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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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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fiesta! Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara

Along the California coast, there are many beautiful spots, but perhaps none as beautiful as Santa Barbara. We are the only south facing coastal town, protected from Pacific storms by the Channel Islands and blessed with near perfect weather. Stringent building codes have preserved and fostered Spanish and Mediterranean architecture, giving us white-washed walls, red-tile roofs, bougainvilla shaded porticos, wrought iron balconies and colorful tiles. One of the most creative architects of our time, Jeff Shelton, has tweaked the traditions with a whimsical, Dr. Seuss-like twist to create marvels like the Ablitt House and Andaluz.

We're a city that loves to parade and celebrate with many festivals and events: Solstice parade (like L.A.'s famed Doodah), French Festival, Greek Festival, California Wine Festival, the International Film Festival, and many more...including this week's Old Spanish Days Fiesta with free Spanish, Flamenco and Mexican Folkloricó dance performances, professional rodeo, Mercado de la Guerra food and craft booths and live entertainment, Mercado del Norte carnival rides, bazaar, live dance music and margarita bar, and Friday's Desfile Historico Parade which is one of the largest equestrian parades in the country. Our kids' favorite part of the Fiesta is buying cascarones: the confetti-filled eggs families sell on the street to be smashed onto parents' and friends' heads with a satisfying crunch and cascade of confetti. State Street is alive with music and the hustle and bustle of the crowd, snacking on tamales and tacos, with bits of paper in their hair and the sidewalks covered with egg shell bits. Great fun!
This week's Touring & Tasting Online Grapevine wine special has a choice of wines to pair with Mexican food, as well as regional American cuisine, like pork chops and collard greens!
I was thinking about what might measure the basic knowledge of a cook. I think skills would include knowing how to cook fish properly, making good bread, a fluffy souffle, knowing how to stir fry, to make hollandaise, béchamel, and marinara sauces with homemade pasta, and cooking pork chops so they are tender and moist. I generally don't eat meat, but cook it for my carniverous family. I remember from my meat eating days that a good pork chop is still tender and moist, not dry and chewy. Marinating for at least 4 hours in something acidic like lemon or orange juice, vinegar, wine or yoghurt will soften the protein. Salt or soy sauce (which has salt--up to 1030 mg in a tablespoon) will help retain moisture in the meat.
2 thick cut pork chops
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
4 Tbsp. olive oil in two parts
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Mix the soy sauce, garlic, 2 Tbsp. of olive oil and the vinegar in a glass or ceramic bowl (metal will react to the acid in the marinade). Marinate pork chops for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator, turning occasionally to marinate both sides equally. Spread 2 Tbsp. of oil over the surface of a cast iron skillet and heat over medium flame until oil is sizzling. Sear the pork chops all over, including the sides by holding them with a long pair of tongs. Sealing the meat completely will keep the moisture in. Then turn the heat to low, cover with a glass lid, flipping and rotating the pork chops so they brown evenly. If you have an thermometer, you can cook the chops until the internal temperature hits 145 for 15 seconds, often the chops will be slightly pink on the inside and nice and moist. If you have no thermometer, you will cook the chops until the pink disappears, to be sure you have killed any possible Trichinosis or salmonella. The residual soy sauce on the chops will reduce and make a nice brown glaze.
2 strips applewood-smoked bacon
1 large bunch collard greens
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
In a Dutch oven or heavy pot with a tight fitting lid, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove and let cool, then chop into 1/4" pieces. With a paper towel, remove half the bacon fat. Chop the greens into 1/4" strips (including the stems) and sauté in the bacon fat, stirring to coat the greens with the fat and wilt the greens. Add enough water to cover the greens halfway (about 1 1/2 cups), stir in the bacon and put the bay leaf in the water. Cover tightly and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to cook the greens evenly. You would like to end up with about 1/4" of liquid at the bottom of the pot--this is the "pot likker" which is delicious sopped up by corn bread. Add water, if needed to maintain this bit of liquid at the bottom, or uncover as the green simmer in the last 1/2 hour of cooking if the water is not evaporating enough. Salt and pepper to taste--a good guide is to start with 1 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper, stir well, taste and add more if needed. Serve hot with your nicely browned, moist pork chop, corn bread and the exquisite Rhone-style 2006 Ledgewood Creek GSM.

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