Monday, August 30, 2010

up on the roof

Despite what most would think, summer in the city is pretty great. Especially New York City where free out-door concerts, plays and street fairs can be found nearly every day. AND the city really empties out so reservations at those exclusive restaurants or that sold out play suddenly become available. The beaches that can be reached by subway are pretty great too. Who needs a rental in the Hamptons?
The last wonderful days of summer are here and quiet pleasures can be found on rooftops and front stoops. A recent invitation to share a rooftop dinner in Red Hook, Brooklyn afforded beautiful sunset views of the Hudson River and glimpses into the side street life of this tucked away community.

Keep the livin' easy with a make-ahead savory tart using some of those luscious tomatoes now flooding the farmers markets. The dough can be made days ahead and the tart is perfect served room temperature.

Tomato Goat Cheese Tart
-adapted from a recipe on Epicurious

4 tablespoons (or more) ice water
3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter

Combine 4 tablespoons ice water and cider vinegar in small bowl. Blend flour and salt in processor. Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, slowly add water-vinegar mixture, processing until moist clumps form. If dough seems dry, add ice water by teaspoonfuls.
Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Allow dough to soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Roll dough out on lightly floured work surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough onto bottom and up sides. Fold in overhang and press to extend dough 1/2 inch above sides of pan. Line pan with foil and dried beans or pie weights. Bake until dough looks dry and set, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and beans and continue to bake until crust is pale golden, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Remove from oven and cool while preparing filling. 

3 large tomatoes, sliced
4 oz Goat Cheese 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
basil leaves for garnish
Lay tomato slices in overlapping rings over the tart crust, dot all over with the goat cheese, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with the olive oil. Bake an additional 30 minutes, garnish with basil. Serve warm or room temp.

Seems simple enough! I'll have to give it a go. It looks beautiful. One question - what is on top of the tart (not the cheese) that is white and kind of looks like sliced garlic? The tart looks delicious! I'll have to be sure to buy plenty of tomatoes this weekend at the farmer's market.

Ahhh - goat cheese and a white wine from the Loire Valley in France. What a classic combination! Makes my thoughts on wine so easy for this dish. Sauvignon Blanc would just make such an incredible pairing. Grassy, herbal with great minerality. I love a crisp Sancerre! This would make for a wonderful Sunday afternoon brunch!

Yet, while my first choice would be a glass of Sancerre, a second interesting option might be a Chenin Blanc from the Loire. Anjou is a great sub-region within the Loire to look for a dry Chenin Blanc, specifically the AOC Savennieres (Chenin Blanc is also used to make sweet wines, but Savennieres will typically be dry). Because the grapes are grown in a relatively cool climate, they have high acidity. Whereas Sancerre is crisp and lean, Savennieres will tend to be more powerful. The wines are complex, and are actually not that easy to come by. If you happen to come across one during your next wine store excursion - do yourself a favor and try one.

In the meantime, if you are planning to make Deb's recipe and wish to find something right away that will offer a spectacular food and wine experience - ask your neighborhood retailer to point you towards a terrific bottle of Sancerre!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

avocado squash?

While working with a client this week to create some recipes that would support her new approach to healthy eating she presented me with an ingredient I had never seen or heard of before: avocado squash.

It looked like the adorable offspring of a zucchini and an avocado, pear shaped and heavy. Cutting it open revealed a thin green skin and pretty creamy yellow flesh. A quick internet search revealed that this variety is beginning to find its way into farmer's markets. Maybe Hook Mountain Growers can tell us more?
I decided to saute this pretty squash up with some garlic and red lentils, creating a dish we could then serve with a whole grain to make a complete protein. The sauteed squash was delicious! It had a delicate, but surprisingly very flavorful presence with, unbelievably, some overtones of actually avocado flavor. How do they do it? I am now in love with avocado squash and have to figure out where to buy it. The one we worked with came from the Saturday green market at Abingdon Square  in the West Village, my old home stomping ground but not on my path on Saturday mornings now that I have moved to Queens. Any suggestions on where else to find it would be much appreciated!

Red lentils are so easy to work with because they cook quickly. I decided to try a risotto-like cooking technique for this recipe, ladling simmering water into the pan, adding more as the liquid became absorbed into the lentils. 

Grains and legumes are a natural combination. I had some cooked bulgar and red quinoa left over from another recipe and thought they would be perfect with my red lentil "risotto". The two grains tasted great mixed together and may now be my favorite new combo. 

