Springtime Bachelorettes Eating Well

Another season of fun bachelor and bachelorette parties are in full swing and life is good. These are usually fun groups that have alot on the schedule, but still want to eat well and enjoy their rental.

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Some groups have plans to go dancing, some enjoy their pool/jacuzzi while relaxing with cocktails. Others play on the beach or join me in the kitchen to pick my brain; just examples of how nice it is to enjoy your friends without the rigmarole of going out. Which with a group, can be alot: Travel and traffic, dressing up (lame if you’re in pool mode), waiting for your table or check, talking over the crowd, sitting across the table from the part of the group with the fun conversation. You know how it can be…Or, I swirl around the kitchen for a few hours and present you with righteous appetizers and an expansive California fresh dinner and dessert.

Rancho Microgreens

Recently, I went down the street to a local urban farm. Fred’s, specializes in micro greens and sprouts. My wife and I have been there a handful of times but this time I wanted to pick up some items for a party. I was happily talked into some sunflower sprouts for cute deliciousness and broccoli spouts for superfood health. Apparently broccoli and it’s babies are chocked full of a cancer fighting phytochemical known as Sulphoraphane, an anti cancer fighting phytochemical that will keep me healthy and robust. Cool, sounds good to me…and they ended up being quite tasty. Which was a surprise because I don’t really enjoy most sprouts.
Researching sulphoraphane I came across The Carnivore Diet. I’m not a fan of the word diet or the lifestyle, but different ways of eating always intrigue me. I googled around a bit and found that some people have found health happiness with the diet, which is what it’s all about. Reminds me of Terry. We went on a family reunion in 2015 to Montana where I enjoyed the company of the patriarchs nephew, he was about 75 I think. Terry had been eating what I didn’t realize was a burgeoning diet fad that may have some points of note to it. Terry would tell me (in his gravelly old voice), “I eat meat, cheese and eggs. Anything from the ground ‘ll kill ya.”

Interesting stuff. I’ve read before about toxicity in seeds and such, but the carnivore diet just seems too extreme for me; I kept feeling like there would be a list of acceptable plants…but no. I’m a firm believer in balance and finding happiness in the grey, so eating like it’s a black and white world doesn’t jive with me. Especially when our teeth are more veggie crusher then meat ripper.

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.

Happy New Year

Finally, we get some cold weather and rain. That rising crave for warm dishes and soups is unstoppable. 2018 was a veg heavy year; (that’s a good thing), when my mind is firing on veggies everything falls into place. Last night was similar but I made another play at one of my favorite beef dishes. I pound beef tenderloin thin, lay it on a warm plate, top with braised and grilled short rib, grilled asparagus tips and one huge gnocchi. Then it gets waterfelled with boiling cabernet jus so the fillet gets barely cooked ala pho or sukiyaki. It went well. This years proteins were strangely steady. Fresh grouper and grilled prime beef were always pairing beautifully, but fall saw alot of duck breast and thresher shark

The fish course was a classic example of why I use spontaneous market menus. Dover sole wrapped portobello with broccoli nage, sweet potato, kohlrabi and mushroom marinade reduction. No one is going to order this off a menu unless it checks their dietary boxes. Hell, I’m not even going to come up with it as a concept unless I’m standing in front of it. But when it’s presented as a course, and you know other flavors and proteins are coming. It allows you to relax and enjoy it for what it is. Something new and delicious.

This is Matilda. Our best layer and sweetest girl. You might eat her eggs if I cook for you.

“Team Building Exercise 1999”

Team building exercises were something I was a part of often when I worked in the Bay Area. Not as much down here but that might be my marketing. I like team building exercises. They’re fun, exciting and rewarding; and getting work mates together outside of work is always a hoot. The last group I did was actually two years in a row. Not a third as they moved to Canada, but it was fun both times. The hosts were foodies so we did alot. It got crazy with 15 people in a medium kitchen :-o, but we it got done with smiles and laughter.

Appetizer cheese dish
Chicken wings of some awesome flavor
Lightly smoked fresh fish
Ceviche or shrimp cocktail
Ribeye with umami mushrooms
Curry sauce for naan
Grilled carbs–naan as mentioned, pizza, panzanella salad

Although they can get crazy and busy, my goal is always to keep everyone involved, engaged and eating a delicious meal at the end.

I remember one time we broke everyone into teams with a knife and cutting board. They got to choose ingredients from a big table and utilize anything else in the room. There was a sink, microwave and dishwasher. I got to taste all the entries and it was awesome. The winners used the dishwasher to steam some salmon :-)Grilled veggies that are not usually seen on the grill

I can’t not think of this when I say team building exercise.

