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 was introduced to fresh fava beans by my Chefs at Mr A’s. I’d like to tell them, thank you. It took…a friend, hosting a friend from Taiwan, curiously purchasing them to play with but never getting around to it. Then, months later, the host was cleaning out his pantry in the efforts to streamline his new gluten free lifestyle, brings me his box of “here ya go’s”. Side note- my house is the dumping ground for random scraps or ingredients unknown. Chickens get the scraps and I experiment or utilize the unknowns. IN this box, was a bag of dried whole fava beans. Now, I have been successfully avoiding whole dried favas since the first time I saw them at a Mediterranean market forever and who knows when ago. But when I saw this random bag, left from the *departed friend, I saw it as a sign that now was the time.
Whole dried fava beans never seem worth the effort because they are not worth the effort. I mean, if that’s your only bean…cool, it’s good enough to enjoy. But shucking each bean is an extra step I like to reserve for fun and special foods that taste delicious…like a fresh fava. Now, if you purchase peeled and split dried fava beans, it is faster and easier to process, but I’d still rather have the taste and texture of other beans, instead of a starchy mellow lima bean. I made a cumin and garlic flavored dip that was pleasant and filling. here is the recipe:
Cover the beans with water by one inch and bring to a boil. Cover and turn off heat to let sit an hour. Strain and cover again with water and add a tsp or more of salt. Simmer for 2 hours, strain and keep some of the water. Shuck the beans and discard the soft shells. Heat half the olive oil with the chile flake, garlic and cumin. Once everything starts to bubble and fry, remove from the heat. Place the beans in a food processor with 2T of the reserved liquid and all other ingredients. Puree until smooth and season to taste, adding more liquid or oil if too tight.
I’m sure Thomas Keller would title this, “The Importance of Salt and Pepper.” I’m somewhere between that and titling this, “Salt ‘n Peppa.”
Proper seasoning is a simple but major difference in restaurant vs home cooking. Seasoning is a general restaurant term for salt and pepper or salt alone; specifically fresh ground black pepper and clean salt, (clean meaning no iodine). If you want to know way too much about salt, read Salt: A World History. A fascinating but not riveting read that I got halfway through before I had to return it to the library :-|
Salt will blow up your taste buds and pepper will tickle ’em. Too much salt and you over expand, things get uncomfortable. Too much pepper is like too much tickling…shudder.
The balance between salt quantity and timing are like anything else in food. Care and intuition will take you a long way, but it takes time and experience to be great…like anything in life.
Luckily with food, even failures can be good and/or easily fixed. It’s innate to learn from them because all your senses are in play with food. You aren’t trying to memorize a chapter; you’re smelling, seeing, feeling, touching, hearing and retaining…without trying.
You just have to keep cooking.
If someone really wants to be a cooking machine; make a drum of pico de gallo and see what happens. Seriously, if you made a drum of pico de gallo, knowing, that the result needs to make someone want to marry you? (meaning, it has to taste good)
You would learn:
Knife skills for life; including sharpening and blade maintenance, dicing, brunoise, mincing, knife variance and preference
5 integral vegetable variants, and specifics of their structure
Salt maceration and pickling
Seasoning and flavor balancing with salt, sweet, spice, acid and oil
Oil maceration and garlic processing are optional :-)
Simple favorites have a magic balancing point. That point when the taster is forced to close their eyes and contemplate the pleasure blanket they were just wrapped in. This can happen with pico de gallo, or mashed potatoes, or fried chicken, or steak, or salad, or a hamburger. This level of pleasure is quite difficult to attain without salt. That being said; I don’t love salt on the dinner table unless we are serving plain tomatoes or boiled eggs. I also don’t love auto salters. You know who I’m talkin’ about…shaking salt on their food before they’ve glanced at their plate much less tasted anything yet. My cousin is an auto salter and it irks me. I imagine shaking her but never do, because I’d probably get salt everywhere.
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.
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 lucked out 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!
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
Beautiful isn’t it? A farmers market find that I picked up as an interesting new toy for a party. I was really excited for this mushroom but it was still a known unknown. I quickly sauteed a little up just to taste test before it was committed to a dish. Oh man, so bad; tasted and felt like wet like wood :-| No worries; a little broth and browning should help…it’ll find its way. Alas, it did not find its way. Tried it again a few days later; same thing. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever…buy this mushroom. Apparently, Chicken of the Woods is nothing like Hen of the Woods. Hen of the woods is friggin’ fantastic and one of my favorite mushrooms. Side note: Hen of the Woods are the only mushroom of any real nutritive value, so eat up. Ohm!
What the hell have we been eating all these years? I enjoy kraut dogs here and there and I’ll soup up a bottle for a party if need be. But it’s usually underwhelming and always cooked. Sauerkraut from a bottle is pasteurized, so in essence it boils down to cooked cabbage, (puns are fun). Which is good, sometimes. I promise you there is nothing like Sauerkraut in all it’s raw glory. I’ll take it over kimchi without thinking twice. The complexity you get from a few pantry ingredients is giggle inducing. The texture is tender yet bouncy, with crunch and moisture. Flavors are fruity, sweet, sour, earthy and awesome. If you’ve never made it before, do yourself a flavor and get after it. Here is how:
1 organic cabbage
1/4tsp caraway seed
7ish juniper berries
pinch of dried dill
Wash and rinse all surfaces well and wash hands. Thinly slice or shave cabbage into a large bowl; mandolines work great. Add everything else and massage the cabbage until it goes a bit limp. I work it for 30-60 seconds, walk away for 5 minutes and work it another 10 seconds. Pour into a lidded jar but don’t cover. Place small glass bottles inside to weigh down the cabbage. After the jars are weighing it down, add some water to cover and a little salt to help the fresh water. Cover with a towel and place in a cool but non-refrigerated spot for a few days. Once you see a bunch of bubbles…you’re good!
– It is important to have it fully covered with liquid before letting it ferment. The acid you want is anaerobic. – If mold appears on top, just remove it and refrigerate. This is common. – I used too much caraway in mine on accident. I don’t care because it’s f’ing glorious, but it was a mistake. I used 1/3-1/2 teaspoon in the pictured kraut.
I’m sparing you all the fermentation science about lactic acid, and sauerkraut being a probiotic wonderland. There are a gazillion articles about that, I just want you to make it cuz iz good.