Saturday Morning Farmer’s Markets abound in Southern California. Within the distance of approximately 33 miles, extending from the city of Ventura to Calabassas (at the far Western end of the San Fernando Valley) there are 4 markets that I know of: Ventura, Camarillo Old Town, Newbury Park and Calabassas. You can go further South and find quite a few more but of course, it would be difficult to attend all of them in one day. On my foray to Calabassas I also went to Newbury Park and could have hit Camarillo if I had so desired. The market is across the street from the most prominent and probably well-known business in Camarillo and that would be the Sage Brush Cantina. The Cantina opened years ago in a one store front location and soon took over the properties next to it, so that now the whole block (where there used to be a bakery and other businesses) is now all Sage Brush Cantina and their parking lot. It has become a gathering for locals and out of towners as well.
The Calabassas Market is probably the most diverse and exciting of the one that I previously mentioned. The time slot is from 9 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon. You can buy produce, flowers, artisan bread products and foods ready-made to eat on the spot.
The first thing when you walk into the market is a sign for Valet Parking and an attendant to manage it. The fee is only $3.00 which is the same that the parking lot across the street charges. There is very little street parking in Calabassas and since the Market is well-attended the lot or Valet Parking is well worth it. An alternative is to park in the shopping center on Valley Circle – it is about a one block walk but if you are carrying market produce it can be a little tireing.
There are many flower vendors and they are the ones that are most prominent in the front of the market. This is not to say there are no produce vendors there – there are plenty but the flowers are so colorful and beautiful that they do stand out. If you are planning on purchasing flowers as well as produce wait until you are finished and almost ready to leave – that way your flowers will have stayed fresh in water until you pick them and take them home. If you carry them around the market there is a strong possibility that they will start to wilt, especially if it is a hot day.
There are many produce vendors but one of my favorite has produce similar to Underwoods in Camarillo in that they have those beautiful heads of Purple and Gold Cauliflower along with Romesco which is shaped like a castle with little turrets.
One of the ways in which I like to use the Cauliflower is to prepare it with a Cheese Sauce – the simplest Cheese Sauce that you will ever make. Simply shred as much Medium or Sharp Cheddar Cheese and combine it with enough Mayonnaise to make a spreadable mixture. Place the washed Cauliflower in a microwavable dish and spread the Mayo/Cheese mixture all over it. Microwave for approximately five minutes or until the Cauliflower is fork tender.
I love Mushrooms and one of the Vendors has a great variety of Mushrooms and they are locally (in the Conejo Valley just West of Calabassas) raised. Mushrooms grow best in the dark and not exactly knowing I asked the Vendor where he grew them – in a Greenhouse? The answer was no – he actually grows most of them in a warehouse building – probably in raised beds or flats. You could purchase one type of mushroom or a variety pack of different sizes and different prices. I couldn’t resist and did buy a $15 pack which did last me for several meals.
Also at the market were Citrus Vendors, Vegetable Vendors, Egg Vendors, Hot Sauce Vendors and many more. I am pictured below at the booth of a vendor from Central California – at this point in the day (about 1 hours before closing) his products were marked down to 3 for $5.00. An excellent and everything I purchase from his was of excellent quality.
This next vendor sells Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Beans at both the Calabassas Market and the Market in Thousand Oaks on Thursday afternoon. When I visit these markets her stand is always one that I stop at. The Cucumbers are of the Japanese variety and do not need to be peeled. They are always sweet and crisp and delicious.
One of the Vendors at the Calabassas Market was not selling produce but instead he had Pasta and Olives – the booth was called Zona de Italy. Lots of interesting pasta and delicious Olives of various varieties.
So take a trip out to Calabassas and check out their produce, flowers, pasta, etc.
There are numerous Farmer’s Markets in Ventura County – on Saturday alone there are four different markets all within driving distance of each other. Starting in Ventura, you have a medium size Market on the corner of Santa Clara and Palm Streets. (See my previous post in January of this year)
Another local Saturday Market in Ventura County is the one in ‘Old Town Camarillo’. This one is different from the other markets available in that it is sponsored by the Camarillo Hospice and a portion of all sales goes to this cause. The Camarillo Market is a Certified Market and is probably the largest one in the County, maybe only equal in size to the Thousand Oaks Market.
At the Camarillo Market you will find produce vendors, flower vendors and food product vendors. There is also a booth for Kettle Corn, Tamales, and Coffee. You can buy Olive Oil, Hummus and Flat Breads, and best of all, ‘Old Boney Mountain’ Hot Sauces and Grotto Dust. The Old Boney Products are produced by Jeff Losey who own the company and has named it for ‘Old Boney Mountain’ which can be found in the National Recreation Area in Newbury Park and which also can be seen from his property.
