In this series of blog-posts (titled Perfect Pairings) I'm hoping to help you create pairings with simple recipes and easily recognizable wine types, that can highlight key flavours and nuances that complement both the dish and the wine. When it comes to pairing food and wine, it can seem to be something of a mystery... a science, an art and a sprinkling of Masonic unicorn dust to get it right. For those of us who aren't trained sommeliers or chefs, pairing the two components together can feel daunting. My main arsenal to unlocking that secret code? Asking questions. Whenever I go to the SAQ (the government regulated wine purveyor in Quebec) or to a private wine purveyor, I never shy away from asking them what they think would go well with my dish. And you know what I've found? They love answering my myriad of questions and I get the benefit of years of experience helping me select the perfect wine to go with my goat cheese tartlet or my herbed roasted chicken. Bottom line: don't be afraid to ask for advice.
Now, on to the recipe:
grilled zucchini gratin with eggplant, tomatoes and feta cheese.
There is nothing better than grilling vegetables in the summer. The smoky char from the grill juxtaposed with the tender sweetness of fresh summer veggies, it really is the perfect combination. This past winter I had a delicious vegetarian lasagna; thin slices of zucchini, eggplant and tomato sauce all smothered under layers of cheese, it was heavenly and perfect for a cozy winter evening. Now that things have warmed up a bit, I decided to create a lighter, summer version of that dish, with tomato sauce being replaced with fresh tomato, mozzarella and ricotta replaced with the lighter feta and everything being grilled before assembling and baking it off in the oven. If you don't have eggplant or don't like it you can feel free to change it up with yellow squash or even bell-peppers, just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
4 medium zucchini sliced in 1/4" rounds
3 baby eggplants, japanese eggplants or smaller purple eggplants sliced in 1/4" rounds (lightly salted on a baking sheet to draw out excess moisture and bitterness)
4 medium sized tomatoes (the larger round tomatoes work best, but you could also use roma tomatoes if you like just increase to 5 or 6) sliced the same as above
1 small yellow onion thinly sliced
1 12 oz container of crumbled Feta cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
1-2 tbsp olive oil and additional olive oil (for drizzling)
salt & pepper to taste
fresh chopped herbs such as basil, parsley, oregano or a combination of all three
In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper together and whisk together until incorporated.
- Add to the container with the zucchini and eggplant. Toss until everything is coated evenly
- Heat your grill to medium- high heat.
- Using grill tongs, place all of the zucchini & eggplant onto the grill. Cooking about 2-3 minutes on each side, until grill marks begin to form and they begins to brown. Flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes. This timing may vary based on your grill's heat. The vegetables should be just lightly cooked through. Allow to cool enough to handle.
- While vegetables are cooling saute sliced onions in a small frying pan with 1-2 tbsp good olive oil until softened and golden brown.
- In a lightly greased casserole dish place all of the sauteed onions in the bottom of the dish, then place zucchini, eggplant and tomato in alternating slices with crumbled feta, and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs between each slice.
- Finish with crumbled feta and remaining breadcrums on top.
- Bake in an 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until tomatoes have softened and the cheese is melted and bubbling.
- Place under broiler and broil for 3-5 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
- Sprinkle with Fresh herbs and serve!
Pair it with: A portuguese Douro
-- our choice: Animus $13.95 at the SAQ --
Our Perfect pairing for this dish is Animus (Latin for soul), a Portuguese Douro. Its character matches its name, with lots of soulful flavours, dark woody undertones and ripe raspberry notes. It's full bodied and supple, a great complement to the smoky Zucchini Gratin, while still standing up against the stronger flavours of the grill. It's made by Vicente Leite Faria, a well known wine-maker, with more than 30 years experience in wine-making. Even more impressive? His family has been making wine in this region for more than 200 years!
Bottom line: I love this wine because it's extremely drinkable, nuanced and very affordable. You can find this wine at most SAQs/LCBO's for around $13.95--- now that's a wine I think I can toast to!
Our wine rating: 7 out of 10 *******
Parting words of wisdom:
Wine and food pairings don't have to be complicated, ask your local wine store for their suggestions for what will go nicely with your meal and when it comes to seasonal cuisine, summertime is the perfect time to re-think winter favourites. You don't have to create brand new recipes, sometimes the old ones just need a new twist!
Over at Autumn Wood Stylist HQ we are dreaming about artisanal margaritas, reading House & Home and planning a mini-getaway... As always we are here for a friendly chat or a quick email, just head over to our Contact US page and drop us a line. We'd be honored to be a part of your next cookbook, photo-shoot or product launch!