, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Photo Courtesy of Jill Silverman Hough

Photo Courtesy of Jill Silverman Hough

Jill Silverman Hough is a cookbook author, food and wine writer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor who makes food and cooking simple yet special.  Jill notes “A recipe doesn’t have to be complicated to be indulgent.” She says “Sprinkle a roast chicken with lavender, substitute dried cherries for raisins in a batch of oatmeal cookies, serve grilled salmon on a bed of arugula—all these things take almost no effort, yet they’ll make your otherwise ordinary dishes taste and feel like fancy food.” (Bio with permission from www.jillhough.com)

In her book, “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love” (Wiley, 2010), Jill Silverman Hough helps the average cook prepare sensational food and wine pairings. There are 12 chapters, organized by grape variety and organized from lightest whites to heavier reds. Simply search the table of contents for your favorite wine variety. Turn to the chapter and find recipes researched and proven to pair perfectly with your wine choice. At the beginning of each chapter, Jill provides two pages with facts about the variety, other names by which the grape variety is known, general and easy to follow tips on pairing with that variety, suggestions for fine tuning and other “nuances.” For example, I love Viognier and when I turn to the Viognier chapter, I see recipes for Hazelnut Shrimp Salad in Butter Lettuce Cups, Prosciutto Carpaccio with Asian Pears, Orzo with Spring Vegetables and Lavender, just to name a few! I’m getting hungry!

I commend Jill for creating a food and wine pairing book that pairs the recipes with a grape variety, not a specific wine or brand of wine. In other words, each recipe is proven to pair nicely with ANY bottle of that grape variety. This means you don’t have to search for a specific brand of wine or a specific winemaker. You will see that this is very different than most food and wine pairing recipes, which tend towards suggesting a specific wine producer or specific year.

How about a Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Focaccia with Coffee-Pepper Dipping Oil? Recipe is included at the end of this article. Enjoy!

Photo Courtesy of Lucy Schaeffer

Photo Credit Lucy Schaeffer

Let’s look at another favorite of mine: Gewürztraminer. In this chapter, I find recipes for Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches, Cold Peach and Mango Soup Shooters or Curried Onion Rings with Apricot Dipping Sauce. There are more but I have to stop now and go make myself one of these recipes. I will be back shortly… 🙂

OK, I’m back and ready to keep going. Wow, that was delicious! Now, I have a few questions for Jill:

W & M: What is your everyday wine?

Jill:  Any Rosé wine that costs $10 or less. One of my favorites is Menage à Trois. It has a little sweetness to it and I think sweetness in wine is very good for drinking and for food and wine pairing.

W  & M: What is your favorite splurge wine?

Jill: Mumm Napa Cuvée M is my choice for a splurge wine. My husband and I once had a private tour with their winemaker and then a memorable lunch during this rainy, stormy Napa Valley day. The kind of day when the only reason to leave the house is to have a private tour with a Mumm Napa winemaker and a five course lunch with each course paired to a different sparkling wine! The flavor profile of the Mumm Napa Cuvée M is peaches and cream and we enjoy the memories of that day and this wine.

W  &  M: Do you have a favorite wine quote?

Jill: W.C. Fields said “I cook with wine and sometimes I even add it in the food.”

W  &  M: What is the meaning of wine to you?

Jill:  The meaning of wine represents the good life, treating oneself well, wine and food can make times more special and remind one to take time to appreciate and to be happy.

Here’s a day in the life of Jill Silverman Hough while preparing for and writing “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love.” Jill would make 3-5 of the recipes she created everyday and then tried each with at least 3 bottles of the type of wine with which it was designed to pair. For example, she would have 3 different bottles of Sauvignon Blanc in researching the dishes in the chapter on Sauvignon Blanc. Constellation Wines generously donated wines to her for the research. Jill and her husband would taste the dish with the wine and decide if they paired well and if not, then Jill would look to adjusting the recipe to make the pairing work. Each recipe and pairing in her research was also tasted by independent recipe testers. During Jill’s research, she spent several weeks on one grape variety, affording a real in depth study of each variety and many producers, comparing similarities and how she could create recipes that would work with the wine.

Jill already knew intellectually what makes a good food and wine pairing. In researching this book, she experienced exceptional pairings over and over. If you’ve ever had a tremendous experience with a food and wine pairing, you know what Jill means when she told me that she heard the Angels sing! Jill notes what a difference even a small change to a recipe can make, thereby making food and wine each more delicious through a sensational pairing.  Her books and her blog aim to keep the wine world inviting, reminding people to play and that Life Is Good!

Jill couldn’t give me a favorite recipe in the book (I suppose it’s like choosing a favorite child) but she mentioned the White Cheddar with Wine Soaked Cherries and Herbs in the Merlot chapter as a nice recipe for cooler weather which is now approaching.

Jill  teaches at Ramekins Sonoma Valley Culinary School and is a well published writer and recipe developer. She has created recipes printed in magazines such as Fine Cooking and Bon Appétit. In fact, her recipes have been on the cover of Bon Appétit Magazine. She contributed recipes to the cookbook “Shortcuts: 130 Almost-From-Scratch Recipes” (Weight Watchers, 2008) with her recipe on the cover!

