Sunday, May 25, 2008

Penne with Bacon, Caramelized Onion, Wilted Radicchio and Gorgonzola

I had just gotten back from a booze filled Saturday night at the Oregon Coast and I was craving some comfort food. For 24 hours I had indulged my inner redneck and survived on a diet of Coors light, Ruffles, chicken thighs slathered in KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce and a 10 lb. Salmon that was cooked on a grill so rusty from salt air that it looked like it might crumble to a pile of dust before the salmon was ready to eat.
For fiber we had those plastic trays of pre-cut veggies and ranch dip (I tried to force down some broccoli so my colon wouldn't get completely packed with chip and chip by-products).

What is almost surreal is that in the middle of all this "crap" we were shoveling in, we also uncorked a rare Turley White Coat, a 1997 Ridge Pagani Zinfandel a 2005 Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel from Tobin James and a Four Graces Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (the first three wines were great, I only remember popping the cork for the last...I think I went for a nap about that anticipation of playing blackjack all night at the Gearhart Fireman's Ball (think keg party, 70's cover band with blackjack and a homemade roulette wheel.

By the time I got home on Sunday I just wanted to cook something comforting.

You know, something that touches all of the taste senses- sweet, salty, savory, bitter, sour.
Tonight's dinner hit all but the sour component and it was only my lack of motivation for making a salad that made that not happen.
When I looked in the refrigerator tonight I had a head of radicchio, a little bacon, some Italian Parsley, Gorgonzola and I knew I had a sweet onion in the pantry. This is a pasta dish that I threw together on the fly and it is nice to see that I still had my wits about me after a Hunter Thompson-esque previous 24 hours
The next time you are contemplating fast food, take a quick look in your pantry, you might surprise yourself at what you have ready to go in the time it takes to boil the water for pasta.

Penne with Bacon, Caramelized Onion, Wilted Radicchio and Gorgonzola
1 head Radicchio (thinly sliced)
1 sweet onion (thinly sliced)
4 garlic cloves (thinly sliced)
1/4 lb. bacon (1/2 dice)
Italian Parsley
1/2 cup Gorgonzola
1 lb Penne Pasta

In a large pot add a splash of olive oil and cook the bacon (add some pepper flakes if you want some heat) until browned and crisp and then remove the bacon, reserve in a small bowl and throw in the onions and garlic to caramelize. When the onions are soft and brown pull them out of the pot and reserve in a small bowl as well.
When you pasta is done, crank the heat on the pot and throw in the radicchio to wilt, this will take just a minute or so. Toss back in the onions, bacon and penne w/ some pasta cooking water to combine everything. To serve, go ahead and place the pasta in warm bowls and sprinkle with the Italian Parsley and Gorgonzola crumbles.

Pair with some toasted garlic bread and a good Italian Chianti .
Buon Appetito'

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I am the Bobby Flay of my Neighborhood

Anyone who is more than a passing viewer of the Food Network knows who Bobby Flay is. His style of cooking has taken French technique and combined it with regional cuisines (especially SW United States) to come up with dishes that are almost uniquely American. Fresh, seasonal and often cooked on a grill. What I appreciate about the dishes Bobby does is that when you look at your plate you can identify everything you are eating-tomatoes,corn, cilantro, red onion. He lets the food speak and his choice of seasoning is typically a spice rub or a marinade.
So, with that information in hand I just want to issue a "throw-down" and say:

" I am the Bobby Flay of my neighborhood" (minus the curly red hair and the hot blond ex-model wife). If you don't believe me ask my neighbors. They will tell you that I probably grill 150 days a year. Lamb, beef, pork, turkey, chicken, buffalo, quail, goat...basically anything that moo's, oink's, crows, chirps or bleets is fare for my table.
Clouds, rain, sunshine (I live in Portland so there is much of the first two and little of the third) I am outside getting my "Bobby Flay" on.
So, dinner last night:


Dry Spice Rub Grilled Chicken Thighs

Chopped Salad w/ Lime Vinaigrette

Grilled Asparagus & Grilled Red Onions &Garlic Toast

2002 Provenance Cabernet
These thighs are fantastic-moist, succulent and flavorful. While I cooked this bone-in, I think they actually are better boned (save the bones for stock). Make sure you cook the chicken just to the edge of the coals. If you want some grill char put over the coals directly and stick by the grill.

