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The Vineyard Kitchen

Menus Inspired by the Seasons

by Maria Helm Sinskey

Hardcover, 390 pages, Harpercollins, List Price: $37.50 |


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The Vineyard Kitchen
Menus Inspired by the Seasons
Maria Helm Sinskey

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Book Summary

A Napa Valley culinary director presents a range of seasonally organized menus and recipes that feature earthy though sophisticated options, complementing each section with starters, main courses, desserts, and wine suggestions.

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Excerpt: The Vineyard Kitchen

Chapter One

minestrone with shelling beans

Minestrone can be a meal in itself, so when served as a first course it must be doled out lightly. Since minestrone is a hearty vegetable soup, many different vegetables can be substituted. Swiss chard or escarole can stand in for kale, and chunks of summer squash for Romano beans. Base your choices on what is available in the market. Vegetables that need little cooking time should be added at the end. If shelling beans are not available substitute cooked dried beans. Remember this soup for a warm sustaining lunch on a cold fall day.

serves 8 to 10

2 pounds fresh shelling beans, cranberry or white, about 2 cups shelled, or 3 cups Basic Bean Recipe
3 ripe medium tomatoes or 2 cups canned
1 pound kale (see Headnote above)
1/2 pound Romano beans, green or yellow or both (see Headnote above)
3 medium carrots
2 medium yellow onions
2 celery stalks
4 medium garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
3 small fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves
1 large piece Parmesan cheese rind, optional
2 cups cooked tubettini or other small round pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Peasant bread

  1. Shell the fresh beans.

  2. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop the fresh tomatoes. Reserve in their juices. If you are using canned tomatoes, remove the core and most of the seeds with your hands over a strainer and bowl to catch the juice. Break the tomatoes into pieces and reserve in a bowl. Pour the juice over the tomatoes.

  3. Wash the kale and cut the thick tough ribs from the larger leaves. The ribs can be left on the tender leaves. Slice the leaves into 1/2-inch strips.

  4. Clean the Romano beans and cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces. Chop the carrots and onions into pieces about the same size as the shelling beans. Slice the celery thinly. Peel and slice the garlic thinly. Reserve the vegetables separately.

  5. Heat a large soup or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and sauté the garlic until it is toasted and the oil is perfumed. Add the carrots, onions, and celery. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes, then add the sliced kale; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the kale has wilted, then add the peeled chopped tomatoes.

  6. Cover the vegetables with water by 2 inches and add the herbs and Parmesan rind, if you're using it. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the shelling beans and simmer until they are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. If you are using cooked dried beans simmer for 20 minutes so the beans absorb some of the flavor of the broth. Add the Romano beans and simmer for 10 more minutes. Check the seasoning and add the pasta. Salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaf. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with bread to soak up the broth.
Note: This soup can be made a day or two in advance. Do not add any quick-cooking vegetables such as Romano Beans until you reheat the soup to serve.

nutmeg custard

I always knew when my mother was baking these custards. The scent of nutmeg would rush to greet me as soon as I opened the mudroom door. It would wrap around me as I entered the kitchen where my mother would be busily preparing dinner. I would beg her to tell me when the custards would be done, hoping for an early taste. She would pull them slowly and ceremoniously out of the oven to avoid splashing them with water from their bath. I would stare longingly at the cooling custards dusted with fresh nutmeg, safely tucked inside their earthenware pots. The custards would be served with a bit of warmth still clinging to them. I would carefully break the delicate skin and gather a bit of the nutmeg dust along with the warm custard. The flecks of dry sandy nutmeg were stark in contrast to the smooth silky custard. The exotic flavor of the grains would explode as they softened in my mouth. It was pure delight then and remains the same every time I plow my spoon through the shimmering brown-speckled top of a warm nutmeg custard. The custards are also wonderful served chilled.

Serves 8

1 cup sugar
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg, plus some to sprinkle

  1. Place eight 1-cup ramekins or custard cups in a deep roasting pan; reserve until ready to use.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven rack on the lowest rungs.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, and egg yolks.

  4. Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan and add the 1-1/2 teaspoons nutmeg. Turn off the heat and let the milk and nutmeg steep for 10 minutes.

  5. Pour the hot milk slowly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Strain the custard into a pitcher.

  6. Pour or ladle the custard into the prepared ramekins or custard cups. Fill them to 1/4 inch below the top edge. Sprinkle or grate nutmeg lightly over the tops.

  7. Pour enough hot, not boiling, water, into the roasting pan to come three-quarters of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the custards in the preheated oven on the low oven rack, covered, but not sealed, with a flat piece of parchment paper or foil until set, 30 to 40 minutes. To test to see if the custards are done, jiggle one gently with your hand. They are done if the custard is set. Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath. Cool the custards to warm to serve or serve chilled. To chill, cool the custards to room temperature and place them in the refrigerator, uncovered. When they are cold, cover them tightly with plastic wrap. The custards can be prepared up to 2 days in advance if you are serving them chilled.