Red lentil and Avocado Squash "Risotto" 

Red Lentil and Avocado Squash "Risotto" 
-any summer squash can be substituted for this avocado squash
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves minced
1 summer squash, cubed
1 tomato cubed
1/2 teas. salt
1 teas. freshly ground pepper
1 cup red lentils
3 cups of simmering water or broth
1/4 cup fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used thyme and oregano, delish!)

•Heat oil in a saute pan, add garlic and cook about 3-4 minutes till garlic is golden and fragrant. 
•Add the summer squash and saute for 5 minutes, till squash begins to soften but is still firm.
•Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute. 
•Add the cup of lentils and the salt and pepper and stir the pan to combine the ingredients. 
•Begin adding a 1/2 cup of  boiling water or broth to the pan and stirring to distribute evenly. Continue to add the liquid by half cups, allowing the liquid to absorb into the lentils before adding more. The lentils should cook in about 10-15 minutes, using abut 3 cups of liquid. The lentils are done when they completely lose there shape and become mush. 
•Stir in the fresh herbs at the end to finish and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top if you so desire. 

Serve with a steamed grain or pilaf such as rice, bulgar or quinoa.

I looked at the beautiful picture of the finished product and instantly thought of Chardonnay and Sangiovese as two good matches for this dish. I immediately love the idea of the creamy nature of this dish paired with a Chardonnay (but nothing with too much oak...) Choosing a wine with a complementing characteristic for this dish seems to me the way to go. Keep in mind that another technique used for pairing wines with food is to pick wines with qualities that contrast to those in the dish. Utilizing this school of thought, one might decide that a crisp, lean wine like a Sauvignon Blanc would be ideal. While both wines would provide a delightful experience (as Deb's dish looks wonderful), I personally would choose a Chardonnay. Perhaps even a Burgundy with it's minerally, earthy characteristics. While we're on the topic of Burgundy, a red (Pinot Noir) would also be an exquisite match. Pinot Noir from Burgundy typically display wonderful fruit intertwined with that mushroom-y, earthy quality I love so much. A beautiful Burgundy, red or white, would surely be a great choice for Deb's dish. Keep in mind Burgundies are rarely "cheap". They tend to be in the pricier range. That being said, this dish seems to me so elegant - and if it tastes as good as it looks, it certainly is worthy of a "higher-end wine". In my eyes, a special, beautiful bottle of red or white Burgundy and this dish make for a perfect date night. (plus perhaps a good movie rental to follow).

As mentioned above, Sangiovese would also make a great accompaniment. This varietal typically produces medium-bodied wines. As this seems to be a fairly "heavy" dish, you don't want to pair it with a wine that is too light, or the wine will be overpowered. At the same time, I wouldn't pair it with a heavy Cabernet, or the wine will wind up taking over the dish. The flavors and different characteristics of Sangiovese will vary widely depending on where the grape is grown. Typically, this varietal makes for a savory wine, with tart cherry flavors and herbal qualities. It is a grape that is often blended with other varietals too, so of course what it is blended with will greatly affect it's flavors and aromas. Choose a Tuscan Sangiovese, like a Chianti to enjoy with this beautiful dish! I'm sure you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

rocking the casbah

Eggplant has never made me tremble with joy when it comes to flavor. I generally think of it as a vehicle for garlic and olive oil. Eggplant Parmesan is the rare treat when I am not watching calories and want a blast of rich gooey pleasure. It was not until I encountered a recipe for Moroccan Eggplant Salad that I understood the satisfaction of a delicious eggplant dish. The inspiration comes from a wonderful cookbook called Taste of Morocco by Richard Carrier.
Carrier's book is a lovingly crafted tribute to Moroccan cooking traditions and techniques. If you ever come across a copy of this out-of-print book from 1987, grab it. The stunning photos and simple recipes will make you fall in love with Moroccan cuisine. (Here is an excerpt from the book)

Carriers book has many great recipes for cooked vegetable salads, which were a revelation for me when I first started to cook them.
Eggplants may not have the most interesting flavor, but they sure look pretty in pictures. The pleasing curvy shape is a favorite among still life painters.

