Mandarinquats

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…Specialty Produce.

*punny

Big Parties, Small Parties…Whatever.

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Did a few cool parties around July 4th.  I had the pleasure of cooking for a proposal dinner…she said yes :-)  I also did two totally different parties for the same client.  They were in east county, which is great…cause so am I.  This busy couple decided for their much needed week off, to forgo travel rigamarole and relax at home for a staycation.  Friends, family, food and drinks in a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere; sounds lovely doesn’t it?  I had the pleasure of cooking an intimate dinner for them and their family (5 total).  I did my usual thing; 8+ courses of farm to table awesomeness.  The picture above was what I was working with.  The wild strawberries pictured below made an appearance as well and were a personal freak out moment for me.  As referenced in my last post, I had just returned from Youdapimp after experiencing my first wild strawberry.  Then, what do I find upon my arrival home?  A clamshell of wild strawberries at Specialty Produce’s farmers market cooler.  A whole friggin clam shell!  Got me gigitty for the party and it felt like finding gold.

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The night after that dinner, I cooked for his birthday bash.  40 people enjoying an abundance of fresh, locally farmed produce, served as a casual buffet.  Here was the menu for the big party.

Apps:
Roasted tomato, chevre and oregano baguette
Pickled turnip mini taco with avocado “salad”
Mango gorgonzola nachos

Dinner:
Grilled tri-tip
Carnitas
Basmati rice with toasted vermicelli and zaatar
Roasted cauliflower
Chile/garlic broccoli
Bacon and onion collard greens with almonds and hari cot vert
Big summer salad- romaine, water cress, herbs, cucumber, celery, carrot and red wine vinaigrette
Cherry cobbler with milk chocolate mousse

Antelope…at Sprouts

My go to local grocery mart tends to be Sprouts. Recently I noticed they had stepped up their game meat game. Antelope, bison, lamb and wild boar, all ground and frozen. I’m loving that they give an option to the standards, antelopeespecially the boar…boar is friggin’ delicious.

I’ve been toying with game meats quite a bit the past few years.  Kangaroo is great and so are frog legs, (both found at Iowa Meats/Siesels).  Windmill Farms had some options as well.  With people looking to deviate from the mechanized meat industry, all these choices are great for the Tuesday switch up.   Although it’s great to switch it up, these meats run leaner then the normal ground round, so make sure your recipes have fat and or moisture.  That means meat loafs and balls.  Although fine when cooked in a pan like tacos, I’d rather use them for something like sloppy joes or ragout.  We had broccoli, mushroom and antelope stir-fry.  It was good, but not because, of the antelope. ;-)antelope 2

 

Kale

I realize this piece is 10 years late but…meh, better late then never sometimes. kaleMaking kale awesome, is easy.  Here are three ideas that always win.

One: Throw it into soup; (any type of kale). Cook it until the pretty color goes away. Most green veggies are great when not cooked to death, but not kale and collards. Cooking them fully allows them to relax and absorb the soup. So remember to cook out the stubborn bitterness and it’ll be great

Two:  Kale chips; (Lacianto/Dinosaur).  Brush lightly with good olive oil,  season with salt and spice.  Bake at 350 for 17ish minutes rotating halfway through.

Three: Kale salad. (Curly or Red Russian) To me…a maligned dish done improperly 90% of the time.  I always see it treated like lettuce and it’s sad because you only need one extra step to make it totally awesome.  Some of you have no idea about this step and think kale salads are fine as is.  Come with me child…into the light.

Kale needs to be tenderized and broken down, which also helps it absorb/hold onto the dressing.  Tear kale from the ribs into a bowl, add a little vinaigrette; work it into the kale using a squeezing motion like you’re working cold butter into flour, or playing in mud. You remember; squeezing it as it gushed through your fingers. You don’t need delicacy in this step. I usually squeeze for a couple minutes, let sit for 10 minutes and massage again. At that point I add more vinaigrette and the remaining ingredients.  If you wanna get crazy or you have thicker kale, squeeze out as much liquid as possible before giving it the extra dressing and ingredients.  Anything you would put in a normal salad will work, but crunch is always nice addition since the kale doesn’t give it to you like lettuce does.  Kale is a wonderful flavor foil but I’m from California, so I always add fruits and nuts. Giggity.

Fun In The Southwest

IMG_1721Wife and I took a little mini vacation to Arizona.  Pit tickets to “The Boss” in Phoenix then up to Sedona for a couple days of hiking and no kids.  Sedona is known for having Energy Vortexes around specific areas that are supposed to bring the feels.  Although we did not feel anything this time, the landscape is breathtaking and the hiking is phenomenal.  After hiking almost 10 miles, we were looking forward to relaxing and seeing some live music in Jerome.  Jerome is a cool, old, haunted little mining town north of Cornville where we were staying.  As we were getting ready, I saw an add on the back of our canyon map for Puscifer the Store.   “I had forgotten about Maynards winery!” (read like a Cathy AACK!)

One of my all time bands is Tool.  The singer (Maynard), became a wine enthusiast and started making his own wine.  He sought out grapes suited to the dry Arizona climate and set up shop in Jerome under the name Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room.  Merkin is the more affordable offering but still very high quality.   We settled on the Chupacabra Rosa, which was outstanding.  The Caduceus wines were the most interesting wines I’ve ever had.  The first blew me away, the rest were…challenging.  If you can picture licking a Werewolf right before mornings first light.  A werewolf that’s been running, hunting and killing all night.  Funky hairy beast…although the wine merchants described it as sweaty man, it was just so different, and so perfectly Maynard, that the experience was the memory.

As we settled in with our Chupacabra, Primus is simmering over the speaker system and the ambiance takes over and settles our tired bodies, life is good.

As we were perusing the shop before leaving, I stumbledIMG_1725 upon a tiny little baggy of weird. This little baggy was $18 :-|  The merchants didn’t know much but they knew it was edible, so, of course I had to buy it.  After using the power of the Googlez, I read they are cactus buds.  An old school southwest food staple that hasn’t quite made it out of the region.  Labor intensive to harvest but nutritionally packed and mellow enough to flavor any way you see fit.  Once re-hydrated, they become texturally interesting chameleons. I threw ’em into a steak dish with mushrooms and sunchokes. Turned out great and got me excited about using them for parties this summer.

“Foraging” Mt. Helix

I use the term foraging very looseIMG_1184ly here.  A few weeks ago I cooked a lovely dinner party in Mission Bay for a ladies getaway weekend.  I had taken my kids up to Mount Helix that morning to play around and as we were exploring, we came across a lush patch of mustard flowers.  As discovered on one of our nature hikes on Dictionary Hill, mustard flowers have a taste more like cabbage/broccoli then mustard.  That instantly became the impetus for a dish.  What dish?  Me no know…but I new I’d use them to accentuate (some?) brassica based dish.  So…while at the market later in the day, I came across illegally cute, smurf size brussels sprouts.  I went with a variation of a salad I did a year or two ago that is a marinated brussels sprouts and grilled mushroom salad with truffle vinaigrette, herbs and other points of interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your New Favorite Leafy Green

Chinese Broccoli, Chinese Kale or Gai-Lan.  These are the names you seek.  Now go…go forth into a new realm and feel all the pleasures that lie within.  For your journey has begun and your world will never be greener.  Lol.2014-02-01 15.03.24

I found this beautifully hearty version at the RSD farmers market.  I was shocked to hear what it was; I’ve only seen it picked younger when it’s thinner and lighter in color, with long tender stalks like this.  It’s always at 99 Ranch, and it’s good!  But it’s different then this stuff.  This healthy older cut is all about the leaves, not the stalk. It looks, cooks and eats like a cross between chard, kale and collard…without the unsavory characteristics of any of them. There was no extreme earthiness like chard, there wasn’t excessive bitterness like collards and it’s more tender then kale.  The problem is, you either have to grow it yourself or have a rad farmers market near you.

This is the next vegetable I will plant…I mean…my wife will plant; and thanks to teh interwebz,  seeds are never hard to find.

This can be sauteed into any dish, or, you can get creative like this.

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Beef and Broccoli

8 leaves Chinese Broccoli
salt
1lb ground beef
1 slice white bread
1/4c milk
1T dry sherry
1T minced garlic
1T minced parsley
salt and pepper
flour
½c olive oil
1 large onion sliced
2T minced garlic
½ dry sherry
1-2 bay leaves
2c beef broth

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Throw in some salt and blanch the leaves for a minute. Remove and plunge into ice water to chill, then remove, and flatten on paper towels. Blot the tops as well and set aside.
Mix the bread and milk until mushy, then stir with the beef, garlic, parsley salt, pepper, sherry . Roll the mixture into 4-5 tubes and coat in flour. Heat the olive oil up in a large saute pan until hot. Brown the meat tubes on three-4 sides and remove. Add the onions to the pan to saute for a minute, or a long time to caramelize. Cook in the garlic for a minute with the bay leaf. Stir in the sherry and reduce by half. Add the beef broth and reduce by half. Meanwhile lay out the leaves over-lapping one halfway over another. Place a meat tube on top and roll like a burrito, then place in an oven dish. Repeat with the remaining product. When the sauce looks reduced and tasty, pour it over the wraps and bake for 15 minutes at 350°. Remove and serve with sour cream and potatoes.

“Tangerine, Tangerine…

cake1 Living reflection, from a dream.”

This cake is indeed a dream come true.  I once again was a non-paying customer of McAnally Farm Organics–growers of premium citrus and avocado trees since 1975.  Tangerine season is upon us and although we’re just fine using them for juice, snacks and cocktails. Tangerines have found a new place in our home for this Tangerine Olive Oil Cake.

