Ah, the mad rush of holiday gift shopping. How about taking a zen moment to gaze upon the calming blues of the Pacific, a picnic basket filled with an array of fruit and breads and who knows what else, with a wedge of brie and a couple of wine glasses just beckoning for a pour.
You're now in San Diego artist and designer Jolee Pink's whimsical, tactile world, as depicted in her beautifully photographed new book, Living Coastal: Inspirations for Entertaining, Decorating and Cooking California Style ($19.95, Chefs Press, Inc.).
While Pink talks California, the style, food, and drinks are strictly SoCal coastal and buoyantly, aspirationally so. The eighteen featured chefs are San Diegans, known for utilizing local produce and sustainably sourced local seafood. They and their recipes--beautifully photographed dishes by Mike Pawlenty--are paired with artists and sometimes mixologists and artisan vendors in 16 cute, short chapters themed for entertaining.
"Spring Fling" features Brandon Brooks of Sessions Public with his Pan-Seared Local Sardines with Tapenade and Coleslaw, accompanied by Smoke & Mirrors Cocktail Company with Smiles in the Morning cocktail and artist Cheryl Tall with her aqua and sea foam green ceramics.
There's Andrew Spurgin with his Salt-Baked Spot Prawns with Aromatics, Lemon and Black Mayonnaise in the "Trip to the Tropics" chapter, accompanied by Pink of Wabisabi Green and her sea-oriented sculpture.
Alex Carballo, late of Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens and now cooking at URBN Coal Fired Pizza, is part of the "It's Game Day" chapter, with his tempting Stone IPA Marinated Mahi-Mahi Skewers with Pineapple Chimichurri, along with Stone Farms and artist Elon Ebanks's whimsical sea life sculptures.
Among the vendors who get small featured roles are Tommy Gomes of Catalina Offshore Products, fisherman Peter Halmay, Susan Sbicca of Millie's Gelato, potter Mike Totah of The Wheel (you can find his gorgeous pottery at farmers markets like the Little Italy Mercato), and Sea Salt Candy Company.
I want to make the dishes of all these chefs--from Simon Dolinky, Amanda Baumgarten, and Bernard Guillas to Matt Gordon, Ricardo Heredia, Jeff Rossman, and Kathleen Wise. They and the rest of the chefs have provided beautiful, accessible mostly sea-inspired dishes. This one by Tim Johnson of Zenbu simply couldn't be easier.
Johnson's recipe, featuring local oysters, sea urchin, and Pacific spiny lobsters--currently in season--is in a chapter called "Date Night" that also highlights the art of Matthew Antichevich, who created the 16-foot surfer statue called Magic Carpet Ride in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
Oysters with Uni and Lobster Ceviche
from Tim Johnson of Zenbu
Chef's Notes: Invest in a good oyster knife with a narrow blade. When you begin to pry the oyster open, always twist the blade to pop it open. By forcing it straight in, you may damage the meat. The goal is to keep the oyster whole.
Oysters and Uni
6 small oysters, shucked
1 live sea urchin (uni), roe cleaned and divided into 6 pieces
6 thin round slices jalapeño
6 dashes ponzu sauce
1 steamed Pacific spiny lobster, split in half, cleaned, meat removed
2 tablespoons salsa fresca
1/2 avocado, cubed
1 lime, juiced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Roe (I prefer baked spot prawn roe or masago or tobiko)
Lay oysters on a bed of crushed ice. Place a small piece of uni and a slice of jalapeño on each oyster. Garnish with baked spot prawn roe, a dash of ponzu sauce, and lemon wedges.
Cut lobster meat in 1/2-inch pieces. In a bowl, mix lobster, salsa fresco, avocado, lime juice, salt, and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Marinate refrigerated for 30 minutes. The lobster shell make a great dish to hold the ceviche.
Serve oysters with a dish of the ceviche garnished with microgreens, lemon wedges, and your favorite tortilla chips.
Is Living Coastal purely a cookbook? No, it's a hybrid cookbook, art book, design book. It's the perfect siren song for your coffee table and your kitchen, a homage to the spirit of the Pacific as translated by San Diego and its border influences, and a temptation to those who live in colder climes and dream of this iconic beachy SoCal lifestyle.