Saturday, February 26, 2011

Learning to Make Chorizo and Pancetta

When I learned that chefs Jared Van Camp and Sam Burman of Quality Social were going to be teaching a two-part charcuterie making class at Cups, I knew I had to check this out. And, in fact, not only have I attended the first class and am looking forward to the second next month, I'll be writing a piece for Edible San Diego's summer issue on charcuterie making at home around this class and interviews with local chefs.

In the meantime, however, I wanted to share some photos of what went on. Van Camp and Burman taught a group of 16 how to make Spanish-style chorizo and pancetta.

Spanish chorizo, of course, differs from Mexican chorizo in that it's dried and cured. Mexican chorizo is fresh sausage. In Quality Social's recipe, pork shoulder and fat back are ground separately and then blended with chipotle, dried Ancho chile powder, cayenne pepper, minced garlic, and smoked sweet paprika. A bit of bacto-ferm is dissolved into distilled water and then also added to the mixture. Once the mixture is fully blended and feeling a little tacky it's ready to be stuffed into hog casings, tied, and hung in a cool space for 18 to 20 days.

Jared Van Camp grinding pork for Spanish chorizo
Grating garlic into the ground pork, fat back, and spices
The trick to the perfect sausage is blending the meat, fat, and spices just enough but not overblending so that the fat warms up and loses its shape. You want those fat modules in the finished, cured salumi for a "mosaic" effect.
The meat mixture is placed into the sausage filling machine. As Van Camp turns the lever, Burman gently eases the filling into pork casings and eliminates air pockets.
When the casing is full, it's time to tie off individual sausages. Burman also ties in a loop for hanging.
Once everyone had filled and tied their sausages, we moved on to pancetta. This is a much simpler process. The pork belly lies flat and a flavor blend is rubbed into the top, fatty part of the belly. It's refrigerated for seven days during which time the flavor is absorbed into the fat and meat, then it's thoroughly rinsed and patted dry. The meat side is then sprinkled with finely ground pepper (toast whole pepper corns briefly before grinding to power up the flavor). Finally, the pork belly is rolled up and tied off at two-inch intervals and hung to dry for one to two weeks, depending on how dry you want the cure.

The fat side of the pork belly is rubbed with a mixture of minced garlic, Kosher salt (no jokes, please), dark brown sugar, coarsely ground black pepper, cracked juniper berries, crumbled bay leaves, grated nutmeg, and fresh thyme leaves, plus Instacure.
The newly spiced belly will sit in the refrigerator for a week, and will be turned every couple of days.
At our next class, the chefs will return with our charcuterie and will teach us how to make condiments to accompany the charcuterie. Stay tuned!

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Henry's Farmers Market Under New Ownership, Merging to Become Sprout's

Artwork from
Henry's Farmers Market, a local natural foods grocery chain that has recently been bounced around from being independently owned by the Boney family, to being part of Wild Oats, then Whole Foods, and most recently Smart and Final is now being purchased by private equity firm Apollo Management, L.P. Apollo Management is also buying Sprouts Farmers Market, also founded by the Boneys but operated separately by the original family, Stan and Shon Boney, who are chairman and CEO respectively. The companies will be combined and renamed under the Sprouts Farmers Market name, with 98 stores and another 10 stores opening later this year. The deal is expected to close this spring.

The Boneys will remain with the company. Stan Boney is a son of Henry Boney, the San Diego entrepreneur who opened his first fruit stand at the corner of 70th and University back in 1943. Shon Boney is one of Henry's grandsons. Henry Boney and his family started and then sold several familiar businesses, including Speedee Mart, Boney's, and Windmill Farms.

You can find an FAQ on the merger website,

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gremolata-Style Roasted Turnips

There are reasons why some recipes are classic. The ingredient combinations are so natural that you automatically turn to them, even when you aren't consciously creating a dish with a "name."

