January is California Restaurant Month, and to celebrate the state’s amazing bounty we will be posting a new recipe every day throughout the entire month.
Whether you’re considering a California culinary vacation or simply want to sample some of the state’s most delicious offerings from home, these recipes will guide you every step of the way. Be sure to check back often to see the latest creations from some of the best chefs on the planet—beginning with Travis Lett, the mastermind behind Venice Beach hotspot Gjelina.
Part of Indian Springs, a historic 1860s resort and spa in Calistoga, Sam’s Social Club is known for executive chef Kory Stewart’s seasonal, ingredient-focused American cuisine. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the popular restaurant has an expansive outdoor dining area overlooking the western foot of Mount Lincoln.
“I love the natural style of cooking in Napa Valley, and really enjoy working with wild foods, smoke and fire, and good ingredients,” says Stewart, who serves this simple yet elegant ceviche because of its clean, bright flavors. “The dish offers a nice contrast to some of the richer, more indulgent items on the menu,” he notes.
Halibut Ceviche (serves 4 to 6)
“Ceviche is a great way to show off whatever beautiful, just-caught fish you have on hand,” says executive chef Kory Stewart, who recommends pairing the seafood with a crisp white wine, such as Chateau Montelena Sauvignon Blanc. “Fresh ingredients and the subtle balance of the citrus to salt to sugar is what really makes this dish enjoyable,” Stewart adds. If halibut’s not available, feel free to substitute any firm, white fish that’s been sustainably caught in your area.
1 pound fresh halibut, cut into small dice
1/4 cup mix of lemon and lime juice
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 heaping tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 to 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 to 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Small handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
Small handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped
2 avocadoes, halved, pitted, and sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1. In a resealable, gallon-size plastic bag, combine halibut, lemon-lime juice, onion, sugar, and kosher salt and seal, eliminating as much air as possible. Shake bag to distribute marinade and allow mixture to cure for 1 hour.
2. Transfer halibut-onion-marinade mixture to a medium bowl. Add cucumber, jalapeño, olive oil, cilantro, and mint, and stir to combine.
3. Divide avocado equally between chilled serving plates, fanning slices out; season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Top avocado with equal servings of ceviche. Serve immediately.
She was a season six competitor on Bravo’s Top Chef, and her restaurant got Anthony Bourdain’s stamp of approval on the 2015 Oakland episode of his series, Parts Unknown.Preeti Mistry has received countless accolades for the fresh, vibrantly spiced Indian food she serves at her Oakland restaurant, Juhu Beach Club.
Every Tuesday, you’re likely to find Mistry at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, selecting just-picked produce from area purveyors like Full Belly Farm, Oya Organics, and Dirty Girl Produce. Feral Heart Farm, a four-person farming collective at Berkeley’s Sunol Ag Park, also supplies vegetables and fruits to the London-born chef, who grew up in the United States before returning to Britain to study at Le Cordon Bleu London culinary academy.
“All of our dishes are inspired by seasonality and local produce,” says Mistry. “It is just the way I cook. I go to the market, see what’s in season, and then we sit down and plan our menus.”
Shrimp Curry (serves 4)
A favorite of Preeti Mistry’s customers at Juhu Beach Club, this shrimp curry calls for a dhana jeera base of coriander and cumin seeds—a unifying flavor profile of the cuisine of Gujurat, the Indian province where her family is from. Mistry also adds butter to the dish, and insists on sustainably harvested shrimp and fresh curry leaves, which she acknowledges can be hard to find, but well worth the effort. “This is a great dish for home cooks to take a stab at because it is generally quite simple,” says Mistry. “Just be sure you don’t overcook the shrimp,” she cautions.
3 tablespoons coriander, whole
1 tablespoon cumin, whole
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup fresh curry leaves
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 cups finely diced fresh organic tomatoes (or canned tomato puree if out of season)
2 teaspoons Indian red chili powder
1 tablespoon rice bran oil
32 medium (21 to 25 per pound) shrimp
1 cup fresh peas in season (or use frozen peas and thaw)
Basmati rice for serving
1. In a spice grinder or a small, clean coffee grinder, add coriander and cumin and grind to make the basic Gujarati spice blend known as dhana jeera, which literally means coriander and cumin; set aside.
2. In a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add curry leaves and cook for about 2 minutes. Add ginger and stir to keep it from sticking to bottom of pan. After a few minutes, add reserved dhana jeera and fry until it starts to slightly stick on pan bottom. Add tomatoes and scrape to incorporate any bits that may have started to stick. Season with chili powder and salt to taste. Allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes more, then remove from heat and set aside.
3. Heat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet on high for about a minute. Add oil and heat until it shimmers, about 20 seconds. Season shrimp with salt and add to pan. Let shrimp brown slightly, then flip and brown other side. Lower heat to medium-low and add 2 cups of reserved sauce and peas. Simmer until shrimp are fully cooked, 4 to 8 minutes. Serve over rice.
Chef Robin Hathaway’s menu at Perry’s Café—a Santa Monica Beach culinary staple for nearly 40 years—leans heavily on all-natural meats, organic produce, healthy grains like quinoa, and wild-caught seafood. This chocolate cake, however, is pure delicious decadence—and a bit hit with her clientele.
“I always call my favorite customers and let them know when we’re making this cake,” says chef Hathaway, who started baking at the tender age of eight with her Southern grandmother and aunts in Tennessee. “The buttermilk keeps the cake exceptionally moist, and the smooth, not-too-sweet chocolate frosting is the perfect blanket of fluffiness.”
Wicked Chocolate Cake (serves 16 to 20)
“I developed this chocolate cake for a bakery I owned years ago,” says chef Robin Hathaway. “I just rediscovered the recipe on an old notecard and I couldn’t wait to make it again. I have to say, it’s perfection!” For the ultimate special-dinner dessert, top it with California strawberries and chocolate curls—your guests will feel very lucky.
Vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray
2 1/4 cups unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, plus more for dusting pans
5 1/4 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
6 farm fresh eggs
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups brewed espresso
3 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups sunflower oil
1 pound unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 pound unsalted butter
2 cups evaporated milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 pounds confectioner’s sugar, double sifted
1. Preheat oven to 325º F. Grease three 9-inch pans with oil or cooking spray. Line with parchment paper; dust with cocoa powder on sides and set aside. Sift together cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside.
