Fried eggplant. Baked eggplant. Marinated eggplant. Baba ganoush. Parmigiano. Moussaka. Ratatouille. I’ve always loved eggplant. I’ve also always considered eggplant a pain in the patootie. Who needs thin slices of salted eggplant lined up on paper towels across every flat surface in the kitchen? You see I’ve always read that eggplant MUST be salted before cooking to bring out its best qualities.
But does it really?
I know from experience that the idea of soaking dried beans overnight isn’t really a necessary step (necessarily). It’s a step I confidently skip plenty of times. Sure, I’ve heard the extra step makes the beans more sweet and creamy.
But does it really?
“Yeah but…” you might be thinking. Beans aren’t really bitter. Eggplant is bitter.
But is it really?
I recently read that the bitterness was bred out of eggplant decades ago so the need to draw out the juices before cooking is a moot point.
But is it really?
I don’t know. So I turned to some of my favorite experts.
Ada Boni, in her 1969 Italian Regional Cooking, salts for an hour, as does her successor queen of Italian food, Marcella Hazan. Nancy Silverton and Judy Rodgers use salt, but as more of a seasoning. Modern cooks like Yotam Ottolenghi and Rachel Roddy tend not to salt. Hmmm…
The LA Times’ recipe for Honey & Vinegar Marinated Eggplant called for salting – so I salted. One taste proved that I must have done something right…
1 tablespoonfine sea salt(plus more as needed for seasoning)
1 ½ cupextra-virgin olive oil(plus more as needed)
2 large shallots(peeled and thinly sliced)
2 clovegarlic(peeled and chopped)
1 ½ teaspoonsweet paprika
⅓ cupbalsamic vinegar
⅓ cupsherry vinegar
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lemon(juice only)
¼ cupchopped parsley(optional)
2 teaspoontoasted sesame seeds(optional)
Trim 1 inch off the top and bottom of each eggplant. Halve each eggplant crosswise, then stand each half on one end and cut each into 8 wedges, for 32 pieces total. Toss the wedges with 1 tablespoon salt in a large bowl, then arrange them with one cut side down on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Drain for 2 to 4 hours. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels.
Heat a heavy-bottomed large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half cup olive oil, then arrange half the eggplant with one cut side down until the bottoms are golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add an additional quarter cup oil, flip the eggplant and fry until the other side is golden brown, about 6 minutes more. Transfer to a plate to cool and repeat with the remaining eggplant and an additional three-quarters cup olive oil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and pour any oil left in the pan into a bowl. Return 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet, or add more fresh oil to make 2 tablespoons. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and paprika and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add both kinds of vinegar, the thyme, and 2 tablespoons water. Swirl the liquids and scrape any browned bits from the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, 5 to 6 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the honey. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the browned eggplant and gently stir to coat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the eggplant softens but is not mushy, about 5 minutes. Cover and cook until the eggplant softens further and one-eighth inch of liquid remains in the skillet, about 5 minutes more. Taste and add more honey and salt, if desired.
Transfer to a nonreactive bowl and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, transfer to the refrigerator and chill completely, at least 4 hours and up to 5 days.
When ready to serve, remove the eggplant from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Stir in the lemon juice, then garnish with the parsley and sesame seeds (if using).
Summer starts on June 21st! But before I start jumping through the sprinkler I’ve decided to line-up a few go-to recipes. Simple dishes that can stand alone or sit nicely beside something from the grill. I’m looking for food I can make a day ahead in the cool of the evening and turn to again and again. Juicy stuffed tomatoes in the Roman style are first on the list.
Stuffed vegetables appear on just about every antipasti table in Italy, but Pomodori con riso (tomatoes with rice) are especially beloved during the heat of a Roman summer. Of course firm but ripe summer tomatoes make the perfect little vessel and can be stuffed with just about anything. But it’s the simple Roman rice-stuffed version that grabs my attention because they are best served at room temperature, or even cold from the refrigerator.
When it’s hot outside there’s nothing better than eating cold food.
These stuffed tomatoes are so simple I make them at home well before I plan to serve them. But in Rome, you’re just as likely to see great trays of them in the windows of a bakery or a rosticceria where they’re baked in the bread oven until the rice gets tender and the tomatoes just begin to slump. People pick them up on their way home from work or on their way to a cool countryside picnic.
