Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Borderless Dine & Wine to Raise Funds for Mexico Earthquake Relief

Celebrity chefs Javier Plascencia and Claudia Sandoval will headline a weekend of wining and dining at The Westgate Hotel to benefit the Mexico earthquake relief fund. The two-night Borderless Dine &  Wine event will take place Friday, Sept. 29 and Saturday, Sept. 30.

The hotel is partnering with the Consulate General of Mexico in San Diego to raise funds for Cruz Roja Mexicana (the Mexican Red Cross).

On Friday, guests will enjoy small plates poolside created by the Culinary Art School of Tijuana, using Baja produce and meats provided by Sano y Punto, an organic grocery store/distributor in Tijuana. This will mark the official culinary debut by the students. Music will be performed by jazz singer Lorraine Castellanos. This event will take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and costs $40 per person.

On Saturday night, guests will dine on a four-course prix fixe menu created by Sandoval and Plascencia. Each chef will construct two courses using sustainably sourced ingredients, and will be accompanied by wine pairings from Valle de Guadalupe, as well as live music. This event will begin at 7 p.m. and cost $130 per person.

Tickets for both evening events and tables for Saturday's event are available for purchase on the Westgate Hotel website.

Proceeds for both events will be directly donated to Cruz Roja Mexicana, which is registered by the Government of Mexico.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Peperoncini Juice Vinaigrette

When I'm at home working, chances are I'll make a green salad for lunch with the requisite greens and diced tomato. The rest may vary, but usually it will include a couple of sliced green onions, olives, toasted walnuts, and garbanzo beans. Perhaps kalamata olives and artichoke hearts. Maybe some crumbled feta. Oh, and peperoncini.

I love peperoncini, but not all brands. Giuliano is my favorite--but for some reason it's become hard to find. The peppers are hot, but not too hot and they have a marvelous vinegary flavor. And the juice! This will sound very strange, but given that I'm not a big drinker of spirits, whenever I see people in movies throwing back a shot of whiskey I imagine the flavor to be that of peperoncini juice. I just love it.

Growing up, I ate a lot of pickled vegetables that my dad made reusing the liquid from a jar of pickles or giardiniera. What a waste to toss that juice when you could slice up a new batch of veggies to marinate in the sour tart liquid.

So, why hadn't I ever done the same with the peperoncini juice? Well, better late than never. Today I whipped up a batch of peperoncini vinaigrette that has that tang and heat I love, along with a garlicky Mediterranean essence. I dressed my green salad with it and marinated chicken in it that I roasted for dinner.

In the spring I'll mix it with mayonnaise to have a dip for steamed artichokes--or perhaps I'll make a batch to baste grilled or roasted vegetables.

The vinaigrette is easy to make. You're basically just substituting most of the usual vinegar with the peperoncini juice--although I add a little white wine vinegar to it to round out the flavors. I have a field of oregano growing in my garden, so I included about a teaspoon of fresh, minced oregano in the dressing. Plus, a minced clove of garlic, red pepper flakes, a little pinch of sea salt, and the best extra virgin olive oil I have. All you need to do is mix together all the ingredients but the oil, then whisk in the oil until the vinaigrette  emulsifies. Taste and adjust the ratio of oil and peperoncini juice so you get your perfect flavor delivered. Too much oil will mask the flavor of the juice. Too much juice may make your lips pucker.

Of course, the latter is not a problem for me.

Peperoncini Juice Vinaigrette
(printable recipe)
Yield: 3/4 cup

1/2 cup peperoncini juice (or your favorite pickle juice)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
Pinch sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all the ingredients except the oil. Slowly whisk in the oil and keep whisking until the mixture emulsifies. Taste and adjust seasonings.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How San Diego's Food Lovers Can Help Hurricane Victims

No recipes this week. No new places to try. Instead, I want to encourage readers to give what you can to those in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean left without homes, food, clothing, and other necessities. Bloomberg reports that the most recent costs in addressing damages for Irma are $49.5 billion--and that's just for Florida! It doesn't take into account the devastation in the Caribbean or the rest of the South getting pummeled still today as Irma keeps traveling. The price tag for Harvey is estimated at between $65 billion and $75 billion, according to AIR Worldwide. And before government disaster relief funds start flowing in, people are suffering. So let's help.

