Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vegas Baby Vegas!!

I am in Las Vegas for the week to work at a massive trade show, the hours in the kitchen will be gruelling but when I'm off I will be in the food capital of the country, just about every major chef in the country has a restaurant here and a few chefs from overseas as well. Its been a few years since I have spent any time here and its going to be fun.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pork Belly

Pork belly is the cut of pork from which bacon is made; it has been around for a long time but has gained increased popularity in recent years with many chefs and home cooks who love its meaty flavor and texture. Another plus is the low cost due mostly to the excessive amount of fat, but this fat gives flavor, moistness and tenderness to the meat when cooked low and slow. In the Asian countries of China and Korea its also very popular and that gave me the idea of using a Soy Sauce, Mirin and ginger flavored braising liquid. A two pound piece cut in two and cooked about a hour in my pressure cooker. The falling apart tender pork was sliced and put on top of cooked Somen noodle with scallions and cilantro, a little braising liquid spooned over to moisten. Any kind of pork is a good thing and was great.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hangtown Fry

There is a famous breakfast dish here in Northern California called the Hangtown fry, its orgins date back to the California gold rush in the 1850's. The town central to where this gold mining operation took place is called Placerville in the Sierra foothills. Back in those wild and semi-lawless days justice was swift and often resulted in death by hanging, which gave this town the nickname of Hangtown. There are a few stories about how this dish of expensive and rare ingredients came about. One is that the miners with new found riches were able to afford this type of food, I like the story of the condemned men being given a choice of their last meal before hanging, they would choose the hangtown fry with its basic ingredients of fresh oysters, bacon and eggs. The oysters being delivered fresh on ice from San Francisco a hundred miles away, it would have to take a day or two to arrive thus buying them some extra time here on earth. This famous dish can still be found on the menus in some bay area restaurants.

Hangtown Fry

3 fresh organic eggs
3 Small Freshly shucked Pacific oysters
1 Strip thick smoked bacon, diced
Kosher salt/Pepper

1. In a nonstick pan cook the diced bacon till crisp, remove.
2. Dust the oysters in seasoned flour and fry in the bacon fat till cooked and crispy
3. Remove the cooked oysters and blot on paper towel.
4. Beat the eggs and pour into a greased hot pan, cook till just set.
5. Arange the cooked bacon and oysters on the eggs and serve hot.
6. If you are in Placerville, quickly get out of town when finished eating!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oyster Mushroom Hash

A Sunday breakfast favorite of mine is some type of hash. Its is a one pan meal of crispy fried potatoes with maybe a meat like bacon. This time I used smoky bacon, diced russet potatoes, chopped green onions and oyster mushrooms. Everything goes into a nonstick pan and cooks into a crispy pieces, a fried egg goes on top to rain down warm yolk all over when cut open. hollandaise sauce? maybe, hot sauce? oh yes please!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weeknight Bruschetta

Tonight with my daughter quietly doing her school homework I was faced with my daily challenge of "What to make for dinner" Using ingredients I had on hand I came up with bruschetta. This is basically a form of a rustic grilled toast with a savory topping. Having some nice Fontina cheese and Del Cabo organic cherry tomatoes it all came together fast and easy.

Tomato Bruschetta

2 Rustic bread slices, 1/2 inch thick
1 cup organic cherry tomatoes, sliced
2 slices Fontina cheese
1 clove garlic
3 leaves fresh Basil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt/Pepper

1. Mix the tomatoes, basil and half the olive oil in a bowl, season to taste.

2. Brush the rest of the oil on both sides of the bread.

3. Grill the bread on both sides in a hot stove top grill pan or outdoor live fire grill.

4. When bread is crisp and golden remove and rub with the garlic clove.

5. Add the cheese slices while still warm and spoon the tomato mixture over.

Note: There are many variations to this recipe using the bread as a base for your choice of toppings.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Winter Garden Vegetables

I was looking the other day at the bare spot of soil where all my Summer vegetables were, this gave me the idea to plant a Winter crop. Hopefully with the shortest day of the year approaching there will be enough sun for growing the plants. There was not much of a selection of vegetables available this time of the year but Red Russian Kale and Toi Choi looked promising. With 24 baby plants in the ground its just a matter of waiting and hoping for a good harvest in a few months.

