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.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Korean Style Short Ribs

I grilled these Korean-style short ribs over the weekend and they turned out great. This thin cut of beef short rib is common in Korean cuisine and works well because the thin meat will absorb the marinade faster, and the cooking time will be only minutes compared to the long slow braise normally associated with short ribs. The marinade is soy sauce based with the addition of garlic, ginger and chili flakes. Other ingredients can be lime juice, rice wine, and sesame oil. In Korean restaurants these ribs are often cooked at the table on built in charcoal grills. I used a hot mesquite charcoal fire to quickly sear and cook them, only a few minutes on each side. I served the ribs with steamed rice and Korea's most famous condiment, Kim Chee. This spicy fermented cabbage is a whole story by itself, but I will say for now that I like it a lot. Look for a Kim Chee post soon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Potato Frittata

I came across these really cool potatoes called Red Thumb Fingerlings; they get that funny name because they are about the size of a average thumb with a pink skin, the surprise is when you cut it in half to reveal the same purple-pink color. I had a idea of making a frittata with them in the style of a Spanish tortilla. A frittata is a lot like a quiche, but without the pastry crust and more rustic with a filling of just about anything you want. A Spanish tortilla is a basic Frittata with layers of precooked potato and chopped herbs. Frittatas are great because they can be made ahead of time and served cold or hot, and since they are hold so well it can be packed as a lunch to take to work or a picnic.

Potato Frittata
5 eggs, organic
1/2 pound fingerlings or other potato
Pinch of mild fresh herbs (parsley. thyme, sage)
A dash of olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. Slice and blanch the potatoes in salted water till just tender.
3. Whisk eggs with salt, pepper and herbs.
4. Add potatoes to egg mixture.
5. Heat a nonstick 6 inch pan with the olive oil.
6. Pour egg mixture into hot pan and place in oven to cook.
7. Remove when golden brown and eggs are just set, about 8 minutes.
8. Allow to cool and remove from pan, cut in four slices.

Note: I served a roasted cherry tomato relish with the frittata

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chorizo and Eggs

A quick and easy weekend breakfast favorite of mine is soft tacos, filled with scrambled eggs and spicy chorizo sausage. This popular sausage has origins from the Iberian Peninsula in Spain, but can be found in the Americas and Europe and Southeast Asia as well. It's made from coarsely chopped pork and there are fresh and cured varieties. The sausage has a distinctive deep red color and smoky flavor due to the smoked Spanish paprika seasoning. There are a few different varieties such as Spanish, Portuguese and Mexican.
I like using the Spanish chorizo best in my Paellas because of its firmer texture and it can be diced into bite size pieces. I like using the Mexican variety for the popular Mexican breakfast Chorizo con huevos.  This chorizo is ground fine and packed in plastic tubes resembling sausage links, and it is fried in a pan with eggs scrambled in it. I serve this mixture in a hot flour tortilla with sliced avocado and hot sauce. Beans are often served along side.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Passion Fruit

I recently discovered fresh Passion fruit at one of the specialty food markets I shop at. These fruits are a new discovery for me here in the Bay Area; I have never seen them here before. When I lived in Australia many years ago, it was common to have people growing them because of the warm tropical weather. These fruits are native to South America but can now be found in the warmer regions around the world. They are about the size and shape of chicken eggs with a fairly hard purple skin. The pulp and the seeds are what's eaten and used in drinks and desserts. They are sweet with a pronounced tartness and a very fragrant aroma.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bay Area Latin Market

Most people are used to shopping at big chain markets around the country which is fine for everyday staples, but if you need something special or unique it can be hard to find. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we are lucky to have neighborhood markets selling just about everything available in this world. Latin food is at the top of the list for me and when a large Latin super market opened in my area, I was very excited. The name is "Mi Pueblo" and there are 15 locations in Northern California. Some of the features include house-made tortillas and a bakery, large cheese display, fresh fish and meat departments and a taqueria. The produce section is amazing with fruits and vegetables that I have never seen in this country before, very cool.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Salt Encrusted Sea Bass

Here is a very simple technique for roasting whole fish or even poultry. The whole fish is enclosed in a salt crust then roasted; it produces incredibal flavor and moisture. For the fish I used a Mediterranean variety of sea bass called Branzini, which is an ocean-going bass about the size of a large river trout. It's scaled and gutted with parsley and lemon slices placed in the cavity. I wanted to experiment with using different salts to see if it would produce different results, so for one fish I used kosher salt and the other fish I used rock salt. The salt was moisted with egg whites and placed under and over the whole fishes to form a thick crust. Into a hot oven for about ten minutes and it's done with a beautiful golden crust. Allowed to cool slightly, the crust is cracked and removed. The fish will be very moist with a amazing citrus scent. There was not any difference in the use of one salt or the other and if you think it would be too salty? It wasn't. I served the fillet with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.