If you’re anything like me, you live for the amazing fruits and veggies that come around during summer, but still, the quarantine hasn’t been great for your summer bod. Not being able to go to the gym and being stuck at home with a stocked fridge and an overflowing wine closet has physically put me more in a winter state than a summer one. Because of this, I’ve included some alternatives to certain ingredients and some optional steps, as to offer healthier versions of this scrumptious summertime supper. This cheesy summer squash casserole has become a go-to recipe for my family because it’s so easy to make!
1-2 cups shredded cheese blend (medium cheddar, Jarlsberg, and even a lite blend are fine), separated
1-1 1/2 cups grated parmesan, separated
3/4-1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, separated
Optional: 1/4 cup butter, melted
2 (6 oz.) packages of macaroni and cheese (I used Annie’s organic mac and cheese with 12g protein for a healthier alternative to regular Kraft)
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.
Heat olive oil on medium-low in a large skillet. Add minced garlic and chopped onions and cook until soft and browned.
Add sliced zucchini and squash. Season with pepper to taste. Cook thoroughly, until soft.
In a large casserole tray (I used a 9″x13″ tray), break up your steamed cauliflower and broccoli into 1″ chunks. Sprinkle with pepper, cooked corn kernels, 3/4 cup shredded cheese blend (optional), 1/2 cup parmesan (optional), 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (optional), and melted butter (optional).
Evenly spread cooked zucchini and squash on top. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded cheese blend and 1/2 cup grated parmesan on top.
Prepare your macaroni and cheese as directed on package.
Evenly spread your prepared macaroni and cheese over the casserole pan. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese blend, 1/2 cup parmesan, and 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs. Add pepper to taste.
Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling inside and the top is crispy and browned.
One of my favorite vegetarian foods is a black bean burger. They can be so filling and so flavorful, like our Malbec!
For those who don’t know, our Malbec comes from our Lucky 8 Vineyard, which we acquired a few years ago. We’ve updated the farming practices used on this property to match the meticulous methods we’ve used on our estate property for years. We named the vineyard “Lucky 8,” because the McGrails have eight grandchildren. The vineyard is planted with a handful of different varieties and clones of grapes that tend to grow well here in the Livermore Valley. Due to the fact that our Winemaker Mark Clarin’s mother’s favorite wine varietal is Malbec, we chose to plant this Bordeaux variety in our Lucky 8 Vineyard, so this wine is affectionately dedicated to Sylvia Clarin. It’s easy-to-drink, but is also full of flavor and perfectly balanced. It’s also one of a few single-varietal bottles (aside from Cab) we produce here at McGrail.
In a food processor, add lime juice, red onion, and black beans. Pulse a few times, or until you can’t see any big chunks of red onion.
Add cayenne, 21 seasoning salute, paprika, cumin, coriander, kosher salt, chipotle chili powder, and pepper. Allow food processor to process this mixture until all the seasoning has been mixed in well.
To the food processor, add cilantro, parsley, egg, and bread crumbs. Again, pulse until you can no longer see any large cilantro or parsley leaves.
Shape your black bean mixture into five 4.5″ patties.
In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Set your patties about an inch apart in the oiled pan. Cover the pan and cook your patties for about two minutes, twice on each side (for a total of four minutes per side per patty), or until patties have been cooked all the way through.
Toast your brioche buns upside down on a baking sheet under a low broil for about three or four minutes.
Spread the Thousand Island dressing on your toasted buns, add a cooked black bean burger, tomato slices, and sliced avocado.
Enjoy your black bean burgers with a bottle of delicious 2017 McGrail Malbec!
