All recipes paired with wine, Ground meat

Homemade meatloaf with mashed leek potatoes

Are you in the mood for this classic, comfort food? The tasty, juicy meatloaf that your grandma made? I have tasted many different meat loafs and always like to stick to the homemade kind. I am sure you probably have your own “family recipe” for the best meatloaf. Well, let me share with you mine.Yes, I know, you probably think: where is the gravy? Sorry, I don’t care for it that much. Instead, I made super creamy, rich in flavor mashed potatoes that were soooo good, I didn’t want to mess it up with gravy. But feel free to try this recipe with your twist on it – and by all means serve it with gravy, if you like it. At the end, it’s just the meatloaf…Ingredients:

1 lb of ground meat (I like to mix pork, beef and/or turkey or veal)
1/4 Polish kielbasa (optional)
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 egg
1 Portuguese roll (torn to 4 pieces)
1 cup of milk
bread crumbs
olive oil
salt, pepper

For the mashed leek potatoes:
baby red potatoes (rinsed, cleaned)
1 stick of leek (dark leafs discarded, use white and light green part)
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of hot milk
1/2 onion finely chopped
4 slices of Canadian bacon

Place your ground meat in the large bowl. Bring it to room temperature. Pour cold milk into a small bowl and add pieces of Portuguese roll. The pieces should be covered. Let soak. In a frying pan heat 1 table spoon of olive oil and add finely chopped onion. Stir and cook on medium heat until soft (about a minute or 2), than add chopped garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Set aside and let cool.

Cut Polish kielbasa into small pieces (the smaller the better) and add to your ground mixture. Add one egg. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze roll pieces, (soaked in milk) in your hands and mash it in your palm while adding it to the meat mixture. Discard the leftover milk. If the sauteed onions are no longer hot, add it to the meat with its juices. Mix everything together with your hands and form meatloaf. Add breadcrumbs if needed.

Bake meatloaf at 350°F for 1 hour. Baking time may very based on the size of your meatloaf. I like to cover the loaf with aluminum foil for the first 30 min. of baking and then finishing off uncovered to create a crust.

Before the meatloaf is done, let’s make the leek mashed potatoes. Clean potatoes and rinse well, cut in quarters. Cook in salted water with a skin on (if you don’t like the skin, buy all means peel it off) until soft. Cut leek (the white and light green parts only) in the half – lengthwise – and rinse thoroughly with water. Pat dry with paper towel.

Chop into small pieces. In a frying pan heat up butter and add chopped leek. Cook on medium heat for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add finely onion and bacon to the mix and keep cooking until leek is soft and sweet. Set aside. heat up the milk. Drain water from cooked potatoes through a strainer and add onion mixture with butter to it right away. Mash hot potatoes by hand with a masher, adding drops of milk as needed. Taste and season with salt.

Serve sliced meatloaf with mashed leek potatoes and your favorite vegetables. Add a gravy, if you must 🙂 But I promise you, the mashed leek potatoes are very tasty on their own!

Wine pairing suggestions:
I was looking for a wine that wouldn’t overpower the delicate flavors of my meatloaf. Knowing that Italians are masters of food and wine pairing, I reached for good old Badia a Coltibuono Sangiovese Cancelli. This wine is fermented without oak and still rich enough to pair with all the ingredients in this meal. Although the flavors in my meatloaf were not too spicy, my other choice, Chilean Oops Carmenère brought out the little spice there was. This rich, peppery red was working with my dish as well. Ok, maybe a little too big for this dish, but I enjoyed it.

All recipes paired with wine, Ground meat, Pasta

My traditional lasagna

My traditional lasagnaI have been a star of dinner parties when making this Italian classic. It is very impressive when you bring this beautifully smelling dish in the middle of your table. Not too many people knew lasagna in my home country than and everybody just loved it. And where did I learn how to make it? From my friends in Holland! A little crazy crossroad, isn’t it?

