As we look ahead longing for cool rains here in California my mind turns to the cozy season ahead and fresh, homemade sourdough bread.
Simply stated, sourdough starter is a stable culture of yeast and lactic acid bacteria in a flour and water mixture. Yeast strains present in sourdough starters are usually species in the genus Saccharomyces or Candida. The bacterial component is most often a strain of Lactobacillus, and there are many different strains. The beauty of making your own starter is that the specific strains of yeast and bacteria in your kitchen and their proportion to each other will be unique and yield one of a kind flavor.
You can use any kind of flour you like. I started with all-purpose wheat flour but have slowly transitioned my starter over to a gluten-free baking mix flour. The possibilities of which flour you use are limited only by your tastes and imagination.
Starting and maintaining a starter can seem daunting, but it is really quite simple. All you need to get going is a handful of grapes, and a cup each of flour and non-chlorinated water. While grapes aren’t necessary for getting a sourdough starter established, the yeast naturally present on grape skins will help kickstart the fermentation and get you off in the right direction.
Here are the steps:
1) Mix 1 cup flour and 1 cup water together in a glass jar. A quart canning jar works well. I prefer wide mouth for ease of feeding.
2) Rinse the grapes but do not scrub them, we want the yeast on their skins to enter the mixture. Roughly chop the grapes and mix into the water and flour slurry.
3) The next day, pour off and discard a cup of the mixture, (discard as few grapes as possible) and replace with ½ cup fresh flour and ½ cup water. This is called “feeding.”
4) Repeat step 3 daily. If liquid pools on top of your starter, simply mix it in.
5) After about a week your starter should smell tart, sour or tangy and have visible air bubbles.
6) Once established it will not require daily feeding and can be kept in the fridge resting for a few weeks. It’s a good idea to feed it every week or so for the first 6 months and after a long period of rest it may require a few feedings to become lively again. Your starter will grow stronger over time and can last a lifetime.
With all raw home fermentations I like to go by the old adage, “the nose knows.” Trust your own sensory analysis; does it smell, taste and look good? If it has a smell that is just downright yucky, or if you see active mold growing, discard and begin again. I’ve never had this experience with sourdough and if you do not neglect your starter, you should not have any problems.
Once you are ready to attempt a loaf look online for one of hundreds of recipes. When I first experimented with sourdough bread many years ago I read several recipes that dictated how long I should let the dough sit, how many hours to the let the bread rise and so forth. I followed the directions faithfully and got a few nice loaves, but then things fell flat. What was missing was my own observation. Now, instead of using prescribed time periods for the various steps, I use my eyes, nose and hands to guide me. It has become a much more intuitive process. I hope you have fun and enjoy the process.
Try your bread with your favorite cheese and favorite Frey wine. It should pair just fine with any of our wines!
Ginger Peach Cobbler
Peach season is upon us! A family member dropped off a box of them last week, fresh from our vineyard peach trees. This led me to think of how the aromas of peaches are often detected in wines. So I set out to include a wine reduction in this recipe, a Pinot Grigio syrup, to bring out even more complex and wonderful flavors in wine and bring them into this peach dish. If you make this, we’d love to hear about it!
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup Frey Pinot Grigio dry white wine
1.5 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 quart fresh sliced peaches, unpeeled
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 dash of salt
Zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350°
Pinot Grigio Syrup
Mix together in a sauce pan the Frey Organic Pinot Grigio (or another dry white wine), 1/2 cup coconut sugar, and the grated ginger. Mix and bring to a boil. Simmer until it thickens and reduced by half, more or less. Set aside to cool.
Prepare the Peaches
I do not peel them. Instead I remove the peach fuzz by rubbing them on a clean dish towel. Slice thinly and set aside. (I prefer to leave on the skins to preserve the nutritional value in skins.)
Prepare the Batter
In a separate bowl mix together the flour, 1 cup coconut sugar, baking powder, dash of salt, milk, cooled Pinot Grigio syrup, lemon zest. I like making my own fresh lemon zest with a peeler, then chopping it fine.
