Once upon a time, the only pink wine to be found on American wine shelves was White Zinfandel, a popular pale, sweetish pink wine that bore no resemblance to the dry, crisp rosés of Southern France. That was then.
Now, California wine makers from Temecula to Mendocino make a dazzling array of dry rosé wines and imports from France, Italy, and Spain all can be found on shelves from Trader Joe’s to high-end wine shops. The wines are young, fresh, and meant to be drunk now.There are even multiple versions of sparkling rosé to choose from. The French, especially in the south, find rosés fit any course of a meal, from apèritif to dessert. Here are a few of my favorite dishes for summer pairings.
Goat Cheese with Olive Oil and Herbes de Provence
Goat cheese, in its purest form, is a popular pairing with rosé. However, dressing up a log of fresh goat cheese with a sprinkle of herbes de Provence and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil adds an extra dimension to the pairing and looks elegant too. Serve the dressed cheese with simple water crackers or thin, toasted slices of baguette.
A plate with slices of a single cured meat, such as chorizo, coppa, or soppressata, along with crackers, keeps it simple. Or, for a more elaborate version, serve a board covered with a variety of cured meats such as those above, plus prosciutto, along with crackers and bread sticks, and a scattering of salted almonds. You can assemble your own board or purchase one ready prepared from a number of sources including Fatted Calf, Whole Foods or mail order sources.
Olives and salted nuts
For just a taste or two of something with your rosé, still or sparkling, go with a bowl of your favorite olives and one of salted almonds. You can’t go wrong. To be a little fancier, serve several different kinds of olives. I keep three or four different types in my refrigerator to have on hand both for apéritif time and for cooking. A current favorite comes from Spain – green olives stuffed with anchovies. Good dry-cured black olives, briny Kalamata olives, and olives stuffed with garlic make up the rest of my current staples.
Rosé is equally the ideal wine for Mediterranean-inspired salads like Salad Nicoise, and for fish dishes such as Bouillabaisse and Moules Marinières, all with a taste of the sea. It’s also just the thing for fancy tuna sandwiches and quiches of all kinds.
Moules au Pastis
This is a variation on the classic Moules Marinières where the fennel and the pastis add a subtle background flavor to the broth. Serve with plenty of country bread for dipping.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, chopped
5 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded if necessary
¾ cup dry white wine
¼ cup pastis
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 branch wild fennel or ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2-3 cloves garlic
Over medium-high heat, in a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and butter until the butter foams. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the mussels and pour in the wine and the pastis. Rub the thyme between your hands over the pot, allowing it to fall over the mussels. Add the bay leaf and the fennel branch or fennel seeds. Grate the garlic directly over the mussels. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook just until the mussels open, 10 to 12 minutes.
Uncover and turn the mussels several times. Most should be open. If not, cover and continue to cook another 1 to 2 minutes.
To serve, discard the fennel branch and bay leaf. Using a large slotted spoon, scoop the mussels into 4 individual bowls, discarding any mussels that fail to open. Ladle a little broth into each bowl and serve at once.
Grilled fish, any kind, welcomes an accompaniment of rose wine. But the wine also pairs well with grilled chicken and with such vegetable dishes as eggplant parmesan, lasagne, and ratatouille.
Grilled Fresh Sardines
Whenever I find these in the market, I snap them up. Fresh sardines are Mediterranean favorites, and there are even community feasts for sardines, called Sardinards, where hundreds of kilos of the fresh fish are grilled and brought to the long, community tables, by the platterfuls to be eaten out of hand, never with fork or knife, so says a Marseillaise friend. Grilled until the skin crackles and chars, and the flesh pulls back from the bone, the fish, along with bottles of rose, make for a festive meal.
24 fresh sardines, about 6 inches long or 48 anchovies, cleaned (with or without heads and tails intact – up to you)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Grapeseed oil for cleaning the grill
3 lemons, quartered
Prepare a wood or charcoal fire in a grill or preheat a gas grill.
Rub the fish with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. When the grill is hot, clean it with a wire brush and rub with grapeseed oil. Place the fish directly on the grill or in a grilling basket. Grill until the skin crackles and separates from the grill without sticking, 4 to 5 minutes, less for the smaller anchovies. Turn, using a spatula, and grill the other side until the skin crackles and the flesh easily separates from the bone, another 3 to 4 minutes. When the fish are cooked through, remove them to a platter and lightly cover with aluminum foil. Repeat until all the fish are cooked.
Serve with the lemons.
Rosé makes an excellent wine to accompany a favorite fruit dessert, whether a cake, cobbler, tart or sorbet.
This is my favorite summer dessert, and I like to make it in my outdoor wood oven, after the pizzas have come out and the sardines or chickens have roasted. The oven is still hot, but not too hot and it gives the fruit a slightly smoky overtone. However, I’ve made the same dish many times in my kitchen oven, and it is just as delicious. You can make your own composition any time your local fruit begins to ripen in late spring and early summer until the season ends in fall. It tastes like cobbler, but without the crust.
Choose a selection of apricots, plums, figs, peaches, nectarines, even grapes, depending on the season. Leave the figs whole, but halve or quarter and pit the stone fruits. Grapes may be whole or halved or both. Place the fruit in a baking dish, sprinkle with olive oil and sugar, toss and roast at 475 degrees until soft and lightly golden, and some juices beginning to run, about 15 minutes.
The warm fruits are especially good topped with vanilla ice cream which gradually pools into a kind of a crème Anglaise.
All the recipes are adapted from “La Vie Rustic- Cooking and Living in the French Style” by Georgeanne Brennan/Weldon-Owen.