Monday, March 30, 2009

Passover Recipe Round-Up in FoodieView

It's been a little while since I've done a shameless self-promotion post, but my Passover recipe round-up for the wonderful FoodieView website is up. Across the blogosphere are lots of marvelous and different recipe ideas for a holiday bound in traditions. I'm hoping I've selected some of the best and the most interesting for you to try.

Take a look! Leave a comment! And, stay tuned. I'll also have a piece on Passover foods and traditions in shortly.

Print Page

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gotta Beef with Beef? Try Grass-Fed

Little by little I'm making my way around to the many different grass-fed beef purveyors out there. I've tried Estancia Beef and Tall Grass Beef. Homegrown Meats and now a filet from Da-Le Ranch near Lake Elsinore. Well, not actually from Da-Le--owner Dave Heafner raises pigs, chickens and rabbits at Da-Le but has partnered with a rancher in Creston Valley near Paso Robles in Northern California who is raising Black Angus cattle. The cattle is naturally pastured and then processed when they reach about 900 pounds.

Heafner can be found on Saturday mornings at the Little Italy Farmers Market and at the Bonsall farmers market on Sunday mornings. I've tried his chicken and pork but the beef was new to me. And, it's delicious.

Because of the meat's leanness, it's important to take care in both the preparation and cooking. I marinated my filet using a rosemary, sage, garlic herb rub that I mixed with a little white truffle oil. You'll notice the lack of salt. That's important because salt will leach out the moisture and you don't want that. To make sure the filet would cook evenly, once I added the rub and oil, I put a little plastic wrap on the filet and pounded it down on both sides, getting it to about an inch all around. The added advantage was that the rub was pushed into the meat.

I let the meat marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour with a plan to just grill it on the stovetop.

While it was resting, I took out a bunch of rapini and began its preparation. Rapini, or broccoli rabe, is a spiky leafed green that sends out little shoots reminiscent of broccoli. Because it can be bitter, it's best to blanch it quickly before sauting or using another cooking method.

I continued the white truffle oil theme, making a quick vinaigrette with white Balsamic vinegar and olive oil from Temecula Olive Oil Company, white truffle oil, salt and red pepper flakes. I sliced up a spring onion and toasted about a tablespoon of pine nuts. I put the steak on an oiled stovetop grill and let it cook about five minutes on each side. Once it was done--and with grass-fed beef, it's best to cook it only to medium rare--I plated it and covered it with foil to rest and let the juices recirculate.

Then it was time to blanch the rapini. Don't let it go more than 30 seconds or it'll just be a limp mass of green. Shock it with cold water and drain it. At that point, I sauteed it in a little olive oil with the green part of the spring onion. It took just a moment or two, then I took it off the heat and added the white rings of the onion and the pine nuts and tossed the mixture with the vinaigrette.

Voila. Dinner.

Da-Le Ranch products can be found on Saturday mornings at the Little Italy Mercato on Date St. at Kettner and Sunday mornings at the Bonsall Farmers Market at Bonsall Elementary School.

Produce courtesy of Specialty Produce.

Print Page

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

World Water Week 09: The Tap Project

Yes, here in San Diego we're going through a drought. But, truly, that's nothing compared with the consistent lack of fresh clean water so many children around the world live with no matter the season's rainfall.

The Tap Project, which started in New York City two years ago, raises money for UNICEF's water and sanitation projects. It takes place during World Water Week using a simple concept: have restaurant diners donate $1 for every glass of tap water they would ordinarily enjoy for free. That dollar will provide one child in Africa 40 days of clean and safe drinking water.

In San Diego, about two dozen restaurants are participating this year's event, which takes place from March 22 to 28. You can find these restaurants at the Tap Project web site. Outside of San Diego, go to To learn more, follow the San Diego Tap Project on Twitter @sdtap.