My favorite produce vendor is Underwood farms which also goes to the Thousand Oaks Market. If you miss a market day and need fresh produce, you can also go straight to the Underwood Farms in Somis and/or Moorpark, both of which are in Ventura County.
Shown below are some unusual varieties of well-known Vegetables. The Romanesco is a form of Broccoli but is certainly much more fun. Since it almost looks like a Castle, I have used in Children’s Cooing Classes when there was a ‘Kingdom’ Theme involved. Next is my favorite type of Cauliflower – Purple and Yellow or Golden. It is probably just my imagination but I do think the colored Cauliflower, especially the yellow one has more flavor than the white. This may be true because there certainly has to be more Carotene in the yellow variety and carotene does provide flavor.
Next is the Purple and Green Cabbage which is not unusual in itself, but these are so fresh and so beautiful that you cannot help purchasing them and running home to use them.
Another produce vendor that you will want to stop at is the Tomato Booth from Beylik Farms. They have Orange Tomatoes, Red Plum Tomatoes and Japanese Tomatoes. The winter variety are grown in Green Houses, but they taste as good as if they were grown outdoors.
In addition to Underwood and Beylik Farms there are numerous other Produce Vendors. There are also booths selling artisan Greens such as Kale and other Greens. One of the offerings that I love is the booth that sells Sprouts of different varieties. I especially like the Sunflower Sprouts which are great on sandwiches and in salads. Then we have the fruit vendors, selling Apples, Oranges and other Citrus fruit in addition to Strawberries (fresh picked the same day as being sold from local fields.
One of my favorite vendors is ‘Old Boney Mountain Hot Sauce Products’. Jeff Losey, who is the owner and CEO of the Company donates his profits to organizations such as the Camarillo Hospice, Wounded Warrior and Newbury Park High School Football Team. Old Boney Products are named after ‘Old Boney Mountain’ in the National Recreation Area in the Santa Monica Mountains located in Newbury Park. Jeff and his family can view Old Boney Mountain from their home where the Peppers are also grown.
There are also at least two flower vendors – one sells live plants (this particular vendor goes both to the Camarillo Market and the Thousand Oaks Market. Every Fall right before Thanksgiving, I buy my Pansy Plants from them. The price is right and the plants are beautiful. (Living in Southern California with hot summers, the Pansies do not survive beyond late Spring, so I have to replant them every year. In addition to the Pansies, they also sell Orchid Plants and other shade plants. *** There are other vendors selling cut flowers to take home to enjoy.
Last, but not least, are the prepared food vendors. One sells freshly baked Artisan Bread Products. Normally I will make my own Challah and other Egg Breads but this past Saturday I had not had the time to do so and wanted to make French for Breakfast on Sunday so I purchase a Brioche from this vendor. It was very expensive ($10.00) and cost about 5 times what it would cost me to make it (not counting my time) but it was well worth it. It was delicious and made not only great French Toast but excellent sandwiches as well.
Another Vendor sells Tamales, another sells different varieties of Hummus and Flat Breads and of course Kettle Korn. If these aren’t enough, there are also booths selling handmade crafts, such as jewelry, shell items, wood items, etc.
Take a trip out here next Saturday (or whenever you happen to be in town) and enjoy the wares at the Old Town Camarillo Farmer’s Market.
Unlike most of the rest of the country, Sunny Southern California offers its Farmer’s Markets all year long.
One such market is the Ventura Farmer’s Market which takes place on Saturday mornings. I made a trip out there from Thousand Oaks (about 30 miles) because I needed to purchase Eggs from my favorite Egg supplier (Canyon Meadow Farms). I usually purchase the eggs from them at the Thousand Oaks Farmers Market but from the week before Thanksgiving until the week after New Years, the Thousand Oaks Farmer’s Market gets displaced because of the Holiday Season. ( The space they use is needed for parking at the Mall).
One of the Vendors at the Ventura Market included sold California Produced Olive Oils which were made from olives grown in Northern California. Their stock included sizes from pints to gallons and gift packs including cooking oils and bath and body soaps and oils. I purchased a Gift Pack of a variety of oils which ranged from mild tasting to a very strong olive taste. I am a lover of Olives and Olive Oil and I think the stronger the taste the better. I think the recipient of this gift will feel the same way. Pictured below are some of the Oils that were being sold.