It’s potatoes that make this dish different from most of the stuffed tomatoes you’ve eaten in your life. Typically Roman-style stuffed tomatoes are surrounded by chunks of golden potatoes – crisp on the top and sticky from tomato juice on the bottom. That’s Roman-style. GREG
3/4 cupextra-virgin olive oil(divided), plus more for drizzling
freshly cracked black pepper(for seasoning)
½ cuparborio rice
1 poundrusset poatoes(peeled and cut into ¾'' chunks
Cut off the tops of the tomatoes and reserve them for later. Trim about ¾” from stem-end of each one and set ends aside. Working over a medium bowl, use a small spoon or melon baller to carefully scoop out inner pulp without puncturing the walls of the tomatoes. Sprinkle the insides of the empty tomatoes with some salt and turn upside down on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Meanwhile, add the fresh basil, shallots, garlic, and ½ cup olive oil to the tomato flesh and season with salt and black pepper. Use a hand blender or food processor to puree the mixture. Add the rice, stir well and set aside for at least 45 minutes so that the rice can absorb the flavorful liquid.
Position oven rack in the top third of oven, then preheat oven to 350°.
Toss the potato chunks with the remaining ¼-cup olive oil, sprinkle with salt and arrange them along the bottom of a shallow casserole dish or baking tray large enough to fit all the tomatoes.
Scoop a generous ¼-cup of the saucy rice filling into the hollowed out tomatoes (there may be a little filling left over), and place a reserved tomato end on top of each stuffed tomato as a cap then nestle the tomatoes on top of the potatoes. Drizzle a little oil over tomatoes, and bake until the rice is tender and the tomatoes are wrinkled and beginning to brown but still holding their shape, about one hour and fifteen minutes. Begin checking on the tomatoes after 30 minutes, adding a splash of water only if needed to keep the bottom from burning.
Remove from oven, and set aside to cool to room temperature. Serve with a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil at room temperature or, on a hot day, chilled.
It’s been a while since I posted here at Sippity Sup, sorry! In the meantime I’ve been on social media, covering events like the 2019 Tre Bicchieri tasting and a recent Loire Valley Wines seminar. I’ve also been on the couch, watching Frazier reruns with my mom. Speaking of family, my dear cousin Sarah generously gave me some wine to take home during my recent trip to Seattle (note: Alaska Airlines lets you check up to a case of wine free). Sarah is the events director at JM Cellars, a “family-owned, craft winery in Woodinville, Washington focused on producing handcrafted, limited-release wine since 1998.”
I had to quote their website since I haven’t been there myself, but I sure would like to visit next time I’m in the Pacific Northwest. JM Cellars hits my wine trifecta– small production, Bordeaux and Rhône varietals, sustainably hand-crafted. I’m especially motivated after having sampled some of John Bigelow’s impeccable wines.
JM Cellars 2016 Syrah
To honor Doris Day, we’ll focus on JM’s Syrah, Syrah. The winery makes two different Syrahs every year. I’d like to share my thoughts on JM Cellars 2016 Syrah from the Columbia Valley. Pour yourself a taste and you’ll observe a glass-staining, royal purple hue. Take a sniff to discover powerful dark fruit aromatics with a hint of minerality. On the palate you’ll find luscious blackberry fruit and damson plum with a touch of menthol delivered by silky smooth (yet definitely there) tannins. There’s a slight sweetness in the long finish, perhaps from oak, which brought raspberry coulis to mind. The tannic structure and herbal notes banish any thoughts of a jammy Syrah.
The wine’s balance and complexity cry out for the classic lamb with mint pairing. Greg obliged by grilling up some lamb, accompanied by a minted Israeli couscous. Classic combos work: the juicy lamb loin meshed nicely with the round, full-bodied texture of the wine, the mint was mirrored marvelously and the slight char from the grill complemented the fruity finish. A touch of pickled onions added a sour note, in a good way. JM Cellars, while known for its cool climate reds also offers crisp whites and a rosé made with 100% Cinsaut. Many more reasons to visit! KEN
¼ teaspoonfreshly cracked black pepper(plus more as needed)
1 tablespoonfinely grated lemon zest
4 (6 oz) boneless lamb loin steaks or chops
¼ cupfresh squeezed lemon juice
½ red onion(peeled and thinly sliced into rings)
¼ cupextra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoonwhite wine
1 bunchmint(leaves only)
8 ounceIsraeli couscous
3/4 cupfrozen baby peas(thawed)
4 lemon wedges
Marinate the lamb: Place the anchovies with their oil and chopped garlic in a mini-food processor. Pulse the machine 4 or 5 times then run it until a rough paste has formed. Scrape the paste in a small bowl and stir in red pepper flakes, black pepper, and lemon zest.
