Friday, July 30, 2010

Bison, It's What's for Dinner

I'm no vegetarian but I don't eat nearly as much meat as I used to. I doubt many of us do anymore. And, we're all looking for ways to make those selections a bit healthier.

Enter the shaggy American buffalo. Known scientifically as bison to distinguish it as a bovine more related to domestic cattle than to Asian and African Cape buffalo, our American buffalo has become a beef alternative.

According to the USDA, there are about 150,000 bison raised on public and private lands in the U.S. They're huge -- a bison bull is the largest animal indigenous to North America. A bull can be taller than six feet at the hump and weigh more than a ton. They're free ranging for most of their lives, eating hay or grass until the last 90 to 120 days of their lives, when they're fed grain -- not unlike a lot of domestic cattle. Even with the grain diet before slaughter, there's little marbling, which is why bison meat appears to have a deeper red color than beef before cooking. Neither hormones nor antibiotics are given to bison. 

Because bison meat is very lean, it will cook faster than traditional grain-fed beef and more like grass-fed beef, so bear that in mind if you're grilling a bison steak or a burger.

I tried the bison sold at Whole Foods recently. I picked up both a New York steak and a package of ground meat produced by Nature's Rancher. Whole Foods says the bison they buy is raised in Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado with many coming from Ted Turner's ranches. They're processed at 30 months of age after spending 14 days in the feed lot. (FYI, Nature's Rancher's ground and tenderized steak bison meat was subject to a recall earlier in July with worries it may have been contaminated with E. coli. If you purchased products, check the sell-by date and go to the Nature's Rancher site to see if they are among those recalled.)

The bison I tried was not subject to recall and, in fact, was really delicious. I broiled the steak, seasoning it just with salt and pepper. To accompany it, I made a tomato relish of chopped heirloom tomatoes and red onion, julienned basil, diced jalapeno, minced garlic, and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

The steak cooked quickly; just a few minutes on each side left it medium rare. It was more tender than I expected and had a lovely sweet flavor.

The following week, I pulled out my pound package of ground bison (it's packaged as "ground buffalo") and let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator. I used half to make burgers, which I gently mixed with salt, pepper and fresh jalapenos, then stuffed with about a tablespoon of Purple Haze goat cheese before putting them on the grill.

The rest of the ground bison went into a tomato and red pepper pasta sauce I had made. I'll be honest; the sauce was just okay so I had frozen what I hadn't eaten to give me time to figure out what to do with it. With the ground bison, I figured I'd defrost it and make a ragu. The flavors were tremendous. I wanted to dive into the bowl once the pappardelle was gone and lick up every last bit of the sauce. The meat gave it a richness and sweetness that the vegetables alone just couldn't produce.

Bison comes in most of the same cuts as beef. I saw tri-tips, rib-eyes, and filet mignon at Whole Foods. But it is pricey at around $20+ a pound. The New York steak was about half that. The ground bison is pretty reasonable.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Fest 2010: Week 1 -- Cukes and Zukes

For the last two summers a cross-blogging celebration of summer's hopping bounty has been organized by Margaret Roach of Away to Garden and Deb Puchalla of Scripps. Deb invited me to join their garden party, this year called Summer Fest 2010. Each Wednesday those of us involved will be writing about a specific kind of produce--with stories, tips, and recipes, of course--and let you know who else in our little cross-post fest is involved so you can see what they're doing, too. Some of the other blogs involved are Matt Bites, White on Rice Couple, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, Homesick Texan, and Simmer Till Done. So, I'm in amazing company!

And so are you -- because this is meant to be a vast collaborative effort. The more info we all give, the more we'll all enjoy summer's harvest. Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting with our posts of Wednesday, July 28, for five Wednesdays through 8/25 and possibly longer, you can contribute in various ways, big or small.
  • Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:
  • Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog any upcoming Wednesday, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.
The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and then we're all cooking with some great ideas.

Or go big: Publish entire posts of your own if you wish, and grab the big red tomato Summer Fest 2010 badge above (illustrated by Matt of Mattbites). We'll also be tweeting using #summerfood as our hashtag.

