Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Einkorn, Pea, and Mandarin Orange Salad

And the fun with ancient grains continues!

Einkorn is a grain I first heard about from my friend Maria Speck, the author of a wonderful book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. Her new book, Simply Ancient Grains, will be published next month. Einkorn is such a unique name that I figured it was some sort of exotic grain. But, in fact, it was much more familiar than I'd expected. It's a species of wheat that is truly ancient, in its cultivated state dating back over 10,000 years ago to archeological sites in southern Turkey. In grain form, it is essentially a wheat berry--something I've been cooking with for years.

As one of the earliest cultivated forms of wheat--along with emmer--it can survive in the poorest, dryest of soils. But it faded from popularity. Now it appears to be coming back, thanks to its health properties, which includes a higher percentage of proteins than modern red grains and higher levels of fat, phosphorus, potassium, and beta-carotine.

It also tastes really good. It has a sweet nutty flavor and a marvelously chewy texture, making it terrific for grain salads/sides, stuffing, and cereal. It can also be ground into a flour for baking.

Einkorn is not all that difficult to find. I bought a package (Jovial) at Whole Foods in La Jolla, but you can also find it easily online from a variety of producers and retailers.

Now some people suggest soaking einkorn berries overnight before cooking since the berries are hard and can take a long time to cook. I've never actually bothered with soaking wheat berries and haven't had a problem. But I thought I'd see if it made much difference in the cooking process. What does happen, of course, is that they expand as they soften and absorb the water.

For the Jovial brand of einkorn wheat berries, the instructions say to bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil and add 1 1/2 cups of einkorn, then simmer on low for 30 to 35 minutes. So, what you have is, like rice, a 2-to-1 ratio of water to grain and much shorter cooking time than with regular wheat berries (my experience is that it takes closer to an hour). There was no mention of pre-soaking. With my soaked berries, the time was cut by perhaps five minutes because all the water had been absorbed. So, make of this what you will.

I tried the einkorn in two preparations. First I made a salad filled with citrus and dried figs, sugar snap peas, toasted walnuts, and garbanzo beans. I had cooked up 1 cup of dry einkorn and used 3/4 of that for the salad. The rest I saved for breakfast the following day. I added a little more water to the cooked einkorn, stirred it up, then heated it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. I transferred it to a bowl, added a bit of butter, maple syrup, and more toasted walnuts, along with a splash of milk. It was divine. Einkorn just absorbs any flavor you pair it with and serves it back to you in a nutty, chewy mouthful.

If you're intrigued by the commercial emergence of yet another cool ancient grain, give einkorn a try. And this salad, easy to make, is perfect for a late winter side dish.

Einkorn, Pea, and Mandarin Orange Salad
(printable recipe)

Serves 6

3/4 cup dry einkorn wheat berries

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot bulb, peeled and minced
1/2 cup fresh shelled sugar snap peas
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
6 dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup garbanzo beans
2 mandarin oranges, zested and peeled

3 tablespoons high-quality extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
zest from above

1. Prepare einkorn according to directions on package.
2. While einkorn is simmering, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in saute pan. Add shallots and saute for about one minute. Add the peas and saute for another minute or two to warm. Stir in half the zest and remove from heat. Add to a medium size bowl.
3. Add the walnuts, figs, garbanzo beans, and mandarin orange sections. Be sure to remove as much of the fiberous string from the sections as possible.

4. Whisk together the three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, the sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, and remaining zest. Taste and adjust seasonings.
5. When the einkorn has cooked, remove it from the heat and let it come to room temperature. Stir it up to separate the grains and let the steam escape.
6. Add the cooled einkorn to the rest of the ingredients in the bowl. Add the dressing and mix well. Serve.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Farmers Market Pasta with Pea Tendrils

I usually go to the farmers market to buy odds and ends of things--whatever strikes my fancy. Last Sunday, I went to the Hillcrest farmers market to see what I could gather to make an interesting dinner. The trick was to find that one item to build the meal around.

I found it at Sage Mountain Farms' stall: sugar snap pea tendrils. On a gloomy day that hinted of rain, there were those sweet pea flowers spoke to me of spring and I had to have them, especially since their season is short. Pea shoots and tendrils can be enjoyed raw, chopped in a salad or snacked on, or sauteed. The young stems are crispy, the leaves a bit tart with a hint of pea flavor.