Spice Rub
1 Tbsp Coriander seed
1 Tbsp Yellow Mustard seeds
2 tsp Fennel seeds
3 Tbsp Spanish Paprika (pimention dulce)
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
2 tsp Black Pepper
2 tsp Kosher Salt

Grind all the seeds and add the remaining ingredients-you can easily scale this up to keep on hand in an airtight container.

Chopped Salad
1-2 cup Tomatoes-heirlooms, pear, cherry-coarse chop
1 cup Corn (in season you can grill the corn in the husk and then cut off the cob)
1/2 Red Onion chopped
1 can Pinto Beans (rinsed & drained)
1 handful cilantro -chopped
Olive Oil
1 Lime juiced

Heirloom Tomato & Gorgonzola Bruschetta

Photo by: Mark Thomas

With Summer around the corner it is just a matter of time before this season's tomatoes are in the grocery stores and at the various Farmers Markets in our communities.
This is a recipe that I very loosely adapted from Bon Appetit. The use of heirloom tomatoes is well worth the trouble and expense of finding them (unless you are growing them in the backyard).

This is a tremendous dish and it can be served as a salad an appetizer or even a light dinner. The flavors work well together and the acidity of the tomatoes, the crunch of the onion and celery plus the creaminess of the cheese make this a dish that dances in your mouth. This is a big time favorite of mine

8 pieces of thickly sliced crusty bread
4 large garlic cloves
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (eyeball it and use more if it looks dry)
1 pint currant or grape tomatoes or halved cherry or pear tomatoes
4-5 chopped green onions

6-10 medium heirloom tomatoes of assorted colors & varieties, cored, & sliced- Mix it up: Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Green Zebra or Dad's Sunset...get what is fresh, interesting and in season! I think the salad looks better if the sliced tomatoes aren't too uniform in size.

1 small red onion, sliced paper-thin (it needs to be thin enough to read the print of this recipe...........kidding)
2 celery stalks, sliced thin on diagonal
1/2 chopped parsley
1 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled Gorgonzola blue cheese ( I love the creamy texture of this cheese and it is pungent, but without the smelly feet component of Roquefort...which I actually love, just not in this recipe)

Prepare barbecue grill
(medium-high heat)-you know the drill, use charcoal and for god's sake use a chimney charcoal starter (does anyone like the taste of charcoal starter?....rhetorical question) . Brush bread with olive oil. Combine remaining 1/3 cup oil, currant tomatoes, and green onions in medium bowl; toss to coat. Season with coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Overlap tomato slices in concentric circles on platter, alternating colors (or just put everything in a bowl and toss). Scatter onion and celery slices over tomatoes. Hit the mix with salt and pepper. Spoon tomato and green onion mixture over. Crumble the Gorgonzola over the mix and you are good to go.

Grill bread until golden (pay attention or you are going to have burnt toast), then pull off the grill and rub with the garlic cloves. Cut each slice diagonally in half; serve with salad.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Food for Thought

I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play
each time with a variation.
— Madame Benoit

Monday, May 12, 2008

FredFest 2008

This past Saturday I attended the 2008 FredFest here in Portland, Oregon. The festival celebrated the 82nd birthday of Fred Eckhardt. "He more than any other, influenced the beer scene in Oregon, encouraged its young brewers, helped educate beer drinkers to expect more from their beer and wrote about the resulting beers and the scene that was growing here in a way that made people want to join the party"-John Foyston-Oregonian.

A picture is worth a thousand words...........

I have been fortunate over the past 15 years to have met Fred at homebrew meetings (Oregon Brew Crew), beer/food pairing events (beer and ice cream anyone?) and at events all over the City of Portland.
Racantour.............. (extraordinaire)

If you looked up "Racantour" in the dictionary, you would see his face attached as an illustration. For anyone who hasn't heard; Portland is to beer in America as Munich is to beer in Germany. We have an amazing number of national, regional and teeny, tiny brewers in this great little city.
Fred was one of the earliest supporters of the drive for good beer here in Portland. Kind of like
a founding father....only for beer, think of him as the Benjamin Franklin of beer.

