Saturday, April 24, 2010

Italian Wine Bar + Crostini Recipe + "Thinking, Eating and Drinking" Part 2

Tuesday night was the second of six classes – “Thinking, Eating and Drinking”. This week we traveled to Italy, figuratively that is. With the theme, “Italian Wine Bar”, we were transported to Italy for the evening. What an absolute treat, especially after a long day at work, it was a terrific way to unwind by eating and drinking – what could be better for a foodie.

Italian wine bars are more social institutions than anything else. At an Italian wine bar you’ll find delicious crostini, small slices of bread spread with chicken liver pates, olive tapenade and perhaps even white truffles and butter, as well as bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and basil. For those wine bars with tables, plates of local cheeses and salumi are usually available, as well as hot pasta or, the special of the day. In Florence and Rome the wine bars are called vinaio, or enoteca or fiaschetteria. In Venice they’re called bacari.

We focused on “Country Wines” and had a gathering in Italy versus a class. Our palates are being embraced and opening up with new characteristics of flavors in the wines. As Chad points out during the class, “All great wines come from crappy soil”. In other words, the soil or terroir needs to be rugged and not perfect. The grapes thrive in this type of soil. We focused on making the connection between food, wine and life. If you think about it, these three interchange on a daily basis, from dinner with your family to dining at the fancy restaurant in your favorite city. We make connections all the time and once your awareness is awakened, the conversations begin.

Suzanne prepared a beautiful platter of crudités, featuring multicolored spring radishes and carrots along with fresh fennel. A simple preparation with leaving some of the natural leaves and stems enhanced the presentation. The flavor was enhanced by a bit of lemon juice and Malden salt tossed on the veggies, then arranged on the platter. (I made it for Charles and I for Thursday evening - photo above) We enjoyed our first wine; MV Russian Prosecute did Valdobbiadene which originates north of Verona, in the Veneto region of Italy. This was fresh; dry wine is reminiscent of ripe pears and sweet apples.

Time to continue to taste wine with our next selection, 2008 Santa Caterina Vermentino, from the Ligurian DOC of Colli di Luni. Aromas of flowers, rosemary, straw, grapefruit and apple introduce the flavors to follow on the palate. Bone-dry, with a chalky mouthfeel, this wine shows a perfect balance between lively herbaceous fruit and a hint of minerality. With fava beans in season, we enjoyed a fava bean puree on a crisp crostini with a shaving of ricotta salada on top. I have included my recipe for Crostini with Edamame and Parmesan Reggiano at the end of the posting. Perfect with the wine!

Onto the 2008 Cantina Tollo Pecorino which is from Abruzzian village of Tollo. This wine has body/weight associated with it along with a creamy mouth feel. Aged in neutral wood, it has hints of melon, ripe mango, honey and a nutty macadamia flavor. We associated a “maderized” or oxidized quality to the wine.

We experienced unique white wines and now the journey continues to the red country wines. First was a 2008 Grosjean Gamay from Valle ‘ d aosta which is right under Switzerland. Just a side note, my husband and I went to Europe for our honeymoon almost 12 years ago. One of our stops was Switzerland and our hotel sat at the bottom of the famous Matterhorn. Typically this famous mountain is shrouded in fog, but our timing was perfect. We enjoyed a Swiss wine from our balcony. Back to the Gamay, this is a high acid wine with a distinct earthiness along with strong cherry flavors. A slight aromatic hint of cocoa was present – just a dusting of bittersweet chocolate flavor. To pair with the wine, we had a Tapenade Crostini. The recipe is from Lulu Peyraud, who wrote “Lulu’s Provencal Table" by Richard Olney.

Two more wines to taste. The 2008 Venturini Valpolicella from the Veneto region near Venice was a very earthy, musky and light bodied wine. It definitely had a mushroom quality. This was paired with a Chicken Liver Crostini. I did not grow up with eating liver, nor do I gravitate to it now. I am open minded and wanted to enjoy the entire experience, so I ate it. Surprise – I actually enjoyed it. With the wine, the flavors were perfect.

Our last wine of the evening was a 2008 Case Ibidini Nero D’Avola from Sicily, which is an extremely warm region in Italy. This wine had a sweet, jammy flavor and brightness to it. The color is a ruby red with pleasant tannins. We enjoyed a Brandade Crostini with hints of garlic and cream. Again, Suzanne nailed the pairing. If you have not made a brandade, I would highly encourage you to try.

The evening was coming to a close, but not without a bit of cheese and Walnut Levain bread. We enjoyed two cheeses: Robiola and La Tur. Robiola is an Italian soft-ripened cheese, made with varying proportions of cow’s, goat’s milk and sheep milk. La Tur is a very soft cheese made in Alta Langa, Piedmont, and Italy.It is pale colored, with a soft, increasingly wrinkled rind as it ages. Inside, its light, airy texture is so runny that it is spreadable. It is quite smelly, and has a tangy, pungent, slight mushroom flavor.

Looking forward to week three of “Thinking, Eating and Drinking” and sharing the journey with all of you.

Crostini with Edamame and Parmesan Reggiano

1 ½ C. Shelled edamame
1 C. Parmesan Reggiano – Cut into tiny cubes
1 T. Fresh thyme leaves
Grated zest of one lemon
¼ C. Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
20 Crostini’s (Italian baguette or Pulgiese)

In a large bowl, add the shelled edamame, parmesan reggiano cubes, thyme, lemon zest and olive oil. Toss and add salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the Italian baguette or Pulgiese bread into about 20 slices. If you use Pulgiese bread, you will want to cut each slice in half. Brush with olive oil. Grill for extra great flavor and be sure to watch carefully and flip often until crispy. You can bake or toast in the oven instead of grilling.

To serve, place prepared crostini on a large platter. Top each one evenly with the edamame mixture and enjoy.

*Adapted from a recipe orignally from Tori Ritchie

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