Print Page

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Black Garlic: An Already Sublime Ingredient Reaches a New Level

The world may fall into two distinct camps: those who love garlic and how it perfumes whatever it touches -- and those who detest it.

I belong to the first camp and so I was naturally intrigued when I learned about black garlic. Yes, it's garlic. No, it's not a unique variety. It's the same head you've been cooking with for years only it's been aged and fermented for a month to the point where it's softened, turned black and has taken on a sweeter, mellower flavor. Think molasses or figs. Dark and deep and complex.

In the U.S., the only producer is a young company called Black Garlic, whose owner, Scott Kim, originally had the idea of selling it as a super-food, given that it's rich in antioxidants. In fact, in Japan and Korea, black garlic has long been eaten for good health. However, chefs who obtained black garlic in Asia began using it in their kitchens and Kim's business plan changed. Today, you're probably seeing articles about it in newspapers across the country and have seen it used as an ingredient on Iron Chef America and Top Chef. Charlie Trotter and Eric Ripert are using it and foodies since have fallen in line.

I got some samples and after noshing on a couple of cloves (yes, highly recommended), I got to work in the kitchen yesterday. Kim's website has a long list of recipes worth trying, but I decided to wing it and made black garlic pesto and a butter with both black garlic and fresh ginger.

The pesto is your basic basil, parmesan, nut variety but I substituted fresh garlic with the black garlic. The results were a deep dark sauce with nutty flavors but sweet instead of pungent. To offset the sweetness I added red pepper flakes.

Pesto with Black Garlic

3 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts (I used walnuts this time)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
9 cloves (1 head) of black garlic
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor and let it run until the ingredients have been thoroughly mixed and pureed. Then, with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

I expected the pesto to be much darker given the color of the garlic, but it's still quite green. The pesto will be perfect, of course, with pasta, but I'm also planning on drizzling it over slices of these beautiful tomatoes from Specialty Produce for lunch today. It'll be used on pizza and drizzled over fish.

Black garlic seemed a perfect ingredient for roasted chicken as well. Since that's what I was making for dinner last night, along with these magical little mini carrots from Specialty Produce, I thought black garlic butter would work well. But I upped the flavor by also including fresh ginger. It's easy to do. For what I needed last night I took out my little mini food processor and added two tablespoons of softened butter, three cloves of black garlic and about an inch of peeled ginger that I chopped into a few pieces. In no time I had the blended butter. I used half under the skin of the whole chicken leg, added salt and pepper to the skin, threw in a beautiful spring onion I had trimmed, sprinkled a little olive oil on both. Having been inspired by a recent New York Times story by Melissa Clark on creating croutons by roasting chicken, I dried out a piece of Trader Joe's cracked wheat sourdough bread, brushed it with a little olive oil and set the chicken leg on it. The chicken and spring onion roasted at 400 for about an hour.

With the rest of the butter, I sauteed lovely miniature carrots. These are no more than an inch-and-half long (many even smaller) in colors ranging from cream to orange to red. They have all the flavor of full-sized carrots but are precious on the plate. Once the carrots were cooked through, I added about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a sprinkling of dill and cooked it for another couple of minutes. You can use fresh chopped dill, of course. I had on hand a bottle of dill I had dried on my own (spread the dill fronds on a baking sheet and bake at low heat for about 10 minutes, then turn off the oven and let it sit until the dill is thoroughly dry being careful not to let it burn. Break it up, chop and store.)

Along with the chicken and the carrots, I had the most delicious rice left over from lunch at Balboa International Market, a local Middle Eastern market; it was cooked with fava beans and dill and accompanied a very tender roasted lamb shank and green salad.

The black garlic and ginger worked well together and infused the chicken with its flavors. They did the same for the carrots. The spring onion grew sweet from the roasting and was just a fun little addition to the meal.

You can't find black garlic in the markets yet, but you can order it online from Terra Spice Co., Mondo Food and Italco Food Products.

