Archive for the ‘Santa Barbara’ Category

Favorite Salmon Recipes

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Sorry for my lack of posts lately, I have been distracted studying for the Real Estate exam. I just passed the test and will soon be selling real estate in my hometown, Santa Barbara. But that doesn’t mean I’ve lost my love for all things food…

There has been so much press lately about the healthy properties of salmon. A fish so rich in Omega -3 has to be good for you. Actually, there is an equally compelling reason to eat salmon, it’s delicious. I have been cooking salmon at least once a week, and have included my two favorite recipes below. Note that the wild salmon season has just begun in Santa Barbara; but these recipes can use either wild or farm raised.

Salmon with Leeks

2 salmon fillets (6 -8 oz each)                                      2 leeks, diced

1 tbs. heavy cream                                                         1 – 2 tsp. mustard

1 lemon                                                                               1 -2 tbs. olive oil

1 tsp. dill                                                                             salt & pepper

Clean leeks thoroughly. Cut leeks lengthwise into quarters (see below) and chop into a fine dice.

Diced Leeks

Diced Leeks

In a saute pan, add olive oil, leeks, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. The leeks should be soft and barely brown. Zest the lemon and reserve for later. Add the cream, mustard (1 -2 tsp. depending on your love of mustard) and the juice of one lemon to the leeks. Cook for a minute or so; the mixture should be nicely blended.

Wild King Salmon

Wild King Salmon

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Tear off a 2 foot strip of parchment paper (you can substitute aluminum foil) and place into a baking dish.  Now place the salmon on top of the parchment and add lemon zest and dill onto each. Finally add the leek mixture on top.

Salmon Dish before Cooking

Salmon Dish before Cooking

Now fold the parchment as if you were wrapping a present, and tuck the sides under to keep the package intact. See below what the parchment will look like.

Salmon in Parchment

Salmon in Parchment

Bake the salmon dish for about 20 – 25 minutes. Note that if your salmon is thick then you might need to cook for 35 – 40 minutes. Once cooked through, just plate and serve. I think you will find the salmon to be very moist and flavorful. The only tricky part of cooking salmon is knowing when it’s done. Usually I buy one fillet for the two of us, and it will weigh just under a pound. To ensure the salmon is cooked through I remove it from the oven after 20 minutes and cut it in half. This allows me to see if the salmon is cooked or needs to be returned to the oven.

The Plated Dish

The Plated Dish


Another salmon dish that you might like has a horseradish crust.

Salmon in a Horseradish Crust

2 6 -8 oz. salmon fillets                                        1 1/2 tbs. horseradish

1 tbs. Dijon mustard                                             1/2 lemon juiced

1 – 2 tbs. olive oil                                                    1 tbs. dill

4 Tbs. breadcrumbs                                              salt and pepper

Grease a baking pan with either a tablespoon of olive oil or use a cooking spray. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients except the salmon and the breadcrumbs. Coat the top of the salmon with the mixture then spread the breadcrumbs evenly over the top of each fish.

Bake the salmon dish in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Once salmon is just about cooked through, broil the dish for about a minute to brown the breadcrumbs. Serve immediately.

If you have a salmon recipe that you really enjoy, I’d love to hear about it.

Pier to Peak – Santa Barbara

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Are you still looking for a vacation idea for Labor Day weekend? Do you need an excuse to visit Santa Barbara? Do you like a challenge? Well, you’re in luck. The Pier to Peak half-marathon is September 5th, and there is still time to register. Click here to register.

The race starts at Stearns Wharf, meanders through Santa Barbara, and ends at the top of La Cumbre Peak. The course is a bit hilly, but just think of the beautiful views.

Are you in? Isn’t this the best vacation idea you ever heard of?

Rose – A Great Wine for Sunday Afternoons

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Do you have a favorite wine? My choice would typically be a full bodied red. However, if I was eating a plate of oysters or ceviche, I would select a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.  That being said, I have become quite fond of rose wine on a warm Sunday afternoon.

Rose is pink in color, and should be crisp and dry (not sweet). The standard was set in Tavel, a small town in the southern Rhone region of France. Rose wine is always made from red grapes, typically Grenache or Cinsault. The color is lighter than a red wine because the skins are left in contact with the fermenting mixture for only a short time, perhaps 10 – 36 hours.

There are many delicious roses made in southern France; but I live in southern California where there is limited availability of French wines. I have therefore been drinking California roses. These wines do not have the same historical reputation as the wines of Tavel, but they are fun.

How thorough and scientific was my analysis of the roses of California? I would classify my study as a fun sampling rather than an exhaustive taste test. The tasting area was a bocce court.

