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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Don't Be Afraid to Substitute

We've all done it—forgotten to buy an ingredient for our recipe or noticed at the last minute that we were out of something we needed. Well, this week we really did it. We planned to make a green papaya salad using a piece of fruit we'd bought at our beloved giant Asian market, but realized when we cut into it that it wasn't a papaya but a mango! In our haste, we'd grabbed the wrong kind of fruit without noticing.

What to do? We'd never used a green mango before. Consulting the Internet, we discovered that you can make a Thai green mango salad. Fine. But we were also out of limes and basil, two key ingredients. And our bean sprouts were in sorry shape.

We could have scrapped the whole idea of making a salad, but we'd already cut into the mango and didn't want to waste it. So we looked more closely at the recipe.

We had plenty of lemons; why not use them for the salad dressing? And our garden was rapidly filling up with mint, a close cousin of basil. We decided to substitute.

The resulting salad was delicious. Sure, lime would have been more authentically Thai, but the lemon juice was perfectly acceptable. Mint provided a flavor that was more Vietnamese than Thai, but that was fine with us. Bean sprouts would have added a nice crunch, but the salad worked fine without them.

The lesson: never be afraid to substitute. You may not end up with the exact recipe you're looking at, but you will probably end up with something pretty damn good.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Celebrate Summer with Panzanella

We aren't huge fans of most of the Food Network's shows, because even when the food looks good, it tends to contain horrific levels of fat. But we have a soft spot for Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, whose recipes combine elegance and flavor, and who has a good personality to boot. After our beloved Nigella, she's the only television cook we'd like to spend a long train ride with.

Over the weekend, we caught an old episode in which she made panzanella, an Italian bread salad that combines a sharp dressing with croutons and crunchy vegetables. In her TV version Ina Greeked up the salad with feta and oregano, but we tried her online recipe, which relied on basil and capers for Italian flavor.

Man, was this good. One problem we have with bread salads is that they get way too mushy after they sit for a while, but Ina's recipe relies in large part on red and yellow peppers, which hold their water, so to speak. Even after two days, the salad is still highly edible.

Combined with a cool Chardonnay and a hot patio, it made a great summer dinner.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Make It Yourself: Chai Latte

At Starbucks and other upscale  coffee joints, chai lattes provide a lower-caffeine alternative to espresso drinks, but they're very expensive. Although you can buy boxes of chai concentrate, these are also overpriced and usually way too sweet.

It's very easy to make your own chai—and your own concentrate, for that matter. All you need is tea, fresh ginger, chai spice, milk, and a strainer.

We like Brooke Bond's loose Red Label tea, but you can use plain teabags if that's all you've got. You can even use prespiced tea, if you're feeling extra-lazy. But it's also easy to make your own chai mix:

Chai recipes vary, but usually contain a mix of ground cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, allspice, coriander, and a little black pepper. Experiment to get the mix you like—say, using equal amounts of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and allspice, half as much coriander, and a touch of pepper. Keep an ongoing jar of spice mix and adjust it as you like. (We think Starbucks' version is way too heavy on the cloves and way too light on the ginger, but this is strictly a matter of taste.) You'll only need about a quarter teaspoon or so for each batch of chai that you make.

Once you've got the spice mix, you're ready to make your lattes. This recipe from Dhyanyoga Centers tells you how to make a good couple of cups. If you want concentrate for future batches, simply make more of the basic water/spice/ginger/tea mix, and set it aside; when you want chai, just add milk and heat.

A homemade chai latte costs a fraction of the $4.50 and up that Starbucks charges, and if you keep a container of the concentrate on hand, you can make a quick cup in much less time than it would take you to grab the car keys and head to a store.

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Mexico Green Chile

When traveling, we rarely pass up an opportunity to taste the local fare. We can't remember too many times when a local dish disappointed in a serious way — with the possible exception of the salty fingernail-sized fish served for breakfast in Malaysia.

