Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Himitsu Appetizers

Long ago and far away my parents introduced me to Japanese food. This actually would be in Los Angeles back in the '60s, when pretty much only the Japanese ate Japanese food, dining in Little Tokyo downtown. My folks, though, were into what at the time would be considered adventurous eating and wanted to expose us kids to foods and people of different cultures. There were no sushi bars back then; instead there were tempura bars--and that's where we went in Little Tokyo. The concept was similar. You'd sit at the counter and in the refrigerated cases in front of you would be vegetables and shrimp. You'd select what you wanted and your choices would be dipped in batter and then fried in what to me back then was a ginormous wok filled with oil. And then you'd be presented with your meal and the accompanying dipping sauce. It was so marvelous I remember it all these decades later.

Now, of course, L.A. and San Diego and cities and towns across the world are filled with sushi bars--and tempura (although tempura bars appear to be history). In San Diego, the most revered and traditional sushi bar is probably Sushi Ota in Pacific Beach. And that's where Japanese chef Mitsu Ahara went to work about 17 years ago. He grew up in a beachside town outside of Tokyo and came to San Diego in 1995 at age 18--not because he dreamed of cooking here but because he was a surfer. He eventually found his way to Sushi Ota and found a mentor in Mr. Ota, as he refers to him. Ahara began as a dishwasher and progressed to prepping vegetables, taking leftovers home to practice. Mr. Ota, he said, taught him everything--especially that quality was most important above all and that you had to take care of the food.

"If there's quality, people will come back," he recalled Mr. Ota telling him. And, while most of us think service and delivery of the food is most important because that's what we see, Ahara was emphatic that instead it's what happens before we get there that counts. "Seventy to eighty percent of what is most important in the process is prep," he told me.

And that's what I found him doing when I came for a visit to Himitsu, his month-old restaurant in La Jolla. That precious time in the afternoon is spent fabricating the fish. In this case, it was tuna. Ahara and his crew at any given time work with 15 varieties of seafood, including local species: lobster, live shrimp, sea bass, and sea urchin. About 60 percent of his fish comes from Japan. One of his cooks made sure to tell me that Ahara uses every last bit of every fish that comes in, not just for customers but also for family meals for the staff. Even the head and attached skeleton are fried and served as a garnish on one of his dishes. In fact, I saw that when I ate there a couple of weeks before.

At Sushi Ota, Ahara eventually progressed from vegetable prep to tempura making, and then, finally,  sushi. The skills he learned from 17 years with Mr. Ota he took with him--with Mr. Ota's encouragement and blessing--to his new place. Now he is the star behind the sushi bar, creating a finely honed show, filled with delicate finesse, for the eight guests at the bar (there are an additional 22 seats in the patio). The evening I was there, my friend and I had him prepare his omakase menu--chef's choice--and were fed sublimely fresh fish, both nigiri and sashimi--and had a delightful plate that reflects his interest in Mexican fusion: Braised Pork Belly over Miso Mole Sauce, Cauliflower, Asparagus. 

From left, bonito flakes, shichimi pepper, chile pepper threads
For me, a night out enjoying Japanese food wouldn't be complete without snacking on edamame or shishito peppers. Ahara shared with me his simple preparations of both. These are dishes you can easily make at home, along with sushi rolls. Now these aren't full recipes with measurements, just ingredients and directions, but you should be able to pull them off without a sweat. You can find the ingredients at markets like Mitsuwa, Nijiya, and Maruki--all in the Convoy District.

Spicy Edamame

Shichimi pepper (spicy, 7-ingredient Japanese seasoning blend)
Chile pepper threads
Slice of lime

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Add edamame. When they start to float to the surface, remove and drain.

Place the edamame in a bowl. Toss with a sprinkling of shichimi pepper. Place in a serving bowl and top with chili pepper threads. Serve with a slice of lime.

Shishito Peppers

Shishito peppers
Sesame oil
Teriyaki sauce
Ponzu sauce
Bonito flakes

Turn on broiler. In an oven-proof skillet add shishito peppers and drizzle sesame oil over them. Put under the broiler to char. After about 2 minutes, pull out and flip the peppers. Put back under the broiler for another minute.

