Memories of Golan Heights Winery with a Side of Meatball Shakshuka Part 2 #WinePW


In my last post, I shared some of my experiences traveling to Golan Heights Winery in northern Israel. I thought this was such a fascinating area and I’d definitely encourage you to take a look back at that post to get to know the region a bit. In this post I’ll be taking a closer look at a wine from their subsidiary winery, Galil Mountain Winery, which is just under an hour’s drive away from Golan Heights Winery.



THE WINE


Galil Mountain Winery is a joint venture between Golan Heights Winery and Kibbutz Yiron established in 2000. Micha Vaadia is Chief Winemaker here, and they have the same commitment to sustainability as their parent winery. They have six vineyards that reach elevations of 2,800 feet and mixture of soils limestone to flint, terra rossa, and basalt which is a dark volcanic soil. 




The wine in question today is the Galil Mountain Winery Alon Upper Galilee 2014.  (This wine was sent to me s a sample, but note that as always, all opinions are my own.) This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. On the day we opened the bottle we picked up notes of chocolate dipped cherries on the nose, pepper, a hint of paprika, plums, raspberries, and dried tobacco. Sour cherries, blackberries, spice, and a bare smidge of tomato paste joined in on the palate. The fruit hits the palate first, but it’s followed by good bit of earthy minerality on the finish in the form of a mix of stones and terracotta. It was medium + in body, with some tannic grip, and it definitely opened and smoothed out with air, so it would benefit from decanting.


THE PAIRING 


Warning: Major food geek tangent on the way.



I decided to recreate a favorite food memory from my trip to pair with this wine. Right before our visit at Golan Heights Winery we stopped for lunch at Rak Hummus. This spot is located in a mini strip mall (I’m talking 2 to 3 businesses total) in a gas station basically across the street from the entrance to the winery. This little restaurant’s name means “only hummus,” and as promised that is solely what they focus on. However,  the dishes are much more elaborate than what I’d previously imagined a hummus dish could be –– even with my deep and unending love for the stuff. Beautiful salads, stewed veggies, and other preparations are presented on a bed of creamy hummus. 





Among the dishes we ordered was one in which steaming shakshuka was ladled on top of the hummus. I’d never thought to combine these two before and it at once seemed like such a perfect idea. For the uninitiated, shashuka is a dish in which eggs are poached in a spiced tomato sauce, often with other vegetables like onions and peppers. It’s simple and delicious and can be enjoyed at any time of day. There are many similar dishes around the world – for example, Eggs in Purgatory is essentially the Italian take on the same thing. 




Here the shashuka on hummus was served with a basket of both challah and pita bread. I saw this as a simple, but very nice gesture. You see, despite being two of the most popular dishes in Israel, neither shashuka nor hummus are Israeli by origin. Here is a brief history of shashuka from an article on Culture Trip:
The dish’s name, shakshuka, essentially means ‘all mixed up’ – and that’s what it really is. The dish, presumed to have originated in either Yemen or Tunis, is made up of eggs cooked in tomato sauce and peppers, sometimes with onions, other herbs or cheese, and is usually served in the iron pan it was cooked in, along with some bread, which is meant for dipping in the sauce and the soft cooked-egg. 
According to some food historians, shakshuka originated in Yemen, while others claim it came from the Ottoman Empire. It is only known that to Israel, the dish came from northeast African cultures, and more specifically, from the Lybian-Tunisian region.
When immigration to Israel from North African countries was in its prime, immigrants suffered financial difficulties and this hearty and affordable dish, containing eggs, vegetables and bread, became a household favourite. Besides being very approachable, shakshuka is also super easy to make and only required one pan – which makes it all the more popular at picnic brunches or for light dinners.

If you pick up the question of the origins of hummus, you would have found yourself in the middle of one of the food world's feuds. I’m not joking. Google “Hummus Wars” and you can easily slide down a rabbit hole. Arguments around this question are FIERCE, and it’s not just a question hotly debated by aficionados, it’s been taken up by the governments of Lebanon and Israel as well. The earliest recorded descriptions of the dish can be traced back to Egypt in the 13th century. Syria also has a strong claim as to the point of origin, but really no one is absolutely certain where it originated.

