Gambas Pil Pil Recipe

We are currently at our home in Nerja, Spain, and have had several versions of gambas pil pil at restaurants and tapas bars around town. Everyone's is different, but the basic recipe is olive oil, slivered garlic, chili pepper, and peeled shrimp. We use butter and Tabasco in ours, which are not traditionally Spanish, but all our friends love it.  

Gambas Pil Pil. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook. 

Gambas Pil Pil. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook. 

Gambas Pil Pil

Sizzling, spicy shrimp are a favorite at the merenderos which line the beaches on the Costa del Sol. These are great in the afternoon with a Rosado, a light, fruit-scented rosé wine, served as an appetizer. On cool evenings, we will also pair this with a joven or Crianza Tempranillo. 

 

·      32 jumbo shrimp, cleaned

·      8 tablespoons butter, melted

·      1 1/3 cups olive oil

·      6 tablespoons hot paprika

·      1 teaspoon ground cayenne

·      1 teaspoon Tabasco or hot sauce

·      4 teaspoons sea salt

·      12 cloves garlic, slivered

·      Crusty bread for dunking in sauce

In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, stir together all ingredients except shrimp. Place four shrimp in each of eight small oven-proof ramekins or dishes, and then spoon 1/8 of the sauce over each serving.  Arrange the shrimp, and place under pre-heated broiler for 3-4 minutes, or until shrimp is red-pink, and oil is sizzling. Place each ramekin onto a slightly larger dish, and serve at once. Be sure to yell “Hot plate!!!” as you slide it onto the table. Serve with crusty Italian or French bread, and make sure to soak up all that good garlicky-hot oil.  Serves eight. 

You can substitute 48 or 56 slightly smaller shrimp for the 32 jumbo shrimp.

Wine Pairing: 

Vivanco Rosé, Garnacha and Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain

This light and fruity rosé made from Spanish varieties has the crispness of a white wine and the mouth-feel of a red. 

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Tomato Season is Still Going Strong

Days may be growing shorter and evenings just a touch cooler, but tomato season is still going strong. Our stacked Caprese will have your friends oohing and aahing when it arrives at the table, although we promise you it is one of the easiest dishes you will ever prepare. The key is using the freshest tomatoes you can find, so the time is now. 

Stacked Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Salad. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook. 

Stacked Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Salad. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook. 

Stacked Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Salad

 

There are few starters that are as dramatic and so easy to make.  Using perfectly ripe tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella you can create a delicious architectural delight. Although this is a signature dish from the island of Capri, we first had this layered presentation in Porto Palo on the island of Sicily.  Fresh basil, peppery olive oil and sea salt bring out the earthy quality of the delicious tomatoes that grow in the island’s mineral rich volcanic soil. 

  • 8 medium tomatoes
  • 64 well washed basil leaves
  • 2 one pound balls fresh mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse ground sea salt
  • 8 bamboo skewers

 

Wash and dry the tomatoes.  Cut the bottoms off of each (so that they can stand upright on the plate) and discard. Slice each tomato horizontally into four slices.  Keep each tomato together and set aside.  Horizontally slice each fresh mozzarella ball into 12 equal slices, for a total of 24.  Begin assembly by placing the bottom slice of each tomato in the center of a medium sized plate.  Salt lightly.  Top with a slice of mozzarella and two basil leaves.  Add another slice of tomato and repeat until each stacked Caprese salad is complete.  Carefully spear each with a bamboo skewer, garnish with the remaining basil leaves and set aside.  Do not refrigerate if you plan on serving in the next 90 minutes.  When ready to serve, drizzle each with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. 

Wine Pairing:  Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Chardonnay

Delightful crisp flavors of green apple and ripe stone fruits are accented by a touch of toasted brioche and creamy butter. The creaminess will hold up to the cheese, while strong acidity is ideal with ripe tomato.

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Hand Shucked Corn and Tomato Salad

September is a produce lover's dream. We get the last of the summer fruits and vegetables alongside the first of the fall's bounty. Corn and tomatoes are at their very peak, and it is wonderful to enjoy them together before they are gone until next summer. 

Hand Shucked Corn and Tomato Salad 

Hand Shucked Corn and Tomato Salad 

Hand-Shucked Corn and Tomato Salad

Locally grown corn and tomatoes are plentiful in the East from July through September.  There are so many ways to use them at mealtime and one of our favorites is this simple salad—the fresh flavors really speak of summer.  The minerality and bright acidity of the tomato combines beautifully with the delicate creaminess of the sweet corn.  We always use a superior quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.  There are some excellent oils coming from California wine country.  The subtle yet luscious peppered flavor is the perfect compliment to our Hand Shucked Corn and Tomato Salad.  

  • 4 ears locally grown sweet white corn
  • 4 ears locally grown sweet yellow corn
  • 8 large tomatoes, ripe and juicy
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Shuck the corn, making sure to remove all of the silk threads.  Stand each ear on end and using a sharp knife, cut the kernels away from the cob. 

Core and seed the tomatoes.  Cut the tomatoes into eight wedges and then cut each wedge into two to three pieces. 

Toss the corn and tomatoes together in a large glass bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Add the extra virgin olive oil and toss.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit 1-2 hours before serving.  This allows all of the flavors to meld together. 

Wine Pairing:

Hearst Ranch Three Sisters White, Grenache Blanc-Marsanne Blend, Paso Robles, California.  Hints of tangerine, orange blossom and apricot along with racy brightness make this a wine you’ll want to start every meal with. 

 

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Spanish Rubbed Steak

We hate to brag, but this is another crowd pleaser. It's one of our cooking demo favorites, and before our cookbook came out this was the recipe that our friends requested most often. If filet mignon seems a little fancy for your backyard cookout, try the rub on skirt steak or flank steak. 

Spanish Rubbed Steak. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook 

Spanish Rubbed Steak. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook 

Spanish Rubbed Steak

This brings the flavors of Spain home, while paprika and cayenne spice up your steak on a hot summer night. 

 

·      8 filet mignon, approximately 5-6 ounces each

·      1 cup olive oil

·      4 tablespoons kosher salt

·      4 tablespoons sweet paprika

·      4 teaspoons sugar

·      1 teaspoon ground hot cayenne pepper

·      1 teaspoon dried oregano

 

Mix the oil and dry ingredients in a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Spoon a small amount of the paste onto the top of each filet, spread, turn over, and repeat on the other side. Marinate for 4-24 hours in the refrigerator. If storing more than a few hours, cover with plastic or place in a plastic bag.  Cook under hot broiler or on the grill for approximately 4 minutes per side for a 1-inch thick steak, add 1 minute per side for each additional ½ inch.

Tip:  For uniform, round filets, shape the steaks and tie each with a piece of kitchen twine before rubbing, and remember to have sharp scissors handy to remove the twine before serving.

Wine Pairings:

Marques De Riscal Reserva, Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo, Rioja, Spain:  This traditional Riojan blend stands up to the strong spice of grilled meat.

or

Roda Reserva, Tempranillo and Graciano, Rioja, Spain:  More modern in style, this full bodied red has notes of ripe red cherries and aromatic herbs. 

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Mike's Caribbean Spiced Ribs

This is one of our favorite recipes to use for our cooking demos across the country and on cruise ships. Why? Everyone loves them! 

Mikes Caribbean Spiced Ribs. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook 

Mikes Caribbean Spiced Ribs. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook 

Mike’s Caribbean Spiced Ribs

We took several Caribbean trips in order to do our due diligence to the rum trade.  On each we picked up bottles of rum from Duty Free that are not readily available in the States.  We also purchased some extras to serve at our end of the summer party.  Although we fed our guests plenty of appetizers, we could not keep these ribs on the platter as they came sizzling off the grill—our friends were standing around waiting to grab the red-hot pork off of Mike’s tongs. They are steamed first and then finished on the grill, which accounts for their moist interior and crispy exterior.