When Tim biked his way through the mountains of New Mexico a few years ago, he made a point of delving into the local cuisine, which is laden with red and green chiles. His favorite was New Mexico Green Chile Stew, which happens to be incredibly quick and easy to make. This recipe is taken from "Real New Mexico Chile" by Sandy Szwarc (Golden West Publishers)


New Mexico Green Chile Stew
8 ounces lean pork, cut into half-inch or 1-inch cubes
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
1 large baking potato, cut into half-inch or 1-inch cubes
1-1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped, roasted and peeled New Mexico chiles (or two small cans of diced green chiles)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. New Mexico red chile powder (or to taste)
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Coat the pork lightly with the flour.
In a saucepan or dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat and fry the meat until golden.
Add the remaining ingredients and lower the heat to medium low.
Cover and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 4 hours.
Serve with flour tortillas.

What could be easier? And, it tastes great.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bargain Wine of the Week: Keesha Vineyards Sonoma County Sangiovese 2006

While the French and Italians label their wine primarily according to region, Americans (North and South) tend to label by grape varietal. Thus, an American Cabernet Sauvignon could be from Napa Valley, Sonoma County or Chile, and the label usually makes the region abundantly clear along with, but secondary to, the fact that it's a Cabernet.

But in France, a wine is primarily identified as a Rhône, a Burgundy or a Bordeaux. A Rhône might be further identified, or even primarily sold, as a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a Côte Rôtie or a less ambitious Côte du Rhône, but all are primarily made with Syrah grapes. A Burgundy might be identified as a Côte de Beaune, a Côte d'Or or a Côte de Nuits, but in the vineyard the reds start as Pinot Noir and the whites are made from Chardonnay grapes.

In Italy, a Tuscan wine is likely to be sold as a Brunello or a Chianti, but the Brunello is made with Sangiovese grapes and the Chianti is a blend that has Sangiovese at its foundation.

Sangiovese is a medium-bodied grape with deep color and it has begun to catch on a bit in California's wine regions. We ran across a deal on a Sangiovese from Sonoma County that turned out to be a heckuva wine bargain. 

The Keesha vineyards Sonoma County Sangiovese 2006 started life as a $18.50 bottle of wine, but for whatever reason the price we found was $8.99. It was certainly worth a try, and we did not regret it. 

American Sangiovese tends to be a bit fruitier than its Italian ancestors, but that means that it's drinkable sooner. This young Keesha Sangiovese was drinkable when we opened the bottle, and even better the second day (after a night with a vaccuum seal). 

This is a $20 bottle value easily, with its Super-Tuscan qualities, deep color and cherry and blackberry flavors cut with a little oak and a lot of spice. This is one of those medium-bodied reds that drinks well with chicken and pasta as well as veal and pork.

If you see this wine and the price is anywhere near $10, pick up a couple of bottles. You won't regret it. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Great Spice Debate

Is it really true that you should replace your spices every six months? We've never done this, because it would cost a fortune. Also, we've found that although some spices lose their zing after a few years, others hold up just fine for a very long time. We moved a container of crushed red pepper flakes from San Francisco to Sonoma County to Oakland to Connecticut, and those flakes packed a punch right up to the end.

Salon addressed this issue a few days ago, and it's worth reading. The author not only delves into the six-month question but gives excellent tips for getting the most out of your spice investment. In a nutshell: buy them whole, and grind them as you need them. Ground spices give up the flavor ghost much sooner than their whole counterparts, because their essential oils dry up.

"Buy whole" is good advice, and we try to do that. Overall, though, we hang onto our spices as long as we can and replace them as we need to.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Photos to Make You Want to Drink Wine

We all know that National Geographic photographers take some of the most evocative, memorable nature photos we have ever seen. NatGeo's Traveler magazine does the same for travel destinations. On the two magazines' website currently is a photo slide show of vineyards around the world. We guarantee that it'll make you want to uncork a bottle tonight.

Check out the vineyard slide show.

Grow It Yourself: A Container Garden of Herbs and Lettuce

Although it's nice to have a garden plot in which we can grow our favorite vegetables, many of us don't have the room or the time. But that doesn't mean we have to do without good herbs and lettuces. Most of these grow just fine in pots on a sunny patio or balcony.

