Sunday, June 26, 2022

White, Red & Blue Sangria

                          White Sangria kicked off a "magnifico" Wine-Knows evening on Mallorca

July 4th is around the corner and I have the perfect drink sensation for your festivities:  white sangria made with Cava!    Decorated with strawberries and blueberries, this special rendition will have all of your guests begging for the recipe.  This was certainly the case on the island of Mallorca with Wine-Knows during a private dinner.  Fortunately, the chef was willing to share the ingredients, and the star component was unknown to me.

                                                        Spain's "43" is available in the US

I’ve had several white Sangrias but this one was unusually superb.   True, this version was made using Spain’s sparkling Cava, but it wasn’t the bubbles that were tantalizing my taste buds.  There was subtle, yet mesmerizing flavors that I couldn’t identify.   It turned out to be a Spanish liqueur called “43.”

Licor 43 (Quarenta Tres)  is a popular liqueur used throughout Europe, but remains essentially unknown in the US (except by bartenders who specialize in concocting upscale cocktails.)   Named because of the 43 herbs and botanicals used, it has a unique taste with notes of vanilla, cinnamon and orange peel.  In Spain, it’s not unusual to see "43" added to a coffee for an after dinner drink.  

                              This group of Wine-Knows is on their 2nd white sangria

I bought a bottle of "43" at Duty Free (Malaga's airport had a huge display) to bring home, however, I was surprised after I returned to see that BevMo carries it.   This white Sangria recipe is simple, but the flavors are complex.   I’ve adjusted the recipe for a 4th of July party (12 servings):

2 bottles of Cava

½ bottle of still, fruity white wine (avoid Sauv Blanc)

3/4  -  1 cup Licor 43 (to taste)

1 Quart (4 cups) sparkling lemonade

Strawberries & blueberries

Happy 4th!

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Surprise Origin of Fried Green Tomatoes

Savannah's Pink House serves the Holy Grail of fried green tomatoes in the form of a BLT salad

Gardens are now filled with green tomatoes and I've got just the dish for you.  Like many of us, my first introduction to fried green tomatoes was its namesake book published in 1988 and the popular movie that followed.
  For the last 30 years I’ve ordered these southern culinary morsels in Atlanta, New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, Williamsburg, and all points in between… including Appalachia.  If they were on the menu (and even if they weren’t), they were my go-to dish.  Few times have I been disappointed.

Fried green tomatoes scream quintessential Old South….or so I thought.  My recent trip to rural Georgia piqued my curiosity on exactly how this scrumptious Southern signature dish originated.  After some research, I was shocked at what I found.  I think you will be, too. 

                  Unripe tomatoes are used because they haven't developed juice or sweetness

According to noted food historian Richard Moss, fried green tomatoes are Yankee imposters.  In his book, The Fried Green Tomato Swindle & Other Southern Culinary Adventures, Moss discloses that they may have been introduced to the US by Jewish immigrants in the Northeast or Midwest (recipes began appearing in American Jewish cookbooks as early as 1919).  But, wait a minute as there’s another theory on the origin of fried green tomatoes.  The LA Times published a recipe for them in 1908.   Indeed, Californians were eating them eight decades before the movie!  This makes total sense as California is the largest tomato producer.

   Fried green tomatoes are versatile:  this version is topped with burrata & fig with a balsamic drizzle

Surprisingly, the seemingly Southern classic fried green tomatoes didn’t make it to the South until after the movie.  There’s not a trace of them in Southern cookbooks before the 1980’s.   That being said, the South has fervently adopted this dish like no other region of the country.  On my recent Georgia trip, they were represented in some form on every single menu.  There was a standout rendition, however, heads and toes above all of the others.

Savannah’s Pink House, one of the South’s bastions for gastronomy, has long been a favorite of mine, and their rendition of fried green tomatoes is one of Georgia’s culinary masterpieces!   Food TV star, Aaron Sanchez, lists among the “best things I ever ate” a Fried Green Tomato BLT Salad from the Pink House.   I have dreamt of this salad and the stunning setting in which it is served since I first had it ten years ago.  (The beautifully coiffed building, which served as the headquarters for General Sherman, is a National Landmark offering all the glitz and glamour of pre-war Gone with the Wind). 

South City Kitchen (Atlanta) knocked it out of the park with goat cheese, fresh tomato coulis & basil oil

If you’re one of the Boswell Scholarship recipients coming on the private Scholar’s trip to Georgia, you can be assured fried green tomatoes will be on most of our menus.  And, the Pink House’s BLT salad interpretation will surely convince you that even though the South didn’t invent fried green tomatoes, Southerners have drawn it into their culture like a bee to honey.  

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Marvelous Mouvedre

The French Riviera's village of Bandol is one of the epicenters for Mouvedre wine 

The red Mouvedre grape loves heat.
  That’s why you’ll find it growing in places like Spain, the South of France, California and the warmer parts of Australia.  Thought to be native to Spain, Mouvedre is perhaps most famous for the French wine it produces in the southern Rhone Valley.  The Rhone’s celebrated “GSM” blend, is composed of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre.

                         Domaine Tempier produces rock-star Mouvedre in the Rhone

Mouvedre is a deeply pigmented, thick skinned grape which translates to a very dark colored wine (only Syrah is darker).  As tannins are also in grape skins, this  means a more tannic wine.   Because of these two attributes, Mouvedre is often blended with other varietals to provide more color and structure.   Mouvedre is also used for the same reasons in making Rosé wines in southern France.   Spain even uses this grape in making Rosé Cava.

                                        In Spain, the Mouvedre grape is called Monastrell

In addition to making big, full-bodied wines, the Mouvedre grape produces flavors of dark red fruits, a floral component (think violets), and herbaceous notes such as black pepper and thyme.    This is not a sissy's wine.   For food pairing, think big and bold such as BBQ meats that have been marinated in flavors that complement the wine such as lavender, rosemary and thyme.   For veggie lovers, try grilled portobello mushrooms with garlic, olive oil and fresh complementary herbs.

Those coming on this September's Week with Julia Child in Provence will have the opportunity to sample many wines made from 100% Mouvedre,  GSM blends,  and even Rosés.   For more information on this trip, check it out: