CALIFORNIA & COASTAL: Celebrate Spring with Sustainable California Inspired Cuisine

The dinner party has new meaning for a new generation of wine and food lovers. The days of extended dinner parties highlighted by rare, sometimes ethically questionable ingredients and multiple courses — which also meant a gazillion dishes and pieces of cutlery to wash — has been replaced by less structured affairs focused on easy entertaining and simple, honest and sustainable flavours. It’s a style of cuisine and entertaining that’s been popular in California for decades.

California cuisine relies on the use of locally sourced, often organic, ingredients enhanced with seasonings reflecting that state’s multi-cultural nature. Wolfgang Puck famously made unconventional pizza toppings popular, but if you want to look for the substance behind the sustainability movement, head to San Francisco where Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame taught a generation of chefs that the best ingredients are the ones sourced from your neighbours. Invite the gals (or guys) over for a California & Coastal inspired occasion featuring locally sourced sustainable Nova Scotia seafood. The only rule, leave the pretention at the front door.

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Sustainable Shrimp Pizza

Serves 4 to 6
Prep Time:  More than 1 hour
Total Time: Less than 3 hours

Pizza Dough
Béchamel
Charred Red Onion
1/2 pound Chedabucto Bay Shrimp, peeled, pan fried
1/2 cup Queso Fresco or feta, crumbled
Cilantro Pesto

Method: Roll pizza dough on a floured surface to form two 12-inch pizzas. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Top each pizza with béchamel sauce, charred red onion, half the grilled shrimp and half the cheese. Bake in an oven preheated to 500°F for approximately 8 minutes. Drizzle each pizza with cilantro pesto and serve.Pair with Ménage á Trois Pinot Grigio, USA, $19.99

Pair with Ménage á Trois Pinot Grigio, USA, $19.99  

Wildly Good: Chedabucto Trap Caught Shrimp

Did you know there is a sustainable wild shrimp industry in Nova Scotia? There is. The shrimp are pulled from the icy cold waters of Chedabucto Bay. Spring ushers in the end of the season but if frozen shortly after caught, they can last months in a freezer. We purchased ours from Afi shianado Fishmongers. www.afishianado.ca

Cilantro Pesto
Wash a bunch of cilantro to remove any sand. Dry. Remove leaves from bunch and place in blender. Add 3 cloves minced garlic, 1/4 cup pine nuts, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and 1/2 cup olive oil. Purée until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

Pizza Dough
Place 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor; combine until well mixed. Place 1 envelope active dry yeast in a bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup warm water. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Let stand for 10 minutes. Pour yeast mixture into centre of flour and mix until well combined. Add 3/4 cup warm water and mix until dough forms. Remove dough from bowl and place on floured work surface. Kneed for 5 minutes or until the dough is quite elastic. Rub another bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil and set dough in the bowl. Cover with damp tea towel and place in a warm area. Let rise for an hour.  Cut the dough in half. Roll out each piece of dough on a  floured surface until they form two 12-inch pizzas.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Charred Red Onions
Peel a large red onion. Cut into  1/4-inch rings. Separate the rings and place pieces in a bowl. Toss the onion with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, a pinch salt and a pinch of pepper. Spread onion on a baking sheet and place in middle rack of oven set to broil. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the onions and return to oven for another  2 to 3 minutes.

Béchamel
Sauté 2 tablespoons minced white onion in 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in pot set over medium-low heat. When the onion is soft and translucent, add 1/4 cup flour and a generous pinch of salt; stir. When the flour is light brown, whisk in 1 litre of homogenized milk. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil, stir constantly during the process. Scrape across the bottom to ensure no residual flour is left in the pot. Reduce heat to low and simmer another 10 minutes. Stir constantly.  The final result should be a thick,  silky-smooth sauce.

CALIFORNIA:  GREEN MOVEMENT

 

 

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Jennifer Katona,  NSLC Category Manager, Wine

There is a lot of green thinking that goes into ensuring the Golden State stays shining. California has been the natural epicentre of sustainable, organic and biodiverse initiatives in food and wine for decades. What started out as  a fringe grass roots movement for supporting local and taking extra care of Mother Nature  in the process are now part of the California DNA on the agricultural scene.

The Buzz Words

Sustainability:  Sustainability is an overall commitment to the environment. Sustainability includes a range of eco-focused practices. Some wineries employ organic viticulture while others may strive for organic vineyard practices, whenever  it is practical, but they may also practice sustainability in the winery, via energy  and water conservation practices. Look  for the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing logo on bottles of California wine.

Organic:  Organic viticulture requires a greater level of commitment in vineyard management practices including the exclusion of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.  Some wineries chose to be Certified Organic, which, depending on the certifying  body, may have additional criteria including winemaking practices. Others simply chose to produce organically without being certified.

