Book Reviews – Zester Daily http://zesterdaily.com Zester Daily Fri, 05 Jan 2018 10:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.12 A Lasagna For Passover That Melds French, Italian Flavors /cooking/holidays/lasagna-for-passover-that-melds-french-italian-flavors/ /cooking/holidays/lasagna-for-passover-that-melds-french-italian-flavors/#respond Sat, 08 Apr 2017 09:00:08 +0000 /?p=63290 Great for a midweek Passover meal for a big family -- this lasagna is a truly satisfying one-pan wonder. Credit: Copyright 2015 TheWeiserKitchen

The differences between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewry’s foodways are clearest at Passover. Sephardim traditionally ate rice, legumes and other foods verboten to those from Northern and Eastern Europe and Russia, which makes borrowing traditions for an all-inclusive modern Passover table a bit challenging.

But an Ottoman lasagna, called mina, also known as miginas, meginas or mehinas, is easily suited to Jews of every ethnicity and historical identity. By any name, these savory layered matzo lasagnas are found in Jewish cuisine from Egypt to Turkey to the Isle of Rhodes. And they are anything but new.

Mina originated from medieval pasteles, according to John Cooper in his book, “Eat and Be Satisfied: A Social History of Jewish Food.” “Small meat pies, or migina, the equivalent of strudel … [were themselves] a variant of migas, and [were] filled with empanada-style fillings,” Cooper writes. Those Old World migas were filled with chopped meats or seasonal vegetable purées such as calabaza, aka pumpkin or eggplant, or a creamy, cheesy spinach version.

Traditionally, minas are cut into small mini-appetizer-sized bites and become a part of the Mediterranean mezze table — the selection of small dishes served at cocktail hour or as a long, lingering supper that is common everywhere from Greece through the Levant.

I love serving mina in the mezze style, filled with mint-infused roasted eggplant and lamb for a meat-based Seder alongside caponata, garlicky fried olives, bay-leaf-brined carrots and braised burnished leeks. But for a midweek meal, I go all cheesy and ooey-gooey.

Many recipes soak the all-but-hardtack matzo in water to soften. I rinse it lightly. I like the textural difference in the mina. I also go crazy with cheese sauce. During Passover, when that feeling of deprivation for “regular” foods has become more than a little bit wearing by midweek, a cheese-and-vegetable pie is a respite, one that offers a mac-and-cheese-like familiarity.

I lean toward Alsace, France and northern Italy for the flavors that have the heft to give this lasagna serious substance.

Spinach, Butternut Squash, Sweet Onion and Fontina Mina

Sephardic Passover lasagna, mina, can be — no, it should be — on every table at some point during Passover. This version, influenced by the cuisine of Ferrara, Italy, eats like a great mac and cheese packed with vegetables, but since it can prepared in stages over a few days, it’s as easy to make as lasagna. Great for a midweek Passover meal for a big family — a truly satisfying one-pan wonder. In fact, it’s a tasty change of pace at any time; feel free to add a few minced sage leaves if it’s cold outside for an autumnal feel.

Prep time: About 40 minutes

Cook time: About 1 1/4 hours

Total time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Yield: About 12 pieces

Ingredients

½ cup (8 tablespoons/227 grams/1 stick) unsalted butter, divided

3 pounds fresh baby spinach

3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 large red onion, peeled and cut into into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 cups)

3 cloves garlic, peeled, halved and grated, any green centers discarded

1 cup Gewürztraminer or dry Riesling wine

2 large butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into rough 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice

Leaves of 8 fresh thyme sprigs, minced

Leaves of 3 small sprigs fresh marjoram, minced

1 quart milk

7 tablespoons potato starch

1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream

1 pound shredded Gruyère cheese, divided

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

5 sheets matzo

2 cups (about 9 ounces) diced Fontina cheese

Directions

1. In a deep saucepan set over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons butter and swirl until it is just foaming. Add half the spinach, 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, and with tongs, toss gently in the butter. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until just wilted.

2. Add the remaining spinach, tossing to coat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, until all of the spinach is fully wilted. Transfer to a colander and drain. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess liquid. The spinach will have shrunk quite a bit. Set aside. This can be done up to 2 days in advance, and the spinach stored in a covered container in the refrigerator.

3. In the same (now cleaned) saucepan, set over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons butter and swirl until it is just foaming. Add the onions, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until the onions are soft and the edges browned.

3. Add the wine, butternut squash, thyme and marjoram and cook for about 20 minutes, until the liquid is reduced in volume by at least half. Set aside. This can be done up to 2 days in advance, and the mixture stored in a covered container in the refrigerator.

4. When you are ready to make the mina, preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a deep 9-by-14-inch lasagna pan or glass Pyrex pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray.

5. Heat the milk in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until hot but not scalded.

6. In the same (again, cleaned) deep saucepan, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat until it begins to foam. Immediately whisk in the potato starch and quickly add the warm milk, still whisking over medium heat, making sure there are no lumps. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly and comes to a gentle but active boil, adjusting the heat as necessary.

7. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the crème fraîche and cook, whisking gently, until blended into the sauce.

8. Add about three-fourths of the shredded Gruyère cheese, reserving the rest for topping, and with a spoon, stir until the cheese melts. Add the nutmeg and stir to blend.

9. Spoon 1 cup of the cheese sauce over the bottom of the lasagna pan. Break the matzo into 3-inch wide slats, rinse them under cold water for about 5 seconds, and arrange them over the sauce in a single layer, breaking the sheets at the perforations as necessary. Add the spinach, arranging it in an even layer, and top with another cup of cheese sauce. Arrange another layer of matzo on top and spoon another cup of cheese sauce over it. Cover with the Fontina cheese and the remaining salt and pepper. Add another layer of matzo and top with the onions and butternut squash. Spoon the remaining cheese sauce over the top and scatter the reserved Gruyère over it.

10. Prepare a sheet of foil big enough to cover the lasagna pan and spray it with nonstick vegetable oil spray. Cover the mina loosely with the foil, greased side down. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until bubbling hot. Remove the foil, increase the heat to broil and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Note: You may use frozen spinach, if you wish. Thaw it, rinse well, drain, squeeze out any excess liquid and proceed with the recipe.

