New To You Veggie

Well, probably new to you.

Cardoon is a late fall thistle that pops up in the grocery store every year. Being a thistle, it’s in the artichoke family, which is the reason we eat and buy the scary looking thing. It has a mild bitterness absent in artichokes, but it’s never the overwhelming on the palate. More of an, “oh, yeah, I see what you’re, talking about.”

Preparation

For quick and easy artichoke flavor, you only need 20 minutes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While you are waiting for it to heat, prepare the Cardoon. Rinse off any dirt, then slice or peel away the thorns on the edges. Cut the trimmed stalks into 1/2″ slices and dump into the boiling water with a big pinch of salt. Boil for about 5 minutes or until tender. Strain and toss with good salted butter. They are also great in a casserole.

New Apples Are All That

Perusing seasonal fruits for menu delectability just got easier. I just introduced myself to Lucy Glow and Lucy Rose apples. They are so good, and so cool. The first flesh colored hybrid Pome I’ve ever seen. On top of the cool color, their friggin’ delicious. The glow, with the darker flesh and golden hued skin tastes and textures like the best Fuji. While the Lucy Rose is like the best honeycrisp I’ve ever had; with some berry notes. Here is a lazy link for info, courtesy of Specialty Produce.

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.

Fava’s Since ’01

I was introduced to fresh fava beans by Chefs at Mr A’s and I’d like to tell them, thank you.  It took a friend hosting a friend from Taiwan who curiously purchased them to play with; but never got around to it. Then, months later the host was cleaning out his pantry in effort to streamline his new gluten free lifestyle. He brings me his box of “here ya go’s”, and I gladly accept. (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. I have been successfully avoiding whole dried favas since the first time I saw them 20 years ago at a Mediterranean market. But when I saw this random, lonely, forgotten bag. I saw it as a sign that now was the time to slay the bean.

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’s, it’ll be faster and easier to process. But I’d still rather have the taste and texture of other beans, rather then a starchy mellow lima bean.  I made a cumin and garlic flavored dip that was pleasant and filling enough to overcome the pleasure dome.

Recipe:

2c dried favas
salt
1/4c olive oil
1/4c sesame oil
1/4tsp chile flake
2T garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
2T lemon juice
2T minced parsley

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.

Shells in compost
Boiled with reserved liquor
Soaked and shucked
Finished fava bean dip

*Departed on a plane, not dead.

Salt…and Pepper

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.

A Little Corny

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.

Johnny Cakes

1/2c cornmeal
1/2c water
1 egg
1T oil
1T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3-1/2c buttermilk
1/2c flour
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.

Desert Salad

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; hence 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 sauteed up the little fillets and they where shockingly delicious…like whoa!

Peruvian Scallop Ceviche “Tacos”

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!

 

 

 

 

Seafood and Eat It

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

Golden beet soup with chèvreberg / pistachios / roasted beet
Grilled Opah abductor with grilled tomato/ sauteed potobello / beef jus / soy/ sherry vin
Charred carrot and chile calamari  salad / feta / pickled white strawberries/ dill / huge lime supreme / strawberry dust
Ceviched baby scallops with corn chimichurri / avocado / crispy potato skin
Herb painted Monchong/ broiled broccolini / Japanese purple yam / asparagus lettuce / blood orange butter
Macerated strawberries / coconut tuile / mascarpone / egg caramel