Kosher European Wines, Hagafen Wine, Kosher Meat Lasagna, White Bean and Kalamata Soup, Vegetable Kugel

This past weekend we had a bunch of friends over to the house and we were so happy to celebrate the good health and recovery of a dear friend of the family who honored us by coming on over for the meal. It is starting to feel a bit chilly around here, so we thought it would be great to try some lovely White Bean and Kalamta Olive Soup. The link to the recipe was the best I could find on the web. The one I use is from Mollie Katzen’s cookbook, which I have no right to place on my blog, please buy her book she is a genius!

The soup is simple to make, and I follow her recipe to the tee, short of adding in a wee bit more wine than her recipe calls for. Personally, that is the ultimate compliment, using someone’s exact recipe, with little or no change, because it is perfect as it is.

We then cooked up meat lasagna. I have modified the lasagna many times, as I am constantly looking for the perfect lasagna that is not too dry or too runny. I think I have finally done that! This past week the lasagna was killer, very tasty, and it was solid without being the least bit dry. The recipe is a change from another cookbook I use, but I have modified this one to not worry about sharing it. Also, I wrote a lot about the process, so the recipe looks long, but I am just adding in my years of struggle with these recipes to make sure you do not. Overall a pretty easy recipe:

Meat Lasagna Recipe: (Makes two pans of lasagna)
2 Tbsp. Oil
2 chopped onions
5 garlic cloves smashed (or just use the frozen garlic)
2 lb. of ground meat
1 sliced green pepper
1 sliced orange or yellow pepper
3 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce
12 oz. of red wine (more acid and tannin the better)
4 to 5 Tbsp. parsley
2 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. of basil
salt and pepper to taste

16 oz. (18 pieces) of dry lasagna noodle (normal pasta that needs to be cooked)
1 LARGE eggplant sliced 1/2 inch thick

In a large Dutch oven or tall walled pan, heat up the oil until shimmering and then throw in the chopped onions and cook them till they are close to being browned. Then throw in the crushed garlic and as soon as it starts to smell garlicky, throw in the ground meat. Be careful never to burn the garlic, as that is nasty! Move around the meat and make sure it nice and browned. Now throw in the sliced peppers and lets cook until tender. Then throw in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, herbs, salt and pepper. Now mix the pot around a fair amount until the wine color disappears and the tomato color is bright. Keep cooking the sauce until it reduces by 20% or until the sauce looks nice and thick. This step is VERY important, so do not skimp on this, it takes time but you will be generously rewarded.

At this point, bring a very large pot of water to boil and then place the lasagna noodles and cook them 1 to 2 minutes before al dente. We do this because we want them to finish in the oven. NEVER TRY the already cooked or NOT cooked pasta – it does not work. Cook the pasta and you will get the lovely texture that is not available any other way. Once cooked, pour out all the water, and put in some cold water in the pot to keep the pasta from drying up.

Now line up two 9×13 pans on both sides of the fully cooked pasta sauce. Scoop out some of the sauce and lay it down as a thin layer on each of the 9×13 pans. Next lay three cooked noodles in each pan, and then lay down some of the sliced eggplant, making sure to cover each pan with a layer of eggplant. Now scoop some sauce making sure to cover the eggplant in each pan. Next place another three cooked noodles over the sauce. Again, place more eggplant and then more sauce to cover the eggplant in each pan. Finally, lay another three lasagna noodles on top of the sauce and then a bit more of the sauce on top of the noodles to keep them moist through the cooking process

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the lasagna pans covered for 45 minutes. Then take them out and uncover the pans and let them cool before refrigerating. I cannot stress how much better the lasagna tastes warmed up the next day, rather than hot, or lightly cooled, out of the oven. I state this because the lasagna needs time to meld together and get happy, and then warm it up the next day at 200 degrees until happy. We warm the lasagna up on Friday for 2 hours at 200 degrees, and it works well for us. Do NOT speed this up by jacking up the heat on the oven that will only dry out of burn the lasagna.

We paired this awesome lasagna with and a pan of lightly charred vegetable kugel, and some fresh green salad. Of course it was still Hanukkah, so we bought a bag of latkes and served them as well. Yeah yeah, go ahead and laugh, but we were very busy and that hit the spot. Finally, we had some left over sliced eggplant, so we threw that into a pan and coated it with oil and garlic and roasted them along with the frozen latkes.

For wine, I was excited to try some wines that we were very interested in enjoying for sometime, but never had the chance to do it. We started with a glass of 2008 Elvi Wines Ness Blanco, a very controversial wine that does not really toe the line and what makes me very happy. I love the oily texture, the deep floral notes, and the ripe fruit and honey flavors – quite lovely.

That was followed by an exciting new wine that Royal Wines helped bring to the kosher market: Drappier Champagne. This is an NV vintage, which is fine for the first release, however after that you are always left wondering if the bottle you buy is an old vintage left on the store shelf or a new fresh bottle. The best way to fix that is to buy it from a store that moves its product well, thereby alleviating the concern. The Champagne was fresh and vibrant with a nice small bubble mousse, and tart green apple flavor. The acidity was bright and poignant, but balanced with lovely white chocolate and toast. The wine was as regal as the woman we toasted may she have a long and healthy life.

That was followed by 2008 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, also a highly controversial wine, I and other like it, and some do not. This wine tastes a bit duller than the last time we had some 9 months ago.