Merlot, which is our Winemaker Mark Clarin’s favorite varietal, is the Bordeaux brother of Cabernet Sauvignon, but is often forgotten about and inexplicably doesn’t seem to have as great of a reputation as Cab. Since it’s Mark’s favorite varietal, Mark has made our Merlot liked he would make any of our Cabernets–big and delicious! This Merlot drinks like a Cab, but still has the Merlot characteristics that you can’t get from a Cabernet. Having been aged in a combination of new and experienced French oak, our Merlot has those rich, silky smooth tannins you’d expect from a gorgeous French oak barrel and is still big enough to stand up to a steak dinner. This wine tastes like luxury to me, but is still humble enough to be enjoyed on spring day, in both its price point and its drinkability.
I love our Merlot with a lean, but flavorful tri tip that can easily be thrown on the grill. Using a savory rub, work some spice and umami into your meat so the mouthfeel matches that of our Merlot. Enjoy it with an easy tomato, avocado, and corn salad, soft, buttery potatoes, and our 2015 McGrail Merlot for a full-on tasty summertime meal!
Easy Grilled Tri Tip
Makes about 8 servings.
2 lbs. tri tip, silver skin removed
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
3 tbsp. meat rub of choice (I used Five Marys Spice Seasoning Rub)
Season tri tip with rub of choice and allow to sit for at least one hour. Work rub into meat.
Heat grill on high. Liberally season tri tip with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Sear tri tip on each side for 6-8 minutes. Lower heat to low and flip meat over. Cook for 8-10 minutes on each side. Meat will be ready when the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat has reached 130 degrees F. Allow meat to rest for 10-20 minutes, then slice against the grain.
Store remaining tri tip in an airtight container for up to one week after preparing.
Grazing boards (a fancy name for large charcuterie boards) are one of the easiest culinary trends at the moment. Not only can anyone make them, they are gorgeous and delicious, and also all the rage on Instagram. They’re perfect in almost any setting–lounging around the pool, avoiding small talk at a party, or at home, just because you want a snack. Since I’ve been in charge of overseeing several McGrail winery events, I’ve also been the creator of nearly every cheeseboard or crudité platter our winery events have seen. That’s a lot of charcuterie for one girl to make! With this experience, I’d say I have a pretty good grasp on what it takes to make a respectable grazing board. I’ve come up with some easy-to-follow steps, which are listed below, to make your own Insta-worthy grazing board at home.
Find a pretty plate, platter, board, or tray to use. It can be old or it can be new, but it should be pretty. Make sure it’s the right size. How many people will be enjoying your masterpiece? Make sure it’s clean. Wash it if you need to.
Consider your main components–cheese, meat, fresh fruit, fresh veggies, nuts, crackers, olives, dried fruits, dips, jams, herbs, etc. Try to choose ingredients that are colorful. Rainbow carrots, mini heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, and various colorful fruits are some of my favorite munchies to use. When you choose ingredients that are naturally colorful, your board will be both more visually appealing and more nutritious.
Also think about how your guests will be eating each component–with their hands, with a toothpick, etc. Will they need mini tongs to pick up each piece? Will they need somewhere to dispose of toothpicks or rinds? Will you be providing snack plates or napkins? Your guests will likely need something to cut the cheese wedges with. Make sure you have one knife available for each type of cheese that needs to be cut.
Start by placing your larger pieces on the board first. Larger, stickier items, like cheese wedges should be placed around the outer edges of the board. This is helpful for keeping smaller snacks, like nuts or berries, from falling off the sides of your board. Dips, jams, and sauces in small bowls or saucers should also be placed on the board first, but should go in the center of the board to reduce risk of falling off. Hummus is always great to have with veggies.
Separate similar colors and similar ingredients. Separating your colors will up the “wow” factor of your board, because it makes it appear more colorful. If you have red cherries and strawberries, put one on one side of the board and one on the opposite side of the board. Although certain components should be separated, do not just simply put a handful of each thing on the board. The placement should look organic, not careless. Some placements should be triangular, some should be long and skinny, and some should be funky.
Make the board as full as possible. The more you have on the board, the prettier it will be! It will need to be fuller in the center and more sparse on the edges. You can use other fixings as support for smaller ingredients. Stack your blueberries as high as you can. It’s okay if they’re overflowing onto a cheese wedge.
