Saturday, February 26, 2011

Toast & Eggs My Way

Nothing like a runny fried egg on toast for breakfast or any time. My version includes a quick saute of Castroville Artichokes and spinach cooked with local Briani olive oil and a dollop of spicy harissa sauce all served on toasted sourdough bread. Another good addition is a sprinkling of crispy chopped pancetta for all you pork lovers.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Spicy Pickled Cucumbers

I have played around with pickling different vegetables but have never done a pickled cucumber, When I spotted pickling cucumbers at road side food stall I instantly had the idea to try it. The history of pickling to preserve food is very old right next to salting. The food is placed either in a brine (salt liquid) or acid (vinegar) this lowers the PH to less then 4.6 which creates a environment that will kill most bacteria and makes the food safe to eat. There are different forms of pickles and fermented vegetables found in just about every country in the world. The recipe I am trying is what is called Refrigerator Pickles, a mixture of vinegar, salt, sugar and spices. I washed and cut deep slits in the whole cucumbers then placed them in a jar large enough so they aren't crowded, the vinegar and spice mixture is brought to a boil then poured over the cucumbers to completely cover. Place the covered jar in the refrigerator and the pickles will be ready to eat after about a week. Keeping the pickle refrigerated during this whole process will ensure they do not spoil if your vinegar, salt and water ratios are not perfect enough to kill all the bacteria. I like mine spicy, so I used a lot of dry chilies and garlic cloves in my batch. After a week they can be cut into spears, chips or left whole to serve with your favorite sandwich or burger.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Farmers Market, Sacramento, California

Hidden in a parking lot under a major freeway in Downtown Sacramento is a busy and crowded Farmers market. Not a normal setting for fresh fruits and vegetables but its sheltered from Winter rains. Sacramento's location in the middle of Northern California's growing region gives this market a huge assortment of reasonable priced produce displayed and sold by the farmers that grow it. This market is all local produce with some fish and meat products available. Open Sunday mornings from 7AM to 1PM all year at 8th and W streets, lots of free parking.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Visiting my family this last weekend, they gave me a huge quantity of Kumquats from their tree. This fruit has origins in South Asia and was introduced to Europe in 1846 and then North America a short time later. In Asia the plant symbolizes good luck and it is given as a gift during the Lunar new year. What to do with all these small olive size citrus fruits? Not much juice or edible flesh either. They are prized for their intensely flavored rinds which are good in marinades, marmalades and chutneys. Raw they can be quite bitter and tough, so cooking in water for 15-20 minutes will soften them and leech out the bitter juices. I decided on making a chutney with some of the fruit and I'm thinking of serving it with pork.

Kumquat Chutney

2 cups whole washed Kumquats
1 cup White Vinegar
1 cup light Brown Sugar
1 cup Golden Raisins
1 teaspoon Mustard seed
1 teaspoon Coriander seed
1 teaspoon Cracked Peppercorns
Pinch of Kosher salt

1. Cut the kumquats in half, remove any seeds and place in a pot of simmering water.
2. After about 15 minutes, drain the fruit and puree in a food processor or blender.
3. Place puree in a heavy pot with the rest of the ingredients, bring to a simmer.
4. Cook for about 20 minutes.
5. Transfer to glass jars, cover and refrigerate.

Great served with Roast Pork or Duck

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bariani Olive Oil Company

California is known for having a Mediterranean climate and with that warm weather comes a abundance of olive trees growing in the hills and valleys of the state.

Angelo Bariani (photo) started his family olive oil company in the Sacramento valley in the year 1990; he arrived from Northern Italy a year before. His four sons are involved in different areas of the business after obtaining various degrees in higher education. The Bariani family produces amazing cold-pressed unfiltered flavorful olive oils that I use it in all my cooking. Like fine wine, the bottles are dated when the olives are harvested, pressed and bottled. They harvest and press twice in the year, early Fall with green olives only and a month or two later with more mature olives. This fine extra virgin olive oil is avaiable in fine Northern California markets, mail order and selected farmers markets in Sacramento and San Francisco.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Night Fish

New Zealand Snapper

Pan Seared Snapper Fillet with Tomatoes and Olives

After leaving work on a Friday afternoon I stopped at the well-stocked New May Wah Market on Clement Street in the inner Richmond district of San Francisco. Having fish was on my mind at the market and after walking back and forth inspecting their huge selection displayed on crushed ice, I decided on a wild caught whole New Zealand Snapper. Ten minutes later I was driving home across the Golden Gate Bridge thinking about how I was going to prepare this beautiful fish. I decided on cooking it my favorite way which is a pan saute with a quick pan sauce of tomatoes, olives, lemon and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Wilted spinach was served under the crispy fillets. It was very good and exactly what I needed to start the weekend.

Pan Seared Snapper with Tomato Sauce

1 6 ounce Snapper fillet, scaled/skin on/scored
1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 small yellow Onion, fine dice
1 clove Garlic, fine diced
3 Olives, pitted and sliced
1 small Lemon, segmented
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Vegetable oil (for cooking)
Kosher Salt/fresh cracked Pepper

1. Gently saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until golden.
2. Add tomatoes, olives, pinch kosher salt, pepper, lemon segments and juice.
3. Cook a few minutes and turn off heat.
4. In a saute pan heat the vegetable oil 'till almost smoking, place the seasoned fillets in pan skin side down, and press down with a spatula to prevent fish from curling up.
5. Cook till you can see the edges starting to get brown and crispy, flip over and cook about a minute longer, keep warm.
6. While the fish is cooking quickly saute fresh spinach in olive oil until just wilted.
7. Place the filet on a bed of spinach and drizzle sauce over.

Note: Scoring the fish is making shallow slits in the skin to help prevent the fish from curling when cooked.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rainy Night Pasta

For me comfort food is a big plate of steaming hot pasta, rich tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. Tonight being a cold and rainy night was a perfect occasion for me to make it. I started by making fresh wide cut herb pasta and then a long simmered beef sauce to go with it. A sprinkling of shaved Parmesan cheese to finish and I am all set to eat while watching the rain outside.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Another Day Another Squid Recipe

Next to squid with bold Mediterranean flavors, I really like Asian fish curries from Thailand and Malaysia. This recipe is my standard with all the classic sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavors of Southeast Asia. The coconut milk gives it a smooth richness.

Coconut Curried Squid
1 pound Fresh Squid, cut and cleaned 6 oz Coconut milk*
1 Carrot, peeled and sliced thick
2 cloves Garlic, sliced
1/4 Yellow Onion, sliced thin
Dash of Vegetable oil
1 small knob Ginger, grated
3 Kefir lime leaves*
1 Teaspoon Thai Yellow Curry paste*
1 Dash Fish Sauce*
1 Tablespoon Cilantro, chopped
1/2 Cup Water

1. Saute the carrot, onion, garlic and curry paste in the olive oil for a few minutes.
2. Add the squid, lime leaf, water, fish sauce, coconut milk, bring to a low simmer, cover.
3. After about 20-30 minutes, remove lid and let the liquid cook till it reduces and becomes slightly thickened.
4. Remove the lime leaf and add the chopped cilantro, check for seasoning, it should be salty enough from the fish sauce.

Serving Note: Great with steamed Jasmine Rice and a squeeze of fresh lime.

* These products can be found out Asian or specialty markets.