The word hummus does come from the Arabic word for chickpeas, however, it loooooooong ago spread out all over the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Here is a quote from an article by chef Yotam Ottolenghi for the Guardian on the subject:


The emotive power of hummus all over the Middle East cannot be overstated, being the focus of some serious tribal rivalries. It is, of course, an Arab dish that has its variations all over the wider region from Persia to Greece, adopted by the Israelis as one of their national treasures and turned into an obsession.

Israelis debate the best hummus places the way we Americans might debate the best pizza joints. It’s considered an unofficial national dish, a point for which the country has been criticized as a manner of appropriation. Part of my family background is Lebanese, which has given me a deep love for hummus, however, I didn’t grow up with the very clear sensitivities that exist around this subject so I don’t have a hardline view.

I think it’s important to know the origins of food and certainly think we should be sensitive to the history and traditions that surround them, but how long would a food have to be in a region for it to be typical to that area if the long history here doesn’t count? To return to my pizza analogy, I might point out that it is also not originally American – obviously, it’s Italian – but can we say pizza is un-American? For that matter, if we go back to Italy, the tomatoes that we love to top our pizzas with didn’t arrive in Italy from South America until the 1500’s, and who would now say that tomatoes aren’t Italian?  And both of these foods have been in their new homes less time than hummus has been in the area Israel is now in. I dunno, I might be stepping in a hornet’s nest, but I’m just putting these thoughts out there for consideration. 




While going down this rabbit hole I found a quote from Rak Hummus’ chef Tom Kabalo on the subject in an article on this subject on the BBC: “It’s a Jewish food  . . . It was mentioned in our bible 3,500 years ago.” All the same, I saw the act of presenting the shakshuka - hummus dish with a basket that included both pita and challah bread as an acknowledgment of the importance of these foods in both the Arabic and Jewish traditions of the region and I appreciated it. It was also delicious.

This combo shakshuka - hummus dish was the inspiration for my pairing with this wine, but I wanted to add a meaty component to the dish. I was a little limited in my selection because of COVID, but found I had meatballs in the freezer. I decided to continue mixing food traditions and added them in to cook in the sauce. On the flip side, I did read that Ottoman versions originally included minced meat, so perhaps I wasn’t so far off after all. The meatballs I made were similar to this version, but you can also use store-bought versions to make things easy, or leave them out and keep this vegetarian. It’s a very satisfying dish whichever way you enjoy it.


For the shashuka sauce, I looked at Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe in Plenty  for inspiration. (His cookbooks are among my very favorites! You can also find a version of his recipe here. Again, I was limited here as to some of the ingredients I had on hand, so I improvised a bit. Then again, this is a dish that lends itself to improvisation – if you’ve got some sauce and some eggs, you’ve got shakshuka! If you’ve got other veggies on hand, great! Add ‘em in.




As for the hummus, I use a very simple recipe I got from my mom. For whatever reason she keeps it close to the chest, but it's pretty similar to this one from Ina Garten, except I don't use hot sauce. I chose to serve them separately this time, but you can also spoon the shashuka onto a hummus base.

I also attempted to make my own sourdough pita bread. I used this recipe for the dough, but found I had better luck cooking the pitas in a cast iron pan on my stovetop. My results were extremely variable to say the least, so we’ll definitely have to consider my homemade pitas as work in progress.

The food and wine otherwise made a very tasty combo. Altogether this was a very hearty dish with or without meat. It’s also pretty ideal for quarantine cooking as well as for busy nights just about anytime since it’s so to customize and adapt to what you have on hand. Memories of a great trip and a wonderful meal were an extra bonus for me.


OTHER POSSIBILITIES


The meatball shashuka should work with a good number of red wines that are medium to medium+ in body. The one thing to keep in mind is that tomatoes are a high-acid food and will need a wine with a good amount of acidity to match it, otherwise the wine might taste flat in combination. Other good options include Barbera and Sangiovese based wines like Chianti, particularly younger, fruitier styles – no need to get out your really aged versions for this pairing.

As for the wine, this red seems like it would be pretty versatile to me and should pair easily with grilled meats, hamburgers, and many other dishes.



THE GEEKY DETAILS


Taken from the tech sheet.

