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Our Wine of the Week, McNab 2013 Family Reserve Mendocino Old Vine Zinfandel ($26), is a perfect pick for summer. Although no one would mistake this wine for anything other than what it is, a beautifully made zinfandel from vintage vines, it has a delicacy, a prettiness, one does not often see. It still has a bit of that rustic character the varietal expresses, but it’s dressed up in petticoats, not chaps or leather vests.

Flavors suggest dark fruit, especially black raspberries, cherries, and plums, along with star bursts of allspice, anise, and clove, along with golden brown toast the moment it pops from the toaster on a cool morning, and a cool quality contributed by the wine’s beguiling acid. This wine is a lovely match with summer’s harvest, especially sweet peppers, ripe tomatoes, figs, and properly cooked green beans. Pastas, rice dishes, and even polenta paired with summery sauces made from these foods work beautifully, especially if you add a bit of bacon. (Vegetarians can use very thinly sliced and grilled eggplant or zucchini in place of the bacon.)

Today’s recipe is from “The BLT Cookbook” (Morrow, 2003). Its flavors and textures are inspired by summer’s best sandwich, a dish that also flatters this lovely summer quaffer.

Tomatoes Filled with Bacon Risotto
Serves 6

2-2½ cups Risotto with Bacon (recipe follows)

— Olive oil

6 cups red lettuce shredded into ¼-inch wide slices

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cut off the stem end of each tomato by making a crosswise slice just above the shoulders. Use a teaspoon to scoop out all the seeds and gel, leaving only the skin and outer layer of flesh attached to it.

Fill each tomato with risotto and the filled tomatoes into a baking dish that has been brushed with olive oil. Bake until the tomatoes are tender and the risotto fully hot, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Put the lettuce into a medium mixing bowl, season with salt and toss gently. Add a tablespoon or two of live oil, toss again, season with black pepper and toss again. Divide the lettuce among individual plates and set a tomato on top of each portion. Sprinkle parsley on top of the risotto and enjoy.

___

Risotto with Bacon
Makes about 3½ cups

6 thick bacon slices

1 tablespoon butter

1 small yellow onion, cut into small dice

2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

1½ cups Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice

5-6 cups chicken broth or stock, preferably homemade, hot

3 ounces (¾ cup) grated dry Jack or similar cheese

3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

Fry the bacon in a deep saucepan, such as a 12-inch saucier, until it is almost completely crisp. Transfer the bacon onto a brown paper bag to drain; when the bacon has cooled, crush or mince it.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat, reduce the heat to low, add the butter, and, when it is melted, add the onion. Sauté until the onion is soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the rice to the onion mixture and cook, stirring all the while with a wooden spoon, until each grain turns milky white. Begin adding the broth or stock to the rice, ½ cup at a time, and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Adjust the heat so that the liquid neither evaporates upon contact with the pan nor simply simmers slowly. It will take from 20 to 22 minutes for the rice to be sufficiently tender; if liquid runs low, simply add some water to the pan holding it.

When the rice is tender but not mushy, fold in the cheese, the parsley, and the bacon. Stir, add the final bit of liquid, taste, and correct for salt and pepper.

Set aside what is needed to stuff the tomatoes and either save the rest or enjoy it now. This risotto will keep for 3 or so days in the refrigerator.

Email Michele Anna Jordan at catsmilk@sonic.net.