Biodiversity:  In essence, the concept  is an attempt to plant vineyards and grow grapes in harmony with the existing environment rather than simply replacing the natural flora and fauna with vines and negatively impacting the natural environment.

OCCASIONS RECOMMENDS
Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, USA, $15.99
Bonterra Cabernet  Sauvignon, USA, $21.99
J Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, USA, $29.99

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Hook and Line Fish Tacos

Serves 4 to 6
Prep Time:  Less than 30 minutes
Total Time: Less than 1 hour

Ingredients
1  tablespoon each oregano, smoked paprika, cayenne, pepper
1/2 cup butter melted
1  1/2 pounds hook and line caught white fish fillets (haddock, cod or hake)
Pi co de Gallo
Zesty Citrus Avocado Cream Sauce
3 cups shredded red cabbage
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
12  Corn Tortillas

Method:  Combine spices in a bowl. Dip fi sh fi llets in melted butter then sprinkle with spices. Place in a frying pan set over medium-high heat and cook until blackened on each side (2 to 3 minutes per side). Repeat until all the fi sh is cooked. Roughly chop fi sh and set out with bowls of Pico de Gallo, Zesty Citrus Avocado Cream Sauce, shredded cabbage, cilantro leaves and corn tortillas.

Pair with Woodbridge Moscato, USA, $14.99 

Zesty Citrus Avocado Cream Sauce
Place 1 cup sour cream, juice and zest of 2 limes, 1 roughly chopped avocado (peeled, pit removed), 1 clove minced garlic, 2 tablespoons minced red onion and 1/4 cup cilantro leaves in a blender. Purée until smooth.

Local Lobster Avocado Salad

6 to 8 Servings
Prep Time:  Less than 30 minutes
Total Time: Less than 1 hour
Ingredients
4 1-1/4 lb lobsters, cooked, shelled
4 ripe avocados, peeled, cored, sliced
1 red onion thinly sliced
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
Citrus vinaigrette

Method:  On a platter arrange slices of avocado, lobster meat, red onions slices and grapes. Sprinkle with cracked sea salt and cracked pepper. Drizzle with citrus vinaigrette.
Pair with Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay, USA, $18.99

Citrus Vinaigrette
Place juice of 3 navel oranges , zest of 1 orange, juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp minced ginger, 1 tsp minced garlic and 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley in a bowl.  Slowly whisk in 1/3 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

There is a certain flashy appeal to California wines. You’ll rarely find a California vintner accused of being too subtle, but then again the California wine industry’s ‘show me style’ makes for wines that are easy to understand. Most of California benefits from a near perfect Mediterranean climate contributing to grapes that rarely lack for ripeness. The rich, natural sugars found in the grapes tend to produce wines of elevated alcohol levels compared to their European counterparts. But with ripeness often comes wines rich in fruit-filled personalities sometimes enwrapped in sweet and spicy oak.

OCCASIONS RECOMMENDS
McManis Cabernet Sauvignon, USA, $19.99
Sterling Vintners Merlot, USA $15.29
Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir, USA, $18.99
Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel, USA, $19.99
Ménage á Trois Red, USA, $19.99
Enigma Chardonnay, USA, $17.99

CALIFORNIA CLASSIC CHARACTERS

Cabernet Sauvignon – Big & Bold cassis, jammy black fruit, violet and mint flavours enhanced with vanilla, cedar and coconut oak tones.

Merlot – Big & Bold with dark berry, plum and herbaceous notes complemented by vanilla and coconut oak character but softer, less dry, compared to Cabernet.

Pinot Noir – Whether Light & Fruity or Smooth & Medium, California Pinot is always full of red fruit flavours often enhanced with spicy, sometimes cola-like oak character.

Zinfandel – From Light & Fruity to Big & Bold. Lighter versions are all raspberry jam, while bolder styles offer layers of smoke  and spice.

Red Blends – From Smooth & Medium to Big & Bold, these wines made from a wide mix of grapes deliver sweet fruit flavours and a mix of sweet and spicy oak character.

Chardonnay – Traditionally boast ripe tropical and orchard fruit flavours, creamy  and buttery palates and vanilla-scented oak aromas, although more and more versions are trading in oakiness for apple and pear-like freshness.

WEST COAST  MEETS EAST COAST

The West Coast is where stars are made. In the case of West Coast brewing, the stars are hops. So-called “West Coast” style Pale Ales, whether they are made in the West Coast or by East Coast brewers emulating the style, are a showcase of their hops. The brews often have  a flamboyant grapefruit-like hop aroma profile, mild malt character and typically a finish very dry. These are big impact beers.

OCCASIONS RECOMMENDS
Garrison Hop  Yard Pale Ale,  6 x 341 ml, $13.49
Granville Island  English Bay Pale Ale,  473 ml, $3.49

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