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.

Yes This Works

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Avocado mashed potatoes are coming to a fish dish near you…if I’m cooking.  Avocado mashed potatoes are a healthy and perfectly balanced little side that I’ve been enjoying at my diner parties of late.  The recipe forces itself into stupid simplicity.  Cooked potatoes mashed with kosher salt and a scant 1/3 the amount of avocado…preferably Fuerte.  That’s it.  Anything more other then a few chives takes away the purpose of the mixture; which is an avocado tasting mashed potato.  Also note the room temperature potatoes.  Hot avocado isn’t something I love and it would loose it’s vibrancy if over heated.   Avocado can easily become something very expected/normal/specific, once you start adding ingredients.  Using it as the mashed potato fat with no other flavors allows the avocado to come through the perfectly textured mashed potato.  Any more avocado and you get close to guacamole…as is the addition of lemon or garlic.

This is achiote halibut/avocado mash/baby lotus chimichurri  IMG_1206

Ain’t Nuttin’ But a G Thang

As you probably know, I do mostly small parties.  Occasionally a big party rolls by and I need some help.  For that, I go to my long time friend and cohort, Gina Bishop.  She brought me in on a party recently that was an 80 person luau themed buffet with hors d’oeurves.  ginajoshWe had a blast and worked our tookus’ off, which is always a great combination for good food.  Our styles and skill sets are almost opposite, but we are on the same page with flavor.  Here is the menu we did for that party.  Everything was perfect.

Passed Appetizers:
Maki- fried sweet potato/Mango/cucumber/ sweet soy/ wasabi oil Spicy toro on taro chip
Teriyaki Chicken Satay/ coconut peanut dipping sauce
Glazed Spam/ pickled cucumber/ pineapple
Shrimp scampi with garlic chives
Huli huli chicken Wonton Tacos/dynamite sauce/broccoli slaw Chile/lime macaroons

Dinner Buffet of supreme Hawaiian Deliciousness: Kalua Pig
Plank Grilled pineapple teriyaki salmon
Coconut Rice
Dati Puti vinaigrette coleslaw
Green Salad/ Chili Guava Dressing
Traditional Island Macaroni Salad

Desserts: Traditional haupia with banana
Pina Colada Bread Pudding/ Rum Salted Caramel
Assorted Cookie Bar

I realized a sad truth during the party.  In all these years, I had never referred to her as G.  That’s not like me and I’m disappointed in myself.  That is all.

 

Foie Gras For Mothers Day

Nothing says “I love you Mom”, like re-legalized fattened goose liver :-)

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Seared foie gras/toasted brioche/pear and peach compote/tiny chicken egg.   Yes that egg is not a quail egg but a tiny chicken chicken egg from a fully grown tiny chicken–(picture soon).  Friends with chickens are good friends indeed and it’s always fun to bring new ingredients into peoples homes. This dish was an add on to a Mothers Day brunch I did for a lovely, awesome and entertaining San Diego family.  The menu below was highlighted by a fresh seafood pasta dish that had blue fin sashimi thrown in at the end, ohm nom nom.

French toasts with Canadian syrup, butter, powdered sugar and bacon
Omelettes (shaved ham/Gruyere/mushrooms/shallots/herbs)
Crepes with raspberry sauce and chantilly cream
Seared foie gras/toasted brioche/pear and peach compote/tiny chicken egg
Lobster bisque   
Potato leek soup with fresh bread              
Seafood pasta with fresh pasta
Ice cream profiteroles
Carrot cake bites
Macaroon blondies
Sundae bar

If you are in the San Diego area and looking to procure some foie; Iowa Meats and Siesel’s have it on had for the same price as the interwebz.chickens11258250_10153917345598636_1113829860832960084_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner In The Hills of Rancho Santa Fe

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Went to a fancy shmancy Ranch Santa Fe resort recently to cook for a lovely group of ladies.  It was a 40th birthday party at Rancho Valencia.  This Halibut with herbs was roasted over charred spring onion tops and is perched over English pea shell veloute, sauteed arugula and fresh English peas with lemon and honey aside roasted baby beets and fried purple spring onion.  This little dish was accompanied by several other dishes.  I leave a little mystery to each party depending on what direction the market takes us.  Here are some recent items I’ve done of late.  The first list is plated multi-course while the other is a casual family style menu.

