The Perception of Wine

by Jamie Goode, author of I Taste Red: The Science of Tasting Wine

9780520292246I remember when I first became really interested in the perception of wine. I’d finished my PhD and had just begun working as a science editor. The organization I worked for was a scientific charity, and our brief was to select hot topics in biology and medicine, and pull together 25 of the leading experts in the field for a closed meeting so they could discuss their latest work with their peers. Our special focus was on bringing together people working on different sides of the same problem, making the meetings a somewhat multidisciplinary. One of these meetings was on taste and smell, and I listened with interest as the various experts talked about their work.

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Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake

by Joyce Goldstein, author of The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home

Happy Thanksgiving! Looking for a last minute dessert recipe? Try this pumpkin cake recipe from Joyce Goldstein.

New Mediterranean Jewish Table Joyce Goldstein

Pumpkin Cake from the Veneto (Torta di Zucca Barucca)

Dense and creamy at the same time, this cake comes from the town of Treviso in the Veneto. The use of pumpkin and citron indicates a Sephardic origin.

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Not the (American) Rhône: New Zealand Hawke’s Bay Syrah

by Patrick Comiskey, author of American Rhone: How Maverick Winemakers Changed the Way Americans Drink

9780520256668The best thing about writing a book about Syrah, to say nothing of the rest of the Rhône pantheon, is that everyone wants me to taste their wines. I usually insist that I’m no expert, that this is a work more of scholarship than of taste, but really, how can I refuse? I’ve been living and breathing this stuff for half a decade. And a good Syrah, I’ve always maintained, is different from a ‘good’ anything else, always a little wilder, more exotic, more idiosyncratic than those in the other glass.

This are some of the traits I look for when I travel, as I did last month to New Zealand, where I served as a guest judge at the Hawke’s Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Competition. There I got to nearly every Rhône variety wine from that region, a large and remarkably distinctive place on the country’s north island. With a small coterie of critics I tasted and spat through about 400 of the region’s wines. Best of show? A Syrah.

Hawke’s Bay comes to Syrah late, much as the U.S. did (though like the U.S., some did get planted in the 19th century). Alan Limmer, winemaker at Stonecroft Winery outside of Hastings, is said to have rescued a hundred or so cuttings from a government test plot that was destined for bulldozing in the mid-eighties. He planted and propagated, releasing a first vintage in 1989.

Since then the region has proven to be a bastion for the grape, with a style redolent with the exotic aromatics that are the hallmark of cool climate Syrah. You want jam? Go to Australia. Here you’re going to get white pepper, olive, smoke and flowers, with a tightly wound structure that takes the evening to unfurl. Here are three to seek out, including the Best of Show wine:

2015 Boundary Vineyards Farm’s Lane Hawke’s Bay Syrah – not yet imported, from a large stable of wines produced by the wine and spirits giant Pernod Ricard, this wine starts off pretty and floral before unleashing a fresh, lush, juicy middle palate with spiced blackberry flavors and refreshing acidity. Best of Show at 2016 Hawke’s Bay Wine Awards

2014 Trinity Hill Homage Hawke’s Bay Syrah, a tribute to Gerard Jaboulet who aided the young winemaker John Hancock by giving him cuttings from Hermitage Hill, these were planted in Hawke’s Bay in the late 90s. It is wonderfully dark and brooding in its aromatics, with sense of cassis, black pepper, and clove. Flavors are dark yet fresh, with a finish that’s spicy, like black tea.

2013 Vidal Legacy Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah – a low yielding parcel on what’s known as the Gimblett Gravels, exceptionally poor, well-draining soils that invariably result in wines of unbridled intensity. Still, there’s a cracked pepper life to the aromas here, and purple fruit marked by rosemary oil flavors.


unnamed (1)Patrick J. Comiskey is a wine writer and critic for Wine & Spirits magazine. He has written about wine for many publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Food & Wine, Decanter, and Lucky Peach.


French Wine: A History

by Rod Phillips, author of French Wine: A History

I’ve been a big fan of French wine since I was a teenager in New Zealand in the 1960s and started collecting wines. My prizes were two bottles of 1953 Château La Tour-Carnet, a fairly prestigious producer. When I bought them in 1966, each bottle cost about the price of a hamburger because, as the retailer said, “they’re old.” Over the years, I’ve drunk wines from scores of countries and hundreds of regions, but French wine still fascinates me. I’ve often said that if I were stranded on a desert island and could have wine from only one country, it would be France.

