Cookbook Review – The Winemaker Cooks: Menus, Parties, and Pairings by Chrisine Hanna

0022Christine Hanna, culinary enthusiast and president of Hanna Winery in Sonoma, epitomizes the region’s laid-back approach to wine and food. Her wine expertise and entertaining savvy shows in each of the 100 recipes in this collection.

    The book is arranged by season, with five major meal plans included in each. The Autumn Dinner, for example, includes recipes for spicy eggplant caviar with pita crisps, fall lettuces with pear and pecorino, pan-seared steak with porcini-merlot reduction, roasted potatoes and shallots with herbed aioli and pear tarte tartin with ginger ice cream.

    Recipes like Honey-Walnut Semolina Cake with Dried Figs and Bittersweet Chocolate or her Wild Blackberry-Thyme Crisp with Pistachio Ice Cream, take desserts to new heights. The Grilled-Roasted Herbed Turkey with Chardonnay Gravy, accompanied by Winter Squash Grain with Caramelized Onions, Chiles and Thyme, would bring great flavors to any holiday meal table.

    The recipes themselves are simple, showcasing fresh and local ingredients altered in the least possible manner. Minimal fuss and maximum flavor are evident in recipes such as Pork Roast Stuffed with Kalamata Olives and Oregano or the Ginger and Lime-Grilled Halibut with Nectarine Salsa (see on p.55).

    Throughout the book there are plenty of color photos, a useful wine glossary and several “Ask The Winemaker” sidebars, providing short answers to huge questions such as “How do I pair wine with food?” and “How do I store my wine?” As much of the commentary is written in from the personal pronoun “I” the reader feels a sense of conversing with Hanna.

    Indeed, the “rhythm of the seasons” and the warm welcome of family and friends to share good food pervade this collection.