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Red Wine, Vegetables and Cookbooks
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed January 16, 2002. For more information go to

Maybe I'm just easy to please, but when a new cookbook comes in at Central, it elevates my spirits for the rest of the day, as I happily skim through the new arrival and think about what to make for dinner ... and what wine to pair with it.

The book I bought yesterday - Madhur Jaffrey's new "World Vegetarian" - is an oversize paperback full of meatless recipes from around the world (with a bit of a tilt toward Asia and the Southern Hemisphere). It's a worthy addition to her old, classic "World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking" that has been a standby on this omnivore's cookbook shelf for years.

And getting to the wine-related point of today's essay, these veggie treats offer what I consider one of the more interesting challenges in matching food and wine: Finding wine matches with international meatless dishes that work as well as the more traditional pairings of wine with Western-style fare based on red meat, poultry or fish.

I find it particularly difficult to come up with RED wine and vegetable pairings that really sing, so I made it a point to look for recipes that might work with a South African Pinotage that was next in line for tasting. A Turkish dish, "Imam Beyaldi" (Stuffed Baby Eggplants, Page 184) caught my eye, as the earthy-sweet flavor of eggplant (aubergine, to the British among us) often works well with reds, and I figured the garlicky quick tomato-and-onion topping would bring another red-wine-friendly participant to the party. As a side dish, I rang some changes on the Greek "Spanakorizo" (Spinach with Rice, Page 227), substituting arugula (rucola) for the spinach on the assumption that these strongly flavored, peppery greens might also stand up well to a red.

The recipes were clear and easy to follow, and the wine combination worked well, reinforcing my opinion that one key to matching red wine and veggies is to look for earthy and acidic flavors in both the dish and the wine.


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