To start the dish peel and slice the eggplant, leaving some of the skin on. Many recipes instruct you to salt the slices and let drain for a half hour, rinse, then pat dry before frying. There is debate about the value of this step (to rid the fruit of bitter flavor). I don't know. I do it if I have time.
While the eggplant is frying make a paste of four garlic cloves, 2 Tbs. paprika, 1/2 teas. cayenne, 1 teas. cumin and some lemon peel. It can be coarsley chopped or ground into a paste with a mortar and pestle.
Use enough olive oil to cover the bottom of your pan for frying. Let the slices become golden on both sides and then set aside, cooking the eggplant in batches.
When all the slices are fried, roughly chop the cooked slices and return the eggplant to the pan. Add more oil if you need to, but wait to see if you really need it. Eggplants can absorb a lot of oil when cooking and then release it when almost done. Add the garlic spice paste to the pan and continue to cook for about 15 minutes stirring and breaking down the chunks of eggplant with a wooden spatula. Let the eggplant mixture cook until it gets a nice deep golden brown. Taste for seasoning.
Finish the salad with lots of chopped parsley and the juice from 1/2 a lemon.
Let the salad come to room temp before serving. The eggplant will be creamy with a deep rich flavor from the spices. This can be made a day in advance and stored in the fridge. Serve this salad outdoors as part of a picnic and it will feel like a trip to the oasis!

Wow! That looks wonderful. I would love to try that on a slice of terrific, crusty bread. And I love that the dish is so simple. Now, this is a dish that I would pay attention to the spicy flavors when choosing a wine to go with it. The cayenne pepper will give heat - so be sure not to pick a wine too high in alcohol content. The high alcohol content in wines will exacerbate the heat of the pepper. A wine with a touch of sweetness, however, will be a great contrast to the heat and will complement it well. A German Riesling would make a tantalizing match to this beautiful dish. Seek out a "Kabinett" which tend to be off-dry, and light with crisp acidity.

For those of you unfamiliar with the German system of classifying wines, it can be extremely daunting. People tend to veer over to the German wine section, take a look, and coyly turn away. Don't let the enigma of the label deter you from experimenting - the wines are worth it. And once you understand their system better, you will be able to decipher any label.

Why people tend to avoid German wines. They are confused about what they're buying!

In a nutshell, Pradikatswein is the top level of the classification system. Most of the wines in this category are of high-quality. Within this level, wines can range from dry to very sweet, depending on the grapes level of ripeness, with Kabinett being the first designation. The sugar content of the grape juice helps determine into which designation the wine will fall. Spatlese is the next level up, and is typically fruitier and sweeter than the Kabinett. From there, the wines increase in sweetness into the categories Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein, (yummy); and Trockenbeerenauslese, with each rung on the ladder being sweeter, with higher sugar content, then the last. For Deb's recipe, I would stick with either a Kabinett or a Spatlese. (Also, German wines are typically lower in alcohol content).

Today, many German producers are making their labels much simpler and user-friendly.

For wonderful Rieslings, look for the wines of Joh Jos Prum. The wines are simply marvelous. Weingut St. Urbans-Hof is another of my favorite German producers. Spectacular wines at affordable prices. The Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett is a terrific representation of the wines from the Mosel Saar Ruwer region (and would be exquisite next to Deb's dish). This particular wine can be found in the $15 price range.

If you are looking to enjoy a red with this dish, my first choice would be a fruity, new-world Pinot Noir. (New world meaning American, Australian, e.g. as opposed to old world like French). Again, avoid wines with lots of alcohol like Australian reds or big Cabernet Sauvignons.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Ahhhhh, happiness. So often, as we know,  it is the simplest things in life. Our one year anniversary of the blog brings me back to where I wrote the first post: Saratoga Springs, home to one of my favorite farmer's markets. Last year I reported the sad news of the tomato blight. This year all seems well for the growers.

The big revelation for me at the market this summer was when I drifted by Dancing Ewe Farm's display of raw milk cheeses. I had to have a taste and that was it: Nirvana! The flavor was unbelievable, you can really taste the rawness of the milk- tart and grassy, earthy and creamy. Loved it! Bought some, natch.
Jody Somers, cheese-maker, handing out samples with a confident reserve that practically shouted "Yeah, I know it is good, now you do too"
I opted for a hunk of the caciotta and figured I would come up with a salad that my husband and I could dive into during our annual picnic dinner in Saratoga State Park.
The cheese tasted phenomenal with some local arugula and tomatoes. The red onion went on the grill and rounded out this hearty salad. 

