For better or worse, here I am—trapped in paradise. As long as I continue to live in this vital, inimitable spot on the globe,

I will continue to seek out the unique…the delicious…the innovative products, services and traditions of San Luis Obispo County.

Stay posted for a few of my favorite things.

About Me...

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A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

SLO Medley

My culinary plan of action for an upcoming family meal, thwarted by a lack of green tomatoes at the local farmer’s market, left me wandering aimlessly in desperate search of a new recipe idea. After the organic basil vendor commented, “You look so serious today,” I realized I needed to get it together. I turned to the rows of fresh, shiny fruits and veggies for inspiration. What looked especially good?

My eye caught some earthy golden beets, fresh out of the ground, attached to long, leafy stems. Maybe a sweet roasted beet salad drenched in a tangy vinaigrette would be a flavorful, healthy choice. Next stop: I found some bright, vibrant green limes, and then meandered a bit more. Pausing at a fruit stand to admire the lovely nectarines and peaches, the farmer offered me a slice of a delicious crisp piece of green Briar plum. Tasting this light-green stone fruit for the first time, its slightly tart, light, plummy flavor inspired me further, and I conjured up images of a sweet and piquant plum salad. I continued strolling along, picking up other interesting, fresh San Luis Obispo County produce, including a nice, fat bunch of garlic chives and a few ears of beautiful corn. Then I made yet another new SLO discovery!

Noticing a bottle filled with a light reddish-pink liquid labeled “Verjus” at Mill Road Orchard’s stand, I incorrectly assumed I’d stumbled upon some apple juice or cider. The vendor enlightened me by revealing that verjus is juice made from the runoff of unripe wine grapes. Picked when the grapes begin to soften and change color, this lightly fruity yet tart, unfermented grape juice can be used in place of vinegar or lemon in recipes. This novel SLO find was exactly what I needed for my vinaigrette and salad…reminding me that sometimes we need to have faith that with a little improvisation and imagination, we will inadvertently stumble upon what we need, steering our taste buds in the right direction.

As a result of my spontaneous meanderings, below are several recipes that my family and I enjoyed together at our meal (including my six-year-old nephew who has very discerning tastes!). Each one of us contributed to this lunch, resulting in a pleasing medley of sweet and tangy flavors ending up on our plates, tied together by a few common ingredients.


SLO ROASTED SWEET BEET SALAD

8 – 9 beets (mix of red & yellow)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

TANGY LIME VINAIGRETTE

1 medium lime, juiced & zested
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
(I went local from Templeton: Carriage Vineyards mission varietal)
3 tablespoons verjus
(Paso Robles: Mill Road by Monahan Family Farm)
1 tablespoon Italian parsley
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon garlic chives, chopped

Heat oven to 350º and scrub beets. Cut off tops, place in roasting pan filled with 1 – 2 inches of water, drizzle with olive oil and salt & pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and roast until just tender, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make vinaigrette, add all ingredients to blender—except garlic chives—and purée. Transfer to bowl and add chives.

When beets are tender, cool until able to handle and peel skins by rubbing with a paper towel (wear gloves if you don’t enjoy beet-stained fingers). Slice beets into wedges and saturate with vinaigrette while still warm. Sprinkle with garlic chives. Marinate for at least 4 hours.

PLUM SALAD

6 green Briar plums (or the standard purple varietal)
1 tablespoon purple basil, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic chives, finely chopped
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons verjus
Salt & pepper to taste

Wash and cut fruit into bite-sized pieces. In a medium-sized glass bowl, whisk remaining ingredients and add plums to dressing. Marinate in fridge for best results.

These crisp plums, just shy of ripening, paired exceptionally well with the light, refreshing, sweet...yet tart nuances of the verjus.

MOM'S FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

Even though I had no luck finding green tomatoes at the farmer’s market, my mom managed to pick up a gigantic green heirloom tomato at a local grocery store. My sister baked some cornbread cakes (utilizing the fresh corn I picked up), and the combination of the tangy fried green tomatoes served over the sweet cornbread was a perfect match.

2 large green tomatoes
¼ cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon chopped purple basil
Salt & pepper to taste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Heat cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with oil. Slice tomatoes into 1-inch sized round slabs. Mix cornmeal with basil, salt & pepper, and coat tomato slices on both sides. Fry tomatoes on each side for 4 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown. Drain on paper towel before serving.

PEACH BARBEQUE SAUCE

My dad’s contribution to our Sunday meal was one of his specialties—barbequed chicken. Inspired by a recipe from a recent edition of Sunset Magazine, we sautéed, boiled, and blended the following ingredients, resulting in a pungent, syrupy sauce that was a big hit with everyone.

1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (this oil stands up to the high temperatures of a barbeque)
2 medium peaches (or apricots), peeled and chopped
¼ cup apple cider vinegar (Paso Robles: Mill Road by Monahan Family Farm)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon allspice
Pinch or two of red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sautée onions and garlic with salt & pepper until tender. Add chopped peaches and continue stirring over heat until peaches soften and mixture thickens. Add remaining ingredients, stir, and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to blender, purée, and baste chicken during last 10 minutes of grilling.

SLO CRISP WINE

I searched for a SLO County wine that could hold up to this medley of tangy and sweet flavors. After a visit to Taste of SLO in downtown San Luis Obispo, my choice of Salisbury Vineyards 2006 Pinot Grigio ($24), with its almost opaque, golden-tinged hue and enticing nose of orange citrus, proved just right. This clean, crisp wine left an interesting musky, almost peppery finish, and the nice balance of fruit and acid held its own against the assortment of flavors in the food. By the end of the meal the soft flavors of orange, lemon, and vanilla in this wine left a smooth finish to our end-of-summer gathering. This meal was a success in itself...not to mention the new SLO discoveries!



All Text and Photos Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth in SLO. All Rights Reserved.

2 comments:

GarlicBOSS said...

The salads look so refreshing

Correne Quigley-Faysal said...

I love Mill Roads Verjus! The plum salad looks great. I make poached pears in their verjus with honey, and thyme scented whip cream, great for autumn.

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