Ringing in the New Vintage – Purple Moon 2008 Shiraz

26th February, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Wine

Like many, I’m constantly on the prowl for drinkable, affordable by normal people table wines – bottles that cost well under $10, and are not only worth drinking, but worth saying at least a few words about. There are plenty of quaffable wines, but the goal, here, is to find something that deserves just a little pondering, if only to think of a good food pairing for it.

I’m still reeling over the departure of California’s 2007s from most shelves. It’s my opinion, shared by a few of my wine maker contacts, that ‘07 was one of those vintages, especially in the Napa valley and Central Coast. “You just get out of the way, and let the grapes do their thing; the wines made themselves” is how one maker expressed it. And, his 2007s were spectacular. In the bargain of the century class, there was Rabbit Ridge’s Allure de Robles, always a nice wine, but in ‘07, a spectacular one. I would not have been disappointed had it cost five times as much. Read more…»

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Take Two

17th February, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in What's On the Table?

Manicotti ai Crema di Zucca! This is a quick snap of what it looks like before it goes into the oven. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll remember that I wrote about a not quite successful version of this dish in a previous column, It Doesn’t Always Work Out. Since then, I’ve been working away at various approaches to the sauce, to the filling, to the overall presentation, and think I’ve finally nailed it down, at least for now. Recipes are never cast in iron around here, which is a source of joy to me, but of endless frustration to those who ask me to make something again, or give them the recipe. “Well, um, I’ve changed things a little since the last time you ate that.” Read more…»

Sunday Supper

15th February, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in What's On the Table?

The latest jar of preserved lemons has reached maturity, having been put up in August. And, just in time too, since I’d used the last of the previous jar for the sugo alla puttanesca described in a previous column. When I popped the lid of this one, I was treated to a visual feast of the lemons’ beautifully yellow, gelatinous goodness, and the aromas were incredible, almost floral, with intense citrus character. These aren’t called citron confit for no reason. Of course, I had to taste them. Fabulous!

I love these things. Every batch is just a little different from the last, but they’re always fantastic and, if you don’t have some jars going, you really should. Buy a bag of lemons, a box of kosher salt, a few jars and go to town. It doesn’t take much time to get them going, and in a few weeks time, you’ll reap the rewards, and they just get better with time.

I had to do something with them, so I decided to whip up a batch of Marrakesh Chicken. I served it over some lovely Israeli cous cous, topped with a little fresh cilantro. Using both Kalamata and stuffed green olives was a nice variant – normally I use all Kalamatas.

We pulled the cork on a simple Côtes du Rhône, and tucked in for the evening. Quick, delicious, satisfying. A great Sunday supper!

When You Have Lemons

12th February, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in easy

Why not make puttanesca?

The family was stricken by full-blown, under-the-weatherness in the form of nasty head-colds. Fortunately, I’ve managed to avoid taking this one on. So far. I attribute my state of provisional well-being to my evening dram of single-malt, or maybe to the gallons of tea I’ve been drinking daily, or perhaps to my own intensely stubborn nature combined with the fact that I truly hate colds.

But, what to feed them? Chicken soup is the prototypical prescription for colds, and it has been shown to exhibit seemingly miraculous healing properties, but I didn’t have a pile-o-chicken wings handy, and no one wanted to wait the hours for really good chicken soup, anyway. I needed a fallback plan. Spaghetti a la Puttanesca! Much loved, huge flavors, and with a little spice, not bad for what ails. Read more…»

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The Fireclown

11th February, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, Editorial

Several years ago (could it be over a decade?), I was eating with some friends at one of the local Indian restaurants that I’d become quite fond of. I’d come to know the people there, and there were often tasty treats available to their friends that were not on the menu. Most of us were willing to put our collective culinary fates into the hands of our waiter. As there were about half a dozen of us that evening, an excellent feast was promised, and I had little doubt it would be delivered.

One of our party, call him The Fireclown (with apologies to Michael Moorcock), had to have his own way. He often took great and foolish pride in proclaiming that a chile had not been bred that could best him. (This was long before the development of the Dorset Naga, a fruit I’m sure would have sent even him scurrying to find the nearest tequila-charged fire extinguisher.) He would brag to anyone who would listen about his superhuman tolerance for hot food. His asbestos lined tongue, it seems, was a legend in his own bouche, immune to spice that would make any mere mortal beg for the mercy of death. And, it wasn’t just about his tolerance for the pungent fruit. He was an equal opportunity braggart.

Read more…»

Tomato Cream? Yeah, Baby…

9th February, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in easy

Over the years, I’ve grown weary of wimpy tomato cream sauces. It seems like every time I’ve ordered something in a restaurant with a tomato cream, I’ve gotten something so ridiculously “subtle” as to be almost tasteless, the only thing tomato about them being the pale pink/orange hue. No more. Time to embark on the campaign for real tomato cream!

Sunday, my friend Ben was coming to dinner, so I decided to see what I could do to build an intensely delicious cream sauce that would satisfy my love of deep, tomato goodness in a rich, silky, sumptuous form. Ben is a great guinea pig; he loves great food, and I can always count on him to give honest, critical feedback. My family is arguably somewhat less trustworthy in this respect. Trembling in fear that the temperamental chef will go berserk if they offend his delicate sensibilities, they’ll usually find something nice to say, unless I completely lose my mind and serve them some sort of kitchen nightmare. Which I try to avoid. Really.

Their diplomacy is probably wise. It keeps me from calling a strike. They know which side of their ciabatta is buttered.

The results were fantastic, so there’s a new recipe up for Fusili with Tomato Cream. Give it a go. I think you’ll love it. Ben did.

Roast Beef Sandwich with Gremolata

6th February, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in easy

Here’s a great, quick sarnie to use up some of that left over roast beef. The gremolata is given a little extra kick with some chopped chilies – I use Habaneros. So simple. So delicious…

Make the Gremolata

Chop a handful of parsley. Zest a lemon. Mince a clove of garlic and a bit of the chili of your choice. Toss it all together in a bowl, and add a little of the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let it sit for 20 minutes or so.

Assemble the Sandwiches

Slice the beef thin, and heat it well through in a sauté pan.

Coat slices of great bread liberally with mayonnaise, layer on the beef, and slather with Gremolata.

It couldn’t be simpler. Did I mention that it was absolutely delicious?

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If You Can Stand the Heat

2nd February, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, easy

I’m no master gardener, but everyone knows I love chiles, and the variety available in the markets is usually somewhat spare, so I try, each year, to grow some interesting ones with the hopes of enjoying them fresh during the summer, and having enough by the end of the season to put up for use throughout the year. Last year, I had Habaneros (always a fave), Caribbean Reds, Infernos, Thai Dragons, Tabascos, Cayennes, and Yatsufusa chiles growing, and no doubt keeping the bugs away. They didn’t produce with the vigor of previous years, but offered some interesting fruit to tantalize (or torment) the tastes of the adventurous.

One day, I picked the first of the Infernos, a lovely hot yellow hybrid of a Hungarian Wax. These 8″ fruit have a delightful sweetness up front, and a cunning afterburn. Having a large papaya in the kitchen, ripe, but not flavorful enough to enjoy solo, a fruit salsa seemed a perfect use for both. Read more…»

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