I saved a little of the cheese to bring home and made another version of the salad with the addition of some of my backyard ingredients. Fruit, especially peaches, taste great with tomatoes and cheese. My next door neighbor had planted a peach tree in their own yard a few years back and it is now spilling over the fence into my yard. This is the first year that the tree has produced a crop that could be harvested.
The white flesh peaches are really not bad for a Queens backyard! I added them to the salad and finished it off with the three varieties of basil that I have growing in pots.
Tomato, Arugula, Peach and Caciotta Cheese Salad with Three Basils

The name says it all and what the heck, I had fun making a local meets local salad to celebrate summer produce at its best. 
One of my other favorite stops while in Saratoga Springs is the Saratoga Wine Exchange where they display what seems like hundreds of wines, many with descriptive tags to help one make a decision. I was drawn to a white chenin blanc called Indaba from South Africa. In addition to the bright fruity notes it had a caramel buttered popcorn undertone that worked beautifully with the cheese.

Ok, so the wine is not exactly local, but it made me feel like a do-gooder because the wine label states that the proceeds of the sales will go the Indaba Scholarship to "open the wine industry doors to a new generation of South Africans".   Doing good AND drinking wine. Nirvana indeed!

This is a beautiful, summery salad! Love the pictures. And Chenin Blanc is one of my favorite varietals, particularly from the Loire Valley in France. There, it is the most widely planted varietal. Depending on where it is made, it can produce a variety of wines from sparkling, to dry, off-dry and sweet.  The wine Deb chose for her salad is from South Africa, as she mentioned. It is also the most widely planted varietal in that country as well. Known as Steen, South African Chenin Blanc will typically display flavors of tropical fruit, peaches, bananas and honey. These rich fruit flavors must have been wonderful with the cheese in particular! The creamy quality of the cheese would be delicious accompanied by a sip of the Chenin's luscious fruit!

I would also not hesitate to enjoy a Sauvignon Blanc with this salad. This wine of course will have a completely different flavor profile then the Chenin Blanc, but the crisp, lively, herbal, grassy flavors would surely complement the salad perfectly.

Deb - just curious - did you use any dressing or olive oil drizzle for your salad? I agree about fruit in salads. This past weekend I made a salad of romaine, chopped basil and chives, cucumber and watermelon with a simple garlic vinaigrette made with aged sherry vinegar. I loved the watermelon/cucumber combination. It was so refreshing! And the herbs really brought out the best in the fruit.


Friday, August 13, 2010

happy anniversary to us!

Time sure flies when you're having fun! One year ago today, Grapes and Greens was created. It has been a great year loaded with great recipes and fun wine pairings! Deb and I have had a blast and we thank you for enjoying what we do!

I recently discovered a wonderful cookbook by author Andrea Chesman, that I wanted to share with you! It is The New Vegetarian Grill: 250 Flame-Kissed Recipes For Fresh, Inspired Meals (it was a James Beard Award-nominee). If you love veggies as much as I do, I highly recommend it! Included in the book is a terrific variety of pastas, pizzas, sandwiches, and burgers - all vegetable - all designed for the grill. In it, Ms. Chesman offers a tremendous tip which I have found incredibly useful. She recommends cutting up the vegetables before grilling, and then cooking them on a grill pan. They can be tossed with a plethora of marinades and vinaigrettes before meeting the grill as well. I absolutely love this bit of advice!

Last Saturday night, I invited two of my most avid food and wine loving friends over for dinner. On the menu? One of my favorite recipes from The New Vegetarian Grill. I made pasta with a Grilled Tomato, Fennel and Leek Sauce. As I already knew from my previous dates with this dish, it was outstanding! I began our dinner with a simple salad of a variety of tomatoes (all shapes and colors) with fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil, of course topped with some chopped basil leaves. We enjoyed it with a delightful bottle of white Bordeaux (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon). Outside on my patio, under a summer sky, this was a match made in heaven. The light, crisp, fresh wine was perfect with the tomato salad.

But the true hit of the evening was Ms. Chesman's recipe. Basically, in a nutshell, you grill plum tomato, halved and brushed with olive oil and chopped garlic, sliced fennel (tossed with the same garlic-oil), and chopped leeks (again, tossed with the oil) separately. Once the tomato is finished, it is removed from the grill and chopped up. (the tomato is not chopped beforehand for obvious reasons...) Skin can be removed if desired. I throw the chopped tomato in a pan and quickly combine it with the other grilled veggies, adding a little salt and pepper. The sauce is then tossed with pasta. Sprinkle with some fresh grated parmesan and some fennel fronds. (I also like to add basil leaves). Scrumptious! Grilled fennel is one of my new favorite addictions! We drank a Muscadet with it which really made for a perfect marriage!