2. In a stand mixer, blend together eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla until well combined; add espresso and buttermilk. While mixing, add oil until smooth, for at least for 5 minutes. Fold in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Divide evenly among pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 35 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.
3. In a double boiler, melt unsweetened chocolate and butter together. In a separate, small saucepan over medium-low heat, gently heat evaporated milk. In a standing mixer, add melted chocolate, butter, warm evaporated milk, vanilla, and salt, and blend until incorporated; add sugar slowly, until frosting is fluffy and smooth.
4. Remove cakes from pans and discard parchment; slice domed tops off each cake round to create a flat surface. Place one layer on a cake plate and spread a generous dollop of frosting evenly over cake; continue with remaining two layers, spreading frosting between each layer. Add more frosting on top of cake and sides. Swirl in your favorite pattern until beautifully covered. Top with whole strawberries and chocolate shavings.
Located in South Lake Tahoe on the way to Emerald Bay, The Beacon Bar & Grill gets high marks with locals as well as visitors for its innovative, locally sourced menu and beautiful waterfront site in Camp Richardson Historic Resort. “We offer an eclectic menu of seafood, chicken, pasta, steak, and outstanding appetizers, and we’re known for having one of the best beer selections in Tahoe,” says chef Joe Baker, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. “We make the fettuccine in this pasta dish by hand using local spinach. It’s a hearty, comforting dish that our customers love, especially after a long day outdoors enjoying Tahoe in winter,” Baker adds.
In addition to The Beacon Bar & Grill’s spacious dining room, there’s a lakefront deck and live music on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 8 p.m. While you’re there, sample the establishment’s famous Rum Runner, a tropical frozen cocktail voted by locals as one of the best drinks in Tahoe, year after year.
Creamy Spinach Fettuccine with Grilled Chicken (serves 2)
Although chef Joe Baker of The Beacon Bar & Grill makes his spinach fettuccine from scratch, any good-quality fresh pasta can be substituted, making this a quick, company-worthy weeknight meal.
2 6-ounce free-range chicken breasts, grilled
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons diced shallots
1 cup green zucchini, chopped
1 cup yellow squash
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups fresh spinach fettuccine, cooked al dente
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sliced toasted garlic bread for serving
1. In a skillet over medium heat, add oil, garlic, and shallots, and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini and yellow squash and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes more. Add white wine and stir to deglaze pan. Add cream and cook until sauce is reduced and thickened.
2. Add cooked fettuccine, Parmesan, and butter, and stir to combine. When all ingredients are warmed through, season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide pasta between two warm serving plates and top each with a reserved chicken breast. Serve hot with toasted garlic bread.
"Absolutely everything we serve to our guests at The Maccallum House is prepared in our own kitchen, including breads, hand-rolled pastas, and smoked meat, fish, and poultry. We use only the freshest seasonal ingredients and feature local, regional organic and wild-crafted products whenever possible,” says executive chef Alan Kantor, an early supporter of local and regional organic and sustainable farmers and vendors.
Bittersweet Chocolate Cheesecake Soufflé with Cabernet Cherries (serves 6)
“We always have a soufflé on the menu, but diners have to order the dessert with the main course because of the time it takes to prepare it,” says chef Kantor, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. “This dessert fits in with the larger vision of the restaurant,” adds Kantor, “which is to honor slow food, to honor real food."
8 ounces pitted, dried organic Bing cherries
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup good-quality Cabernet
2 tablespoons butter plus
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons organic sugar
4 ounces high-quality 70% dark chocolate, such as Scharffen Berger
4 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons organic cream cheese
2 tablespoons sour cream
4 large egg whites
2 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Powdered sugar or cocoa, sifted (optional)
Cabernet Cherries: In a medium saucepan on low, slowly bring cherries, sugar, and wine to a simmer, cooking just until cherries are soft; remove from heat and reserve. Meanwhile, liberally butter 6 individual (4 to 5 ounce) soufflé dishes or ramekins and coat with 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar. Refrigerate.
Soufflés: In a double boiler over low heat, melt chocolate, and 2 tablespoons each sugar and cream, whisking until smooth. Add cream cheese and sour cream and whisk until smooth. Remove from stovetop.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Place egg whites and yolks in separate medium, stainless-steel bowls. Using a stand mixer on low, whip egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Meanwhile, temper egg yolks by whisking vigorously as you add a little of chocolate mixture into yolks. Then add rest of chocolate mixture to the yolks and blend well. Turn up stand mixer and continue to whip egg whites to soft peaks, adding 2 tablespoons sugar. Whip until soft and shiny and the whites hold their peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third egg white mixture into chocolate and yolk mixture and then fold in other two-thirds. Remove soufflé dishes from refrigerator and fill each to the top, smoothing with a knife and running your thumb around edge to form a raised "hat.” (Soufflés can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 5 hours.)
Place soufflé dishes in oven and bake for approximately 18 minutes. To check for doneness, lightly tap side of dish; soufflé should wobble only slightly. Dust with sifted powdered sugar or cocoa, if desired, and serve immediately with Cabernet Cherries.
“Pasta Bolognese has been a signature item at La Dolce Vita since it opened in 1966,” says Alejandro Galan, executive chef at the Beverly Hills landmark. “The dish is comforting and evokes a sense of time gone by, when dinners weren’t rushed but savored their meals,” says Galan.
“Our menu has always been an ode to the classic dishes served at some of New York City’s renowned white-tablecloth Italian restaurants,” says the chef. “And while the Bolognese has been on the menu since we opened, our team has tweaked the recipe over the years to incorporate the freshest ingredients available in Southern California,” Gallan adds.
“You really can dine like a star here,” says Galan. “La Dolce Vita has always been about making memories through great food and service. We love to serve pasta Bolognese to our customers, and watch then enjoy a classic dish that has been savored by countless celebrities over five decades.”
La Dolce Vita Bolognese Sauce (serves 12 to 14)
For the fullest flavor, chef Alejandro Galan recommends preparing this rich, meaty sauce early in the day, so flavors and spices can mingle and marry. “The secret is patience, and allowing the ingredients to cook down. Use your senses, not a strict timeline. When the aromas are amazing, and your stomach starts to grumble, you know it’s time to serve the sauce over your favorite al dente pasta,” says Galan.
