Vino for Veggies

The food, wine & lifestyle blog for Vegans, Vegetarians, Pescitarians, and other Awesome People.

Sweet Potato Spinach Quesadillas June 13, 2010

This soul satisfying quesadilla sounds a little unusual but is oh so delicious.  Many moons ago, my girlfriends and I were walking through Whole Foods (a brand new store at the time) and they were offering samples of this quesadillas.  We have since put our own twist on it making it a staple in our homes.

Tip:  use fresh spinach.  While I am not against the frozen, it just doesn’t cut it in this recipe.

Sweet Potato Spinach Quesadillas

2 large sweet potatoes
1 large bunch fresh spinach (~ 4 cups)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp. red chili flakes
salt to taste
flour tortillas
cheese such as Monterey jack or cheddar (optional)

Peel, cube, and boil sweet potatoes in a large pot of salted water until tender.  Meanwhile, in a large pan, saute garlic in olive oil until soft but not brown.  Add chili powder and  red chili flakes.  In batches, add spinach until the entire bunch is wilted.  Remove from heat.  Once the sweet potatoes are tender, drain and mash.  Add spinach-chili mixture to sweet potato mash.  Salt to taste.

To assemble quesadillas, lightly butter/oil pan on medium heat.  Lay whole tortilla flat in the pan.  Spread sweet potato-spinach mixture on half the tortilla and sprinkle with cheese.  Fold tortilla in half.  Brown tortilla on one side and then flip.  Once both sides are browned and cheese is melted, slip onto a plate, top with your favorite salsa, jalapenos, and sour cream.  Enjoy!

Wine Pairing from VanVino

We usually pair sweet potato spinach quesadillas with an Argentine Malbec or a Spanish Tempranillo (Rioja or Ribera del Duero).  Both of these wines tend to have softer, yet well structured, tannins as well as some nice oaky smokiness that goes well with the sweet potatoes.  In fact, we served appetizer portions of the quesadillas at our Argentine Malbec tasting party last March.  They were a big hit.

Recently we served the 2007 Viña Alicia Malbec Paso De Piedra with the quesadillas.  This wine had some serious structure.  I didn’t have time to decant the wine so I poured through a Vinturi in order to aerate it before drinking (this softens the tannins and opens the wine).  It had complex aromas of plums, dusty earth, tobacco, and a little iron.  On the palate, the wine  had flavors of plums upfront transitioning to licorice on the mid-palate and finishing with black pepper.  The Viña Alicia displayed solid, smooth tannins and wonderful food friendly acid all the way through.  I scored this wine a 92/100.

The Wine Stats

WineryViña Alicia

Type:  Malbec

Vintage:  2007

Appellation:  Mendoza, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina

Retail Price: $18.99

Available Price: Under $18 (I know the average purchase price on Cellartracker is about $14.50)

Does this sound like a recipe and pairing you’d like to try?  When you do try it, what were your impressions?  What wines do you typically pair with Tex-Mex foods?


The Veggie’s Guide to Basic Food and Wine Pairings June 2, 2010

Filed under: pairings,wine education — VanVino @ 6:02 pm
Tags: ,

Now we’ve all heard that red wines go with dark meats and white wines go with white meats and fish—so where does that leave the herbivore inclined?

It has been a long time practice to pair wines with the main protein of a dish. However, this doesn’t work for most vegetarian dishes. Vegetarian food gets most of its flavors from the seasoning, sauces, and vegetables used with the protein, not from the protein itself. In the past, wine experts have had a limited view of vegetarian cuisine as salads or green beans—leaving many to assume that only white wines can pair well with vegetarian foods.

Well, I’m here to offer a better guide to pairing vegetarian food with wine.

  1. Drink what you like. No matter what advice I or anyone else gives you—always drink what you like. As an example, I’ve read over and over again that Gewurztraminer pairs wonderfully with Thai food. However, I don’t like Gewurztraminer with or without Thai food and I’m not going to drink it. So please remember, this list is a guide—not veggie law.
  2. Think of flavors and sauces, not proteins. This should seem like a no brainier, but for the longest time wine experts have been so focused on matching wines to proteins that it was overlooked. Rick Bayless of Frontera fame (FYI – I love their salsas) first opened my eyes to this idea. His website,, offers a “Guide to Classic Mexican Food & Wine”. I refer to this site often when looking for a wine to pair with Mexican dishes. I hope one day to make a similar guide for the many styles of vegetarian cuisine—maybe I’ll start with Indian food.
  3. Look for balanced acidity. Acidity refers to the refreshing, tart, and sour qualities in a wine. The key for good acidity in a wine is that it balances with all the other elements (fruitiness, tannins, alcohol, sweetness, etc.), but generally speaking more acidic wines are more vegetarian food friendly than less acidic wines because they refresh the palate and work well with many vegetarian ingredients and a variety of spices. White wines with good, food friendly acidity include Rieslings, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gruner Veltiners. Red wines include Sangioveses (the primary varietal in Chianti) and Barberas.
  4. Look for low alcohol levels. Low alcohol levels allow a wine to pair easily with almost any dish. It also means that you won’t get too loopy by drinking a couple of glasses. High alcohol wines can become astringent, bitter, and out of balance when paired with spicy food. On the other hand, high alcohol can also overwhelm more subtle dishes. Unfortunately, the trend today is to make high alcohol, fruit bomb wines (more about this in future posts). My general rule of thumb is to look for wines with 14% ABV or less. If I can find a 12.5% ABV red wine, I jump on it. Alcohol level is always located somewhere on the label.
  5. Beware of tannins. Tannins are not a bad thing, but beware that young, tannic red wines can clash with vegetable based dishes. However, I do love many tannic red wines. Tannins can be tamed by letting young red wines breath by either pouring the wine into a decanter or into the wine glass an hour or two ahead of the meal (sometimes even longer). Some of the most tannic red wines varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon (used in most Bordeaux reds), Nebbiolo (used for Barolos and Barbarescos), and Syrah/Shiraz. Red wines with gentler tannins include Barberas and Grenache (primary varietal used in Southern Rhone wines).
  6. Pair with the wine recommended for the meaty version. If you are having black pepper seitan cutlets, have it with the Syrah recommend by the wine critic for black pepper steak. Generally, I’ve found that if I’m making a faux meat dish I can pair it like the real meat version. I used these kinds of dishes to drink Cabernet Sauvignon based wines that I would otherwise rarely have an opportunity to drink.
  7. Ask your local wine merchant. Local wine shops are your key to learning about wine (after this site of course). If you want to know what wines have good acidity, would pair well with Tofu Pad Thai, and are under $15, a good wine merchant should be able to hook you up. If they can’t, look for a new wine shop. The Huffington Post has recently posted a good article on this topic. See “How to Go to a Wine Store”.
  8. Drink what you like. Again, it all comes back to this. People’s palates are different. Ultimately, the only way to know what food and wines pair well for your palate is by experimenting. I’m just offering a basic guide for veggie beginners.

Are there any veggies or wine people out there have suggestions they would like to add to this guide? What recommendations do you have for basic vegetarian food and wine pairings? Also, please leave any general feedback about this post in the comments below.