Exotic Comforts ~ Sweet Pairings

Posted in Dinners, Family, Food, Pairings, Recipes, Wine on October 27th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

This is one of my favorite “special occasion” recipes that reminds me of the flavors that I grew up with. I used to take for granted the exotic aromas, colors, and tastes of the foods from my childhood, from my parents’ birth country. But now I embrace them and search for the perfect pairings that will only enhance these fabulous flavors!

My mother taught me at a young age that every aspect of Indian cooking has a practical “reason” or benefit. For example, Turmeric is used in almost all Indian recipes, and has an extensive medicinal repertoire! Everything from its antioxidant qualities to its anti-inflammatory uses, has awarded this amazing spice its invaluable reputation. Additionally, the use of ginger in almost all of my childhood meals was used to aid in curing sore throats, colds, and even used in preventative measures. Roasted Fennel seeds are a common “after dinner treat” that aid in digestion. While many of these ingredients add flavor and depth, Indian food is also known for its heat – both warm and spicy!

Riesling is known to be an optimal pairing for spicy foods. I find that the acidity in the 2012 Donnhoff Estate Riesling offers a perfect balance to the wine, and the sweetness of it pairs perfectly with this dish. Enjoy!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Serves 4 dinner portions

For the marinade:
1 cup whole milk yogurt
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons ground turmeric *
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon garam masala *
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (make small slits in pieces of chicken before marinating)

* Can be found at specialty markets and grocery stores, or at Specialty Asian/Indian grocers – or try Kalustyans

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola oil
¼ cup blanched whole almonds
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons fresh chopped serrano chili or 1 teaspoon ground cayenne **
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 28 oz can Jersey Fresh pureed tomatoes OR 2 to 3 (14 to 15 oz) cans whole tomatoes, chopped, juices reserved
Pinch of sugar
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

** This dish is moderately spicy. The heat level can be adjusted by adding more or less chili or cayenne according to your preference.

Marinate the chicken: Combine the first 8 ingredients together in a large bowl. Add chicken and combine well. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, grill the chicken (wiping off any excess marinade) on a hot grill or grill pan, or you can broil it – for ten to twelve minutes, or until charred in certain areas. CHICKEN WILL NOT BE COOKED THROUGH AT THIS POINT. Remove from grill/ grill pan/ oven and cut into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a small pan. Add blanched almonds and sauté at moderate heat until slightly browned stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Let the almonds cool completely, and then pulse them in a food processor until finely ground. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large enameled cast iron casserole (I used my Le Crueset.) Saute the onions, garlic, and ginger over moderate heat, about 8 minutes. Add the next 5 ingredients and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes (if not using Jersey Fresh, add only one and a half cans of the reserved juices,) sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and simmer for about 20 minutes, on medium low, stirring occasionally. Sauce should be slightly thickened at this point.

Add the cream and the almonds, stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the chicken, simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cilantro leaves at this point if you wish, take off the heat, and serve with basmati rice and/or warm naan.

Sumptuous Summer

Posted in Family, Food, Recipes on July 29th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

The farmers markets are full of colorful, bright, and fresh produce right now…. so I am taking advantage of summer’s bounty! When using farm fresh produce, there is no need for heavy seasonings or altercations of flavor. What you see is what you get, and it’s nature’s best representation of the season. Here are some of my favorite summer ingredients in both sweet and savory creations…

Strawberries
Although I first used ripe, sweet strawberries in this recipe in the late spring, I’ve been making this throughout the summer as well with equal success. The sweet fruit shines and is perfectly accompanied by the heat of black peppercorns, and the acidity of the vinegar. Perfect topping for toast or for goat cheese bruschetta! – Credit to old school Gourmet Magazine and Sejal for introducing me to this recipe! Strawberry Preserves with Black Pepper and Balsamic Vinegar: In a small heavy saucepan, combine 2 cups strawberries (trimmed and quartered,) 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons water, and 1 teaspoon cracked fresh black pepper. Simmer the mixture, skimming the foam occasionally, for 15 minutes or until thickened. Let cool completely – this will keep, covered, for up to a month.