Mix together the teriyaki and ponzu sauces in 1-to-1 ratio. Pour sauce into the serving bowl. Place shishito peppers over the sauce. Top with a pinch of bonito flakes and serve.

Himitsu is located at 1030-G Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla. 

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Herringbone's Sticky Toffee Pudding

I can just picture you right now, sitting at your patio table, thrilled to have a sweatshirt on because, you know, it's a little chilly in the shade right now, even with your cup of coffee. Even with your glass of pinot. You've got a notepad out with your favorite pen, because while you could do this on your iPad or phone, somehow it's just easier to think by writing. And what you're writing is your Thanksgiving menu and shopping list.

I'm still trying to find mine from last year, which I purposely kept because it was so hugely helpful to me--each dish with the ingredients listed and then a timetable for preparing everything. For an organized person I'm so annoyed with myself for not being able to find it--but I will! Unless puppy Casper ate it (nah, I can't blame him for it going missing).

Anyway, back to Thanksgiving list making. Along with the pies you're undoubtedly making, I have a suggestion for an alternative--or added--dessert: Sticky Toffee Pudding. I got to watch Herringbone's executive pastry chef Becky Kastelz make this last week and not only is it an easy dish to make, it is utterly sublime. Because, of course, I didn't just watch her make it, I ate a serving of it while chatting with her. The cake isn't dense like a fruit cake. It's soft and warmly sweet, thanks to brown sugar and honey dates that soaked with the baking soda, sugars, and butter in boiling water. And, yes, to the toffee sauce that soaked into the cake--more brown sugar and butter...and heavy cream. Pair it with the house-made orange almond ice cream and some candied almonds? Well, you shoulda been there.

Kastelz comes to San Diego from Texas, first near Dallas, where she was raised, and then Galveston, where she attended A&M University (yes, they also have a campus there), earning an education degree in marine science. When she figured out that marine science-type jobs were limited she decided to go to culinary school and studied European pastry at Houston Community College. Kastelz then launched her pastry career at local hotels before starting her own restaurant, Speculoos (named for the cookie). It was a breakfast and lunch cafe, but she also made wedding cakes. Unfortunately, Speculoos literally went under water--literally 10 feet under water--in 2008 with Hurricane Ike. So, she returned to hotel pastry jobs.

Four years ago, though, she moved to San Diego when her husband--also in hospitality--was transferred to a new job with Wyndham Hotels. And Kastelz eventually found her way to Herringbone. For the past year and a half, she's been supervising the dessert and pastry program at all the Herringbones and Searsucker. And, on occasion, still makes wedding cakes.

But right now, on the menu because it's such a perfect fall and winter dish, is this Sticky Toffee Pudding. One thing she does, which I've never seen, is plate it on a sweet potato puree, made with cinnamon, butter, and maple syrup. It's a family recipe that's so good she decided to include it in the dish.

One of the reasons why this dessert is such a great choice for a holiday meal is that so much of it can be made in advance and then plated when it's time to serve. You can even serve it family style on a platter.

Kastelz made this version gluten-free, using Cup4Cup gf flour (something you can purchase from  Amazon or Williams-Sonoma), but you can also go for the gluten with all-purpose flour. She also suggests making the cake batter at least a day in advance because, she said, it "settles down." You can also bake the cakes two to three days before you need them. And, you'll notice, Kastelz slices off the round top of the cake for serving (enjoying the scraps to snack on). You can bake them in conventional muffin tins or buy silicon cylinder molds, which is what Kastelz uses.
The sweet potato puree also isn't really time sensitive. It has a refrigerator shelf life of up to seven days. And toffee sauce, too, can be stored in the fridge for up to a week (but you'll have to reheat it before using). And, if you can resist noshing on the candied almonds, they, too, can hang out for awhile. To make them, just toss raw almonds in egg whites, then granulated sugar, spread on a sheet pan and toast at 300 degrees until just brown.