Sage, basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, parsley, cilantro, and other herbs all thrive in sunny containers. Even if you don't have a lot of sun, you can still grow lettuce in pots, fitting three or four heads to a good-size container. When it's ready to eat, just snip off what you need as you need it. Right now we're growing mustard greens and butterhead lettuce. (Because lettuce bolts at the end of its natural life—especially when the weather turns hot—it's good to have a backup container of seedlings to take over once your first crop is done.)

For us, one of the joys of warm weather is being able to stroll onto the patio and snip off enough mixed herbs and greens for a salad. For just a few cents and very little effort, we have some of the ingredients for a delicious light dinner.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bulgur with Cauliflower and Almonds

Here's the recipe that we mentioned yesterday. Thanks to smoked paprika and careful toasting, the final product has much more flavor than its name implies—the cauliflower tastes nutty and bears no resemblance to the mushy, smelly vegetable you may remember from childhood.

This would make an excellent side dish or pot-luck contribution, although we were happy to eat it for a main course.

Bulgur is most commonly used in tabbouli and can be found near the rice in most supermarkets. You can also find it at health food stores and Middle Eastern markets, or online.

The recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman's wonderful How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Bulgur with Cauliflower and Almonds

1/2 cup almonds
3 T. olive oil
1/2 cup minced red onion
3 cups finely chopped cauliflower
salt and pepper
1 cup bulgur
2 t. smoked paprika
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup chopped parsley

1. Place a dry skillet over medium-high heat and add the almonds. Roast them for a few minutes, until they darken and turn fragrant. Be sure to stir them frequently to avoid scorching. Remove them, and set them aside.

2. Add the oil to the skillet, then the red onion, and cook for a couple of minutes until it is soft and beginning to color. Add the chopped cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Cook for five to ten minutes, until the cauliflower is dry and golden.

3. Add the bulgur, stir, and keep stirring until it begins to toast—about five minutes.

4. Add the smoked paprika, stir in the stock, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes.

4. While the cauliflower and bulgur mixture is simmering, finely chop the almonds. When the 15 minutes are up, add the almonds and parsley and fluff with a fork. Put the lid back on and let sit for a few minutes.

5. Adjust the seasonings and serve. (Mark Bittman suggests adding grated manchego cheese, but we liked this fine without the optional cheese garnish.)

Serves four as a side dish, two as a hefty main course.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Frugal Pantry: Smoked Paprika

We never give up on an ingredient just because it's become passé. Goat cheese? Love it! Sun-dried tomatoes? We use them all the time. Same for pine nuts. The only formerly trendy item that we've ever burned out on is balsamic vinegar, and that's because we mindlessly overused it, for years. And years.

Smoked paprika popped up on the American cooking radar a few years ago, when Spanish cooking was all the rage, and for all we know, it's now scorned by the cognoscenti. But we continue to love it for the rich flavor it adds to everything it touches. It gives forthright lentil and quinoa salad surprising depth. Sprinkled on pita croutons, it amps up a plain green salad.

Last night we used smoked paprika in a cauliflower and bulgur sauté with happy results. (Recipe tomorrow; really, it's much, much better than it sounds.)

As the photo attests, you can now find smoked paprika in the spice section of your supermarket. Or, if you like to scour the discount stores, as we do, you often can pick up a tin of the Spanish stuff for about $5. Either way, a few dollars' investment will buy you a lot of flavor.

Got a good recipe that uses smoked paprika? Please share!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Quick Tomato Jam

Some dishes, while unquestionably delicious, can seem monotonous after a few bites—pasta with pesto, say, or fettucine alfredo. They need a sharp contrasting flavor for balance. They need tomato jam.

Fortunately, tomato jam is easy and fast to prepare.

Simply heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet, then add a pint of whole grape tomatoes. If you like, you can also add a teaspoon of minced garlic.

