Sufferin’ Succotash

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Summer comes early to Southern California, so while most of the nation’s farmers’ markets are limited to turnips and kale, San Diegans are enjoying sweet corn from the sun scorched Imperial Valley to our east. I also spotted some fresh fava beans this week, so I decided to make ane early summer succotash. Shelling fresh fava beans is a bit of work, but the flavor is well worth the effort – frozen and canned beans just don’t have the same bright, fresh taste that fresh spring beans bring to this dish. I used green garlic, which is sometimes hard to find, but spring onions make a good substitute. The bacon is optional – if you leave it out, add a bit of good quality California olive oil to bring out the fresh flavors of the vegetables.

SoCal Spring Succotash – serves two to four

One cup fresh fava beans, shelled
One cup fresh sweet corn scraped from the cob
One cup zucchini or other summer squash, diced to about a quarter inch
One bunch green garlic or green onion, chopped
Handful of parsley, chopped
Fry the bacon in a skillet until it’s crisp, then take the bacon out but leave the grease in the skillet. If you’re skipping the swine, just put a little olive oil in the skillet. Toss all the veggies in the skillet – sautee them over low heat for about five minutes or so, toss in the parsley, give it a stir, and enjoy! Great with any fish or fowl, but especially delicious when topped with seared sea scallops.

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Swiss chard stuffed eggplant

This is a pretty simple recipe using some of my favorite summer ingredients from the Pacific Beach Tuesday Farmers’ Market.  Besides being full of great produce, the PBTFM is just two blocks from the beach.  I sometimes grab some food to go from Moncai Vegan (I’m happily omnivorous, but I love Donald’s cooking at Moncai), a pint of fresh OJ from Paradise Valley Ranch and head to the sand for a perfectly San Diego lunch.

Ingredients

Two large Italian eggplants

One bunch chard, chopped

Eight ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced

One large bell pepper, any color you like, diced

One bunch green onions, sliced

One head garlic, chopped

One cup breadcrumbs

Eight ounces Springhill Cheese Company Dry Jack Cheese, grated

One bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Technique

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, then place them cut side down in a baking dish. Add water to the dish to a depth of 1/2 inch. Bake at 350 degrees until the eggplant is soft, about fifteen minutes.

While the egggplant cooks, heat a little live oil in a large saute pan n a medium flame. Have a large mixing bowl on hand.  Add the diced peppers and cook for about a minute, then add the mushrooms, chard, green onion and garlic and cook until they begin to soften, about five minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper and transfer to the mixing bowl.

Remove the eggplants from the oven (leave it on) and use a spoon to scoop most of the flesh out of the eggplant skin; leave enough flesh to hold the shape of the eggplant. Add the scooped out flesh to the mixing bowl.

Add the breadcrumbs, grated cheese, and chopped parsley to the mixing b0wl and gently mix all the ingredients t0gether.  Place 1/4 of the mixture into each eggplant shell and garnish with a few shreds of cheese.  Return to the oven for and bake until the cheese turns golden brown, about ten minutes.  They’re ready to eat now!

Notes

This recipe is incredibly flexible.  If you can’t find crimini mushrooms, shitakes work great.  If no green onion, diced yellow onion is OK.  If you don’t like parsley, use basil, or oregano, or a mix of herbs.  When I’m in the mood for spice, I add diced poblano peppers in place of the bell peppers.  Try your own twist!  I hope you’ll enjoy it.

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Cabbage Soup with Beer

This is an easy, inexpensive soup using ingredients available at the market almost every week of the year.  I’ve included sausage in the recipe, but it can be left out to make a  tasty vegan dish.

Ingredients:

One pound Polish sausage, diced (DaLe Ranch)

One head cabbage, chopped coarsely (JR Organics)

One half cup each carrots, onion and celery, diced (JR Organics and Proios Farm)

One pound potatoes, diced (Proios)

One head garlic, chopped (Proios)

Chopped parsley, for garnish (JR)

Four  cups vegetable stock

Twelve ounces beer (I use Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale)

Technique:

In a stockpot, sautee the sausage, carrots, onion and celery over low heat until the vegetables  soften, about five minutes.  Add a little vegetable oil if needed so  the vegetables don’t stick. Add the  garlic and sautee for another minute.  Add the potatoes, cabbage and stock, cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, about fifteen minutes.  Add the beer and simmer five minutes more, uncovered.  Garnish with parsley, serve with crusty bread and a cold beer, if desired.