3/4 cup canola oil
3 pounds ground beef
3 pounds ground veal
6 tablespoons dry oregano
3 tablespoons fennel seed
3 tablespoons caraway seed
3 tablespoons black peppercorn
1 fennel bulb, quartered
2 yellow onions, quartered
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 pound garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups red wine
4 28-ounce cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, minced
1/2 cup fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 bunch Italian parsley, thicker stems removed and minced
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
Favorite pasta, cooked al dente
1. In a 10-quart, heavy pot over medium-high heat, add canola oil. Add beef and veal and cook, smashing and stirring occasionally to break up clumps. Skim off excess fat and water with a spoon, and allow meat to lightly sear.
2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet over low heat, add oregano, fennel and caraway seeds, and peppercorns, and heat until lightly toasted and aromatic, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a spice grinder or blender and grind into a fine powder; set aside. In a food processor, combine fennel bulb, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, and pulse until finely chopped; set aside.
3. Add red wine to seared meat, and stir to combine; continue cooking for 5 minutes more. Add reserved chopped vegetables, crushed tomatoes, and fresh basil, thyme, and parsley; stir to combine. Continue cooking meat and tomato mixture until sauce thickens. Add reserved toasted spices and salt, and stir to combine; cook for 5 minutes more.
4. To plate, top your favorite pasta with sauce and serve immediately.
When he first opened Solace & the Moonlight Lounge in 2011, chef-owner Matt Gordon wanted to create a comfortable, casual restaurant where diners could retreat from the grind of daily city life. Gordon, who started cooking in professional kitchens when he was still in high school, believes “a good meal should feel like a mini-vacation, a chance to set aside what’s happening in your life and find a moment of joy, peace, and comfort.
“I wanted to change the culture of dining in San Diego with a chef-driven, neighborhood restaurant that sourced unique food items, used only natural meats, and was sustainable and eco-minded,” says Gordon, who focuses on back-to-the-roots food production and purchasing at his restaurant.
“We’re inspired by the people who produce great food, whether that’s a salmon fisherman who puts his life on the line each summer; a farmer who puts his blood, sweat, and tears into the soil; or a distiller who coaxes the nuances out of a small batch of fine liquor,” says Gordon. “We are blessed in California to have access to anything at any time, so we really just try to focus on the great ingredients by letting their unique flavors shine through without overworking them.”
Cheese and Chive Biscuits (makes about 30 biscuits)
Chef-owner Gordon uses two types of flour to achieve the perfect texture for his popular biscuits, which he’s had on the menu since Solace & the Moonlight opened. “Take great care to properly work the butter into the flour for the perfect rise, and add a lot of cheese for richness,” says Gordon.
3 cups pastry flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 sticks unsalted butter
3 cups grated white cheddar
1 1/2 cups grated fontina
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
2 1/2 to 3 cups buttermilk
Egg whites, beaten (optional)
Preheat oven to 375° F. In a large bowl, sift flours, baking powder, and salt. Add butter, cheeses, and chives; mix with a pastry knife or whisk to incorporate butter, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk and slowly fold together. Do not overmix dough. Place dough on a floured surface and knead 2 or 3 times only. Flatten dough to about 3/4-inch thick and, using a biscuit cutter, cut into rounds. Brush the top with egg whites if using, and bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes.
Located just a stone’s throw from the famous Mavericks surf spot, Half Moon Bay Brewing Company offers 10 handcrafted beers on tap at its in-house brewery year-round. Chef Federico Godinez tries to incorporate the brewery’s signature offering into his menu, which includes beer-battered artichokes and fish and chips, as well as his well-received Beeramisu, which calls for Half Moon Bay’s award-winning Not for Sale Calf-eine Coffee Milk Stout.
“The stout gives the dessert a complex, slightly bitter finish that customers really enjoy,” says Godinez. “Many tiramisus are cloyingly sweet, but our rendition has just the right balance of sweetness, plus a hint of bitterness from the beer.”
Beeramisu (serves 10 to 12)
“As a business, we’re dedicated to giving back to our local community, and beyond,” says chef Godinez. For this recipe, the chef uses Not for Sale Calf-eine Coffee Milk Stout, which Half Moon Bay brews in collaboration with Dignitá, a coffee company operated by Not for Sale—a nonprofit dedicated to ending human trafficking worldwide. “The company’s donating $25,000 per year to Not for Sale, until sales exceed $1 million, then 2.5 percent of its gross sales after that,” adds Godinez. To learn more, visit notforsalecampaign.org.
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1/8 cup brewed espresso
1/8 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons Kahlua
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup high-quality stout, such as Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.’s Not for Sale Calf-eine Coffee Milk Stout
3 teaspoons cocoa powder, plus more for garnish
Whipped cream for topping
1. In a stand mixer, combine mascarpone, espresso, cream, Kahlua, and sugar until mixture thickens and is fluffy enough to spread; do not over whip.
2. Pour stout into a shallow pan; dip lady fingers in stout and remove immediately. Place half of lady fingers in the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish, spread a little less than half of cheese mixture over top, then repeat with remaining lady fingers and a thicker layer of cream mixture. Dust top with cocoa; cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer overnight. Remove Beeramisu from freezer at least 30 minutes before plating. To serve, top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder.
“California cuisine is guided by ingredients; the vegetables speak for themselves,” says executive chef Brandon Kida of Hinoki & the Bird, a contemporary restaurant that serves California cuisine with East and Southeast Asian influences. Kida, the son of Japanese parents, grew up in Los Angeles before moving to New York City to work in such well-known restaurants as Lutèce, Asiate, and Clement.
Now back in his hometown region, impressing diners with his complexly flavored dishes, the chef wants to help educate diners about the ingredients they’re enjoying in his dishes. “Everyone knows exactly how a banana should taste, but do you know the true flavor of a kabocha squash, or the unique characteristics of fresh watercress? Always choose quality ingredients, and your end results can’t help but be superior,” says Kida.
Want to sample the innovative cuisine at Hinoki & the Bird? Chef Kida will be offering a special six-course, prix-fixe menu for $105 per person (excluding tax and gratuity) during dinel.A. Restaurant Week, which runs until January 31.
Winter Squash & Pomegranate Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette (serves 10 to 12)
“Time and place have always been a source of inspiration for me,” says chef Brandon Kida. “This dish is a reflection of both. It focuses on the strength of the ingredients—both seasonally and geographically.”
