Monday, September 27, 2010

Farmer's Market | FOOD! Resources

Those of you who are lucky to grow your own food know what I mean when I say that fresh is always best. A fresh plucked cherry tomato off of a sunshine-warmed vine is absolute heaven. Apricots picked off of a heavily laden tree so ripe that the flavor explodes in your mouth, is a culinary delight by itself. Even fresh churned butter recently milked from your cow is something that you have never tasted at the supermarket. Fresh is always best.

For the rest of us, we shop at our local markets. The fruit and the vegetables have been picked and shipped days before, rinsed repeatedly and then displayed in cold cases at the supermarket. The flavor loss is profound along with the nutrient content. Try to shop at great markets such as well-known Whole Foods that feature "Farmer's Market" produce. Or try to organize your local neighbors and share the produce that may be growing in their own backyards.

The best place for those of us in California are the Farmer's Markets. Local farmers flock into locations convenient for city dwellers and sell their produce. The markets are divine.

Freshly picked that morning, the produce has traces of the rich soil still clinging to the gems. Beets, onions, carrots, squash, herbs are in their glory when picked fresh. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage can be eaten raw; the flavors are so rich. And, fresh corn... why cook it? The just picked corn is a flavor delight that can't be matched by store bought, frozen or canned.

If your town has no Farmer's Market or Farmer's Cooperative, try to organize one. Farmers and growers are generous souls. They want to see their produce sold and shared. They do not want to see any of locally grown produce wasted.

  1. Contact a local government official and share your idea. They will put you into contact with the rules and regulations for food safety and other restrictions in government.
  2. Contact the growers. Try to have common every day produce along with exotics.
  3. Pick a one time date (start small) to organize a Farmer's Market festival.
  4. Form a volunteer group to create flyers, email alerts and a Facebook event.
  5. Locate a shaded area w/ public transportation nearby.
  6. Provide large sturdy tables for the growers.
  7. Bring a small local musical group to entertain the attendees.
  8. Contact ethnic communities to bring demonstrations of food cooking. The food demonstration will draw in a lot of cooks and chefs to watch how other cultures prepare food.
  9. Contact all restaurant buyers/owners in the area. They will flock to the event for the opportunity to buy fresh produce for their culinary staff.

    If the Farmer's Market Festival is successful, the growers and community will come together to create a once-a-week market in your area. We did this in California and now, Farmer's Markets are available almost everyday of the week somewhere close by.

    Be adventurous with your food! Buy an item that you have never tried and add it to your regular menus. Try everything! You will be delighted!

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Sushi, California Style!

    I was born and raised in Japan in a traditional Japanese household. The sushi I ate was made beautifully and carefully by a parent who created eye-pleasing art with a reverence for each ingredient.

    Then I came to California. OMG! Sushi became an adventure of strange ingredients that I never dreamed of combined with the simple seasoned rice and seaweed. But, it is surprisingly good never the less. Almost everyone in California and the entire West coast has eaten the California Roll. It's a staple in everyone's diet out here!

    California Roll

    1 cup of cooled cooked small grain white rice (sub a more nutritious brown rice)

    small glass bowl

    1 Tbsp of seasoned rice wine vinegar (mirin)

    small crisp cucumber sliced into long julienne strips

    large avocado medium sliced

    2 dried seaweed sheets (nori)

    optional : thin julienne carrot strips, toasted sesame seeds

    optional : crab or imitation crab (ick)

    garnish : wasabi mustard with soy sauce, pickled ginger slices

    Mix room temperature, cooked rice w/ vinegar (mirin). Do not smash the rice grains. Set aside. Optional: add sesame seeds to your liking and mix in.

    On a piece of saran wrap (plastic) or clean kitchen towel, place seaweed sheet down. Add the rice on half the sheet in a thin layer. Add strips of cucumber and avocadoes (add optional carrots).

    Roll the rice end of the seaweed tightly and before you roll completely, carefully wet the end of the seaweed w/out rice with a smear of water. Then finish rolling completely. The moisture will "glue" the seaweed to itself so that the roll will not come undone. (How to roll sushi)

    With a sharp wet knife, slice the roll into pin wheels. Serve w/ soy sauce flavored with wasabi and serve a side dish of pickled ginger.

    Ta da ki mas!

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Wild Steelhead w/ Mango Relish

    This is an easy recipe to adapt to outdoor grilling and cooking!

    I just had this lovely dinner at a friend's home tonight. I watched as it was prepared. If you can't get the wild steelhead; store-bought salmon is a great substitute. High in Omega 3 oils, the oil content is much higher than Chinook Salmon. This recipe is very quick and easy to make. Have the sous chef prepare all ingredients as the cooking time goes very quickly and you do not want to overcook the fish.