Slice up the butter and scatter across the baking dish (DO NOT rub it in), then place in the preheated oven until the butter melts. Take out of oven and pour in the batter, distributing it as evenly as possible as you pour. But DO NOT STIR the batter. Distribute the sliced peaches over the batter. DO NOT STIR the peaches either!
Bake for approximately 45 minutes to an hour, or until browned and bubbly around the edges, and the center is quite firm.
This sweet and spicy noodle dish is Thai inspired. It’s light and fresh and pairs nicely with Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
o 16oz wide rice noodles or regular linguini pasta
o 4 chicken thighs, diced (optional)
o 3 tablespoons soy sauce
o 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
o 4 tablespoons honey
o 2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
o 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes to taste
o ¼ cup sesame oil
o 2 cups shredded carrots, about 2 large carrots
o ¼ cup sliced green onion
o 1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
o ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1. In a large sauté pan heat about 1 tablespoon oil and cook chicken thighs until golden, then set aside. (To make vegetarian you can omit from recipe.)
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook noodles until al dente, approximately 6 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, shred carrots, chop green onions and cilantro
4. In a small bowl mix soy sauce, hoisin, honey, chili garlic paste, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
5. A couple of minutes before the noodles are done, in the large sauté pan, heat sesame oil over medium heat and add sauce and stir, and cook the garlic.
6. When noodles are done, drain, then add immediately to pan with sauce, add chicken, and stir until the noodles are well coated.
7. Top with carrots, peanuts, cilantro, green onion. Mix and serve with a chilled glass of our organic Pinot Grigio. Enjoy!
We always try to use organic ingredients when possible.
A tagine is a delicious Moroccan-style stew that is slow-cooked in a ceramic pot of the same name, but you can also cook the dish in a regular baking pan as I did for this recipe. I used a tagine pot for presentation. Leave out the chicken for vegetarian version. I hadn’t made a tagine for years until a client recently requested a dish. It turned out so good I had to share! It paired wonderfully with Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
Tagine pots are easy to find online.
Chicken and Butternut Tagine
Chicken: 6 wings & 3 thighs.
1 large butternut squash (peeled, de-seeded, chopped into 1 inch pieces)
2 onions, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons chopped ginger
Half bunch cilantro, chopped coarsely
5 Tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons softened ghee
2-3 teaspoons salt
2 pinches saffron threads (about 1 teaspoon, don’t crush)
2 Meyer fresh lemons or regular lemons, de-seeded, coarsely chopped.
5 tablespoons ghee
1 can pitted green olives
3/4 cup blanched almonds (place in simmering water for one minute and remove skins)
4 tablespoons thinly sliced preserved lemon (preserved lemons can be found online if your local supermarket has none)
Blend all marinade ingredients in Cuisinart or blender. Thoroughly massage marinade into the chicken in a baking pan and over the butternut squash pieces. Let marinate for a few hours or even better, overnight. For vegetarians, use butternut squash and leave out chicken.
Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour. After baking 20 minutes, and every 15 to 20 minutes thereafter, stir the dish in the oven. Chicken should be nicely browned after an hour.
Pull from oven and immediately toss with 5-6 tablespoons ghee. Add and toss the green olives, blanched almonds, thinly sliced preserved lemon, then garnish with cilantro.
A ceramic tagine pot for cooking or for presentation, and a jar of home-made preserved lemons.
Peeled garlic and squash.
Ingredients in the blender.
Rub in the marinade. Left is vegetarian version, right is with chicken.
Blanching the almonds in simmering water.
Removing skins from blanched almonds.
Vegetarian tagine dish ready to eat!
In deep skillet or Wok, fry mustard and cumin seeds in 1 Tbsp oil until the cumin seeds begin to pop and brown; then add onions and sauté until soft and translucent. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until they are stewy. Add sugar, turmeric, masala, curry, cayenne pepper and coriander; stir till completely combined. Add Cauliflower and Chickpeas, cover and steam until the Cauliflower is just tender. You may have to add a little water to steam. (If not using coconut milk, let sit for 5 minutes before serving over rice. Add salt to taste.)
