More than two weeks without a posting, but not two weeks without some interesting food and wine. I present these in no particular order, since chronology is irrelevant here.
Let’s begin with a short trip to Eastern Europe — in particular the Jewish shtetls in Poland, the Ukraine, and Russia — for a peasant soup that can be used as a delightful cold vegan soup for the summer. I’m talking about Schav, a simple soup made with sorrel, onions and potatoes, plus some broth. My grandma used to make it, which is why I know and love it. The trigger for this occasion was my finding a beautiful large, fresh bunch of sorrel at the local farmers market. Sorrel is an herb, quite acidic, with a strong sour flavor not to everyone’s taste. It’s also called sour grass, and for good reason.
Most of the best-known uses for this require large amounts of butter or cream, especially in classic French cooking. However, I found out with this effort that it also makes a very fine vegan dish as well. Color is not its most appealing characteristic, varying from pea soup green to various shades of khaki, but it tastes great.
Naturally, I used our own vegetable broth, and I decided the egg used to enrich the soup was totally unnecessary. Tofutti sour cream substituted for the dairy version, and cucumbers and radishes were just another part of the haul from that farmers market.
It was best when chilled overnight. Even Barbara (who does not like sour or bitter flavors) really liked it, as did my older grandson. Any medium-bodied white wine is a good accompaniment. My choice was a 2013 Colle dei Bardellini Pigato. Superb!
Paella Once Again
This has been a good summer for Paella. So many good vegetables, and I am getting more comfortable designing and making my own combinations. Last week, Michael and Laura joined us for dinner, and we had an Eggplant – Vegetable Paella, followed by a fresh Peach Cobbler Barbara made from peaches she picked around the corner.
Here’s my recipe:
The other big pleasure in this meal was the wine, a 2004 Monsant “La Universal” from Dido. I had first enjoyed this wine in Barcelona in 2006. After several years of searching here in the states, I was able to score a case, and have been drinking it since then. It’s primarily a Garnacha, but the bottles have been a bit inconsistent — some great, so a little funky. The one we had that night was wonderful, rich, fruity, deep in color and flavor, a more mature version of the one I discovered initially.
Lots of Vegetables – Pickup Dinner
Earlier in the month Michael and Laura agreed to come over since I was making a few vegetables dishes, and they didn’t mind joining me for a bite or two. Fortunately, I was inspired by that day’s farmers market, so I put out an array of vegetable dishes that captured the essence of each one.
There was an appetizer plate with roasted beets, seaweed salad, hummus, Matiz Piparras pickled peppers, Piquillo Peppers, two kinds of olives, and kimchee. This was accompanied by pan-grilled zucchini slices with aged balsamic vinegar, and a few pieces of pan-grilled Haloumi chess from Cyprus. Another dish has pan-roasted cauliflower with capers and olive oil, and a fourth contained carrots, green beans, diced kohlrabi, and purslane from Laura’s garden. Finally, we had a small dish of stuffed fresh tomatoes baked Provencal style.
Now for the surprise: Molly’s friend Trevor had caught a striped bass over the weekend, so Laura brought over a small piece to add to the meal. Most fortunately, I had some leftover Fermented Black Bean and Garlic sauce I had made a few days earlier, and it turned out to be the ideal medium for braising the striped bass. It was luscious, but I restrained myself and ate only a small quantity. Here is Ming Tsai’s recipe for the sauce (which is also perfect for clams).
The wines were both Italian and red: a 2011 Tuscan Rosa from Sangiovese grapes (Pacina), and an obscure but delicious red from Friuli, a 2011 Esperienze by Gaspare Buscemi. Both were terrific and matched the meal very well.