Henry Wine Group -- Wine Tasting For The Trade

On their website, the Henry Wine Group says, "Warner Henry began by founding Vintage House Distributors in southern California and eventually acquired a select group of regional fine wine companies. The merging of this collective formed a company that is now the largest importer, distributor, and broker in the United States dedicated exclusively to fine wines." I can't say if they are the largest, but certainly they pulled out all the stops for the 2010 Trade Tastings, which according to blogger Fred Swan of Norcal Wine, were the first for sixteen years. Touring & Tasting, plus yours truly, were fortunate to be invited by our Henry Wine Group rep, Antonio Gardella, to be included for a fabulous afternoon of tasting and wine education. The Los Angeles Trade Tasting was at the posh Beverly Hills Hotel and featured hundreds of wines, many with the producers present to pour and answer questions and informative panel tastings. I attended the Piedmont Communes Producers Panel--ahh, those lush Barbarescos and Barolos!--the Tuscany Terroir Producers Panel--Chianti and Brunello--and the 2008 Burgundies--including white Burgundy: nectar for the gods! I'm going to try and limit my use of exclamation points, but it will be difficult as I'm feeling effusive. I'll start with the wines I know the least--the French white Burgundies because they were a revelatory discovery for me.
Before the panel began, we were perusing the price points which ranged from $264 to $2250 wholesale per case, meaning the top priced Bouchard Père & Fils 2008 Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru would retail at for at least $375 per bottle (it's selling for $500 and more in some places). I was grousing that the price probably had more to do with hype than anything, but what I learned from the tasting was the true meaning of the word "mouth-watering". Writers often use the word as a synonym for delicious, but in fact, what I experienced was a taste so tantalizingly appetizing that my mouth physically watered at the anticipation of having the experience again--now that is the meaning of "mouth-watering": the involuntary response to a sublime taste experience.  The Sommelier said of this wine, "if you don't like this wine, then get out!" and as a red wine lover, I have to agree that these wines could make a convert of anyone with functioning taste buds. Can you imagine a wine with enough body to have a satisfying weight in the mouth, yet be as light as a spring breeze, filled with the yearning, the promise, the fecundity of the first breath of spring? Do you know the feeling of ebullience that comes after a long winter and the first wave of spring air comes floating in, spurring "spring fever" and heralding a profusion of flowers? That was the experience of this wine. Plus, it evolved. As our panel stated, "this wine you can keep in your glass and every 15 minutes, you'll have something different." The Burgundy producers represented were the above-mentioned Bouchard Père & Fils, Domain Xavier Monnot, Domain Jean Marc Joblot, Domain Albert Morot, and Maison Ambroise. Burgundy has the highest number of appellations d'origine contrôlée (AOCs) in France, and it was fascinating to see the slides of the vineyards that are small lots (some less than a hectare or a little less than 2.5 acres), carefully classified according to their quality by designating the top as Grand Cru, the next highest as Premier Cru and the rest as simply part of the AOC and how a minor change in microclimate or elevation, for example being at the foot of a hill instead of the middle of the hill, does affect the profile of the wine. This was the concept of terroir physically tasted by sampled by tasting the same varietal planted in proximity but with varying influences. A proficient wine connoisseur would be able to elaborate further on this, but suffice to say that I could taste the minerality of the vines in more chalky soil and the round mouthfeel of the old vine grapes. Favorites: the toasty Domaine Xavier Monnot 2008 Meursault Chevalieres, the floral old-vine Maison Ambroise 2008 Nuits St. Georges Vielles Vignes from 150 year old vines, and the floral, spicy, red Bouchard Père & Fils 2008 Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvee Carnot. The wine I drink normally is below $40 per bottle, so this tasting of French white Burgundy was a revelation and much appreciated experience.

