fresh

Pico De Gallo

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Living in Southern California there is one condiment I crave, I especially crave it during the summer when the tomatoes are fresh and plentiful. That treat is Pico De Gallo or Salsa Fresca, the fresh chopped tomatoes, crisp chopped white onions, jalapeño chili’s, fresh squeezed lime juice, a good handful of chopped cilantro and a touch of salt and pepper. Bring on the margaritas and a big bowl of fresh made tortilla chips, this has to be my favorite summer meal. Yes, a big bowl of pico de gallo some chips a margarita and a book will happily satisfy me.

When I make my homemade salsa I always try to choose my home grown beefsteak tomatoes. Their thick and dense flesh can hold up to the other layers of ingredients with out breaking down into a mushy pulp. From time to time I do experiment and so far the other tomato varieties I have tried are: Brandy Boy, Celebrity, Super tasty, Sweet Seedless and my second favorite next to Beefsteak is Early Girl. That tomato is a touch on the sweet side and when you are using a good amount of Chili in your salsa that sweet can help cut the heat.

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I remember watching an episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats TV show that was all about the Scoville scale and how it is used to measure heat in chili peppers or spicy food. Sit back and be amazed; a sweet bell pepper is measured in at 0, jalapeño at 8,000 and the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion registers at 2,000,000. YES!!! 2,000,000 you read that correctly. However, according to The Guinness Book of World Records in 2012 the Carolina Reaper measured in at 2,200,000. Back to Alton Brown, he tested all sorts of cool your mouth down aids such as;  water, chips, bread, corn and beer- ALL FAILED! The two that did not fail were a glass of milk and a glass of sugar water, now the next time you want to tempt your taste buds into a fiery rage or put your body into a bit of gastronomical hell ask for a glass of water and add 3 sugar packets to it and give it a good stir, then ask for a glass of milk too, you will need it. But there is a secret when you drink the milk DONT SWALLOW, just spit the milk out. The fat in the milk will carry a good portion of the oil from the chili thats now imbedded in your tongue away.  The sugar water, drink after the milk it will help the residual burn.

Here is a word of caution about fresh made salsas I am sorry to say, but between 1998 and 2008 the reports of food born illness rocketed and unfortunately, fresh made salsa was to blame. You need to keep this condiment cold so what ever bowl you are serving it in have another bowl under it with some ice and always throw out any that has been left in the bowl, its contaminated, throw it away please. Remember the potato salad sitting in the sun food sick story? Guess what it was not necessarily the mayonnaise- it was the onions and potatoes sitting there with their sponge like broken cell walls collecting air born bacteria and happily growing it in the mayonnaise because that salad was not kept on ice to stay in the safe food temperature zone. Lesson one and always #1 keep onions covered and cold all times once you have sliced them. Don’t believe me ask Mr. Google about the medicinal qualities of onions and how they have been used over the centuries to pull bacteria from wounds.

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Ok science side done back to the flavors of salsa fresca. In the past I was nothing but a purest; tomato, pepper, onion, cilantro, lime juice, S&P. However with age, time and creativity I have added ingredients such as; mangos, avocados, peaches, cucumbers, roasted corn, zucchini, mint leaves, basil leaves, shrimp, blueberries and the list goes on and on. This salsa is exactly what you add to your guacamole recipe, or grill up a batch of tequila-lime chicken then top this salsa over it and garnish with cilantro. Add it to a pot of fresh made white rice; add it to your Mexican lasagna or keep it traditional with a bowl of good quality tortilla chips. However you choose to enjoy fresh homemade pico de gallo salsa remember to keep it cold and if you can grow a few salsa tomatoes in your garden this season please let me know what you used your tomatoes for. I’m off to make a batch of salsa I’ve gotten very hungry all of a sudden and I just picked a few lovely bright red tomatoes from my garden this morning, take care.

Cheers!

Pico De Gallo

3-4 pounds tomatoes, large or small heirloom or not, use what you like

1/2 of a small red or white onion, chopped into very small pieces

1 small jalapeño pepper chopped, or more depending on heat preference

1 large handful of chopped cilantro

1/2 of a lemon juiced or ½ a lime juiced

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Roughly chop tomatoes, onions, and jalapeño peppers.
  2. Add all ingredients to the food processor.
  3. Pulse until desired consistency.

Keep the bowl with the salsa in it on ice, serve with fresh corn or flour tortilla chips, enjoy.

A Farmers Market Visit

Farmers MarketLast weekend I visited my local farmers market. I needed to stock up on a few items and I wanted to see and share with you what was in season. I live in a small beach side community about one hour north of Los Angeles. Our area is known for its rich top soil and long standing farming families, some of which I am lucky enough to be related to. These men and women work tirelessly day in and day out to feed our community, as well as working with distributors to ship our County’s bounty all over the United Stated and the World. 

Oxnard, California Strawberries

Strawberries grown on the Oxnard plain make the long journey to Japan, South Africa and even Russia.

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 Citrus grown in Santa Paula, Piru, Ventura, Oxnard and Ojai become treasured sunshine jewels to those in Alaska, Canada and even England.

