Pairings: Sebastiani chardonnay complements light summer fare

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Our Wine of the Week, Sebastiani Vineyards 2017 North Coast Chardonnay ($14), is a budget-minded chardonnay lover’s dream. It is full, layered and complex, with a mid-palate buttery juiciness and suggestions of baked apple, vanilla, and creme brulee. Suggestions of citrus zest come and go, like fireflies at dusk.

The wine is ideal with certain summer foods, especially salmon, grilled apricots and peaches, and corn, in chowder or grilled and slathered with butter. In cooler weather, enjoy it with winter squash, creamy polenta, fettuccine Alfredo, roasted game hen, roasted chicken, braised rabbit and turkey breast.

As an aperitif, with a few well-chosen nibbles — toasted chick peas, hazelnuts, thinly sliced fennel, sliced avocado on baguette croutons — it shows itself best when it is served quite cold.

For today’s recipe, I’ve chosen a Moroccan salad ideal at this time of year. The richness of the eggplant paired with concentrated tomato flavors and that swirl of saffron make the wine blossom.

Eggplant and Tomato Salad

Makes 6 servings

2 large eggplant, roasted until tender and cooled (see Note below)

— juice of 1 lemon

— kosher salt

— several strands of saffron

1 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

5 plump garlic cloves, crushed and minced

1 teaspoon mild Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

½ cup, approximately, Picholine or similar olive

Peel the eggplant, chop the flesh and put it into a colander or strainer with small holes. Add the juice of half a lemon, sprinkle generously with salt, set in the sink, and let drain, stirring it now and then to release its liquid.

Put the saffron into a small bowl, add just enough water to moisten it, and set it aside.

Put the tomatoes into a medium skillet, add the garlic and season with salt. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until their juices concentrate, and they thicken. Remove from the heat.

With the eggplant in the colander, gently mash it until it is nearly a puree and continue to let it drain. When it seems it will release no more liquid, tip the eggplant into a medium bowl.

Add the tomatoes to the eggplant, along with the paprika, cumin, and saffron with its liquid. Stir, taste, and correct for salt. Stir in the olive oil, cover and let rest at least 30 minutes before serving.

To serve, transfer to a wide shallow bowl, top with the Italian parsley and olives, and enjoy right away.

Note: You can roast eggplant in the oven by pricking it in several places and roasting it at 475 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, until it is very tender. You can also roast it over a gas flame or in a toaster oven. However you do it, just be sure it is tender all the way through.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date. Email her at

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