Wine Math and My Oft-Requested Lasagna #WineDownWednesday
Earlier this year we launched a wine book club that would meet monthly on a chosen Wednesday. We successfully read and discussed The Essential Guide to Turkish Wines written by one of our members, Andrea LeMieux. Then my life got crazy and I dropped the ball on the whole endeavor. Boo. But this month Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm asked us to read Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave.
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave gets its title from the quotation: "You have to grow about eight hundred grapes to get just one bottle of wine. If that isn’t an argument to finish the bottle, I don’t know what is." —Anonymous
This story starts with Georgia Ford who jumps in her car and drives from Los Angeles to Sonoma when she discovers her fiancé kept his child a secret from her. She longs for the familiarity of her parents, her brothers, her family vineyard, and her hometown. When she arrives, she discovers that her family is sinking into a morass of secrets. Her parents are separated; her mother has a lover; the vineyard is for sale; and her brothers are fighting over one of their wives!
Between all of the family drama, Dave gives glimpses into biodynamic grape cultivation and wine making. This was a quick read for me. I think I blazed through it in a single evening!
The title was the impetus for me to look at the wine math. I actually asked a winemaker in Paso Robles if he had an idea how many grapes went into a single bottle. He didn't.
Château Grand Traverse in Michigan reports "approximately 1,204 grapes" on its website. Sonoma Wine Garden asserts "there are 736 grapes in a standard bottle of wine." Then I see 300 to 600 as an estimate, but 600 to 800 is the most common answer. Still I think this would be highly dependent on the kind of grape. Berries and cluster-size vary so much, right? But it's a compelling quotation regardless of its veracity!
In the end, Eight Hundred Grapes is a fun, breezy love story with a happy ending.
There were several passages about food that had me thinking...
"I almost missed the note she had left on the countertop: 'Coffee on. Banana muffins in fridge. Made yesterday, but delicious'" (pg. 23). I didn't have any aging bananas to use.
"Then he reached over for a glass jar on his desk, full of long pieces of licorice, and held the jar out to me. 'Are you serious?' I said. 'Why wouldn’t I be serious? Licorice is the best candy there is, and, as an added bonus, it has been used since ancient times for a variety of medicinal purposes. Including the relieving of stress'" (pg. 45). Licorice is one of my favorite candies. Yes, the black licorice. There is no such thing as red licorice!
"The Violet Café did have the world’s best chocolate chip pancakes. They were made with five different kinds of chocolate chips. Dark, milk, white, bittersweet, espresso. And they came in a stack of five large pancakes that were impossible to finish" (pg. 149). I will put this on the list for when both boys are home from college.
But, in the end, I was inspired to make...
My Oft-Requested Lasagna
Lasagna is their mother's famous dish and Georgia encounters her brother "eating an enormous piece of my mother’s famous lasagna, straight from the baking pan. This was the big joke of the lasagna. We all loved it. Never once did it actually make it to the kitchen table for dinner. No matter how pissed we were at each other—all of us would sit at the counter and eat it as soon as my mother took it from the oven to cool. Burning our tongues on it. She made the lasagna with olives and tomatoes from the vineyard, spinach, five cheeses, and something else she wouldn’t ever confess to. Finn swore he’d walked in once and seen her adding chocolate chips to the bottom layer of noodles. We had spent years, cumulatively, searching for a sign of them. Finn looked up as I walked into the kitchen" (pg. 48).
My lasagna may not serve to quell family distress as hers, but it is one of my most requested dishes. Friends ask for it for their birthdays; the robotics team requested it when it was my term to feed them. Unlike Wendy's Healthier Lasagna, mine is laden with meats and cheeses. Four kinds of meat and seven kinds of cheese to be exact.
makes one 9"X13" pan
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
1/2 cup diced pancetta
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
3 sausage links, cooked and diced (I used chicken sausages)
1 jar tomato sauce
1 (large) can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup water
1 cup fresh chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano
2 Tablespoons fresh basil
freshly ground salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
no boil lasagna noodles
3 cups shredded cheese (I used a mixture of mozzarella, asiago, provolone)
1 cup shredded parmesan
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
1 cup fresh mozzarella ciliegie, halved
1 cup whole milk ricotta
In a large, flat-bottom pan, sauté the onions, fennel, and pancetta in a splash of olive oil until the onions are softened and translucent. Add in the ground meats and cook till browned through completely.
Add in the tomato sauce, wine, water, and cooked sausages. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stir in herbs, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit if you are going to bake as soon as you've assembled. Or, once these are assembled and the sauce is completely cooled, they can be covered and refrigerated until ready to bake.
To assemble the lasagna, layer meat sauce, noodles, shredded cheese blend, cottage cheese, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, and more meat sauce. Repeat till your pan is full though the last layer should be meat so that the noodles are completely covered.
Cover with foil. Bake in the 375 degree F oven for one hour. Remove the foil. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan. Return pan to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese melted.
Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Serve hot.
Not sure what we'll be reading next month, but I hope we'll get back on track because I always enjoy reading and being inspired into the kitchen. Stay tuned!