Daily Decadence Blog

It is time to bring some inspiration back into each day of your life. There are fabulous things all around ready to delight you if you just stop, open your eyes and yourself and touch, taste, feel — celebrate — something each day.

Wine is a slow thing. Here in Napa Valley, we’re in tune with the seasons, close to nature and all her nuances because we are awake, aware and listening. Why? We have to be. It’s what wine is all about as it starts in the vineyard one morning at a time. We celebrate a lot, often just so we can open a bottle to see how our latest release is doing. We need very little prompting or preparation to invite in a little decadence. This is what visitors say when they come here. But what they don’t realize is that this sense of calm and lusciousness can apply to anyone, anywhere. No winery required. You can find yourself living decadently now right where you are with a simple shift in attitude, a more sensitive ability to observe and a conscious effort to invite even five minutes of celebration into your packed day.

Try these serving suggestions.


Well Summer is indeed here, in full swing, and the produce is beginning to beg for creative solutions to the wonderful problem of abundance! Ah, the troubles of the garden. And so the awesome challenge of “Salad Season” continues, yes!

I visited the Island of Evia once, off the coast of Greece, while some friends were building a magnificent home there on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. We lived simply in that time, with no electricity or running water, but we ate the best salads on that half-finished veranda, situated to soak in the breathtaking ocean view. Here is an excerpt from my book about that time in my life.

“Today we went into town and visited Cara. She was making bread outside in her big ancient oven, which I love. Then here, to the beach at Mille, and swam far out, far enough to see Patricia’s house, and it was so beautiful and afterward we took off our clothes and baked on the rocks and dreamed a bit. Now I am sitting here and I can feel the force of the water through the rocks beneath me. It is a strange, trembling sensation. The waves are big now and seem to be growing. I’m sitting in the very end of the sunlight and even as I write, the shadow of a mountain has slipped over this paper. The rocks all around are gray and red, covered with yellow flowers and green grass. The Mediterranean sings to me slowly and rhythmically, calling me back into her cold hands. I am mesmerized and relaxed under her spell.”

Somehow, since then, I have talked myself out of making Greek salads. Somewhere along the line, I had decided that I was not a fan of Feta cheese. Right now, I know, I can hear you gasping in disbelief. But with all of the amazing produce at my service at this time of year, I decided it was time for another try. And on to it.

My big fat Greek Salad

What an easy, delicious, healthy(!) meal a Greek Salad is. The flavors are textured and layered with new surprises in each bite. They can be nudged in many directions, just by switching up the ingredients used. I do a lot of substitution when I cook, and although my recipes may depart from tradition, I’m always using what I have fresh and on hand.

If it has been awhile since you tried this leafless delight, be prepared to be delightfully surprised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greek Salad For One
Ingredients:

One whole cucumber, peeled, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into bite sized slices
One or two whole tomatoes, chopped (or a 1 1/2 cups grape or cherry toms, sliced in half
One whole pepper, any color, chopped
Thinly sliced red onion, about 1/4 cup (I was out of red onion so used some scallions about 4 of them)
1/3 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
Fresh Parsley about a tablespoon chopped
Fresh Oregano about a teaspoon chopped
Olive Oil, a good long drizzle to coat
Acid of some sort, optional (red wine vinegar, lemon juice, etc)
Salt! Pepper!

Just throw everything in a bowl and toss a bit to coat. I was out of lemon, so used red wine vinegar, and not much of it. I am in LOVE with the Olive Oil from Campovida right now, and used a generous glug of it. Honestly, I could drink this organic olive oil right out of the bottle like a sailor if no one was looking. Oh yea, I did drink it right out of the bottle. Eh. Worth it and good for the joints, too.

Another optional ingredient is capers. And on the subject of creative swapping… One could also sub mint or basil for the parsley. After a camp-stove stint with powdered Cream of Parsley soup on a soggy two week camping trek in the rainiest month in Ireland (July), I have a real love/hate relationship with the innocent herb. When it comes to Greeks, I would lean into basil or mint. Which ever way you go, enjoy the trip!


‘Tis the Season to make TAPENADE! Tapenades make a festive and practical hostess gift, a quick and easy impromtu hors d’oeuvres addition, and they are all just too darn easy to make. A voluptuous fig crop helped this year, and special thanks to neighbors and friends Buddy and Kristen for the ripe supply.

