Salmon is a rarity on my menus. It’s a Tuesday night dinner item that many people cook for themselves. As a personal Chef in San Diego, it is my mission to give the diner something new. What better way to do something new, than to double or triple down on the classics or the assumed knowns. This first entrée for a group of 8 is just that. Salmon, shrimp, chimichurri and polenta. All known, classic items you see on menus everywhere. But if I can make your eyes roll backward with these seemingly pedantic recipes, then we are all winning.
Attention to simplicity
All it takes to make food delicious is to cook it perfectly. A simple to understand rule but not always easily achieved. Lets take a look at polenta. Coarsely ground cornmeal cooked with water (and maybe some milk) with a pinch of salt until the cornmeal has softened. Then hit it with one or multiple dairy fats of your choice. Serve immediately or chill, slice and brown. But this polenta picture above is 90% fresh corn. Using fresh corn kicks up the bright summer vibe and adds diversion from the classic. Cooked, puréed, cooked again and hit with more corn and a solid hit of butter. It’s marvelous.
Salmon follows the same rule as most fish; buy as fresh as possible and don’t overcook. I usually broil most thick pieces of fish. Pan searing stinks up the house and grilled can be dicey in terms of sticking to the grate. Getting color on fish is also not always best for flavor. If I’m eating shrimp cold, I like it poached and chilled. Otherwise, I utilize the grill. Often marinated and usually brined, it’s important to apply some char on marinated shrimp. (Any marinated protein for that matter.) That char is another layer that helps pull this dish into the summer spotlight as the shrimp are tossed into the chimichurri; allowing juices and maillard love to imbue. These attributes also focus regional flavors that can be expected from a San Diego personal Chef.
Not salsa verde
Chimichurri is common in restaurants, and for good reason. Herbs, chile, acidulation, pungent alliums and rich olive oil. But in most restaurants, it’s usually the same green, purée akin to a Mexican verde sauce in terms of look and flavor, and is often underwhelming. My chimi is all done on the board with a knife, allowing layers of flavor to shine instead of muddling together into ambiguity.
Before first bite, nervous doubt can hover in the kitchen. It can feel a little uneasy not choosing your menu, or not knowing what you’re getting for dinner that evening. Especially from a guy you’ve never met. I understand the trepidation, but the method exists for a reason.
Not having a pre-planned menu isn’t based on ego or laziness. It’s about freedom, expression, spontaneity and duty. Freedom to choose foods that are exciting or beautiful. Expression because food is art. Spontaneity to choose new ingredients or switch directions and trust my instincts. Then duty; the duty I have to you, the client. The duty to reward your trust and make sure you’re presented with an amazing product. I guess ego is in there to a point because I don’t want to let you down. Or allow you to feel regretful of not going with a chef that manages things a little more traditionally. Just rest assured: Wherever the party, I’m looking to impress.
Although I reside in La Mesa, the menu listed below was for a La Jolla based client. Because I want people to experience something different. I try to stay playful, for all our benefit.
Gorgonzola wrapped red grapes coated with toasted walnuts and vinaigrette Seared green tomato and seared mozzarella with balsamic/honey arugula Swordfish tikka masala with banana roasted mashed potatoes and za’atar grilled carrot Garlic kale and zucchini salad with roasted tomato, fresh herbs and fried oregano French onion soup over rib-eye “sashimi” with mushroom flauta and a side of grilled rib-eye Toasted almond and coconut macaroon with fresh lemon curd, strawberries and rhubarb
2022 has been a whirlwind. My small covid era parties of 2-4 guests have returned to the normal 6-12 count. With the larger groups of 15-17 back on the coast renting rad houses for supreme parties. Combining that with my kids in little league, I look back and can’t believe summer is upon us. Not much has changed over the years, I still love cooking for private parties and bringing the highlights of each season to the table. Always focused on inspiration and bringing unexpected creativity to every dinner…with a smile.
For instance: The orange sauce in the metal bowl pictured to the left is a roasted honey nut squash vinaigrette that went underneath a celery root, apple and kohlrabi salad with fresh pickled beets. Shown below is Fresh yellow fin sashimi with almond/Fresno chile chimichurri with aligot potatoes.
Courses like these come from taking what the season, market and weather tell me. Menus are not pre-planned so I am never bound to just my thoughts in front of a screen. I can smell, see and touch what I choose before I commit. More to come soon, stay tuned!
We spent the summer getting sun kissed, eating watermelon and grilling. Now the air is crisp, blankets are back strewn over the family room and a warm bowl of soup is a welcome familiar hug.
I’m not gonna wax on but gosh darn…I love me some chill in the air. As a chef that fly’s by the seat of the seasons. There is a big exhale at the end of each one as the new seasons ingredients come into play. Away with the cucumbers and zucchini while welcoming large squashes and sweet root veggies. Stone fruits are now only in jams and fresh pears are sparkling with personality. And of course we can’t forget chili. An October staple in many an American household, ours is no different. I make chili every year for Halloween (just as my mom did), and I have never not made it. It’s never the same and always an usually obscene amount. If it doesn’t get torched that first week using it for breakfast lunch and dinners, then we’re always happy freezing it and revisiting bowl in January.
Thanksgiving-Super bowl is usually a whirlwind for me, there are parties to work and parties to attend. When I’m not doing that I’ll be snuggling down with a righteous bowl of soup and a fire. I hope everyone has a safe, fulfilling and memorable holiday season.
April in San Diego tends to produce spectacular weather. This year is no different; with people consciously getting back to life out of the house, April is shining even brighter than normal.