Sour Cherries
While I love snacking on the sweeter bing or rainier cherries throughout the summer season, these tart little gems only have a 2 to 3 week season here in NY/NJ (early July) and are the perfect ingredient for pies, tarts, and preserves! I experimented with a sour cherry salsa which unfortunately accentuated the tart, astringent flavor. More successful was the sour cherry preserves that I made – a great topping for ice cream, or wonderful even in savory appetizers (placed on top of a toast with melted robiola cheese.) One of my favorite desserts is Sour Cherry Turnovers (click here for the recipe.)

Blueberries
We picked blueberries at a local farm the other day – there really are only a few things that can compare to beautiful, ripe, NJ blueberries in July! So, naturally, we brought our stash home, proceeded to snack on them throughout the rest of the day, and stuck a few cups-full in the freezer. I made this blueberry smoothie the next morning – so delicious and the perfect anti-oxidant rich breakfast for my family! Creamy Blueberry Smoothies: Combine in a blender (I use my vitamix for a very smooth texture) – 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1/4 cup skim milk, 3/4 cup plain or vanilla lowfat yogurt, 1 teaspoon honey. Blend until completely smooth, and enjoy immediately! (Throw in some flax or chia seeds for an extra healthy boost!)

Shishito Peppers
I don’t often find these in the markets in NJ, but every now and again I will stumble upon a gorgeous batch of shishito peppers at one of the Manhattan open markets… No matter what my menu is for that evening, I somehow find a way to incorporate these delightful, slightly spicy little peppers! The entire pepper is usually eaten, seeds and all – and the way that I prepare them is just a little olive oil, sea salt, and a hot skillet – blistering them slightly all over. I am getting hungry just typing this! This is a very general recipe – the qty of the ingredients depends on the size of the pan you are using… Blistered Shishito Peppers: Heat a skillet over medium high heat, and add a good amount of extra virgin olive oil to coat the pan. You want the oil to be pretty hot… Add the peppers, and make sure that they are coated with the oil. Then, leave the peppers alone for a minute or two per side. They will blister and after about 4 to 5 minutes total cooking time, they are done. Transfer them to a serving plate and immediately add some flaky sea salt, keep a small empty bowl nearby so that you can discard the stems as you eat… Enjoy!

Sweet Corn
Every summer around this time, I think of the sweet corn that one of the farmers at the Ithaca Farmers Market sold to us a few years ago… He took his pocket knife, cut off a little section of yellow and white kernels from the cob, and offered it to us to taste. It was by far the sweetest, and most savory corn I ever had – RAW too, to top that! We as a group proceeded to buy what seemed to be a truckload of corn from him, and the recipes that week were endless. Click here for a recipe for Summer Corn Pesto that is a great accompaniment to any pasta of your choice. Click here for a fabulous sweet corn soup recipe… I topped it with the meat of grilled langoustines, but you could just roast off some corn kernels to top, or any other accompanying vegetable on top would be great too…

And the list goes on… mangoes, and pineapples, eggplant,  summer squash…… I’ll leave those to my next post – I’ve got to choose amongst a dozen or so tomato recipes so stay tuned! :)

Sweet Corn Soup

Posted in Food, Recipes on July 27th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

Make this soup with the season’s sweetest crop of corn!

Sweet Corn Soup

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
10 to 12 ears of fresh sweet corn, shucked, and kernels cut off of the cobs – this should yield 7 to 8 cups of corn (I used yellow and white mixed – but use whatever you want as long as it’s fresh!)
4 1/2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chives, chopped

Melt butter and olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and fennel and saute until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and saute about a minute until fragrant. Add the corn and mix together with all of the other ingredients, making sure corn is well coated with the butter, oil, and bits of garlic, about 3 minutes. Add water and increase heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer on low, partially covered, for about 15 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender (I used my vitamix for a super smooth and creamy result – you may have to do this in portions) and blend until completely smooth. Transfer the blended soup back to the soup pot, add salt and some generous pepper grinds to taste, and keep warm. You may make the soup up to this step, transfer to tight sealed containers and refrigerate for up to one day.

When ready to serve, rewarm soup over medium heat, stirring. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with chives, and serve. We had fresh langoustines from Metropolitan Seafood the day we served this, so we grilled them off and topped the soup with the langoustine meat. I roasted fennel and topped one of our guest’s bowls with that instead instead to keep it vegetarian. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Tart Pockets!

Posted in Food, Recipes on July 27th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

Sweet and Tangy, topped with a decadent scoop of vanilla ice cream – this dessert screams summer and is one of my favorites to make (and eat!) Recipe courtesy of The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet

Sour Cherry Turnovers

Crust
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (unbleached)
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced
1 8oz package of cold cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces

Filling
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups sour cherries, pitted (s/b 2 1/4 cups after pitting)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of the food processor and process until blended. Add the diced cold butter and pulse 10 to 15 times, until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Add the cream cheese and pulse about 30 times or until large, shaggy clumps of dough form. Turn the shaggy dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently 2 or 3 times to create a cohesive dough. Flatten into a 7-inch square (about ¾-inch think) and wrap in plastic. Chill for 30 minutes. Place the dough back onto a lightly floured board and roll into a square about 1/8-inch thick. Trim to a 15-inch square. Using a ruler, lightly score 5-inch increments along all sides of the dough. Cut the dough into 9 (5-inch) squares and chill them while preparing the filling.

Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl to blend. Stir in sour cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Toss until the sour cherries are evenly coated.

Retrieve the crusts from the fridge and divide the filling evenly among one-half of each of the squares, leaving a narrow border along the edges.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk with the milk to create an egg wash. Brush a thin coat of egg wash on the outside border around the fruit. Fold the dough in half over the fruit and press the edges with the tines of a fork to seal. Trim with a bench scraper or knife to make the edges even. Transfer all the turnovers to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat and refrigerate for 20 minutes before baking. While turnovers are chilling, preheat oven to 375°F.

Brush the top of each turnover with a thin coat of egg wash and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Use the tip of a paring knife to cut several slits in the top of each to allow steam to escape during baking. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate front to back, and bake 10-15 minutes longer, until the pastry is golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve the turnovers warm or at room temperature. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if desired. Makes 9 turnovers.

A Smokin’ Grain Salad

Posted in Food, Recipes on April 14th, 2013 by nita – 4 Comments

The warm”ish” weather finally seems to be here to stay, and so our grills and deck are officially open for business! I’m dusting off my bbq and grill recipes along with some fun accoutrement ideas. My mind is set on using the olive oil that I bought during my last trip out to California… The Original Smoked Olive Oil from the company the Smoked Olive.

I was strolling back to my hotel in La Jolla after dinner one evening, and I passed a charming little shop called We Olive. They sell all sorts of olive oils and vinegars from regions of California (and even have wine tastings with bizarre varietals from all over the state! They specialize in bringing in wines from artisanal producers with small case production – I tasted 100% mourvedre from Santa Barbara as well as a Roussanne from Mendocino!) Getting back to the oil… The smoked olive oil caught my eye, so I asked to taste it. The obvious “wood fire” flavor, to my pleasure, was not masking the rich and buttery tone to the oil. It had all the characteristics of a quality olive oil with the added smokiness. They cold smoke the oil, giving it the flavor without exposing it to heat or light. The result is fabulous and the uses for it are endless! I’ve drizzled it over warm potatoes or hearty greens in the past, but today I wanted to use it in a different way. I made a vinaigrette with this oil, some aged balsamic, and a touch of garlic. The result was a smooth and elegant dressing that reminded me a little bit of an upscale barbecue sauce. So here is the recipe that I built around it!

