Thursday, November 13, 2008

Drinks Anyone?

During a trip to Italy, we happened into a small food joint behind the touristy sections of Verona. We ordered a glass of amarone. Since then we've been on a search for that same fantastic glass of wine we had in that hole-in-the-wall in amarone country. We bought a horrifically expensive bottle (okay, $40, which is considered low-end on the amarone price scale) that tasted like a $5 bottle of swill that the liquor store can't unload. He decided we weren't going to be able to find that wine again and if we did, we'd never afford it.

I don't give up that easily. Up until that moment in that restaurant in Italy, I wasn't much of a wine drinker. I shied away from it, not sure what to order and afraid of looking dumb to those in the know (which is why I can't bring myself to order Zinfandel in public, though I do like the lightness of it sometimes). So I searched. I sampled. I searched some more. Lo and behold, five years later (I told you - I don't give up easily) I found what could be the rival of that very wine. In fact, I'd venture to say it's better. And lord, is it cheaper.

It's an Italian wine from the same region - Verona. It's Cesari Mara Vino di Ripasso. At my state store (in PA, we can't buy this stuff willy nilly - liquor must be controlled lest we all want it!), I turned to a clerk and asked, hoping he'd have a suggestion or a clue. I asked the right person. He not only knew amarone brands well, he knew what tasted most like it and what would be an excellent albeit cheaper alternative. Amen. For $19.99 instead of $119, I'm pleased. The texture is amazing, and it's one of those wines that just leaves you feeling like you've experienced something. Forgive me - I'm not a wine expert. I'm just a gal who enjoys tasty stuff, and this hit the spot very nicely. It went very well with this tortilla casserole I put together, which I found on the Yahoo! Food website and adapted to fit what I had on hand:

Tortilla Casserole

1 Tbl. olive oil
1/3 cup diced onion
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes (soup-sized can)
1 carrot, diced
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 tsp. ground cumin
salt to taste
6 tortillas, cut into quarters
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray lasagna baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat oil and saute onion and carrots until onion browns a little. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, cumin and salt and cook until heated through.

Line bottom of dish with half the tortillas. spoon half the veggie mixture on top, then top with remaining tortillas and the remaining veggies on top of that. Sprinkle cheese over top, cover with foil, and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake ten more minutes or until the cheese is melted.

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