16 November 2013

Weekend Cooking: The New Wine Country Cookbook by Brigit Binns

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Although southern California has a reputation for pollution and traffic mixed with Hollywood glamor, there is plenty of countryside left in the state. In central coastal California, you'll find lush farmland blessed with a mild climate and a long growing season. From sea to fields, from vineyard to dairy barn, the bounty of this region is almost unparalleled.

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
In addition there are recipes for rustic pizzas, simple side dishes, wine-braised brisket, zucchini frittata, yummy nibbles, and light desserts.

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
Combine the smoked paprika, ground chipotle, and salt in a heatproof bowl. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter and olive oil. When the butter foam has subsided, add the almonds and stir occasionally for 6 to 7 minutes, until aromatic and beginning to brown (they will make little popping noises). Dump the almonds and all the oil into the spice-salt mixture and keep tossing until the salt has dissolved (this will take a minute or three).

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
ISBN-13: 9781449419127
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Tina 11/16/13, 6:42 AM  

This looks like a great book, I am particularly excited about the pork with figs and wine. The scallops sound good too, anything with bacon works :-)

The recipe for smoky almonds you shared would make a nice snack for the upcoming holidays. If I take it to my in laws for thanksgiving I will be sure to get photos.

rhapsodyinbooks 11/16/13, 7:48 AM  

I love flavored almonds - might have to try these later today!

JoAnn 11/16/13, 8:24 AM  

Everything about this cookbook appeals to me, from the photography, to the wine, to the recipes. Must check the library for this one!

Not sure if my link will work. I'm traveling with just an iPad this weekend... sorry.

bermudaonion 11/16/13, 9:00 AM  

This sounds divine! I'm not much for sauces so really like the fact that there aren't many in this cookbook.

Unknown 11/16/13, 9:01 AM  

This cookbook sounds amazing. I love cooking with wine!

Anonymous,  11/16/13, 9:05 AM  

Another lovely discovery. I just returned from a California trip, and am still dreaming about it.

Kerry Ann @Vinobaby's Voice 11/16/13, 9:07 AM  

I'd get this book just for the photos, but the recipes sound divine as well.

Beth S. 11/16/13, 9:22 AM  

Wow! This book not only sounds like some nice eye candy, but the recipes sound fantastic too. Definitely going to look for this one! :)

Unknown 11/16/13, 10:28 AM  

I love cookbooks that have behind the scenes segments, like this one highlights local producers. I bet it makes you want to visit wine country!

Sharon Galligar Chance 11/16/13, 12:10 PM  

Hi Beth - I tried to put my link into Mr. Linky, but it wouldn't take - here is my Weekend Cooking post - http://www.garden-of-books.com/2013/11/weekend-cooking-book-review-miss-kays.html

Thanks for doing this meme! Love the cooking ideas I gather from here! :)

Joy 11/16/13, 12:25 PM  

These recipes sound like ones that would work well in my Missouri kitchen, with or without the wine. Thanks!

Joy's Book Blog

Esme 11/16/13, 12:28 PM  

I like books like this. I was expecting a book all about wine. these recipes sound quite tasty.

(Diane) bookchickdi 11/16/13, 1:22 PM  

I have always wanted to visit California wine country. I guess I'll have to settle for this wonderful book until that happens. There are some great recipes here.

Carole 11/16/13, 1:33 PM  

I'd love to visit that area of the world! Cheers

Couscous & Consciousness 11/16/13, 2:13 PM  

Beth, this looks like a wonderful book - I love cookbooks that take you on a bit of a "journey" as well as providing recipes and this one sounds perfect.

Loving the sound of those almonds too, though they do sound highly addictive.

Sue Jackson 11/17/13, 9:11 AM  

I am so impressed that you are able to read and review a new cookbook every week! You know me - I use the same old source for all my recipes - Cooking Light! Of course, I do make some up myself, but I really should branch out a bit and try some cookbooks - the only cookbooks I use regularly are a couple of Cooking Light ones - lol

This cookbook sounds gorgeous! We did make a big trip to California a few years back but we were traveling with the kids, so we skipped over wine country. It sounds beautiful, though, and I would love to try some of the food from the region.


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Anonymous,  11/17/13, 9:46 AM  

This sounds like a really interesting book - the braised pork with figs is something I'd like. I've been making more pork recently. My kids have finally gotten to the point where they like it.

Unknown 11/17/13, 2:49 PM  

That cookbook sounds, and looks fascinating. I am loving the trend to include more than just recipes in these cook books!

Peaceful Reader 11/17/13, 10:44 PM  

I just love the pick-up on the front of the cookbook! The recipes are probably great and my mother would love this for Christmas.

Sue Jackson 11/18/13, 8:36 AM  

Hi again, Beth -

You mentioned you like cooking with your pressure cooker, so here's another recipe I thought you might enjoy. It's another one that is one of our favorites, though I usually make it on the stovetop:


Hope you enjoy it! Sounds like I need to give pressure cookers a try!


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Charlie (The Worm Hole) 11/18/13, 12:24 PM  

I love the look of the mix in that first food photo! This looks to be a really nice book so I'll have to add it to my list.

maria helena 11/24/13, 8:48 PM  

I might have to try those smoky sizzled almonds. Sounds very good.

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