These last few weeks have truly been an exploration of the greater Bay Area. We have played in the hills of wine country, beat the heat in Sacramento and admired the bounty of the Monterey Bay and its secret valleys in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
It feels like time has been in hyper speed as my days in the bay area are coming to an end and the kiss of summer upon us. It is always bittersweet to leave a place you call home and people you love but the wind is beginning to sing my name and I know there is more to discover ahead. I have been spending my days enjoying my home on the West Side of Santa Cruz and planning more events or 'Pop-Ups' around the country. The Pop-Up phenomenon is a game I am incredibly familiar and bewildered by at the same time. It is thrilling to be apart of a movement that creates a once in a lifetime culinary experience, I do it often with Outstanding in the Field, but the game is never same and I find myself furiously improvising at ever turn, and I really love it. This year I am ambitiously plotting to do my own culinary tour across the United States with Eclectik Domestic. I am often asked how I plan these events and most of the time it just comes down to a friend I really want to cook with or a place whose dirt I want to get under my fingernails or a whisper through the grape vine. There is much to discover this year in this bountiful country and I am confident that I will continue to add layers of flavor to my ever evolving cooking style.
Quail with Stone Fruit
4-8 stone fruits, halved and pitted, reserving liquids
juice of one Orange
1 tablespoon Honey
1 cup Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt and Pepper, to taste
4 small semi-boneless Quail
Halve stone fruits, (peaches, plums and apricots are all excellent choices). In a large bowl whisk together remaining stone fruit juice, honey, olive oil and vinegar. Season quail with salt & pepper. Add quail and stone fruit to bowl. Let marinate for 10 minutes. Heat cast iron skillet to medium high heat and place quail and stone fruits (face down) on the pan. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until fruit is blistered and quail is firm to touch (about 10 minutes total). Serve atop your favorite preserves and leafy greens!
Creamy Grits with Spring Peas + Charred Onions
2 cup good grits
8 cups water
2 bay leaf
1/2 stick butter
1 cup mascarpone cheese
2 cups fresh peas
1 dozen small spring onions
salt & pepper to taste
For best results soak grits over night or for a minimum of 8 hours. if you're in a rush, soak for at least at hour. Using the water from soaking, on high heat stirring constantly bring grits to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes covered. On a high flame char spring onions in a cast iron pan with a bit of butter. Lightly steam peas. On low heat continue to occasionally stir grits and add bay leaf and salt and cook for about an hour, tasting and stirring about every 15 minutes. Once grits are smooth, add mascarpone and season with more salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Lay grits in a shallow bowl, top with peas and onions.
A few weeks ago I held my first Pop-Up in Santa Cruz at the Midtown Cafe. I featured all of my favorite Vietnamese delicacies and made a serious amount of Pho. It was a whirlwind of an event, and we had an immense turn out, with a line out the door for almost the entire night. It was overwhelming to produce food to order in a new kitchen, with a crew that had never worked together, but we absolutely crushed it. The experience was one that taught me a lot and it was thrilling to have my community in Santa Cruz come out and support me.
Making this stock for the pop-up was one of the more ambitious culinary projects I have done. It was really the volume of stock that made it challenging but I refused to have faux pho and I toiled in the kitchen for hours making 180 quarts of this elixir. I would not have been able to complete this project if it wasn't for the lovely ladies of Kitchen Witch Bone Broth lending me their ball valve stock pots. This critical piece of equipment allows you to drain the stock from the enormous pots which weighs about 300 pounds. I recommend making a large amount of the stock to have on hand in your freezer whenever you have a craving for pho.
Large Stock Pot, Butter Muslin, Colander
Serves about 8
2 large onions, split
1 large knob ginger, split
5 pounds good beef bones (shin/knuckle bones)
4 cinnamon sticks
6 tablespoons coriander
6 tablespoons fennel seed
5 whole star anise
6 cardamom pods
4 oz salt, to taste
6 oz sugar, to taste
1/4 cup fish sauce
Preheat oven till 425 degrees. On a sheet pan laid with parchment paper, lay out bones in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. On a cast iron skillet or another sheet pan, char onions and ginger, until almost black. In a large stock add bones, onions and ginger. Cover completely with water, plus a little more and bring to a boil. Meanwhile toast spices until fragrant, wrap in butter muslin & knot. Add to stock pot. Remove any foamy scum that rises to the top of the stock pot for about an hour while it boils, discard scum. Add salt, sugar, fish sauce and allow to simmer for 3 to 6 hours tasting frequently. Adjust seasoning to taste.