Jill developed recipes for “Skinny Bitch in the Kitch: Kick-Ass Recipes for Hungry Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking Hot!)” (Running Press, 2007) and she co-authored “The Clean Plates Cookbook: Sustainable, Delicious, and Healthier Eating for Every Body” (Running Press, 2012).  She has written “100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love” (Wiley, 2011) and the book I own and love, “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love.” She notes it took about 6 -8 months to write this book of 100 recipes.

While working at Copia, Jill taught food classes which always included a wine element. Between working at Copia, taking WSET classes and living in the Napa Valley, she was steeped in wine and food. She explains that her inspiration for this book came from these rich and varied experiences. She found food and wine pairing books that would call for a specific wine producer or that would teach the reader the elements of pairing and then send the reader off to pair on their own. She decided to make it simple for the everyday home cook. She put it all in perspective when she said “I don’t need to know how my car works in order to enjoy driving it, I don’t need to know why this wine pairs well with that food in order to enjoy them together.” This is what I enjoy about her book. The reader can simply make the recipe, buy the wine and enjoy the combination, without necessarily having to know why the pairing works well. However, each chapter includes pairing tips and nuances of pairing. Growing up in a family with one grandmother who was a traditional Jewish cook, making things such as brisket, and another grandmother making things such as crown roast of pork, helped shape her love of food and cooking. She had a wide spectrum of interesting and very good food being prepared around her. Her parents were also great cooks and thus Jill developed a genuine appreciation for eating and food.

I asked Jill which writers inspire her. She notes that overall, she’s inspired by journeymen cookbook writers that aren’t necessarily well-known, but keep coming up with great book ideas and coming out with great books. These include friends and colleagues like Ivy Manning, Carla Snyder, Domenica Marchetti, Nancie McDermott and Jill O’Connor. She notes there are many more and this is just a few of the writers she finds inspiring.

I bought “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates To Enjoy With Wines You Love” on Amazon. The local bookstores can order them, if not already in stock. Also, there is more information about each book, as well as where it can be purchased on her website where Jill also invites you to subscribe to her blog.

Enjoy the recipe below for Focaccia with Coffee-Pepper Dipping Oil paired with Cabernet Sauvignon, courtesy of Jill Silverman Hough.

Photo Courtesy of Jill Silverman Hough

Photo Courtesy of Jill Silverman Hough

Focaccia with Coffee-Pepper Dipping Oil: From the Cabernet Sauvignon chapter of “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love” by Jill Silverman Hough (Wiley, 2010) 

You know how when you go to a nice, often Italian restaurant, they pour a little something into a shallow bowl for you to dip your bread into? This recipe is an enhanced version of one of those dipping sauces, the slight bitterness of the coffee making it especially perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon.
And while it’s not imperative that you bake homemade focaccia to go with the sauce—you can buy focaccia in the bakery department at many major supermarkets these days—it’s quite easy to make. There’s nothing like fresh bread, still warm from the oven, and a glass of wine to celebrate it.

Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons coarsely ground unflavored coffee beans (*see below)
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Half of a 9 x 12-inch loaf focaccia bread, homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought, for serving

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the olive oil, coffee, and pepper. When the mixture is almost at a simmer, remove the saucepan from the heat. Set aside to steep for 10 minutes.

Whisk in the soy sauce and mustard. (You can prepare the dipping sauce up to 2 days in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator. Return to room temperature before serving.)

Cut the focaccia into about 1 x 4 1/2-inch strips. Serve the dipping sauce in shallow bowls on the side.

If you don’t keep coarsely ground coffee beans on hand—or whole beans and a coffee grinder—just buy a tiny amount of whole beans, then use a mortar and pestle or the end of a wooden spoon to crush them to a coarse grind.

Homemade Focaccia Bread

This is the wildly popular focaccia I used to serve at the café I owned in Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. The recipe doesn’t need a lot of hands-on time, but it does need to be started at least a day before you plan to bake it.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast, divided
2 3/4 plus 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for the bowl and baking sheet
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, divided

Place 1/2 cup of warm water (118°F to 120°F) in a medium bowl. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the yeast on top of the water and set aside for 15 minutes (the mixture might not get foamy).

Stir in 2/3 cup of the flour. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Place 2 tablespoons of warm water (118°F to 120°F) in the bowl of an electric mixer that has a dough hook attachment. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of yeast on top of the water and set aside for 15 minutes (the mixture might not get foamy).

Add the flour mixture, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the salt, and 2/3 cup of cool water to the mixer bowl and stir lightly. Add the remaining 2 3/4 cup flour and use a dough hook to mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then mix again on medium-low for 4 minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly sticky.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, rolling it to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate it overnight. (You can prepare the dough in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for several months. Thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding.)

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Place the dough on the baking sheet and gently coax it into about an 8 x 10-inch rectangle. Lightly cover the dough with plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature until it expands to about 9 x 12 inches and is about 1 1/2 inches tall, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Uncover the dough and use your fingertips to deeply dimple it. Drizzle the dough with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then sprinkle it with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bake the focaccia until nicely browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Transfer the baking pan with the focaccia to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the baking pan and return it to the wire rack to cool completely. (You can prepare the focaccia in advance, storing it covered in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw at room temperature before serving.) 

Recipe-Copyright Jill Silverman Hough. All rights reserved.