Sunday, April 29, 2012

Paella for a Crowd

Seafood Paella Simmering

What to make for a large group of people? How about a Paella. It's a one-pan meal with lots of different flavors and textures and the list of possible ingredients is endless. All that is required is rice with Calasparra or Bomba varities being considered the best; a good substitute is the standard risotto rice Arborio. The most common paella is Valencian from Valencia Spain, and it normally contains seafood and chicken with lots of aromatic saffron. I followed that same classic list of ingredients in mine tonight. I love all the colors and flavors and I think everybody else did too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

One of my favorites, Thai style chicken

Thai Curry with Shitake Mushrooms and Chicken

It's true, I make this a lot. Spicy and rich with coconut milk. It's easy for me because I have most of the Asian ingredients needed always on hand so it's just buying a nice piece of  fish or chicken to go with it. Tonight I served black forbidden rice and a sliced mango with grilled chicken breast.

My Thai Curry Sauce
1 small can coconut milk, unsweetened
1 T fish sauce
1 T soy sauce, low sodium
1 T Green Thai curry paste or curry powder
1 t Garlic, chopped
1 t Ginger, grated
Half bunch Cilantro, chopped
2 Keffir Lime Leaf (optional)
1 Thai chili pepper, chopped (optional)

1. Slowly saute the garlic, ginger and curry paste till fragrant.
2. Add soy, fish sauces, coconut milk, lime leaf, chili pepper and simmer a few minutes.
3. Remove lime leaf and add the cilantro.
4. Pour over cooked fish or chicken.

Note: Other ingredients can be added to the sauce such as Shitake mushrooms. Optional ingredients can be found in Asian markets.

Yield = 2 cups

Monday, April 23, 2012

Boating and Grilling

Grilling Artichokes and Yukon gold Potatoes

Grilled "Chokes" with Lemon Aioli

My recent trip to the Monterey Bay Area left me with a surplus of artichokes.  I don't consider that a problem because I love eating them this time of year. This past weekend I took my boat out for a sail on San Francisco Bay and the artichokes came along for the grill. When cooking them or anything on my boat, the trick is to always pre clean and par cook so then all you have to do is grill them them for a few minutes to get that nice slightly charred and smoky favor. I do highly recomend a chilled bottle of white wine, it helps with the whole process and is great while taking in the amazing view.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Indian Inspired Risotto

Indian Risotto
What to make for dinner?  Tonight using some common ingredients that I had on hand gave me the idea of making this risotto with some of my favorite Indian flavors. I used lots of vegetables, chick peas, curry paste and a very spicy pickled chili. To start, I made a standard risotto adding the curry paste to the rice during the first stages of the cooking process, then the vegetables with vegetable stock.
I added a small handful of fresh spinach and peas at the end so they remained bright green and not over-cooked.  A small spoonful of chili pickle at the end gave it another flavor boost.
Good stuff, but be careful with that pickle- it's hot!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Kale chips

Oven Dried Kale
It seems that every year there is a new food trend, such as pomegranate juice a few years back. This year a vegetable that is quickly gaining popularity is kale. I find many varieties in my local market or farmer's market. It's a sturdy green that will cook and still retain its shape and texture without turning to mush. I often cook it with bacon and serve along side my favorite foods. A new method I learned is to dry it in the oven until it's crunchy like a chip. It's a great way to preserve large quantities and healthy too.

Kale chips
1 bunch fresh kale
Dash extra virgin olive oil
Sea or kosher salt

1. Cut out the center rib and wash well, spin dry.
2. Toss in olive oil and season with salt.
3. Lay out on sheet pan covered with parchment paper or silicone mat.
4. Place in preheated 300F oven for 10-15 till dry and crisp.

Good as a snack or maybe as a crunchy garnish with your favorite recipe.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Cindy Pawlcyn at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Chef Cindy Pawlcyn

Artic Char with White Beans and Tomato

Seeing the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium by itself is worth a trip, but how do you think the food is there?  Excellent.  Most public attractions offer food to be eaten out of convenience, but this world-class facility brought on board Chef Cindy Pawlcyn to run the Monterey Bay Cafe and Restaurant; she is well known in the Bay Area and has a string of very good restaurants in the Napa Valley.  Her approach is fresh farm to table cooking which features seafood using the Aquarium's standards of sustainability. On this recent trip I tried the calamari dusted with corn flour and fried, which gave it a real crunch and it was served with a spicy curry slaw. Wow-some of the best squid I have had in a long time. I also tried the special of the day, grilled Artic Char fillet set on a mound of white beans, tomato, andouille sausage and fresh herbs- very good as well. No need to go to a fancy over-priced restaurant when you can eat here and enjoy views of the gorgeous Monterey Bay before you.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Cafe and Restaurant
886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA

Spicy Corn Meal Crusted Squid with Curry

Saturday, April 07, 2012

California Artichokes

Artichokes Ready for Harvest
A recent trip to Monterey, California took me past the largest artichoke growing region in this country, the town of Castroville. There are many large fields of artichokes growing all along Highway 1 right up to the ocean and I am told they thrive with the cool sea breeze coming off the Pacific. There are several stands selling all the local produce and I always stop for a few bags of artichokes or what ever looks good. My plan for cooking them will be to simply steam them, then finish on a hot charcoal grill with a drizzle of lemon and olive oil.  Look for a post soon.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

First of the Season Radishes

French Breakfast Radish

Shaved Radish with its Greens as a Salad on a Spoon

These little flavor packed radishes are the first from my garden this spring. There's nothing like going outside and picking vegetables straight from the dirt and eating them.  I can't wait to harvest my other vegetables soon.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Rich and Creamy Risotto with Sea Bass

Mediterranean Style Risotto
For me making a risotto is the perfect food, where any combination of ingredients can be added to create a delicious meal. Normally I have enough staples on hand and will just need to buy the primary ingredient, such as the sea bass for this risotto. Tonight I went with the classic fish flavors of garlic, shallots, fennel, tomato, white wine and saffron. Meaty chunks of California sea bass were added in the final stage of cooking so that they would just cook through. It turned out great with the rice absorbing all the amazing flavors while releasing its starch to thicken and give the rice a creamy consistency, which is what makes a risotto special.