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.

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.

Big Parties, Small Parties…Whatever.

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Did a few cool parties around July 4th.  I had the pleasure of cooking for a proposal dinner…she said yes :-)  I also did two totally different parties for the same client.  They were in east county, which is great…cause so am I.  This busy couple decided for their much needed week off, to forgo travel rigamarole and relax at home for a staycation.  Friends, family, food and drinks in a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere; sounds lovely doesn’t it?  I had the pleasure of cooking an intimate dinner for them and their family (5 total).  I did my usual thing; 8+ courses of farm to table awesomeness.  The picture above was what I was working with.  The wild strawberries pictured below made an appearance as well and were a personal freak out moment for me.  As referenced in my last post, I had just returned from Youdapimp after experiencing my first wild strawberry.  Then, what do I find upon my arrival home?  A clamshell of wild strawberries at Specialty Produce’s farmers market cooler.  A whole friggin clam shell!  Got me gigitty for the party and it felt like finding gold.

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The night after that dinner, I cooked for his birthday bash.  40 people enjoying an abundance of fresh, locally farmed produce, served as a casual buffet.  Here was the menu for the big party.

Apps:
Roasted tomato, chevre and oregano baguette
Pickled turnip mini taco with avocado “salad”
Mango gorgonzola nachos

Dinner:
Grilled tri-tip
Carnitas
Basmati rice with toasted vermicelli and zaatar
Roasted cauliflower
Chile/garlic broccoli
Bacon and onion collard greens with almonds and hari cot vert
Big summer salad- romaine, water cress, herbs, cucumber, celery, carrot and red wine vinaigrette
Cherry cobbler with milk chocolate mousse

 

 

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

 

Tomatoes…The Ugly Truth

I picked up some gigantic, gnarly, Travelers tomatoes from the farmers market.  I took pics of them to blog about, and made a delicious panzanella salad.  Then my phone got stolen and the pics that told the story of 10,000 words, were gone forever.  Regardless of the thievery, I still had something to say.
The ugly truth is…I don’t enjoy fresh tomatoes.  Yes, I’m “one of those people.”  I do not like them in a boat, I do not like them with a goat.  I like ketchup, gravy and salsa, but not if the salsa tastes all tomatoey.   I’m not special, there are many like me.  We lurk in the shadows, making small piles of unwanted fruit/vegetable on the side of the plate.  Our blood runs cold when we forget to hold the tomatoes on a burger or sandwich; as we know the taste will spread like wildfire to engulf everything it comes in contact with.  Let me be clear; I can somewhat enjoy a tomato if  two things happen.  The tomato needs to be grown with the utmost care and knowledge (or in Greece), and, I have to brainwash myself.  I must tell myself before, during and after mastication that, “I have never tasted this exotic fruit/vegetable before, this is a new adventure, and it WILL be delicious.”  I developed this routine in Greece on my honeymoon.  I knew if I was gonna like tomatoes, Greece would be the place and so would the honeymoon.  I stopped being a wuss and started acting like I liked them.  But honeymoons are easy…everything tastes amazing, you’re on your friggin’ honeymoon!   But that’s a different blog.
  I thought I had read the science behind this, but apparently not as my interwebz research came up empty. What was surprising during the research was the lack of the question.  All matters of science were discussing the nutritional change a tomato goes through when heated but nothing about the taste difference.  What is there or not there after they are cooked?  Lycopene and glutamate levels are higher in cooked tomatoes and lycopenes molecular shape changes to something more absorbable.  Maybe that changes the taste as well?  I tend to think glutamate as well because of the vast difference between a salted and unsalted bite of tomato.  The salt I think adds a missing link to the glutamate which then gives the taster a savory full bodied flavor.  Like msg.

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.

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.