Get creative with your components. Each part doesn’t just have to be one ingredient. One thing I like to do is chop up apples, squeeze lemon over them, drizzle honey on top, and sprinkle a bit of blue cheese over the honey. Or, cut some mozzarella into small pieces, add a dollop of pesto or a basil leaf and a mini tomato, and stick a toothpick through it for a mini caprese salad.
Cut up fruits or veggies that have seeds or pits or that would be cumbersome to eat whole. Bell peppers should be seeded and sliced into sticks, because just straight up eating a whole bell pepper would feel ridiculous and messy. Watermelons and oranges should be sliced, with the skins left on to make eating them easier. Don’t forget some fruits, like apples and pears should be squeezed with lemon once sliced and seeded to keep them from turning brown!
Create patterns or artwork by manipulating certain ingredients. Salami can be folded into quarters and bunched together for a unique look. The tips of strawberries can be cut and worked to look like roses. Make it interesting to look at and to eat.
Lastly, add some fun herbs or edible flowers as a garnish. This can contribute some serious pop to the board. A few sprigs of rosemary is a lovely and easy way to class up the board.
Though nearly every wine can be enjoyed with a grazing board, not every grazing board should be enjoyed with every wine. It’s a rule in the wine world that most food can be enjoyed with sparkling wine due to its versatility, which is why I have chosen to pair our Gracie Brut with an equally stunning grazing board.
Based on my experience, here are foods I recommend using on a grazing board to enjoy alongside Gracie:
Mozarella, tomato, and pesto bites
Herb focaccia bread
Balsamic basil Triscuit crackers
Granny smith apple
I hope I’ve inspired you to create your own fun, summertime grazing boards at home! Please let us know if you do. We’d love to hear from you!
Have you ever tried something that is so extraordinarily flavorful that you just can’t get enough of it? This is how I feel about McGrail wine… and chimichurri sauce. Accordingly, this pairing has a TON of flavor.
What Is Chimichurri?
Wondering what the heck chimichurri is? Basically, it’s an herb-based sauce made primarily using raw or uncooked ingredients. It can be red (chimichurri rojo) or green (chimichurrri verde), depending on what kind of herbs are used. It pretty much always contains garlic, parsley, oregano, and vinegar, but there are countless variations of this scrumptious sauce.
No one seems to be totally sure about chimichurri’s origin. Some believe it derived from the Basque region’s “tximitxurri” sauce, as the pronunciations are very similar, though the ingredients are not. Others think it was loosely based off of Sicily’s salmoriglio sauce, as both typically contain parsley, oregano, and garlic. Since the English always seemed to stick their head in everyone’s business back in the day, there are some people who insist it was called “Jimmy’s curry,” “Jimmy Curry,” or even “Jimmy McCurry,” after an English lad who joined in the fight for Argentina’s independence, and some who believe it was the result of an English prisoner asking for condiments to season his meat, after England’s attempt to invade Argentina failed. There are many myths as to where chimichurri sauce came from exactly, but at this point in its history, it is most commonly found in Argentine or Uruguayan cuisine.
A Jó Élet, “The Good Life”
“A jó élet” is a Hungarian phrase, which roughly translates to “the good life” in English. This bottle of estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon is aged for nearly 30 months in 100% brand new Hungarian oak barrels. These barrels are sourced from two different coopers, both of whom use tight grain oak from the Zempelén Forest. This wine demonstrates a classic Cabernet Sauvignon bouquet of dark cherry, cassis, and vanilla, but also offers the notes of baking spice and bold tannins that you would expect from a wine that has been aged for over two years in brand new Hungarian oak. The Good Life is rich and full-bodied with notes of leather, herbs, and white pepper, which makes this the perfect wine to pair with a chimichurri rib eye steak. When you pair this wine with this dish, there is no doubt you’re living the good life.
