Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Monday, September 20, 2010

African Animals Getting Crazy Drunk

Our new friend Marco de Grazie shared this you tube video link with us today.  You gotta watch it!

Pepper Addict Gone Wild!

Kerry in the midst of her pepper plants.
She's always been a bit of a pepper fiend, but after smuggling in a pepperoncino from Sicily, Kerry's addiction to peppers has reached new heights.  During a cooking lesson at the Mandranova Olive Oil Estate in southern Sicily, Kerry got her hands on a fresh pepperoncino, an essential ingredient in many Sicilian/Italian recipes. Like my fig cutting, the pepper made it home to New Orleans where she dried it and used the seeds to grow pepper plants which she put in our garden in the front of the house, planted in pots in the back and gave away a few plants to some lucky friends.  And now that the weather has cooled just a bit, the garden has gone crazy with pepperoncino, cayenne, habanero, jalepeno, Hungarian and some varieties of peppers that we can't even identify!

Sicilian pepperoncino grown from smuggled seeds

We put them in/on everything from soups, stir frys, sandwiches, sautees and on the grill, adding heat and incredible flavor to lots of our favorite dishes.  One of our staple weekly side dishes is brown jasmine rice with sauteed peppers and garlic.  Deliciously spicy, you have to love the heat of habanero's to appreciate it, but if you can handle that, you'll love it!  The coconut oil is one of the key ingredients, as it adds a nice tropical flavor, complimenting the spicy habanero and jasmine aromatics of the rice.

Spicy Fried Brown Rice

2-3 cups cooked brown jasmine rice (available at whole foods)
2 T. Coconut Oil (available at whole foods)

2 Habanero Pepper, seeds and ribs carefully removed (wear gloves if you can)
3 cloves garlic

Stir fry garlic and peppers in coconut oil over medium heat until vegetables begin to caramelize.  Add cooked brown rice and stir until grains are coated with the oil.  Continue to fry for 5 to 10 minutes while rice absorbs the flavors.  Enjoy!

Check out the rest of the pics!

The other pepper fanatic in the family...

Our hot hot hot habaneros.

Anyone know what this is?

Hungarian Peppers

Coming Full Circle with The Etna

The first time I tasted a wine from the Etna, I knew that something very special was happening in the eastern part of Sicily.  We were in New York in late January for an Italian Trade Commission wine event and we needed a bottle of wine for our friend Lisa's birthday party. I had become intrigued by the region while researching the wine producing areas of the island for our wine and culinary tour later that year, but there was nothing from the Etna in any of our wholesaler's portfolios.  In fact, like me, most had never even heard of the region until I started inquiring about the wines.  

So, needing a bottle of wine to take with us to a little party, we popped into a shop in the East Village, that actually had a decent selection of Sicilian wines and there on the shelf was a wine by one of the producers I had been researching, Terre Nere.  The 2006 Etna Rosso was under $20, which was very reasonable for anything coming from the area, so I was really excited to try it.  And needless to say we were all impressed as it was lush (a prominent quality in the 2006 vintage) and easy drinking, with a purity of fruit and hints of dark cherries, tobacco and wild herbs, it had an earthiness and texture reminiscent of Burgundy but is distinctly Sicilian. Made with Nerello Mascalese, a native grape to the region, I was hooked and needed to know more about this region.

 Fast forward, almost 2 years later, having now spent time in the region, I had been working with 2 of our wholesalers, Uncorked and Lirette Selections, on getting some of these wines to New Orleans. Pietradolce and Salvo Foti's wines were on the shelf, Frank Cornelissen's were on their way, and the Terre Nere wines would be here for Uncorked's portfolio tasting this month.  And arriving with the wines was the producer himself Marco de Grazia, one of the pioneers of the region and the man really accredited with putting the Etna on the map.

So last night we had the pleasure of Marco's company in the shop for an intimate, seated tasting of his wines as well as a few others he is importing.  Soft spoken, loquacious and extremely passionate about the region, it was wonderful to hear about his approach to wine making on the Etna, to taste the wines with him and hear his stories about what makes this reason so special and one of the most exciting wine producing regions in the world today. His approach is one of minimal intervention, using certified organic practices, and an almost indiscernible use of oak, allowing the expression of the true character of the wine.  And what a beautiful expression it is!  Unbelievably fresh with incredible aromatics, finessed tannins and a weightless quality reminiscent of Burgundy and Nebbiolo, the wines speak for themselves.

It was a wonderful experience, coming full circle with this region that has so intrigued me now for almost 2 years. So the second time I drank the Terre Nere Etna Rosso was with Marco himself in our shop with friends and customers, and I'm still just excited as ever about this wild, crazy volcano and the incredible gift it gives us in these unique wines. 

Thanks to our friends at Uncorked, our inventory should arrive next week and we'll be carrying the Rosato, Etna Rosso and single vineyard Gaurdiola.  Trust me, you need to try these wines!

From Robert Parker: "Proprietor Marc de Grazia is one of the pioneers of the Etna. Not only was he among the first producers to recognize the value of these once-forgotten, ancient terroirs, he also was the first producer to bring attention to the specific qualities of these vineyards by bottling single-parcel Nerellos that have become reference-point wines for the Etna."  Wine Advocate, June 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

Visiting Planet in Sambuca di Sicilia

I've always loved the wines of Planeta, but they've occupied a very special place in my heart since our visit to the winery last year during our wine and culinary tour of Sicily.  While they produce wines from five different vineyard sites on the island, the estate in Sambuca is the oldest, having been in the family since the 1600's.

On a windy Sunday afternoon, Chiarra Planeta met us at the winery in Sambuca for a tour, tasting and lunch. It is quite a journey to get there, lots of winding roads through small villages that ends with the town of Sambuca, Lago Arancio and the simple but elegant centuries old buildings of the estate.  The property is beautiful with the vineyards gracefully sloping down to the shores of the lake.  Chiarra was a gracious host who led us through wonderful tasting of wines that are produced at the various vineyards sites and many of which are not available in the US.

Having just finished the tasting, we were heading into the dining area of the 16th century farmhouse for lunch, when I noticed a beautiful fig tree on their property. After more wine, a delicious lunch of local foods including the best fresh ricotta any of us had every eaten (believe me, we ate a lot of it on this trip!) I asked Chiara if I could possibly have a cutting from their fig tree. She said of course and cut off a small piece about 6-8" long. And most of you know that I was able to get the cutting through customs and now have a sapling that will be ready to put in the ground this fall!

It was an enchanting afternoon, as most were in Sicily, but Chiarra's warmth and hospitality made it all the more special.  And I am now a Planeta fan for life!

Click here to view a slide show of our visit: Slide show

Kerry's Hatch Chili Enchiladas

A few weeks ago, on one of my dreaded trips to Whole Foods on a weekend, I was so excited to see the giant display of Hatch Chilies.  If you aren’t familiar with this particular variety of chili, let me explain. “Hatch” chilies are in actuality a variety of the common New Mexico green chili. These particular chilies are harvested in the Mesilla Valley of New Mexico for only a few weeks out of the year. The Mesilla Valley lies in the southern part of the state, running from Las Cruces north about forty miles to the small town of Hatch, from where the chilies get their name.

These chilies are grown nowhere else in the world, and connoisseurs consider this one of the finest. They are large (for chilies), about 6 to 7 inches long, with a distinctively robust and earthy flavor not found in any other chili.

I bought a few for us to grill, but Kerry was so excited to see them, she went back out the next day and bought a pound.  She got out the grill, roasted them and made us the most delicious Hatch Chili Enchiladas, that my mouth waters just thinking about them!

Unfortunately the season is short, and I'm a little late with this post, so they are no longer available, but you can substitute Anaheim, or Pablano chilies or save this recipe for next year!

First the Roasting
Get your charcoal grill white hot and lie the peppers directly on the grill.  Let skins bubble up and get black and then turn so that they are evenly cooked.  The goal is to blacken the skin without burning the flesh.  Put the hot peppers in a brown paper bag to stem for 10-15 minutes.  This will help loosen the skins and make them easy to remove.

Scrape the skins off the chili peppers with your fingers or a knife. Remember to use caution with hot chili peppers, the capsaicin is still in the skin even though it's been charred. Remove the seeds, stem, and veins if desired as well. Most of the heat is contained in the seeds and veins so removing them will take out some of the heat if the chili pepper is uncomfortably hot.

Chile peppers can also be peeled under running water in the sink. The water will usually wash the skins right off the flesh. Before rinsing, be aware that this can also wash away some of the smoky roasted flavor of the chili pepper.

Make the Sauce
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1lb Hatch Chilies, roasted, peeled and chopped (stems, seeds and ribs removed)
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander

In a heavy saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until well softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and sauté for an additional minute, then add the flour and continue cooking for another 1 or 2 minutes.

Mix in the chili. pour in the stock and add the seasonings. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until thickened but still very pourable.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the enchiladas:

10  (7- to 8-in.) corn tortillas
2 1/2  cups shredded cooked chicken from a rotisserie chicken
2  cups coarsely shredded cheddar or jack cheese, divided
Sour cream


Prepare tortillas: In a small frying pan, bring remaining 2 cups chicken broth to a gentle simmer. Working one at a time, very briefly dip tortillas into broth to barely soften. Transfer each tortilla plate, add some of the shredded chicken and cheese, wrap tortilla around filling and transfer, seam-side down, to a 9- by 13-in. baking dish.  Use 1-1/2 cups of the cheese for the filling, the other half will be scattered on top.

When the chili sauce has finish cooking, pour it over enchiladas and top with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake until cheese is bubbling and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream.
Makes 5 servings; 10 enchiladas (serving size: 2 enchiladas)


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