Friday, July 30, 2010

A New Orleans Legend

Its my first day here in this blazing hot and humid city, I am surprised how big of a city it is, most of the time only images of Bourbon street are shown on TV. Its a food town all right with plenty of spots everywhere. I am in town doing a big event and today we just got used to the layout of the kitchens and the menus, half way through the day our Executive chef called everyone together and said "lets go". into a group of waiting cars to a undisclosed location. The place we ended up was the spice factory of the legendary Paul Prudhomme who is the godfather of Cajun cooking. He himself was at the door waiting for us and welcomed us inside for a personal tour of the factory. It was very interesting to see how he blended and bottled all the different spices. At the end of the tour he asked "who's hungry?" and he invite all of us back to his famous restaurant K-Paul where he was going to cook for us! we all sat down together and ate while telling stories, awesome day! (photos to follow soon)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Orleans Bound

I am heading to the famous Southern United States City of New Orleans, I have never been there and I am really looking forward to it. I will be working most of my time there at the request of my employer, aiding in a big catered event. I should have most nights off and will be able to explore the city and visit a few of its legendary restaurants. It will also be a good way for me to support the local seafood industry that is being hit hard by the massive oil spill in the gulf. I have started getting in the mood for creole style food by making a sandwich with Blackened Sea Bass and Fried Green Tomatoes today.

Egg and Potato Breakfast

Fried Egg with Potatoes and Harissa
I made a quick saute of Banana fingerling potato and onions, then place a fried egg on top with lots of fiery Harissa sauce. Easy, simple and good.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Tomato Avocado Salad

Another delicious way of using Summer tomatoes is with this very flavorful and colorful salad. I paired Heirloom cherry tomatoes with perfectly ripe Hass Avocados and sliced red onions, a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to finish. Sometimes I don't like to use this dark vinegar because its color will ruin the look of the bright salad, use a good white vinegar instead.

Beer Can Grilled Chicken

There's a novel method of cooking whole chickens on a grill by using a can of beer. It is an easy way to prop the chicken upright so that all of its sides will evenly cook and brown. Having a open can of beer inside will also help retain and add more moisture by the evaporation of the beer, and it just might even add some extra flavor. I seasoned a organic chicken with kosher salt, pepper, lemon, garlic and rosemary, next I stuck a full open can of Modelo Mexican beer inside the cavity. I then placed it on the middle of a hot grill, it is important to have the white hot coals scattered around the edge and not underneath the bird, because dripping fat will cause flare ups and char the skin. A room-temperature chicken will cook covered with the lid in about 45 minutes with a hot fire. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting to prevent all the juices from running out. It turned out great with perfect crispy skin and moist smoky flavored meat.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Roy's Restaurant, San Francisco

The occasion of my Aunt's 95th birthday took us to Roy's restaurant in San Francisco, my aunts son is a long time resident of Maui, Hawaii and the Hawaiian thyme of the birthday dinner was very fitting. The Chef/Owner of the Roy's 31 restaurant empire is Roy Yamaguchi, a Japanese born chef who migrated to the U.S. to attend culinary training at the Culinary Institute of America, he then worked in some of Los Angeles finest restaurant before opening his first restaurant in that city, soon he followed his roots and instincts to make a move to Hawaii and open Roy's which was the start of his Hawaiian-Asian influenced cooking, his success would soon give him the title "the Father of modern East-West cooking" I had the chance to meet Roy many years ago at one of his Hawaiian restaurants while vacationing in the Islands, I remember him being a really nice and welcoming chef whose food was flawless. Our meal in San Francisco was just as good but with out that special feel you only get in the Islands.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mediterranean Shellfish Soup

I had the idea to buy some little neck clams and mussels to play with, one of the first things that came to mind was to make a soup. This is a good way to take advantage of all the Delicious liquid from the shellfish.
The ingredients I used gave it a simple but elegant feel with all the Mediterranean flavors I love.

1 pinch Saffron

1 teaspoon Fennel seeds toasted
2 Tomatoes, diced
2 pounds Little neck Clams, cooked
2 pounds Mussels, cooked
8 oz Tuna, medium diced
1 cup White Wine
1 tablespoon Garlic, diced
2 Shallots, sliced
1 Yukon gold potato, sliced
2 cups water or vegetable stock
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Clean and cook the shellfish with the wine, when opened, strain liquid and reserve.
2. Saute the vegetables in olive oil.
3. Add the tuna, cleaned shellfish meat, reserved liquid and water.
4. Simmer till vegetables are tender, check for seasonings.

