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; 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totality Or Bust!

Took a trip with my brother to Columbia, South Carolina for the eclipse.  Although traffic hindered us and we had limited time, good food and giggles were abound.

Our first stop for awesome was Dogfish Head in Arlington. I consider Dogfish in the argument for best brewery in the U.S.  A favorite of mine I rarely(if ever) get from a tap here out west.  I ordered  a flight and was instantly gratified that it met and exceeded expectation.  It was a kick to the head reminder of how much I enjoy great beer.
I flew into D.C because my brother lives there and our plan was to head to SC the next morning.  We did; with ibuprofen and itunes, we arrived at our shady, but “not as shady as we thought” motel outside Columbia..10 hours later.  After a good stretch and a text to my wife about the hole in our bathroom door, we surveyed our dinner choices and settled on Fuddruckers.  Mind you, we were beat, it was 9:00, and we were too far from downtown. We thought an easy, good burger was fine, just as long as they served beer.  After we walked in, I noticed a sign from across the street at another place we hadn’t seen.  “Indian & Mexican Food”.  I pointed it out to my bro and we b-lined it.  It was a good decision.  Although there was no noticeable Mexican, the Indian we had was great.  I got to introduce my brother to paneer, and their Chole Bature was on point.  Other highlights of the trip were my first boiled peanuts, and probably the best damn fried chicken I’ve ever had.  I was looking to see D.C a bit upon our return, but alas, another looooong traffic day put the kibosh on that idea.

Not only will I be boiling peanuts and frying chicken in the near future, I’m looking forward to utilizing the boiled peanut into my cuisine.  Boiling peanuts takes them back to their legume roots as they become soft and absorb whatever flavor they are cooked in. The ones I had were probably over cooked as they were very soft, as was the shell.  We chewed up the whole thing and spit out the fiber, it was glorious.  I had a vision of a Carolina tostada that will soon be realized.

 

 

 

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

Chicken of The Woods

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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!

Night out in North County

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I’ve always enjoyed talking to people at my cooking classes. Last year someone recommended Bellamy’s in Escondido. She also wanted me to try a strawberry cream cake that I have yet to do. Which reminds me of a poke cake I needed to try as well :-/ Aaaaanyway; she happened to write it down and it made its way under a fridge magnet. My wife ended up getting a gift certificate there for Christmas and we just now used it :-)
Lovely restaurant.  Offers all the standards I’d expect to keep the locals coming in with a smattering of interest and ingredient change out to keep it chic. Highlights were the beet ice cream, cod skin and oysters, (not one dish). I personally enjoyed the escargot (pictured), because I hadn’t had it in years; also, the “soil” was playful and appropriate.
Definitely worth a try and absolutely somewhere to go if you live in the area.

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.

Family Vacation 2016

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Had a great family vacation recently. 35 other family members descended on the Idaho panhandle through various means of travel and it was fun from start to end.

What a bounty of life the Northwest is. Even hiking is mellow cause the ground is bouncy and spongy from all the fallen debris and rain. Keeps a bounce in your step while hiking. I crossed a few things off my bucket list and also crossed some off I didn’t even know were on that list. Like when we were foraging for huckleberries, I found my first wild strawberry. It was so damn cute and delicious. We had many fresh handfuls of huckleberries but on our last day, we were treated to huckleberry pancakes and waffles :-) I’m pretty sure huckleberries are not cultivated and only found in the wild…but I’ll have to Google that. Wow, I saw a skinned bear foot in the river, I saw a moose pretty close. Caught a fish with a lure for the first time. Caught and ate lake trout…which is more like salmon then what I know here in california as trout. Went mushroom hunting and found hedgehogs, chanterelles and shaggy manes…or I found their poisonous cousins…not sure cause I didn’t eat ’em. Not going to the northwest again without a couple good wild edibles books.  Also saw my boys reel in their first fish :-)  Camping is usually cool, but five days of cool is even better.


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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

 

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.