Celebrate February 29 with roadside inn and restaurant Cuyama Buckhorn — in SoCal’s Hidden Valley of Enchantment or in your own home kitchen.
Happy Leap Year! Yes, it’s true: 2020 has a February 29.
First, a quick refresher: It takes planet Earth 365 days, six hours, nine minutes, and 9.7 seconds to complete a full orbit of the sun. To keep that quarter day from adding up and eventually shredding the human calendar, we throw in an extra day every four years.
Even though leap years don’t come around very often, we’re more attuned to them than you might think: All U.S. presidential elections have fallen in leap years except the first in 1789.
“Leaplings” born on February 29 get to celebrate their actual birthday in 2020, but how are you going to party?
Might we suggest a stay at Cuyama Buckhorn in California’s Hidden Valley of Enchantment in the high desert of Santa Barbara County. About 2½ hours from Los Angeles, the roadside inn and restaurant is celebrating February 29 – March 1 with the first in a series of special gastronomic events in partnership with some of the surrounding farms, ranches, wineries, and orchards of central California. Great food, cocktails, a guided hike, and live music are on the itinerary.
If you can’t make it there for Leap Day, you can celebrate at home with these recipes from Cuyama Buckhorn, courtesy of culinary director Matthew Roberts.
Cuyama Buckhorn Citrus and Fennel Salad
1 lemon juice plus zest
1 orange plus zest
1 shallot, minced
Olive oil to taste
Salt to taste
Mix all ingredients together. Adjust acidity with olive oil. Salt to taste.
1 small bunch mustard greens
1 avocado sliced thin
1 bulb fennel sliced thin and lightly salted
1 orange supreme
Toss all ingredients together. Season with salt to taste.
Cuyama Buckhorn Heirloom Blue Cornbread with Jalapeño Jam
2 cups blue cornmeal (Cuyama Buckhorn uses Capay Mills cornmeal.)
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2½ cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients together. Mix together eggs, buttermilk, and honey.
Pour wet ingredients into dry. Gently mix. Do not overmix.
Melt butter in cast-iron pan. Pour the batter in cast-iron pan. Place pan in oven for approximately 20 – 25 minutes. Test the center of the cornbread with a toothpick. Cornbread is done when the toothpick pulls clean.
10 jalapeños, halved and deseeded, rough chop
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons sugar
Water as needed
Lightly sauté jalapeños in butter until soft. Add the honey and the sugar. Cook until incorporated. Allow mixture to cool and purée in food processor or blender. May need to adjust slightly with water based on consistency.
Cuyama Buckhorn Roasted Heirloom Carrots with Guajillo Romesco Sauce and Pistachio
1 bunch carrots washed and stems removed
1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
¼ cup pistachios, rough chopped for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly wash carrots. Rub carrots with rosemary, Aleppo pepper, salt, and olive oil. Roast carrots for approximately 20 – 25 minutes (may vary depending on size of the carrots).
1 – 2 Roma tomatoes, roasted
4 – 5 guajillo chiles, destemmed and seeded
3 – 4 cloves garlic
¼ cups toasted pistachios
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 each chile de arbol
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place garlic and tomato on baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast until fragrant, the garlic is brown, and the tomatoes are soft, about 25 minutes.
Allow the ingredients to cool and combine with the remainder of ingredients in a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth (if consistency is too thick, adjust with 1tablespoon water as needed). Adjust acidity and salt to taste.
Photography: Courtesy of Culinary Director, Matthew Roberts