Beets, Underwood Farms

Root vegetables grown in Camarillo, Ojai and Somis sometimes grace the plates presented by famous chefs at the Oscar after parties, Governors Balls and even meals served at the  White House.

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Flowers from the Ventura County fields and green houses find their way as part of the New Years Day Celebration on floats for the Tournament of Roses Parade held in Pasadena, California.

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Sometimes the season is truly giving with crops of artichoke from Somis, Ojai and Moorpark. But usually we receive our artichoke crop from the Monterey County area.

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I hope these photographs inspire you to get out tomorrow and visit a farmers market or farm stand near your area. Go meet the farmers, taste their food and better yet buy their food. Help keep farmers farming! This profession is a treasured way of life that is in trouble due to lack of water in some areas, restrictions and regulations and the growing number of imported fruits and vegetables .

IMG_6971I don’t know a farmer around that does not like a thank you, in fact they love it. All a farmer truly wants is good weather, water, a market to sell his or her product to and some simple thanks for all their hard work; especially the hard work of their farm hands and managers that make their profession and way of life possible. Have yourself a wonderful weekend, I hope the sun is shining and the temperatures are not too hot for you. I would love to hear about why your area Farmers Market is special, I’m always up for a road trip you never know where I might show up next.

Cheers!

Citrus and Fennel Salad

Ingredients
  1. Salad
  2. 2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced, fronds saved for garnish
  3. 2 oranges; blood orange, Valencia orange or navel orange
  4. 2 tangerines; murcotts, Dancy, golden nugget or Yosemite
  5. 1 shallot minced
  6. zest of one lemon
  7. zest of one orange
  8. 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
  9. Salad Dressing
  10. 4 tablespoons of olive oil or citrus infused olive oil
  11. 2 tablespoons of citrus vinegar, champagne vinegar, pineapple vinegar or pear vinegar
  12. Salt and Pepper to taste
  13. juice from 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. Place the thinly sliced fennel in a large bowl along with the oranges, tangerines, shallots, zest and fresh thyme. In a mason jar or small bowl add all the dressing ingredients and shake or mix well, pour dressing over the salad and toss gently. Arrange on a platter and garnish with the fennel fronds.
Notes
  1. Serve with a very cold, crisp Viognier wine or sparkling water with citrus slices.

Salty Dog

Salty Dog Cocktail

On Sunday I spent a few hours in my garden getting the next round of late summer early fall seedlings planted. What I added to the raised to beds were pole beans, kale, beets, squash, herbs and spinach. The weather was gorgeous, high 70’s lots of sun, no humidity, a cool breeze and no fog which in Ventura, California summer is usually known for fog, lots of fog. I came into my kitchen to make lunch and there they were three picture perfect grapefruit just screaming  “Make me into a cocktail!”

Ruby Red Grapefruit

A few weeks back a group of girlfriends and I ate brunch at Azu Restaurant in Ojai, California. I ordered the salmon cake eggs benedict that had a meyer lemon hollandaise sauce- if you are ever near Ojai I highly suggest this restaurant for brunch, the outdoor covered patio is tranquil with its large urn water feature, shaded peaceful nook areas and lovely crisp white tablecloths and simple floral centerpieces. Elizabeth, one of the owners at Azu is a friend of mine, she suggested that I order a salty dog with my brunch choice. What was in it exactly I had to ask?  Well, it has fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, gin or vodka and a salted rim. With a smile on my face I told Elizabeth yes, please I will take one! That cocktail complimented the briny and perfectly seasoned salmon cake and the tart yet sweet grapefruit juice matched the creamy meyer lemon citrus hollandaise.

Azu Restaurant in Ojai, California

So remembering all the flavors from that brunch, I sliced up a few Snow White tomatoes from my garden then tore a few pieces of fresh mozzarella and dressed it with a home made reduced Modena balsamic vinegar that I had infused with rosemary and garlic. I juiced the grapefruits and added it to my glass that was packed with ice and had a perfectly salted rim, then I added a good splash of Deaths Door Gin. The tart, salty and sweet grapefruit juice added a deeper layer to the sweet fruity flavor of my small cherry sized yellow tomatoes that were still warm from the sun. But the big surprise was how well the cocktail and the reduced vinegar worked with each other, the rosemary and the tartness of the vinegar blended and complimented maybe even enriched the juniper berry, coriander and fennel in the gin. Next time you are at the store pick up a few star ruby or ruby red grapefruit, salt your glass and squeeze the juice over crushed ice then add a good quality vodka such as Grey Goose or a good quality gin like Death’s Door Gin. Welcome in summer and enjoy sitting in the shade of your backyard or garden while eating a fresh tomato salad, you can not go wrong.

Cheers!

Fresh Made Salty Dog

Ingredients
1.    2 ounces of gin or vodka
2.    4 ounces of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
3.    kosher salt with a bit of grapefruit zest mixed in
4.    Collins glass
5.    ice

Instructions
1.    You will need a Collins glass, and slightly wet the rim. In a small saucer or bowl place the kosher salt and grapefruit zest in it and mix well. Take your glass and roll the wet lip of the glass in the salt mixture until it is well coated, shake off the excess salt. Fill glass with ice and add vodka or gin and grapefruit juice, with a spoon give it a gentle mix and serve.