Spicy Wet Walnuts with Chile, Orange, and Star Anise
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This dead-simple walnuts recipe is sweet and savory, which means you can take it in either direction. Choices!
- 1 small orange, zest removed in wide strips
Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes; let cool.
Cook chiles, orange zest, and star anise in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, shaking pan constantly, until chiles are darkened and orange zest and star anise are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add walnuts, maple syrup, salt, and ¼ cup water and bring to a simmer. Cook until liquid is slightly reduced, stirring occasionally, 8–10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to jar. Cover and chill at least 12 hours before using.
Do Ahead: Walnuts can be made 2 weeks ahead. Keep chilled.
Nutritional ContentFor 16 servings (1/4 cup each): Calories (kcal) 190 Fat (g) 8 Saturated Fat (g)1 Cholesterol (mg) 0 Carbohydrates (g) 29 Dietary Fiber (g)1 Total Sugars (g) 25 Protein (g) 2 Sodium (mg) 110Reviews Section
PLUM GOODIES FOR THE SWEET TABLE!
Figs and prunes seldom get the respect they deserve, but when they’re combined with walnuts and formed into delicious, bite-sized nibbles, they command much more than just respect. They get a blast of loving attention with smiles. Serving these at small gatherings as little after-lunch confections, I noticed guests reaching for seconds and thirds.
These little tidbits not only become desirable confections on the dessert tray, but they also make healthful treats to include in school kids’ lunchboxes or a between-meal snacks for little ones who need a healthful energy boost during the day.
They’re great keepers, too! Just pile them into a plastic container with a cover and set them aside on the countertop so they’re convenient for frequent nibbling—especially for the little ones.
For holiday parties, we tend to pull out all the stop. After all, the holidays come only once a year and we just have to go all out and prepare a fun sweet table loaded with everything from cookies and bars to truffles and confections. Be sure to add these little two-bite treats to your repertoire of collected recipe favorites. They might just become new favorites.
I made a batch of these for our own pleasure and put a heaping mound of them on a dish when a neighborhood friend came over with a loaf of his delicious sourdough bread. With enthusiasm, he popped one into his mouth and nodded with a smile of approval. As we sat at the table with our foodie friend and chatted about recipes, we noticed he kept reaching for another Plum Goodie, and another, and another. When he took the last one, he looked at me in wonder and asked, “Did I just eat the whole plate of these?”
Of course, my husband and I just giggled. It was the best testimonial I have ever encountered.
They disappeared so quickly I didn’t have the chance to plate them. That means I have to get to work and bake up another batch — soon! I love that this recipe makes a hearty quantity of about 40 little squares.
Because these tasty confections are so unique, they would even make a lovely homemade hostess gift to bring when visiting friends during the holiday season. Consider these as a delicious holiday gift for Grandma, who doesn’t need another scarf or pair of slippers but loves to nibble on sweet treats.
Dried fruits are a holiday bonus, providing pleasant diversity from the limited variety of fresh fruits like apples, pears, and oranges available during the winter season. To vary this recipe, try replacing the prunes with dried apricots or peaches. Both would offer delightful flavor paired with the definitive flavor of the sesame seeds that cover both the top and bottom of these treats.
Yield: about 40 one-inch squares
10 ounces dried calmyrna or golden figs, trimmed and snipped in half
12 pitted dates, snipped in half
2 to 3 whole star anise
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons organic sugar
1 or 2 tablespoons water, as needed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
Combine the figs, prunes, dates, water, cinnamon sticks, and star anise in a 2 to 3-quart saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and steam for 10 minutes.
Discard the cinnamon sticks and anise and transfer the mixture to a food processor, including any liquid remaining in the pan. Add the sugar, water, lemon juice, and ground cinnamon and process until smooth and completely pureed. The mixture will be very thick.
Spoon the mixture into a medium bowl and add the walnuts. Mix well with a large spoon to incorporate the walnuts evenly throughout the mixture.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and have ready two large rimmed baking sheets. Cut 2 pieces of parchment to fit the baking sheets. Place one piece of parchment directly on the countertop, and set the other aside.
Sprinkle 1/3 of the sesame seeds into the center of the parchment and spread them evenly over a 6-inch diameter.