Fred Eckhardt & Norm

The event at Hair of the Dog had all of the charm of a Oregon Brew Crew meeting, in fact I would venture a guess that 75% of the people in the room either are or have been members of the OBC. This event was all about the beer and the crowd wasn't the U of O frat-boy/sorority-girl crowd that shows up for the Summer Beer Festival.
Happy Birthday to Fred

Drinking in and around brew kettles, grain bins, fermentation tanks and an array of hoses, pumps and other hazards lent a big dose of that "gritty" Portland edge that I am glad to see still exists.

This little festival/birthday for Fred featured an amazing array of beers brewed especially for this day, they included:

1 BridgePort Brewing Bourbon Barrel aged Old Knucklehead Firkin
2 Laurelwood Brewing Bourbon Barrel Aged Olde Reliable Barleywine
3 Widmer Brewing Altbier!!!
4 Lompoc Brewing Oak aged LSD
5 Deschutes Brewing Br. Abe Belgian ale
6 Rockbottom Brewing Oak aged IIPA
7 Cascade brewing 2006 Wild Blackberry ale ( Flanders red style)
8 Lucky Lab Brewing Double Alt
9 Hopworks Urban Brewery 2007 Kentucky Christmas
10 Hair of the Dog Cask Fred from the Wood
11 Full Sail Brewing Bourbon BBL aged 1998 Old Boilermaker
12 Rogue Brewing Brewer Ale
13 Roots Brewing 2006 Pinot Noir Oak aged Epic
14 Ninkasi Brewing Dry Hopped Cask Tricerahops
15 Firestone
16 Jim 2007 Holiday Ale Fest Collaboration with HOTD

I have to say that the festival was all imagined it would be. The atmosphere was festive and this really did seem like a wonderful (large) birthday party for Fred.
Personally I am an avowed "Hop Head" so all of these big, huge, gargantuan IPA's and Imperial IPA's were right up my alley.

Another highlight of the day was meeting my blog friend Heather Anderson (from Gild the Voodoolily) and her charming husband Scott. While Heather claimed that she was more of "girly" beer drinker, I can attest that any woman that can hammer down 10-12 Belgian ales, Barley wine and an Alt or two to boot, is part Viking (apparently she actually is).
Heather & Scott

Heather (representing) & Norm

Just in case they run out of beer-

Monday, May 5, 2008

Porchetta Romana

I am always amazed when I go to the grocery store and see these gigantic pork shoulder roasts on sale for .95 cents a pound. Doesn't anybody know how mind alteringly good these can be if prepared properly? I am almost afraid to give up this recipe as it may cause a run on pork shoulder and cause a price spike at my local grocery store. I guess that would be okay since I don't know how a farmer can raise a pig for what these roasts are selling for.
While this roast maybe doesn't reach the culinary heights of say crisp bacon or prosciutto, this is by far the best quality to price ratio piece of meat on the pig.
Anyway, this is an adaptation I made from a Mario Batali recipe. He cooks his roast overnight and the resulting meat to me is too done. This preparation leave the meat still firm enough to slice and it is unctuous, succulent and very fragrant. Heads up though, to do this properly you need to start a day ahead to allow the pork shoulder to absorb the garlic and herb mixture you rub it down with.

Porchetta Romana
5-8 lb. Pork Shoulder Roast
1 head of Garlic
1-2 Tbsp. Fennel Seed
1-2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary
Olive Oil

Peel and sliver the entire head of garlic then take a paring knife and make punctures into the roast so you can insert the garlic. Next slather with olive oil and dust with the fennel, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cover the roast and let sit for 24 hours.
Pre-heat your over to 250 degrees and place the roast into the oven. You will now be looking at about a 5-6 hour roasting time to get the roast up to the desired 160 degrees.
When the roast reaches 160 degrees (oven temperature) go ahead and pull the roast and tent with foil. Let the roast rest for at least 20 minutes. I actually like to start this roast earlier in the day and pull it at 150 degrees, let rest and then when dinner is about an hour out I will crank the oven up to 350 degrees and cook until I get to 160 degrees. This browns and crisps the outside nicely.

