Tuesday, April 6, 2010


After a long Winter the emergence of Spring just seems so, well, improbable! Suddenly bare tree branches are loaded with cloudy powder puffs. Intensely perfumed flowers pop up from the bleak, brown dirt. It is amazing and catches me by surprise every year. That must be the reason it holds such delights. We have endured much weather to get here.

 Spring arrives in Queens, at last!

Easter with the family was a happy, sunny day.
Our family of passionate cooks rose to the occasion and we feasted on seasonal treats like artichoke hearts, asparagus and peas. I recreated the stuffed fish I had made in the Caribbean, giving it a Queens, NY spin by adding fresh sorrel from my garden to the stuffing.

The other dish I contributed to the table was a rice pilaf. My idea was to infuse the rice with sauteed red onions for some decorative flecks of pastel color. What I did not expect was that while the rice was cooking the red onions turned the entire dish pink. Sadly, not the most ravishing pink you would want, more of a grayish pink. Undaunted I garnished the pilaf with bright green pistachio nuts and chopped parsley to give it a little holiday swagger. The flavor was mild and savory, which is what I was going for, a perfect foil to all the rich dishes on the table. Nobody commented on the color. whew.

Pink(ish) Rice Pilaf with Pistachio Nuts
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. butter
1 red onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup rice
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water or stock
1/2 cup pistachio nuts, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Heat olive oil and butter in a sauce pan. Add the onions, celery and garlic and cook at a low heat for 10 minutes till vegetables are soft and translucent. Add the rice to the pan and stir to caot the grains with the oil. Continue to sautee the rice, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add the water or stock and the salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover, simmer for 20 minutes. In a small non stick pan toast the pistachio nuts at medium heat for about 6 minutes, then add the chopped parsley and toast an additional 3 minutes.
Remove cooked rice to a serving platter and garnish with the nuts.
Serves 4

I'm right with you on the ubiquitous signs of Spring! It is sooo exciting! A few weeks ago, I took my kids to the store and bought a nice variety of seeds, dirt, and a "starter" kit. We planted sunflowers (their choice), parsley, oregano, chili peppers, basil, parsley, chives and thyme (all my choices), and more is yet to come. Several days later, little sprouts began popping up, and now they are thriving! I cannot wait to transfer them to their own planters and set them outside where they can flourish beneath the sun!

Deb's Rice Pilaf sounds simple, delicious, and looks pretty. There are no strong seasonings in it - everything seems pretty mild. Therefore, no one particular wine is jumping to mind. This rice can really work with red, white, rose, sparkling - whatever you prefer. The one word of advice I will give is to concentrate more on the main dish being served. Deb served the stuffed snapper with stuffing flavored with sorrel. Either a light, crisp white or a lighter-style red would be fine.

For this particular combination, the snapper with the pilaf, I would actually pour a Champagne, especially for a festive, sit-down dinner. People generally think of Champagne as something to toast with, or sip as an aperitif before dinner. Champagne actually is made to be enjoyed with food, and makes an incredible accompaniment to many a meal! It just pairs so beautifully with so many different cuisines and styles of cooking.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier is a light, creamy Champagne that would be a delight to quaff alongside this type of meal. It works well when paired with lighter foods. There are, however, bigger, more powerful Champagnes that are made to be savored with heavier foods. Another Champagne to seek out which is absolutely lovely is the Paul Roger Brut NV. At $34.99, this is a true bargain in Champagne!

So - to sum up - when serving a single meal with various components, I would focus on the main course when pairing a wine with it, as opposed to the "sides". But, if you are serving a 3, 4 or 5 course dinner, it's most fun to pair a different wine with each individual course!

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