I hope you’re excited to try this recipe at home, because I seriously can’t wait to make this pairing again! This is probably my favorite food and wine pairing so far.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk all rib eye marinade ingredients together, except for the salt, pepper, and rib eye.
Place the rib eye in a gallon-sized ziploc bag and add the marinade to the bag. Make sure the meat is completely covered by the marinade and place in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours, depending on how thick the meat is (longer if the meat is thicker).
When ready to place the rib eye in the skillet, liberally season it with salt and pepper.
To make the chimichurri sauce:
In a food processor, add all chimichurri sauce ingredients and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Store chimichurri sauce leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will last several days without browning.
To prepare the sides:
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of well-salted water to a boil.
Add the fingerling potatoes and boil until soft, about 15 minutes.
Strain the potatoes and set aside.
To cook the rib eye and sides:
In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add garlic cloves and halved shallots. Cook until slightly browned.
Add sliced crimini mushrooms. Cook mushrooms with the garlic and shallots, stirring occasionally, until they become soft.
Using a spatula, move the mushrooms, garlic, and shallots to one side of the pan. Add the rib eye steaks and about half of the marinade in the ziploc bag. Add the fingerling potatoes over the mushrooms, garlic, and shallots, and stir, so they are evenly covered in marinade. Add the optional sprigs of rosemary or thyme.
For medium-rare steak, cook the steaks for about six minutes on each side, flipping after about three minutes (twelve minutes total, four intervals of three minutes). Add about 3-5 minutes to total cooking time if you like your meat well done.
Once cooked to desired done-ness, plate the steaks and vegetables. Spoon the chimichurri sauce over the steaks.
If you’re anything like me, you live for spring and summer. Not only do these seasons bless us with incredible fresh fruits and veggies, the warmer weather just makes me feel alive. Still, the best part of spring and summer is that I can finally sip on chilled wine comfortably.
There’s truly nothing like that first sunny, 75˚F day of the year. You inexplicably begin to feel relaxed, allowing the sunshine to warm your skin and taking in as much vitamin D as your body will allow. The sweet smell of blooming jasmine sailing through the air subconsciously tells you that springtime is here.
Unfortunately for those who live in California, it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint exactly what season it actually is. According to “the Twelve Seasons of California,” we are just at the beginning of our second winter. Our recent fool’s spring was the inspiration for this sunny pairing.
Aside from the deceptive seasons, living in California is fabulous! We have access to the freshest produce in the country, and obviously, the finest wine as well. I combined the best of each of these things to create this lovely pairing!
The first notes you get from our delightful 2019 Kylie Ryan Rosé are gorgeous notes of bright grapefruit, which is why I began with citrus as the main star of this dish. Right now, you can find all sorts of exquisite citrus fruits at the grocery store–mandarin oranges, Cara Cara oranges, blood oranges, grapefruits, navel oranges, and more. I decided on a nutty, peppery baby arugula and creamy avocado and burrata as the secondary attraction to the salad, to complement the citrus and to sort of balance out one another. Since these ingredients are all so light and refreshing, I thought pistachios would add a nice crunch and make a great additional source of protein. I love the little bit of kick you get from chives and green onions, which is why it was a no-brainer for me to choose them to spice this plate up. I decided to go with a lighter-bodied dressing, so as to not overpower the main ingredients. Lastly, I threw in some deliciously spicy shallots and fresh-cracked rainbow pepper to add a nice bite to the finish and balance out the slightly creamy finish on the Rosé.
7 oz. organic baby arugula
2 pink grapefruits
3 Cara Cara oranges
3 blood oranges
4 mandarin oranges
2 navel oranges
8 oz. burrata cheese (2 pieces)
⅛ oz. chives, minced
3 green onion stems, thinly sliced
⅓ cup roasted, unsalted pistachios, chopped into small pieces
1 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
¼ cup white Modena vinegar
⅓ cup pasteurized orange juice
¼ cup virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. pink Himalayan sea salt
¼ tsp. fresh cracked rainbow pepper
Enjoy with a bit of garlic sourdough bread or ciabatta toast on the side.