Here are a few ideas for tapenade. I like sweet and salty, so these all feature that theme. It is very easy to adjust a tapenade recipe to your own tastes. Use similar ingredients in roughly the same quantities and the consistency will be fine. Go slow and do not over process, as you want the tapenade on the chunky, textural side.

Now let’s whip something up (I heard you have company coming).

Begin by roasting about 3/4 cup of pine nuts (to have on hand as an optional addition) in a single layer at 300 degrees until brown, just a few minutes and roll them around for even browning.

Into the same oven goes some garlic cloves and rosemary drizzled lightly with olive oil …

While you are toasting and roasting chop up about 4 cups of fresh figs, or 3 cups dried figs, and add to your food processor.

Add about 4 cups of PITTED Kalamata olives, dried or jarred, don’t bother chopping unless you’re paranoid about cracking a crown.

Add the juice from half a lemon, a couple of tablespoons of capers (I use the little ones for this, not those jumbos that double as cocktail garnish!) about 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary (after roasting) all of the garlic, 2 generous tablespoons of honey, a teaspoon or so of coarse grain mustard, some dried fruit if you used fresh figs (dates, prunes, raisins anything to add some sweetness and texture) and about 1/4 cup of olive oil.

Pulse until this starts to come together, and add more olive oil, up to 1/4 more. You can taste and add salt if you like, but even for the Sodium Dependents (like me) this is pretty salty anyway. Do what you do. Things should look like this…

Ok, It looks better in the jar.

As I mentioned, you can change this recipe very easily. Swap out figs for a jar of roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes (about 2 cups, 1 in oil and 1 dried version) as well as 1 cup of dried cherries or cranberries for a pretty red version! Or go all green olives just use dates for sweetness to maintain the green color.

I like to do several kinds while I have Johnny out (I have named my Cuisinart Johnny after John Cusak, who I have been in love with since The Journey of Natty Gann . Oh Jeez, that was a Disney flick. Oh, well. Seemed steamy at the time. (They did kiss in the end right? Maybe I made that up. Lady and Tramp kissed so I can’t be that far off.) In any case, do it up while things are dirty. I buy half pint jars and the finished products go right in. Unprocessed, they can be stored for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator, at the ready for whatever comes your way.

There you go! Instant party! Enjoy.

For more recipes, naughty and nice check out the book!

 


Ah! It’s coming back to me! Why I love to cook and read the Pioneer Woman’s (PW) blog–she’s sooo damn funny! And endearing. A nice balancing act. I’m inspired to make (my version) of her Creamy Carrot Soup.

And so I love that PW chooses this recipe as a great thing for kids to make because I’m feeling like cooking something simple (and I have no ingredients in the house except for several pounds of carrots! Ha!) As it is Halloween and Pumpkin Season has descended upon us, I would love to make pumpkin-something but will settle for something-pumpkin-colored for now. Carrot soup it is. Ree uses cream in her recipe, but since I have been drinking Champagne by the bottle since the wedding, I’m going light on my  version.

Carrot skins!

I take Ree’s advice and use a paper towel for my carrot skins (I swear that is not my Bud Lite) and turns out it works just as well for grown ups.

Since I don’t have a stove in the Wine Country Kitchen (yes! true! At least not inside the house) this is Slow Cooker Carrot Soup as well. I like making soup in the Crock because you can really let it simmer all day. Just throw everything in and let her roll. (2# peeled carrots, 3/4 of a whole chopped onion, 2 tablespoons chicken bullion, juice from 1/2 a lemon, 2 pinches of ground nutmeg, salt, pepper, 2 cloves pressed garlic, and I am experimenting with some Herbs de’Provence I have on hand as no thyme here!)

Into the pot!

Oh! add water to cover everything, and crank up on high. Now go fix your wings!

When Moxie was a pup, these red feather wings were one of the only casualties of her teething days, and I don’t hold it against her. She could not resist tearing one tip off!

I love the way the new peacock feathers brought them back to life!