I've pulled together lists from various media for a number of organizations, from the traditional folks like the Red Cross to food banks and others, for you to choose from. My apologies for the awful formatting. That's Blogger for you!

Hurricane Harvey help:

Thanks to Texas Monthly, which compiled this, here’s a list of agencies that could use your support so they can help folks on the ground:

  • San Antonio-based The Texas Diaper Bank is creating a relief kit for families with very small children who need clean diapers during the flooding and evacuations.

  • People with disabilities need a lot of help during this crisis. Portlight has provided inclusive relief to people with disabilities for 20 years—including in Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. It’s now working to make sure necessary medical equipment and assistive technology is available for those who had to evacuate and to make sure that they’re are able to get to safety. They accept donations via PayPal.

  • If you take prescription drugs, you can imagine the fear of those in the heart of the disaster worrying about access to their drugs or those needed by family members. Direct Relief USA offers prescription drugs and other medical supplies to those who need it in emergency situations, and works with clinics and primary care doctors to ensure that the drugs and medical equipment are available to the people who need it. They’re accepting financial contributions

  • More conventional charities are also taking donations. Here’s a list compiled by NPR:

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner established a Harvey relief fund at The Greater Houston Community Foundation. The organization connects donors with a network of nonprofits and innovative solutions in the social sector.

GlobalGiving, which calls itself the largest global crowdfunding community, has a goal of raising $2 million for its Harvey relief fund. Funds will be used first for immediate needs of food, water and shelter and then transition to long-term recovery efforts.

United Way of Greater Houston has launched a relief fund for storm-related needs and recovery. The organization says it already maintains a disaster relief fund but anticipates the needs of Harvey will far exceed those existing resources.

GoFundMe, the social fundraising site, has created a landing page that gathers the campaigns on its platform related to Harvey.

The Salvation Army says it is providing food and water to first responders and preparing for massive feeding efforts for residents.

Send Relief and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief says its teams began responding before Harvey made landfall and continues on-the-ground relief work.

Samaritan’s Purse is accepting donations as well as volunteers for Harvey disaster relief for the coming months.

And, here’s what should hit you where you live… The Houston Press has compiled a list of food banks that are serving the population. The best way to help is through donations so they can buy what they need.

Houston Food Bank

Galveston Food Bank

Food Bank of the Golden Crescent (Victoria)
Closed Friday

Corpus Christi Food Bank

Southeast Texas Food Bank (Beaumont)

Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley (Pharr)

Brazos Valley Food Bank (Bryan)

Central Texas Food Bank (Austin)

San Antonio Food Bank

For more information on all of these food banks go to feedingtexas.org.

Hurricane Irma help:

Fast Company and The New York Times both compiled a list of ways to help Hurricane Irma victims. They include:
  • Florida’s hunger relief organization, Feeding Florida, is working with food banks across the state to feed those in need.
  • Americares is accepting donations on its website.
  • Crowdfunding site Global Giving is raising money to provide relief to survivors, including food, water and medicine, in the U.S. and the Caribbean. You can contribute here
  • GoFundMe has set up a dedicated page for Irma relief campaigns, filled with pleas from those in need. The site claims it works to verify that all funds go to intended recipients, but it can not always verify specific claims made by individual campaigners. 
  • Convoy of Hope is sending food and emergency supplies and help to the victims of Hurricane Irma in the U.S. Haiti, and Cuba.
  • Save the Children is helping children and families affected by the storms and setting up child play spaces in shelters.
  • Oxfam is working to provide clean water and sanitation, and Salvation Army set up emergency shelters. 
  • Apple made it easy for customers to donate to hurricane relief efforts directly through iTunes and the App Store. 
  • The Red Cross: You can donate online or text “IRMA” to 90999 to chip in $10.
And, of course, you want to make sure that your generosity is going to the right place. Before donating to an unfamiliar charity, check it out. One place to start is Charity Navigator.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Pisco's Peruvian Ceviches

Chef Emmanuel Piqueras has spent his life in kitchens--first under the tutelage of his grandfather's cook, Jesus, who he says taught him to touch ingredients and make rice. "She was my mentor," said the Peruvian chef now in San Diego to run Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria in Liberty Station. "I always watched her."

