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.
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
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 :-)
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…
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.
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.
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.
I had a client request chicken and waffles for her husbands birthday party. It went well…
Occasionally I get to switch up my farm to table approach with specific client requests that are always a fun, welcome challenge. This evening I served the chicken and waffle with my classic pairing of fall spiced butter, fresh hot sauce and Log Cabin syrup. This was perched on an almond celery root coleslaw that brought everything together and provided freshness in the rich. I went with a Korean style fried chicken because I was curious to see how it went with the other southern style items. My opinion is that is was a sideways move, not better or worse. While the crust was not craggy, it was shatteringly crisp yet stile tender. It was the type of plate that takes your breath away and you have to take a moment to collect yourself.
Another season of fun bachelor and bachelorette parties are in full swing and life is good. These are usually fun groups that have alot on the schedule, but still want to eat well and enjoy their rental.
Some groups have plans to go dancing, some enjoy their pool/jacuzzi while relaxing with cocktails. Others play on the beach or join me in the kitchen to pick my brain; just examples of how nice it is to enjoy your friends without the rigmarole of going out. Which with a group, can be alot: Travel and traffic, dressing up (lame if you’re in pool mode), waiting for your table or check, talking over the crowd, sitting across the table from the part of the group with the fun conversation. You know how it can be…Or, I swirl around the kitchen for a few hours and present you with righteous appetizers and an expansive California fresh dinner and dessert.
Recently, I went down the street to a local urban farm. Fred’s, specializes in micro greens and sprouts. My wife and I have been there a handful of times but this time I wanted to pick up some items for a party. I was happily talked into some sunflower sprouts for cute deliciousness and broccoli spouts for superfood health. Apparently broccoli and it’s babies are chocked full of a cancer fighting phytochemical known as Sulphoraphane, an anti cancer fighting phytochemical that will keep me healthy and robust. Cool, sounds good to me…and they ended up being quite tasty. Which was a surprise because I don’t really enjoy most sprouts.
Researching sulphoraphane I came across The Carnivore Diet. I’m not a fan of the word diet or the lifestyle, but different ways of eating always intrigue me. I googled around a bit and found that some people have found health happiness with the diet, which is what it’s all about. Reminds me of Terry. We went on a family reunion in 2015 to Montana where I enjoyed the company of the patriarchs nephew, he was about 75 I think. Terry had been eating what I didn’t realize was a burgeoning diet fad that may have some points of note to it. Terry would tell me (in his gravelly old voice), “I eat meat, cheese and eggs. Anything from the ground ‘ll kill ya.”
Interesting stuff. I’ve read before about toxicity in seeds and such, but the carnivore diet just seems too extreme for me; I kept feeling like there would be a list of acceptable plants…but no. I’m a firm believer in balance and finding happiness in the grey, so eating like it’s a black and white world doesn’t jive with me. Especially when our teeth are more veggie crusher then meat ripper.