I love Italian wine, but I'm even more sure now that they need food to showcase their flavors. I wish we had even a little hunk of Parmesan to nibble with the Tuscan wines that seemed brusque on their own after the finesse of French Burgundy. These were highly-rated wines, for example, the 2004 Poderina Brunello has a 93 point rating from Wine Spectator and the Ciacci Piccolomini 2004 Pianrosso Brunello garnered a 94 point rating. They just needed something edible as a counterpoint to their powerful tannins and earthy flavors. Other exceptional wines were the Luiano 2007 Chianti Classico and the Luiano 2005 Chianti Classico Riserva. Some things I learned: Tuscan winemakers are moving away from 100% new oak in order to "respect the grape"; Sangiovese doesn't grow well above Tuscany which is ideally suited to the grape, however careful selection of the particular clone to fit the individual vineyard is mandatory, also important to preserve the genetic history of the Sangiovese grape; and that the "Classico" part of "Chianti Classico" refers to just 5 or 6 villages that are part of the oldest and original Chianti region. Whereas some Chianti producers can harvest 90 tons of grape per hectare, in the Classico region, only 7.5 tons per hectare are harvested, meaning the grapes are more concentrated, the wine more extracted. 
Lastly, we turn to the Piedmont Producers with their wines that taste and smell like the rich humid air on a summer day in Asti! If the French white Burgundies were the essence of spring, the Piedmont Barolos, Brunellos and Barbera are the essence of a hot summer day with fertile land yielding its ripe bounty. This is the kingdom of noble Nebbiolo which is a sensitive grape, meaning it is difficult if not near impossible to replicate its native growing soil and climate, so the Piedmont remains its regal domain. It is buds early and is harvested late, making it susceptible to coulure, a failure to develop after flowering, and it needs a certain amount of sun to develop the sugars to balance it's natural acidity and tannins. Therefore, each vintage will have its own characteristic. It's a wine to cellar and enjoy over the years, sampling the changes--our panel recommended buying half a case of a vintage to cellar and enjoy. 1971, 2004 and 2005 are particularly excellent vintages with the last two selling at discounts due to the recession. Check back next Thursday for the Italian wine discount special Touring & Tasting is going to run...better yet, sign up for the newsletter I send out every Thursday with wine discounts--no obligation, cancel any time, your information remains private! Newsletter signup.

It was March when we covered Russia in week #8 of Culinary School, and I posted the sauce recipe, but not the full recipe for: RUSSIAN STUFFED CABBAGE:
Sauce Ingredients:
3 ripe tomatoes
1 apple, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. honey
1/4 cup golden raisins, optional
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
Other ingredients:
1 head cabbage
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 lb. ground pork sausage
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 cup cooked rice or barley
4 Tbsp. dill + some for garnish
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream
To make the sauce: cook the tomatoes briefly in water that is at a full boil, just long enough for the skins to split. Save the water for the cabbage. When the tomatoes are cool, peel and seed them. Mash the tomatoes in a saucepan or puree them in a blender. Simmer them in a saucepan with the vinegar, sugar, honey, and raisins for 15 minutes, then salt and pepper the sauce to taste.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Carefully pull apart the largest cabbage leaves and place in boiling water. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the leaves are softened but not mushy. Drain. When cool, trim away the thick base of each leaf so it is is the same thickness as the rest of the leaf (so it will roll easily). Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the onions and pork sausage until the onions are translucent. If the sausage is fatty, drain the excess oil. Put the meat and onion mixture in a mixing bowl and add the raw ground beef, rice, dill, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix well, add the egg and mix well.
With the cabbage leaf base towards you, place a small amount of the meat mixture on the lower third of each leaf, fold up once, fold in the sides, then fold up until the cabbage roll is folded all the way up to the top. Place with the seam side down in a baking pan. Cover the cabbage rolls with sauce, cover the pan with tin foil and bake for 1 hour. Take off the tin foil, spoon the sauce from the side on top of the rolls, then bake uncovered for another 30 minutes. Top with a dollop of sour cream and some fresh dill. Makes 4 servings. Serve with the 2007 Edward Sellars Blanc du Rhone currently in the Touring & Tasting cellar.


Fragrant spices, a chilled glass of white wine...