Place the lamb steaks in a shallow bowl. Rub them all over with the anchovy-garlic paste until thoroughly coated on all sides. Cover the bowl and refrigerate at least one hour.
Make the pickled onions and vinaigrette: Meanwhile, place the lemon juice, sliced onions, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Let them sit on the counter, tossing them often until the juice turns pink and the onion slices wilt; about 15 minutes.
Transfer the onion slices to a separate small bowl leaving as much of the pink lemon juice behind as possible. To this juice add olive oil, wine, and a pinch each salt and pepper. Whisk until emulsified. Set the onions and vinaigrette aside separately at room temperature until serving time.
Make the couscous: Set aside a few of the prettiest mint leaves to use as an optional garnish then roughly chopped the rest of the leaves.
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the Israeli couscous and cook until al dente, about 4 minutes. Drain the Israeli couscous and return it to the warm pan along with the thawed peas, add the chopped mint and vinaigrette; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper; set aside and allow the couscous to come to room temperature.
Grill the lamb: Set up a charcoal grill for direct heat or heat a gas grill over high. (Alternatively, heat a large skillet or grill pan over high heat.) Place the marinated lamb on the grill and cook undisturbed for 4 minutes. Flip the lamb and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes for medium-rare. Remove the steaks from the grill and transfer to a platter. Loosely tent the platter with foil and let rest for 8 minutes.
Serve the lamb on a pile of the minted couscous. Garnish each plate with reserved mint leaves (if using) and pickled onions. Serve with lemon wedges on the side for spritzing.
I’ve been at it again. I made Chorizo and Shrimp Tacos. Why not? Everyone likes tacos, right? But this isn’t a Chorizo and Shrimp Taco post. I just couldn’t bring myself to do two shrimp taco posts in a row. So this is a salsa post. A Raw Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa post.
1 poundmedium shrimp(peeled and deveined with tails removed)
freshly cracked black pepper(as needed)
6 corn tortillas(warmed)
raw tomatillo and avocado salsa(see recipe)
Place a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and a pinch of salt. Cook, breaking up the chunks until the fat has rendered and the meat is browned and nearly cooked through about 4 minutes. Add the shrimp and let brown, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and let them begin to blister about 2 more minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide the shrimp and chorizo mixture evenly among the tortillas. Top with a big drizzle of salsa. Serve immediately.
2 serrano chiles(stem removed, and roughly chopped)
4 clovegarlic(peeled and roughly chopped)
4 limes(juice only)
1 pinchkosher salt
In a food processor, combine the tomatillos, avocado, serranos, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and a big pinch of salt. Cover and pulse 3 or 4 times to combine ingredients, then let it blend until you can see the seeds. It should be fairly (but not completely) smooth. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
As a Californian, few bites of food make me happier than Fish Tacos from Mexico’s Baja. Even when those fish tacos are a Caribbean/Mexican cultural mashup of Coconut Shrimp Tacos inspired by two separate travel memories.
As for their Mexican origin, the city of Ensenada and the town of San Felipe both claim their version as the original. Both also seem to have the facts to prove it. Ensenada insists we credit their Japanese migrants for the crispy tempura-style batter they prefer, and San Felipe residents believe a mustardy beer batter is better suited to the local climate and should, therefore, take precedence. Ensenada serves the fish in corn tortillas exclusively, San Felipe lets you choose corn or flour.
Here in taco-mad Los Angeles, you’re just as likely to see a California-style grilled version. My point is when it comes to Fish Tacos I’m hardly bound by local loyalties. Still, I like what I like and I like these Caribbean-inspired Coconut Shrimp Tacos just as much as the Baja Fish Tacos Ensenada and San Felipe bicker about.
