Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Day at the Vineyard & Brown Rice Risotto

Hello, friends! Happy holidays to you all. I hope you are all enjoying a long vacation with close friends and family.

It's been too long since I posted. Although my goal is to post at least once a week, I got caught up in the end-of-the-year chaos. It happens. Aside from the usual Christmas shopping and travel-planning, the end of the semester is a busy time for college instructors (my day job). Final grades are due, and then there is the never-ending stream of emails from students who never really came to class all semester but are suddenly interested in passing. So, once the emails were ignored and the grades submitted, Geoff and I packed up our stuff and our "special needs" dog Tommy, and headed to Tallahassee for a week of Christmas festivities. 

That went by in a flash, and now we are about 600 miles north in Geoff's hometown in Central Virginia - a beautiful part of the country home to many local vineyards and breweries. If you read any of my traveling blog posts, you probably know that I have a serious love for wine, and lately my husband has gotten into it at a much higher level than myself. So, the fact that his parents live in a town surrounded by lots local vineyards is pretty freaking cool. 

I also love that we get to spend our summers here (we run a summer theatre festival) because it allows me to take advantage of the amazing Virginia produce.

OK love note to Virginia section is now officially over. <3

This week, we were fortunate enough to spend the afternoon at Ankida Ridge Vineyards, the newest local vineyard in Amherst County. We met the owners, Christine Vrooman and her son, Nathan, last summer when we invited them to pour their newly bottled wine at our outdoor production of Twelfth Night. We later found out that this event would be their public debut, which made us feel super special. Their wine was a hit with the audience, and more importantly (well to me, anyway), I loved it. 

They are currently selling two varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are not necessarily considered to be the norm in Central Virginia. Almost all of the vineyards in the area focus on sweeter wines - Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Rosé . The reds tend to either be Cabernet Franc (not my fav) or a some sort of blend that includes Cab Franc. Ankida is doing things their way, and I like it. They have already been given rave reviews by a number of wine enthusiasts, including Dave MnIntyre of The Washington Post. In other words, they are makin' it happen.

Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Savignon, and Chardonnary fermented in french oak barrels
2010 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ready for tasting
On Wednesday, we drove the windy mountain roads up to their tucked-away winery. It is a beautiful location, even in the dead of winter. I can only imagine what it must look like in the fall.

The view from the vineyard
Young Chardonnay planted in rows
Christine and Nathan walked us through their process, from growing and picking the grapes, to fermenting and bottling. It was informative and super interesting, and it didn't hurt that we were able to taste some wine while we were there. Also, they had cheese. I love cheese. 

Christine. She knows her wine.
Geoff and his parents. It's a very serious moment.
Geoff smelling the Cabernet as it ferments
Cab Franc made with grapes from Donald Trump's vineyard
We left there with some bottles of chardonnay, so I decided that a creamy risotto would make a perfect pairing to the crisp, dry white wine. 

Before I move on to the recipe for today, a quick disclaimer. Risotto purists, stop reading now. I do not stir this risotto constantly, I do not add the broth a thumb-full at a time, and I use BROWN RICE. I know, it's a crime. But I like it, and it's healthier, so deal with it. 

Risotto can be made with a number of different vegetables and protein, but I went with what I already had in the refrigerator. A big, sturdy head of winter radicchio added a pop of color and a lot of flavor, and topping it all with a poached egg made it a meal. Although I don't usually eat eggs, I have been reading one of my new Christmas books, An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. She worked with Alice Waters for years, and writes her book more as a narrative than a series of recipes. She, like Alice, promotes simple, local, seasonal food, and somehow she makes a poached, local egg sounds absolutely delicious. I still have no desire to eat a factory farmed, genetically modified egg, but a local brown egg from Horse and Buggy Produce with a bight golden yolk will do just fine.
Enjoy this risotto as a main dish with a small green salad, and feel free to top it with whatever protein you have on hand.

Brown Rice Risotto with Radicchio & Poached Egg
Serves 4
2 tablespoons butter 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups short-grain brown rice
1 small head radicchio, minced
3/4 cups dry white wine
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (good quality)
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
black pepper
4 teaspoons white vinegar
4 local free-range eggs

1. In saucepan, heat vegetable stock to slow boil.
2. In large, wide-sided skillet, heat oil and butter over medium. Add onions, saute for 3 minutes. Add garlic and radicchio, saute for 3-4 more minutes. Add brown rice, stir to combine, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until rice starts to toast - about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in wine and cook until liquid has evaporated.
4. Stir in 4 cups vegetable stock, cover, and let cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring frequently. When liquid as evaporated, and rice is still chewy, add more broth. Continue to do this until rice is soft. If 6 cups of broth is not enough, begin to add hot water.
5. When rice is almost done, boil water and vinegar in a saucepan and poach eggs for 3 minutes.
6. Season the risotto liberally with black pepper, and taste. Depending on the broth, you may not need to add salt, but adjust as needed. Add parmesan and parsley to risotto and stir to combine. Pour into individual serving dishes, top with a poached egg, a garnish with a sprig of parsley or additional grated parmesan.

New Burg Article - Chestnuts!

Check out my latest Burg article on chestnuts. Includes chestnut history, a how-to guide (roasting on an open fire may not be the best idea), and yummy recipes for Linguini with Chestnuts, Porcinis, and Marscapone  - perfect holiday meal for entertaining a small group.

Click here to read my article on The Burg website. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Burg Article: Tasty Turnips!

My article in The Burg this week focused on the tasty turnip. Not a common vegetable on American tables, but one that deserves a second look. Check out my recipes for Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with Turnip Remoulade & Creamy Turnips with Horseradish. 

Read the article here.