Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Invite a Boar to Dinner

A meal of boar sounds so exotic. So wild. So feral.

And, yes, that would be true if we were talking wild boar. But, in fact, a domestic boar is simply an intact male pig. As opposed to barrows, or castrated pigs. And, in case you're wondering, female pigs can be either gilts--never bred--or sows--those females that have had at least one litter.

Meet a boar. Photo courtesy of Dave Heafner

So, now that we've clarified that, on to the boar. Dave Heafner of Da-Le Ranch in Lake Elsinore and a longtime farmers market vendor is now selling boar meat from animals he and his family are raising. Since they're processing the boar at a custom facility, he's not allowed to sell individual pieces so he's selling them in packages of eighths, quarters, halves, and whole. A quarter, for instance is $6.75 a pound and generally runs between 25 and 35 pounds. Cuts can include neck bones, shoulder roast, shoulder steaks, pork chops, tenderloin, ribs, belly, leg roast, leg steaks, shank, foot, jowl, sometimes organs (if requested), and even sausage. Yes, that's a lot of meat -- but families have been known to get together and share orders.

Dave sent me some samples of chops that he cut up for his family and last week I prepared one simply indoors on my stovetop grill, accompanied by a savory apple pumpkin chutney, made with Jackie's Jams pumpkin butter, fresh sage leaves, and honey crisp apples from Smit Orchards.

This particular chop was about 11 ounces, so it was large enough for me to enjoy for two meals but some of the chops are smaller and suited for one portion. They come frozen, so defrost overnight in the refrigerator and then let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before grilling. I just added salt and pepper to each side before putting it on the heat.

Give it about five minutes on each side. While it's cooking you can prepare the chutney. You'll be sauteeing the sliced apples with sliced red onions and sage leaves in olive oil. Then add a couple of splashes of Madeira and a pinch of salt.

Pull the chop off the grill and let it rest. Then remove the apples from the heat and stir in a couple of tablespoons of the pumpkin butter, which includes the piquant spices you associate with a chutney, and mix it up.

I cut off the long strip of fat along the side but the rest of the fat within the chop seemingly melted away, leaving a tender, moist, sweet piece of meat with far more flavor than the plastic-wrapped chops you'll find in the supermarket. The apples, onions, and pumpkin butter add an earthy, tangy sweetness that's intensified with the Madeira. It's truly a cozy fall meal, even better served with bitter sauteed greens like Swiss chard or kale.

Grilled Boar Chops with Apple Pumpkin Chutney
Printable version
Serves 2

Typically, chutney is a mix of fruit with spices and herbs. And that's what you'll find here, except that since the pumpkin butter already is filled with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg, there's no need to add any more spices. I added common sage from my garden to give some warm pungency. Plus, sage is known for aiding in the digestion of fatty foods and is the perfect--and traditional--accompaniment to pork.

2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
2/3 cup red onions, sliced
6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
A couple of splashes of Madeira
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons Jackie's Jams Pumpkin Butter

1. Oil the grill and heat to high. Season the chops with salt and pepper and place on the grill. Cook about five minutes on each side for medium doneness.

2. Heat olive oil in a saute pan and cook the onions at medium heat until they just turn brown. Add the apple slices and sage and cook for five minutes.

3. As the apples soften, add a couple of splashes of Madeira and a pinch of salt. Turn up the heat to medium high and continue cooking until the apples start to brown. Add a tad more liquid if the mixture dries out. You want the liquid to just evaporate when done.

4. Remove the chops from the heat and let rest. Remove the apple mixture from the heat. Stir in the pumpkin butter. Plate the chops and serve with the chutney.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Robin Asbell's Big Vegan Blogger Potluck: Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins

I met Minneapolis chef, cooking teacher, and food writer Robin Asbell about a year ago at Rancho La Puerta when I was writing a blog for them about their cooking classes. I spent the day learning about her approach to food and cooking, which I wrote about for RLP and also published on San Diego Foodstuff.

Robin is a self-described "occasional pescatarian." She is basically vegetarian but periodically indulges in seafood. But for her new book, Big Vegan ( Chronicle Books, $29.95), she's delved into the Big Monty of natural foods: veganism.

You can have a chance to win your own copy of the book. See directions below.

Now, while I don't eat a lot of meat anymore I'm neither vegetarian nor vegan. I enjoy my animal products. But if I were to think about it, I certainly do prepare a lot of meals that would fall under the category of vegan, so it was no stretch for me to accept Robin's invitation to participate in a "blogger potluck" she's organized to introduce her book. For the next few days, participants listed below will be rolling out posts around recipes from Big Vegan for everyone -- even non-vegans like me -- to enjoy.

My pick was her Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins. I love matcha--the delicate  green powdered tea, usually whisked into hot water to make a frothy beverage in Japanese tea ceremonies. Matcha is easy enough to find at Asian markets.

Robin explains that, "I think I originally came up with the idea for a Tea and Food Pairing class, and I liked the color. I carry matcha with me when I travel just in case I can't get a cup of tea, and I sometimes put it in my smoothie. I'm really into tea, too."

The ingredients for the scones are pretty basic, but it was the first time I'd baked scones without using the traditional butter and cream that go into them. Instead, Robin uses Earth Balance margarine and coconut milk. And, I liked her suggestion for grating the margarine into the dry ingredients.

First, mix together the dry ingredients.

Then add the grated Earth Balance (it does come in sticks for easier measuring).

Rub it in with your fingers and then add coconut milk.

Finally, you'll add the plump golden raisins and mix it together with your hands before pulling out the dough onto a floured board and shaping it into a disk. The dough is a little sticky so be sure to have extra flour on hand for dusting.

Cut into wedges and then brush with more coconut milk before baking for all of 14 minutes.

Let cool and then enjoy with a cup of coffee or, of course, green tea! The scones are light and have subtle overtones of the matcha -- perfect with the bright punch of the raisins interspersed in each piece. And they certainly fit in with her philosophy about food -- and life:

“I’m an enlightened hedonist,” Robin said back when I first met her. “I want to have fun but I don’t want to suffer.”

Matcha Scones with Golden Raisins
From Big Vegan by Robin Asbell
(Printable Recipe)

For a treat, try these pale green scones, made with cake flour--the whitest flour of them all. It shows off the delicate color and flavor of the tea. You can go back to whole-wheat tomorrow!

2 1/2 cups/315 g cake/soft-wheat flour, plus extra for the counter*
1/4 cup/50 g sugar
1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup/55 g Earth Balance margarine, frozen
1 cup/240 ml coconut milk, plus extra for brushing
3/4 cup/130 g golden raisins/sultanas

1. Preheat the oven to 400℉/200℃/gas 6. Line a baking sheet/tray with parchment/baking paper. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, matcha, baking powder, and salt. With a pastry blender or grater, cut the margarine into the dry ingredients and work it in with your fingers. Pour the milk into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add the raisins and mix with your hands.

2. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and form it into a dish about 3/4 in/2 cm thick for eight scones (or make two rounds for sixteen smaller scones; slice each round into eight wedges). Place the scones on the baking sheet/tray, 2 in/5 cm apart, and brush with milk. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the bottoms are browned and the edges are golden brown (bake smaller scones for about 10 minutes). Let them cool on the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool on racks. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

* Note: Robin tells me she had included cake flour in the recipe but the publisher changed it to pastry flour. I made one batch with whole wheat pastry flour, which was all I could find at my local store, but the results yielded a heavy doughy scone. When I checked with Robin I learned about the change and made a second batch using cake flour--which is what is shown and written about above. What a difference. These scones were light and the flavor of the matcha came through. So, use cake flour or try white pastry flour. Let me know the results.

And, here's the rest of the potluck group with their Big Vegan recipe posts:

Robin Asbell: Maple Barley Granola
Leinana Two Moons: Baguette French Toast with "Cream Cheese" & Apple
Susan Russo: Mango-Jicama Salad with Lime Dressing and Pepitas
Bryanna Clark Grogan: Armenian Red Lentil Stew with Sesame Brown Rice
Nancie McDermott: Korean Miso-Tofu Soup
Jill Nussinow: Squash Quesadillas with Cranberry-Jícama Salsa
Sandra Gutierrez: Green and Red Spaghetti
Robin Robertson: Bengall Curry of Cauliflower and Kidney Beans
Julie Hasson: Spanish Chickpea Fritters
Pat Tanumhardja: New Potato Rendang with Green Beans
Leinana Two Moons: Sundried Tomato-Kale Calzones and Pumpkin Cherry Bundt Cake
Tara Desmond: Peanut Butter Tart with "Ganache"

Big Vegan Giveaway

Finally, I have a copy of Big Vegan to give away. Even if, like me, you're not a vegan, I think you'll find the recipes in this large book thoroughly intriguing and delicious. I've got a list of ones I've marked to try. So, I recommend you enter the giveaway.

Simply leave a comment below about the best vegan meal you've ever enjoyed. Comments must be posted by noon PDT, Monday, Oct. 24. The person I think wrote the most persuasive comment will win the book. I'll reveal the winner in my email newsletter on Tuesday, the 25th. You can sign up for it here or via the invitation on the right. So, enlighten us with your experience!