The subcontinent of India encompasses an astonishing diversity of ethnic groups, religions and climates. Every climate can be found in India, from steamy coastal jungle in the south to the lofty snow-filled heights of the Himalayas, with vast, fertile plateaus in between, allowing the cultivation of all types of spices and herbs. No wonder then that India is the #1 exporter of spice in the world and has played an important role in global trade from the time of King Solomon.  The cuisine is renown for its complexity and variation. Herbs and spices thicken the sauces, provide the means for vegetarian food to have unlimited variety of flavors (the majority of Indians are Hindus who do not kill animals due to the principle of ahimsa--non-violence), and have beneficial health effects.
Two of the most important spice combinations are curry and garam masala.   Curry powder can be made from a long list of spices: coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, red pepper, ginger, garlic, asafoetida, fennel, caraway, cinnamon, clove, mustard, cardamom, mace, nutmeg, and black pepper. But the first five are the most frequent.  The other popular spice blend  is garam masala, which is made with black and white peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, long pepper, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg, star anise and coriander. Regional variations are made with extra ingredients and in southern India are mixed with vinegar or coconut milk to make spice pastes.  Spices are usually roasted or dry-fried in the north. In class, my teammate Mike made lovely stuffed eggplant and Spencer whipped up a delicious, fluffy mango lassi and surprisingly pungent raita. I made tandoori chicken baked en papillote so it was juicy and tender, little wheat pani poori and a fresh pineapple/tamarind chutney.
Cooking the chicken en papillote (in parchment paper) with the lemon and onion steams the chicken and makes it extra juicy and tender.

Tandoori Chicken With Thin-Sliced Onion, Cilantro and Lemon En Papillote:

2 Tbsp. garlic
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger 

1/2 cup plain yogurt

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. chili pepper

2 teaspoons salt

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garam masala

2 pounds chicken--skinless chicken breast

1/4 onion

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

1 whole lemon
2 pieces of parchment paper baking tray liners, cut in half (or 4 pieces of roll parchment paper, each at least 1 foot x 1 foot in size)
Peel and mince the garlic and ginger. Mix it with the yoghurt, lemon juice, chili, salt, paprika, turmeric, cumin, and garam masala in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Cut the chicken breast into long 1" slices, then prick holes all over pieces with a sharp fork so the marinade can be rubbed into the chicken. Mix the chicken in the marinade and rub the marinade all over using the back of a spoon or clean hands. Marinate at least an hour, or better, overnight in the refrigerator with plastic wrap sealing the top of the bowl.
Preheat the oven to 350. Slice the 1/4 onion very thinly. Pull the leaves off the cilantro stems. Slice the lemon in 1/4" slices. For a nice presentation, grill the chicken briefly so the surface shows the grill marks--the inside of the chicken can be uncooked. (This step can be ignored, just proceed by putting raw chicken in the parchment). Lay out one piece of the parchment and put 1/4 of the onion slices on it. Put 1/4 of the chicken strips on top of the onion and top with 1/4 of the cilantro and a slice or two of lemon. Fold up opposite sides of the parchment paper then roll up the open ends and tuck them underneath the parchment packet. Prepare the remaining packets and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Serve the chicken in the parchment paper and cut the top away at the last minute, at the table with scissors or a sharp knife. When the packet is opened, the fragrant cilantro-lemon aroma will be released with the steam. Serves 4. Pour a Meritage white wine, like the 2006 St. Supery Virtu (52% Sauvignon Blanc, 48% Semillon) or the 2007 Consentino "The Novelist" (77% Sauvignon blanc 23% Semillon) which are both currently available at a great price on the Touring & Tasting website.
 Pani Poori:
1 cup semolina
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp. salt
Mix dry ingredients, then stir in just enough water to moisten so the dough starts to come together (some flour will remain on the sides of the bowl--knead it into the dough). Turn out onto a well floured board and knead for five minutes. Wrap with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes. Heat your deep fryer oil to 350 degrees. Unwrap and pat the dough into a rough rectangle. Cut into 1" cubes and roll each cube into a small ball with your hands. (Cutting the dough is preferable to pulling bits away because it prevents "creases" in the dough) Roll out each little ball into a thin round . Fry in oil until they puff in the middle and are cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Makes about 2 dozen little pani poori.
Pineapple Tamarind Chutney:
There wasn't time to measure ingredients in class, but basically, I cut 1/2 fresh pineapple into bite-sized chunks and simmered it in a bit of water with 3 heaping tablespoons of jarred tamarind paste, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, allspice, ginger powder, the zest of one lemon and about 1/3 cup sugar. It was sweet, but not cloyingly sweet, while preserving the distinctive tang of the tamarind.


