Food and Wine with Catalan Style

Written by | Food & Wine

Each of the seasons holds a special place in my heart with a slightly different personal focus when the work whistle blows. In the springtime, it’s about fitness and getting in shape for me. Summertime is vacation, fun and outdoors. And fall is my favorite season of all – for indulging with friends in the many foods and wines that mark the harvest season. It’s when I head back to my kitchen after taking six months off. How ya doin’, Dutch oven? Rember me, KitchenAid?

Let’s face it, is there any better food that holiday food? When you think of your favorite meal, if you’re anything like me, it’s warm, savory, aromatic, comforting and you’re surrounded by loved ones. I often take inspiration from dishes I’ve savored at wineries and adjacent eateries. Delicious cuisine abounds in wine country.

I’m at home in the wine country in autumn. The energy and excitement of the harvest is in the air. Now, I’m referring mostly to the Northern California Wine County of Napa and Sonoma, but plant me in any wine country in the fall and I’m a happy boy – oh, those light berry-scented Pinot Noirs from Willamette Valley, Oregon, the big Syrahs from Columbia Valley, Washington, or a crisp Reisling from Finger Lakes, New York. Yessir, all these areas produce world-class wines worthy of stirring a chef to create the perfect culinary accompaniment.

Our wine and food journey today takes us to the hamlet of Graton, California in West Sonoma County where we’re going to find inspiration to create some truly unique Spanish meals and pair them perfectly with a sumptuous wine varietal. I can, with almost certainty, guarantee your dinner guests will be pleasantly awed. But how did we get to Spain via Sonoma? It’s a fun story.

Back in the early aughts on a Labor Day weekend visit to the Russian River, my travel companions and I took one of the windy roads through West Sonoma County on our way back to SFO. We had time for one more winery visit as we came upon a sign that read Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery – Wine Tasting. Let’s do it! Well, let me tell you … we enjoyed the most delightful tasting at this Catalan style winery and indulged in their rich history. Marimar Torres comes from generations of legendary Spanish wine makers. The Torres family remains one of the largest and most heralded wine producers in Spain.

We were compelled to buy our favorite bottles and keep the party going on their sun-drenched patio overlooking the tree-filled hills with hawks soaring in thermals above and ripe bountiful grape vineyards below. Marimar Estate’s ‘Dobles Lias’ Chardonnay on a warm September afternoon with that vista … we almost missed our flight.

Over the years, we’ve come to know the proprietors, Marimar Torres and Christina Torres. We learned early on this warm and gracious mother-daughter duo, not only produce some of the most outstanding wines in the region, but they’re also legit culinary artists specializing in Spanish dishes. Marimar has even published two cookbooks, The Catalan Country Kitchen: Food and Wine from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean Seacoast of Barcelona and The Spanish Table: Cuisine and Wine of Spain. Whenever Marimar invites you to her winery or home for a meal, say yes immediately.

A few years ago, these enterprising ladies launched a monthly food and wine show Marimar’s Spanish Table: A Live Cooking Show. It airs the first Tuesday of every month at 5pm Pacific on Facebook Live and Instagram Live. I never miss an episode of their lighthearted cooking show. While I don’t usually cook along at home, I always sip wine along with Marimar and Christina (and laugh along with them too).

Having tried dozens of their recipes in my home kitchen from Miramar’s Spanish Table over the years, and paired with the recommended wine, I’ve had great success as a novice cook of Spanish cuisine following the steps. And admittedly any missteps had more to do with me enjoying too much wine while cooking. (Hic!) 

Here are three of my favorite recipes from their collection and paired with a Marimar and Christina approved wine. I invite you to indulge in the season – Catalan style!

Huevos Rellenos con Anchoa (eggs stuffed with anchovies and cheese) which is an easy to prepare and flavor-filled appetizer perfect for serving as a first course or taking to another host’s dinner party. Bring this along with an unoaked Chardonnay and you’re sure to be invited back.

Serves 6

        • 6 small eggs, or 12 quail eggs
        • 1 ounce flat anchovy fillets, drained, well rinsed and patted dry
        • Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
        • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
        • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
        • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
        • White pepper, to taste
        • Niçoise olives, or other small black flavorful olives

To cook the eggs:

Place eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to very low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes (less for quail eggs). Run cold water over eggs to stop the cooking. Peel eggs, cut them in half lengthwise, and carefully remove yolks. Set aside.

To prepare the filling:

In a food processor, puree anchovies with pepper flakes; add olive oil and Parmesan, and whirl until a thick paste is formed. Add egg yolks and lemon juice, and mix thoroughly. Taste for seasoning. Place in a pastry bag and refrigerate until shortly before serving. (Can prepare the day before and keep in fridge until ready).

To assemble the stuffed eggs:

Using a pastry bag, pipe filling into the egg white halves. Cut olives in half and remove pits; garnish each egg with half an olive. Serve at room temperature.

Wine Pairing

Marimar Estate Acero Chardonnay

Acero is the Spanish word for steel and it refers to the fact that this wine has never seen any oak. Specially selected for fruit intensity and aromatics, the grapes are fermented in stainless steel to capture the purity of the flavors. The wine is then kept in the tank until bottling in early spring

Tasting Notes

Fresh, floral aromas of white flowers and apple blossoms, with some citrus and stone fruits. On the palate it is savory and lively, with good acidity and refreshing minerality reminiscent of wet pebbles. Perfect with foods like tapas, seafood and lighter dishes.

