Saturday, March 21, 2009

An Experience in Immortality*

Stained glass manuscript (detail)"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade." ~ Charles Dickens

When snow flurries greeted my awakening Friday morning, I had to bury my head under a pillow in denial. Only in the East can March be so taunting and cruel. But the first day of spring dawned clear, bright and temperate; a very good start to a very great day.
I started the day with some pampering. A pot of freshly ground French roast coffee, a light breakfast of sliced tomato and La Vache Qui Rit on a toasted English muffin, and a junkie's fix of the Food Network. Charged and ready to meet the day head on, I whipped through the bathrooms making them sparkling clean, showered and headed to the Botanical Garden to satisfy another addiction: books. The manager there knows me by face if not name and remarked on my prolonged winter absence. I let him know that with spring finally in the air, I would again become a frequent visitor.
Mt Carmel Wines hosts a tasting every Saturday afternoon. I made a detour there on my way to the market and made some very productive discoveries and in fact, brought two of them home. At the market, I decided to atone for last night's rich dishes with some roasted root vegetables and a simple pasta. Easter and Passover are quickly approaching, and along with Spring, guilt is the other fragrance wafting into the nostrils.
Bow tie pasta salad with sundried tomatoes and pine nuts
This here is just a teaser. I've written about my pasta salad before. It's a summertime favorite around these parts. The green grocer was just putting out fresh hothouse basil when I arrived at the produce stand, and the fine day made me so giddily optimistic that I just had to pick up a bunch for the first pasta salad of the season. I had some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano so tangy and salty that all I had to do practically was wave it over the noodles. It was a great starter. Sweet extra virgin olive oil; bright, clean basil; sweet nuts, woody olives and acidic tomatoes. I could have easily had seconds and then thirds.
Fennel, carrots and eggplant salted and drizzled with olive oil.Roasted vegetables hot out of the oven
Roasted vegetables tossed with balsamic vinegar, feta cheese and red pepper flakeRoasted root vegetable salad
I wish everything were as easy to prepare as roasted vegetables. Pick your favorites or whatever's available at the produce market. This was eggplant, carrots and a fennel bulb. Cut everything to roughly comparable sizes, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt & freshly ground pepper, toss and roast for 30 minutes in a 425° oven. Give a shake in the pan half-way through the roasting process. After roasting, I tossed mine with some feta cheese, a little thyme and red pepper flake and just a splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Roasted carrots taste almost candied. It's amazing. Eggplant turns magically from an insipid watery sponge into a complex, creamy delight. For once, I pushed away from the table not stuffed to the gills but pleasantly satiated.
2006 Clos de los Siete MendozaI mentioned a discovery or two from Mt Carmel Wines earlier this afternoon. One was a Bordeaux-style blend from seven French winemakers who've emigrated to Argentina to produce something new and exciting from the promising microclimates at the foot of the Andes. The Clos de los Siete Mendoza is already a phenom within the industry. The 2006 vintage (50% Malbec, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Syrah), is a heavyweight at the ripe age of three, and will only improve with cellaring. The wine is an inky, dark red color; full-bodied and subtle at the same time. Lots of floral red fruit in the bouquet with rich ripe plums, caramel & vanilla in the mouth. Tannins come through in the finish to balance out the flavor. Clos 7 is a young winery with old world sensibilities. What makes this wine truly jaw dropping is its price: $19 retail. I'm heading back to Mt Carmel tomorrow for a case which temptation will no doubt prevent me from storing for any length of time, but what the hell.
And so ends the first day of spring 2009. I hope wherever you are reading this that your day was just as awesome, and you too have a contented sense of accomplishment and satisfaction if only for this brief respite.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food
*Henry David Thoreau

1 comment:

Jeff (UK) said...

Must be pasta in the air - mine was from the market, pumpkin with pine nuts and cheese; then sauteed some garlic, shallot, portobello's and fresh sage in olive oil to cover it. Simple asparagus with fresh lemon juice beside it. Five sunny days in London and all the green stuff's sprouting and flowering - spring. Bliss.

It's Mothering Sunday here, so brunch at the boat house in Central Park at the bar sprung to mind. Made me laugh and appreciate friends both near and far. Looking forward to Ireland/Scotland.