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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spicy Little Leaf

Arugula.

Chock full of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.
..this spicy, peppery salad green hits the mark. When this leafy, fanciful vegetable is available from one of my favorite vendors at a local farmers market, I snap it up. 

Here is a recipe for a Spanish-inspired salad that is snappy and flavorful, fresh and healthy. It requires some advance planning, but the end result is well worth it. 

Buen provecho!

SLO SPANISH-STYLE SALAD
Serves 2 - 4

1 large bunch arugula, washed, dried and torn (4 large heaping handfuls)
If you don't care for arugula, use the lettuce of your choice.
2 - 3 cups sliced paprika chicken (recipe below)
1 cup marinated red bell peppers (recipe below)
½ - 1 cup chopped Manchego cheese (or other Spanish cheese of your choice)
¼ cups pitted green or black olives, quartered
1 fennel bulb chopped, outer shell and core removed
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsely leaves, torn
Sherry viniagrette (recipe below)

STEP 1

The day before you plan to serve this salad, marinate the peppers. 

MARINATED RED BELL PEPPERS
2 cups bell peppers, seeded and chopped 
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
¼ teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon torn flat-leaf parsley leaves
Salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar and cover with a lid (I use a mason jar). Shake all ingredients until peppers are well-covered and place in fridge for 24 hours. 

STEP 2

The chicken can be marinated and cooked the day before as well.
Chicken thighs soaking up the marinade.

PAPRIKA CHICKEN
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast 
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly grated onion (yes, get out your cheese grater!)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon hot paprika                                   
1 teaspoon smoked paprika 
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients (except the chicken) in a bowl. The end result is a thick, delicious marinade that you can lather all over your chicken with your hands. Place the chicken in a glass Pyrex baking dish and go for it. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty, but take special care to wash up carefully afterwards. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for up to two hours. The acids in the lemon juice can toughen the chicken if left to marinate for too long, so pay attention to the clock. 

When you're ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 350°F, remove the plastic wrap and bake for 20 - 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it; insert a knife into the center of a piece of chicken, and if the meat is no longer pink, it's done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before covering and placing in the fridge until you're ready to serve the salad.

Chicken straight out of the oven.
STEP 3READY TO EAT!

Get out all of your ingredients 20 minutes before serving. Chop, tear and slice your integral elements, then whip up this simple, not-too-tangy viniagrette.

SHERRY VINIAGRETTE  
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1 peeled garlic clove
2 teaspoons raw honey
Salt & pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender, taste, and adjust for salt & pepper. Be sure to use a good quality olive oil. This recipe yields a viniagrette that isn't too tangy, as you'll get some additional pertness in the salad from the marinated bell peppers. 

Place the arugula in a large festive serving bowl. Spoon out half of the marinated peppers (keep the other half for another salad this week!) and arrange over the salad with the sliced fennel, chicken, cheese, olives and parsley. Serve the viniagrette on the side and drizzle over the top of each individual serving. 

Suggested wine pairings: Albariño, Grenache of Rosé, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
 
Enjoy this special occasion salad any day of the week!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Shale Oak Winery

If you're contemplating weekend wine tasting in Paso Robles, here's a tip: seek out the tasting rooms when there's a major festival taking place at a central locationyou just might have the wineries all to yourself. Today's Earth Day Food & Wine Festival at Pomar Junction absorbed the crowds and kept the tasters at bay.

I'd heard quite a bit of buzz about Shale Oak Winery on the west side of Paso and wanted to experience this innovative, LEED certified facility for myself. What is LEED, you ask? Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. 

According to buildingsguide.com, LEED is a set of rating systems that promote, identify, and implement green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance.

So what does that really mean? 

In the case of Shale Oak, the environment wasn't disturbed to incorporate the buildings; rather, the tasting room and winery facility were built around the landscape. Some of their green highlights include capturing rain water to water plants, flush their toilets, and if they have enough in the holding tank...water the 5-acre vineyard growing hillside. Inside the lofty tasting room, planks of 100-year-old reclaimed wood neatly sheath the high walls while recycled glass spans the countertops. Tasting notes are printed on wildflower sheets, and guests can crumple them in their own gardens and watch them grow.

When visiting this winery, the first thing I noticed were the lofty, symmetrical, colorful windows that resembled a stained glass mosaic, comprising the entire front wall of the tasting room. Outside, the windows' reflections capture the surroundings, while inside provide a vivid view of the oak trees and surrounding fields. The winery celebrates the four seasons of California; Aesculus trees are etched in several of the front windows. As I learned from one of Shale Oak's tasting room attendants, these are the only trees that have four distinct seasons.

Most of the wines are made from estate grown varietals, the majority of which come from their east side vineyard in Paso. The current tasting line-up includes a crisp white blend, as well as several of their 2009 vintages: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Petit Verdot.

Guests can order wines by the glass and sip outside on the patio, or bring a lunch and take advantage of the picnic grounds in these peaceful surroundings. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the atmosphere is exceptional

Whether the tasting room is crowded or not, this is one juncture in Paso you don't want to miss. 

Shale Oak Winery: a building of the future.
 
Future wildflowers.


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