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. Great 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 only 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. 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. A 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 part of 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 is great. It allows you to be on vacation and not have to leave your area for entertainment. Bringing me in to handle dinner makes things even better. You get 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

With all confidence…Chef Joshua knows jack, about Jackfruit. Knowing about jackfruit is one thing. Tackling the tropical, spiky beast is another feat in itself.

After years of seeing it at 99 Ranch, and doing my best to avoid it. I was beaten down by the veggievore onslaught it’s been seeing at the markets. Noticed of late, and quite often, as a meat alternative for Vegans at Spouts. Recently the local market started carrying the fresh, skin-on behemoths. Purchasing one took about two weeks of walking past it and trying not to make eye contact. Then a random youtube video video scrolling across Facebook brought it all home.

Breakdown

But Chef Joshua finally broke down and bought one. Although it was meant to be ripe; (which means a lot of plump give), It was not. After breaking into it and comparing what was seen on video, it seemed a bit dry to the touch. It’s petal like flesh did not easily separate like in the video either. However, this particular Jackfruit was ripe enough to be tasty. Maybe not ripe enough to satisfy long time eaters. On the upside, it was totally tropical and delicious as advertised. Pairing it with bananas is magic and it was enjoyed in smoothies and Ice creams.

Next Time with My Tropical Jackfruit…

Yes, there will be a next time. We didn’t scratch the surface of what can be done with it as a non dessert food. It will be utilized on savory dishes like I see all the vegan recipes for. Maybe some Jackfruit fried rice? Definitely could have used it for this party.

The Most American Food In America

As American as apple pie is a phrase that needs some tweeking As good as apple pie is, it doesn’t seem very American. Seems German/Belgian in origin and hasn’t stood the test of time in the American kitchen. Meaning, not many people are baking apple pie.

But there is a confection whose popularity has stayed consistent un-celebrated. That has quietly usurped all foods to become Americas most quietly iconic snack treat. 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

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. We then set up South American plantations to grow them, just to import back home. Then we flooded the country with ’em so they were everywhere and inexpensive. 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 what to bring to the BBQ is a question…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.

Chicken and Waffles Induce Severe Moans

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.

So, so, so good

Springtime Bachelorettes Eating Well

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.

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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.

Rancho Microgreens

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. Even though it’s not for me.

Greens Got Me Thinking of Diets

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.

Salad and Salads

What is your goal when you eat a salad? Why are you eating it? Obligation, pleasure…somewhere in the middle?

For me…I enjoy cool fresh crunch and the feeling of consuming health. I’ve always had a confidence with salads and see them as an opportunity to enjoy food, not put up with it. It can be simple or complex but it needs to be thought about or cared for as much as the roast in the oven.

If you can make a well seasoned dressing, then all you need is some stuff in a bowl.  Lettuce, canned beans, nuts, cheese, herbs.  Thinly sliced or shredded raw veggies like roots, cabbage or peppers.  Fresh or dried fruits are great as is diced or julienned apple. Rice! Rice is rad in salad.

There are no rules for a good salad, but there are some things to keep in mind for success. Some things need more dressing and time then others. For example. Most salads are best when everything is tossed just before service, like Caesar. Some salads need time, like kale.     

Kale salad is not hard but it has a few rules and is a great example of needing to structurally break down. Confidently work the kale with dressing. Oil, acid and salt break down tough greens but it has to be worked in. You will always want some sweetness with any bitter green; kale, arugula, endive all need a little sweetness. I also like to add a little garlic in with kale. Even if you’re thinking sweet, those flavors are needed balance.

Kale Salad:
2 bunches kale, washed and large ribs torn away
1 clove garlic, minced
1T honey
salt and pepper
4T lemon juice
2T virgin olive oil
1/3c slivered almonds, toasted
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 fuji apple, peeled and diced small
¼c raisins, dries cranberries or cherries
½c shaved parmesan, for garnish

Tear up the kale and toss with garlic lemon, salt and pepper, olive oil and honey. Massage a couple minutes then let sit for a bit. Work again until soft, then toss in the remaining ingredients, season to taste and garnish with parmesan.

Be Interesting…

Celery root and carrots are similar: Peel and julienne; toss with a little salt, oil and acid (lemon juice). Let sit and toss again, the texture should be noodley. Keep these macerating items separate until go time, or they’ll bleed too much liquid, which should be drained. Add this to the kale salad for lovely results.

Think about each ingredient and bite. Think of how the end product will come together in your mouth. Let’s say broccoli salad…are you going to blanch the broccoli? If yes; don’t over cook it and give it time to drip dry afterwards. If not, it’s raw state needs to have a lot of rich dressing and it’ll need to be chopped up but not obliterated. Both of these questions for broccoli salad are important because the decision and execution of either step, sets the stage for what’s next. And what’s next is texture and dressing. Some toasted nuts, raisins and diced celery cover texture. Dressing could be grapeseed oil, lemon juice, lime juice, red wine vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and chives. Sneaking in more health at the end is nice as long as is stays crunchy, a little endive or esocarole works.  

See…it’s easy.

Happy New Year

Finally, we get some cold weather and rain. That rising crave for warm dishes and soups is unstoppable. 2018 was a veg heavy year; (that’s a good thing), when my mind is firing on veggies everything falls into place. Last night was similar but I made another play at one of my favorite beef dishes. I pound beef tenderloin thin, lay it on a warm plate, top with braised and grilled short rib, grilled asparagus tips and one huge gnocchi. Then it gets waterfelled with boiling cabernet jus so the fillet gets barely cooked ala pho or sukiyaki. It went well. This years proteins were strangely steady. Fresh grouper and grilled prime beef were always pairing beautifully, but fall saw alot of duck breast and thresher shark

The fish course was a classic example of why I use spontaneous market menus. Dover sole wrapped portobello with broccoli nage, sweet potato, kohlrabi and mushroom marinade reduction. No one is going to order this off a menu unless it checks their dietary boxes. Hell, I’m not even going to come up with it as a concept unless I’m standing in front of it. But when it’s presented as a course, and you know other flavors and proteins are coming. It allows you to relax and enjoy it for what it is. Something new and delicious.

This is Matilda. Our best layer and sweetest girl. You might eat her eggs if I cook for you.

“Team Building Exercise 1999”

Team building exercises were something I was a part of often when I worked in the Bay Area. Not as much down here but that might be my marketing. I like team building exercises. They’re fun, exciting and rewarding; and getting work mates together outside of work is always a hoot. The last group I did was actually two years in a row. Not a third as they moved to Canada, but it was fun both times. The hosts were foodies so we did alot. It got crazy with 15 people in a medium kitchen :-o, but we it got done with smiles and laughter.

Appetizer cheese dish
Chicken wings of some awesome flavor
Lightly smoked fresh fish
Ceviche or shrimp cocktail
Ribeye with umami mushrooms
Curry sauce for naan
Grilled carbs–naan as mentioned, pizza, panzanella salad

Although they can get crazy and busy, my goal is always to keep everyone involved, engaged and eating a delicious meal at the end.

I remember one time we broke everyone into teams with a knife and cutting board. They got to choose ingredients from a big table and utilize anything else in the room. There was a sink, microwave and dishwasher. I got to taste all the entries and it was awesome. The winners used the dishwasher to steam some salmon :-)Grilled veggies that are not usually seen on the grill

I can’t not think of this when I say team building exercise.