The Perfect Flavor for Warm Weather: Matching vegetables with wines
I feel like every time I proclaim the end to miserable weather in this column, we are struck with another swath of rain, sleet, high winds or snow. That's why this time I will start, instead, by making an observation that may or may not be a harbinger of good (hopefully excellent) weather to come: our local farmer's market is open again. The farmer's market around the corner from our apartment is a humble one, to be sure. Unlike the Union Square market, our outpost is only open from mid-spring to early fall. But the produce they bring in is out of this world. In the summer, I switch from heavier fare that has me slaving over the stove for hours to lighter, vegetable-based dishes. The less our oven stays on, the cooler our apartment is. Besides that, vegetables, to me, are the flavor of warm weather. So I must switch to drinking sangria and beer come summer, right? Wrong! Although many people are frightened by the prospect of matching vegetables with wines, it's really a natural pairing. If you think about it, the grapes used to make the wine and the vegetables you are cooking (or not cooking) have more in common than a cabernet and a sirloin steak. You might be surprised what some of the great match-ups are. One of my favorite things to make when entertaining in the summer is an easy asparagus side dish that is great served at room temperature. Using about a pound of trimmed asparagus, I heat two or three tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan on low heat with five thinly sliced garlic cloves. After the oil has heated the garlic through, I add four or five roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Once the mixture has cooked for five minutes, I bump the heat up to medium high and add the asparagus, cooking for another five to seven minutes. This is amazing with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc like the ($18.99 at Elite Wine, 558 3rd Ave. at 37th Street, 646-658-7548). The crisp, citrusy flavors of the wine compliment the green, grassy flavors of the asparagus perfectly. Vegetarian cuisine doesn?t necessarily mean you'll walk away from the table hungry. If you want something hearty that will stick to your ribs, a ratatouille is the perfect summer stew. Start by sautéing a chopped onion, four minced garlic cloves and a diced zucchini in a medium pot with olive oil. After everything has softened and you've flavored the mixture with salt and pepper, add a can of crushed tomatoes and a handful of chopped Kalamata olives. Let it simmer for a half hour and match it with a pinot noir like the Cooper Hill Pinot Noir 2010 from the Willamette Valley in Oregon ($20.99 at 67 Wine and Spirits, 179 Columbus Ave. at 68th St., 212-724-6767). The acidity from the tomatoes and the natural acidity of the grape will cancel each other out and point up the fruity qualities of the wine and the richness of the ratatouille. The perfect summer pasta dish is always primavera in my book. Mine always starts with sautéing six garlic cloves and a tablespoon of red pepper flakes in olive oil over low heat. After that has steeped, I add chopped summer squash and roughly chopped artichoke hearts. While I?m boiling the pasta, I turn up the heat and add purple cauliflower florets, broccoli rabe and a little salt and finish the dish by throwing in the pasta and adding a handful of grated pecorino off the heat. This deserves a wine with a lot of fruit and personality, like the Cline Viognier 2009 ($13.99 at Beacon Wines and Spirits, 2120 Broadway at 74th St., 212-877-0028). The richness and slight fruitiness of the pecorino matches amazingly with the full-throttle tropical fruit in the viognier. You don't have to give up the meat completely for summer. Where would this great country be without hot dogs and hamburgers grilling on the coals? But if you decide to lighten up and turn down the heat in your kitchen, you'll still have plenty of drink options besides a watery beer with lime. Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshperilo.
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