Recipes for Summer: Nippon Niçoise & Spanish Romesco Burgers

Recipes for Summer: Nippon Niçoise & Spanish Romesco Burgers

To go along with our Summer Six-Pack and Mini-Summer Pack specials, I thought I’d include some fun and simple recipes that experience has shown me pair well with the wines we’ve chosen. This post covers two of the wines—our 2018 Dry Riesling and our 2018 Sans Soufre Ajouté. The first recipe is somewhat involved but no real sweat, whereas the second is simply for a great condiment (how you make a burger is up to you). I hope you enjoy. Stay tuned for pairings with the last two wines in the Summer Six-Pack.


2018 Dry Riesling + Nippon Niçoise

It might seem odd getting really excited about a salad, but if you ask me, a proper niçoise salad is one of the most delicious meals for summertime. I’m not talking about a niçoise with canned tuna, though (which just feels like a resourceful compilation of what’s in your pantry). With a hearty portion of fresh seared ahi and some intent, this lunch special can become a fortifying dinner classic.

The thing with classics though, is that they invite deviation as much as perfection. Once you understand how to make coq au vin, for instance, that’s a springboard for keeping the technique but tweaking the flavors however you wish. With niçoise salad, a straight-forward version is terrific with our Sauvignon Blanc, but this recipe is bent around pairing with our 2018 Dry Riesling from Kick On Ranch.

The classic niçoise salad gets sort of a Japanese makeover in this recipe. It’s a trite bit of wisdom that Riesling and Asian flavors pair well, but it’s wisdom nonetheless. The thought of olives with Japanese flavorings seemed odd though, so I swapped olives for the brininess of umeboshi—salt cured Japanese plums—which I used in the vinaigrette. The ahi is crusted with black sesame seeds. The flavors become full-circle with soy-marinated eggs, daikon, togarashi potatoes and seasoned cucumber.

To serve four:

2lb Ahi loin, cut into 1” thick filets
4 eggs
1 cup soy sauce
Mixed greens
½ lb green beans or snap peas
Daikon radish, 4” section julienned
English cucumber, sliced to thin ovals
2 cups cherry tomatoes, roasted
2 medium russet potato, cut ¼” thick
Togarashi powder
Black sesame seeds


2 umeboshi, pit removed
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
½ cup peanut or vegetable oil
¼ tsp sesame oil
Pinch ground black pepper

First, boil eggs. If you want eggs that peel easily, follow this advice from J. Kenji López-Alt’s The Food Lab: Bring water in a saucepan to boil, carefully lower eggs into the water and cook for 30 seconds. Add a dozen ice cubes and allow water to return to boil, then drop the flame to minimum. He says sub-simmer for 11 minutes for foolproof hardboiled eggs—I did 9 minutes for a slightly soft yolk. Remove eggs and place into a bowlful of ice water to stop cooking.

Peel eggs, then place into a tall jar or ziplock bag with the soy sauce. Allow 1+ hour to marinate then halve or quarter the eggs.

To save time, after removing the eggs I cranked the heat back up and blanched the green beans in that water. 2 minutes boiling, then shock the green beans in ice water.

Start roasting your tomatoes at 425 (until cooked and lightly charred), and cut your vegetables while they roast.

Shallow fry potatoes until golden and crisp, then dust and tumble with togarashi seasoning. Keep pan with oil for cooking the ahi, reserving 1 Tbsp oil.

For the vinaigrette, use a blender or food processor to mix the ingredients, slowly drizzling in the vegetable oil.

Then liberally coat both sides of the ahi filets with black sesame seeds. Sear over high flame with a bit of oil, 30-40 seconds a side for rare ahi. Then slice vertically.

Finally, array these prepared ingredients over the mixed greens, dress with the umeboshi vinaigrette, garnish with furikake (optional).


The Pairing:

Of course you don’t have to pair Riesling with Asian cuisine. What to Drink with What You Eat suggests pairing Riesling with roasted ham or duck too, with the same large font zeal that curries and Thai food are suggested. Some Rieslings, especially those with peachier continental fruit flavors, definitely reward breaking out of the pair-with-Asian-flavors box.

Our dry Kick On Riesling is so exotic, though—I can’t help but go there. While also profoundly mineral-driven, with this Riesling you find the citrus notes are dominated by lime, there’s this racy white fruit that reminds me of tropical soursop, plus there are warm-hued notes of loquat and a fragrance of ginger blossoms. It’s so far out that matching it with unique flavors seems only natural.

You’ll find the wine pops alongside the salty, fruity flavors of umeboshi. Then there’s that spread between the decadent, savory marinated egg and the fresh, crunchy cucumbers and daikon radishes. This 2018 dry Riesling takes it all in stride.

*Some credit is due to this vinaigrette recipe, though I pulled back considerably on the sesame oil and was affirmed that it did not need more salt.


2018 Sans Soufre Ajouté + Spanish Romesco Burgers

Burgers with romesco sauce is a great thing. This delicious Spanish condiment is a rough emulsion of roasted red bell pepper, nuts, spices and olive oil, thickened with bread crumbs. Traditionally it’s served with lighter fare like seafood and grilled vegetables (and it is awesome that way).

Some years back I got to thinking that romesco would be great on a manchego cheeseburger, especially with a lamb patty. A Spanish burger, if you will. Looking online now, I’m not the only person to connect those dots. Romesco cries out for red meat just the same, with earthy richness, an exotic kick, and delicious sweet tang. It’s great on anything, really—if you have leftovers, try it with eggs in the morning.

There are a lot of recipes out there for romesco, and there is a lot of variance and bones to pick with most of them. The red pepper to nuts ratio is a big one, so is whether or not to use bread (I think it’s a must), or tomatoes (I say yes, and the bread thickens the looseness tomatoes bring). So, without claiming much originality about it, here’s romesco just to my liking:


2/3 cup slivered blanched almonds (one 2.25 oz bag)
2 roasted red bell peppers
1/4 cup tomato puree, fire-roasted ideally
1 slice sourdough (thin sliced, you want a 1/3 cup crumbs)
2 Tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp Cayenne
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp oregano (dried)
1/2 cup Olive Oil

First, toast the slivered almonds in a pan or toaster oven, until just lightly golden.

Then toast the sourdough to lightly golden, and leave in the toaster for 10 minutes to dehydrate the bread further (you want inedibly dry toast). Break into small pieces.

Add these coarse toasted ingredients to the food processor first, pulsing until these ingredients are broken into small uniform bits.

Then all remaining ingredients except the oil, process until medium smooth, then start drizzling in the oil. Mix until it’s about as thick as pesto sauce. Make this at least an hour before you’re putting meat on the grill and let set at room temp. It may taste somewhat bland at first; it takes some time for the flavors to bloom with romesco. Oil separation is normal; stir before using.

Once you’ve grilled up the patties with manchego to your liking, toast the buns then assemble the burger with the romesco on the bottom bun. Then place the patty, then top with dressed arugula and quick-pickled shallots or red onion, if you wish.

The Pairing:

With this burger you have a lot of intense, smoky Spanish flavors going on. That can stir the mind with thoughts of Grenache, or Garnacha as it’s called in Spain (where the grape is likely from, yet that’s still debated). But with lamb patties you also bring that ferrous, meaty intensity of lamb into the mix, which is oh so good and classic with Syrah.

So, split the difference by pairing with our 2018 Sans Soufre Ajouté—a sulfite-free 50/50 blend of Grenache and Syrah from John Sebastiano Vineyard. It’s a flashy exhibit of cool climate Rhone flavors— redolently spicy, amply fleshed and rich with dark fruits and raspberry. This wine just sings alongside these smoky, earthy flavors in this burger.

This wine also just seems to make sense with a casual backyard gathering; the gutsy flavors make for a crowd pleaser, and the wine shows this barbless, easy-going kind of drinkability. It’s just right for burgers with friends.