Toad in a Hole for Breakfast

The traditional English dish of Toad in a Hole is sausage cooked in Yorkshire pudding. My breakfast take on this classic is to cook a egg inside a cut out slice of bread, you get your egg and toast all done in the same pan. Always the key to any simple dish is the quality of its ingredients. To start I used a thick hand cut slice of Pain Au Levain from the famous Acme Bread Company in San Francisco. I used a three inch ring mold to cut out a circle from the center of the bread; a small glass works just as well if you don't have ring molds. This slice of bread goes into a hot nonstick pan with a dash of butter, and next a fresh organic egg is carefully broken and poured into the hole with a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper. Let it cook a few minutes on each side to brown the bread and cook the egg, a slightly under cooked egg yolk will ooze out when cut which is perfect for the crusty toast to soak up.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Green Eggs & Ham?

No not exactly but close, Today I made a breakfast dish using pork chorizo sausage, corn tortillas, eggs, spinach and the ever present avocado that I love to eat so much. This is a one pan saute of spicy crumbled chorizo and torn tortillas, a organic egg is added with a small hand full of fresh spinach. When the egg is just cooked and the spinach is wilted its onto a waiting warm plate topped with sliced avocado. I really like this kind of a one pan meal and its fast too. Other options can be added such as maybe potatoes, beans or a favorite salsa.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pomegranate, Ancient Fruit with Recent Interest

The Pomegranate has been cultivated since ancient times with its origins in Persia and the Western Himalayan range but they can found everywhere in the Middle East and the Mediterranean regions. In recent years the popularity of pomegranates and its juice has increased due to its good health benefits. Some of these benefits are high levels of antioxidants and fiber. Most people tend to shy away from these fruits because they are afraid of the mess associated with removing the seeds. The dark red juice will stain. The simplest and cleanest method of extracting the juicy seeds is to score the thick skin and break apart the pomegranate under water in a bowl, separating the red seeds from the white membranes, the seeds will sink to the bottom and the membranes will float to the top. The now cleaned seeds are a great addition to a lot of dishes by providing bright color, texture and flavor. I like to sprinkle the seeds on top of my yogurt and granola in the morning.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holidays and the Food Industry

Most people get to enjoy time off with family and friends during holidays, but the people in the service industry are there working hard to take care of them. This last week I worked at a restaurant in Monterey California and being open on Thanksgiving it was a busy time for the whole crew, we were not able to sit down for traditional holiday meal so we had to quickly enjoy a plate of turkey and stuffing during a quiet moment. In the bottom photo is not a sunset but the rising morning sun as seen from the back kitchen door, yes they are also long days in the kitchen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My First Crab of the Season

My week long wait for the first crabs to hit the market is over, and a large Dungeness crab is in my possession. For my first taste of the season I had the idea of just eating it in its most simple form, boiled and cracked without anything but maybe a squeeze of lemon. Today's wet and cold weather changed my mind and I decided on making a hot Thai style curry, wow was it good. I am definitely looking forward to eating this again.

Thai Coconut Curry Crab
1 cooked, cleaned and cracked Dungeness crab
1 can coconut milk
1 knob ginger, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 jalapeno, sliced
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 dash fish sauce
1 tablespoon green onions, sliced
1 tablespoon Thai curry paste
1 pinch cilantro, chopped

1. Saute the curry paste in a dash of vegetable oil.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer 'till liquid is thickened.
3. Serve with steamed rice.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Real San Francisco Treat, Dungeness Crab

Today is the first day of the Dungeness Crab season. The famous fisherman's wharf is filled with crab boats from up and down the coast and the word on the docks is that its going to be a bumper harvest with large dense and meaty crabs. But there is some trouble with the local fisherman wanting to restrict the amount of crab the northern boats haul, it can be up to 75% of the catch. They will then be heading back North when their crab season opens. The fisherman have agreed on a set price of $1.75 a pound and with the retail price mark up its still a good value. Hopefully the crabs should be hitting the stores in a few days, in the mean time I will have thoughts of fresh cracked crab with crusty bread and chilled Napa wine. I will post photos and recipes of these first of the season crabs.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mexican Style Pickled Jalapeno's

I find that the sign of a good Mexican restaurant or Taqueria is the condiments they provide, freshly made salsas and big jars of pickled Jalapenos. I decided on making a big batch of pickled jalapenos with carrots to have on hand for whenever I want to eat them, which is most of the time. Jalapenos are good to use because they are not considered too hot with a low rating of 2,500-8,000 on the Scoville scale of chili hotness compared with the Habanero at 350,000-350,000.The pickling process will also make them milder so serve them with everything!

Pickled Jalapenos and Carrots
1 pound Fresh jalapeno peppers, thick sliced
2 Carrots, peeled and sliced thick
1/2 Yellow onion, sliced thin
1 head Garlic clove, peeled
4 cups White vinegar
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
4 Bay leafs
2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Dry Oregano

1. Put all ingredients in a non reactive pot and bring to a boil, turn off and let cool.

2. These peppers and carrots can be canned using normal canning procedures or kept covered and refrigerated for one month.

Note: This basic pickling liquid is good to use for a variety of chilies and vegetables.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Swiss Chard

Today is really starting to feel like Winter and with the cool weather it brings the slow cooked comfort foods I like. While visiting a local farmers market I came across some nice organic Swiss Chard, I could not walk past them without buying some, the bright colors were amazing and I am sure that the taste would be just as good. I was thinking of doing a braise with them but decided on making flat bread with sauteed chard. The leafy vegetable was quickly cooked with lots of good olive oil and garlic then arranged on top of a crispy baked bread, excellent.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Mobile Food Trucks

They have been around for a long time with a old reputation of being dirty with questionable food, that has all changed and they are the new way to get amazing food cooked by some of the same chefs whose restaurants you might have dined at. The current down economy might have a lot to do with this current craze, buying and operating a mobile food truck is certainly a lot cheaper then a brick and mortar restaurant with the advantage of driving to where your customers are. The modern way of locating your favorite truck is with social web sites like Facebook and Twitter. The most common out there are Mexican taco trucks and here in Marin County there is a taco truck called "The Taco Guys"run by two guys who started out working in lots of restaurants and with the dream to do there own thing, The Taco Guys was born. The menu is a seasonal rotating blend of different tacos using the meats and fish with local organic produce. My love of the Mexican coast and a recent trip to Maui helped me pick the Maui fish taco, a lightly battered and fried marinated Ono fillet with lettuce, pickled onions and Sriracha mayonnaise sauce. The Hawaiian influence is the marinated Ono and Asian hot sauce. It was Delicious and the pickled red onions worked really well with the flavorful fish. The dream is alive and well.
The Food Guys

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Island Style Breakfast

Being on a sailboat in remote area of Hawaii does not mean that the quality of the food goes down. I spent the last weekend sailing from Maui to Lanai on my cousins sailboat, the Island is not very developed so we were forced to bring everything with us from Maui. One highlight of our sail was waking up hearing the gentle sound of the ocean with the rising sun warming me while sipping a cup of freshly made coffee served with a ripe homegrown papaya, next on the mornings menu was fantastic Southwest style omelet made with spicy tomatoes, onions, cheese and cilantro. Well fed and relaxed I was able to enjoy the rest of my day on the water.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Island Style, Tropical Fruits part II

I found a fruit variety today that I have never seen before, Surinam cherries. This fruit has its orgins in South America and can now be found in all tropical and sub tropical regions of the world. The thin skinned fruit are about a inch wide and have smooth ribs with small pits, they change from green to bright red when ripe and will easily fall into your hand when picked. The flavor is tart with some sweetness to it and I found hints of lime. The popular way to consume it here is to make jams or infuse liquor out of it. Another very popular and common fruit is the banana which seems to grow everywhere, I don't think people here have ever had to buy them in stores.

