Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
This is about pairing wine to a recipe, I promise. But first, let’s talk about Bob Dylan, who reached his 71st birthday not long ago. At my house, any excuse is a good excuse to discuss all things Dylan, where the talk at these milestones tends to drift from comparing live recordings to trivia to ranking favorite albums. My favorites change in order from year to year and depend largely on which way the wind blows (hey-o!), but usually the top three end up running something like Blonde on Blonde, Nashville Skyline and John Wesley Harding.
Here’s a fun fact: All three of those albums feature the same drummer, Kenny Buttrey. (He also plays on Neil Young’s Harvest and Tonight’s the Night, to get serious with the trivia.) Much of the sound on these albums has to do with production choices and where Dylan was at personally, but I like to think that I can pick out Buttrey’s style across the recordings: The odd little flairs and rolling fills, the warm shuffle of the snare and a general light-footed texture to the songs. Imagine “Tonight, I’ll Be Staying Here With You” without the playful, skipping backbeat and instead sub in a straight four-four drumbeat. An entirely different song!
This year, around the occasion of Dylan’s birthday, I was cooking the pizza recipe below, listening to Nashville Skyline and, when it came time to choose a wine, thinking about Buttrey’s drumming. The pizza itself a classic combo of flavors: spicy sausage, dark green spinach, creamy ricotta cheese and sweet caramelized onion. Cooking it over a grill gives it a bit of char and is a fun outdoorsy thing for this time of year, but if you’d rather use your oven, you’ll get almost the same result flavor-wise. (A tip: Make sure you don’t overload each pizza with toppings or it will get messy on the grill.)
Here’s where the drumming comes in. When deciding on our favorite pairing, we found plenty of wines that “worked” with the pizza, just as there can be plenty of drumbeats that fit a song. But each was giving a little different texture. Syrah is a classic choice for lamb and a 2008 Languedoc blend of Grenache and Syrah was bold and flashy, matching the Merguez spice with an equally big flavor, the sort of bombastic drumming on Dylan’s Hard Rain, if you will. A lighter 2007 Carginane, Grenache and Syrah blend from the Côtes de Roussillon was more straightforward and classic, locking in flavor-wise with the lamb. But a Sangiovese blend from Tuscany had the right touch to me, dancing behind the melody and bringing a brightness to the meal that wasn’t there with the other wines. A fitting birthday toast.
Pair with: A Sangiovese Blend such as Fattoria Le Pupille Morellino di Scansano 2010 (87 points, $20)
Total time: 35 minutes
Approximate food cost: $22
1. Prepare the grill to medium-high heat or preheat the oven to 500 °F.
2. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and browned, around 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook until just soft, around 3 to 4 minutes. Strain the spinach using a colander and cool. Squeeze the excess water from the spinach using a towel, then chop finely and reserve.
4. Divide the pizza dough into 4 pieces, then press or roll out the dough until 1/8-inch thick. Brush the dough rounds with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
5. To grill: Brush the other side of the dough with oil. Place the dough rounds on the grill grates, then quickly top with the onions, spinach, crumbled cheese and sausage. Cover the grill and cook until the dough is browned and sausage cooked through, around 10 minutes. If the crust begins to brown too quickly, remove the lid and continue to cook. When done, remove from the grill and serve immediately.
6. To bake: Place the dough rounds on a greased cookie sheet, then top with the onions, spinach, crumbled cheese and sausage. Bake until the dough is browned and sausage cooked through, around 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Serves 4.
David Suway — Atlanta — June 14, 2012 6:45am ET
Tom Blair — Little Silver, NJ — June 21, 2012 8:44pm ET
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