2 packages Banh Pho, flat rice noodles*
1-3 pound lean beef (london broil, eye round), sliced thin**
1 bunch Cilantro
1 bunch Scallion, sliced into discs
Handful Pickled Red Onions
1 Jalapeños, sliced thin
1 cup Mung Beans
1 bunch Thai Basil
2 Limes, cut into wedges
Hoison & Sriracha
In a pot of boiling water (about 6 cups), cook noodles for about 5 minutes, tasting for firmness, every minute. Submerge in cold water. Place in large bowl. Atop noodles, place raw thinly slice beef, cilantro, scallion, red onion and pour piping hot broth a top. Serve aside, jalapeños, mung beans, thai basil, limes, and hoision and sriracha. Enjoy!!!!
*ingredients should only be rice, water & salt
**freeze the beef for 15 minutes to firm it up to cut extra thin
1/4 cup nut butter or sesame paste
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons of lime juice
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 dash chili powder
Combine all ingredients in bowl and stir till smooth. If mixture is thicker than you'd like add more soy sauce or lime. Set aside.
1 package Rice Noodles
or make your own Veggie Noodles:
2 large zucchinis, shredded with a julienned peeler
1 cucumber, shredded with a julienned peeler
1/2 cup peanuts, toasted & chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup bean sprouts
1 lime, cut into wedges
Cilantro to taste, chopped
In a medium bowl stir together sauce ingredients. Cook noodles to packaged instructions or make your own. Slowly add sauce, dressing as much as you'd like. Do be aware that if using veggie noodles, the zucchini will release liquid over time. Chill or serve immediately.
I also had my anniversary with Outstanding the Field at Everett Family Farm this week. Last year while working at Camp Joy Gardens, one of my best friends from back East, Adam Galster who does the chicken production at Everett, told me Outstanding was coming to his farm and that I should work the event. I didn't really know what I was getting into but I got hired. I lived in Boulder Creek at the time and it would be a 2 hour bus ride from Boulder Creek to Soquel with a 2 mile walk at the end. I got on the bus early in the morning from Boulder Creek and finally was dropped off at the base of the hill where Everett sits. I hitch hiked to the top and found my way to the field where the dinner was being held. I was star struck, everything about the event was so grand and the food, hyper local. The people were the top of their field, passionate and I was elated. It was like my dream job, that I never knew existed. Jim Denevan and I chatted, and I had no idea he was the owner of the company. We joked about being giants and have been buds ever since. I owe Everett a lot for the start of my culinary journey, it meant a lot to come back this year and serve my friends who farm the land.
Fennel Panzanella with Mint + Tomatoes
4 cups stale bread, toasted & cut into bite sized pieces
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 lemons, juiced
1 cup olive oil
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 bunch basil, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper, to taste
In a large bowl add bread, fennel, tomatoes. Toss in olive oil, lemon garlic and herbs. Season to taste.
My dear friend Emily Eder of The Cremer House recently had a dinner in the mountains of Boulder Creek at lille æske gallery. The beautiful 'little box' (as the name translates) sits on Highway 9 right in center town. Last month they approached us to each do dinner on their gorgeous reclaimed redwood table for their Supper Table Series. The space is a feast for the eyes, with whimsical details in every corner and a love beating throughout the entire gallery which is also the owners Sarah & James's house. Emily served a Spanish Calcotada featuring traditional tapas, spring onions with romesco and many other goodies. It was a blast to work with her and our other partners in crime, Maggie Appleby Thomas of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery & Deanna Duffy of Happy Boy Farms. Its been over a year from our Camp Joy days where we all met just up the hill in Boulder Creek. Us ladies have cooked together many times and turned out one hell of a dinner that night. I look forward to having them by my side July 2nd when I hold my Full Moon Feast.
Roasted Santa Rosa Plums with Balsamic + Thyme
1 dozen Santa Rosa Plums, halved & pitted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 sprigs fresh thyme
In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, balsamic, olive oil and salt and toss plums in liquid. In a medium baking dish, lay plums face up and add thyme. Bake for 15 minutes or until plums are soft. Serve with crème fraîche or ice cream!