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Sunday, October 30, 2011

California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil

California is producing some very good extra virgin olive oil, some using old European varieties of olives, harvested the old fashioned way, and--some high quality extra virgin olive oil harvested in a very modern way, for a fraction of the price. So how is possible to get high quality extra virgin olive oil at a low price? Last week I visited California Olive Ranch , the largest California olive oil producer, and learned just how they do it. It all comes down to freshness and quantity. California Olive Ranch plants three varieties, arbequina, arbosana from Spain and koroneiki from Greece. Their olive orchards look nothing like what you may have seen in Europe. The olive trees are pruned into a hedge shape that is harvested mechanically, using a harvester specially developed for shaking the trees to get the olives off without damaging them. Less damage means better quality oil. Here are some numbers for California Olive Ranch: Their olive trees grow 6-8 feet high Trees are pl...
Thursday, October 27, 2011

Go West! Wai‘anae, Oahu

No matter how many times you have been to Oahu, it's quite likely you have never been very far West of Honolulu, to Wai‘anae. It's not the easiest part of the island to farm because it's hot and dry, but it is where you will find some very inspiring people working hard to achieve sustainability for the land, for the food system, and for the benefit of everyone. Eighty five percent of food in Hawaii is imported and Monsanto is now using some of the old plantations to produce genetically modified seeds. If anyone can turn the tide and bring back a more sustainable way of life, a way of life the people of Hawaii once enjoyed, it's the farmers and ranchers of Ma'o Farms, Kahumana Farms and Naked Cow Dairy. Seeing their work will give you hope for the future. They are all cultivating a deep love and respect for the land that nourishes, called 'aina in the Hawaiian language. Ma'o Farms is a certified organic farm and education center. Ma'o produces sala...
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chef Alan Wong on Hawaii Cuisine

On my recent trip to Hawaii I got a chance to interview Chef Alan Wong. I just wanted to get a few quotes but I was so impressed by what he had to say I thought I'd share a bit more of the interview. His list of things to do when you visit Hawaii is really wonderful and makes me want to go back... You were one of the founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine now in its twentieth year. What's happening with Hawaii cuisine today? Twenty years later we have so much more product, more vegetables, more fish. It's a different ball game ingredient wise. On the Big Island there is red veal being produced, we have aquaculture--farm raised moi and kampachi even sturgeon. Local asparagus wasn't available 20 years ago there was only one cheese maker. Now, every island has at least one cheese maker. Is eating local catching on? Yes. Everyone is getting on board. Everyone wants to support buying local. We need to support farmers. I predict even more local products and more sensitivit...
Monday, October 24, 2011

Party Tips from the Jordan Halloween Bash

Photo credit: Damon Mattson Jordan Winery has a philosophy of hospitality that shines in everything they do. Their wines are elegant and balanced and are amazingly food friendly. You have likely seen their chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon on restaurant menus since both are very popular with sommeliers. At the winery are two secret weapons to creating incredible experiences, Todd and Nitsa Knoll. Todd was a chef at the Ritz-Carlton before coming to the winery where each season he creates new recipes that go up on the winery website. I got a chance to spend some time with him in his kitchen and see the way he literally sketches out his ideas before cooking. He sources the finest ingredients and can tell you things such as why the white asparagus in the US isn't as good as the white asparagus in France (because it's imported from Latin America). His wife Nitsa was also a cook at the Ritz Carlton and has a real knack for hosting events and making guests feel welcome. The ...
Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ferran Adrià & The Family Meal

Ferran Adrià, his translator & props. Photo credit: Sabrina Modelle Ferran Adrià is considered one of the best chefs in the world. His food at elBulli was wildly creative and influential. For better, and in some camps, for worse, he is best known as a leading proponent of the cutting edge cuisine associated with the much reviled term "molecular gastronomy." Operating like a mad scientist, he closed his restaurant for a good part of the year so he could create 150 new recipes each season. But while diners at the esteemed elBulli marveled at food made into foam and paper, the staff ate relatively simple meals. At a sold-out lecture earlier this month, Adrià a man inextricably tied to creativity said the very word "creativity" was pretentious. Cuisine he said, can be a social tool, an instrument for peace and can change the world. In introducing his book The Family Meal about the staff meals at the restaurant, he said what he has done with this book is as ava...
Monday, October 17, 2011