When you have Olive Oil, you start thinking about Salads and the fresh lettuces and other produce that were available were irrestible. They were bright green and purple and many other colors. The lettuce was perfect for Salads and I could not resist buying several bunches. I also purchased Chinese Spinach from Underwoods Family Farm Booth. Underwoods have two locations, one in Somis on the 118 and the other in Moorpark right off of Tierra Rejada. When Ik want fresh produce, I do not have to wait for the Farmers’ Markets, however it certainly is a little bit easier for me to purchase my produce at the Oaks Farmer’s Market when it is open. Unfortunately, it is not open during the Christmas Holiday Season.
Some additional Vegetables that were being sold were Leeks, Onions, Garlic and a variety of fresh Herbs which I love to cook with!
For years now Strawberries have been grown year-round in Southern California. The varieties differ from season to season, but the taste of our locally grown berries is delicious and sweet no matter what time of year they are grown in. Even though I had recently purchased several boxes of Blackberries at our local market I still couldn’t resist the Strawberries that were on display. I only bought one box however, just for eating out of hand.
All in All, it is worth a trip to your local Farm or Farmer’s Market to get fresh, delicious produce, especially if it is grown without chemical additives and pesticides! Most of the Vendors at the local Southern California Markets have become Certified Organic Farmers which means that they do not use chemicals!
SO, LOOK, SHOP, COOK & EAT!
Today is ‘More Herbs, Less Salt Day’. While Salt is a wonderful all-purpose seasoning that would be hard to do without, Herbs play another role in our culinary efforts. Herbs impart wonderful flavor, each one distinctive from another. Even the different herbs in the same family have different distinctive flavors and aromas.
My favorite all-around Herb is Basil. There are dozens of varieties of Basil, but of all the ones that I have encountered, Sweet Italian Basil is my favorite. Here are just some varieties of Basil that are available in local nurseries in Southern California. Varieties will vary throughout the country and throughout the world.
African Blue Basil – blue hue to the leaves and has purple flowers
Greek Basil – small green leaves – lasts long into the Fall
Italian Sweet Basil – large green leaves (probably the most popular)
Lemon Basil – small leaves with slight lemon scent
Thai Basil – smaller leaves with some purple hue to them – purple flowers, slightly spicy
The Varieties of Basil above are listed in alphabetical order. The Greek and Sweet Italian are probably the most popular and used most frequently in Italian and Greek Cuisine.
The Thai Basil is used in South Eastern Cuisine and does have a distinctive taste, somewhat sharper than the sweet varieties.
I prefer to use the Sweet Italian most of the time just because it is easier to clean and mince because of the size of the leaves. I also use the African Blue, but usually just use the whole leave as they are small.
I use Thai Basil in all my Asian Cooking. I really love the Thai Basil and if you don’t grow it you can easily find it in Asian markets.
Oregano –The second most popular Herb is probably Oregano. I planted Oregano when we first moved into this house and the same plant is still growing. It sometimes freezes in the Winter but always comes back in the spring. It is an essential in Italian and Greek Cuisine and is of course used in other types of cooking as well.
Pineapple Sage – normally I don’t like Sage, but the Pineapple variety is another story. It actually smells like Pineapple when you tear a leave or water and does impart the flavor of Pineapple to your dishes. I planted a tiny plant several years ago. This plant is now huge in spite of being constantly cut back. I have also endowed many of my friends with a shoot from this plant. All you have to do is stick a piece in water and let it root, then plant it. The result eventually will be as pictured here in this blog. One of the assets of this Sage plant is the Red Flowers which attract Humming Birds to our yard.
Mint – is popular in mixed drinks, desserts and in South East Asian Cuisine. This too grows like crazy and is easy to root. We have mint that comes over from our neighbors yard and I constantly have to pull it out. I sometimes will wash it and then steep it in hot water and make a mint fusion which can be used for drinks or mint jelly. Mint also comes in several varieties, such as Spearmint, Peppermint and my favorite, Chocolate Mint.
Lemon Grass – an essential in South East Asian Cuisine, especially Thai and Vietnamese. In fact, there is a restaurant named after this Herb on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. This too grows like crazy. I just planted a small plant and this is the result.
Chives – part of the Onion Family – frequently served as a topping for Baked Potatoes – but beware! those Chives in the Restaurants are more frequently Green Onions or Scallions which are thicker and less flavorful (but stronger) than the Chives. Chives are very thin and it is best to cut them with scissors. Chives make a nice flavorful addition to many vegetable and meat dishes.