Here's the schedule:
  • 7/28: cukesnzukes
  • 8/4: corn
  • 8/11: herbs, greens, and beans
  • 8/18: stone fruit
  • 8/25 tomatoes
  • more to come if we all want it — stay tuned!
This week is all about cukes and zukes. Now, I have to admit that neither of these is what make me pant for the beginning of summer. I see cucumbers all year round, thanks to living in San Diego. I do like them but I'm not exactly worshipful. In the case of cucumbers, I think it was because for too many years I was served those tasteless conventional cukes in big ugly chunks in salads made of iceberg lettuce and topped with equally tasteless pale slices of tomato, all smothered in bottled chemically Italian dressing.

Well, forget those guys and come with me into a more beguiling world of Persian cucumbers, English cucumbers, and lovely little mini white cucumbers. Even gorgeous variegated Armenian cucumbers, which are actually relatives of honeydew melon.

You can find Persian cucumbers at Middle Eastern Markets, of course, but also at the big chains in packages called "mini snacking cucumbers." But, here's what they look like:

English, or "hot house" cucumbers are everywhere -- they're the looong skinny cukes sealed in plastic because their thin skins are so delicate. They're my go-to cuke because they're sweet and so easy to use since they don't need peeling and have so few seeds.

Mini white cucumbers, which are actually yellow, are thick like conventional cucumbers with the same big seeds. Buy them as small as you can for real flavor. As someone at the Suzie's Farm stand at the Mission Hills farmers market told me, "These cucumbers taste like summer."

And here are the marvelous Armenian cucumbers. Their looks speak volumes but they're also very tasty.

Another cucumber variety I enjoy is the Japanese cucumber, which is slender with a thin skin and small seeds. You can find them at Asian markets. On a hot summer's day, I'll use a hand-held mandoline and slice Japanese cucumbers into a bowl, cover the slices with rice vinegar and refrigerate them for about an hour. When they're ready to eat, I sprinkle the marinated cuke slices with toasted sesame seeds and hot pepper flakes, pull out a pair of chopsticks and nosh on them while reading a good book. It's really a summer tradition.

Then there's the Mexican gherkin. I don't have a photo unfortunately but imagine the tiniest watermelon possible, maybe an inch or two long at the most. That's what they look like. They're adorable and I've enjoyed them pickled by my friend Melissa Mayer. Suzie's Farm grows them so you can check and see if they have them at the farmers markets or at Specialty Produce.

For a meal on a steamy summer day, I'll turn cucumbers into a cold soup with yogurt -- not Greek-style yogurt, but the looser version. This week, I bought Persian cucumbers (okay, I'll admit, I usually slice them up and drop them into the leftover juice in the empty pepperoncinis jar to create no-work pickles). And I bought radishes. Hmmm, I changed up my long-time recipe to create what I'm calling Cucumber and Radish Confetti Soup.

Cucumber and Radish Confetti Soup
Serves 4

1 large English cucumber or 3 good-sized Persian cucumbers (about 6 inches long)
1 dozen radishes
2 cups unflavored yogurt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fenugreek (for a different flavor, try dill or mint -- they're all equally good)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and discard. (If you're using a conventional cucumber first peel the skin; for the other types, leave the thin skin on for color.) Cut into chunks and put in the bowl of a food processor. Trim all the radishes and cut all but one into chunks and add to the food processor. Save the remaining radish for garnish. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and blend thoroughly. Remove to a bowl, cover, and chill at least two hours or overnight. Just before serving, slice the remaining radish very thinly, again with the little mandoline, and use it to top the soup. Feel free to squeeze in a little hot sauce when serving.

Now for the zukes. Get out that mandoline and slice zucchini or other summer squash into long thin strips to marinate in olive oil, garlic, and herbs and create zucchini carpaccio. Or hollow them out and stuff them. Buy baby zucchini and grill them to serve as a side dish.

Or, make zucchini pancakes. I did this recently at Olivewood Gardens, where I'm a volunteer cooking teacher for local low-income grade school kids. My friends who are parents of young children warned me, "no way, they won't eat them." I was expecting the big "Ewww." Well, not only did these 4th graders devour the pancakes, but some of the kids came up to us in the kitchen as we were cleaning up and asked if they could have more to take home. I originally published the recipe last March when I first used it at Olivewood, but this recipe is a favorite and since we're in the height of zucchini season, it's worth repeating.

