Cashew Salmon with Apricot Couscous

I was recently asked to be an ambassador for the OohLaLa Wines. (Of course I said yes, wine? SIGN ME UP!) I hadn’t heard of the wine before, but I was intrigued. It took awhile, but a month or so later I finally started to see the OohLaLa wines in my local grocery store. I was looking forward to trying it after wondering what it was like for so long.

I had a recipe I wanted to try for dinner, so I stopped by the store to get the few ingredients I needed and a bottle of wine. I chose the Pinot Grigio because I thought it would pair nicely with the salmon I was making.

Obviously, they are marketing their wines exclusively to women. The label is pretty and girly and I admit, it appealed to me! It looks hip and cool.

I settled in with my music and my glass of bubbly wine while I made dinner.

I made us green salads to go with dinner, with fresh tomatoes from the garden. This dinner was super easy and super fast to make. I prepped everything: chopped the onions, apricots and cashews and then mixed up the yogurt sauce. I used plain Greek yogurt and that made it a little bit thicker, which turned out to be great. Michael and I both LOVED the sauce on the salmon.

The couscous had some green onion, minced ginger and the chopped apricots mixed into it before it cooked. I liked adding things to the couscous but neither of us were particularly impressed with the couscous. It paired with the salmon dish really well but as a stand alone it was kind of blah. I need to add something else to the couscous.

I loved, loved, loved the salmon and the yogurt sauce. I will most definitely make it again. The flavors were so nice together. There was a little bit of a bite in the yogurt (I’m guessing the cumin) and the crunch of the cashews added great texture to the dish.

Now, how was the wine? It turned out to be a sparkling wine! I had no idea. I usually don’t like sparkling wines. I don’t know why…I guess I just think if I want sparkling I’ll drink champagne. But I was pleasantly surprised by the refreshing bubbles and the Pinot Grigio had a zip to it. It was crisp and not sweet and balanced the rich salmon dish nicely.  I did well with this meal. 🙂

QUESTION: Have you tried the OohLaLa wines yet? 

Create Your Own Masterpiece + A Giveaway

Recently I was approached by Barilla to create my very own summer recipe using their new pasta called Barilla Plus. It’s a multi-grain pasta rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber — all things I like. The pasta is made from semolina, oats, spelt, barley, legumes, ground flaxseeds and oat fiber. It was easy to say yes because Barilla is the pasta that I usually buy anyways. It’s tasty and affordable.

I was intrigued by this challenge because cooking is something I’ve struggled with in the past. Over the last few years I’ve been practicing trying new recipes and improving my cooking skills. I was really excited to create my OWN recipe. The first step was visiting my local Farmer’s Market. I wanted to get produce to go in my recipe from a local grower and the Farmer’s Market is the perfect place for that. I also wanted to use some of the things from my own garden.

I love Farmer’s Markets–especially when the booths have samples. 🙂 I admit, I got a little sucked into the free sample tastings (vegan chocolate, goat cheese, guacamole, and bean dip).

But I was on a mission. I needed red onions, garlic, lemons, cherry tomatoes and zucchini for my recipe creation. I would use the tomatoes from my own garden but they aren’t quite ready to eat yet. I did use my own basil.

Then home to cook! Here is the recipe I created:

I crushed and minced the garlic and mixed it into the Greek yogurt with salt, pepper, onion powder and a dash of fresh lemon juice. Then I mixed in some of the feta cheese. This is the part where it depends on the person’s taste so I can’t be exact. I added a little bit more feta because I love the taste. You can always go light on the garlic and feta cheese.

The salmon was baking in the oven with the zucchini while the pasta was cooking. Michael was skeptical about it but started reading the box and was intrigued. He was impressed with the amount of protein that was in the pasta! Who ever heard of protein in pasta?

When the pasta was done cooking, I mixed in some of the Greek yogurt mixture with a bit of the reserved pasta water and mixed it all together until creamy. Then I added the fresh basil, halved cherry tomatoes and the chopped red onion.

The salmon was done so I cut it into smaller pieces and added it to the pasta dish. Michael and I sat outside on our deck with the cool breeze rustling the trees, the sound of the kid’s baseball practice at the school next to us, and the setting sun behind the house. It was peaceful and relaxing after a long week at work.

I lit some candles and Michael poured the wine. I used the book that my brother got me for Christmas to pair the correct wine with dinner. The book was amazing–so in depth. I was able to break it down to a pasta dish with salmon in a lemon cream sauce. Pretty specific, huh? Seriously–this book is crazy. It even lists what wine to pair with McDonald’s fish filet, Dominoes Pizza and Taco Bell’s Gordita. Too funny.

I chose the Bogle Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve had Bogle wines before and enjoyed them quite a bit. The Sauvignon Blanc went with dinner superbly. It was crisp and light, with a hint of sour apple and a sweet, tropical fruit–pineapple perhaps? It balanced the richness of the salmon nicely.

Now for the important part: how was my recipe? It turned out to be wonderful! Somehow I was able to get the vision I imagined onto the plate with success. The flavors were rich and delicious. I loved the creamy Greek yogurt sauce and of course tomatoes, garlic and basic go brilliantly with salmon. This recipe could be tweaked in any way to fit your palate: more garlic or less, goat cheese instead of feta, or chicken instead of salmon. I think all of those things would blend nicely.

I devoured my dinner and so did Michael, in fact we both kind of had second helpings….which is rare. It was just too tasty to pass up. The carb-loading helped my bike ride the next day AND the leftovers were fantastic as a cold lunch. The best part: there wasn’t any of that “I just ate pasta” bloating or Pasta Remorse. Maybe because of the protein content in it? Not sure, but we give that aspect two thumbs up!

Now for the fun part!

BarillaPlus asked me to share the love with some of my readers. I have one $25 VISA gift card to give out and 2 boxes of pasta. I will pick two winners!

1) Follow me on Twitter and tweet: “I want to win a $25 gift card and @BarillaUS pasta from @lisaeirene  at http://wp.me/p116Lc-8D5″ Then leave a comment here telling me you did so.

2) Join my Facebook page and leave a comment here telling me you did.

3) Leave a comment telling me what pasta dish you will create if you win.

I will pick the two winners on Friday, August 17th . Good luck!

Barilla PLUS is available nationally at most major and independent supermarkets or by contacting My Brands, Inc. at 1.888.281.6400 to place an order. For additional information about Barilla pasta and sauce, or to obtain recipes and meal ideas visit www.BarillaUS.com.

DISCLAIMER – WHILE THE PRODUCT WAS PROVIDED TO ME FROM BARILLA, MY REVIEWS AND OPINIONS ARE ENTIRELY MY OWN.