Carefully drop small spoonfuls of the walnut-fig mixture to cover the sesame seeds, and flatten the mixture with the back of a spoon, spreading it out to create a rectangle about 11 inches by 14 inches. Sprinkle the next 1/3 of the remaining sesame seeds over the top, pressing them down with the back of a spoon or your fingers. Sprinkle tiny bits of the remaining sesame seeds over sparsely covered areas, and set the remaining seeds aside.
Lift the parchment with the sesame-covered slab and place it into one baking sheet. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove from the oven and place the remaining piece of parchment over the top. Cover with the remaining baking sheet and invert the pans.
Remove the top piece of parchment and discard it. Sprinkle the remaining sesame seeds over the uncovered areas. Press them into the surface, and bake 30 minutes longer.
Remove and cool the walnut-figgy slab. Using a flatware knife, cut the slab into 1-inch squares. Place the squares onto a large platter and leave them at room temperature for 4 to 8 hours to firm and dry slightly.
Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Covered in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature, the Walnut and Figgy Bites will keep for up to 2 months. For longer storage, put the confections in heavy-duty zip-lock bags and freeze for up to 6 months.
65 Cookie Recipes You'll Be Baking All Year Long
Life is too short to skip dessert. especially when you have 80+ amazing cookie recipes to choose from. Whether you're a traditionalist&mdashchocolate chip, sugar, or bust&mdashor like to mix things up with Andes chip and red velvet cookie recipes, we've got something for you. Once when you've tried them all, we've got some super-stuffed cookies for ya, too.
Have you had a corn cookie before? If not&mdashget to the kitchen pronto. These are incredible.
These are a Jewish deli staple and should be on everyones top 5 cookie list.
Satisfy With A Simple, Spicy Appetizer
Hosting often involves serving food, and the following recipe for “Spicy Cheese Balls” from A.J. Rathbun’s “Party Snacks!” (Harvard Common Press) is sure to please hosts who want to serve their guests an hors d’oeuvre that’s simple but spicy.
Spicy Cheese Balls (Makes 35 to 40 bite-size balls)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1. Put the cream cheese, cheddar, garlic, parsley, cayenne, black pepper, and salt in a food processor. Process for 5 to 10 seconds, until well blended. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Spread the chopped walnuts on a plate. Shape the cheese mixture into 35 to 40 small cheese balls, each about the size of a large marble. Roll each cheese ball in the walnuts, coating the outside (you may to press a little to ensure sticking).
3. Serve the cheese balls on a large platter. You can put a toothpick in each ball, but you could also surround them with crackers and let guests use their hands. It all depends on what kind of party you’re having.
Cathead biscuits are a Southern staple whose name refers to their large size (about as big as a cat's head). The dough for this hand-rolled biscuit recipe is made by incorporating flour into the wet ingredients, instead of the reverse. The result is a fluffy (rather than flaky) biscuit, ready to be split and spread with flavorful honey butter.
This classic French spiced bread is perfumed with a vibrant spice mix of star anise, ginger, and cinnamon. It's great for a sweet toast in the morning, or it can be sliced thinly and served with pâté for a pretty appetizer.
Black pepper is among the world’s most commonly used spices and begins life in clusters on a vine — not dissimilar to grapes.
Peppercorns are actually green when they’re harvested, but they turn black once dried. They are usually ground down to release their signature earthy spiciness, generated by the chemical compound piperine.
Flavours reminiscent of this mild spice might appear in the flavour or aroma of some wines. Black pepper notes usually crop up in earthy or spicy dry red wines, particularly those made from Syrah / Shiraz, either single-varietal or constituting a classic blend with Mourvèdre and Grenache.
Syrahs from northern Rhône may intermingle black pepper with floral, minty or even creosote notes. Australia’s warm climate Shiraz blends, such as those from Barossa Valley, might combine peppery hints with baked fruit and liquorice, developing into leathery or earthy characteristics with age.
Other potentially peppery wines include rosé blends from Provence, typically Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Sangiovese wines hailing from Chianti Classico, can also contain black pepper notes, usually associated with oak influences like black tea, leather and cedar.
