Last night we had friends over for dinner. She and I are in wine group together. Our husbands work together. So, we had lots to talk about. I felt the wives’ conversation was much more interesting than the husbands, but that may well be because I am a wine nerd rather than a computer nerd.
Our guests have some dietary restrictions, no meat or wheat. When they apologized for their specific requirements, I assured them that it is much more fun for me to cook within guidelines than to be wide open to anything. As Tracy Lee Karner puts it, ‘constraint spurs creativity.’ This is true in any medium, whether it is cooking, writing, or any of the arts.For dinner we began with a gazpacho soup that tasted like a bowl full of summer garden. It paired well with Balthasar Ress Kabinett Riesling, 2007 which is very tart like a granny smith apple but juicy with just enough off-dry, honeyed richness to offset the spiciness of the soup. Full disclosure, I am distantly related to the Ress family. My maiden name is Ress. The owners of winery are my fifth and sixth cousins. But even if this wine were not the nectar of my ancestors, I would love its crisp, tart, honeyed richness. It is an elegant and beautiful wine. It also paired well, as a good Riesling will, with the spicy cauliflower ceviche that our guests brought, and the sweet and spicy bean and pineapple salad that I served. Riesling is a great match with spicy foods.
Our entrée was eggplant coated in cornmeal with basil, oregano and parmesan cheese, quick-fried in olive oil and butter to a golden crisp and served with fresh grape tomatoes tossed with basil, olive oil and salt. Paired with the eggplant we had Bodegas de la Marquesa Valserrano Crianza, 2010. Layered, crisp and lush with flavors of cherry, cedar, leather and pepper. Ninety percent Tempranillo and ten percent Mazuelo, this beautiful wine would pair well with any earthy foods such as eggplant, sausage, or mushrooms.For dessert I made a pumpkin mousse and served it with Osborne Pedro Ximenez. This dark, thick sweet sherry had aromas of chocolate, caramel, coffee and raisins. It was perfect with the pumpkin spices.
I loved planning this menu. I will admit I had to google whether or not corn had gluten in it. But coming up with a menu that met some restrictions was more engaging than working without constraints.