When the tomatoes get hot, they will begin to split their skins. Using a potato masher or another blunt instrument, gently press down on the tomatoes to push out their juices. (Be careful not to squirt yourself in the eye, and it's probably best not to wear your favorite white silk shirt for this maneuver.)

Add a bay leaf and a scant half teaspoon of herbs de provence or thyme, and let the mixture simmer for a few minutes, until the juices have thickened.

Is tomato jam a condiment or a side dish? We think it falls somewhere in between. It's much less concentrated (and sweet) than ketchup, but you wouldn't eat a big bowl of it. Generally, a couple of tablespoons are enough to provide an excellent foil for soufflés, burgers, and cheesy dishes in need of an acid boost. It's good served hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

There's Still No Place Like Home

Our very first post at Eat Well, Eat Cheap extolled the pleasures of dining at home on a Friday night. But by dinnertime last night, we were both fried and a bit cranky—Tim from a week of relentless meetings, Ruth from a massive case of poison ivy. We debated whether to go out for a quick, cheap dinner—there's a good Vietnamese place about a mile away—but decided we were too fried and cranky even for that. We also lacked the energy to go grocery shopping for something grillable.

Grudgingly, we decided to pull a meal together from what we had on hand.

Mint had recently popped up in the herb bed, with a vengeance. We also had spring roll wrappers, rice noodles, cilantro, and fake-chicken strips from Trader Joe's. With a grumpy sigh, we supposed we could make our own version of summer rolls. It would be easy, at least, and allow us to quickly dispense with the problem of dinner.

So we boiled water for the noodles and sautéed the fake-chicken strips. (Normally, we would use tofu and shrimp, but we didn't have any.) We washed big lettuce leaves from the garden and tore up the mint and cilantro. We made a dipping sauce from crunchy peanut butter, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and sriracha.

We shared a little Simonassi while we soaked, stuffed, and rolled up the rice paper sheets. (After much trial and error, we've finally figured out how to handle these brittle rice sheets: dip them in warm water and let them rest on a dish towel for about 30 seconds.) A thunderstorm had left the air heavy and wet, and the damp floor tiles in the kitchen reminded us of the hotels we'd stayed in in Mexico. Etta James sang on the radio. The dogs lounged on the sofa, happy to have us home with them.

We worked side by side, Ruth laying down the filling, Tim rolling up the rice sheets. One after another, our ad hoc summer rolls filled up the platter. Sam Cooke began to sing "You Send Me."

And suddenly we realized that we were having a great Friday night.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Make It Yourself: Croutons

Does anybody really like store-bought croutons, those overpriced, throat-scorching little cubes of processed nastiness that taste only of salt and have an ingredient list as long as your little finger? Okay, that's a little judgmental. But the fact is, homemade croutons are so easy and economical that once you get into the habit of making your own, you will forget all about the kind on the supermarket shelf.

All you need is some bread. Fresh bread works fine, but we like to use stale leftover heels. By stale we mean anything from two days old to rock-hard. Any type of bread will do. White bread, wheat bread, pita bread—anything nonsweet works (though if you want cinnamon-raisin croutons in your caesar salad, go for it).

Cut or tear the bread to the desired size. For salads, we like roughly one-inch cubes that will stand up to crunchy greens and a strong dressing.

Put a skillet on medium high heat and add a little olive oil. You don't need much, just a couple of tablespoons for about two cups of croutons. Once the oil is hot, toss in your bread and, using two spoons, keep tossing it to spread around the oil. Then let it cook, tossing again every few minutes to avoid scorching.

When the cubes are beginning to brown, add salt, pepper, and anything else you like. Chopped garlic is good. So are thyme or sage—dried or fresh. Last night we put smoked paprika on whole-wheat pita croutons, and it tasted great. Let the croutons cook for a few more minutes, until they are golden. That's it.

Leftover croutons will last a couple of days, but we've found that we rarely have leftovers.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Asparagus Pesto

No sooner did we plug Mark Bittman's great vegetarian cookbook than the New York Times columnist proved again why we love him, with this simple but creative recipe for asparagus pesto, published in yesterday's Dining section:

Asparagus Pesto

1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch segments
1 clove garlic, or more to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup olive oil, or more as desired
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste.
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the asparagus and cook until fully tender but not mushy, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well, reserving some of the cooking liquid, and let the asparagus cool slightly.
2. Transfer the asparagus to a food processor and add the garlic, pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of the oil, Parmesan, a pinch of salt and a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, and gradually add the remaining oil and a bit more of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten if necessary. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste, pulse one last time, and serve over pasta, fish or chicken (or cover and refrigerate for up to a day).
Yield: 4 to 6 servings (about 1 1/2 cups).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Got Ramps? Try This Pasta Recipe

For Eastern locavores—those hardy souls who try to cook only what they can find locally—ramps hold a special significance, because they appear in the spring and usher in the season's produce. Also known as wild leeks, ramps have scallion-like bulbs and a garlicky flavor. Some people know how to spot them in the wild, but you can also buy them at farmers' markets and, if you're lucky, your local supermarket. They don't appear for long, so grab them when you have a chance.

So, you're probably wondering, what exactly does one do with these magical vegetables? As it happens, guest blogger Krysta Doerfler has a great recipe:
I was at first intrigued by ramps and wasn't sure how I would prepare this beautiful vegetable. Luckily, I came across a recipe that is simple and perfect for one of the first warm nights of spring when you can eat outside. And while the ingredients include some tomatoes, which are not in season, this gave me a chance to seek out any grocers that sell local hydroponic tomatoes and to snatch up little pots of herbs that will provide me with a bounty for several months.  
As I began slicing the ramps and the sweet, earthy aroma filled my kitchen, I knew that this was going to be a great meal. I suppose the anchovies could be optional, but I found they added the right amount of a salty kick. This recipe was taken from a local restaurant and the chef didn't give any measurements because he wants people to experiment with what works for their taste buds.  
Ramp Pasta 
Fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped 
Ramps (bulbs and greens chopped separately) 

Grated parmesan
Olive oil
Anchovy filets
Precooked al dente pasta
1. Clean the ramps well under cold water and snip off the root. You can use the greens as well as the bulbs, just like a scallion. In this recipe we'll use both, but separate them because  the bulbs require slightly longer cooking than the greens. 
2. Add olive oil to a hot pan. Saute anchovy fillets, tomatoes, and ramp bulbs.
          3. Add the pasta to pan and toss. Add and toss the ramp greens, parsley, basil and parmesan.  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Favorite Cookbooks: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

We recently caught up with our friend Kathi and learned that she's become a vegetarian; furthermore, she's working toward becoming a vegan. Naturally, her family and friends wonder what this will mean for them—will they have to be vegans too?

This made us remember the early days of Ruth's vegetarianism, when people would ask her if she still ate chicken and fish. No? Well, what about shrimp, they would ask. But the most common questions she got had to do with tofu. Was that all she ate? Dinner parties became fraught with concern; people didn't know what to cook for her or what she would serve them.

Fortunately, vegetarian cooking has come a long way from the days of mushy zucchini, brown rice, and tofu. With the right ingredients and cookbook, you can make meals that taste so good, people don't even notice they aren't eating meat.

Our favorite vegetarian cookbook, hands down, is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
Bittman, who writes the Minimalist column for the New York Times food section, is not himself a vegetarian, and maybe that's why this is such a good book. He cares only about maximum flavor and ease of preparation.

As its title states, this book covers everything: appetizers, soup, main courses, pasta, sauces, desserts. And everything we've tried has been good. This recipe, for a simple chickpea pancake, has become a staple appetizer.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers, Happy Food, Happy Memories

Tim doesn't remember when his mother taught him how to cook. There probably was not one of those delineating moments, but more a lifetime attitude that food was more than merely the fuel of life. Good food was to be noted, and celebrated. But never taken for granted.

Ella was of that age — a depression era adolescent — when food was very difficult to come by. And that's why food was never to be taken for granted. But she was also defined by the 50s, when bland, canned convenient food made life much easier for mothers with many mouths to feed.