The roast as you can see has just a hint of pink and this is a fantastic dish for a large gathering. It is also amazing for sandwiches -hot or cold.

Buon Appetito

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wine Words

Glossary of Wine Words
When I started putting this together I was thinking of just doing a "cut & paste" since there are a ton of these wine glossary's online. Once I got started though I realized how much more I know about wine than many of these other "experts". So, either I know more....or I just think I know decide.
This is a list that will be updated from time to time-I hope this sheds some light on some of these arcane terms. Feel free to give me some feedback if you disagree with anything I have written-I probably won't change it (since the below is my interpretation), but it would be fun to discuss.

One of the essential elements in both grapes and finished wines. Acidity is necessary to keep any wine fresh. Ironically, acidity is perhaps most important in sweet wines, where it prevents then from being merely sickly-sweet. Acidity is what makes wines like Italian Chianti so food friendly. The acidity of the wine will help cleanse your palate between bites. Higher acid generally means that the wine is more food friendly.

Adding acidity during
winemaking to compensate for grapes which have over-ripened. This can be done by adding citric acid to the must.

Ethanol is produced as a by-product of fermentation. The alcoholic strength of a wine is a measure of its concentration of Ethanol. The simple equation is: Yeast + Sugar=Alcohol. Or another way of looking at it is: Alcohol=Happy people.

A tasting term. A wine is balanced when all of its characteristics work together in harmony, with no single element – fruit, tannin, acidity, alcohol - overpowering anything other. Some wine regions (Bordeaux and the Southern Rhone) will blend different grape varietals with the intent of achieving maximum balance in the finished wine.

A term that usually describes the presence of
Brettanomyces. In the sometimes slightly wacky world of wine evaluation, it is entirely possible for a wine taster to say, "This wine tastes like $#@*!" (or in French it is "merde")... and mean it as a compliment.
I have heard many stories about winemakers who appreciate
brett when they taste it in someone elses wines, but who abhor it in their own wine. Personally, I kinda like it. I tasted a 1989 Chateau Palmer that smelled like fresh horse shit on a pair of new leather cowboy boots..... I don't know if Robert Parker would use that kind of description or not.

French term for stirring of the lees.

Tasting term for the weight and texture of a wine on the palate – the "
mouthfeel" of the wine. A combination of alcohol, extract and glycerol.

A fungus to which grapes are prone. Often it is bad news in the vineyard where it destroys grapes, but in a few places conditions allow it to develop beneficially as "Noble Rot".
Botrytis draws the water content from the grape and leaves concentrated sugary juice that makes luscious sweet wine. The Sauternes wines of Bordeaux are a striking example of what Botrytis does to a wine.

Or "
Breh-TAN-oh-MY-sees" or just plain "brett" to some wine buffs. A controversial fault in wine caused by a rogue strain of YEAST. It imparts a "barnyard" (i.e. a good way) aroma that some find adds character, particularly in Rhône and Burgundy reds. The aroma of brett-afflicted wines may range from leathery to mousey, wet-fur, or "barnyard" aromas like chicken manure or horse sweat. Some tasters also find a twangy metallic quality in the aftertaste of bretty wines. I have heard many stories about winemakers who appreciate brett when they taste it in someone elses wines, but who abhor it in their own wine. Personally, I kinda like it.

The bubbling mass of skins and pips that floats to the surface during fermentation of red wine. It must be submerged regularly.

Carbon Dioxide
Another by-product of fermentation, winemakers take great pains to make sure none is left in the wine before bottling, unless they are making a sparkling wine.

Carbonic Maceration
A special fermentation technique where whole berries are starved of oxygen so fermentation begins within the grape. Common in Beaujolais, it makes soft, fruity wines not made for keeping.

Named after its "inventor" Jean-Antoine
Chaptal who suggested adding sugar to under-ripe juice before fermentation so that more alcohol could be produced. This is still a practice that is legal in Burgundy and from what I have heard producers in Bordeaux aren't shy about boosting alcohol when necessary. The thought is that by increasing the fermentable sugar content of the Must and thus the alcohol the wine will be more balanced. Think of this a "Sunshine in a bag".

