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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.

2009 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot

With so much food leftover from our Passover meals we enjoyed a lovely Sabbath of leftovers, more leftovers, some lovely asparagus, and a lovely bottle of 2009 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot. I must admit that we had previously tasted this wine and I was NOT hoping for much out of it. Rogov had little real love for it, stating that it was showing better than his previous tasting, and we tasted it on Purim, and it was a Black Currant fruit bomb. So when we opened this bottle, there was little we were looking for other than a dark wine to go with some meat dishes. In the end the wine started off very much akin to what we remembered on Purim, with a bit more roundness to the mouth. However, as the meal continued the wine started to open up more, the insane Cabernet flavors of black currant and raspberry took a back seat, and the Petit Verdot fruit had a chance to shine. Now to use the terms Petit Verdot and fruit in the same sentence is very much akin to saying New York Yankees and Mets. You see, there is very little fruit that one expects or associates with the Petit Verdot grape varietal. Classically, PV (Petit Verdot) was used as a blending grape (Coupage), with its calling card being added color, tannin, and flavors. In France where it rarely ripens to its fullest potential, the grapes lend a violet like flavor to wines. However, in the Israel, which is in the Mediterranean, the grapes fully ripen and give the wine its badly needed weight, color, and tannin, but the grape also gives the wine more non-fruit flavors, like roasted meat, tar, pencil, molasses, cigar box, espresso coffee, and black olives.

To my delight, the wine was truly a joy once it started to show its more bold flavors and the tannins were quite calm all along, giving the wine an early accessibility, while also showing more than enough body, weight, acid, and stuffing to allow this wine some more staying power. I found the wine lovely now, after some airtime, and Daniel Rogov thinks the wine can stay till 2013. I think the wine shows a bit better than Daniel does, but in either case, I think this is a wine that can be enjoyed now or in the next year or so. Enjoy this with some good meat dishes or some nice medium hard cheeses, which we did on the Sabbath afternoon.

The wine note follows below:

2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon – Petit Verdot, Yogev – Score: B++
This wine started off showing primarily its Cabernet fruit, but overtime the 20% Petite Verdot started to shine through with espresso coffee, roasted meat and nice black olives. The nose on this purple to black colored wine explodes with heavy black currant, raspberry, mounds of crushed herb, eucalyptus, dirt, smoky notes, and oak. Overtime the wine starts to show off more of its Petite Verdot fruit with roasted meat, espresso coffee, and black olives. The mouth on this rich and full bodied wine is soft with lovely integrated tannin, black currant on first attack, followed by raspberry, crushed herb, and blackberry. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, oak, more integrated tannin, smoky notes, and herbs. The finish is long, spicy, and luscious with black currant, espresso coffee, smoked meat, herb, inky, and rich. This is a lovely wine that is great to drink right now or in the next couple of years!

Puttanesca, Cholent, and two more 2007 Binyamina Yogev wines

This past week we enjoyed some simpler home cooking; Puttanesca and Cholent. I have long ago modified the original puttanesca recipe, for many reasons. Pasta sauce recipes call for finishing the sauce by placing the pasta into the pan of sauce. The issue here is that on Shabbos this is really not the best way to serve this for us, as it does not last long this way, and two of us will not finish the dish. We do this so that we can have leftovers, but again, that does not match the recipe format. Also, I like to add things to the recipe, like ground tofu and vegetables. So here is my revised version of the recipe, and enjoy whichever you prefer:

Puttanesca Sauce Recipe:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 finely chopped onions
  • 1 tsp of salt to help sweat the onions
  • 1 pound of sliced brown mushrooms
  • 3 diced zucchini
  • 6 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 oz of anchovies (tin or tube)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (or crushed by you) with juice
  • 1 jar of Kalamata olives without juice (any other olive is a waste of time)
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes

First put the oil in a large pan and heat up the oil till it is almost smoking. Then saute the onions and salt and watch them till they get nice and browned. Then add in the mushrooms and saute them till they just start to get soft and are releasing their juice, then throw in the zucchini and wait till they are just soft. At this point the mushrooms should be getting browned and the onions should be golden. Then make room in the pan so that there is enough exposed space to heat the garlic and the anchovies. The idea is that the anchovies become paste like and integrate into the vegetables. If you are starting with anchovies from a tube then you are already there. If you are using anchovies from a tin, like I do, then you need saute them in their oil until they get warm and start to fall apart. Once the mixture is all integrated, add in the tomatoes, Kalamata olives (without juice), capers, basil and red pepper flakes.

Wait for the mixture to thicken, which takes some 40 or so minutes, and then it is ready. I cool it down and warm it back up on Friday, before the Sabbath. That said, others may well want to serve it right then and there, along with some lovely al dente pasta. We do not finish the pasta in the sauce as the recipe calls for two reasons; we like to eat more sauce than pasta, and because putting the pasta in the sauce for a few hours, even right before the Sabbath starts, would turn the al dente pasta into mush in short time. For Saturday lunch we had some nice vegetable cholent which is something we enjoy and whose leftovers we enjoy throughout the week.

When looking for some wine to pair with these dishes I decided to try more of the Yogev wines that I had in the cellar. I did this because I wanted to know if last weeks’ bad showing for the 2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz was a fluke or sad reality. The truth is that they are well past their prime and, while they were not DOA, they are clearly vintages that need to be drunk ASAP.

