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Pairing: Pinot noir with eggplant ‘meatballs’

Our Wine of the Week, Decoy 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir ($25), is a charmer, with a beguiling earthy foundation and a subtle melody of sweet spices. The wine is true to the varietal; it is neither overextracted nor otherwise manipulated to make it more muscular than pinot noir should be. It has a flourish of delicacy, with remarkable depth.

There is plenty of fruit, but it is subtle, with reverberations of strawberry, cherry and black raspberry, accented by suggestions of forest mushrooms, Turkish bay and white peppercorns. Tannins are long and smooth, acidity is pretty and vibrant, and the finish lingers beautifully with an engaging coolness. Mushrooms are a natural partner to this wine, and I’ve enjoyed it many times with mushroom risotto, mushroom soup and mushroom strudel (recipes you can find at “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com). It is also excellent with earthy grains and legumes like farro, chickpeas and whole wheat pasta, oil-cured black olives, root vegetables and eggplant. Aged goat cheeses, rare duck and rare lamb are great matches, too.

Today’s recipe is adapted from one in “More Than Meatballs” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014).

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Eggplant Polpettine with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

Makes about 18 to 22 balls.

1 cup whole milk yogurt

1 teaspoon raw tahini

1 lemon wedge

Black pepper in a mill

1 large eggplant, oven-roasted until tender, cooled

1 tablespoon roasted garlic puree (see Note below)

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

Kosher salt

1 egg, beaten

1 cup (4 ounces) grated Vella Dry Jack or similar cheese

1 cup homemade breadcrumbs, lightly toasted, plus more as needed

1 cup, lightly packed, Italian parsley leaves, chopped

Mild olive oil, for frying

1 bunch Italian parsley, long stems discarded

Put yogurt into a small bowl, add tahini and whisk thoroughly. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and several turns of black pepper; stir, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Peel eggplant, chop its meat and set it in a colander or strainer to drain for 20-30 minutes. Transfer drained eggplant to the work bowl of a food processor, and pulse until quite fine but not fully pulverized.

Transfer to a mixing bowl. Fold in the roasted garlic puree and the minced garlic; season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Fold in the egg, mix, add the cheese and mix thoroughly.

Add two-thirds of the breadcrumbs, mix well and add the remaining breadcrumbs. If the mixture seems too loose to form balls, add another 1/4 to 1/3 cup breadcrumbs. Add the chopped parsley, taste and correct for salt and pepper.

Pour about 1/4 inch of olive oil into a heavy frying pan set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, form a spoonful of the eggplant mixture into a ball and drop it into the oil. Add several more, being certain not to crowd them. Gently rotate the eggplant balls until they are evenly cooked and browned. Transfer to absorbent paper; continue cooking until all the eggplant mixture has been used.

Spread the parsley on a serving plate, set the eggplant polpettine on top, and serve immediately with the sauce alongside.

Note: For roasted garlic puree, put 2 large garlic bulbs into a small baking dish. Add about ¼ inch of olive oil and ¼ inch of water; season with salt and pepper. Cover and roast at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Press an outer clove quickly with your thumb; if it feels soft as warm butter, remove from the oven. If not, cook, testing every 10 minutes, until it does. Cool until easy to handle. Set on work surface, pull bulbs apart and use the heel of your hand to press out garlic. Mash with a fork and scoop into a small bowl. Store leftover puree in refrigerator for about 5 days. Reserve cooking liquid to make vinaigrette.

Michele Anna Jordan has written 21 books to date, including the new “Good Cook’s” series. Email Jordan at michele@saladdresser.com. You’ll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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