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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 8, 2010

Tasmanian Salmon and Australian Bush Foods

This week's recipe is reminiscent of a plate I had in Australia of smoked Tasmanian salmon sitting al fresco near the beach of Cairns.
8 oz. smoked salmon (or lox)
4 slices fresh Mozzarella
2 cups baby greens
2 quarters of a lemon
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded
1/2 stalk of celery
Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove of crushed garlic
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. fines herbes
salt to taste

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, pepper and fines herbs together in a small bowl, then add salt to your taste. Cut the salmon into eight pieces. Place two of the slices of mozzarella on each plate, then curl the salmon pieces up and place each on a corner of each plate. Mound half the greens on each plate on top of the mozzarella. Julienne the bell pepper and celery and place on the greens. Garnish each plate with a quarter of lemon and serve with the vinaigrette, some chewy bread like foccaccia, and a nice glass of the 2006 Camellia Cellars First Kiss.

The French word terroir comes from the word terre which means "land" and refers to the specific flavors that derive from a wine's geographic place of origin. In my travels to Australia, I developed a better appreciation for this term, as not only the wine, but many foods, and definitely the herb and spices, have a unique overtone that make them specifically Australian. This overtone drifts in the air and lingers on the palate after foods that are sensitive to the land--like wine and honey. Ok, so this is my opinion, not an established fact or opinion of a sommelier, but I tasted a woody, earthy, slightly bitter flavor in many of the Australian wines and foods that I haven't tasted anywhere else--particularly in the Swan Bay Pinot Noir and Chapel Hill Shiraz. At a farmer's market in Sydney, I bought a rainforest cookbook (Rainforest To Table) with samples of bush tucker herbs and spices--sea parsley, wattleseed,  bush tomato, salt bush, lemon myrtle Tasmanian mountain pepper and native pepperberry. The flavor/smell that I'm talking about is like the wattle (acacia) and their native pepperberry mixed together with red clay.
We had a lovely evening at Ochre in Cairns--a gourmet bush tucker restaurant--which uses these herbs and spices along with local dairy products, fresh local seafood and game such as kangaroo. Sparkling strand lights made the restaurant festive; and they had opened the floor to ceiling windows to let the warm marine air in. We began with a Wattle Damper Loaf with the wattle's overtones of coffee, chocolate and hazelnut, accompanied by peanut oil and local (somewhat bitter) dukka. Tempura-fried Bugs were next, no, not insects, but the Moreton Bay bugs--a crustacean that looks like a lobster without a head. These had an unusual flavor, not sweet like our Maine lobster, but strong and not entirely to my liking. They were accompanied with two dipping sauces--one soy sauce based and the other a lemon myrtle/chili combination , with a crispy piece of wonton and a bitter, earthy salad with green papaya strips. I'm afraid I hid the uneaten portion of my bugs under the wonton. I'll never be a professional food critic even if I had the writing chops, because unlike Anthony Bourdain, I have finicky food preferences and am not likely to enjoy everything new or exotic. Anyway, as a foodie (maybe this is the nice term for someone absolutely food-obsessed) I'm more interested in making each of my three meals a day a wonderful experience for me than in racking up points for the widest range of things I've eaten.
Anyway, the next course was sublime--a grilled barramundi with fig tart.  Barramundi--a tropical freshwater perch--quickly became my favorite fish in Australia. My daughter's crocodile wonton soup was Thai inspired with a tom yung gai style broth--the crocodile was white and flaky, more like fish than red meat. We ended with the quangdong brulee--the quangdong is an endemic fruit high in vitamin C that tastes like a woody, sharp plum but with a tougher texture. I paired the meal with a glass of the 2008 Robert Channon Verdelho, an award-winning Queensland wine.
The Verdelho varietal is used in Portugal to produce Madeira wine, but is also grown in Australia. I found it aromatic with honeysuckle, but different to my palate than our California whites--Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, etc. , with a bit of oiliness that I didn't love. It was definitely one of the most interesting meals I've had, and recommend you try Ochre if you are visiting the Great Barrier Reef and would like to taste authentic bush tucker recipes.

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