Island Style, Poke

A very popular Island food is Poke which is any kind of seasoned and marinated seafood. Poke is coarsely cut cubes of fish or shellfish with sea salt, soy sauce, inamona (candlenut), sesame oil, seaweed, onion and chili pepper. Yellowfin tuna is the most common with Tako (octopus) being second. Poke has always been eaten by native Hawaiians and in recent years has become even more popular with the addition of Asian food products like Kim chee Its great as a side dish or snack.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Island Style, Tropical Fruits

I am at the warm and humid Island of Maui, Hawaii enjoying a break from the fast approaching Winter season. What can be a costly purchase at the local store are the tropical fruits found growing in most backyards here, the large up country family property where I am staying at has a large organic vegetable garden and a small grove of papaya and other fruit trees. How about Papaya from breakfast? go out and pick it. Strawberry Guava? sure why not. I can tell its going to be a fun and Delicious week.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rainy Day Soup

It's raining and I am not happy about it. The rain is too early in the season and I was really looking forward to a little more good weather before Winter. With the rain and cold comes big bowls of comfort food to brighten the gloomy day. One of my favorite soups is Mexican Posole which combines pork with hominy and all the other ingredients I love, cilantro, avocado and chili peppers. I pressure cooked a pork butt which I planned on making tacos with but the rain gave me the idea to make the soup instead.  I'm happy now!

1 4 pound pork butt
1 quart water or chicken stock
3 garlic cloves
1 pinch chili peppers
1 large can white hominy, cooked

Cilantro, chopped fine
Oregano flakes
White onion, diced fine
Lime wedges
Crushed red chili peppers

1. Slow cook the pork with stock, garlic, chili peppers in a pressure cooker* until it falls apart tender.
2. Strain the stock and skim the fat off.
3. Simmer the stock with the hominy and shredded pork for 30 minutes, season to taste.
4. Serve the soup in big bowls with Posole garnish of diced onions, cilantro, oregano, chili flakes and a squeeze of lime.

*If you don't use a pressure cooker then simmer 2-3 hours on low in a covered pot till its tender.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Castroville Artichokes

Passing North back through Castroville on the way home from Monterey I just had to stop and pick up more of these freshly picked Artichokes from a road side stand. The simplest way to eat them is to trim off the sharp leaf tips with a pair of kitchen scissors then steam them whole till tender, to eat pull the leaves off one by one and dip them into a garlic flavored mayonnaise. They are great eaten hot or cold.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fremented Black Garlic

Black Garlic Cloves

Pizza with Black Garlic

A fellow Chef recently showed me some of his amazing Central Valley organic produce that was in his walk in refrigerator; he held up a plastic bag with what looked like whole garlic bulbs. "Its black garlic, have you ever used it?" I have heard of it but have never used it. These whole bulbs of garlic are fermented at high temperatures which turns the cloves black in color and produces a sweet and syrupy flavor similar to Balsamic vinegar. This unique food product has its roots in Asian cuisine and it is not that easy to find. One resource is the Black Garlic Company in Hayward, California where much of it is produced and be bought by mail order. Hayward is the ideal location for this company because its very close to Gilroy which is known as the garlic capital of the world. Black garlic can be used where ever you would normally use roasted garlic such as with pizza or maybe pastas. I made a simple cheese pizza with these cloves scattered on top; it had a interesting mushroom type of flavor.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monterey Bay Area

I am spending a few days in Monterey, California and while I am here going to take advantage of the local sights and food. The short trip down from San Francisco was really nice with views of the Pacific ocean in the distance while driving through rolling farmlands. The first major crop I spotted during my drive was strawberries and there were miles of these fields. Next I encoutered artichokes centering around the Castroville region which is called "The Artichoke Center of the World".  In the next few days I want to eat all of this good food.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's Pumpkin Time