Stuffed Squid with Polenta

I had a craving for squid and one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is stuffed and braised in tomatoes and garlic. One problem people have when cooking squid is it becomes very chewy like rubber, so there are only two ways to cook squid -either very quickly or very long. Stuffed squid is best when simmered for at least thirty minutes or longer. For the filling rice is a good choice but I used bread crumbs today because I had a nice loaf on hand. Chopped tentacles, parsley and garlic were mixed with the bread crumbs and carefully stuffed into the tubes then secured with a toothpick. I made a simple sauce to cook them in using diced yellow onion, tomatoes, garlic, green olives, anchovy paste and white wine. The stuffed tubes and tentacles go in with the lid on, 45 minutes of gentle simmering and they are ready for the creamy polenta made in a second pot. Toothpicks removed and a dusting of chopped parsley to finish.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Carnitas Tacos My Way

Tacos are basically any filling in a corn or flour tortilla, most often meats with a form of salsa.
My favorite is Carnitas which is pork that has been slowly cooked in lard 'till falling apart tender and crispy. That type of cooking liquid is fine sometimes when you want the real thing, but in a effort to be more healthy I often cook my pork in a flavorful stock. I make my tacos using little four inch corn tortillas. I add a generous scoop of crispy pork, guacamole and pickled onions to finish. I could maybe eat a dozen of these and always enjoy with a good cold Mexican beer.


1 pork butt
2 quarts water or chicken stock
1 yellow onion, rough chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Bay leaves
2-3 of your favorite dry chillies (Ancho, Guajillo, Chipotle, etc)
1-2 Tablespoons kosher salt

1. The pork butt can be browned before cooking, but not necessary.
2. Add all ingredients to a heavy oven proof pot with lid or pressure cooker.
3. If using a conventional pot, bring to a boil, cover and place in 300F oven for about three hours.
4. If using a pressure cooker, cover and lock lid, bring up to pressure and turn heat down so that it is gently hissing steam. Cook about one and a half hours.
5. The meat at this time will be falling apart tender and can be shredded for tacos. Check seasonings and adjust if necessary.
6. For a crispy texture saute the cooked shredded meat in a nonstick pan with a dash of vegetable oil.

Note: Please follow all safety instructions if using pressure cooker, and save the cooking liquid for other uses like cooking beans to serve along side the tacos.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Future Dinner?

During a beautiful sunrise walk on the beach this morning, I came across lots of live Dungeness crabs that were left out of the water when the morning tide went out. Since a large flock of seagulls were very interested in them I helped them out by throwing them back into deeper water. Maybe after another year of growing big and plump I will see them again at my fish market?  See ya soon.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Vegetarian Chili

On a day when most people are eating massive amounts of food with equal amounts of fat, making a vegetarian chili is not the first thing on the list. My daughter who does not eat any meat became the inspiration for this dish and she was very pleased with the outcome. This chili is almost fat free except the minimal amount from the olive oil, which is also a good fat. Meats can always be served along side if desired.

Vegetarian Chili

1 pound Great Northern White Beans
4 Carrots, peeled and diced
8 stalks Celery, diced
1 red Onion, diced
3 cloves Garlic, diced
1 can Tomatoes, diced
1 Tablespoon Olive oil
Kosher salt/pepper
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1 Teaspoon Cumin, ground
Water or Vegetable stock


1. Simmer beans in water or stock till tender (beans can be presoaked)
2. Saute all vegetables in olive oil till tender, add spices, tomatoes and cooked beans.
3. Slowly simmer chili till thickened, adjust seasonings to taste.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Farmers Market, San Luis Obispo, California

Central Coast Produce

Wood Grilled Artichokes and Meats

San Luis Obispo Farmers Market

I was visiting the beautiful Central Coast this weekend and timed my arrival in San Luis Obispo to attend the hugely popular Thursday night market. This farmers market on closed downtown streets is the place to be, with a few blocks of food stalls, fresh picked local vegetables and musical performances too. There were lots of big cowboy style live fire BBQ pits with lines of people waiting for the fresh off the grill food; beef Tri-tip was the biggest seller. I went straight to a stall featuring wood roasted corn served on the cob sprinkled with spices and lemon then I bought some Carne Asada tacos, all really good. The market is open rain or shine every Thursday night on Higuera Street from 6-9pm.