Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cool Wines for a Hot Night

With the heat in NYC these past few days, it's been tough trying to think of things to cook. Who wants to make anything over a flame when it's 98F outside? So a fellow New Yorker and I decided to make some cool dishes to fight the heat. He dropped by last night despite the oppressive warmth, his hands full of grocery bags. Over the course of the next 2 hours, he proceeded to make a delicious fresh gazpacho, which we devoured as a first course. Second course was an arugula and lentil salad I'd made earlier in the day, with a mustard vinaigrette (recipe to follow). What to drink with these varied flavors? Champagne and Burgundy, of course!

As an aperitif, while my friend prepared the gazpacho, we enjoyed:
-Champagne Moutard Brut Grande Cuvee
Same notes as I've found previously, really delicious from the get-go, and improves with air. This is our new house Champer.

With the gazpacho, we popped a bubbly that our friend had brought:
-Champagne Guy Charlemagne Brut Extra
Made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, this wine was much darker and heavier than the Moutard, this showed lovely notes of baked dough and brioche and pears, with a hint of orange/citrus fruits, backed by some slight caramel. The finish was uplifted by a nice acidity, and its weight helped it survive the gazpacho.

For the arugula and lentil salad, I had decanted a young Burgundy:
-2005 Frederic Magnien Cote de Nuits Villages Coeur de Roches
I had opened a bottle last week and it was tight, tight, tight. Did I mention tight? Only the last drops were delicious. So I learned my lesson: decant this sucker for at least 2-3 hours. Seriously. Dark, funky Pinot Noir fruits filled the nose, with a streak of earthiness. The flavor profile is a bit muddled, but it's still good. Dark blue and red berries filled the attack, dropping off slightly in the mid-palate, only to come back with a vengeance on the back end. By the end of the night, 6 hours after being decanted, the wine seemed a bit alcoholic. Still, this was delicious, and what a bargain ($23 delivered).

Finally, I grabbed some home-made vanilla and fresh mint ice cream, and poured the dessert wine my buddy had brought:
-1985 Domaine Touchais Coteaux du Layon
Corked. Damn.

As promised here's the recipe I used for the warm lentil salad with arugula. It's easy to do, offers some nice earthy flavors and is perfect for a warm summer's night.

Warm Lentil Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
1 cup lentilles du Puy picked over and rinsed
6 cups water
1 onion, chopped fine
3 bacon slices, chopped
1 garlic clove, halved
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 fresh flat-leafed parsley sprigs plus 1/2 cup leaves, chopped fine
2 carrots, diced fine (about 3/4 cup)

For vinaigrette:
2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, or to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch arugula, coarse stems discarded, washed well and spun dry

Combine lentils, water, onion, bacon, garlic, thyme, and parsley sprigs in a large pot and simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in carrots and simmer mixture, covered, until lentils are tender, about 10 minutes.

Transfer 2 tablespoons lentil-cooking liquid to a medium bowl and whisk in vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Add oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk dressing until emulsified.

Drain lentils well in a sieve and discard parsley sprigs and garlic. Toss the lentils with chopped parsley and vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, arrange arugula decoratively around salad.

This should serve 6 as side dish/starter or 3 as a main course.

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