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Simple Sensations for Sauvignon Blanc
© Sue Courtney - text and photos
7 October 2001

Sauvignon Blanc is the most important wine grape in New Zealand. It is a wine that heralds springtime and is delicious throughout the hot summer months. It is also a wonderful accompaniment to many spring and summer seasonal foods such as basil, tomato, capsicum, asparagus, summer herbs and seafood.

Seasonal foods

Check out my article Fabulous Foods for Sauvignon Blanc, which I wrote for Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page. Recipes for some of those suggestions, plus additional ideas from my archives or dishes that I've tried since the article was written, are available here.

These recipes call on these four main ingredients

Smoked Fish
Asparagus and Pasta

Scallops - What a super spring treat!
Scallops Scallops are in season right now and the season continues through the peak of summer until the close in February, so there's plenty of time to enjoy. If you can't dive for them yourself, buy them fresh from your favourite fishmonger - frozen scallops are just not the same. Ensure the scallops are cleaned prior to cooking and only eat the white muscle and red/orange roe. The skirt and gut can contain high level of toxins and the external digestive tract, that wraps itself around the muscle, should also be removed - for there is nothing worse that biting on a piece of gritty sand.

Fresh scallops are a treat on their own, they need little seasoning.

Scallops au naturel on a spoon These are great for a starter or for a finger food party. You will need one scallop per Chinese spoon.

Place a washed and dried scallop onto the spoon. Squeeze over some lime juice, then place under the grill and cook until the scallop is heated through.

Alternatively, sprinkle some grated mozzarella cheese on top of the scallop and place under the grill until cheese is melted and starting to bubble on top. Serve warm.

Scallops sauteed with brandy and coconut cream
This is one of my favourites. Great as a starter for a dinner party for 4 people.

24 freshly harvested, plump scallops, (6 per person)
butter (clarified butter is best)
1-2 tablespoons of brandy
1-2 tablespoons of coconut milk
chopped fresh herbs, such as coriander or basil

Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan until hot and bubbling - do not allow to burn. Quickly sear the scallops for no longer than a minute each side. It is important that they are not over-cooked, otherwise they will start to shrivel.

Meanwhile, heat the brandy for 30 seconds in the microwave. After the scallops have been seared on both sides, pour over the heated brandy and set alight, picking up the pan and shaking at the same time to coat the scallops. The brandy should evaporate fairly well.
At this stage, you may decided to serve the scallops without any further additions - they are truly divine. But the coconut milk will add a new dimension.

Add the coconut milk and ensure the scallops are well coated, then add chopped fresh summer herbs and serve accompanied with some salad leaves and a couple of slices of tomato.

This dish is also divine with viognier.

Scallop and Orzo Salad
To extend the scallops, serve with pasta in a salad. I like the rice-shaped Orzo pasta. You will need Orzo, scallops, tomatoes, coloured capsicums, fresh herbs and butter for searing the scallops.

Cook orzo according to directions and drain. While still warm, toss with enough herb and citrus dressing to coat the grains well. Put to one side.

Prepare the scallops by washing, drying and de-veining, then sear quickly on both sides in butter in a frying pan. Allow to cool if you wish.

Chop the scallops into smaller pieces. Stir into the pasta, along with chopped summer herbs of your liking, chopped fresh tomato and chopped red and yellow capsicums.

Serve warm or cool.

Herb and citrus dressing
In a dressing jar, combine
2 tablespoons lemon juice,
1 tablespoon orange juice,
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1/2 teaspoon sugar,
1 teaspoon mild French mustard
1 clove crushed garlic,
freshly chopped sweet herbs, such as parsley, coriander and basil leaves.
Mix well, then add 6 tablespoons of salad oil and shake well to combine.

Whitebait (Click here for info) is regarded as a New Zealand delicacy. These tiny fish are from the galaxiid species family and the most common of the five varieties is the inanga whitebait, which rarely exceed 100mm in length. They are caught in fine nets near the mouths of rivers and in coastal waterways throughout most of the country. The whitebait season is short - just two to three months - and ends in mid-November. Unfortunately, whitebait keeps going up in price each year, however 100 grams of whitebait can go a long way.