Need some extra encouragement? Watch Robin here tease her book and what you'll get out of it:

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

San Diego's Top Brewers

San Diego is one of the nation's top craft brewing cities. And we've got no shortage of innovative chefs. Beer. Food. It can be a blissful union. So, with this in mind, Chef's Press has just published a beautiful new book called San Diego's Top Brewers: Inside America's Craft Beer Capital ($24.95). Written by Bruce Glassman and photographed by Paul Body and Michael Pawlenty, the book features 17 top breweries--from Stone and Mother Earth to Alesmith, Ballast Point, Karl Strauss, and Iron Fist--and plenty of bars, taverns, and brewpubs, like the popular Blind Lady Ale House, Live Wire, and Hamilton's Tavern.

And, there's no shortage of delightful sounding beer/ale-oriented recipes created by forward-thinking chefs who clearly have an affinity for brews. After all, beer is a splendid and endlessly versatile ingredient for both savory and sweet dishes. You can use it as stock, for braising, for creating sauces, and as the liquid in pastries. The distinctiveness in brewing styles and tonality means that the chef or home cook can create a unique flavor and texture by astutely selecting their beer or ale. And that's what these chefs did. You'll want to check out recipes like the Green Flash Trippel-Cured Salmon with Smoked-Onion Flan and Barleywine Syrup from Terra's Jeff Rossman; Black Garlic Fondue from Karl Strauss Brewing Company's executive chef Gunther Emathinger; and Shrimp-Imbap from The Marine Room's Ron Oliver.

The book offers pairing tips, describes the brewing process, and tosses in resources for other beer businesses. There's even a section devoted to my favorite cupcake maker, Misty Birchall of Pubcakes, who I've written about in my Local Bounty column in San Diego Magazine. She's got the market on beer-flavored cupcakes like the Red Velvet Glove, that is made with Iron Fist Brewing Co.'s Velvet Glove, and Cup o'Helen, with Ballast Point Wahoo Wheat Beer (the recipe for this is in the book).

San Diego's Top Brewers is a refreshing insight into the idiosyncratic world of brewing with an inside look at the characters that inhabit it and what it's taken to turn their passion into liquid gold.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hangin' with Sam the Cooking Guy

The first time I met Sam Zien, aka Sam the Cooking Guy, was a couple of years ago at Congregation Beth Israel, where we were both judging a temple cooking contest. Every time he and I would stand together to discuss a dish, a different elderly woman would come over and literally shove me aside so that her husband could shoot a photo of her snuggled up with Sam.

Sam is clearly a rock star with the bubbe set.

But, Sam's popularity spans across generations or he wouldn't be as popular a figure as he is in San Diego's food scene and beyond, and he's reinforcing that with a new online show, The Sam Livecast, where Sam cooks but also chats about whatever happens to interest him at the moment. And, yes, you can still find Sam the Cooking Guy on TV locally, in LA, Orange County, Las Vegas, and Arizona -- and even on the East Coast in Georgia and Virgina. You can catch videos of him preparing recipes from his shows. You can even shop Sam at "Sam's Store," where you can buy his three cookbooks or kitchen gadgets and gear. Sam is an industry.

He's also a very nice guy and, yes, a terrific cook, as I discovered when I was invited to appear Sept. 26 on The Sam Livecast. The live streaming show is pretty relaxed. He chats with his very young crew and people--like me--who hang out on the couch in the kitchen with Sam's wife, Kelly, his interns, perhaps his sons and their girlfriends. And the two dogs. It's very casual with the periodic f-bomb dropped. But don't let that fool you; Sam knows what he's doing. Ingredients are prepped in a home kitchen any food person would envy. He does his schtick, but then the cooking begins and as easy as he makes it looks, that's how delicious the dish is.

When I was invited on, the idea was basically an appearance with idle back and forth from the couch about my writing. But I thought it would be fun to show him a little of what I do--and promote Olivewood Gardens--so I offered to make corn tortillas with flowers pressed in them with him on the show--as I've been doing with the kids I teach at Olivewood Gardens. Well, the counteroffer was for me just to bring in the tortillas, already made. Which I did, along with homemade tomato salsa.

And that was the inspiration for Sam, along with bluefin tuna that he'd acquired, to make seared bluefin tuna tacos with mango salsa. Prettiest tacos around, what with the gorgeous yellow salsa and being encased in tortillas highlighted with orange and yellow nasturtiums or purple and white violets.

You can catch the livecast on his website, where you'll also find recipes. And I describe there how to make the tortillas. And stay tuned for more shows. The livecast airs live Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 6 p.m. pacific time. I hear he's going to have more food writers/bloggers on the show as guests. You never know who will turn up.

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