A little blurry, but this is the sauce in its final steps!

This is one of many, many wonderful recipes from Andrea Chesman. I gave the abbreviated version - the full recipe of course can be found in her book!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

catching up

Last week was HECTIC as I put all my energy into the big vegan cocktail party I was catering in the Hamptons. The event celebrated the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Alec Baldwin was the special guest. I would not have pegged him as a vegan and I suspect he was just being supportive and polite, but he did a great job of not only being gracious and charming, he even stopped by the kitchen to thank me and my staff.  The rest of the guests enjoyed the all-vegan hor's (as we call them in the bis) with many friendly faces popping in the kitchen door to say delish! So I was relieved and happy that the day was a success. 

Roast Vegetable Kebobs with a Miso Vinaigrette
I made the vinaigrette with pomegranate vinegar. I know it sounds weird with miso, but it was good. The salt from the miso balanced out with the sweet fruity tartness of the vinegar.

Green Olive Tapenade with Pimento
 This was a simple recipe, but had a lot of flavor. I wanted to punch things up so I added jalapenos and lots of lemon zest.

This is the before picture of Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Guacamole
It is kind of a crazy chore to carve out all those cherry tomatoes, but this is a nice little treat when it is done. The guacamole needs to be really smooth. I  make it in the food processor and then pipe it into the tomatoes. Yes, I would say it is time consuming.

I can't get enough of sunflowers these days. They are finally growing in my backyard from seeds that managed to escape the early spring bird's notice. And how nice to be able to stop for a moment and enjoy them. My garden is feeling very neglected. I can barely keep up with the watering. This year for the first time here in Queens, I attempted to grow some vegetables alongside my well established herb garden.  I was skeptical that I would have any success as I do not get real full sun anywhere in my yard, but hey, a girl can dream. With the guidance and a few gorgeous plants from my friends at Hook Mountain Growers I dove in.

This is my yield for this week. It is embarrassing. However, they are organic and the tomato is an heirloom and how cute is that purple tomatillo? I am making the best of it and feasting on my crop. I made myself an individual portion of salsa!

One last thing: Even though I had been cooking all week, I still had to feed the kids (so they told me). This recipe evolved from the experimenting I did with the artichoke fritters (which were a huge hit, btw). Pea Pancakes. My family looked at me like I was crazy, then tasted them and gave their full approval. This is a simple and fun way to get some vegetables into everybody. Enjoy!

Pea Pancakes
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup flour
1 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas. salt
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbs. butter

Defrost peas and mash then roughly in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix to distribute evenly. Add the egg and enough milk to form a batter. Let batter sit for 10 minutes. Heat butter in a pan and drop spoonfuls of the pea batter into the hot pan. Press down a little bit with a spatula. let the pancakes cook for about 5 minutes on one side, till golden, then flip and cook another 3-4 minutes till golden on the second side. Serve immediately.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

fritters for all

This is the weekend I am cooking for the big vegan cocktail party (now grown to 175 guests!) in the Hamptons. The goal of the menu I created was to keep the non-vegans not only happy, but in fact, satisfied. That led me to coming up with a fritter recipe. Who can resist something fried? My client mentioned artichokes and it seemed like a no brainer.

Feeling slightly insecure about how to keep fritters without eggs as a binder from falling apart, I did a little research. Indian cusine was a good source for an eggless fritter and I found a recipe that I could reinterpret with my own ingredients. The key it seems, is in having all your ingredients very dry. This means really squeezing the grated vegetables to get rid of excess water. 
Here is the batter squeezed as dry as possible. Just add enough flour and soy milk to act as a glue.

The technique worked like a charm and I am super happy with my test batch. Light, crispy and with a mild artichoke flavor the fritters held together beautifully! This recipe is a bit laborious but it is a great method to go back to when the occasion calls. It is perfect for vegans, those with egg alergies or when you want to make fritters and are all out of eggs.

These fritters are topped off with an egg-free lemon aioli. I am experimenting with different decorative designs here!

