Rediscovering rose

Rose is that wine that was fun to drink once upon a time, because it was a grown-up drink, but was pink… and probably fruity and sweet. Kind of like Kool-Aid with alcohol. At least that is what every single review of rose I’ve ever read says. Personally, the closest I ever came to rose was the white Zinfandel my American friend used to bring whenever she visited Montreal.
But then we “got into” wine, and for summertime drinking, my choices were rose or white. Before I discovered Chardonnay (which, critics be damned, is best when it’s oaky), the only whites I knew were the insipid house whites served at bars in the Eastern Townships, like the one on which I got unbelievably drunk one night, and after which the idea of white wine made me a little green around the gills.
So rose it was.
Our perennial favourite is Candidato, which is very drinkable but also very reasonably priced. It’s a Tempranillo, and while it’s fruity, it’s not oversweet, and goes down well with a BBQ.
This evening, I made a Thai vegetable curry from the Moosewood Low Fat cookbook (using coriander and Vietnamese coriander from the garden, no less) with naan from President’s Choice (which I recommend for those weekday meals when the idea of making naan from scratch isn’t so appealing). We decided we wanted to go pink with this meal, and opened a bottle of Inycon Estate Shiraz rose, which we bought this week based on the Gazette review. Because this one is a Shiraz base, I was expecting it to be a little heartier than the Candidato, but it’s not particularly thick. It is very, very nice, and we will buy it again – for the same basic reasons we’re Candidato buyers. The Inycon Estate is maybe a little less sweet than the Tempranillo, but it’s still definitely a rose, not just a pale red. It’s got a few berries in it, a hint of lime, and Dr. T claims there’s a trace of bubblegum (!). It’s got a nice finish, and I didn’t taste the gum 😉
We have a couple of other pinks to try, but we’re also heading out to the UK before the end of the week – I’ll try to post a few reviews, particularly if the bottle is available in Quebec or other parts of Canada.

Hot & Sour & Easy

Tonight’s supper was hot and sour soup, based on a recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Lowfat Favorites cookbook. I have made some modifications to the original, but I use verbatim the recipe for the Southeast Asian Vegetable Stock, for which you boil:
one onion, quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 stalks celery
2 carrots, peeled
3″ fresh ginger, sliced
1 stalk lemongrass*
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 star anise (or 1/2 tsp aniseed)
9 cups water
for 45 minutes (or 10 minutes in a pressure cooker), then drain.
*We found lemongrass at the Atwater market, but we’ve also used citronella in jars from the supermarket, and you can find it dried, as well.
For the actual soup, I use:
2 cups thinly sliced onions
2 tsps oil (something light)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 or 2 minced chilis (optional**)
1 tbsp chipotle-lime mustard (optional)
the stock
15 ounce can mushrooms, or one package fresh, sliced
8 ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
28 ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained
lots of fresh basil, cilantro and mint (about a 1/4 cup or more of herbs altogether)
2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 pkge tofu, cut into cubes or strips
Use a big pot.
Saute the onions in the oil until they’re a little soft (about 5 minutes), then add the garlic, and the chilis if you’re using them. Stir for a minute, then add the mustard and vegetables, bring to a boil, and simmer on lower heat for about 5 minutes. Add everything else, then simmer for another 10 minutes.
If you want to get really fancy, you can serve with lime wedges, etc.
**to accommodate younger palates, I leave out the chilis and bring red and/or green Tabasco to the table for the grown-ups, who can add as much or as little hot as they like. In fact, this strategy works well with all kinds of traditionally hot dishes, like chili, and has the added benefit of allowing you to adjust the hotness to your personal taste. At our dinner table, the green Tabasco lives at my end, and the red at his. And on a side note, we defy anyone to spend two weeks in New Orleans and not come home addicted to Tabasco. We met one woman there who actually carried a bottle in her purse “for emergencies.”
We serve this soup with a well-chilled Riesling, such as the 2006 McWilliams. The wine is quite citrusy, so it works well with this kind of soup, and it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t overpower the flavours of the soup.
Reisling is one of those whites that I would never drink on its own, but that works really well with the right food. Asian dishes, or the very few Thai dishes we do, seem to be the perfect foil for the McWilliams. When it comes to Indian, we tend to favour the Chardonnays and blends, perhaps because the creaminess of the Indian dishes works better with a good, buttery Chardonnay.

Easiest Mac & Cheese Ever

My don’t-cook-your-noodles lasagne is a staple of our menu, and was the inspiration for this macaroni and cheese casserole. On Wednesday evenings, Dr. T goes off to play with his Scrabble club, and the boys and I grab a bowl of this casserole and watch TV – decadent, fun, relaxing – it’s a great way to deal with the middle of the week.
I make my couch potato time even nicer with a glass of Chardonnay at almost room temperature. Little Penguin does a 3-litre box, so I don’t have to open a whole bottle just for myself.
1 box whole wheat macaroni
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 onion, quartered
1 tbsp Dijon mustard**
2 tbsp cream cheese (low-fat OK)
1 cup buttermilk
salt & pepper
You’ll need a nice deep casserole dish with a cover. I use my black clay cooking pot (which I LOVE for this recipe, and a few others).
*Experiment! Remember the really annoying cheese guy? “You change the cheese, you change the taste”? Aim for about a cup of cheese, or if you want to, more. Use this as an opportunity to get rid of any odd bits of cheese. I’ve used blue, Brie, feta… I usually make sure that about half the cheese is old cheddar (low-fat, even) and a quarter fresh Parmesan, but that’s a reflection of my personal tastes.
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. If you’re like me, remind yourself to remove/adjust oven racks to accommodate the covered casserole.
2. Put the uncooked macaroni into the casserole dish.
3. Toss the onion, tomatoes, and cheese(s) into a food processor and whirr it all up, adding the buttermilk as needed to keep things moving. Add the mustard, cream cheese, and, if using, nutmeg and/or cloves, and give it one last whirl.
4. Pour the tomato mixture into the casserole, add the salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly.
5. Cover and bake at 350 for one hour.
6. Remove from oven, give it a good stir, and let it sit for another 5 minutes or so – enjoy!
**My friend Iris was aghast at this ingredient, because she doesn’t like mustard. I assured her (and now you) that there’s no hint of mustard in the finished product. Somehow the Dijon brings out the cheese taste. You can also add a dash of nutmeg and/or cloves to enhance the cheesiness even more.