That happened to me last weekend. Here I was with several lovely turnips I bought at the Vang's Farm stall a couple of weeks ago at the Little Italy Mercato. I'd completely forgotten about them but being root vegetables in the refrigerator, they were very forgiving and ready to be used. I knew I wanted to roast them but I didn't really have a plan for how to flavor them.

So, I went into my little garden for inspiration. There was some tarragon I'd just planted, so I took several stems of that. There was a bush of Italian parsley, absolutely thriving due to the alternating rains and sunshine, and I clipped a bit of that. Ah, my Meyer lemon tree had a lovely lemon newly ripened. Perfect. And all that hard-neck garlic I'm growing have beautiful flowing greens. They wouldn't mind a little nip in a few places. Back in the house I pulled out some butter and olio nuovo from California Olive Ranch. Ah, a few cloves of garlic. And a bag of panko came out of the freezer.

I minced. I grated. I squeezed. I ran it all in my little mini prep blender and had what looked like Green Goddess dressing but was actually a variation on traditional gremolata--lemon, parsley, and garlic. True gremolata wouldn't have the fats I added, but I needed them in the roasting process.

The turnips got a bath in the mixture, and were then topped with the panko before going into a 425-degree oven to roast alongside a whole chicken leg rubbed earlier in the day with equal amounts of salt and baking powder for a crispy skin and then topped with minced fresh thyme and garlic butter from Bonelli Fine Food. After about half an hour the turnips were sweet and tender on the inside but had a wonderfully crispy exterior thanks to the panko crumbs. (The chicken was terrific, too!) Next time, I'll probably add either anchovies or capers to add a bit of a salty edge to complement the sweet root. 

Gremolata-Style Roasted Turnips
Serves 3 to 4

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons garlic greens, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, minced
1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 1 1/2 pounds medium-sized turnips
1/2 cup Panko crumbs

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a mini food processor, combine all the ingredients except the Panko crumbs and turnips. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
3. Combine the gremolata-style mixture with the turnips until they're thoroughly coated and place in a single layer in a roasting pan or baking dish. Sprinkle the turnips with the Panko.
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until brown and a knife inserted into the turnips goes in smoothly.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Alisa Barry: Nourish and Nurture

One of my favorite food writing jobs is contributing to Rancho La Puerta's blog and app. Every month, I go down to their cooking school, La Cocina Que Canta, and participate in a hands-on class taught by a renowned cooking teacher, restaurateur, or cookbook author.

They've given me permission to put these posts on San Diego Foodstuff, so in the coming months you'll periodically see them. This week focuses on the charming and talented Alisa Barry.

Alisa Barry isn’t your typical Rancho La Puerta cooking instructor. She’ll tell you herself, “My food is not ‘spa food.’ I come from the Julia Child school of cooking, which preaches everything in moderation.”

For Barry, who owns the Atlanta-based specialty-food business Bella Cucina Artful Food, the celebration of food is all important. And, throughout her class at La Cocina Que Canta she urged the 16 participants to savor the process of making their dishes and to taste everything along the way—from the naked ingredients still in the ground to the various components of the dishes as they were being made, to the finished masterpiece.

“It’s important to use all your senses while cooking,” she says. “We’re so lucky to have such beautiful produce grown right here. Enjoy the colors. Smell it. Taste it.”

Indeed, for Barry, the connection she feels to La Cocina Que Canta is similar to her love of Mediterranean cooking. She discovered the possibilities of food during her junior year abroad in Madrid and it was reinforced when she went to Italy. What she has taken away from those experiences is the importance of fresh, local produce, and how “food is as much how we eat as what we eat.”

It’s that philosophy around which Barry created her business in the early 90s—after interning at Chez Panisse, working as head cook at Café Fanny, attending San Francisco’s Tante Marie cooking school, and working at Viansa Winery with the Sebastianis in Sonoma.

“My business is a vehicle for self-expression,” she says. “Everything starts at the table but expands from there.”

