When we were first married, we took a day trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake and discovered Lailey Vineyard. This is a smallish winery that is a favorite of ours. It's also one of the few Niagara wineries that is experimenting with Canadian Oak.
As you may know, sometimes wine is aged in oak barrels. This is true of most reds, but not all. White wines are usually feremented in stainless steel tanks and most don't require aging. They are meant to be drunk while they are young and fresh. But as with almost everything in this world, there are always exceptions. Chardonnay is one of them. There are so many styles of chardonnay out there that it's a hit and miss depending on what you're looking for. I sometimes like the fresh, fruity flavour of a non-oaked variety, but sometimes my mood calls for a wood-aged one.
Wine barrels generally come from France or USA. And they are always oak. The tastes these barrels impart on the wine are very different. We've even done structured tastings of the same wine aged in different barrels from different French manufacturers and the taste is completely different. This can be a whole long, involved, confusing subject and I'm learning more about it all the time and getting more confused all the time.
Some wineries are trying Hungarian oak and as stated above, a few are trying Canadian oak. Lailey Vineyards is one that has had a lot of success with Canadian oak It, again, tastes different than French or American. It seems that people like it or hate it. We like it. Derek Barnett, the winemaker, seems to have a special touch for bringing out the best of the wood into the wine he's crafting. He does variety of wines in the Canadian Oak barrels and all that we've tasted are superb. We ask other winemakers sometimes what wineries they like and Lailey is usually mentioned. So, I opened this 2002 bottle that we've had for a few years. It has mellowed incredibly! The mouth feel was smooth and creamy and the taste was wonderful. This one was definitely worth the wait.
Now onto food. I was in a quasi-cooking mood. I wanted to make some good old fashioned comfort food, but didn't feeling like putting in a lot of effort. I dug around in the freezer and came out with this.
I'd picked up this Morningstar Farms Lentil Rice Loaf on our last cross border shopping trip. Seemed like good comfort food.
What's better for comfort than mashed potatoes and gravy? This is veg gravy of course. I used a package mix that has no nutritional value whatsoever, but tastes damn good.
Here's the Lentil Rice Loaf cooked and out of the box. It was a little dry, but tasty nonetheless. The cooking instructions gave the option of oven or microwave and being an old-fashioned girl (HA!) I opted for the oven. Maybe I'll try the micro for the other one and see if that makes a difference.
This might not look like much, but it is really good. It's a casserole made with spaghetti squash. I found the recipe on the internet a few years ago and have been making it ever since. I'll post the recipe at the end. It is not vegan, but I'm sure some adventurous person could veganize it easily enough.
We had some Chardonnay left, but I thought a red might be better for this meal. I pulled out one of my favorite wines for Saturday night.
Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages is a Vintages Essential at the LCBO. That means that it should always be available. What a nice bottle of wine. It's quite versatitle and at $15.95 a bottle, a pretty good price point for a decent French wine. Louis Jadot is a large house in the Burgundy. Beaujolais is considered part of the Burgundy region. If you remember from my last wine post, Beaujolais wines are made exclusively with Gamay grapes.
I was feeling a bit more ambitious when it came to dessert. Earlier in the afternoon I'd made a lemon meringue pie. I wanted a good old fashioned pie to go with my comfort dinner. I dug out a recipe from my grandmother and made this baby up from scratch.
I turned out beautifully. Jim said it was the best lemon meringue pie he'd ever had. YES! Proves that the extra effort and fresh ingredients do make a big difference.
If you give this squash recipe a try, and better yet, if you make it and veganize it, let me know how it turns out!
SPAGHETTI SQUASH CASSEROLE
1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried basil*
2 plum tomatoes (can used canned)
1 cup lowfat cottage cheese
½ cup part-skim milk mozzarella cheese, grated
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ tsp. salt
¼ grated Parmesan cheese
3-4 tbsp. seasoned bread crumbs**
Preheat the oven to 400F. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Scoop the seeds and membranes from the squash and place cut side down on the cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle. With a fork, scrape the squash strands into a large bowl.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and basil. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3-4 more minutes or until the mixture is dry.
To the bowl with the squash, add the cottage cheese, mozzarella, parsley, salt and the onion mixture. Stir to mix. Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and bread crumbs.
Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and heated through.
*I sometimes use an oregano and basil mix, or you can use just oregano if desired.
**I make my own bread crumbs with stale bread and add ¼-½ tsp. of Italian seasoning.