The family always thought it ate pretty tasty food, and there was always enough for the six growing stomachs and two adults around the table. Ella was known by her friends and by the friends of her children as a good cook.

She served what would now be called comfort food: mashed potatoes, meat (never the real expensive cuts), great-tasting sauces and veggies on the side. The veggies, with the exception of produce from the summer garden in the early years, were convenient canned or frozen vegetables, and that was where she realized her meal-prep efficiencies.

Then there were the desserts. They were worth the wait. Except for ice cream and the bags of mass-produced cookies that served to satisfy hoards of growing children, they were always homemade. Pies, cakes, cookies, upside down cake, crisps.

It must have been leftover from the farm culture. People visit and you expect them to stay because they've traveled a distance to see you. If the timing didn't permit a full meal, you always had some pie or whatever dessert was on hand. And there was always a dessert on hand. You asked whether the visitors might want to at least stay for "coffee." Coffee was shorthand. It meant coffee and a sweet of considerable substance. Sort of a farm ladies version of city tea. Except the men took their plates too.

When Tim went back to reconstruct Ella's recipe "book," he found that it wasn't a book at all but mostly a collection of sauce recipes clipped from magazines, soup can labels and ingredient boxes. Her really good recipes — the dishes she was known for, like her potato salad — were in her head.

Through all of the years of watching his mother cook, Tim picked up lots of pointers — and a mean recipe for goulash that got him through many years of college and bachelorhood. Her basics got him through years of cooking for himself and through his first culinary triumph, first place in the Midwest Chili Cookoff that was also one of his early collaborations with Ruth.

The greatest skill that Ella taught, however, had nothing to do with cooking and everything to do with cooking: self-reliance. Tim remembers her saying many times after hearing his whining about hunger, "Look in the refrigerator and the cupboards and you'll find some things to make a meal out of. Put enough of the right ones together and you'll have a tasty meal."

Words to live by. And words to memorialize one of our favorite cooks.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bean Sprout Salad with Crunchy Peanut Dressing

One of the joys of living in this Northern Virginia suburb is shopping at the giant Asian market about a mile away: not only does it have every Asian ingredient imaginable, and many that we could never imagine in a hundred years, it also has excellent and inexpensive produce. No more do we have to make do with little bags of mushy, half-decomposed bean sprouts—we now get one-pound bags of crispy sprouts that last a week or more.

The only problem is, once we've used a couple of handfuls of sprouts, we still have almost a pound left. What to do?

As usual, the Internet has lots of good suggestions, including this recipe for a bean sprout salad that came from Henry Chung's legendary Hunan Restaurant in San Francisco. We thought that the author's recipe sounded tasty but a little on the wet side, so we slightly adapted it, with happy results.

Bean Sprout Salad with Crunchy Peanut Dressing

1 pound mung bean sprouts
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into small chunks
1/2 cup carrot, cut into small chunks

2 T. soy sauce
4 T. rice vinegar
1 T. dry white wine
1 t. cayenne pepper
1 t. sugar
1 t. dry mustard
1 t. salt
1 T. minced ginger
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. minced scallion
3 T. toasted sesame oil
4 T. crunchy peanut butter

1. Mix the vegetables in a large bowl.
2. Mix together the dressing ingredients. A blender works great for this.
3. Pour the dressing over the vegetables.
4. Chill, but don't wait too long to serve this, as it gets soggy the longer it sits.

Index to 77 Great Wine Bargains under $10

Here's a complete list of the 77 wines we've reviewed between January 1, 2009 and April 30, 2010. 
They are divided between reds, whites and rosés, but are in no particular order. The idea is that when you find a wine you're looking for, or are interested in, you can click the link to read the review. 

All of these wines cost less than $10, or they did when we bought them. There are really no bad reviews. If we think a wine isn't worth buying, we let it pass. But we're able to find lots of wines under $10 worth drinking. 

