Summer Lovin’

Seared Alaskan halibut with sweet onion soubise, fresh corn polenta and peeled tomatoes and favas.

A party is a party. If you’re not having a good time…you’re at a lame party. Is it your fault? Maybe, but probably not. Everyone has a recipe for a good party. I like; great food, music and drinks. Add on some cool people and a tidy place, light some candles if the sun is down and good times are afoot. One thing I have found to be true over the years doing dinner parties everywhere in the county. Parties on the direct beach coastline, like Mission Beach, parts of PB and La Jolla. The hour before sunset is absolutley intoxicating, equaled only by grand mountain views.

Although my food is always moisture rich, I have been efforting sauces lately for photography’s sake. And while I am efforting sauce for pictures…what do I do? A brown sauce, with no shiney counterpoint…Oh well, I’ll keep working on it and will get a new camera soon :-)

Prime tri-tip with avocado mashed potatoes, smokey babaganoush, grilled carrots and parsley roasted broccolini

Having a Proper Hogwarts Pint…

…or Hogsmeade, depending on age.

A little heavy on the froth, but still scrumtious in the morning.

My wife and I started reading Harry Potter around 2003 while entertaining ourselves on long roadtrips. Over the years we enjoyed the movies, but, for various reasons, only finished the 3rd book. A few years ago we picked the books back up for and with our boys. We ripped through the first three pretty quickly, but they needed to grow up a bit more as the books progressed.

Being the food minded person I am, I coudn’t see finishing off our last movies without trying my hand at two of the most classic beverages in the series. Butterbeer of course, which I’ve dabbled with since ’07, but always coming back to the original online knock off of the theme park recipe. But I’d made that for the boys before; and I wanted something new and exciting. Something with all the dialectable notions of Butterbeer. One that kept popping up and sounding yummy was Pumpkin Juice. Pumpkin juice comes up alot during breakfast time at Hogwarts and always held a notion of norishment and comfort.

Extra cream top butterbeer and chocolate frogs. WANDS OUT!

In reality, anything close to plain actual pumpkin juice sounds gaggy. So I went with a mental mix of pumpkin pie and orange julius. Although I didn’t incorporate orange flavor, I would like to try this again someday with that flavor in mind. But this one is wicked good.

Pumpkin Juice 2c filtered water 1/3c pumpkin puree 1/4c pure maple syrup pinch of pumpkin pie spice (TJ’s is best)
Small pinch cinnamon
Small pinch salt
1/4tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4tsp lemon juice
1/4tsp vanilla
1 organic free range egg
orange food coloring to look desired

Puree in a blender and serve chilled or over ice

Butter Beer
1 cup light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
½  teaspoon butterscotch extract
Four 12-ounce bottles cream soda

In a small saucepan over medium, combine the brown sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240 F on a candy thermometer.
Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar and 1/4c of the heavy cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature and add the butterscotch.
In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened, but not completely whipped, about 2 to 3 minutes.
To serve, divide the brown sugar mixture between 4 tall glasses (about 1/4 cup for each glass).

Vacation Is Medicine…If Taken Properly.

Ahhhh, the Pacific Northwest. Maybe I’m just always on vacation, doing what I love, with who I love; but it always feels right. My wife and I visited Seattle over Labor Day, and although we’ve been there a few times, we still keep missing Pikes Place Market for some reason. I guess that means another trip is in the future :-)

When traveling, I’m usually doing what I can to somehow “taste the region”. That could involve one bite at one place, or many bites at many places. Last time I went to colorado I was doing everything I could to find cool game meat…ended up tearing down on some elk and rattlesnake. This year, I had a craving for NW mollusks that aren’t common in other areas. That meant NW oysters and geoduck. I hadn’t had geoduck in years so it was a treat. I didn’t love the salmon eggs scattered over as they dominated rather then played with the flavor, but the turmeric oil was lovely and the clam was perfectly prepared.

I get frustrated with oysters because I don’t have them often enough to remember the correct names. There are distinct differences between oyster flavors, so it really matters what you order. We carefully enjoyed and articulated our oysters at Taylor Shellfish, but alas, I forgot which were which, even though we took this remider pic.

Working from the fatties on the right, to the left in pairs, the oyster selection was great, great, not good, ok, and amazing. Although I’m sure there are local favorites that Seattleites go to for seafood, I found Taylors searching online for geoduck and they had great Yelp reviews. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we ruined our time table to see Pikes Place. Oh well, at least there was time to blow my taste buds open with some salami from Salumi.

What used to be famous for being Mario Batalli’s Dad’s joint, this place is now just a great old Seattle staple that doesn’t dissappoint. As I’m typing this, I’m gnawing on a slice of the whole grain mustard salami pictured below that is just….drool. Although my current (and very temporary) diet disallows me chile flake, I still ordered the chile rolled coppa because I have a hard time controling myself :-|

Summertime Parties

A 50th birthday, a 25th reunion and a vacationing big family BBQ were all wonderful parties this summer. Two at gorgeous rentals and another on Mt Helix in La mesa; there was, as usual, an abundance of good laughs, great food and awesome people. This summer has me all around the county, from Chula Vista and Jamul, to The Elfin Forest in Escondido.

