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Meatballs, Panade, Linguini, and a bottle of Binyamina Zinfandel

On the weekend of August 12th we were laying low with a continued hunkering for meatballs. I cannot truly explain why I am constantly tinkering with my meatball recipe. I guess I can only say that I like to tinker, and I like to play with recipes. This one went very wrong! I normally add in shredded vegetables to make the meatballs softer, instead of using a panade. What is a panade and what do you use it for? According to Cook’s Illustrated: “A panade is a paste of milk and bread that is typically used to help foods like meatballs and meatloaf hold their shape and moisture. Starches from the bread absorb liquid from the milk to form a gel that coats and lubricates the protein molecules in the meat, much in the same way as fat, keeping them moist and preventing them from linking together to form a tough matrix. Mixing the beef and panade in a food processor helps to ensure that the starch is well dispersed so that all the meat reaps its benefits.”

Steaks can handle being eaten medium rare, my favorite temperature, because the bacteria does not penetrate the solid surface of a steak too deeply. However, ground meat can have or attract the bacteria and now it has the potential to get into every nook and cranny of the meatball or burger – which can be painful or far worse. The answer is to fully cook the ground meat dish and still have something edible in the end, which is no small feat. The panade gives you a cushion or life jacket because it allows you to cook the ground meat right to the end and maybe a bit more and not end up with ground up shoe leather.

So while the panade does wonders for ground meat recipes, it does not work in a kosher home – given the whole “meat and milk thing”. That leaves us with a need to get a substance that starts off dry and ends up soft – vegetables! This is not the first time we have made meatballs with vegetables, however, it is the first time we have done it with vegetables that I did not squeeze out! Ouch! I was lazy and tired and did not want to bother – big mistake.

The meatballs came out fine, but they were overly soft. I should have seen it when I made the mixture. A few rules about meatballs:

1) NEVER over mix them – the more you slam them around the harder and more gummy they get
2) A mixture that is correct should feel more like a stiff dough than a soft one – that is where I messed up
3) Cook the meatballs until they float in the pan (if you are braising them). They will sink to start, and the second they bob up to the surface, yank them out.
4) To be sure they are not ready, make sure to not overstuff the pan and the braise, so that the meatballs have freedom to rise to the surface when ready

There you go – I hope you all can learn from my mistakes and, lets be honest – bobbing for meatballs is so much more enjoyable than rotten apples!

To pair with this lovely tasting, albeit overly soft, meatballs, we cooked up a pot of linguini and a tossed a fresh bowl of green salad. The wine we enjoyed over the weekend was the 2007 Binyamina Zinfandel. We also enjoyed a few more wines in the same time, so I am adding them here for posterity.

2007 Binyamina Zinfandel Special Reserve (Israel, Galilee) – Score: B to B++
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine starts off way to hot, however over time it calms down to expose chocolate, tobacco, cedar, raspberry, plum, blackcurrant, black cherry, crushed herbs, dirt, and mound of black pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is starting to show its age with excessive date flavors that taste oxidized, plush mouth feel from nice tannin, rich loamy dirt, raspberry, plum, blackcurrant, and black cherry. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, cedar, and vanilla. Th finish is long and spicy with heaps of black pepper, chocolate, tobacco, vanilla, blackcurrant, date, cedar, and herbs. Cedar, black pepper, date, raspberry, black currant, chocolate, and vanilla linger.

2009 Cantina Gabriele Pinot Grigio (Italy) – Score: B
This past weekend I tasted this bottle at our synagogue’s kiddush and it was lacking to say the least. The nose on this wine was totally killer! The nose on this light gold colored wine was exploding with lemon, aroma, pepper, honeyed melon, and peach. Unfortunately, that was where it ended. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine was dead with light hints of acidity, peach, honey, and melon. The mid palate was totally flat with little bite, more sweet fruit and melon. The finish was average with a bit of bite but it faded quickly leaving only a hint of melon, honey, and light floral notes. I was so hopeful after the nose but so it goes.