Cold Stabilization
A process in which white wine is chilled to precipitate tartaric acid as small crystals which can then be removed before bottling. Wines that have not been cold stabilised may throw these crystals at a later stage. They are harmless, but don’t look very nice in the bottle.

A "Corked" wine suffers from a specific fault where a faulty processing of the cork has caused a chemical called
trichloranisole to form, imparting a dirty aroma and flavor to the wine. The wine takes on a smell of wet cardboard (like when cardboard box gets damp in your basement). Typically about 5% of all bottles are affected (screw tops anyone?)

French term for the small amount of top-up liquid added to Champagne just before bottling, sweetened to desired level.

German term (
Icewine in English). Grapes are left on the vine until they freeze. Temperatures of -7C are required. The water content is removed as ice, and the resulting wine is sweet, concentrated and luscious.

En Primeur
French term for buying wine as "futures": paying for wine before it is released onto the market in order to secure wines that are in short supply, or at an advantageous price. Not for the faint-hearted...kinda like playing stock market futures, and just as risky.

The substances, mostly derived from grape skins and just under the skin’s surface, that contribute tannin, color, glycerol and flavor to a wine. Some wines can be "over-extracted" meaning too much of these elements have been extracted making the wine inky and bitter.

Synonymous with "length": the amount of time a flavour lingers on the palate after the wine is swallowed. More is (usually) good.

A processed used to clarify wine. Some claim it can also strip flavor so many producers filter very lightly or not at all.

Another clarifying process where some gelatinous agent (for example, whisked egg whites) is added to the barrel and sinks through the wine trapping even minute solids.

Protective yeast that is encouraged to grow on certain maturing wines, particularly Sherry. This yeast stops oxidization and adds flavor. It is also highly sensitive to micro-climate and sherry production outside of Spain is next to impossible.

Flying Winemaker
Globetrotting winemaker/consultant who has no set winery but operates in many, usually employing the latest technology and practices.

Tasting term indicating a young wine that is maturing quickly or is made to be drunk young.

Free-run Juice
The high quality juice that runs from the fermentation tank without pressing. Those grape presses one sees in renderings and at wineries around the world are used to “press” the
remaining juice out of the fermented must.

Any vine crossing where one or both "parents" is not from the wine vine,
vitis vinifera.

Late Harvest
Designation appearing on bottles (in French,
Vendange Tardive) where grapes were allowed to hang on the vine beyond physiological maturity. This over-ripens grapes, usually producing wines that are high in alcohol and off-dry to sweet.

Laying down
Describes the long-term storage of wine in the belief that it will improve with age. Wines from the
Cru Classe in Bordeaux can age for 10+ years as can quality Barolo and Barbaresco wines from the Piedmont. Most wine manufactured today is meant to age approximately the length of time that it takes you to drive to the store to pick it up and bring it home (New World).

The solids left behind after fermentation is complete: dead yeast cells and grape matter. White wines matured in contact with the lees (in French,
Sur Lie) can develop creamy, nutty flavours. Lees stiring with Pinot Noir in Oregon is somewhat common as well.

See Finish

A fault whereby the wine has oxidized and over-heated giving it a brown color and burnt, stale taste. Not a fault in Madeira wine, which deliberately goes through a heating process to caramelize the wine. The cool thing about Madeira is that since it has already been oxidized and overheated during its production you can keep an open bottle

Malolactic Fermentation
A secondary fermentation that is biological, in which harsh
malic acid is converted into softer lactic acid. This is a naturally occurring process that needs proactive action to prevent. German Reislings and many French Chardonnay wines do not undergo malolactic fermentation (to retain the crisp acidity).

Methode Champenoise
The traditional and best way of making a sparkling wine. EU has banned the term from bottles not made in Champagne, so look out for "
Methode Traditionelle" or "Fermented in this Bottle" instead.