Try some Herbs today and you will find that you don’t need to use too much salt in your food!
Summer is finally here and the weather is getting warmer and warmer and our food needs to be cooler and cooler. During the hot days of summer appetites tend to wane. What better way to eat healthy and delicious food than to create summer salads. Produce is at its best and seafood goes well with many types of produce, so let’s make Seafood Salads for dinner, lunch or whatever! Tonight’s Salad was a King Crab Salad. Even though I used King Crab Legs, Dungeness Crab or Snow Crab can be substituted. Shrimp can even take the place of Crab or if you are lucky enough to live in Maine, try Lobster right out of the ocean!
My salad tonight consisted of Baby Golden Beets from the Farmer’s Market along with Persian Cucumbers, Red Bell Pepper and fresh Tomatoes from the Garden.
The Crab was cooked when I purchased it so all I had to do was remove it from the shell. King Crab has thick, spiny shells and does take a little effort to be removed. The best way to do this is to use your kitchen shears and cut right down the length of the leg. If you have the Claws, this will take a Crab Cracker or a Nut Cracker to get the meat out. Once you have the meat out of the crab, you may want to rinse if off with cold water and then blot is dry with paper towels or clean dish towels. Check through the meat to make sure there are no pieces of shell or cartilage in it. Put the Crab aside, (In the refrigerator is best) while you prepare the Vegetables for your Salad.
Scrub the Beets with a Potato Brush to remove clinging soil and then place in a saucepan; cover them with Cold Water and add a teaspoon or so of Salt. Place the lid on the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, shut off the heat and let the beets stand in the hot water, with the lid covering the pan. While you are preparing the rest of the Salad, the Beets will continue to cook – they don’t have to be cooked all the way – a little texture adds to the taste appeal. Save the cooking liquid to use in soup or as the liquid for cooking other foods. You will notice that there is a lot of color in the water and this color contains some of the Water Soluble Vitamins that leached out during the cooking process.
I julienned the Beets with the 6 x 6 blade or French Fry Blade in my Food Processor. You can also do this by hand or with a large holed grater.
Wash, dry and slice any other Vegetables that you intend to use in the Salad. I used Persian Cucumbers. The skin on Persian Cucumbers is mild so that they do not have to peeled. However, they do have to washed and dried. Cut off the tops and discard and then slice them whichever way you prefer. I sliced them down the middle and then half into 1/4″ slices. (Since Persian Cucumbers are small, I usually allow one per person however, one half per person would do too.
I also used diced Red Bell Pepper and a little bit of Cilantro.
Included with the Vegetables was a tiny Pasta I bought for soups. This helped to add body to the salad and of course extended it somewhat. After the Pasta was cooked and rinsed to remove the excess starch, I dried it in a clean dish towel before adding it to the salad. One cup of dried Pasta was more than enough for the two of us.
Once all your Vegetables are prepped combine them with the Crab and then toss with the Dressing. If you are using Pasta add it at this time also. The dressing was Thousand Island mixed with a little aged Balsamic Vinegar.
Freshly quartered Tomatoes that were just picked from the garden that morning were added as a garnish. (Note: tomatoes are sweeter if picked in the morning than later in the day – at night the starch is converted to sugar and during the day through photosynthesis the sugar is converted back to starch, therefore giving you a sweeter product if picked I the morning.)
This Spring on our ‘almost yearly’ trip to Hawaii we rented a Condo so that we would have a kitchen so that we could cook the fresh produce and seafood that we were able to purchase at the Farmer’s Markets and Seafood Stores. The following is about the food we purchase, cooked and ate.
Let’s start with Breakfast. On several mornings we arose very early to go Birding which is one of our favorite things to do on Vacation. On these days, we just brought along some pastries and drinks but on the days that we slept a little bit later and ate breakfast in the condo, I did cook for at least a couple of them.
For one of the mornings, we had a Cinnamon Pull-Apart loaf from Foodland which to our liking did not have enough Cinnamon so I turned it into French Toast. Cinnamon Bread, Egg Bread, Hawaiian Sweet Bread or Brioche make a delicious French Toast product. -french-toast/To make the French Toast, I first sliced the Cinnamon Bread into thick slices and then let it air dry overnight.
At Breakfast time, I made a Batter with Eggs, Cream, a little Sugar, Cinnamon and Vanilla. I then soaked the sliced Bread in the Egg Mixture and then fried it in Butter and just a little bit of Oil. The Oil helps to keep the Butter form burning. (Oil has a higher smoking point than Butter).