I picked up two bunches and turned around to continue my shopping and saw my friends Tina and Eric of Close to Home pasta. Voila! I had my meal. Pasta with pea tendrils. Nothing fancy or exotic, but the idea felt perfect.

I picked up a couple of pastas: spinach and garlic penne and firecracker garlic fettucine. I can't resist spice or garlic. After consulting with Tina, we decided that the fettucine would pair best with the pea tendrils.

Oh, and then I saw some shelled sugar snap peas at Valdivia farms. I bought a bag of those. Then some butter from Spring Hill Jersey Cheese.

I was done. At home I had some pine nuts and goat cheese--and, garlic and olive oil. Oh, and a lemon. No need to buy those that day.

I'd love to say that it's all I bought, but I was lacking in will power. I picked up a loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread from Prager Brothers and spicy Bitchen' sauce as well. Farmers markets are filled with temptation!

Last night I pulled the meal together. It was simple, but think of the ingredients I was working with!

I don't have a recipe, but here's what I did:

1. Toasted a handful of pine nuts while a pot of water was heating up
2. Removed the flowers from the pea tendrils to keep as garnish
3. Chopped the pea tendrils into bite-size pieces
4. Zested the lemon and minced a few garlic cloves
5. Sauteed the pea tendrils and peas in a combination of butter, olive oil, and garlic, then added some lemon zest and sea salt

6. Removed the peas and tendrils and made the sauce--a bit more butter and olive oil, a bit more sea salt, juice from half the lemon, and the rest of the zest.
7. Added the pasta to the boiling water and let the sauce reduce. Sliced some goat cheese.

That's it. I added the pasta to the pan filled with the sauce and tossed it to coat before adding the mixture to the peas and pea tendrils. I tossed it all together and then added the pine nuts and goat cheese before topping the dish with the flowers. Dinner was on in perhaps 15 minutes. Local, seasonal, fresh. Delicious!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Returning to Ancient Grains with Sorghum

I'm a SoCal gal. So, when I hear the word sorghum, my head immediately pulls up an image of Gone with the Wind. Isn't it some kind of Southern molasses?

Well, yes and no. One type, sweet sorghum, is a tall cereal grain that has, in fact, served as the source of an inexpensive syrup and as feed in the form of the whole plant for animals. But in the U.S. a second, shorter variety is grown for animal feed. And ethanol. And, get this, fencing, pet food, building material, and floral arrangements. Its great quality is that it's drought tolerant (anyone growing it in California?) and very hardy. In fact, it requires a third less water to grow than corn. And that's why, in thirsty parts of the U.S., sorghum is making a comeback. According to United Sorghum Checkoff, in 2013 8.06 million acres of sorghum were planted in the U.S.--primarily in Kansas, Texas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Colorado on dryland areas.

Originating from northeastern Africa, where it's been growing for at least 4,000 years, sorghum spread to the rest of Africa, as well as India and China. It's thought to have been introduced to North America in cargo ships that carried African slaves.

While corn is still king in the U.S., farmers are experiencing greater demand for sorghum and not just because of water scarcity. Because it's an ancient grain and a gluten-free grain, increasingly people are showing a culinary interest in it. It's ground into flour for baking but I have been enjoying the whole grains themselves--which look like pale little ballbearings with a black dot in center.

Sorghum is not difficult to find in San Diego. I found Bob's Red Mill packages of it at Whole Foods. Like any whole grain it's endlessly versatile. Boil it like rice and enjoy it as a side dish. Create risotto with it. Make a hot cereal with it. Or, you can even pop it like popcorn.

I kept it simple just to try it out. The water to grain ratio with sorghum is 3 to 1 and it takes close to an hour to cook. The grains plump up, but they still are small and have a chewy consistency.

I first ate the cooked sorghum with a tomato-based chicken stew. Then I turned the leftovers into a sorghum and cherry tomato salad, basically rummaging through my refrigerator to use ingredients like sliced kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, diced red onion, garbanzo beans, parsley from my garden, currants, and toasted pine nuts. I tossed all of it together in a light vinaigrette I made. Day one it was a solid B. The textures were good--some crunch, some chew. The flavors were, too--sweet, herbaceous, briny, salty, garlicky (from the vinaigrette). But day two it all came together. So, make this a day in advance so the flavors can really meld.

I also heard that sorghum can be popped and thought that sounded like a hoot. So, I pulled out a tall pot and gave it a try. I'd read instructions that you can put the grains in a pot and cover it, shaking the pot over high heat until all the kernels are transformed. But these little guys are so tiny I wasn't convinced I'd hear what was happening inside. They just didn't seem robust enough. And, based on that I also didn't think they jump too high. So, I just used an open pot that was very tall.