Zucchini Pancakes

Makes about two dozen, three-inch pancakes.

1 pound of zucchinis
1 large yellow onion
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup of Panko or seasoned bread crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil or olive oil for frying

1. Cut off the ends of the zucchini and grate each one coarsely, using the big holes of a grater. Put the grated zucchini in a colander and the colander into a bowl and let the liquid drain from the zucchini.
2. Cut the onions in half lengthwise and remove the skin from the onion. Then grate each onion coarsely, using the big holes of a grater. Add the grated onion to the zucchini in the colander to drain. Feel free to gently but firmly squeeze the grated vegetables to get out as much liquid as possible.
3. Put the vegetables in a large bowl and add the Panko, baking powder, the herbs, the garlic (if you’re using it), and the salt and pepper. Stir it all together to fully mix ingredients. Add the eggs and mix well. The batter should be moist but not runny.
4. Heat ¼ inch of oil in a hot pan. Place a tiny bit of the batter in the pan. If it begins to sizzle, the oil is ready for the batter. Use a large spoon and drop the batter into the pan and flatten into a pancake. Don’t crowd the pancakes by putting too many in at one time. Cook them for several minutes on each side until the pancakes are golden brown. Put the pancakes on a plate with paper towels placed on top to drain. Then serve with applesauce or sour cream.

And, here is this week's list of participants with a link to their blogs and their Twitter handles:

Margaret Roach pickling tips and tricks and freezing the excess

Deb Puchalla (all Scripps/Food Network sites)

Elizabeth Gray: cuke salad and lighter cuke/zuke eats

Kirsten Vala and Sara Levine (FN Dish and Cooking Channel): zucchini bread + riffs

Michelle Buffardi – Cooking Channel’s Devour the blog (Scripps): 10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with Zucchini

Alison Sickelka: three zucchini appetizers
Food2 blog (Scripps)

Kelly Senyei cucumber and sesame salad

Jennifer Iannolo

Chef Mark Tafoya

Alice at Alice Q Foodie

Nicole at Pinch My Salt

Caroline at The Wright Recipes marinated summer squash salad

Cate O’Malley at Indian Cucumber Wraps

Shauna James Ahern turning cold cucumber soup into popsicles

Paige Smith Orloff zucchini/summer squash bread pudding recipe, as well as links to a couple of pickling/preserving ideas

Diane and Todd/White on Rice Couple prosciutto, sour cream and feta stuffed cucumbers

Tara Weaver stuffed zucchini, zucchini "noodles" and pickles

Alana Chernila cucumber-mint sorbet with lime shortbread
Twitter: @edability

Tigress jams pickles

Judy Witts Francini fried zucchini blossoms and more

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summertime Foods -- Ron Oliver and I on KPBS Radio's These Days

What's not to love about summer foods -- all those gorgeous stone fruits, the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the corn? For my monthly appearance on KPBS radio's weekday morning show These Days, that's just what we -- The Marine Room's chef de cuisine Ron Oliver and I -- talked about with host Maureen Cavanaugh. We got lots of interesting calls, including a tricky one from a woman with cooked jumbo shrimp who wanted to know what she could do with them without a grill.

And, they even let me talk a little about the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program fundraiser!

Tune in and enjoy. Here's the link.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Time to Feed the Kids! It's the 2010 Food 4 Kids Backpack Program Fundraiser

Just for one moment, imagine a life very different from your comfortable, well-fed existence. You're a 10-year-old kid. Dad's out of work and can't find a job. Mom is working part-time. You know something's wrong because you're hungry. All the time. Other kids buy lunch or bring it to school, but there's nothing at home and little money so your main meal is what your school gives you. Then comes the weekend or a school holiday. There is no school lunch and your stomach is grumbling. You can't focus on anything. You're sleepy. Your head hurts. In short, you're miserable and so's your kid sister. And, there's not a thing you can do about it.

This scenario is playing out all over San Diego County. You think your kids go to a great school and it's not your issue? Well, you'd be surprised at the number of children who are going hungry and the middle class neighborhoods they live in. Including yours.