2009 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon Yecla (Spain, Murcia, Yecla) – Score: B to B+
Still really like this bottle especially given the cheap price. Much has stayed the same but a few new nuances have shown up. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich with dirt, cloves, graphite, raspberry, blackberry, crushed herbs, a hint of chocolate, and black cherry. After some time blueberry also makes an appearance, however at that time the wine is starting to degrade. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is heavy with tannin that lends to a nice but crazy mouth feel, along with blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry. The mid palate is bone dry and acidic along with some chocolate and a fair amount of crushed herbs. The finish is long with chocolate, blackberry, black cherry, crushed herbs, mint, and some mineral. This wine is really nice for the price! (103 views)

2007 Binyamina Cabernet-Merlot Yogev Kosher (Israel, Samson) – Score: B
The nose on this garnet colored wine with brown halo has an almost dead nose with chocolate, rich tobacco, dirt, mineral, blackcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, herbs, date from light oxidity, and oak. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts to show oxidation with date flavors, blackberry, blackcurrant, herbs, soft tannin, and black cherry. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, spicy oak, more soft tannin, and tobacco. The finish is long with date, tobacco, blackberry, blackcurrant, crushed herbs, and vanilla. This wine dies quickly, drink up or use for cooking.

2003 Four Gates Merlot Kosher (USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains) – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this electric blue/purple colored wine is vibrant and expressive with rich sweet oak, smoky, vanilla, black candied cherry, raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, bramble, chocolate, tobacco, crushed herbs, and date. The mouth on this lovely and full bodied wine is concentrated and expressive like its nose, from its fruit and tannin, with slowly integrating tannin, raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, cherry, and crushed herbs. The mid palate has balanced acid, chocolate, sweet oak, tobacco, and nice integrating tannin. The finish is super long and spicy with acidity, rich ripe plum, chocolate, tobacco, vanilla, long and luxurious finish with dates and vanilla.

Bean and Rice soup, Roast, Meat Sauce, Roasted Vegetables, Rice Pilaf, and a bunch of wine…

On the weekend of January 8th, we had a Friday night party, with my nephews from Chicago and from around the Bay Area, and Benyamin Cantz.  The meal started with a wicked cool soup that we made for the first time and then followed it with a roast, some meat sauce, brown rice, roasted vegetables, and fresh salad.  The soup recipe is below, and is from a recipe book – fittingly called – Soup!  We laughed about the soup book, because my Sister is the owner of Source Books, and we bantered around about how much time she would have spent on just the picture on the front of the book, which of course is a bowl of soup!  After the soup, we made some roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets, rutabagas, parsnip).  The vegetables were so good because we roasted them until they released their water and started to crystallize the sugars – which makes them extra yummy!  They went along nicely with the roasted shoulder meat, which was braised with peas and carrots, and a bunch of wine – recipe can be found here.  The meat sauce was a lot like this one, without trying to make meatballs out of it.  They were all paired with a lovely brown rice pilaf and a fresh green salad.

Rice & White Bean Soup Recipe
9 oz of white beans
Olive Oil
Onions
Garlic
Diced Carrots
Diced Zucchini
Diced Red peppers
Cubed Soy Sausage
Thyme
Bay Leaf
Chicken or vegetable stock
Half a cup of brown rice

Place the beans in water over night and then drain and rinse a few times the next day.  Sauté the onions and sausage until browned.  Add in the garlic, and once browned nicely, throw in the diced zucchini, carrots, and peppers.  Wait for the vegetables to give off their liquid and then add in the herbs and vegetable stock.  Wait for the soup to boil and throw in the washed and rinsed beans.  Lower the heat to simmer and stir the soup every so often until the beans are softening (about an hour).  Then throw in the rice, and whatever other seasoning (salt, pepper, etc.) to taste, and wait another 30 or so minutes.

The wine we chose to pair with this food was partly from Four Gates Winery and partly from our cellar.  One wine from my cellar was a massive and huge dud, while the other one was OK.  Both of the wines from Four Gates (one of which is still unreleased), were quite nice indeed.

The wine notes follow below:

2006 Cantina Gabriele Sangiovese – Score: B+
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine is rich with loamy notes, black cherry is ever evident, some violet, and a bit of plum. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is mouth coating with integrated tannins, plum, and concentrated cherry flavors. The mid palate is balanced with integrated tannins and acid. The finish is long with loamy soil, a hint of floral notes, and a ton of cloying tart cherries at the very end. The tart cherries throw off the finish and ruin the wine, which is a shame, because of the rest of the package.

2006 Hevron Heights Mount Hevron Red – Score: C-
This bottle was either really wrong or it is flawed at birth. The bottle had way too much volatile acidity, which messed up an already not so great wine. The nose on this vibrant garnet – purple colored wine is over the top with Volatile Acidity, cherry, plum, and coffee. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is flush with cranberry, plum, and eucalyptus. The rest of the flavor profile is cherry and coffee and not much more than that because of the VA.

2006 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. – Score: A
When we last tasted this wine it was a bit redder.  Now the wine has turned black (as has its younger brother the 2006 Merlot La Rochelle), and it is a crazy joy to drink and share with your friends and family.  The interesting thing is that, while there are some red characteristics to this wine, the black ones clearly stand out.  Who knows, it may well go back to its red past, which was still one wonderful wine as well.

The nose on this purple to black colored wine is screaming with rich oak, cassis, blackberry, plum, raspberry, tobacco, chocolate, and licorice.  The mouth of this full bodied wine is full of raspberry, cassis, plum, and blackberry.  The mouth’s tannins are slowly integrating and creating a lovely mouth coating experience that fills out the already full wine’s body, and the layers of fruit accentuate the palate with nice oak notes.  The mid palate is balanced with acid, chocolate, nice tannins, and spicy oak.  The finish is long and rich with red fruit, more spicy oak, licorice, and chocolate.  The wine is a massive black Merlot that is layered, complex, and screaming with black fruit and extracted flavors.

2006 Four Gates (Yet Undisclosed Name) – Score: A-
The nose on this royal purple to black colored wine is filled with raspberry, plum, floral notes, kirsch cherry, oak, and spice.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is hopping with raspberry, plum, and cherry.  The mouth comes at you layer after layer on a plush mouth with mouth coating tannins.  The mid palate is balanced with acid, integrating tannins, and coffee.  The finish is long with red fruit, vanilla, lovely tannins, coffee, and a hint of leather.

Purim 2008

This Purim I drank wine with friends on Thursday night and at Friday lunch.  After all that, Shabbos was a nice break from wine.  Thursday night I did not take notes.  So these are more memory of what I tasted than actual facts.

Thursday Night:

Rothberg Cellars Pinotage 2004 – This wine exhibits classic Pinotage stylings with a bit of tannin and spicy oak.  The nose was flush with cherries and red fruit.  The mouth was medium bodied and fruity.  The finish was medium long and had a bit of spicy oak.  An OK attempt at a Pinotage – I liked the Welnerberg Pinotage 2005 more, but that is my take.

Cantina Gabriele Sangiovese 2005 – This wine is a classic fruit bomb, and a bit too much for my taste.  The saving grace was that it had enough oak to dull the fruit but it had a bit more tannin than I was expecting.  The tannins actually accentuated the fruit bomb – almost making it worse.  To that I will say that this wine has a chance to age a bit more and maybe calm down.  The fruit forwardness of the wine is evident from the nose – filled with cherries, cherries, and more cherries.  The mouth was medium – full bodied with sour cherry and briar.  The finish is very long with more sour cherry.

Monte Olivo Umbria Rosso 2005 – This wine was a real winner.  Huge nose and an awesome specimen.  For being a house wine this is a real winner.  The wine is reasonably priced to boot.  The wine has a wonderful nose of blackberry and tobacco.  The mouth on this full bodied wine was fruity but the tannins have yet to integrate, but the mouth coating wine will be better over time for sure.  The mouth is filled with blackberries and cassis, the finish is long and loaded with oak and tobacco.

Friday Lunch – with real notes:

Bashan Merlot Eitan 2005 – Score: B+
The nose on this mature garnet colored wine is filled with blackberry, old socks, oak, vanilla, and sour cherry.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine has nice integrated tannins, vanilla, black fruit up front and then a medium finish that is filled with a spicy oak finish.

Bashan Cabernet Sauvignon Eitan 2005 – Score: A-
Notes still hold true to my tasting that we had in Israel in the Bashan Winery.

Mount Meroma Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 – Score: B-
This one was definitely passed its time.  It is a shame because it was ready to go about 5 years ago.  The crazy thing about this wine was 10 minutes after it was opened, it was gone.  Nothing left.  These notes are right when it was opened and seems to have been from its last gasps of life – if that :-).  The nose on this almost brown colored wine has light aromas of oak and red fruit.  The mouth on this medium – full bodied wine has integrated tannins, dirty socks, oak, and raspberry.  The finish was almost non-existent, but had hints of vanilla and mint.

Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve Napa Valley 2002 – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine was packed with blackberry, cassis, figs, and oak.  The mouth on this full bodied wine starts with well integrated tannins, than the blackberry, cassis, and sweet wood mingle together into a complex blend that is quite intriguing.  The finish is medium long with tobacco and sweet oak.

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