Using a small, sharp knife, peel and remove skins from grapefruits, navel oranges, cara cara oranges, blood oranges, and mandarin oranges. Cut into ⅓” thick round slices.
Evenly divide the baby arugula onto 4 plates to create a bed on each. Evenly divide the citrus fruit between four plates.
Slice the avocados and add ¼ to ½ of each onto each plate. Cut each piece of burrata in half and add one half to each plate.
In a small dish, combine the shallot slices, white Modena vinegar, orange juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir well to create the vinaigrette dressing.
Drizzle a bit of the vinaigrette over each plate.
Sprinkle the minced chives, green onion slices, and pistachio pieces over each salad.
Just like the Super Bowl, the Oscars are another pompous American display of money and image, but a slightly more polished one we all so excitedly buzz about in the months leading up to the one-night awards show. If you’ve never watched the Oscars, they are quite a production. All of Hollywood’s hottest actors, producers, directors, screenwriters, and editors are gathered in one place to pat one another on the back for making movies just marginally different or better than those released the previous year. Everyone is dressed in gowns and suits costing thousands of dollars, only to be scrutinized on the pages of People magazine, landing on the “worst dressed” list if they weren’t able to snag an Alexander McQueen gown. Some are snubbed for the Best Actor award year after year *cough cough* Leonardo DiCaprio *cough*, while others are first-time Oscar goers and take home the award for Best Supporting Actress. At its worst, the event is one giant, hoity toity celeb get-together with its fair share of letdowns and surprises. At the end of the day, the Oscars are a beloved, fundamental component of American culture.
I know I sound cynical, but I love the Oscars, really. There’s laughter, tears, and everything in between. Plus, it’s all so unbelievably glamorous and beautiful, it’s hard not to watch. Although I’m still bitter Greta Gerwig was passed up for Best Director for Little Women, I can’t wait to see what wacky remarks Taika Waititi will make on the red carpet and what Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson will wear. Hopefully Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood wins Best Film, but just like the 49ers losing the Super Bowl, anything is possible. With so much uncertainty as to what will happen, the Oscars are exciting to say the least.
Like most nationally televised events, the Academy Awards are best enjoyed with drinks and snacks. Really though, if Scar-Jo wins Best Actress for her less-than-stellar performance in Marriage Story, I’m going to need a big glass of wine. I’ve produced and self-awarded some truly chic wine and appetizer pairings (with recipes) to enjoy when Tom Hanks makes a heart-warming speech and to comfort you when Leo is once again snubbed for Best Actor.
BEST APPETIZER IN A LEADING ROLE:
2019 Kylie Ryan Rosé with Shrimp and Citrus Ceviche in Endive Spears
Makes about 16 servings, with 2 endive spears per serving.
Not only is ceviche downright delicious and unquestionably refreshing, it can also be a gorgeous dish if you use the right ingredients. I love fresh shrimp, avocado, and grapefruit and any combination of the three is always a win for me. A little jalapeño always adds a nice kick to anything and it goes without saying, garlic and onion make everything just a little tastier. Not only does the endive look great holding the ceviche, the endive leaf makes the perfect one-bite edible vessel for this sophisticated shrimp cocktail. Throw a fabulous Rosé into the mix and the result is delightful. The citrus notes in the wine complement the grapefruit and mandarin orange remarkably well, while the heat from the jalapeño is softened by the slight creaminess on the palate.
This appetizer and wine pairing has so much grace and beauty, but is also satisfying, self-contained, unexpected, balanced, and simply delicious. To me, this pairing is more than deserving of the “Best Appetizer in a Leading Role” award. It really just steals the show.
Nibble on this refined refreshment when Saoirse Ronan receives the award for Best Actress.