Quick back story:  I teach cooking classes with Big City Chefs.  One of their menus listed a tangerine olive oil cake.  I’ve made and had orange but never tangerine…so I made one. This is one of those recipes where your ingredients matter if you’re looking for ecstasy. Yes, Ralphs olive oil and tangerines will give you a yummy cake.  But, if you want your eyes to roll to the back of your head, you’ll want farmers market tangerines and kind olive oil.  I can’t get enough of The Groves On 41 Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil; it’s ridiculous.  They actually have a tangerine arbequina oil but I didn’t have any on hand when I did the recipe.  Speaking of the recipe, here ya go.

Tangerine, Olive Oil Cake

4 medium-large tangerines
1c sugar
1/3c crème fraîche or sour cream
3 large eggs
2/3c Arbequina olive oil
1¾c all-purpose flour
1tsp baking powder
¼tsp baking soda
½tsp salt

Pre-heat oven to 350º and position rack in the middle. Line a 9×5″ loaf pan with parchment or grease and flour it.
Zest 3 of the tangerines and supreme all 4.  Set the supremes aside and rub the zest and sugar together with your fingers until the sugar is evenly moistened, (I used a processor).  Add in the eggs and cream, blend and add the oil while the machine is running along with 1/3 cup of tangerine juice.
In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Whisk in the batter confidently but with as few strokes as possible. Fold in the tangerine supremes.
Pour the batter into the parchment-lined loaf pan, and bake until deeply golden on top and a tester comes out clean (i.e., sharp knife or toothpick or skewer) inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Use the parchment to lift out the cake and let cool.  Serve with plain sweet cream or flavor the cream with praline, tangerine, raspberry or regular olive oil.  About 1T or more will work for 1 pint of cream.

Here are some pics to help you along :-)

 

Farmers Market Mysteries

Linda Vista Farmers Market

Go to almost any farmers market and you’ll see something new. Usually the vendor is the grower, or close to it, which is nice for any questions you might have. Asking questions is for me, part of the fun. Even if you get a bullshit answer you still have a cool product in hand with enough info to find the correct answers.  They won’t deceive you about how it’s grown because It’s standard protocol for market organizers to visit the farms; ensuring responsible farming practices.  Just take cash and be adventurous with at least one thing.  Don’t worry about the nagging feeling in your head, that’s just your brain growing.

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These brussels were cute as shit. Most of ’em the size of a macadamia.

I usually drag the fam with me when I go; they love it and it feels good to support the community.  Not that it’s charity work or anything; I just want my community to support local food,  I want the idea of buying local as the standard, not the exception.

Once there, I blow through and gather my produce for that night, then we all sit for a bite of artisan something. Last time it was Papusa’s and empanadas.  Recently the Rancho location was rained out so we shuffled on over to the City Heights Market.  It was small, but as per usual, size doesn’t always matter. The smaller ones always have at least one vendor with something tweaky and rad.  Like these lil’ dudes…known as Feijoa’s or Pineapple guava, or Guavasteen.  The lady told me they were called, Italian Guavas?  Whatever lady…I shall still purchase your tasty, exotic fruit.

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As feijoa’s go, these were tiny and overripe.  A good pruning of this evergreen bush would yield fruit the size and shape of a small avocado.  The taste is wonderfully sweet with pear, strawberry, banana and guava.  Usually only the clear gelatinous center is used, but the whole thing is edible. Just a bit tart and bitter as you hit the flesh and skin.  Quite addicting really, as you don’t eat the whole thing you can’t help but keep mowing them down.  Their a little tricky to tell when they are ripe or overripe as the outer skin doesn’t change color. They’re overripe when they have a browning center, not clear/opaque.

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Little Earthen Miracles of Nutritional Density

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Chia seeds are tha bomb.  Seriously…I love these little bastards.  I was introduced 6 years ago and am in fact drinking some right now–(in watered down OJ in case your were curious.)  Chias make sense to me; which is why I’m always shocked when people don’t appreciate them enough to…well…appreciate them.  When I find foods that are little earthen miracles of nutritional density, I can’t help but get excited.  Like Christmas excited.  Like, “tax error in your favor” excited.

chia2Chias are rich in protein, fiber, antioxidants, omega-3’s, glutamate, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, blah, blah, blah.  You’ve heard the “superfood” spiel before.  I really just enjoy their texture and their hydration support.  The nutritional advantages are gravy and just set my mind at ease with the knowledge that they are indeed a great nutritional supplement.  I really just enjoy drinking them.  Think tiny pearl-iced tea balls without the chew.  I find their texture when soaked to be a wonderful way to break up the monotony of hydrating.  I feel like I’m always drinking water but at the same time, am always thirsty :-|  Maybe I need a doctor…email me if you know a hydration specialist.

Not everyone enjoys the texture chias bring to liquid but marathoners use them as a slow drip hydration supplement.  If you’ve never seen ’em in action, chias are able to pull in and retain water like a gelatinous water filled bubble…I love the texture but have realized it’s not for everyone.   They can be used in recipes as a binding agent and can be sprinkled into food without any presoaking, but like I said I just drink em.  Buy online to save moulah but they do keep inching up the price.  I used to get them for $6lb…now they are $8-$10; here’s a source: http://www.getchia.com/

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