Notes: Great served with grilled crostini

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fried Green Tomato, Bacon and Lettuce Sandwich

With tomato season coming in strong now, I was thinking about using different types of tomatoes and cooking with a type of tomato that is usually harvested at the end of the growing season. It is the Green tomato, which are the last unripened tomatoes that need to be picked before the cold winter season starts. Fried green tomatoes are a famous side dish in the Southern region of the United States and it can be found on many restaurant menus. Typically the tomatoes are sliced thick and soaked in buttermilk before being dusted with a seasoned corn meal and then fried till crisp and golden. These unripe tomatoes have a firm texture with a somewhat tart and acidic flavor. I chose to feature the fried tomato in a classic BLT sandwich which turned out great. Another variation would be to add a fried soft shell crab with spicy remoulade sauce.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chicken Enchilada's

I was in the mood for Latin food tonight which happens to be quite often, so I made chicken Enchiladas. Sometimes these can be heavy with allot of sauce and cheese and I wanted a lighter and more nutritious version. I used less cheese in the filling and adding spicy beans as a sauce over the grilled chicken stuffed and rolled tortillas. I always finish with plenty of chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.

8 Corn Tortillas, heated till soft
2 Grilled Chicken breasts, diced
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Pinto beans, cooked
1 cup Mild red Enchilada sauce
Cilantro, chopped

1. Fill and roll the Tortillas with the Cheese and Chicken.
2. Arrange in oven proof pan.
3. Spoon Enchilada sauce over.
4. Cover with foil and heat in 350F oven for about 20-30 minutes.
5. Heat Pinto beans with a little sauce.
6. Place 2-3 Enchiladas per plate and spoon the warm Pinto beans over the top.
7. Sprinkle with Cilantro.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tomato Bruschetta

Amazing Flavors and So Simple

Garden Cherry Tomatoes

One of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh ripe tomatoes is as a topping on bruschetta (brus'ketta). This simple appetizer is a slice of good grilled bread rubbed with a clove of garlic then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. At this point it can be topped with whatever you choose including marinated beans, vegetables, cured meats and cheese, but I like the classic diced tomatoes with fresh basil the best. The most important thing to remember about this dish is that all the ingredients should be the very best you can find.

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

Sliced crusty French bread
Vine ripened Tomatoes, diced
Garlic cloves, peeled
Fresh Basil or Pesto Sauce
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt/Pepper
1. Drizzle olive oil on bread slices and grill till golden.
2. Rub garlic cloves on bread slices.
3. Top bread with diced tomatoes and basil or Pesto.
4. Drizzle more olive oil on top.
5. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the tomatoes.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Basil Pesto, "The Summer Sauce"

Walking down the aisles at the farmers market you can smell the fresh basil in the air and its everywhere. Huge bunches that sell for about a dollar for the standard green sweet basil, other varieties can be found such as the smaller purple opal basil, Thai basil and lemon basil. When you are buying large quantities of basil the easiest way to use it is making the classic pesto sauce. It is very easy to make by just blending the basil with extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, kosher salt and pepper. A trick for making a very green sauce is to briefly blanch the basil in boiling water for a few seconds then into ice water to stop the cooking, this method will keep the Basil's color from turning brown from being exposed to air. Large quantities of sauce can be frozen in ice cube trays then into plastic freezer bags till ready to use. For dinner I cooked a big pot of the famous Puglia pasta Orecchiette, which translates to little ears. All had to do was simply fold the pesto into the hot cooked and drained pasta. Its Summer in a bowl!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Road Side Cherry Stand

Cherries are at their peak right now and flooding the market, in Washington state Rainier cherries are found everywhere and in part because this is where they originated from. Back in 1952 the Rainier was developed at Washington State University from Bing and Van cherries. When I came across this cherry stand selling Bing's and Rainier's for $1.00 a basket, I had to stop, a few pounds later and I was on my way.