The other great thing about this list is that almost half of these wines have been rated 90 or higher by a major wine magazine or reviewer — and yet they cost less than $10. Most of the other wines rated 87 or higher. Only a few have received our seal of approval but have not been rated 87 or higher by a mainstream wine reviewer.

Some of these wines will be difficult to find. The wines in boldface type should be the easiest to locate in a large wine store or on the Internet.

2 Brothers 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva. Chile. Colchagua Valley.
Hogue Cabernet Merlot Blend 2007. Washington State. Columbia Valley.
Sabor Real Toro 2006. Spain. Toro.
Encostas Do Douro Douro Palestra 2007. Portugal. Douro. And eight other value wines from Portugal.
Ortas Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Viguers 2007. France Rhone.
Maipe Malbec 2008. Argentina. Mendoza.
Château de Nages 2007 Costieres de Nîmes red Rhône. France. Rhône.
MontGras 2007 Carmenére. Also 2008. Chile. Colchagua.
Red Tree 2008 Pinot Noir. California.
Red Bicyclette 2007 Pinot Noir. France. Languedoc.
Bere 2007 Red Table Wine. Italy. Chianti.
Loxarel Ops 2005. Spain. Penedes.
Bogle 2007 Petit Syrah. California. Central Valley.
Masserie Pisari Salento Rosso Negroamaro 2005. Italy.
Bodegas Ateca Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines 2007. Spain.
Falesco Vitiano Rosso IGT 2006. Italy.
Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz/Cabernet 2007. Australia.
Chateau de Paraza Minervois Cuvee Speciale 2005. France.
Bodegas Luzon "Black Label" Jumilla 2007. Spain.
Vega Sindoa Tempranillo/Merlot 2007. Spain.
Wishing Tree Shiraz 2006. Australia.
Castano Yecla Monastrell 2007. Spain.
Bodega Rj Vinedos "Pasion4" Uco Valley Malbec 2007. Argentina.
Pillar Box Red 2007. Australia.
Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha 2006. Spain.
Bodegas Olivares Monastrell Altos de la Hoya 2007. Spain.
George Duboeuf "Flower Label" Morgon 2005. France.
George Duboeuf "Flower Label" Julienas 2005. France.
Torremoron Tinto 2006. Spain.
Tormaresca Neprica 2007. Italy.
Panaroz 2006 Jumilla. Spain.

Hogue 2007 Chardonnay Columbia Valley. Washington State.
Chateau de Nages 2008 Reserve Rhone White. France. Rhone.
2007 Ramal Road Carneros Chardonnay. California. Carneros.
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico. Italy.
Simonassi Andes Mountains Torrontes 2009. Argentina. Mendoza.
Muirwood Central Coast Chardonnay 2008. California. Central Coast.
Coteaux du Languedoc Hugues de Beauvignac Picpoul de Pinet 2008. France. Languedoc.
Oak Grove 2007 Chardonnay Reserve. California.
Meridian California Chardonnay 2007. California. Santa Barbara.
Edna Valley Chardonnay Paragon Vineyard 2007. California. Central Coast.
Healdsburg Ranches 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay. California. Sonoma.
Ferrari-Carano 2007 Fume Blanc. California. Sonoma.
Powers 2007 Chardonnay. Washington. Columbia Valley.
Naia 2007 Rueda. Spain.
BV Beaulieu Vineyards 2007 Coastal Chardonnay. California.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2007 Chardonnay. Washington. Columbia Valley.
Cono Sur 2008 Chardonnay. Chile.
Mirassou 2007 Chardonnay. California. South Bay.
Beringer 2007 Founders Estate Chardonnay. California.
Pine and Post 2006 Chardonnay. Washington.
Thierry and Guy Fat Bastard 2007 Chardonnay. France. Languedoc-Rousillon
Alamos 2007 Chardonnay. Argentina. Mendoza. 
Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley Bacchus Vineyard 2006. Washington.
Bogle 2007 Chardonnay. California. Central Valley. 
Les Rials 2008 White. France. Cotes du Tarn.
Cristalino Brut Cava NV. Spanish Sparkling Wine.
D’Arenberg The Stump Jump White 2006. Australia.
Estancia 2007 Pinnacles Chardonnay. California. South Bay.
Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Sparkling Wine. Spain.
Cristalino Brut Sparkling Wine. Spain.
Bonny Doon Framboise half-bottle desert wine. California.
Milbrandt "Traditions" Riesling 2006. Washington.
Terra Andina "reserve" Chardonnay 2007. Chile.
Chateau St. Jean Fume Blanc 2007. California.
Jacobs Creek "Reserve" Riesling 2008. Australia.
Domaine LaFage Catalanes Cote Est 2007. France. Languedoc.