Terra di Seta is the ONLY totally kosher winery in Tuscany! The winery is located in the Chianti Classico wine region of Tuscany. Chianti Classico is one of the 47 DOCG wine regions in Italy. Daniele Della Seta and his wife Maria Pellegrini founded the winery in 2001. According to their website, Terra means both soil, land and earth in Italian, and Seta means silk, while it is also part of the family name. This brand represents therefore the core of the Della Seta-Pellegrini family’s philosophy ad goal, which is to obtain traditional, excellent, and refined products from their unique land property.

Since 2001, Terra di Seta winery is part of a family-run organic farm that makes and sells honey, olive oil, and wine. Since the 2008, the Pellegrini-Della Seta family decided to dedicate the whole grape production (around 37 acres of vineyards) to kosher wine (OK certification): they built a new cellar, with advanced technologies, especially conceived to facilitate some traditional kosher procedures without compromising the high quality level of their wine, so typical of the Chianti Region.

We then moved on to the newly released 2007 Ramon Cardova Rioja Crianza. There are those who do not like the Ramon Cardova wines because they complain of their oxidation. This new vintage has no oxidation out of the bottle, but does show some after 6 or so hours, and to me adds a bit of depth to the wine anyway. The wine is smooth now and probably has two years left in the tank. Finally, we enjoyed another bottle of the 2006 Hagafen Merlot, a wine we have had a few times before, but this one tasted a bit thin. I think we can chalk that up to the food we were eating with it, but later in the evening the wine was still a bit awkward, so maybe this was not a great bottle or it is time to drink up.

The wine notes follow below in the order they were enjoyed:

2008 Elvi Wines Ness Blanco (Spain, Castilla-La Mancha, Ribera del Júcar) – Score: B++
This wine is a 50/50 Moscato and Sauvignon Blanc blend, one that is not very common to me. The first time we tasted this wine, a few months ago, the wine was showing far more Sauvignon Blanc than the Moscato. Now, the wine is showing far more of the Moscato and the honeyed nose and mouth are screaming with pineapple and melon. The nose on this light gold colored wine is screaming with rich honey, mango, bright citrus, pear, melon, pineapple, floral notes, smoky toast, minerality, with a nice sweet and bright/tart nose to boot. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is off dry to semi-sweet with more rich honey, floral, bright citrus, pineapple, melon, mango, and pear. The mid palate is bright and acidic with toast, dirt, mineral, floral notes, and honey. The finish is super long and spicy with rich mango, honey, pineapple, and toast. This is quite a unique wine and one we really enjoyed. This has a year or less left in the tank.

NV Drappier Champagne Carte Blanche Brut (France, Champagne) – Score: A–
The nose light gold colored wine is explosive with rich toast, fluffy white chocolate, herb, grapefruit, bright green apple, malting yeast, and minerality. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is super rich with an energizer bunny small bubble mousse, more toast and brioche, nice yeast, rich herb, super bright and tart green apple that mellows down to a creamy apple sauce, and grapefruit. The mid palate has super bright acid, herb, grapefruit, white chocolate, and mineral. The finish is long and rich with more small bubble mousse, white chocolate, tart green apples, herb, more yeast, and mineral. This is a lovely and balanced wine that does like more time in the glass. Even better leave a few glasses of wine in the bottle, cap it with a normal cork and try it the next day – quite lovely!

2008 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico (Italy, Tuscany, Chianti Classico) – Score: B++ to A–
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is hopping with rich espresso coffee, hints of chocolate, nice dirt, spice, raspberry, cranberry, and dark cherry. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and silky with more espresso, ripe raspberry, dark cherry, and lovely tannin that is nicely integrating. The mid palate is balanced with dirt, acid, tart fruit, spice, oak, and tannin. The finish is long with nice red fruit, acid, spice, tart raspberry, cherry, chocolate, and espresso. On a side note, this is a wine made by the only full time kosher winery in Tuscany! Drink this in the next year or less.

2007 Ramon Cardova Rioja Crianza(Spain, La Rioja, Rioja) – Score: A–
The nose on this black colored wine is rich with oak, dark cherry, espresso coffee, vanilla, raspberry, ripe cassis, plum, date, herb, tobacco, chocolate, licorice, and herb. The mouth on this rich, layered, and mouth coating wine is super concentrated with cassis, raspberry, dark cherry, plum, herbs, and date. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, chocolate, tobacco, oak, lovely tannin, and dark cherry. The finish is long and spicy with integrated tannin, chocolate, oak, tobacco, espresso coffee, vanilla, dark cherry, raspberry, and cassis. This is a really fun and enjoyable wine that has two years left in its tank.

2006 Hagafen Merlot (USA, California, Napa Valley) – Score: B+
This bottle seemed a bit watered down, I hope it was just a bad bottle. The nose on this purple colored wine is filled with rich cedar, black cherry, raspberry, herbs, chocolate, cloves, and smoky notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is classic Hagafen, with a soft plush mouth of rich cedar, plum, raspberry, cherry, and nice mouth coating tannin. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, chocolate, more cedar, and nice tannin. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, cinnamon, cedar, vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, plum, herbs, and tobacco.

Posted on December 29, 2011, in Food and drink, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Sparkling Wine, Kosher White Wine, Wine and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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