The soaked Bread Slices were cooked in the hot Butter/Oil combo to develop a nice brown crust on the outside. We ate it with Coconut Syrup for Ev and just Sugar for myself. This was a very good breakfast and we even had a slice leftover for a snack later in the day.
The second Breakfast that I made was Coconut Pancakes with Grilled Baby Pineapple. Unfortunately most of the Pineapple is now grown in the Philippines, but the Baby Pineapple that I purchased was grown on Kauai. (This was a Certified Farmers Market and all of the produce must be grown in Hawaii). The Pineapple was exceptionally sweet, but when you grill it in a little Butter the sweetness is brought out and becomes intensified. To give it just a little caramelization I used a small amount of Sugar in with the Butter. Not only did it give a nice golden/brown color to the pineapple but it did fortify the flavor of the pineapple.
Usually I make my Pancake Batter from scratch, but since we were on the Island only for 10 days, I did not want to start buying a lot of ingredients that we would not use. So therefore, I purchased a bag of Coconut Pancake Mix. The directions on the package said to add only water, but I never pay attention to that. We want our pancakes to have a lot of flavor and nutrition, so I added an egg and used milk instead of water. I also added a small amount of melted butter to the batter. In the photo of the batter you will see some small lumps. Pancake Batter should never be beaten until smooth. This will cause the panckes to be tough!
You will notice in the photo below that the Pancakes were cooked in a skillet rather than a griddle. When renting condos, you have to make do with what is available unless you want to bring your own equipment. Next time I am definitely going to bring my own knives, because the knives that were there were barely functional.
The pancakes were delicious with the Coconut Syrup (made in Hawaii) and the grilled Pineapple Chunks.
The rest of our breakfasts were cereal, eggs and bacon, etc.
Most of our dinners were eaten out, but I did cook on some of the evenings. One night for dinner we had a Huli Roasted Chicken from the market. Since it was too much for two people to consume at one time, I saved the Breasts and made a Chicken Salad in Papaya Boats for dinner the next night. I put diced Maui Onion and Celery into the Chicken and dressed it with Papaya Seed Dressing. Along with the salad we had sautéed Baby Bok Choy (from the local Farmer’s Market in Hanalei) with Ginger and fresh Garlic.
The next night we had sautéed Ono with Shitake Mushrooms and a Green Salad with Papaya Seed Dressing. I sprinkled the Ono with a Hawaiian seasoning mix and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Next I sautéed Shitake Mushrooms with some Ginger and fresh Garlic.
When the Mushrooms just started to soften, I pushed them aside and added the Ono which I lightly sautéed on each side. Ono is such a good fish and this was so fresh that It did not need to be cooked all the way through. Just browned on the outside and pink on the inside is the way to go! For an added boost to the sautee, I added just a touch of Sesame Oil at the very end of the cooking.
For dessert we had Pineapple/Coconut Ice Cream with Chocolate Cake.
Our beverage that night was Hawaiian Sun Tea which I made by placing some Tea Bags in a pitcher of cold water along with lime slices. This was put out on the balcony table to brew under the sun.
One of the items that we ate, but did not cook was a classic but made in an unusual way. This was a Bacon/Lettuce/Tomato and Avocado Sandwich on a Taro Brioche. What was unusual about it was of course, the Taro Bun, but in addition it was made completely to order. The Bacon was cooked just for our sandwiches and the Tomato and Avocado were sliced to order. We did have to wait about 15 minutes for our sandwiches, but they were well worth it.
One other food item that we ate out was Pizza at the Bakery in Kilauea. They make excellent pizza and we have been going there for years every time we go to the North Shore of Kauai. We had a pizza dressed with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Basil Pesto with Pepperoni and Mushrooms and of course Mozzarella.
One day in Ka Paa I had Lettuce Tacos at Pacific Bistro which is now actually a Chinese Restaurant. The Lettuce Tacos were actually what is known as lettuce wraps, except the lettuce wasn’t wrapped; it was actually just little lettuce cups.
The other two places that we ate at that were noteworthy was the restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel (formerly Princeville Hotel) and the Lighthouse Bistro in Kilauea.
For dinner at the St. Regis we had Steak with a Burgundy Mushroom Sauce, a very tasty Sweet Potato Dish, sautéed Spinach and a delicious dessert cobbler made from Mango and Strawberries.
At the Lighthouse Bistro Ev had Shrimp in a Coconut Sauce over Linguini and I had a steak again. Dessert was a Passion Fruit Crème Brule with Chocolate Sauce on the side for Ev.
