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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bargain Wine of the Week: 2009 Bogle Sauvignon Blanc

It's summer, and that means sipping a light, crisp wine on the patio or next to the lake. Sparkling wines, especially the light proseccos and moscatos from Italy, are a sure bet.

But not everybody likes a sparkler, so the next best bet is a Sauvignon Blanc. They are crisp, light, refreshing and they go with just about every appetizer — and they're great just for sipping. If you're a Francophile, buy a Sancerre, which is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

The Sancerres are good, but they are a bit more expensive than American Sauvignon Blancs. Now, every wine shop has a selection of these summer favorites, but many of them are green and grassy and a bit harsh. How do you find one that is a) low-priced; b) guaranteed good; and c) available where you live?

Our sure bet of the summer is Bogle's 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (or any other year for that matter). It can often be had for $7.99, and rarely costs more than $10. Wine Spectator rated this wine with the familiar pheasant on the label at 88 and a Special Value.

Here's a tip: whenever you're watching your pennies and you're looking for a wine that won't break the bank but will taste good, put a Bogle in your shopping cart. If you're guessing at the wine store, you might as well make an intelligent guess. It's close to a sure thing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More Hot-Weather Relief: Mango Salad

Though the humidity has backed off a bit, it's still late July in Northern Virginia, which means we're disinclined to turn on the stove or the grill. The solution: light, refreshing salads that make use of all the great produce that's available. All you need is a good knife and, if you're lazy like us, a food processor that can quickly handle the tedious job of shredding.

The other night we shredded a green mango and made a salad that was tart, sweet, a little hot, and completely delicious. This recipe makes two very decent portions; if you want to feed more people, it's easily doubled or even tripled.

Green Mango Salad

1 green mango (if all you have is a firm orange mango, go ahead and use that)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped basil
2 scallions, minced
1/3 cup roasted chopped peanuts

2 T. fish sauce
3 T. lime juice
4 t. brown sugar
1 t. chili garlic paste

1. Shred the mango, either using a grater or (much quicker) the shredding blade on a food processor.

2. Mix with the cilantro, basil, scallions, and peanuts.

3. Pour dressing over all, and serve immediately.

Serves two.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hot-Weather Relief

Here in Northern Virginia it is 103 degrees in the shade, with a heat index estimated at about 115 and no relief expected for days to come. Needless to say, we won't be cooking for a while; even outdoor grilling seems too much heat to bear. Instead, we'll be relying on some hot-weather favorites that require very little effort and no stove.

First, drinks. This is perfect weather for a Liberator; if that's too strong for your taste, how about some nice sparkly Prosecco? Pour yourself a glass of something cool, put on some good music, pull out your knives, and get to work on a quick, light, delicious meal.

A salad composed of cool ribbons of zucchini dressed with lemon, mint, and Parmesan would be perfect on a day like this. So would a slaw of raw beets and carrots bathed in tangy Dijon. This watermelon salad with mint and feta cheese can be either a first course or a light main course. And this bean sprout salad mixes bold flavors with light veggies.

Want something more substantial? How about a crunchy Indian salad?

For dessert, all you need is some cold fruit, and maybe a little bit more Prosecco.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You Can Make Tapas at Home

First, apologies for the long drought of posts. We were out of town and ran into Internet problems that, like all Internet problems, were both complicated and too boring to explain.

Now that we're back, we can write a post we've been meaning to write since Ruth's birthday back in June.

We celebrated with a trip to Jaleo, a tapas restaurant run by José Andrés that has gotten great reviews. As we don't eat out that often, we tend to be extra-critical of bad food and extra-delighted by good food; if the service and atmosphere also deserve high marks, we're disproportionately thrilled. This was one of those meals. Everything was great, from the opening dish of olives with tiny cubes of marinated Manchego cheese to the final bowl of olive oil ice cream and grapefruit sorbet. Best of all, we figured that we could reproduce our favorite dishes back home.

Usually, it takes at least a few tries to successfully approximate a restaurant dish, but the first one we tried—poached onions with blue cheese and pine nuts—came out great. We were astonished by how easy it was.

Because this can be made ahead of time and either warmed up or served at room temperature, this would make an excellent first course. We plan to use it as part of a homemade tapas lineup (our next post, also poached from Jaleo: stuffed peppers with tapenade).

You'll notice that one of the onions in the photo looks charred. That's because we experimented with grilling half of the onions in the recipe, wondering if that would make a difference. It did seem to add flavor, though the nongrilled onions tasted great too.

Onions with Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts

Two fat onions
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 T. olive oil

1. Peel the onions and halve them through their centers, leaving their stem ends intact so they don't fall apart during the poaching.

2. Place them cut-side down in a deep skillet and pour the stock over them. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Let the onions simmer until the stock is mostly evaporated and they are tender all the way through—depending on the size of the onions, this can take as a long as an hour.

3. While the onions poach, toast the pine nuts and crumble the blue cheese.

4. When the onions are tender, remove them to a plate, sprinkle them with pine nuts and blue cheese, and drizzle them lightly with olive oil.

Serves four.