Most of us don’t make our own spice rub or curries and We tend to make one of two curries. They add curry powder coconut milk or curry paste to coconut milk. Done, dinner served. Now…there are definitely times when these pre-made curries are a life saver, I get it. But if you have an extra five minutes, creating a fresh curry is cathartic and rewarding. The complexity brought from fresh toasted spices is always a smell that makes you give a smiling, closed eye moaning exhale. One ingredient can change the outcome of a curry but will almost never ruin it; so always feel free to riff or alter. It’s always about the sum of it’s parts being stronger then any one ingredient. Below is a simple curry made with spices you can get anywhere. I hope this allows you to take a creative breath and add a little spice to your culinary lexicon.
½in cinnamon stick
1T coriander seeds
½T cumin seeds
1tsp cardamom seeds
1tsp whole black peppercorns
½ tsp fennel seeds
½tsp mustard seeds
½tsp fenugreek seeds
3 whole cloves
2-4 dried red chiles, broken in pieces
1tsp kosher salt
Toast the coriander, cumin, cardamom, peppercorns, fennel, mustard, fenugreek, cloves, and the chiles in a small dry skillet over medium heat just until they smell fragrant, about 2 minutes; let cool. In a clean coffee grinder or spice mill, grind the toasted spices together to a fine powder. Stir in the turmeric and salt and you are done. If you omit the turmeric you will have a lovely and spicy Garam Masala.
Making a spice mixture is the first step of a curry and can be made days and weeks ahead of time. The remaining steps are universal to most curry recipes and should never be fussed over. Saute aromatics in plenty of oil over a medium heat until everything breaks down, and softens. Add in a liquid and boil until perfect, season to taste and add meat as you see fit. Measurements and aromatics below:
2c grapeseed or avocado oil
1c sliced shallots
2 small chilies
2T minced ginger
2T minced garlic
1c chopped tomato
1c chopped cilantro
2-3T prepared curry powder
4c water or coconut milk
We joined a lovely CSA last summer, run by some seriously solid human beans, Agua Dulce Farm of San Diego. Kelsey and Ben sweat it out in Chula Vista, but also keep it hyperlocal as well when they started the Bancroft Center For Sustainability, which I’m fired up about because that’s ma hood. In our last box we received a bag of corn meal. Oaxacan Green Dent corn to be precise. Already seeing a Facebook post about it, I knew what it was immediately but was still excitedly surprised. We mulled over how to use it because we really wanted to highlight the corn flavor. Not just use it…but really taste it. We settled on cornbread and it was a good decision. It had a lovely blue green hue and tasted like corn, not cardboard; I know, shocking!
With our remaining corn meal we made Johnny cakes for breakfast. If you’ve never had Johnny cakes, they are cornmeal pancakes and they are rad. Below is a recipe and some pictures for you to make your own. Do it, because they are super bomb-omb.
1/2 tsp salt
1/4tsp baking soda
3/4-1tsp baking powder
Whisk the water and cornmeal then let sit for a minute. Whisk in the oil, sugar, egg, salt and milk. Dust over the flour and leavening, stir until combined. Cook like pancakes with equal parts oil and butter…don’t skimp on the fat. and serve with something sweet.
Happy New year and if you live here, happy grilling season. A 365 day grilling season is convenient and I try not to take it for granted. I want to build a big outdoor grilling station, but right now my time and moolah is required elsewhere. That dosen’t change the fact that a grill was needed. Not anything I want to drop coin on, but not a piece of crap that I’ll regret. After researching new grills, there was nothing worth buying under $250, but $350 was at my peak. Being a charcoal enthusiast, I had needs. Being married to someone that appreciates the simplicity of gas was also important. I wasn’t torn, I just new my parameters and was confident the was an answer. And there was…the Char-broil, Gas2Coal Hybrid Grill. At $300, it had a good rating, good company history, easily found parts, heavy iron grates, a side burner and the option to use charcoal. The only question was, did it produce heat the heat to suit my needs and did the charcoal insert work as advertised.
Aside from the lame red stripe and the needed panel modifications, I’m very happy. Back burner rages away nicely, the grill grates retain heat, the charcoal insert is easy and awesome. It is the easiest lighting and cooking of charcoal I’ve ever dealt with. No flare ups, and I was cooking fatty hamburgers. The aforementioned panel mods entailed unscrewing some bolts and attaching a magnet as the front panels are not designed to open. Forcing you to access the grill from the rear. Super inconvenient and irritating but easily fixed. I did the same with the red panel. I highly recommend this grill for anyone not wanting to invest long term and wanting a charcoal option.
New ingredients are the best Jerry…the best! Platforms for new textures and flavors beget new textures and flavors. As soon as I pull in a new ingredient, old standbys become fresh fodder for new avenues. Stumbled upon these barrel cactus fruits and whipped them into a “Desert Salad” that was high on interest and flavor. Along with the cactus, which I boiled in lightly salted water until tender then nipped the tops. I tossed in 4 different types of date, pickled radish and boiled peanuts; dressed with lime/peanut water vinaigrette.
Along with the cactus and dates, I obviously hooked up on my first green peanuts, which has been on my mind. Boiled peanuts can easily become a new obsession, after all, I love beans and I love peanuts and I love simple. I boiled them with water, salt, sugar, toasted/charred dried red chile, vinegar, garlic and onion. So good and addictive. Unfortunately I didn’t make anymore at home as I underestimated green peanuts perishability. I also wanted to touch on a trip I took to the Colorado river recently. On our way there we passed some gigantic date farms which plugged dates into my brain for a week before I came upon my salad dates; hense the “Desert Salad” theme. The river also supplied some tasty treats. The kids fished and pulled in some little Blue Gills. The next day we sauted up the little fillets and they where shockingly delicious…like whoa!
Ahhhhh, the fall season is upon us and it feels gooooood. I know I’ve done a blog or two on seasonal change, but San Diego weather always finds a way of making me feel better then before. This fall comes with two small changes that have nothing to do with food or eating. I made some new business cards and am enjoying the wood look so much, I thought I’d share.
I also had to get a new wedding ring and stumbled upon this Kentucky bourbon barrel cut ring. Still takes some getting used to because I loved my old ring, but, it’s nice to have one back on. Three weeks without a ring feels like a piece of your hand is missing :-(
Took a trip with my brother to Columbia, South Carolina for the eclipse. Although traffic hindered us and we had limited time, good food and giggles were abound.
Our first stop for awesome was Dogfish Head in Arlington. I consider Dogfish in the argument for best brewery in the U.S. A favorite of mine I rarely(if ever) get from a tap here out west. I ordered a flight and was instantly gratified that it met and exceeded expectation. It was a kick to the head reminder of how much I enjoy great beer.
I flew into D.C because my brother lives there and our plan was to head to SC the next morning. We did; with ibuprofen and itunes, we arrived at our shady, but “not as shady as we thought” motel outside Columbia..10 hours later. After a good stretch and a text to my wife about the hole in our bathroom door, we surveyed our dinner choices and settled on Fuddruckers. Mind you, we were beat, it was 9:00, and we were too far from downtown. We thought an easy, good burger was fine, just as long as they served beer. After we walked in, I noticed a sign from across the street at another place we hadn’t seen. “Indian & Mexican Food”. I pointed it out to my bro and we b-lined it. It was a good decision. Although there was no noticeable Mexican, the Indian we had was great. I got to introduce my brother to paneer, and their Chole Bature was on point. Other highlights of the trip were my first boiled peanuts, and probably the best damn fried chicken I’ve ever had. I was looking to see D.C a bit upon our return, but alas, another looooong traffic day put the kibosh on that idea.
Not only will I be boiling peanuts and frying chicken in the near future, I’m looking forward to utilizing the boiled peanut into my cuisine. Boiling peanuts takes them back to their legume roots as they become soft and absorb whatever flavor they are cooked in. The ones I had were probably over cooked as they were very soft, as was the shell. We chewed up the whole thing and spit out the fiber, it was glorious. I had a vision of a Carolina tostada that will soon be realized.
This dish originated a month or so ago at a dinner party I did for a 50th birthday. When I got in contact with Bryan from Whissel Realty a couple days later. This delicious little creation was all I could think about. It was a fun experience taping this episode of East County Eats, everyone was professional, flexible and upbeat. Thank You Bryan, Kyle and Shasta and thank you for representing East County!
Had a lovely time cooking a 10 person dinner party the other night. Seafood for a 50th birthday was requested; I went a bit overboard on the seafood request…gigitty.
I was fired up to cook a few items this night. Hooked some beautiful Opah abductor and Monchong at COP. While the latter isn’t totally unknown, the flavor and texture is just melty love that will always get a look. The abductor is daunting because it looks like the fishy blood line on a tuna. Instead, it’s like fish beef…or, the elusive land grazing cow fish, found herding through Mission Valley during flood season. Totally badass and steaky with a meatier texture then tuna or swordfish. I was excited about a few other things on this party as well. The asparagus lettuce was rich, buttery and umami. The bay scallops were my favorite. I had a vision that I knew would crush, and it didn’t disappoint. The combination had that balance and flavor blast that makes you totally weak in the knees.
Peeled and stuffed apricots/ fuji apple / parmesan / truffle Charred and buttered baby turnips Thai pickled watermelon Kalamata, feta and truffle duchess potato Baby brussels with honey walnuts
As it so often does; the process of my dinners reveal a culinary gem that wouldn’t fruit* without the lack of a shopping list. What I mistakenly called Tangiquats are actually called Mandarinquats. Lovely little fruit if you’ve ever enjoyed kumquats. I used thin slices and baked ’em on top of a chocolate torte. Used the zest in a stuffed strawberry and ate em whole. Very exciting little fruit with a great sweetness and wonderful flavor. Here is everything else you’d like to know about them… http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Mandarinquats_1772.php.
As eclectic as I like to roll, I always appreciate a request to stick to a specific cuisine. In this case, Italian…well, Italian vegetarian. Cooking vegetarian is always a pleasure; most of my normal creativity is based around earth bound procurements. It also relieves me of the pressure to present meat as a necessary perception of value. As per usual, favorites of the night morphed and changed as the dinner meandered along. It was a great group of Italian travel enthusiasts that were fired up about good wine and everything Italy has to offer. I presented a multi-course dinner of Italian swerve that highlighted farmers market produce.
Apps: Seared figs and homemade ricotta on crostini Lamb stuffed and grilled sweet peppers Taleggio, walnut and pecan stuffed grilled zucchini
Dinner: -Italian farmers salad- artichoke, gold Chioggia beets, Cerignola olives, pickled red onion and cucumber, roasted eggplant, herbs, shaved fennel and artichoke vinaigrette -Pear and chestnut soup with tallegio stuffed baby pear -Cannellini and kale salad with whole pesto ( torn basil, minced garlic, roasted pistachios, shaved reggiano and extra virgin olive oil -Butter roasted Cipollini onions and brussels with butternut “ravioli” with mushrooms and porcini sauce -Fresh made spaghetti with chunky/fresh arrabiata -Tiramisu (requested)
*As usual, there was an absence of pictures but I assure you, everything was just lovely. To assure the meat eaters out there that I actually do get fired up with meat, here is a picture of my favorite meat dish this year. Surf ‘n Turf- Roasted salmon with steak tartare, corn riddled mashed potatoes and dijon bearnaise. Flavor was off the charts.