An Angelic Susurration

"Susurrations" has long been one of my favorite words. Barely audible whispers. Just say the word a couple of times and you will understand susurrations. Such a beautiful word. The epitome of onomatopœia.

This is a story about a sussurating angel that recently came into our lives.

The first whisper came by text. "We sent you something, but you need to pick it up." How enigmatic!

The second came visually. Once in hand, its color merely murmured pink... with a gentle undertone of coral.

The third was aural. Released to the air, I could hear sotto voce confessions through carved mahogany screens and velvet curtains, ending with a perky pop.

And the taste? A warm breeze sliding through ocean-side grasses.

Whispering Angel - a wine by Sacha Lichine of Château d'Esclans - immediately became one of our favorite Provençal rosé wines, and this first bottle was a gift from Susan and Towny.

In one of Susan's posts for The Modern Trobadors, she did a tasting of rosés from the Château, and thought we might enjoy a bottle of Whispering Angel. She and Towny did some research, located a bottle in Tucson, purchased it, and told the proprietor that we would be in to pick it up. Mark picked it up that day, and the rest is history.

Before trying this wine, we knew it was special. Why else would our friends have gone to such trouble? (Aren't good friends incredible?) What would we make? It had to be Provençal; it had to be worthy.

Enter Mark Bittman (New York Times). He just happened to post a recipe for a Provençal seafood stew that day. Quelle coïncidence! It was a sign. And we always heed signs. We made the stew.

There are some times, rare ones at best, when the pairing of a food and wine transport you to a place. This seafood stew with the Whispering Angel rosé took us both back to a languorous day seaside at Les Calanques, just northeast of Marseille. It was a perfect day, and this was the perfect food and wine pairing to take us back to that time… to that place.

We loved Whispering Angel, and have since gone to the store to buy more. It is a great value for the price, though not the least expensive of rosé wines. You can go quite far up the rosé ladder with Château d'Esclans with Les Clans and Garrus. But we are quite happy with our susurrating angel.

Bon apetís! (Provençal dialect)

~ David

Provençal Seafood Stew
Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman

1 cup canned chickpeas

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Salt and ground black pepper
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup oil-cured olives, pitted and sliced
2 tablespoons capers
3 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
large pinch piment d’Esplette or chile flakes
6 ounces spinach
2 cups fish or shrimp stock
5 ounces cod, sliced
8 ounces squid, roughly chopped
8 ounces medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
juice of 1/2 lemon

Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add bread crumbs, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until they’re crisp and toasted, 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet; increase heat to medium-high. When oil is hot, add shallot, olives, capers and anchovies. Cook, stirring, until fragrant - a minute or two. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until it darkens slightly – about 2 minutes.

Add the spinach, stirring until it starts to release its water; add the stock and chickpeas. When it returns to a gentle boil, stir in the cod, squid, and shrimp. Cook until the seafood is just cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the stew and stir a couple of times.

Divide among bowls, sprinkle with bread crumbs and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

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