Whatever the story and location, this is a simple, all-in-one-dish dinner that nobody will complain about!When I first came to U.S.A., we stayed at our friend’s house for the first few weeks, before we settled in our own apartment. One evening I offered to cook dinner and decided to make “my lasagna”. My dear friend Leo invited his 87 years old Italian mother to join us! Oh dear! My “Czech version of Dutch lasagna” made it though. except, I didn’t know how to work the ricotta cheese and it thinned the sauce a little. Other than that, approved! Leo’s mom was too kind!

My traditional lasagna

1 pack of lasagna pasta (any kind you like)
1 pound of ground meat (mix)
2 links of Italian sausage (hot or sweet)
1 can of diced tomatoes
1/2 leek sliced
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic
1 table spoon dried oregano
1 marinara sauce or
1 large can of whole tomatoes
1/2 cup of ketchup
4 large mushrooms sliced (optional)
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil
1 cup of shredded mozzarella
salt and pepper
olive oil

In a large pan heat olive oil and saute onion until soft. Add dried oregano, 2 diced cloves of garlic and sliced leek and let cook until soft. Add ground meat and Italian sausage (without the casing) to the pan and separating with wooden spoon, fry until browned. Season with salt and pepper. If you like mushrooms, add them now and saute for another minute.

When the meat is cooked through, add whole can of diced tomatoes (juices included) and large can of whole tomatoes (unless you decided to use store bought marinara sauce) instead. Break whole tomatoes carefully in your hand before adding to the pan. Turn down the heat and let cook for ten minutes. Season with ketchup.

At the end, finish the sauce with freshly chopped basil, add pressed rest of the garlic and my little secret – heavy cream. It smooths the sauce like a little cross over “bechamel meets marinara”. Stir, cook an additional minute and turn off.In an oven proof dish ladle a little bit of sauce to cover the whole bottom, cover it with lasagna noodles (I never cook them ahead, they cook through with the sauce – another secret I learned in Holland). And not, you don’t have to use the “no need to precook” kind. Any kind of lasagna pasta works the same with this recipe.

Just cover the sauce with dry pasta. You may have to crush the corners or ends so it fits to your skillet. Cover your sauce with pasta and add a second layer of sauce. Sauce must cover the entire pasta! Add layer of shredded mozzarella, pasta, sauce, and so on until your dish is full. Top layer must be the sauce.

Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and put in the oven. Again, if you used 8×8 dish, and that’s enough for 4 portions of lasagna, it can easily fit into my favorite kitchen appliance (you guessed it) toaster-oven. So no need to pre-heat your big oven.

Turn your timer on 45 minutes at 375 F (you may want to put your dish on a sheet or aluminum foil, if you topped it all the way to the top with sauce, since it may go a little overboard while cooking.

That’s all you need to do and walk away.When lasagna is done, take out your dish, let it cool for a few minutes, bring it to your table and let your family to dig in. Bon Apetito!

Note: you can use layers of Ricotta instead of shredded mozzarella. Just don’t make the same mistake I did the first time (I never worked with ricotta cheese before). Before you use it for your lasagna, mix Ricotta with 1 whole egg and season it with salt and pepper. This way you wouldn’t end up with watery sauce like I did the first time :).

Wine pairing suggestions:
I paired this dish with (naturally) Italian Chianti called Cetamura from Badia a Contibuono in Tuscany. This wine’s acidity pairs perfect with the tomato sauce in lasagna. Those Italians, they know what they are doing!

All recipes paired with wine, Ground meat, Lamb, Summer Grilling

Lamb Burgers with Relish Mayo

Lamb Burgers with Relish Mayo

Happy Memorial Day – it’s time to party! As many of us will be heating grills this Sunday, why not try your own, homemade burger for change? This lamb burger is super tasty, juicy and tender. Expecting company and not sure if people care for lamb? Make just few as an option to regular beef burgers – and see what will be gone first!