    Wild Steelhead w/ Mango Relish

    frying pan

    1/4 cup of olive oil

    filet of wild steelhead (substitute salmon)

    salt & pepper to taste

    sliced pineapple into small wedge shapes (fresh)

    3 small lemons cut into wedges for squeezing & garnish

    small glass bowl

    1 cup diced ripe mango

    1/4 cup of thinly sliced red onion

    1 Tbsp of balasamic vinegar

    1 Tbsp of olive oil (from above)

    2 cups of cleaned & air dried arugula

    Prepare all ingredients prior to turning the stove on. Set all ingredients to the side. Add enough oil to the pan to cover surface. Turn pan on to medium to medium-high heat to sear the fish. Drizzle oil over fish and wipe oil over the surface of the fish. Add salt & pepper. Place fish skin side down into the pan carefully. Sear for 4-5 ( or less depending on thickness) minutes. Turn fish and cook until medium done. Squeeze half of one lemon into pan. Take fish out of pan and set aside to rest. (cooking time depends on thickness of fish). Add pineapple to pan and sear until slightly blackened on both sides. Take out pineapple and set aside.

    In a glass bowl, toss diced mango, red onion, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. (I think you could make this part ahead of time and let it marinate, but the balsamic vinegar will change the color of the bright color of the mango.)

    Lay a bed of argula onto the plate. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over the argula. Lay fish down on top of argula. Dollop generous mango relish over fish. Surround the interior of the dish with pineapple slices. Serve immediately with wedges of lemon.

    Note: I watched my host make this in 30 minutes. The flavors were out of this world! The combination of the bitter greens w/ the fresh tart, carmelized pineapple with a mouthful of fish and sweet mango and tangy red onion... omg! Heaven!

    Options: Try this with other firm fish. Change the fruit to plums, peaches, raspberries or blueberries. Fruit and fish are a wonderful pairing. Be adventurous!

    Bon Appetit!

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Nutella! | The Good Stuff

    I would say 99.9999% of all mankind love Nutella. Yes, it is one of those concoctions that someone created that has an almost cult-like following. You can spread Nutella on anything and make it a dessert.

    Hazelnut, cocoa and skim milk mixed together and preserved in a jar is a delightful addition to anyone's pantry. You can buy it at most grocery stores in USA. I first came upon Nutella in my Italian neighborhood where it is legendary. (Two recipes below)

    1) Waffles and Nutella

    2 waffles (homemade or store bought)
    Nutella spread (as much as you can stand)
    1 heaping Tblsp of muesli (mix of rolled oats, dried fruit, nuts)
    maple syrup to drizzle

    Toast waffles. Spread generous amount of nutella over waffles. Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of muesli over each waffle. Drizzle maple syrup over all. Serve immediately. Be prepared to go to heaven.

    2) Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich

    2 slices of whole wheat bread (oat nut, multi-grain)
    Nutella spread (be generous)
    Peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
    Strawberry or raspberry jam (use jam instead of jelly)
    1 banana
    1 Tblsp of dried cranberries and/or dried cherries

    Smear one slice of whole wheat bread with Nutella. Smear the other slice with peanut butter. Slice banana neatly in rows on peanut butter. Smear jam over on Nutella side. Sprinkle with dried fruit. Close sliced bread together forming a sandwich. Slice into quarters. Eat and dream of the good life.

    Option: Both recipes above can be calorized into sky high numbers with the addition of chocolate chips and/or cream cheese! Be prepared to go on a diet for a week.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Lamb and Figs in a Dutch Oven

    I was picking figs from a neighbor's tree. The branches hung over my fence allowing me to pick those ripe black figs for breakfast this morning. After picking a bowl, I thought about how I would eat the bountiful harvest!

    I love the traditional recipe of Lamb and Prunes and thought I could substitute the prunes for figs. Figs are jam-like sweet with a chewy skin. They are like candy and addicting. I hope I have enough for this recipe!

    Lamb and Figs

    deep frying pan with lid (dutch oven if you are camping)
    2 large onions, diced
    3 cloves of garlic (use as much as you like)
    1/8 cup of olive oil
    3 - 4 lbs of boneless lamb, cubed
    1 cup of chicken stock (homemade is better)
    1-1/2 cups of California Merlot or dry red wine
    3 Tbsp of Balsamic vinegar
    bay leaves
    1 heaping tsp dried mustard
    1 heaping tsp ground cumin
    1 heaping tsp coriander
    pinch tsp cinnamon
    pinch ground ginger
    pinch chili flakes
    salt to taste
    10 fresh figs cut in half
    brown sugar to taste (optional)
    hot rice for side dish

    Brown onions until translucent with brown edges. Add garlic and saute together. Add cubes of lamb and cook at high heat until meat is seared. Add chicken stock, wine, vinegar and all hte spices including the bay leaves; bring mixture to a low boil. Cover with a lid and simmer until lamb is tender. (Approx 45 min)

    Add figs and brown sugar (go easy on this one since figs are very sweet). As the mixture reduces, the lamb will take on a nice sweet glaze. Test for tenderness with a fork. Serve immediately with rice.
    Serves approx 6 - 8 people.

    Quickie Recipe Tip!

    Side Dish of Figs: cut 5 figs in half and place cut side down and gently sear over medium high heat in olive oil, garlic and 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar. They will caramelize quickly on the cut surface; turn heat down to low or off & reduce liquid. Add these tender morsels as a side dish to grilled meats such as lamb, pork or chicken.