His other grandfather, an ex-Marine, took Piqueras fishing as a child and by age eight he was making ceviche. A career cooking, however, was not what his successful parents had in mind for him. (His mom was the first female mayor of Lima.) Trying to live up to their high expectations, he went to university and studied marketing, but his heart wasn't in it. At age 22, he went to work as an apprentice to chef Don Cucho La Rosa at his Lima restaurant, Pantagruel before attending Le Cordon Bleu and moving to Spain to train with Chef Juan Mari Arzak in San Sebastian. Piqueras returned to Lima but the bad economy sent him off to the U.S., where he opened Andina in Portland, Mixtura in Seattle, Limon in San Francisco, and Panca in New York City's West Village. In that time, he also became the host and co-producer of Sabor y Fusion, a popular Peruvian cooking show.

Piqueras met Sami Ladeki, of Sammy's Pizza fame in San Diego, in Peru last year and they developed the concept for this new restaurant, Pisco. With the recent opening, they are now working on opening more restaurants in San Diego and expanding to Las Vegas. Piqueras still lives in New York with his wife and young son, but expects to move with them to San Diego by the end of the year, he said. It's the perfect fit for a lifelong surfer.

Peruvian ceviches are a dominant feature of Pisco's menu. But don't expect the flavors and ingredients to be like the Mexican ceviche we're used to in San Diego. Piqueras explained that Peru is a true melting pot of cultures--from Chinese to Japanese to Italian. And the ceviches certainly reflect that, as do many other dishes, like the stir fry "Lomo Saltado," a stir fried tenderloin with tomatoes, green onions, and red onions, melded in a sauce made with soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, and garlic, reflecting Peru's Cantonese influence. When the weather cools, I'll feature this dish for you.

For Piqueras, cooking Peruvian food is actually a way of sharing the country's history--as well as his own family history. "Peru," he said, "is a melting pot of food. It's fresh cuisine.

"I consider myself a teacher, teaching Americans Peruvian cuisine."

I spent some time in the kitchen with Piqueras, who taught me to make three of his dishes, including these two refreshing ceviches. They're very simple to make, with basic prep of the seafood and vegetables taking up the time in the kitchen, followed by mixing the sauces and then tossing the prepped ingredients together and plating. These are wonderful dishes to enjoy year-round, but as summer comes to an end and cooking over heat can be a drag, enjoy them now.

Ceviche Nikkei
Serves 4 to 6
(printable recipe)

1.5 pounds of ahi tuna yellow fin, cut into 1/2 inch squares
1/2 cup of fresh squeeze lime juice
4 ounces of Nikkei sauce*
1 ounce of Persian cucumber sliced
1 avocado cut into squares
4 ounces shredded Daikon root for garnish
Kosher salt

In a cold bowl mix the ahi tuna squares, the Persian cucumber, pinch of salt, the Nikkei sauce and the lime juice. Mix carefully.

In a white china bowl serve the ceviche mix, garnish with avocado squares and topped with the shredded daikon root.

*Nikkei sauce: In a blender mix 6 ounces of tamarind purée, 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, 1 clove of garlic, 1 table spoon of organic brown sugar, 2 ounces of low sodium soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of Rocoto purée (available online or locally at Tropical Star Restaurant & Specialty Market on Balboa Ave. in Clairemont)

Martini De Tigre Ceviche
Serves 4 to 6
(printable recipe)

12 ounces of California Halibut, diced
6 ounces of Portuguese octopus, cooked and diced
4 ounces of calamari rings, cooked
12 each shrimp, cooked and peeled
12 half sea scallops
1/2 cup of Ají amarillo sauce*
3/4 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons of cilantro, chiffonade
1 small chopped onion
1 habanero, seeded and chopped
Cilantro micro greens for garnish
Kosher salt

In a cold bowl mix the fresh fish, the octopus, the calamari, the half scallops and the shrimp.

Add the salt to taste, the Ají Amarillo sauce, the chopped onion, habanero to taste and the cilantro. Mix well.

To finish the Ceviche add the lime juice, mix well and add the ice cubes, mix well again and serve in a cold Martini Glass, garnish with cilantro micro greens.

*Ají Amarillo Sauce: In a blender mix 6 ounces of ají amarillo paste with 1 stick of celery and  1 clove of garlic with 2 ounces of canola oil for salad.

Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria is located in Liberty Station at 2401 Truxton Road., Suite 102.

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