Main photo: Great for a midweek Passover meal for a big family — this lasagna is a truly satisfying one-pan wonder. Credit: Copyright 2015 TheWeiserKitchen

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Must-Make (Matzo-Free) Passover Desserts /cooking/holidays/must-make-matzo-free-passover-desserts/ /cooking/holidays/must-make-matzo-free-passover-desserts/#comments Tue, 04 Apr 2017 09:00:57 +0000 /?p=73385 Macaroons are a traditional Passover sweet, but this recipe brings a new dimension by adding homemade chocolate ice cream. The chocolate ice cream base is adapted from "The Perfect Scoop," by David Lebovitz. Credit: Copyright 2016 by Tami Weiser

Passover is a Jewish holiday celebrating freedom. The initial meal (the seder) and the way you eat for a week offer a small part of the ancient Israelites’ experience as they journeyed from slavery in Egypt to the complexity of freedom. Breads, cooked on the run during their flight, didn’t have sufficient time to rise. The result? Matzo.

Every year, for the first few days of Passover, matzo seems somehow so new. A fat shmear of Temp-Tee ultra-whipped cream cheese and a tart and fruity jelly on top. Or soaked and fried into a matzo brei (a French-toast-like dish) crunchy with sugar and cinnamon. These are the foods of memory to me.

But the problem is that Passover is a weeklong festival. And when it comes to cooking and eating, it is a very long week indeed. Matzo is eaten all the time. I mean ALL the time. It’s in every food, every dish, every treat and in every course. It’s ground into breading, pulverized into cake flour, crushed into farfel and layered into mini “lasagnas.”

Matzo fatigue and the dreaded matzo-pation set in. Desperation takes over by around day four. But frankly, what bothers me the most is when matzo invades desserts. Folks often cook more on Passover than all year long, often pulling out heritage recipes. Even I, a modernist, will cook up a heritage dish or two along with my flights of imagination and globally influenced dishes.

When it comes to desserts, though, many holiday cooks reach for box mixes. Virtually none taste good. These mixes are often packed with processed ingredients and artificial flavors. As a professional cook and culinary instructor — and honestly, a person with taste buds — I don’t make them and I don’t buy them.

If I want heritage desserts, I buy Passover chocolates. That does the trick.

But making desserts at home? What can you do that tastes great and is still Passover-worthy? Matzo in desserts always makes itself known in taste and texture — and I don’t mean that in a nice way whatsoever. No matter how you cut it (pun intended, sorry), matzo desserts are definitely not what I want in order to make a holiday more special.

My advice? If you can put the time and effort into cooking desserts, fear not. Here is a solution.

Delicious Passover desserts

This Sirio Maccioni's Cirque Crème Brûlée has been adapted from Molly O'Neill's New York Cookbook -- a perfect Passover dessert. Credit: Copyright 2016 by Tami Weiser

This Sirio Maccioni’s Cirque Creme Brulee has been adapted from Molly O’Neill’s “New York Cookbook” — it’s a delicious Passover dessert. Credit: Copyright 2016 by Tami Weiser

Offer up some treats that are deliciously Passover-ready AND matzo-free and grain-free. Try a Pavlova, a macaroon, a flourless chocolate cake, ice cream, chestnut-flour crepes, custards, crème brûlée or nut paste-based cookies.

This Vanilla Pavlova is light, airy and sweet. The recipe was contributed by Elizabeth Schwartz. Credit: Copyright 2016 Tami Weiser

This Vanilla Pavlova is light, airy and sweet. The recipe was contributed by Elizabeth Schwartz. Photo credit: Copyright 2016 Tami Weiser

A world of matzo-free desserts awaits you.

These Pistachio and Tart Cherry Chewy Cookies strike just the right balance between sweet and tart. Credit: Copyright 2016 Tami Weiser

Pistachio and Tart Cherry Chewy Cookies strike just the right balance between sweet and tart. Credit: Copyright 2016 Tami Weiser

Pistachio and Tart Cherry Chewy Cookies

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 24 cookies

Ingredients

14 ounces pistachio paste, King Arthur or another all-natural brand preferred

1 cup (200 grams) sugar

2 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean pod

1 cup dried tart cherries

1/2 cup pistachios, lightly crushed

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the pistachio paste until it resembles big cookie crumbs, 20 to 30 seconds. Add the sugar and mix thoroughly. Add the egg whites, cardamom and vanilla. Mix until completely smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the tart cherries.

3. Drop 2 teaspoons of batter per cookie on the sheet, leaving 1 1/2 to 2 inches between the cookies. Sprinkle the pistachios over the top of the cookies.

4. Bake until light brown but still soft, 12 to 13 minutes. (The cookies will firm up considerably as they cool). Store at in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Main image: Macaroons are a traditional Passover sweet, but this recipe brings a new dimension by adding homemade chocolate ice cream. The chocolate ice cream base is adapted from “The Perfect Scoop,” by David Lebovitz. Credit: Copyright 2016 by Tami Weiser

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5 Bread Making Books To Give Or (Better!) To Keep /cooking/baking-cooking/bread-cookbooks-atlas/ /cooking/baking-cooking/bread-cookbooks-atlas/#respond Tue, 13 Dec 2016 10:00:07 +0000 /?p=76467 These five bread cookbooks introduce bakers to different breads and techniques, picture by picture and loaf by loaf. Credit: Copyright 2016 Amy Halloran

If you have a baker on your holiday list, a baking guide will be a surefire hit. If you don’t already have one in mind, here’s a tour of some of the best bread baking guides around.

These books are part instructional guidebook, and part biography — of a person, grain or bakery. Getting to know a little bit about someone, first in the introduction, and then, recipe by recipe, picture by picture, loaf by loaf, is a luxurious way to meet a baker and her breads. In an era when images fly by in a blur, being able to hold a book in your lap feels old-fashioned, and just right for bread baking.

One Dough Ten Breads

Sarah Black’s luscious ciabatta bread. Black layers lessons in her book, building on each one. Credit: Copyright 2016 Lauren Vole

Sarah Black’s luscious ciabatta bread. Black layers lessons in her book, building on each one. Credit: Copyright 2016 Lauren Vole

Sarah Black has trained many bakers, and you’ll want to be the next. The author began working with her hands as an apprentice to a paper maker, and has carried that craft-driven sense of touch throughout her work as a baker and instructor — most notably with Amy Scherber, of Amy’s Bread in New York City.