(from Latin
vinum mustum or "young wine") is freshly pressed fruit juice (most commonly grape), that contains various quantities of pulp such as skins, stems, and seeds, called pomace or fruit solids, which typically comprise between 7–23 percent of the total weight of the must. These components, and the time they are allowed to be in contact with the juice, are critical to the final character of the wine.

Tasting term. wine is assessed by taste (the palate) but also by smell (the nose). Did you know that about 75% of what you'll want to know about a wine could be found in your nose? You can only perceive four tastes-sweet, sour, bitter, and salt-but you can smell over 1,000 different scents. Pinpointing the nose of the wine helps you to identify certain characteristics found in the taste. The more you taste, the better your scent memory becomes....practice, practice, practice.

The science of
winemaking. The reality is that winemaking is every bit as much an art as it is a science. Wine makers are as individual as music conductors (this is a very apt analogy...combining many variables for a desired effect).

What happens to the surface of a cut apple when exposed to air. Grapes and grape juice oxidize if not handled carefully. Bottled wine will also oxidize if the seal is not airtight.

Tasting term. Wine is assessed by smell (the nose) and by taste (the palate). The palate confirms flavours detected on the nose, but adds body, acidity, tannins, finish, etc. to the picture.

Anti-oxidant compounds found in wine, mostly coming from grape skins. These include tannin and flavor compounds. Also important in making wine beneficial to health: lowering blood pressure and risk of heart disease.

The louse that eats vine roots. Devastated Europe in the late nineteenth century until it was discovered that American rootstock was resistant. It was brought to Europe in the 1800's when some non-
vinefera (native grape varietals) were imported from America (as a gift-oops). Since then, most European vines are grafted onto American rootstock. Ironically, the Californian industry was badly damaged by Phylloxera in the 1980’s and 90’s after planting on low-resistance rootstock. It is a Texan named Thomas Volnay Munson who is credited with saving the entire fine wine industry in France

Portuguese term for an estate or vine farm. "Single Quinta" Port comes from a single vintage and farm.

Labor intensive process of siphoning wine from one barrel to another in order to leave some sediment behind and gradually clarify the wine. This process not only helps to clarify the wine, but it adds a small amount of oxygen to the wine as well. Cabernet
Sauvignon is a wine that responds well to frequent rackings ( kind of like the person you dated who liked being spanked).

Italian wine made for grapes that have been dried on mats after harvest. This raisins the grapes, making them very sweet.
Amarone is made from Recioto grapes, but fermented out fully to be dry and concentrated.

French term for the process by which the dead yeast cells in maturing Champagne and other quality sparkling wines are gradually moved into the neck of the bottle before being removed. Traditionally done by hand, more often nowadays by machine.

Residual Sugar (RS)
The amount of sugar remaining in a wine that has not been converted into alcohol when fermentation stops. Less than 2g/l is imperceptible. Some sweet wines will have upwards of 25g/l.

A system of fractional blending that gives Sherry its character. A complex process by which several vintages are blended together over many years in a building known as a
Solera, before bottling.

Tasting term. To describe a wine as "well-structured" is very complimentary. It means it has an "architecture" of fruit, acidity, alcohol and tannins that should allow it to age and stop it from being bland or
wishy-washy or my favorite term "flabby". The actress Kathleen Turner if she were a wine she would be said to have great "structure". On the other hand if Anna Nicole Smith (before her diet and before she passed away) were a wine she would be labeled as "flabby" it?

Sulphur Dioxide
An important and age-old additive in
winemaking. Sulphur is an antiseptic and antioxidant. If used correctly it should be imperceptible.

Ground breaking Italian wines that deliberately ignored local wine laws to make premium wines using outlawed "international" grapes like Cabernet
Sauvignon and Merlot. These wines are technically labeled as "table wine", yet their prices can reach Cru Class Bordeaux price levels.

A naturally occurring chemical that helps to preserve red wine and adds a savoury edge to the flavor. Tannins are present in grape stems, pips and skins. Tannin also comes from oak ageing of wine. The astringency that one gets from black teas is from the natural tannins. As the grape ripens on the vine so do tannins, making them less astringent. Bottle age also lessens tannins, which will eventually precipitate as sediment.

