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For cookbook author Brigit Binns, central coastal California offers the perfect setting in which to marry fresh, wholesome foods with the many varieties of local wines. Her The New Wine Country Cookbook celebrates this beautiful part of the country, allowing all of us to bring a little bit of old California into our own kitchens.
As the cover promises, this cookbook is chock-full of simply gorgeous photographs printed on low-gloss paper so they really stand out. Even before you get cooking, you'll want to linger over the mouth-watering photos of the finished dishes and the breath-taking views of the California countryside.
Next, take some time to get to know the people who help nurture the area's flora and fauna, brightening our tables with unforgettable flavors and colors. In illustrated features, we are introduced to dairy farmers, honey producers, almond growers, winemakers, and more. In fact, Binns has made it easy for the traveler in all of us by providing "If You Visit" information. On the other hand, if a trip to California isn't in your immediate future, don't despair; Binns included URLs so you can take a virtual tour of the vineyards and ranches.
As you'd expect, the recipes reflect regional tastes and ingredients, although little is out of reach for cooks around the world. The dishes are very contemporary while remaining accessible to traditionalists. Quite a few recipes call for meat or fish, but you won't find many sauce-laden or heavy dishes in The New Wine Country Cookbook. I like the casual feel of the recipes; although many are company worthy, few are fancy.
Here's an idea of what you'll find:
- Braised pork with figs and wine
- Risotto with scallops and bacon
- Rosemary polenta cake with plums
- Black olive and pine nut biscotti
- Soft eggs served over spinach with a chipotle sauce
What's a wine country cookbook without information about wine? Each recipe is accompanied by wine recommendations made by wine sellers and producers, sommeliers, and restauranteurs. Of course, regional wines get center stage, but to make the wine pairings useful to cooks everywhere, recommendations for other wines are also provided. Binns did not include prices, so you'll have to look them up yourself.
The recipe directions are well written and include tips and hints to help you find success. The ingredients should be easy to find for most people. Even the seafood chapter includes enough shrimp, sole, and salmon dishes to be useful for those of us who don't live by the ocean.
You don't have to be a wine drinker to fall head over heels in love with The New Wine Country Cookbook. The recipes are fresh and modern, allowing the flavors of the simple ingredients to come through. If you're like me, though, you'll appreciate the thoughtful wine pairings, which are sure to enhance the best of both plate and glass. Put Brigit Binns's newest cookbook on your holiday gift list.
Note on the photos: The photos were scanned from The New Wine Country Cookbook; all rights and credits remain with the photographer, Colin Clark.
Smoky Sizzled Almonds
Serves 6 to 8
- ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground chipotle or 1½ teaspoons hot or mild pure chile powder
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 2 tablespoons butter, preferably cultured or Irish
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably from the central coast of California
- 1 pound (about 2½ cups) whole raw almonds
Serve warm, or let cool completely, tossing every 5 minutes or so. Toss once again right before serving to distribute the spicy oil. (Or, cool and place in an airtight container, then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the same container, then spread on a baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes in a 275F oven ro re-crisp before serving warm or at room temperature.)
Central Coast Wines: Denner Vineyards Rose, Paso Robles (Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise)
Farther Afield Wines: Muga Rose, Rioja, Spain
Andrews McMeel, 2013
Source: Review (see review policy)
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