I don’t know if you all feel this way, but I generally think of wine as a cooler-weather cooking ingredient. When I started putting together recipes for summer blog posts, wine didn’t immediately come to mind as anything more than something to deglaze a pan, part of a sauce, or poaching liquid.
The more I looked through recipes I have around, though, the more I realized that I could use plenty of wine in summery foods, especially if they’re served cold or at room temperature. So the next few posts will be recipes that feature wine prominently. One will even be a main course that isn’t cold!
The first recipe is a frozen concoction I made up last year. My neighbor, chef, restaurateur, and food writer David Hagedorn, asked if I would test some recipes for an Indian cookbook he was co-authoring with a local chef. One of the recipes had a rhubarb chutney on the side. The recipe made a lot more chutney than I needed, so I was trying to think of ways to use it. I also had some leftover mango puree from a different recipe I was testing, so I combined the mango, the chutney, and some demi-sec sparkling wine to make a granita.
It was pretty amazing. And yes, cooling in the mouth, even with the spice from the chutney. I always rolled my eyes at the thought that spicy food could cool you off. I mean, if you’re already sweating, how is more sweat going to help? But spiciness in cold food does add something that makes me feel cooler when I eat it.
I’ve refined the recipe a bit since I first made it. I don’t always have access to rhubarb, so I’ve been using tamarind chutney instead. I learned about sweetened Latin-style tamarind syrup from Pati Jinich, who has written two books on Mexican cooking and is the creator of “Pati’s Mexican Table” on PBS. It’s easy to find in Latin markets and is an ingredient in sweet and savory Mexican dishes. It also makes a great flavoring for sparkling water when you’re not cooking with it. Plus it keeps forever in the fridge after you open it, so you can always have it on hand.
I haven’t figured out a good way to make less than about a cup and a half of the chutney and have it turn out right. You only need 2/3-cup for the granita, so save the rest and freeze it, or serve it with grilled tuna or roasted cauliflower or broccoli. If you can’t find good ripe mangoes and you like peaches, puree some frozen peaches or apricots instead.
Naturally, I have a recommendation for the sparkling wine: Domaine la Croix des Marchands Méthode Ancestrale Demi-Sec ($18). While the chutney and the mango puree are both a little sweet, freezing them dampens the sweetness – the light sweetness of the demi-sec is just enough to bring the level up to where I like it. Of course, you could just add some sugar to the chutney but where’s the fun in that? Plus demi-sec sparkling also tends to be fruitier than drier versions, which makes it an ideal ingredient here.
As usual for one of my recipes, this seems like a lot of steps. But you can make more chutney and freeze it for later. You can also use almost any jarred chutney you like — it should be sweet, sour, and spicy. Feel free to make adjustments on any of those qualities, and also puree it until it’s smooth. By all means, use frozen mango (or other fruit) chunks to puree. And of course, you’ll have plenty of the demi-sec in the fridge, right? 😉
Serves 12 as a palate-cleanser, 6 as dessert
Tamarind Chutney (makes 1-1/2 cups)
1-1/4 cups sweetened Latin tamarind syrup
½ of an unpeeled Granny Smith apple, cored and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground fennel
¼ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a saucepan until it shimmers, then add the spices, salt, and pepper. Stir over high heat for 30 seconds to a minute, until you can smell it all and the spices darken just a bit. Add the tamarind syrup (carefully, it may splatter) and the apple. Simmer for 20 minutes, then let the chutney cool a bit. Puree in a food processor or blender, and strain to remove the apple peel pieces (not always necessary, depending on how well your machine works). Let the chutney cool completely, then refrigerate until cold.
2 – 3 ripe mangoes, peeled and flesh cut from around the pit
Puree the mangoes until very smooth – they’re pretty fibrous so this will take at least a minute. You’ll need a cup of the puree for the granita, so start with two mangoes and add some or all of the third if necessary. You can always stir the leftovers into plain yogurt for breakfast. Chill the puree in the fridge.
2/3 cup tamarind chutney, chilled
1 cup mango puree, chilled
2-1/2 cups demi-sec sparkling wine, chilled (see note, below)
This works much better if everything is cold to start with. Stir the ingredients together and pour into an eight-by-eight inch baking dish. Place in the freezer for an hour, uncovered, then stir everything up with a fork, using the tines of the fork to scrape the mixture into smaller crystals. Continue freezing, stirring after each half hour, until fully frozen and nicely fluffy, another 1 to 2 hours. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and keep frozen until you’re ready to serve.
Note on demi sec sparkling wine: If you only have dry sparkling wine, you can add two teaspoons of sugar to either the mango puree or the chutney before mixing in the sparkling wine – give it some time and stirring to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved.