Although there are 1,001 reasons to live in New York City, there are also a handful of reasons to escape it. First on my list are hot summer days when the sidewalks stink like last night’s garbage and the air conditioners drip contaminated water onto the heads of unsuspecting pedestrians. So I say get out of town for the weekend, head to the countryside, the ocean, anywhere that offers fresh air and a cool breeze. Spend the day reading, writing and exploring the local food offerings. These days, farmers’ markets are springing up like golden arches, with vendors selling everything from summer berries and vegetables to smoked local fish and fresh game. The best way to shop the markets is with an open mind and a big appetite. Consider flavor, texture and color, while making your selections, and remember that you can round out the meal with a trip to the town grocery store, for basic ingredients.
Cold Green Pea Soup with Smoked Trout (Serves 4)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups shelled green peas or frozen peas
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch dill
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/2 pound smoked trout, divided into four portions
Crushed pistachios for garnish
In a large pot on low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions, carrots and fresh peas and cook until soft. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a minute or two. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. (Add frozen peas here and let the stock warm them through.) In three batches, blend the contents of the pot in a blender. With each batch, add a third of the lemon juice, the pistachios, the herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. If you salt and pepper each batch separately, your final result will have a much rounder flavor. Once blended, transfer each batch to a big pitcher and stir. Cover and let chill in the fridge. Once cool, divide into four bowls and place the trout in the center of each. Sprinkle with crushed pistachios and serve.
La Vie en Rosé(Perfect with Cold Green Pea Soup) If you’ve been in a wine shop recently, you’ve probably noticed the summertime push for pink wines. Signs like “Everything’s Coming Up Rosés!” and carefully constructed rosé bottle pyramids are hard to miss. I have to agree, these pinks are ripe for the picking. Though the color of the wine hints at sweet, strawberryish flavors, rosés are typically dry and elegant. Trust me; it’s a far cry from a box of Franzia. In fact, rosés should never be confused with American-made blush wines, e.g. White Zinfandel and White Merlot. Those wines are fruitier, contain more residual sugar, and are lower in alcohol.
There is more than one way to go about making pink wine. Most often, red grapes are crushed and left in contact with their skins for 12-36 hours (as opposed to weeks), lightly tinting the juice. Other winemakers bleed off some of the juice from a vat of crushed red grapes soon after fermentation has begun. I’ve seen a few untrained geniuses splash a little red wine into their glass of white and — voila! — homemade rosé. This was actually a respected practice in France many years ago. Regardless of the way they’re made, all rosés are meant to be drunk young. (Which reminds me… the rosé I bought in France in ‘98 with the commemorative World Cup logo was such a silly purchase. I’m sure it’s gone bad.)
Once you’ve chosen a bottle that’s no more than two years old, get it nice and cold. A glass of chilled rosé is not only a good summer quaffer, it’s ridiculously easy to match with a variety of foods. I love French and Spanish rosés, but I’m glad I tried the 2005 Maretima Rosato from Apulia for $11. The Italians did well. It’s dry with a lovely orange blossom character.