The Most American Food In America

As American as apple pie? No…as much as I enjoy apple pie, it’s seems more German/Belgian; and hasn’t stood the test of time in the American kitchen. But there is a confection whose popularity has stayed consistent and uncelebrated, yet has quietly usurped all foods to become Americas most quietly iconic food. The humble yet always enjoyed, Banana Bread. More of a cake then a bread, even the title is American as we ignore dictatorial definitions to call it what we damn well please. Banana bread is a recipe every family has, and every family thinks theirs is best. There is not a more common confection made in the American kitchen from scratch, save cookies. Not only does every family make it…but everyone likes it. When was the last time you made banana bread and had to throw some away? Also, in more support of it’s unique Americanism are bananas themselves. This is a fruit we genetically changed to meet our specifications for shipping and consumption, then imported, and flooded the entire country with ’em. Bananas are everywhere and they’re inexpensive. So at some point, most families have bananas going bad on the counter. Thus, the revolving door of browned over bananas being thrown into butter, sugar, flour, leavening and whatever else your crazy family put’s in THEIR recipe. So this July 4th, if you aren’t sure what to bring to the BBQ…check your freezer. maybe there’s a Ziploc of old forgotten bananas waiting to be resurrected into the American glory they were destined to be.

Chicken and Waffles Induce Severe Moans

I had a client request chicken and waffles for her husbands birthday party. It went well…

Occasionally I get to switch up my farm to table approach with specific client requests that are always a fun, welcome challenge. This evening I served the chicken and waffle with my classic pairing of fall spiced butter, fresh hot sauce and Log Cabin syrup. This was perched on an almond celery root coleslaw that brought everything together and provided freshness in the rich. I went with a Korean style fried chicken because I was curious to see how it went with the other southern style items. My opinion is that is was a sideways move, not better or worse. While the crust was not craggy, it was shatteringly crisp yet stile tender. It was the type of plate that takes your breath away and you have to take a moment to collect yourself.

So, so, so good

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.

 

 

Staying In Vacation Mode

Vacations can be crazy and tiring, especially if you’re coordinating people and especially if you have kids. Staying in “vacation mode” is real and important. Ever had the feeling you need a vacation after your vacation? That’s where I come in. You already rented a great house. Having me come in to cook a mind blowing dinner while you throw the kids in the pool and refill cocktails is a smart decision.
Let me paint a picture…vacation night 3 of 4. You’ve already done Legoland and the beach, but you spent this day at the zoo. You pull back to your rental around 3:30 and as you carry in the sleeping children, you realize you only have an hour or two to chill before you need to start getting everyone ready to go out for dinner. Feeling hungry, you attack some of the leftovers from the night before in the fridge. A cocktail sounds nice but you have to drive and wrangle the kids in a little bit, so you forgo. After showers getting ready and parking; you are 10 minutes late looking at your phone seeing a message from your mother in law wondering where you are. Dinner was some good, but mostly “just ok”. Full, you pile everyone back in the car just to come back home to have the kids still be hungry. Bummed you missed the sunset on your deck, you put the kids to bed, pour a glass of wine and finally exhale with your love.
Or…I arrive at your place and create a memorable and highly delicious dinner with apps and dessert, served at your leisure. You get to relax, relax with your kids, relax with your parents, relax with your love, relax in the pool, relax chatting up the chef whirling around your kitchen. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you to watch the sunset.

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

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.