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Spring Into Food & Wine

By Meguire Caldwell, MS

Spring brings about the innate desire to experience and share in this gorgeous weather. For me, I yearn to engage in plenty of outdoor activities, time with friends and family, fresh, seasonal culinary ingredients and their equally exquisite counterparts, wine. So, in light of honoring all of these magical elements, I’d like to cut to the chase by sharing just a few of my favorite flavors of spring.

Just the other afternoon, while perusing a local and eye-catching seafood case, it was recommended to me that I try the wild caught Petrole Sole. It looked so fresh, and with a wonderful white color and a crisp, odorless smell, I did just that. Along with the promising recommendation, I grabbed some multi-colored cherry tomatoes, asparagus, capers, and shallots. It was going to be a gorgeous first evening of spring, and it called for a celebration. To me, fish goes just as nice when paired with a red as it does with a white wine. However, my preference for this light, but complex Petrole Sole and fresh asparagus calls generously for a white. I would suggest organically grown Snoqualmie  2005 Naked Riesling for its attention to crisp pear and apricot undertones, with just the right hint of sweet earthiness and spice ($9).

For a perfect sunset on the patio, try the following delicious appetizer paired with a 2006 Bonterra Vineyards Chardonay ($12). Also organically grown, this wine is fragrant of apples and flowers, has a hint of oak, with a light and smooth butteriness, all to complement this fabulous twist on an all time favorite. A chicken, arugula, green chile, and goat cheese quesadilla will offer an array of flavors. With spice and pepper from the arugula, heat from the green chile, light creaminess from the goat cheese, and savory, roasted taste from the chicken, your mouth will be cheering, and your eyes will be entranced because this is truly a beautiful dish.

When choosing a meat to prepare in the spring, I tend to look for a nice cut of pork tenderloin. Pork tenderloin says it all in its name: tender. With dry rubs, sweet and tangy BBQ sauces, or olive oil, garlic, herbs, and salt and pepper, this meat is versatile  and always a crowd pleaser. I like to go with a peppercorn marinade and grill the meat to perfection. Serve it over a bed of warm vegetable couscous, and pair with 2005 Chalk Creek Petite Sirah ($6). I love petite sirahs. They are heavy enough to stand up to a piece of meat, yet light enough to compliment the freshest catch of salmon. Petite refers to the size of the grape, not the vine. Thus for a petite sirah, the grape is simply a smaller version of the syrah grape, generally producing a more tannic wine that is typically darker in color than a syrah. The Chalk Creek in particular offers a smoothness in blackberry and plum flavors, nice acidity with herbal overtones and black pepper, and firm texture and mouth-feel.

Chicken, Arugula, Green Chile,
and Goat Cheese Quesadilla
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, grilled and cubed
1/2 store-bought bag arugula, coarsely chopped
1- 4 oz can chopped green chiles
1- 8 oz log goat cheese
4 burrito size flour tortillas
2 tablespoons butter

Make Ahead:
Marinate 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts in enough olive oil to coat, salt and pepper to taste. Grill, bake, or saute chicken breasts. While cooking, brush your favorite BBQ sauce evenly onto each breast. Remove from heat when internal temperature of chicken breast has reached 170 degrees F. Let the chicken breast rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into 1/2 inch cubes.

To Make Quesadillas:
Heat a saute pan over medium heat. While heating, spread one whole side of each tortilla with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Butter side down, sprinkle 1/4 of the goat cheese on 1/2 of a tortilla. Then sprinkle 1/4 of each of the remaining ingredients (chicken, arugula, and green chiles) on the same side of the tortilla as the goat cheese. Fold tortilla in half and set aside. Do the same for the other 3 remaining tortillas and ingredients. Cook quesadillas in the heated saute pan until the tortillas are golden and the goat cheese is melted through.
Cut each quesadilla into 4 pieces. Serve with sour cream or your favorite salsa.

Makes 8 appetizer servings (2 slices per person).

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