My first go round wasn't successful. I added too much olive oil in and they drowned. Just turned brown. So, I emptied the pot, used just the slightest amount of oil to a quarter cup of sorghum and tried again with higher heat. By now the pot was quite hot and the action started immediately. And stirring with a wooden spoon seemed more useful than shaking the pot. The grains won't all pop but even the orphans can be enjoyed without worry of cracking your teeth.

What to do with them? Other than snacking, of course. They make a great garnish. The popped kernels are petite and delicate looking. Use them to top a creamy soup or a platter of roasted vegetables. Add them to a salad. Make little sweet balls (a la popcorn balls) to garnish a dessert. They're just fun!

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

El Borrego's Green Pork Pozole

Under the category of "who knew" falls green pork pozole. I've enjoyed red pozole. I've enjoyed it with chicken. But green? And with pork? That was a humbling and happy discovery I made late last fall while visiting the little City Heights eatery, El Borrego. The broth is rich and herbaceous, thickened with the mandatory hominy. The chunks of pork shoulder are tender and meld beautifully with the broth and the various condiments you can add to the soup--from chicharones and cilantro to sliced cabbage and radishes. It's a meal meant to warm your insides in cold weather--but we're in San Diego so don't wait for a chill to set in. Turn on the AC and enjoy!

I asked owner Rodnia Navarro if she'd teach me how to make the dish and she, in turn, introduced me to her mother, Rosario Sotelo, who is El Borrego's chef. Rosario agreed and we decided to wait until after the new year to get together for a cooking session. By January I felt like that woman in the old Mervyn's commercial, feverishly tapping on the window repeating, "open, open, open."

Well, the day finally arrived and as always, there were the unanticipated discoveries that I'm so excited to share. The  first is that pozole is actually quite easy to make. The greater challenge is finding the ingredients. And that leads to the other discoveries.

Green pozole gets its name from all the marvelous green ingredients it incorporates. The most prominent is pulverized pumpkin seeds. Look for them in Hispanic markets, but don't worry if you can't find them. You can buy the seeds whole and grind them in a good blender. You'll also need epazote, a weed-like herb that is usually associated with cooking black beans. It's pretty easy to find in Hispanic markets. And, you'll want Mexican Pepperleaf, or hoja santa. It's unusual tasting--to me it had a slightly bitter minty flavor. And, you'll want--get this--radish leaves. Yes, finally I've learned of a use for those beautiful leaves we tend to toss when we buy a bunch of radishes. And, Rosario, says, you can clip, wash, drain, and freeze these various leaves.

Clockwise from top left: Hominy, pork shoulder, hoja santa, ground pumpkin seeds

One thing I've heard a few people say about making pozole is that they bought the wrong hominy (which, by the way, is what pozole means). So, above is a photo of what you're looking for--oversized corn kernels, not grits.

The pozole is atypical of the dishes you'll find at El Borrego--because the family is known for their lamb dishes. In fact, it's how they got started. Originally from Acapulco in the Mexican state of Guerrero, Rosario worked as a flight dispatcher for major airlines. Rodnia, with a degree in international studies, worked at Frontera newspaper in Tijuana, where Rosario moved 25 years ago and opened a candy store. A natural cook, she also catered for a maquiladora. Rosario's sister had a convenience store in San Diego and a customer was looking for someone to make barbacoa, a method of slow cooking meat. In central Mexico, that typically means lamb. Rosario took the gig, and discovered that lamb barbacoa was not easy to find in San Diego. In other words, she saw a business opportunity.

Rosario and Rodnia launched a little weekend business in the driveway alongside the convenience store, making use of the sister's licensed kitchen. "Our first weekend we sold two tacos de barbacoa," Rodnia recalls. "Six months later we were selling 600 pounds a week in the driveway."

Customers referred to the irregular eatery as El Borrego, the lamb. "We said, 'huh?' But they told us, 'You are the borrego. You are the lamb,'" Rodnia laughs.