2 large grapefruits
2 large satsuma mandarin oranges
½ jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, minced
¼ cup yellow onion, minced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
½ tsp. minced garlic
1 lb. cooked shrimp, deveined, peeled, chopped into ½” pieces
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. lime juice
cracked rainbow peppercorn
pink Himalayan sea salt
6 endive bulbs, leaves separated
2 large hass avocados, thinly sliced
4 green onion stems, chopped thinly
fresh kale for a garnish
Peel and remove seeds and skins from grapefruits and mandarin oranges. Break apart into 1/2″ pieces.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine grapefruit, mandarin oranges, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, garlic, shrimp, olive oil, and lime juice. Toss gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place a small spoonful of the ceviche into each endive spear. Add a small slice of avocado into endive spear and sprinkle green onion on top.
The endive spears might have a bit of trouble sitting up once filled with ceviche, so use a bed of fresh kale as a garnish and to prop up the endive leaves if you need to.
2018 Charlie Rae Chardonnay and d’Anjou Pear White Balsamic and Butter Popcorn
Serves about 9, with 1.5 cups of popcorn per serving.
Picture this: it’s the evening on Sunday, February 9th (AKA Academy Awards night), and you’ve just come home from McGrail’s Quarterly Wine Club Release Party. You indulged in some incredible Smokin’ Hot Meats and Treats nachos, so you’re not feeling all that hungry, but you’d like something to snack on while you catch the Oscars. We’ve all been in a Smokin’-Hot-Meats-nacho coma, so there’s no need to feel alone. If you’re finding yourself in this situation, I’ve got the perfect lightweight and simple, Oscar-worthy hors d’oeuvre for you! This popcorn isn’t super sweet or over-the-top buttery, but it is just the right amount of tangy and salty. With the pear balsamic and just a bit of butter, it pairs so well with our Charlie Rae Chardonnay.
Whether you’re enjoying this hors d’oeuvre on the couch by your lonesome or at an Academy Awards party, this pairing is sure to become a classic! Because of its unexpected, but simple brilliance, we have awarded this tangy treat “Best Original Hors d’oeuvre.”
Munch on this during Taika Waititi’s red carpet interview.
12 cups unsalted air-popped or store-bought pre-popped popcorn, sans butter
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ cup d’anjou pear white balsamic (I used Gourmet Blends’ version, but Amazon has some highly rated alternatives)
pink Himalayan sea salt
Air pop the popcorn if you’re not using pre-popped popcorn.
Melt the butter in a small bowl or measuring cup.
In a large bowl, drizzle the butter over the popcorn. Gently mix the popcorn so it is evenly coated with butter. Drizzle the white balsamic over the popcorn. Again, gently mix the popcorn so it is evenly coated with the white balsamic.
2016 Shamus Patrick and Prosciutto Apple Balsamic Flatbread
Serves about 16, with 1/4 flatbread per serving.
Have you ever had fresh garlic naan? If not, you’re missing out. If you have, imagine all things that taste good with wine on top of that mouthwatering naan. Then imagine that with a glass of the most delicious Red Blend you’ve ever had. That’s what I’m about to throw at you. This appetizer is flat-out delectable and paired with our Shamus, it’s even better. The Shamus Patrick Red Blend is fruit-forward with beautifully balanced acidity, which makes this sweet, nutty, and savory balsamic-prosciutto-Honeycrisp-pecan combo such a suitable pairing.
While I feel like the whole prosciutto, balsamic, arugula flatbread thing is done maybe a little too frequently, I’m not about to overlook it. I believe it’s a tried-and-true staple of the American palate and it tastes so good with our Bordeaux-style Red Blend. Because I know you can’t have appetizers paired with wine without some sort of yummy carbs, I’ve awarded this one “Best Supporting Snack.”
Snack on this when Tom Hanks receives only his third Academy Award.
4 pieces or about 12 oz. of Tandoori garlic naan (I used Trader Joe’s brand)