Anyone who has taken one of Barry’s hands-on classes appreciates that approach. From the start, she encourages her students to use the recipes as a guide and to feel free to improvise based on their own taste and imagination. I've already done that with a recipe of hers from that day that's now a staple in my repertoire: Wilted Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls. In fact, some of her recipes call for condiments produced by Bella Cucina—a Cranberry Conserve for her Grape + Gorgonzola Schiaciatta, a jar of Pumpkin Pesto for her Roasted Pumpkin + Sage Risotto—but she’s eager to suggest substitutions.

Lunch is on!
Of course, some recipes aren’t appropriate for much tweaking. In a recent class, Barry provided a bonus recipe for how to make fresh ricotta at home—mostly out of enthusiasm for this new discovery she made. As she explained, we could take just three ingredients—milk, cream and lemon juice—and, with care, easily have a cheese that tasted so much better than anything we could find in the market.

That three ingredients could combine to create dramatic flavor and texture is in line with Barry’s approach to creating recipes. Those in her book, La Bella Vita, feature the fruit of the land, prepared simply and designed to highlight the freshness of  ingredients. The 55 food products in the Bella Cucina line are hand made, based on Barry’s recipes and inspired by her travel abroad and by farms around the Atlanta area. “It’s all about the ingredients,” she insists. “When they have that much flavor, I like to keep it as simple as possible.”

Barry is at work on her next cookbook. The working title says it all: Nourish and Nurture. “Food is about feeding the soul as much as the body,” she says. “It’s a way we can slow down and enjoy one another.

How to Make Fresh Ricotta at Home
By Alisa Barry

1 half gallon whole milk (use the best quality milk you can buy)
1 ½ cups cream (see above)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a large saucepan, heat the milk and cream over medium heat until the temperature reaches 180 degrees. Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and let sit covered for 15 minutes.

Remove the curds from the liquid with a sieve or small slotted spoon into a bowl layers with cheese cloth. Tie up the ends of the cheese cloth and hang it over the bowl so it can drain any remaining liquid from the curd. Let sit for about 2 hours.

Makes about 4 cups.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Making Soup with Deborah Madison: Food and the Deeper Self

One of my favorite food writing jobs is contributing to Rancho La Puerta's blog and app. Every month, I go down to their cooking school, La Cocina Que Canta, and participate in a hands-on class taught by a renowned cooking teacher, restaurateur, or cookbook author.

They've given me permission to put these posts on San Diego Foodstuff, so in the coming months you'll periodically see them. This week focuses on the great Deborah Madison.

On teaching days at La Cocina Que Canta, typically students arrive for a class, the instructor presents a quick intro to what will be happening during the session, and then everyone grabs a straw hat and heads out to the fields with Salvador the gardener to pick the produce they’ll all be cooking with.

Except for the rare times when it rains. And, for the first day of Deborah Madison’s four-day teaching extravaganza in October it rained. Hard. But, that was fine because as it happens, Day One was all about soups and there was no better day to make soup than that soggy Monday.

So, 15 of us sat around a long table and Madison led us through what you could call the soup-making journey—10 basic steps that most soups require, a conceptshe developed for her book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. See, while 
recipes are wonderful, being liberated from them to make delicious soups through inspiration and basic knowledge is something a home cook can aspire to. Of course, we had seven of her recipes on hand to guide us in the kitchen that rainy day—from Red Lentil Soup with Lime and Spinach to Quinoa, Potato and Spinach Soup with Feta Cheese (recipe below).
And we also had Madison’s friend, food writer Penni Wisner, teaching with her, including showing us how to bake no-knead bread.

Madison, a chef, writer, and clearly talented cooking teacher, was among the first contemporary chefs to develop the farm-to-table menu style now so popular among restaurants across the country. With Greens restaurant in San Francisco, where she was the founding chef in 1979, Madison established a career that has led to 11 cookbooks (which have earned awards from IACP and the James Beard Foundation among others) and writing assignments from Saveur, Cooking Light, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, and Garden Design.

While she admits she doesn’t spend time thinking about the connection between words and food, Madison believes that food is bigger than a recipe and has everything to do with what we are. For her food is a lens through which anyone can view his or her life.

“It has nothing to do with being interested in food, or a good cook, or a lousy one, or a foodie or any of that,” she says. “It has to do with everything we are, starting with nurture or the lack thereof.”

Given her enthusiasm for the bounty of the garden and farm, it makes sense that Madison’s starting point is the contemplative space of her home garden in New Mexico, and the community scene of the local farmers market. In fact, Madison spent time as a market manager and is a big fan of the Santa Fe Farmers Market. “It’s about running into friends, some of whom are the farmers, exchanging greetings and news, maybe sharing a recipe idea for some new squash or other produce, sometimes planning an impromptu dinner.”

One of her books, Local Flavors, gives advice on how to shop at a farmers market, but she also offers some tips for those just venturing away from the grocery store and into the open air:
  • First of all, shopping at a farmers market for the first time is an adventure, and adventures are good for us to have, so go with an open mind and don't worry.
  • Always make a pass through the market and take a look at what's there, the prices, the quality, what appeals to you, before you buy. That way you get the lay of the land. As you shop more and more at a market, you may find you have favorite vendors that you always return to—I know I do —but even so, I like to take a look around first just to see what's there.
  • Do accept tastes and ask questions about foods that may be unfamiliar.  And just because you took a taste of something, it doesn't mean you have to buy. You’re sampling and informing yourself.
  • If you feel very unsure about what the food you see at the farmers market, for you might well see different varieties than what's in the supermarket, start with those vegetables and fruits that are familiar, that you already use—carrots, onions, garlic, apples, strawberries. Then maybe choose one food that's new to you—a white eggplant, a different variety of cabbage, an exotic fruit.
Once you have that produce back home—and maybe it’s a soup kind of day like ours was—Madison has suggestions that include making your own quick vegetable stock from the trimmings you would ordinarily immediately toss into the compost pile, tasting the soup not just for more salt but perhaps acid to create balance (it turns out a little lemon juice can go a long way to creating that “aha” flavor moment), and to just make plenty.

“Soup generally gets better as it sits,” Madison says. “It can make an instant homemade meal when you’ve got a big pot on hand, and, if you give a little thought to the garnishes and textures, you can turn one pot into many soups.”

That’s the über cooking teacher offering practical guidance. But now that we're into cool, even cold, weather when soups become more than just a flavorful meal but, in their heartiness, are embracing and nurturing, it’s worth thinking about the connections Madison draws between food and our inner lives.

“Perhaps that’s where the magic lies,” she proposes. “Food is really about our larger, deeper lives, and we all have those, whether we’re close to our deeper selves or not.”

Quinoa, Potato and Spinach Soup with Feta Cheese
From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Serves 6

"This grain-based soup is light, delicious, pretty, fresh, and very simple to make. And with the quinoa, it's highly nutritious. What more could one ask of a recipe?" DM

3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 small bunch spinach, stems removed, leaves washed and chopped
8 ounces Yukon Gold or other potato, diced in 1/4-inch cubes
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground, toasted cumin seed
1 teaspoon salt, to taste, and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces feta cheese, finely diced in small cubes
3 scallions, thinly sliced in rounds, including a few of the greens
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 hard-cooked egg, diced (optional)

1. Simmer the quinoa in 7 cups water for 10 minutes. When the quinoa is done, drain it, reserving the water, which you'll use in the soup.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, cut the vegetables and set them aside.
3. Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan with the garlic and chile, cook for about 30 seconds, without browning the garlic, then add the cumin, salt and potatoes. Measure the quinoa cooking liquid plus water, if needed, to make 6 cups. Add it to the vegetables, bring to a boil, then add the quinoa and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes, then turn off the heat. Taste for salt and season the soup with pepper. Add the cheese, then stir in the spinach and the scallions. As soon as the spinach is wilted, serve the soup, garnished with the cilantro and hard-cooked egg, if using.

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