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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, January 27, 2011

Who Do You Think Are The Top Influences On Food In America?

If you browse the internet for information on  Alice Waters, most likely you will find the adjectives "pioneering" and "influential" near her name. If there was a "Six Degrees Of Separation" in the restaurant world, she would be at the nexus of the connections. No wonder she has been called the "mother of American food" and was recently named in the top 10 of  "America's 50 Most Powerful People In Food" by the Daily Meal. Tireless in her advocacy for sustainable, local, organic agriculture and healthy school lunches, her influence can be traced through chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Jamie Oliver, and her influence can be seen in our changing attitude towards healthy eating. Witness Michelle Obama's White House home garden and in the recent addition of locally grown vegetables to the behemoth WalMart stores.

The top 10 entries in the Daily Meal's "America's 50 Most Powerful People In Food" are:
1. You (the consumer, who decides with your pocketbook whether local, sustainable and organic is viable or if huge agribusiness farming with immense feedlots, and genetically engineered food will profit)
2. Thomas J. Vilsack (Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture who is in charge of food safety, agricultural policies and trade, among his many duties)
3. Hugh Grant (no, not the bad boy movie star--the CEO of Monsanto, the company that brought us Roundup pesticide, genetically engineered seed and bovine growth hormone)
4. Michelle Obama (a role model for organic home gardens and healthier eating to fight against the obesity epidemic)
5. Steve Jobs (CEP of Apple whose iphone apps have changed the way we find recipes and restaurants)
6. Alice Waters (see more about her on this blog here and here)
7. Brooke Johnson (President of the Food Network with websites and TV shows Iron Chef, Chopped, Barefoot Contessa, Giada At Home, etc.)
8. Mike Duke (CEO of Walmart--the largest public company by revenue with over 8,500 stores in 15 countries--over $400 billion last year)
9. Sam Sifton (restaurant critic of the New York Times)
10. Jim Skinner (CEO McDonald's Corporation which made over $6 billion last year)

For the sake of debate, I'll list how I would rank them:
1. You (because ultimately, the people hold the power)
2. Hugh Grant (because Monsanto controls the seed corn and pesticide that produces 40% of the world's corn; corn is used for almost everything from adhesives to paper to pharmaceuticals)
3. Mike Duke (when your company represents about 3% of the total US GDP, you have some clout!)
4. Brooke Johnson (cooking has become a spectator sport for millions, but also the shows help foster interest in what goes into our meals)
5. Alice Waters (without her, would we be eating TV dinners and vegetables out of a bag?)
6. Jim Skinner (reality is, McDonald's defines "eating out" for millions of people)
7. Michelle Obama (along with the President, an inspirational reminder that America really is a remarkable country with freedom and opportunity for all)
8. Thomas J. Vilsack (governmental agencies are ham-strung by cash-rich lobbyists and special interest pressure from both sides of the aisle)
9. Steve Jobs (I love my laptop and iphone, but I don't think Apple's influence is that strong in the food world)
10. Sam Sifton (he can spell life or death to New York restaurants, but most of the country will never read his reviews)
What do you think?

I felt sorry for the rest of the country shivering under a blanket of snow and ice yesterday, while we basked under a summer-like sun and an air temperature of 71 degrees. I planted mustard, kale, snapdragons and lettuce seedlings and wondered what to do with my year-old arugula plants that have grown so long they look like mini-Dr. Seuss trees. Dig them up or keep them going for another year? Fortunately, I found this recipe for Alice Waters Pasta With Bitter Spring Greens on Chef2Chef (see it here or buy the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook). Following her call for seasonal produce, I harvested just about everything I needed from my garden, including a lemon from my patio tree which is finally producing after three barren years, and used up the last of the Field Roast vegetarian sausage from last week's Mushroom Barley Soup to create my version of her dish. Wow, was it good! The flavor combination of the spicy Italian sausage with the slightly bitter greens was fantastic--especially with the sharp tang of lemon and the extra saltiness from the rock salt.

Alice Waters Inspired Pasta With Arugula:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 green onions, minced
1 clove elephant garlic, minced
2 vegetarian Italian sausages, sliced into 1/4" rounds (meat eaters could use real Italian sausage)
2 handfuls of arugula, chopped
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
pinch red chili powder
1 tsp. rock salt
juice of 1/2 small lemon
2 cups homemade pasta
4 oz grated parmesan cheese
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, heat
olive oil in large saute pan. Add onion, garlic, and 1the sausage. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring several times, until sausages are browned. Add
greens, thyme, chili, and salt. Cook, turning greens with tongs, for 2 to 6 minutes, or until greens are wilted. Season with lemon juice and more salt, if desired. Turn off heat and cover the pan. When the water boils, add pasta and cook until al dente (about 1 minute for homemade noodles or 10 minutes for dry). Drain pasta. Top with greens and grated cheese. Pair this with a good bold red wine, like the 2009 Agricola de Borja Borsao featured in this week's Online Grapevine.

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