Reaching for Red, Even on Meatless Monday

A glass of red wine with a juicy, grilled steak or some other slab of red meat – it doesn’t take a whole lot of careful study to put a pairing like that together.

But you might be surprised to know that wines like the protea Red – a blend with a good core of fruit, medium body and subtle but discernible tannin – can also go great with dinner even when there’s no meat in the middle of the plate.

Photo from Meatless Mondays

Photo from Meatless Mondays

In fact, fall is the perfect time to explore the possibilities of pairing red wine and vegetable dishes, as lighter veggie entrees that feel right for hot summer days give way to the heartier and richer possibilities of the new season.

And here’s another thing to think about: This month also marks the celebration of ten years of Meatless Monday, a movement that has won the endorsement of everyone from veggie hero Paul McCartney to Mario Batali, a guy whose known to stuff prosciutto in his meat loaf. If he can go meatless for a day, you can too.

As with pairing white wines and food, there are no hard and fast rules to impart here. But kind of like the architectural saying that form follows function, with veggie dishes pairing possibilities tend to follow technique.

Spring and summer produce shines when prepared with a very light touch, or even raw, as with vine-ripened, homegrown tomatoes sliced and dressed with salt, a good olive oil and maybe some fresh basil. In the fall, though, we fire up the oven and stewing, braising and roasting come to the fore – and these techniques can give vegetables the depth and richness they need to pair well with red wines.

Another principle to keep in mind comes courtesy Tribune wine columnist Bill St. John, who notes that dishes that pair best with red wines tend to be “rich in oil or fat (such as cheese or other dairy, and fruit or not oils.”

With that, here are some recipes you might try next Meatless Monday – or any day when you want to have your veggies and drink your red wine too.

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