I felt like starting a new tradition tonight, so I decided to make a bunch of small plates for our dinner. Partly inspired by the meal at Cava two nights ago, I was able to work almost entirely from ingredients already on hand. The menu included:
- Roasted beets with tapenade, feta cheese, Russian mix sprouts, and pistachios
- Salt Roasted Potatoes
- Freshly-made hummus on my toasted multigrain bread
- Organic Dolmas (right from a can — doing my bit to aid economic recovery in Greece)
- Provencal-style Sauteed Eggplant with Tomato Sauce
- Grilled Maitake mushrooms
The beets were roasted a few days ago, so mixing up that salad was easy, and I served it up with the hummus for company.
Meanwhile, I cut up two organic Maitake mushrooms and cooked them with just olive oil, salt and pepper, in the gas grill on a very hot griddle.
Last month I had made the salt roasted potatoes and fell in love with the simplicity, taste and texture of the dish. Fortunately, I saved the bed of salt for reuse, so it was easy to prepare. Salt in pot, wash, dry and oil the potatoes, lay them on the salt, oven at 450, cook an hour. Let them sit there until ready to eat…even an hour later, they were perfect.
Since the oven was plenty hot for awhile, it was an opportunity to roast some garlic. I was even able to locate the little clay garlic roaster we bought years ago and do this at the same time. Part of the rationale was for making hummus: Barbara can’t tolerate raw garlic, so roasting it made it flavorful and edible for us both.
This meal feels a little like reruns of old TV shows, but I do have my favorites, and this simple eggplant dish is one of them. You may remember it from our Provencal dinner almost precisely a year ago. Not complicated, just need good ingredients, good pots, and time. Saute the eggplant, blot with paper towels when fully cooked. Chop up best quality Italian plum tomatoes and their juice, saute with garlic, salt and pepper until nice and thick, run through a Mouli or food mill, and spoon on top of the eggplant. I love the color and flavor intensity of the sauce.
The wine choice was easy. In keeping with the tapas theme, I went with a bottle of Spanish wine I already had open, a 2009 Benaza Mencia.
How could I resist a wine whose grapes are (as described by the producer) “mostly Mencia with small dollops of Bastardo and Arauxa”? It’s also a very good value. Here is what a reviewer for the San Francisco Examiner had to say:
Benaza Monterrei Mencia, 2009 (Monterrei, Spain): Located on the Portuguese border, Monterrei is the smallest denominción de origen in Galicia. Winemaker and owner Álvero Bueno purchases fruit from local farmers and uses stainless steel for fermentation and a short aging period. Crisp is not a word commonly used for red wines, but it fits here. Floral and spicy with red fruits, this is a delightful red for the fall.