Tag Archives: easy seasonal cooking

A Fun Day of Food and Family

Sorry I haven’t written much in a while. Life gets busy! Lately I have been sharing quick Instagram posts. It takes a fraction of time to post a quick picture there, and can be done “in the moment.” Yet instant is fleeting and soon forgotten. And days like this last Sunday are meant to be savored and remembered.

San Diego Food - 1

Ever since Papa Bird and I flew the coop to celebrate the first anniversary of the fun restaurant/night spot Kettner Exchange, we have had a gift card to their side business, Devil’s Dozen Donuts. The donut shop shutters up once they sell out and every time I’ve been by we were too late to get any. I try to feed the kids a balanced breakfast, aka not pure, refined sugar. But I got the tip that on the weekend they make a secret menu item: a breakfast sandwich with eggs and bacon on an unglazed donut. It sounded healthier, right?

Devil's Dozen Donuts

We also selected a salted caramel and a Nutella hazelnut “sweet treat.” My plan was for us all to share everything. But Littlest Bird (age 2.5) said, “No, I don’t want to share! I want the whole thing!” Little Bird (age 4.5) said, “It’s too pretty to eat.”

Devil's Dozen Donuts

If you go, you can park for free in the Kettner Exchange valet spots. Don’t miss the view from the second story balcony. (I guess I didn’t take a picture, but we enjoyed the Jacarandas, planes, and boats.)

Next the girls and I rolled over to our favorite place to shop, Specialty Produce. The last time we were there, Littlest Bird thought it was hilarious to run away from me. Keeping kids close is a big rule there as it is a busy industrial warehouse, with forklifts, carts, and lots of people. She even ran past an “employee only” sign into the truck loading area. So this time I asked her if she would like to “go uppies.” We haven’t worn Miss Independent in any wraps or the Ergo in ages, but she thought it was a blast to go for a ride. Problem solved!

Specialty Produce - San Diego

Along with groceries for the week, we picked up a baker’s dozen of local corn from the Farmers’ Market cooler. We were headed to a potluck that night. Alright, I didn’t think I’d be sharing a recipe today, but here is one:

  • Soak corn in the husk in water for 10-30 minutes.
  • Grill for 20 minutes or so at 375*-400*.

Simple food, peak of season… the best way to eat.

soaking fresh corn for the grill

We also brought summer berries and stone fruit (all from local farms and found in the Farmers’ Market cooler) to share with our friends. Clockwise from the top in the picture below, Carmen Miranda nectarines, blackberries, Saturn peaches, Persian mulberries, and elderberries. The elderberries were quite tart. I later looked them up in the Specialty Produce App and learned elderberries are meant to be cooked. Technically they are considered poisonous raw (oops) but the toxicity level is pretty low.

summer berries and stone fruit from Specialty Produce

All of the pictures in this post were taken with an iPhone, with the exception of the following. I received a new camera for my birthday and have been trying it out. This is a preview for an upcoming post for a nectarine pie. Please hold me to it so I finish the new recipe before summer is over!

Carmen Miranda nectarines

And if that weren’t enough yumminess for one day, we sampled nearly half the menu at the soft opening of a new restaurant. Urban Plates is a smallish chain with nine locations throughout California. They focus on “from scratch” salads, braises, pastries and more, and highlight quality organic and natural ingredients. If you have been reading my posts, you know that’s how we like to cook and eat! See the current menu here.

Urban Plates La Jolla

From left to right: the urban kid plate with grilled free range chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts with turkey bacon, and chargrilled focaccia, served with organic apple juice. Seasonal replenisher (a watermelon and mint agua fresca.) The grilled steak salad with pineapple-mango salsa, jicama, mint, coconut roasted cashews, and a mild jalapeno lime dressing. Corn and poblano soup. Moroccan chicken braise (free range chicken slow cooked with squash, onions, preserved lemon, olives, turmeric, paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, parsley, cilantro) with brown rice. Seasonal green drink. And finished with a chocolate dipped macaroon and a slice of famous mango tart. It was all delicious!