Smoky Farro Salad

2 cups water
5 oz (or 3/4 cup) farro
1 teaspoon salt
1 small spring onion, chopped
1 medium sized tomato, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons snipped chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons smoked olive oil

Combine water and farro in a small pot. Add salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until farro is cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the farro and place in a large shallow bowl and cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, combine onion, tomato, chives, and parsley in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Whisk the garlic and balsamic together – and continue whisking, adding the oil in a steady stream, until the vinaigrette is combined. When the farro is cool enough, add to the onion/tomato mixture. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette. This can be served right away or kept overnight in your refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Serves 4 as a side.

Has spring sprung!?

Posted in Dinners, Food, Recipes on March 26th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

Silly question, indeed… but I ask this as yesterday we were contemplating whether the snow was going to accumulate to the inch that the weathermen had promised! The rest of the week seems to be cooperating with the season’s expectations though, so hopefully we will be seeing our vases full of spring flowers and our salads full of ramps soon enough!

Despite the looming gray skies of past, some precious gems did turn up at the market the other day! I found fresh morels, baby carrots in a rainbow of colors, baby golden and red beets, and fiddlehead ferns. I used all of the vegetables in delicate preparations, as their individual flavors were the focus(es) of the meal! I roasted the carrots and beets with just a hint of garlic and olive oil; and sauteed the fiddleheads (blanching them first) in a little oil and just added a sprinkling of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. The morels were sauteed and then finished in a pan sauce for the buffalo rib eye steaks we cooked that night. They offered a deliciously earthy component to the whole meal and at least for that evening – we certainly did believe that Spring had Sprung!

Buffalo Ribeye Steaks with Morel Pan Sauce

3 8oz Buffalo Ribeye Steaks (my source was D’Artagnan)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1/2 lb fresh morels – large ones cut in half
1 6oz container of veal demi glace (my source was D’Artagnan)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Preheat your oven to 425F. Salt and pepper the steaks and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium sized saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until softened, about 4 minutes – try not to brown them. Add the morels and saute with the onions. The morels will give off liquid – saute until the morels are not giving off anymore liquid. Add the demi glace and simmer on low.

Heat a large saute pan on medium high heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Sear the steaks on both sides – about one and a half minutes on each side, do not exceed 3 minutes total. Transfer the steaks to a baking sheet and place in the oven for 4 minutes, until medium rare. Remove the steaks onto a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, empty the shallot/morel/demi glace mixture into the large saute pan and maintain the medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. Add the wine and simmer for another couple minutes. Mix the butter and flour together into a paste. Add to the sauce and whisk until the sauce begins to thicken. Stir in the chives and take off heat.

Slice the steaks thinly and serve with the pan sauce. This serves my family of 4 with a little bit leftover – we had this with our melange of spring vegetables.

Epitomizing Comfort Food

Posted in Dinners, Family, Food, Pairings, Recipes, Wine on February 7th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

Feeling incredibly lucky to be the recipient of any foodie’s dream gift, Thomas Keller’s French Laundry/Ad Hoc cookbook set (Thx RAP!), I decided to follow master Keller’s instructions for a comfort classic… Chicken Pot Pie. This is the epitome of comfort food for Manish. No matter how strict he is on his carb or dairy intake for the week, he always makes room for a good pot pie.

This recipe is super easy and delicious! It takes time though – and a little bit of patience. So give yourself a few hours, follow his instructions, and get ready for a real treat! I personally didn’t veer from the recipe at all – but next time I wouldn’t mind adding some peas, maybe a smidge of garlic, and just a tad more cayenne to the bechamel. The crust is to die for!

Thomas Keller’s Chicken Pot Pie, AdHoc Cookbook

Pie Crust:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks of butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
About 5 tablespoons of ice water

Preparation:
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Then add the butter and toss to coat with flour. With your hands or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour, tossing and incorporating any pieces of butter that have settled at the bottom of the bowl, until the butter pieces are no larger than a pea. Drizzle 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of ice water over the top and, using a fork, mix the dough until it holds together when pinched: add the remaining tablespoon of water if the dough is very dry. Knead the dough until it is completely smooth and the butter is incorporated. (I used all 5 tablespoons)

Divide the dough in half, with one piece slightly larger than the other (the larger crust will be the bottom piece). Shape each half in a 1 inch thick disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for atleast one hour, or up to a day. (if the dough does not rest, it will shrink as it bakes.)