After a couple of hours on high, your carrots should be softened. Time to puree the soup.

carrot soup in blender

Transfer in small batches to your blender, or if you are fancy like PW use your immersion blender. Keep an eye (and hand) on the lid as you blend, this soup almost blew mine off! Splatter-Blender action!

Better with Butter

Secret ingredient #1: Well, I tried to make this healthy. I added about 3/4 of a cup of non-fat milk! Then I added about 2 tablespoons of butter. You could skip the butter if you have cream or whole milk. Whatever you feel you need. Every day is new.

secret ingredient

Secret ingredient #2: For sweetness, I added a few teaspoons of Mama’s Apricot Jam. Nice depth and not too sweet. I also added a sprinkle of cinnamon and a bit more salt.

Now if I only knew what to pour with this… :) Happy Haunting!


August 13, 2012

Early morning observations… Since I have never been married before I have been experiencing this year as a voyeuristic stranger. And learning that it’s very strange being a bride. Strange is a bad word choice. Let me rephrase this. I noticed something extra-ordinary today–amongst all the planning, I have been taking very extra-good care of myself this past year… all because of the wedding. I have always worked out and felt that I was leading a healthy life but this has been different. Better skin care, back on a serious exercise plan, better diet, less wine, more sleep. And I suppose, subconsciously or obviously, I’m motivated by the wedding. Why is it that women do this when they are getting married, or having a baby, etc… and why don’t we just make ourselves and our health a priority otherwise? We shift right out of the self-pampering mode when the motivation passes.

I am grateful for this observation now because I intend to take this on with me. I want to continue this kind of soft and steady nurturing care for myself from now on. It feels good! Balanced! Healthy. Allows me to awaken rested and ready. And that is the greatest feeling in the world. And while being a bride is heavenly, being good to yourself out of love and respect is divine.

xo


Hello to all my Friends and Fellow Enjoyalists!

We’d like to personally invite you to a live interactive Internet video with Sherri Dobay this week. We will be making the Mushroom & Love Risotto recipe from her new book Daily Decadence:The Art of Sensual Living (with a foreword by James Laube, Wine Spectator Magazine) and pouring Ruby Kurant wines while streaming on a live video platform called ToutSuite Social Club www.toutsuite.com. ToutSuite allows you to log in from your home, laptop, PC or mobile device and talk face-to-face around the table with Sherri! Invite your friends, open some wines, and taste with us!

You can buy the book on the website (you can download the eBook today) or on Amazon (Kindle here).

On show day, we’ll be tasting the 2008 Ruby Kurant, The Archer — perhaps you have some in your wine cellar!

We look forward to seeing you in the Social Club! Please pass this on to anyone you feel would benefit.

DATE: Thursday, July 19, 2012

TIME: 6:00 PM (Pacific Time)

LOG ON: http://www.toutsuite.com/events/meet-sherri-dobay-daily-decadence-and-ruby-kurant-wines

INSTRUCTIONS:

Go to www.ToutSuite.com or click the link above

1. On the calendar, click on the event “Meet Sherri Dobay, Daily Decadence and Ruby Kurant Wines”

2. Buy the wines if you’d like to taste with us

3. Invite your friends to join you at home, if you wish… and log back in at the time of the show

4. Enable your webcam and microphone **link will be located on the event page on the day of the show**

5. Or view the live stream and tweet us your questions @ToutSocial

Please RSVP (optional). ToutSuite will help you get logged on and streaming with us!

RSVP Email: contact@toutsuite.com

Susan Quinn | CEO | TOUTSUITE SOCIAL CLUB

quinn@toutsuite.com | 415-531-8355

www.toutsuite.com | @ToutSocial

https://www.facebook.com/ToutSocial

http://twitter.com/ToutSocial

http://www.youtube.com/ToutSocial

http://pinterest.com/ToutSocial

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ToutSocial/collections


Visit Envy Winery Thursday April 5 through Saturday April 7, from 10-5, and view the works of artist-in-residence, Sherri Dobay. Her painting series “Harvest” is on display along with her own wine, which features her art on the labels. Dobay is also debuting her first book - Daily Decadence: The Art of Sensual Living. Taste a selection of nibbles from the recipes in Daily Decadence and try her Ruby Kurant wine, all three vintages! Come soak up the art and enjoy a free tasting of Ruby Kurant and select Envy wines when you mention Arts in April.