Bocce Court

Bocce Court

Although this venue may not be typically used for wine tastings, I found it very effective. During a typical wine tasting you might compare four to ten glasses of wine; intently analyzing the color, smell, and flavor components of each glass. The bocce court method is sightly more relaxed. First, you admire the blue sky and be appreciative of the warm weather. Next, you toss your bocce ball, hopefully with the utmost precision. And finally, you quaff your rose. Delicious.

I have sampled about a dozen California roses, and most were quite good. My favorite rose is Zaca Mesa’s Z Gris. It’s dry, crisp and rather light bodied; which makes it quite refreshing on a warm afternoon. This wine is also complex and very well balanced; making it stand out above the others. My runner up is a rose from Demetria Estate. It’s interesting that Zaca Mesa and Demetria are both located on Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos. Note that these wines are best served chilled.

Wine tasting is not just about ratings, it’s about fun. I think Zaca Mesa’s Z Gris is a winner; but I also realize there must be many other great roses. Have you tried a rose that you like?

Slow Food Feast @ Jaffurs Winery

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Slow Food Santa Barbara is a small but rapidly growing group of chefs, farmers, importers, winemakers, and others that are passionate about food. Last Sunday we had an event at Jaffurs Wine Cellars in downtown Santa Barbara.

Jaffurs Wine Cellars is a boutique winery dedicated to producing great Rhone varietals. Craig Jaffurs began producing wines in 1994; and the wines have been getting better every year. Dave Yates, General Manager of Jaffurs, conducted a wine tasting for the group that included: Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Mourvedre, Santa Barbara County Syrah, and a Syrah from Thompson vineyard. The wines were delicious.  More details on Jaffurs can be found on their website.

Good local wine deserves good local food. We are lucky in Santa Barbara to have farms that raise both beef and lamb. It’s great to support local farmers, especially if they provide outstanding products.

Sous chef Glenn Leopold and I set up two barbecue grills in the Jaffurs parking lot to grill burgers and summer squash.  We feasted on lamb burgers from Jimenez Family Farm (website) that were stuffed with feta cheese. Equally delicious were hamburgers from Rancho San Julian (website). Several of the hamburgers were topped with a local cheese from Paso Robles called Seascape. The lamb and beef burgers were huge hits; juicy and exploding with flavor.

Slow Food members each brought a side dish to complement the burgers. The dishes ranged from asparagus to tabouli, and all were spectacular. I can safely say, nobody went home hungry.

Great wine, great food, great friends.

Vinegar – A few new favorites

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

A few weeks back I tasted some local olive oils in my cooking class. While they were delicious, the highlight of the tasting was a vinegar. It may be the best vinegar I ever tried. It’s called Allure Estates Balsamic Vinegar.  Then a light bulb went off in my head. Why do we always discuss olive oils, when vinegars are equally important in a good vinaigrette?

Allure Estates Balsamic Vinegar is made on a family farm on the Central Coast of California. The technology of making balsamic vinegar is very different from that of wine vinegar. Instead of using wine, it is made from must (juice) which is boiled down and reduced in half before being put in barrels with a small amount of vinegar for inoculation. Most of us are familiar with the superb balsamic vinegar made in Modena Italy.   Allure Estates does not claim to be a match for this Italian classic. Allure uses the Grenache grape rather than the typical Trebiano grape used in Italy. They also age the vinegar for 3 years rather then 12 as done in Italy. The final product is lighter in color and taste; and is fabulous.

Allure Estates Balsamic Vinegar

Allure Estates Balsamic Vinegar

I am not an expert on vinegars; but this product woke up my taste buds. It is fresh and vibrant. The acidity is nicely balanced with of myriad of flavors that are complex  yet reasonably light.

Allure Estates makes makes a half dozen other vinegars, and two others caught my attention. One is a Blackberry Cabernet which is not sweet or cloying, but has a subtle sweetness that’s nicely balanced with acidity. This variety  would be perfect for a salad on a warm afternoon. The other vinegar is Four Thieves, which displays herbal notes. Actually Allure blends Syrah with rosemary, thyme, sage, peppermint, garlic, and a touch of honey. I could not isolate each of these flavors, but I did appreciate the final product. Have you ever made a salad and added a grilled chicken breast to it? Well this vinegar be the perfect start to your vinaigrette. If you would like more information on Allure Estates, click here.

Lastly, I would like to mention a Sherry Vinegar that I have become quite fond of. In the past, I would typically use a Tuscan red wine vinegar when making a vinaigrette. Then I saw Spanish Chef Jose Andres on his TV show  singing the praises of Sherry Wine vinegar. So I tried Miguel & Valentino Vinagre de Jerez Reserva and loved it. This vinegar will add a rich distinctive flavor to your salads.

Tasting the vinegars of Allure Estates has opened my eyes to the breadth of flavors available to us, and I think I have only reached the tip of the iceberg.  It will be fun experimenting with new vinegars in the future, and tasty too!

Have you found a vinegar you really like?