Rosario Sotelo and Rodnia Navarro

For family reasons, the taco stand disbanded, but customers insisted that the duo open their own restaurant. And 10 years ago they did. The first four years went well and they were making plans to expand into other neighborhoods--until the recession hit. So they stayed put and expanded their menu to include what customers off the street were asking for--burritos and quesadillas and other more typical Mexican fare--at least typical to SoCal tastes. It allowed them to survive and now business has been improving as the economy and the neighborhood have improved. But, they're still known for their lamb dishes, including the lamb barbacoa tacos; sopes; and a fabulous quesadilla with squash blossoms, huitlacoche, and lamb. You can also buy lamb barbacoa by weight for parties, with all sorts of condiments included.

The pozole, however, is a family favorite. Throughout Guerrero, including Acapulco, says Rosario, it's traditionally served on Thursdays, or what Rosario notes "Jueves Pozolero." She and her mother naturally started serving it on Thursdays, but have expanded it to include Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays--and rainy days.

El Borrego has held cooking classes in the past and Rodnia is considering launching them again. But in the meantime, she says, "My mom cooks from the heart. We're proud to share our traditions."

And that includes their recipe for green pork pozole.

Green Pork Pozole (Pozole Verde Guerrerense)
from Rosario Sotelo of El Borrego
(printable recipe)
Serves 4 to 6 people


1 pound pork shoulder (can also include bone)
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 quarts water
1 pound can of hominy, rinsed and drained

Mixture 1
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 cloves garlic
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
3 cups chicken broth

Mixture 2
6 ounces pulverized pumpkin seeds
5 tomatillos, skin on and grilled
5 garlic cloves
3 teaspoons oregano
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
2 jalapeño chiles, seeded
1 Mexican pepperleaf (hoja santa), about the size of a corn tortilla
3 ounces epazote
2 iceberg lettuce leaves
12 radish leaves
2 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon vegetable oil


1. Cut the pork into two-inch cubes. Add to a pot with water and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Add the ingredients for Mixture 1 to a blender. Blend thoroughly.

3. At the 30-minute cooking point for the pork, strain just the liquid from Mixture 1 into the pork pot and discard the solids. Twenty minutes later add the hominy. Check the meat. It should be almost cooked. Throughout the cooking process, periodically skim the scum from the top of the soup.

4. Add the ingredients to Mixture 2 to a blender. Blend thoroughly. Heat a skillet and add the vegetable oil. Add the blended Mixture 2 to the pan and saute over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

5. About 10 minutes before the meat is tender, gradually add the sauteed paste to the pork pot and cook for 10 more minutes. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings.

6. Serve the pozole with a variety of condiments, including sliced radishes, chicharones, sliced cabbage, cilantro, chopped onions, slices of avocado, lime slices, dried red pepper flakes, dried oregano, crispy tostadas, and mini roll taquitos.

El Borrego is located at 4280 El Cajon Blvd.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why Aren't You Using Chili Threads?

I always learn a lot when I attend Collaboration Kitchen at Catalina Offshore Products, but it's the small unusual stuff that I'm exposed to that tickles me the most. Last month's Collaboration Kitchen featured Cafe Chloe's new chef Devon Junkin and he created a variety of wonderful, very accessible seafood dishes for the crowd. There's not one that I can't see myself making in my kitchen, from the delightful Hamachi Crudo with its crunchy apple and radish slaw to the divine Nicoise Salad and Bouillabaisse. But the folks I was surrounded by did double and triple takes when we were brought the Seabass with Vegetable Nage. Yes, the dish was warming and packed with lovely flavors--but what we were all spellbound by were the skinny long red threads perched atop the seabass filet. Chili threads.

All of us had to have them. Had to know where we could get them. Very simply, they were the coolest garnish ever.

I did a bit of research on them and found that they're Korean in origin so I got in touch with my friend Debbie Lee, an L.A.-based Korean-American chef and the author of Seoultown Kitchen. Debbie said, "Oh, you mean Silgochu! Yes, they are basically shredded from the pepper and dried. They can be very spicy as well. I use them to enhance soups, stews, and often use inside my Jeon items to add color and a kick of heat. My grandmother put them in her celebratory mung bean pancakes as well." (Jeon-style refers to dishes that are dredged in flour, then dipped in egg batter and fried.)

The threads can be found at Specialty Produce, but also at Korean markets and online spice shops. I bought a bag of them at Zion Market  for less than three dollars. They aren't crispy--more like elongated saffron threads. I tried toasting them, but they burn quickly. Toasting brought out some pepper aroma and a bit of heat, but I don't think you need to toast them and Debbie said she doesn't.

