My photo
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.

Search This Blog

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Delish Pumpkin Pie Tart With Crunchy Topping

One of the fun parts of my job as Food Editor for Touring and Tasting is preparing and photographs sent to me from wineries, to be posted on the Touring and Tasting wine pairing recipe section. I've particularly enjoyed preparing the recipes from Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards--producer of sparkling wines in Carneros. Their fragrant and savory Gloria Ferrer Beggars Purses: Mushrooms Baked in Parchment and juicy Oysters with Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs Mignonette are favorites, as are the baked goods from Apple Farm Inn.

I made the Apple Farm Inn Sweet Potato Pie Bars and decided to make it again with a twist--using their recipe for an extra-yummy brown sugar crust. I used pumpkin instead of sweet potato and coconut milk instead of condensed milk in my usual pumpkin filling. I had a few recipes online for pumpkin pie using coconut milk and was encouraged by the observations that the coconut milk makes the texture lighter, without a noticeable coconut taste. The results were divine. One warning--the crust is very buttery, so the dessert is very rich.

Pumpkin Pie Tart With Crunchy Nut Topping:

Ingredients For the Filling:
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 can (12 ounces) pumpkin
3 eggs
about 2/3 can (10 ounces) of coconut milk

Ingredients For Buttering the Tart Pan:
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons flour
parchment paper

 Ingredients For the Crust (from Apple Farm Inn recipe):
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 sticks (3/4 pound) salted butter, cut up
1 cup chopped walnuts, added last for the topping

Directions For the Filling:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a baking sheet in the oven.

In a mixing bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together, then add the pumpking and mix until uniform. Add the sugar mixture and coconut milk and mix well.

Directions For Buttering the Tart Pan:
Mix the melted butter with the flour and brush it on the inside of the tart pan, including the sides. Cut a sheet of parchment to fit the inside of the tart pan, so it extends 1/4 inch up the sides. Brush the parchment paper with the butter/flour mixture.

Directions For the Crust:
Combine flour, salt, both sugars, and cinnamon in large mixing bowl.  Add the cold butter and mix until crumbly.  Set aside 1 heaping cup of the mixture. Dump the rest into the sheet pan and press evenly into the bottom.

Direction To Assemble the Tart:
Pour the pumpkin filling into the crust-filled tart pan. Mix the reserved flour mixture with the walnuts and sprinkle over the top. Bake 30-45 minutes, until the crust is brown and the pumpkin is cooked through. Test by inserting a tootpick, if it comes out clean, it is ready. Let sit for five minutes, then serve with a glass of milk. Yum!

Photo Hunt...Can You Spot the Differences?

See if you can find 10 things that are different in these photos. Answers on T&T's Quiz peeking until you're done!

Original photo:
Photoshopped Photo:
photo game

Leave me a comment if you thought this game was fun!
Touring and Tasting's President and founding partner, Paul Arganbright, has a problem with the ladies. Four ladies, to be exact, one of which may not be a lady at all, but rather a male. The ladies are running around his back yard, shrieking and causing a ruckus in the neighborhood, instead of staying in their house and laying eggs. The subjects in question are two buff-colored Orpintons and two spectacularly patterned red Ameraucana hens that are just turning 6 months old.

buff orpingtonBeing a backyard farmer has its surprises. The hen's soft cooing and clucking noises have turned brutal now that the hens are laying. Loud squawking declarations of success follow egg delivery and there is loud, vocal complaining, accompanied by frenzied wing flapping, after what seems like territorial disputes. The worst noise comes at dawn. As of yet, there are no cock-a-doodle-doos, but the increased noise level has Paul wondering if there might be a rooster developing in the bunch.

But, the chickens are adorable, hunkering down to be petted and following humans around the yard in a pack. Their multicolored eggs are fantastic, the yolks deep orange and full of flavor. Apparently, it takes a while for the hens to lay perfect eggs, the first ones are often small and not perfectly "egg shaped"--as you can see at the top of the photograph below.

eggsEggs are one of the foods that are difficult to pair with wine. Some say it is because the yolk coats the inside of the mouth, preventing one from tasting the wine. I think the taste is one that is difficult to complement, though specific egg dishes can be paired with specific wines. In our recipe section, we have several delicious egg recipes with well-matched wine suggestions. For example, the Brookside Inn Polenta Cakes with Goat Cheese, Cured Salmon and Poached Egg is a natural to pair with Pinot Noir, due to the strong flavors of goat cheese and salmon--both on the top of the list for Pinot-friendly foods. Ditto for the Individual Goat Cheese Soufflés.

Pair a sparkling wine with Classic Eggs Benedict.  There is a reason sparkling wine is commonly chosen as the wine to pour for brunch. The effervescent, cleansing taste of sparkling wine pairs well with eggs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In Praise of Rosé

Heat waveIt's official: July 2012 was the hottest month on record for the lower 48 states. The record heat wave hasn't abated, it is scorching our cornfields and pressing down on our roofs, blowing blasts of hot air inside when the doors are opened. One needs a chilled glass of wine to soothe the overheated body and to pair with summer meals. All hail rosé! It fits the bill exactly. Made from red wine grapes, but without the extended skin contact during fermentation that infuses red wine with deep color, rosé wines have all the fullness and range of tastes of a red wine, with the added summertime benefit of being properly served chilled. Jewel-like in color, cool and quenching, rosé is the ideal wine for blistering heat.

Chef Lila BrownNot only does rosé quench the heat of hot temperatures, but it pairs well with spicy food. Last weekend, my chef friend Lila came over on a sultry afternoon to teach me how to cook Thai food. She and her husband Jeff travelled around the world for a year studying regional cooking from experts in Mexico, Peru, Turkey, Greece, India, Thailand and Florence, Italy, where she graduated from culinary school in 2001. Wondrous ingredients were piled on my counter, including aromatic kaffir lime leaves, banana leaves, fiery Thai peppers, dried shrimp, red Thai chili paste, limes, pre-shredded green papaya, heads of garlic and purple-edged Thai basil.

During our afternoon preparation, we had sips of cooling Buttonwood Farm Syrah Rosé--a brilliant fuchsia-colored wine with a silky texture, crisp acidity and perfumed cranberry and tropical fruit flavors--that I bought during my visit to the sustainably farmed winery in the Santa Ynez Valley. banana boatLila showed me how to cut circles from the giant banana leaves using a very sharp paring knife and bowl for a template. The leaves have a dull side and a shiny side--one can feel the texture of the ribs of the leaf on the shiny side. Place the dull sides together and pinch the four corners together, securing them with half a toothpick to make a banana "boat". fish curryChunks of firm-fleshed snapper--or in our case, sea bass--and coconut were stirred together with thinly sliced kaffir leaves, eggs, fish sauce, palm sugar, coconut cream and Thai red chili paste. We filled the "boats" with the fish mixture. For visual interest, a bit of rice flour was cooked with coconut milk to make a white paste to brush onto half the fish;  sliced chili and Thai basil leaves were sprinkled on top decoratively before steaming the fish in a Chinese bamboo steamer.

papaya saladLila worked on mashing chiles and garlic for the fresh green papaya salad using the traditional mortar and pestle called a kruk, shown in the top photograph, while I made saffron rice and Pad Thai noodles. The green papaya salad is called som tam which means "sour pounded" and has a balance of sour lime, sweet palm sugar, savory fish sauce and hot chili tastes mixed with the tangy papaya and salty dried shrimp. Garnished with cherry tomatoes and peanuts, it was a marvelous accompaniment to our meal.

summer winesWe carried everything up to the outside deck to serve our families as the temperature cooled and the first comets in last weekend's Perseid meteor shower streaked across the night sky. I had a nice bottle of Castoro Cellars Marsanne from a previous Touring & Tasting wine club shipment. Castoro Cellars was one of the first wineries in the Paso Robles area and they make terrific wines organically and sustainably from their Templeton estate vineyards. It was interesting to note the difference in wine pairing between the Thai food and the two wines. Both were impressive--the Buttonwood Rosé highlighted the savory shrimp and egg while the honey and melon-flavored Castoro Marsanne brought out the creamy coconut and chile heat.

