Posts Tagged ‘red wine

02
Sep
08

Roast Potatoes and Baby Shoes

I just wrapped up a beautiful evening with my family.

My daughter spent the afternoon in her jolly jumper, stomping in her new shoes.

Its hard to take a clear shot of fast-moving munchkin feet.

It's hard to take a clear shot of fast-moving munchkin feet.

We also had my parents and in-laws over for dinner on the deck.

My Mom brought two salads and a rhubarb cake, my Father-in-law brought honey garlic spareribs he’d done in the slow cooker. We made some homemade bread and roasted potatoes with tomatoes picked fresh from the garden.

The deck hangs out over the river, and we’re surrounded by trees. While we ate a Heron landed out in the water. It slowly walked up the river, stalking fish.

I love eating outside when the sky starts to go from late afternoon to dusk. I think it makes things taste better. Especially if you’re eating with friends and loved ones.

Wine also helps.

We had a red wine from California (Robert Mondavi, Pinot Noir, 2006) , and a white from South Africa (Two Oceans, Sauvignon Blanc, 2007). The Mondavi worked wonderfully with the starchiness of the potatoes and the meatiness of the ribs. I honestly didn’t get a chance to try the white, but was assured that it was good. 

My daughter, who is teething, even got in on the action. We let her gum a clean rib bone. It kept her entertained while the rest of us ate.

My Roasted Potatoes

This recipe doesn’t require any exactness. Do it to suit your own taste (then it won’t be “My roasted potatoes”, it’ll be your own creation and you can name it what ever you want.

Small, multicoloured potatoes

Ripe tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, the fresher the better

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Fresh ground black pepper

Feta cheese

     This is one of those recipes where the quality of the ingredients really affects the outcome, but it’s super easy to whip up a batch in under an hour with minimal effort.

     Preheat oven to 400F (200C).

     Rinse the potatoes, then cut them, skin on, into quarters. I use baby sized red, yellow, and blue potatoes to enhance the wow factor.

     Place them in a shallow baking dish. Splash on some olive oil. You don’t want to have them floating in it, but a nice coating allows the other ingredients to stick to the potato, and keeps the potato from burning to the dish.

     Add salt and pepper to taste. Slide the baking dish into the oven and cook for 20min. before adding the tomatoes. If using cherry tomatoes, just halve or quarter them, depending on size. Whole tomatoes can be diced and added. Try to get tomatoes that are compact and just ripened. You don’t want to deal with a lot of juice while cutting.

     Put the dish back in for an additional 20 minutes or so. Test the potatoes by tasting to see if they are fully cooked and if they need additional salt and pepper.

     Serve with the crumbled feta added at the last minute, or as a condiment (my Mom doesn’t like feta, so we had a small dish of it set aside as an accompaniment). 

     You can modify this dish any way you want. Increase or decrease any ingredient to suit your taste and feel free to add herbs or other ingredients. If you come up with a tasty variation, I’d love to hear about it.

28
Feb
08

Wine Primer

I find that there’s a lot of misinformation out there about wine. Far too often I hear people tell me they really like wine, but they don’t know anything about it. I also hear a lot of opinions about wines based on some percieved notions about how sweet or dry, or how dark or light a wine is. I also dislike wine snobery based on a single origin. For example, I recently had someone tell me they only drink Italian wines. I asked which type, and they said they didn’t care, it just has to be Italian. While I’m sure this is based on a good experience with an Italian wine, not all Italian wines are created equal. Also, this perspective on wine assumes all other wines are not fit for consumption, which I strongly disagree with.

Wine Basics:

Wine is basically fermented grape juice. Anyone familiar with bread baking will be familiar with how yeast works. Yeast is a living organism which, in the case of wine, occurs naturally on the grape skin (although some wine makers use lab grown strains of pure yeast instead of “wild yeast”). Yeast consumes the sugars present inside the grape, and converts it into carbon dioxide and alcohol. When the alcohol level hits around 15 percent, it kills off the yeast. Now picture the classic episode of I Love Lucy, with Lucielle Ball stomping on grapes. I bet you didn’t know all that science was going on at the same time.

As for grape types, red grapes traditionally need a slightly longer growing season, therefore wines from Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the Napa Valley in California tend to be made from red grapes, while colder climates tend to favour white grapes. Remember, also, that it is the skin that colours a wine, so it is possible to drink a white wine made from red grapes.

The weather can also play a major roll in how a certain vintage (year the wine was made) turns out. Frost can wipe out a crop, drastically reducing the amount of wine produced in a certain area. Windstorms, too much or not enough rain, all wreak havoc on the outcome of a crop. Consider, also, that grapes have a higher amount of sugars, acids, and water at different stages in their growth. If you were to try a grape off a vine early in the season, it would be very dry and acidic. A grape pulled from the same vine later in the year will have had time to develop more sugars (called Brix by winemakers). Too much rain before a grape is pulled will give you a very diluted, watery wine. Not enough rain will give you the opposite effect. A wine specialist will want to keep this in mind when choosing a certain wine from a certain region, with a certain vintage.

For the beginner, I would suggest trying to get familiar with whatever wines are locally available to you. Try different wines from the same wine growing region until you find one or two that you personally like. If the “experts” are raving about a wine that you find tastes bad, then don’t drink it. One of the worst wines I’ve ever tasted was an award winning fruit wine from a highly esteemed winery. I’m sorry, but if I think it tastes like cough syrup, no amount of flowery description will make it taste any better.

So what do you do with a wine you have sampled but don’t particullarly care for? Use it to cook with, of course!