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 kabocha squash, halved and seeded
1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 delicata squash, halved and seeded
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 pound chicory, trimmed and pulled into bite-size pieces
1/4 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 pound cauliflower, cut into bite-size flowerets
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 celery root, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 parsnip, diced
4 heirloom carrots, cut into thin rounds
1 apple, cut into matchsticks
1 grapefruit, peeled and segmented
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
1. In a glass jar with a lid, combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients; shake closed jar until dressing has thickened and emulsified. Remove top, taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.
2. Preheat oven to 350° F. Rub all the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and cover completely with foil; bake until fork tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting into half-moon shapes.
3. Divide squash between serving plates. In a large bowl, combine all the produce except grapefruit segments and pomegranate seeds and toss with dressing; season to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired. Divide greens on top of squash; add grapefruit segments to plates, then sprinkle each serving with pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.
At Union Kitchen & Tap, a casual-modern restaurant in the beach community of Encinitas—in the north of San Diego County—diners can order craft cocktails and local beers, as well inspired interpretations of classic comfort food from chef Michael Levine.
“California is a unique place to be a chef, especially living here in San Diego, where ingredients are so abundant,” says chef Levine. “I grew up in Colorado, where I was limited by what I could and could not make, depending on the season. Living in California, with its ready access to such a vast array of ingredients, has allowed me to cook the fresh comfort dishes we all love year-round.”
To sample chef Levine’s cuisine, visit Union Kitchen & Tap during Encinitas Restaurant Week, running through January 24. The restaurant’s special three-course, prix-fixe dinner, which includes six entrée options, costs $30 per person.
Pan-Seared Salmon with Sweet Potato–Tasso Hash & Cucumber Vinaigrette (serves 4)
“Honestly, I came up with this salmon dish pretty quickly. I thought to myself, what produce is going to be freshest in winter and how can I make it stand out?” says chef Levine, who created this savory roasted vegetable hash. “My favorite type of food is Mediterranean, so that’s where the chilled cucumber vinaigrette comes into play. It’s my version of tzatziki, just with a healthier twist,” adds Levine.
1 small head Romanesco broccoli, broken down into florets
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound Tasso ham, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
10 fresh mint leaves
1/4 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3-inch pieces
1/2 tablespoon canola or grape-seed oil
4 6-ounce pieces skin-on salmon
Fried parsnip peels, optional
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 450° F. In a pot of salted boiling water, blanch Romanesco broccoli until al dente; drain and set aside. In a large roasting pan, toss sweet potato, ham, onions, and bell pepper with a little olive oil and roast until slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Add blanched Romanesco and cook until vegetables are tender and golden, about 5 minutes more. Remove from oven; immediately add garlic, salt to taste, and mix to combine. Keep hash warm. Leave oven on to cook the salmon.
2. In a food processor or blender, add shallot, vinegar, honey, cilantro, mint, garlic, and salt to taste, and blend until fully incorporated. With food processor or blender on low, slowly add olive oil. When mixed, add cucumber and blend for 20 seconds more, so that vinaigrette remains slightly coarse. Refrigerate until you’re ready to plate.
3. In a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Salt both sides of salmon, place skin-side down in hot oil, and cook for approximately 30 seconds. Place pan in oven and continue to cook fish for 8 minutes more.
4. Divide hash between four warm plates. Top with salmon (skin side up), then drizzle cucumber vinaigrette around plate and on roasted vegetables, but not on salmon. Garnish salmon with fried parsnip peels, if desired, and cilantro leaves; serve immediately.
The core of any dining experience at Long Beach’s Chianina Steakhouse is the beef—not surprising when the restaurant has its own herd of Italian Chianina cattle, one of the oldest breeds in existence. “The deliciousness of our meals comes down to the quality of our Chianina beef, and the beautiful fresh produce we have available to us,” says chef Bryant Taylor, who serves delectable meat-centric meals alongside seasonal vegetables like thyme-scented foraged mushrooms, heirloom carrots, and creamed Tuscan kale. Chianina Steakhouse also offers small-batch, boutique wines from around the world and imaginative cocktails that blend a variety of artisanal spirits.
Braised Chianina Beef Short Ribs (serves 4)
“This dish showcases how we try to utilize every part of our steer, from nose to tail, at Chianina Steakhouse,” says chef Bryant Taylor. “For us, it’s about respecting the animal and utilizing every cut we can to create delicious, approachable meals that our guests will enjoy.”
4 pounds bone-in short ribs, cut lengthwise
1 750 ml bottle red wine
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Mashed potatoes and vegetable of choice (as side dishes)
1. In a large pot, combine short ribs, wine, onions, leeks, celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary; cover pot and allow beef to marinate overnight in refrigerator.
2. Remove short ribs from marinade and set meat aside on a plate. Strain vegetables and herbs from wine, reserving both. In a medium pot over medium heat, add reserved wine marinade and bring to a simmer; continue to cook, skimming any film that floats to the surface, until liquid is reduce by half.
3. Preheat oven to 325° F. Season the short ribs on all sides with salt and pepper. In a large roasting pan or Dutch oven big enough to fit the ribs, heat vegetable oil over medium high; add ribs and brown on all sides. Transfer ribs to a plate, add reserved vegetables to pot, and sauté until lightly brown. Add tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes. Add reserved herbs and reduced red wine. Return short ribs to pot and add enough beef broth to cover meat. Cover pot with a lid or foil and place in oven. Allow short ribs to cook 4 1/2 to 5 hours.
4. Remove pot from oven. Once cool, transfer short ribs to a plate and set aside. Using a sieve, strain braising liquid, discarding vegetables. Return short ribs to pot and pour strained braising liquid over top. Serve short ribs glazed in the braising liquid alongside your favorite mashed potatoes and/or vegetable side dish.
“Our slogan at Locale90 is: Be local. Be authentic,” says chef John Mentesana, who was raised in a first-generation Italian household, and still relies on his Neapolitan grandmother’s pizza dough recipe and his mom’s meatball recipe at his popular Redondo Beach Italian restaurant, Locale90.
