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April 5, 2013     Cape Gazette
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April 5, 2013

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Cape Gazette this week's column, I wanted to feature local seasonal produce. Unfor- tunately, the hints of warmth haven't been around long enough for spring vegetables to be available quite yet. Of course, you can find asparagus at the supermarket, but it's been imported from the West Coast or a South American country, not from nearby farmers. Looks like we'll have to talk about parsnips. Although not as popular today as the carrot has be- come, parsnips have also been cultivated since Roman times. They've been grown for food in this country as early as the Jamestown settlement; guid- ance on how best to treat parsnips in your garden comes from an 18th century Williams- burg resident, John Randolph. In his Treatise on Gardening, he correctly advises farmers to harvest parsnips only after a hard frost. The characteristic sweet- ness of parsnips emerges when the living root is frozen and some of its starCh is converted to sugar. In medieval Europe, before cane sugar or honey were readily available, parsnips were used to make sweet dishes such as puddings. In modern recipes for parsnips, you'll find them roasted, mashed, added to soups, stews and savory side dishes. And, an online search for "parsnip cake" will yield some clever variations on tradi- tional carrot cake. If you're not familiar with this root vegetable, it looks like a cream-colored carrot. Pars- nips are typically packaged by the pound in plastic bags and placed in produce shelves near the turnips. Just as in choos- ing carrots, parsnips should be slender and tapered, about sev- en or eight inches long. Don't buy them if they have hairy rootlets starting to emerge through their skin; these are old and have been around too long. Avoid any that are large and thick, as they tend to be woody and tough. I've included a few recipes that showcase the unique flavor of parsnips. For the pancakes in I the photo, mashed parsnips and green onion contribute subtle hints of sweet and savory. The couscous dish takes advantage of the brown bits left behind in the roasting pan by the carrots and parsnips, combining earthy sweetness with saffron and cinnamon. Nutmeg in the baked dish may remind you of sweet potato or pumpkin with an interesting twist from shallots and Parmesan cheese. Not everyone is a fan of pars- nips; some find their sweetness cloying or peculiar. The first time I cooked them for Jack, they were chopped to pose as potatoes in beef stew. He didn't recognize the switch, ask- ing me what type of potatoes they were. Once he knew their name, he declined a serving of roasted parsnips. But, when he tried the parsnip pancakes, he asked for seconds; he'd become a fan. One of the most puzzling discoveries about parsnips is a 400-year-old English proverb: fair words butter no parsnips. Or, in more modern parlance, actions speak louder than words, and buttering up someone or something won't be enough. However, when it comes to parsnips, they're delicious mashed with lots of butter. Parsnip Pancakes 1/2 Ib parsnips 2 T flour 1 egg 2 sliced green onions 2 t chopped parsley salt & pepper, to taste 1 T butter FRIDAY, APRIL 5- MONDAY, APRIL 8, 2013 91 JACK CLEMONS PHOTO PARSNIP PANCAKES offer a blend of sweetness and savory flavor. chives chives. Scrub but do not peel the parsnips. Chop into one-inch Roasted Vegetable Couscous slices, discarding the root. Place 3/4 C diced parsnips in a saucepan and cover with 3/4 C diced carrots water. Boil until tender, about 15 1 T olive oil minutes. Drain and place pars- 2 chicken broth nips in a mixing bowl. Mash 1 pinch saffron until no large lumps remain. 1/2 t cinnamon Whisk in remaining ingredients. 1 t kosher salt Melt butter in a skillet over 2 C couscous medium low heat. Spoon batter Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss into skillet to form 3-inch round the parsnips and carrots with pancakes. Cook until firm and the olive oil in an ovenproof nicely browned. Flip and cook casserole dish until coated. the other side. Serve with but- ter and garnish with snipped Continued on page 92 This wineflash just in: Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva Vigneto Bucerchiale 2009 has just come on sale at $250/case delivered to your house. Friends, let me tell you to buy a case right now. It is rare to find a 95 IWC, 93 i Suckling WS Chianti Riserva for this price. The only Italian reds from 2009 to achieve this I rating were the Sassicaia and i Ornellaia Masseto. Dark, me- dium red-colored, it opens to a very complex nose filled with many lovely aromas. I detect plum, red currant, tobacco, for- est floor and spices. The flavors are thick layers of blueberry, tobacco leaf and earth. The fin- ish is silky and fruit-sweet, with smooth tannins, ripe cherry and spice flavors. I think this is as close to perfection as Chianti can get. However, do not rush out to buy the liver and fava beans just yet. It will definitely improve with another two years in your cellar and drink through 2018. While in Italy at your local wine shop, search out Sartarel- li's 2010 Verdicchio dei Cas- telli di Jesi Classico Superiore Tralivio. It opens to huge peach and floral aromas, but then the minerality appears. The mid- palate is rich and textured, and the wine has exceptional bal- ance and finesse. A very clean, very long, very complex finish shows mint, flowers and citrus with saline notes, 2013-18. Ravenswood Vintners Blend Merlot 2010 is a very nice ex- hibit of winemakers' art. French oak plus opulent fresh plum, round spicy finish with tobacco, leather and vanilla. Cali merlot that has ripe, round, spicy finish with ripe berry flavors. Joel Petersen, aka "the Godfather of Zin," has been knocking them out. This is a lot of wine for $9. The 87-point Deep Creek Cellars Maryland Pinot Noir 2010, 91 McD., $17, is truly an organic with very little tamper- ing by the winemaker. I was reluctant about a Maryland Pinot Noir, but tasting changed my rriind. They use the Eu- ropean model. Employ wild, naturally occurring yeast for fermentation and natural cold- clarification. Deep Creek wines are pure, lively and truly low tech. "We rarely filter and use only minimal amounts of sulfite preservatives. If you enjoy the Nick Wise. The coolest story wine, the winery offers no- concerned Natalie Oliveras, a sulfite bottlings for thOse who Tuscan wino who burst onto request them." the scene in 2004 with her Bridgeview Blue Moon release of Sogno Uno 2004. As Pinot Noir Oregon, WS 89, $15. time evolved, Mrs. Oliveras This Oregon lovely is sourced formed a partnership with from Bear Creek Vineyards winemaker Roberto Cipresso and Estate grapes. Dark stone, and bought LaFiorito from its fruit aromas with some notes previous owners. The prod- of cedar give way to flavors ucts they have been releasing of licorice and black currants, have had favorable reviews by Great up front, and well-round- RP and others. Recently they ed tannins give it a structured have put a lovely Tuscan Super balance that has a lasting finish. Cuvee named NV Fattoria La WS wrote this up as the Best of Fiorito Laurus Toscana IGT the West PN. Those who are onto the market. This will take interested in comments by a cooperation from your wine guy who is an expert on terroir store guy or ability on the net. and how rocks affect wine, If you can buy it under $25, it especially Carmenere, can read will be worth the effort. OK, so a very well-done interview what piqued my curiousity on by Rebecca Gibb with Pedro this wine? It urns out that Mrs. Parra, noted Chilean wine Oliveras was formerly known geologist. Extremely interest- as Savanna Samson, a notori- ing for the curious, go here: ous American porn star. I found, her candid conversation with com/rn/2013/O3/q-and-a-pedro- the writer to be humorous and parra-terroir-expert. If you are compelling and applaud her not internet friendly you can go continued interest in providing to your public library for help. titillation for the winedrink- I just put down a wonderful ers of the world. The wine was book, "Celebrity Vineyards: great! From Napa to Tuscany in Email John McDonald at chjonmc@yahoo. Search of Great Wine," by com.