The recipes are straight forward. Plating is, too. First spread some sweet potato puree on a plate. Then place the cake on the puree. Pour the extra toffee sauce over and sprinkle the candied almonds. Kastelz also likes to add meringue kisses and the powder from crushed meringues. Then serve with ice cream.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
from Becky Kastelz of Herringbone
(printable recipe)
Serves 12

Date Toffee Cakes
Yield: 12 cakes

1 1/4 cups honey dates, pitted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoon (packed) brown sugar
12 ounces boiling water
1 egg + 1 yolk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons Cup4Cup or all-purpose flour

1. Place the dates in a bowl, add baking soda, butter, and sugars.
2. Bring water to a boil, then pour over ingredients in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 20-30 minutes to soften the dates.
3. Place the mixture into a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Pour into a bowl.
4. Whisk in the eggs followed by salt. Sift the flour and whisk well into the batter. For best results, refrigerate batter overnight.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a muffin tin well with non-stick spray. Divide batter evenly into 12 muffins, about 2/3-full.
6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then gently remove.
7. While cakes are baking, prepare Toffee Sauce. After baking, soak each warm cake in sauce for about 30 seconds.
8. Place cake on serving plate; top with more Toffee Sauce if desired. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Toffee Sauce

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch kosher salt

1. Combine butter, sugar, vanilla into a medium saucepot and bring to a boil.
2. Add cream and return to a boil for 30 seconds. Add a pinch of salt.
3. Use immediately, or store in refrigerator up to 1 week.  Reheat before use.

Sweet Potato Puree
Yield: about 1 1/2 pints

2  pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¾ teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup medium brown sugar, packed
½ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Place sweet potatoes and lemon juice in a medium/large saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 5-10 minutes, or until just barely fork tender.
2. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until butter and sugar are melted; set aside.
3. Once potatoes are done, remove from heat and drain potatoes; place in a 9x13” baking dish.  Pour sugar mixture over the potatoes and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.
4. Let cool to room temperature, then puree in a food processor or blender for several minutes until completely smooth.  Scrape down occasionally as needed to ensure the entire mixture is smooth.

*Note: the sweet potato puree has a shelf life of seven days. Do not freeze.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pisco's Lomo Saltado

Back in the beginning of September I wrote about chef Emmanuel Piqueras and his Liberty Station restaurant Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria and shared the recipes for two of his ceviches. With the weather cooling I want to now share his Lomo Saltado dish--an intriguing stir fry beef tenderloin that melds Peruvian flavors with Cantonese influences.

As Piqueras explained, Peru is a melting pot of food--a mix of Spanish, Italian, Cantonese, and Japanese styles and techniques that reflect the country's unique history. Piqueras considers himself a teacher to Americans, sharing Peru's history through its cuisine. Lomo Saltado is a popular traditional Peruvian dish--yes, stir fried beef tenderloin cook with vegetables and served with French fries or potato wedges on rice.

In this dish, Piqueras features soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, and garlic to form the sauce that is its  base. That's made in the blender and reserved. Using canola oil, he stir fries seasoned tenderloin pieces, then adds red onion, tomatoes (have you ever stir fried tomatoes?), and a jalapeño. All this is blended with that salty, sour traditional sauce and topped with scallions and perhaps a fried egg. It's easy to prepare and the brightness of the stir fried vegetables really set off the richness of the tenderloin.

Lomo Saltado
From Emmanuel Piquera of Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria
(printable recipe)
Serves 4 to 6

Canola oil for frying potatoes
8 ounces of potato wedges1 ounce of canola oil
1.5 pounds beef tenderloin cut into 1/2 inch thick
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 large red onion, cut into strips
3 Roma tomatoes, cut into strips
1 jalapeño chili, seeded and julianned
6 ounces of lomo saltado sauce*
Scallions cut into strips for garnish
Optional: fried egg

*Lomo saltado sauce:
In a blender mix 2 ounces of low sodium soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce, 1 ounce of white wine vinegar, 2 ounces of water, 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, and one clove of garlic.


Fill a large pot with oil or use a fryer and bring oil to 375 degree F. Carefully add potato wedges in small batches and fry for 5 to 7 minutes until golden brown. Remove and let drain on paper towels.

Season the tenderloin pieces with kosher salt and black pepper. 

