Orzo-Mint Salad with Prosciutto, Figs, Pecans, and Goat Cheese

Fig: the name doesn’t quite befit this beautiful fruit, does it? Use black California Mission figs in a refreshing summer salad. ©iStockphoto.com/Ivan Mateev

Figs! When fig season is upon us, I freak out and buy as many as possible (short of troubling my digestive system), because we don’t really know how long it will last and how long they will be in the store (kind of like life, so seize the day and enjoy!).

Figs are so good for you! Did you know that figs are a great source of fiber and are highly alkaline? Alkaline means they reduce the acidity in your body, making it a hostile environment for cancer.

Here are some fun fig facts, for my fellow figophiles.

This pasta salad is yummy-licious! A friend of mine told me she made an orzo pasta with pecans, figs and mint a few years ago. I loved her idea but I upped the ante by rounding it out with some ham and cheese.

This pasta would be great with a white wine, maybe a Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, or Pinot Grigio. See? There’s my wine reference!

Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market are the grocery stores I know of that carry the fresh California Black Mission figs regularly.

In fact, during the summer, you should be able to buy this meal completely at Trader Joe’s.

You will need:
Extra virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar (I used lavender)
Salt and pepper
One 16 oz. package Orzo pasta (a full package is a lot, use half if you like)
One box fresh black California Mission figs, sliced into bite sizes (dry is not acceptable)
One package prosciutto, chopped (optional)
One 5 oz. log goat cheese, crumbled
One package unsalted dry roasted pecan pieces
Fresh mint leaves (to taste)

Prepare the orzo according to package instructions. Drain, run some cold water over the pasta to cool it off. Once the pot is cooled off, put the cooled pasta back in the pot and drizzle and toss with oil & vinegar. Add the figs, goat cheese, pecans, prosciutto (if any) and mint leaves. Mix well. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

If orzo pasta ain’t yo thang, substitute with cooked rice, couscous, or quinoa.

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Say Oui (Wee!) to Pinot Gris

Gorgeous Pinot Gris grapes. Photo by Andrew Fogg.

Chateau Faire Le Pont Milbrandt Vineyards Pinot Gris 2009

I should just come out and say it: Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio is perhaps my least favorite wine. It’s like a limp handshake; it’s perplexing and doesn’t really do anything for you. Boring, disappointing, and uninspiring are all words that come to mind when I think of pinot gris. Why, you ask? Well, we’re all entitled to our preferences, and while I’ve gone into tastings with an open mind I still
don’t quite get pinot gris. It’s so light you can sometimes barely taste the flavors, or else it tastes like grass clippings, and not the pleasant variety. This is why I would tend to opt for just about any other white.

First of all, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio… the only difference is in the name. Pinot Gris is the French term and Pinot Grigio the Italian. It is a white grape that is a mutation of the red Pinot Noir grape. Don’t worry, they are not trying to confuse you on purpose.

So, as a Pinot Gris agnostic, imagine my surprise when I try a Pinot Gris I actually like! Sacre bleu, such a thing really exists?

It does!

Chateau Faire Le Pont, one of my favorite Wenatchee wineries, makes a knockout Pinot Gris. It has a body and focus with depth and persuasion — more like a French kiss than a limp handshake! Oooh la la, now we’re talkin’!

From the tasting notes: “Floral with just a hint of sweetness, our 2009 Pinot Gris exhibits intense peach, melon, apple, honey and almond flavors that sail on and on throughout the long, lingering finish.” Doesn’t this just transport you to the French Riviera? Note the rich fruit flavors, hint of sweetness, and mouth feel; these qualities give the wine more depth, dimension, and deliciousness than a typical pinot gris. Pinot Gris’ ancestral turf is the Alsace region of France, where the grape has been cultivated to exhibit more fruity and floral flavors than the dryer, more minerally Italian Pinot Grigio grapes. No reminders of cow cud with this wine!

Now if only I could drink this while actually lounging aboard a sailboat on the
Mediterranean, I think Pinot Gris could become my favorite wine ever! In the mean time, I can sip it on my deck in the sunshine, close my eyes, and drift away.

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

So Cheap It Feels Like Cheating

Pinot Grigio for when your wallet’s hurting (but your taste buds are hankering)

The other day my friend commented about a shopping experience at a certain grocery wholesaler: “The food was so cheap it felt like I was stealing!” She could not get over how low the prices were on everyday food items.

Don’t you love that feeling? The moment you are stunned by an item’s price and then ride the wave of compulsion to buy it because it’s so cheap you almost feel sorry for it. It deserves your dollars by sheer virtue of its ridiculously low price. Oh yes, the psychology of spending money, always a fascinating topic.

Ah, Venice! Maybe X marks the spot of an ancient rat-infested wine cellar?

Gaetano D’Aquino White Wine of Venezie is – gasp! – $4 a bottle at Trader Joe’s and very tasty. It may be cheap, but it doesn’t taste like it (I love that in a wine!). Spending less than $4 a bottle, though, means you’re either buying a large quantity of wine on sale or you’re buying bad wine. Nota bene: The Rambling Vine does not like two-buck Chuck. It’s a taste issue. But you make up your own mind, it’s a free country.

This wine is super light with citrus flavors, and has a slight tart, mineral finish. It’s perfect chilled, and an ideal wine to have on hand during the summer. Pleasant, agreeable, should pair with any number of things.

Be reassured… you’re not cheating. It may be cheap, but you’re not cheating on taste and quality. Ciao!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.