Broccoli Rising and the Perfect Plantbased Pair (Vegan Food and Wine Pairing)
I’m excited and almost drunk with delight in anticipation of Wednesday’s vegan food and wine pairing chat with Sunny Gandara. Join us 2pm ET on Sunny’s insta @decantwithplants for a Live as we share tips for pairing vegan food and wine. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!
Most food and wine pairing rules ignore plantbased food altogether. How silly — wine itself is plantbased. Comes from grapes, you know that. Grapes taste like grapes, but when you factor in time and fermentation, they produce layers of flavor and nuance. That’s wine’s eternal magic and mystery.
I’m all in when it comes to magic and mystery but was totally intimated when I went to my first wine tasting. You don’t have to be. Sunny and I will help you better define and understand all those layers of flavors uncorked in a bottle. Wines, like people, have their own way about them, their own character. Understanding each wine’s character and flavor profile is what makes wine and vegan food sing together.
I’ll tell you one, no, two things — 1) beans and mushrooms are among the most wine-friendly plantbased foods. 2) Trust your palate. Learning more about wines also helps you learn about yourself, about what you like.
So much goes into a bottle of wine. The question is what goes into it? Once you know all the additives and inputs used in some mass-produced wines, you might not want to drink them. The wines I drink, like the food I eat, are pure and not messed with. They taste of place, of the soil and conditions they’re grown in — that’s what terroir means. Folks like me geek out on it.
The best winemakers I know are stewards of the vines and of the soil. They put their heads, hearts, hands, and sometimes feet into growing, harvesting, and crafting wine. They’re farmers at heart. They’re in tune with nature. They have to be. We can learn from them.
Why pair vegan food with wine? Why pair any food with wine? To savor the beauty in the world, in the glass, and on the plate. Wine reminds us, even in these mean times, to be generous of spirit.
I hope Sunny and my instagram Live this Wednesday 2pm ET will empower you to get creative with vegan food and wine. Let it be the start of a delicious lifelong journey. Cheers!
Some wine writers I like:
Jancis Robinson was the first wine writer I encountered when I was starting to understand wines and how they play with food.
Ray Isle executive, wine editor at Food and Wine has a magnificent new book, The World in a Wineglass.
Terry Theise imports wine. He also appreciates it. His book Reading Between the Wines helps you appreciate it in all its complexity and mystery without getting too woo-woo about it.
Now it’s over to you:
What wine would you pair with pomegranate lentils?
For extra credit and extra deliciousness — what wine would you pair with Nik Sharma’s royal cauliflower with almond cream?
It’s from new and fabulous Veg-Table, with permission from Chronicle Books.
Royal Cauliflower Roast with Almond Cream
This is an elegant entrée based on the creamy shahi (which means “royal”) dishes of the Moghul empire. It commands attention on a swanky dinner table. Bring it out after all the guests are seated, and use your best serving platter to present it as dramatically as possible.
Makes 4 Servings
In a medium heatproof bowl, cover 1 cup [140 g] raw whole almonds with enough boiling water to completely submerge them. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain and discard the water. Rub the skins off the almonds and discard. Transfer the almonds to a blender.
Add 1 cup [240 ml] low-sodium vegetable stock or Master Mushroom Vegetable Stock (page 337); 2 Tbsp lemon juice; 1 Tbsp maple syrup; and 1 tsp poppy seeds. Pulse over high speed for 30 to 60 seconds, until smooth and creamy. Taste and season with fine sea salt. Transfer to a small serving bowl. The sauce can be made a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 425°F [220°C]. Line a large roasting pan or baking sheet with foil or a wire rack.
Fill a large stockpot with enough water to eventually cover 1 large cauliflower. Stir in fine sea salt (see the Cook’s Notes), cover the pot with a lid, and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
Trim and discard most of the outer leaves from the cauliflower and trim the basal stalk to make sure the cauliflower can sit comfortably upright. Invert and submerge the cauliflower, flower side down, in the boiling water. Blanch for 5 to 6 minutes, until it starts to just turn tender and a little translucent. A knife or skewer should pass through the cauliflower without much resistance. Carefully remove the cauliflower from the stockpot using a pair of kitchen tongs and a perforated ladle. Let the cauliflower sit, upright and flower side up, on a cutting board to drain off any excess water, and then place it on the roasting pan.
While the oven and water heat up, prepare the seasoning mixture. In a small bowl, combine 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, unsalted melted butter, or ghee; 1 tsp cumin seeds; 1 tsp fennel seeds; 1 tsp poppy seeds; 1 tsp chia seeds; 1 tsp ground black pepper; 1 tsp ground turmeric; 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (or ¾ tsp smoked sweet paprika powder + ¼ tsp ground cayenne. Brush the mixture all over the cauliflower. Season with fine sea salt. Roast the cauliflower until the surface turns golden brown on the outside, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through during the roasting time.
Remove from the oven, let rest uncovered for 5 minutes, and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves and 1 fresh green or red chilli such as bird’s eye, jalapeño, or serrano, minced. Serve immediately with the almond cream on the side and a carving knife. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
THE COOK’S NOTES
Blanch your own almonds or buy them blanched. Either way, the skins must be removed, or the sauce won’t taste as nice.
Be careful when maneuvering the cauliflower in the hot water; don’t be too rough with it, as you risk damaging the florets.
If you own a rotating cake stand, use it here. Place the cauliflower on it and rotate while you brush on the sauce.
Everyone salts their water differently when boiling vegetables or pasta. I use 1 tsp fine sea salt for every 4½ cups [1 L] water. Adjust the amount of salt depending on the volume of water used. The salt helps with tenderizing the vegetables, but it also gets into those tiny nooks and crannies inside the cauliflower, helping with seasoning.
Romanesco is a lovely and quite dramatic alternative to cauliflower.
Veg-Table: Recipes, Techniques + Plant Science for Big Flavored, Vegetable-Focused Meals by Nik Sharma. © 2023. Published by Chronicle Books. Photographs by Nik Sharma.
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Autumn in Italy is the season for luscious, plump porcini. They’re often sautéed and served with pici (pronounced PEACHY} thick handmade noodles made with just flour and water, so they’re totally vegan. You can use any kind of pasta here, but I suggest whole wheat.
Fresh cremini or button mushrooms plus a small handful of dried porcini or other wild mushroom recreates fresh porcini’s wonderful richness.
As I mentioned, mushrooms love wine — there’s a splash of red wine in the pasta sauce. I love a barollo, but a lighter-bodied chianti is a better pairing here. Let me know what you uncork.