Two Melon Soup – A High Impact, Low Effort Recipe

Hi, folks!

We had a busy weekend which started with the celebration of this gal’s birthday.

the birthday girl

You may know her as “Momma” from the comments section of this blog. I know her as the best mom a gal could ever have.

Our two-day celebration was capped off with a delicious dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s.  By the way, did you know that they will print a special occasion message to the guest of honor on the top of your menus? Nice touch, McCormick & Schmick’s.

On Saturday night we had a mini-reunion with part of our Camino de Santiago group at the home of fellow pilgrims, Nora and G.

Before dinner, we plugged our computers into G’s gigantic and gorgeous television to share pictures from the trip. We scrolled through 300+ photos bringing back great memories of a most amazing journey.

In honor of the evening’s theme, Nora prepared a lovely and delicious paella.

paella and two melon soup

Paella is something I enjoy eating but would never attempt to make myself. Nora is a gifted cook who whips up dishes like this with her eyes closed.

I’m delighted to be the frequent beneficiary of Nora’s culinary skills and have, in fact, “borrowed” her recipes for posts (Panzanella salad).

Today I’m going to share another of Nora’s recipes with you.

See that pretty bowl of soup served with the paella?

This Two Melon Soup, served chilled, is the perfect, refreshing start to a summertime meal.

Also, Nora assures me that the recipe fits my requirements of being High Impact, Low Effort. The hardest part, she says, is pouring the soup into the bowls.

two melon soup

Nora’s Two Melon Soup

  • 1 ripe cantaloupe, diced
  • 1 small honeydew melon, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon minced fresh mint

Puree cantaloupe with lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Rinse blender then puree honeydew with lime juice and mint until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, either:

Transfer purees into two separate measuring cups. With one in each hand, pour simultaneously into the bowl, pouring equal amounts on each side.

or use Nora’s preferred method:

Tip bowl slightly to the side and pour in the desired amount of cantaloupe puree. Pour the honeydew puree into the other side of the bowl as you are lowering the bowl back to level.

Either way might take some practice but the result is beautiful.

Garnish with a mint sprig.

Easy, peasy. Or so I’m told.

Big surprise, Peter and I brought wine to enjoy with dinner.

First up, a bottle of Albariño.

Albariño is a white wine commonly grown in Galicia, the Northwest region of Spain. Galicia is the very same part of Spain we walked through on the Camino of St. James. Along the way, we enjoyed lots and lots of great Spanish Albariño. 

Peter and I brought a bottle from one of the few U.S. producers of Albariño, Hendry Vineyard. It was on a trip to Hendry’s winery in Napa that we first tasted Albariño and fell in love with it.

2014 Hendry Albariño

The 2014 Hendry Albariño ($22) is light and refreshing with good acidity. It is fruity and floral without going over the top. 

Floral, herbal and peachy aromas. On the palate, tangy citrus, nectarine and passion fruit flavors reflect the bright acidity.

– Tasting notes via Hendry.com

Albariño reminds me a bit of Viognier in that it is a pretty versatile food wine. It pairs best with shellfish like mussels and clams but is also great with chicken. It’s the perfect white wine to serve with paella.

For the red wine lovers in the group, we brought a bottle of 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat from Spain.

2007 Clos Magador

This bold red Spanish wine, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carinena, is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Albariño.

The 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat is dark and juicy and immensely satisfying. It brings flavors of licorice, blackberry, and black cherry. It’s a little bit spicy and a little bit smoky.

Oddly, though, because of the hearty nature of paella, this wine played well and did not overpower the flavors in the main course.

You have to love a dish with which you can pair both a light white wine and a bold red wine. Something for everyone.

For dessert, Nora made (you won’t believe this) homemade non-dairy rocky road ice cream with mini-marshmallows, almonds, and dashes of cayenne and red pepper.

That’s what I call a “HIGH EFFORT, HIGH IMPACT” recipe!

We ended the evening re-watching the movie that inspired us to do the walk in the first place, The Way.

This film from 2011 stars Martin Sheen and is written, produced and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. Dedicated to Sheen’s father, Francisco Estevez, who hailed from Galicia, the film was inspired by a trip Sheen took with Emilio’s son on which they walked part of the Camino. A real family affair.

Although the movie tells the sad story of a dad completing the pilgrimage on behalf of his late son, it also captures the beauty, the community, and the spirit of The Way.

I highly recommend it!