Black’s approach is very accessible, constructing an understanding of the bread baking process in a patient, thorough fashion. Her recipes build on each other, developing first the skills and awareness of bread baking basics, and layering lessons so that the underlying information is restated and learned in a second or third way. By the end of the book you’ll understand more than the 10 breads the title promised. And you might feel like this baker had her hands right next to yours, guiding.

Bien Cuit

Zachary Golper’s Portuguese cornbread; the award-winning baker takes readers through his baking philosophy. Credit: Courtesy of Bien Cuit

Zachary Golper’s Portuguese cornbread; the award-winning baker takes readers through his baking philosophy. Credit: Courtesy of Bien Cuit

Zachary Golper approaches bread as a student of tradition. He is guided by a sense of perfection and a strong curiosity, which leads to breads that feel a part of a continuum, and very much their own. These qualities have garnered awards for the bakery he runs with Kate Wheatcroft in Brooklyn, and they are well described in his thorough guide to bread baking, written with Peter Kaminsky.

The book and the bakery share a name, Bien Cuit, which means well done in French. By following Golper’s thinking through the book, you’ll learn how to carry that dark color — bien cuit — to your crust, and his philosophy — also well done — to your kitchen. Golper’s take on taste is a strong thread in the book, and reading the recipes and side matter will help you understand how ingredients and methods, especially long low temperature fermentations, influence flavor and character in bread.

Sourdough

Sarah Owens walks readers through making sourdough bread, including this lovely chestnut sourdough bread. Credit: Courtesy of "Sourdough," by Sarah Owens Copyright 2015 by Sarah Owens. Photographs Copyright 2015 by Ngoc Minh Ngo. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boulder, Colo.

Sarah Owens walks readers through making sourdough bread, including this lovely chestnut sourdough bread. Credit: Courtesy of “Sourdough,” by Sarah Owens Copyright 2015 by Sarah Owens. Photographs Copyright 2015 by Ngoc Minh Ngo. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boulder, Colo.

Sarah Owens’ book is a puzzling beauty. Why should a baking book have so many arresting images of plants? Recipes that follow the seasons? Once you settle in for her story, though, it all makes sense. Owens began her career as a ceramicist, and this baker is right at home in the garden, too — she was the rosarian at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Just as those roses knew the certainty of her care, you can trust you’ll bloom under her guidance.

This book, which won a 2016 James Beard Award, is a primer on sourdough, but not just sourdough breads. She lands her wild-fermented starter in everything from flour tortillas to carrot doughnuts and gingerbread cake. Follow her through the seasons with recipes for breads, savories and sweets that will broaden your horizon, and remind you that eating is an act that begins in nature. Baking bread colored deep red with beets and golden with sweet potatoes will plant visual satisfaction in your life, as well.

Hot Bread Kitchen

Hot Bread Kitchen not only bakes bread, but it trains people to become bakers and food entrepreneurs. Credit: Reprinted from The “Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook.” Copyright © 2015 by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez. Principal photographs by Jennifer May Copyright 2015 by Jennifer May. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Hot Bread Kitchen not only bakes bread, but it trains people to become bakers and food entrepreneurs. Credit: Reprinted from The “Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook.” Copyright © 2015 by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez. Principal photographs by Jennifer May Copyright 2015 by Jennifer May. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

This baking atlas for breads from around the world is also the biography of an unusual bakery. Hot Bread Kitchen is a culinary incubator in Harlem that trains female bakers and food entrepreneurs. The nonprofit sells breads throughout the New York metropolitan area and online, using local ingredients and traditional baking methods.

The book is filled with profiles of program graduates, and rich portraits of the international breads and bakers who have found skills and a career springboard at Hot Bread Kitchen. The recipes are drawn from the bakery repertoire, and home bakers will gain knowledge of all things tortillas, flatbreads, knishes and other filled bread doughs. The recipes for more standard breads, bagels and sweets are framed by stories of the community spirit that makes Hot Bread Kitchen such a compelling enterprise.

The Rye Baker

An East Berlin malt rye bread; Stanley Ginsberg’s book is a comprehensive lesson on all forms of rye. Credit: Images from “The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe and America” by Stanley Ginsberg. Copyright 2016 by Stanley Ginsberg. Reprinted with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

An East Berlin malt rye bread; Stanley Ginsberg’s book is a comprehensive lesson on all forms of rye. Credit: Images from “The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe and America” by Stanley Ginsberg. Copyright 2016 by Stanley Ginsberg. Reprinted with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

If you think of rye bread as half-oval slices flecked with caraway, you may wonder how the topic could fill a whole book. However, as the staple grain for broad swaths of Europe and Russia, rye deserves a biography, and Stanley Ginsberg has written it.

The cookbook illustrates the grain’s history, chemistry, and appearances around the world, in loaves like South Tyrolean Christmas Zelten, Polish Mountain Oat Rye, and Russian GOST Borodinsky. Ginsberg also covers the rye breads that took shape in America, like Old Milwaukee Rye and Boston Brown Bread. Professional craft bakers and sophisticated home bakers will appreciate this encyclopedic key, because rye is about as similar to wheat as a zebra is to a striped fish.

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‘Ingredienti’: Marcella Hazan’s Soulful Italian Food /people/74650/ /people/74650/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2016 09:00:35 +0000 /?p=74650 Marcella and Victor Hazan. Credit: Copyright 2016 Barbara Banks

I’ve lived in Italy off and on since the 1970s, eating my way up and down the peninsula, shopping the markets, raising the vegetables in my own gardens, prepping and cooking the food, studying the history and meeting the home cooks and chefs who carry the treasures of the Italian table in their heads, hearts and hands. I’ve learned a lot, in short, about Italian cooking. But almost everything I know, everything I’ve learned, ultimately traces back to one source — Marcella Hazan.

Her first book, “The Classic Italian Cook Book,” published by Knopf in 1973 and acquired by me a few years later as a gift from an erstwhile husband when we moved to Rome, truly opened the doors of my kitchen to Italian cooking. I have been grateful ever since. I consult that book and her many others to this day, often uncovering unexpected tips, ideas and information. Now I have a new treasure in my Marcella library — “Ingredienti” — her husband, Victor’s, tribute to his wife of nearly 60 years, who died in 2013.