The wine notes below are listed in the order that they were tasted:

2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon – Shiraz – Score: B to B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine, with brown overtones, is filled with blackberry, black currant, black cherry, vanilla, crushed herbs, light oak tones, along with pepper notes. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine follows the nose with blackberry, cassis, and black cherry. The mid palate is balanced with soft tannin, cedar, acid, and dates. The finish is long and spicy, with rising pepper notes, cedar, black fruit, and vanilla, with black cherry, pepper, and vanilla lingering. Drink up this wine is dying quickly.

2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet-Merlot – Score: B to B+
This wine is declining very quickly! The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine, with a hint of brown, is filled with dirt/mineral, blackberry, cranberry, black Currant, cedar, and bramble. The black currant quickly overpowers the palate and nose. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has soft tannin, bramble, dirt, blackberry, black currant, along with a lovely mouthfeel. The Black Currant again becomes dominant on the palate, throwing it a bit off balance. The mid palate is balanced with acid, lovely tannin, oak, tobacco, and coffee. The finish is nice with tobacco, coffee, oak, black currant, black berry, and bramble. Black Currant, tobacco, and coffee linger long on the palate after the wine is gone. Drink UP!!!!!

2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet/Shiraz, 2007 Barkan Classic Petite Syrah, Chicken Soup, Lemon Roasted Chicken, and Cholent

The weekend of February 18th, was the first one home in some time, so it was all about easy food and blessed relaxation. My wife whipped up her lovely lemon roasted chicken and I pulled out some chicken soup, that I had whipped up before I left, from the freezer. Chicken soup freezes really well, but be wary about which vegetables you choose to freeze with the broth. Some vegetables do not mind freezing, like carrots and sweet potato, however turnips and zucchini do not fare nearly as well. Also, while chicken soup does well in the freezer, it is all about what technology you use to freeze the soup. In one word – air – is your enemy. So, the simplest and least expensive method I have found for freezing is to use freezer bags, from your favorite brand, and fill them up with the soup, making sure to get out every drop of air, while being mindful to not make a massive mess. This method has worked great for us, and we put the bag in a tupperware and such, to give the bag extra support, and protection from protruding metal and other hard surfaces, that would like to puncture the bag’s outer shell.

To pair with soup and chicken I went looking for some nice wine and took out a bottle of the 2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet/Shiraz, which I bought last year during the Passover sales. Let me just say two words – DRINK UP!!! The bottle I opened was DOA (Dead on Arrival), which was a real shame. Clearly oxidized, without a nick or flaw to be found on the cork, so clearly a bad bottle, and down the drain it went. I then moved on to another Israeli 2007 bottle, and found a 2007 Barkan Classic Petite Syrah, also acquired last year during the Passover sales. This one was a bit more alive, but clearly on its way down. At least this bottle has an excuse of having been mevushal before bottling.

In the end, no real winners were found in liquid form this weekend, other than the wonderful chicken soup, which was really all I needed!

2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz Blend – Score: DOA

2007 Barkan Classic Petite Syrah – Score: B- to B
This is a nice and lively wine with rich blackberry, black cherry, kirshe cherry, and smoke on the nose and mouth, along with a now soft mouth feel. The wine is also starting to exhibit some cooked fruit flavors so drink up!!!

Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Chicken Soup, and Tajine

This past week saw us lying low at home with the weather being cold and wet, and downright unpleasant. To start we cooked a lovely chicken soup, with nice winter vegetables, along with most of a chicken, the recipe can be found here. After that, it was on to a non-meat Moroccan Merguez Tajine, using Tofurkey and Trader Joe’s sausage. That was paired with nice Brown Basmati rice and a fresh green salad. You cannot go wrong with Chicken Soup on a cold winter night, but the Tajine also hit the spot quite nicely.

To pair with the diverse dishes, I went into the cellar for a bottle of 2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot. The bottle is OK, but the real interesting aspect is the fruit that I was having a problem recognizing. It is a fruit that I have found often in French Bordeaux, at least the ones I have tasted, a Black Currant. I have tasted this fruit in wine before, but I could never really lock down what it was. I double checked Daniel Rogov’s book and sure enough it was Black Currant, at least according to his last tasting. So, once again, you learn new things every day! The Yogev blend is a classic Bordeaux blend, and the wine also shows notes of tobacco and some nice earthy elements, all of which would have made me think this was a French wine, if not for the fact that I knew it was not.

Either way, it started off nice, but over time the Black Currant became too dominant and tilted the wine off balance a bit. Still, it is a lush and medium to full bodied wine that has nice mouthfeel and one that is probably a bit past its peak.

The wine note follows below:

2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot – Score: B to B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine, with a hint of brown, is filled with dirt/mineral, blackberry, cranberry, Black Currant, date (from slight oxidation), cedar, and bramble. Over time the Black Currant becomes dominant and tilts the nose a bit off balance. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has lovely tannin, bramble, dirt, blackberry, date, black currant, along with a lovely mouthfeel. The Black Currant again becomes dominant on the palate, throwing it a bit off balance, but still nice. The mid palate is balanced with acid, lovely tannin, oak, tobacco, and coffee. The finish is nice with tobacco, coffee, oak, black currant, black berry, and bramble. Black Currant, tobacco, and coffee linger long on the palate after the wine is gone.

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