Great Chefs: Alice Waters and Chef Skip

Those of us who adore food owe a debt of gratitude to great chefs like Julia Child who brought fine cuisine to the ordinary household with wit and congeniality. (See more below on the amazing Julia Child from her friend Chef Skip of Santa Barbara) Our copy of "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking" has been gone through cover to cover, but I can't eat classic French food every day.  Don't get me wrong--I love butter! But, I've always struggled to keep my weight down and her sauce recipes are so delicious that I have trouble eating small portions. Fortunately, I LOVE homegrown organic vegetables and my Japanese heritage genetically hardwires me to love seafood and fresh ingredients. I turn to Alice Waters for the synthesis of my passion for growing my own food, supporting local farmer's markets and optimizing my nutrition. Alice Waters dedicates herself to teaching people about  food sourced locally and grown in an environmentally sustainable way. She is the co-creator of California Cuisine and is the Vice President of Slow Food which envisions "a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it and good for the planet." Over the years Alice has garnered countless awards and accolades, including James Beard Foundation awards for Best Chef and Best Restaurant, lifetime achievement awards from Bon Appetit, plus she is listed is as one of the top 10 chefs in the world by Cuisine et Vins de France. Read the excellent 60 Minutes article on her philosophy and achievements.
I used an Alice Waters recipe as a springboard for a salad to include handpicked fennel and avocados from my garden and fresh red leaf lettuce from the farmer's market. I also like my salads a bit tarter, so increased the vinegar and lemon juice. Alice Waters is the co-creator of California Cuisine and co-founder of the Slow Food movement promoting homegrown and locally sourced organic food, so I think she would approve. This avo, grapefruit and fennel salad turned out to be mouthwateringly good, full of wonderful contrasts in texture and flavor.
(see here for a description of Alice Water's Chez Panisse Cafe and a recipe for Halibut Tartare or here for a recipe for Alice Waters beef stew)
1 ruby red grapefruit
1/2 head of red leaf lettuce
1 green onion
3 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. orange juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 avocado
2" fennel stalk
fresh ground pepper
Peel the grapefruit and separate in half. Peel down the side membrane of an end segment. Then using a sharp paring knife, cut the base of the grapefruit segment away from the outside membrane. Continue with the rest of the grapefruit, then set aside. Wash and spin lettuce and tear into bite sized pieces into large salad bowl. Cut the avocado lengthwise in half and remove the pit. Cut lengthwise slices inside the skin, then carefully remove the skin so the pieces are free. Slice the fennel stalk very thinly. Set the avocado and fennel aside. Slice the green part of the green onion into 1/4" pieces and put into a mortar with the vinegar. Grind the green onion into the vinegar and add the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Mix well. Spoon some of the dressing onto the lettuce and toss, using the amount of dressing to your preference (I used half). Taste and sprinkle with additional salt if desired. Plate the salad, then place the grapefruit and avocado slices on top. Sprinkle with the fennel slices, then spoon a bit more of the dressing over the top. Grate fresh black pepper as the final touch. Serves 2 as an entree salad. Pair with a chilled glass of the 2008 Vina Ventisquero Yali Winemaker's Select Sauvignon Blanc.

From Chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse—Berkeley, CA
 Published online by StarChefs
Yield: 6 Servings
    •    6 small heads curly endive
    •    1 large shallot
    •    2 Tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
    •    1 lemon
    •    1 orange
    •    Pinch of salt
    •    2 grapefruit
    •    3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    •    3 avocados
Wash and spin dry the curly endive. For this salad, use only the blanched hearts and save the green leaves for cooking greens. Peel the shallot and dice it fine. Macerate it with the vinegar, 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice and orange juice, and a pinch of salt.
Cut away the grapefruit peel, all the pith below, and the membrane around the grapefruit flesh. Then cut the sections free, carefully slicing along the membranes. Peel a little lemon and orange zest and finely chop enough to make about 1/4 teaspoon of each. When you are ready to assemble the salad, whisk the olive oil into the shallot mixture. Add the orange and lemon zest and taste. Add more olive oil or lemon juice if necessary. Cut the avocados in half lengthwise. Remove the pits. Using a sharp knife, cut the avocados into lengthwise slices about the same size as the grapefruit sections, keeping the skin on. Scoop out the slices with a large spoon. Toss the curly endive and grapefruit sections in a bowl with about two thirds of the dressing. Taste the salad and add more salt if necessary. Arrange on a platter or individual dishes. Distribute the avocado alongside the endive and grapefruit, season them with a pinch of salt, and drizzle the rest of the dressing over them.
WEEK #10 Culinary Arts Class:
In a gorgeous bend of the road in Santa Barbara's hills, Chef Skip--Don Skipworth--and his partner have built an oasis of Asian beauty. The grounds are laced with stone paths, lined by towering bamboo, that weave through through a compound of Japanese ryokan inspired buildings. Julia Child's cat was at the top of one of the Japanese gates, meowing and accepting head rubs; Chef Skip inherited the kitty when his dear friend Julia Child passed away. He is a chef, consultant, educator, and writer with a generous heart who has welcomed Culinary Arts students to his home for the last five years to share his vast knowledge and regale them with his stories. Inside the main residence is a cook's dream--a palatial kitchen with two islands and miles of counter space. Outside is a barbeque grill large enough to cook a side of beef. We were awestruck, but Chef Skip immediately made us feel at home--providing us with refreshments and bringing us to his table to ask each student in turn about their background and their dreams. He could have been speaking about himself when he described Julia Child as being totally without pretense or egotism and having a great sense of humor. His passion is for Asian food and we soon were busy chopping and cooking ribs, chicken thighs, drumstick "popsicles" and stir-fry. We learned so much that it isn't possible to detail everything within this post, but his knowledge of cuisine and technique is so vast that he had tips on technique for every detail of prep and cooking.
For example, he showed us how to read the bubbles that come out of the end of wood chopsticks when they're plunged into cooking oil in order to gauge the temperature and how to skin a chicken but leave the wing and breast intact by using only five quick cuts. I had heard of a "mother sauce"--a broth flavored with the Chinese 5 spices, which include all five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. It is made with Chinese cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger and ground cloves and used over and over--storing in the refrigerator or freezing between uses--and accumulating the flavors of the foods cooked in it. We had chicken thighs simmered for an hour and the taste was wonderfully complex and unique! I've often noted that the best indicator of a good meal is complete silence as the diners are absorbed in the experience of savoring a meal. That was definitely the case here, our chatty group of twelve became suddenly quiet when we sat down to consume our meal; our senses were completely engaged. I hope to obtain some recipes, including the chicken "popsicles" which involve a deft method of preparing wings similar to frenching but better, then frying them in a light tempura-like Chinese batter and dipping them in flavorful sauce.  I will post them if I can. I'll end with an anecdote: Chef Skip remarked to Julia Child one day on her fame as a cultural icon. She replied, "Well, I don't know about being an icon--but it's great to get the good table at restaurants!".


"The Greatest Meeting Of Land And Sea"