  • 24 baby back pork ribs
  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder

In a glass bowl, mix together the brown sugar, salt, and spices. Arrange the ribs in a large glass baking dish or platter, sprinkle the brown sugar and spice mix over the meat, and turn by hand and “pack” the sugar mixture on to coat completely. Place in refrigerator for two to four hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using your oven’s broiler pan with slotted broiler rack, remove broiler rack, add about ½ inch water to bottom of pan, replace slotted top of pan, and arrange ribs on broiler pan. (The water will be below the ribs—they will be sitting on the top of the pan, NOT in the water.) Repack any brown sugar left in the glass pan around the ribs, and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool on the broiler pan. (Remember to hold the pan level while placing into and removing from the oven, so you don’t spill the water.)

Ribs can be rubbed and then steamed early in the day, or even a day or two in advance. If preparing the same day, store on a plate in the refrigerator, or if in advance, refrigerate in an airtight container. If refrigerated, remove to counter for half an hour prior to grilling. Preheat your grill on high, and cook for 1-2 minutes per side. (Place them one at a time on the grill with tongs. When all ribs are on the grill, count to 30, and begin turning the ribs, on at a time, starting with the first one on the grill and going in order. After all your ribs are turned, count to 30 again, and start removing them to a clean platter.

Wine Pairings:

 

Bellingham Dragon’s Lair, Shiraz Blend, Franschhoek, South Africa:  Blackberry, red cherry, smoke and clove notes are well suited to sweet and spicy Caribbean food.

Kim Crawford Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand: A strawberry and cherry opening is joined by subtle vanilla notes picked up in the barrel.

 

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Grilled Asparagus Recipe

Although in the off-season, aka the part of the year that is not summer, we are perfectly content with steamed asparagus, in warmer months we delight in lighting the grill and relishing flame-kissed tender green stalks of goodness. We then double down on the deliciousness by topping our asparagus with pancetta-shallot vinaigrette. 

Grilled Asparagus in Pancetta Shallot Vinaigrette

Grilled Asparagus in Pancetta Shallot Vinaigrette

Grilled Asparagus in Pancetta Shallot Vinaigrette

Hiking in the hills above our Spanish house we find wild spring asparagus.  We love the old men who collect handfuls and then sell them at the market for 1 euro per bundle.

  • 64 asparagus stalks (approx 3 lbs)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Rinse the asparagus stalks and cut off the bottoms.  Place approx 1/8 cup of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of salt into a zippered plastic bag. Add 1/3 of the asparagus and shake to coat evenly.  Repeat 2 times.  Place stalks directly on the grill for approximately 2-3 minutes.  Remove and place on a serving platter, set aside and do not cover. 

For the Shallot vinaigrette:

3/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup Balsamic vinegar

4 thin slices pancetta

2 small shallots

Maldon salt or Fleur de Sel

Coarse grind black pepper

Fry the pancetta in a large cast iron skillet until almost crisp, turning once.  Drain on paper towels, but conserve the drippings.  When cool, cut or crumble into fine dice.  Finely dice shallots.  

In a glass measuring cup, combine the olive oil, pan drippings, diced shallots, balsamic vinegar and diced pancetta.  Stir well and cover with plastic wrap.  Set aside.

Assembly:

Arrange the grilled asparagus on a large serving platter, drizzle the vinaigrette to evenly coat. Top with a few small pinches of Maldon Salt or Fleur de Sel and a few twists of black pepper.  

Wine Pairing: 

Bigi Orvieto Classico, Trebbiano Grechetto Blend, Orvieto, Italy

This lovely wine from the town of Orvieto in Umbria has aromas of fresh peaches and almonds.