If the dough is too hard to roll, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes or pound it a few times with a rolling pin. Lightly flour the work surface and rolling pin. Lightly dust the top of the large disk with flour and roll it out to a 13 to 14 inch round about 1/8 inch thick: roll outward from the center, rotating the dough frequently and adding a little flour to the work surfaceor dough as needed to prevent sticking. Fold the dough in half and transfer to a 9 to 10 inch pie plate, gently easing the dough into the corners and up the sides.

Roll out the second piece of dough in the same manner, to a 12 inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate both doughs for 15 minutes.

Makes one 9 to 10 inch double crust pie.

Chicken Pie Filling:
1 cup of 1/2-inch pieces red-skinned potatoes
1 1/4 cups of 1/2-inch pieces carrots (cut on the diagonal)
12 white pearl onions
3 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
24 black peppercorns
1 1/4 cups of 1/2-inch pieces of celery (cut on the diagonal)
2 cups of shredded cooked chicken

Bechamel Sauce:
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
3 cups of whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
Pinch of cayenne

1 egg, beaten

Preparation:
Roll out the dough, place one piece in a 9 or 10 inch pie plate and the second on a baking sheet, and refrigerate.

Put the potatoes, carrots, and onions in separate small saucepans with water to cover and add 1 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig, and 8 peppercorns to each pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the vegetables, discard the bay, thyme, and peppercorns, and spread on a baking sheet. Cut the onions in half.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice water. Blanch the celery until just crisp-tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
Drain, transfer to the ice bath, and chill just until cold. Drain and add to the baking sheet with the other vegetables.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust the heat as needed so that the mixture does not brown. Whisk in the milk, lower the heat to keep the bechamel at a gentle simmer, and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups, 30 to 40 minutes; move the whisk over the bottom and into the corners of the pan to be sure the bechamel doesn’t burn.

Position the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Strain the bechamel through a fine-mesh conical strainer into a spouted measuring cup. Season with salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, and cayenne.

Remove both doughs from the refrigerator.

Scatter the vegetables and chicken into the pie shell. Pour the bechamel over them. At this point, if the top crust is too hard to shape, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Moisten the rim of pie shell with some of the beaten egg. Cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away the excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top crust with the egg. Cut a small vent in the center of the dough with a small cutter or the tip of a paring knife to allow steam to escape.

Bake on the lower oven rack until the crust is a rich golden brown, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If necessary, move the pie to the center rack during the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the crust. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut the pot pie into 6 wedges and serve warm.

I didn’t have any California Chardonnay on hand to pair with this (surprise surprise) but wanted something with a level of richness, but of course good balance, that would go well. I chose the 2011 Edi Keber Collio Bianco. A blend of Friulano and Ribolla Gialla, the wine is fermented and aged in cement vats which results in great weight, fruit, and balance while still retaining a load of minerality. Love it!

The sloppy photo above is just proving how impatient we all were to eat this last night after following meticulous instructions, and waiting! But it WAS worth the wait… So go ahead and run to the grocery store now – it’ll be the perfect meal to make when you are snowed in this weekend! :)

Happy Birthday baby girl…

Posted in Family on January 21st, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

3 year old Maya

I have very fond memories of Maya’s past birthdays. As most moms, I take pride in all of her achievements and am so in awe of the beautiful young lady she has become. So why is it that I can’t help but carry tissues around with me for the past few weeks – in anticipation for this very day to come. Her fourteenth birthday. (Sniff sniff… tear tear)

Maya, sweetheart, this is for you. I am not the author, but I might as well be, because this poem verbalizes everything that I feel inside. I love you so much. You are my best friend. And I am so lucky that you have matured into a daughter who sometimes has a better head on her shoulders than I do! (I said SOMETIMES!)

THOUGH YOU ARE GROWN, by Cynthia Sieving
I remember years ago, you were so little then,
Sometimes I can’t help but wish, that you were small again.
I’ve cried when you’ve faced heartaches, and saw that as you grew,
Nothing broke your Spirit, instead it strengthened you.
I’m filled with mixed emotions, as I hold back all the tears,
And with much pride remember, back so many years.
When I first held you in my arms, if only I’d have known,
The years would feel like moments, after you had grown.
You aren’t a child,though in my eyes, I guess you’ll always be,
that baby girl who changed my life, and means the world to me.

Maya - almost 14

Happy 14th Birthday my darling. I am always here for you. You are my perfect little gift that I will be forever soooooo thankful for.

I LOVE YOU!

A journey from Burgundy to Vouvray

Posted in Pairings, Wine on January 19th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

First, I need to be clear that this is not an actual blog post about a trip that I took from Burgundy to Vouvray… nor is it exclusively about Burgundy and Vouvray. I wanted to write about a style of white wine that I’ve become very fond of and the “journey” that has led me to my discoveries…

My love of racy, mineral, and high acid wines has traveled many paths in these past few years. Once a young woman who never swayed from ordering “house whites,” I’ve read, tasted, and experienced my way through numerous regions of the world that offer many interesting and complex white “gems.” Being introduced to the wines on the Kimmeridgian trail marked the beginning of my journey, and seven years later, I can say that my travels are far from complete. French, Italian, Spanish, and some intriguing varietals from California and Oregon have all made their presence at my dinner table.

I am often asked the infamous question “Show me your favorite wine,” or “What’s the best wine in the shop?” These are LOADED questions, as one can imagine… My favorite wine in the shop really depends on the time of year, what I am eating, the people I’m with, and ultimately… my mood. If asked this question 6 years ago, I would have probably shown you the latest, most exciting white Burgundy that we brought into the shop. But today, the wines that excite me need to tell a story, they need to have an underlying complexity that makes me experience something different with every sip. White Burgundy definitely fits the bill, but the list goes on…

How about a dry Riesling from Alsace, Austria, or Germany? Here, yellow and green fruit is flanked by bright floral notes and stony minerality. Sancerre or a value driven Sauvignon Blanc from the Touraine are loaded with citrus, slate, and stones. Albarino from the Rias Baixas region in Northwestern Spain boasts stone fruits and tons of acidity. Pigato from the coastal Liguria region in Italy possesses great fruit but some briny characteristics as does the wine from Muscadet  in the Loire (100% Melon du Borgogne) very clean, crisp, dry, and a perfect match for oysters! Or how about the “Nita wine” that we are now sold out of at the shop – the Cour-Cheverny from the Loire? A style that tastes like a blend of two of my favorite grapes – chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc… but it’s made entirely of the romorantin grape.

Then we get into defying all norm as we try the wines from Teutonic Wine Company from Oregon – mostly German and Alsatian-style varietals, residual sugar intact, but not at all noticeable due to the high acidity. These are geeky wines and oh so incredibly delicious!

But I find myself going back to a varietal that is so often under-rated and neglected… Chenin Blanc. I have tasted Chenins from not only the Loire, but from Tasmania, from California, from South Africa, and in sparkling form… and they have proven to be extremely versatile wines. However, the chenins that I have swooned over hail from the Loire…

Savennieres is known as the “dry” appellation of Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley, located within the Anjou district. Sandstone and schist make up the soil type of this region; and while the wines tend to have extreme concentration to them, they are extremely high in acid. The cooler climate draws out the ripening process and thus results in a nervy and grippy wine. A few years in the bottle usually mellows the wine and allows the flavors to shine. One of my favorites is Domaine Aux Moines Savennieres – Roche Aux Moines 1992. Honey, citrus, toasted hazelnuts, and loads of acidity. Very cool wine. The 2004 is less oxidative but still holds onto its acidity and great fruit!