Here we are on the Arts Council site.

Come and play!


Plucked From New Zealand Adventures…in response to  earlier post “Good Advice From Chef Maree”

I had a mad and unexpected taste for cauliflower as I had worked up an appetite during a six hour winery bike tour that afternoon. Tired, happy and enlightened; I arrived at the table. A line up of reds awaited, but first proper French Champagne to cleanse the palate and to toast the accomplishment of our collective legs.

We ordered from the list of appetizers selecting a scallops dish, white bait and a beet salad to start. What was nice was the ability to choose from a variety of sizes. We could get a tasting portion or an entree portion – allowing more room for sampling and education.

The food was delicious, the petite scallops arrived first, all nestled into a bed of none other than a creamy cauliflower puree. Remembering my craving, I counted this as a premonition.

It was fantastic!

Next, we discovered white bait, a wonderful little fish, whole, in a delicte eggy binder and formed into small cakes friend to golden perfection… No regrets.

I had salmon for my main dish, playfully prepeared with a flurry of edemame and diced vegetables. Simple but delicious and cooked just right.

In the end I noted in my little book, “Attentive, sensitive, aware food. Attentive to details, sensitive to season, aware of place.”

Your love affair is a brilliant one, Maree.


Nothing like gin on a hot day whose date you might not even know on the backside of Hotel D’Urville with a nice breeze and showered, damp hair. I find when you are on the road for so long, the small pleasures surrounding proper bathing are intensified. Today I trimmed my nails and shaved my legs. Proper. And it’s not because I’m not having a ball enjoying this trip, this girl has just been busy. That little bath washed off the salt water after a day on the Charlotte Sound in a sturdy fishing boat.

The weather was glorious and the water fine. Our boat was so sweet – just perfect – and not too fussy. And for a moment, it made me want one. We were treated to a brilliant sunrise – the light glowed up the hillside then hid on our hour-long taxi into our spot. Cormorants and gulls chased the boat and sped alongside us. Around the point, the water churned and we bounced and surfed the floor of the back of the boat. I loved it. Once there, we parked out off the coast. I had planned to write – I had mentioned that this was to be my “creativity cruise” and wanted to use the time to draw, paint, read and write. But, as fate stepped in, I was promptly handed a double hooked line, baited with chunks of fish and that was that… I would fish with the boys.

I hooked up first, and I have to say I was proud to pull out a respectable snapper. This trip has been well nourished by this delicious, succulent fish. And here it was, flipping and jerking, quite alive in front of me. It ‘s really a gorgeous fish–silver with robin’s egg blue specs sprinkled across both sides. We would keep this one–it met all requirements. I promptly caught another and the same end applied.

On and on it went like this–until the snapper moved out and the blue cod moved in. They were thicker but smaller and we sent most all back into the blue-green water, which then drew in the Barracudas. They snaked and writhed around our little fish as we reeled them out, entertaining themselves. It was amazing how they toyed with us.

The sun was hot and I could have spent all day at the breezy water spot with the dramatic mountains behind us. I was stunned when the captain said “Ok, going to need to pull up in a few.” Hours had gone by… Amazing.

I did manage to dash off a few drawings but I didn’t need them. The sea scene will stay forever seared in my mind. And back home we sped, on top of the waves; passing sailboats heading out, chasing their own catch.


I didn’t expect the hold up.

I’m trying to decide on the final placement of artwork and selection for the cover of the book.

I am now in the final stages of placing design elements on the cover of the book. The Designer has been very helpful and accommmodating through my many, many revisions. (Yes, I am a designer, but I do not specialize in books, knowing this wasn’t one of my strengths, I did hire a designer for this project.) But I didn’t expect that my inability to select a few hand-written wine tasting notes would be the last piece of the puzzle. Who to use?

So many wonderful wines – I have been so fortunate to taste some outrageous producers and vintages.

So many great memories – scribbled descriptions of bottles poured with close friends and closer loves.

Then there are the esoteric descriptors themselves, ranging thoughts like sea-spray on a boat dock, to chocolate drenched cowboy boots, then there is velvety citrus and don’t forget Navajo blankets stuffed with raspberries (good old Chateaux Lafite 1990)…

Do you see my dilemma?