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Basil Is Our Favorite Herb

Hands down, basil is our favorite herb; we seriously can not make enough pesto each summer. We know that many of our friends are trying to cut down on carbs and are avoiding pasta, so we have found a great use for all of our pesto. We slather it on grilled chicken breast. Try it for yourself! Pro tip: Pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays and defrosted as needed over the next several months. 

Pesto Smothered Grilled Chicken Breast. Photo by Frances Janisch

Pesto Smothered Grilled Chicken Breast. Photo by Frances Janisch

Pesto Smothered Grilled Chicken Breasts

The hot days of summer cause our garden to grow like wildfire.  We usually have a bumper crop of basil:  And what better way to use it, than to make delicious homemade pesto?  

For the chicken:

  • 4 whole boneless chicken breasts, halved
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Whole basil leaves for garnish
  • Sliced lemons for garnish

In a glass baking pan, marinate the chicken in olive oil, 2 tablespoons of pesto, salt,  pepper, and lemon juice.  Coat both sides of the breasts well.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 

When ready to serve, grill the chicken approximately 5-7 minutes on each side, depending on thickness.

For the Pesto

  • 2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
  • ¼ cup pignoli nuts (pine nuts)
  • ¼ pound Romano Cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup Olive oil

 

Cut the cheese into 1 to 2 inch chunks.  Place in the food processor and process until coarsely grated. Add in the pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, black pepper, and basil leaves.  Process for approximately 45 seconds to 1 minute, until you have a thick paste.  Use a scraper to push down the sides. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil through the push-tube until you have a thick liquid.  Add salt to taste if necessary. Transfer to an air tight container and set aside.  Do not refrigerate if you plan on using the same day. 

 

Assembly:

Arrange the grilled chicken on a large serving platter.  Spoon pesto over the entire platter.  Garnish with sliced lemons and whole basil leaves.  Serve.

 

Wine Pairings:

Carpineto Dogajolo Bianco, Chardonnay, Grechetto, and Sauvignon Blanc, Tuscany, Italy

A medium bodied Chardonnay, Dogajolo complements the vibrant freshness of home made pesto. 

or

St. Michael Eppan, Pinot Bianco, Alto Adige, Italy

Smooth and slightly racy, this 100% Pinot Bianco from the foothills of the Italian Alps is ideal with this earthy pesto.

 

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Drink Local: Asbury Park Brewery

The past several years have seen a vast increase in a return to "eating local," that is, eating food that is sourced from the area near to the place you live or are currently located. The resurgence of natural and organic farms coupled with the growth of farm stands and farmer's markets has made this endeavor quite easy. However, the "drink local" movement has been slower to catch on, especially for wine drinkers, who may prefer bottles from France or Spain to accompany their Hudson Valley heritage pork or Jersey tomatoes. That said, the boom in small breweries has led to a multitude of choices for beer drinkers, with a panoply of options to be found right in ones own backyard. When we are "in town" (as opposed to traveling the world) we spend time down at the Jersey shore, and this past weekend we were lucky enough to be invited to hear some bands play at the Asbury Park Brewery. We were previously unaware of this very cool space serving excellent brew right off Main Street. Next time you are down there between Thursday and Sunday, make a point visit this little slice of hops heaven at the Jersey Shore. 

The welcoming terrace is a great place to sample a flight of beers with friends on a late summer or autumn afternoon. 

The welcoming terrace is a great place to sample a flight of beers with friends on a late summer or autumn afternoon. 

They really make beer here! 

They really make beer here! 

Ever wonder how beer is made? A simple wall mural en route to the tasting room explains the process. 

Ever wonder how beer is made? A simple wall mural en route to the tasting room explains the process. 

The open floor and side bar provide a terrific space to hear live music while sampling house-made beer. 

The open floor and side bar provide a terrific space to hear live music while sampling house-made beer. 

Four basic styles are brewed year round, with seasonal specials added to round out the offerings.

Four basic styles are brewed year round, with seasonal specials added to round out the offerings.