Fluffy Whitebait Fritters

2 eggs
100 grams fresh NZ whitebait
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon flour
Clarified butter for cooking (ordinary butter will do)

Separate the eggs.
Beat the yolks well and add the flour and seasonings.
Beat the whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the whites into the yolks, then fold in the whitebait.
Drop small spoonfuls into a heated non-stick frying pan, in which the butter has been melted. You should be able to make 15 or 16 small fritters from these quantities.
Serve as a starter with a wedge of lemon and a glass of sauvignon blanc.
Serves 4 or 5.

Smoked Fish
Smoked Snapper I just love freshly smoked snapper, mullet or kahawai. I love it when it is still moist and within a day of being smoked. You can smell the smoking occasionally, around the Fanshawe Street area of Auckland City - it is so mouth watering. And it is just great with sauvignon blanc.

Smoked Fish on Crostini There couldn't be an easier to prepare finger food, so long as the crostini has been prepared in advance.

To make the Crostini, slice of stick of French bread into 1cm slices. Place slices on to a baking tray and either brush or spray with oil - I like garlic infused olive oil, which I make by dropping 2 or 3 cloves of garlic into the bottle.
Bake the slices of bread for about 5 minutes in a hot oven.
Remove tray, turn slices of bread over and spray or brush new uppermost sides with the oil.
Back into the oven to cook for about 5-7 minutes, until golden brown and crisp - these will quickly turn from golden brown to dark brown if you are not careful, so keep an eye on them. The crostini will keep in an airtight jar for several weeks.

Now for the smoked fish topping. Simply shred the fresh smoked fish, pile some fish on top of each piece of crostini and garnish with a small sprig of parsley. Great finger food and terrific with sauvignon blanc.

Smoked Fish Vol-au-vents
This is basically an old favourite, smoked fish in white sauce with parsley, but serve it in a vol-au-vent case and it looks like something special. Buy the vol-au-vent cases from the supermarket. You can choose the size depending on your purpose. Buy the small ones for finger food, or the larger ones for a main meal.

Prepare the smoked fish filling. You will need -

1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 fillet of smoked white fish, shredded (you may also want to chop the shreds if filling bite-sized vol-au-vent cases)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup milk
1 egg
up to 1 tablespoon flour
salt and pepper
fresh summer herbs, eg coriander or parsley

Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan and saute onion until soft and golden.
Add the shredded smoked fish and stir to combine with the onion.
Now pour in the milk and bring to the point of boiling - but do not let boil.
Beat the egg and stir to combine and thicken themixture.
If the mixture is still a little runny, then add a little water to the flour and use siffucent of the water anf flour mix to thicken the fish in the pan.
If necessary add salt and pepper to season, then stir in a handful of finely chopped fresh parsley.
Pile the mixture into the vol-au-vents cases sitting on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes until cases are heated through. Serve immediately.

Asparagus is one of the definitive matches for sauvignon blanc and it can be served so simply, even raw, if that is how you like it.

To prepare asparagus for the following dishes, break or cut the hard pieces from the bottom of the spears and discard. Wash the spears well and place in a pan of boiling water to cook, with just enough water to cover, for no more than 2 to 3 minutes. Any more and the spears will go mushy and start to lose their colour.

ASparagus and Parmesan Cheese

One of the simplest ways to serve new season's asparagus is to place the asparagus on a plate and sprinkle with freshly grated fresh parmesan cheese.

Asaragus and Parmesan Pasta is one of my favourites for an easy weekend lunch or light dinner.

Asparagus Fettuccine
One packet of fresh fettuccine
4-6 spears of asparagus
half a cup of freshly grated fresh parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of cream
Fresh summer herbs for garnish

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain, then add cream and cheese and toss to coat the pasta well. Season with salt and pepper and throw in the asparagus spears, which have been chopped into about 2.5sm lengths.

Tomato and Basil Pasta is a variation on the above. I use the New Zealand brand "Mother Earth" Tomato and Basil Fettuccine. Cook and prepare as above, but instead of adding asparagus, add chopped fresh tomato and chopped fresh basil leaves.

Tomato and Basil pasta

For a combo, also add chopped asparagus to the tomato and basil dish.

Bon Appetit

© Sue Courtney
October, 2001.

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