Saturday, July 3, 2010

A summer savior for a cold weather cook

I am a cold weather cook. I like my food hearty and rich with deep flavors. I like my wine big and austere with a mammoth’s share of savory and sweet aromas followed by mouth-filling and coating qualities. Does this mean I don't cook during the summer? Of course not. But what it does mean is that you'll find me behind a grill for most of the summer instead of over the stove. I find the one thing that saves my sanity in the summer months is the art of grilling. I'm sure we'll get more into this topic as the summer progresses.

However, my preferences can't interfere with my professional life and so, when preparing a meal for clients and friends, I'll go to the warm weather regions of the Mediterranean for inspiration. Especially the more simple preparations that keep you removed from the stovetop for any extended period of time. Salads and cold food preparations can be perfect for a summer afternoon or soiree, and an imaginative salad can easily fill the role of first course or appetizer.

One of my true favorites that is frequently requested at events is an orange salad with fennel and red onions. It’s refreshing with intense flavors of citrus, anise, a sharp bite of onion and the earthy sweetness of parsley. For wine, one of my all-time favorite, value-oriented producers fits the bill perfectly; Cantina Zaccagnini.

2009 Cantina Zaccagnini d’Abruzzo Colline Pescaresi (Pinot Grigio) – This wine shows tropical fruit, cut grass and minerals on the nose. On the palate, I found buttery lemon curd followed by granny smith apple with a medium body and a fresh citrus finish. The vibrant acidity of this wine carries its plush body well and makes it a great compliment to salads and seafood.

Orange salad with fennel and red onions
Serves 4 – 6 (make at least an hour ahead so the juices have time to marinate the salad.)

4 oranges (For an interesting twist you could use blood oranges, but increase the number to 6.)
1 bulb of fennel (cleaned, trimmed and sliced batonnet (think of the size of a French fry))
1 large red onion (cut in half and sliced thin)
½ cup orange juice
2 - 3 Tbls. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tsp fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Set a pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath on the side. When the water comes to a boil, add the fennel. Allow the fennel to blanch for 3 minutes and immediately remove from the boiling water and add to the ice bath. Allow the fennel to chill completely, but do not leave it in the ice bath any longer than necessary because the water will begin to leach flavor from the fennel. Once cool, set the fennel aside.

With a pairing knife, cut the peel from the oranges. (As seen on the right side of the page.) Start by slicing off the bottom and top, then set the orange on the now flat bottom, and cut from top to bottom so that the entire peel is cut from the flesh of the fruit. Now, hold the peeled orange in your hand over a bowl and with a sharp paring knife, and slice the fruit out from between the fibrous membrane of the orange.

This is called supreme or segmenting an orange. (It’s a great skill to learn.) As you cut the fruit from each orange, make sure to squeeze the remaining juice from the membrane before discarding.

In a bowl, mix together the orange, fennel and onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper and half of the chopped parsley. Then add the orange juice and olive oil. Toss again and taste for seasoning. Make any necessary adjustments. Place the bowl under refrigeration for at least an hour for the juices to marinate the salad.

Serve on chilled plates. Pile the salad in the center, sprinkle with remaining parsley and spoon the remaining dressing around the salad.

Then serve.

To find the 2009 Cantina Zaccagnini d’Abruzzo (Pinot Grigio) on Wine-Searcher, click HERE!

1 comment:

  1. This blog just hit an all new high. I shared with the wife today and she's in love. Keep up the great work. We'll be making this number at our July 4th bbq.