The Return of Fall Cooking, Weeknight Style


I spend a lot of time dissuading my toddler from eating Play-Doh. However, I always reserve some energy for preparing meals to pair with the perfect wines. For my purposes, the meals must be simple, efficient and nutritious. I hit each of these points by adhering to a few general rules. Rule number one: Make-ahead. Many dishes benefit from “macerating on the skin,” to borrow the winemaker’s term, and new flavors can be revealed with time spent in the fridge. Rule number two: Don’t use a second pot unless it’s truly necessary. Rule number three: Use frozen vegetables. They are quick and easy. Some will argue that the frozen stuff contains more nutrients than the fresh.

Enough with the rules. Let’s crunch some leaves under our feet and get started.
Salmon Cakes with Greens

These cakes were made to freeze and reheat. Keep the fresh greens on hand. While this recipe calls for a nice sauté, I don’t see why you can’t bake the cakes instead. Get the recipe.

Recommended Wine:

How about an English sparkler? Snooth columnist John Downes MW got me thinking more about these a few years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since.  I think we could stand to see a few more imports here in the United States. Here’s a few that you actually can get pretty easily:

Ridgeview Brut Bloomsbury England NV
Hattingley Brut Rose Hattingley Valley England NV

Campfire Couscous with Zucchini and Pine Nuts

You probably still have zucchini on hand. Couscous is one of the quickest cooking grains I know (around ten minutes), and pine nuts add some decadence to an otherwise simple dish. Get the recipe.

Recommended Wine:

Here I would choose a Soave – it’s still an underappreciated value white wine, but I have seen its availability grow since we started Snooth back in 2007. The wines are light-bodied, refreshing, slightly acidic, mellow, with hints of lemon, white flowers, honeydew melon. Try this widely available option:

Pieropan Soave Classico 2016

Deviled Cauliflower Casserole

Cauliflower is the latest cruciferous vegetable darling. Cauliflower crust pizza, cauliflower brownies, cauliflower rice pudding – the list continues. When it comes to flavor, cauliflower may be the world’s most malleable vegetable. This is a great make-ahead casserole for the heat lovers in your life. Tune the devil to your liking. Get the recipe.

Recommended Wine:

There’s some heat here, so why not break out a sweet wine? It may be taboo for some, but pairing a sweet wine with spice and salt is an eye-opening experience. I still love this bottle from last year’s Sweet Bordeaux virtual tasting.

Haut Charmes Sauternes 2015

Classic Tomato Soup

Soup is back, and tomatoes are still on tap. Raid the last licks from your garden or go straight to the can.  However, this soup cannot stand alone. Classic grilled cheese is imperative. You can get creative with some of these grilled cheeses, too.

Recommended Wine:

Master Sommelier Laura Maniec has described Garnacha as the perfect wine for Thanksgiving simply because it will pair with every dish under the sun. Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a pairing in itself. I wouldn’t want the wine to disturb this balance. Easy-going Garnacha will be a perfect, fruity complement.

Las Rocas de San Alejandro Calatayud Garnacha 2014

Mushroom and Chile Tacos

While I do enjoy DIY-style taco nights (a scoop of this, a plop of that…), the planned taco can bring comfort. Your decision has been made. Just sit down and eat.

Caveat emptor: Mushrooms must be handled with care. They hold a lot of water, and the last thing you want is a soggy taco. Be sure to cook the mushrooms down – especially if using the frozen kind. Get the recipe.

Recommended Wine:

Tempranillo will teach you a thing or two about tannins, not to mention dark luscious fruits. I was very impressed by this one from the Santa Ynez Valley.  It's 84% Tempranillo buttressed by Syrah (8%), Grenache (4%) and Merlot (4%), aged for nineteen months in American oak barrels. This is a thoughtful wine from a great winery.

Longoria Tempranillo Santa Ynez Valley 2015

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