Thursday, October 25, 2007

My City

Not a food related post. Just wanted to post a few pics that I snapped over the last few days and to thank everyone in San Diego for coming together and helping others in need during the fires that have raged and are still raging on in our city. Keep up the fight. We have shown the world what we are capable of and more important we have shown our neighbors what we are made of.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sopa de Nopales y Hongos

So the other day as I strolled through one of my favorite produce stores I spotted some nopales and thought I haven't had a good cactus soup in a very long time. You know the cactus plants we see growing all over Southern California, the fruit when ripe are not only excellent to eat and make margaritas from, but the actual large cactus paddles, or nopales in Spanish are very edible as well. So I quickly grab a couple of them and some Shitake mushrooms and went home to conjure up this recipe for your approval.

I had some left over chicken stock that I had made, you can use a good store bought brand of stock if you wish.

6 Small to Medium Tomatillos husks removed and rinsed
5-6 Medium Roma tomatoes
4 Large Garlic cloves, peeled
1 Large Jalapeno
1 Medium White Onion, Sliced in half
1 Bunch, Cilantro
1 tsp fresh roasted anise seed, roasted and then ground
4 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 lb Shiitake mushrooms, remove stems and slice caps
2 large Nopales ( cactus paddles)
1 Dried chile of your choice. Optional

Place the Tomatillos, Tomatoes, Jalapeno and Garlic on a foil lined baking dish. Pour some of the Olive Oil on top and slightly sprinkle with Salt and Pepper. Put under a very hot broiler to roast. Turning after about 5-6 minutes to make sure they are roasted evenly. Make sure you remove the stem and seeds from the Jalapeno after roasting. When finished roasting place in a blender with the pan drippings and a cup of the chicken stock. Add a medium handful of the Cilantro along with the Anise and Puree.
Puree to a nice but still semi chunky consistency. taste but don't adjust seasoning at this time. This will be your soups base. We can readjust the seasoning later if desired.

At this time you want to trim the Nopale by first cutting 1/4inch all the way around the cactus. Then placing it and the onion on the same pan that you roasted the first batch of veggies on. Make sure you lightly coat with Olive Oil and then pop it into the broiler and roast until slightly brown, turning once to make sure both sides are done.
Add the Mixture from the blender into at least a 4 quart stock pot that has the remainder Olive Oil heated in it. You want to actually start to fry this base quickly in a very small amount of oil for at least 5 minutes.
Then add the Chicken Stock. set heat to low and let slowly simmer without boiling.

When the Nopales and onions are finished roasting. remove them from the pan and place on a cutting board. remember to add the pan juices to the simmering soup. Roughly chop the onion and slice the Nopale in half lengthwise and then julienne crosswise.

Add the Nopales and the onion to the soup. Chop the dried Chili and add as well. Simmer slowly for another 5 minutes or so to let all the flavors mingle together. At this time you can adjust the seasoning by adding a little more salt or pepper.
Pour it into a bowl and top with a little chopped fresh Cilantro. I also like to add some fresh grated Aged Mexican cheese. I like to use the Buena Comida Brand of the Cotija Anejo. Or aged cheese. Slightly salty and tastes very similar to a Pecorino Romano cheese. Aged for at least 60 days and can be found anywhere nowadays.

So here we have for your approval our version of a Mexican classic. Sopa de Nopales y Hongos. We hope you enjoy it on a cold winters night in front of the fireplace. It will keep you nice and warm.


Monday, October 8, 2007

La Mesa Farmers Market

Every Friday from 3:00PM - 6:00PM you can
stroll through the various vendors of whole food products. This little outdoor market has been growing in popularity and increasing in size since it began a few years ago. All of the agricultural vendors are certified organic and all are from local family farms around San Diego. You can find great little gems here that are very hard to find anywhere else and even if you did, it would cost you an arm and a leg. Here, only a leg. I usually stroll through for the heirloom tomatoes a farm in Vista grows and a baguette from the Bread & Cie table. The Heirloom tomato's are by far the best tasting tomato anywhere and I would bet my can of San Marzano's on them being, well, better than the stuff from San Marzano. Just really fresh and bursting with flavor. Check these pictures out of a box of heirlooms. Ugly little buggers, but they make up for it with there taste and texture. Firm and smooth, not to much acid and not as strong in flavor as a San Marzano. Kinda medium taste and a little tart. I love them.
Little ugly pumpkin looking tomatoes. But worth seeking out. You can find everything here from Thai chili plants to flowers. Lots of flowers.Olive Oil from Temecula. And tons of fresh seasonal locally grown fruits and vegetables. The selection is always at it's peek when I go to the market. Here are a few more picks of the pickings.Let's hope that the city of La Mesa doesn't ruin this great little farmers market like they did with the Oktoberfest that is held here every year. They took a German beer drinking festival and turned it into a craft fair. Lot's of crochet pot holders and tie dye, but very little lederhosen. Not to crowded yet and a nice European feel to it, And by the way, after strolling through the market you can always go across the street and have a bite at All' Italiana or maybe a brew at that classic little and I mean little dive bar, Joe & Andy's.
Fresh picked peppers and unusual zucchini, some large
And some baby ones with blossoms still attached. I brought some of these back to the foodopolis test kitchen and they were outstanding. So skip out of work early next Friday and stroll through the La Mesa Village. You know some times it ain't so bad having your office in East County. You just have to know where to look for the cool stuff.

La Mesa Farmers Market

Every Friday from 3pm-6pm



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