Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 40 Issue 3 • May 20-26, 2010
now in our 40th season

Wine & Dine

by Jenn Farmer
Chef, Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm 

I enjoy cooking, but I especially enjoy cooking with wine.  Sometimes I even like to put wine in my recipes.  I find it fun to open some new bottle I have never encountered and try to figure out what would taste perfect with it.  Like a rich and buttery chardonnay that is screaming out for spicy Thai food or a tannic cabernet sauvignon that needs a hard, full flavored, salty cheese with crackers and perhaps a green salad.  Sometimes I like to think about it from the opposite angle.  I find it entertaining to cook a dish and try to think about what wine would make it shine. Like a dark chocolate tart that would be perfect with a fizzy, slightly sweet, sparkling wine, or a smoky barbequed brisket that could taste nice with Beaujolais or a slightly-dry Riesling.  Sometimes it can be a challenge, but that’s what is fun about it.

The following recipe is great for entertaining.  It brings back memories of picking basil in my mother’s garden on a warm summer evening.  I would go into the cool kitchen and assist my mom by chopping the perfumed basil, still warm from the sunshine on her cool, tiled, counter.    The tangy scent of olives, garlic, and herbs from the antipasti platter filled the room, giving everyone an appetite. 

Mom’s kitchen was very rustic and had old exposed barn beams with aromatics hanging from them.  It was open, but very homey, and great for entertaining.  Friends and neighbors, would each bring different bottles of wine to taste (frequently homemade), and often we would begin the evening opening one to enjoy with this cheesecake.  What a delicious way to begin a nice evening of conversation and food.

This appetizer is very simple and rustic in appearance, yet is elegant in flavor.  I like to serve it on crispy cracker or with some crusty French bread and a green salad.  It is especially good with a glass (or two) of wine.  It pairs well with medium bodied Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blanc, or even some Pinot Noirs.  If a wine is very rich, it may not pair well with this rich cheese cake (both will come out tasting flabby and flat), so try to choose a wine with a little structure to it. 

Mom’s Pine Nut and Pesto Cheesecake

One half cup Italian breadcrumbs, dry
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts (pignoli), chopped
2 tablespoons butter, melted

16 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
One half cup grated parmesan cheese
3 eggs
One quarter cup toasted pine nuts (pignoli), chopped
3 tablespoons basil, chopped
2 tablespoons scallions, sliced
One half tablespoons garlic powder
One quarter teaspoon white pepper
One quarter teaspoon sea salt, ground

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Grease a 9 inch spring-form pan.  Mix together crust ingredients and press them into the greased pan.  Meanwhile, process or beat cream cheese until smooth, add sour cream and mix until well incorporated and smooth.  Combine rest of the ingredients, and whip into the cream cheese and sour cream mixture.  The mixture should be very smooth.

Pour the cheese mixture over the crust, and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until set (does not jiggle in the middle).  Cool several hours, or overnight before attempting to cut the cheesecake.  I have frozen this cheesecake with great success.  It also thaws relatively quickly and is great for last minute plans.

A nice accompaniment to a savory cheesecake is of course salad.  I really like the following chopped salad; it can be enjoyed as-is for a side dish, or bulked up with some cooked chicken or turkey meat for a quick, easy, and healthy meal.  Oh and I couldn’t forget the wine, so I added the recipe for a classic red wine vinaigrette too.

Green Salad with Chopped Vegetables

Classic Red Wine Vinaigrette:
One quarter cup red wine vinegar
One quarter cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons shallots, chopped
One half teaspoon garlic, minced
One or two tablespoons fresh herbs (dill, chives, oregano, parsley, or a combination of them is great)
Ground or cracked ground pepper
Salt if needed

Six cups spring greens, cleaned
One scallion, thinly sliced
One quarter cup red onion, small diced
One cup cucumber, peeled and large diced
One half cup cauliflower, medium diced
One half cup ripe tomato, diced
One half cup corn kernels, raw or cooked
One quarter cup black olives, sliced
One ripe avocado, medium diced (optional)
Crispy bacon, crumbled (optional)

Mix together vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.  Toss all the salad ingredients together, and then dress with the vinaigrette.  Enjoy.  Serves 6-8

Cooking with wine is also inspiring.  I especially love white wine with mushrooms, cream and fresh herbs as a flavor combination.  One of my favorite quick, but delicious meals is the following chicken stew with white wine.  I like to serve it over a simple white rice, or wild and white rice pilaf, but it can be eaten as is too.  It is so very good on a chilly spring evening.

Chicken Stew with White Wine

One quarter cup bacon, chopped
Three quarters of a pound boneless, skinless, chicken; cut into 2 inch pieces
One half cup dry white wine
One and one half cups chicken stock
One quarter pound button mushrooms, whole if small, quartered if larger
One quarter cup shallots, chopped
Two large red-skinned potatoes, large diced
One half cup frozen pearl onions
One half cup green peas, fresh or frozen
2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream
One Tablespoon chives, freshly chopped
One Tablespoon parsley, freshly chopped

Sauté bacon, at a low temperature in a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan (cast iron works well), until crispy.  Remove bacon and set aside.  Sauté the chicken, and shallots in the same pan, with the bacon drippings, add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil if necessary.  Cook until the chicken is golden brown and shallots are caramelized. Add the mushrooms to the pan, and let them cook for a couple of minutes.  Deglaze the pan with white wine, and chicken stock.  Add the potatoes and pearl onions, and let simmer, covered, until the potatoes are cooked.  Next,  add the peas and cream, and bring sauce back to a slow simmer.  Garnish with freshly chopped herbs.  Serves 4-6


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