Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Discussing Summer Foods on Midday Edition

It's been awhile since I've been on the show, but Thursday afternoon, August 24, I'll be joining host Maureen Cavanaugh on KPBS's Midday Edition around 12:45 p.m. to talk summer foods.

Want to know what to cook or where to eat before summer ends? Tune in. I'll be talking chilled soups, unique salads, easy pickles that all take advantage of seasonal bounty--and some terrific places to dine or bring home food on those days when you'd rather have someone else work up a sweat in the kitchen.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Spend a Sunday Evening on the Farm

Farm dinners have become a thing--and for good reason. Farmers want to forge relationships with consumers/customers, who come to the farm for an event. It's an additional source of income for farmers trying to make ends meet. And it's a way to bring the community together.

This coming Sunday evening you can feast at Dickinson Farm in National City, a small farm specializing in heirloom fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown on the grounds of the historic Wallace D. Dickinson House. Organic farmer and veteran Stepheni Norton has joined with Stephanie Parker of Epicurean San Diego to create the four-course Sunday Supper dinner series, a quarterly 48-guest dinner that pulls out all the stops. They describe it as an opportunity for people to connect with liked-minded individuals while indulging in locally made beverages and food created by talented local chefs.

Farmer Stepheni Norton
Additionally, at each dinner a non-profit beneficiary is selected to be the recipient of the profits of the dinner. The non-profit's representatives join at the dinner to share what they do and their mission with participants. In short, it's a way to cultivate community.

This Sunday, executive chef Josh Kemble of UrbanLife Tables, A.G. Warfield of Common Theory Public House, and Erin Campbell of Canape Catering will be creating the meal, along with baked goods from Cardamom Cafe & Bakery. Ashley Drake of The Chocolate Lush will offer a dessert bar.

Finally, Dan Parker, co-founder of Epicurean San Diego and Certified Cicerone, has brewed a Sunday Supper Saison for the event, using heirloom buckwheat, Brewer's Gold hops, and coriander sourced from Dickinson Farm.

Craft beer veterans Coronado Brewing Company will provide additional beverage pairings that evening and local coffee roaster Trident Coffee will head up the coffee bar.

And, you'll be serenaded all evening by local band Aveona.

Here's what you need to know: The event is from 4 to 7 p.m. at Dickinson Farm. The address is 1430 E. 24th St. in National City (just down the street from Olivewood Gardens, by the way).

Tickets are $99, plus a service charge. You can purchase them on Brown Paper Tickets.

Photos courtesy of Deandra Jex.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My Favorite Summer Salads

How are you holding up this summer? If you're on the coast, congratulations. Go sit on your deck with a cocktail and enjoy the cool breezes. If, like me, you're further inland, you've probably got the AC cranking and are dreading the coming SDG&E bill.

My 10-year-old dog Ketzel trying to find cold comfort with the tile.
In short, it's been hot and sticky. I have all these ideas for dishes I'd like to make and eat--but the thought of turning on the oven or stovetop and generating heat makes my hair wilt.

So, I've been focused on chilled soups, smoothies, and salads. Over the years I've published lots and lots of salad recipes and in honor of this sultry season, I thought I'd collect six of my favorites here for you to try--again or for the first time. Look how colorful these all are!

Balela Salad: Ah, this was a wonderful revelation. Thanks to Trader Joe's, which sells this ready made, I decided to make it myself. It's easy and so refreshing! Tomatoes, garbanzo beans, black beans, red onions, and lots of parsley and mint make it the perfect summer salad.

Spicy Kale, Corn, and Mango Salad: This crunchy salad was the result of refrigerator scavenging. It was a hot and humid day and I had no patience for cooking. The ingredients seemed random--a bunch of kale, an ear of corn, a not-quite-ripe mango, as well as a tomato, jalapeño, and salty capers--but together they worked, bathed in vinaigrette.

Trish's Tangy Summer Cucumber Garden Salad: Trish Watlington of The Red Door and Bar by Red Door is known for the bountiful garden she maintains at her Mt. Helix home. The garden supplies much of the restaurants' produce. Several years ago I invited her, along with other friends, for brunch and she brought this salad with veggies straight from her garden. It combines crisp summery cucumbers with crunchy radishes, sweet red onion, and juicy cherry tomatoes to round out the flavors and textures. Then she made it all pop with fresh mint and basil leaves, and flavored balsamic vinegar before smoothing it out with unctuous extra virgin olive oil. The best part is that it's one of those salads that tastes just as good on day two as when it's first prepared. In fact, it could easily be the topping to a bowl of room temperature quinoa or wheat berries for a full meal.

