Saturday, August 25, 2007

A few bites from Mexico

Just back from a week in Mexico, I visited the area of Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of Baja. It is the Northern Mexican state that borders the Untied States, with the Pacific Ocean on the West and the Sea of Cortez on the East. It was, like it always is in August, Hot!! The best foods I enjoyed were the simple ones, like Ceviche and tacos. I ate a lot of Ceviche which was simply made with just Lime juice, diced tomato, cilantro and either diced Mahi, squid or shrimp. Basically a fish salad washed down with cold Modelo beers.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Grouper with Farmers market veggies

The Marin Sunday Farmers market is the biggest and the best of the daily markets here in the bay area, this time of the year the market is huge with all the summer vegetables. I found a nice fresh grouper fillet at a large well stocked fish and shellfish stall, then it was a question of what I was going to serve with it? Corn, summer squash and tomatoes were everywhere so it was a easy choice. I cut all the vegetables in a way to show off all there different sizes and shapes, then simply saute in olive oil with fresh oregano from the garden. For the fish, the small bones were removed with needle nose pliers and seasoned with kosher salt and pepper. Into a hot pan with a dash of olive oil, browned on the first side then flipped over to finish. I made a sauce of sweet 100's yellow cherry tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. Simple, colorful and farm fresh.
1 handful assorted summer squash, sliced and quartered
1 Roma tomato, large diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 ear yellow corn on the Cob, kernel's removed
2 5-6 ounce Grouper fillets (or firm white fish)
1 pinch oregano, chopped
1 dash olive oil
kosher salt/black pepper
1 basket sweet 100's cherry tomatoes
1.Season Grouper fillets with kosher salt and pepper and sear in hot pan with olive oil, flip and finish second side till done, keep warm.
2.Saute cherry tomatoes in a pan with a dash of extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper, simmer till tomatoes are soft and saucy, set aside.
3. In a third saute pan, saute all vegetables, oregano, garlic in olive oil.
4.Assemble by placing vegetables on plate, place fish on top, spoon sauce on and around fish, enjoy.

Friday, August 17, 2007


In the summer when its warm and the days are long, another way I enjoy eating seafood including most South Americans is in the form of Ceviche. It is a citrus pickled and marinated seafood originating from Peru, Ceviche is now very common in both central and South America. The basic component's are fresh sliced fish or shellfish, fresh lime juice, diced onions and Chile peppers. Lots of other ingredients can be added such as corn, cilantro and tomatoes. Fried tortilla chips are an excellent and common way to eat Ceviche.

Ceviche my way

8 oz very fresh pacific snapper, sliced thin
juice of 2 limes
juice of 1 orange
segments from 1 orange
1/2 jalapeno, diced fine
1/3 small red onion, sliced thin
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped fine
1 Cobb of corn, grilled, kernel's removed
1 avocado, diced
Kosher salt/pepper

1. Mix all ingredients, chill for 2 hours.

Serve in chilled martini glasses with corn tortilla chips.
Yield = 4

Peek tomato season is right now

It is late August and all tomatoes are at their absolute best! Put them in every recipe now because fall is coming and then they will soon be gone. Making a simple salad is the best way to taste all the different flavors and textures as well as all the colors and shapes. The key is to use only the best ingredients in your salad like extra virgin olive oil, quality aged vinegar, fresh milled black pepper and sea salt.
Simple Tomato salad
assortment of ripe heirloom tomatoes
baby arugula, washed and dried
extra virgin olive oil
aged sherry vinegar
fresh milled black pepper
kosher or sea salt
1. Slice the tomatoes in wedges, arrange on plate.
2. Place a small nest of arugula on top.
3. Combine 1 part sherry vinegar to 3 parts extra virgin olive oil, season with the salt and pepper.
4. Drizzle vinagrette over salad, enjoy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pan Seared Pacific Snapper

I made a quick and easy fish recipe for dinner tonight. I used Pacific Red Snapper fillet for its clean ocean flavor and flaky texture. Also to go with it I used one of my favorite beans, garbanzo's or as they are also known chick peas. I simply stewed them with onions, tomato, garlic and saffron. With the strong flavors of the dish I chose a sauce that would stand up to them, Salsa Verde which translates to "green sauce". Its simply loads of fresh parsley, capers, lemon juice and olive oil, blended till smooth.
2 five ounce red snapper fillet, bones removed
2 cups cooked chick peas
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 Roma tomato, sliced
1 dash olive oil
1 pinch fresh chopped oregano
Kosher salt/pepper
2 tablespoons Salsa Verde (recipe follows)

