Sat 12 Apr 2008
We were putting together dinner Thursday night. I was making a pasta with some leftover pot-roast I had prepared last weekend, but not just any pot-roast. This hunk of beef was slow-cooked with a puree of dried ancho chilies, chipotle peppers with adobo sauce, coffee, lime, garlic and onions. Have mercy! I chopped some of the remaining beef, scrapped what was left of the puree into the pan with it and gradually added a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes. It all made an intensely flavorful sauce for penne pasta. The recipe is in The Best of Gourmet: Sixty-Five Years, Sixty-Five Favorite Recipes (Random House, $40); it was intended for short ribs but certainly worked with the roast.
Anyway, LL brought a carton of kumquats from the grocery store. These curious little orangey-yellow fruits, with their tasty but bracing, bitter citrus tang, originated in China, but their small, shrubby trees are now cultivated there and in Japan, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil, Cyprus and the United States. The kumquat is not a true citrus fruit but belongs in the same Rutaceae family. (This information comes from the invaluable New Oxford Book of Food Plants, Oxford University Press, 1997; no home serious about food and ingredients should be without it.)
We had worked with kumquats years ago, when we prepared Charlie Trotter’s Wok-Smoked Catfish with Sweet-and-Sour Fennel and Kumquat Sauce for a dinner party; this is a great dish! It’s in The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter (Ten Speed Press, 1999), a book with recipes designed for cooking at home. Anyway, this recipe recommends simmering the kumquats in water three separate times to remove some of the bitterness. LL did that, chopped the kumquats, which by now were pretty soft, and whisked them into a lemon and olive oil dressing. I guess I shouldn’t call the dressing a vinaigrette since we rarely use vinegar in salad dressings; using freshly squeezed lemon juice makes salads easier to eat with wine.
The salad consisted of a variety of fresh greens, sliced cucumbers and the kumquat dressing, which had chunks of kumquat in it. It was a terrific salad, made even better by the wine we sipped with it, the August Kesseler Riesling Lorcher Schlossberg Kabinett 2004, from Rheingau. At three-and-a-half years old, this riesling was soft, round and blossomy, offering a weaving of pear, peach, lime and lime peel with hints of jasmine and rose petal. In the mouth, the wine is crisp and just off-dry, more ripe and bright and vivacious than sweet; the finish brings in clean but slightly earthy limestone. The primary impression is of lovely subtlety, of a breezy wreathing of delicacies. It was lovely, also, with the salad, the wine matching and even taming the citric vividness of the kumquat-and-lemon dressing, the slight bitterness of the kumquat adding a hint of dimension to the wine. I rate the wine Very Good+. The price is about $25 to $30. The wines of this estate are brought to the U.S. by August Kesseler Import Co. in Chicago.
With the “pot-roast” pasta, we drank the Parson’s Flat Shiraz Cabernet 2004, produced by Henry’s Drive Vignerons in Australia’s Padthaway region. The blend is 70 percent shiraz, 30 percent cabernet sauvignon. The wine ages 16 to 18 months in large and small barrels, 75 percent American, 24 percent French. This is a very big but well-mannered red wine, very ripe, quite dense and chewy, very spicy, quite vibrant with acid. It delivers mint and eucalyptus, black raspberries covered with bittersweet chocolate and layered with blackberries, plums and a touch of super-ripe boysenberry. This all sounds flamboyant (like an over-the-top zinfandel), but the package, while expressive almost to the point of exuberance, is nicely controlled by dry, slightly gritty tannins that load the finish with austerity. Delicious now with hearty fare, the wine could age a couple of years and drink well through 2012 or ’14. I rate it Excellent. The price is about $40. Henry’s Drive wines are imported by Quintessential in Napa, Ca.
The kumquat picture is from jupiterimages.com.