Santa Barbara, Calif., has long been called the California Riviera. It's sunny much of the year with its temperate climate and ocean view. I had been hearing great things about the city's cuisine, so I headed up there for a short visit. There are many places to stay in Santa Barbara, but I picked El Encanto, a historical hotel, which recently has been refurbished. Luxurious cottages dot the landscape with beautiful ponds, gardens and walkways all around the property.
The food was reason enough to visit. Executive chef Patrice Martineau has cooked in some of the most celebrated kitchens around the world. He clearly is enjoying the amazing year-round variety of produce available to him.
One morning, I ordered his French-inspired Huevos Rancheros. I was happily surprised with his take on this Mexican breakfast dish. No heavy ranchero sauce here. Layers of flavor and textures made this dish light, yet filling. You have to try this when you want a change for breakfast or brunch.
Diane Rossen Worthington is a cookbook author and a James Beard award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.
Huevos Rancheros El Encanto-style
1 can (261⁄2 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1⁄2 cup favorite salsa, divided
1⁄2 cup chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe avocados
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of 1 small lime
Water, for boiling
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
8 large eggs
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 corn tortillas
1⁄4 cup Cotija cheese
1⁄4 cup sour cream
Cilantro sprigs or green onions, for garnish
In a large saucepan, combine the beans, 1⁄4 cup of the salsa and the stock and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes or until heated through. With a hand blender, blend the bean mixture until soupy but thick. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.
Peel and mash the avocados and mix them with the red onion, cumin and lime juice, and season with salt and pepper.
Place 6 cups of water in a large, deep skillet and add 1 teaspoon of salt and the white wine vinegar. Bring to a simmer. Crack each egg into a ramekin and slide each into the simmering water; poach each egg for about 3 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon into a bowl.
While the eggs are cooking, pan fry the tortillas in olive oil over medium-high heat until crisp, for about 1 minute each side. Drain on paper towels.
Spoon the cooked black beans evenly into each of four shallow soup bowls, and then sprinkle each with the Cotija cheese. Place 2 poached eggs on top of the beans. Place one crisp tortilla onto the eggs.
Garnish each tortilla with a tablespoon each of guacamole, salsa and sour cream to taste. If desired, garnish with cilantro or a green onion. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.
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