Even under steel gray clouds, Highway 1 between Monterey and Cambria is still one of the most stunningly beautiful drives in the world. Big Sur is pristine with just the narrow ribbon of highway tracing its circuitous route to intrude on nature. I craned my neck to peer at the few glass houses perched impossibly at the top of rocky precipices, windows opening to the awesome expanse of blue sea. The sense of vast time is palpable in a place where the landscape has molded by time so long in duration that human history is just a recent blip and the human footprint so faint. I craned my neck to look at the homes with their panoramic views and imagined that being in one would be what Kate Winslet experienced at the prow of the Titanic--heading into the power and immensity of the ocean, face to the salty wind, with every cell vibrantly alive from the experience!
We stopped at Nepenthe to browse their gift shop of books, organic lotions, shiny Indian sari throws, pottery and jewel-tone, drapy, Northern-California-style clothes--and to have lunch. Their roasted beet salad was served on a crunchy breadcrumb/nut base and the crostinis with baked goat cheese were fabulous dipped in their tomato/smoked cheddar soup.
We'd been to Santa Cruz, had a nice Italian meal at Cafe Mare and made our usual visit to Shadowbrook where the meat eaters had prime rib and I had the scallops with sherry mushroom sauce and spinach.
I appreciate that all their seafood is sustainably harvested! If you haven't been to Shadowbrook, make a point to go in the evening when strands of twinkly lights illuminate the hillside garden. It's a romantic spot, but kid and teen friendly. The prices are high--$20-$30 per entree, but one can eat in the convivial "Rock Room" with a reasonably priced menu of sandwiches and salads. We shared a great half bottle of the Seghesio Vineyard Zinfandel with our dinner. I wish more restaurants served half bottles--one glass of wine with dinner for each of us is perfect. When eating out, we usually order by the glass which is ok in restaurants with a decent wine list, but in many, the wines by the glass are noticeably inferior to the ones by the bottle. We stopped at Moonstone Beach in Cambria on the way down to have our Easter egg hunt in the chilly wind. It was a happy Easter--hope yours was too!
Here are two recipes from the Shadowbrook website:
Sauté of Chicken Breast with pancetta, artichoke, sun-dried tomato and sherry vinegar.
8 Half Chicken Breasts
Olive Oil
6 Oz. Pancetta, diced & cooked
1/4 Cup Sun-Dried Tomato, julienned
6 Baby Artichokes, cooked, trimmed and halved
1/2 Bunch Mustard Greens, stems removed, leaves torn in bite-sized pieces
6 Oz. Chicken Stock
1 Oz. Sherry Vinegar
2 Oz. Butter
Directions: Dredge chicken breasts in flour. Shake off excess. Heat oil in pan. Sauté chicken until brown at edges. Turn, sauté one minute more. Pour off excess oil, add pancetta, sun-dried tomato, artichokes and greens. Add stock and vinegar and reduce by half. Remove chicken, add butter and swirl until incorporated into sauce. Divide sauce among plates and place breasts on top. Serves 4.

Coffee Mousse A delightful dessert from Shadowbrook
2 Whole Egg Whites
1 Tbsp. Instant Coffee
1/8 Tsp. Salt
9 Tbsp. White Sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1/8 Tsp. Cinnamon
2 3/4 Tbsp. Toasted Almonds
Directions: Chill mixing bowl and whip in freezer for least 1/2 hour. When chilled, mix egg whites on high until well blended and slightly stiff or peaked. Add sugar, instant coffee, vanilla and salt. Blend thoroughly, then add whipping cream slowly until soft peaks form. Be careful not to overmix or the mousse will become grainy. Pip mousse into champagne glasses and top with toasted almonds and cinnamon. Freeze until 1/2 hour before serving.

My last post described stuffed acorn squash from the Dushanbe Tea House. I created a recipe based on their stuffed acorn squash, using dried fruit instead of raisins and leaving out the eggplant and walnuts. It looks and tastes like an elaborate recipe, but is easy to make. It makes a tasty accompaniment to lamb or pork chops, or can be made with vegetable broth and served as a vegetarian entree.

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed With Couscous And Dried Fruit:

1 large acorn squash, halved and seeded

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp.  olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup celery, chopped fine
1/4 cup carrots, chopped fine

1/4 cup sliced button mushrooms

1/2 cup chickpeas, drained

1/4 cup dried fruit, chopped fine or 1/4 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. salt 

1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 cup uncooked couscous

1/8 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put squash halves cut side down on a piece of tin foil on a baking sheet and bake 30 minutes, or until tender. (I used my solar oven and baked the squash for about 3 hours). Put brown sugar and butter in a small glass dish and microwave briefly to melt the butter, or put into a small saucepan and heat briefly until butter melts. Stir the mixture with a brush and brush it over the meat of the squash. Wrap the squash halves in tin foil and set back in the still warm oven to keep the squash warm. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan (with a tight fitting lid for steaming the couscous later). Stir in the garlic, celery, mushrooms and carrots, and cook 5 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Mix in the cumin, chickpeas and dried fruit; cook another 2 minutes. Add the broth and mix well. Add the couscous and stir; then cover the saucepan tightly and turn off the heat. Let sit for ten minutes, then stir the couscous. Stuff squash halves with the couscous mixture and top with slivered almonds. Serve with lamb or pork chops if you like, and the 2003 Glass Mountain Syrah.
Serves 4.