Friday, July 18, 2014

How to Host a Rose Tasting

Crisp, Clean, Floral, Juicy, Berry Good…words that perfectly describe a fun evening of rose with friends. That’s exactly what we did with a diverse group of friends recently. By diverse, I mean we were all over the spectrum of wine lovers – from our gracious host that owns a large wine cellar – to the sangria-cosmopolitan-wine-cooler-loving gal who stated she was just along for the fun.

It's interesting that Rose seems to be a great equalizer in the wine world. Most of us, familiar with pinky-pinky-pinky-sticky-sweetie white zinfandel, have just rediscovered Rose. What's wrong with a chance to taste and investigate an interesting new “category” of yummy wine with friends?
We started with an invitation – ours was an quick email asking everyone to bring a rose and a dish to go with salmon, tomato and olive salsa off the grill. The bottles were from all over the world, most handed over with the admission that the wine shop employee picked their bottle for them, or they bought the wine because they liked the label. (See, you are not the only person who does this:)

No wine gathering can do without a glass of bubbly handed to each person as they walk in the door. Our choice was Lucien Albrecht Crement d’Alsace. a creamy and strawberry tasting sparkler from France. Rated 90 by the Wine Enthusiast this sparkler is made with 100% Pinot Blanc in the traditional method – just like Champagne. With a price tag just over $20 at Total Wine, it’s a winner in my sparkly rose category!

With a glass of bubbly in hand, the guests placed their wine in the icy wine bucket and it was tagged with a number. An index card and a pen was given to everyone, the appetizers set out and work began!

Our goal was to taste each wine and rate the wine on a scale of 1 to 5 - 5 was worthy of accompanying our last meal and 1 was “I’d order a beer if this was the only wine available..” A large bucket was placed in the middle of the table for dumping and spitting.  (If you want to be fancy – you can call it a spittoon or, in really snooty – in French its “un crachoir”)

Why in the world would you want to spit and dump? The simple answer is that you can’t taste wine when you are drunk.  I love how wine expert Jeff Morgan puts the problem, “Alcohol is ultimately stronger than anyone’s constitution.”. (I’d like to offer an amen to that statement.) My favorite “bucket” isn’t one at all – it's a red or blue colored opaque Solo cup. I can keep it close to me without having to bend over others to spit, which can be extremely difficult, especially with amateur spitters! Always spit and dump during tasting - remember, if you like a wine enough for a glass, you can always go back and pour one to accompany dinner.

I had lots of questions from folks about how to taste – and what aromas and flavors we trying to find. This didn’t surprise me, because when I teach a wine class that’s one of the first things that I am asked. My answer? Its not rocket science. It’s simply smelling and tasting with attention. (This subject is worth a blog on its on, and I’ll write one soon.) For a fun tasting like this gathering, I ask people to try to isolate two aromas in the wine, does is smell like berries? Is there a citrus smell in there? Two other quick things: does it taste like it smells, and how long does it linger in your mouth. With these four questions, each individual can pretty easily decide where the wines fall in the 1 to 5 range.

Our gathering at the ice bucket lasted about 45 minutes of tasting, laughter and comparison. We moved on to dinner, and each poured one of our favorites to enjoy. At dessert, a winner was announced:
The Domaine Pierre Usseglio and Fils Cotes du Rhone Rose 2012. Score one for my favorite wine region in the world, the Rhone Valley in France. This wine provided a mouthful of creamy strawberry and light citrus flavors, perfect for a warm evening and a cookout with friends. Made mostly with the Grenache grape, I found it at Sherlocks wine store in Brookhaven, for around $20. Perfect pairing with the salmon, too!

I can say with lots of enthusiasm that each of us left the party with a better appreciation of the complexity and deliciousness of rose. What a great way to explore a wine type from around the world. The group has promised to get together again – next time we are going to explore Zinfandel and its Italian cousin Primitivo – paired with a delicious dinner and lots of fun.

