A Little Corny

Heirloom corn from a lovely CSA we joined 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 heirloom 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.

Heirloom Corn 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.

Sauerkraut Rules

What the hell have we been eating all these years? Whatever it’s been, it shouldn’t be called sauerkraut. Making my own completely changed the way I see and appreciate this cabbage dish. Without a doubt, sauerkraut rules.

IMG_0290 I enjoy kraut dogs here and there and I’ll enhance 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).  Don’t get it twisted…I like cooked cabbage, but not like bottled kraut.

I promise you, there is nothing like homemade sauerkraut, in all it’s raw glory.  I’ll take it over kimchi any day and twice on Sunday. Again, kimchi is awesome, but it doesn’t have the crunchy bounce sauerkraut has. Maybe I need to make kimchi with green cabbage instead of Napa.

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. 

How to make Sauerkraut rule

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!

– 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.

-Just like O’Doyle…Sauerkraut rules!

Fun In the Southwest

Adventure throughout America is easy, cause we’re awesome and so is our landscape. Having some fun in the Southwest was a great, quick getaway.


Took a little mini vacation to Arizona.  

Pit tickets to Bruce Springsteen 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 copper mining town north of Cornville. Which was where the yard the housed our tiny camper trailer Air bnb. 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!)

The Winery

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.

Unexpected treats


As we were perusing the shop before leaving, I stumbled 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.

The year of Cheese Sauce

This year for superbowl, I was in charge of bringing nacho cheese.  As any culinarian would, my initial thought was making a Costco run for the liquid gold that is Que Bueno.  As I was about to head off and procure said unctuous nacho cheese, my new little toy from Modernist Pantry came in the mail.  So was the beginning of, the year of the cheese sauce.

Sodium citrate.  Derived from citric acid, sodium citrate is an emulsifying salt that makes cheese melting easy peasy and produces a stable product that can cool and reheat like American cheese.  For instance; I enjoy the texture of American cheese on some burgers and cheese steaks.  This salt lets me make that texture with any cheese I want.  So, blah blah blah, I made nacho cheese with a block of cheddar in a crockpot for superbowl.  The texture was good but I didn’t nail the taste of nacho cheese; too manbeety cocktails and horseshoes got in the way.  The mission of testing the technique was however, a success.  A few days later I did a couple dinner parties where I could utilize this stuff.  It was a fun little side note and added interest factor for all of us.

Below are picks of what I ended up doing.  Roasted baby beet stuffed with toasted walnuts, pepper, parsley and shallots, then draped with a Gruyere or bleu cheese fondue.  It produced several distinct moans of pleasure and stretched eye lids to capacity.

Now, let’s talk about beets for a moment. Most people are on the fence or, just don’t enjoy beets. Some despise them…but percentage wise, I’d say the American public is about 70/30 for not liking them. Which is why i take it upon myself to serve beets often and unflinchingly at least 1/3 of my dinner parties. They are versatile, inexpensive and colorful. And, like eggplant, is appreciated when it actually tastes delicious.

beet two

Your New Favorite Leafy Green

For your new favorite leafy green, I propose, Chinese Broccoli, Chinese Kale or Gai-Lan. These are the names you seek.  Now go…go forth into a new realm and experience 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 and was shocked to hear what it was. In the past, I’ve seen it picked younger when it’s thinner and lighter in color, with long tender stalks like this.  Always at 99 Ranch, and it’s good, but it’s different then this stuff.  The 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, no 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.

Broccoli 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
1lb ground beef
1 slice white bread
1/4c milk
1T dry sherry
1/2 T minced garlic
1T minced parsley
salt and pepper
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 towels. Blot the tops as well and set aside.
Mix the bread and milk until mushy with the sherry, garlic and parsley, then mix in the beef. 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, then 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.

Collagen, Gelatin and Fat, Oh My!

Another year and and another Super Bowl party.  This year we are starting a new tradition for Super Bowl.  From hence forth, Super Bowl Sunday will feature an earthly creature of unknown taste and texture.  To start off this soon-to-be tradition, I give you an amalgamation of collagen, gelatin and fat. Suckling pig.

