lentil salad

Perfect Pairing: Two Wines, One Salad

October 6, 2011 at 4:02 pm , by

My wife, Lindsay, has an arsenal of delicious salad recipes, and and as luck would have it, a friend sent over two new wines for us to sample. Each bottle pairs perfectly with the same salad recipe (with one simple ingredient modification). It was so good, I had to share.

Lindsay’s Couscous, Lentil and Blue Cheese Salad
1 cup lentils, cooked
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup couscous, cooked
½ tsp salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 head romaine or other lettuce
1 lemon, cut into wedges
6 plum tomatoes or 1 small beefsteak, cubed
¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
¾ cup (3 oz) blue cheese, crumbled

The key to this recipe is making it once and then adjusting it to taste, though you might nail it on the first go. Salt and pepper the cooked lentils to taste, having stirred in 1 tbsp lemon juice. In a separate large bowl, add 1 tbsp oil to cooked couscous and fluff. In a small bowl make the dressing: To minced garlic whisk in remaining 2 tbsp juice and 3 tbsp oil and salt and pepper to taste. Then stir the lentils and dressing into the couscous and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Before serving, shred romaine on a platter and stir tomato, mint and cheese into salad, then turn salad onto romaine. Garnish with lemon wedges and additional tomato wedges. Makes plenty for leftovers.

Wine Parings:

2009 Marilyn Merlot (Napa Valley; $30) With a full body and wonderful mouth feel, this wine’s mature red fruit and toasted oak flavors in a well-balanced acidity make it fun to sip, and its dried-herb bouquet invite you to pair it with Lindsay’s salad recipe. It also happens to have a long, smooth finish that mellows to memories of chocolate and vanilla—consider it built-in dessert.

2007 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma; $25) This wine’s price is no reflection of its quality: It drinks like a $100 bottle and it makes a bold statement, showing aromas of red cherry and blackberry with hints of licorice, toasted oak and spices and its palate offers more of the same, plus generous vanilla and caramel in a long finish. This is (need I repeat?) a big, bold, strapping wine.

To pair the Simi Cabernet Sauvignon with the salad recipe above, stir some cooked cubed ham or cold cooked bacon bits in before serving. The reason for larding up the salad is to add to the welcoming viscosity of the cheese—it gives the wine’s acidity something to balance out. Just add fresh baguette slices for a complete meal.