Smooth jazz, smooth food and smooth wine
Although I was not at the 17th Annual Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival held at Esther Short Park over the weekend, I imagine it was a smashing success what with the perfect weather we had from Thur-Sun.
If you missed it, Dan Balmer and Mel Brown can be heard around town every week at different venues including Jimmy Maks which is a perfect spot in the Pearl to catch jazz musicians while enjoying some good food and smooth wine. Jazz pianist, Mark Simon, plays regularly at Vinotopia in Vancouver, Arrivederci in Milwaukie and the Camellia Lounge in Portland and the Bipartisan Café and No Ho’s Hawaiian Café in Portland host jazz bass player, Dave Friesen, routinely.
I would’ve particularly enjoyed Toshiko Akiyoshi. Her jazz piano sound has garnered her the prestigious Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Award which puts her in the ranks of the late Marian McPartland, a true jazz legend. And (I’m starting a sentence with ‘and’) Lee Ritenour was probably amazing. I love his work with the group, Four Play. He has a smooth guitar style that always sweeps my mind to our back patio with a luscious glass of Cab Sauv…even in the dead of winter.
I didn’t realize until this year that the Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival actually begins on Thursday night with Jazz Education Night, hosting some fantastic area jazz talent from our local high schools. I’ve been to the Clark College Jazz Festival which is held in January every year. We are blessed around here to have so many stellar up-and-coming musicians that will soon be playing in the same inviting clubs that the above artists currently frequent.
Yeah, you could say I’m a jazz fan. There is no better accompaniment to wine in my world than jazz music. It’s free form art that comes directly from the performer’s heart and to hear it live is even more magical.
Having said all that, what was I doing this past weekend? Well, writing for one but I had a couple ladies over for a long lunch on Saturday afternoon and, while listening to Divaville on the back patio, we enjoyed Salmon Pasta Salad and Cream of Zucchini Soup. Neither one of these ladies is able to drink for medical reasons but I had the ideal wine pairing for the Zucchini Soup in our cabinet that I wanted to pass along with the recipe for the soup.
Hellfire White Wine from the Columbia Gorge (Battle Ground Produce, 13.1% alcohol, $11.99) comes from Mt. Defiance Wine Company which, apparently, is an off-shoot of Phelps Creek Vineyards in Hood River. Phelps Creek tends toward sweeter whites (at least the ones I’ve tasted) so it wasn’t surprising that this white wine was on the sweeter side but it had a nice melon flavor with a pleasant spice in the finish. It would compliment the smooth, fresh flavor of the garden zucchini in the soup and, with a little more cracked pepper in the soup, the spice finish would be a great partner, as well.
I’d also feel comfortable serving it with the Salmon Pasta Salad. Salmon has a sweeter flavor, a fatty feel to it that would be a nice round mouth feel with the melon in the Hellfire White. Of course the fresher the salmon, the more this pairing would make sense.
This time of year, if you’re tending a garden, any recipe that calls for zucchini is welcome and both of these recipes call for some. The Soup uses light cream but I always substitute 12 ounces of soft tofu in any ‘cream’ soup. Even if you’re not vegetarian (and I eat some cheeses and take cream with my coffee), tofu is healthier than cream and, pureed in a blender, no one can tell the difference. I promise you. Both of the gals I had over were so surprised and then wanted the recipe so they could duplicate it at home. With how light the soup is, it’s still pleasant to serve with a cold salad on a warm summer day.
Cream of Zucchini Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter –or- 3 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 lb zucchini, trimmed and sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
2 ½ C vegetable stock
1 ¼ C light cream – or 12 oz soft tofu
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil & butter in a large saucepan until foaming. Add the onion & cook gently for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened but not brown. Add the zucchini & oregano with salt & pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the stock & bring to a boil, stirring. Lower the heat, half-cover the pan & simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Process the soup in a blender or food processor (with soft tofu) until smooth. Return to clean pan. Add two-thirds of the cream (if using) and stir over low heat until hot but not boiling. Add more stock or water if the soup is too thick. Season with salt & pepper. Pour into bowns. Swirl in the remaining cream (if using). Serves 4-6.
Adapted from Vegetarian by Linda Fraser