This is where the wine is made

Acidity seems to be an ongoing theme with Chenin Blanc. The little Les Grandes Caves St Roch Vouvray is delicious, and one of my favorite house whites. It pairs with everything from sushi to Indian food… oysters to sesame chicken! Read here for my previous post on this wine.

And then there is the region that I hold a little closer to my heart. Not only do the wines drink fabulously when they are young, bright, and fresh… but they age to an elegant and rich style – all the while retaining the utmost acidity. Off dry, dry, and sweet styles – there is a place at my dinner table for every one! Vouvray is an appellation located in the Touraine district in the Loire Valley. Domaine Huet is the producer that I’ll focus on, as the wines are absolutely superb and of the highest quality. Orange zest, fennel, and slate all come to mind when drinking Huet’s wines. But the vineyards all differ slightly with their soil characteristics… My favorites are the fresh and clean Domaine Huet Clos du Bourg Demi Sec 2010 and the honeyed and gorgeous Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Haut LieuMollieux 1er Trie 1993.

The following has been taken from this site from RareWineCo:

The Wines: At their discretion, the estate produces Sec, Demi-Sec, Moelleux, or Moelleux 1ère Trie (“first selection”) from any of the three principal vineyards. A superb sparkling Pétillant is also made, drawing grapes from all three vineyards, as well as from other small parcels on the estate.

Le Haut-Lieu—The original Huët vineyard is nearly 9 hA. It has the richest soils of the domaine’s three crus—a deep limestone-clay—and the wines are generally the estate’s most approachable. In some vintages, small quantities from nearby estate parcels may be added to Le Haut-Lieu.

Le Mont—For many insiders, the argument over Vouvray’s greatest vineyard comes down to two sites: Le Mont and Clos du Bourg. Undisputably a grand cru vineyard, Le Mont enjoys a choice site on the Première Côte. With less clay and more stone than Le Haut-Lieu, Le Mont yields young wines of intense minerality. With age, the wines develop great length and finesse.

Le Clos du Bourg—Gaston Huët believed this to be the greatest of all Vouvray vineyards. With the Première Côte’s shallowest, stoniest soils, its wines often synthesize Le Mont’s intense minerality with Le Haut-Lieu’s generous texture.

So while I have a place at my dinner table for so many mineral laiden well balanced whites, I find myself going back to Vouvray time and time again. Diversely food friendly and delicious!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Posted in Family, Food, Recipes on January 7th, 2013 by nita – Be the first to comment

If I have fresh ricotta in the house, this recipe is a must. Eggs, lemons, and flour are all staple ingredients – so the fresh ricotta is key. I’ve tried many recipes for lemon ricotta pancakes, but I go back to the one published in the September, 1991 issue of Gourmet each time. Light, fluffy, slightly sweet and fresh! There is something about the texture that I enjoy about this recipe. It was originally printed with an accoutrement of sauteed apples, but I just have mine with a light drizzle of pure Vermont maple syrup…

I instagramed this photo yesterday and received numerous messages for the recipe, so here it is!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes (as published in Gourmet Magazine, Sep, 1991)

4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups fresh ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup all purpose flour
melted butter for the griddle
pure maple syrup

Place an oven proof baking sheet in a warm oven (no warmer than 200 degrees F.) In a bowl, whisk together the yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest. Add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until just combined. Set aside. In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Whisk about 1/4 of the whites into the ricotta mixture, and then fold the rest of it in gently but thoroughly. Heat a griddle over medium heat and wait until hot enough for drops of water to scatter over surface. Brush griddle with melted butter, drop 1/4 cups-ful of batter on griddle and cook 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer the pancakes to the baking sheet in warm oven and continue with the rest of the batter, brushing melted butter as needed. Serve pancakes with maple syrup (and dust with powdered sugar if you want!) Makes about twelve 3-4 inch pancakes.