Tag Archives: farm to table

Vermouth Bianco and Cocktail Grapefruit

While living a year in Spain, I took a weekend trip to Paris, and stayed with friends, two sisters. Before dinner in their parents home, they served me a simple cocktail of sweet white vermouth, over ice, with a twist of lemon peel. “Vermouth Bianco” is a fortified wine, infused with botanicals and aromatics, like vanilla. I’ve been on the lookout for it ever since.

vermouth bianco and grapefruit

Vermouth Bianco can be harder to find in the states, but as slightly bitter, drinkable cocktails are in fashion, it is making a resurgence. In San Diego, the BevMo on Rosecrans carries several brands, but other BevMos in Southern California do not. (I’ve looked!) The also have a few online. If you know of other places in San Diego that carry Vermouth Bianco or Vermouth Blanc (the Italian and French versions, respectively), please let me know!

vermouth bianco and grapefruit

I really enjoy some of the “finer” brands, like Carpano, Contratto and Dolin, but for the money, Martini & Rossi Bianco Vermouth, is quite drinkable. At less than half the price of the other brands, it has a great balance of bitter and sweet, botanicals and vanilla, and is lovely straight up on it’s own. All Biancos should definitely be served well chilled.

vermouth bianco

Above photo credit: Punch

I was inspired by the super sweet “Cocktail Grapefruit” at Specialty Produce right now to riff on the classic aperitif of my French friends. This “cocktail” recipe is really just chilled Vermouth Bianco on the rocks with a thick wedge of grapefruit. You can give a slight squeeze to add a smidge of juice. Be sure to select an organic or pesticide-free grapefruit so you can add the peel, too. The citrus and bitterness of the grapefruit peel pairs so well with the aromatics of the Vermouth Bianco. The quality of your fruit will make a difference.

Vermouth Bianco and Cocktail Grapefruit

The Cocktail Grapefruit at Specialty Produce are currently from the local Koral’s Tropical Fruit Farm, and the flesh has ranged in color from pink to the orange above. Most are pretty seedy, but otherwise easy to snack on, with relatively thin membranes. All have been super juicy and extremely sweet, and a little smaller than other grapefruit. Usually I cut one grapefruit up, put one slice in my cup, and the Baby Birds devour the rest of the slices in a matter of seconds.

When you have such good quality ingredients, keep the recipe simple to highlight their taste and freshness. Give it a shot!

Prepkitchen Little Italy: A Restaurant Week Preview

Happy January friends! We may be passed the decadence of the holidays but we are still eating very well. Last night Papa Bird and I went down to Little Italy to the “partying step-child” of Prepkitchen locations.

prosciutto wrapped trout with carrots and lentils

I am collaborating with San Diego Restaurant Week (SDRW) to celebrate their 12th year of discounted fine dining and preview one of their 180 restaurants. You may know I’m a fan of seasonal, farm-to-table fine dining, so when they matched me with Prepkitchen Little Italy, I was thrilled. The Prepkitchen concept started with the La Jolla location as a spot “for chefs by chefs.” They serve seasonal comfort food, often Mediterranean-inspired. As it has expanded, each location has its own character, and Little Italy is known for being fun and in the center of nightlife.

Prepkitchen Little Italy

For those that have been living under a rock, San Diego Restaurant Week is when an impressive list of restaurants offer prix-fixe meals for a steal. A three-course dinner is $20, $30, $40 or $50 per person, and lunch (two-courses) is only $10, $15 or $20 per person. For reference, my entrée (the trout pictured above), would normally cost $28.50, so for $30 for the SDRW dinner at Prepkitchen, an appetizer and dessert are basically free.

San Diego Restaurant Week 2016

And let’s talk about appetizers. Prepkitchen is a particularly fun choice for Restaurant Week. They don’t offer a traditional prix-fixe meal with a few options for each course. They throw the whole menu open and let you pick from anything they are making that night. My pick of the appetizers was the Ahi Tartare (normally $14.50; GF) with a smoked onion puree, pickled shallots and crispy sunchokes. I was really hoping there would be some kind of crudo or sashimi dish available. I personally believe that all of the restaurants in the Whisknladle group (Prepkitchen, Catania and Whisknladle) do crudos exceptionally well. The General Manager (a sweet and friendly guy named Darin) told me they would keep one on the menu for SDRW. The menu changes nightly and the fish may change with the catch, but the basic idea will stay the same.

a wintery ahi tartare

The Ahi Tartare was definitely the most interesting dish we tried. Wintery, rooted and warming, yet refreshing at the same time. Papa Bird said tasting the sunchoke chip with the smoked onion purée reminded him of BBQ potato chips (in a good way.) The sunchokes certainly had the crunch of a perfect potato chip. The dish was light but substantial, and garnered an “I’d definitely eat it again.”

burrata, prosciutto, butternut squash mostarda, fried sage

I had checked out a sample menu before going down and was hoping the Burrata and Butternut Squash Mostarda would be there. It was! And should stay on through the season. Most of the squash is grown by the group at Milagro Vineyards. I wrote more about their farm2table efforts here. Mostarda is sort of like a jam or preserve with fresh mustard seeds. With quality ingredients, it was a classic combo: sweet and creamy from the burrata, with the salty prosciutto and crunchy pumpkin seeds and crostini. Satisfying. Probably the best part was the fried sage, perfectly brittle and crisp. (Normally $16.50 and GF without the crostini.)

