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3 Easy Dinners for Busy Nights + Wine Pairings

3 Easy Dinners for Busy Nights + Wine Pairings

Sep 20 2015

This is a guest post by our friends at The California Wine Club. For more than 25 years, they have been traveling the dusty back roads of wine country, seeking out tiny artisan wineries and selecting their best-handcrafted wines to share with wine lovers all across the country. Great food paired with great wine enjoyed in your own beautiful outdoor space is one of life's best simple pleasures.


Need to get dinner on the table fast?  Here are three delicious recipes to help. Two can be grilled up in the backyard and one is a quick, creamy pasta dish.  Each one was shared with us by an artisan California winery and includes a perfect wine pairing.  What could be easier?



Fish Tacos

This recipe is from Gnekow Family Winery in Lodi.  Their delicious, award-winning Campus Oaks Old Vine Zinfandel is an all-time favorite with members of The California Wine Club.  

“I really like fish tacos with our Pinot Grigio,” says Rudy Gnekow.

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 7 Minutes

Yield: Serves 2


  • 1 lb firm white fish, such as tilapia, snapper, cod, mahi mahi, or catfish
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for oiling the grill grates
  • 1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 medium limes, halved
  • 1/2 small head of green or red cabbage (about 14 oz), cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 6 to 8 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas
  • For garnish (optional) - sliced avocado, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, hot sauce


  1. Oil grill grates with vegetable oil.
  2. Prepare coals or gas grill for direct heat.
  3. Brush fish with oil and garlic; sprinkle with cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cover and grill fish over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, turning once, until fish flakes easily with fork.
  5. Squeeze halved limes over fish.
  6. Heat tortillas as directed on package.
  7. Add fish, cabbage, red onion, cilantro and other toppers to the tortillas and enjoy!


Salt & Pepper Skirt Steak

This recipe courtesy of Colby Red, a wine brand created by winner of multiple winemaker of the year awards Daryl Groom and his son Colby to raise money for heart health research.  At age 11, after two open heart surgeries, Colby convinced his father to help him make wine to raise money for research to help other children with heart defects.  Their goal was to raise $500.  They have since raised close to $600,000.  Now 17, Colby is a national spokesperson for the Children's Heart Association.   

This "salt and pepper" grilled skirt steak recipe is so easy because the seasonings are so simple. Skirt steak is such a juicy, flavorful cut of beef that you don't need to do too much.  Pair with a rich Cabernet Sauvignon.


Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Yield: 6



  • 2 lbs beef skirt steak, cut in 6-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt, to taste


For the marinade:

  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil



  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients and whisk together thoroughly. Add the skirt steak, and toss in the marinade until all the pieces are coated evenly. Cover the bowl and let sit, at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove skirt steak from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Season with freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt. Cook about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare on a very hot, preheated outdoor grill, or on a grill pan indoors. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Be sure to slice against the grain for the most tender results.



Citrus Cream Penne Pasta with Prosciutto

This recipe comes from Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards in Solvang.  Co-founded by viticulturist Louis Lucas and wine enthusiast Royce Lewellen in 1996, this small winery boasts three vineyards totaling 400 acres of vines, in the county’s three main growing regions: Santa Maria Valley, Los Alamos Valley and Santa Ynez Valley.

"Chardonnay has natural acidity that will cut the rich, decadent cream sauce this recipe is based on. The Chardonnay citrus notes will lift the flavor of the butter and accentuate the shallots and mint that are delicately featured in this pasta dish.”

—Megan McGrath-Gates, Winemaker


Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 4



  • 1/4 stick butter
  • 3 large shallots, minced
  • 3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Chardonnay
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 1 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 2 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 12 oz Penne pasta
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto, lightly pan-fried
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese



  1. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until translucent, about two minutes.
  1. Add broth and Chardonnay. Simmer about two minutes over medium-high heat until mixture is reduced to 1/4 cup.
  1. Add cream, lemon peel, orange peel, and cayenne. Simmer about three minutes until sauce thickens slightly.
  1. Add peas, simmer about two minutes just until heated through. Stir in mint and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to sauce, to taste.
  1. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente, stirring occasionally.
  1. Drain and return pasta to pot.
  1. Toss pasta with sauce to coat. Divide pasta among plates or bowls.
  1. Drape pan-fried prosciutto slices atop pasta and serve, passing Parmesan separately.




We hope these recipes inspire you to enjoy good food and great wine on busy evenings.  

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