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.”

Continue reading “French Wine: A History”


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! 

Continue reading “National Cookbook Month: Nut and Honey Filled Cookies”


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.
Continue reading “National Cookbook Month: North African Filo Pastries”


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!

Continue reading “The Untold Story of Chianti”


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.


Passover Hazelnut Sponge Cake

This is the final part of a series of recipes from our forthcoming cookbook The New Mediterranean Jewish Table by Joyce Goldstein. Check out the other recipes here.

 

9780520284999

 

Passover Hazelnut Sponge Cake

Pan di Spagna alle Nocciole

A family favorite, this light, flourless Italian Passover cake is fragrant with sweet toasted hazelnuts—a specialty of the Piedmont region—and with subtle hints of citrus.

Serves 10 to 12

 

Ingredients:

10 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange (3 to 4 tablespoons juice)

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (2 to 3 tablespoons juice)

11/2 cups finely ground toasted and peeled hazelnuts

6 tablespoons matzo cake meal, sifted

2 tablespoons potato starch

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have ready a 10-inch tube pan.

In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the citrus zests and juices. Using an electric mixer, beat on high speeduntil the mixture is thick and pale and holds a 3-second slowly dissolving ribbon when the beaters are lifted.

In a second bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. On medium-high speed, gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg mixture just until combined, then fold in the hazelnuts, the matzo cake meal, potato starch, salt, and vanilla.

Pour the batter into the tube pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Invert the cake still in the pan onto a wire rack and let cool completely. To serve, lift off the pan and transfer the cake to a serving plate. Cut into slices and serve.

—–

Joyce Goldstein was chef and owner of the groundbreaking Mediterranean restaurant Square One in San Francisco. Prior to opening Square One, she was chef at the Chez Panisse Café and visiting executive chef at the Wine Spectator Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa. Today she is a cooking teacher, consultant to the restaurant and food industries, and prolific cookbook author.


Persian Yogurt Soup with Chickpeas, Lentils and Spinach

This is part three of a series of recipes from our forthcoming cookbook The New Mediterranean Jewish Table by Joyce Goldstein. Check out the other recipes here.

 

9780520284999

 

Persian Yogurt Soup with Chickpeas, Lentils, and Spinach

Ashe Sbanikh

There are two ways to make this creamy soup. You can start with the stabilized yogurt and then add the other ingredients, or you can simmer the soup first and add the yogurt at the end. Either way will work as long as you do not let the soup boil and curdle the yogurt. With the jewel-like pomegranate arils, yellow turmeric tint to the yogurt, and the green of the herbs and spinach, this soup is visually a stunner.

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight in 4 cups of water

3- 4 cups thick yogurt

½ cup basmati rice, rinsed and soaked for a half hour or longer

1 egg

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cinnamon

5 cups vegetable broth or water

1/2 cup lentils, soaked overnight in 2 cups of water, drained

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cups chopped green onions

1 pound spinach, well washed and chopped

5 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, minced very fine

Pomegranate arils

 

Instructions:

Drain the chickpeas and rinse. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the chickpeas are tender, about 45-60 minutes. Set aside.

Cook the lentils in water to cover until tender but still a bit firm.

Spoon yogurt into a large saucepan. Add the egg, flour, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and stir with a whisk. Add the rice, and 3 cups of stock or water to the pot. Cook gently, over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10-12 minutes. When the rice is tender but firm, add the cooked chickpeas, lentils, the parsley, green onions, spinach and 3 tablespoons of chopped mint and the rest of the stock. Simmer for ten to 15 minutes.

In a small sauté pan, melt the butter. Sauté the garlic until soft but not colored. Add to the soup, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with remaining chopped mint. Garnish with pomegranate arils.

—–

Joyce Goldstein was chef and owner of the groundbreaking Mediterranean restaurant Square One in San Francisco. Prior to opening Square One, she was chef at the Chez Panisse Café and visiting executive chef at the Wine Spectator Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa. Today she is a cooking teacher, consultant to the restaurant and food industries, and prolific cookbook author.


Fish with Green Tahini

This is part two of a series of recipes from our forthcoming cookbook The New Mediterranean Jewish Table by Joyce Goldstein. Check out part one here.

9780520284999

Fish with Green Tahini

Samak al Sahara

Samak is Arabic for fish. This recipe is a variation on the traditional Middle Eastern samak ba tahini where the fish is covered with sesame paste flavored with garlic, lemon, and onions and served at room temperature. Here the fish is served hot. To the basic tahini sauce the Egyptians and Lebanese add a tingle of heat with cayenne and add chopped cilantro and parsley, which tint the sauce pale green. The tahini crust on the fish keeps it moist throughout the baking process. You may garnish this with olives, chopped walnuts, or pine nuts along with more chopped cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges and a rice or bulgur pilaf. Spinach or roasted cauliflower or carrots are good accompaniments. If you do not want to bake the fish under the tahini you may also bake, broil or grill the fish and spoon the sauce on after cooking.

 

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

6 fillets of snapper, rockfish, sea bass, each about 6 ounces

1/2 cup tahini, including some of its oil

3-4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

¼ teaspoon cayenne or a bit more

1/2 teaspoon salt

½ cup tightly packed cilantro leaves

½ cup chopped parsley leaves (optional for more greenery)

1/2 cup water or as needed to thin

Chopped walnuts or pine nuts for garnish (optional)

 

Instructions:

Combine tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cayenne, salt, cilantro and parsley if using, in the container of a food processor or blender. Pulse to combine. Add water as needed to thin. Adjust heat and salt to taste.

To cook the fish, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place fish fillets in an oiled baking dish and spread with a layer of the Sahara sauce. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Variation: Yellow tahini: Omit green leaves and add 1 teaspoon turmeric to the tahini when blending the sauce.

Variation: Red tahini: Omit green leaves and add chopped tomato or some tomato paste when you blend the tahini sauce or 1 roasted red bell pepper.

—–

Joyce Goldstein was chef and owner of the groundbreaking Mediterranean restaurant Square One in San Francisco. Prior to opening Square One, she was chef at the Chez Panisse Café and visiting executive chef at the Wine Spectator Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa. Today she is a cooking teacher, consultant to the restaurant and food industries, and prolific cookbook author.