Gas prices rise, summer ‘staycations’ and home entertaining more popular

With gas prices predicted to soar ever higher this summer, instead of planning large trips and eating out, many Americans are turning to ‘staycations’ and entertaining at home to save money. Fortunately, with the growing popularity and convenience of video streaming services coupled with a little creativity and an inspired food and wine pairing, it’s easier than ever to create a beautiful evening at home and make lasting memories with family and friends.

“A beautiful evening can be as simple as watching a favorite movie, while enjoying an excellent meal and delicious wine at home,” says Emmy award-winning chef and cookbook author Giada De Laurentiis.

For cinematic and entertaining inspiration, Giada offers the following movie night entertaining ideas:

* For romance movies, set the stage with traditional decorations like red roses and candles and pay homage to Romeo and Juliet by incorporating Italian-themed ingredients like prosciutto into your dishes. When preparing heartier meals, add depth to your sauces with Merlot.

* For romantic comedies with friends, encourage socializing with movie-themed games to accompany your dinner conversation and consider a crisp, light-bodied red like Pinot Noir.

* For action-adventure, spice it up with your own cast of bold, colorful flavors. Spicy notes from a Chianti will complement your entrees and consider using stemless glassware to minimize spilling.

* For dramatic movies, lighten the mood with pass-around desserts, paired with a light-bodied and refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio.

Giada has also partnered with Bella Sera(R) wines to launch the “Beautiful Evenings with Bella Sera” recipe contest. Through June 30, 2011, home cooks are invited to enter the “Beautiful Evenings with Bella Sera” recipe contest by submitting an original recipe, along with a creative movie recommendation and Bella Sera wine pairing to www.bellaserawine.com. Prize package details are also available on the website.

Movie nights aren’t complete without festive fare. If romance is in the plans, here’s Giada’s take on risotto paired with a delicious Bella Sera Pinot Noir.

Red Wine Risotto with Peas
“Bella Sera Pinot Noir is well balanced with acidity and sweetness. It’s velvety with dark plum aromas and cherry flavors and pairs well with rustic foods,” comments Giada.

Yield: four servings

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup arborio rice, or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup Bella Sera Pinot Noir
1/3 cup frozen peas, defrosted, optional
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the broth and keep it warm over very low heat.

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about eight minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook for about two minutes until the rice is toasted. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about one minute. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about six minutes. Repeat, adding 3/4 cup of hot broth two more times, stirring often, about 12 minutes longer. At this point, the risotto can be made four hours ahead. Refrigerate the risotto (the rice will still be firm) and remaining broth, uncovered, until cool, then cover and keep them refrigerated until ready to proceed.

Bring the remaining broth to a simmer, then cover and keep it warm over very low heat. Stir 3/4 cup of hot broth into the partially cooked risotto over medium heat until the broth is absorbed and the risotto is hot, about three minutes. Add the remaining broth and simmer until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, about five minutes longer. Stir in the peas and parsley. Add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into bowls. Sprinkle additional cheese over and serve.

Show: Everyday Italian, Romantic Dinner Episode
Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
BELLA SERA Italian Table Wine, (C) 2011 Villa di Bella Sera, Healdsburg, CA. All rights reserved.

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