The roasted stout was our pick on the night we visited. 

The roasted stout was our pick on the night we visited. 

Reclaimed wood settees and tables create comfortable spaces for sipping beer and listening to live music. 

Reclaimed wood settees and tables create comfortable spaces for sipping beer and listening to live music. 

Erotic Novels, the band: Chris Tull (guitar), Bobby C. (drums) and Shannon Perez (bass and vocals) wowed the crowd with their powerful post-punk sound on Sunday, August 20. 

Erotic Novels, the band: Chris Tull (guitar), Bobby C. (drums) and Shannon Perez (bass and vocals) wowed the crowd with their powerful post-punk sound on Sunday, August 20. 

Wines of the Maremma Lunch, Lincoln Restaurant, NYC

   We are familiar with both the wines and region of Morellino, but Montecucco is a relative newcomer to our wine vocabulary. Members of both consorzios were present to talk about the wines, as were representatives from most of the wineries. Morellino is near the coast, less than two hours north of Rome, while Montecucco sits a bit to the northeast, closer to the heart of Tuscany.

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Alfred Gratien Champagne Dinner at Betony, NYC

Lobster with citrus foam and FIVE glasses of Alfred Gratien Champagne at Betony, NYC. 

Lobster with citrus foam and FIVE glasses of Alfred Gratien Champagne at Betony, NYC. 

     We have long been proponents of drinking Champagne any time of year rather than saving it for holidays and special occasions. We also love to drink it alongside food instead of having a glass before dinner and then moving on to still wine. Opening a bottle of Champagne is a celebration in itself and a feast for the senses, from the pop of the cork—whether it is a soft hiss or a loud crack—to the last satisfying sip.

     We recently had the opportunity to enjoy dinner at Betony, one of New York City’s reigning fine-dining palaces, with Olivier Dupré, the CEO of Alfred Gratien, and Suzie Kukaj, Senior PR Manager for Mionetto USA, the brand’s new importer. We enjoyed spirited conversation about wine, Champagne, culture, food, and travel alongside five bottles of Alfred Gratien Champagne. The food was delightful, the service was impeccable, and the Champagne was a delight to the palate. We thought you would enjoy our tasting notes, so that you can choose the bottle of Alfred Gratien that aligns best with the style you prefer.

Alfred Gratien Classic Brut Champagne:  A blend of 46% Chardonnay, 24% Pinot Noir, and 30% Pinot Meunier, the Classic Brut offers crisp, refreshing flavors of green apple and peach with strong minerality and a good level of acidity.

Alfred Gratien Cuvee Paradis Brut 2006:  This blend of 65% Chardonnay and 35% Pinot Noir tasted surprisingly fresh after aging between six and seven years in the bottle. The Paradis Brut features a complex balance of light toasty notes and shimmering acidity. Flavors of apple and pear with a touch of bitter almond fill the mouth through the strong finish.

Alfred Gratien Brut Millésimé 2000: Made from 64% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir, and 11% Pinot Meunier, the Brut Millésimé 2000 is aged in bottle under cork rather than a metal cap, which does nothing to diminish its brightness. It is round in the mouth with a good balance of toasty notes and bracing acidity. Flavors of apple and pair are joined by soft hints of white flowers and slivered almonds.

Alfred Gratien Classic Rosé: Creamy in the mouth, this blend of 42% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay, and 22% Pinot Meunier has flavors of strawberry, peach, and lemon zest. Good mouthfeel and high acidity create a nice tension on the palate that continues into the rewarding finish.

Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis Rosé 2007: This deep-pink rosé is a blend of 58% Chardonnay and 42% Pinot Noir. In a word, this is a beautiful Champagne that is equal parts delicate and bold. Flavors of citrus fruits and cherry are accented by touches of orange zest and almond blossom, with strong but not overpowering toast notes present across the entire palate. This was the wine that both of us gravitated to with Betony’s poached lobster in citrus foam.