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Monday, September 03, 2007 

Happy Labor Day!

It generally means BBQ time. Here in the Central Coast of California, BBQ generally means "Tri Tip Santa Maria style"
Santa Maria Barbecue has its roots in the mid-19th century, when the rancheros gathered to help each other brand their calves each spring. The host would prepare a Spanish style barbecue as a thank you for his vaqueros (America’s first cowboys), family and friends. Under the oaks of this serene little coastal valley they would enjoy a traditional feast that included beef barbecued over a red oak fire, served with Pinquito beans, bread, salsa and homemade desserts.

The present Santa Maria Style Barbecue grew out of this tradition, and achieved its "style" some 60 years ago when local residents began to string their beef on skewers and cook it over the hot coals of a red oak fire. The meat, either top block sirloin or the triangular-shaped bottom sirloin known as "tri tip," is rolled in a mixture of salt, pepper and garlic salt just prior to cooking. It is then barbecued over red oak coals, giving the meat a hearty, smoky flavor.

The traditional Santa Maria Barbecue menu features, of course, the barbecued sirloin, trimmed, sliced, and laid out in metal pans so that the diner may select the desired doneness. The only condiment for this tender and flavorful meat is a fresh salsa. With it is served grilled French bread dipped in sweet melted butter, perfect for soaking up every last bit of the flavorful meat juices. Also served on the side is a tossed green salad, and slow-cooked pinquito beans. For the most authentic Santa Maria Barbecue experience, select a robust Santa Maria Valley wine to accompany your meal. This tasty feast is finished with coffee and a simple dessert.

Once a well-kept local secret, word of Santa Maria Style Barbecue has spread around the world, enticing travelers to come by the thousands, seeking a taste of this local specialty, and it’s not difficult to find. On a typical Saturday, you will see clouds of fragrant smoke billowing through the air, leading you to numerous barbecues throughout the city. They range from outdoor feasts along Broadway sponsored by schools and local charities, to restaurants offering a more formal dining experience, to backyard cookouts where families enjoy their own recipes that have been passed down through the generations. It’s no wonder Santa Maria is called the "Barbecue Capital of the World." - SantaMaria.com
Mmmmm. BBQ. Santa Maria is also known for the strawberries. The California Strawberry Commission has some delicious ways to enjoy these little red bundles of goodness.

Moose's California Strawberry Granita w/ Marinated Berries

Granita
1 pound, 12 ounces sugar
4 cups Water
3 Cinnamon sticks
4 pounds, 12 ounces Stemmed California strawberries
1/4 cup lemon juice
Dash Salt

Cookie Cups
13 ounces Blanched almonds
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Light corn syrup
6 1/2 ounces Butter
6 ounces Sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Anisette
4 1/4 ounces All-purpose flour

Marinated Berries
2 pounds, 12 ounces Stemmed California strawberries
8 ounces Blueberries, raspberries or blackberries
4 ounces Brown sugar
2/3 cup Orange juice
1 /4 cup Cointreau
Sweetened whipped cream (optional) as needed

Directions

To make Granita: In saucepan combine sugar, water and cinnamon sticks. Bring to boil, stirring; boil 1 minute. Cool. Puree strawberries in food processor or blender until smooth. Strain out seeds in fine sieve. In chilled hotel pan thoroughly mix strawberry puree, lemon juice, salt and enough of the cooled sugar syrup to balance strawberry flavor. Place in freezer. As mixture begins to freeze, chip the frozen portion with the tines of a fork every 30 to 45 minutes until no liquid remains. Place in airtight container, cover and store in freezer up to 2 weeks.

To make Cookie Cups: In food processor grind almonds medium-fine. Place in sieve; shake out dust. In saucepan over low heat combine corn syrup, butter and sugar. Stir until butter and sugar is completely melted. Remove from heat. Mix in anisette, and then flour to blend thoroughly. Portion rounded tablespoonfuls of batter onto parchment-lined sheet pans, spacing apart, and flatten slightly (each cookie will be about 5 inches in diameter when baked). Bake in 350°F oven about 6 to 8 minutes until evenly golden brown. Cool slightly; lift with spatula and shape into pointed cups in 6-ounce martini glasses. (If cookies cool too much to shape, return to oven for a minute or two to soften.) When cups are hard and cool, store in an airtight container up to three days.

To make Marinated Berries: Combine ingredients in bowl at least 15 minutes before serving. For each serving to order: Place Cookie Cup in martini glass; fill with 1/2 cup Granita and top with 1/3 cup Marinated Berries. Top with whipped cream, if desired. Yield: 24 servings



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