RECIPE: Pair Smoked Salmon Frittata w Vergelegen Chard

Smoked Salmon Frittata from Coastal Living, Nov. '03:

This week's Vergelegen Chardonnay has a pale green-gold color with intensely-focused flavors showing citrus, biscuits, toast and ripe fruits. The taste is long and elegant with excellent fruit/wood integration. Best served at 50 - 54° with smoked salmon, oysters, grilled rainbow trout or poultry. Enjoy with this easy, delicate frittata.


Indian Curry and Wine Pairings

The most important fact about Indian curry is that there is not one spice named "curry" in India, though we find "curry powder" on our grocery shelves. Curry is actually a mixture of spices, usually cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, fennel, fenugreek, mace, and peppercorns, in different amounts and combined with other spices, depending on the region of the country and the cook. In India these spice mixtures are called "garam masala".

In researching curry recipes, one finds that India being such a vast and diverse country, the range of curry recipes are quite extensive. In the broadest terms, one could say that the northern curries tend to be like the ones we commonly find in restaurants in this country--quite a bit of dairy used, in the form of ghee (clarified butter), cheese (especially paneer--a soft cheese usually in cube form), and yoghurt. The familiar samosas, Tandoori meats and korma curries come from the north.

The south has more stew-like curries called rasams, kootus and sambars. A good source for recipes is the book "Dakshin Vegetarian Cuisine From South India" by Chandra Padmanabhan. I suppose southern Indian cooking is less familiar because there has been less immigration from that region--similar to how we are more familiar with southern Italian cooking with the emphasis on tomato based sauces, then we are to the more delicate Northern Italian cuisine, since out of the 4.5 million Italians that immigrated to the United States between the years 1880 and 1930, one out of every four was a Sicilian. Anyway, this is just my theory, if any readers can shed light on this, please add your comment to the blog.

What to drink with Indian curry? With such variety in the mixture of spices and the "heat", it's nearly impossible to generalize. But, one can make the case for the full mouth feel and coolness of a Chardonnay (such as this week's special 2006 Saddlerock Chardonnay) or a crisp Pinot Grigio. Mellow (not tannic) red wines like Merlot and Syrah can also pair well when the wines are fruit forward. Since each curry will pair differently, why not have fun and experiment? Pass around two or three wines to taste with your curry and take notes. We'd love it if you would share your findings on the blog!


Notes on Viognier

I'm a red wine drinker--Cab, Barolo, Barbaresco, Pinot Noir--white wine is always my second choice and I'm constantly pushing the limits of how red wine can be paired--into the traditional white wine territory of fish and seafood. But, I love Viognier. Viognier is redolent with aromas of blossoms and apricot, lively, tasty and perhaps the white wine equivalent of Pinot Noir as it is remarkably difficult to grow and is noted for the depth of its character and complexity. Viognier is prone to mildew and unpredictable yields. must be picked at exactly the right ripeness, is finicky and delicate, yet produces wine of full of aromatics.

Viognier was probably brought to the Rhone region of France from Dalmatia by the Romans. It is the single grape varietal allowed in the appellations of Condrieu and Chateau Grillet. But, it is rarely grown, finding its nadir in 1965 when only six acres of vines remained in France. Since then, though, it has attracted enthusiasts, with fine Viognier being produced in the US, South America and Australia. Yalumba is the largest producer of Viognier in Australia, growing the precious grape in the sandy, clay loam of the Eden Valley.

Viognier is wonderful with steamed Dungeness crab. And here's a good tip--the floral, aromatic Viognier is refreshing with spicy food, so stash a bottle of the Yalumba Viognier in the frig for the days you come home with take-out Thai or Indian food.


Using a Mandoline

We'll be grating zucchini for this week's Zucchini Crust Pizza. Using a mandoline makes it easy and neat--but can take a bit of instruction. Click here to see a video with tips on using your mandoline from Fine Cooking.


Is Vegetarian Healthy?

The answer? Yes! You can have all your body's needed nutrition, plus save money by eating vegetarian once or twice a week.
According to the US Department of Agriculture "Vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients." (view website)
There is no worry about getting enough protein. Some vegetable sources like tofu (soy), buckwheat and quinoa have complete protein without the unhealthy fats of meat. Other foods need to be eaten in combination--like rice and beans (think Mexican food), lentils and rice (Indian food). Read more about combinations here.
The US Department of Agriculture goes on to say:
"The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie needs. Follow the food group recommendations for your age, sex, and activity level to get the right amount of food and the variety of foods needed for nutrient adequacy. Nutrients that vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12.

Nutrients to focus on for vegetarians
Protein has many important functions in the body and is essential for growth and maintenance. Protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods. Combining different protein sources in the same meal is not necessary. Sources of protein for vegetarians include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers). Milk products and eggs are also good protein sources for lacto-ovo vegetarians.
Iron functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the blood. Iron sources for vegetarians include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruits (dried apricots, prunes, raisins).
Calcium is used for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone strength. Sources of calcium for vegetarians include fortified breakfast cereals, soy products (tofu, soy-based beverages), calcium-fortified orange juice, and some dark green leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens). Milk products are excellent calcium sources for lacto vegetarians.
Zinc is necessary for many biochemical reactions and also helps the immune system function properly. Sources of zinc for vegetarians include many types of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. Milk products are a zinc source for lacto vegetarians.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products and some fortified foods. Sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians include milk products, eggs, and foods that have been fortified with vitamin B12. These include breakfast cereals, soy-based beverages, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast.
Tips for Vegetarians
Build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and rice. Don’t overload meals with high-fat cheeses to replace the meat.
Calcium-fortified soy-based beverages can provide calcium in amounts similar to milk. They are usually low in fat and do not contain cholesterol.
Many foods that typically contain meat or poultry can be made vegetarian. This can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Consider:
pasta primavera or pasta with marinara or pesto sauce
veggie pizza
vegetable lasagna
tofu-vegetable stir fry
vegetable lo mein
vegetable kabobs
bean burritos or tacos
A variety of vegetarian products look (and may taste) like their non-vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.
For breakfast, try soy-based sausage patties or links.
Rather than hamburgers, try veggie burgers. A variety of kinds are available, made with soy beans, vegetables, and/or rice.
Add vegetarian meat substitutes to soups and stews to boost protein without adding saturated fat or cholesterol. These include tempeh (cultured soybeans with a chewy texture), tofu, or wheat gluten (seitan).
For barbecues, try veggie or garden burgers, soy hot dogs, marinated tofu or tempeh, and veggie kabobs.
Make bean burgers, lentil burgers, or pita halves with falafel (spicy ground chick pea patties).
Some restaurants offer soy options (texturized vegetable protein) as a substitute for meat, and soy cheese as a substitute for regular cheese."


Zucchini Alla Scapece

6 small zucchini, cut in triangles
1-3 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
splash of balsamic vinegar
handful of chopped fresh mint
Sprinkle the cut zucchini with salt and place in a colander in the sink to drain, let sit for 2 hours. This draws some of the water out of the zucchini, so it is not mushy when cooked. Fry the garlic a bit in the oil, add the dried zucchini (dry with a paper or cloth towel), and gently cook them, stirring occasionally, to brown. Serve sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and mint. Serve warm. Serves 4.


Tuna Mousse

Another fabulous dish by our Italian friend Luciana. This recipe sounds strange--and way too rich. But it is light, deliciously creamy and great spread on bread or stuffed into cherry tomatoes or small red peppers.
2 cans of tuna, packed in oil, drained
a stick of softened unsalted butter
1 Tbs. capers
2 anchovy filets (packed in oil, drained, "filetto di acciuga sott'olio")
Blend tuna fish with capers and anchovies. It's best to do it in two batches because the mixture is thick and the blender will stick. Blend thoroughly. Whip the soft butter until light with electric mixer, add tuna in batches, whipping the mixture. Scoop into bowl and freeze for and hour, then put in the fridge. Take out about an hour before serving so it softens. I served it a bit too soon, so it was hard and not easy to spread. When it comes to room temperature, it is fluffy and rich and full of tuna flavor.
Luciana suggested substituting half the quantity of butter with whipping cream--please post on this blog if you try it! Pair with Prosecco.


Viva Italia!

Your Online Gr@pevine Editor just returned from two weeks in Italy--the land of great food and wine! Lemon and asparagus risotto, nutty hard cheese from Bormio, Prosecco, chewy rolls drenched in olive oil and topped with Caponata, Barbaresco, marinated tuna carpaccio, Limoncello...the Italians really know how to live.

In the next few weeks, I'll be translating my recipes (some scribbled on the backs of napkins by the chef) and posting them here, so check back. To start, the marinated tuna carpaccio, which was part of the feast our new Italian friend Luciana prepared for us our last night in Lago Maggiore:

Italian recipe, from Luciana:
Carpaccio di pesce (tonno o pesce spada)
Ingredienti: pesce tagliato sottile, succo di limone, sale , pepe, olio di oliva, poprezzemolo tritato con un poco di buccia d'arancia(solo parte arancione)o aneto
Adagiare sul piatto le sottili fette di pesce (preparare circa un'ora e mezza prima di consumare)
salare e pepare, aggiungere olio quanto basta , succo di limone, lasciare macerare per 15' poi girare le fettine, aggiungere succo di limone e prezzemolo tritato fresco, a piacere potresti aggiungere un poco di aglio tritato.

My interpretation:
Ingredients: Sushi grade tuna or swordfish (please only buy sustainably caught!) cut into thin slices by a very sharp knife, lemon juice, salt, pepper, good quality olive oil (essential for the best flavor!), chopped parsley, grated orange zest (the peel), minced garlic (if desired). Let marinate about 1 1/2 hours. Serve with mint. I used 1/2 pound tuna, juice of one lemon, sprinkles of salt and pepper, about 3 tbsp. chopped parsley, a cup of Sicilian olive oil, grated peel of one orange and a splash of good balsalmic vinegar. I marinated it all day, turning the fish now and then.

We had this in Italy served with Prosecco--very delicious, but paired it this time with the 2001 Matrix Mazzocco (coming soon to Touring & Tasting, so check the Wine Cellar in the coming weeks for this wine) and loved the meal. Rounded it out with steamed organic vegetables and baby red potatoes topped with a dry-jack-style Italian cheese--perfetto!


Wine Pairing from Touring and Tasting


This week the Online Gr@pevine features an International Wine Sale:

Rolf Binder "Halliwell" (Barossa Valley, Australia)
A masterful blend of Shiraz (70%) and Grenache (30%) from Australia's famous Barossa Valley.

Chateau Cesseras "Minervois" (Languedoc, France)
A rich, extracted Syrah-based wine from respected wine importer Patrick Lesec.

Donati "Sorelle Per Sempre" (Paicines, CA)
A great Cabernet and Merlot blend with a touch of Malbec. Perfect Summer sipping!

Chateau Puynormond "Montagne" (St. Emilion, France)
From the legendary 2005 Bordeaux vintage, an intense and full-bodied Merlot-based red.


Prawns With Romesco Sauce:

In keeping with this week's international theme, we bring you a recipe from the Spanish region of Catalonia. Romesco sauce is a thick, tomato-y sauce made with nuts, bread and garlic. This week, the Los Angeles Times rhapsodized over this sauce (read article). We found a prawn recipe that pairs deliciously with this week's Chateau Cesseras "Minervois".