“We use imported Italian ingredients for authenticity, but everything else in our restaurant is locally sourced whenever possible,” says chef Mentesana. “We get the meat for our meatballs from a butcher in Manhattan Beach daily. We use a local bakery in Gardena for our bread. Our mozzarella is made fresh every day in Pomona by an Italian company. Our beers are from local breweries in Torrance and Temecula, and our wines are from California.”
During Redondo Beach’s Restaurant Week, running until January 22 and part of California Restaurant Month, sample a variety of chef Mentesana’s Neapolitan-style pizzas. Local90 is offering a two-course, prix-fixe lunch and three-course, prix-fixe dinner for $18 and $30, respectively.
Neapolitan Margherita Pizza (makes six 12-inch pizzas)
According to legend, this classic pizza was named after Italy’s Queen Margherita in 1889, and its red tomatoes, white mozzarella, and green basil represent the colors of the Italian flag.
1 package instant yeast
2 1/2 cups room-temperature water
8 cups white flour, plus more for kneading
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt
Fresh grated Parmesan
Fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 pounds fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water, according to package instructions, then pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add about 20 percent of flour and mix well. Slowly add remaining flour and salt until well combined. Place dough on a clean, floured surface and knead for about 10 to 15 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place dough into a deep bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap; set in a warm spot, and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Divide dough into 6 balls; place on floured surface, cover with damp cloth, and allow to rise again until double in size, 10 to 12 hours.
2. Place a pizza stone in oven and preheat on your oven’s highest temperature for at least 1 hour. Meanwhile, stretch dough by hand (don’t use a rolling pin), letting dough fall over your knuckles as it stretches and expands, until you have a 12-inch round. Lay dough on floured pizza paddle or rimless baking sheet.
3. In a medium bowl, combine crushed tomatoes and salt. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce (about 1/4 cup) on dough, leaving a 1/2-inch ring around the edge. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan on sauce, then top with 4 torn basil leaves, and 1/6 of the mozzarella (about 3 or 4 ounces). Drizzle olive oil on top.
4. Carefully slide pie onto hot pizza stone, and bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted, about 8 minutes. Keep the oven door closed (no peeking), or heat will escape and pizza will not cook properly. Repeat to use all dough. Serve immediately.
Best known as Food Network’s dynamic Too Hot Tamales, and as contestants on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger have been preeminent ambassadors of authentic Mexican cuisine in California for nearly 30 years, setting the standard for gourmet Mexican fare and authoring five cookbooks, including Cooking with Too Hot Tamales, Mesa Mexicana, and City Cuisine.
At Border Grill, the duo specializes in modern Mexican that’s light and healthful, with a large dose of flavor. “We take authentic Mexican recipes and feature humane-certified, antibiotic, and hormone-free meats and poultry, and sustainable seafood enhanced by lots of fruits and vegetables, herbs, homemade salsas, organic rice and beans, and handmade tortillas,” say Milliken.
From January 18 to 31, this fresh, spicy dish will be on Border Grill’s three-course, prix-fixe menu during dinel.A. Restaurant Week, a 14-day culinary event with more than 300 participating restaurants offering specially priced lunch and/or dinner menus.
Winter Vegetable Chilaquiles (serves 4)
"We tried chilaquiles on our first trip to Mexico in 1985,” remembers chef Milliken. While there’s no exact science to making this dish, once you have a feel for the right ratios of salsa to stock to chips, you can really have fun experimenting with different vegetable combinations, say the chefs. “Don’t be shy with the fresh cilantro and peppers. Chilaquiles is a very forgiving and creative dish, and it’s great for using up whatever fresh produce you have in the kitchen,” adds Milliken.
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup chipotle salsa
1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups of your favorite vegetables, such as sautéed zucchini, roasted yams, and caramelized onions; roasted poblano chiles, and red, yellow, and green bell peppers; sautéed mixed mushrooms and fresh oregano; sautéed collard greens or chard; or grilled corn and black beans
8 strips bacon, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, cooked until crisp and brown
6 to 8 cups corn tortilla chips
1 cup grated cheese (we use a mix of Monterey Jack, cotija, and panela)
1 ripe California avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded if desired, and minced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup sour cream, optional
1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, bring broth, salsa, and half-and-half or cream to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, in a separate pan over medium heat, add olive oil and gently scramble eggs. Add scrambled eggs, vegetables, bacon, and tortilla chips to salsa mixture, gently mixing to coat chips, while continuing to allow sauce to simmer. In 1 to 2 minutes, when some of the chips have moistened and begun to break up, but others are still holding their shape, add cheese. Continue stirring gently for another minute to distribute cheese evenly.
3. Add avocado, onion, chiles, and cilantro and stir well to distribute. Cook for 1 minute more, just to heat through, then remove from stovetop and divide evenly among 4 warmed serving plates. Top with a dollop of sour cream, if desired, and serve immediately.
While chef Alex Ageneau’s main focus at Petrossian, a West Hollywood outpost of one of the oldest caviar purveyors in France, is the restaurant’s spectacular array of domestic and imported caviar, he’s also know for his light, fresh menu and use of local, seasonal ingredients. “I try to cook elegant dishes inspired by classical French recipes, then give them a California twist by using local ingredients and refreshed flavors,” says Ageneau.
This soup, a seasonal twist on vichyssoise, calls for sunchokes instead of potatoes. “I like the sunchokes because they have a more complex flavor than potatoes, and they’re in season,” notes Ageneau. “It’s a great dish for this El Niño winter! And adding the crispy potatoes and salmon roe at the end gives the soup fun textures and a new dimension.”
From January 18 to 31, chef Ageneau’s wintry soup will be part of Petrossian’s three-course, prix-fixe dinel.A. Restaurant Week menu ($25 for lunch; $49 for dinner). More than 300 of Los Angeles County’s most dynamic restaurants will also be offering specially priced lunch and dinner menus as part of the 14-day culinary event.
Caramelized Sunchoke and Leek Soup (serves 4 to 6)
Velvety and satisfying, this simple yet elegant soup is a delicious way to impress dinner guests. Serve it hot with a garnish of fried potato strings and chopped fresh chives, or add a dollop of salmon roe to up the specialness factor.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup peeled and diced sunchokes
1 cup diced leeks, white part only
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 fingerling potato, peeled, finely julienned, and soaked in cold water for 1 hour
3 tablespoons grape-seed oil
Chopped fresh chives for garnish
Salmon roe, optional
1.In a large pot over medium-low heat, add butter and sunchokes and cook until sunchokes are golden brown and caramelized; season to taste with salt. Add leeks and garlic and continue to cook until leeks are translucent. Add vegetable broth, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add another pinch of salt and cream; continue simmering for 10 minutes more. 2. Carefully transfer soup to a blender or food processor and puree (in batches if necessary) until smooth. Pour soup through a fine sieve and return to pot; season to taste with pepper and more salt, if needed. Keep hot while you fry the potatoes.
