West Coast flavor in dishes and wines

BOOKMARK

May 08, 2002|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,SUN STAFF

The name is familiar, recalling the image of a gourmet grocery with clean and simple design, the stainless-steel rack shelves stacked with a dazzling array of vinegars, olives, oils, condiments and, of course, a broad selection of wine.

Dean & DeLuca: The Food and Wine Cookbook (Chronicle Books, 2002, $35) adds other pictures: grapes thriving in hillside and valley vineyards, basking in afternoon sun and cooling in the Pacific evening fog. Ah, California.

So, what's not to like?

This book, illustrated nicely with photographs, offers for non-matriculating students California Wine 101. There's some history of California winemaking, from pre-gold rush days through the dry gulch of Prohibition and onward to greatness in the 1980s, notwithstanding a recurrence of the dreaded phylloxera. The root-eating louse nearly wiped out the wine industry in California and France in the late 19th century.

The industry lived, of course, and the results are summarized in the book. There's a primer on the chief varietals, basics of matching wine to food, information on wine and health, and a cheese guide. The book addresses the fundamental question: "What Makes Wine Taste Good?" (something to do with terpenes, or essential oils, among other variables).

The recipes - ranging from simple to moderately ambitious in required skill - lean toward the nouvelle style one would associate with things Californian. Heavy cream is called for in a butternut-squash soup, a mussels soup with tomatoes and saffron and a few other preparations, but the prevailing style is relatively light.

Not all the recipes for entrees, salads, appetizers and desserts include wine as an ingredient, but for those occasions when your personal sommelier has the day off, all include wine recommendations.

For example, a "full-bodied, fruit-driven red zinfandel, petite sirah or Mourvedre" is recommended for this preparation of short ribs. As to the matter of "fruit-driven," well, unfortunately the book does not directly address another key question: "Why Do Wine People Talk Funny?"

Big Island Barbecued Beef Short Ribs

Serves 4 to 6 as a main course

3 pounds crosscut beef short ribs, sometimes called flanken, Korean-style or Hawaiian-style barbecue ribs

MARINADE NO. 1:

1 cup sake

1/4 cup sugar

MARINADE NO. 2:

1 cup tamari sauce

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 bunch green onions, including light green parts, finely chopped

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil

2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil

1 tablespoon ground pepper

Put ribs in large baking dish in a single layer. Mix ingredients for marinade No. 1 until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the ribs, turning to coat evenly. Let sit 15 minutes.

Mix ingredients for marinade No. 2 and pour over the ribs, turning to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Prepare and fire an outdoor grill. Remove ribs from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. Remove ribs from marinade and grill for 4 to 5 minutes on each side.

For extra sauce, make a second batch of marinade No. 2, bring to a boil in a medium saucepan, and simmer until reduced by half. Spoon sauce over grilled ribs.

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