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For generations, eastern NC fishermen and their families have eaten shad roe in the springtime. Spring is the time of year when the Shad fish “run.” The Shad do not literally grow legs and run but it is a “run” when the Shad fish (a member of the Herring family) come in from the ocean and lay their eggs in the freshwater estuaries of the North Carolina sounds. Most people in the Piedmont or Mountains of North Carolina have not prepared nor tasted Shad roe before. Since Shad roe is limited to a couple weeks of the year, here in Raleigh we are fortunate to have Locals Seafood, who sources and sells this specialty product!

I teach organic gardening, canning, fermentation, dehydration and food preservation workshops at THE GARDENER’S KITCHEN. Learning and teaching new methods of traditional food preservation and storage for locally available food is very exciting to me! Due to its limited availability (and my year-long craving for it!) I made a discovery of a way to preserve the roe for use throughout the year until the next run the following year: Bottarga!

If you have not heard of or tasted Bottarga before, I encourage you to consider making it this year and use our native NC shad roe or other NC fish roe as recommended by Lin Peterson at LOCALS SEAFOOD.

Making Bottarga is easy and provides a delicious and nutritious food made from local products from our NC coast.

Bottarga is salted, pressed (sometimes) and dried fish roe used primarily in Mediterranean cuisine and traditionally made of tuna or grey mullet roe. It has a definitive taste of the sea, so it is used sparingly. However, if you love the taste of anchovies in Caesar salad dressing or on pizza or smoked fish you will absolutely love Bottarga!

My favorite way to enjoy Bottarga is how they serve it traditionally in Italy – grated or thinly sliced over pasta with a garlic and olive oil sauce. To add some diversity to the pasta dish, add some lemon, tomato, celery to the sauce and purchase a bottle or two of Vermentino or un-oaked Chenin Blanc wine and thanks to the NC fishermen you will have a little piece of Sardinia right in your home!

I am convinced this would be a fantastic new product for some adventurous North Carolinian to produce and market. Check out the online prices of Bottarga from Italy! The shad roe Bottarga I made was wonderful and very easy to produce at home and much more reasonably priced. That’s why I always say local food is the best food in my book!

Below are my two favorite links for making fish roe into Bottarga and for cooking with Bottarga.

How to Make Bottarga

Mario Batali – Bottarga and Pasta Recipe

If you wish to cook the Shad roe in the traditional manner and not make Bottarga, check out this recipe and article from NPR called Cooking with Fresh Roe: A Rite of Spring

 

Fresh Shad Roe ( Red color) and Sea Bass Roe from Locals Seafood

Shad and Sea Bass Bottarga - salted and dried Roe

I will not enter the BBQ debate.  Every state, probably every county in the USA, has a version of BBQ.  I like all of them!  Each version and variety of BBQ has a special character and eating pleasure to offer.

North Carolina barbecue sandwich

North Carolina barbecue sandwich

I live in the eastern Piedmont of NC and the BBQ around here is chopped and made of pork.  However, I grew up on sliced pork BBQ in the western part of the state so I have tasted all the variations in between!  Eastern NC BBQ is chopped and tossed with a vinegar based sauce so the spice and vinegar taste permeates throughout the pork whereas the sliced pork version in the western part places the emphasis on the pork taste.

In all the years I have eaten NC BBQ, it never occurred to me to pair wine with the various BBQ styles.  While attending a rosé wine tasting at The Wine Feed, Phil and Phillip suggested a rosé would be good to pair with NC down east BBQ; I could not resist testing out the idea.  They were right as usual!

Imagine this – a fresh yeast roll from La Farm Bakery, filled with homemade cabbage, carrot, green garlic and onion slaw, and Wilbur’s pork BBQ served with Bastianich Rosato 2009 wine.  Just try it one Friday night after a long workweek.  Take the Wilbur’s BBQ you bought on your way home from Emerald Isle Beach as you were passing thru Goldsboro, NC and then stashed in your freezer. Heat it up; make a quick simple clean slaw, take the La Farm Bakery Yeast rolls and pop them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes and pour a glass of Bastianich Rosato from The Wine Feed.  Make yourself a “sangwich” (Southern Italian for “Sandwich”) and kick back for a taste of NC and the start of a happy weekend.

I ‘m just saying – it is good to be in NC!

 

NC barbecue with Bastianich rosé

NC barbecue with Bastianich rosé

The Gardener’s Kitchen Homemade Slaw Recipe

1 peeled, grated fresh carrot

1 small head fresh savoy cabbage thinly sliced (3 to 4 cups)

1 fresh green garlic – white bulb and green leaves minced

1 orange or yellow bell pepper thinly sliced

3 Tablespoons grated sweet onion

3 – 4 Tablespoons organic mayonnaise

Juice from ½ organic lemon

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl!

Note:  Fresh veggies are important for slaw so try to get the freshest cabbage, carrots, peppers garlic and onions from your local farmers.  This slaw is lightly dressed with mayonnaise.  Keeping the taste simple and the mayonnaise light lets the taste of the pork and spices in down east BBQ and complementary taste of the rosé shine thru.  If you like lots of mayonnaise in your slaw you will need to add more mayonnaise.   Also, I have been known to add a little horseradish to this slaw so feel free to add whatever condiments, spices and acidic alternatives (vinegar) which will make you happy eating your BBQ with the rosé!

It has been my lifelong dream to spend a birthday in Vienna with my friends and waltz the night away. Until that day, I have found a great wine to keep the dream alive:  Weingut Wien Cobenzl Gemischter Satz Classic 2010

The Wine Feed poured this lovely white wine produced in the city of Vienna! Cobenzl is made from grapes grown within the city limits of  Vienna. The winemaking history on this 1650 acre plot goes back to Roman times!

Weingut Wien Cobenzl has a light and enticing floral aroma. On the palate it is full of juicy green and yellow apple as well as pear. The herbal tones are dry and refreshing with crisp acidity and light citrus notes on the finish.

Cobenzl Wein - Gemischter Satz - Classic 2010

Delicious white field blend from Vienna!

The Slow Food Foundation has awarded this wine with the Ark of Taste and Presidia.

The wine was so intriguing in its taste and its story that I knew it deserved to be paired with a food with an equally interesting story.

As good fortune would have it, one afternoon while visiting a friend in the downtown Mordecai Historic District of Raleigh, I found myself searching through his cookbook collection.  I found a copy of Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan.  Dorie, a creative and inspired cook, worked with Julia Child on her many famous cookbooks. Not only is My French Table lovely to look at, the recipes are simple yet maintain the flair that allows a home cook to feel comfortable with trying new recipes.

As many reviewers of Dorie’s cookbook have acknowledged, Dorie captures the taste and feel of the French eating experience. However, she successfully adapts that experience to the ingredients available here.

During my visits to France I have always been impressed with the freshness, simplicity and elegance of the home cooking.  Fresh, locally grown food is available in stores, or, better yet, is available from home gardens and is prepared in tune with the seasons.  I will never forget one of my best meals in France–fresh steamed asparagus, picked straight from the garden, washed and place in a steamer for less than 5 minutes then served with a white cheese sauce, French bread and a glass of white wine.  Heaven was less than a step away!

I also love the sequence of a meal in France when friends and family are in attendance.   Appetizers with wine and conversation start the fun. Nothing is rushed or hurried along.  The pace of the meal is driven by the organic interaction of people, wine and food.

I found this recipe for Salmon Rillettes (pronounced “ReeYet”) in Greenspan’s Around My French Table and saw some potential for it to complement the Viennese wine.

Dorie’s Salmon Rillettes is reminiscent of so many wonderful appetizers I had in France.  Traditionally, rillettes in France are made with pork or heavier richer meats than salmon.  The idea of a less pungent style of rillettes, as well as the ease of making this dish, attracted me to it.

Salmon Rillettes

Salmon Rillettes

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

1 lemon

1 small red chile

1/2 cup white wine or white Vermouth

1/2 cup water

1 bay leaf

5 white peppercorns

5 coriander seeds

2 small spring onions, peeled, long green tops removed and reserved, or 1 shallot

1/2 pound salmon filet, skin and bones removed, cut into small (about 1/2 inch) cubes

1/4 pound smoked salmon (you can add up to 2 ounces more, if you’d like), cut into small (about 1/4 inch) dice

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 to 3 pinches of pink peppercorns, crushed with your fingers

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Preparation:

Using a vegetable peeler, remove a strip of zest from the lemon and toss it into a medium-sized saucepan; finely grate the rest of the zest and keep the lemon at hand.  With a small knife, cut away a sliver of the red chile, discard the seeds and toss the sliver into the saucepan; seed and finely dice the remainder of the chile and hold on to it for the moment.

Pour the wine or Vermouth and water into the pan, add the bay leaf, peppercorns, coriander, onion tops (if you’re using spring onions) and 1/2 teaspoon salt and put the pan over medium heat.  Bring the mix, essentially a court bouillon, to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Drop the cubes of fresh salmon into the pan, cover and poach the fish for just 1 minute.  Turn everything into a strainer, drain, and then transfer the salmon, minus whatever seasonings have stuck to it, to a mixing bowl.

While the salmon is cooling, finely chop the spring onions or peel, trim and finely dice the shallot.  If you’re using a shallot, rinse the dice under cold water and pat dry.

With the back of a fork, lightly mash the poached salmon, then toss the smoked salmon, lemon zest, diced chile and chopped onion into the bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and give everything a good stir.  Add the soften butter and use the fork to stir and mash it into the mixture until it’s well incorporated and you have a thick spread.  Squeeze about half of the lemon’s juice into the bowl, stir it in and season the rillettes with salt and pepper.  Taste and add more lemon juice (it’s nice when it’s lemony), salt and pepper, if you’d like, then stir in the pink peppercorns.

Pack the rillettes into a jar (a canning jar is traditional) or bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and chill for at least 2 hours – you want it to be firm – or for up to overnight.

Serving: Rillettes is served as a spread, so have lots of bread, crackers or toast available.  If you’d like to dress it up, serve the rillettes on warm blini or spread on small rounds of toasted brioche (think canapes) and top with salmon roe.

Storing:  Packed airtight, the rillettes will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

GZ NOTE: Don’t be afraid to add more butter!  I found I needed to add another tablespoon of butter to make the salmon adhere together and be spreadable on a cracker or bread. 

Source:  Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Check out more about Dorie and Around My French Table.

Chervil in a Raised bed

Every year I plant seeds or transplants in my garden which I know little to nothing about. I am adventurous but not wildly adventurous, since I do not have a lot of space. I will be the first to admit I do not always know how to use or prepare a new plant for it highest and best use, so very often it can take me years to observe, research and test a new plant.

Chervil was this sort of an experience for me. The longer I have chervil in my garden the more I come to love it. A member of the Apiaceae (Carrot Family), Chervil resembles parsley in its mounded shape and carrots in the delicacy of its foliage although the leaves are more similar to parsley than carrots.

Delicate fernlike foliage gives hints of a delicate anise flavor and smell. French and English cooking have long utilized this warming herb which slowly and subtly fills your senses as you ingest it. I equate Chervil with happiness and with Spring! I swear Chervil adds happiness to my body!

My discovery of Chervil’s talents began with adding the fragile fronds to fresh salads. Chervil has a talent for lingering in the background to fill any spaces left by other foods and then tying everything together for your taste buds.

Chervil is such a low maintenance herb. It reseeds itself; does not like to be transplanted; loves cool weather so it will grow all fall, winter, spring until late June/July here in North Carolina.

Eventually I figured out that Chervil is essential to a great Béarnaise sauce or other light sauces; Eggs, chicken, salmon, trout, cream cheese, salads, and dressings all benefit from this lovely herb. My personal favorite use is Chervil Pesto with Salmon and Pasta!

Cococciola

Cococciola

To celebrate a beautiful Spring day, I prepared a lovely piece of salmon coated in Chervil Pesto and baked it in a parchment cooking bag. While the salmon was baking, I steamed some fresh green peas and asparagus; cooked some fresh pasta and sliced some fresh organic tomatoes from a more southern state than where I reside! I like smaller pasta for this dish such as spinach tortellini or Foglie di Ulivo Olive-Leaf Shaped Pasta from Italy as these pasta shapes catch and hold the Pesto in just the right amount for my taste. Not too much and not too little!

Spring could not be welcomed in any better way than a sunny 70 degree Fahrenheit day, clear blue skies with an occasional fluffy cloud and Salmon with Pasta and Chervil Pesto and a glass of wine from The Wine Feed.

Of course, I found a perfect wine from The Wine Feed to complement this dish! A dry white Italian wine called Cantina Frentana Cococciola Terre di Chieti 2011. This fabulous clean, crisp white wine with floral, mineral and herbal essences and its pale straw color with greenish reflections is perfect with this salmon and chervil dish. You will also find enticing white fruit and citrus aromas, mingled with subtle notes of green apple and unripe melon, lemon and very good acidity. The finish is long, light and mineral.

So I raise my glass to you, to Spring and to Lovely Cicely (another name for Chervil)! Wishing you a wonderful Spring and may you find a space for Chervil in your garden and in your kitchen!

Chervil Pesto

1 cup packed fresh chervil
1/4 cup Parmesan/Romano/Manchego cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
3 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and grind till it becomes a finely ground paste. Use this pesto quickly. It can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen in ice cube trays for later use. Always add chervil at end of cooking right before serving unless the recipe says otherwise. Chervil pesto has a very delicate flavor.
You can add lemon peel and /or lemon juice to brighten the fresh taste right before serving.

Salmon with Chervil pesto

Salmon with Chervil pesto

Salmon Coated with Chervil Pesto in Parchment Recipe

½ cup chervil pesto
1 pound fresh salmon
1 parchment pouch
Lemon for juice
Rinse salmon and pat dry.
Place salmon with skin side down.
Coat the salmon with chervil pesto on the topside of the salmon.
Place in a parchment pouch and seal.
Put parchment pouch in a baking pan.
Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes.
Squeeze lemon juice over fish to brighten the flavor right before serving.

Asparagus, Peas and Spinach Tortellini with Chervil Pesto

¼ to ½ cup chervil pesto
1 pound fresh spinach tortellini or olive leaf pasta
1 bunch steamed asparagus
1 cup steamed peas
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the directions.   I use my steamed vegetable water to give extra taste to the pasta.
Save some pasta water for thinning the sauce if needed.
Cut the tough ends off the asparagus and place whole asparagus spears in a steamer for 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove asparagus from steamer and cool the hot asparagus in cold water till chilled and then drain and set aside. Add peas to steamer hot water for 1 minute. Move peas to cool water to cool peas down and drain. Set aside. Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. Add chervil pesto to the hot pasta to taste and mix the pasta water in to get pesto evenly spread throughout the pasta and to the consistency you like. Slice the asparagus into ¾ inch sections and add peas and asparagus to pasta and gently mix.

Serve immediately. Use additional grated parmesan, romano or manchego cheese if desired.

For more info on Chervil:

http://www.theepicentre.com/Spices/chervil.html

My family prefers holiday meals which are different than the traditional turkey, ham or chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetable fare. There are so many wonderful meal options for a family holiday dinner. One of my family’s favorite holiday meals is Bouillabaisse.

I suspect some form of a fish and shellfish stew has been around since mankind discovered fish and shellfish could be captured from the sea and put in a pot to cook together for a fast, fresh fantastic tasting meal. One pot and one bowl! Who needs anything more?

The classic seasonings of saffron, orange peel and anise-flavored spirits surely came later and the French in Marseilles have claimed ownership of these additions to the traditional fish stew. With that in mind, who can really argue that French wine would be the perfect accompaniment?

Cool weather and a warm seafood stew with a glass of French wine make for warm hearts and lots of fun. The warm stew fills the stomach but is not heavy and the joy of soaking a scrumptious French baguette (Lionel Vatinet at La Farm Bakery makes a great authentic baguette!) in the seafood broth is enough to make any family joyous and grateful.

Personally I love Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse recipe. I have tried many others but simpler is better in my book and simple to me means fresh seafood (check out the selection at Locals Seafood . Lin Peterson has wonderful fresh NC seafood!) and great cooking technique. Sounds like Julia to me! Fresh and basic great cooking!

To complement the Bouillabaisse I tried a refreshing Viognier offered by The Wine FeedDomaine de Couron Cotes du Rhone Viognier 2010 produced by Marie-Lise and Jean-Luc Dorthe from southern France. The fruit with a touch of honey and undertones of anise make for a lovely pairing with Bouillabaisse during the holiday.

Wishing you a Happy Holiday filled with peace, love, joy, family and friends and Bouillabaisse, French Bread and Viognier from The Wine Feed.

Bordeaux Clairet

Can you imagine Thanksgiving dinner without cranberries? I cannot! The sweet and tart taste of traditional cranberry sauce brightens the Thanksgiving meal. In a recent conversation with The Wine Feed owners, the discussion turned to whether one should match the wine served at Thanksgiving to the turkey or the cranberry sauce. Frankly, I had never thought about that before and had assumed the wine pairing would be done with the meat. Funny how quickly we can get stuck in a rut!

I realized if I had to choose between not having turkey or cranberry sauce at a Thanksgiving meal I would most likely forgo the turkey before the cranberry sauce! Given this scenario I decided I should pair my Thanksgiving meal based on a wine complementary to cranberry sauce.

After a taste test, I chose the Château de Parenchère – Bordeaux Clairet – 2009 offered by The Wine Feed. Not only was this wine superb with turkey and cranberry sauce it was delightful with one of my favorite Thanksgiving desserts, Cranberry Walnut Torte! This cake is not overly sweet and uses fresh or frozen cranberries to add the tartness we all love from the red fruit of the bogs of North America. The protected style of Bordeaux Clairet is very similar to the wine the English so loved in the 18th century. A light, voluptuous, fresh and very aromatic wine made for consumption within a few years. Not quite a red wine, but far darker than a typical rosé, the Château de Parenchère Bordeaux Clairet has a rich and stimulating bouquet of strawberry, red currant, and roses.

Enjoy this Cranberry Walnut Torte recipe from The Gardener’s Kitchen accompanied with Clairet for your Thanksgiving table from The Wine Feed and be confident that you and your family and guests will be more than grateful for the bounty of this Thanksgiving meal.

Cranberry Walnut Torte

2 cups walnuts, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup sugar

¾ cup flour

½ cup melted butter

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoon almond extract

8 ounce fresh cranberries

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Combine chopped walnuts, melted butter and sugar.
  3. Press nut mixture over bottom and halfway up the sides of 10 inch springform pan.
  4. Prepare the filling as follows:
  5. Combine flour and sugar in a bowl and reserve.
  6. Using whisk or whisk attachment in mixer or food processor, combine butter, eggs and almond extract.
  7. Mix in flour and sugar till well blended and mixture is light and fluffy.
  8. Fold in cranberries and walnuts.
  9. Pour cake mixture into crust.
  10. Bake about 1 hour until toothpick or small metal skewer comes out clean when poked into center of cake.
  11. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
  12. When cool sprinkle with 10 x powdered sugar.
  13. Serve with fresh whipped cream!

Makes 8 servings

Serve with Château de Parenchère – Bordeaux Clairet – 2009 available at The Wine Feed.

The Last Poblano

I love fresh peppers from the garden! Mild, sweet, spicy, or hot peppers they are all wonderful and make every dish they are in a special event. In my garden, poblanos mature from August thru early October. From merely two plants I am blessed with plenty of poblanos for stuffing, roasting and freezing for winter use.

Toward the end of October and right before the frost arrives, I gather all the remaining poblanos and freeze the majority of them but save some for roasting. I include the roasted poblanos in a chowder. This Corn, Roasted Poblano Pepper, Potato and Crab Chowder reminds me of summer although I usually cook it in late autumn.

I take a couple of pints of fresh frozen creamed (grated) corn from my freezer, which I put up from the garden during the summer and thaw. I roast some poblano peppers and purchase fresh crabmeat and I am within an hour of experiencing a wonderful end to summer and a warming start to autumn.

The table is set and the wine is uncorked. Guests are sitting down to eat at the table. As I stir the Corn, Roasted Poblano Pepper, Potato and Crab Chowder one last time before it is served into the bowl, I express gratitude to Summer and her bounty passing on and ushering in the arrival of late Fall.

The wine I like to serve with this excellent chowder can be found at The Wine Feed. Try the Gramona or Tondonia

Here is the recipe for your culinary enjoyment:

Corn, Roasted Poblano Pepper, Potato and Crab Soup

2 to 4 medium fresh or frozen poblano peppers, roasted

2 medium onions, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 pints of frozen or fresh grated corn

2 to 3 Yukon potatoes, peeled and cut in ½ cubes

1 to 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

5 to 6 cups fat-free, reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 small handful of cilantro, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 15-ounce can of fresh pasteurized crabmeat

Rub the poblano peppers with olive oil. Grill or broil the poblano peppers till blackened. Place grilled poblano peppers in bowl and cover to cool. When peppers are cooled, remove the stems, seeds and ribs along the inside of the pepper. Chop the peppers into ¼ inch pieces and place in a bowl to use later.

In a large stockpot, heat the butter over medium heat and add the minced onions and garlic. Stir frequently and cook till onions are transparent.

Add grated (creamed) corn, cilantro, broth, salt, pepper, poblano peppers and potatoes to stockpot. Cook vegetables until potatoes are tender about 15 minutes over medium low heat. Stir frequently to prevent corn from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

When potatoes are fork tender, add crabmeat and stir.

Bring soup to a boil and remove from the heat.

Serve immediately in warmed soup bowls.

Sprinkle with smoked Spanish paprika and/or minced cilantro if desired. I like to serve the chowder with Corn Muffins and butter.

Serves 8-12 people.

The Wine Feed suggests serving this dish with either the Gramona or the Tondonia.

November is upon us! This is the time of year when you have the opportunity to sit down at a harvest table with family and friends and express your gratitude with a bountiful celebration of food and wine.

Few meals can surpass the traditional Thanksgiving feast of a perfectly roasted turkey, buttery mashed potatoes, savory cornbread dressing or bread stuffing, rich gravy, fresh sautéed garlicky green beans, and cranberry orange sauce made from fresh New England cranberries. For most people, just the thought of Thanksgiving means roasted turkey and equates to warm feelings of family celebration and joy.

Although this is not a complex meal to prepare, the critical factors between a great Thanksgiving meal and a good one in my experience are:

  • How fresh are your ingredients?
  • What techniques do you use to cook your turkey and vegetables?
  • What wine will you serve to complement your meal of gratitude?

Acquiring fresh and local ingredients should be high on your list of preparations for this meal. When you purchase fresh and local ingredients talk to the farmer about how he grew and produced your turkey, beans, potatoes, and other vegetables. You might find an opportunity to express your gratitude for such wonderful, healthy food to bring to your family and friends. Searching to find these types of products for your Thanksgiving dinner is not quite like hunting for wild turkey but close enough to eventually bring gratitude to you from friends and family, as they taste the huge difference in fresh food versus food that has been frozen and shipped over thousands of miles.

As for preparation and cooking techniques to use that will make your meal memorable, keep these experts’ advice in mind:

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/herb-roasted-roast-turkey.html

http://www.marthastewart.com/274827/thanksgiving-turkey-recipes/@center/276949/everything-thanksgiving#/262000

Gramona GessamiLast but not least! Which wine will complement your meal? Recently I cooked a traditional Thanksgiving meal to test a group of wines selected by The Wine Feed. My favorite was a lovely white wine in a Riesling style bottle called Gramona “Gessami” 2010 from the Penedes region of northeast Spain. The Penedes region is located near Barcelona not far from the Mediterranean coast. This wine region is best known for Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, but also produces excellent still white and red wines. Gessami is a blend of 50% Muscat d’Alexandria, 20% Muscat Frontignan, 25% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Gewurztraminer.

Gramona Gessami is a mellow straw-yellow in color with a wonderfully aromatic nose of apricots, pears, citrus, jasmine and mineral notes. Light medium in body with bright acidity, the wine offers clean fruit flavors of pears, peaches, and spice, with no oak. The wine is well balanced, long and smooth on the finish, with some lingering floral notes. This is a wine to drink young.

- The Gardener’s Kitchen

In late August I went home to the mountains of North Carolina where I grew up. Since many of my relatives are apple farmers it was only natural that I grew up loving apples! However, in the mountains apples are not available till September and peaches do not grow very well. Fortunately you can find some of the best peaches in the region not far down the windy mountain road into the foothills near Chesnee, South Carolina. I would venture many people in the surrounding area might claim these are the best peaches in the USA, if not the world!

There are varieties of peaches which ripen successively beginning in late May and finishing up the first couple weeks of September. The clingstone peaches are the early peaches and are quickly followed by semi-freestones for a couple of weeks in mid to late June and then the freestone mother lode begins in July. Check out the Variety Ripening Dates from Strawberry Hills USA near Chesnee, SC.

Peach TowerIn August as I was driving back to Raleigh, I took I-26 and darted off on the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway toward Chesnee and Gaffney. I love this two-lane highway because it shows rural SC at its best! Small towns with well-kept homes and farms and best of all a huge water tower painted like a perfectly huge rendition of a yellow peach! Ronald Dahl would have loved this water tower.

Coming over the hill and stretching in front of me is a little valley all covered with strawberry fields and peach orchards as far as my eye can see. Clean row upon row of architecturally pruned peach trees define this landscape. As I pull into Strawberry Hill’s gravel parking lot I quickly roll down my car windows so I can smell the peaches. I declare, this has to be Heaven! I get out of my car and slowly walk to the various sized baskets of fruit and close my eyes taking in the peachy smell. I realize I need to open my eyes or I will bump into someone or something but I am so delirious with peachy pleasure I could hardly be held accountable for anything short of fainting from delight.

The more years that pass the more I have come to realize a tree-ripened yellow or white peach comes close to being my favorite fruit. That is saying a lot because I love almost all fruits except durians!

During this trip I found the varieties O Henry’s and White Rose available. I have had the O Henry’s before but had not tried the White Rose. I am partial to Georgia Belle’s, but sadly I missed the Georgia Belle season this year so I was happy that another white peach was still available.

The O Henry’s are a beautiful deep yellow color with a red center. If the appearance was not enchanting enough, it was followed by a gorgeous full-on peach fragrance and a deep lush late summery peach taste. The White Rose was a lovely white-fleshed peach with a raspberry red center and sweet light-tasting flesh, but not a bit starchy like some white peaches can be.

Zardetto ProseccoThe White Rose peaches were so wonderful I froze some and decided I would love to use the rest to make a delicate white peach jam to go with scones in the winter. I created this Peach Prosecco Jam which is not only lovely to look at but gorgeous to eat! First, I ordered a bottle of crisp, clean bubbly Zardetto Prosecco from The Wine Feed and enjoyed some Prosecco-drenched peaches. Fortunately, I stopped myself at a point where there was enough remaining to make the Peach Prosecco Jam!

Here is the recipe for you to indulge your senses and fulfill your need for a beautiful and delicate tasting white peach jam. You can use yellow peaches in this recipe, but do try it with white peaches…you won’t be disappointed!

Finally, be sure to save a glass or two of Prosecco to toast to the peaches of summer while you are processing your jam in a hot water bath canner!

 

Peach Prosecco Jam

5 cups (approximately 3 ½ pounds) pureed white or yellow peaches

7 ½ cups sugar

¾ cups Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)

1 envelope dry powdered fruit pectin (2 ounces)

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon butter

1 cinnamon stick (optional)

¼ teaspoon vanilla paste (optional)

  1. Put peaches into boiling water. Remove peaches from water after 1 minute and place into ice water to chill. When peaches are cooled, peel peaches and slice. Place peaches in a food processor and puree till smooth.
  2. In a large stainless steel or enamel pot, add white peach puree, prosecco, butter, vanilla paste, cinnamon stick, lemon juice and package of dry pectin and stir to combine.
  3. Bring peach mixture to a rolling boil and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Stir constantly.
  4. Remove peach mixture from heat and skim foam off the top of the hot jam.
  5. Ladle the hot jam into sterilized jars and put on sterile jar rings and lids.
  6. Place the jam filled jars in a hot water bath and process for 10 minutes for half pint jars; 15 minutes for pint jars.
  7. Makes 10 half pint (8 ounce) jars of jam.

Is It Chocolate Season Yet?

Cacao seeds are harvested twice a year in June and December, fermented and then roasted to make chocolate. Although chocolate is not locally grown in North Carolina, in my kitchen organic fair trade chocolate qualifies as a year round essential for my pantry.

When celebrations and special occasions require luxurious food to heighten the event, dark chocolate is an ingredient that has little competition for fulfilling the requirement for celebration. The rich, smooth, smoky, flavor of dark chocolate goes a long way to add excitement and warmth to any celebration.

Recently I had the occasion to celebrate a grand life achievement for one of my sons and I remembered he liked a dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache icing made by Whole Foods. Normally I would make a cake myself, but I honestly do not believe I could make this cake better!

Since I had some extra time to research which celebratory beverage would compliment this gorgeous dark chocolate ganache cake I called up The Wine Feed to ask for a suggestion. The Wine Feed suggested a red wine to serve with this yummy cake. My thoughts reeled just a little, as I had not really thought about serving a red wine with chocolate for dessert. I had considered champagne or a rosé or a dessert wine but not a red wine.

Barista Pinotage I love pleasant surprises and I really enjoy amazing gifts produced by people with the help of Mother Nature. The Barista 2009 Pinotage from South Africa suggested by The Wine Feed was a gift of pure enjoyment. This red wine with subtle coffee and chocolate aromas and undertones of mulberry, plums and cherries was excellent and took the dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache icing to a whole new level of celebration.

You really have to try this combination for your next celebration. Celebrate Friday night or anything – celebrate being alive! This will be a wine and dessert combination that will make you glad you are alive!

- The Gardener’s Kitchen