Spring Cooking! Spring Wine! (and a recipe!)
In my former life (before a long-ish career in the food and bev industry) I used to do wild and crazy things like go to Saturday farmers markets! (Insert laughter here.)
But in all seriousness I have been trying to take a few more Saturdays off and thus finally found my way to the Sea Island Farmer’s Market on John’s Island. As we all know, the Lowcountry spring charm has been in full effect, and high on this vibe I bought an embarrassing amount of fresh veggies to make a spring feast. And I had just the wine in mind for the pairing: Amevive Grenache Blanc! If you are unfamiliar with this lovely Santa Barbara winery let me give you an intro…Amevive means: soulful, lively soul, living soul. And the tremendous soul behind it is Alice Anderson. She grew up in California and always loved being outdoors and ultimately majored in viticulture and oenology at Cal Poly. She went on to work harvests in New Zealand and France before returning to Cali where she worked at several esteemed Santa Barbara projects (Tyler, Tribute to Grace, and Tatomer).
Now Grenache Blanc is not the most common grape, but it is one I love in its native French environs and had high hopes for the Amevive interpretation. It delivered in all manners. Alice herself describes it as: “Delicate, salty, zesty, Refreshing like a spring creek high up in the mountains.” And I couldn't agree more!
The grapes come from Buttonwood Vineyard in Los Olivos District AVA (a subregion of Santa Barbara). The vines are old, own-rooted (not grafted), and have been farmed organically for several years. Certainly, all of this could add to the depth and complexity of this wine!
Now as far as the pairing….one of the many things I miss from farmers market foraging is taking inspiration from what is offered rather than planning in advance (as one usually does at the grocery). As stated, I walked away with many things, but a few ingredients seemed to naturally coalesce for that night’s supper: baby turnips (roots and greens!), spring onions, and gnocchi. All I needed was to stop at Crosby’s for shrimp!
Here’s the very casual recipe:
Toss one pound of peeled and de-veined shrimp in 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, and a pinch of baking soda. Refrigerate and reserve.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the lovely greens off of turnip roots (I had 2 nice bunches of bay turnips, about 12 turnips total); cut greens into nice ribbons (going horizontal across the rib of the green); wash in cold water; dry in salad spinner; and reserve.
Scrub turnip roots until decently clean :) Cut into halves or quarters (nice bite-size). Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast until just tender (this will not take long – maybe 20 to 30 minutes – do not overcook!) Remove from oven and reserve.
Prepare a pot of simmering, salted water to have ready to cook your gnocchi (here in Charleston we have frozen Rio Bertolini gnocchi, which is a dream)!
But before actually cooking the gnocchi, let’s make the sauce…thinly slice the white bulbs of 4 to 6 spring onions. (Save green tops for another use.) Saute onions in olive oil with salt and pepper over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add some heavy cream (about ½ cup) and reduce until nice and thick. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. And stir to combine. Begin adding your turnip green ribbons to the creamy onion mixture, stirring to combine, allowing each addition to wilt before adding more. You now have creamed turnip greens! Now, grab your reserved shrimp; squeeze more lemon juice on them; add to creamed greens. Stir to combine and cover pot with a lid – just for a minute or so to allow shrimp to cook without reducing your sauce any more.
Shrimp will cook very quickly! They are done when just turning pink. Do not over cook your shrimp, or you will be sad :(
While shrimp are quickly cooking, turn up the heat on your simmering water. Once boiling, add your gnocchi and cook until they rise to the surface. Pour into a colander and then quickly add to the pot with your creamy shrimp sauce. Stir to combine. Add your still-warm turnip roots and gently stir to combine again (careful not to break up turnip roots). (If your turnip roots cooled way down you could even microwave for like 30 seconds before adding to sauce.)
Taste for seasoning. Garnish with Parmesan if you desire (some consider Parm garnish to be blasphemous on seafood, but I enjoy it!) Serve with a nice, cool (but not too cold) glass (or two!) of Amevive Grenache Blanc. Raise a toast to spring!
P.S. The Amevive wines have beautiful label art by Alice’s mother Eileen. According to Alice: “The monarch imagery is meant to emphasize the importance of invertebrates and pollinators in our ecosystem. The monarchs made a huge population comeback in 2021 hence the new label art. This wine is a tribute to learning about the importance of native insects and their ecology.”