Celery root salad with pickled strawberries, cilantro and opal basil flowers for a party of 12
Happy 50th birthday cake

Fresh Mid-Summer Flavors

My wife and I honeymooned in Greece, and I’ll never forget the dry desert breeze against the brundly ocean. I felt at home in Greece because it’s weather was very much like our local deserts, where my family vacationed often in my youth. So I often refer to San Diego as the American Mediterranean because our irrigated desert has an almost continuous dry breeze that can put you in vacation mode faster then you can say Margarita. Recently I prepared a big family style buffet for a family of happy Austinites that were enjoying all the bounty the American Mediterranean has to offer.

Butter browned brussels with rhubarb and sweet onion
Pickled Guaco Taco
Duck breast wrapped cotton candy grape with chile arbol and cinnamon    

Grilled prime tri-tip
Seared yellowtail with grilled shrimp and soy dipping sauce 
Artichoke mashed potatoes
Blackend chile corn and fresh fava beans
Grilled purple cauliflower and peeled broccolini stems
Marinated kale and celery root salad with roasted butternut brunoise and pepitas
Tomato salad with pickled cucumber, jicima and radish
Roasted plum over white velvet cream draped butter cake

Bird Rock, Is Not For The Birds

Smokey grilled pork tenderloin with grilled shrimp chimichurri, broccolini and fresh made and browned gnocchi.

Three beautiful and kind families descended on La Jolla last week. All three had different requests and different situations, but all three had at least one great night.

My work makes me happy because I like taking care of people. I like it when I can help people stay relaxed and in vacation mode. When I’m on vacation, I don’t like things that take me out of vacation mode; traffic, poor customer service and rigamorole to name a few. Having me cook dinner while you spend time with your kids and grand kids is what vacation is about. Use that 3-4 hours before dinner to relax to fullest and take the time to breathe and be present with those closest to you. Instead of the usual… getting gussied up and running out the door to sit in traffic, then wait to be seated, deal with conversations going left and right in a loud space, then waiting for the bill so you can finally leave and drive home. It’s all a lot easier to pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of wine and let me have your kitchen for an evening :-)

Good Times and Great Food In East San Diego

For most around the county, Jamul is a bit of a trek. Being in Spring Valley keeps me close to a burgeoning San Diego market for people looking toward affordable housing, and a bit of separation in an ever growing city. My children’s school was recently granted farmland in Jamul to do with as we please. We are excited about the possibility of creating our own ongoing CSA for our school families, but right now we are getting going with about 200 pumpkins. Pumpkins are pretty easy and will produce fun results by mid October. Hopefully a productive simple crop will wet our appetites for something more complicated.

The same weekend I was planting pumpkins, l I also had a small family dinner party at a really amazing air bnb deep in Jamul (pictured above). Twas a casual party with a loving family; which was the perfect last job before my July 4th vacation to Pismo beach…

Italian Night In La Jolla

Tuscan sausage and bean salad over iceberg

Once again I found myself in a lovely La Jolla rental property, cooking for a vacationing family. Multi generational dinners are my favorite and this family was no exception. I cooked for them twice during the week and they requested Mexican and Italian. These pictures from Italian night show my version of an Italian wedge salad mixed with the comfort of Tuscan stew and the vibrant crunch of fresh giardiniera. As an appetizer we had some opal basil flowers adding the basil flavor on a mini roasted caprese bite.

Renting a nice place along the coast allows you to be on vacation and not have to leave your area for entertainment. Bringing me in to handle dinner gives you a night of memorably delicious food without the rigmarole of taking a group out to dinner. I serve all areas of the county with fresh, vibrant Farmers Market based food.

Jackfruit

Knowing about jack fruit is one thing. tackling the spiky beast is another.

After years of seeing it at 99 Ranch, I was beaten down by the veggievore onslaught this fruit has seen at the market. I’ve been seeing it quite often as a meat alternative, but recently my local market started carrying the fresh, skin on behemoths. It took about two weeks of walking past them and a youtube video to get me to breakdown and buy one. I waited until I thought it was ripe; which it had alot of give and was totally stinking up the fridge. After breaking into it, and comparing it to what I saw on the video, it was a bit dry to the touch. On the upside, it was totally tropical and delicious. It pairs with bananas like magic and I’ve enjoyed using it in smoothies and Ice creams. Definitely something I’ll buy again.

The Most American Food In America

As American as apple pie? No…as much as I enjoy apple pie, it’s seems more German/Belgian; and hasn’t stood the test of time in the American kitchen. But there is a confection whose popularity has stayed consistent and uncelebrated, yet has quietly usurped all foods to become Americas most quietly iconic food. The humble yet always enjoyed, Banana Bread. More of a cake then a bread, even the title is American as we ignore dictatorial definitions to call it what we damn well please. Banana bread is a recipe every family has, and every family thinks theirs is best. There is not a more common confection made in the American kitchen from scratch, save cookies. Not only does every family make it…but everyone likes it. When was the last time you made banana bread and had to throw some away? Also, in more support of it’s unique Americanism are bananas themselves. This is a fruit we genetically changed to meet our specifications for shipping and consumption, then imported, and flooded the entire country with ’em. Bananas are everywhere and they’re inexpensive. So at some point, most families have bananas going bad on the counter. Thus, the revolving door of browned over bananas being thrown into butter, sugar, flour, leavening and whatever else your crazy family put’s in THEIR recipe. So this July 4th, if you aren’t sure what to bring to the BBQ…check your freezer. maybe there’s a Ziploc of old forgotten bananas waiting to be resurrected into the American glory they were destined to be.