So writing a history of French wine was even more pleasurable than writing my other books. I was able to immerse myself in 2,500 years of French wine and understand how it got to where it is now. Sure, it faces competition from wines from all over the world, and not many people outside France still think that if a wine is French, it must be good. Even so, no country’s grape harvests get as much media attention as France’s, each vintage in Bordeaux and Burgundy is examined as if it’s an oracle, and French wine regions are still the benchmarks for grape varieties and wine styles. If you’ve talked to winemakers, you’ll know how often they brag that their pinot noir or chardonnay is made in “a Burgundian style.”

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National Cookbook Month: Nut and Honey Filled Cookies

by Joyce Goldstein, author of The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table each Wednesday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.

New Mediterranean Jewish Table Joyce Goldstein

Nut and Honey Filled Cookies (Sfratti)

These cookies, which are shaped like sticks, are called sfratti, which means “evicted.” The name comes from Italian landlords of long ago who used sticks to chase away poor tenants who had not paid their rent, some of them probably poor Jews. Jewish cooks have turned the origin of these cookies around, making them into sweet symbols of eviction (much like Passover haroset is the sweet symbol of the mortar used to build the pyramids.) These honey-and-nut-filled cookies are served at Rosh Hashanah. Butter or margarine is used, depending on whether the rest of the meal is dairy or not. My family thinks these are better than rugelach! 

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National Cookbook Month: North African Filo Pastries

by Joyce Goldstein, author of The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table each Wednesday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.

New Mediterranean Jewish Table Joyce Goldstein

North African Filo Pastries (Bestels)

Bestels resemble borekas: thin layers of dough wrapped around a savory filling. But instead of a shortcrust or flaky pastry, Moroccan bestels are traditionally made with ouarka, which means “leaf” in Arabic. The same pastry is known as malsouka in Tunisia and as feuilles (leaves) de brik in France. The pastry is made from a rather springy semolina dough that is pressed in an overlapping circular pattern onto a hot flat pan called a tobsil and then peeled off when the paper-thin film of dough has set. Because the process is so time- consuming, most North African home cooks buy ouarka from those who specialize in making it. Feuilles de brik can be purchased from restaurant-food wholesalers, but first you must find a source and then the minimum order is typically quite large, usually about 250 sheets, which are difficult to store. (Some online sources have more reasonably-sized packages, but the pastry ends up costing about a dollar a sheet, which is insane, and it is likely not to arrive in the best condition because of the rigors of transit.) The good news is that you can make these pastries with filo, which is widely available.

Traditionally served during Rosh Hashanah and at special dinners, bestels come in two shapes, triangular and cylindrical; the latter are also called cigares or briouats. As evidence of the Spanish roots of these pastries, both Maguy Kakon in La cuisine juive du Maroc de mère en fille and Viviane and Nina Moryoussef in Moroccan Jewish Cookery call the meat filling migas, a Spanish term for bread crumbs enriched with meat juices. To ensure moisture, some cooks add a little tomato juice or some chopped tomatoes to the filling. Every family seasons the meat mixture in a different way. Some use quite a lot of garlic, others add onion, and still others favor ginger and turmeric along with, or in place of, the cinnamon. In Marrakech la Rouge, Hélène Gans Perez includes the juice of a lemon, and I have followed her lead. In 150 recettes et mille et un souvenirs d’une juive d’Algérie, Léone Jaffin offers an Algerian bestel filling that calls for a trio of large onions and nutmeg instead of cinnamon.
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The Untold Story of Chianti

by Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino, coauthors of Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine

Chianti Classico coverIn our new book, Chianti Classico, we tell the untold story of the wine region once known simply as Chianti. But it is not a simple tale. For anyone who has had the pleasure of navigating the countryside between the cities of Florence and Siena, the simplicity and majesty of Chianti’s landscape is inescapable. Narrow country roads curve through forested hills and sloped vineyards. Medieval castles, Romanesque chapels, and grand cypresses punctuate the scenery like the background of a Renaissance painting. Yet the story of Chianti as a wine region has been lost to history. Even for many modern-day wine consumers, Chianti does not connote an actual place, but rather an old-style Italian red wine in a straw-covered flask. By the early twentieth century wine labeled as “Chianti” was being made throughout Tuscany, Italy, and even in California!

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National Dessert Day: Cardamom Cake

by Niloufer Ichaporia King, author of My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table each Friday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.

My Bombay Kitchen cookbook

Cardamom Cake

The recipe for this cake, one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever received in my life,
comes from a generous Swedish friend, Ragnhild Langlet, a textile artist of extraordinary
talent. The cake became an immediate favorite in our household, an honorary
Parsi dessert and our most requested birthday cake.

We met Ragnhild Langlet in a Berkeley garden in the early summer of 1987 at a
potluck wedding celebration to which she brought an unassuming cake baked in an
unassuming pan. That unassuming little cake was one of the most powerful things
I’ve ever tasted. It was suffused with the scent of cardamom, crunchy whole seeds
throughout, sweet enough, rich enough, light enough. Cake perfection. The taste is
so exotic, so tropical, yet so adaptable to any cuisine that it’s a surprise to know that
it comes from Sweden, which turns out to be the world’s second-largest market for
cardamom, India being number one.

This cake is excellent the first day, even better the next and the next and the next,
if it lasts that long. Serve with fruit or a custard or ice cream. There’s nothing that it
doesn’t complement. Continue reading “National Dessert Day: Cardamom Cake”


National Cookbook Month: Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

by Joyce Goldstein, author of The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table each Wednesday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.

New Mediterranean Jewish Table Joyce Goldstein

Moroccan Vegetable Tagine (Mehalet)

This recipe, which is sometimes called tajine del sabana, is a cross between two tagine recipes in La cuisine juive du Maroc de mère en fille by Maguy Kakon. Similar dishes are found on the Rosh Hashanah table in Fez, Meknes, and Tangier. Almost any combination of vegetables will work for this fragrant stew, which is typically served with cous-cous. It includes both potatoes and sweet potatoes and the classic addition of preserved lemon and olives, which add salt and tang. If you like, 1 to 1/2 pounds butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks, can be used in place of the sweet potatoes. Although not authentic, I sometimes add 1/2 cup plumped raisins for a note of sweetness. Continue reading “National Cookbook Month: Moroccan Vegetable Tagine”


National Cookbook Month: Fried Eggplant with Sugar

by Joyce Goldstein

October is National Cookbook Month! Come back for a new recipe from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table each Friday, and click here to save 30% on some of our award-winning cookbooks.

9780520284999

Eggplants were brought to Spain and Italy by the Arabs, and Jewish cooks quickly took to the new food. Initially, they were treated as a fruit and served sweetened with sugar. In the Middle East, cooks have long preserved eggplant in a sugar syrup, and in Morocco, a sweet eggplant condiment is popular. This Sephardic dish from Turkey, which is ideal for Rosh Hashanah, reveals its Hispano-Arabic origin in its use of double cooking: the eggplant slices are fried, sprinkled with sugar and salt, and then baked. Since the slices are cooked through after the frying step, you could skip the baking step, sprinkle the fried slices with sugar and salt, and eat them as is.

 

Fried Eggplant with Sugar

Serves 6 to 8.

2 1/2 pounds globe eggplants

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

Salt

Olive or sunflower oil for frying and drizzling

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-by-12-by-2-inch baking dish.

Peel the eggplants and cut them lengthwise into slices about ⅓ inch thick. Soak the slices in a bowl of lightly salted water for 15 minutes, then drain and squeeze dry. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Pour the oil to a depth of 2 inches into a large, deep sauté pan and heat to 360°F. When the oil is hot, in batches, dip the eggplant slices into the eggs and slip them into the oil. Fry just until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spatula, transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, then place in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.

When the bottom of the dish is completely covered, sprinkle the eggplant slices with sugar and salt. Add another layer of eggplant and sprinkle with sugar and salt. Repeat until all the eggplant slices have been used. Drizzle the surface with oil.

Bake until the eggplant is very tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Serve hot or warm directly from the dish.