By Karl Wente, 5th generation winegrower/winemaker
Since I’m frequently on the road travelling for the winery, evenings at home cooking and jamming with friends have become a sacred treat for me. Personally, the process of composing a meal has a meditative quality. I strongly feel fresh and local vegetables that have been carefully and sustainably raised make such a difference. I realize that we’re really fortunate here in Northern California (the best place in the world to live and cook!) to have access to this- particularly at Wente Vineyards where sustainable farming is so much a part of our culture. Our kitchen garden has been lovingly tended by Diane Dovholuk for the 25 years since our restaurant was launched. I have fond memories from childhood of Diane—an institution at Wente Vineyards.
I’ve been extremely lucky to travel to many amazing places (all over the US, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Far East, Canada, Europe, Russia). I have had the pleasure of meeting extraordinary people from all over the world. It was interesting to see how food is perceived in different countries, and I realized that as Americans we often take our portions and produce for granted. My yoga practice has taught me a lot about balance and moderation in life—I reflect this in my diet. For me, this means consuming meat in moderation, incorporating a wide variety of fresh vegetables and minimizing waste by utilizing what you already have. Some of my favorite summer dishes include veggie lasagna, shiitake risotto and homemade flatbread.
I usually don’t use recipes when I cook, but this childhood recipe from my Aunt Carolyn’s cookbook Sharing the Vineyard Table http://www.wentevineyards.com/restaurant/cookbooks/ is one of my favorites, and a perfect reflection of my own food philosophy- it’s light, low key and highlights fresh ingredients. My family likes to accompany it with a butter lettuce salad with mustard-Meyer lemon dressing and a bruschetta with chopped sundried tomatoes or eggplant tapenade. The pure flavors of this dish pair really well with a complex Chardonnay such as our Riva Ranch or Morning Fog.
Angel Hair Pasta with Toasted Sesame Seeds, Aged Asiago Cheese and Cilantro
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
¼ cup finely minced shallot
1½ cups chicken stock (I like to substitute this with vegetable stock)
¾ cup Morning Fog Chardonnay
1 pound dried angel-hair pasta
¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted
Grated aged Asiago cheese
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the shallot and continue sautéing until the garlic is crisp, toasty and browned. 4 to 5 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and wine and lower the heat to a low simmer.
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just tender (al dente), Drain and add to the mixture in the skillet. Add the sesame seeds and toss thoroughly.
To serve, divide the pasta among 4 plates, sprinkle with an aged Asiago to taste, and garnish with whole cilantro leaves.