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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, February 21, 2013

415 Acres of Prime Santa Ynez Land

Lila and I went out last weekend to visit Refugio Ranch--the estate vineyards for Refugio Ranch wines.

Nestled against the flanks of the Santa Ynez Mountains, south of the Santa Ynez River, the 415-acre ranch is idyllic. Planted meticulously, with great care given to harmonizing with nature and insuring the vineyards are sustainable, the land yields rich, quality fruit that winemaker Ryan Deovlet crafts into his expressive and beautifully-balanced wines.

The Refugio Ranch portfolio currently has five offerings: the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, with a creamy mouthfeel thanks to barrel time sur lies, has stone fruit, pear and soft apple flavors with nice acidity. The 2010 Triadora is an aromatic and mineral laced Sauvignon Blanc from a vintage that allowed slow ripening for the grapes with additional complexity. The 2011 Viognier is highly aromatic but not overly sweet, with a delicacy that is very appealing. The 2010 Ineseño is 60 Roussanne and 40% Viognier with nice balance. The 2009 Barbareño is a stunning wine, deep and rich, made with 65% Syrah and 35% Petit Sirah.

The picnic tables where we will have our picnic lunch, under an enormous oak tree, has a view of the house and vineyards to one side and a view of the Santa Ynez Valley to the other. It should be a wonderful day's outing with our friends from Inside Wine Santa Barbara!

Tama's Sweet Corn Pone

3 fresh ears of corn
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears of corn)
4 eggs 
1/4 cup sugar 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 cup half-and-half
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
olive oil or pan spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the corn cobs and set half aside. Put the other half into a food processor. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Add the food processor the eggs, sugar, salt, half and half, vanilla and flour and blend until smooth. Mix in the cooled melted butter. Stir in the remaining kernels--do not puree.

Spray a 1 1/2 quart (8" x 8") baking dish with olive oil or pan spray. Pour into your baking dish, then sprinkle nutmeg on top. Bake until firm and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool for five minutes before serving warm.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Salmon, polenta and a trio of excellent pinot noir

Having some friends over for a dinner party was good inspiration to cook up some new, old and borrowed recipes--and taste test three wines from three different excellent regions for producing pinot noir. I used my blackened salmon recipe and dressed it with the fresh corn sauce from Chef Jordan C. Mackey's recipe (Restaurant Cuvée and the River Terrace Inn) here.

I made polenta stacks with rounds of prepackaged polenta fried, then layered with onion cheddar and marinara sauce, then melted in the oven. Steamed cubed and circles of butternut squash provided the vegetable. My garden box full of bok choy gone to seed provided the pretty and edible flower garnish.

A fresh garden salad and fennel/dill soda bread rounded out the meal. For dessert, I had made candied lemons from a recipe I adapted from the January 2013 Sunset magazine recipe, then made a lemon curd tart with pate sucree crust. Slices were served with a dollop of whipped cream.

Our powerhouse line up of Pinot Noir, all purchased from Touring & Tasting:
2009 Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley--tasty cherry and strawberry fruit with a bit of spice and the minerality and acidity often found in Willamette Valley wines. A lively wine with a spicy aroma.

2006 Standish Day Ranch Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley. The most expensive of the three and worth every penny. Only 368 cases were produced and it is sold out everywhere except a few online outlets in New York. Deep and rich with mushroom aromas and dark fruit. The outstanding quality of this wine was in its silky smooth mouthfeel and long finish.

2007 Trione Pinot Noir from the Russian River--black cherry and spice on the palate with hints of lavender. A bit lighter than the Standish but still substantial and smooth.

Dill and Fennel Soda Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt 
3/4 cup white sugar 
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon dill
1/2 tablespoon fennel seed 
2 eggs, beaten 
1 3/4 cups milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons melted butter, cooled to room temperature
3 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10 inch round cake pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, dill and fennel seed. In a separate bowl, mix the milk and lemon juice. Let sit for at least 15 minutes. Whisk in the eggs, and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients into the flour mixture using a spatula, mixing as little as possible to blend. Pour the batter into the pan and dot with cold butter.

Bake until puffed and golden, about an hour. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Lemon Curd Tart with Candied Lemon Slices

 Candied Lemon Slices
4 thin skinned lemons, like Meyer lemons
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 cup sugar + extra for dipping

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Slice 1/4" off the end of a lemon, then start making very thin (1/8") slices until it is difficult to hold the remaining lemon. Pick the seeds out of the slices and place the slices close together in a 13" x 9" glass baking dish. Continue with the rest of the lemons until the dish is filled. Squeeze the juice out of the ends and remaining lemon over the cut lemons, making sure no seeds are added to the dish.

Heat the water, corn syrup and 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan and boil for one minute. Pour over the fruit, cover the dish tightly with tin foil and bake for an hour. Take off the tin foil and rearrange the slices so they are in one layer and bake for another 1/2 hour; the liquid will thicken.

Lift each slice of lemon out, let drain, then place on a paper towel. Sprinkle the tops with sugar. Save the thickened liquid--it is tart, sweet and bit bitter from the lemon rind. It makes a nice glaze for sweet cookies or pies.

Tart Pan Coating
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 circle of parchment paper

To grease your tart pan, do as professional bakers do: cut a circle of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan by folding the parchment into a skinny triangle, as shown in the photo, and cutting it to size. Melt the butter and mix in the flour. Paint a bit onto the bottom of the tart pan to secure the parchment, then place the parchment on top. Brush the parchment and the sides of the tart pan with the pan coating.

Pate Sucree: Tender Tart Crust
1/4 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
12 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick softened butter
1 large egg, mixed
1 1/2 cup flour
1 circle of parchment paper that will cover inside the dough plus go up the sides at least an inch
rice for blind baking, about 1 1/2 cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the sugar, salt, baking powder, butter and egg into a food processor and pulse to combine well--it should look like a paste. Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, pulsing briefly. Pulse as little as possible to minimize working the dough. Turn into a plastic bag and squeeze the dough together in one corner, then shape into a disc. Put into the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Dust a silpat with flour and roll out the dough into a circle. Press into prepared tart pan. Put a circle of parchment inside the dough and fill with rice. Bake for 12 minutes, remove rice and interior parchment. Bake for another 5 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove and let cool.

Lemon Curd

3/4 cup lemon juice, at room temperature (about 4 lemons)
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt

Mince the zest until very finely minced. Stir into the sugar, breaking down any lumps, until smooth and uniform. In the bowl of an stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lemon zest until fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, with the mixer on low. Using a hand whisk, whisk in the lemon juice and salt, adding lemon juice slowly.

Cook in a double boiler or bain marie until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lemon curd starts to thickens at about 160 degrees--just below a simmer. Whisk continuously when it reaches this temperature and continue whisking until it thickens enough to leave a thick coat on the back of a spoon--about 180 degrees. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Fill the tart shell with lemon curd and allow to set at room temperature. Top with candied lemon.