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 9, 2009

SLO Symbol of Love

I admit it: I’m obsessed with basil. As summer scuttles to a finish and the basil season dwindles to a close, my weekly visits to local farmer’s markets continue to include purchases of the fresh, pungent varietals of this herb—a potent purveyor of anti-oxidants, essential oils, and exquisite flavors. These past few months, the heavenly fragrance of lemon basil, the deep rich color of purple basil, and the familiar bright green leaves of pesto basil have blessed my kitchen and brought me the opportunity to experiment with new recipes.

Recently, in anticipation of another hectic, busy week, I carved out some time for myself and once again found myself devising new culinary concoctions. I created a wonderful Sunday evening meal for myself and reveled in the scent of garlic and red bell peppers roasting in my oven, freshly baked bread cooling on my counter, and of course—the gorgeous, bright essence of basil, brightening my day. I now understand why basil is a symbol of love in modern-day Italy…as it now is in my SLO kitchen.

SLO Roasted Garlic Pesto

1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
15 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup olive oil (I used Corral de Piedra—a rich, earthy tasting estate-grown oil produced in Edna Valley by Rocking MC Ranch)
3 cups basil
½ cup Italian parsley
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat oven to 275º. Add bell pepper and garlic to small glass baking dish, slather with olive oil and salt & pepper. Stir ingredients and roast in oven for 30–40 minutes, or until garlic is tender when pierced with a fork.

Cool on counter. Remove bell pepper and garlic cloves from olive oil and place in food processor with basil, parsley, and salt & pepper to taste. Purée until desired consistency. Do not discard olive oil!

Note: Since my pesto recipes rarely include nuts or cheese, I realize these blends more accurately reflect “pistou.” However, since my experimentation in the kitchen leads me to loosely play around with the recipes I craft, I reserve the right to adapt culinary terminology as I see fit.

Quick Herbed Beer Bread

It’s been years since I’ve baked bread (my bread machine went missing in action), so the following easy, no-hassle recipe that I adapted from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen is a welcome find. Although I prefer the use of lower-glycemic whole-grains as an alternative to refined white flour—the thick slices of this dense, chewy sourdough-like bread slathered in butter...fresh out of my oven, turned out to be quite a treat. Nonetheless, I will continue to search for a whole-grain version of this quick recipe.

3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus ¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 (12-ounce) bottle cold beer (I went local: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s Pale Ale)
1/3 cup SLO roasted garlic pesto
2 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil

Preheat oven to 350º. Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Stir in beer slowly, incorporating into flour mixture until thoroughly blended. The dough will be thick and sticky.

Spread half of batter in a non-stick 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Spread pesto evenly on dough and top with remaining bread batter. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and score the top of the bread with long, thin slices. Drizzle garlic-infused olive oil over the top and bake for 15 additional minutes, or until the top is golden brown. When finished, cool for 10 minutes, remove from pan, slice and slather with butter. Or, drizzle with more olive oil.

Feel free to experiment with this bread; different beers and fillings are in my future...carmelized onions or shallots come to mind.

Green Eggs & No Ham

2 eggs
1 tablespoon SLO roasted garlic pesto
1 small shallot
1 cup zucchini and/or yellow squash
½ cup red, yellow, or purple bell pepper
1 tablespoon garlic-infused olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
Seat salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste

Slice shallot, zucchini/squash, and bell pepper. Heat medium-sized frying pan to medium heat and add garlic-infused oil and butter. Sauté diced veggies with salt & pepper to taste. Stir veggies often, until cooked but still slightly firm.

Whisk eggs in mixing bowl with pesto and pour over veggies. Cook on each side 2–3 minutes, flipping once. Transfer to a plate and top with parmesan.

Try adding 1 cup of leftover spaghetti noodles to the eggs for an interesting version of a spaghetti pancake.

The Search for SLO County Wine…

In anticipation of this meal, for the first time ever I visited Taste of SLO, located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo City. Featuring 72 different wines (the majority from SLO South County wineries), I easily navigated their Enomatic Wine Pouring System with the friendly help of a staff member. Upon entering the store, Nick—a Cal Poly English major and self-proclaimed lush—greeted me and impressed me with his quick knowledge of available wines. Upon my request for either a no-oaked Chardonnay or rosé, he led me on my SLO search and offered up four interesting choices. I also appreciated the descriptive "taste notes" made available for each wine; helpful to an amateur wine-taster like me, who often struggles with the vast flavors and nuances of each wine.

Domaine Alfred Winery's 2008 Chardonnay $18

The perfumed floral essence pleasantly caught my attention, and pert apples burst forward with my first sip. The subtle, exotic cardamom flavor and hint of pineapple provided a spicy, yet juicy backdrop. My Taste of SLO adventure was off to a good start!

Tolosa Winery 2007 No Oak Chardonnay $19

I enjoyed this light, balanced creation and paid particular notice to the lime and tangerine layers, touched by the licorice-sweet anise flavor on the finish. Time for the next one!

Ortman Family Vineyards 2007 Syrah Rosé $16

Both the lovely raspberry bouquet and the bright blushed fruity swirl in my glass left me feeling like I'd made a great discovery. The buttery taste and feel of this wine, along with bursts of bright flavors of pomegranate and green apple balanced with a backdrop of nutty spice, made me want more!

Salisbury Vineyards 2007 Pinot Naturale $25

A long-time fan of this light, slightly sweet wine made from Pinot Noir, I was delighted to try it again. This “white pinot,’ which exuded a light pink hue, offered a hint of pear and grapefruit with slight acidity that was easy to drink. I've heard it makes an excellent mimosa!

Although I enjoyed all of these wines, my instincts told me that the interesting qualities of Domaine Alfred’s 2008 Chardonnay would be the appropriate pairing for my basil-themed menu. However, since it was out of stock, I went back to the drawing board. I asked Nick for a recommendation for a good, local Riesling and he led me to a familiar wine that I've greatly enjoyed in the past—Claiborne & Churchill Vintner's 2007 Dry Riesling ($18).

After a quick taste of this Alsatian-style gem, I purchased a bottle to complete my SLO meal for one. Later that evening as I poured a glass of wine, the deep yellow hue and fresh aroma of citrus in my glass readied me to eat and drink. The balance of acidity and fruit in this Riesling left me free to enjoy the varying flavors of the meal and left a dry, smooth finish. Although I still feel this menu would benefit paired with a no-oaked Chardonnay, this fantastic Claiborne & Churchill creation fared well with the underlying flavor of bell peppers and garlic—these spicier flavors cut through the mouthful of subtle, fruity hints of lime and citrus lingering in the wine.

A nice wine. A nice meal. A nice SLO Sunday!

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

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