 

 

Old Menus Still Sound Fresh

Mulberry and brie crostini with honey, chile and savory
Blue cheese and hazelnut stuffed Khadrawy date, panko fried and lemon dressed
Grilled zucchini cups with brunoise Parmesan, bacon roasted walnuts, chive, finger lime
Chiogga beet/candy drop grapes/mache/chervil/macadamia/honey dressing
Moroccan tomato sauced chicken leg “lollipop”
Halibut ceviche/cilantro flowers/white pomegranate, over yellow fin “poke” and diced golden potato
Golden nugget squash and toasted barley risotto
Broiled sunfish/corn “cream”/green dragon apple/caramelized onion Brussels sprouts
Loquat cake/passion fruit cream/balsamic cinnamon gastrique
Ran across this 5 year oldish menu recently. I thought it relevant because it’s still a great representation of my food and what you would get from a party with me. Apps are playful with sweet and spicy. I always serve two proteins Seasonal produce driven menus Original cuisine and ingredient pairings New and/or unknown items The “problem” with this menu is it will never be repeated. There were several ingredients that day that drove this menu in it’s direction. I’m not sure what their dietary preferences were, but it looks like they requested chicken and fish
Chef Joshua

San Diego Grilling Season Is Here

Happy New year and if you live here, happy grilling season. A 365 day grilling season is convenient and I try not to take it for granted. I want to build a big outdoor grilling station, but right now my time and moolah is required elsewhere. That dosen’t change the fact that a grill was needed. Not anything I want to drop coin on, but not a piece of crap that I’ll regret. After researching new grills, there was nothing worth buying under $250, but $350 was at my peak. Being a charcoal enthusiast, I had needs. Being married to someone that appreciates the simplicity of gas was also important. I wasn’t torn, I just new my parameters and was confident the was an answer.  And there was…the  Char-broil, Gas2Coal Hybrid Grill. At $250, it had a good rating, good company history, easily found parts, heavy iron grates, a side burner and the option to use charcoal. The only question was, did it produce the heat to suit my needs and did the charcoal insert work as advertised.

Aside from the lame red stripe and the needed panel modifications, I’m very happy.  Back burner rages away nicely, the grill grates retain heat, the charcoal insert is easy and awesome. It is the easiest lighting and cooking of charcoal I’ve ever dealt with.  No flare ups, and I was cooking fatty hamburgers. The aforementioned panel mods entailed unscrewing some bolts and attaching a magnet as the front panels are not designed to open.  Forcing you to access the grill from the rear. Super inconvenient and irritating but easily fixed.  I did the same with the red panel.  I highly recommend this grill for anyone not wanting to invest long term and wanting a charcoal option.

New look With The New Season

Ahhhhh, the fall season is upon us and it feels gooooood. I know I’ve done a blog or two on seasonal change, but San Diego weather always finds a way of  making me feel better then before. This fall comes with two small changes that have nothing to do with food or eating. I made some new business cards and am enjoying the wood look so much, I thought I’d share.

   I also had to get a new wedding ring and stumbled upon this Kentucky bourbon barrel cut ring.  Still takes some getting used to because I loved my old ring, but, it’s nice to have one back on.  Three weeks without a ring feels like a piece of your hand is missing :-(   

 

 

*Update-the ring lasted a month before it broke :-|

Vegetarian Italian

As eclectic as I like to roll, I always appreciate a request to stick to a specific cuisine.  In this case, Italian…well, Italian vegetarian.  Cooking vegetarian is always a pleasure; most of my normal creativity is based around earth bound procurements. It also relieves me of the pressure to present meat as a necessary perception of value.  As per usual, favorites of the night morphed and changed as the dinner meandered along. It was a great group of Italian travel enthusiasts that were fired up about good wine and everything Italy has to offer. I presented a multi-course dinner of Italian swerve that highlighted farmers market produce.

Apps:
Seared figs and homemade ricotta on crostini
Lamb stuffed and grilled sweet peppers
Taleggio, walnut and pecan stuffed grilled zucchini

Dinner:
-Italian farmers salad- artichoke, gold Chioggia beets, Cerignola olives, pickled red onion and cucumber, roasted eggplant, herbs, shaved fennel and artichoke vinaigrette
-Pear and chestnut soup with tallegio stuffed baby pear
-Cannellini and kale salad with whole pesto ( torn basil, minced garlic, roasted pistachios, shaved reggiano and extra virgin olive oil
-Butter roasted Cipollini onions and brussels with butternut “ravioli” with mushrooms and porcini sauce
-Fresh made spaghetti with chunky/fresh arrabiata
-Tiramisu (requested)

*As usual, there was an absence of pictures but I assure you, everything was just lovely.  To assure the meat eaters out there that I actually do get fired up with meat, here is a picture of my favorite meat dish this year.  Surf ‘n Turf- Roasted salmon with steak tartare, corn riddled mashed potatoes and dijon bearnaise.  Flavor was off the charts.

“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.