Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Last Chance Loquat Ginger Jam

Well, it's almost May and all those loquat trees in my community still have fruit on them, but they won't for much longer and I want to make the most of these sweet tart little fruits that are so fragile you'll probably never find them on display in a market. It took me a couple of morning dog walks to collect almost three pounds of fruit and I decided to make jam with them. By the time I seeded the loquats, I ended up with just a tad over a pound.

I decided to pair the loquats with fresh ginger. And, still looking for even more flavor, I added a couple of tablespoons of this marvelous fennel pollen blend I use as my secret weapon when I bake apple pies. It's Divine Desserts Seasoning, produced by Pollen Ranch for Chef Bernard Guillas. I love the mix of spices with the fennel, like cayenne pepper, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, and clove. Perfect for the jam.

The process for making the jam is simple. Seed and trim the ends of the loquats (no need to remove the skin). Combine the fruit with sugar, flavors, and water in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a boil, skim any impurities, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it cook down for about an hour and a half. Prep your jars, fill them, and place the jam jars in a water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, let them sit in the water for another five minutes, and then remove to the counter on a dish towel to cool overnight. With any luck, the lids will pop to let you know they're properly sealed. That's it. Then you have this luscious spread with a tropical flair that is not just perfect on toast, but as a topping for ice cream and even baked on poultry or pork, or--yum--spread on a slice of pound cake.

Loquat Ginger Jam
(printable recipe)
Yield: 2 1/2 pints


2 pounds of seeded, trimmed loquats
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons Divine Desserts Seasoning (optional)

1. Roughly chop loquats.
2. Combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a boil. Boil for about five minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about an hour and a half. Be sure to regularly stir the mixture and skim any impurities. Use a potato masher or stick blender to create the consistency you want. I like it chunky, but it can also be very smooth.

3. While the jam is cooking, wash and sterilize jars and lids in a large pot of heavily simmering water. Keep the jars in the water and keep the water simmering.
4. When the jam has reduced to the consistency you want, turn off the heat. Remove the jars from the water and fill them with the jam, leaving a half inch of head room and wiping away any smudges in and around the jar.
5. Seal the jar and gently twist the band. Do this with each jar and then return them to the water bath. They should be in actively simmering water for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the bath for another five minutes. Then remove the jars to the counter but out of a draft. To avoid breaking the glass, place the hot jars on a towel. Don't worry if there's water on the lids. It will evaporate. Let the jars alone overnight. Within minutes you should hear popping as the lids seal.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Saffron's Su-Mei Yu Featured in Sunday's Collaboration Kitchen

Su-Mei Yu, owner of Saffron and host of Savor San Diego on KPBS TV, will be featured, along with Ballast Point Brewing Co., at Sunday's Collaboration Kitchen, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m. at Catalina Offshore Products. There are limited tickets left.

What's on Su-Mei's Thai menu?

Thai Ceviche
Marinated salmon in seasoning paste, including chilies, garlic, shallot, krachai (Chinese keys) and lime juice, dressed with coconut cream, slivers of fresh Thai chilies, and shredded green mango – served with Belgian endive and rice/sesame seeds crackers. Pair with Calico Amber Ale with nice Madeira and toffee sweetness balanced with a citrus bite from Cascade hops.

Laab Goong
Northern Thai style salad with grilled marinated shrimp in Ballast Point’s Wahoo White beer, garlic, and olive oil and toss with chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, krachai (Chinese keys), shallot, green onion, kaffir lime leaves, culantro, mint and lime juice – served on lettuce leaves. Pair with Wahoo White Beer – Belgian wheat beer inspired ale with orange peel and coriander.

Grilled Mussels
Seasoned with Thai chilies, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and rinds, Thai basils, coconut cream and Piper Down Scottish Ale. Pair with Indra Kunindra – export stout infused with madras curry, cumin, cayenne, kaffir lime leaves and toasted coconut.

Southern Thai Style Spicy Yellow Curry
Turmeric-infused curry paste with yellow tail and pineapple – served with red Thai organic rice. Pair with Dorado Double India Pale Ale with the bitterness that increases from heat from curry and hop aromas and flavors similar to that of pineapple and grapefruit.

Melon Balls with Coconut Syrup
Sweetened with maple syrup and infused with rose water. Pair with Sculpin India Pale Ale with a balance of bitterness with hop flavors of tangerine and ripe mango.

You'll enjoy hearty samples of all these dishes (along with tastes from Ballast Point) and the recipes will be on your seat waiting for you as Su-Mei demonstrates how they're created (I've been to a couple of her classes and she's a terrific teacher). And, of course, we'll have the enthusiastic comic duo of Tommy Gomes and Dan Nattrass emceeing the evening. Feel free to bring your own bottle of wine. And dress warmly; it gets chilly in there!

Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased online here. All proceeds (yes, really, all proceeds) will be donated to the James Lebowitz Scholarship Fund, in honor of the 18-year-old Cal Poly Pomona student and San Diego native who died suddenly of an aneurysm in January. You can learn more about him and his amazing parents in a moving article by Ed Zieralski published in the U-T San Diego.

So, yes, your money is going to a great cause--but you'll also have a blast, learn a lot, and eat and drink well while doing good.