- Aside from the food our vacation was a success as usual. We enjoyed the ambience, the sweet smelling Hawaiian Fragrances, the balmy breezes and our gorgeous ocean view.
St. Patrick’s Day, that most Irish of Holidays is close at hand. St. Patrick’s Day is usually symbolized with images of Leprechaun’s wearing green clothing and many of us will wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or put Shamrock’s in our Buttonholes. Restaurants will feature Corned Beef and Cabbage and even green ale. Our most well-known Fast Food Restaurant is already featuring Shamrock Shakes.
So with St. Patrick’s Day close at hand I am going to paraphrase that saying ‘The Wearing of the Green’ and turn it into the ‘Cooking and Eating of Greens’. The most prevalent color in nature is green and if you think about it, there are probably more green vegetables than that of any other color. So, for St. Pat’s Day let’s get healthy and eat our greens.
Let’s start with Salads and what you can put into them. Lettuce of course is the most well-known salad green, so let’s see how many Lettuces or Lettuce/like greens we can name and find in the market today: Arugula, Butter Lettuce, Boston Lettuce, Curly Lettuce, Endive, Iceberg, (the least nutritious of all), Red Lettuce and Romaine which is probably the most popular lettuce today. Spinach and Kale are also popular salad greens today. One of our popular Salads is Caesar Salad which is easily paired with other ingredients to make a whole meal salad. Caesar is simple to make (it is mainly all Romaine Lettuce). The dressing is made from Garlic, Lemon Juice, Olive Oil and an Egg cooked for 45 seconds. The Egg acts as an emulsifier binding the Olive Oil and Lemon Juice together. Lastly anchovy or anchovy paste is added for that distinctive Caesar taste along with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese. /caesar-salad/
A recipe for Guacamole, the perfect green dressing for St. Pat’s can be found at chunky-guacamole/
What other green vegetables can you put in salads? Cucumbers which come in at least the following varieties: English or Hot House, Japanese, Persian, Pickling and your usual normal market variety which you probably want to stay away from as the skins are waxed and need to be peeled before you can eat them. English or Hot House are long Cucumbers about 2 inches in diameter and usually come wrapped in a clear plastic covering. Japanese are long and skinny (about 1 inch in diameter). Persian are short and skinny and Pickling are about 4 inches long and about 1 ½” in diameter. Pickling used to be the sweetest cucumber available but now that Japanese and Persian varieties are available in the markets, they are no longer the only sweet ones.
Zucchini are green and are good raw if sliced thinly or shredded. Cilantro, Parsley, and Cabbage are also good in salads as well as celery. By the way, Celery is one vegetable that you can eat and end up with a minus calorie intake. If you notice the way celery grows, it is all fiber which is not digestible but which is good for digestion.
I will leave it to your imagination as to what else you can put in your salad and now we will go to cooked Vegetables, namely the Cruciferous ones. These are very healthy and are also touted to be helpful in cancer prevention. They certainly can’t hurt. So what are the Cruciferous Vegetables and why are they called thus. If you cut off the stem end or bottom of a cruciferous vegetable you will see the shape of a cross, hence the name. Most of the cruciferous vegetables are green and fit right into our St. Patrick’s Day theme. They are: Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Romanesco. There are probably a few more that I have left out. On the subject of Cauliflower, you will probably say that Cauliflower is white, not green. However, there is a vegetable called Broccoli-Flower which is a cross between Broccoli and Cauliflower and is green. There are also, purple and yellow Cauliflower. Romanesco Cauliflower (which is an heirloom Cauliflower) is green and looks somewhat like Cauliflower but it is not rounded and has little spurts which look like castle turrets. It almost looks like it should be a desert plant and not edible, but it is edible and is supposed to be quite delicious.
The next Green Vegetables are the leafy greens which can also be used in salads but are also easily cooked. These are Collard Greens, Kale, Mustard Greens, Spinach and Swiss Chard. Swiss Chard leaves are green and their stems are pale green but there are varieties which are either gold or rainbow. The rainbow as the name suggests has multiple colored stems.
So as you can see, there are lots of greens available to cook and eat and as many as I have listed above, there are probably at least that many more available. So, on Patrick’s Day go ahead and wear green but also Cook and Eat Green!