A true Italian kitchen, in Marcella’s words

This invaluable little book is based on Marcella’s notebooks, discovered by Victor after her death and assembled by him into usable form. A caution: It is not a cookbook, though any number of cooking tips are scattered throughout. It is, in fact, a series of intelligent, well-informed essays on critical ingredients for an Italian kitchen, from “Produce” (artichokes, arugula, etc. ) to “The Essential Pantry” (pasta, of course, olive oil, Parmigiano, etc.) to “Salumi” (all the cured meats — prosciutto, guanciale, pancetta, and, as they say in Italian, via dicendo).

"Ingredienti" by Marcella and Victor Hazan. Credit: Copyright 2016 book cover courtesy of Scribner

“Ingredienti” by Marcella and Victor Hazan. Credit: Copyright 2016 book cover courtesy of Scribner

It’s an open secret in the food world that Victor Hazan was the defining voice in his wife’s long and remarkable career. While the brilliant ideas, sensible advice and enormous range of recipes Marcella produced all came from her inspirations and her own kitchens, it was Victor who developed the clear, comprehensive prose that distinguished her seven cookbooks and countless magazine articles. Throughout her career, she was a pervasive influence on America’s understanding of Italian food, yet she never had a restaurant, never starred in a television show and almost never appeared in public to give a talk or do a demonstration. What a different world she lived in, but she ruled that world for 40 years and continues, for many of us, to dominate it to this day.

An inspiring force

Marcella Hazan at a cooking demonstration. Credit: Copyright 2016 Victor Hazan

Marcella Hazan at a cooking demonstration. Credit: Copyright 2016 Victor Hazan

I met Marcella in the 1970s after “The Classic Italian Cook Book” was published. In fact, the first food story I ever wrote was an interview with the Hazans at their cooking school in Bologna, Italy, in a hotel across from the train station that was also headquarters for the Bologna division of Weight Watchers International (providing a memorable lead sentence for my story). Eight or 10 students were in the class, one of whom was planning to open a “northern Italian” restaurant somewhere in the upper Midwest and had come to take a weeklong course to understand what she was getting into. Another was a man who claimed to detest olive oil. “I don’t know what he’s doing in an Italian cooking class,” Marcella murmured, barely sotto voce, in her inimitably gravelly voice.

The menu for the class was simple, though some techniques were not. Students struggled to master shaping tortellini, the devilishly difficult little hat-shaped filled pasta that is the pride of Bologna’s sfogline, or pasta-makers. But there was also a traditional arrosto di maiale al latte, pork loin braised in milk, a surprisingly simple dish, flavored with nothing but salt and pepper, rich and succulent. A dish first described by Artusi, the Fanny Farmer of 19th-century Italian cooking, it was introduced to Americans by Marcella — and it deserves to be revived.

That was not my only encounter with the Hazans. In fact, I remember almost every time I spent with them simply because from each encounter, I took away a piece of invaluable knowledge. But one, in particular, stands out: In the late 1980s, when I was working as a food journalist in New York, Marcella called to invite me to dinner. “I want to show you something about pasta,” she said. The next evening, in the Hazans’ comfortable East Side apartment, she presented her dinner guests with two plates of pasta, identically dressed very simply with butter, a grating of Parmigiano Reggiano and a light sprinkle of herbs, nothing to interfere with the flavors of the pasta. One plate of tagliatelle had been made entirely by hand, rolled out on a board “until the pasta is almost paper thin and transparent,” as she says in that first book. The tagliatelle on the second plate were what you and I might call handmade, but rolled through a hand-cranked pasta machine. In the machine, as she wrote, “something happens to its composition … that gives the dough an ever so slightly slippery texture.” The words are Victor’s, but the sentiment, precise and to the point, is Marcella’s to the core.

And you know what? She was absolutely right!

Arrosto di maiale al latte (Pork Loin Braised in Milk)

This recipe was published in Marcella Hazan’s “The Classic Italian Cook Book” (Knopf 1973)

 Yield: For 6 persons

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 pounds pork loin, in one piece, with some fat on it, secretly tied

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper, 3 or 4 twists of the mill

2 1/2 cups milk

Directions

Heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat in a casserole large enough to just contain the pork. When the butter foam subsides, add the meat, fat side facing down. Brown thoroughly on all sides, lowering the heat if the butter starts to turn dark brown.

Add the salt, pepper and milk. (Add the milk slowly, otherwise it may boil over.) Shortly after the milk comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium, cover, but not tightly, with the lid partly askew, and cook slowly for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is easily pierced by a fork. Turn and baste the meat from time to time, and, if necessary, add a little more milk. By the time the meat is cooked, the milk should have coagulated into small nut-brown clusters. If it is still pale in color, uncover the pot, raise the heat to high, and cook briskly until it darkens.

Remove the meat to a cutting board and allow to cool off slightly for a few minutes. Remove the trussing string, carve into slices 3/8-inch thick, and arrange them on a warm platter. Draw off most of the fat from the pot with a spoon and discard, being careful not to toss any of the coagulated milk clusters. Taste and correct for salt. (There may be as much as 1 to 1 1/2 cups of fat to be removed.) Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of warm water, turn the heat on high, and boil away the water while scraping and loosening all the cooking residue in the pot. Spoon the sauce over the sliced pork and serve immediately.

Main photo: Marcella and Victor Hazan. Credit: Copyright 2016 Barbara Banks

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Foodie Gifts: Top 5 Jewish Cookbooks Of 2015 /book-reviews/foodie-gifts-top-5-jewish-cookbooks-of-2015/ /book-reviews/foodie-gifts-top-5-jewish-cookbooks-of-2015/#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2015 10:00:01 +0000 /?p=70651 Korean-Style Flanken With Asian Slaw and Red Potato Salad can be found in the new cookbook, "The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table," by Jeff and Jodie Morgan. Credit: Copyright 2015 Ed Anderson

When holiday time rolls around, thinking of good gifts for foodies can be a challenge. You can send food of course, but serious foodies love something that anyone can give, and it will last a lifetime.

Cookbooks, memoirs with recipes — in other words, food porn.

Whatever you call it, for a food fiend, a cookbook is always a welcome gift.