Collaboration Kitchen is a collaboration between Catalina Offshore Products and Specialty Produce. Catalina Offshore Products is located at 5202 Lovelock St. just off Morena Blvd.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Nick Brune's Buttermilk Pie

Let's call this part 2 of my time with Chef Nick Brune of revamped Cali-Creole restaurant Local Habit in Hillcrest. This is when he showed me how he makes his version of the classic Southern buttermilk pie. Now many of us in Southern California would probably raise an eyebrow; what is a buttermilk pie? But the name says it all--a custard pie featuring buttermilk. Some recipes call for lemon zest. Others mostly keep the flavoring to vanilla. And, in fact, that's what Brune does. It's a year-round pie, but this time of year with berries coming into season, it's perfect topped with fruit and accompanied by a berry puree.

The recipe here is just for the filling. You can bake the pie shell using your favorite recipe or even pick up a pre-made crust at the market. Just be sure you pre-bake it. Here are some pie crust recipes I've shared with you in the past:


So, let's get on with the recipe--super easy, very creamy, very luscious, and a great dessert to have in your back pocket when you are the point person for a sweet dish for a dinner party.

Buttermilk Pie
From Nick Brune
(printable recipe)
Serves 8


2 beaten eggs and 3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
4 teaspoons flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
1 basic pie crust, pre-baked

Preheat oven to 375˚.

In the bowl of a stand mixer add eggs and sugar. Whip until the sugar dissolves and the mixture turns pale yellow.

Add melted butter, then small amounts of flour and buttermilk, alternating until you've added all. Add the vanilla and pinch of salt. The mixture will be loose.

Pour custard into pre-baked pie shell. Bake 30 minutes. The top will be a little brown and have a bit of a jiggle to it.

Let cool and then refrigerate for four hours to overnight. This will thicken the custard.

Serve with fruit.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Nick Brune's Dark Roux Noodles

Sometimes a chef shows me a technique that makes me totally rethink how I do things in my kitchen. Like making pasta, for example. Now maybe this has occurred to you--or you've seen it on Food Network or some other food blog--but the idea of toasting AP wheat flour to create a deep brown pasta with other-worldly flavors was, well, new to me. And I may not ever think about pasta in the same way again.

That's what chef Nick Brune of the Hillcrest restaurant Local Habit and owner of Eco Caterers did when I came in for a visit. Brune, who launched but no longer owns Local Habit, is still there to help shape its new "Cali-Creole" concept. This isn't a stretch for the chef, who was born in Louisiana. What is unusual, though, will be the additional Asian influences, drawn from Brune's recent travels and training in Southeast Asia.

And that's where this dish comes in. These dark roux noodles can be used any way you enjoy pasta. Heck, the deep, almost buttery flavors the toasting yields makes me want to just toss with olive oil and grated Romano and call it a day. But Brune swirls them into a Creole Noodle Soup that's reminiscent of a complex pho. Brune refers to the dish as "gumbo meets ramen."

The soup is astounding in its layered flavors, but what I was smitten most by were the noodles, so that's what will be the focus here.

Now don't be put off by the measurements. Weighing is far more accurate than measuring by volume, especially since this dough can be affected by relative humidity.

Dark Roux Noodles
from Nick Brune
(printable recipe)

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

300 grams toasted wheat
360 grams all-purpose flour
15 grams kosher salt
4 eggs
1/4 cup (or 62 grams) water (to start)
23 grams extra virgin olive oil

Semolina flour for dusting
Salt for boiling pasta

1. To toast the wheat, pre-heat oven (not convection or the flour will fly) to 375˚. Spread 300 grams of all-purpose flour on a baking sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Rotate the sheet every 10 minutes or so to enable flour to brown evenly. Remove and let cool.

2. Sift together toasted and raw flours along with salt and add to the bowl of a stand mixer. Then add eggs, one at a time and mix.

3. Combine water with olive oil and add slowly, pausing to let the dough come together before adding more liquid. Mix until crumbly.

4. Turn out dough and work it in small amounts. Use your body to put weight into kneading the dough and knead for 2 minutes. Wrap in plastic and form into two balls and let rest for 5 minutes. Then flatten into discs. Let rest again for 5 minutes to absorb more liquid.

5. Roll out in small batches to rectangles 8 to 10 inches long. Trim the edges to make as uniform as possible, but leave a tab at the top to have something to hold onto when lifting the pasta. Sprinkle the dough lightly with semolina flour. Fold the dough up to the tab. Slice into pieces about the width of fettucine.

6. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add salt. Cook for two minutes and drain. Add to soup or toss with your favorite sauce.

So, what's in this crazy Creole Noodle Soup? Well, it starts with a broth made with pork bones and chicken backs, along with chard, onion, coriander, all-spice, a bay leaf, bonita flakes, and Bragg's Liquid Aminos. The broth cooks overnight and concentrates into a powerfully rich ambrosia. To this Brune adds a Creole-style pickled egg, braised pork, green onion, andouille sausage, micro greens, and pickled onions--and the noodles. It's become one of the restaurant's most popular dishes and for good reason. This funky soup is just bursting with competing and complementary flavors.

Local Habit is located at 3827 Fifth Ave. in Hillcrest.

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