Vegan Artichoke Heart Fritters 
1 large potato
1 small onion
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup cooked artichoke hearts (use canned or frozen)
1 Tbs. chopped Thyme
2 Tbs. whole wheat flour
2 Tbs. soy milk
1/2 cup olive oil or canola oil
-grate potato and onion and squeeze dry
-defrost peas and squeeze dry
-mash together potatoes and peas in a large bowl
-chop up artichokes and squeeze dry, add to bowl
-mix vegetables together and add the chopped thyme
-gradualy add the flour and soy milk, making sure the mixture stays sticky and not too loose
-heat oil in a pan
-form small patties by the tablespoon and drop into the hot oil
-fry the fritters slowly, about 4 minutes on one side, so they don’t break, turn and fry 2 more minutes till golden
-remove from pan, sprinkle with salt and serve with eggless aoili
makes about 25 fritters
 Eggless Lemon Aioli
1 cup eggless mayonaise
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
Wisk all ingredients together and serve with the fritters

Sounds like you definitely have your work cut out for you with this cocktail party! But the challenge seems fun and interesting (probably because I'm not the one creating it...). I hope you will let us know how the party goes! And also what else you have on the menu...

Artichokes are one of those tricky vegetables to pair with wine. This doesn't mean that there are no options. Here they are fried -and I would consider this important characteristic when deciding what wine to pair with it. Plus, this is a cocktail party, so you want all-around versatile, food-friendly wines. And, with the large number of attendees, look towards inexpensive, everyday wines.

Immediately, these fritters make me think of light, crisp whites with good acidity. Fried foods tend to pair very well with wines with these qualities. Choose a California sparkler, Prosecco, Gruner Veltliner, Albarino, or Sauvignon Blanc and you won't be disappointed. All of these options will also be wonderful with the Eggless Lemon Aioli as well. Artichokes tend to impart a "sweetness" to white wines, so make sure you choose something very dry. (all of the aforementioned wines are dry...)

Caposaldo Prosecco is one of my current fave's in sparkling wines. I have it on hand all summer long and it is my "go to" bottle to bring to friends' homes. It never disappoints! Everyone loves it, and with it's inherent festivity (it is "bubbly" after all...) Prosecco makes a perfect addition to a cocktail gathering. ($11.99)

Albarino's high acidity makes it a perfect match for fried foods, and it's lean, clean, dry characteristics will work well with the artichokes.

Every party must include reds as well. For a vegan party in particular, I would go with something simple, light and fruity. I'm guessing most of the food will be on the lighter side, and a big, complex wine would only serve to overpower the hors d'oeuvres. Choose an inexpensive Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais Villages. Both of these can be served with a slight chill which is perfect for these hot summer days. Chilled Beaujolais Village in particular makes a great aperitif! And, it's extremely affordable. We just received the 2009 and it is on sale for only $8.99.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Back from the beach


The week on Fire Island with my family could not have been better. We were blessed with perfect weather and an adorable, cozy rental cottage just steps from the beach with outdoor shower and large deck to sit, read, and relax on.

My brain was in the off position, but two little discoveries managed to creep into my psyche that I would like to share. Fire island has limited resources when it comes to food options so it is necessary to preplan by carrying as much groceries on the ferry with you as possible or pay the exorbitant prices at the one tiny local grocery store. I had planned to do a pizza night with the kids and when the evening rolled around no one wanted to deal with a hot oven so we moved the pizza party to the grill. I had everyone take a hunk of dough (store bought this time, I'm on vacation after all) and stretch it out to their desired size and shape. We then grilled the dough on one side, flipped it over and quickly topped it with sauce, cheese, etc.

We then shut the lid of the grill to create an oven-y environment till the cheese melted. The evening was a huge success. Everyone was thrilled with their individual creations and the pizzas had a wonderful smoky flavor to them. I highly recommend this technique when entertaining a young crowd. It was so much more fun than hamburgers.

The second epiphany was a more leisurely discovery. While sitting on my uptown sister's deck (she and her husband own their own fabulous beach cottage on the island, lucky dogs) enjoying the end of the day, I was offered a glass of wine. It was a simple, inexpensive Pinot Grigio, not terribly complex, but chilled and pleasant. As we sat and sipped I kept eyeing my sister's basil plant and felt a curious compulsion to drop a few torn off leaves into my wine glass. My sister was aghast at the strangeness of the idea, but we took a sip and WOW! Really nice! A lovely basil perfume filled the glass and gave a charmed complexity to what was a fairly simple wine.
What can I say? Try it!
The tiny leaves of this basil plant are perfect to drop whole into a glass of white wine.

Armed with my new found discoveries I am rested and restored and ready to handle the rest of the summer with my basil infused cheap white wine and our next grilled pizza night with the kids on the calender.