1. saute onions, garlic, tomato, oregano, saffron in olive oil.
2. When vegetables are tender, add the chick peas and a little water or white wine and continue to simmer.
3. Heat a non stick or cast iron pan (my choice)
4. Add a dash of olive oil and place seasoned fillets in pan when smoking hot, use your fan.
5. After a few minutes flip the fillets over and continue to cook till done.
6. Spoon chick pea stew on center plate and place fish on top, spoon sauce on and around fish.
Yield= 2

Salsa Verde Sauce
1 bunch cleaned flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic
2 cups olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons capers

Place all ingredients in blender and blend till smooth.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Fresh Squid, its all good!

I recently had the opportunity to cook a large quantity of fresh Squid over a previous weekend.On the first day I decided to quickly grill the squid and then toss it in a simple lemon vinaigrette with ripe tomatoes and shaved fennel. This little dish would serve as a first course for the grill Swordfish we were having. When working with Squid I prefer to use fresh instead of frozen if possible. Here in the bay area most of our fresh squid comes locally from the Monterey bay, there seems to be a never ending supply of these little tasty guys. Step one after you have bought fresh squid is to clean and prepare them for cooking. Frozen squid will almost always be pre cleaned. To clean them have a cutting board, sharp knife and a bowl set in another bowl of ice to keep them cold while you work. Lay the squid out in front of you and make a cut just in front of the eyes to remove the tentacle's in one piece. Next hold the end tip of the tube down with your finger while using the back of the knife to scrap out the interior of the body, the long tube will have a purplish skin and little wings on the tip which can be easily scraped off if desired. At this point the tubes can be cut into rings, but its much easier to grill when they are left whole. A quick rinse under cold water and they are ready for your recipe.

Grilled Calamari salad
2 pounds fresh cleaned squid
2 Roma tomatoes,rough chop
1 fennel bulb, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, rough chop
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt/fresh pepper

1. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for cooking.
2. When its hot and clean, place pre oiled and seasoned squid tubes and tentacles on grill.
3. Turn over once or twice till done, which depending on hot the grill is only a few minutes, its very important that squid is not overcooked or it will become very tough and rubbery.
4. Cut the tubes into rings and place in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients, Check seasonings.

Note: Serve at room temperture on a platter or chilled in martini glasses.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A good food and drink weekend

This weekend I did a quick trip to the hot central valley to join my brother in teaching our mother how to use her new computer. Food and drink always plays a big part in any get together and we did both. First I went to see the three brothers that own La Rocca seafood in San Francisco. When I need the best fresh fish its where I go to get it. Its a whole sale business that sells to the best restaurants in the bay area. I had the idea of doing something from Sicily with big bold flavors. The flavors of Sicily are influenced by its location in the Mediterranean sea, being close above northern Africa there is the Moroccan influence of using a lot of citrus in its food. Swordfish and squid are common so I ended up buying about three pounds of each. With the fresh fish and squid on ice I drove to my moms house. Once at the house I started to clean and cut the swordfish so it can marinate before grilling, my brother started cleaning the squid which will be a side dish. Of course any kitchen operation will need a beverage close by and with the 104F heat outside we choose Jamaican red stripe lager beer. Its perfect with Bob Marley music playing in the back ground.
Sicilian food with Jamaican beer? they are both islands so close enough.

For the Swordfish I made a marinade which I poured over the fish, then the fish was skewered with bamboo skewers (soaked in water to prevent burning) covered and refrigerated. during this time a charcoal grill was lit. When the grill is hot and clean, wipe with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. The skewers are then placed on the grill and turned every few minutes while basting with the marinade. The fish is done when just cooked through, too long and they can become dry. I served the Swordfish with a Sicilian cous cous salad. More on the Squid in the next post.

Swordfish marinade:
3 pounds swordfish in 2 inch cubes
1 cup fresh orange juice
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Marinate chilled and covered for 2-4 hours

Sicilian Couscous salad:
2 cups Israeli couscous
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
2 oranges, segments and zest
1 pinch of Spanish saffron
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice
a splash of sherry vinegar
1 bunch spinach leaves, clean and dry
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
Toast the couscous in a saute pan with a dash of olive oil till golden brown, cook in salted water like pasta, remove from heat and drain, add the rest of the ingredients, mix well and allow to sit for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend together.