Prepkitchen Little Italy January Menu

The menu changes every night, so I can’t promise every item will be there. In general, it will be similar, but may feature a different fish or cut of meat, for example. For entrees, Papa Bird chose the Fusilli Bolognese, with Beef, Pork, Rosemary and a ton of Parmigiano-Regiano (normally $20.50.) He was a trooper with my obnoxious photo taking, so I let him have one dish without stealing its soul. The GM was confident it would be on the menu throughout Restaurant Week and we all recommend it. The pasta was al dente, the proportions spot on. Cheesy and filling, it could easily have been shared.

Likewise, the Prosciutto-Wrapped Trout (pictured at top, GF) should be available throughout the week. For a humble fish, this was hands down my favorite dish of the night, with a sliver of lemon (rind and all) tucked into the fish. It rested above a bed of super flavorful lentils and shared its cast-iron tub with the cutest, sweetest agave-glazed carrots.  Topped with pickled mustard seeds and a liberal sprinkle of fresh parsley, I don’t think it even needed the prosciutto to be full of rich umami. Those carrots were super fresh and were sourced by Specialty Produce, who provide most of the restaurant’s fruit and vegetables. We chatted the server about the fun of going down to the Specialty Produce warehouse to shop as a home cook.

Other dishes that are popular include the Bacon Wrapped DatesBeef TartareMary’s Pan Roasted Chicken, and the Burger. Go! And please tell me what you order so I can vicariously eat more.

Prepkitchen Little Italy Drink Menu

Drinks are not included in the $20 lunch or $30 dinner, but are highly recommended. (You will be saving so much on the food, you will be able to afford an extra drink or two.) PKLI is known for their cocktails and eclectic wines and beers. My favorite was the Heart of Darkness with Tequila, Aperol, Lemon and Pomegranate Shrub. It was balanced, refreshing and very drinkable, as was the Comfort Blanket with Orange-Tea Infused Bourbon, Vanilla, Citrus and Angostura Bitters. Other drinks I’ve enjoyed there include the Colonel Jerry and Horse & Buggy. The beers and wine are thoughtfully chosen and unexpected. While they emphasize local makers, it is definitely not the same lineup as most restaurants around town.

budino

One of the best parts of Restaurant Week is that even though you are too stuffed for dessert, oh well, you have to get it. The Warm Chocolate Budino is a year-round staple on the menu because, chocolate. It is a chocolate pudding cake served in a wide mouthed mason jar, offering warm comfort with a zingy espresso gelato (house-made), whipped cream and little chocolate crunchies. I got half way through it before I felt guilty for not sharing it with our sweet-obsessed daughters.

Prepkitchen Little Italy Info

  • Get a reservation if you are thinking about going during Restaurant Week!
  • 1660 INDIA ST SECOND FLOOR, SAN DIEGO, 92101
  • 619-398-8383
  • prepkitchenlittleitaly.com
  • If you post a picture of any SDRW meal on social media, use #Food4Kids and tag the restaurant and Sysco will donate $1 to hungry children!

 

Green Eggs and Ham

“That’s not how my school made green eggs and ham,” Little Bird was quick to point out. No, probably not.

We had ham leftover from Thanksgiving. And the basil she planted from seeds from a Mother’s Day fundraiser at Green Acre is still going strong, so we made a hand-chopped pesto and served it over fresh eggs and the leftover ham.

green eggs and ham

Little Bird was happy to cut some of her basil.

cutting the basil she planted from seed

Our youngest hens have just started laying.

backyard eggs

I wanted to try hand-chopping the pesto. I saw someone in Italy do that once on a show several years ago. I used a curved knife and chopped the dry ingredients first and then stirred in the olive oil. The ingredients were the same as from my pesto recipe here.

hand-chopped pesto

To make a more complete dinner, we ended up eating all of this over spaghetti. And we added avocado, because, well, we eat avocado at almost every meal!

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!

Grilled Baby Artichokes and an Awesome Cheese Board

Are you grilling for Memorial Day? Try these delicious grilled baby artichokes! Because they are small and tender, they do not have to be parboiled or steamed before throwing on the grill. I am also sharing some tips for creating an awesome cheese, nut and fruit board, in case you will be entertaining. (Or just like cheese, like me.)

grilled baby artichokes

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Melissa’s Produce who supplied many of the ingredients free of charge. The recipes, post and opinions are my own. You might remember Melissa’s Produce from my posts on Butternut Squash, Chick Peas and Black Rice with a Clementine Shallot Vinaigrette and Chestnut Tart with Fresh Winter Fruit (GF, Vegan, Low Sugar). I didn’t hesitate when Robert from Melissa’s reached out and asked if I wanted to try some of their latest products, like Clean Snax and the baby artichokes, and seasonal, exotic fruit and nuts.

cheese and nut plate with clean snax

First, the artichokes! I grew up in the Carmel/Monterey area on the Central Coast of California, which is the perfect climate for artichokes. I still remember eating the grilled artichokes at the Rio Grill in Carmel, and it’s been at least 15 years. They were slightly charred, and dripping in olive oil, garlic and salt. I actually had been wanting to grill artichokes for awhile, and was excited to see the baby artichokes from Melissa’s. Cutting into them, it was fascinating to see that some had no choke at all, and some had a little to cut out.

baby artichokes

Robert included Melissa’s new Hollandaise sauce, which made a tasty dipping sauce, along with our family’s favorite: balsamic yogurt. Other classics to try would be melted butter or garlic aioli. My mom used to do a semi-homemade take on aioli with garlic, lemon juice and mayonnaise. The full recipe for grilled baby artichokes and balsamic yogurt sauce are at the end of the post. We used the same olive oil, garlic and thyme, to dress a chicken my husband rotisserie-grilled, which completed our meal.

grilled baby artichokes with hollandaise and balsamic yogurt sauce

Now for the cheese board….

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