The Ultimate End-of-Summer Wine & Food Pairing: No Grill Needed!
Yes, Virginia, the knock-your-socks-off end-of-summer pairing is a no-heat, no meat even, match with Napa Cabernet, or really any favorite red wine with some grip and spunk. As I’ll reveal, tomatoes+basil+Cabernet=music for your mouth. Read on!
Of course you were thinking grilled burgers and red Zin. Or maybe shrimp on the barbie with Chardonnay, but my pairing trades on seasonality of the ingredients – basil and tomatoes – rather than the technique, grilling. Yes, grilling is a rite of summer but with the heat we’ve had in Napa, a literally no-sweat (no heat) pairing was what I was looking for. And because it’s Napa, we had Cabernet open – little did I expect the match would be one of the best ever, truly worthy of classic status. Trust me, when you try it you will be amazed.
And the even cooler thing is there are several simple ways to pull this off. The easiest of all is the classic Insalata Caprese combination of fresh basil, fresh tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella drizzled with olive oil. On our last visit to Tuscany we learned to serve it on crunchy bread – think crostini or open-faced sandwich. My husband John added soft scrambled eggs one day for a brilliant light lunch dish (lots of cracked black pepper and finishing salt put it over the top).
Another option is to make basil pesto and toss it with pasta and the tomatoes. Or, toss the pesto with day-old bread cubes and lots of diced tomatoes for a variation on panzanella, Tuscan bread salad. Whatever you do, add the best Cabernet (or Tuscan red) you can muster. The combination will make you swoon!
Andrea’s Basil Pesto – My variation on this recipe cuts down on the raw garlic which can be bitter and unfriendly to wine. I also add a bit of lemon juice to preserve the bright green color and pop the flavors. And finally, I use Spanish Manchego and/or Pecorino cheese instead of Parmigiano Reggiano, which is saltier and thus, doesn’t play as nicely with wine.
4 c loosely packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried ~ 1 clove garlic, peeled ~ 1 pinch kosher salt ~ 2 tsp fresh lemon juice ~ 3 tbsp pine nuts, optional ~ 4 tbsp freshly grated Manchego or pecorino Toscano cheese (or a mix of the two) ~ 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Procedure – In a blender or food processor, combine the basil, salt, garlic and lemon juice. Add 2 tbsp of the oil and blend at low speed, stopping occasionally to scrape the leaves down around the blades, until you a achieve a coarse paste. Toss in the cheeses and pine nuts (if using), and the remaining olive oil and blend until the nuts are ground fine and you achieve a creamy paste. Serve promptly.
I hope you enjoy this pairing. Let me know what you think and what wine(s) you tried with it. My favorites were Groth, a new Walla Walla, Washington Cabernet called Doubleback, and Staglin (we were splurging on the wine since we hadn’t blown our budget on marbled steaks!). Cheers!
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