Here’s the recipe for our main dish, enjoyed by all:

Grilled Salmon with Rustic Tomato Olive Relish

The Marinade:
2 TB Olive Oil
1 TB Lemon Juice
1 Clove Garlic, Chopped
1/2 Tsp Crushed Red Chili Flakes
2 TB Dijon Mustard
1/2 Tsp Cracked Black Pepper
1/2 Tsp Sea Salt
The Salmon: 1 1/2 LB Salmon Filet, Skinned

Combine the Marinade ingredients in a zippy bag - add the Salmon and marinate for 30 minutes. Preheat the grill on high for 10 minutes. Remove the Salmon and pat dry. Turn the grill to medium. Grill just until marks appear and then finish roasting off in the oven – about 10 minutes. 
Remove and top with:

Rustic Tomato Olive Relish
2 TB Olive Oil
1 TB Lemon Juice
1 Clove Garlic, Chopped
1 Cup Grape Tomatoes, quartered
1/2 Cup Kalamata Olives, Chopped
1/2 Cup Green Olives, Chopped
1/4 Cup Italian Parsley, Chopped
1/8 Cup Capers
1/2 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Tsp Sea Salt

Mix all the ingredients together. (Great with Pita Chips, too!)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Ripe Tomato Raw Pasta - A Guest Blog by Intern Haley Warren

Well, unfortunately, this will be my last blog with Chef Nancy. I cannot say enough great things about her and all of the positive experiences I have had! I am going out with a bang and will share with you all one of the best recipes, ever. Chef Nancy made it for a class at Cancer Wellness this week and it was a huge success. The recipe I will be sharing is a summer-ripe tomato raw pasta.
This recipe is really great because it incorporates a lot of foods that are seasonal, as well as being a great spin to the traditional pasta that is full of carbohydrates. This recipe uses squash as the noodle, who would have thought? Using squash as the “pasta” is a great way to get vegetables in your diet without really tasting like vegetables. And to top it all off, it's light and refreshing!

Summer Ripe Tomato Raw Pasta
About 2 LBs of Squash-Zucchini or Yellow Squash
1 TB Sea Salt
2 Large Ripe Red Tomatoes, peeled seeded and chopped
1/2 Cup Sun Dried Tomatoes **chopped
1 Garlic Clove, Grated
2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Chopped Parsley for Garnish
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to Taste
Sliced Yellow, Orange or Red Peppers for Garnish
Grated Parmesan, (optional)
Step One: Using a mandoline, vegetable peeler or spiral cutter*, make long thin strands of the squash. Toss in a colander with the salt, (making sure to cover each strand with the salt), and set aside to drain while you make the pasta sauce.
Step Two: To make the sauce, stir together the ripe and sun dried tomatoes with the garlic and oil. Sprinkle with pepper.
Step Three: Rinse the squash under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Place in bowls and top with the tomato sauce, garnish with the peppers and if you desire a little parmesan cheese.

**Sun dried tomatoes are packed full of tomato flavor- they are just what the name says- Tomatoes that have been dried in the sun, (or in a dehydrator),  until they become smaller and more concentrated. Make sure you choose tomatoes that are still flexible and bright red. If they are old they will be hard and brown! Use sun dried tomatoes anytime you want to create a big tomato flavor in your dish.

Friday, July 4, 2014

All About the "Q" - and Spanish Almond Caper Sauce! A guest blog by Intern Haley Warren

This week is all about quercetin! If you have never heard of this, this will be a great read for you. You may be asking what quercetin is and why it is good for you? Well, here is the answer! Quercetin contains many phytonutrients, vitamins that are essential for health, and antioxidants. Studies have shown that quercetin acts as an anti-carcinogenic, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory agent. Not only does it provide all this goodness, it also has good levels of vitamins and minerals. So basically, it is REALLY good for you!
Now, you may also be asking, why is the world is she talking about quercetin? Well folks, capers are the second highest sources of quercetin bringing 180 mg of quercetin for every 100 grams of capers, and the recipe I would like to talk about today is Spanish Almond Caper Sauce. Last week, Chef Nancy taught a group how to make this sauce for skewers from the grill. YUM! I have been wanting to make it for my family ever since the class, and I was given the perfect chance to over the weekend. It was a major success that everyone loved!
Spanish Almond Caper Sauce:
1/3 Cup Toasted Whole Almonds
1 TB Water
3 TB Sherry Vinegar
1/2 Tsp Sea Salt
1/2 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled
1 Tsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tin Anchovies, drained
1 Cup Capers
Chopped Parsley for Garnish
In a food processor or blender, pulse the almonds until coarsely chopped. Add the water, vinegar, sea salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, paprika and anchovies and pulse to combine. Place in a bowl and add the capers. Stir until thoroughly combined. Serve over protein from the grill-and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

** Also, quercetin is found in skins of apples, onion, tea, green vegetables, berries, herbs and red wine.