Blue fin Sashimi with turnip tangerine noodles, salted bacon avocado, garlic croutons and fresh aioli
Perfect pork meatball with almond oil poached carrots, laurel roasted crushed potatoes
Grilled baby eggplant and tomato salad (baby eggplants and tomatoes, grilled and marinated)
Duck fat poached baby potatoes with duck broth and chives
Fresh Hawaiian Opah with ricotta gnocchi, porcini broth, gai lan and truffled gremolata
Red and gold beet stack with roasted spring onion, pistachio oil, orange supreme
Pear flan with poached and broiled pear

Apps:
Pickled cucumber, salmon tartare, wasabi peas, togarashi aioli
Buttered radish with sea salt
Avocado toast bites
Mini twice baked potatoes

Dinner:
Local halibut roasted over charred leeks with leek and squash blossom tossed celery root
Duck lumpia with sherrry/soy/truffle/chive dipping sauce
Roasted beets with beef marrow toasted sourdough, espresso walnut cream, and zaatar dusted carrot chips
Mushroom lentils and roasted pearl onions with balsamic/honey arugula
Beurre rouge stuffed pirogi with pepper grilled NY steak and smoked garlic spinach
Chocolate torte, raspberry sauce, freeze dried strawberries and vanilla/cardamom chantilly cream

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Better lighting on the sauce

Aluminum Foil

Aluminium IMG_0843foil. Yes I added an extra i…Saying it like the Brits is delightful. Say it… alu-mini-um; gives it a certain dignity that only the English can extol.

Foil acts as my Mcgyverist safety blanket.  Whether I’m working or camping or wrapping a lovely holiday gift, I can’t imagine a world without it.  A little dramatic I know, but it really is an item I never forget for cooking and camping.  Check out these little bundles of joy we made over Easter weekend.  Meatloaf balls that were easy, fun and all kinds of delicious.  Just wrap ’em tight and throw ’em in the coals.  Give the kiddos some tongs, get yourself a beverage and call dinner…done.       IMG_0844IMG_0845

Just in case you grew up in a black hole and have no idea how to make meatloaf.  You can find a recipe like this, or, wait for my next update which I guess will be a meatloaf recipe :-|  Looking forward to the dessert versions which are chocolate cake cooked in a hollowed out orange and wrapped in foil.

Winner Winner…

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dinner.

Cooked for a bunch of rad ladies from Austin.  They were a Bachelorette party staying at the exact beach condo I cooked in for a Bachelorette party 6 months ago.  Cray.

I don’t do chicken a whole lot for parties.  It’s a work night meat that gets beaten to death; so, except for the occasional force meat or appetizer wings, I just don’t normally go there.  But for this party of 9 that had some dietary requests, I decided to make old, new again.  That’s a special thing about French cuisine.  It’s artful techniques are refined to heighten texture and flavor, delicately.  This somewhat complicated chicken dish is super rich and flavorful but also eats clean and familiar.  No carbs cause this party was hittin’ the club train in an hour and a half and we still had dessert to go.

The whole chicken- Soft boiled egg, truffled carrot, garlic chile brocolini, collard greens, chicken broth, chicken roulade, chicken skin chip
The whole chicken- Soft boiled egg, truffled carrot, garlic chile brocolini, collard greens, chicken broth, chicken roulade, chicken skin chip

We were all having fun so of course the picture was taken without the final garnish or final plate clean up but at least we got it.  As a side note; this was done in a small kitchen with an electric stove top and accompanied by market driven hors d’oeuvres, 2-3 other courses and a plethora of frivolity.

Arrowheads and Water Chestnuts

I know you know what water chestnuts are; they come in  small cans, sliced, quartered or whole. water 1After passing them up for years, I recently picked up some fresh ones at 99 Ranch Market. After fumbling my way through peeling them I just boiled them simply. Wow, much more flavor then what I grew up eating as the crunchy mystery vegetable in my cashew chicken.  When I found this video, I realized I wasn’t missing anything in regards to peeling them, such as blanching or something; you just get after it.  I did find that nipping the tops off and boiling with most of the skin on produced a flavor closer to artichoke.  That flavor was extremely exciting for me since before that, water chestnut flavor was empty.  Added them to salads that were heavy with fresh peas and strawberries.  water 2

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Arrowheads be cray. Very surprised these aren’t common and popular. Steamed or boiled they are a starchier sweet potato/parsnip.  Fried, they are light and wonderfully crisp.  Not only are they tasty, but they grow easily, peel easily and cook easily. (Bullet point of this presentation…they’re easy.) Shaved straight into a fryer, they easily crisp and brown to potato chip perfection. Perfection if you love Pringles…cause they taste just like friggin’ Pringles.  Also known as a Duck Potato, Wapato or Katniss.  Yes Katniss, like the heroine from the moving pictures.

2015…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 unctuousnacho cheese, my new little toy from Modernist Pantry came in the mail.  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.

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Off To A Yummy Year

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Looks good don’t it?  That my friends, was a wonderful bite we had in Oakland, at a place called Hopscotch.  Oyster, uni and salmon roe; it was like taking a bite of clean, buttery ocean.  I just wanted to show that pic because it’s beautiful.  What I wanted to talk about is what I found on my way to a dinner party.  Didn’t really know what the hell I could use ’em in but I knew I’d fugger it out.                                What a fun little fruit.  If you’ve never had ’em, they’re like sour lime caviar.  The pulp is separated into perfect spheres and is quite easy to remove.  I ended up making a “salsa” for some lamb meatballs, the caviar texture and look made it a great citric additive.

blog limeThe one pictured has some pink rolling through but most are clear.  The skin is usable but powerful.lime bag