Salad

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. You must 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 or onion 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.

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. If its a broccoli salad…are you going to blanch the broccoli? If yes, don’t over do it and dry it afterwards. If not, it better 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 esoarole works.  

See…it’s easy.

Fava’s Since ’01

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:

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.

Don’t Let Curry Push You Around

Image result for free pictures curry
hahahaha; curry…not Curry.

Most of us don’t make our own spice rub or curries and We tend to  make one of two curries.  They add curry powder coconut milk or curry paste to coconut milk.  Done, dinner served.  Now…there are definitely times when these pre-made curries are a life saver, I get it.  But if you have an extra five minutes, creating a fresh curry is cathartic and rewarding.  The complexity brought from fresh toasted spices is always a smell that makes you give a smiling, closed eye moaning exhale.  One ingredient can change the outcome of a curry but will almost never ruin it; so always feel free to riff or alter.  It’s always about the sum of it’s parts being stronger then any one ingredient.  Below is a simple curry made with spices you can get anywhere.  I hope this allows you to take a creative breath and add a little spice to your culinary lexicon.

½in cinnamon stick
1T coriander seeds
½T cumin seeds
1tsp cardamom seeds
1tsp whole black peppercorns
½ tsp fennel seeds
½tsp mustard seeds
½tsp fenugreek seeds
3 whole cloves
2-4 dried red chiles, broken in pieces
1T turmeric
1tsp kosher salt

sharp food produce color market powder market stall spices saffron bags taste flavor curry spice stand

Toast the coriander, cumin, cardamom, peppercorns, fennel, mustard, fenugreek, cloves, and the chiles in a small dry skillet over medium heat just until they smell fragrant, about 2 minutes; let cool. In a clean coffee grinder or spice mill, grind the toasted spices together to a fine powder. Stir in the turmeric and salt and you are done.  If you omit the turmeric you will have a lovely and spicy Garam Masala.

Making a spice mixture is the first step of a curry and can be made days and weeks ahead of time. The remaining steps are universal to most curry recipes and should never be fussed over.  Saute aromatics in plenty of oil over a medium heat until everything breaks down, and softens.  Add in a liquid and boil until perfect, season to taste and add meat as you see fit. Measurements and aromatics below:

2c grapeseed or avocado oil
1c sliced shallots
2 small chilies
2T minced ginger
2T minced garlic
1c chopped tomato
1c chopped cilantro
2-3T prepared curry powder
4c water or coconut milk

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.

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!

 

 

 

 

Sauerkraut

IMG_0290What 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
2-3tsp salt
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!

*Notes:
– 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.

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.

Broth

Had several people talk to me about bone broth lately.  I love the addition of the word “bone”.   It gives it a primal sound that demands a second look.  Nobody ever turned their heads at stock or chicken broth.  Show your grandma a bone broth recipe and she’ll say:  “What?  You mean soup?”                                                                                                      Whether soup, broth or stock; I’m glad people are interested in making it themselves; it’s a small extra step to making food delicious.

Chicken Broth…the short, short version.
Roast a chicken or buy a roasted chicken. Eat the meat. Place bones in crock pot and cover with water buy 2 inches. Turn crock pot on low. Go to bed. Wake up. Strain off bones. Cool, and refrigerate or freeze.

White Chicken Broth– Place a clean, raw yard bird in a large pot. Cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a full rolling boil. Spoon away any foam thate rises to the top. Cover and turn off heat. Wait an hour. Remove bird and let cool a bit. Pull off meat and return bones to water. Simmer for 6 hours or more. Strain cool and refrigerate or freeze.

Beef, Veal, Pork or Lamb Broth-
Place 1-2lbs of bones in a roasting pan. Roast for 45 minutes in a 425° oven; or until very browned; turn a couple times. Everything else is the same as the roast chicken broth.
If you are using a pot and not a crock pot: Bring to a boil. Skim the surface of scummy foam and turn down to a low simmer for 8 hours.

Fish Broth-
1lb white fleshed fish, head and bones. Cover with water or white wine buy 3 inches. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer for 17 minutes. Strain and cool.

To Any Broth:
You can add a multitude of flavors to add depth. Here are the Western European classics:
½ an onion
1 small carrot
1 small rib celery
salt
pinch pepper
1 sprig thyme
1 small bay leaf
small bunch parsley stems

Asian broth tends to roll with different aromatics like, ginger, green onion, garlic, star anise, soy sauce, bonito, kombu. Different but the same idea.

Cooling and storing a large batch of broth efficiently, is usually the hardest part of broth making. Ice baths are best but are still a bit clunky.

So there you have it. Broth.

Here is a picture of some trotters I breakfasted up the other day.  Feet are always a great broth additive.  They give flavor of course, but are really appreciated for adding collagen and gelatin, which adds a richness and viscosity.  IMG_1407

 

Yes This Works

IMG_1181

Avocado mashed potatoes are coming to a fish dish near you…if I’m cooking.  Avocado mashed potatoes are a healthy and perfectly balanced little side that I’ve been enjoying at my diner parties of late.  The recipe forces itself into stupid simplicity.  Cooked potatoes mashed with kosher salt and a scant 1/3 the amount of avocado…preferably Fuerte.  That’s it.  Anything more other then a few chives takes away the purpose of the mixture; which is an avocado tasting mashed potato.  Also note the room temperature potatoes.  Hot avocado isn’t something I love and it would loose it’s vibrancy if over heated.   Avocado can easily become something very expected/normal/specific, once you start adding ingredients.  Using it as the mashed potato fat with no other flavors allows the avocado to come through the perfectly textured mashed potato.  Any more avocado and you get close to guacamole…as is the addition of lemon or garlic.

This is achiote halibut/avocado mash/baby lotus chimichurri  IMG_1206

Aluminum Foil

Aluminium IMG_0843foil. Yes I added an extra i…Saying it like the Brits is delightful. Say it… alu-mini-um; gives it a certain dignity that only the English can extol.

Foil acts as my Mcgyverist safety blanket.  Whether I’m working or camping or wrapping a lovely holiday gift, I can’t imagine a world without it.  A little dramatic I know, but it really is an item I never forget for cooking and camping.  Check out these little bundles of joy we made over Easter weekend.  Meatloaf balls that were easy, fun and all kinds of delicious.  Just wrap ’em tight and throw ’em in the coals.  Give the kiddos some tongs, get yourself a beverage and call dinner…done.       IMG_0844IMG_0845

Just in case you grew up in a black hole and have no idea how to make meatloaf.  You can find a recipe like this, or, wait for my next update which I guess will be a meatloaf recipe :-|  Looking forward to the dessert versions which are chocolate cake cooked in a hollowed out orange and wrapped in foil.