If using coconut milk: Add coconut milk and mix in well. Let simmer for 4 minutes covered on low heat, then uncover, take off heat and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving over rice. Add salt to taste. Garnish with a little lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro and enjoy with a glass of Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
Eliza Frey with wild mustard in Frey biodynamic Cabernet vineyard.
After weeks of rain and the chill of the polar vortexes, spring is arriving in Mendocino County. One of my favorite spring pastimes is taking to the fields and gathering wild spring greens, or edible weeds – a tonic to the body and the spirit. With their beautiful shapes, shades of green and wide array of flavors, they make a wonderful addition to springtime cuisine. Wild edibles spice up any salad or sandwich, add layers of flavor and texture to stir fries, deepen the flavors of soup or provide a unique garnish for any dish.
Wild edible plants connect us back to the abundance of Mother Nature, and to our ancestors, who relied on foraging for survival. Wild plants don’t need humans to help them grow, and there is something beautiful and complete about their ability to get what they need and thrive on their own. Gathering wild greens is easy and fun as long as you follow some common sense guidelines.
Make sure you know what you are eating! Never eat any plant without first knowing that it is edible. Many wild edibles have close look-alikes, so make sure you are well informed before ingesting any new plant. The information below does not include identification details for the listed plants. A great way to make sure you’re being safe is to find a friend or neighbor who is knowledgeable and invite to come forage with you. Local foraging classes and groups are popping up all over the nation. There are countless websites and books about gathering wild plants, and a quick internet search can connect you with plenty of resources.
Edible weeds are only healthful when harvested from areas free of chemicals and pollutants. Avoid harvesting from chemically maintained lawns, near motor roadways, non-organic farms or in areas where there may be high dog traffic. After harvesting wild greens, make sure to wash them thoroughly.
Never harvest an entire stand of wild plants. A general rule of thumb is to leave at least 2/3 of any given patch untouched, allowing the species to complete its life cycle and reproduce, and ensuring that there is plenty for wildlife.
The abundance and variety of wild edibles varies greatly among different climates and regions. While the varieties listed below are available and abundant for Mendocino County, California, in spring, your location will ultimately dictate what you have access to and when.
Here are a handful of my favorite green treats to gather on the Frey Ranch in late winter and early spring:
Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)
Miner's lettuce, an annual flowering plant, is also known as Indian lettuce, spring beauty, and winter purslane. Native to the west coast of North America, it prefers cool wet areas, and in inland Mendocino County it is available from Late January to April. Fleshy stems lead to rounded rosette leaves that cup the morning dew. White or pink flowers develop on a slender stem that grows out of the center of the leaf. It is abundant at the edges of our vineyards, in shady areas at the forest’s edge.
It is best picked when fresh and green, before flowering. The stems are crisp and juicy, and the leaves are tender with a mild watery flavor, well suited as the base of a salad, or used as a substitute for lettuce in any context.
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Chickweed is a low growing annual that reseeds yearly and emerges in late winter, as rainfall and warmer temperatures allow germination. Its tiny leaves climb wispy mats of stems in semi shaded edge areas and sunny fields. As it matures tiny white flowers form at each leaf node.
It has a pleasant, mild flavor and is a great substitute for sprouts on sandwiches and in wraps. It is also lovely in salad. It gets slimy when cooked so try enjoying it raw. For larger, leggy plants, you may want to use only the leaves, as the stems can be a bit fibrous. Chickweed doesn’t store well, and is best eaten within a few hours of harvest.
Common Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale subsp. vulgare)
This is the most common variety of dandelion, although there are thousands. Dandelion is a perennial plant native to Europe. In California jagged leaves re-sprout from taproots in the late winter. In wetter climates the greens can be harvested throughout the growing season. A thick, fleshy stem develops and forms bright yellow, multi-petaled flowers that eventually turn into globes of fluff that scatter on the wind with our wishes. Dandelion’s nutritional value eclipses most of the fruits and vegetables you can buy in the grocery store. It is recognized as a tonic to the liver, kidneys, blood and digestion.
