sweet. So, spoon a balance of whole chiles with sauce in the food processor when making this recipe. Alternatively, separately process the entire can of chiles to get a smoother purée with a balance of heat and sweet. Either way, you won’t use the entire can, so don’t throw out the leftovers! They can easily be stored for future use. Transfer to a glass container and refrigerate for up to one month, or freeze for up to 6 months. This way you’ll have your own stash for dipping into.

In this recipe, I cut the chicken into large chunks to expose more edges to the marinade and drive in flavor. I also like to accompany the salad with hummus, which is optional.

Chipotle Chicken and Couscous Salad

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes, plus marinating time
Serves: 4 to 5

Marinade:
1/4 cup chipotles in adobo sauce
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut in 2 to 3-inch chunks

Couscous Salad:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced, finely diced
1 small jalapeño seeded, finely diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving

Marinate the chicken:
Process all of the marinade ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Reserve 2 to 3 tablespoons for basting. Place the chicken in a medium bowl. Add the remaining marinade and turn the chicken to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or up to 24 hours.

Make the couscous:
Place the couscous in a large bowl. Add the water, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, and salt and stir once to blend. Cover the bowl and let stand until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients and gently mix to combine. Taste for salt and seasoning.

Preheat the oven broiler (or prepare the grill). Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade. Broil or grill over direct medium heat until the chicken is charred and beginning to crisp in spots and thoroughly cooked through, basting with some of the reserved marinade, 10 to 14 minutes, depending on the thickness of the meat. (The internal temperature should register 165°F with a meat thermometer when fully cooked.)

Spread the couscous on a serving platter and arrange the chicken on top. Garnish with fresh mint and/or cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges.

Pantry Dinners: Lemony Spaghetti with Tuna, Peas, and Chiles

Shelter-in-place should not be the only time you make this pasta dish. It’s a keeper.Spaghetti with Tuna and Peas

This pantry-inspired recipe can be on the table in 15 minutes, so add it to your repertoire of easy weeknight dinners.

By now we’re accustomed to digging through our pantries for dinner inspiration. I try to view it as a fun cooking challenge and an opportunity to (finally) use the stacks of canned, jarred and frozen goods that seem to have permanently populated my cabinets or burrowed themselves into the depths of the freezer. This pasta dish is a result of my kitchen foraging. The thing is, it’s also a delicious meal, and I wonder why I haven’t made it more often.

Chances are, you already have the main ingredients – canned or jarred tuna, frozen peas, and dried pasta – stashed in your kitchen. Tuna is a simple, nutritious, and flavorful addition to pasta. In fact, spaghetti al tonno is an Italian classic. When possible, use a sustainably sourced tuna, and don’t shy away from tuna packed in olive oil, especially for this recipe. It’s the oil that contributes flavor and richness to the dish. Peas’ natural sweetness brightens the pasta and complements the briny tuna. I also add fresh chile pepper. If you don’t have one, then increase the amount of dried red pepper flakes to 1 teaspoon.

Spaghetti with Tuna, Peas, and Lemon

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

12 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 (7-ounce) can or jar of tuna, packed in olive oil, drained
1 small red jalapeño pepper, seeded, thinly sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute, and then add the peas and sauté until heated through, about 1 more minute.
  3. Add the tuna, jalapeño (if using), lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Turn off the heat and gently stir, without over-mixing, to break up the tuna while maintaining a chunky texture (you don’t want to cook the tuna).
  4. When the pasta is ready, add to the skillet. Over low heat, gently stir to combine and coat the spaghetti. If too dry, add some cooking water, 2 tablespoons at a time, to moisten to your taste. Divide the pasta between serving bowls. Garnish with the dill and additional lemon zest.

Falafel Fritters

Pan Fried Falafel

I love falafel, but they can be messy and oily to deep-fry. The solution? Pan-frying. Not only does pan-frying require much less oil, the flattened patties have more surface area to brown. The edges become crumbly and crisp, and the little bits that break off are good enough to eat on their own – just saying.

Pan Fried Falafel

When making your own falafel, you must begin with dried chickpeas, which yield the right crumbly and mealy texture. Falafel should not be mushy, which is what will happen when you use canned chickpeas. So, begin your falafel-making process the night before cooking by soaking the chickpeas overnight in water. That’s all you need to do. The next day, the chickpeas will have tripled in size and will be firm yet tender to the bite. Drain, rinse them well, and pat dry. Then simply blitz them with the remaining ingredients until you have a crumbly, mealy texture.

Now, I understand that the overnight soaking defeats any cravings demanding instant gratification – as most cravings do. With this in mind, I recommend soaking more chickpeas than you need. This way, you can refrigerate or freeze any unused chickpeas for later use (no overnight soaking required!) Or make a double batch of the falafel mixture and freeze some of that, instead. Then you will be set the next time the craving for falafel strikes – because you know it will.

Falafel Fritters
Makes about 24 (2-inch) patties

1 pound dried chickpeas
1 small onion, chopped about 1/2 cup
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup (packed) Italian parsley, leaves and tender stems
1/2 cup (packed) fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems
1/4 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Grapeseed oil for pan-frying

Yogurt Tahini Sauce:
1 cup whole-milk yogurt
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Sriracha
Pinch of salt

1. The night before making, place the chickpeas in a large bowl. Cover with three inches of cold water and let stand overnight. The next day, drain the chickpeas and rinse well, then spread on a kitchen towel and pat dry.
2. Place the chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped with a consistency of coarse sand. Transfer half of the chickpeas to a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor bowl and process to form a coarse paste. Add the reserved chickpeas and pulse to finely blend. The overall consistency should be slightly sticky but not mushy, with small pieces of the chickpeas evident. Transfer to a bowl and taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Gather the falafel mixture, about 2 tablespoons at a time, and gently form into 1 1/2 to 2-inch patties. Add to the skillet and gently press in the center and around the edges to compact with a spatula. Pan-fry until the fritters are deep golden in color on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes, using the spatula to carefully flip. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and repeat with the remaining mixture.
4. Whisk the Yogurt Tahini Sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Serve the falafel with the sauce, lemon wedges, and additional Sriracha if desired.

Brown Butter Toffee Bars

Sometimes, only chocolate isn’t enough.Brown Butter Toffee Bars

These golden blondies include chopped toffee and browned butter which makes for a sweet and very butterscotchy bar. Browning the butter is a technique that tips these bars to sublime. It’s easy to brown butter: Simply melt and simmer the butter until it turns a deep amber color and has a toasty, nutty aroma. This step takes minutes, so it’s important to keep an eye on the butter while it browns, as it can change quickly from light to dark. It’s a step worth doing, and a wonderful addition to your favorite cookies and bars. You’re welcome.

Brown Butter Toffee Bars

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Makes about 25 (1 1/2-inch) bars

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melt and brown, cool
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped toffee bars, about 5 ounces
1/2 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate, about 2 ounces
Sea salt for sprinkling, optional

1. Melt the butter in a medium heavy-bodied saucepan over medium heat, whisking frequently. Continue to heat the melted butter until it begins to foam and then subsides, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue to cook until the butter has a deep amber color with a nutty, toasted aroma. (Keep a careful eye on the butter, since it can quickly go from brown to burnt.) When the butter has browned, remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter into a heat-resistant bowl to stop the cooking process. Cool completely. (At this point, you can use the butter as-is, or strain the butter through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer to remove the brown bits. I like to keep the brown bits for extra flavor.)

2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking ban and line with parchment.

3. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl

4. Whisk the sugars, egg, and yolk in a large bowl until light, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the cooled butter and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour and stir to combine. Stir in the toffee and chocolate.

5. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with sea salt, if using. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted comes clean, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on a rack. Cut into squares.

Chermoula Marinated Lamb with Wilted Spring Greens

Culinary travel from the comfort of your kitchen: Moroccan Chermoula Lamb.

Chermoula Marinated Lamb with Wilted Spring Greens
In honor of Easter and Spring – I share this roasted lamb recipe. Mind you, this is not your traditional springtime lamb roast studded with garlic and served with mint (which is always a good option, of course). Instead, this roast veers to North Africa with a generous smear of chermoula, a heady concoction of aromatic spices, fresh herbs, chiles, and garlic. Consider it Easter break on holiday from the comfort of your kitchen – a spring fling for culinary travelers.

What is Chermoula?
Chermoula is a flavorful and versatile condiment in Moroccan, Libyan, and Tunisian cuisines. It’s used as a marinade and garnish for fish, meats, and vegetables, and it can also be swirled into rice and couscous dishes. Recipes for chermoula vary from region to region and cook to cook, but the gist is to use fistfuls of fresh green herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, and mint, and plenty of spice, such as cumin and coriander. While it’s a long list of ingredients, it’s easily blitzed in a food processor in just a few minutes. The end result should be bright, sharp, and aromatic with a kick of heat. Ideally, toast and grind whole spices for best flavor, but pre-ground spices will do just fine.

Moroccan Chermoula Lamb

In this recipe, the meat is served over a platter of spring greens, lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil. Choose a selection of sturdy greens that are a mix of bitter, peppery, and sweet. The cooking juices from the lamb will slightly wilt the leaves, for a refreshing contrast that mirrors the season. And, for best flavor results, begin marinating the lamb the night before roasting. Goodness knows, we have the time for that right now. Stay well, friends!

Lamb Chermoula with Wilted Spring Greens

Active Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours
Marinating Time: 24 hours, plus 1 hour standing time
Serves 6 to 8

Chermoula:
5 cloves garlic
1 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1 cup cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed

1 (5 to 6 pound) semi-boneless leg of lamb, fat trimmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 cups mixed spring greens such as frisée, mustard greens, mizuna, arugula
1 small handful mint leaves, coarsely torn
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley and/or cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

  1. Begin marinating the lamb one day before serving. Place all of the chermoula ingredients, except the olive oil, in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to coarsely chop. Add the oil and process to blend. The chermoula should have a runny paste consistency. If needed, add a little more oil to achieve this consistency.
  2. Place the lamb in a large bowl and season on all sides with salt and black pepper. Rub the chermoula all over the lamb. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. One hour before grilling, remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature.
  3. Heat the oven to 425°F.
  4.  Roast the lamb for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat (not touching the bone) reaches 135°F for medium-rare, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the lamb. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to collect.
  5. While the lamb is resting, place the greens, mint, and parsley in a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle the lemon zest over, lightly season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  6. Carve the lamb into 1/2-inch thick slices. Spread the greens on a serving platter. Arrange the lamb in the center. Drizzle any collected lamb juices over the meat and greens and scatter the pine nuts over. Serve warm.

Smoky Red Pepper Hummus with Dukkah

Pantry Cooking: Fire up your hummus with smoke and heat.

Smoky Red Pepper Hummus Dip

Hummus is my go-to appetizer. And while traditional chickpea hummus is always a favorite, it’s fun to riff on this popular Middle Eastern dip with additional ingredients.

This red pepper hummus is my latest favorite, which is smoky, sweet, and fragrant with spice. Using the faithful chickpea as a base, roasted red peppers and fiery harissa paste are added to the mix. It’s garnished with sprinkle of dukkah, which is an essential Middle Eastern condiment made from groundnuts, sesame seeds, and whole spices. It may sound underwhelming, but I assure you it’s not. Dukkah is crunchy and aromatic, and adds extra texture and flavor to an assortment of dishes. It can simply be sprinkled over bread dipped in olive oil, swirled into dips and spreads, scattered over salads, or used as a coating for meat and fish. And the good news is that it stores exceptionally well. You can make a batch of this versatile mix and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 6 months for handy flavoring.

Smoky Red Pepper Hummus with Dukkah

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Makes about 1 1/2 cups hummus and 3/4 cup dukkah (both recipes may easily be doubled)

Dukkah:
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup raw almonds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt

Hummus:
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1 large roasted red bell pepper, drained well if using a jarred pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa paste (or Sriracha)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the dukkah:
1. Toast the hazelnuts in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and colored. Remove and pour onto a kitchen towel. Cover with the towel and rub to remove the skins. Cool the hazelnuts.
2. Separately, toast the almonds until golden brown, and toast the sesame seeds until light golden.
3. Add the cumin, coriander, peppercorns, and fennel seeds to a clean skillet and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4. Combine the nuts and seeds in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the salt and taste for seasoning. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Make the hummus:
Combine all of the hummus ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and process until smooth. If too thick, add additional olive oil or warm water to your desired consistency. Serve the hummus garnished with dukkah and chopped fresh mint and/or cilantro.

