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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, March 16, 2011

A Wonderful Gala Of Gourmet Dining and Lovely Operatic Singing

The invitation promised "a wonderful Gala of Gourmet Dining and lovely Operatic Singing". And it was! Frederick and Diane Sidon have been avid supporters of Opera Santa Barbara as well as a patron for many cultural events around town. With Gabriella Schooley, the hard-working President of the Italian Cultural Heritage Foundation, they hosted a magnificent banquet last weekend at the La Cumbre Country Club in honor of Italy's 150th Anniversary. The menu was based on 1860s banquet menus provided by the City of Turin's Anniversary Committee and included a lovely "Salmone in crosta con spinach beurre blanc": salmon and spinach in croute with beurre blank sauce which was displayed by the chef prior to service. Sadly, I didn't catch her name, but was delighted to savor her cuisine, which included a cheese plate with a trio of Italian cheeses that must have been flown over for the occasion: the delectable Toma delle Langhe (Langhe is a region of the Piedmont of Italy) which is a deep straw-colored cow's milk cheese with a soft center and chewy rind--like a Brie, Raschera--a slightly salty cow's milk cheese from Cuneo in the Piedmont, and a creamy Gorgonzola, the most famous cheese of the region. The red wine pairing was a robust and full flavored 2008 Barbera di Monferrato.
I'm currently tasting the 2007 Pelissero Barbera D'Alba which hits all the right notes for Barbera (IMHO): opaque ruby color, with a nose of fertile Piedmontese soil and ripe fruit, and a mouth full of black berries, black plum, and black cherry with a zing of acidity. Before I took the wine class last semester, I didn't realize that Barbera was a grape as well as a place. I knew Nebbiolo  is made into Barbaresco and Barolo and thought that Sangiovese was used for all the other major Italian wines like Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello, "Super Tuscan" blends, AND Barbera--but no, it is a separate varietal is is actually the most planted grape in the Piedmont. It is more popular locally than internationally, perhaps because, without the tannins of Nebbiolo, it does not cellar long and is best enjoyed young. Americans are most familiar with the towns of Alba (Barbera d'Alba) and Asti (Barbera d'Asti), but the two DOCG regions (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantitia--the highest level of designation of quality in the Italian system) are Asti and Montferrato.
From a recent dinner, chez moi, with great company and two terrific wines: 2007 Forgeron Chardonnay and 2003 Paradise Ridge Rockpile Vineyard Merlot:
use the sauce from this recipe and serve with rye bread.
12 Savoy cabbage leaves (about half a head)
2 Tbsp. butter + extra for greasing muffin tin
1/2 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp. garlic (about 3 cloves) minced
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. marjoram
1 cup dry kasha (buckwheat groats)
2 eggs, used separately
2 cups broth--either vegetable or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
4 oz. Gruyere--cut into 1 oz. chunks
1/4 cup or so of minced parsley
Cut the leaves off the head of Savoy cabbage and separate carefully so they don't tear. Boil enough water in a pot to cook the cabbage (about 2 quarts). When the water boils, put in the cabbage leaves and blanch for just a couple minutes so the stem is softened but the leaves are not falling apart. Place in a colander in the sink, rinse with cool water to stop them from cooking further, drain well and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the kasha and drain. Beat one egg in a small bowl, add the kasha and mix thoroughly. Heat a cast iron or non-stick pan and dry-fry the kasha (no oil or butter), chopping up any clumps as the kasha cooks. The goal is to cook a thin layer of egg around each grain of kasha, keeping the grains separate (do not skip this step or you will end up with mushy kasha).

Put the broth and bay leaf into a large pot and bring to a boil, then add the kasha and turn the heat down to low and simmer uncovered until the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the onion, garlic, and spices over low heat until onions are translucent. Put the cooked kasha and onion mixture in a large bowl and mix. Let cool. Mix the second egg in a small bowl, add to the kasha mixture and stir together.

Grease four of the holes in a large muffin tin with butter.  Put a cabbage leaf in each hole, then use the extra leaves to fill in so the Savoy will line the muffin tin hole with enough left to cover the top when done. Fill each cabbage leaf halfway with the kasha mixture, then place the Gruyere chunk in the center. Fill the rest of the cabbage with the kasha mixture, folding over the Savoy cabbage leaves and packing it down so the top is level with the top of the muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes.

Carefully put a (unheated) cookie sheet on top of the muffin tin, then quickly turn it over so the stuffed cabbage ends upside down on the cookie sheet. Spoon a fourth of the sauce on the bottom of each serving plate, then use a spatula to center a stuffed cabbage on each plate, sprinkle with minced parsley. Serves 4.

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