I have really been loving Washington wines lately. The three pictured above are winners I have recently sampled. Mountain Merlot was a real surprise because I don't consider myself a huge merlot fan, but I thought this was really tasty; very fruit forward, and for the price I paid ($12), it makes a great every day wine. The Ghost of 413 was another winner for me, and it will be for you as well if you like big, bold, dry wines. This one really pairs well with meaty dishes. The Feliciana tempranillo was a surprise as I don't think of tempranillo as a wine variety that should come from Washington State. But this is being made by a Spanish family in the Spanish style, and I really loved it!
Italians love a good appetizer. (I think I should have been born part Italian.) There are many restaurants and wine bars in Italy where one can make a meal from the appetizer bar. “Appetizer bar?” you ask. Yes….isn’t that a wonderful concept? Italians are of a mind that wine should be consumed with food, an idea I whole-heartedly agree with. When you order a glass of wine, it almost always comes with something to nibble on. Maybe it’s just potato chips or olives; sometimes it will be adorable little pizzette (half dollar sized baby pizza!). But often times, for an extremely reasonable price, you can visit the appetizer bar, where there’s a little smorgasbord of delights. A taste of this, a bite of that, oooh and a spoonful of this and……..a lovely glass of Italian red wine.
One of the things that can often be found at an appetizer bar are sweet and sour onions. These are not just any onions, but adorable baby cipollini onions cooked down with vinegar and sugar; a method of cooking called agrodolce (which basically means sweet and sour). There are many recipes out there requiring various amounts of cooking time, using different types of vinegar and different types of onions. This recipe is a very simple way to make them thanks to Mario Batali. In a previous blog post I gave you a recipe for Thelma’s Roasted Red Peppers. These cipollini would be a great accompaniment to that recipe along with a bowl of olives for the makings of an at-home appetizer bar, along with……………. a lovely glass of Italian red wine.
Here’s your list of ingredients:
Adorable baby cipollini (about 20 of them)
2 bay leaves
1 T. sugar
2 T. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a pot of water to boil while we start prepping the onions. Cipollini onions are small and quite flat compared to regular onions. Simply trim off the root and stem ends. Don’t bother to peel them.
When the water comes to a raging boil, toss in the unpeeled, trimmed onions. Boil them for about 7 minutes.
While the onions are cooking, stir the sugar and red wine vinegar together in a small bowl to completely dissolve the sugar. Set aside.
After 7-8 minutes, drain the onions in a colander and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel away the skins. If you find that the center little “nubbins” of some of the onions have fallen out, be sure to save them; they are especially tender….like chicken dimples.
Heat a good, healthy drizzle of olive oil in a deep saucepot (I use the same pot I just boiled my onions in.) and add the 2 bay leaves. When the oil is nice and warm, toss in the cooked, peeled, still-warm onions. Turn the heat up a bit and give everything a good stir to coat the onions with the oil. Very shortly, they will begin to brown. Now things are smelling lovely, aren’t they?
When the onions have become nice and browned, pour in the vinegar/sugar mixture. Stand back a bit, as it tends to sputter and bubble up. Very quickly now, the mixture will become dark brown, and syrupy and deliciously gooey. Make sure all the onions get a nice coating of syrupy vinegar, but don’t let the mixture burn.
That’s it…..all done! You now have a delicious little appetizer. I served these onions on top of homemade hummus atop little toast rounds recently and they were delicious. They were equally delicious when I served the leftovers as a side dish to a small steak. I actually recommend you make a double batch because by the time you're done popping "a few" into your mouth, you won't have many left for your appetizer bar. They are amazing while they are still warm. Buon Appetito!
Isn’t an appetizer bar a lovely idea? Come to Rome with me and let’s go to one together! Booking now for Late spring/early summer and October 2013!
I’ve been obsessed with Norcia of late; since I realized I missed “Nero Norcia”. This festival spans two weekends at the end of February and the beginning of March, and celebrates all things having to do with black truffles. Norcia is located in the southeast of Umbria and though it is a little out of the way, it’s well worth a visit. Located near the Sibillini Mountains, Norcia is a hunter’s paradise, especially for hunters seeking the thrill of chasing a wild boar, or for foragers seeking truffles. As such, this little town is overflowing with really delicious earthy food. This is a town for steaks, sausages, and of course the ever prevalent black truffle. In fact, this town is so famous for its sausages and meats that there are shops (all over Italy) called “norcineria”. These shops sell nothing but pork products. These are the shops to look for when shopping for prosciutto, guanciale, coppiette, salumi, etc.
There is another product the area of Norcia is famous for as well, and that is lentils or lenticchie. These are grown in the high plains of Castelluccio di Norcia. Grown at this altitude, in the shadow of the mountains, these lentils are very special. They are thin-skinned, but when cooked still maintain their shape and texture. Lentils are an important part of diets in many places around the world. I have eaten lentils in other countries and found them to be somewhat mushy and not to my liking; these however, are quite different. It wasn't until I lived in Italy that I began to appreciate lentils at all. Lentils from this area are so specialized as to have received “IGP” certification. This stands for Indicazione Geografica Protetta which stands for “Protected Geographic Indication” and is your guarantee they come from Castelluccio di Norcia.
This recipe is for pork sausages with lentils, a very basic, very homey, very comfort food kind of meal…..one of my favorites!
Here’s your list of ingredients: (Serves 4)
One garlic clove, smashed
Lentils (I used 200 grams which made enough for four people)
2 cups of water, plus a little more as necessary
Fresh sage, chopped (or dried)
This is a stove top recipe and the beauty of it is that it’s a one-dish meal. You just need one large skillet to get started.
Heat your pan, give it a good drizzle of olive oil and toss in your smashed garlic clove. Rub the clove around in the oil a bit, and add the sausages.
As the sausages are browning on one side, dice your onions and carrots.
Turn the sausages over after the first side is brown.
Move the sausages to the side of the pan and add the onions and carrots. (I would have used diced celery as well if I’d had any on hand.) Saute the onions and carrots for a bit before adding in the lentils. Mix the onions, carrots and lentils well, making sure they all get nicely coated with the olive oil and sausage fat that’s in the pan. Then gently pour in two cups of water.
Bring the whole mixture to a boil, and reduce the heat to keep it simmering. The lentils will need about 30 minutes to cook. Check in on them once in a while, adding a little more water if necessary and turning the sausages over now and then. After about half an hour, taste the lentils to see if they are done, and if they need some salt and pepper. I added some chopped fresh sage at the end. Be sure not to add too much extra water at any given time. The lentils should be absorbing the water; this is not a soup.
And there you have it; salsicce con lenticchie. There really is something special about Italian sausages; I simply can’t get enough of them, and if you can’t find lentils from Norcia at your local store, drop me a line. Let’s go shopping together in Norcia! Travel with me and Bella Giornata Tours and you will never go hungry….I promise.