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.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Sweet SLO Life

Life is at times sweet, sticky, and if we’re lucky…full of unexpected flavors. But I’m willing to bet the bees buzzing merrily around Stoltey’s Bee Farm in Atascadero are oblivious to these life-truths. I imagine these five-eyed, two-winged creatures bustle about their business, concerned only with their immediate task at hand: foraging in our local San Luis Obispo bounty, pollinating orange blossoms, alfalfa crops and other harvests in their path, collecting nectar from these flowers for the sweet task of bringing us the natural byproduct of their efforts—their heavenly varietals of syrupy decadence.

If only modern life were that simple. As I juggle my multiple daily responsibilities at work and come home at the end of the day, I wonder if I’ve accomplished anything as grand as these bees. After all, their simplicity is genius: bringing sweetness to others. But maybe it’s enough that I’ve discovered these North County bees’ naturally-made melodious varietals; maybe I’m a bit sweeter for imbibing in their blissful treats.

Before discovering Stoltey’s at a local farmer’s market, never did I realize that the taste of honey is influenced by the flowers and terrain of where the bees work their magic (much like the wines of San Luis Obispo County, influenced by factors such as type of grape, terroir, and weather). Honey nuances differ in much the same manner. Bees produce a variety of seasonal flavors, varying in color, depth, and flavor.

More than 300 unique types of honey are available in the United States, each originating from a different floral source and each exuding unique qualities. Stoltey's produces as many as 18 varietals throughout the year and this summer I’ve been sweetly experimenting with orange blossom, alfalfa, and mixed floral honey in my kitchen. All three range in color, taste, and depth—and, much like wine, pair well with different cuisine.

These sweet nuances are now a part of my SLO life. Stoltey's luscious, raw, unfiltered honey brings the flavors of San Luis Obispo County into my tea and recipes, and I relish the essence of this indulgent food...what Aristotle called "nectar of the gods." Now that I’ve discovered these decadent amber varietals, I’m sharing my newfound sweetness with you. Following are a few recipes I’ve been experimenting with, each one utilizing a different, satisfying honey from Stoltey’s Bee Farm. May your life be sweet and full of unexpected flavors—yet to be discovered!

SLO SUMMER CHICKEN SALAD

The mixed floral honey in this salad is a blend of several varietals (depending on where the bees are buzzing) and exhibits a medium-amber color. The rich, earthy…almost buttery, sweet flavor pairs well with the creamy dressing.

2 tablespoons mixed floral honey
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups water
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
4 cups spinach (or lettuce)
¼ cup purple basil
¼ cup Italian parsley (stems removed)
3 celery stalks
1 cup red grapes
1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons Vegenaise (or mayonnaise)
1 large lemon
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Dash of red pepper flakes
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Place chicken breasts in a stove-top pan and add water and broth to cover. Add paprika, red pepper flakes, salt to taste, and a few dashes of pepper. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat, and poach chicken for 15–20 minutes or until tender and white throughout. Remove chicken from broth and allow to cool.

Finely chop basil and parsley and add to large mixing bowl with yogurt, Vegenaise, juice of ½ of lemon, honey, celery seed, and salt & pepper to taste. Blend well.

Chop celery, halve grapes, and cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to mixing bowl with dressing. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours in fridge.

When ready to serve, tear spinach into small pieces and lightly dress with drizzles of lemon juice, olive oil, and salt & pepper. Arrange on serving platter and top with chicken salad.

This salad is also delicious stuffed between two pieces of your favorite bread. Or, serve with sliced bread and honey butter. Serves 4–5 depending on appetite. Enjoy!

SWEET & SPICY LEMON PESTO

Also a medium shade of amber, alfalfa honey has a spicy bite to its taste and is mildly sweet. This varietal typically fares well in marinades.

2 tablespoons alfalfa honey
2 cups lemon basil leaves (flowers and stems discarded)
½ cup Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic (or 1 small shallot—both if you prefer it really spicy)
2–4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Red pepper flakes, salt & pepper to taste
1 pound of your favorite pasta

Bring water to boil and cook pasta according to instructions.

Pack food processor with basil leaves, parsley, honey, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, zest, red pepper flakes, and salt & pepper to taste. Pulse until thick paste develops, scraping down sides. Stream in olive oil until desired consistency.

Drain pasta and toss in large bowl with pesto. Enjoy warm, or as a cold salad by refrigerating for at least 4 hours. Delicious!

Don’t Forget the San Luis Obispo County Wine!

I recently served these dishes for lunch at a family get-together, paired with Claiborne & Churchill Vintner's 2008 Dry Muscat. My only regret is that I only bought one bottle—the five of us easily could have enjoyed two. As we sat outside on an unusually warm, clear day in Morro Bay and savored our lunch, this refreshing white—dry but fruity, just on the verge of sweet—left us all with a summery feel. The wine fit with the mood of the day and complimented both the sweetness of the salad and the spiciness of the pasta dish. Farther into the meal, clear hints of grapefruit played out in the wine, leaving us refreshed and ready to move on to dessert.

FRESH FRUIT SALAD WITH HONEY SAUCE

Orange blossom honey exhibits a lighter amber shade and brings a mild, smooth taste with a satisfying sweetness. I particularly enjoy this varietal in hot tea, desserts, or drizzled over peanut butter on toast.

½ cup orange blossom honey
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (or lemon)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (optional)
Dash of cinnamon
4 cups fresh fruit

Whisk together honey, freshly squeezed juices, ginger, and cinnamon until honey is completely dissolved. Cut fruit into bite-sized pieces in serving bowl, saturate with honey sauce, and stir gently. Or, serve fruit sliced and drizzle with sweet sauce. Easy!

A perfect match for this dessert was none other than Claiborne & Churchill’s “Douce Amie” Sweet Orange Muscat. This slightly syrupy, aromatic “sweet friend” pleasantly reminded us all of honey and citrus, and we noted the effects of this wine on our palates after tasting the selection of fresh SLO fruit. Both the blackberries and plums cut through the sweetness of the wine, leaving a smooth finish. After eating the grapes, the familiar bitterness of the grapefruit essence lingered; the oranges had a similar effect, but slightly sweeter. This lovely wine was perfect with our sweet, healthy dessert—a sublime way to end a meal on a SLO summer day.
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Browse the National Honey Board's website for more sweet tips and fun facts about honey, including nutritional information and food ideas (like the delectable dessert recipe above that I adapted).
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Located in beautiful Edna Valley, Claiborne & Churchill specializes in producing premium dry but fruity Alsatian-style wines. Their small lot of exotic 2008 Dry Muscat is not expected to outlast the summer!

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Stoltey’s motto rings clear: Honey direct from the flower to you. Their honey is sold at farmer's markets throughout San Luis Obispo County; I hope you will seek them out and enjoy this sweet treat as much as I do!


My favorite recipe for honey is simple and requires only the following:
One spoon...one jar favorite Stoltey’s honey. Dip spoon...savor sweet SLO!
All Text and Photos Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth in SLO. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

Darrylin said...

Hooray for the Bees! Your recipies and photos are a delight! A wonderful mix of savory goodness with the honey, wine, and delectable offerings. Lovely to read about & enjoy.. ;-)

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