So, starting today, starting now, I'm hoping you'll help us -- food writers, chefs, restaurant owners, food vendors, and media -- help The San Diego Food Bank fund their Food 4 Kids Backpack Program.

The San Diego Food Bank launched its Food 4 Kids Backpack program in 2007 to provide food for chronically hungry elementary school students through the weekend. Every Friday, participating children receive a backpack filled with child-friendly foods. They need this weekend bag because while they receive free or reduced-cost meals in school, food may not be available to them on weekends or school holidays. To qualify, students must attend a school where at least 80 percent of the population receives free or reduced cost lunches, and receive a teacher referral. During the 2008-2009 school year, the program served just 200 children in eight schools throughout San Diego County. With our help, they are now serving 550 children in 19 schools and are looking to expand that to 850 children this year.

You may remember that Alice Robertson and I held our first fundraiser last November/December. We collected over $6,000 and 1,200 pounds of food, not to mention a whole lot of backpacks. This year we're holding the fundraiser over the summer so that the money, food, and backpacks we collect can help enroll more students and schools at the beginning of the school year. And, we've put together a dynamic committee of national food writer Susan Russo (Food Blogga), local chefs Diane Stopford and Amiko Gubbins, PR maven Peyton Robertson of Bay Bird PR, and NBC San Diego anchor/reporter Catherine Garcia. With all this expertise, enthusiasm, and energy, our 2010 fundraiser has grown into a major event that you'll want to participate in.

The fundraiser has three parts:
  • We've set up a fundraising page at You can make donations here, add comments, and keep track of our progress. This launches today and runs through the end of August. And, we want to thank NBC San Diego, which is contributing the 7 percent cut takes of the total raised on the site so we don't lose any money you give!
  • We are encouraging people to collect neutral backpacks (as in no logos and preferably black or red since those are the kids’ favorite colors) and kid-friendly non-perishable foods (applesauce, cereal, fruit cups, mac ‘n cheese, pretzels, etc. No junk food but be aware that we are not doing nutrition education here, just trying to fill hungry tummies.) The collection for this food and backpack drive will be at the Little Italy Mercato on August 21. Hold your own drive at your office, in your neighborhood, with your church or temple group, or your kid's scouting troop, then bring it all to us on August 21.
  • A “dollar-a-dish” event throughout the month of August by participating restaurants. This started out as an offer by Matt Gordon and Scott Watkins of Urban Solace for our first fundraiser and Rimel's also contributed. This year it's skyrocketed. We have 47 restaurants participating -- at every price point. These restaurants will select one of their best selling dishes and for the month of August will contribute $1 for every dish sold. See the list below and please go, order the featured dish, and help us by enjoying yourself! Organize a party with your friends or colleagues at your favorite restaurant and have everyone bring filled backpacks and order the featured dish.
As added incentive, Alice Robertson (aka, Alice Q Foodie) is coordinating with restaurants and food bloggers, who will provide raffle items for those who contribute to the page and food/backpacks at the Little Italy Mercato collection event. The drawing will be held at the Mercato on August 21.

You can also help us by spreading the word on your own blog, on Facebook (our page is, and on Twitter (use #food4kidsSD).

And, here are the fabulous restaurants, along with their featured dishes, who are participating in Dollar-a-Dish:

