This year’s cover of Hugh Johnson’s ubiquitous guide has a special addition: this is the 40th anniversary edition.
Yes, for 40 years we have been buying Hugh’s slim volumes, perhaps not every single year, and toting them around as we go to restaurants and wine shops. It’s light, tight and packed with information.
I’ve actually started reading this 2017 edition, not just looking up wines. Reading it for the perspective that Hugh can provide with his many decades of wine experience. And that perspective is very informative.
If you see the rise of wine stores and all the new wine brands arising — hundreds a day — you know we are in a massive wine boom. Except, Hugh, notes we are not. Wine consumption is down, just a bit, and has flattened in the past decade. Fewer acres around the world are devoted to wine grapes. Fewer, not more.
What is happening? Well, just like climate change is blamed on cars, so cars are Hugh’s explanation for the wine decline. We drive. Everywhere. And we can’t drive with all that wine in our systems. Countries where wine was drunk like water, particularly in Europe, have changed. 40 years ago, some countries had per capita consumption of 130 liters a year. That is now down to a mere 50 in France and falling.
Not to fear. Great wine is upon us. In the section Vintage Report 2015 Hugh points to which harvests were successful and the conclusion that, early worries aside, 2015 has produced great wines. In the section A Close Look at 2014, Hugh can now dissect specific regions and wines to point out which are fine, which need some time and which vintages might disappoint you.
And in the final introductory section, If You Like This [then] Try This, Hugh offers interesting ways to expand you wine horizons. If you love Southern French reds, then you need to cross the border and try Barbaresco. Surprisingly, if you favor Chianti, then it is time to sip a Greek red.
You can spend hours and hour pouring over the facts and comparisons in the Pocket Wine Guide. Was that a pun by the way? Well, it is all true. This is a book you’ll use often and with enjoyment. Keep it next to the car keys. Don’t drink and drive but do drive and read. Not, not at the same time, of course.
Those are apricots from our local farmers’ market. How do you get them into a soufflé? Ah, there is an intermediate step. You need some Apricot Jam. This recipe for the soufflé comes from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters and, yes, there is an apricot jam recipe in the The Art. You just might want your own copy of The Art to get that apricot jam recipe. Or you may have your own recipe. Or, you can always expedite and buy some jam. I won’t tell anybody on you.
You’ll need some pastry cream, too. Yes, The Art has a recipe. And the serving suggestions include Vanilla Pouring Custard. The Art has the recipe. Can you take the hints?
Once you have your copy of The Art, you will thank me.
Yield: 6 servings
Generously butter a 1-quart soufflé or gratin dish and coat with a thin layer of sugar. Preheat the oven to 425°F and position an oven rack in the center of the oven. In a medium bowl combine:
½ cup Pastry Cream
6 tablespoons Apricot Jam (page 385)
A few drops of almond extract
Mix well and set aside. In a large copper or stainless-steel bowl, combine:
6 egg whites, at room temperature
A pinch of salt
Whisk until soft peaks form. Add:
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Beat a few more seconds, then sprinkle on:
⅓ cup sugar
Continue to beat the whites for a few more seconds. Quickly but gently fold the egg whites into the apricot mixture until just blended. Pour the soufflé mixture into the prepared dish. Place the dish in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until it is puffed and browned. Serve immediately with heavy cream or Vanilla Pouring Custard (page 198), if you like.
Source: Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters [Clarkson Potter, 2007]
Diane Kochilas has a new cookbook out, Ikaria, based on the foods of her native Greek island. Yes, I’ll review it soon, but seeing her name reminded me of all the grand books she has written in the past. Like Mediterranean Grilling from 2007.
All grilling books do have a common core. So, Mediterranean or not, there is a burger here but one dressed in Greek glory: Grilled Beef Burgers with Red Pepper and Roquefort. That’s typical of Diane’s upscale approach to her recipes. There’s familiarly there, the burger part, and some additions, the peppers, and then just plain elegance, in Roquefort.
Everything can be grilled in Diane’s world. There are chapters for salads, veggies, bready, and pasta. There’s a soup chapter, too, well, grilled ingredients that slide into soup eventually. Protein chapters abound: kebabs, ground meat, searious meat as she says, wings, and fish. There’s even a dessert chapter but I have to say, aside from gilling some bananas, I do my desserts in the oven.
You’ve probably had a kebab or two in your life. Here they have happy variation and color. And they are not cooked until dry as the desert.
There gem recipes here you are sure to want to try:
Grilled Eggplant Sandwich with Yogurt-Tahini-Chipotle Dressing
Grilled Sweet Potatoes and Leeks with Mint, Orange and Olive Vinaigrette
Smoked Green Garden Packets
Sweet Tomato-Glazed Duck Breasts
That’s a picture of the duck breasts at the end of the post, surely a dish that you can consider for a fall Sunday dinner.
As with most Mediterranean cooking, these recipes are rich in flavor but do not demand rich ingredients. It’s herbs and veggies with basic meats and fish that are assembled in ways to make you pause and smell before that first bite.
The kebab chapter offers you a bevy of ideas to make your grilling grander:
Breaded Mozzarella and Cherry Tomato Brochettes
Classic Greek Chicken Kebabs
Chicken Kebabs Marinate in Cumin Yogurt
Classic Shish Kebab
Turkish-Style Lamb Kebabs
Lamb, Quince and Onion Skewers
Provencal-Style Lamb Brochettes
Provençal-Style Beef Tenderloins with Garlic, Bacon, and Anchovies
Spanish Style Kebabs with Smoked Sausage and Shrimp
Pinchitos-Spanish Pork Kebabs
Those kebab recipes give you an appropriate impression of the span of this book: the Mediterranean from the far West to the far East – well, technically the Middle East but you understand. The variety of recipes, and surely the quality, will have you standing by your grill as the leaves fall and perhaps as the snow begins to trickle down. You can ignore the cold, pretend you are somewhere near the sea, and continue with Mediterranean Grilling.