Feel like something light on a hot summer day or maybe need a side dish for a dinner?
I thought the following dishes would help the matter, and if a Chardonnay is part of the meal, I suggest:
Risotto with oyster mushrooms and carrot juice
I created this dish after a local food writer visited a mushroom farmer in Homestead, Fla.
She told me that the interesting part was, as she watched the farmer sautéing his prize-winning oyster mushrooms, he finished the sauté with a small drizzle of carrot juice. It highlighted the mushrooms’ flavor with just the right accent of sweetness to make them shine.
I decided to add the risotto.
2 lbs oyster mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup carrot juice
2 cups arborio rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
3 fresh shallots, peeled and sliced thin
salt and pepper to taste
1 table spoon grated Reggiano Parmigiano
1 table spoon of fresh chopped Italian parsley
Preheat a medium size sauté pot to medium heat, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Add the garlic along with the shallots and the oyster mushrooms, and let the mushrooms sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and give it a minute to absorb the juices. Add the chicken stock little by little, stirring, simmering for about 10 minutes. When the rice is nearly done, add the carrot juice, thyme and parsley. Taste for doneness and check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper.
Spoon the risotto onto 6 serving plates, and sprinkle the grated parmesan over each serving, serve immediately. Serves 6.
What to do the day before:
Go shopping. To avoid a last-minute hassle, you can precook the rice the day before, as is done in many restaurants — leaving out the mushrooms and carrot juice. Just sauté the onions, add the rice, then the chicken stock, cook for only 5 minutes and spread on to a baking sheet to cool. Then add the cooked rice along with a little stock, carrot juice and finish the dish.
Wine pairing: The sweetness of this dish calls for a sweet, rich chardonnay from California’s Central Coast.
Fiddlehead ferns with peanuts, butter, shiitakes and roast garlic
I remember when I saw fiddlehead ferns for the first time — they looked like a long green bean whose end had been rolled into a snail. They turned out to be quite delicious.
This quickly prepared dish is a great starter in a long menu, a side dish with fish, chicken or veal or a light vegetarian dinner.
2 pounds fiddlehead ferns,
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 cup unsalted peanuts, shelled
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a medium saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Place the ferns in pan, removing immediately with a slotted spoon after the water begins to boil again. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Sauté the garlic until translucent, about 1 minute (do not let the garlic brown). Stir in the mushrooms and peanuts and sauté for another minute, until the natural sugars begin to caramelize. Add the fiddlehead ferns, chicken stock, sage, parsley and salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, until flavors absorb. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.
Trick of the trade Most vegetables have to be blanched before they are incorporated into dishes. Once they’re blanched, they need very little sautéing. If you can’t find fiddlehead ferns, substitute green beans or haricot verts.
The day before: Blanch the fiddlehead ferns ahead and store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Do not cut them until you’re ready to cook.
Wine pairing: A fairly rich Chardonnay would go well; even better, one with enough age to take on the nutty flavor that would keep the peanuts from overpowering the wine.
Stuffed and glazed zucchini
If one is a squash lover, I’m sure that zucchini is on the top of the list. It’s a very versatile vegetable: It can be roasted, sautéed or steamed. This can be a side dish or a main dish for a light lunch or dinner.
4 medium zucchinis, seeded
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thinly
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut in cubes
4 stalks celery, cut in cubes
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 portobello mushroom caps, cubed
3 tomatoes, seeded, peeled and diced
1/2 cup goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 egg yolk
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil for sauteing
Cut the zucchinis in half lengthwise. Hollow the zucchinis by scraping the seeds out with a spoon. Discard the seeds. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
In a large non-reactive skillet over high heat, sauté the onion, peppers, celery, garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes in small batches, 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent.
Place the vegetables in a big bowl and refrigerate until chilled. Remove from refrigerator and mix in the goat cheese, thyme and egg yolk, seasoning with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture among the hollowed-out zucchinis. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake at 325 degrees for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Trick of the trade: By sautéing the vegetables quickly on a high heat, you get a toasty and nutty flavor. They will finish cooking when baked in the oven.
Wine Pairing: This is a rich dish, so a robust young California Chardonnay with lots of butter and tropical fruit flavors would go well.
Grilled asparagus with mache and Parmesan oil
Asparagus, like artichokes, contain cynarin, a type of organic acid that will make the wine taste sweet. Temper it with the mache, whose dark leaves have a nutlike flavor, and the Parmesan oil, which imparts a creamy balance to the asparagus.
2 dozen asparagus
1/4 cup Parmesan oil (see below)
4 small bunches of mache (lamb’s lettuce)
2 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 cup Reggiano Parmigiano cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
For the asparagus:
Gently break off the lower end of the asparagus and roll in the Parmesan oil. Place the asparagus in a vegetable grill tray or on an oven broiler tray sprayed with vegetable oil (both the grill or broiler should be hot). Grill or broil the asparagus until slightly limp. Set aside.
Gently wash the mache. Dry thoroughly. Using scissors, cut the greens off by their base. Arrange a small bouquet on each of the four serving plates. Place six asparagus atop the mache. Grate the eggs over the salad, dividing the eggs equally over the four greens. Sprinkle Parmesan oil over the salad along with the Parmesan shavings. Serves 4.
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, sliced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Finely chop the Parmesan pieces. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the cheese and oil. Warm the oil for 15 to 20 minutes; do not bring to a boil.
Cover and leave at room temperature for a day or so.
Wine Pairing: This dish, zingy with natural food acids, would go well with a crisp, lean and supremely fruity Chardonnay from a cool climate.