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This of course being my first time eating and preparing it, I wanted to taste the pig as true, simple and unadulterated as possible. I decided to roast it straight up with just some kosher salt in a 350 degree oven for 4 hours.  I made a couple mistakes but overall it went according to plan.  

It was decadently moist and the skin was crispy.  Texturally it was out of this friggin’ world.  Being a collagen, fat and gelatin freak, this was heaven.  The flavor wasn’t bad, it was just a bit boring. I thought it would taste mellower then adult pork, but it’s “milky” quality, was actually more pronounced then expected. But still a flavor no one could really put their finger on.  “I recognize I’m eating pork, but it’s different.”

Served with

We served it with an wonderful market salad and sticky rice. I’m glad I tasted it as is, now my mind is bursting with ideas to make it epic since the texture is so easy to achieve.  Next time I’ll brine and cook with aromatics, then add sweetness to the crispy skin.  It was a really cool experience though…I dove straight into the head.  Cheeks, ear, jowl, tongue, brain and snout. I wanted the parts of the animal that stores don’t carry. Everything was great except the brain. The sticky fatty texture was fine, but I can’t seem to enjoy anything tasting like offal…the irony, mineral quality is not something I’ve learned to enjoy :-|

Getting the thing

To procure said piglet, I wanted local but failed and found it online at Exotic Meat Markets. After hemming and hawing on the price ($160 + $35 shipping), I ordered it Monday, shipped on Thursday, arrived Friday and unbeknownst to me…sat on my porch for 3-4 hours :-( We cooked it before the game on Sunday so we were free to focus on the game. Of course that was a mistake as the game was a snoozer…unless you’re a Seahawk fan. Still, a great day with family, friends, food and football.

Our lovely complimentary salad
Our lovely complimentary salad

Farmers Market Mysteries

Linda Vista Farmers Market

Go to almost any farmers market and you’ll see something new and mysterious. For my dinner parties, I count on it.

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.

Building Community

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.


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.


Your New Favorite Carb

Cookin' Dumplin's
Cookin’ Dumplin’s

I’m going to introduce you to your new favorite carb.

In case you didn’t know, I teach cooking classes 2-3 times a week. Big City Chefs and I have teamed up for over 10 years putting on these classes all over California. They’re usually in multi-family communities such as Irvine Company; that have a centralized clubhouse with a nice kitchen for everyone to gather around. It’s fun. You sit, relax with a tasty beverage and watch me do my thing. All the while being able to ask questions, interact and sample the tasty tasties.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the classes is the tidbits I learn from the residents. I learned this year that baking soda is a great everyday facial scrub :-| And more recently, at 4s Ranch, I was informed on what is now my new favorite recipe. Perogi dough!  Or Pierogi or pierogy or perogy or pierógi or pyrohy or pirogi or pyrogie or pyrogy or Pierożki.  As you can see, there are quite a few European claims to this dumpling.  I’ve made Perogi before and any peasant food like this will always have slight variations from family to family and region to region. What makes this particular recipe so exciting is it’s simplicity and versatility. Usually this dough has several ingredients. Egg, water, flour, salt, maybe sour cream…melted butter; which is all fine and dandy, but I know the way you think. You want a tiny ingredient list and a short explanation of preparation.  Boom.  You’re welcome. Now go cook some good shit.

Multipurpose Dough of Supreme Awesomeness

1c sour cream
2c flour

In a bowl, mix together by hand then knead for a minute or two. Wrap in plastic wrap for 30 minutes or longer, then use dough as you see fit. Remember that when shaping or rolling, you can use as much flour as needed to prevent any dough from sticking to your work surface.

Use like Italian pasta dough for noodles or ravioli.
Use as dumplings large and small for soups or sauces.
Roll flat and cut to use like a won-ton or pot-sticker wrapper
Make actual Perogi’s.

This doughs texture is really tender and just chewy enough; but the surprise tang from the sour cream is what brings this dough out of left field to slap you in the face with something different then the norm.  It tastes like a warm hug from a happy grandma.  I threw it in some chicken soup the other night with awesome sauce results.



One of my posts from earlier in the month inspired this post.  I was doing a fresh tortilla class and thought these little guys would be great in a Mexican version of pesto.

What is it?

Guaje, (pronounced gwa-heh) are seeds (legumes really), from the Leucaena tree and they’re interesting enough to be tasty.  They are protein dense and taste like garlic, onion and pepita with a bit of raw starchiness.  I figured, omitting the nuts and garlic from the pesto for these might make for something new and wonderful.  


I didn’t realize how to shuck em until I scoured teh interwebz and came across this lady at the 4:20 mark.  Look at her go on that thing…it’s a better video if you have in-fact tried shucking these lil’ bastards.  I was trying to do it like other bean pods; where-bye you pull away the fibrous string from the seam.  I was cutting that away, then prying open the pod with mixed results.  

Watching the lady in the video do it made me realize the method of splitting the pod equally from the tip.  (Use your fingers not your mouth like her.)  She was just doing it to show they are happily eaten as a snack…plus she knew her efficiency would blow that guys mind.  Still…it’s like picking herbs or peeling garlic…takes a little time that you often don’t feel like spending.  Don’t forget about delegation; utilize any opportunity for child slave labor or a drinking spouse or friend to help shuck.

Proper Method

To shuck properly, the pod should be ripped open at the end(tip), then peeled open with equal force on both sides.  It takes about 15-20 minutes to get 1/2c of seeds.  They can be used in anything and in any way.  Toasted, fried, roasted, raw, braised, boiled or steamed…do what you want.  All I’ve done is the pesto and thrown them raw into salsa, both with tasty results.  Look around your neighborhood and you’ll probably see a Leuceana tree, the pods are usually on trees in the month of May.  I’ve seen em my whole life…I just didn’t know I could eat em :-|

guajes 2

2,000 Calories of Fatty Goodness

An ostrich egg is 2,000 glorious calories of fatty goodness.

Ever seen the early ’80’s Movie “Caveman“? For some reason I saw it alot when I was little. There’s a scene where the cavemen steal a pterodactyl (thank you spell check) egg. While trying to get it back to the cave, it ends up on top of a mini boiling caldera, thus steaming a perfect sunny side up egg. Of course egg in your face comedy insues, and they happily take home a shit ton of perfectly cooked egg. I always thought cooking an egg that big would be friggin’ sweet…I also yearned to be forgotten in a grocery store after hours with nothing to do but eat my way through the store, buuuut I digress. I recently came close to one of those dreams when coming home from the Wild Animal Park. We pass this farmers stand on our way home every time we go, but this time we finally dropped the hammer and bought this

Going for it

I’m not even sure if this is cool or not. But it’s something I’ve always wanted to cook/eat, and was totally stoked with the results.
Everyone said to scramble it, but that was not the dream I had envisioned. I wanted egg fondue, and I wanted my pterodactyl egg like in The Cavemen movie. So I went the way of the sunny side and had the wife handle our pancake dippers. Utilizing pancakes because I love pancakes eggs and syrup in the same bite. More so, we already had pancake mix.
At $25 an egg, I don’t ever plan on getting another one unless it’s for someone else, and if I had to describe the taste, I’d say it was very akin toooooo, oh I don’t know…an egg. No, no…I’m serious, I know it sounds crazy, but the egg tasted like an egg. All sarcasm—I mean most sarcasm aside, it was really fun and really delicious. 

The method

I heated a saute pan and added some olive oil and salt. To release the golden eggy goodness. I cracked it with the spine of a knife then carefully opened a large hole. Big enough to pour and plunk it into a bowl. Poured it carefully to the hot pan and cooked it long enough to slightly set the bottom. Lifting the yolk here and there enough to let some white creep underneath. Continuing into a 350 degree oven for around, oooooooh 15 minutes. . It was then brought out and covered for another three.


The yolk was creamy delicious while the white cooked up opaque, which was fine, but curious. Probably too much oil. With more pancakes we could have easily fed eight adults. It’s easier and alot more fun then 2 dozen eggs.

Here are the pics:

Carefully cracking zhe egg
Safely cracked and ready to cook
Bubbling in the oven
All ready to eat with pancake dippers. The pancakes were not my responsibility.
Taking a dip
We put a hit on it but it wasn’t demolished