Today was one of those days I just couldn’t decide what to cook. I started with lamb, then explored chicken, went back to lamb, and finally settled on a frittata – potatoes, roasted red peppers, onions, parsley, and soft ricotta salata. For me, eggs with potatoes and peppers (et. al of course) is one of those culinary combinations whose ingredients’ separate humility belie the delights of their combined results . I’ve recently discovered a very nice bagged (I’m not usually a bagged green sort) baby argula that I dressed with olive oil, salt, and red wine vinegar that I served in bowls alongside the frittata, and a nice Italian filone loaf throughout the meal…
The appetizer is one that I came up with a couple of years ago. It’s simple enough for me to recall from memory, so I make it a fair bit…and since the dish’s ingredients are coming into season, and generally suggest the hot months, it seemed like the right call for the evening.
With the vittles I opened a Naousa, a Greek red from the extreme north of the country near the border with Bulgaria. Naousa is made exclusively from the Xynomavro (Gzee-no-mav-RO) grape variety, a very ancient strain that I often think of as being a more florid Nebbiolo. This example was VERY dry, but the grape’s pungent and exotic sweet and spicy character, but stiff structure make it great material for producing dessert wines as well.
The recipe and the tasting notes:
EGGPLANT AND CHICK PEA MINI “SANDWICHES”
1 medium eggplant, roughly uniform in girth.
3/4 cup dried chick peas, soaked overnight and boiled until tender, or 1 can of chick peas, drained.
1 large clove of garlic, peeled.
1 generous Tbs. of extra virgin oilve oil
juice of 1/2 large lemon
5 large fresh basil leaves
1 large sprig of mint, leaves only
1 tsp. (or to taste) of Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
pomegranate syrup or mosto cotto
2 Tbs. finely chopped parsley
– Slice the unpeeled eggplant into very thin (1/8 in./few millmeters thick) discs. Fry the pieces in batches in 1/2 inch of the canola oil until lightly golden and drain well on a rack or paper towels. Set aside.
– Combine all of the remaining ingredients except the pomegranate syrup in a food processor and reduce to a thin paste, adding a little water if necessary.
– Stack two similarly sized eggplant pieces on a work surface. Spread a moderately thin amount of the chick pea paste (about a heaping tsp.) onto the eggplant slices. From a small bowl with an espresso spoon, drizzle a bit of the syrup 0nto the stack , and fold in half like an omelette. Repeat until the eggplant slices are used up, arranging on a serving dish as you go. Refrigerate for several hours.
– 15 minutes before serving remove the dish from the refrigerator and sprinkle with the parsley. Best served just lightly chilled.
Tsantali Naousa 2005
Quite saturated blackish purple core with an ever-so-slightly browned rim. Complex, perfumed nose of berries, pine sap, myrtle, violet, lilac, barnyard, and subtle oak notes. The palate is lean and wiry, with sharkskin tannins, a prickly acidity and a satiny texture that emerges with air exposing snappy sour cherry and cream soda flavors. A bit rough at the swallow (a touch of volatile acidity), but with sufficiently rich food, this would nearly become an asset. An exotic and elegant but sturdy wine that represents a particular value.