Alchemy: Sea Bass Ceviche
Bencotto: Pollo all Pizzaiola
Café Chloe: Steak Frites
Casa de Bandini: Fish tacos
Casa de Pico:: Fish tacos
Casa Guadalajara: Fish tacos
Cosmopolitan Restaurant: Watermelon Salad
Cowboy Star: Meyer Natural "Certified Humane" Filet
Croce’s: 3 desserts -- Fondant Au Chocolat, Vanilla Lavender Honey Creme Brulee, and House-made White Chocolate Macadamia Coconut Ice Cream
Cucina Urbana: Pizza ordered at lunch
Dining Details (Caterer)
Flippin Pizza: (all four locations and their truck) full-size Tomato Basil pizza
Gaglione Brothers: (all 3 locations) Meatball Sandwich "Father Joe"
George’s at the Cove: Date salad with arugula, goat cheese, walnuts, and pomegranite vinaigrette
JRDN: Lamb Lollipop
Jsix: Monthly Sustainable Seafood Dish
Kensington Grill:: Hog Bar
Lotsa Pasta: Timpano
NINE-TEN: Hamachi Sashimi with marinated baby shitake mushrooms and scallion vinaigrette
O’Brothers: Big O Burger
Pizza Fusion: Farmers Market Pizza
Playa Grill: Carnitas Plate
Ritual Tavern: Niman Ranch Skirt Steak served with Roasted Market Vegetables, Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes and Sherry Demi Glace
Roseville: Pan-roasted local halibut, White truffle corn puree, English pea, corn, radish & pea-vine salad
Royal India: Chicken Tikka Masala
Sessions Public: Ribeye Fries
Soleluna Cafe: Pasta of the Day
SoNo Trading Company: Cuban Sandwich
Starlite: Jidori Chicken
Stingaree: Manage a Trois of Fried Point Vincente Calamari, Mexican White Shrimp, Bay Scallops with Sherry Chili Aioli and Lemon
Terra: Sea Bass
The Red Door: Short Ribs
Urban Solace: Duckaroni (Mac n' Chese with Blue Cheese, Duck Confit, Roasted Garlic, Arugula, and Scallion and New York White Cheddar Mac n' Cheese with Caramalized Bacon and Charred Tomatoes
Wine Steals (all 4 locations): Full-size pizza order
Zenbu: (both locations) Hot Rock

Whatever you can do to help will be hugely appreciated. This is a way to literally nourish the kids in our community during tough times.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Picnic Basket! Benefiting Arts: A Reason to Survive

Back in December, the Cooks Confab had a wonderful street food event at the Little Italy Mercato to benefit a favorite program of theirs, Arts: A Reason to Survive.

Well, these are dedicated chefs and the program is getting another lift from them this Sunday with a picnic at the Pat D'Arrigo Arts Center at the NTC Promenade in Liberty Station. That's at 2820 Roosevelt Road in Pt. Loma in case you've been under a rock for awhile.


Here's the scoop: Cooks Confab chefs Andrew Spurgin and Donald Coffman (Waters Fine Catering), Antonio Frescia (Stingaree), Brian Sinnott (1500 Ocean), Christian Graves (JSix), Paul McCabe (Kitchen 1540), Trey Foshee and Trang Huynh (George's at the Cove), Olivier Bioteau (Farm House Cafe), and Katie Grebow (Cafe Chloe) will be joined by Brian Malarkey (Searsucker), Melissa Mayer, Aaron LaMonica (Blind Lady Alehouse), Lisa Altmann (Viva Pops), Ian Ward (Snake Oil Cocktail Co.), Jack Witherspoon, and Isabel Cruz (Isabel). All these wonderful chefs and the cost is only $50 for adults. Kids under 12 get in free. There will be craft beer, arts and entertainment, games for the kids, and just a whole lot of fun. Here's the menu:

Aaron LaMonica/Rachel Going – Blind Lady Ale House
Beef Short Rib Slider
Braised Meyer Ranch Beef in Aromatics + Hawai’ian Bread Roll + Slaw
Antonio Friscia – Stingaree
Fried Chicken
Jidori Chicken + Jalapeño Mustard Smear + Michelle's Buttermilk Biscuits
Andrew Spurgin/Donald Coffman – Waters Fine Catering
Sausage ‘n Salad
Italian Provolone Sausages + Gloria Tamai Corn + Suzie’s Farm’s Shelling Bean Salad
Brian Malarkey – searsucker
Not Your Daddy’s Lobster Loaf
Fennel + Arugula + Lemon + Smoked Tomato Jam
Brian Sinnott – 1500 Ocean
Pressed Watermelon Summer Tomato Salad
Mint + Feta + Orange Oil + Balsamic Powder
Christian Graves – Jsix
Summer Sweets
Chunky Hazelnut Chocolate Brownies + Strawberry Cupcakes + Oreo Cookies
Ian Ward – Snake Oil Cocktail Co.
Fig-Rosemary Lemonade
Housemade Fig-Rosemary Jam + Fresh Pressed Lemons
Katie Grebow – Café Chloe
Egg Salad Sandwich
Schaner Farm’s Eggs + Croissant + House Pickled Cucumber + Chips.
Lisa Altman – Viva Pops
Peaches and Cream + Watermelon Lime + Key Lime Pie + Chocolate Banana + Strawberry Cucumber with Mint
Melissa Mayer – Specialty Produce
Pan Con Tomate
Suzie’s Farm’s Heirloom Tomatoes + Dante Cheese + Padron Peppers + Pimentón Aïoli
Olivier Bioteau – Farm House Café
La Légumes de la Ferme
Suzie’s Farm’s Crudités Cornet + Extra Virgin Olive Oil + Aïoli
Paul McCabe – KITCHEN 1540
Confit of Local Albacore + Fava Beans + Temecula Olives + Mint + Basil + Ciabatta
Trey Foshee/Trang Huynh – George's California Modern
Asian Fruit Salad
Coconut Milk Soup + Mango Sorbet + Toasted Pinipig

"I wanted to come up with a fun and relaxed culinary theme for them," Andrew Spurgin told me. "Friendly for the kids and a great way to spend a summer afternoon. Throw down a blanket, nosh on some great picnic tucker prepared by some great chefs who care about the ARTS kids! Drink some craft beer and a fun creation from Ian Ward of Snake Oil Cocktail Co."

The event is from noon to 4 -- rain or shine. Bring the kids, bring a picnic blanket, and have a blast! For tickets, go to

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sangak: The Delicious "Little Stone"

If anyone ever wondered how I come to love markets so much, it's easy to explain. My parents. Especially my mom. We didn't go hiking, camping, skiing, or any other outdoor activities when I was growing up. We shopped. And for my mother in particular, there's no shopping like a food market. For both parents, visiting a good ethnic market is as thrilling as going to Disneyland is for the rest of the world. So I come by it honestly.

Naturally, when we drove up to L.A. for the day yesterday, a certain amount of Jewish deli and bakery shopping was going to be involved. But once we hit the road to return to San Diego we had one more stop -- an international market in Irvine called Wholesome Choice. My parents' Iranian friends had suggested it and, oh, if you do go could you please pick up a couple of loaves of Sangak?

Well, sure. But, there are rules, it turns out. This is a hugely popular delicacy and it's made in house in a large oven. Slowly. So, there's a long line and you're not allowed to cut -- even if you're a friend or family -- and you can't buy more than two at a time. Seriously. There are signs that tell you this. So, my mom and I waited. And befriended a Japanese woman from Century City who was also waiting. And a young Persian couple ahead of us.


Now what is Sangak? It's a Persian whole wheat sourdough flat bread -- about two feet long and maybe a quarter of an inch thick. Sometimes referred to as "nan-e sangak," it's a traditional bread that originally was baked on a bed of hot river stones in an oven. Sang means stone and sangak means little stone. They can be plain or, as ours were, topped with sesame seeds or poppy seeds.

At Wholesome Choice, you can see the baker pull about a pound of loose dough from a vat, spread it out on a metal paddle until it drapes over the paddle, the carefully fling the dough into the oven, where it bakes for about 15 minutes.

Then another man pulls it out of the oven onto long brown sheets of butcher paper, folds it into thirds and hands the very hot parcel to the customer.

It's worth the wait. The bread has a marvelous spongy texture and you can taste a hint of sourness. This is a great treat eaten hot with feta cheese and olive oil, or labne, the delicious Lebanese yogurt. The shop suggested eating it with lamb kebab. And the good news is that Sangak freezes well. Just cut it into manageable pieces and put in freezer bags. When you're ready to eat it, defrost, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees for five minutes and then heat the Sangak for three to five minutes.

Of course, like my mom, you can just eat it fresh out of the market's oven, which is why people wait so patiently for a fresh loaf.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Grass-Fed Hot Dogs for When Summer Finally Comes

Last year when I toured the pastures of Mendenhall Ranch in Mt. Palomar with Matt Rimel, Rimel talked about his plans for the future, which included making hot dogs--grass-fed beef hot dogs -- for his line of Homegrown Meats. Well, the dogs are a reality now and I picked up a sample at his La Jolla Butcher Shop. It doesn't feel like hot dog weather but someday the gloom will lift and we'll be in the mood. And, if you're looking for something tasty and healthier in your bun, these dogs will do it for you.