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Lettuce Wraps with Braised Beef

Galactic lettuce leaves are a beautiful deep red, and they have a slightly bitter taste that stands up nicely to the slowly cooked beef in this recipe.  I used grass fed beef from DaLe Ranch near Lake Elsinore, California.  I think it has a deeper flavor than corn fed commercial beef, and it’s much better for our environment, but it’s not inexpensive.  Serving it as an appetizer in these lettuce wraps is an affordable way to use this high quality meat at a party, since each wrap only requires 2-3 ounces of beef.  The colors and flavors in this dish make it a natural partner for an intense red wine; try it with a locally made syrah from Orfila Vineyards in the San Pasqual Valley.

Ingredients

One to two heads Galactic lettuce

A 3 pound, grass fed beef chuck roast

One large yellow onion, diced large

One head garlic, peeled, with the cloves left whole

8 ounces shitake mushrooms, whole

One cup red wine

One tablespoon cornstarch

Julienned radish and sliced green onion, for garnish

Preparation

This recipe isn’t difficult, but it takes a long time – the beef can be cooked overnight and reheated when it’s time to eat.

Season the beef liberally with salt and pepper on all sides.  In a heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium high flame, add the beef and brown it on all sides.  This should take abut ten minutes, and the outside of the roast should be brown and a little crusty.  Transfer the beef to a large crock pot, or if you don’t have a large crock pot, to a roasting pan.

Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms to the skillet, and sautee over medium high heat just until they start to brown, a minute or two. Transfer these to the crock pot or roasting pan, then immediately add the wine to the skillet. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the skillet, loosening all the brown bits stuck there.  When the wine comes to a boil, add it to the other ingredients.  If using a crock pot, set it to low and walk away for six to eight hours.  If using the oven, cover the roasting pan with foil and set the oven to 225 degrees, and cook for six to eight hours.

The beef is done when it is easily pulled apart with a fork.  Remove the beef from the cooking liquid and tear it into bite size chunks; it may be easier if you first slice the beef against the grain into two inch thick slices. Use a slotted spoon to remove the vegetables from the liquid, and toss them with the beef.  Pour the cooking liquid into a saucepan, and cook until it reduces to about a cup; leave the sauce over a low flame.  Mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with a little water to form a smooth paste; stir the paste into the sauce to thicken it.

Wash and dry the Galactic lettuce leaves and lay one leaf on each plate.  If your roast was around three pounds, you should have enough beef for about sixteen wraps.  Place a mound of beef on each leaf; the beef should be warm, but not hot, in order to not wilt the lettuce leaves.  Drizzle a little sauce over the beef and garnish with julienned radishes and sliced green onions. Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Roast Chicken with Date and Almond Stuffing

This recipe is inspired by Moroccan cuisine, and the dates, almonds, and spices are typical of that style of cooking. It’s a great dish for a cool California evening, as the aroma of the exotic spices and roasting chicken will add warmth to your home.

Ingredients

One whole chicken

Two teaspoons olive oil

For the spice mix:

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

For the stuffing:

Two cups sourdough baguette, cubed

1/2 onion, diced

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 cup Morocco Gold dates, pitted and chopped

1/2 cup roasted, salted almonds, chopped coarsely

1/2 Meyer lemon, including peel, diced

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

Two ounces dry white wine

Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water, then pat dry with a paper towel.   Rub the outside of the bird with the olive oil.  Mix together all the spices and sprinkle them all over the inside and outside of the chicken. Use all the spice mix.

For the stuffing:

Sautee the onion in olive oil over medium heat for about two minutes.

Toss the sauteed onion with the other stuffing ingredients.

Gently fill the cavity of the chicken with the stuffing.

To cook:

Place the chicken in a roasting pan, breast side up. Use a piece of twine to tie together the ends of the chicken legs.

Roast at 450 for ten minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue cooking for approximately one additional hour. The chicken is done when the juices run clear and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees.

Let the chicken rest, in a warm spot, for ten minutes before carving. Serves  two to four people.

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Welcome to Market Cook Book!

Market Cook Book is an exercise in eating outside the box.  What if I could live without the supermarket chains?  What if everything I needed was available at the local farmers’ markets?  To test that hypothesis, I’ve begun to assemble a group of recipes relying almost entirely on ingredients purchased from weekly markets in Southern California where farmers, ranchers, beekeepers and other artisan food producers gather to sell directly to consumers, or at least through as short a food chain as practical.  I’ll make a few exceptions; I’ll use fermented beverages from other sources, because I love to cook with beer and wine, and the laws in California make it pretty tough to sell those products at a farmers’ market.  A few staples, like flour and cornstarch, are produced almost exclusively on an industrial scale, so it’s nearly impossible to use a small, local producer.  But for the most part, I’ll stick to ingredients purchased from tents set up in city streets and empty parking lots.  I hope you’ll give these recipes a try, or think up some of your own from your trips to the market.  Buen Provecho!

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