Yalumba Y Series Sangiovese Rosé 2007. Australia.
Las Rocas de San Alejandro Rosado 2008. Spain.
Chateau Ste. Michelle "Mellies Garden" Dry Rosé 2007. Washington.
Falset Marca Garnacha Rosé 2006. Spain.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Is Your Veggie Burger Poisoning You?

We don't know how many of you eat veggie burgers, but you probably all know somebody who eats them, as Ruth does from time to time.

It turns out that there are good veggie burgers and bad veggie burgers. A study by the Cornucopia Institute says that non-organic veggie burgers often contains the neurotoxin hexane, a petroleum byproduct that is bad for those who work with it and can cause explosions in wastewater and is an air pollutant.

The bottom line is that you should "look for Boca Burgers "Made with organic soy"; Helen's Kitchen; Morningstar "Made with organic"; Superburgers by Turtle Island; Tofurky and Wildwood."

Here's a report from's Sustainable Food blog. Thanks to Ramin Ganeshram and Jean Paul Vellotti.

With so many recalls of tainted meat it's tempting to think of food safety issues as another reason to eat a vegetarian diet. But sadly, recent news from the Cornucopia Instituterains on that parade as well. Its new report, "Behind the Bean: The Heroes and Charlatans of the Natural and Organic Soy Foods Industry," reveals that many top-name brands of veggie burgers contain the neurotoxin hexane, a petroleum byproduct listed by the EPA as a hazardous air pollutant.
So what's it doing in our food?
Writing for Mother Jones, Kiera Butler explains that soybeans are submerged in hexane in order to separate the oil from the protein — a trick processors have been using in order to reduce the fat content of the food. There's good and bad news here. The good news is that all products certified as USDA organic are not allowed to contain hexane bathed ingredients. The bad news is that if it's not organic it most likely has hexane-extracted ingredients in it. The report states, "The soy protein ingredients in most nonorganic foods such as vegetarian burgers and nutrition bars are processed with the use of hexane."
In Butler's story, she quotes Cornucopia Institute senior researcher Charlotte Vallaeys who explains that the ingredients to look out for on non-organic foods are soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, or texturized vegetable protein. Not only are you getting a dose of it when you eat these foods, but the industry is contributing significantly to air pollution. The report states that two-thirds of hexane emissions in the U.S. are from grain processors and the single largest emitter was an Archer Daniels Midland plant in Illinois. Solae, a major supplier of soy protein ingredients, is not far behind, with one of its plants coming in 7th on the list of top emitters.
Hexane can also cause explosions when released in wastewater and is documented to be hazardous to workers' health, too.
Unfortunately, for those of us eating soy products the EPA doesn't have a requirement for food manufacturers to test for hexane residue and little research has been done on the effects of consuming it. The Cornucopia Institute's report names these products as having hexane-extracted ingredients: Amy's Kitchen; Boca Burger, conventional; Franklin Farms; Garden Burger; It's All Good; Lightlife; Morningstar Farms; President's Choice; Soy Boy; Taste Above; Trader Joe's; and Yves Veggie Cuisine.For hexane free food, instead look for Boca Burgers "Made with organic soy"; Helen's Kitchen; Morningstar "Made with organic"; Superburgers by Turtle Island; Tofurky and Wildwood.
You can read more about hexane in the Cornucopia Institute's report.