Wednesday, February 24, 2010

what am i gonna do with all that canned tuna?

There have been reports this past week about canned tuna containing far more mercury that people originally thought.

it’s the age old dilemma of someone telling you that you can’t do something, therefore you wanting to do it anyway. Like last year, when I gave up French fries for Lent. Laugh all you want, but that was during a time of my life when I was eating French fries about 5 times a week. giving them up was hard – really hard, especially with temptation around every corner. I would wake up in the morning and immediately think of French fries. I know it’s all in my head. So when someone tells me I shouldn’t eat canned tuna anymore, what’s a girl to do with all those cans lurking in the pantry?

[This year I gave up alcohol for Lent for one (or more) days per week, and it’s been a hell of a ride so far. Who knew I depended on those two glasses of wine with dinner?]

When I went to college, my dad sent me a care package. Amongst the odds and ends in there such as a saucepan and some cutlery, he had packed over 20 cans of tuna. I kept digging in the box and pulling out can after can of the stuff. I felt like Felix the cat who’d hit the jackpot. This is especially funny to me because one whole wall of my Dad’s garage out in California is all canned goods, a good portion of it mostly canned tuna. I think it’s a combination of having grown up during WWII when food was scarce and the idea of “The Big One” that may hit the west coast any day now which provokes my dad into stocking up on food whenever there’s a big sale at the store. At any rate, I always have cans of the stuff handy because I sometimes get these mad cravings for a tuna sandwich, and when one gets those kind of cravings, one needs to deal with them. Nothing else at that point will do.

So yesterday I read a bunch of articles on how it’s bad to eat tuna now as the mercury levels are super high, yadda yadda, and all I have to say is, Meh. I’m fairly healthy – in fact, as I type this I realize that other than some wicked seasonal allergies, I’ve not been sick in well over a year (no fever, no flu, etc). So I see nothing wrong with fulfilling my tuna craving right now.

Tuna and white bean salad – a no-shop meal, if you have a well-stocked pantry

One can of white kidney beans (cannellini), drained and rinsed
One can of water packed tuna (if you use oil packed tuna, use less oil in the vinaigrette), drained
Whatever herb you have lurking in the fridge; I used a few leaves of torn basil, but you could use parsley. I guess you could use cilantro, but that seems weird to me. and contrary to something someone once said to me, adding cilantro to a dish does not automatically make it Mexican. Sheesh.
2 to 3 green onions, sliced
A few handfuls of torn romaine leaves
Sliced tomatoes (optional)
1 tablespoon capers, drained (optional – I really wish I’d had some today, as I was craving a pickly bite, but alas, none were to be found)

Toss the tuna, beans, green onions, and herbs into a bowl. Tear up the romaine leaves and put on a serving plate along with some sliced tomatoes. Then make the vinaigrette.


This is all to taste. I prefer a very acidic vinaigrette, so I lean towards less oil and more vinegar, but, obviously, taste as you go and see what you prefer.

2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt, pepper
About 2 tablespoons olive oil (add more to your liking)

Whisk together these ingredients and, one tablespoon at a time, drizzle over the tuna and bean mixture. Toss well together. TASTE it at this point, as I’ve noticed salads like this like a lot of salt. Spoon it over the romaine and tomatoes.

This should serve two as a light lunch. However, I’m a pig today and I ate the whole thing in one sitting. There could be worse things to eat for lunch, like French fries.

And now, having said that, I’m craving fries. Damn.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

get thee up to Dahlonega.

Years ago, a friend sent me a postcard from a winery out in California, a black and white image of a row of vines in the wintertime. I tacked the postcard up on my home office wall because I just loved its austere beauty – quiet, peaceful, vines at rest in the dead of winter. We’ve moved twice since, but i still have that postcard; it’s floating around in a box somewhere now, but that haunting image always stayed with me.