And if you can get Nora to make some Two Melon Soup and paella for you – even better!!

I’ll bring the Albariño.

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Tapas Barcelona in Evanston

On Saturday night Peter and I enjoyed dinner at one of our favorite tapas restaurants, Tapas Barcelona in Evanston.

Tapas Barcelona in Evanston

Evanston, home of Northwestern University, is a beautiful lakefront city just north of Chicago, chock-a-block full of great restaurants.

It wasn’t always that way.

My very first big-girl, post-graduation apartment was in Evanston. My pals Clare, Catherine and I shared a snazzy apartment featuring 3 bedrooms and white shag carpet. Quite “au courant” in 1979. This palace cost us each a mere $154 per month if you can believe it.

Back in those days, Evanston was mostly dry – no bars or liquor stores and only a couple of restaurants with liquor licenses. As I recall, there was The Keg, where Northwestern students brought their visiting parents and we could not afford, and The Spot, a pizza joint which was our second home.

Gone are those restrictive days and Evanston is now a nightlife hot spot.

Tapas dining is a wonderful solution for people like me who have trouble choosing just one dish on a menu. The variety of small plates let diners sample hot and cold dishes ranging from olives and veggies to meat and seafood.

We started with a glass of Martin Codax Albariño from the Rias-Braixas region of Spain.

Martin Codax Albariño

Albariño is a dry white wine that pairs well with seafood. My very favorite domestic producer of Albariño is Hendry Wines from Napa.

The typical recommendation for tapas dining is to select three to four dishes per person. Even with a party of two, this allows for a tasting of six to eight different menu items.

Every single item we enjoyed from the Tapas Barcelona menus was delicious. Here were a few of our favorites.

Patatas Alioli – “Rich garlic potato salad with black olive mayo.”

Perhaps the best potato salad I have ever tasted. I’ve never heard of black olive mayo before but I am a huge fan.

Tapas Barcelona asparagus and potato alioli

Esparragos con Tres Salsa – “Fresh asparagus with avocado, tomato and trio of sauces.”

We almost passed up this dish figuring, meh, it’s just asparagus… This deliciousness could never be described as “just” anything. The cold asparagus was cooked to the perfect tenderness, the tomatoes were flavorful and the 3 sauces (each a variation of aioli) compelled us to scrape the plate clean.

Tapas Barcelona crab stack

Aguacate con Cangrejo – “Fresh crab meat with avocado, cucumber and tomato.”

This beautiful and tasty crab stack was light, fresh and yummy. It was a perfect pairing with the Albariño.

Now for our favorite dishes from the “hot” side of the menu:

Tapas Barcelona goat cheese and tomato sauce

Queso De Cabra Con Tomate – “Baked goat cheese in tomato sauce, nicoise olives, garlic bread.”

Served in a piping hot skillet, this tomato sauce was sweet, a touch spicy and had enough acidity to balance the creamy goat cheese. My only complaint? There was not quite enough of the garlic bread to sop up every last drop of the sauce.

Tapas Barcelona crab croquettes

Croquetas del Dia – “Todays fried croquettes with alioli.”

These “Croquettes of the Day” tasted like the best crabcake tucked inside a thin, crispy crust and resting on yet another delicious aioli.

Among an entire menu of culinary successes, the Crab Croquettes stole the night.

Now it’s your turn. Do you like tapas dining? Do you have a favorite restaurant? A favorite dish? I’d love some recommendations for next time!

(Oh, and by the way, I received no compensation from Tapas Barcelona. They had no idea whether or not a super powerful and influential blogger was in their midst. And nor did I.)

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Thanksgiving Wine

By now you have likely finalized your Thanksgiving dinner menu and compiled your grocery list.

Have you given enough thought to the most important component of the meal? More crucial than the turkey or stuffing or cranberry sauce?

Have you given enough thought to the Thanksgiving wine?!

Sometimes this can be tricky. You will want to select wines that appeal to a wide variety of palates and that pairs well with the range of dishes on your Thanksgiving table.

Pinot Noir

My “go-to” red wine for this type of situation is Pinot Noir. Usually a crowd favorite as a flavorful but not too heavy red wine, this varietal is a real chameleon when it comes to pairing with food.

Pinot Noir goes with just about anything.

Here are a few of my favorites. These should be available at your local wine store. I’ve even found them at our grocery store.