3. Drain and dry potatoes with a paper towel. In a skillet, heat 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil and fry potato strings until golden brown and crispy. Transfer potatoes to a paper-towel-lined plate and season with salt. Divide the soup between four warm bowls, garnish with crispy potatoes strips, fresh chives, and salmon roe, if using, and serve immediately.
At this working brewery, a local hotspot in Oakhurst, guests can sit in the main dining room, with its reclaimed wood and industrial décor, or head to the more casual Brewhouse Dining Area, where garage-style doors open onto gorgeous views of Deadwood Mountain and the brewmaster might be making one of the establishment’s award-winning beers, like the Oaktown Pecan Brown.
Born and raised in Oakhurst, chef Bethany Briggs first learned to cook from her Italian mom and grandmother, then attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, before working at the Four Seasons in Carlsbad and Vivace, the signature Italian eatery at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in San Diego. “Although most of my background is in fine dining, I have a blast cooking at South Gate. We serve great pub-style dishes with great beer to a wonderful community that is making its way on to the culinary map,” says Briggs. “Our food and our staff make people happy, and it’s nice that locals have a spot like this they can count on.”
Chicken Pastry “Pie” (Serves 8 to 10)
“This deconstructed potpie gives you all the bang of the childhood favorite without all the fuss of making homemade dough,” says chef Bethany Briggs, who spoons the comforting filling on top of buttery puff pastry instead of baking it under a crust. “It’s a big bowl of delicious chicken and veggies that sticks to your bones and warms you up. Pair it with one our delicious craft beers and you have happiness sitting in front of you,” she says.
1 tablespoon olive oil
7 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 yellow onions, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
8 cups chicken stock
4 red potatoes, unpeeled and diced (reserved in enough water to cover)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1. In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and brown chicken. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and sauté. Add oregano and thyme, then add the butter. Once butter is melted, mix in the flour to create a roux. Add chicken stock, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps forming. Add potatoes and their water (which will add thickening starch to filling). Raise heat and bring to a boil, continuing to stir. Lower heat to a simmer, and stir occasionally. Once potatoes are cooked through, add peas and corn and season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, preheat over to 375°F. Cut puff pastry into 4-inch squares and place on a parchment-lined baking tray. Cover pastry with another sheet of parchment paper, then top with another baking tray. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 20 minutes.
3. To serve: place a puff pastry square into a serving bowl and ladle chicken-and-vegetable gravy over top. Serve immediately.
“I grew up in coastal Concarneau in Brittany, France, where I was inspired to cook by my grandparents, who ran a popular bakery,” says executive chef Thomas Bellec of The Blvd at Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. “I love all seafood, but especially the combination of scallops and citrus, and what could be better than fresh-caught diver scallops and blood oranges from a local California orchard,” says chef Bellec, whose chic, sophisticated restaurant overlooking Rodeo Drive sources nearly every ingredient from within 10 miles of the hotel. “This dish is right in line with my vision for The Blvd… Local? Check. Seasonal? You bet. Delicious? Absolutely!”
Pan-Seared Diver Scallops with Forbidden Black Rice (serves 4)
“This is a light dish, with bold flavoring and color,” says Chef Bellec, who was recently inducted into the prestigious French culinary association Maîtres Cuisiniers de France. “It can easily be enjoyed as an appetizer for hungrier guests or as a meal by those looking for something less filling,” he adds.
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 cup black rice, rinsed in cold water until water runs clear
8 baby fennel, trimmed
Juice of 7 blood oranges plus 1 segmented blood orange
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon local honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 sprig fresh tarragon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
12 jumbo diver scallops
Fresh fennel flowers for garnish, optional
1. In a medium pot over high heat, heat vegetable stock until boiling. Meanwhile, in another medium pot over low heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and shallots, and sauté until shallots are tender but not browned. Add rice and 2 cups boiling-hot vegetable stock and stir to combine. Cover pot and continue to cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 35 minutes.
2. In a roasting pan on your stovetop, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the baby fennel and sauté for 5 minutes. Add remaining 2 cups hot vegetable stock and cover pan with aluminum foil; cook until fennel is soft, about 10 minutes, depending on size of bulbs.
3. To make sauce: In a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, combine blood orange juice and all the honey and slowly reduce until a syrup forms. In a blender, add 1 cup olive oil, orange-honey syrup, mustard, and tarragon, and blend until smooth. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
4. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add scallops and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on thickness and size.
5. To serve, divide forbidden black rice between 4 serving plates, top rice on each plate with 3 scallops, then add equal amounts of braised fennel. Drizzle with reserved sauce and garnish with blood orange segments and optional fresh fennel flowers.
Known for showcasing organic ingredients from a bounty of local markets, farmers, and purveyors, Robert Curry, executive chef of the world-class Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil, creates exquisite meals that reflect the natural diversity and rich ingredients of Napa Valley, all accented with Mediterranean and Asian flavors.
“Diners are instantly captivated by this dish, which pairs rich pork belly with steamed Manila clams,” says chef Curry. “The shallots, white wine, and fresh herbs are wonderfully balanced in this dish, and while the clams are excellent by themselves, they really stand out when combined with the pan-seared pork belly and sweet, complex flavor of the Thai basil.”
Want to sample one of chef Curry’s renowned meals? As part of California Restaurant Month and Napa Valley Restaurant Week, The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil will offer a two-course, prix-fixe lunch for just $20 from January 24 to 31!
Glazed Pork Belly with Steamed Manila Clams, Thai Basil & Green Onion (serves 4)
Eating home-cooked clams is a favorite childhood memory for Curry, who finds the combination of shellfish and rich pork both comforting and familiar. “This dish is actually from our Bistro & Bar menu, which specializes in more casual fare,” he says. And while the pork takes time to prepare, Curry believes the straightforward recipe translates well to home kitchens.