Lamb burgers with a relish mayo

3 lb. ground lamb (I bought a lamb stew meat and had it grounded)
1 bag of baby spinach (optional)
3 cloves of garlic
½ cup of fresh chopped mint
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
3 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon Worchester sauce
1 small onion (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons of shish kabob seasoning (I used Sadaf)
Salt and pepper as needed (caution, the seasoning already contains salt)

For mayo:
1 cup of mayonnaise
3 round tablespoons of hot pepper relish
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint

Take  the meat out of the fridge and let it rest, bringing it to room temperature. In the meantime, sauté washed spinach in large frying pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, about 3 minutes, until soft. Season with salt and 1 sliced clove of garlic. Drain any possible excess liquid. Set aside and let cool.

Add all the seasoning, onion, pressed garlic and mint to your ground meat and mix with your hands thoroughly, until evenly combined. Add cold spinach to the meat and work it through with your hands.Form hamburger patties and grill about 3 minutes on each side (cooking time depends on the thickness of your patties).

For your super simple, but very delicious relish-mayo sauce, mix mayonnaise with pepper relish (I like the Uncle Maynard’s hot pepper relish) – taste and add more, if desired. Add pressed garlic and a tablespoon of chopped mint. Serve these juicy burgers with the relish-mayo and any sides you like, on the bun.

For a low carb version try this twist: Instead of a bun, chop all kinds of veggies you have in the fridge, 1 red onion and mix it in grill proved baking dish. Sprinkle with olive oil, hot seasoning salt and freshly ground pepper and roast it on the grill, while grilling burgers.

Wine pairing suggestions:
I have paired this lamb burgers with an excellent Argentinian Malbec from Enrique Foster called Ique. If you can’t find this bargain in the wine store, grab another Malbec of your choice. But make sure you mention this name to the store owner – he might want to carry it. It’s really super value!

The other wine I paired my burgers with was Edna Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Another great quality wine for a very reasonable price.

All recipes paired with wine, Ground meat

Mamma’s Meatballs and String Beans

Mamma's Meatballs and String Beans

It was my Italian friend and an excellent cook, who inspired me to make this meal. We were over for dinner and she made string beans in the tomato sauce as a side dish. It really surprised me. I would never thought of such a combination.

But when I tried it, I loved it. Beans were not overcooked, nice and crisp and with the marinara sauce, it was just whole different meal. Next time I tried it myself, combined with meatballs and perfetto! Mamma’s Meatballs were born!

Mamma’s Meatballs and String Beans in Tomato Sauce


2 lb. ground meatball mix (pork, beef, veal, turkey or chicken)
1 small onion (chopped)
3 cloves of garlic
1 egg
Salt and pepper
1 Portuguese roll (could be day or two old)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs (as needed)
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped parsley for garnish
½ lb string beans
Marinara Sauce

Take your meatball mixture from the fridge and place in large bowl. Let it bring to a room temperature. Cut Portuguese roll into pieces and place in a small bowl. Cover pieces with milk and let it soak.

Heat olive oil in frying pan and cook chopped onion, stirring until soft, on medium heat. Add chopped garlic and cook an additional 30 sec. Set aside and let cool.

Season your meatball mixture with salt and pepper or use your favorite meatball seasoning mix if you prefer. Add whole egg and work it into mixture with your hands. Add breadcrumbs as needed. Add cheese.

Drain your roll from the milk and squeeze in hand to get most of the moisture out. Mash in your hands into smaller pieces and work into your mixture. (This is my mom’s trick that keeps meatballs tasty and moist). Add your cooled onions and garlic and work into your mix by hand until evenly distributed.

Preheat your oven to 375 F and prepare baking sheet. Form small meatballs in your hands and place it on dry baking sheet until all the mixture is used. Try to make even balls so they cook evenly.

Place full sheet in the oven and let it roast for about 25- 30 minutes – depends on size of your meatballs. When they start developing darker brown crust, they are done. Do not leave them in oven for a long time, they will dry out. Not sure if they are cooked through? Take one out and cut it in half. Meatball shouldn’t be raw in the middle.

