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PArsnip Soup, fish and burgundy
Wednesday April 20th 2011

Sara and Jim came over the other night bringing the twins and a bunch of food in tow. Little Jack (or was it Finn?) wasn’t behaving like a nice grown up kid, which threatened an otherwise perfectly planned meal. But he wrestled himself back into true social form (though you could argue that 5 month olds don’t really wrestle anything!) and we were able to all make and eat dinner together.

We had a bunch of really big parsnips, so I decided to bulk it up and make a soup. First I cut it into irregular chunks (helps get some brown edges) and roasted them in the oven. At the end I tossed on some freshly ground cumin and mustard seed. Why mustard seed? I dunno, just seemed to make sense at the time, and it did.

After a couple more minutes roasting, I combined with some dilute chicken stock, let it cook a while, then pureed it till super super smooth. It needed a ton of salt, plus some acid to liven it up so I put in some plain white wine vinegar. Turned out great!

For the soup, I put out a couple choices for white wine. First was a chardonnay from the Beaujolais region of Burgundy in France. Yes, I said Beaujolais, and it’s a white wine, not a simple fruity red like you’re used to seeing. While Beaujolais is generally known for reds made from the Gamay grape, there is alot of chardonnay grown here too. This is a great fresh lively Beaujolais Blanc from Domaine Cornin, retailing for about 15 bucks. Worth checking out if you’re looking for an “old world” chardonnay (i.e. not buttery oaky sweet) but don’t/can’t spend the big bucks on white burgundy from the Cote d’Or.

Personally I thought the soup would go really well with a wine with some residual sugar so I also pulled out a German Riesling with a light level of sweetness – a “Kabinett” level. I know, I know, who can decipher these crazy German labels?! But believe it or not, once you get to know how to read them, they are very informative and easy. Follow along with me here: this wine is made by the Willi Schaefer winery, from grapes from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany, more specifically from Riesling grapes from the Himmelrich vineyard which is in the town of Graach. See, easy peasy!

For a main course, Sara had picked up some lovely looking wild California halibut fillets. Jim then prepared a trademark Jim dish with caramelized onion, lemon, capers, parsley, and a few other things, wrapped it up in parchment, and cooked away. Awesome beautiful fish!

I wish I had taken a picture of the chickpea stew dish Jim made to go with it. A spicy thick dish, with tomato base (which were preserved from Mariquita Farms tomatoes last year!) and a nice Inidan curry undertone. Great with the fish.

Then the girls requested creamy salad (aka caesar!) and I happily obliged.

For wine we again went with two choices, though this time for both we kept them steadfastly in Burgundy.

Jim brought over a beautiful grand cru red from the Clos des Mouches vineyard, made by Joseph Drouhin. This wine, made from the pinot noir grape, had some age on it (1996) and was just signing. As Jim puts it “for me, red burgundy is all about balance, and this wine has just perfect balance.”  ’Nuf said! And thanks for bringing over this beautiful wine, Jim!

As Jim had graciously brought over a 1996, I though I’d pull one out too – a Vincent Giradin premier cru (not as high as a grand cru!) from the village of Volnay, from the Clos des Chenes vineyard. Hmm, not quite up to the standard set by Jim, I’m afraid! In fact, it was so unexpectedly poor that Jim thought it might be counterfeit! But isn’t counterfeiting wine just reserved for the multi-hundred-dollar bottles of wine? Nope. Check out this BBC TV bit on it!

impromptu dinner for 12+
Friday April 15th 2011

Sorry if the blog has gone away for a couple weeks. I’ve been busy at work (yeah, sad time for HD patients). But I’m back! But although I was busy at work prepping for the big analysis, I was still able to put in some time in the kitchen. Let me spend the next couple days updating you on some of the ways I’ve been going through our Farm Box.

During one of the hot Fridays we had a week or two ago, we invited Yvette over for dinner. Then Sara and Jim called to see if they could hang out in the back yard cuz it’s so so nice out (“we’ll bring wine!”). Then Stephen and Anissa needed a restful evening (and to get fed!) after letting the new tenants into their place. Then JR called saying he was a bachelor for the night and wanted to drink a homebrew or two. Then Dr. Bradley called texted asking something about whether we were enjoying the backyard in the nice weather. So we quickly went from me, melinda and the kids plus Yvette, to well over a dozen! Well thank goodness I had some Marin Sun Farms meet in the freezer and three Farm Boxes to cook through!

Somehow I had the good forethought to pick up some Acme Bakery buns from the Ferry Building that day. So I mixed up some meat for burgers – I ended up using 3 parts beef and 2 parts pork, plus some herbs and onions and a couple eggs. Really scorching hot grill and they were super tasty!

I had planned to cook up some carrots, but as more and more people alled, I just peeled more and more carrots. And the nice thing about the carrots is that they didn’t have to be steaming hot. I boiled, drained, added seasoning (butter, more-salt-than-you-think-is-healthy, and some parsley), put it in a bowl and left it while the rest cooked.

I had a big bag of beets from the Farm Box so I boiled those up, slipped the skins off, sliced them, and dumped a bunch of vinegar on them. Let them cool a bit then tossed with S&P, parsley again (hey, it was in the box!) and olive oil. When it came to burger time, Stephen, who has since left us for his new home in Australia, put them on his burger! He said that in Aus even burger joints will put pickled beets in your burger! Wild. I guess I shouldn’t talk – we do some pretty weird things with our french fries in Canada!

Again, as more and more people started showing up I realized I needed more food. So out came a couple cabbages. Some mayo, some rice wine vinegar, some lemon from the garden, some soy sauce (and therefore no salt!) and the piece de resistance – some toasted sesame oil! Made it a real asian flavour slaw!

We piled through a few home brews and then got down to more serious business with the wine. We went through a fair number of bottles (um, there were over 12 of us!), but I’ll share just the highlights with you.

JR brought over one of his favourite Cali Pinots – Kanzler Sonoma Coast. For the appellation it was pretty ripe (which I liked as I think that California Pinot should be ripe – we’re not in burgundy here!), but thankfully missing alot of the pruney fruit that you can get further east in the Russian River.

Jim brought an older (well, 2004 is only 7 years old but people don’t generally age many Aussie Shiraz’s, which IMO is a shame) Aussie Shiraz from Mitolo. The GAM is their high-end bottling and the name comes from the names of the proprietor’s three kids – Gemma, Alex, and Marco. I was excited to see Jim bring this wine as I have a few bottles from the 2003 vintage. It was a very good wine, showing that typical Aussie bold fruit that was starting to calm down a bit. I’m going to hold on to open my 2003s for a few more years.

Cuz we were on an “older” Aussie Shiraz bent, I pulled out a bottle of 2000 Yalumba The Signature. Like the Mitolo, this is one of Yalumba’s more high-end bottlings. This, my dear friends, is why it’s worth it to age Aussie Shiraz. A number of years ago, I grew out of the really ripe, thick, dark fruit-forward Aussie Shiraz style. But I had already started cellaring some of the better Aussie wines. Signature, GAM, The Armagh, Jasper Hill, Command, Dead Arm, that sort of thing. I thought of selling them, but there’s little secondary market for these so I just let them lie. And am I glad I did. I think these higher end Aussies are going to age pretty well. This one had beautifully integrated tannins, depth of character, and still sweet round fruit, but had lost all the youthful jamminess. I real joy to drink.