This year, when Jewish-ish cooking is en vogue and Israeli food is hotter than a Scotch bonnet pepper, the choices can be a bit vexing.

Let me help.

Five cookbooks published in 2015 warrant serious excitement. They are great reads and feature recipes that are interesting, innovative, and they work. Any of them would make a wonderful gift to give, and even better to receive.

‘Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking’ by chef Michael Solomonov and restaurateur Steven Cook

Published in October, "Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking," by Chef Michael Solomonov and Restaurateur Steven Cook, is filled with recipes you can easily make at home. Credit: Copyright 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Published in October, “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking,” by Chef Michael Solomonov and Restaurateur Steven Cook, is filled with recipes you can easily make at home. Credit: Copyright 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Cookbooks by James Beard-award-winning chefs are often stuffy, with recipes that are difficult to make at home. This is not that book. Chef Solomonov’s story is genuine and sincere, filled with the pathos of the loss of a brother in the Israeli Armed Forces, his American upbringing and his journey to find the new world of cooking in Israel. I have made over a dozen of his recipes — but his incredible hummus recipe is worth the price of the book.

‘The Feast Goes On’ by the Monday Morning Cooking Club 

The recipe for Chicken Tebeet and many other hearty dishes can be found in "The Feast Goes On" by the Monday Morning Cooking Club. Credit: Copyright 2015 Alan Benson

The recipe for Chicken Tebeet and many other hearty dishes can be found in “The Feast Goes On” by the Monday Morning Cooking Club. Credit: Copyright 2015 Alan Benson

When a group of Australian women decided to get together on Mondays and cook each other’s treasured recipes, magic happened. Each was from a different Jewish ethnic group, each with a world of stories. With honesty and solid testing, their first book, “Monday Morning Cooking Club,” was a trove of wonderful recipes and stories. The second one is just as good, if not better. This book is a sleeper and will be splattered with cooking stains in no time.

‘Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen’ by Leah Koenig

Matzo Granola With Walnuts and Coconut is just one of the many good recipes to be found in "Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes and Customs for Today's Kitchen" by Leah Koenig. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sang Ahn

Matzo Granola With Walnuts and Coconut is just one of the many good recipes to be found in “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen” by Leah Koenig. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sang Ahn

Leah Koenig is a top-flight Jewish food writer and editor, and this book showcases her thoughtful variations on Jewish classics. Her take on Jewish American millennial food is second to none. This book is perfect for a recent grad, the newly married or a couple who’ve just moved in together.

‘The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table’ by Jeff and Jodie Morgan

Korean-Style Flanken With Asian Slaw and Red Potato Salad can be found in the new cookbook, "The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table," by Jeff and Jodie Morgan. Credit: Copyright 2015 Ed Anderson

Korean-Style Flanken With Asian Slaw and Red Potato Salad can be found in the new cookbook, “The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table,” by Jeff and Jodie Morgan. Credit: Copyright 2015 Ed Anderson

This smart cookbook is full of recipes just waiting to be prepared for a dinner party or a fun weekend dinner. Great for the sophisticated home cook.

‘The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen’: A Fresh Take on Tradition by Amelia Saltsman

Here is an adapted version of the recipe for Steak "Dak Dak" from the new cookbook, "The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen," by Amelia Saltsman. Credit: Copyright 2015 Staci Valentine/Sterling Epicure, an Imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

Here is an adapted version of the recipe for Steak “Dak Dak” from the new cookbook, “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen,” by Amelia Saltsman. Credit: Copyright 2015 Staci Valentine/Sterling Epicure, an Imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

Inspired by the Jewish calendar, the author of “The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook” brings her locavore, produce-heavy, California-inspired approach to the home kitchen with recipes that focus on her eclectic and fascinatingly global background. A great book for the modern cook looking for something new and altogether genuine for any season.

Main photo: Korean-Style Flanken With Asian Slaw and Red Potato Salad can be found in the new cookbook, “The Covenant Kitchen: Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table,” by Jeff and Jodie Morgan. Credit: Copyright 2015 Ed Anderson

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Update Grandma’s Recipes For Your Daily Life /book-reviews/update-grandmas-recipes-for-your-daily-life/ /book-reviews/update-grandmas-recipes-for-your-daily-life/#respond Wed, 24 Jun 2015 17:53:23 +0000 /?p=67286 Hungarian Cherry Pie, cseresznyès lepèny, served with whipped cream. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

You open an old cookbook and out flutters a fragile, stained piece of notepaper. On it there is some spidery handwriting in fading blue ink for a long-forgotten cookie from a long-forgotten aunt in a long-forgotten language. Or perhaps, like Budapest-born Tomi Komoly, you have a carefully bound journal filled with exquisitely rhythmic italic notations. Hastily scribbled or meticulously inscribed, old family recipes are a gift from the past. But bringing them back to life in modern kitchens can present today’s cook with some unexpected problems.

Unforeseen problems: handwriting, culinary shorthand

Tomi Komoly’s grandmother’s recipes were handwritten in old-fashioned German  and Hungarian. Credit: Copyright Tomi Komoly

Tomi Komoly’s grandmother’s recipes were handwritten in old-fashioned German and Hungarian. Credit: Copyright Tomi Komoly

When Komoly, who now lives in the United Kingdom, took the task of painstakingly transcribing, testing and updating many of his Austro-Hungarian grandmother’s recipes, he encountered a number of unforeseen problems. Not least, the recipes were written in a narrow, cursive script in old-fashioned German and Hungarian often using the shorthand style of a culinary expert for whom the manuscript was more aide-memoire than intended manual. It took him more than six years to translate and edit — and enter the mindset of his late grandmother to identify the many details and techniques she would have assumed needed no explanation. Sometimes, with heirloom recipes, it is what is left out that is as important as what is included.

Concessions to modernity

Modern labor-saving devices such as food mixers or electric grinders -- unheard of in prewar Budapest -- can also have an effect on a recipe. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Modern labor-saving devices such as food mixers or electric grinders — unheard of in prewar Budapest — can also have an effect on a recipe. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

The aim of recipe rescuers is always to be as authentic as possible but, as Komoly found out, there have to be concessions to modernity. Today’s cooks may not have the stamina of their ancestors, but few would want to turn back every clock. As Komoly says, “Granny used to laboriously beat the egg whites with a little whisk or large fork, but I use a machine except for rising dough, which I prefer to feel by hand.” Ready-made noodles, dried yeast and strudel dough are also innovations that prove that progress can mean just that.