Dandelion has an intense bitter flavor that is somewhat of an acquired taste. The entire plant, including the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots, is edible and nutritious, packed with vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamin, riboflavin, beta-carotene and fiber. Due to their intense flavor, greens are often cooked, and are delicious with a bright lemony dressing. The flowers of dandelion are also beautiful and pungent before they start to form seed heads, great as a garnish or sautéed with garlic. Dried and roasted roots can be ground and brewed as dandelion coffee, and are an ingredient in traditional root beer.
Wild Mustard (Brassica Spp.)
Wild Mustard is found all over the world and mustard and its cousins radish and turnip have been grown since ancient times. Here in Mendocino County the spring brings an explosion of color as the bright yellow flowers fill the vineyards, delighting bees and foragers alike. Mature plants can be up to 4 feet tall, but they are tastiest when harvested young.
The mustard flower is a beautiful garnish on salads, with a rich pollen-like flavor and gentle heat. The greens need to be harvested young, as they get spiny as the plant reaches maturity. They are a wonderful addition to any stir fry, chopped fresh in potato salad, or served wilted with a vinaigrette dressing.
As flowers drop and the plant forms seed-pods, the tender green pods can be harvested and pickled. As the plant finishes its life cycle the mature seeds can be harvested and ground into mustard.
Sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
Sheep's sorrel is a low growing perennial herb in the buckwheat family is native to North America. It makes its home in disturbed soils and spreads from seeds and fleshy, horizontal roots. Clumps of green arrow shaped leaves form at the base of the plant, which redden as the plant grows and forms upright flower stalks for tiny reddish-brown flowers and seed pods.
Tender green leaves have an intensely tart lemon flavor that is a great accent in salads and soups, and adds pop to pesto. Its seeds are also edible and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Winter Pea Shoots (Pisum sativum)
While winter peas are not wild in our vineyards, they are part of our annual cover crop mix. Peas are legumes that fix nitrogen into the soil. They grow tendrils that help them climb amid ryegrass and bell beans and have fleshy silvery leaves that form in whorls along the rigid stem, and they form beautiful edible pink flowers as temperatures rise.
Harvest the top 2-4 inches of the pea shoots to enjoy their distinctly sweet and nutty flavor that is wonderful raw or cooked. Try them sautéed with garlic and olive oil or in place of spinach in your favorite soup. The flowers are tender and mild and gorgeous as a garnish or salad ingredient. Consider adding them to a winter cover crop for a delicious supply of late winter greens!
By Chef Tamara Frey
Enjoy lightly braised asparagus and wine-infused Portobello mushrooms in a basket of flaky filo, blanketed with a tarragon hollandaise. The steps are simple and the medley of flavors will wow your guests. We served it with a bottle of Frey Organic Pinot Noir. So good!
1 box filo dough
5 large Portobello mushrooms (can use other mushrooms)
2 pounds fresh asparagus
2 pounds unsalted butter
1 jar roasted red peppers
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 large lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon
2 pinches cayenne
1/2 cup Frey Pinot Noir
salt and pepper for seasoning
Make the filo baskets
Filo dough comes frozen, so leave the box in the refrigerator for a day to thaw before gently unrolling the sheets. The sheets I used came in rectangular size of 13 x 18 inches, so after applying the butter and stacking, I cut each in half to 13 x 9 inch rectagles. While working with one sheet, cover the rest with a cloth to prevent from drying out.
Melt 1 and a half sticks of unsalted butter in a sauté pan. Start by gently laying out one of the filo sheets and brush on the melted butter with a pastry brush. Take another sheet and put it on top of the buttered sheet. Continue layering the filo sheets this way, with the melted butter in between each sheet until you have 8 layers. If a sheet tears, as it often does, just patch it up with a piece of filo using a dab of melted butter as glue.
With your 8 layers stacked, cut in half down the middle. Grab one of the stacks and fold the sides in at about half-inch increments until you build up the sides a bit to create a simple basket about 4 x 5 inches. Bake in oven at 375-degree for approximately 12 to 15 minutes, until top and bottom are nicely browned and the basket has puffed up. Set cooked filo baskets aside. (If making the baskets a day ahead, store in a cool place covered with plastic wrap, then flash heat in a 300 degree oven when ready to assemble.)