Sources: Spices and Seasonings: A Food Technology Handbook by Donna R. Tainter, Anthony T. Grenis | Decanter.com
From aromatherapy oils to car air fresheners, cedar wood is prized for its rich and woody aromatic qualities. In wines, it’s a desirable scent that often indicates the use of oak in the production of red wines.
Most commonly, in full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon single varietal and blended wines, such as those of Napa Valley or Bordeaux — particularly the Left Bank appellations. For example Château Léoville-Barton, St-Julien, 2ème Cru Classé 1990, as cited in Decanter.com’s How to read wine tasting notes, or Château Haut-Bailly, Pessec-Léognan 1998, as mentioned in The seven key aromas of aged Bordeaux.
As it’s related to the use of oak in post-fermentation winemaking, cedar is classified as a secondary aroma. Within this category, it signifies a fresher and more savoury aroma than notes like vanilla or butterscotch, and expresses a resinous and slightly spicy character aligned with sandalwood and cloves.
Its falls among the subtler secondary aromas, therefore it might be harder to detect in the strongly aromatic oaks such as American oak, where coconut and vanilla fragrances can dominate.
Cedar is also incorporated in the ‘cigar box’ tasting note, which describes the combination of the aromas of rolled tobacco leaves with boxes made of cedar wood, traditionally used for storing cigars.
You might be familiar with the sight of a festive cinnamon stick bobbing in your mulled wine, but for other wines it does not feature directly. However, some wines can give the impression of cinnamon in their flavours and aromas. This is because cinnamon contains aromatic compounds called esters, one of which — ethyl cinnamate — can also be found in wine.
Quantities of ethyl cinnamate can find their way into wines during fermentation or ageing processes. The ‘ethyl’ part refers to the ethanol found in the wine which becomes an ester, compounded with cinnamic acid — the same that’s in the essential oil of cinnamon. Bottle ageing white wines is an example of how ethyl cinnamate might be produced, along with other sweet spicy notes like ginger and nutmeg.
Wines that conjure the effect of cinnamon include naturally spicy whites like Gewürztraminer, as well as in some oaky Chardonnays with toasty or nutty features.
For red wines with cinnamon notes, look to rich Italian reds such as those made from Nebbiolo or Barbera varietals as well as Amarone, a wine made using partially dried grapes to give it more concentrated flavours.
Other reds could include certain smoky Riojas or earthy Oregon Pinot Noirs, aged in American oak. The spicy characteristics of some tawny Port wines can lend themselves to cinnamon notes too, such as Graham’s, 20 Year Old Tawny NV.
Sources: Understanding Wine Chemistry by Andrew L. Waterhouse, Gavin L. Sacks, David W. Jeffery, Decanter.com
Cloves are the dried flower buds of an evergreen tree native to Indonesia, commonly used as an aromatic cooking ingredient, and in the festive season you might find them bobbing in your mulled wine.
However cl oves are not added during regular winemaking practices, but the impression of them might be created during oak-ageing. Clove notes can come from an aroma compound called eugenol, which is found in both oak and cloves.
The influence of eugenol on the resultant wine depends on factors such as how the wood has been toasted or seasoned, and how long the wine spends in oak.
Oak barrels: What they do to wine
Because clove notes usually come from oak influences, they are categorised as a secondary aroma, alongside notes like sandalwood, vanilla and cedar. In the wine lexicon they’re classified as a sweet, rather than pungent, spice — like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
You can look for clove-like flavours and aromas in wines such as classic oak-aged reds from Bordeaux, such as Château L’Eglise-Clinet, Pomerol 2016, where oaky notes of cinnamon and clove are integrated with primary dark fruit notes.
Sources: Handbook of Enology, The Chemistry of Wine: Stabilization and Treatments edited by Pascal Ribéreau-Gayon, Y. Glories, A. Maujean, Denis Dubourdieu | Decanter.com
Cola, the carbonated drink known under many brand names, has a distinct flavour that originally came from the caffeine-rich kola nut mixed with other ingredients like coca leaves, sweet spices, caramel, citric acid and sugar.
Today, th e flavour that we recognise as cola is commonly artificial, but nonetheless distinctive a combination of strong sweeteners with a hint of spice and sour acidity.
As a wine descriptor, cola can be used to describe a certain bittersweet, spicy element present in some red wines, particularly those that have been matured in oak.
Bold and spicy Australian Shiraz wines are a good place to look for cola notes, such as Earthworks Shiraz, Barossa Valley 2015, blending ‘cola, mulberry and clove spice’.
As well as certain Syrah, Mouvèdre, Grenache blends from southern Rhône, such as Boutinot, Les Six, Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne 2014, noted for its ‘touch of kirsch and cola’ along with cherry fruit and spices.
Or you might find it more subtly expressed in lightly oaked Italian reds with strong acidity, like Bravo Cordara, Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2013, in which ‘a light cola note hangs around the nose’.
As well as Lambrusco lightly sparkling red wines like Cleto Chiarli, del Fontadore, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Emilia-Romagna 2015, showing ‘bitter cola and red fruits’.
The complex aromatics of premium Pinot Noir wines can also include cola notes, alongside those of game, allspice, truffles and leather.
Many of us will be familiar with the aroma and flavour of the spice cumin —either in powder or seed form— which is widely used across Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. It comes from the dried seeds of the cumin herb, which is part of the parsley family.
Cumin is relatively mild aromatic spice, typified by an earthy or woody flavours and aromas, with a bitter undertone. It features in the spice category of the wine lexicon, alongside notes like black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg and anise.
You can look for cumin notes in some orange wines, which sometimes glean an extra earthy, bitter spice edge from prolonged skin contact.
For example, Albert Mathier et Fils, Amphore Assemblage 2010, from Switzerland’s Valais region, has a honeyed cinnamon nose that comes through as ‘cumin, tea leaf and dry tobacco’ on the palate.
Elsewhere, some premium cool-climate Pinot Noir wines can develop delicately earthy and mildly spicy notes that resonate with cumin.
Peter Michael Winery’s Le Caprice Estate Pinot Noir 2013, made in Sonoma County’s Fort Ross-Seaview AVA, was praised by William Kelley as ‘the most supple and ethereal of the Pinots bursting with perfumed notes of rose petal, clove, cumin and black fruit’.
Full-bodied reds can also develop spicy characteristics, such as cumin, usually gained from time spent in oak.
Ringbolt, Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 from Margaret River — matured for 11 months in American oak — has a ‘touch of cumin and dried herb on the nose’, which adds complexity to the cassis and dark fruit flavours.
Similarly, Ao Yun 2013, a full-bodied Bordeaux blend from southern China’s Yunnan province, was noted for its ‘sweet black and red cherry fruit’ flavours, which are counter-balanced by bitter-edged oak influences: ‘juniper, pepper and cumin’.
Ginger is the pungent root of a flowering plant native to Asia. It’s consumed in many forms, including as a ground spice, caramelised, pickled, infused into tea or baked into cakes and biscuits.
Ginger has a warming effect on the palate, though it’s not as strong as the burning sensation caused by chilli. In the wine lexicon, it’s classified as a sweet spice, along with notes like nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.
You can look for ginger notes in some fuller-bodied aromatic white wines that have an edge of spice, such as Viognier and Assyrtiko wines. Also in Gewürztraminer, as described in Decanter’s grape glossary:
‘It smells of ginger and cinnamon, fragrant rose petals and pot pourri with a dusting of Turkish Delight and tastes of deliciously exotic lychees and mango.’
Mature sweet white wines such as Sauternes and Tokaji, which have been made from grapes affected by botrytis cinerea (noble rot), might display warm hints of fresh or crystallised ginger as part of their complex sweet spice, caramelised and nutty flavour profile.
The process of prolonged skin-contact, aka maceration, involved in the production of orange wines can also create gingery flavours. For example La Stoppa, Ageno, Emilia, Emilia-Romagna 2011 was macerated for 30 days, resulting in ‘a full bodied, spicy and honeyed wine’ with notes of cinnamon and ginger on the finish.
In sparkling wines, vintage Cava wines that have been aged on the lees can display warm yeasty notes that can be reminiscent of ginger. For example Gramona, Argent Reserva Brut 2009 demonstrates flavours of ‘roasted nuts, sweet nutmeg and ginger’, while Juvé y Camps, Reserva de La Familia, Brut Nature 2010 reveals more intensified notes of ‘honey, toasted brioche, dried fig and crystallised ginger’.
Among red wines, you might find gingery notes in some medium or full bodied styles that have spent some time in oak, which can impart sweet spicy characteristics like ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla.
As a wine descriptor, liquorice refers to the sweet, yet slightly bitter and medicinal flavours and aromas associated with the chewy black confection made from the Glycyrrhiza glabraplant root extract.
Although this is not actually present in the wines themselves, its likeness is often perceived in red wines, such as Syrah blends from Rhône, and is usually integrated with black fruit flavours. Or in the spiciness of wines made from the Nebbiolo grape, such as Barolo and Barbaresco wines from northwest Italy, where it is often expressed in harmony with violet and rose aromas.
Liquorice is part of the same flavour group as star anise and fennel, as they share chemical flavour compounds such as anethole, which is found widely in essential oils, and is responsible for their distinctive scent and taste.
It is a useful term to use to describe a particular tart and penetrating sweetness, differing from that related to sugar. Like liquorice itself, wines with this flavour or aroma can be divisive depending on personal taste for some it recalls childhood treats, for others it causes nose-wrinkling.
Star anise, so named because of its resemblance to an eight-pointed star, is an aromatic spice commonly used to flavour Chinese cooking — and mulled wine. Star anise is actually a seed pod from an evergreen tree, which differs from the anise plant (aniseed).
Star anise’s distinctive aroma is derived from an essential oil called anethole, which is also found in fennel and aniseed. Therefore wines with a flavour profile containing notes like liquorice, aniseed or fennel may also have notes of star anise.
Star anise aromas are typically found in spicy oaked reds, such as Primitivo wines from southern Italy, Zinfandel from California or Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley.
These wines may contain other ‘sweet spice’ descriptors, such as clove or nutmeg, as well as ‘pungent spice’ descriptors like juniper or liquorice.
These characteristics are usually gained through oak-ageing in casks or barrels, when spicy and toasted woody flavours can be infused into the wine.
This means that star anise is generally categorised as a secondary aroma, as it is associated with the influence of oak (see vanilla, cedar, cinnamon and coconut).
Corn tortillas, old world and new
We were in the state of San Luis Potosí some years back, in the very small town of La Plazuela, when we came across the tortilleria — the shop that makes fresh corn tortillas. Every Mexican town has at least one tortilleria, but this one was special. The tortillas were being made from freshly ground, dried corn, instead of packaged Maseca, the corn flour usually used. We watched the grinding process, and waited around for the hot tortillas. Ay caramba, were they good! I don’t think we have had tortillas made from corn kernels ground on site since.
Amadeo, a resident of La Plazuela, ate egg tacos every morning made with these tortillas. He was a poor man, and when I saw his breakfast, I realized there wasn’t more than a small smear of cooked egg in each taco, essentially tortillas flavored with a bit of egg. His large meal of the day was tortillas with beans, and he told us that he was lucky he liked beans and tortillas so much, since that was the food God gave the poor of Mexico.
Corn tortillas date back to pre-Columbian times, and still figure prominently in traditional Mexican cuisine. Then as now, the corn kernels are first soaked in an alkaline solution of lime (known as cal in Mexico) and water. This softens the outer skin, which is then rubbed off by hand. This process is known as nixtamalization. If you buy a bag of Maseca in Mexico, that is what the word nixtamalizado on the package means.
Despite the growing popularity of spongy Bimbo bread, tortillas are everywhere. They are the basis of quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos, enfrijoladas and much more. These days, they are more likely to be made from the dry masa mix, rather then freshly ground, dried corn. There is no comparison between the flavor of the two, but a corn grinder is not a usual household applicance, even in Mexico. So we all eat tortillas made from Maseca, though today’s modern Mexican youngsters probably do not even know what tortillas made from freshly ground corn taste like. No doubt, in the remote villages of Mexico, the real tortillas are all they know.
For some reason, my dear chief taster has had this fantasy that his esposa will some day slap masa between her hands and make corn tortillas for him regulary. Maybe this has something to do with a wish to return to simpler times. With a tortilleria only a block away, this is one fantasy that is not going to happen. Or so I thought until he gave me a beautiful, wooden tortilla press as a gift. What else could I do, but make tortillas for him. This one time.
Do you have a tortilla press and a mate who thinks you are going to slap together fresh tortillas for breakfast? If so, buy a bag of Maseca, or better yet, go to your local tortilleria and buy some fresh masa. That’s what I did. A half kilo of fresh masa cost six pesos, the same as a half kilo of tortillas. In other words, it cost the same for an equal weight of freshly cooked, steaming tortillas as it does for the masa, leaving me to go home, press the tortillas, then stand over a very hot griddle. But if making corn tortillas will make your day, here’s how to do it.
If you live in a town with a tortilleria, buy fresh masa. One pound (one-half kilo) will make twelve to fifteen tortillas. If you are not lucky enough to live near a tortilleria, buy a bag of Maseca or Quaker Masa Hariana de Maiz and follow the instructions on the package. Their instructions call for 2 cups of masa mix, 1 1/4 cups of water, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir together, adding water in small increments if the dough is too dry and cracks when a test tortilla is pressed, or adding more masa if it is too wet and sticks to the plastic bags in the press.
Whether your masa is fresh from a tortilleria, or mixed at home, pinch off enough dough to roll a ball in your hands that is slightly larger than a walnut. Keep the balls covered with a towel or plastic bag so they don’t dry before they get to the griddle or comal.
Lay a plastic bag on your tortilla press, set a ball of dough in the center, cover that with another plastic bag, and bring down the upper part of the press with moderate pressure. That’s it — remove the tortilla from the bags and place on a very hot, unoiled griddle. After a few minutes, when brown spots start to appear on the under-side, turn it over. It will start to puff a little. Cook another minute or two, until small brown spots again appear underneath. Don’t overcook or it will be crispy. We are after soft tortillas.
Once you can stand back and survey your handiwork, you are ready to make quesadillas, Baja fish tacos or enchiladas rojas. The side of the tortilla that puffed up is called the “face” and experts say it goes inside a taco or quesadilla, because it may peel off. Once I have the tortillas cooked and off the griddle, I can’t tell which side is which. But, I’m no expert.
The two illustrations at the top are from the Florentine Codex and the Mendoza Codex, repectively, and are in Public Domain.
Beetroot is a round root vegetable, and the most common variety has a wine-dark purple skin with slightly lighter, ringed flesh – although there are some golden and whitish varieties, too.
Steamed, pickled or roasted, it’s a popular addition to salads and savoury dishes, but you’ll also find it in juice form.
Due to its relatively high sugar content, beetroot walks a fine line between sweet and savoury, making it a useful tasting note for red wines that display a similar balanced duality.
Pinot Noir wines can have flavours and aromas reminiscent of beetroot when their strong sweet, red fruit character intermingles with earthy undertones, often gained from maturation and cooler growing conditions.
For example Franz Haas, Pònkler Pinot Noir 2012, from the Alpine climes of Northern Italy’s Alto Adige region, expresses ‘complex red fruit’ with savoury tones of ‘beetroot and white pepper’.
Or the 98-point Bass Phillip, Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, hailing from the cool, maritime climate of the Australian Gippsland region in Victoria, and praised for its layers of ‘spice and earth sluiced plum, cassis and beetroot’.
Similarly, certain Syrah wines are capable of being both powerfully fruity and savoury at the same time.
A famous example is Henschke, Hill of Grace, Eden Valley 2012, made in Australia’s Eden Valley from 100-year-old Shiraz vines. It was scored 99 points by Decanter’s expert Sarah Ahmed for its complex notes, including intense blackberry, earthy beetroot, piquant pimento, and mulchy tobacco.
Although tea might seem worlds apart from wine, it can teach us a lot about wine-tasting and is a useful tasting note. The link between the two is tannin, which is a polyphenol found in plant tissue, including grape skins, seeds, oak barrels — and tea leaves.
You can learn to distinguish how tannic a wine is by conducting a quick experiment using tea: put a black tea bag in hot water for a minute or two and taste the infusion. Then repeat, but this time allow the bag to steep for twice as long, and compare the effect on the taste. The second tea should taste more astringent, drying out your mouth and tasting almost unpleasantly bitter.
Some wines will create a similar effect on your palate, either with smooth and integrated tannins (more like the first tea), or with coarse and harsh tannins (like the second tea).
When a wine has a tasting note of black tea, this generally means it is enjoyably tannic. This can be true of the bold, characterful wines made from thick-skinned Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. But, just as some people must have milk with their tea, some may find this flavour too strong and may prefer a milder, less tannic wine — perhaps a Pinot Noir or Merlot.
SEE: Brovia, Ca’ Mia, Barolo 2009 | Kanonkop, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch 2005 | Il Mandorlo, Il Rotone, Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany 2009
Another aspect of tea tasting notes is identified by DecanterChina.com’s editor Sylvia Wu:
‘Tea-like aromas can be found in aged red wines, alongside scents of earth, dried-leaves and forest floor. These tertiary aromas add complexity to the original fresh fruit aromas (primary aromas), making the wine more layered and multi-dimensional.’
READ MORE: Wine and tea — Four enjoyable elements in common
Earthy is a versatile tasting note that can encompass a range of wine flavour profiles from dry and dusty aromas to tertiary aromas such as wet forest floor, or even farmyard manure odours. Earthy can be seen as belonging to the same flavour profile as notes like wet wool, mineral and tar aromas all are naturally occurring substances. But they have little in common with fruit, vegetal or floral notes.
If subtle, and well integrated, then earthy can be considered a welcome addition to a wine’s aroma, particularly for more full-bodied reds. These include Italian wines made from the Sangiovese grape, like those from Brunello di Montalcino, and more rustic southern Italian varieties like Primitivo and Aglianico.
Earthy is also a positive thing for some Pinot Noir and Syrah wines, where it can add complexity as a secondary and tertiary aroma.
If earthy notes veer more towards a farmyard smell, this could be due to Brettanomyces, a wine-altering strain of yeast. Some wine lovers enjoy its effects at low levels, but its presence causes debate.
Earthy notes could also be attributed to the chemical compound geosmin, which occurs naturally in grapes. The name directly translates to ‘earth smell’ in greek.
This same compound is released into the air by newly turned over soil, or a garden after rainfall. In wine, high levels of geosmin generally indicate a fault. Look out for when earthy smells eclipse expected fruit aromas, or tend more towards the smell of wet cardboard — you could have yourself a corked wine.
Grilled or raw meat aromas can be found in muscular reds such as northern Rhône Syrah, Toro and Bordeaux. Game is a slightly lighter, more fragrant character that can be found in wines with red fruit characteristics, such as Pinot Noir, Barbaresco, Rioja and Pinotage. It is reminiscent of hung pheasants and ‘farmyard’ aromas, Both meat and game aromas can be amplified over time, so are usually found in more mature bottles of wine, and are considered to be positive (and occasionally defining) characteristics of a particular wine style.
In some cases these characteristics are caused by Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that can easily infect winemaking equipment, particularly the rough interior surface of wooden barrels. In small doses it produces meaty flavours that can benefit the complexity of a wine, although higher levels can can easily spoil the wine with impressions of cheese, rubber and sweat!
Even for smokers, the thought of tobacco in your wine is probably not very appealing. However, the term tobacco is used in a positive sense when it comes to describing wine. This is because it’s meant to conjure the fragrance of fresh tobacco, rather than the more acrid smell of cigarette smoke.
The aroma of freshly cut or cured tobacco leaves is often described as enjoyably woody, with a maple sweetness and violet floral notes. It’s considered so pleasant by some it’s even infused into men’s fragrances.
Tobacco is experienced as an aroma, rather than as taste. More specifically, it’s classified as a tertiary aroma, as it’s considered to be a sign of maturity. It’s generally an indicator that a red wine has been bottle-aged, along with notes like leather and wet leaves.
Typically, tobacco notes are found in mature full-bodied red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignons from a range of regions, including those of California, Australia, South Africa and South America. It can also be detected in some aged Riojas and Amarone wines from Northern Italy.
In wines such as mature reds from Bordeaux, the tobacco aroma can develop into what is termed ‘cigar box’. This note combines the tobacco scent of cigars with that of cedar wood, giving the effect of a freshly opened box of Havanas.
If you get a whiff of wet cardboard – or perhaps even ‘wet dog’ – in your wine, you would be right to assume there’s something amiss.
These are considered to be the main olfactory indicators of cork taint, or ‘corked wine’, one of the most common wine faults albeit the cork industry has been working to reduce it.
Beverley Blanning MW explained the science:
‘Dissatisfaction with cork is almost entirely due to contamination, leading to the foul, wet cardboard smell commonly known as cork taint.
‘The offending chemical which spoils the wine is 2,4,6 Trichloroanisole (or TCA for short), detectable in quantities as low as four parts per billion,’ she said, writing in Decanter back in 2001.
Despite its adverse effect on the wine, TCA does not pose a direct health risk to consumers.
Aromas of wet cardboard can be a good way to spot a TCA fault, although it can be hard to detect when levels are low — at which point it may only result in a lack of fresh fruit notes and a faint musty character.
TCA can cause wine spoilage at a various points between the winery and your table. It’s worth being bold and asking restaurants to take a bottle back, or at least second-taste it, if you suspect a wine may be suffering from TCA.
‘TCA can infect wine via a number of sources including barrels, stacking pallets and winery cleaning products,’ said Blanning.
Nourish the Planet: Zucchini Galettes with Dill-Yogurt Sauce
These golden, airy, feather-like vegetable galettes or fritters are inspired by New York City chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. His cookbook Vegetable Simple is a treasure-trove of uncomplicated, healthy vegetable creations and the perfect addition to your cookbook collection if you are trying to get more vegetables into your diet. The nutrient-rich zucchini is just coming into season in France and makes for an ideal Nourish candidate, since it is so versatile, healthy and one of the best no-waste vegetables around. Here, you can grate the entire vegetable, without even trimming it! Serve the galettes as a main dish at lunch or as a side dish to a main meal. One can play around with herbs and seasoning, making a curry-seasoned yogurt sauce and adding curry to the galette batter, or swapping fresh oregano, chives, mint, or cilantro for the dill.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Credit for this goes to Cooking with Manuela, http://cookingwithmanuela.blogspot.com, who has lovely pictures to go with it.
A couple changes: Instead of apricot preserve, I brushed the dough with melted butter, then sprinkled it generously with cinnamon sugar (1 tsp. mixed with 1/4 C sugar). I found using the mandolin blade on my grater made nice, thin apple slices.
This is one of the few things I've brought to the Berwick Press Enterprise office potluck that was enjoyed by my fussy co-workers!
Ingredients: to make 6 roses
1 frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed
2 red organic apples (I used red delicious)
half lemon, juice
1 tablespoon of flour, to sprinkle the counter
3 tablespoons of apricot preserve
powder sugar for decorating (optional)
Preparation time: 45 minutes
1. Thaw the puff pastry if you haven't done so yet. It should take about 20-30 minutes.
2. Prepare a bowl with some water and the lemon juice. Cut the apples in half, remove the core and cut the apples in paper thin slices, as shown in my picture. Leave the peel so it will give the red color to your roses. Right away, place the sliced apples in the bowl with lemon and water, so that they won't change color.
3. Microwave the apples in the bowl, for about 3 minutes, to make them slightly softer. If you prefer, you can also simmer the apple slices in the water in a small pan (on the stove).
4. Unwrap the puff pastry over a clean and lightly floured counter. Using a rolling pin stretch the dough a little, trying to keep it in a rectangular shape. Cut the dough in 6 strips. These are about 2 in x 9 in (5 cm x 22 cm).
5. In a bowl, place three tablespoons of apricot preserve with two tablespoons of water. Microwave for about one minute, so that the preserve will be easier to spread. Spread the preserve on the dough.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Drain the apples.
7. Place the apples on the dough, as shown in my picture. Sprinkle with cinnamon if you'd like.
8. Fold up the bottom part of the dough.
9. Carefully roll, seal the edge, and place in a silicone muffin cup. No need to grease the muffin mold if it's silicone. Otherwise, make sure to grease it.
10. Do the same for all 6 roses. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 40-45 minutes, until fully cooked.
NOTE: make sure the pastry is fully cooked on the inside before removing the roses from the oven! If after 30 minutes the apples on top look fully cooked, move the pan to a lower rack in the oven, and wait for 10-15 more minutes to avoid undercooking the puff pastry.