Advances in cooking equipment

Gugelhupf, or "Kuglof," made in a traditional mold with tapered sides and a funneled center. Credit: Copyright Tomi Komoly

Gugelhupf, or “Kuglof,” made in a traditional mold with tapered sides and a funneled center. Credit: Copyright Tomi Komoly

Technical advances can also affect the success of updating recipes: Even the material out of which cooking tins and utensils are made may alter cooking times, and when all the cooking and baking was done on a wood-fired, cast-iron stove with hot plates, as with Komoly’s family, oven temperatures and timings can be another source of error. As he says, “How do you interpret instructions such as ‘Do it on a high flame’ or ‘Bake until it is ready’?” In addition, in quite a few recipes I had to work out the sequence of adding ingredients by patient trial and error. Luckily, on the whole, Granny was very reliable, so I didn’t have too many disasters.”

Our kitchens today also boast luxuries unheard of in prewar Europe, or available to only a few, such as refrigeration. As Komoly recalled, “We would get great blocks of ice delivered, we never had a fridge. Or we would keep food in winter on the floor of the freezing, unheated bathroom.” Restoring old recipes in light of the “new” technology means you may have to expect new timings, new procedures, new methodology.

Account for changing ingredients, tastes

In baking, varying egg sizes can often make a difference in the end result. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

In baking, varying egg sizes can often make a difference in the end result. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Family recipes often are short on details, especially when orally transmitted, but even when written, many instructions can be vague to the uninitiated. Often, cooks would vary the way they cooked and baked according to whim, the weather and whether or not certain items were available.

“Although many recipes had quantities, in those days they didn’t specify things they would take for granted, such as the size of eggs. I came to the conclusion, for example, that over-egging a cake really doesn’t hurt too much,” Komoly said. “I’ve also had to play around with sugar quantities; there’s a massive difference in our tastes these days. I found I only needed about two-thirds of the original amount.”

Short on details

Fresh cherries are particularly popular in Austro-Hungarian baking. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Fresh cherries are particularly popular in Austro-Hungarian baking. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

A rose is a rose is a rose, but the saying does not always hold true. Take a cherry, for example. There are sweet ones, sour ones, red ones, black ones and unique regional varieties that add different dimensions to a dish. Fresh produce was usually a given: In Hungary, Komoly’s grandmother would assume the fruit and nuts were there for the taking from the family’s own trees, but a stale supermarket walnut or hazelnut can turn yesterday’s delight into today’s disaster.

Cooking vs. baking

Many heirloom recipes are imprecise in their instructions, dealing mostly in "handfuls" and "pinches." Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Many heirloom recipes are imprecise in their instructions, dealing mostly in “handfuls” and “pinches.” Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

There’s many a recipe handed down from generation to generation that involves good old-fashioned instructions such as “Take a pinch of this” or “Add some of that.” In many Italian-language cookbooks, recipes often include qv (quanto vale — how much you want) or qb (quanto basta — as much as it needs) in the instructions. The size of a “handful” may not matter too much in general cooking, but baking is more of an exact science than a free-form art.

A century of changes

Even basic ingredients, such as this widely used variety of Italian flour, can vary from era to era, country to country. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Even basic ingredients, such as this widely used variety of Italian flour, can vary from era to era, country to country. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman

Another problem, common to all who undertake the rescue and restoration of heritage recipes, are ingredients. Soft cheese, butter, flour, chocolate and so on may not always be the same as those used a century ago. Take flour, for example. Italian heritage recipes use different types of flour to those we are accustomed in the United States and United Kingdom. Komoly encountered the same difficulty, “The flour we used in Hungary was quite different, but most UK flour is highly refined. Eventually, I found that if I made a cake with a large percentage of flour, it was best to use a ‘strong’ Canadian flour.”

Komoly is also fortunate in that he can still recall helping his grandmother in the kitchen — always rewarded with a lick of the spoon or bowl — as well as being able to hold in his memory the taste of the end products.

Having survived the Holocaust, his grandmother, Vamos Kathe, relocated to Nairobi. Her recipe book was a precious reminder of a lost world, inscribed with the words, “With God’s Help.” He must have been listening.

Hungarian Cherry Pie (cseresznyès lepèny)

Recipe taken from “My Granny’s Gift: 55 Delicious Austro-Hungarian Dessert Recipes” by Tomi Komoly, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014, 124 pages.

Prep time: 30 to 40 minutes

Baking time: 50 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons (15 grams) plain flour

9 tablespoons (125 grams) butter or margarine

1 whole egg

6 tablespoons (80 grams) superfine sugar

About 4 cups (500 grams) cherries, unpitted

4 egg whites

2 tablespoons (15 grams) powdered sugar

1 cup (70 to 80 grams) bread crumbs

Directions

1. Mix the flour, butter and egg with 4 tablespoons (60 grams) of the superfine sugar and roll out to about 1/4-inch (7 to 8 mm) thick and transfer into a 12-by-8-inch (30-by-20-cm) baking tray. Alternatively, just place in the middle of the tray and “pat” until it is spread evenly over the whole area.

2. Bake in a moderate oven 350 F (175 C) for 35 minutes. (It may take less time, so if it smells like it is burning, it may well be!)

3. Pit the cherries and drain the fruit of all excess juice and spread evenly after scattering the bread crumbs over the pastry. Sprinkle the remaining superfine sugar on top. (If the cherries are very sweet, then you may not need the extra sugar. CH)

4. Beat the 4 egg whites with the powdered sugar until very firm, spread over the cake, and bake for another 15 minutes or until lightly browned and semi-hardened. Allow to cool, cut into squares and serve with whipped cream.

