Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My 2016 Thank You Notes

It would be an understatement to state how tumultuous 2016 was for me. Losing a parent slowly and painfully--and finally, permanently--to dementia takes its toll. It'll be awhile before I'm truly back to my life. Even so there still were a lot of bright spots. There were big-hearted friends who made sure I was doing okay by bringing me food or yanking me out to the occasional movie. And there was my work. How could there be a totally bad day if I got to spend part of it in the kitchen with a chef?

So, I'd like to end the year by thanking all the chefs who over the past 12 months invited me into their most sacred space and taught me a recipe, a skill, a neat trick for me to share with readers.

Thanks to Quinn Wilson of Balanced and Bright, who invited me into her home to teach me about her bone broth and demonstrate how to make her Autumnal Pork Stew. It would be so lovely to have a bowl of that right now!

Thanks to Willy Eick, such a talented young chef who now has his own place in Oceanside, 608. But earlier this year while working at Real Bar & Bistro, he taught me how to make a lovely Seared Scottish Salmon with White Beans, Bacon, Chard, and Pesto Aioli.

Thanks to the energetic Teri McIllwain of Chandler's Restaurant at Cape Rey Carlsbad. She made me her Farro Stir Fry filled with plump shrimp.

From Junya Watanabe of Rakiraki Ramen & Tsukemen, I learned a terrific version of poke that's fresh and flavor popping. Thanks, Junya!

Moto Deli's chef Andrew Halvorsen taught me how to make their rich Moroccan Meatball Sandwich from their food truck. Congrats on completing the new deli! And thank you and Alex Carballo for the experience!

Thank you, Christine Rivera of Galaxy Taco, for teaching me how to make your fabulous Brussels Spouts in the Style of Elotes!

Chefs move around so much! This thank you goes to my friend Anthony Sinsay, who earlier this year was running the kitchen at Duke's and made me his stunning Mussels Adobo. Now he's ensconced at JSix and my story on how he forages in his kitchen will run in the San Diego Union-Tribune next week.

I love Bottega Americano, so it was a huge treat to have Chef Jeremy Oursland invite me to come in and learn how to make his Salmon with Vegetables, Gnocci, and Tomato Fonduta. Thanks, Jeremy!

Chocolatiers are a special breed. Michelle Lomelin of Sweet Petite Confections fits right in with her mix of precision and whimsy. Thank you, Michelle, for taking the time to teach me how to make your bonbon, The Earl and the Tarts.

Oh, my friend Maeve Rochford! I love Sugar and Scribe and loved our time together in your kitchen, learning about the Irish Halloween tradition of Tea Bramback! So good!

Finally, there's Lorne "The Hammer" Jones, whom I met through the training program Kitchens for Good. The Hammer has worked hard to reach the goal of becoming a certified baker and is now baking at Panera. The day we got together he taught me how to make a family favorite, Pineapple Upside Down Cake--only miniature versions. They were divine. Thanks, Hammer, and good luck to you!

I also want to thank Bob Harrington, Kelly Orange, and Specialty Produce for their always generous support--of this space, of my Close to the Source blog for Edible San Diego, and of the community projects I work on. They are smart and far-sighted people--and beyond kind. And, thanks as well to Tommy Gomes and Dave Rudie of Catalina Offshore Products for being my seafood gurus, community teachers, and just great pals. Thanks to the many farmers, farmers market managers, and artisan vendors who always take the time answer my many questions and share their knowledge and bounty with me so I can help our community better understand what they do. Thanks to the many restaurant owners and chefs who are working so hard to put San Diego's best on the table and do it responsibly--and clue me into their efforts. And, last but not least, I thank you for taking the time to read San Diego Foodstuff and sharing it with your friends. It means a lot.

Thank you all for pulling and tugging me through 2016 with your love and concern. It has meant more than you will know.

I'm looking forward to more kitchen fun with chefs in 2017, but in the meantime, I wish all these chefs, vendors, farmers,  and their loved ones, as well as you, a very happy, healthy, and joyous New Year!

