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.