Coconut Shrimp Tacos
While I’m mashing up cuisines I might as well conflate my travel memories too. You see I’ve just returned from Loreto, Mexico. This is my second trip to the Southern Baja town in 2019. So it’s safe to say I like it there. Besides its proximity to Los Angeles (1 hrs 38 mins via airplane), one of the things I like best about the place is the casual approach to food. Most especially tacos. Loreto is a town where you’ll find tempura-style tacos at one restaurant and beer batter tacos at another. It’s the only place this Ensenada-initiated taco lover will order flour tortillas with no humiliation.
On my first trip to Loreto in JanuaryI discovered a small bar on the main street of town with a difficult to pronounce name – Tlalocan. I liked the friendly owner/bartender Carlos very much so Ken and I made Tlalocan an everyday stop while we were there. Sure, Carlos makes a great Margarita but he also has a secret taco menu. On this menu there’s an unusual Coconut Shrimp Taco that’s just sweet enough. In a town like Loreto where most of the fish tacos are one or the other of the two styles I mentioned, Tlalocan’s creative take on my favorite street food stands out. Besides I’ve spent enough time in the Caribbean to have a soft spot for Coconut Shrimp deep-fried to a robust crunch.
Sadly, on this last trip to Loreto over Easter and Passover Tlalocan wasn’t open. We checked in dutifully every afternoon, but it remained quite closed. Then on our last full day in town Carlos had returned and Tlalocan was open. But his cook was still out. So no Coconut Shrimp Tacos.
Naturally I came home and got to work on recreating those tacos for myself. Wouldn’t you? GREG
1 ½ poundmedium shrimp(peeled and deveined with tails removed)
salt and pepper(as needed for seasoning)
4-6 cupvegetable oil(depending on pan size)
8-10 warm (4 to 6-inch) tortillas
2 cupshredded red cabbage
1 cupMexican crema(you can subtitute sour cream thinned with a small amount of milk)
lime wedges(as needed)
Mix coconut and breadcrumbs together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Beat the eggs and sugar together in a separate medium bowl. Set aside.
Season shrimp with salt and pepper on both sides. Working in batches, dip shrimp in the egg mixture to coat completely; lift (shaking off any excess), and dredge in coconut mixture. Lay on a baking sheet.
In a large, deep heavy-bottom pan, heat oil over medium heat until 350 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer. Cook half the shrimp, lightly shaking to separate shrimp, turning as needed until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer shrimp to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 350 degrees; repeat with remaining shrimp.
To serve, fill the tortillas with your desired number of shrimp, then top generously with shredded red cabbage, crema, and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve immediately.
I’ve pickled plenty of stuff on this blog: mangoes, mustard seeds, even a few little birds. So it easy to see how pickled raisins would be my kind of thing. Sweet. Savory. Unexpected. Which sounds like a metaphor for a happy life. Well, at least to me it does.
So with no real plan on how to use them, I went ahead and pickled some golden raisins in much the same manner as Chef Sterling. I was that excited to taste them. Of course, I knew they’d be sweet and sour. But I wasn’t prepared for the bold way those golden raisins were plumped and recharged by the cider vinegar. I knew I had to use their bright bite of acidity in a recipe and quick. So I tossed them with the cauliflower I was roasting anyway, and indeed my life is happier for it. GREG
Make the pickled golden raisins: Place vinegar, raisins, and a pinch of saffron (about 15 threads) in a small non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiled remove from heat; let cool to room temperature.
Roast the cauliflower: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°.
Place the cauliflower florets in a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Spread the cauliflower on a large, parchment-covered rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, tossing the florets halfway through to ensure even cooking until browned in spots and tender. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Spoon 2 or 3 tablespoons of the golden raisin pickling liquid over the cauliflower, then drain the raisins, discarding the remaining liquid and place the raisins and the toasted pinenuts in the bowl with the cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Serve immediately.
I thought about you guys just now because I’m eating pasta. Do you remember when I used to make default pasta here on Sippity Sup? Well, of course, you don’t – you’re too young. That was eons ago. But I did want you to know I still eat pasta, and the pasta I’m eating is Chicken Liver Ragu.
Though it’s not default pasta. It’s recipe pasta. Chicken Liver Ragu from a Food & Wine recipe.