1 whole star anise
1/2 teaspoon each black peppercorn, whole cloves, fennel seed, and ground cinnamon
1 1/4 pounds fresh pork belly, skin removed
1 head garlic, halved
1/2 carrot, sliced
1/2 each onion, fennel bulb, and leek, diced
1/2 bunch of fresh thyme, tied with butcher twine
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon grape-seed oil
1/4 cup each brown sugar, soy sauce, and mirin
2 tablespoons grape-seed oil
2 tablespoons each minced ginger and shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 pounds Manila clams
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons each sweet chili sauce and Thai fish sauce
4 tablespoons butter
24 Thai basil leaves, cut into long, thin strips
4 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise
1. To make pork belly: Preheat oven to 300°F. Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind star anise, peppercorns, cloves, fennel seeds, and cinnamon together. In a small dry skillet over low heat, toast the spices until fragrant, about 1 minute. Score fat on the skin side of the pork belly and season liberally with salt and toasted spice mix.
2. Heat a medium ovenproof pot over medium-high heat, place pork fat-side down, and sear well on all sides. Remove pork from pot. In same pot on medium, add garlic, carrot, onion, fennel, leek, thyme, and bay, and cook until vegetables are tender. Add wine and reduce by half. Return seared pork to pot along with chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cover with lid. Place in oven and cook for two hours. Remove pork from cooking liquid; press pork between two sheet pans, placing something heavy on top to weigh top pan down. Refrigerate for at least six hours; cut chilled and pressed pork into 12 pieces and reserve.
3. To finish pork before serving: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon grape-seed oil; add reserved pork pieces and sear on all sides. Carefully pour excess fat from skillet then return pork to stovetop and add brown sugar, soy, and mirin, stirring until reduced and meat is glazed.
4. Meanwhile, make Manila clams: In a large pot over low heat, add 2 tablespoons grape-seed oil and sweat ginger, shallots, and garlic. Add the clams, wine, lime juice, and chili and fish sauces; raise heat to high and steam until clams open.
5. To serve, divide clams between 4 warm serving bowls. Whisk butter into hot cooking liquid from clams, then ladle over shellfish in bowls. Place 3 pieces of glazed pork belly on each bowl of clams. Garnish with basil and green onions; serve immediately.
“I’m fortunate to cook in California, where I have so many amazing farms and products at my fingertips,” says Oakland chef Craig Difonzo of Lungomare. At the popular Northern Italian restaurant in the Jack London Square complex, chef Difonzo applies traditional techniques to pasture-raised meats, seafood, local produce, and heirloom grains, and is known for his charcuterie, handmade pastas, and a menu that changes daily depending on which ingredients are freshest in the marketplace.
“The key to creating great food is using the best ingredients you can find, whether it is here at Lungomare or at home, cooking for family and friends.”
From January 14 to 24, Lungomare will join more than 100 area restaurants offering special prix-fixe meals at $20, $30, $40 and $50 price points per person during Oakland’s 6th Annual Restaurant Week.
Butternut Squash Ravioli in Brown Butter (serves 4 to 6)
“This ravioli, served in a brown butter–sage sauce, is a good representation of the simplicity of great Italian food and what you can create using fresh, seasonal produce like butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and fresh herbs and nuts,” says chef Difonzo.
1 large butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup ricotta
3 tablespoons ground amaretti cookies
1 teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg
For fresh pasta:
2 3/4 cups white flour
4 eggs, plus 2 eggs, beaten, for sealing pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
For finishing and serving:
4 tablespoons butter
8 sage leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
4 Brussels sprouts, trimmed, blanched, and leaves separated
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
2 ounces shaved Parmesan
3 sprigs of fresh parsley, stems removed and chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. On a sheet pan, place butternut squash, cut side up; place 1 tablespoon butter in cavity; cover with aluminum foil and roast until flesh is soft, about 45 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make pasta dough: Place 2 3/4 cups flour on a clean tabletop; make a hole in the center and add 4 eggs and extra-virgin olive oil. Using a fork, begin pulling flour toward center. When dough starts to form, begin kneading flour mixture until it forms a nice, smooth ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Remove squash from oven and allow to cool. Scoop out flesh; discard skin. In a small pan, brown 4 tablespoons of butter. In a food processor, combine squash, mascarpone, ricotta, brown butter, ground cookies, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt. Transfer pureed squash to a pastry bag and reserve.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, remove dough from refrigerator, flatten, and cut into square; roll through a pasta machine set at No. 10 three times; repeat rolling pasta through machine three times on each descending setting until you get to No. 1. Cut pasta sheets to fit your ravioli mold and rest them on top of mold. Squeeze about an ounce of filling into center of each square. Once all squares are filled, brush a little egg wash on the borders, then layer another sheet of pasta over top; using a rolling pin, roll over the top of mold to seal sheets of pasta together and form raviolis. Unmold raviolis and set aside. Repeat, as needed, to make 24 raviolis; reserve any remaining for another meal or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.
5. Drop fresh raviolis into boiling water. Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium-high heat, and heat remaining 4 tablespoons butter and sage. Cook until browned, about 2 minutes; add lemon juice and a pinch of salt. As ravioli float to top of water, remove with slotted spoon and add to brown butter in pan. Add Brussels sprout leaves and walnuts and toss to combine. Divide between warm serving plates and top with Parmesan and chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
A native of Northern California, chef Traci Des Jardins has been classically trained in French cuisine by some of the best chefs and restaurateurs in the world. But, she says, she first learned to cook from her Mexican and French Acadian grandparents. Fortified by this rich past, she’s been a force in the San Francisco food world for two decades, winning two James Beard Awards, competing in the finals of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters 3, and opening six successful restaurants in San Francisco, including Jardinière, Arguello, and The Commissary, where today’s featured chicken dish stands out as a customer favorite.
Located in a renovated 1895 Army mess hall in San Francisco’s Presidio, The Commissary serves Spanish-influenced California cuisine using sustainable, locally sourced fish, meats, and produce. This dish, which pairs fresh, seasonal greens with pan-roasted chicken and toast slathered in homemade chopped chicken liver, illustrates how a gifted chef can elevate the most quotidian dish with exceptional ingredients and technique. “Everyone likes a good chicken dish,” says Des Jardins, “and this is The Commissary’s version!”
