The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

July 11, 2012

Small Bites and Crisp Whites

Family Features
Family Features

TARBORO — (Family Features) Warm weather calls for lighter fare and the simplicity of outdoor entertaining. So, take your entertaining outdoors and chill out by serving up delicious small bites paired with crisp, refreshing white wines.

Pour a glass of Chardonnay and fire up the grill for savory mini pizzas topped with fresh asparagus and marinated artichoke hearts. Then, to really heat things up, serve a spicy side of marinated green beans with a Sauvignon Blanc. End on a sweet note with zesty mini lemon cheesecakes paired with Mirassou California Moscato - as close as one can get to capturing summer in a bottle.

Get started with these recipe and wine pairings from California's Mirassou Winery(r). For more recipe ideas to brighten up your table visit or

Grilled Artichoke and Asparagus Mini Pizzas

Pair with Mirassou California Chardonnay

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Makes 4 servings

2     tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1     cup 2-inch pieces fresh asparagus, halved lengthwise

1/2     cup pitted mixed olives, cut into wedges

1/4     cup roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips

2     tablespoons chopped roasted garlic

1     6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1     14- to 16-ounce ball of pizza dough

8     ounces fresh mozzarella cheese

1/4     cup grated dry jack cheese (plus additional for topping)

Toasted walnuts (optional topping)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in olives, peppers, garlic and artichoke hearts; cook for a few minutes more to heat through. Season with salt and pepper; set aside and keep warm.

Divide pizza dough into two equal pieces. Roll each out into an 8 x 10-inch oval on a lightly floured board, and brush both sides with remaining olive oil.

Grill over medium-high heat for about 1 minute on each side or until puffed and lightly charred. Reduce heat to low and top with cheeses; cook for 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted, rotating pizzas once or twice to help cook evenly.

Top with vegetable mixture and additional dry jack and walnuts, if desired.

Spicy Marinated Green Beans

Pair with Mirassou California Sauvignon Blanc

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Marinate time: several hours

Makes 12 servings

1 1/2     cups white wine vinegar

1 1/2     cups water

1     tablespoon whole black peppercorns

2     to 3 teaspoons crushed red pepper

2 1/2     teaspoons sugar

2     teaspoons kosher salt

1/2     tablespoon whole mustard seed

4     cloves garlic, sliced

2     large stalks fresh dill

3/4     pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed

Place all ingredients except green beans in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Place green beans in shallow dish and pour boiling marinade over top. Let cool, then place in plastic bag and refrigerate several hours or until ready to serve, turning bag occasionally.

Mini Moscato Cheesecakes

Pair with Mirassou California Moscato

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 to 25 minutes

Makes 24 mini cheesecakes

1     cup finely ground gingersnap cookies

2     tablespoons butter, melted

12     ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2     cup sugar

2     tablespoons flour

2     tablespoons Mirassou Moscato

1     teaspoon each: vanilla and lemon extract

1     egg, plus 1 egg yolk, beaten

Store bought lemon curd, lemon zest, mint and fresh raspberries (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350?F, and spray a 24 cup mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Stir together ground gingersnaps and butter in a small bowl. Press about 1 1/2 teaspoons into each cup then press firmly into the bottom of each. Brush any crumbs off the top of the muffin pan and set aside.

Beat cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth; beat in flour, Moscato and extracts on low speed.

Add eggs and beat just until combined.

Spoon equal amounts into each cup (they will be very full).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until filling feels set to the touch.

Let cool completely, and then run a small thin knife around the edge of each to remove from pan.

Place on a platter and top each with lemon curd, lemon zest, mint and fresh raspberries, as desired.

Your Warm-Weather Wine Choice: White or Red?

White wines are perfectly refreshing for warm-weather fare, but what about options for red wine lovers? David Mirassou, wine expert and sixth generation of America's oldest winemaking family, recommends Pinot Noir, a light and versatile red wine that can pair just as nicely with lighter dishes and small bites as many white wines. After all, Mirassou says, just because the weather changes doesn't mean your preference for red wine has to change with it.