In a wok with canola oil stir fry the tenderloin pieces and cook until golden over high  heat, add the red onion strips stir fry for two minutes, add the tomato strips cook for one minute, add the chilies, then add the lomo saltado sauce and mix everything together in high heat for one more minute.

Serve in a shallow plate, add the fried potato wedges and garnish with the scallions strips and fried egg if you like. For a traditional Peruvian experience, serve with white rice.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Nourished: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love with Recipes

Periodically I get contacted by PR people asking me to read and write about a book by their client. Usually they're not of much interest to me for one reason or another. But when I was pitched a new book by Lia Huber that got my attention. I had met Lia many years ago in San Francisco at a BlogHer convention. We also have a friend in common, my former Copley News Service editor Alison Ashton, who became Lia's editor at Cooking Light and continuing collaborator at Lia's business, Nourish Evolution, a subscription-based real food community and online menu planner.

Nourished: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love is not a cookbook, although every chapter ends with an irresistible recipe--from Crab Ravioli in Saffron Lemon-Butter Sauce and Grilled Pork en Adobada with Cebollitas to a simple Zucchini Frittata and Gnocchi with Mushrooms, Lobster, and Caramelized Corn. It is, rather, a memoir of a woman who took the long road to find happiness and her place in the world, much of which has revolved around food and cooking. Traveling with her (and there is a lot of travel) through 20 years of her life journey was mouth watering, yes, but also an immersion into a life perhaps more adventurous than any of ours, but filled with the same sorrows and joys, discoveries of the spirit and heart, and ultimately a coming to as much peace and solace as anyone can be rewarded with in a life well lived.

Huber, Nourish Evolution's founder and CEO, is a food writer and recipe developer. Raised in Connecticut, she launches the book in 1991 in Corfu, Greece, where as a college student on break she falls in love with Alexi, whom she describes as a "tall, dark Greek man with mischievous eyes." Huber digs into Corfu with loving descriptions of the food she discovered--the smokey fish roe dip, luscious lemony scented chicken, and the fluffy mass of boiled potatoes with smashed cloves of garlic and green-yellow olive oil that is skordalia (recipe included). She fully intends to marry Alexi but returns to the States for a cousin's wedding and to finish school. The ambitious American college student, winning awards for her writing, ultimately breaks off the engagement and so begins a new chapter in her life, what she calls a "voraciousness for experience" that sent her to live in Manhattan--and then to Christianity. Not long after she meets Christopher, who would become the love of her life and partner in her travels and soul searching.

Nourished wends its way through Huber's adventures and travails. She suffers from unresolved health issues, challenges in her marriage, challenges in the travels she and Christopher (and their Rhodesian Ridgeback Talisker--yeah, there's that we also have in common) take trying to find their place in the world. It takes them from New York to San Francisco, where she launches her food writing and recipe testing career, to Costa Rica, making the 8,000-mile journey in their "gringo mobile" Rex, their Ford Explorer. They spend time in Italy and ultimately, they make their way to California's wine country, where they endure a long, torturous process of foreign adoption and then the joys and angst of parenthood.

Throughout Huber's travels, both geographical and emotional, is always food. She and Christopher cook their way through Anne Willan's Look and Cook: Asian Cooking. They discover a rich, tangy asado de boda stew in Zacatecas, a dried beef machaca in a Chihuahua truck stop, and in Cuernavaca she learns how to make sautéed zucchini flowers stuffed into poblano chiles that are then wrapped in puff pastry topped by a creamy cilantro sauce and pomegranate seeds.

While many readers may find her struggle with and solace in God and Christianity just as rewarding as her culinary evolution, that part was not as resonant with me since I'm a non-religious Jewish woman. But I could feel her pain and appreciate her quest for answers and hope. She's that good a writer.

In fact, I loved her vivid descriptions of her cooking experiences. I could see in my mind's eye what she saw. In Italy, taking a pasta-making lesson, Huber describes her instructor Francesca as "nearly as round as the ball of pasta dough sitting in front of her..." She goes on to describe making pasta sheets:

"She cut the giant ball into several smaller pieces and covered them with a dish towel. She dusted the worktable with the flour as if she were feeding pigeons, and picked up a giant rolling pin longer than a baseball bat. 'Matarello,' Francesca said."