Am I going too fast? Does any of that ring a bell? If not let me introduce myself. Hi! Remember me? I’m Greg. I used to be a blogger. I’ve been lurking around these inter-webs for more than 10-years. Back then I’d develop whole posts around something I called default pasta.
Default pasta made an appearance at my dinner table at least once a week. That’s because there’s not always time to plan and shop for a specific menu. So default pasta is about winging it with what you have on hand. For me, it was a creative way to spend time in the kitchen and come up with recipes for my blog that weren’t available anywhere else. That’s the kind of blogger I used to be.
These days my mind is on so many things that I’m having a little trouble finding my Sippity Sup mojo. After pushing out more than 2000 posts it’s a bit like postpartum depression I imagine. Not that a food blog is like a baby. Oh wait, what am I saying? That’s exactly what a food blog is like. Because in order to thrive, a blog takes constant care and feeding.
So if the blog has gotta eat and I gotta eat, then, of course, I gotta feed you, my virtual eaters, too. Still. I can’t get past the lazy in the kitchen blues these days. So at dinnertime, I’ve been turning to recipes written and tested by sources I trust. I figure if these recipes are good enough for my kitchen table, they’re good enough for this blog. At least for now… GREG
PS: The Chicken Liver Ragu source recipe suggested serving this sauce with rigatoni, but, in keeping with default pasta tradition of the old days I used what I had – bombolotti. Otherwise known as half rigatoni.
12 ouncedried tube-shaped pasta(such as rigatoni or bombolotti)
5 tablespooncold, unsalted butter(cut into ½-inch cubes, divided)
¼ cupfienly chopped shallot
1 ½ teaspoondry sherry
3/4 cupchicken stock
3 ouncechicken liver mousse
3/4 ounceParmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated(plus more for garnish)
2 teaspoonchopped fresh rosemary(plus more for garnish)
1 teaspoonsherry vinegar
¼ teaspoonfreshly cracked black pepper
Bring water to boil over high heat. Stir in kosher salt. Cook pasta until very al dente, about 3 minutes shorter than package directions call for.
While pasta cooks, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium. Cook, stirring often, until butter smells slightly nutty and turns light golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add shallot; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add sherry; cook until slightly reduced, about 20 seconds. Add stock; bring to a simmer over medium-high. Gradually whisk in 2 tablespoons butter, one piece at a time, waiting until butter is nearly melted before adding the next piece. Return to a simmer over medium-high; simmer 1 minute.
Using tongs or a spider, transfer pasta to skillet, reserving cooking liquid in pot. Increase heat under skillet to high. Gradually stir in chicken liver mousse (about 2 tablespoons at a time), alternating with cooking liquid (about ¼ cup at a time), stirring and shaking skillet constantly, until a creamy sauce forms and coats the pasta, making sure each addition of mousse is creamy and blended before the next addition, 4 to 5 minutes total.
Remove skillet from heat; stir in cheese, rosemary, vinegar, pepper, and remaining 1 tablespoon butter until blended. Divide among 4 bowls; garnish with additional cheese and rosemary.
Burnt is in quotations because the char on top is from a hot, hot oven and it’s intentional. I’m always excited by the challenge of cooking with high heat. But cheesecake, really? I thought a low oven and a Bain Marie were the keys to success.
But this cheesecake is a Basque Cheesecake invented in San Sebastián, Spain. It’s becoming rather notorious on global tables here in Los Angeles. Naturally, I was intrigued because it’s impossible to talk about this city’s food without focusing on multiculturalism.
With more than 60 types of national cuisines available somewhere around town, Angelenos can feast on everything from Honduran cuisine to Venezuelan, Hungarian, Russian, and Burmese. We even have Thai and Indian food so regionally specific that for many immigrants it’s like they never left their parents’ kitchen.
Now I’m not Basque (and I’ve never even been there) but as soon as I saw this recipe I got out the bowls and I cranked up the oven. After all, this Burnt Basque Cheesecake only has five simple ingredients and one of them is the globally-ubiquitous Philadelphia brand cream cheese. According to Chef Beran, it must be Philadelphia; “other brands don’t work as well.”
