Living in Manhattan I don’t have a vegetable garden per se.
Ok I don’t have a vegetable garden at all though I have killed several herb
plants on my windowsill.
does have a vegetable garden. It’s large and glorious, brimming with sweet ripe
vegetables, and ringed by an imposing 8-foot fence. It does look somewhat like
a prison yard, but the fence keeps the deer out and me rolling in fresh
more like drowning, not that I mind! Picking up bags FULL of vine ripened
tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, zucchini, squash, and spectacularly deeply colored peppers is as
exciting for me as a trip down Fifth avenue can be for those more prone to
Of course there is one significant difference between these
vegetables and a Prada bag. The Prada bag can simply get thrown in the closet
and forgotten. These bags need to be cleaned, processed and creatively dealt
with, lest I face a week, or more, of Greek salad for dinner.
the cucumbers are being pickled. A dish inspired no doubt by days like this in
the French Country side. One that thrives on abundance, and is oh so forgiving
of a little less here or a little more there. It’s one of my favorite dishes.
Whether on it’s own, warm or cold, paired with a lamb chop or served with rice
or pasta, I love it’s flexibility and the fact that it’s flavor can improve for
a day or three so I never grow tired of it.
might find that you have a touch more onion or a touch less eggplant, or visa
versa, than the recipe calls for. Don’t be too concerned about precise quantities
here, just focus on the techniques and when you’re done make sure you take the
time to enjoy your handiwork.
I recently did just that. I spent some time in my mother’s
kitchen last weekend salvaging vegetables from the garden on a rainy Saturday
and made a huge batch of ratatouille for all of us to share. On Sunday the
weather cleared up and share it we did, served over fettuccine with a sprinkle
of Parmiggiano and the aforementioned grilled lamb chops. It was spectacular
and the wine pairing, a 2007 Delas Cotes du Rhone that I stocked up on for
events like this, was a perfect partner!
I have always been an enthusiastic fan of the Monsanto Chianti's and I heartily recommend their Riserva. They're fairly priced and have an earthy complexity that is ideally suited to compliment the complexity and layers of flavors one finds in ratatouille.
As I mentioned, a nice Rioja is also a great choice. There are various levels of aging that are mandated for Rioja, and each wine has information on the label that can help you identify one you might enjoy.
With this dish I would look for a wine labeled as Joven or Tinto, the two youngest styles of Rioja. As you progress to Reservas and Gran Reservas you'll find wines more influenced by oak aging, featuring notes of vanilla, baking spices and even coconut.
A nice Joven or Tinto will be all about the lovely raspberry fruit that Tempranillo, the main grape of the Rioja blend, is famous for. One that I've found, and that is actually 100% Tempranillo, is the Cortijo III. It's packed with berry fruit and has a nice spicy edge and hints of licorice that offer a nice contrast to the sweet, earthy flavors of the Ratatouille.
No matter which wine you choose, just remember to make sure you're happy with the combination. Wine and food pairing is simple when that's your goal!
Gregory Dal Piaz