In the meantime, cut tips from your string beans and bring water in the large pan into boil. Add salt. Blanche your beans for about 1 minute in boiling water and take it out. Let it rest in colander.

Warm up your favorite marinara sauce (or make your own from scratch) and add roasted meatballs directly to the sauce. Mix in your beans and stir it all together. Let it cook together for a minute.

Add parsley and serve. Garnish each portion with Parmesan cheese. Sure, you can cook spaghetti with this but it’s almost not necessary. It’s totally up to you!

Wine pairing suggestions:

To enjoy this Italian dish, I had opened a great aged wine I received from a friend – 1998 Terredora di Paolo S.S. Taurasi. 100% Aglianico from the region of Campania is an incredible, highly rated wine and also (as I found out later) quite expensive. I will write a review on this wine for those who like to try special things, but for our Sunday cooking I picked more ‘wallet friendly’ reds.

First red I tried with Mamma’s meatballs was Falesco Vitiano from Italian Umbria. This blend is always right on money and never disappointed me. The other wine I paired this dish with was Coltibuono Sangiovese Cancelli 2006 from Tuscany. Both wines worked well, maybe Cancelli was even better match than Vitiano for my taste.

All recipes paired with wine, Beef, Ground meat

My best chili recipe

Just few sunny days of promising spring, and we got back cold, chill and rain here in Connecticut. From opened windows back to turning up the heat… well, the winter is not giving up that easily. Today, when I am writing this, I feel like huddling up around our fireplace, having a bowl of some comfort food.

That brought my thoughts to my all times favorite that never disappoints – chili. I know there is a discussion if beans belong to the truth chili, chunks of meat or ground meat – it’s totally up to you. This is my favorite recipe for one lazy Sunday, when you have time to let cook your dinner on the stove for 2 hours.

My best chili recipe

When my friend saw that I use a chocolate in my chili recipe, she freaked out a little. Than she tasted it, trying to detect the chocolate, her favorite food, in it. I don’t think she did, but she sure loved the richness of this chili. I never used black beans before but it gives it a great flavor.

• 2 tablespoons oil
• 2 red onions, chopped or 1 large
• 1 green bell pepper chopped
• 1 red bell pepper chopped • 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 lb lean ground beef (I used bison)
• 2 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
• 1 bottle of dark beer (any)
• 1 cup of strong coffee (I used espresso)
• 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
• 3 cups beef broth
• 1 small bar of dark chocolate – I used Chirardelli’s 60% cacao, 375 oz.)
• 2 tablespoons chili powder
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
• 1 tablespoon dry oregano
• 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 tablespoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon salt (season at the end, by personal taste)
• 3 (15 oz.) cans of kidney beans (black and/or red)
• 2 green chili peppers, chopped (leave the seeds in if you like it spicy)

Cook the ground meat in heavy duty large pan on medium heat, until brown, splitting it apart with a wooden spoon.

Take out the meat and leave it on the side. Add a little bit of olive oil into the same pan, add onions and garlic. When the onions are softer, add all the dry spices to release their aroma and mix together.

Add chopped peppers and chili peppers to the mix. Turn down the heat , stir and let cook on low heat for a few minutes.

Return browned meat to this mixture. Add tomatoes with liquid, beer, coffee, chocolate, sugar, tomato paste and beef broth. Mix together and bring to boil. Stir in 3 cans of beans (drained and washed in colander with running water).

When reached boiling point, reduce the heat back to very low, cover the pan and let slowly simmer for 1 and half to 2 hours so all the flavors could merry together. Season with the salt at the end, if needed

Serve with a scoop of sour cream and favorite tortilla chips.

Wine pairing suggestion:
I know, when I have chili, I feel like Corona with a lime. I am not big on beer but some dishes just taste better with it. I also tried it with red wine – looking for something a bit spicy, not too oaky – and Spanish was actually pairing pretty well with chili.

Let me know what was your preference!