Unfiltered Wine
Wine that has been bottled without filtration. This is a very common practice in quality wines, it avoids a process which many believe strips wine of some flavor and complexity.

Varietal Labeling
The practice of naming the grape or grapes on the label (i.e. Cabernet, Merlot, etc.) – still uncommon in classic European regions, adopted widely elsewhere over the past 20 years. Take a look at a bottle of Bordeaux wine (typically a blend of Cabernet
Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) and you will be forced to guess as to what grapes went into the wine

Vitis Vinifera
The wine vine. Almost all important wines are made from this species. Cabernet
Sauvignon, Merlot, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese are all vitas vinifera grape varietals. Concord grapes are vitas lambrusca.

Volatile Acidity (VA)
Tasting terms that wine bores (is that me?) often trot out to impress. A real fault however, ranging from a vaguely sharp smell, to a horrible vinegar aroma and taste or in the case of ethyl acetate it will smell like nail polish remover (really). Caused by bacterial infection, especially of
acetobacter (acetic acid).

Other than grapes, the essential element in fermentation. Yeast is a single-cell organism that is naturally present on the surface of grapes, but in commercial
winemaking is more likely to be laboratory-grown. Typically the proprietary yeast strains are some mutation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It devours grape sugar, converting it into Ethanol (alcohol-yum).
There are almost countless varieties of yeast used in wine production. Some winemakers and wineries prefer to use
indigenous yeast (wild yeast) and there is a HUGE volume of discussion and controversy about this practice. Yeasts occur naturally on grapes and there are a number of yeast strains present. As fermentation commences the lower alcohol tolerant strains will start to die off and the higher alcohol tolerant strains will take over. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an alcohol tolerant strain and it is the yeast that will ferment wine to dryness.
All of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast strains that are commercially available, have been isolated from wild yeast strains.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pasta con Aglio e Olio (Pasta w/Garlic & Olive Oil)

Photo: Courtesy of the Costa Mesa Daily Pilot
Don't you love the bowl of pasta on the kids head?

I am almost embarrassed to say that I hadn't even heard of this dish until I was in my late 20's and living in Southern California. This is probably one of the simplest and most satisfying pasta dishes that one can make at home.
There was a funky restaurant called "Pasta Connection" in Costa Mesa, California that that offered this as one of more than 20+ pasta dishes that were all made to order.
The flavor of the restaurant was Italian and they had wine and deli items to go. The one hitch was, none of the people who owned or worked there were Italian. I am guessing that the entire crew spoke English as a second language but I would also venture a guess that their first language was Spanish and not Italian.
Anyway, these guys served up what I consider to be the "gold standard" of this dish. I have had it at many restaurants and and paid much more than the $4.95 they used to charge in 1988. It is a dish that is so simple and so easy to make, yet it punches well above its weight at the dinner table.
When I dropped my son off for school this morning and asked him what he wanted for dinner, he responded "Pasta". Between you and me, I don't think that he will be disappointed at dinner time.

Pasta con Aglio e Olio

1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 head (not a typo.)of Garlic-peel and mince half and thinly slice the other half
1 tsp. Red Pepper flakes
1 handful Italian Parsley -coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Chicken broth ( maybe nonna didn't use this, but it is damn good)
1/2 cup pasta water
1 lb. Spaghetti


I was going to go into this detailed instruction about how to prepare this pasta, but I am taking a page out of the Heather Anderson school of cooking at (Gild the Voodoolily). Besides, it seems a little over the top when the list of ingredients is smaller than the instructions to cook this-remember, this isn't brain surgery.
Basically, heat the oil, add the pepper flakes

then toss in the sliced garlic. When the sliced garlic is fragrant turn off the heat. Keep an eye on this since if you brown the garlic it is ruined.

When your pasta is done go ahead and crank up the saute pan and add the rest of the garlic, the parsley and all the liquid-toss in the noodles and stir and serve immediately!

This would go well with hearty bread (in Portland, Oregon that mean Grand Central, Ken's or Pearl Bakery) and a good Italian "food wine"-think Chianti or Barbera since both have alot of natural acidity and go excellent with almost all Mediterranean food.

Buon Appetito