Prepare the mushrooms
Thinly slice the mushrooms. Melt in a sauté pan 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Sauté the sliced mushrooms a few minutes until done. Add 1/2 cup of Frey Organic Pinot Noir and reduce the juices until a bit thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. (May need to reheat when it is time to assemble the baskets.)
Prepare the asparagus
Rinse the asparagus. Holding one spear in both hands, gently crack it where it naturally breaks. Repeat with all the asparagus spears and discard the bottom parts. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a sauté pan, add the juice of 1/2 a lemon, and sauté the asparagus on medium heat until al dente, which is still a bit crispy, or you can cook it to your liking. Set aside. (May need to reheat when it is time to assemble the baskets.)
Prepare the hollandaise
Hollandaise can be tricky as we all know. People are afraid to attempt it. The following is a simple hollandaise recipe using a Cuisinart that I’ve had immense success with. Years ago when I had a little cafe and labored over the classic water-bath hollandaise method, one of the other cooks gave me this fabulous recipe. I have never gone back to the classic French method I learned in culinary school. I love that the consistency of this recipe holds its own every time. It is the one-one-one method: 1 egg, 1 yolk, 1 lb. butter. Here it is:
Melt a pound of unsalted butter in a saucepan on medium to low heat. The melted butter cannot be too hot, nor too cold. Lukewarm is perfect. While the butter’s melting, put the large egg and the large egg yolk in the Cuisinart. Let it run for a minute or so until the mixture becomes light-yellow and creamy, and warmed by the Cuisinart. Then, very slowly, in a thin stream, pour the warm melted butter into the mix while Cuisinart is running. Turn off machine and test for thickness by carefully putting a spoon in the hollandaise. If the spoon comes out coated, without the hollandaise running down the spoon, then consistency is good. Turn on the Cuisinart again and add the juice of half a lemon, one and a half teaspoons of the tarragon, a pinch or two of cayenne and salt. Pulse the Cuisinart and mix, then taste for seasoning. Adjust as needed. You might enjoy more lemon juice or more of a kick with the cayenne.
Prepare the Roasted Red Peppers
Slice in thin strips and set aside.
Assemble the asparagus baskets
Best to serve the filo basket, mushrooms and asparagus piping hot, as all three cool quickly.
Place a filo basket on a plate.
Place two or three spoonfuls of mushrooms in the filo basket.
Then 4 or 5 asparagus spears.
Partially blanket the mushrooms and asparagus with the warm hollandaise.
Lay 2 roasted red pepper strips in an X pattern across it all.
Serve and enjoy!
Copyrighted 2019, Tamara Frey
A wonderful recipe from an Organic Wine Club member. Cover a 12 oz. bag of organic fresh cranberries with Frey organic red wine of your choice. Simmer a few minutes, until berries swell. Off heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger, 1/2 cup (or less) raw sugar, zest and juice of one lemon. Cover and let sit a few minutes, and enjoy!
Perfect for a summer’s evening is this refreshing twist to the classic beverage, white wine peach sangria!
3 ripe peaches
1 handful fresh mint
1 bottle Frey Organic Viognier
2 table spoons simple syrup
¼ cup Elderflower liquor
Lots of ice
Slice 3 ripe peaches. Put peaches, mint, a bottle of Frey organic Viognier and the syrup into a large mason jar or pitcher. (Optional: a splash of St. Germain, ¼ cup or more, to taste.) Refrigerate and marinate for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. As the sangria marinates, the peaches may turn a little brown after a few days. This may look unappealing, but the flavor is much improved. If serving to guests we recommend straining out the browned peaches and adding fresh sliced peaches as well as a handful of fresh mint. Serve over ice and enjoy on a warm summer evening!
This delicious, hearty soup is full of flavorful Italian sausage, kale, and potatoes. It’s sure to warm your soul and it is a quick and easy recipe to share with your family. Pair with Frey Organic Sangiovese.
Frey Vineyards requires you to be 21 years or older to enter. Please enter your Date of Birth in the fields below in order to continue: