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Wine Country Cooking

by Joanne Weir

Wine Country Cooking

According to Joanne Weir, it's no coincidence that the rustic, ingredient-focused cooking so common to Northern California's wine country echoes that of the Mediterranean cuisine found halfway around the world. Napa Valley, located on the same latitude as the countries of Spain, Italy and Greece, also shares the same temperate climate, which is perfect for making wine, and even more perfect for making food that goes well with wine. In her latest cookbook, Wine Country Cooking, Weir explores this style of cuisine, which draws culinary inspirations from its European counterparts but is also uniquely Californian.

The foundation of wine country cuisine starts with superb artisanal ingredients, according to Weir. There is a heavy emphasis on fresh vegetables, seen in soups and salads such as Harvest Vegetable Soup and Grilled Corn and Arugula Salad with Smoky Tomato Vinaigrette, as well as light proteins, seen in entrees like Seared Scallops with Watercress and Chicken Ragout with Autumn Vegetables. Each dish is sophisticated enough to serve at a dinner party, but simple enough to enjoy daily. As a bonus, recommended wine pairings are listed with each recipe, so no matter where you live, you can enjoy wine country all year round.


White Bean Salad with Peppers, Goat Cheese
and Mint

Serves 6

1 cup dried white beans
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more if needed
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 small red onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 garlic clove, minced
5 ounces fresh goat cheese, for topping
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips, for garnish

Pick over the beans and discard any stones or damaged ones. Cover with plenty of cold water and let soak for 4 hours or overnight. Place the beans in a saucepan with plenty of water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer until the skins just begin to crack and the beans are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain the beans.

In the meantime, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl to make a vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add to the warm beans and let sit until the beans cool.

When the beans have cooled, add the diced peppers, onion and garlic, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and additional vinegar, if needed.

To serve, place the beans in a serving bowl and crumble the cheese over the top. Garnish with mint and serve.

To drink: Sauvignon Blanc

Reviewed by Nancy Huang

(Updated: 01/23/08 SB)

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