Foodie Friday: Spicy Melon Salad

In celebration of summer’s belated arrival, this Foodie Friday post is devoted to a refreshingly simple, yet flavor-packed, appetizer salad. A seemingly odd set of ingredients, this salad never fails to please at summer event,s and full credit for this incredible creation goes to Fusions Cuisine of Northern Virginia. The sweet, juicy melon provides a refreshing, cool background for the interplay of spices between the sambal and onion. The cilantro and mint then follow through to balance the heat on the finish.

My palate doesn’t always jump at the chance to mix savory and sweet in the same dish, but this salad is theater for your tongue. Try it. Trust me.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

  • 1 Honeydew melon
  • 1 Red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp Sambal (a chili-garlic paste; find it in your grocery store’s international aisle)
  • ¼ cup Sugar
  • ¼ cup Red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chopped Fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped Cilantro

Directions:

  • Peel and seed the honeydew, then cut the melon into one inch cubes
  • Add the other ingredients and toss to coat
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper

Suggested Pairing:

This salad has a ton of flavor, so you need a wine that will stand up to it. At the same time, the refreshing nature of the salad deserves an equally refreshing wine. Go with a Moscato d’Asti – it will stand up to the spice without competing with the dish. Try Cardinale Lanata Moscato d’Asti with a bright floral nose, and plenty of white peach on the palate.

 

Cardinale Lanata

Cardinale Lanata

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Foodie Friday: The Magic of Meritage

Happy Friday! Today’s Foodie Friday post focuses on the true magic that can take shape when powerhouse varietals are blended together in order to highlight the best characteristics of each one. Bordeaux is perhaps the classic example of how grape varietals can be used to bring out the best in each other; combined in a way that contributes the best characteristics of each grape in order to elevate the final wine’s entire profile. At least, that’s the goal.

In 1988, a collective of American winemakers formed the Meritage Association (which is now the Meritage Alliance), taking their name from the amalgamation of the words “merit” and “heritage” (which, by the way, is how Meritage is pronounced – it rhymes with heritage).  Believing that blending grape varieties to make a better, more expressive wine is one of the highest arts in winemaking, the Alliance was formed to identify high quality wines that cannot be varietally labeled because they do not consist of at least 75% of a single grape variety. The initial mission of the Alliance was to standardize and increase visibility for the American version of these Bordeaux blends.

Meritage

The Meritage Alliance Website

Today, Meritage is still made using the “noble” grape varieties. These include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc for red blends, and Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle du Bordelais for white wines.

Like Bordeaux blends, Meritage can fetch impressive prices, but that doesn’t mean that high quality versions aren’t available at a more palatable price point. Case and point: Genesis Meritage by Hogue Cellars. This wine from Columbia Valley, Washington is available at $12 a bottle, and packs a beautiful nose of blackberry and fig, with more dark fruit, delicious vanilla, and warm spice coming through on the palate. With its soft tannins and full body, this wine makes the perfect dessert pairing.

Hogue Cellars Genesis Meritage

Hogue Cellars Genesis Meritage

For this Foodie Friday pairing, I’m keeping it super simple (it being the Friday before a holiday weekend – I know you have BBQs and celebrations to plan): pair this wine with Ghirardelli assorted dark chocolate squares. Since these are bite size and come in a great variety, this pairing really lends itself to a backyard party (and won’t overwhelm those who may have already, ahem, overeaten).

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, and please don’t forget to take a moment and raise a glass to all our Servicemen and Women who make incredible sacrifices for all of us! Cheers!

Foodie Friday: On a Mission for Morels

This blog is about wine. Devoted to adventures in oenophilia and all great things grape. But every so often, a stunning ingredient steals the show; one that truly makes a meal exquisite. Such is the case today with the magnificent morel mushroom.

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This funny-looking fungus is highly sought after this time of year. Imparting an extremely decadent yet delicate flavor, they are often the centerpiece of springtime culinary creations. Morels appear once a year, magically conjured by some complex formula of ground temperature, precipitation and earthen magic. On a recent hike, we were lucky enough to discover these little beauties just waiting to be plucked for a dish that would make them sing.

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These savory specimens would become the inspiration for what some might call a death-row meal: sautéed asparagus, truffled fresh fettuccini, and filet with a morel mushroom cream sauce. A delightful palette of earthy, uninhibited flavors intermingling to provide what can only be described as a foodgasm.

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Since morels are an ingredient to be celebrated, we thought we’d through off the reins and break the “rules” with the wine pairing. While most red meat recipes call for a structured, tannic red wine, we paired this spectacular meal with a dry Virginia Viognier. The nuanced flavors in the wine complimented the interplay of food flavors beautifully. Neither outshone or overpowered the other, leading to a gastronomically perfect meal. For this edition of Foodie Friday, I give you this morel mushroom cream sauce recipe (paired here with filet) and invite you to use it with, well, anything. Enjoy!

Your Margarita Madness Alternative

They don’t call it “ToKillYa” for nothing.

You remember college, right? When Cinco de Mayo was an excuse to drink margaritas until, well, you couldn’t anymore? But you’re not in college anymore, and much like the rhythm, Tequila is going to get you. So here’s your Cinco de Mayo alternative to the margarita madness. We’ll call it the Saucy Sangria.

Here’s what you’ll need (to make 1 pitcher):

  • 2 shots Elderflower liqueur (such as St. Germain)
  • 1 bottle dry white wine (I like dry Viogniers for this recipe)
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 ripe peaches, cut into chunks
  • 3 ripe green apples, cut into chunks
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • Sparkling water or Prosecco, for topping off glasses of sangria at table

Combine elderflower liqueur, lime, lemon, peaches and apples in a large pitcher. Cover with 1 bottle of dry white wine and chill sangria several hours (make the night before if you’re starting festivities with brunch). To serve, spoon fruits into glasses or goblets, adding a few fresh raspberries in each glass, pour wine over top of the fruit. Top glasses of sangria off with a splash of sparkling water or Prosecco and enjoy!

Bonus: if you’re worried about your Saucy Sangria warming up on your slower sippers, throw some green grapes into the freezer when making the Sangria, and add them in along with the raspberries just before serving!

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

sangria