Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Collaboration Kitchen: Christopher Logan's Easy Pickles

Chef Christopher Logan of Creative Flavors Catering

Collaboration Kitchen, the unusual but always fun monthly cooking demo featuring San Diego's top chefs at Catalina Offshore Products, is, of course, about the seafood. And Chef Christopher Logan of Creative Flavors Catering presented several mouth-watering seafood dishes last Sunday night. But what  struck me that evening was the variety of pickles he made to accompany his Peruvian-Style Bay  Scallop Ceviche. That one dish came with pickled red onions, pickled kumquats, and pickled purple carrot. Each flavor profile was unique in its own way, but together they further brightened what is always a fresh tasting dish, ceviche. I can see each of these three pickles served throughout the summer with many other dishes--grilled flank steak, fish tacos, sushi/sashimi, and even burgers--so I asked Logan for more detailed recipes than what he distributed that night.

Here Logan created a marinade for the scallops of lime zest and juice, garlic, basil, serrano chili (with seeds), cilantro, and sea salt. Blend the ingredients in a blender or food processor, then pour over the scallops and refrigerate.

Once the scallops have been "cooked" by the marinade, you can plate it with the pickles and add a little micro cilantro for garnish.

Peruvian-Style Bay Scallop Ceviche with pickled red onion, pickled purple carrots, and pickled kumquats

But before you get there, you've got to make those pickles. Here's how:

Pickled Red Onion
from Christopher Logan

1 medium red onion
Sweet rice vinegar, enough to cover the onions in a bowl
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of white sugar

Peel and slice the onion--either whole or cut in half--and place in a metal or glass bowl. Mix together the salt, sugar, and vinegar until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour over the onion and cover the mixture in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. The color should be a nice purple. Refrigerated, it can keep for a week.

Fresh kumquats
Pickled Kumquats
from Christopher Logan

1 pound kumquats, washed in warm water and drained dry
2 cups sweet rice vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt,
1/4 cup whole allspice
1 cup peeled whole garlic cloves
4 sticks fresh rosemary
1/8 cup red chile pepper
1/8 cup cracked black pepper

Place dry kumquats in a glass or metal bowl. Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and allspice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved taste to be sure you have the flavor you want, then adjust to more sweet or spicy or salty. Add the garlic, rosemary, red chile pepper, and black pepper. Stir, and then pour over kumquats. To be sure the kumquats are covered, weigh them down with a plate. Let cool, then place in refrigerator for two days, mixing the pickles twice, tasting for the flavors you want and adjusting over that time. These can be kept for up to a month, covered, in the refrigerator.

Purple carrots with kumquats, lemons, and asparagus
Pickled Purple Carrots
from Christopher Logan

It's tempting to blanch or roast these gorgeous carrots so they'll retain their color, but Chef Logan says that, in fact, the color will end up bleeding in this recipe. So, instead, just peel them very thinly and enjoy the vibrant color that results.

3 to 4 pounds purple carrots (You can find these at Specialty Produce; you can also use conventional carrots.)
1 cup white sugar
4 cups white distilled vinegar (or just enough to cover the sliced carrots)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup whole cloves
1/8 cup black peppercorns
1/2 cup fresh tarragon

Peel and slice the carrots and place in a glass or metal bowl. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the carrots. Let cool, then cover and place in the refrigerator for two days, periodically stirring and tasting. At that point, they're ready to use. They can be kept for up to one month, covered, in the refrigerator.


Logan operates his catering company out of Carlsbad. You can also find him most Fridays at Catalina Offshore Products helping Tommy Gomes with seafood demos for customers. I've had several of his tastings and can vouch for Tommy's brilliance in having him show off what you can do with seafood.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Whole Foods Hillcrest's New 7th Ave Pub

Last week, my friend Carolyn Kates invited me to come by the Whole Foods in Hillcrest, where she works, to learn about the program she created in which local producers make products exclusive to the Hillcrest store. I wrote about that for this week's Local Bounty blog post in San Diego Magazine. After checking out the products, she invited to have lunch with her in the store's new eatery, what they call the 7th Ave Pub--just a short stroll up the ramp to street level at University and 7th.