In fact, the hot dogs are hormone free and contain no added preservatives or MSG, and are gluten free. The beef is seasoned with evaporated cane juice, sea salt, mustard, paprika, celery and cherry powders, and celery seasoning. It's refreshing to read the label and understand what all the ingredients are.

Now, they don't have the snap of a dog with a casing but grill them or put them under the broiler, like I did, and the sweet flavors of the beef really come through with a nice crunch. Everyone has their own favorite hot dog toppings. No ketchup for me, thank you. I like a good, strong mustard, chopped onions, and sauerkraut. Lacking sauerkraut today, I chopped some of the sweet and hot pickles made by SoNo Trading Company. The perfect lunch!


You can find Homegrown Meats grass-fed beef hot dogs at the La Jolla Butcher Shop on Fay St. in La Jolla and at Seaside Market at 2087 San Elijo Ave. in Cardiff. They come in a package of eight.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tajin: This is Not a Candy

Every once in awhile a product that's been around for who knows how long basically smacks me upside the head to pay attention to it.

Most recently, that product is Tajin "classico seasoning." I first noticed it a summer or two ago at the Hillcrest Farmers Market. Once tomatoes are in season, Valdivia Farms, which sells marvelous heirloom tomatoes, chops a bunch up, mixes the pieces with olive oil and a little seasoning and puts the mixture on platters with toothpicks to sample. Customers gobble them up and wonder why they taste so delicious. Well, sure, the tomatoes are great but they're also using the Tajin -- and they sell 5 oz. plastic shaker bottles of it along with the tomatoes. Did I buy one? No, because I suspected their  price was quite a bit more than I'd have to pay at the market. Sure enough, a visit to Northgate Gonzalez turned up the Tajin for less than two bucks. I'm in bliss.

So, what is Tajin seasoning? Very simple. A powder blend of chiles, salt, and dehydrated lime juice. It's the lime juice you really taste when it hits your tongue. It's all about the salty tang. And, as they carefully print on the cap, this is not a candy.

Tajin seasoning can be used for all sorts of dishes. Here's a little salad of chopped tomatoes and garlic scapes. Like Valdivia Farms, I tossed them with olive oil and Tajin. It was delicious on a slice of sour dough bread and I used the bread, of course, to sop up the Tajin-flavored tomato juices.


I've also used it as part of a marinade for roasting and grilling chicken. At the recent Collaboration Kitchen at Catalina Offshore Products, chef Melissa Mayer offered a delicious recipe of Hamachi Crudo with Watermelon Carpaccio, Tangerine, and Hazelnut Oil Emulsion with Cilantro Flowers. Tucked into the recipe to season the yellowtail was about a teaspoon of Tajin.

And, at the 4th of July party I attended, chef Andrew Spurgin whipped up the most delicious Michelada beer cocktail. The mixture of Tecate beer, lime juice, and clamato juice was perfection, but what sent it truly over the top was the rimming along the top of the cup with Tajin seasoning.

Try it out and let me know what you do with it.

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Friday, July 2, 2010

The Mission Hills Farmers Market Debut - in Photos

It looked like the little market on Falcon St. got a nice turnout for its debut last Friday. There were a number of familiar folks -- Smit Orchards, Suzie's Farm, Poppa's Fish, Jackie's Jams, and, as always Baba Hummus.

I picked up some beautiful peaches, apricots, and nectarines at Smit Orchards; small tomatoes and a lovely miniature white cucumber at Suzie's Farm; and some interesting products, including a large flat bread called Parath/Boulani, which was stuffed with spinach, ginger, and garlic, and a roasted garlic dip -- from Zaiqa Kitchens. I ran into friends who were shopping, and literally into happy little kids wandering around with lovely fruit juices dripping onto their hands and chins. It was a sunny afternoon with neighbors and dogs enjoying each other and the goods being sold.

The market appears again today (Friday) from 3 to 7 p.m. on Falcon St. between Washington and Ft. Stockton.

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