Print Page

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Carrot Turnip Latkes

Last week I did a latke demonstration at the North Park Holiday Thursday Market. Because Chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace was set to do one after me, making traditional potato latkes, I came up with a different version: carrot turnip. As far as I'm concerned, much as I revere tradition, latkes are a relatively new one so I feel liberated in taking some twists and turns in terms of ingredients. But there is one non-negotiable: the oil. Frying these pancakes are the whole point of Chanukah. You know the story: oil for only one night; instead it lasts eight; it's a miracle! Freedom! And a holiday (minor until we needed something to shimmy up to Christmas)! Add a menorah, a dreidel, latkes (if you're Eastern European), and chocolate coins we call gelt. That pretty much sums it all up. Eight nights of candle lighting and fried pancakes--and, of course, gifts.

But back to these latkes... To the carrots and turnips I add onion, of course--but here, green onions for color. And I add herbs and garlic. I'm looking for more flavor here, too.

Not a fan of carrots or turnips? Try sweet potatoes. Or parsnips. Or winter squash. Or apples. Add radishes or celery root. Mix, match, and grate. You can change up the flavorings, too. Curry, for instance, works well with sweet potatoes and apples. And they all go well with sour cream or applesauce as the go-to condiments.

Everything else you need to know is in this recipe.

Happy Chanukah!!!

Carrot Turnip Latkes
(printable recipe)
Makes about two dozen, three-inch pancakes

Here’s a colorful variation from the traditional potato latkes I grew up with. In winter, you can make these pancakes with any root vegetable. Try sweet potatoes, parsnips, or beets, separately or in combination. For a more traditional latke, use an onion instead of the green onions and leave out the garlic and herbs. My grandmother used to add two slices of eggbread, crusts removed, softened with water and then squeezed of the moisture. My mom still makes traditional latkes this way.

½ pound of carrots, trimmed and peeled
½ pound of turnips, trimmed and peeled (look for sweeter baby turnips if available)
6 large green onions, trimmed
3 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons fresh, chopped herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme, etc.)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable or peanut oil or duck fat

1. Grate the turnips and carrots coarsely, using the large holes of a box grater or food processor grater. Place in large bowl.
2. Chop the green onions coarsely and add to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add the garlic and pulse until the onions and garlic are minced.
3. Put all the vegetables in a large bowl and add the matzoh meal, baking powder, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir it all together to fully mix the ingredients.
4. Add the eggs and mix well. The batter should be moist but not runny.

5. Heat 1/4-inch of oil or duck fat in a hot pan. Place a tiny bit of the batter in the pan. If it begins to sizzle, the fat is hot enough for the batter. Use a large spoon and drop the batter into the pan, then flatten into a pancake. Don't crowd the pancakes by putting too many in at one time. Cook for several minutes on each side until the pancakes are golden brown. Put the pancakes on a plate with paper towels placed on top to drain the fat. You can also heat your oven to 200 degrees, place the pancakes on a baking sheet, and keep them warm until you serve them.

6. Serve (with applesauce, sour cream, or creme fraiche).

Note: If you don’t want to stand at the stove frying when company comes, you can make latkes ahead of time, place them in a single layer on sheet pans, and place them in the freezer until hard. Then store them in a freezer bag and keep them in the freezer until the day you plan to serve them. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the frozen latkes on sheet pans in a single layer and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until crispy. Turn them over about halfway through. Drain again on a paper towel-lined plate and then serve.

Print Page

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Learn to Make Latkes (from me) at the North Park Holiday Market This Thursday!

The first night of Chanukah is coming up December 24. Are you ready for making latkes?

If you're looking for inspiration, join Chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace and me on Thursday, December 15 at the North Park Holiday Market. We'll be demonstrating our latke-making techniques, starting at 4 p.m.

Matt, whose demos will take place at 5 and 6 p.m., will be making traditional potato as well as curried latkes. I'll start it off at 4 with carrot and turnip latkes.