Nourished takes us with Huber over a 20-year span and ultimately it's a joyful, yes, nourishing ride. Read the memoir for its grace and honest reflections of a life filled with bumps, questions, and ultimately love. Keep the book for the recipes that provide delicious markers for each period of her life.

Frijoles de Lia
from Lia Huber

Frijoles de olla are a traditional dish of brothy beans cooked in an earthenware pot (an olla) that are hearty enough to be a meal in and of themselves. The recipes I followed in Costa Rica—from Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless—followed a simple equation of beans, lard, an onion or garlic, and epazote. I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few more goodies that I’ve appended on over the years. 

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large poblano chiles, seeded and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander 2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons ground ancho chile
11/2 cups dried black beans, rinsed and soaked overnight (or fast  soaked in a pressure cooker)
Sea salt

In a large, heavy  bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium  high heat. Add the onion, poblano chiles, and garlic and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden brown. Add the cumin, coriander, oregano, and ancho chile and sauté for 1 minute, until fra grant. Add the beans, a generous pinch of salt, and 6 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 11/2 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until there’s a mix of whole beans and creamy mashed beans.

Serves 10 to 12

Reprinted from NOURISHED: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love (with Recipes) COPYRIGHT © 2017 by Lia Huber. Published by Convergent, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cultivating Conversation

Are you passionate about fresh, seasonal, local food--enjoyed in a serene garden setting while engaged in thought-provoking conversation about sustainable food systems?

Then you're going to love "Cultivating Conversation: A Dine and Learn Series" taking place at Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center on October 28 from 5 to 8 p.m.

I have a special affinity for Olivewood Gardens. As some of you may recall, I used to be a volunteer cooking teacher there, helping kids learn how to make delicious, nutritious food straight from the garden outside the kitchen.

Since those early days, Olivewood Gardens has expanded its programs. Not only do they still offer the School Gardens Workshops I was involved in, they also have gardening classes, cooking classes for adults in both English and Spanish as well as for kids, Mommy and Me, and Girl Scout Badge Workshops.

How do they fund these community-based programs? Well, they get grants for one thing. And there's their annual Seedling Soiree fundraiser.

And now there's Cultivating Conversation.

Cultivating Conversation is described by Olivewood Gardens at a dine and learning series that takes place in their outdoor garden setting. A farm-to-table dinner will be prepared by chef Jeff Rossman, owner of Terra American Bistro. Trish Watlington, an Olivewood Gardens board member and owner of The Red Door in Mission Hills, who happens to raise produce and chickens on her property which contribute to the restaurant's ingredients, will lead the discussion. She said it will be framed around what we can each do to support fair and local food through simple and more complex choices, why even bother, and what makes our San Diego community unique in its ability to make these choices.

"I'm going to start the conversation with my own stories from childhood and being a young adult and how they set the stage for my passion for farming, food as community, and social justice," Watlington said. "I can share some restaurant stories that illustrate some of the challenges of sourcing local. Then we'll talk about what each member of the audience can do, what's in it for them, and why this region is so special in how it allows us to make good choices."

Tickets are $75 a person and can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets. All proceeds will support the organization's garden-based nutrition education programs.

Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center is located in National City at 2525 N Ave.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Trust's Chicken Liver Mousse

Ever since I tried Trust's Chicken Liver Mousse, a luscious buttery spread with a hint of herbs and sweet liqueurs, delivered via a slice of grilled sourdough levain and accompanied by a tangy mostarda and sliced radishes, I knew I wanted to learn how to make it.

Well, it took awhile. After all chef/owner Brad Wise was about to open a new restaurant, Hundred Proof. But I finally got my chance in September and got Wise's tutorial on how to make this classic dish.

Wise, who's from South Jersey, has been cooking since he was 12 in pizza kitchens and eventually as lead line cook in a fine dining restaurant. He attended culinary school and came out to San Diego with some buddies at the age of 21, some 11 years ago. He started out at JRDN at Tower 23, served as executive chef at The Padre Hotel and most recently was executive chef at Belmont Park's Cannonball & Draft.