Region: Upper Galilee.
Varieties: 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah, 17% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot.
Technical Data: After 10-20 days of fermentation on skins at 28ºC (82ºF), the wine underwent full malolactic fermentation, and aged for about one year in oak barrels.
Harvest: Following a rainy winter, the 2013 harvest season was characterized by relatively mild weather, enabling optimal vine growth and outstanding grape quality. The harvest’s unique climatic conditions led to uniform ripening in the vineyards, leading to most of the harvested fruit arriving at the winery in September.
Storage and Aging: Ready to drink now, the wine will improve in the bottle and age well for 5-7 years from harvest. Store in a cool dark place.
Serving Temperature: Best served at 18°C (64°F)
Alcohol: 15%

Golan Heights Winery and Galil Mountain Winery are both certified sustainable by Lodi Rules.
This wine is Kosher for Passover.


MONEY TALK


The average price on the 2014 is $22, and $18 across all vintages. I think that's a really Solid Value for a versatile yet interesting bottle that’s like to fit in well for many occasions.


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Meatball, Shashuka
dinner, lunch, brunch
Middle Eastern
Servings: 4 to 6
By:
Print
Meatball Shakshuka

Meatball Shakshuka

Prep Time: 15 MCooking Time: 30 MTotal Time: 45 M

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 large bell peppers, sliced in 1/4-inch pieces strips (or diced if preferred)
  • 1 large onion, sliced into thin strips (or diced if preferred)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (you can also use ground)
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 to 5 cups chopped ripe tomatoes, canned tomatoes, tomato soup, or tomato sauce (on this occasion, I used a combination of canned tomatoes and roasted red pepper and tomato soup)
  • ⅛ to ¼ tsp za'atar (or to taste)
  • Pinch of paprika (sweet or smoked)
  • 2 to 3 sprigs of thyme, picked (optional)
  • 2 to 3 sprigs oregano, picked (optional)
  • 6 to 8 meatballs (uncooked or cooked)
  • 4 large eggs (Use more if desired or if omitting meatballs)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Warm olive oil in a large pan over medium to medium-high heat, then add the peppers and onions, season with a generous pinch of salt, then cook for about 10 minutes, or until the peppers and onions are soft.
  2. Meanwhile, if using whole cumin seeds, toast in a dry pan over medium heat until the seeds become fragrant and have turned golden brown to mahogany in color. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the seeds to a mortar or spice grinder, then lightly grind. (Or grind to your liking – if you prefer a finer powder texture, feel free to grind further.)
  3. Add the tomato paste, garlic, tomatoes, cumin, za'atar, paprika, herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper to the onion and pepper mixture. If meatballs are uncooked add them in now. Bring to a simmer/almost boil, then lower to a gentle simmer and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust salt and other seasonings as needed.
  4. Rotate the meatballs in the sauce, or if you’re using pre-cooked meatballs, you can add them in now, then make four little dips in the sauce. Gently break the eggs and carefully pour each into its own divet. Use a fork to swirl the egg whites a little bit with the sauce, being careful not to break the yolks. Simmer gently for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Remove from the heat, leave for a couple of minutes to set, then spoon into individual bowls. Serve with pita, hummus, labneh or yogurt.
Did you make this recipe?
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Created using The Recipes Generator
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In the meantime, check out these previous posts related to Israeli wines:
Cooking to the Wine: Recanati Marawi with Black Cod and Papaya-Cucumber Salad, Pt 1  
Cooking to the Wine: Recanati Marawi with Black Cod and Papaya-Cucumber Salad, Pt 2  
You're Invited to Sip the Wines of the Ancient World #WinePW 
 

And if you need a full breakdown on Kosher wines, check out: 
Cooking to the Wine: Covenant Neshama Sonoma County with Smoky Beef Goulash  




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A few other members of the Wine Pairing Weekend Crew (#WinePW) are also exploring wines from Golan Heights Winery's various lines. Be sure to check out their posts:




Additional Sources Used For this Post:


Shakshuka: Israel’s hottest breakfast dish
All Shakshuka’d Up 
7 Things You Didn’t Know About Hummus 
Wine Searcher 

This post contains affiliate links, including these Amazon Associate links, from which I might receive a commission at no cost to you.






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2 comments

  1. I tried Galil Mountain Winery Alon Upper Galilee 2014 last year and immediately fell in love of this wine. Like what you said this is a great price point for such a solid wine. I like the meat part of your Shakshuka (as I like meat more than hummus)!

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