Print Page

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spring Greens Novelty: Broccoli Spigarello and Piret Lettuce

Just when you think you've got enough veggies in your rotation you come across wonderful new things to try. This week, it was Piret lettuce and broccoli spigarello.

Piret lettuce is a lovely leafy green that has the shape and texture of butter lettuce but with the vibrant hues of a red leaf lettuce. I grabbed it the moment I saw it at Specialty Produce.

And what better way to show it off than a red salad. I had sweet little strawberries a friend had brought to me last weekend (I love incorporating fruit in green salads), peppadew peppers, red onions and just because I love them, toasted walnuts. A little vinaigrette and voila. Sweet and savory, and oh so pretty.

I also picked up a bunch of broccoli spigarello. Yes, this is in the broccoli family, although it doesn't have the thick stems and florets we associate with broccoli. Instead, think along the lines of kale. It's native to southern Italy, although Specialty Produce gets theirs from Coleman Family Farms in Carpenteria, just north of L.A.

Raw, its greyish tinted leaves are thin and curly, like a mass of unruly hair. And it has a very distinctive tangy flavor. Once you cook it, the leaves turn a crazy bright dark green and the flavors soften to something more like spinach without the edge. It's easy to prepare. Simply cut off the long stems, blanch the leaves in boiling water for about 3 minutes, drain and then saute in olive oil with garlic, onions or shallots. It's wonderful as a side dish or can be incorporated in stuffed pastas or lasagna, tossed with pasta and shell fish or mixed with cheese into a stuffing for fish or even a rolled flank steak.

I had bay scallops on hand so I made baked scallops with preserved lemon and served them on a bed of sauteed broccoli spigarello.

Baked Scallops with Preserved Lemon

8 oz. bay scallops
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tsp. preserved lemon, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. fresh Italian parsley leaves, minced
Olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle olive oil in a gratin or baking dish. Toss scallops with preserved lemon and spread on dish.

In a skillet, heat 2 tsps. of olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and bread crumbs. Stir until the crumbs are golden and crispy. Remove from the heat and add the herbs. Mix well. Top the scallops with the bread crumb mixture. Bake for five minutes or until the topping begins to brown and the scallops are opaque in the center.

Serves 2.
You can certainly leave out the preserved lemon if you don't have it, but they're very easy to make and wonderful to have on hand. All you need is a large glass jar, about 7 or 8 Meyer lemons and sea salt. Slice the lemons down the long end almost half way, turn it a quarter and do it again. Stuff the inside with salt. Grab that end, turn the lemon upside down and repeat so both ends are stuffed with salt. Place the lemon in the impeccably clean jar and repeat with as many lemons as you can fit into the jar and still screw on the lid. A lot of juice will come out. That's fine. Keep the jar of lemons on the counter for a month, periodically turning it over and back to make sure the juice is covering the top. After a month, you can use the lemons in pasta dishes, with fish or with Moroccan-style dishes. Keep the jar in the refrigerator and the lemons will last for months.

This jar was my inspiration. My friend Anne Otterson introduced me to them in her kitchen.

Print Page

Monday, March 2, 2009

Duck Eggs? Anyone for Duck Eggs?

Raise your hand if you've eaten scrambled duck eggs. Until this past weekend, mine would be in my lap. But I've been waiting for the opportunity and it came last week in the form of Specialty Produce, a wonderful warehouse in Middletown that sells farm fresh products, often from the Santa Monica farmers market, to local chefs and caterers. They had invited me to come over and sample some of their farmers market items so I was on the website to see what looked interesting and found they had these hard-to-find gems. The eggs, along with green garlic, were on my list.

Just a note about Specialty Produce: This isn't a place to do your regular marketing, but if you're having a hard time finding a specific ingredient for a recipe you're making, they're happy to help. Just know it's a warehouse, not a store. You're competing for floor space with fork-lifts loaded with pallets. The best advice I have is to scan their website to check what's available and go over in the afternoon when it's usually a little less hectic. Bring your own shopping bags.

