I kind of think of birthdays as a beginning of a new year, a fresh start, & with all the topsy turvy changes in the last twelve months, I am definitely curious to see what fate has in store for me... I suppose it all started when I traded in my life as an arts administrator & editor six summers ago to pursue my passion in food & wine, and ended up finding my true vocation!
Besides becoming a real cheesemonger (a dream come true), & your continued personal sommelier, I very much enjoy the private wine dinners that bring us all together in a moveable feast. Bella Cosa has just remodeled & expanded their dining area so we thought it fitting to throw a paella party with yours truly behind the butano. On Tuesday, July 29th at 7:30, join us for a festive tasting of wines from across Espana paired with our favorite summer Iberian dishes. As always, we like to keep these dinners casual, fun & educational and hope that you make some new friends over the course of the evening! Dinner & wine is a measly $35 a person (plus tax & tip)--to reserve your spot, please email back at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Bella Cosa at 545-7375. Hope you can make it!
I read cookbooks like novels, but Nigel Slater's beautifully written "Kitchen Diaries" is reminiscent of Georges Perec's "Species of Spaces & Other Pieces" where one man put to paper everything he ingested in a year, only Nigel is a true culinary poet who catalogues not only the romance of seasonality & why we choose to eat what we eat, but how food connects us with every delectable moment life offers us. Quite frankly, if I ever get to writing a Madeleine cookbook, I would probably have to thank this guy in the acknowledgments for being an absolute inspiration...
Enough for 2 as a light lunch (or a summer dinner) with bread (& a little cheese is a nice touch!)
Dried cannellini beans--3/4 cup, soaked overnight in cold water (or 1 1/2 cups canned cannellini, washed & drained)
Small, tender spinach (or watercress) leaves--4 handfuls
Thinly sliced coppa or other cured meat--3 oz
Basil leaves, the thicker & more pungent the better--a loose handful
Extra-virgin olive oil--6 Tbs
Red wine vinegar--a generous Tbs
Smooth Dijon mustard--a generous Tbs
Fresh thyme leaves--a generous Tbs, chopped
Black olives--4 oz
Drain the beans, then cook them to tenderness in a large, deep pot of unslated boiling water. They will take anywhere from twenty-five to sixty minutes, depending on their age & size. They are read as soon as you can easily crush them between finger & thumb.
(Short cut--rinse canned beans under running water & reserve.)
Whilst the beans are cooking, mix the olive oil, vinegar & mustard with a fork in a small bowl, then whisk in the chopped thyme & some salt & pepper. The dressing will be thick & creamy. Pit the olives, dropping each one into the mustard dressing as you go (short-cut--use pitted kalamatas & mix in the canned beans at this point). When the beans are ready, drain & toss them with the dressing. Set aside for an hour or so for the flavors to marry. (A nice idea if you've got the time, be we just moved to the next step!)
When you are ready to eat, rinse the spinach in cold water & shake it dry, removing all but the the very finest stems. Put it in a large serving dish. Peel any shreds of skin from the outside of the coppa, then shred the meat into ribbons the width of thin matchsticks. Put them in with the spinach, separating the strips as you go. Tip the beans, olives & dressing over, fold the ingredients gently together then serve.
*Everything in bold can be found at Bella Cosa! Get a head start on your week's meal-planning when you come in for wines listed below...
THIS WEEK'S AFFORDABLE SUMMER WINE RECOMMENDATIONS
Vega Real Roble 2005, Ribera del Duero $8.99
Once in a while I stumble upon a new Ribera del Duero under $20 that floats my boat, but under $10??? The folks at Barbadillo have pulled off a miracle with this new estate. Vega Real delivers true Duero taste with classic lamb-loving musky notes, dark framboise & black cherries along with a sweet balsamic twist. In just a few minutes, the nose started to really develop which says a lot for a wine in this price range. Creamy with white pepper spice this is pretty easy-going, but gained earthiness with time. Vega Real will pair up with anything from paella to grilled sausage & peppers, which makes this exceptionally priced discovery a great house wine that should become a customer favorite in no time.
Novellum Chardonnay 2007, Cotes Catalanes $11.99
I am not usually the Chardonnay-loving type but this bottle absolutely changed everything!!! I tried this at our favorite Thai joint, Buddha Ruksa in West Seattle, & was amazed at how low the price was... While we paid twenty-something at dinner, now I can buy it for home at twelve bucks! Made by the fabulous French winemaker, Jean-Marc LaFage, Novellum is just as tasty as his estate red which we all adore. A custom cuvee for Eric Solomon, this Chard is passed over the lies of botrytised Viognier, giving it a luxurious nose of peaches, hazelnut & honeysuckle. Perfectly balanced, creamy & ultra-refreshing with a smart package to boot, your dinner guests will never guess the price!
Ah, summer is really here & that means move over ketchup, mustard & condiments--a bottle of rose must be squeezed into our jam-packed fridge--it's time to celebrate the sun! I have long been a fan of wines from the Loire, so when I tasted this Pinot-based pink last week it was an instant love affair. From the famous village of Chavignol (known for their wonderfully chalky crottin), Henri Bourgeois has been making Sancerre for ten generations, expanding their vineyards from two hectares to fifty-five on some of the best slopes in the region. The Petit Bourgeois is super-small production (they don't even list it on their website) & a bargain in French rose's... Feisty strawberry & cherry essence on the nose but this is the lean & crisp style of rose that is right up my alley. The long long finish made me wonder how many bottles of this I could through in a summer? What to pair this with--well, goat cheese & a baguette of course! Very Francais indeed.
CHEESE OF THE WEEK: Brebirousse d'Argental
I love washed-rind cheeses, especially the kinds that slowly ooze onto the plate... Brebirousse is a delight in so many ways--for one it's 100% sheep milk which was a real surprise since this is so meltingly creamy & that's great news for those of you who can't consume cow's milk. The rind is speckled with annatto giving it an enticing orange & snow white color, but this is no stinker... Fresh cream with a lick of salt flakes is the best way to describe the flavor but it's the lush texture that really put this in my favorite category. Pair this with some proscuitto & melon and head straight for the beach for a picnic!
Looking for expert Spanish wine advice? Gourmet staples to stock the pantry? Melt in your mouth artisan charcuterie & intriguing hand-selected cheese? You can find me at Bella Cosa (1711 N. 45th, just west of the Wallingford Center) Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 am to 7 pm, five days a week. Please come by & say hello!