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Santa Barbara, CA, United States
I enjoy creating original wine-pairing recipes that are healthful and delicious. I work for Touring & Tasting a Santa Barbara based wine club and national magazine as Food Editor. However, I am not paid for this blog and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I received my Personal Chef Skills Competency Award from the SBCC's School Of Culinary Arts. In 2012, I started Inside Wine - Santa Barbara with pal Lila Brown which features wine tastings with winery owners and winemakers. I also serve on the Board of the Santa Barbara Culinary Arts group, which had Julia Child as one of the founding members and funds scholarships for SBCC culinary students in her name.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Not just the catchword--but the reality of hope

2 sheets of puff pastry
1 red onion
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. sugar
8 oz. goat cheese
1 egg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the puff pastry into rounds using a 3-4" cookie cutter or a teacup as a template and a sharp knife to cut the pastry. Put half of the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet. Cut a circle out of the second half of the rounds using a smaller cookie cutter or by hand, so there the outer circle of pastry--a ring--is around 1" wide. (bake the inside rounds and use separately in lieu of crackers for soft cheese or spreads) Place the rings on top of the first rounds. The top ring will rise to form the edge of each tart. Beat the egg and brush lightly on the top ring.
Cut the onion in half, then slice the halved into very thin slices. Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions and cook over low until the onions are soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Do not let the onions brown or crisp. Add the sugar and stir until mixed, continue cooking another 10 minutes or so until the onions caramelize (turn brown from the sugar, not from crisping). Place the onion mixture into the middle of the tarts and divide the goat cheese equally between them to place on top. Since goat cheese is soft, the cheese will be in dollops rather than slices. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve with your 2008 Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay or 2009 Shannon Ridge Chardonnay.

Conveniently, you can find ready-made puff pastry in the freezer section or make your own (expect a mess, but the real butter will make your tarts extra rich). Here's a recipe from Emeril Legasse: Fast French Puff Pastry. The secret to flaky pastry is to keep all the ingredients well chilled. I put my metal mixing bowl in the freezer prior to using and some pastry chefs freeze the butter sticks and grate them. The small grated pieces of butter mix in quickly to the flour without melting. If you try this, let us know about the result in the "Comments" link below the post.

Newly crowned British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen is enjoying his £850,000 ($1.3 million) win by flying via private jet and buying the tractor he dreamed of as a kid raised on a farm in South Africa. He was awed by a phone call from Greg Norman: "He said I am the first person to get him to watch a full round of golf on television. He watched my first shot (on Sunday) to my last and couldn't leave the couch." I had the same experience. I rarely watch even snippets of tournaments, but after seeing a bit of the second day at St. Andrews, I had to tune in for the final round and watch Oosthuizen's smooth swing as he landed one perfect shot after another. I loved Oosthuizen's shy smile and humility as he showed us how the game ought to be played. No swearing or throwing of clubs like the arrogant has-been, Tiger Woods.
I liked that his caddie Zack Rasego is black  (Rasego commented after the game: "When he hugged me, that meant the world to me. It meant he looked at me not just as a worker, but as a partner.").  Then, Oosthuizen acknowledged Nelson Mandela at the beginning of his acceptance speech, and an expansive feeling of hope for the world came over me. Remember South Africa of the 1980s? The situation was dire: atrocities were committed, segregation pushed to the extreme in apartheid, hatred and violence flared on both sides. It seemed impossible that peace and stability would ever return to that country. The South African team of Oosthuizen and Rasego symbolizes hope--because real change is possible! These days, it feels like we have a heavy burden of worry:  terrorists, housing crisis, oil spill, global can be depressing and debilitating to contemplate current affairs because each problem seems unsolvable. But, in looking back through history, there are many examples of miraculous transformations. I remember the civil rights movement here in the US when I was a child, marches with my parents, hearing about riots and killings. At the time, it was impossible to conceive of conservative society changing because racism had roots that reached back centuries, yet I have witnessed an African American President in my lifetime! When I was in first grade, we had "alarm drills" in case of nuclear attack from the USSR, we were instructed to curl up under our desks and cover our heads with our arms (in retrospect, the naiveté is ludicrous--wood desks would protect us from an A-bomb?). The shadow of the Cold War loomed over us. Fear gripped the American population as the only two possible outcomes were all-out nuclear war or endless detente. Then in 1991, the USSR crumbled and the monumental menace disappeared; today many teenagers have even never heard of it.

These matters were on my mind as I shared a bottle of the Brian Carter Solesce from a previous Touring & Tasting sale, and Cowgirl Creamery "St. Pat" cheese with friends. We were mulling over the outsourcing of jobs to developing countries and the possibility China will dominate the world economy in the future. One friend was ready to write the USA off as a lost cause, but I think that's the equivalent of cowering under a desk waiting for the bomb to fall and not believing in the possibility of a positive outcome. In October 2007, it did look like the end of our country. Newspapers ran headlines about the end of our banking system. Now, three years later, problems continue, but the banking system didn't break apart, Wall Street isn't gone, the country is struggling but the world and our country didn't come to an end! Sometimes we need to get our mind out of the fear of the future and keep it in the enjoyment of the day--which brings us back to the Solesce and St. Pat (a delectable wine and cheese pairing). Much has been written about the decline of American production, but we had in our hands two great examples of what America does right--world class wine and world class cheese! Of course we need to be serious and face up to crucial financial and political issues, but we need not live in a state of anxiety over a future that one can never predict. My credo: take a deep breath, connect with the joy of living today, and enjoy the many blessings of life--which includes great wine made right here in this resilient and amazing country of ours.

1 comment:

  1. Jan Zander Lutz I just made it, and added diced apples to the tarts.

    Esther Garel Oertel Sounds fantastic! Caramelized onions are among my favorite foods.