Seattle Restaurant Hotspot, Salumi

While in Seattle a restaurant that was on my must visit list is Salumi. This small restaurant and retail shop is located in the historic Pioneer square district and goes back to the year of 1903 when Angelo Merlino opened a Italian food import store, later a family member Armandino Batali continued the tradion by producing artisan cured meats. The list of meats is long and includes Coppa, Finocchiona Salami, Lamb Prosciutto, Cotto and Pancetta. The restaurant it self is very small and narrow with about 40 people patiently waiting outside to get in. Most people get sandwiches to go and some will get sample platters of cured meats and cheese. I got a sandwich called a Muffo which includes marinated vegetables, olives, Pimiento, Provolone, Cotto Salami and Hot Sopressata Salami on a crusty roll, it was very good and you can really taste the quality.

Salumi, 309 3rd Ave South, Seattle, WA 206-621-8772

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pikes Place Market, Seattle, Washington

Downtown Seattle Skyline from Ferry

Pikes Place Market

Crowded Marketplace

Fresh Shucked Oysters

On the second day day of our Northwest road trip, we arrived in the Poulsbo area just outside of Seattle Washington. My cousin's just finished building there house and invited us to stay a few days. Waking up the next morning we took the local ferry into downtown Seattle to explore the food scene and local sites. Of course the first stop had to be Pikes Place Market which is a huge semi permanent farmers market with lots of stalls featuring seasonal produce, cut flowers and of course amazing seafood. The first stop for us was one or two dozen fresh oysters and a lemon to squeeze on top. I bought one dozen Kumamoto oysters, small, crisp and flavorful which were consumed in a matter of minutes on the sidewalk before gawking tourists. After exploring the whole market we bought a few dozen large Pacific oysters to take back and barbecue latter at the house.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Oregon Coast Seafood

Align Center Gearhart Sunset

Local Seafood Shack

Gearhart Smoked Salmon Pasta

On the second day of my Northern trip we ended up at the Seaside/Gearhart region of Northwest Oregon, its a small coastal town that really comes alive on weekends when Portland residents escape the summers heat for the much cooler coast. I have been coming to this town off and on for the last ten years and love the clean and beautiful beach. Being on the coast makes me always want seafood as much as possible and there are good seafood restaurants and shops where all the local products can be found. The choices include local steamer and razor clams, halibut, salmon and dungeness crab. I found some really nice locally smoked Chinook salmon which I planned to use in a pasta for dinner. This pasta recipe is fast and easy which kept me from missing the flawless weather outside.

Gearhart Smoked Salmon Pasta

1 pound smoked salmon, flaked
6 roma tomatoes, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 pound linguine pasta
1 cup white wine and a glass for yourself
3-4 Tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt/pepper to taste

1. Saute the onions and garlic in a a few tablespoons of olive oil till lightly browned.
2. Add tomatoes and continue to cook till soft, add wine and flaked salmon, turn down to a simmer.
3. While the sauce is cooking bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta.
4. When pasta is done, drain and add to the sauce, check seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Note: The salmon might provide enough salt, so taste before adding more.

Yield = 4-6

Northwest Road Trip

Oregon Blueberry Farm

Handful of just picked berries

Five Pounds of Berries

Fresh Blueberry Pancakes

I started my one week adventure in the Northwest by flying up the coast to Portland, Oregon, I met up with my brother and we jumped in his car and headed West to the coast. Thirty minutes out of Portland the landscaped changes from urban city to flat farmlands. I knew we would be passing many roadside stalls selling fruits and vegetables, I soon spotted a "you pick" blueberry farm where stopped to get some berries. We were each given a big bucket and pointed towards the hillside of blueberry bushes. Its really easy, just pick the dark blue ones. After getting five pounds! we felt had enough, the price was only ten dollars. Now what to make with all these berries? pancakes and muffins came to mind with some other ideas as well.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fish Cake Nicoise Style

A made a variation of fish cake using the classic Nicoise flavors of tomato, olives, potatoes and green beans. This dish originated from Southern Mediterranean city of Nice, France. Its classically made with tuna but other fish can be used. The fish cake was cast iron seared and placed on cooked sliced banana fingerling potatoes and blanched green beans, a relish of sliced olives, cherry tomatoes, capers, lemon zest, garlic, sherry vinegar and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. It was good to the last bite.