This past Saturday, the boy and I drove up to Montaluce Winery & Estates in Dahlonega, Georgia, as I’d shamelessly invited ourselves to a food and wine conclave that brothers Rob and Brent Beecham (owners of Montaluce) had put together. Hey, in my defense, I kept seeing all this talk back and forth on Twitter between a few folks I follow regarding the conclave, and I had to find out what all the hullaballoo was all about. The first thing I saw out the window of the upstairs dining room was a row of vines haunting the landscape, and I was immediately reminded of that postcard, the image still lingering in the back of my mind. It didn’t hurt that it was a cold and foggy day outside. Throughout the course of the day, I watched the fog roll in through the trees and envelope the far edges of the vineyard, and it made me feel as though I was someplace magical.

There were about twenty of us, food and wine bloggers, some with their significant others in tow. We were treated to a tasting menu elegantly prepared by Chef Steven Hartman (of Montaluce's Le Vigne Ristorante) and paired with Montaluce’s own wines. I won’t get into a detailed description of the wines we sampled because they’ve been written about so well by a few of the other guest bloggers, and my mediocre attempt would make me look foolish. A few of their musings can be found here:

Random Oenophile
Atlanta Wine Guy
Suburban Wino

I had two surprises. It’s a well known fact around this house that I’m not a fan of Chardonnay, and this is mostly because I just can’t get past its oaky buttery flavors. The 2008 Montaluce Chardonnay is not like that (not having spent time anywhere near oak). I was also pleasantly surprised by the 2008 Montaluce Merlot. I’ve never been a fan of Merlot, it has always tasted rather flat to me. But their Merlot had a hint of spice, and my incredibly untrained palate wanted more. The five courses we had at lunch we well paired with their wines. My favorite flavors from lunch were the coppa di testa (head cheese from Berkshire piglettis), the butternut cup custard which was cleverly served in a mason jar, and the smoked trout. Longtime readers know that we’re big on smoked food around here, and we were totally thrilled with the trout, which Chef explained came from South Carolina (I hope I got that right – he might have said North Carolina but I was caught up in the moment and forgot to write it down).

After lunch, we were indulged with two more tastings that Matt Rosengerg from Avant Partir, and Josh Culbreth from Quality Wine and Spirits engineered, which lasted well into the evening. I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about wine. When I moved back to Atlanta in 2006, I took an Intro to Wine course at the Atlanta Wine School, which only solidly confirmed that fact. Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you look around you and everyone seems to be speaking Russian, and you’re totally lost and have no idea what’s going on? That's what happened to me when when Matt conducted a blind tasting of an Italian wine while I was sitting across the table from Joe Herrig (Suburban Wino) and David Aferiat (Maison Marcel). Joe and David were trying to figure out what type of grape the wine was made from, and were tossing their thoughts back and forth. That scene was absolutely fascinating to watch. (By the way, the wine in question was a Tocai Friulano from Joe Bastianich; he’s the son of Lydia Bastianich who had the great honor of cooking for the Pope on his last US visit).

If you’re in the Atlanta area and you haven’t been up to Georgia’s wine country, you are surely missing out. It’s not far from Atlanta (a quick jaunt up GA 400N, a mere hour from my house in Alpharetta), and you’re delightfully thrown in to an enchanting atmosphere. Go for a day trip, or stay the weekend, there are some bed and breakfasts nearby. Rob and Brent Beecham’s almost utopian world is a delightful place to spend time.

A few photographs below:

Chef Steven Hartman demonstrating his sous-vide technique, much to the delight of the guests. He used this to create the chicken liver mousse which was paired with that Chardonnay i was raving about.

2008 Montaluce Cabernet paired with the coppa di testa, apple mostarda, cider braised cabbage, and apple.

The winebar, which spans the length of the room, is beautifully lit.

Video of Oliver Asberger, winery manager, who when asked who cleans out the red wine tanks proclaimed, I do! and demonstrated how one gets in and out of the tank.

Thank you to everyone at Montaluce (Rob, Brent, Chef Hartman, Oliver Asberger), for letting us glimpse into your lives.

Guests bloggers were (and these are their Twitter names): @hoplessfoodie, @winetonite, @mvineyards, @frenchtart, @atl10trader, @eatitatlanta, @blacktiebbq, @biskuitatl, @savoryexposure, @suburbanwin0, @atlantawineguy, @chowdownatl, @eatbuhi, @toddjwalker, @mvineyards, @hogballs, Michael Bryan, @foodiebuddha and @randomoenophile.