It’s never easy to find the perfect wine and food pairing, especially when you’re considering experimenting with a new dish, wine or even culture. Although Israeli wine is commonly consumed during the Jewish holidays, it doesn’t always have to be paired with brisket, kugel and kreplach. Which begs the question: Aside from matching a kosher wine with a kosher holiday meal, how else should one pair food with Israeli wine?
Israeli Winemakers Gil Shatsberg from Recanati and Asaf Paz of Binyamina Winery offer wine and food pairing advice straight from the vinous source. Shatsberg presents two recipes from his kitchen that pair flawlessly with the wines he makes, while Paz shares an age-old family secret to best illustrate his idea of a perfect pairing.
Gil Shatsberg’s Summer Wheat Salad
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup of fresh wheat grains
¾ cup chicken stock
1 purple onion, finely chopped
1 fresh red beet, cooked and chopped into ¼-inch cubes
½ cup dried cranberries
Juice of ½ lemon
1 small bundle of coriander, finely chopped
1 small bundle of parsley, finely chopped
1 small bundle of mint leaves, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
To make wheat salad: In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil and fry the wheat grains for about 1 minute. When grains are lightly toasted, add the chicken stock and boil until all of the liquid evaporates and the wheat is al dente, adding additional stock if necessary.
Let the wheat cool to room temperature and stir in the onion, beet, coriander, parsley, mint leaves, salt, pepper, dried cranberries and lemon juice. Mix until well-incorporated and let sit for 30 minutes before serving. Serves 4.
Wine recommendation: “This fresh, colorful salad would match perfectly to our Recanati 2010 Rosé,” says Shatsberg. “The sweetness of the red beet together with the cranberries and the herbs would blend with the crisp strawberry flavor of the rosé. A perfect match for a sunny afternoon.”
Judith Paz's Mediterranean-style Leg of Lamb
“We love this recipe that runs in the family and is a must on special occasions such as the Passover table,” says Paz, whose mother, Judith, created it. “Throughout Eastern Mediterranean regions, sheep are much more common than cows. Here in Israel, one can find premium olive oils from small, medium and large Israeli producers. We use one from the lower Galilee together with the fresh herbs and high-quality paprika grown in the fields of the arid Negev area. This delicious dish is made from all locally grown ingredients.”
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly grounded
1 teaspoon high quality paprika
20 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed, plus 20 cloves, unpeeled
5-7 pounds lamb leg, rinsed under cold water and dried
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
To prepare the leg of lamb: In a small bowl, mix together olive oil with salt, pepper, paprika and the crushed garlic. With a thin, sharp knife, cut 10-20 small 2-3 inch deep slits into the lamb leg. Place the lamb leg into a large baking dish and pour the garlic rub and the remaining oil on top, making sure it penetrates each slit. Scatter the unpeeled garlic cloves around the pan and place 2 rosemary springs on either side of the lamb leg.
To cook the leg of lamb: Preheat oven to 425°F. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Lower the heat to 350°F and continue to bake for 1½ hours, until an instant read thermometer registers 130°F for medium rare. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15-25 minutes before slicing. Serves 6.
Wine recommendation: “Binyamina Reserve Shiraz is a very balanced and expressive wine, presently showing a wide spectrum of red and black berries with a beautiful spicy character and hint of mint and smoke, making it the perfect accompaniment to the rich, complex and almost-gamey character of our traditional family dish,” Paz explains.
Chef’s note: “In our family, we like to accompany this special dish with freshly cut spearmint. For a classic pairing, serve sautéed green beans or fresh cut ‘champignon de Paris’ with garlic and freshly cut spearmint,” says Paz.
Gil Shatsberg’s Siniyeh
For the filling:
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or dried), chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 hot green pepper, finely chopped
2¼ pounds ground beef
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
½ cup parsley, chopped
¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
¼ cup coriander, chopped
½ cup pine nuts (slightly roasted), divided
For the crust:
1 cup burghul (bulgur) wheat
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
½ cup Semolina flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
For the Tahini sauce:
½ cup Tahini
¾ cup water
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To prepare the burghul: Soak the burghul in a large bowl with water for about twenty minutes, drain and squeeze slightly to remove excess water.
To make the filling: In a medium skillet, heat 4 tablespoons oil and sauté the wild thyme, garlic, onion and hot pepper for about 5 minutes, or until the onion turns a light golden color. Add the ground beef and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the beef from forming large clumps.
Transfer the meat mixture into a medium bowl and add the spices, parsley, mint, coriander and ¼ cup of pine nuts. Stir until the mixture is well blended.
To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 180ºF. In a medium bowl, combine burghul, oil, whole wheat flour, semolina flour, salt and pepper and work the mixture with your hands until it forms a soft dough.
In a 24 mm-diameter springform pan, press the burghul dough into the pan, lining both the sides and bottom.
Place the stuffing on the crust and press down slightly. Place pan in the preheated oven and bake for 35–45 minutes. To check for doneness, insert the tip of a knife into the center and withdraw—the tip should be hot to the touch.
To make the Tahini dressing: In a small bowl, combine the Tahini with water, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper, and whisk until the mixture is emulsified.
To finish: When the siniyeh is finished, pour the Tahini mixture on top, sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts and place in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, until the Tahini becomes golden brown. Serves 6.
Wine recommendation: “For this savory Mediterranean dish, I recommend Recanati's Petite Sirah–Zinfandel Reserve 2009, a perfect match because of its full body, rich texture and its wide array of fruity, earthy [notes] and aromas of Mediterranean herbs,” says Shatsberg.
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