Chile Cheddar Bacon Waffle recipe

Dining out is one of the best favorite forms of culinary inspiration. Last weekend I went out for brunch at " Eats " on Clement Street and ordered the Waffle Bacon which was described as bacon pressed in a waffle, cheddar, Hungarian peppers and a sunny up egg. It was a wonderful combination of gooey, chewy and crisp and had many classic flavors associated with breakfast. It was definitely the sauteed peppers that tied the bacon, egg, cheese and waffle together and took the dish to the next level. I knew this was something I had to order again or better yet, try to duplicate at home. Instead of using Hungarian peppers I took the easy route and used diced green chiles from a can. The result? Oh my. It was delicious! The truth is, a bacon waffle topped with chiles and cheese is actually quite good without the egg as well, though you can imagine how the yolk forms a lovely sauce for the bacon waffle. Sometimes more is better, and it's the excess of this recipe that makes i...
Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Love Thai Cooking

Sometimes the recipes I try from food blogs work, other times they don't. On rare occasions they are so good they become "keepers" that I know I will cook again and again. The other night I made the Stir Fried Shanghai Noodles with Beef recipe from I Love Thai Cooking/Pranee's Thai Kitchen . It was very quick, easy and inexpensive to make and absolutely delicious! If you are looking for the way to make one steak serve two people, this is it. The recipe uses some staple ingredients you probably already have on hand like soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil. I found fresh Shanghai noodles in a two pound bag at a local Asian grocery store. I used a flat iron steak instead of flank steak and Mirin in place of the rice wine or sake so I didn't add the sugar. I also added one slivered green onion at the end of cooking. I followed the instructions pretty closely so I am not going to reprint the recipe but suggest you head to Pranee's blog to find it . Pranee&...
Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with Nigel Slater

Nigel Slater is a cook and food writer from England who has written extensively for magazines and newspapers and is author of nine cookbooks. The film based on his autobiography Toast is being released in theaters in the US this month. It features a very strong cast which includes Helena Bonham Carter as his stepmother. In anticipation of the film, I got a chance to speak with him about his autobiography, the film, his passion for gardening (the subject of his most recent book Tender ) and the food writers who influenced him the most when he was growing up. Your autobiography Toast was intimately revealing. What inspired you to write it? I wrote the book because I wanted to record the food of the 60's and 70's, the food I ate at home, not "cheffy" food. It turned out each food had a story, it was a collection of diary entries. As a child I knew there was exciting cooking out there, but I wasn't having it. Because academically I didn't do very well, it...
Friday, October 07, 2011

Why do YOU cook, Monica Bhide?

I'm not sure there is a harder working food writer than Monica Bhide . She teaches, writes magazine articles, has a syndicated newspaper column called Seasonings , and has written several cookbooks including her most recent, Modern Spice . What I like about her writing is the personal stories and her enthusiasm for using different ingredients. She's also about as big a twitteraholic as I am. Not only do I learn something new when I read her stories, articles and tweets, but I enjoy the journey. As a child, I always felt that I had trouble relating with the world. I always felt that I did not fit in the crowd and that I could not really "connect" with people. Then one day, I discovered what I did relate to: the kitchen. I would spend hours watching my parents and my grandparents and uncles and aunts cooking but never attempted to try it myself. I think I was about 8 or 9 when I began to cook. It was an experience unlike any other. I never felt awkward or out of place ...
Tuesday, October 04, 2011

100 Perfect Pairings Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love

Developing new and enticing recipes that will bring out the best in a variety of wines is a challenge I relish. I have a huge collection of food and wine pairing books, not only because I am fascinated by it but also because for several years I developed recipes for MyWinesDirect , an online wine retailer. Coming up with new recipes to go with yet another Cabernet or Chardonnay required not only creativity but also a deeper understanding of how food and wine interact. I have only written about a few of the books in my wine pairing collection because frankly, not very many of them are worth telling you about. The bible is of course What To Drink with What You Eat . It's where I go first for inspiration. But I also love the 100 Perfect Pairings books by Jill Silverman Hough. The first was 100 Perfect Pairings Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love and the second out now is 100 Perfect Pairings Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love . She not only provides recipes, but really d...