Thursday, October 4th is ‘National Taco Day’. Like many other ethnic foods, Tacos have become as American as Apple Pie, although Apple Pie actually originated in England. Just like people, there are many variations of tacos. If you want authentic tacos, try going to Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles where there are many Mexican Restaurants. Here in Newbury Park, we have a taco place that is as authentic as I have ever eaten here in the States. It is called ‘Taco Sanchez’ and it is situated in the old Taco Bell building by Roma’s Italian Deli right off of Borchard Road.
Pictured are Carne Asado Tacos
with Mango Salsa and Guacamole
Since Thursday is ‘National Taco Day’, it would be fun to make tacos for your family and/or your friends for dinner. Tacos are one of those dishes that can be turned into party food very easily and what is more fun than to have a Taco Bar Party. To make a Taco Bar Party or just Tacos for dinner you will need some important ingredients and you will have to decide what fillings your Tacos should have.
MEAT FILLINGS ACCOMPANIMENTS
- Carne Asada (Beef) Salsa Cruda
- Carnitas (Pork) Guacamole
- Chicken Shredded Cabbage or Lettuce
- Shrimp Diced Tomatoes
- Lobster Shredded Cheese
- Ahi Green Onions
- Tofu Sliced Radishes
Crema (Mexican version of Creme Fraiche)
Grilled Scallions (Green Onions)
To make your Tacos, it is best to prep all the items ahead of time, except maybe for the Meat Fillings which should be hot when served. Some items can be reheated, but most are best right after being origianlly cooked.
Prepare your Garnishes or Accompaniments first and refrigerate if there is going to be a lot of time between prep and serving.
salsa-cruda/ is an uncooked Tomato Salsa usually made with Tomatoes, Chilies, Garlic and Cilantro along with a little Salt and the Juice of a Lime or two.
Guacamole is a wonderful condiment made from Avocadoes, Garlic, Jalapenos (optional), Salt, Cilantro and Lime Juice. The Guacamole we were served in Guadlajara was simply mashed Avocadoes and Lime Juice, but I like it with the additional ingredients listed above. Mole refers to ‘sauce’ and the name guaca as told to me by one of my Hispanic Students just means crazy, mixed, so therefore,Guacamole is just a sauce of ‘mixed up’ Avocadoes. Hence, the mashed Avocadoes and Lime in Guadalajara. The lime wasn’t even in it – just served on the side. For the recipe go to chunky-guacamole/
Shredded Lettuce and Diced Tomaotes
The filling that I recently used was Ground Beef cooked with Garlic, diced Onions and diced Red Bell Pepper or Pimiento in Spanish. The Garlic and Onions were sauteed first and then the Beef was added. The Bell Peppers were added just at the end to avoid being overcooked.
Keep the Meat warm while frying your Taco Shells. You can also do the Taco Shells ahead and keep warm in the oven. Tacos are usually made from Corn Tortillas, but you can also use Flour Tortillas, especially if you want soft tacos. Corn Tortillas are usually fried crisp but you can also cook them so that they will be soft. When frying your Tortillas in Oil, be sure to either drain them on a rack set over a baking pan or drain on paper towels. The rack method is best in that the oil drips down. With the paper towels, the Taco Shells will be sitting on the oil that drains off of them. First fry them on each side, flat then use a wooden spoon to help fold them and leave a space for the filling to be put into.
Mexican Fruit Salad is a nice accompaniment to a Taco Meal. Use Tropical Fruit such as Papaya, Pineapple, Mango and Melons.
To complete the meal, add Mexican Rice mexican-rice/ or refried Beans.
Whichever way you make your Tacos, enjoy them or if you don’t feel like cooking, just go to your local Tacqueria!
The week of August 13th – 17th was the Teen/Preteen Western Culinary Camp at Let’s Get Cookin’ in Westlake Village. During the week, we traced the evolution of Western Cuisine from its birthplace in the Middle East and followed the trail to Greece, Italy, France and then across the Atlantic to the New England States in America.
Day One – Middle East
Lavash -Flat Bread
Spinach Borani – Spinach & Yogurt Dip
Israeli Chopped Salad
Egyptian Bread Pudding
Cardamom Cookies & Pomegranate Blast
Paige making Israeli Couscous
On Emma’s plate is Israeli Couscous & Lavash. In the small cups are Israeli Chopped Salad, Spinach Borani & Pomegranate Blast.
Egyptian Bread Pudding – contains Baked Puff Pastry, a variety of nuts and Coconut sweetened condensed milk. The ingredients were combined and then baked before being served.