I added the chili threads to a luxurious cauliflower soup my friend Candy Wallace gave me. They added color and a little bite at the back of the throat to the creamy texture. They make even scrambled eggs look ravishing. I even found a delightful sounding recipe for warm rosemary olives with chili threads on the blog Feasting at Home. You can get even more ideas on Pinterest.

But, how about enjoying Devon Junkin's lovely Seabass with Vegetable Nage? It's a perfect cold-weather meal, thanks to the sauteed savoy cabbage and that dreamy light broth that makes the nage.

Seabass with Vegetable Nage
from Devon Junkin of Cafe Chloe
(printable recipe)

Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 pounds seabass filets, skin on
1 savoy cabbage, sliced
3 yellow onions, 2 of them sliced
2 turnips, sliced
2 celery roots, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1/2 pound butter
1 cup white wine
Chili threads

For the nage:
Sweat down two onions, the turnips, celery root, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns in two tablespoons butter. Add wine and reduced by half. Add one gallon of water, bring the nage to a simmer, and cook for one hour. Season and strain through a chinois. Slowly whisk in all but two tablespoons of the remaining butter.

Pre-heat oven to 350° F.

For the cabbage:
Cut out the cor and cut the cabbage into long strips. Julienne the remaining onion and sweat down in two tablespoons butter. Add the cabbage and sweat down. Add one cup of the nage, season, and cook until the cabbage is tender.

Sear the seabass, skin side down, until crispy. Flip and finish in the oven.

In a shallow bowl, add the cabbage and nage. Top with sea bass and garnish with chili threads.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

See How Easy It Is to Make Cueva Bar Empanadas

Who doesn't love a hand pie? Empanadas are the quintessential savory hand pie. I've enjoyed them with a flaky pastry crust but I really love these empanadas wrapped in house-made flour tortillas by Chef Osvaldo Blackaller for his University Heights place, Cueva Bar. And, lucky us, he taught me how to make them.

Originally from a small high desert city called Monclova in Mexico, three hours south of Laredo, Texas, Chef Oz, as he refers to himself, has been cooking since he was a kid, although he pursued a more conventional career path in human resources. In college he befriended a young woman from Virginia who set him up with her twin sister. After a long distance relationship, he moved to Virginia to be with Joanna, making friends in his new country by cooking for them. Eventually Oz and Joanna married and moved to San Diego. Determined to make his passion his business--and with Joanna's support--they opened Cueva Bar in October 2010. The menu is a reflection of his Mexican roots, but also sprinkled with flavors from Argentina and the American South on up to the broader East Coast.

Among his featured dishes are empanadas. The three he introduced me to are chicken with gorgonzola, brisket and sauteed onions, and chorizo with smashed potatoes. It was hard to pick a favorite. Each was packed with intriguing flavors with moist, tender fillings and a crispy pastry. I couldn't choose which I wanted to feature so we've got the recipes for all three fillings, but first let's address making the dough. It's not at all difficult, but as I experienced, the more you make these the better they'll come out--and whatever you don't use for the empanadas can be enjoyed as quesadillas or soft tacos. They freeze well, too.

Cueva Bar Worldwide Empanadas
from Chef Osvaldo Blackaller
(printable recipe)

Yield: 20 tortillas

5 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounces sparkling water (more or less, depending on how the dough comes together)

1. Mix the flour, salt, and shortening until flakes of shortening are formed.

2. Add 10 ounces of sparkling water and start kneading until its almost integrated. Touch for consistency and, if necessary, add more water slowly until the dough comes together--neither too moist or too dry. Don't overknead.
3. Cover dough and let rest for at least an hour before using.

4. When you're ready to roll out the dough, pull out individual pieces about the size of a golf ball. Smooth it into a small disc and gently fold over the edges to create one smooth side. Then roll out the disc to the size of a corn tortilla--about eight inches. 
5. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
6. Add 2 ounces (or 2 1/2 tablespoons of the filling) to the center of the tortilla. Fold one side over the filling and crimp the edges to seal. Brush the top with either an egg wash (2 eggs, beaten) or a blend of chili oil and olive oil. Cut slits on the top to let the steam escape while baking.

7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

And here are recipes for each of the fillings. Notice that for the chicken empanadas, Chef Oz creates an upright empanada in the style of a rooster's coxcomb. For the chorizo, he shapes the empanadas into bull horns. Only the brisket has the traditional side shape with crimping.