Pan Seared Halibut Cake

Crab cakes are found everywhere they are a inspiration for this Fish cake. I like to use as few ingredients in my cakes as possible so the true flavor of the fish comes through. Three basic ingredients, cooked, chilled and flaked fish, good quality mayonnaise as a binder and Panko bread crumbs. Other ingredients can be added such as celery, capers, peppers and herbs if you choose. All three ingredient folded together with a little salt and pepper, formed into small cakes, using a round mold will make perfect shapes and consistent sizes. I cook mine in a hot oiled cast iron pan till crispy brown on both sides, that's it. These fish cakes were made with Halibut and served with a saffron aioli and small green salad.

Summer Time Ceviche

When the weather gets hot any kind of chilled dish sounds good. I kept this in mind when I looked at the pristine fillet of Alaskan Halibut I had on hand. The first thing that came to mind was making a simple South American style ceviche using flavors that I love, chili peppers, cilantro and lime juice. Ceviche is a common dish found in many coastal cities of Central and South America, its made primarily from just two ingredients fish and citrus juice. The citrus juice chemically cooks the fish while still maintaining its texture and flavor. The rest of the ingredient's added are any flavors that you like which will add interesting textures, color and flavor. Tonight I used ingredients that I had on hand including diced jalapeno, cilantro, cherry tomato and crispy corn tortilla strips. Light and very refreshing, perfect for a Summer evening.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Oven Dried Cherry Tomatoes

Drying fruits and vegetables has been done for a long time as a way to preserve them for future use. It can be time consuming and requires a lot of space when using the sun, the modern way is using commercial dehydrators to remove moisture. For the home cook a oven will work just fine.
I like drying tomatoes and use meaty Roma's or use the sweet cherry varieties, these have good flavor to begin with and just get more intense and concentrated as they dry. Big tomatoes need to be cut in half to help release moisture where cherry tomatoes can be left whole, I lightly season them with kosher salt and pepper, extra virgin olive oil, chopped garlic and maybe rosemary or thyme. Place on parchment paper or a nonstick sheet pan in a oven set very low (100F/37C) If your oven is lit with a pilot light then that might just be enough heat to slowly dry them. It can be left in the oven overnight or longer depending on how dry you want them to be. They should then be stored refrigerated packed in olive oil until ready for use. Simple and sweet with intense tomato flavor!

Home Grown Garlic

These small but flavorful bulbs are the result of my first attempt to grow garlic. These are close to the same family as onions, shallots, leek and chives, it has a long culinary history as well as medicinal. The papery skin covered bulb contains smaller individual cloves which need to be peeled as well before use. Garlic can be strong and pungent but will mellow and sweeten when cooked, The green stalks on the plants are edible and tender when young. I think garlic just might be one of the most common flavoring ingredient in cooking next to salt and pepper, I seem to use it in everything. The worlds biggest producer of garlic is China with about 77% of the output, the United States comes in 6th on the list with Gilroy California as the primary U.S. growing region. Now that my growing experiment is a success , I will have to plant more soon.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Prosciutto Wrapped Halibut

Tonight I made prosciutto wrapped halibut. To serve with it I chose to use the Mediterranean flavors of roasted tomatoes, olives and chick peas.
Halibut is a semi firm and meaty fish with mild flavors, and it's great when cooked perfect, but a minute or two longer and it can start to dry out. A good and flavorful trick is wrapping the halibut fillet in a layer of Prosciutto ham or bacon that will help lock in the moistness and boost the flavor in a way only cured pork can. I used a non stick pan with a dash of olive oil to cook the fish, which is helpful to prevent sticking and tearing the paper thin ham. Seasoning does not need to be added because of the ham's natural salt leftover from the curing process. The chick peas, roast tomatoes and olives were simply sauteed with extra virgin olive oil and finished with a squeeze of lemon. Only a few quality ingredients and about 20 minutes puts a plate on the table ready for my enjoyment, now where's that glass of wine?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Fresh Garden Salad

With Tomatoes and green beans now being harvested in my back yard I chose to make a simple vegetable salad with them. The green beans were blanched in salted water, Roma Cherry tomatoes sliced, chopped Italian parsley and Thyme then dressed with extra virgin olive oil and a dash of Sherry vinegar. So simple and so good.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Backyard Food Discovery

I always knew of the tree back in the corner of my yard, but this year when it decided to bear fruit I found out it was a plum tree!  I picked a few of the small round plums to try and they were really good and so sweet.
I'm going to have to figure out what kind of plums they are and what to make with them, maybe preserves or a chutney?