Although some kids have been in classrooms for awhile, mine are just getting back. Which is a gigantic breath of fresh air. Just like it’s nice to get away from home, it’s nice for the daily separation of kids and parents to resume.
Recently my family ordered in sushi for dinner, (Narumi). It was on point as usual, but it also led me to a fun and unexpected inspiration. For my dinner party the next evening, I landed on a sushi-esque preparation for salad.
Over the years, there has always been an element of pride I take in veggie preparations and salads. My belief is that a positive food memory contains balance. Overlooking those herbivorous courses will take you right out of flavor town and lost down fail sauce river. Veggie rolls of varying concepts have been created over the years, with good success. Not something I do for large parties because it is time consuming. But this one is just fire. Texturally and gustatorily, it weaves in new interest with every bite. Carrot, celeriac and zucchini make up the wrapper, while the filling is turnip, apple, avocado and mixed herbs. Everything comes together with a rich but restrained almond/ginger dressing.
So cheers to Spring and getting back into life. While you’ll most likely only see this salad on this blog page. There are other culinary creations to be conjured for your pleasure…and conjure them, I will.
It started from a Saveur magazine article that blipped through my news feed. I’m a sucker for an epic sandwich, especially one with a cultural anchor somewhere; so I read on. This French/Caribbean masterpiece that found it’s way to Guadalupe is called Bokit. The bread base is nothing new to our culinary world, yeast leavened fry bread has been done before in various parts of the world. I’ve been making different versions of loukamades for a couple decades, but I guess those are closer to doughnuts. Now that I think about it…most fry breads are soda levened and most places don’t fry naan. Regardless…I never made it into a sandwich, and I definitely never made this sandwich. Another magical creation stemming from random ingredient leftovers; a *Musgo if you will. Rutabaga, mint, unripened strawberries, peppers, lettuce, carrot…
My wife was skeptical about the strawberries, but they were essential to the moan inducing creation; as were all the ingredients. This sandwich is a microcosm of my food. Lot’s of unexpected flavors and textures bludgeoning you with pleasure until you have no choice but to close your eyes, let out a moan of ecstasy and try to comprehend the feeling you have been enlightened to. Wondering if what you just experienced was legal.
Summer produce options always makes cooking a little easier. Especially when we get all the stone fruits in the market; dessert becomes a little easier to formulate.
What better produce to get then somewhere local offering high quality at a reasonable price. Jared’s Real Food farm in Lakeside has been our go to farm stand this year.
Earlier this summer I was cooking for groups of 2-6 quite often; as people were looking to celebrate in small groups at home. I even had a couple parties of 10. They rented a house in San Diego to party it up and be on vacation, without actually leaving the house. I being alone am a safer option than any dine in business at this point. The only drawback to my service, (compared to a restaurant), is fancy table ware. Restaurants usually have plates and bowls that are elegant or unique, while I serve with whatever the household supplies. Occasionally someone is set up with fancy pants dishes, but usually there are not enough of the cool ones to serve everyone.
Bellow are a couple luscious dishes that have quit a bit going on. First is a wild boar meatball with grilled and marinated baby eggplant, peeled cherry tomatoes and rutabaga noodles. (Yes, even if you don’t like eggplant or rutabaga…this is gooood). The second pic is a lovely, yet complicated salad of bitter endive, tart rhubarb, sweetened broccolini and peeled fresh loquats.
I think we are all looking forward to whatever the new normal is going to be. Although my actual cooking hasn’t slowed down, who I am currently cooking for has, as my family has been eating very well.
Sooner rather then later, I’ll be back shopping in the markets in some fashion. Practices will change; I imagine I’ll need a mask and removable top to shop before a party. But once I’m at your home, not much will change. I’ll be cooking private dinners for ravenous foodies; which is always great fun. But I love the family vibe and the complications that lie within that type of setting. It’s all fun, like getting a compliment from the grumpy father in-law that proudly “doesn’t like anything”. Or trying to please all the palates for a mutli-generational family of 13. Those successes are just as gratifying as preparing a multi-course fine dining experience.
No matter the occasion, I am excited to bring fresh locally sourced foods into your kitchen. 2020 will end like a flower blooming, and I’ll be here ready to add that flower to a salad…or garnish a soup or something :-)
Lemon Plums have hit the market. A bright, happy version of the classic plum; this will put a twist into any springtime fruit situation you’ve got goin’ on.
I’m a bit of a sucker for new flashy fruits or cute veggies of unusually small size. Plum cobbler is my favorite of all fruit cobblers. Coming across this stone fruit made my dessert planning an easy decision. Ingredients like this plum are a prime example of why planning menu details can be counter productive. Planning food around known ingredients can spoil the opportunity for surprise, creation and invention. Which in turn create excitement, which triggers emotion and helps us hold onto a memory.
While the base of this recipe is old, tried, true, and simple. As in all food, It still has to be done properly. This properly cooked cobbler was course 6 of 6. Served with butter roasted, salted cashews and brown sugar/vanilla whipped cream. It was a lovely end to an awesome dinner.
Cardoon is a late fall thistle that pops up in the grocery store every year. Being a thistle, it’s in the artichoke family, which is the reason we eat and buy the scary looking thing. It has a mild bitterness absent in artichokes, but it’s never the overwhelming on the palate. More of an, “oh, yeah, I see what you’re, talking about.”
For quick and easy artichoke flavor, you only need 20 minutes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While you are waiting for it to heat, prepare the Cardoon. Rinse off any dirt, then slice or peel away the thorns on the edges. Cut the trimmed stalks into 1/2″ slices and dump into the boiling water with a big pinch of salt. Boil for about 5 minutes or until tender. Strain and toss with good salted butter. They are also great in a casserole.