It's a cozy place with a contemporary feel, perfect for a beer and a burger. In fact, the pub carries 30 beers on draft, and several in bottles and cans--many, like Stone, Coronado Brewing Company, San Diego Brewing Co, Alesmith, and Ballast Point--from local brewers. There's also a small wine line list and some interesting non-alcoholic drinks, like the lemon ginger iced tea I ordered, which was remarkably refreshing.

The menu currently is a work in progress. Indeed, the 7th Ave Pub is a work in progress itself. The day I was there, a dumb waiter was being installed so that food didn't have to be carried up the ramp from the kitchen. Cooking equipment better suited for a restaurant than the market's prepared foods prep was on its way, which will give the cooks more latitude in creating a targeted menu for this particular venue.

Nevertheless, the food was terrific. Carolyn ordered a number of dishes for us.

The first that came up with Anishka's Beet Salad. Okay, I don't eat beets, but the salad was gorgeous and I was delighted that glistening red beets were limited to large slices on the plate, topped by the mix of arugula, grilled corn, and feta cheese--tossed in a tangy cilantro vinaigrette with sriracha sauce. I could enjoy just the salad and it was bright and perfect for that sunny spring afternoon.

Next up came a large serving plate filled with orange balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts, bedded in large red cabbage leaves. I adored these. You could just taste the citrus coming through the perfectly crispy sweet sprouts. But, get this, the Brussels sprouts were paired with a helping of whole grain mustard for dipping. That would never have occurred to me, yet it truly works and is something I'll be doing in the future when I make it myself. Loved this dish!

Then we were hit by a big--really big--burger. This was the University Burger & Fries. And there was the Pesto Tomato Flatbread.

The burger is served on a fluffy Sadie Rose bun. The top bun was laden with lettuce, tomato, a chunky slice of red onion, and what seemed to be a whole avocado, sliced. The bottom bun was invisible, covered by the medium rare whole beef patty (from Homegrown Meats), cheddar cheese, and two mammoth slices of crispy bacon. Decadent enough, but matched by the pile of crispy fries and a little bowl of Kickin' Ketchup (made in Orange County and sold at the store). The slice of pickle? Well, they can do better. Just open up a jar of Bubbies kosher pickles, please.

Okay, image trying to take the top bun and its toppers and flipping it over to create the burger. Then eating it. So delicious yet so fraught with danger. My suggestion? Sliders. Three types: beef, lamb, and pork. Perfect one-handed food for when you're also cradling an ale. And, I hear, they do intend to scale down some of the menu items to make them a little easier to eat. But, this still was a great burger.

The flatbread, also, was terrific. With a flatbread you obviously run the risk of juices above creating  soggy bread. But they know what they're doing here.

Those juicy tomato slices sat on a nest of house-made pesto and somehow their juices didn't leak through to the bread. The whole thing was smothered with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses--so it was a great melding of salty, sweet, aromatic, chewy, and crispy. (It even reheated well the next day when I ate the leftovers.)

The 7th Ave Pub clearly benefits from the variety of food and ingredients available to it from Whole Foods below, so you can also order sushi, a cheese board, tacos, soups, sandwiches, and dessert. There are vegetarian and vegan options for several dishes, too.

As I noted, though, the menu will be changing. That's something I can't wait to check out the next time I'm there.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Seedling Soiree for Olivewood Gardens

You've read about Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center in this space many times before. They're the  sprawling oasis in National City that teaches primarily low-income children the joy and benefits of organic gardening and cooking--turning kids on to getting dirty to get veggies growing and then turning them on to eating the nutritionally packed veggies they grow. They also have fun educational events for parents and families, host herb and veggie plant giveaways, and even host yoga classes. It's an exciting place and one where I've spent many many enjoyable hours as a volunteer cooking instructor.

They give and give and give--but need some financial assistance from us to keep on shining the bright light on health and a sound environment. On Saturday, June 8th, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Olivewood Gardens will hold its third annual fundraiser, Seedling Soiree.

If it's anything like the previous two events, it'll be a magical evening held on the grounds of Olivewood Gardens with magnificent food and drink provided by top San Diego chefs. This year they include Alex Carballo of Stone Brewing Company paired with Hanis Cavin of Carnitas Snack Shack, Miguel Valdez of The Red Door and The Wellington paired with True Food Kitchen's Nathan Coulon, Paul Rinaudo of Spike Africa's Fresh Fish Grill & Bar paired with Simon Dolinky of Saltbox, Olivier Bioteau of Farm House Cafe and Chad White of EGO and Plancha, Jack Fisher of Cucina Urbana and Joe Burns of Waters Fine Food and Catering, and surprise chef Jo Ann Plympton of GANG Kitchen. The paired chefs will prepare a course together, resulting in a blow-out six-course meal showcasing the best of San Diego's organic and sustainable produce, fish, and meats.