Chicken Filling for Empanadas

4 pounds boneless chicken breast
6 cups finely diced onion
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon curry powder
2 cups water
1 cup vinegar

1. Prepare chicken marinade by mixing all spices and vinegar.
2. Grind chicken breast or finely dice.
3. Mix spice marinade with ground chicken. Marinate for 30 minutes before cooking
4. Brown onions.
5. Add chicken and cook on medium heat.
6. Stir thoroughly and add water.
7. Turn heat to medium low and let simmer until 90 percent of the juice is reduced.
8. Remove from heat and let cool before using it for empanadas.

Braised Beef Brisket Filling for Empanadas

For marinade
4 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix all dry ingredients and olive oil together.

5-pound brisket
Brisket marinade
2 cups red wine

Rub brisket and store overnight

The next day:
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
2. Add wine to brisket. Place brisket in oven and oven sear for 15 minutes.
3. Turn heat down to 350 degrees and braise for 4 1/2 hours. Turn the oven off and allow brisket to sit in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove brisket from oven and shred the meat for the filling.

Beef Chorizo Monclova Filling for Empanadas

Chorizo Spice Marinade
4 Tablespons of salt
20 Guajillo Peppers
16 Ancho Peppers
1 cup of white vinegar
6 tablespoons of paprika
16 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons dry marjoram
2 teaspoons ground, toasted coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dry thyme

1. Place peppers in low boiling water for 30 to 40 minutes, or until soft.
2. Grind all spices and herbs together.
3. Discard about 80 percent of the water from peppers and blend peppers.
4. Strain the pepper blend to get rid of all seeds.
5. Place smooth blended pepper mix back in blender, add vinegar, spices, and garlic. Puree until smooth. Taste spice level and adjust accordingly.
7. Cover and set aside until ready to use.

To make chorizo:

Chorizo spice marinade above
5 pounds ground beef

Mix spice marinade with ground beef until is well blended. Allow to cure for 2 days before using.

Cueva Bar is located at 2123 Adams Ave. in University Heights.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pickled Beets with Shallots or What I Did for Love

I hate beets. My family knows it. My friends know it. So do many chefs in San Diego.

And yet I made pickled beets over the weekend.

So, why should you trust me with a pickled beets recipe? Because I made them for my dad. He loves beets and asked me to make pickled beets for him. And, well, I love my dad. So, of course, I made them.

I scoured cookbooks and online recipes for something with simple flavors--nothing fancy or exotic. These days he prefers the basics. Cloves and cinnamon? Out. Tarragon? Out. The more I read, the more variations on a theme I saw. I could boil them or roast them. Put them in the refrigerator to let the brine penetrate over days or use a hot water bath to sterilize and can them. So many options.

So, here's what I finally decided on. Roasting root vegetables is always a good thing, so I trimmed the stems (keeping the beet greens for my mom and a neighbor to enjoy), then rubbed the beets in olive oil, and roasted them with large shallots.

I made a simple brine with white wine vinegar, sugar, salt, a couple of bay leaves, and yellow mustard seeds.

I washed a couple of quart jars in very hot soapy water, filled them with cut up beets and shallots and poured the boiled brine over them. After sealing the jars with the lids and screw rings, I put the jars in the fridge for a few days.

That's it. The toughest part--aside from red-stained fingers and living with the aroma of roasted beets--was peeling the roasted beets. The skins don't uniformly just slip off, unlike what many recipes will tell you. Keep a paring knife on hand to deal with the pieces of skin that simply won't budge. And, by the way, the paper towel rubbing method wasn't effective either.

Ultimately, it was no big deal. The beets got peeled and everything else was ridiculously easy. And, hopefully, Dad--and Mom--will be happy.
Pickled Beets with Shallots on Punk Domestics

Pickled Beets with Shallots
(printable recipe)
Yield: 2 quarts

For Roasting Beets
4 pounds red beets
3 large shallots, peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cups white wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
4 tablespoons kosher salt

Pre-heat the oven to 400°. Trim tops of beets to one inch. Save the greens for a saute, soup, or salad. Trim the root. Rub each beet and the shallots with olive oil and place in heavy duty aluminum foil. Cover with more foil and roast for 40 minutes or until the beets are easily pierced through. Remove from heat and let cool enough so you can handle them with your hands.

Remove the stem and skin. Cut into bite-size chunks. Arrange in a clean jar with the shallot pieces.

Mix together the brine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Strain the liquid as you pour it over the beets in each jar. Place the lid on each jar and tighten the screw rings. Refrigerate three to seven days before serving.

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