Ever since the California cuisine erupted in the early 1980’s, food in America was driven and inspired by ethnic concepts.
New arrivals started to dominate America’s culinary landscape. The California cuisine inspired old trade classics, such as Charcuterie, which started using Foie – Gras from the Hudson Valley. Squab came from Sonoma, and vegetables were grown in suitable climates, around the country.
It was at that time, that I was introduced to the California cuisine. My mentor and superior was Jeremiah Tower. One of the founders of the culinary concept that shaped what we today define as the “California Cuisine.”
Not only did America produce an abundance of culinary delights, the need for a suitable beverage was imminent.
Good friends of Two Chefs, Debbie and David, enjoyed lunch on a lazy Friday in mid March. Not abnormal, but at this luncheon Debbie brought one of the best Chardonnay’s that I have tasted recently. The name of the vineyard was ZD.
It originates in Napa Valley. The flavor was crisp, yet true to the Chardonnay Grape. It was a wonderful change to the normal big creamy and bold Chardonnays that we have become used to.
Consult your local wine merchant for access.
More important, this bottle of wine inspired the following dishes to be enjoyed with a crisp bottle of Chardonnay or maybe a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, should you want something even fruitier.
Remember, our hot climate in South Florida ( in my opinion ) demands crisp and fruity, especially early summer, before we get used to the sun.
Spring Minestrone with Zucchini, Peas and Asparagus
1cup dried Cannellini beans
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 onion, large and finely chopped
1 Fennel bulb, Trimmed and finely chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, chopped
5 each thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 tsp Kosher salt
3 cups of Chicken Stock
1 piece of Parmesan Rind
1 leek , medium, trimmed, washed and diced
salt to taste
2 each Zucchini, small rinsed and diced
1/2 lbs Asparagus, cut on bias about 1/2 inch thick
1 cup fresh green peas
2 cups of spinach leaves, fresh and chopped coarsely
Extra Virgin Olive Oil as needed
Freshly grate Parmesan
Soak dried Cannellini beans overnight in 4 cups of water. Drain and transfer to a heavy – bottomed pot.
Add water to cover by 2 inches. Simmer gently for about 2 hours, until beans are tender but not falling apart.
Drain beans and save cooking liquid. (If using canned beans, drain and save liquid, adding water if needed to make 1 cup liquid.)
Place a large heavy – bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add Olive Oil. When oil is shimmering, add onion and fennel. Lower heat and cook for about 15 minutes, until tender.
Add Garlic, thyme, bay leaf and salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add 3 cups of chicken stock and parmesan rind and bring to a boil.
Add leeks. Simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt if needed.
Add cooked Cannellini beans, 1 cup bean liquid, zucchini, asparagus and peas.
Simmer for 5 minutes, add spinach.
If soup seems too thick, add water or bean liquid. Remove parmesan rind and bay leaf.
Serve in big bowl and offer grated Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil….
Another “super” dish is Roasted Artichokes, served with a tangy smear of parmesan aioli.
Some may argue that artichokes are an enemy to a glass of wine.
I happen to disagree; asparagus and artichokes can be quite wine friendly if treated correctly. They both have an armor that keep the bitterness inside of them, but if trimmed or peeled, both can be very delicious. Recipe is for 1 serving, multiply by guest count.
Roasted Artichokes with Parmesan Aioli.
Salt 1 1/4 tsp. Divided in 2
Peppercorns 10 each
Lemon 1/2 each
Globe Artichoke , cleaned, peeled and trimmed
Rosemary chopped 1/4 tsp
Garlic clove 1 each, chopped
Cumin, ground 1/4 tsp
Oregano , dried, 1/4 tsp
Celery seeds, 1/4 tsp
Chili powder, 1/4 tsp
Tumeric , ground, 1/4 tsp
Butter melted, 1/2 cup
Fill a large sauce pan with water. Add 1 part of salt, peppercorn and lemon half. Add artichoke and bring to a boil.
Cover pan, reduce to medium and cook until stem is tender (like a potato, use a wooden skewer to check for doneness).
Remove from heat and place in a bowl of ice water to shock and stop the cooking.
Drain artichoke and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the beards / choke.
In a bowl, mix remaining salt with all seasonings and herbs until blended.
Brush or coat the artichokes with melted butter, making sure to butter inside leaves.
Season artichoke halves generously with seasoning mixture, including in between leaves.
Save 1 tsp for parmesan aioli
Place artichoke cut side down in a roasting pan and cook in a 400 degree F oven for about 10 minutes, or until nicely charred to an amber color.
Serve with aioli.
Parmesan Aioli ( 3 cups )
4 Egg yolks
3 cup olive oil
3 anchovy filets
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup Parmigiano reggiano , grated
1 tsp Seasoning mix (from artichoke seasoning)
Prepare a mayonnaise with egg yolks, olive oil, anchovies, garlic and lemon juice.
Add cheese and seasoning mix to finish, reserve in cooler until needed…
I encourage you to find “ZD” Chardonnay or a similar profile wine. Put on an apron, and enjoy a light meal before Florida summer takes over.
Enjoy and Cheers.