Chef Chad White
Chef Miguel Valdez with The Red Door and The Wellington owner Trish Watlington
The evening will be emceed by Sam (the Cooking Guy) Zien and we'll hear a short talk by guest speaker Ron Finley, "the Guerilla Gardener," who has been featured on TED Talks.

Sam the Cooking Guy

You can visit the website to buy tickets. It's truly a don't-miss event!

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Must-Attend May Events in S.D.

Something's in the air in San Diego--there are so many local events going on this month alone that sound terrific that I want to share just a few.

This is short notice, but the annual Gator by the Bay Zydeco, Blues & Crawfish Festival is coming this weekend (May 10-12) at Spanish Landing Park (across from the airport). It's a chance to take in some Louisiana culture and eat some terrific Cajun and Creole specialties, like boudin sausage, catfish, crawfish etouffĂ©, po' boy sandwiches, seafood gumbo, jambalaya, fresh oysters (from Carlsbad Aquafarms), beignets, boiled peanuts, sweet potato pie, and homemade ice cream. And, of course, boiled crawfish with potatoes and corn from Mitch Olivier of Crawfish Corner in Opelousas, Louisiana.

There will also be cooking demos, live bands, and dancing. And crawfish. You can buy tickets here.

Next up is Restaurant 404k, the May 21 pop-up restaurant event Burlap chef Anthony Sinsay is holding to raise funds for Southwest High School, his alma mater (class of 2001). In honor of his late home-ec and nutrition teacher Sharon Kleinschmidt, who taught for almost 48 years, Sinsay has created The Sharon Kleinschmidt Culinary Scholarship. He's taken a total of nine students as interns to stage in his kitchen over three weeks. At the end of the three weeks, he'll work with them to prepare a four-course menu for the pop-up at Southwest High School.

Tickets are $40 per person and the proceeds will go directly to providing scholarships to students at the Regional Occupational Program in Culinary Arts at Southwest High School under the auspices of his new scholarship fund.

You can reserve and buy tickets by calling the school at 619-628-3023 or send an email to soh404k@gmail.com.

Finally, here's an event that is a crowd pleaser every year that benefits The San Diego Council on Literacy.

Eat. Drink. Read. will be held this year on May 22 at the NTC Promenade McMillin Center in Pt. Loma from 5:30 to 8 p.m. As always, there's a terrific lineup of restaurants with book-inspired gourmet dishes. The list includes Amaya at the Grand Del Mar and La Jolla, Casa Guadalajara, Chaplos Restaurant & Bar, Craft & Commerce, Jsix, Leroy's Kitchen & Lounge, Rancho La Puerta, Sycuan Casino, The Lion's Share, The Red Door, Urban Solace, and Whisknladle--plus a number of fab vendors, like Eclipse Chocolate, Sadie Rose Baking Company, Stone Brewing, Banks Rum, Callaway Vineyard & Winery, Ryan Bros. Coffee, Solar Rain, and Honest Tea.

Tickets are $65 and can be purchased at www.eatdrinkread.com.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Stuck for a Mother's Day Idea?

I'm no longer into doing holiday round-ups--where to go, what to buy, and all that. There are just too many options and it ends up being a laundry list that's a mess to compile and few people read. But I was struck by this idea for Mother's Day from a favorite place of mine, True Food Kitchen, and wanted to share it with you.

It's pretty simple, actually, a gift card. Yeah, yeah, but the cards are enclosed in a pretty holder made of biodegradable seed paper holding fresh basil seeds. Plant the paper and your mom will have a basil plant in weeks.

And, of course, True Food will be having a Mother's Day lunch with specials that include pan-roasted halibut with spring asparagus, hon shimeji mushrooms, arugula and citrus vinaigrette, and strawberry shortcake with local organic berries, vanilla bean shortcake, and Greek yogurt. Healthy, delicious--my kind of brunch.

As I've written before, I'm a big fan of the kale salad--can't miss with that!

True Food Kitchen Chef Nathan Coulon teaching me how to make the kale salad.

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