Urban Plates Mango Tart

Ah the famous mango tart! This dessert is what started it all… My co-worker was raving about the tart one night and then brought one in for us to share. The fresh mango is perfectly ripe and painstakingly shaped into flower petals. The cookie crust is crisp and not too sweet and the rum cream filling subtle. Perfection! My dad would’ve loved this dessert. I snapped the above pic and posted it on Instagram. I then started following @urbanplates and learned they are in the process of opening a new restaurant location in San Diego. Their community manager invited us to the soft opening. That’s the best of social media, right there! I almost forgot to add, all of the money collected at the opening went to St. Vincent de Paul’s. I used to work at the shelter for four years and was happy to have our money go towards the homeless and hungry after such feasting.

Melissa D'Arabian at Urban Plates La Jolla

As we enjoyed our lunch, I noticed that the woman next to us, eating with her daughters, looked awfully familiar. Turns out it was cooking show host Melissa D’Arabian. She comes across on TV as genuine and friendly, and she is even nicer in person. We met three of her four daughters, and learned her daughter Charlotte loves cooking with her. Little Bird, who has been cooking since before she could walk. See this post of her first recipe here. For more cuteness, see this short video of Little Bird at age 3. She also LOVES watching other kids cooking. We have already seen some of Charlotte’s videos, like this one.

Urban Plates La Jolla

We will be back to Urban Plates, and I will order the refreshing steak salad again. As for last Sunday, our feasting did not stop there. We ate very well at our potluck with good friends. I left my phone/camera in the backpack and enjoyed the company. You’ll have to take my word that the food was all delicious, homemade with love and authentic. Arroz con pollo from a Cuban, homemade tabouli, Caprese, Asian grilled drumsticks, cornbread and potato salad, various tequilas, wine, cheese, cake….  Never stop, my friends! Keep eating and enjoying life.

Please enjoy, too!

Devil’s Dozen Donut Shop

2001 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
619-780-0914
www.devils-dozen.com

Urban Plates La Jolla

(Opened yesterday)

8707 Villa La Jolla Dr
San Diego, CA 92037
858-263-0818
urbanplates.com/la-jolla/

Specialty Produce

1929 Hancock St., Suite 150
San Diego, CA 92110
800-221-9730
www.specialtyproduce.com

Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu

Fresh shishito peppers are in season. We received some in our most recent Farmers’ Market Box from Specialty Produce.* Shishito peppers are a small, mild pepper, very similar to a Padron pepper. Approximately every 1 in 10 is spicy, which makes eating them like a fun, culinary version of Russian roulette. When I lived in Spain, one of my most favorite tapas was pimientos de Padrón, in which the peppers were simply cooked with salt and pepper.

Fresh Shishito Peppers are in Season

When my sister and her family came down to help celebrate our Little Birds’ birthdays, we cooked up a batch. We were loosely inspired by the Shishito peppers at Mahe in Seal Beach, which are tempura fried and covered in a ponzu sauce with bonito flakes. We just seared ours in a hot pan instead of tempura battering them. Since we also ordered pomegranates from Specialty Produce, I let pomegranate take center stage in my ponzu. And to mimic the fishy hint from the bonito flakes we added fish sauce into our version of ponzu. Well they turned out great, so I picked up another batch of Shishitos from Melissa’s Produce at Sprouts and made it again.

Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu

Don’t you love the look of our picnic table (above)? Papa Bird got the matte black look by charing (burning) the wood in the Japanese tradition of Shou Sugi Ban. It also preserves it from the elements. 

Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu Recipe

Notes: 1. I made this once in a wok and once in a large frying pan, and I liked the frying pan better because I could get all of the peppers to fit in it, which made it easier to blister them evenly. You could also use cast iron or broil them. You want to cook them quickly on high heat so that they blister. If they are in the pan too long they’ll steam and get mushy. 2. I used avocado oil because it is a neutral tasting oil that is suitable for high heat. (It’s also good for you!) You could use grapeseed oil or another vegetable oil. 3. The peppers cook very quickly (just a few minutes) so have the sauce and other elements ready to go before you start them.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Shishito Peppers with Pomegranate Ponzu
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Asian Fusion
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Shishito Peppers are blistered in a wok or pan, and tossed with a pomegranate ponzu made with pomegranate concentrate, soy, fish sauce and Go-Chu-Jang.
Ingredients
  • Shishito Peppers or Padron Peppers
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate concentrate
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Go-Chu-Jang
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or other light, neutral vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (can substitute white vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or other neutral vegetable oil)
  • pomegranate arils for garnish
Instructions
  1. Rinse and dry peppers, discarding any that no longer appear fresh.
  2. Mix the pomegranate concentrate, soy sauce, fish sauce, gochujang, avocado oil and vinegar together in a small mixing bowl. Taste and adjust according to your preference. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the pomegranate arils by pulling them out of a fresh pomegranate and set aside.
  4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium high to high pan or wok. When it is hot add the peppers. You want them to cook quickly and hotly, so that they blister on the outside. You don't want them to steam, or sit too long. Once the peppers are cooked, pour about half the sauce to all of it (depending on how sting or saucy you like it) over the peppers and very briefly (30 seconds) continuing cooking.
  5. Remove from the heat, garnish with the pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

*Specialty Produce is the leading supplier of fresh produce to San Diego’s top restaurants. They also let retail shoppers (aka normal home cooks like me) buy from the warehouse and feature local farms in a weekly Farmers’ Market Box. If you use the group code BABYBIRD when signing up for a Specialty Produce Farmers’ Market Box account here, you will automatically have $2 taken off each box. For $20 – or $18 for you – it is a generous amount and variety of produce. I don’t receive any kickbacks, per se, on your purchase, but I not so secretly want to be invited to more of their events, so letting them know I sent you by using the code is very much appreciated!

Roasted Beets, Radishes, Squash and Green Beans with an Orange-Dill Vinaigrette [Recipe]

I consider recipes to be inspiration, not gospel. This next recipe, a roasted veggie salad, is intended to be a template, not a prescription. I had beets, radishes, summer squash, green beans, dill and oranges on hand. But PLEASE substitute anything you might have.

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Since learning about Specialty Produce at this event, we have since ordered their Farmers’ Market Box twice. I’m definitely a fan. You can see a sample below. If you use the group code BABYBIRD when signing up, you will automatically have $2 taken off each box. For $20 – or $18 for you – it is a generous amount and variety of produce. I don’t receive any kickbacks, per se, on your purchase, but it is possible I will get invited to more of their events, so letting them know I sent you is very much appreciated! Enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post to receive a box for FREE.

If you have been a long time reader of this blog, you may remember my focus on the produce of our yard… see this early post on a Three Sisters Succotash, for example. But with the current drought, we have really let most of our garden go. Sadly, for the first time in seven years, there is no summer harvest. Having fresh, local finds from Specialty Produce’s CSA-type box is proving to be the next best thing.

Example of a Specialty Produce Farmer's Market Box

For this particular box, I ended up hitting the road right after getting it to take the Little Birds up to my sister’s house. I didn’t want the produce to go to waste, so I threw it in the car with us. As luck would have it, she had plans for us to go to her friend’s BBQ and asked me to make a “veggie side.” I found some delicious blood orange olive oil in her cupboard, which I used for both roasting the veggies and the vinaigrette.

baby beets from #specialtyproduce

Aren’t those little beets pretty?

Roasted Beets, Radishes, Squash and Green Beans with an Orange-Dill Vinaigrette
 
Author:
Recipe type: Easy
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Seasonal cooking: take what you find in your Farmer's Market Box, from the CSA, or your backyard, cook simply to highlight the freshness and toss with a light vinaigrette. I list the ingredients I used, but please improvise.
Ingredients
Roasted Veggies
  • 1 bunch of baby beets
  • 1 bunch of Easter egg radishes
  • 1 pound of summer squash
  • ½ pound of green beans
  • ⅓ cup of blood orange olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
Vinaigrette
  • ⅓ cup of blood orange olive oil
  • juice of ½ an orange
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ½ cup fresh dill, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400* F. Peel and chop all of the veggies. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 30 minutes or until fork tender. (I added the green beans half way through.)
  2. Mix the oil, vinegar, orange juice, salt and pepper. Toss on the veggies when slightly cooled. Top with the chopped dill.
  3. Enjoy!

