Thursday, March 31, 2011

Springtime Artichokes

I have driven past Castroville more times then I can count and with each trip brings visions of the vast fields of artichokes all growing within sight of Monterey bay. These are one of my favorite vegetables but strangely are just a unopened flower bud. Simple is always the best option for eating most foods and these nice big artichokes were cooked that way, trimmed of the thorny leaf tips and then steamed till tender. To finish they were grilled for a charred smoky flavor. Citrus is in season now so I made a tangy Meyer lemon aioli for a dipping sauce. I am going to have to buy more real soon.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Asparagus with Olive Vinaigrette

Spring Asparagus Asparagus on Crostini with Olive Vinaigrette

After a long rainy Winter I am really ready for spring produce and I trip to the local farmers market was where I found it. Its still early in the season but Spring asparagus was everywhere along artichokes and they were even starting to sell tomato plants. My market strategy is to walk the whole place first and see what I might what to buy noting the prices at each stall, then I go back and buy the best looking produce with good prices, I even better deal is buying in bulk where you can save a dollar or two. I had to get a few bunches of asparagus which I planned to cook then dress with a chopped olive vinaigrette served on grilled country bread. Awesome and so simple.


1 bunch asparagus, ends peeled and trimmed

2 T extra virgin olive oil plus more for the bread

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 T flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 T Pine nuts, toasted

1/2 cup olives, pitted and rough chopped

3 rustic country bread slices, thick sliced and grilled


1. Quickly blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water, drain, rapid cool in ice water.

2. Brush bread slices with olive oil, grill or toast till golden.

3. Make a vinaigrette with vinegar, olive oil, pepper, olives and parsley.

4. Divide the drained asparagus on the crostini, spoon olive vinaigrette over.

5. Sprinkle pine nuts on top.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Indian Burrito's

Indian burritos? Yes and at Avatars Punjabi Burrito it's a fusion that works. Combine traditional Indian food flavors rolled up burrito style using a thin naan style of flat bread, it's very good! In addtion to vegetarian there are meats such as lamb, salmon, shrimp, chicken and Jamican jerk chicken. I chose the basic burritto with creamy curried chick peas, saffron rice, pickled vegetables, potatoes, chutney, plain yogurt and tamarind sauce all for about $7 dollars. If this great concept, and if it has not been done with a mobile food truck, then it should be. The location of this tiny mostly take away restaurant is in the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais in the Marin County town of Mill Valley, California.

Avatars Punjabi Burrito 15 Madrona Street, Mill Valley, California 94941

Monday, March 07, 2011

Cochon 555, Napa Valley, California

This was a true Pork festival using only heritage breed pigs showcased in a culinary competition with local chefs and restaurants. The setting was at the amazing Culinary Institute of America Greystone campus in Napa Valley, California. The basic goal was to have five chefs prepare pork inspired dishes from five different pigs and yes they even used them in desserts. My Chef buddy John Fink of The Whole Beast Catering Company was given the challenge of cooking two whole 55-60 pound heritage pigs from St-Canut Farms, Quebec, Canada. The were a Yorkshire breed called Porcelets de Lait. The pigs were both brined, one with Chardonnay wine and apples and the other with Zinfandel wine and Tangerines. Chef John used a borrowed a rotisserie smoker from a friend and with the addition of Almond wood and old wine barrel stakes cooked them slowly all afternoon. I really think these fine pigs stole the show when they were wheeled through the room and the crowd went crazy. 30 minutes later they were craved and served to crowd.

Friday, March 04, 2011

My Roast Chicken

Flawless Roast Chicken

My Basic Herb & Lemon Marinade

They say you can tell a lot about a cooks skill when he or she cooks a chicken, this how I do it. The very tricky part is how to cook both the breast and legs perfectly without over or under cooking both of them, the best way is to butcher them so they are the same size and will cook evenly. I first remove the breasts from the bone leaving the wing on then remove the whole legs. The carcass goes into a pot with vegetables to be made into a stock for other uses. I then completely debone the legs so they are not so big and dense, this will give them the same cooking time as the breasts because they are the same thickness. My standard chicken marinade is crushed garlic, lemons, fresh garden rosemary, extra virgin olive oil, fresh pepper and kosher salt. The longer it sits chilled and the marinade penetrates the better. To cook first bring the chicken to room temperature, next I will preheat the oven to a hot 400-450F and also heat a large saute pan on top of the stove with a dash of oil, then the chicken parts go in skin side down, after about ten minutes the chicken is flipped and the pan goes into the oven. Only about 15-20 minutes and its done or when it reaches 160 degrees. Golden brown and crispy with lots of great flavor.
Note: When ever possible buy fresh, local and organic, the quality really makes a difference.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Banh Mi, the Vietnamese Sandwich

This lunch time favorite in Vietnam is also very popular in here San Francisco. We are lucky to have many good Vietnamese cafes and restaurants in town and most of them feature the inexpensive, but very good Banh Mi sandwich. Its basically a sub-type sandwich made with French baguette, sliced meat and lots of crunchy pickled carrots, cucumbers, cilantro and daikon. The meats can be roasted or grilled chicken, pork, ham or a combination. The sandwich is so good and only about $3-4 U.S. dollars.  If you can find it, try it.