Pumpkins from the Source to the Fork

The Fall season brings with it the harvest of lots of different fruits and vegetables, squash being one of them. There are lots of different varieties and the common pumpkin is the largest with a average wight of 9-18 pounds (4.1-8.2 kg ) The current world record is 1,725 pounds! (782.446 kg) These giant squash originate from north America and besides being topically being eaten as a pie they are associated with the American holiday Halloween. On the night of October 31 most children in the U.S. dress up in costumes and "trick or treat" for candy. Most houses will have pumpkins that are carved with a scary or funny face and illuminated with a candle inside. In California's Central Valley there are lots of road side "pumpkin patches" where they are grown and sold for this holiday. Besides the classic pumpkin pie, another good use for this squash is to be simply roasted and used as a filling for ravioli with a browned butter and sage which I made. This ravioli is another example of only using a few simple quality ingredients to make a delicious and satisfying dish.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Flavors of the Mediterranean

I made this Mediterranean inspired Corvina Sea Bass the other night using Saffron infused Israeli cous cous with tomatoes, olives, and wilted swiss chard. The fish was the true headliner on the plate with the crispy skin helping to keep the meat moist. I also really like using the cous cous which has a nutty, chewy texture.
With this fish sometimes less is more, meaning the less you do to it the better it is and simply adding a touch of sea salt and a dash of extra virgin olive oil is all it needs. Remember simple is better.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Weeknight Risotto

For me the perfect weeknight dinner is a risotto with whatever you happen to have on hand, and it can be very elegant or just country rustic. I always have the basic Arborio rice, onion and olive oil so its just a matter of adding a few other ingredients. For tonight's risotto I used a small piece of fish with some cherry tomatoes and a few peas picked fresh from the garden. I was going for a Spanish theme and added a dash of smoked Paprika gave it the true flavor of Spain. Good stuff.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Home Made Granola Bars

Homemade Granola Bars

Granola Bar Ingredients

My kids like most others are heavily involved in sports and I have always tried to give them healthy snack options when doing these activities. One of the problems is that most of the so called "health bars" that are found in markets are really not that good for you, they often have a lot of processed sugars and additives.
I recently saw a article from Mark Bittman of the New York Times, his column The Minimalist discussed this same problem with unhealthy bars and suggested a easy and healthy recipe which I then made a variation of.  These homemade bars are a lot like American rice crispy treats but with more healthy granola ingredients instead. Just as fast and the kids will like to get involved in making them.

Healthy Granola Bars
Almond Butter
Organic Brown Rice Puffed Cereal
Protein powder (optional)Toasted Oats
Dried Papaya
Toasted Almonds

1. Line a shallow baking pan with plastic wrap, oiling pan will help the plastic stick.
2. Melt the almond butter slowly over low heat.
3. Combine all the dry ingredients well.
4. Combine melted almond butter with dry ingredients, mix well.
5. Pour out into pan and press down evenly. Cover with plastic wrap.
6. Chill overnight, then cut into bars.

Note: Use your favorite dried fruits or nuts.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Napa Valley Road Trip

Grapes days from Harvest

Vineyard View

Due Vigne Wine

Not all wineries are big enough or have the luxury of their own complete vine to bottle facility. One of the growing trends with allot of smaller labels is producing wine in a cooperative. One such facility that I recently visited is Silenus in the Napa Valley. This is a group of thirteen winemakers sharing a complete crush, ferment and bottling operation with a modern adjoining tasting room. One notable stand out were the up and coming wines from Due Vigne, besides their good Cabernet Sauvignon are some somewhat unusual blends and varietals that are not commonly found in the Valley. There is nothing wrong with more wines to drink, it helps keep life interesting. Silenus can be found on Highway 29 just North of the city Napa in Northern California.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fresh Pea Risotto

I know its far from Spring when peas are normally grown but with these last warm days of Summer I planted some and they are producing huge amounts of tender sweet peas. One of the most classic Italian recipes using peas is Risi Pisi which translates to rice and peas and the idea for tonight's meal. I blanched the peas and shelled them, I saved the pods which were then blended. I made a normal plain risotto to which I added the shelled peas and the pod puree at the very end, this kept the color and flavors bright and fresh. Shaved Parmesan at the end and its all done. Amazing sweet pea flavors with the nutty flavor from the Parmesan cheese.