Wise may have spent time in fine dining but his passion is for rustic contemporary American. "It may not look great on a plate, but it's what I really like to prepare. I'm a wintertime type of guy," he said.

That, of course, explains the Chicken Liver Mousse, which has refined flavors but he serves in a very rustic style. The process for making it is very simple. And pretty quick. But you have to build in the time to prep the ingredients. You've got to soak the chicken livers in milk overnight. You'll need to slice shallots, stem and mince herbs, zest a few lemons, and cube a lot of butter. But once you do that, then the cooking process takes about 10 minutes. Oh, and then you need to let the creamy mixture sit in the fridge for at least five hours to reach the right consistency. Then before serving, take it out and let it sit at room temperature to soften.

Trust's Chicken Liver Toast is one of their most popular dishes--what Wise called a "portion of a charcuterie board in a bite." He said they make about 2 to 3 gallons a week, using five to nine pounds of liver. For this recipe, you'll only need one pound--and to be honest, once I made it I could see it could feeds scores of people, making it a perfect dish to prepare for a large party.

The directions are straightforward, but I have a couple of tips from Wise. A key one comes while you're sautéing the livers and shallots. You want the livers to be thoroughly cooked but not overcooked--think medium rare in a steak with a pink, not raw, center. You accomplish this by slicing into the larger livers as soon as you think they're almost done. If they're still on the red and mushy side, keep cooking--but remove the small ones so they won't overcook. Keep testing until they reach that sweet spot.

The next tip has to do with seasoning. Wise adds a good amount of salt to this dish. Consider what you'll be serving the mousse with. Ideally, you'll include a sweet/tart preserve, perhaps whole-grain mustard, and gherkins or cornichons--and the mousse will be served on a hearty bread or cracker. They all function as a way to add flavor, yes, but also cut the intensity of the fat. With that in mind, you'll want to punch up the mousse with more salt than you might otherwise think is appropriate. I found, as he salted, stirred, tasted, and added more, that early in the seasoning exercise the mousse seemed too salty. Then he actually added more, stirred and gave me a taste, and somehow the saltiness gave way to a more full-bodied flavor.

Finally, this is a dish you can prepared days in advance. Wise's trick here is to prepare it, then melt some more butter and pour it over the finished mousse in its container or serving dish. Refrigerate and then before serving, remove the congealed butter lid from the top and toss it. The cold butter will seal the mousse.

As for serving it, you can see here how Wise prepares the dish. He smooths the mousse over the grilled levain and slices it, then strategically spoons on mostarda and places thin radish slices and chervil on top. Then he finishes it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

You can also pour the mousse into a concave serving dish and place little bowls of preserves, mustard, and pickles nearby. Slice up a sourdough baguette or levain and let it sit out all day to get just a little stale (another Wise tip) and serve that with the mousse.

Trust's Chicken Liver Mousse 
(printable recipe)
From Chef Brad Wise
Yield: 4 cups

1 pound chicken livers
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 ounces shallots, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, minced
2 tablespoons cognac
2 tablespoons madeira
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¾ cup heavy cream
Zest from 3 lemons
2 pounds unsalted butter, cubed

1. Soak chicken livers overnight in milk. Place in colander over a bowl and drain. Put napkin on top of livers to soak up additional moisture.
2. Place a large skillet over medium high heat and add oil. Sauté shallots until they just start to brown. Stir in herbs. Add livers and cook until the middle is pink but not raw—medium rare. To check on doneness, cut through the thickest part of the livers.
3. About halfway through the cooking process, deglaze the skillet with the liquor. Reduce the heat as the livers absorb the liquor. Add the salt and stir well.
4. Once the livers are cooked, turn off the heat and let sit about 20 seconds.
5. Using a heavy-weight blender, like a Vitamix, add the liver mixture, scrapping the skillet clean to get all the bits included. Add the cream and the lemon zest. Blend until smooth.
6. Take off the top and slowly add the butter while at medium/high speed. Add a pinch more salt while mixing.
7. If you want, you can strain the mousse mixture through a sieve. Stir the mixture and add more salt until it’s just a bit saltier than you think you’d like, taking into account what you’ll be serving the mousse with, such as whole grain mustard and jam.
8. Pour the mousse into a concave serving dish and refrigerate at least five hours to let it firm. You can make this several days in advance. To keep it fresh, melt butter and pour over the top to seal it and refrigerate. Before serving, lift up the congealed butter top and discard.