5. Instead of the bread crumbs, ground walnuts or hazelnuts could also be used.

Main photo: Hungarian Cherry Pie, cseresznyès lepèny, served with whipped cream. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clarissa Hyman 

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10 Must-Read Gifts For Beer-Loving Dads /drinking/10-must-read-gifts-for-beer-loving-dads/ /drinking/10-must-read-gifts-for-beer-loving-dads/#respond Mon, 15 Jun 2015 09:00:34 +0000 /?p=67288 Greg Koch, co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, California, and co-author of "The Brewer’s Apprentice." Credit: Copyright 2011 Quarry Books

There are more than 3,400 craft breweries in America, with another 10 breweries opening each week. Retail sales of craft beer grew 22 percent in 2014, as overall beer sales stayed flat with the popularity of Budweiser and Miller dropping like a stone. The incredible consumer demand for craft beer makes the failure rate for new craft breweries … effectively zero.

Across the nation, beer lovers are daydreaming about jumping on the craft beer bandwagon and opening their own brewery.

Last fall, Zester contributors fanned out across the country interviewing craft brewers, distillers and cider makers for a book we’d been commissioned to write on how to start these ventures. We had a fabulous time talking with a number of unusual characters working in these fast-growing sectors. Our book — “Start Your Own Microbrewery, Distillery, or Cidery” — will be released June 30 by Entrepreneur Press.

In the process of writing our book, we read extensively about the craft beer business. Obviously, we think our book is an invaluable addition to the collection, but it tells only part of the story. Our “beer library” is a list of must-read recent releases for everyone interested in craft beer. There is no homework here. These are fun, entertaining reads.

10 beer books reviewed by Zester Daily:

» “The World Atlas of Beer: The Essential Guide to the Beers of the World” by Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont (Sterling Epicure, 2012)

» “So You Want to Start a Brewery?” by Tony Magee (Chicago Press Review, 2012)

» “Beyond the Pale: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.” by Ken Grossman (Wiley, 2013)

» “Brewing Up a Business” by Sam Calagione (Wiley, 2011)

» “The Craft Beer Revolution” by Steve Hindy (St. Martin’s Press, 2014)

» “Start Your Own Microbrewery, Distillery, or Cidery” by Corie Brown (Entrepreneur Media, 2015)

» “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing” by Charlie Papazian (William Morrow, 2014)

» “The Brewer’s Apprentice” by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn (Quarry, 2011)

» “Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer” by William Knoedelseder (Harper Collins, 2012)

» “The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution,” by Tom Acitelli (Chicago Review Press, 2013)

Main photo: Greg Koch, co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, California, and co-author of “The Brewer’s Apprentice.” Credit: Copyright 2011 Quarry Books

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California Wine Woes Mount: Beware The Cooties /opinion/california-wine-woes-mount-beware-the-cooties/ /opinion/california-wine-woes-mount-beware-the-cooties/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 09:00:26 +0000 /?p=63971 California's wine woes continue to mount. Credit: Copyright iStockPhoto/Avalon_Studio

For the second time in two weeks, the California wine industry is under fire. First, it was a class-action lawsuit aimed at inexpensive wines with moderately elevated levels of arsenic. Now, it’s cooties. And they’ve been spotted in the proverbial good stuff.

Cooties — formally Cutius terrebilis, a childhood condition associated with social dysfunction, formerly believed to be something people grow out of naturally by the time they are teenagers — have apparently been detected in a broad cross-section of California wines.

Curiously, the cooties-bearing wines are not connected by their region of origin or varietal makeup, but rather by their rating on the so-called 100-point scale, popularized during the 20th century but inexplicably still finding traction in lesser-evolved pockets of the U.S. wine scene today.

Dr. Isiah B. Wright — who holds degrees in medicine, enology, viticulture, psychology and statistics — revealed his research yesterday at a news conference where he also announced he is not initiating a class-action suit. Wright explained that the presence of cooties is fortunately limited to wines that have been rated 90 points or higher, and is not as pernicious or contagious as it can be in elementary schools and summer camps.

Symptoms of cooties

Symptoms of cooties transmission from wine to humans are subtle, and mostly psychological rather than systemic. “Given that said ratings are purported to provide guidance, and in turn confidence, in the drinker, the 90-point wines are particularly risky,” Wright continued. “Exposure to too many could leave imbibers with subconscious anxiety, a creeping doubt, if you will, that their own taste in wine is merely pedestrian.”

He went on to explain that, unfortunately, 90-point wines are “about 9 cents a dozen these days,” and thanks to complicity of online and traditional retailers too lazy or too unsure of their own palates to review wines themselves, these ratings have proliferated to the point where exposure is difficult to avoid.

Of course, cooties in humans under the age of 10 are fairly easily treated; once cooties are contracted on the playground, a four-finger squeeze applied within one day by a merciful peer does the trick. In adults, Wright said he knows of two treatments: “The first thing people can do, as a prophylactic measure, is to immediately reject the usage of any wine ratings outside their original habitat, i.e., in the pages of magazines that no one actually reads anyway. This is quite easy, actually. Wine ratings derived almost exclusively by middle-aged men sampling 20 wines at a pop ‘blind’ and without a crumb of food — who would consider their advice useful in real life, where people, food and context are in play?”

The second, he explained, is even simpler: “Pour yourself some wine of the masses — a crisp dry rosé, a humble Prosecco, a refreshing sangria. Go tap a box wine, pound some Pinot Grigio or share a magnum of Merlot. And then — are you listening? — add some food. Adds 10 points to every wine, every time” — especially on April 1.

Main photo: California’s wine woes continue to mount. Credit: Copyright iStockPhoto/Avalon_Studio

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Must-Have Cookbooks: IACP Awards Best Of The Best /book-reviews/must-cookbooks-iacp-awards-best-best/ /book-reviews/must-cookbooks-iacp-awards-best-best/#respond Mon, 30 Mar 2015 09:00:53 +0000 /?p=63860 Photo collage: Some of the 2015 cookbook winners announced at the IACP awards show March 29 in Washington, D.C.

The International Association of Culinary Professionals announced the best cookbooks published in 2014 at its annual convention, held March 27 to 30 in Washington, D.C.

Winners were chosen in 19 categories, including American and international sweet and savory cooking; restaurant- and chef-centered books and those homing in on culinary travel; e-cookbooks and culinary history; and literary food writing and photography. The IACP program is widely lauded as the most selective in the industry due to its two-tier judging process that requires recipe testing in all relevant categories.

“A New Napa Cuisine,” by Christopher Kostow, was chosen the IACP 2015 Cookbook of the Year, and won in the Global Design category as well. Among the other winners was Zester Daily contributor Ramin Ganeshram, whose book “FutureChefs: Recipes by Tomorrow’s Cooks Across the Nation and the World” won in the Children, Youth and Family category.

Celebrity chef Curtis Stone was the emcee at the IACP awards event.

This slideshow provides the winner in each category and a brief summary or review of each cookbook.

More from Zester Daily:

» Cookbooks to covet: IACP names 2015 award finalists
» No baking required to savor writer’s bread odyssey
» From wicked to inspired, ‘Grilled Cheese’ inspires
» Dan Pashman’s ‘Eat More Better’ makes dining delicious
» ‘Prune’: A glimpse into a chef’s untamed cooking mind

Photo collage: Some of the 2015 cookbook winners announced at the IACP awards show March 29 in Washington, D.C.
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Jaume Family’s Inspiring Southern Rhone Wines /drinking/jaume-familys-inspiring-southern-rhone-wines/ /drinking/jaume-familys-inspiring-southern-rhone-wines/#respond Mon, 30 Mar 2015 09:00:34 +0000 /?p=63641 Alain Jaume and two of his children. The family winery was created in 1826 and today spans the southern Rhone Valley. Credit: Copyright Alain Jaume & Fils

I was tasting the 2012 Grand Veneur Côtes du Rhône “Les Champauvins,” a smooth, nicely structured red with flavors of black and red berries. It was so cozy and friendly that, dear reader, I felt a Cole Porter song coming on: “You’d be so nice to come home to. You’d be so nice by the fire. …”

At $15 to $20, I could imagine coming home to that wine when a bit of self-pampering was warranted.

“Les Champauvins” was made by the Jaume family, whose winery is located in Orange in France’s Rhone Valley. Created in 1826, the domaine is now run by the sixth generation: Sebastien Jaume, 36, the winemaker, is an enologist who worked at the Erath Winery in Oregon, Château Gruaud Larose in Bordeaux and Clos des Papes in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Christophe, 35, handles marketing, and Helene, 25, oversees the newest acquisition, Château Mazanne in Vacqueyras.

The domaine originally comprised 12 hectares (almost 30 acres) of vines when Alain Jaume took over in the 1970s. It has since expanded to 90 hectares (about 222 acres), spanning the southern Rhone. Wines made from these vines are sold under the Grand Veneur label.

There is also a negociant line labeled Alain Jaume that encompasses an encyclopedic range of wines from simple Côtes du Rhône to Gigondas. As if that weren’t enough, the family rents out a vacation home at Château Mazanne that sleeps 17, has a pool and endless mountain vistas.

But I digress — back to that Champauvins.

Champauvins, a rich blend

Like all of Grand Veneur reds, this is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, though percentages vary according to the wine.

Grenache brings a unique, sweet smoothness to a blend and accounts for 70% of Les Champauvins. Syrah deepens color and adds exotic scents. Mourvedre delivers tannins, power and age-ability. In general, both the Syrah and the Mourvedre mature, at least partly, in oak barrels, whereas the Grenache ages only in tanks.

Many of the grapes are hand picked. Credit: Copyright Alain Jaume & Fils

Grenache grapes provide a sweet smoothness. Credit: Copyright Alain Jaume & Fils

Viticulture at the estate-owned properties is organic. Grapes in Châteauneuf-du-Pape are hand-harvested; most of the others are as well, except when climatic conditions demand speed.

Les Champauvins is located 10 feet beyond the Châteauneuf-du-Pape zone, not far from Jaume’s vines in that appellation, and its soils are similar: red clay carpeted with large rocks streaked with quartz called galets roulés.

Another major Jaume property is in the Lirac appellation, across the Rhone from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It’s the site of the deservedly popular Domaine du Clos du Sixte. The lip-smacking 2012, rich and velvety, mixes light oak flavors with those of black cherries and herbs like thyme and bay leaf ($12 to $25).

Three heroic red Chateauneuf-du-Papes

Three red Châteauneuf-du-Papes are all in the northern sector of the zone. In addition to varying percentages of the three grapes, differences in the three bottlings can be accounted for chiefly by the age of the vines and choice of fermentation techniques.

The basic Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 70% Grenache, is a delicious mouthful of the savory flavors of herbs as well as sweet ones like black cherry. Its texture is velvety, revealing the dulcet character of Grenache combined with the exoticism of Syrah and the muscle of Mourvedre. It’s nicely priced at under $40.

Next, “Les Origines” is made from a northern sector of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard. Its grapes are painstakingly sorted before fermenting for three weeks with regular punching down. Its dark robe presages deep flavors of gently crushed black and blueberries, licorice and coffee bean. The wine is fresh and smooth and lifted by a hint of menthol.

The vines for Grand Veneur’s Vieilles Vignes are more than 75 years old. Grenache makes up 50% of the blend, Mourvedre, 40%. Nearly pitch black with purple reflections, it’s a potent weave of blackberry, blueberry, herbs, dark chocolate and licorice. Rich it is, but cool, too, with no jagged edges, no heaviness and a long finish. It’s Jaume’s priciest wine, at around $96.

Ideal food pairings

You can cellar all these wines for decades. Or drink them now. In the latter case, decant them a good two hours in advance and put the carafe in a basin of cool water in order to serve the wine at about 60 F.

One dish the Jaumes pair with these wines is wild duck with roasted figs — which sounds yummy. What’s more, it evokes the culinary association that inspired the domaine’s name. The term dates from the Ancien Regime’s chasse au cour. The results of the hunt would be served with a blood-thickened variation on the sauce poivrade called Sauce Grand Veneur.

But Easter is approaching and these wines are superb with lamb, my current favorite. My late uncle Bill, however, traditionally baked ham with pineapple. With that, I’d want a special white.

Jaume’s oak-aged Chateauneuf-du-Pape “la Fontaine” is pure and quite plush Roussane ($80) that I’d save for lobster. For a marriage truly made in heaven, however, I’d grab their discreetly fragrant Viognier, a Cotes du Rhone ($12), with mingled flavours of apple, litchi, pear and white-fleshed peaches. I feel a song coming on.

Main photo: Alain Jaume and two sons. The family winery was begun in 1826 and today spans the southern Rhone Valley. Credit: Copyright Alaine Jaume & Fils

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