Day Two – Greece
Mediterranean Vegetable Salad
Beef & Macaroni Pie
Lemon Rice Pilaf
Filling for Baklava
Emma T, Paige, Emma M & Sheema
Day Three – Italy
Stuffed Shells with Marinara Sauce
Day Four – France
Coquille St. Jacque (Scallops in White Butter Sauce)
French Onion Soup
Butter Lettuce Salad
Haricot Verte (French Green Beans)
Elizabeth adding Pastry Cream that was forgotten
Day Five – New England
Rhode Island Clam Chowder
Stuffed Eggs Florentine
Sally Lunn Bread
Boston Cream Pie
Sheema, Emma T & Piper —->
The week of July 9th – 13th was our ‘Back to Basics’ Culinary Camp for 10-16 year olds at Let’s Get Cookin’ in Westlake Village. I teach all the Kids & Parent/Child Classes as well as Birthday Parties & Private classes. I also teach Food Processor Classes. The photos below depict the activities during this week.
Day One was introductory with all the Basics such as Safety, Measuring, Equipment, etc. being taught. We also made Breakfast food on the first day and unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures. The menu for this day was:
Almond Raisin Granola
Ginger Snap Granola
Waffles & Fruit Toppings
Cooking Bacon and Sausage
Home Fried Potatoes
All the students worked in groups and helped to make at least three different items. In addition, after a brief demo, each student made their own omelets with choices of vegetables, meat & cheeses to incorporate into them. Depending on their appetities, each student made either a one egg or two egg omelet. The omelets were eaten as soon as made, but the rest of the food was kept warm and served all at one time so the students could sit down as a group and also practice their social skills.
Day Two was a lunch menu which included Bread Product, Salads, Sandwiches and a Dessert. The dishes made were:
Tomato Basil Soup
Quick Clam Chowder
Shrimp Salad Wraps
Baby Belle Sliders
Southwest Chicken Salad
Honey Mustard Salad Dressing
Ribbon Pasta Salad
Again, the Students worked in Groups of four or five and at the end sat down and enjoyed their labors. Shown below are some photos of ‘Lunch Day’.
The sliders buns are a yeast dough that the students made from scractch. Some were finished with Poppy Seeds and some were finished with Sesame Seeds.
Provolone Cheese, Tomatoes, and Lettuce also went with the Sliders.
The Dressing was made with Mayonnaise and Sundried Tomatoes
Day Three was Dinner. For this Menu we made:
Garlic Dinner Rolls
Baby Lettuce Salad
Vegetable Garden Chili
Macaroni and Cheese Supreme
The Vegetarian Chili was made with a multitude of Vegetables including Golden Beets, Broccoli, Onions, Tomatoes, Northern Beans & Mushrooms. Since the Menu for today was quite large and tomorrow’s menu was Desserts only, we saved the Chili for Thursday so the students would have something healthy to eat along with their desserts. Also, the longer the Chili cooks, the more flavorful it is. Also, standing refrigerated overnight helps to intensify the flavors. The Chili was served the next day with shredded Mozzarella Cheese and garnished with snipped Chives.
Day Four was Desserts. For this Activity the students were asked to make requests on the first day of camp. From the requests that were made, the following were chosen to best represent all the students desires.
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
In Oreo Cookie Crust
Chocolate Lava Cake
With Raspberry Sauce
All the desserts turned our really good, but the one of the best ones was the Raspberry Covered Cheesecake.
The Tiramisu was also very good as were the Cream Puffs made from the Pate Choux. The Cream Puffs were filled either with Lemon Curd or Vanilla Pastry Cream. The ones with the Pastry Cream were glazed with a Chocolate Glaze. Looking at the photos, you will see that the Chocolate Glaze turned out to be much more than a glaze. The Chocolate Lovers, loved them though. And everyone in the group was a Chocolate Lover!
We did not have time to bake all the pies so, they were taken home to be finished baking by the students. They were purposely made in individual pie tins as we made a lot of desserts and I knew from experience that we probably wouldn’t have time to completely bake the pies.
The Chocolate Lava Cakes were made in individual ramekins and they of course had to be eaten right away to experience the molten chocolate inside.
Day Five was our Mystery Bag Day. Each team of students were given a bag with a Protein, a Starch and a Vegetable. In addition, they were allowed to use any spices and herbs available plus a number of vegetables, fresh herbs, eggs, butter and other ingredients that were put our for their use. The rule was that they must use all the ingredients in their bags. The students were very creative and came up with some very interesting and beautiful. When they were finished, each group had to present what they made to to the other students and describe in detail what they made. In the end, the food was served buffet style and all the students sat down together and enjoyed their lunch. (See photo at beginning of this blog)