Now maybe you're wondering what the heck latkes are. Simply, they're pancakes--crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Traditionally for Chanukah as celebrated by Eastern European--or Ashkenazi Jews--they're potato pancakes fried in oil.

As traditional as they are, they're actually relatively new in Jewish history. The Maccabees—the priestly family who led the successful rebellion against the Syrians back in 168 B.C.E. which the holiday celebrates—never would have had latkes since they would never have seen a potato. It was only at the end of the 18th century that German Jews began making potato pancakes, but not for Chanukah. And these potato pancakes weren’t just from grated spuds, as we’ve come to assume are the norm, but also mashed, according to Gil Marks’ "Encyclopedia of Jewish Food." Somehow they morphed into a Chanukah tradition brought over to the U.S. with Eastern European emigration.

Given how relatively recent the potato latke became a part of Jewish history, why not riff on tradition and create pancakes from other vegetables, incorporating other flavors to celebrate the festival of lights? After all, the main point of the holiday is to celebrate the miracle of the single jar of oil that burned for eight days.

So, that's what Matt and I will be doing, and handing out plenty of samples accompanied by the traditional sour cream and applesauce. I hope to see you there!

The North Park Holiday Market is located at 3000 North Park Way and 30th St. It runs Thursdays from 3 to 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Balela Salad

One of the cardinal rules of grocery shopping is not to shop on an empty stomach. Well, last week I fell short of that but as a result I discovered a salad I didn't even know existed.

My marketing was at Trader Joe's. I had just gotten my hair cut at noon and needed to make a quick grocery run so I could get back home to work. But, oh, was I hungry. I had all these crackers left over from Thanksgiving and was looking for some kind of dip to make the most of them before they'd go stale. I picked up some eggplant hummus (disappointing) and then noticed containers of something called balela cozying up next to the tzatziki. I did a quick read of the ingredients--garbanzo beans, black beans, tomatoes, parsley, mint, sumac, garlic--and thought this would be my perfect lunch in front of my desk.

Well, I loved it. The flavors are fresh and bright. And you couldn't find something healthier to eat as we head into the holidays. But why pay three bucks for a small container given that the ingredients were not at all pricey? So I figured I'd make my own.

I'd love to tell you the roots of balela salad but I've been hard pressed to find them. It's supposedly Middle Eastern. But it could also be Mediterranean. One source I found claimed it was Greek but I checked with a Greek-American friend who's a cooking instructor and she said no--but maybe it was Persian. If you know, please share.

The recipe came together pretty easily. The focus is on the garbanzos with less of the black beans. There's heat. There's tang from what I figure is lemon juice--and lots of parsley and mint. For the heat I added a bit of cayenne pepper. I added more tanginess with red wine vinegar. Sumac also adds some tartness and I love its vibrant red color.

You could add feta and/or olives to enrich this salad. I've left it without so far.

Eat balela salad as a side dish, as a condiment for a pita-based sandwich, or serve it as an appetizer with pieces of sangak bread. I've written about sangak before. It's one of my favorite treats--a flat, spongy Persian bread that is perfect to eat with labne or baba ganoush. You can now buy it freshly made in San Diego at Balboa International Market in Clairemont (you can also buy ground sumac there). Yes, it's ginormous for bread--like three feet or so. But I cut it up into sections, wrap them in wax paper, and freeze in a freezer bag. When I want to eat some, I take out a wrapped up stack, let the pieces defrost, and then heat them up just a little so they retain the spongy texture.

Balela Salad
Serves 4 to 6
(printable recipe)

Salad ingredients
1, 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
4 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/3 cup Italian parsley, minced
2 tablespoons mint, minced

Dressing ingredients
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground sumac
2 cloves garlic, minced
Black pepper and sea salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mix together salad ingredients in a medium bowl. To make the dressing, which together all ingredients except the olive oil. Whisk in the olive oil. Once blended, pour over the salad ingredients and stir well to fully incorporate. Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before serving.

Print Page