Sara Polcyznski's Shaved Baby Squash and Blossoms Salad: Sara Polcyznski of Sabor Imports has evolved into the consummate Mexican chef. I turn to her for magnificent Mexican flavors and a few years ago she walked me through three recipes, including this crunchy salad that makes the most of the proliferation of summer squash. Because this is a marinated salad, it can sit in the fridge for a couple of days and not lose its charm.

Maria Speck's Barley Salad with Figs and Tarragon-Lemon Dressing: Okay, okay, I said no cooking. But this marvelous salad takes prime advantage of the short fig season. So put on the barley to cook and just leave the kitchen. Then come back and put together this very simple but impactful salad. It's wonderful to bring to a potluck. The flavors are so surprising--including the barley--that people will be begging for the recipe.

True Food Tuscan Kale Salad: I know. Kale seems to have jumped the shark. But this is actually one of my hands down favorite salads. I'm so grateful to Chef Nathan Coulon of True Food Kitchen for teaching me how to make it. In fact, just writing about it makes me want to run to the market to buy the ingredients. I love a lemony garlicky anything. The brilliance of this salad is that the acid from the lemon juice cooks the kale and makes it--enjoyable. Plus, there's the saltiness of pecorino cheese--and I'll eat anything with good bread crumbs. I swear you'll love this salad.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Eat Your Weeds

They're baaack! And I couldn't be happier. After suffering for many seasons with roof rats eating everything in sight in my garden (except for some reason my citrus, for which I'm so grateful), those nasty critters seem to be gone, or at least at bay. And, along with the veggies I've planted, which I'm actually harvesting (yet another sign), purslane has started appearing again.

You've probably seen purslane growing in cracks on your neighborhood street--or perhaps in your garden. You've probably also pulled them and tossed them in the trash thinking they're useless weeds.

Don't! Pull them, wash them, and eat them! They're delicious, have a long culinary tradition, and are even nutritious! Purslane actually has the most omega-3 fatty acids of any other green vegetable. Plus it's filled with high amounts of vitamins A and C, as well as moderate amounts of magnesium, potassium and calcium. 

Purslane is a trailing succulent herb with a thick stem and fleshy little leaves. Keep your eyes open for them because they're summer annuals. If you go to Hispanic markets, you'll probably see bunches of them there called verdolago. In fact, I've seen them at Northgate Market, as well as some farmers markets and Specialty Produce.

One word of warning, thanks to my friend Jeromie Jackson, who noted that foragers shouldn't confuse purslane with spurge, another weed that looks something like purslane. Here's a link to a blog that addresses this.

Purslane was also cultivated and eaten in ancient Egypt and classical Greece and Rome--known by the Romans as portulaca. And, it's also popular in the Middle East and India.

Why is purslane so well liked? Well, it has a terrific crunch and is just a little peppery in flavor. And you can do so much with it. Chop it and eat it raw tossed in a salad. Sauté purslane and add to an omelet. Bread it (dip in flour, beaten eggs, and then bread crumbs) and fry it for an interesting snack. Add to a sandwich or to tortillas. Create a Mexican-style vegetable soup with them, along with tomatillos and chiles.

In fact, in Mexico, purslane is eaten in omelets, sautéed as a side dish, rolled in tortillas or dropped into soups or stews. I have friends in Mexico who eat it all the time, prepared like spinach (steamed a few minutes with a little water, then drained and seasoned with a lot of lemon, salt and pepper). They tell me it's better a little al dente than too soft. Joe Rodriguez of Rodriguez Farms suggested sautéing it with onion, garlic and tomatoes as a side dish or cooking it with pork. It also pairs well with cucumbers and is a great addition to a traditional Middle Eastern fattoush salad, which would include large cut up pieces of cucumber, tomato and onion, mint, along with parsley and stale pita and tossed with olive oil.

You know what else? You can pickle purslane. And I'm all about pickling. Add pickled purslane to a charcuterie or cheese plate, a sandwich, to a green salad, or even potato salad. Or just snack on it.

Pickled Purslane
(printable recipe)

Ingredients1 quart purslane stems and leaves
1 quart apple cider vinegar (or leftover pickle juice)
3 garlic cloves, sliced
10 peppercorns
1 tablespoon kosher salt

1. Clean the purslane stems and leaves by rinsing with fresh water. 
2. Cut into one-inch pieces and place in clean jars with lids. 
3. Add the spices and pour the vinegar over the purslane. 
4. Keep this in the refrigerator and wait at least two weeks before using. Serve as a side dish with omelets and sandwiches.

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