Back to the food. Duck eggs are a tad larger than chicken eggs, with more fat in the yolk and more protein in the whites. Because I wanted to get a sense of both their flavor and how they cook, I decided to keep it simple and try them scrambled and incorporated in muffins.

I added a little low-fat milk to the eggs before whisking them for the scramble. That's it. And, I just slightly undercooked them because I'd heard they get firmer than chicken eggs. I sprinkled a little lavender salt to finish with some chopped Italian parsley from my garden. Tasting them, you'd have thought I'd added cheese to the eggs. They were much richer than any scrambled eggs I'd ever had with a denser, thicker consistency. Very flavorful but you'll fill up on them much faster than with chicken eggs.

The duck egg I used in the lemon blueberry muffins worked just fine. There was no discernible difference in the texture or flavor of the muffins. From what I've read, they basically can be interchanged with chicken eggs, even in baking.

The green garlic was a treat. I'm still waiting for spring's garlic scapes, those wondrous green curly cues of garlic magic, but green garlic is a lovely ingredient to work with -- essentially, the garlic plant before the bulb takes shape.

As you can see, they look remarkably like green onions or scallions. But if they were in the ground that white end would begin to swell and form a bulb. I've had them at this stage before and in the very young garlic bulb stage. As the plant matures, the flavors also evolve. Right now, from March to May is when you can enjoy the garlic in this phase of life -- both the white and the stems. Just know that its flavors will be much more delicate than pungent (although you'd never know by the scent).

Again, I like to keep things simple, so one of the first things I did when I got them into my kitchen was make a vinaigrette.

Dijon Green Garlic Vinaigrette

1 stalk of green garlic, mince the white section
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. sugar
2/3 cup olive oil

Whisk together all the ingredients but the olive oil to blend. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Let sit for at least an hour to let the flavors come together. Taste and adjust seasonings. Note: For a stronger flavor, use aged Sherry vinegar and Spanish olive oil.

So, that evening I had decided to make lamb chops and thought I'd marinate the chops in some of the vinaigrette. I also had brought home lovely baby Anzious artichokes from Specialty Produce. Those would be quartered, blanched for three minutes and then roasted at 400 degrees with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and both the whites and the greens from the green garlic, chopped.

And, I had this delicious rice mixture I bought at Mitsuwa -- black rice, purple, barley, hulless barley, rye berries, MG red rice and short grain brown rice. It's nutty and tastes like the wilderness.

It was a very easy dinner. After marinating the lamb chops for an hour, I broiled them for about five minutes on each side, roasted the artichokes and the rice went in its little rice cooker. I topped the lamb chops with a couple of dollops of chimichurri I'd had left over from another dinner I'd made. A delicious meal for one.

Also, on my "to try" list were the prettiest little French heirloom potatoes. They're a petite red oblong tuber, about three or four inches long, and when you cut inside, the flesh is a very dainty yellow hue. These were going to be served at brunch with the scrambled duck eggs and muffins. Instead of roasting them, which I love to do, I sliced them and boiled them briefly, then tossed them with the Dijon Green Garlic vinaigrette, sliced kalamata olives and, yes, the greens from the green garlic. The dressing soaked into the potatoes, giving them both a terrific consistency and pronounced flavor from the garlic and mustard.

I served the eggs, muffins and potatoes with something a little different and refreshing, slices of watermelon radishes. I love these; just noshing on them is great. A buff white exterior leads to this springlike surprise inside when you slice them. I'd like to try pickling or sauteeing them.

Next up, a charming head of Piret lettuce -- it has the shape of butter lettuce but in ravishing greens and purples. And broccoli Spigarrello, a wild-looking green with a flavor as dramatic as its looks. Stay tuned!

Specialty Produce is located at 1929 Hancock St. in San Diego.

Print Page