By Sarah Platanitis
This month’s Good Eats is all about wine from the Rioja region of Spain. Rioja is a picturesque region in northern Spain and home to some of the most food-friendly wines in the world. It’s also the next-door neighbor to Castilla and León, the region where I lived for a while in my early 20s.
My two favorite things to do with friends were travel the countryside and eat. I still dream about the foods that we found and it has become a habit to pick-up a Rioja wine for everyday pours and special occasions because it pairs well with a wide array of culinary styles outside the Iberian peninsula.
Rioja wines are made with tempranillo grapes, a black grape that ripens early and known as the king of grapes. They give notes of plum, tobacco, leather and vanilla. The alcohol and acidity are deftly balanced and I’ve even seen sorbet made with sweeter Garnacha grape blends.
Riojas can be found in traditional ruby red, as a white (blanco) and a rose (rosado). Winemakers don’t rush their wines to market but rather release them from their cellars ready to drink. This means a perfect wine every time. Most bottles are priced around $15 and a fine vintage runs $30 or less.
In the dusty city of Salamanca, a place with ancient architecture that I once called home, tapas are called “pinchos” because of the toothpicks that pierce the savory snacks. The place we used to visit often would first serve us tiny bowls of piping hot potato stew, the abuelita’s healthier riff on patatas bravas, or fried potatoes, then we’d order up a big plate of lamb “lollipops” with whole fried garlic cloves and a Rioja red. Trust me, there’s no better way to sip away spend an evening.
- ½ cup olive oil
- 20 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole
- Salt and pepper (have shakers at the ready!)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced
- 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 lb. potato, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 red bell peppers, dried
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup white wine, dry
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper
- Rinse and clean lamb. Pat dry. Season heartily with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and fry cloves of garlic until golden. Transfer to a container and keep hot. Fry cutlets on both sides in oil, about 2 minutes a side. Serve hot with garlic cloves.
- Heat olive oil and saute onions and green pepper until brown. Add diced potatoes, garlic, red bell pepper and bay leaf. Add white wine and top with enough water to cover veggies. Season with spices. Bring to a boil, cover then simmer for 25 minutes or until tender. Remove red bell pepper and bay. Mince red bell pepper and set aside. Adjust stew seasoning with salt and cayenne. Serve hot and top with a dollop of red bell pepper.
Sarah grew up a “restaurant kid” and spent most of her childhood pretending to be Julia Child. Her blog (sarahinthekitchen.com) is a place for kitchen musings and her food writing, photography and illustrations.