Trust is located in Hillcrest at 3752 Park Blvd.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Nathan Lingle's Pear Tart

It must officially be fall if chefs are now making desserts with pears!

And, in fact, the morning I hung out in the kitchen with Kitchen 1540's executive chef Nathan Lingle the weather was cool and overcast. Perfect for making a pear tart.

We started the morning with David Johnson and his Specialty Produce colleagues tasting vegetables and fruits on their farmers market truck. I walked away with a small bag of smoked sun-dried tomatoes from Windrose Farm, but not before we tasted a variety of pears and melons. Lingle made his selections from both conventional Bartletts and Asian pears, then we walked through the L'Auberge grounds to the kitchen to make the tarts.

Lingle came up with a duck fat tart dough using L.A.'s Grist & Toll Urban Flour Mill's flour that he paired with almond frangipane, diced sweet Asian pears, grilled Bartlett pears (to bring out the sweetness in a bland piece of fruit) and pear balls poached in a dry Riesling syrup (the fragrant syrup alone is worth having the entire recipe; pour it over ice cream or poached fruit or custards). There were also pear slices tossed in fresh thyme and cinnamon, and a swoop of almond butter. Together the various taste notes created a lovely symphony of flavor. He made individual tarts using--get this--mason jar lids as tart "pans" but you could easily make a single tart to serve.

Lingle, who's originally from Camden Rockport, Maine, has been with Kitchen 1540 for two years. Previously, he had been in Woodstock, Vermont as a restaurant consultant, and before that with the Ritz Carlton--spending five years in Philadelphia and 10 in Naples, Florida.

"I grew up in a household where Mom always cooked dinner," he said. "We had a garden and bought eggs from neighbors down the road. The best pasta was made with those eggs. I was eating and cooking duck and goose eggs before they became trendy."

With an uncle who ran two restaurants in New Haven, cooking was central to the family. When he'd return to Maine, the family would gather for a stretch of cooking and feasting.

"As I started to get into cooking, that's what resonated with me--finding good ingredients and helping people to connect with that to have an experience of fresh ingredients and a meal that brought them together."

Nathan Lingle's Pear Tart with Duck Fat Tart Dough
(printable recipe)

There are several components to this tart. Each one is listed below, with instructions for how to put it all together at the end.

Duck Fat Tart Dough 
1 tsp thyme leaf
1 tsp salt
1 tsp water
3 T sugar
1 whole egg
2 T cultured butter
2 T duck fat
1 ¼ cup flour, sifted
½ tsp baking soda

In a bowl, combine thyme, salt, water and sugar. Add the egg, butter and duck fat. Sift together the flour and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture in small increments. Knead until pastry comes together, and then work dough for 2 minutes. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour.

Roll out the dough between sheets of parchment paper. Place in a single tart pan or use mason jar lids to create individual tarts.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Blind bake the tart shells for five minutes. Let cool and reserve.

Almond Frangipane 
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
1 cup almond flour
10 T whole butter

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Reserve.

Dry Riesling Syrup Poached Pears
1 bottle dry Riesling wine
1/4 cup sugar
1 ripe Bartlett pear

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and reduce until syrupy over low heat. Using a fruit baller, scoop out balls from the pear. Add them to the syrup and continue cooking over low heat until pears are cooked through. Let cool and reserve.

Create Tart

Duck Fat Tart Dough
Almond Frangiane
Ripe Asian pears, diced
Fresh pear slices
Thyme leaves
Ground cinnamon
Almond butter
Dry Riesling Syrup Poached Pears

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Smooth a layer of frangipane over the bottom of the duck fat tart crust.
3. Add Asian pear pieces.
4. Bake for 10 minutes.

5. To plate, spread a swish of almond butter on the plate. Place the baked tart on the plate. Toss the pear slices with thyme leaves and cinnamon, then strategically place the slices on the plate around the tart. Then finish with the poached pear balls. Serve.

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