2012 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

2012 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir

This yummy wine is a blend of Pinot Noir grapes from a number of different locations (including the Bien Nacido Vineyard) in Santa Barbara County. The winemakers kept each vineyard’s wine separate for 6 months to let each develop their individual flavors before blending them into this gem.

The wine has notes of red berries and a hint of clove making it a great wine to go with both the tangy and sweet Thanksgiving dishes like cranberry sauce as well as the savory dishes like sweet potatoes and stuffing.

The 2012 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir retails for about $22 per bottle.

2012 Byron Pinot Noir

2012 Byron Pinot Noir

This is another great Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. At $19 per bottle, it brings lots of great cherry flavor that is balanced by some minerality. In my opinion, this yin and yang of sweet and savory notes, along with the medium body, explain why Pinot Noir goes so well with all kinds of food.

While the 2012 Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir won’t necessarily knock the socks off your family’s wine aficionado, it has a good, crowd pleasing flavor.

2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Let’s say you got off easy this year and get to be a guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving table. In addition to your assigned dish for the pot-luck dinner, perhaps you want to bring a special bottle of wine that you hope (fingers crossed!) the hosts will open on the spot and share with you and the other guests.

The 2011 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($45 per bottle) would be a very good choice. You might remember that I told you about this wine as part of my Pinot-Palooza post.

Although climate challenges made 2011 a tough year for winemaking, Robert Parker of Wine Advocate awarded the Flowers Pinot Noir with a score of 91 points. This is what he had to say:

A model of total elegance and class, the 2011 Pinot Noir from Flowers is absolutely gorgeous. Savory herbs, crushed flowers, licorice, salt, orange peel, mint and plums are all woven together in the glass. Today, the 2011 is impeccably crafted and flat-out gorgeous. Although very much a medium-bodied wine, I would not at all be surprised to see the 2011 blossom with more time in bottle. This is an impressive effort. Unfortunately, the Sonoma Coast was the only 2011 Flowers Pinot I was able to taste, but based on this effort, 2011 is certainly shaping up well here. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2021.

Think about it. Savory herbs, orange peel, plum. Wouldn’t these complement Thanksgiving dinner’s variety of flavors very well?

Just be sure you are first in line to grab a bit of this wine before the bottle is empty!

White Wines

I’m not much of a fan of Chardonnay so I’m going to lead you in a different direction for the white wine to go with your white (and dark) meat turkey dinner.

Perhaps a little non-traditional, I think that these wines will bring an element of lightness and brightness to offset the inevitable turkey coma that we all feel at the end of our feast.

2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling

2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling

This is another wine I have mentioned in an earlier post.

I just love this wine. It is not too pricey ($20 per bottle) but brings a lot of flavor and body.

Some people have a bias against Riesling because they expect it to be sweet. This dry Riesling would change their mind.

It would be interesting to serve this wine to some of your white wine loving guests without telling them which varietal you were pouring. I’m guessing you would have some Riesling converts.

2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling

2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Riesling

Another great Santa Barbara wine, the 2011 Tatomer Vandenberg Dry Riesling ($23 per bottle) is the wine that opened my eyes to the fabulousness of a dry Riesling.

Steven Tanzer of International Wine Cellar awarded this wine 91 points; Robert Parker gave it 89 points. Both mention the nice, medium body and great finish. Hints of honey and Meyer lemon would match well with a dish of candied yams or glazed carrots.

Yum!

2013 Hendry Albariño

If you really want to go non-traditional, how about going with an Albariño (pronounced Alba-reen-yo)?

Similar to a Viognier, this wine (with roots in Spain) is an excellent food wine. Albariño has great body and high acidity which means it can stand up to hearty foods in a way that many white wines can not.

I’ve told you about our visit to Hendry Vineyards. I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for Hendry wines because our experience tasting with George Hendry was so memorable.

The 2013 Hendry Albariño ($20 per bottle) brings floral notes and a hint of Meyer lemon with plenty of body and finish. It is bright without being wimpy.

No one wants wimpy wine.

This Albariño would be a great first-course wine but I’d also love it with a savory starch dish like potatoes or stuffing.

 ≈

With the wide range of flavors and textures in your meal, there is no single right answer to the Thanksgiving wine pairing question. Why not try something new this Thanksgiving?  Oh, and be sure to let me know what you choose!

In case you missed it, here is my Thanksgiving wine post from last year which includes some tips on choosing and serving the wine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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