meteorA lovely evening with friends was capped by warm coconut pudding with chunks of mango and a plump and polished port from Jessup Cellars. I had purchased a bottle of their Cabernet Sauvignon Port at their friendly tasting room on our last trip to Napa. Not overly sweet as some ports can be the Jessup Port was thick with sensual chocolate, espresso and dark cherry flavor.
Click here to view another recipe that pairs wonderfully with rosé.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fiesta! Summer Salsas for Al Fresco Dining

Santa Barbara beachIn Santa Barbara, "June gloom" normally settles in for the first part of summer--maritime fog moves takes up residence in town for weeks. But, this year, the record heat experienced by most of the country has translated to outstanding June weather in Southern California, with abundant sun but moderate temperatures. Kitchen gardens have flourished and tomato plants are pumping out a record crop. My kitchen counter has been overflowing with an ocean of shiny red fruit and I've been chopping, roasting, and stewing tomatoes into nearly every dish. Salsa fresco has been on the top of the list--served with chips and guacamole and a nice glass of Syrah.

Three summer salsas The Aztecs were the first civilization to cultivate the tomato--a plant native to South America. It's unclear whether Christopher Columbus or the Spanish explorer Cortés first brought the tomato to Europe, but its popularity is indisputable. Imagine Italian cuisine without it!

Though salsa is common in many South American countries, Mexico is usually associated with the condiment. Since Mexico is a very mountainous country where travel was difficult before the advent of modern transportation, the country's cuisine is extremely diverse. Regional differences in the types of food produced, made for diversity in the types of salsas.

Some of the best known categories of Mexican salsa are:
Salsa fresco--(also known as salsa cruda) made with raw tomato, onion, garlic, chili and cilantro
Pico de gallo--(means “rooster’s beak”), a drier version of salsa fresca
Salsa roja--made with cooked tomatoes
Salsa negra--which is made from dried chipotles
Salsa verde--which is made from tomatillos
Salsa tacquera--(translated: taco sauce) a smooth, blended sauce made from tomatillos and morita chili (smoked Jalapenos)
Salsa ranchera--which is like a salsa tacquera, but served warm
Mango salsa--popular in the tropical region of Yucatan where mangoes are grown
Mole--a sauce made made from unsweetened chocolate, almonds, and chili
Chimichurri--ingredient include oil, vinegar, parsley, onion, garlic, and oregano. Originally from Argentina
Taco sauce--the Americanized version of salsa tacquera, usually made with  tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes.

Try the three recipes in the photo:
Salsa Fresca:
2 cups fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped*
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 medium shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 ancho chili (about 1/2 tablespoon)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/2 lemon

*Use the homegrown or farmer's market tomatoes if possible--they will be sweeter and more flavorful than store-bought.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Top your grilled cheeseburger with salsa fresco or serve the salsa with chips and guacamole and a glass of Syrah.

Yucatan Mango Salsa
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
1/4 red onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon orange juice

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve over grilled fish or in shrimp tacos.

Roasted Garlic and Tomato Salsa Roja
2 large tomatoes, cut in half
1 head of garlic, unpeeled
2 Anaheim or Serrano chiles
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice off the bottom off the garlic head so the inside is exposed, then wrap in tin foil. Cut a slit in each chile, removing the seeds if you want a milder salsa and leaving them in for fiery salsa. Line a baking dish with tin foil and put the chiles and tomatoes in it, without letting them touch. Put the wrapped garlic on the oven rack next to the baking dish and roast until the chiles and tomatoes are soft and charred. Remove them and set aside to cool, let the garlic stay in the oven for a total baking time of 35 minutes. This can be done on your grill set on medium, with the lid down.

Add the tomatoes, chiles (without the stems) and garlic to a blender. The soft, cooked garlic can be squeezed out of the bottom of the head. Add the cilantro, lime juice, and pepper and mix until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides of the blender so the consistency is uniform. Adjust seasonings to taste with salt. Makes about 3 cups.