The other trick to this recipe is the oven. It must be HOT. Make sure it’s fully heated and completely stable at 450 degrees Fahrenheit before the cake goes in. Don’t use a convection oven either. This is important because the key to success with the Burnt Basque Cheesecake is the texture. Caramelized and charred on the outside while barely cooked and smooth on the inside. So smooth that it would actually ooze across the plate if served at room temperature.
Which is exactly how it’s served in San Sebastián. But Chef Beran prefers to chill the cake overnight and cut it cold. He considers it “more deceiving and more surprising by giving it structure while keeping it oozy.” GREG
Print This RecipeTotal timeYield10-12Source Dave Beran/Dialogue Santa MonicaPublished
cooking spray(as needed)
4 (8 oz) packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese(cut into 1-inch cubes)
1 ⅓ cupgranulated sugar
9 large egg yolks
½ teaspoonkosher salt
1 ¼ cupcrème fraîche
Heat the oven to 450 degrees with rack in bottom third.
Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Line with a 15-inch square of parchment paper, pressing it into the bottom and up the sides so that it extends above the rim of the pan. Crease and fold the paper as needed to keep it flat. Spray the parchment.
Put the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks and salt in a food processor. Pulse until very smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the crème fraîche and pulse until fully incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then tap the pan against a work surface a few times to smooth the top and eliminate air bubbles. Put on a half-sheet pan, then put in the oven.
Bake until the top is dark brown, the edges set and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, but the center is still quite jiggly, 20 to 25 minutes. If you shake the pan back and forth, the top should roll like a gentle wave.
Cool in the pan on a rack until room temperature, then refrigerate uncovered overnight.
To serve, release and remove the sides of the pan. Use the parchment to slide the cheesecake off the base onto a cutting board, then pull down the sides of the parchment. Use a sharp knife to cut slices, wiping the blade clean after each cut.
Gambero Rosso (red prawn, to you) invited me and Helen (media comps) to attend their annual 8-city U.S. tasting tour. Fortunately, one was in Los Angeles! This event is a wonderful opportunity to sample just released award-winning Italian wines. A Tre Bicchieri (three glasses) rating indicates an extraordinary wine – of which there were many. My sip/spit partner, Helen, will share her finely-tuned impressions of the standouts (see below). KEN
Gambero Rosso, Tre Bicchieri 2019! I look forward to this tasting event every year. Italian wines brim with sublime flavors both familiar and unfamiliar. It is very easy to overwhelm the palate (and the liver!) with so many wonderful wines of distinction being poured. The temptation is to head for the tried and true, the Chianti Gran Seleziones and the Barolos, but venturing a little off the beaten track pays dividends at this event.
Semidano is a very rare grape from Sardinia that was at one time thought to be extinct. Semidano di Mogoro Sup. Puisteris , 2016, is a revelation with a light and luscious explosion of Lychee, lemon stone and a dash of saline. It manages to be both delicate and powerful – imagine if Ariana Grande was a wine.
Nerello Mascalese is grown in the Mount Etna region of Sicily. It thrives on the elevation and rich volcanic soil. From the Pietradolce Vineyard on the Northern slopes of Etna, Etna Rosso Contrada Rampante, 2016 is a mouthful of heaven from the highest elevation of the vineyard. Ripe berries, fennel, earthy spices dance beautifully together. Sensational. A little lower in the same vineyard, the Etna Archineri, 2016 is a light and elegant combination of rose petals, sage, and red berries.
From Puglia, the Nero Di Troia grape produces an exceptional wine, Castel del Monte Rosso V. Pedale Riserva, 2015. This was a delight to taste – a perfectly balanced red with integrated acidity, tannins for structure, perfume (Lavender and Sandalwood) on the nose, and plum liquorice on the palate.
The region of Emilia Romagne produced some of my favorite expressions of Sangiovese, such as the $25.00 (a steal at that price) Poderi Dal Nespoli Romagne Sangiovese Superiore DOP Prugneto, 2017. It tantalizes with lush blueberry fruit pole dancing around eucalyptus and spice on firm structured tannins. Romagne Sangiovese Sup. Tre Rocche, 2017 had a similar beautiful balance of fruit and structure.
Tre Bicchieri 2019
Back on the beaten track, the Super Tuscans produced my Tre Bicchieri 2019 “Best In Show.” Tenuto di Biserno “Biserno” 2012.
