Funny that my first post to this blog will be after a week of absolute hell.

My mother fell and broke her hip Sunday night.  She’s 84, three weeks from 85.  But she was in relatively good shape.  According to the plan inside my head, she wasn’t falling and breaking her hip for another five years.  So I was a little hacked off with Sunday night’s adventure.  Learning a new way to cook and eat and driving 30 minute each was to the acute hospital sucked.  There was no other way to put it.  I was living on tortilla chips and guacamole.  Certainly vegan providing you read the package and don’t get the chips made in lard or some other kind of animal fat.

Yesterday they moved her to a skilled facility near my home for her rehab.  I could feel the weight being lifted off my shoulders.  I’ve been on call for the last 7 days and having a couple of pops and then finding out I had to drive to Kaiser was off the table.  So I went to bed on Christmas, stone cold sober.  Never had a drink all day.  For a wino, it was sacrilegious, and painful.

Last night I had enough.  I generally play cellar roulette, a game where I reach into my cellar and drink whatever I grab.  It’s always an adventure.  To add to the fun, then I have to create a dinner that pairs with the wine.  Last night I was a little more purposeful.  I wanted a good bottle of wine.  I deserved it.

2012-12-28 17.47.17

That’s a Freemark Abbey 2001 Sycamore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.  Hello lover!  Time has been kind to her.  I could not believe the structure and character of this wine, eleven years later.  It was still full of fruit, soft tannins, I suspect much softer than when it was first bottled, their wines back then were always pretty tight with a lot of high heat.  Now this one came at you with Dr. Pepper, currents and leather.  The nose did not conceal it’s beauty.  This wine was dark and sexy.  What the hell was I going to make for dinner.

Two weeks ago I went to Metro in Lafayette for lunch with my lender, who has also become a good friend.  I went through the menu looking for the dish that had no cream, no animal products in it.  The closest I could do was a gnocchi with butternut squash in a brown butter.  The point of this adventure is to be good, not perfect.  I’m not going to sit there saying “Oh I can’t have that” and do that nonsense.  My goal is 80%.  In reality I’m about 95% right now.  The things I get tripped up on are butter in the item on a menu when I’m out, and Starbuck’s coffee.  An extra .60 cents for soy milk just pisses me off.  Since I only do it once or twice a week, I don’t worry about it.  But I digress.  The gnocchi and butternut squash was exquisite, and I knew it didn’t need the brown butter.

I had this now open amazing bottle of wine, a butternut squash, some gnocchi and some crimini mushrooms.  It was time.  I pulled out three pans and got to it.  I cut the squash into 1/2 cubes, kind of, uniform in size so they would cook at the same rate.  I got some canola oil and a little bit of sage and heated the spice.  I added the cubed butternut squash over a medium heat and let it cook.  In another pan I got some olive oil, scented that oil with thyme and threw in a handful of cut up mushrooms, cooking them hot and quickly, tossing them often, essentially caramelizing them.   In the third pan I cooked the gnocchi.  Yeah, I could have made them from scratch, but I didn’t.

Once the gnocchi were cooked, I added them to the pan with the squash.  I pan fried the gnocchi while finishing off the squash.  I added the mushrooms, tossed it all and that was that.  I had a hearty wintery dish that matched well with my wine.  Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry to get to it I didn’t take a picture.