What are your favorite ways to enjoy summer bounty?

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Shrimp Stuffed Peppers (What We Are Eating Now)

Mild Anaheim or Poblano peppers are roasted, peeled and stuffed with a quick filling of shrimp and gooey cheese. Served with a fresh red pepper and tomato sauce, or a green tomatillo salsa verde, they make the perfect dinner alongside rice and beans.

shrimp stuffed peppers

I am experimenting with a new post format: just a quick look at what we have been eating. I have such a backlog of photos and recipes, and never enough time to write up the posts. I wanted to play around with a quick post, without writing up a full recipe. Maybe the photos and descriptions will inspire your next dinner? Please let me know what you think. I’ll be happy to share the recipes if requested. For tips on roasting the peppers, see this post on Spanish Tuna Stuffed Peppers.

shrimp stuffed peppers

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd

Our citrus tree is bursting with Meyer lemons. Baby Bird, who is 14-months-old and walking, loved picking the lemons. Meyer lemons are sweet and juicy and made a great lemon curd.

honey sweetened meyer lemon curd

baby bird picking meyer lemonsI have been trying to feed us less refined sugar this year. I find that our taste buds are slowly adjusting. For example, my husband and I don’t sweeten our coffee anymore. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter than a conventional lemon. This recipe came out delicious sweetened with just honey, and I used a fraction of the amount of sweeteners other curd recipes use.

honey sweetened meyer lemon curd over blueberry pancakes

Little Bird is 3-years-old now and is quite the pro in the kitchen. She loves cooking projects. She loves to taste all of the ingredients, but at one point I had to pull the honey away from her. I think she ate half the container. (So much for limiting our sugar!) The lemon curd was perfect over Papa Bird’s famous gluten-free blueberry pancakes. I also used it to make a quick lemon-meringue tart with a (gluten-free) cashew/almond crust. Since my curd uses only egg yolks, a meringue was a perfect way to use up all of the whites.

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 3.5 cups
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
This version of a classic lemon curd uses honey to sweeten. I used grass-fed butter, but it could also be made with coconut oil for a vegan version. I recommend using organic citrus anytime you are using the zest or peel.
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from approx. 5-6 lemons)
  • 1 cup lemon juice (the juice of approx. 5-6 lemons)
  • 8 oz butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup honey
  • 8 egg yolks
Instructions
  1. Rinse the lemons and use a microplane to grate the zest of the lemons. Set aside.
  2. Juice the lemons until you have about 1 cup of juice. Set aside.
  3. Place water in a 2 quart saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil. Place a double boiler or bowl on top of it.
  4. While the water is coming to a boil, place the butter in the bowl of a mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the honey and beat well. Then add the egg yolks one at a time and mix in. Then slowly add in the lemon juice. It is okay if it is not totally smooth in the mixer, because the butter will melt in the next step.
  5. Pour the mixture into the top of the double boiler or the bowl over the pot. Occasionally, stir gently with a heat proof spatula. Heat the mixture until it comes up to 170*F. At that point it should be smooth but not necessarily thick.
  6. Pour into jars for canning, a crust for a meringue, or store in the fridge. Allow to cool completely. It will thicken as it cools.
  7. Keeps in the fridge for 1 week and freezes well.
Notes
From this size recipe, I used two cups of the curd in a tart/lemon meringue pie and used the remaining 3 pints as curd. If you want a super smooth texture, strain the curd after taking it off the heat to remove the zest. I left it in and liked it.

meyer lemon curd ingredientsGet all of the ingredients for this recipe ready ahead of time and then it will be easy to throw together. Just watch out for three-year-old honey swipers!

No fancy equipment is required, but a kitchen-aid mixer helps get a creamy texture and a microplane make zesting citrus much easier. A double-boiler let me not worry about scorching the bottom while it cooked and a thermometer let me know exactly when to take the curd off the heat.

Click here to pin this recipe on Pinterest.

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd from @BabyBirdsFarm

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