The man behind Biserno is Lodovico Antinori. His family is famous in Tuscany and they were very involved in pioneering Super Tuscan wines (These are made from Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, which are non-traditional grapes for the region that nonetheless flourish in Tuscany). Lodovico founded the prestigious Ornellaia label. Financial woes and upheavals forced him to sell his stake in the label, which would eventually become wholly owned by his nemesis, the Frescobaldi Empire.
Lodovico first discovered the property that would become Tenuto di Biserno, when he was looking to expand the vineyards of Ornellaia. Due to the differences in geology, he decided it would not be the right fit for that label, but he became passionate about the land for his new project. He planted it between 2001 and 2005 and made Cabernet Franc (as opposed to the Merlot in Ornellaia) the star blending grape. Tenuto di Biserno “Biserno,” 2012, is an outstanding wine, something everyone should taste once in his or her lifetime. When I started to swish the succulent plums and spice around my mouth, some strange magic took over and I did something I almost never do at a wine tasting event… I swallowed! I swallowed and I wanted more! Next, I urged Ken to join me in a side-by-side tasting of the spectacular, huge and round, Le Serre Nouove dell’Ornellaia, 2016, and the sensational “Biserno.” We both agreed immediately that Lodovico’s newest venture knocks it into the solar system. Be warned though, the current price of $133.50 a bottle is sure to increase as word gets out to dedicated enophiles. The Ornellaia is still no slouch and at a price point around $58.00 may be more within reach. HELEN
Which means, because I’m a never say never guy, vegan cooking interests me much more than vegan eating. If eating vegan was my sole goal then it would be easy to find great vegan treats at restaurants, cafés, and bakeries. It’s a little trickier to have an interest in vegan cooking. Especially vegan baking. Because baking is more of a science than an art, swapping and eliminating ingredients from a traditional cake, cookie, or muffin recipe just won’t work.
Besides, good baking relies on practice as well as knowing your ingredients and understanding how they behave. Vegan baking is a brave new world. It requires the cook to find replacements for the eggs and butter that have traditionally formed the backbone of baking. I don’t have the skills to pull that off on my own. Which is why I turned to an expert recipe when I decided I wanted to give vegan baking a try. This Carrot-Ginger Black Sesame Loaf is reminiscent of a well-made – but restrained – carrot cake. I love its rich texture and the adult air about it. It’s sweet and simple, but incredibly moist and unexpectedly sesame-studded, with a lovelyginger kick too.
I served this Carrot-Ginger Black Sesame Loaf as dessert, but I believe its creator, Jessica Koslow of Sqirl LA, intended it as a breakfast food. I’m always surprised when I step into Sqirl and get in line behind all the health-conscious Angelenos who come to eat dessert for breakfast! I guess this recipe is exactly the kind of thing they’re looking for.
Which is my way of saying be warned, vegan isn’t necessarily shorthand for healthy. In the manner of a granola bar hoping to pass muster as a health food, there’s enough sugar in this cake to keep the calorie count worth counting. Still, even if you’re the type to never say never (like me) you won’t miss the meat, cheese, eggs, cream, or butter. GREG
Print This RecipeTotal timeYield8Source Everything I Want to Eat by Jessica KoslowPublished
Although the recipe didn’t call for it, I like to line my loaf pan with parchment paper. Especially with recipes like this one when I don’t want to have to invert the pan to remove the cake.
½ cupvegetable oil(plus more for pan)
250 gramall-purpose flour(about 2 cups, plus more for pan)
1 ½ teaspoonbaking powder
2 teaspoonground cinnamon
135 gramgranulated sugar(about 2/3 cup)
145 grambrown sugar(about 2/3 cup)
½ cupunsweetened applesauce
⅓ cupalmond milk
1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger(peeled and finely grated)
1 teaspoonvanilla extract
3/4 teaspoonfine sea salt
200 gramcoarsely grated carrot
2-3 tablespoonblack sesame seeds(or more as needed)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Brush the inside surfaces of an 8 ½ by 4 ½-inch loaf pan with a little oil. Dust with flour, tapping out any excess.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, almond milk, ginger, vanilla, and salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture, followed by the carrots, and finally the oil.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds. You want it to be completely covered in seeds. Bake until the loaf has puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes.