New wine pairings to go with old family recipes.
As the days grow shorter, and the wind gusts start sending a chill down your spine, and we settle back into our post High Holidays routine, we revisit the evening glass of wine with perhaps a heartier meal than its summer season counterpart. I’m not at all suggesting the more popular unhealthy comfort foods, but just something with a little more meat on the bones to, well, put some more meat on our bones.
For many, the fall season is a favorite. With the changing colors of our landscape comes bountiful local produce. An incredible array of apples, bell peppers, cabbage, all kinds of hearty root vegetables … the list is long, colorful, and tasty.
I also love fall, and not because my children are safely tucked back away at school for the year (I actually prefer the low-stress summer months, call me crazy), but rather for the warmth and comfort of the multitude of food and wine options and pairings. Let’s dive into some of my family’s favorite fall eats and some wonderful wines with which to pair them.
Wine and food are inherently personal. Whether it be the treasured recipe that was handed down mother/father to daughter/son (happily, we live in a world where the kitchen is the playground for all) or the memories of a favorite dish (I swear I can still “memory-smell” the foods I grew up on), we connect deeply with the food of our youth.
Mrs. Sandler’s Split Pea Soup
My dad’s favorite course was always soup. He would be happy if nothing else were served. He’d also find a way to turn it into a meal, adding all kinds of extras to fill it out. I learned a great deal about the enjoyment of a meal from my dad. Don’t rush it. Savor. Enjoy your family.
One of our longtime staple soups was a split pea soup, the recipe coming from an adopted Bubby of sorts, a Holocaust survivor my mom looked in on. Her thanks to my mom often came in the form of this rich green broth. We were lucky enough to be handed down the recipe, and my kids have even learned to reproduce this simple masterpiece. My eldest daughter, off this year to seminary in Israel, is a longtime vegetarian (gasp!) so while one can always add beef to this recipe, we love it without. (Still, some smoked brisket thrown in is a thing of beauty!)
- 2 pounds split peas
- ½ pound mushrooms
- 4 carrots, rinsed and chopped
- 1 parsnip, rinsed and chopped
- 1 onion, minced
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 packages noodle soup mix
- 2 Osem vegetable cubes
- ½ stick margarine
- Fresh dill, chopped finely
➀ Mrs. Sandler’s technique, but I saute the mushrooms, carrots, parsnip, onion and celery until lightly browned in the ½ stick of margarine. Add the split peas, noodle soup mix, and finely chopped fresh dill.
➁ Fill the pot halfway.
➂ Slowly bring to a boil.
➃ Turn down heat to simmer, stirring constantly to avoid burning, and cover.
➄ Soup is done when split peas are totally broken down and integrated.
Golan Heights Winery, Gilgal, Brut, NV
To paraphrase the late, great Rodney Dangerfield (née Jacob Rodney Cohen), “What’s a meal without bubbles?” I love to start, accompany, or finish any meal with a bottle of bubbly. Don’t get caught up in the whole idea that bubbly is only for special occasions. Today is the most important occasion. And today, the kosher wine world has lots of affordable options, whether it be actual Champagne, or one of its sisters, such as Cava, Prosecco, sparkling wine, or others. But if you want one made in the same method as Champagne, but at just a fraction of the price, look no further than the Gilgal Brut, hailing from the Golan Heights. Made from 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay (two of the three traditional Champagne varieties), and aged for at least a year in the bottle, the Gilgal Brut is perhaps the finest sparkling wine in its price category. On the nose, bright citrus, green apple, some yeast. The palate shows tightly-packed fine bubbles and a beautiful tart acidity. A tremendous buy whenever you can get it. You can even age it a few years to add more of the “older Champagne” notes such as brioche and yeast.
$20, 12% ABV, non-mevushal.
When considering the next “fall dish,” I really wanted to include a write-up on smoked salmon. It’s easier than you think and there’s just no replacing it on your menu. Alas, we’ll save that for another time, but I would suggest buying yourself an inexpensive upright electric smoker and learning the ropes. Yes, this is for the mildly adventurous, and must be done outdoors, but the payoff is grand. With that on the back burner, let’s skip to another wonderful appetizer (which would easily be filling as a main).
Meatballs and Cabbage
While working on this column, like any smart writer, I did my research. And any real research on cooking for me begins with my mom. I called mom and asked if she would mind me publicizing (and perhaps popularizing and immortalizing) her recipe for meatballs and cabbage. Once she acceded, I said, “OK, why don’t you send me a picture on WhatsApp of the recipe? I’d love to use it.” Several hours later, after many failed attempts by mom to learn WhatsApp, we finally achieved success. (OK, I went over to her house and showed her how to use it in person.) Interestingly, my dad had “done his part” in the recipe, and had typed it up for her.
- 3 pounds cabbage
- 2 onions sliced
- ½ cup Craisins
- Large apple, cut up
- 2 or 3 pounds ground beef
- ½ cup matzo meal
- Garlic powder
- 1 egg
- ½ cup rice, optional (my mom does not use rice)
- Mix together and form balls
- 1 large can whole tomatoes
- 1 large can tomato sauce
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 2-3 cans water
- ½ to ¾ cup brown sugar
- ½ lemon
➀ Place half of cabbage with apples, onions in a pot.
➁ Place meatballs on top.
➂ Add remaining cabbage mixture on top.
➃ Add sauce to cabbage and meatball mixture; bring to a boil.
➄ Cook 1 ½ to 2 hours
Here’s a perfect opportunity to bust out a nice Italian red wine with a saucy, savory dish. I think Italy is my current favorite wine region, and luckily this coincides with the welcome influx of Italian wines coming to our shores from a variety of importers, including Allied, M&M, Royal and The River Wine. With this in mind, let’s provide a variety of choices—wines I am currently enjoying.
In Campagna, Rosso
Toscana, IGT, 2019
Anyone who knows my wine tastes knows I love merlot. Considering I also love Italian wine, this is a perfect choice for me. I hope you’ll agree. In the glass, deep burgundy red, clear. Fresh nose of red raspberry, blackberry, green herbs, earth and a touch of smoked meat. The palate shows a medium body, focused bright acid, mouth-coating and long-lasting tannins. Juicy red and dark fruit, earthy, some gaminess. There is some heft for a Tuscan red. 14% ABV but does not seem overbearing. Very nice wine.
$18, 14% ABV, non-mevushal.
Cantina del Redi, Pleos, Toscana Sangiovese, 2019
Another lovely wine, which you can find under $20. In the glass, ruby red with blue-tinged rim. Clear and light. On the nose, lots of “red,” cranberries, raspberries, unripe, tart cherries and some earthiness. On the palate, the definition of medium-bodied wine, with medium-plus acid, and mouth-coating tannins. (Tannins, which come primarily from the skins and stems of grapes, are identifiable as the dry sensation in your mouth. A good example is similarly found in black tea.)
$18, 14% ABV, non-mevushal.
Moroccan Beef Chili
Probably our most reliable fall(back) dish is chili. Deeply satisfying, rich, with a warmth that permeates your soul, chili is also a dish that has so many options. Over the years, we’ve generally settled on this recipe which, through toying and tinkering, has found a place as a household staple. Utilizing the Sephardic North African chili paste or powder called harissa gives an entirely new element to the traditional seasonings. Harissa is easy to make or you can find it in more extensive kosher shops. Pereg Spices makes one that I use. This recipe also utilizes chickpeas versus the more standard black or kidney beans.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 6 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 teaspoons)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 large carrots, rinsed and chopped into rounds (I don’t peel my carrots)
- 1 large can diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 5 tablespoons mild harissa, or 3 to 4 tablespoons spicy harissa
- 1.5 tablespoons cumin seeds or powdered cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- Pinch cinnamon
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup cilantro, chopped (optional—if you like cilantro!)
➀ Heat the oil in a pot; add onions, ginger, garlic. Stir and add beef. Stir until beef is browned.
➁ Add carrots, tomatoes, pepper and stir for a few minutes.
➂ Add chicken stock. Then add seasonings (cinnamon, cumin, harissa, smoked paprika).
➃ Bring to boil then reduce and add chickpeas and salt and pepper. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes.
If you decided “yes” on the cilantro, now’s the time to garnish your bowl and serve.
Louis Blanc, Crozes-
Hermitage, AOP, 2015
Moroccan spice lends itself to an equally spicy wine. Wines from the northern Rhône appellation of Crozes-Hermitage are predominantly made with Syrah, and Syrah is known for its fruit and spice, big enough to complement this bold dish. I’ve chosen the Louis Blanc, Crozes-Hermitage, AOP, 2015. Made from 100% Syrah, in the glass we find a deep dark ruby red to purple. Intense nose of black fruits, blackberry and fig. Spices: anise and licorice. Smoked meat, loamy earth, and tobacco. On the palate, medium-plus to high acidity, mouth coating tannins, full bodied, with sweet, dark fruit. Medium finish. Nice balance and nice wine, which can still age and improve.
$32, 13% ABV, non-mevushal.
I hope you enjoy these dishes and wines as much as my family does. As always, I love any commentary and can be found on Instagram @kosherwinetastings
By Kenneth Friedman