Well it’s all sorted out now. Soon you will be able to see for yourself.


The clouds churned overhead, the color of rough asphalt, while I made the hasty arrangements for my horse trek. I had to be ready in 30 minutes. It was best that I had no time to change my mind. We would ride for more than 2 hours. Bliss. I grabbed a raincoat and left the Martinborough Hotel.

As I drove out to the the farm the landscape swelled and gathered dramatically around me.  The brown hilltops punched through the the clouds their tops disappearing in mist. Now and then the clouds parted and teased me with a quick look at the elusive sun, but always closed back fast.

When I arrived four horses waited, saddled and bridled with reins removed, all standing hipslung, resting. Allison, an ironwood tree wrapped in tanned leather of a woman in charge of the lot reached out a friendly branch to greet me. Sized up by my sensible handshake, and real riding gear, I knew I passed her tourist test when she handed me a hoofpick. She smiled wide and asked me to check the feet on Sirka, my mount for the day, while we waited for the others to arrive.

Sirka was cross. The mare glanced at me sideways, disinterested, the kind of horse glance reserved for riders who only show up once. I understood. I looked in her eye and promised her I was kind, and that we would have fun, even if it was only a one night stand. She offered a foot for cleaning in acceptance of the deal.

The others arrived. A handsome mother Jenny and her young daughter, Kate; a red-head with sweet blue eyes set above a storm of rose-colored freckles. She was about 10, a prime time to discover a one way ticket into horse-madness. Smiling Michelle also arrived, daughter of Allison, the same spirit in a softer, less tanned wrapper. Her big half-draft gelding Serg bounded out of the trailer, feathers flying. In minutes we swung out.

My mare was strong as an ox, dead calm, but a leader. She nosed out ahead of the pack and pinned her ears at the geldings threatening to nudge ahead of her. I listened to her, and noted not to question her ideas too much. I knew she knew the way.

We soon settled into the rhythm of the ride, and the familiar decadent wash of total happiness and deep love I find on horseback in the open field found the shore of my soul once again and swallowed me whole. My entire being was smiling. Sirka softened through the saddle.

The trail followed an easy path that soon turned into a brisk climb up the lush hillside. We leaned forward and fresh horses made light of the descent. From the ridge we could see far; hillsides full of sheep-dots, black Angus cattle grazing. Allison and Michelle rode abreast ahead of me, chatting away and shouting greetings to neighbors across the canyon riding out on their own trail opposite us. I watched them and thought about how nice it would be to live close by my own mom and to be able to trek together at a moments notice.  She and I ride together virtually now, on different sides of the US, leaving voice mails for each other from horseback, the clip of hoof steps in the background.

Allison pointed out local trees and their uses as well as birds which she identified by their songs alone. It was a beautiful, rugged land. We wound around and marched on, in silent single file, hoofs smacking the basaltic riverbed in deafening percussion making conversation impossible.

A very slick, rocky and technical climb (even for a very experienced rider) up and out of the river valley had me concerned for little Kate as we had learned only after our take off that this was her first ride off the lead-rope. Quite a maiden voyage for a little girl. I peeked back after we reached the top, relieved to see her still sitting on the right side of her petite paint horse, grinning at her achievement. That one would stay with her forever, well done, Kate.

And on we went, now happy for the clouds keeping us out of the sun. Gate after gate through pastures of sheep, cows, more sheep. Allison was in the business of export and lamb was her game. I learned about her passion for fox hunting, which She and Michelle enjoyed together hacked in between hunts to brian. They pointed out the low fences, called snags, where one was advised to head towards for ease of clearance. They told me about the tradition of carrying a flask on the all day rides, full of brandy or whiskey, which should not be brought back empty. “Some carry two!” Allison said mischievously about their “jumping juice.” Fox hunting sounded fun.

One last steep, strenuous climb. Me standing straight up in stirrups, holding a chunk of Sirka’s thick black mane just behind her ears and lying on her neck while she humped up the grade wound up our trek. At the top we could see for miles, almost to the coast in some directions. The view was simply stunning. The horses blew and snorted from the ascent. When it was time Sirka led the way home, down the other side. I let her go. She knew the way.