Self-Isolating with The Paring Wines

There’s no better time than now to check out these wines.

The Paring Wine Review

The Paring wines have an extraordinary pedigree at an affordable price. This claim is difficult to challenge considering that The Paring wines are produced from the vineyard blocks that are either too young or don’t fit into the vintage style of the highly acclaimed Jonata and The Hilt wines. And while The Paring wines can be rightly referred to as a “chip off the old block,” they also reflect the untethered philosophy and mindset that comes with the freedom of their own label.

At the core of these wines, you will find a wide-ranging exploration of style, vineyards and blending, all thanks to winemaker Matt Dees, who, when he’s not working with The Paring, can be found making wines for its big sister wineries- Jonata and The Hilt.

The grapes are sourced primarily from three Santa Barbara regions: Ballard Canyon, Sta. Rita Hills, and Santa Maria Valley. If you are not familiar with Santa Barbara wines, it’s time to get to know them. The region is renowned for its diverse topography, unique soil types, and mild Mediterranean climate which produce complex, high acid, spicy, powerful wines.

My Favorite: 2016 The Pairing Red Blend ($25)

This Cabernet-inspired blend displays classic notes of cassis, tobacco and chocolate. It fills the palate with bright red fruit and black plum, and is a constant play between sweet and savory. Gentle and dusty tannins lead the way into an incredibly long and precise finish, this wine is a wonderful tension between tannic structure and bright acidity. Varietal Composition: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot.

2017 The Pairing Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills ($25)

This Pinot Noir offers immediate drinking pleasure without sacrificing the complexity and nuance that makes this grape so compelling. It brims with seductive fruit, alluring aromas and supple tannins. Savory notes and mouth-coating tannins round out this harmonious and complete pinot noir.

2017 The Pairing Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County ($25)

The Chardonnay is an invigorating combination of ripe and silky fruit alongside a refreshing backbone of vibrant acidity. It’s inviting and delectable and offers something for everyone. Low yields and cool days created a blend that is both bold and rich as well as chiseled and steely. It finishes off with citrus and green melon and hints of baking spice.

Disclaimer: These wines were provided to me for review. I was not paid for this post.

Olive Oil Polenta Cake with Almonds and Lemon

An all-day cake, because we need this:

Gluten free Lemon, Polenta, Olive Oil Cake

Let’s be honest, we can all do with a little pick-me-up. This lemony olive oil and polenta cake will help. Whether you call it breakfast, snack, or dessert, it’s a guaranteed sweet break that you deserve to take any time of the day. This cake is also gluten-free, thanks to the almond meal and polenta, which give it a nutty and slightly crunchy texture. Drenched in lemon syrup, each bite is a burst of citrusy sunshine.

The only tricky issue with this cake is that it tastes even better the day after baking, once it’s had time to sit and soak with the syrup and develop in flavor. So, the only challenge you may face is waiting, or at least saving some of it for later. To store, wrap it tightly in plastic and let stand at room temperature overnight (perhaps out of sight). Of course, if you can’t wait, that’s entirely understandable. No judging, friends.

Olive Oil Polenta Cake with Almonds and Lemon

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 5 minutes, plus cooling time
Makes 1 (8-inch) cake

Cake:
1 1/2 cups almond meal (or almond flour)
1 cup fine or medium-grain polenta or cornmeal – see note below
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon almond extract

Syrup:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch spring-form pan and line with parchment.
2. Combine the almond meal, polenta, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to blend.
3. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light in color, about 2 minutes. Mix in the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix to combine without over-mixing.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Transfer to the oven and bake until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes clean, 45 to 50 minutes. If the cake begins to brown on top before finished baking, loosely cover with foil.
5. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup. Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat over medium heat, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.
6. Transfer the cake from the oven to a wire rack. Brush the top with some of the syrup and cool 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and brush the cake on the sides with the syrup. Cool completely. (You may not use all of the syrup.)
7. Serve as-is or with a dusting of powder sugar and/or candied lemon peel. To store, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 4 days or freeze for up to one month.

Note: This recipe specifies polenta, which varies in texture, from fine to coarse. A coarser polenta, will give a slight crunch to the cake. If you prefer a softer texture, use a fine-grained polenta (not instant) or cornmeal.