Codorniz con Manzanas (quail with apples and raisins) is a real treat for a cozy dinner party at home when you want to treat a few guests to something special. This one takes a little extra effort, but it’s well worth it! Raise a glass of Pinot Noir to toast your success. It’s the perfect partner for this dish.

Serves 4

        • 2 ounces raisins, preferably a mix of dark and golden
        • 1/2 cup full-bodied brandy
        • 8 quail, trussed
        • 3/4 teaspoon salt
        • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
        • 2 tablespoons olive oil
        • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
        • 1 large onion, finely chopped
        • 1 large leek, finely chopped, with about one-third of green part
        • 1 small tender celery stalk, with leaves, finely chopped
        • 3 tablespoons butter
        • 1 pound tart apples (Gravenstein, Pippin, or Granny Smith), peeled and cut in wedges
        • 1/2 cup sugar
        • 2-1/2 cups homemade chicken stock
        • 1-1/2 cups dry white wine

Soak raisins in brandy for at least 30 minutes.

Pat quail dry and season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. In a large, lidded flameproof casserole, heat olive oil and quickly brown quail over medium-high heat. Remove from casserole and set aside. Add carrot, onion, leek, and celery to the casserole; scrape bottom with a spatula to release browned particles and cook over low heat for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a medium skillet and sauté apple wedges over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring. Add sugar, increase heat to medium-high, and cook for about 5 minutes, turning apples until they caramelize. Add raisins with brandy and when hot, flambé. Cook, shaking pan, for 2-5 minutes, or until dry. Set aside.

Add stock and wine to casserole, and season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, add quail, turn heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer quailto a serving platter, arrange raisins and apples around them, and keep warm. Transfer sauce in casserole to a blender and purée. Strain through a medium sieve into skillet where apples were cooked. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring, until reduced to about 1 or 2 cups. Pour sauce over quail and serve warm.

Wine Pairing

Marimar Estate Mas Cavalls Pinot Noir

(Wine Spectator: 92 points)

The cool breezes and drifting fog from the Pacific Ocean, six miles away, make it an ideal site for Pinot Noir. Planted in the European style of super-high density, with 2,340 vines per acre, the yields are low and labor is intensive; but the vines live longer and the grapes acquire better balance and greater concentration, as well as more elegance and finesse.

Beautiful, classic Pinot color and a nose that reflects its ancestry: sweet black fruits like blackberries, rhubarb and cranberry, plus the classic forest floor, meaty and earthy, with floral notes of lavender and rose hip. On the palate it is soft but mouth- filling, with minerality, bright acidity and well-integrated tannins.

Arros a la Cassola amb Marisc (shellfish paella in clay casserole) is an ambitious recipe that is sure to wow the crowd. Just the mention of paella makes one think bounty. This dish is the party. Open a bottle or two of Tempranillo to accompany your masterpiece – this is a food and wine pairing made in Spanish heaven.

(In a large flameproof clay casserole)

For the sofregit:

        • 1/3 cup olive oil
        • 2 pounds red onions, minced
        • 2 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped

For the picada:

        • 2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
        • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
        • ¼ teaspoon powdered saffron
        • ¾ teaspoon salt
        • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

For the rice and shellfish:

        • 16 small live clams, scrubbed
        • 16 small live mussels, scrubbed
        • 2 tablespoons olive oil
        • 2 pounds squid, cleaned, bodies cut into rings, tentacles whole
        • 1 ½ cups short grain rice
        • 4 cups fish stock
        • 16 large prawns in shells
        • ½ pound large scallops

To prepare the sofregit:

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions and sauté slowly over low heat stirring from time to time until onions are brown and almost caramelized adding water as needed so onions don’t burn (45-60 minutes). Add tomatoes and increase heat to medium; cook until dry. Transfer to casserole.

To prepare the picada:

In a food processor, finely grind all ingredients. Set aside.

To prepare the clams and mussels:

In a large pot, bring ½ cup water to a boil. Steam clams and mussels on a rack above boiling water until they open (4-5 minutes for mussels, 5-10 minutes for clams). Set aside, discarding any that don’t open. Strain broth through a fine mesh strainer and reserve.

To cook rice and shellfish:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a medium skillet and add squid rings and tentacles. Sautee for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add sauteed squid and juices to casserole with sofregit. Stir in rice and picada.

Measure reserved broth and add enough fish stock to equal 4 ½ cups. Bring to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add to casserole and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes gently moving rice to cook evenly. Add prawns and scallops pushing into broth so they are covered.

Transfer casserole to oven and cook for 10 minutes, so that rice is slightly underdone. Remove from oven, arrange mussels and clams on top. Cover with a cloth and let it sit 10 minutes before serving.

Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with garlic aioli, if desired.

Wine Pairing

Marimar Estate Tempranillo

This is recognized as the finest red variety indigenous to Spain. West Sonoma is proving ideal for this grape to thrive, just like it does in the cool areas of Ribera del Duero and High Rioja of Northern Spain.

Classic aromas of the variety like black cherry and figs, beautifully integrated with the notes of baking spices, fennel and hints of tobacco contributed by the elegant oak. The palate is rich and round, with soft and chewy tannins.


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Last modified: October 6, 2023