Roasted Chicken with Frisée-Almond Salad & Chicken Liver Toast (serves 4)
Known for her expert use of local ingredients, Des Jardins seasonally changes the vegetables that accompany The Commissary’s roast chicken. That means she uses whatever is freshest and most delicious during any given growing period. “It’s inspiring to live and cook in California,” says Des Jardins. “There’s always something new and exciting appearing from some fabulous farm every year.”
8 ounces chicken liver, trimmed of sinew
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pure olive oil
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
6 large shallots, finely diced
2 cups of Oloroso sherry wine
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on
4 boneless chicken thighs, skin on 2 heads of frisée, green part and root trimmed
1/2 cup Marcona almonds or toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
12 pitted Medjool or honey dates, slivered
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 baguette slices, toasted
1. Rinse livers briefly under cold water until water runs clear; pat dry and season with salt and pepper to taste. In a sauté pan on high heat, heat 2 tablespoons pure olive oil until just smoking. Add livers and sear quickly for 2 to 3 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a plate and spread out so that they do not continue to cook.
2. Let pan cool for about 5 minutes, then return it to medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and the diced shallots and cook slowly, scraping the bottom of pan with a spoon to incorporate the shallots’ caramel (being careful to keep shallots from browning). Cook until shallots are translucent and soft; remove half the drippings and reserve for liver preparation.
3. To make sauce: Move pan from flame and add sherry wine; return to heat and reduce sauce in pan by two-thirds. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.
4. Finely chop cooled livers or pulse in food processor; taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Place chopped liver in a medium bowl and add reserved shallots and remaining 2 tablespoons butter; mix well and reserve.
5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Season chicken breasts and thighs with salt and pepper. In a heavy-bottom, ovenproof pan over medium-high heat, add remaining 2 tablespoons of pure olive oil and heat until smoking, reduce heat slightly and place the chicken, skin side down, in pan. Continue cooking over medium to medium-high heat until skin is crisp and browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer pan to oven and cook until juices run clear, 10 to 12 minutes more. Remove chicken from pan, reserving drippings.
6. In a large mixing bowl, combine frisée, almonds, and dates. In another bowl, whisk together extra-virgin olive oil, remaining vinegar, and reserved chicken drippings to make a vinaigrette; season with salt and pepper, if desired, then toss with frisée-almond-date salad mixture.
7. To serve: Gently reheat reserved shallot-sherry sauce. Meanwhile, divide frisée salad evenly among four serving plates. Slice chicken breasts and thighs and divide evenly among plates; drizzle chicken with warm shallot-sherry sauce. Spread reserved chopped liver onto toasted bread and place one slice on each plate. Serve immediately.
Known for its approachable California coastal cuisine and beautiful Pacific views, Ocean Grill Avila Beach takes advantage of the area’s wealth of local ingredients. “We are so fortunate on the Central Coast to be surrounded by ample amounts of fresh local produce, meat, and seafood,” says Ocean Grill Avila Beach’s executive chef, Bryan Mathers. “It would be a shame not to have those ingredients be the focal point and inspiration for every dish on our menu.”
Mathers knows he’s got an amazing pairing in seafood and pork belly. “Prepared properly, scallops are a hit with most people, and bacon is always a crowd favorite, so when the two come together, it’s a culinary match made in heaven,” he says. To balance the richness of the pork belly and scallops, Mathers pairs the dish with quinoa and a citrusy slaw of shaved fennel, apple, and jicama.
During California Restaurant Month, chef Mathers and Ocean Grill Avila Beach will be offering three-course, prix-fixe dinners for $30, every Thursday through Sunday until January 29.
Seared Local Scallops & Pork Belly with Quinoa (serves 2)
Although the pork belly served at Ocean Grill Avila Beach is brined and cooked sous-vide, chef Bryan Mathers says you can get good results at home by simply pan searing the meat, or substituting thick-cut bacon. “This dish is a great example of how you can elevate an expected dish with a new twist, while still keeping the recipe approachable,” says the chef. “Just be sure not to overcook the scallops. There’s a very fine line between perfect and overcooked,” he cautions.
6 tablespoons quinoa
16 slices shaved apple
16 slices shaved jicama
2 tablespoons shaved fennel
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon chives
2 tablespoons citrus vinaigrette
1/2 pound pork belly or thick cut bacon
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons balsamic reduction
1. Cook quinoaaccording to package instructions and keep warm. In a bowl, combine apple, jicama, fennel, parsley, chives, and citrus vinaigrette; toss well and set aside.
2. In a medium skillet on medium-high heat, sear pork belly on all sides until tender and cooked through; set aside and keep warm.
3. Sprinkle scallops with salt on one side. In a skillet over high heat, heat oil until it’s just at the smoking point. Place scallops salt-side down in pan and reduce heat to medium-high. Make sure scallops aren’t sticking to pan, then add butter. Continue cooking until a golden-brown crust forms on the bottom edge of each scallop. Using a spatula, flip scallops and cook for just under a minute more before removing from heat.
4. To serve: Divide reserved quinoa between two warm serving plates; top with an even amount of apple-jicama slaw. Layer half of pork belly on top of each alad; top pork on each plate with three scallops, then lightly drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve immediately.
Morning, noon, and night are the right times for grilled cheese, say chefs Heidi Gibson and Nate Pollak of San Francisco’s The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. And, they say, this clever take on the American classic gets inspiration from another favorite food. “With its gooey mozzarella, sweet-tart pineapple, savory ham, and spicy tomato sauce, Hawaiian pizza has always been a guilty pleasure for us,” says Gibson, who along with husband Pollak opened their popular temple to grilled cheese sandwiches. (The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen now has two city locations in the Mission District and South Park, and a third opening soon in Jackson Square.) According to executive chef Gibson, a seven-time Grilled Cheese Invitational winner, this tasty version—which layers pineapple, tomatoes, ham, and fontina and mozzarella cheeses between fluffy slices of Hawaiian bread—has proved to be an Aloha-inspired winner. For 39 delicious recipes from the couple’s restaurants, pick up a copy of Grilled Cheese Kitchen (Chronicle Books), available February 16 at bookstores nationwide.
Hawaiian Grilled Cheese (serves 2)
“We turned this classic pizza combination into one heck of a grilled cheese sandwich by using fresh, high-quality ingredients and adding a splash of love,” says Gibson. If you can’t find a fresh, ripe pineapple, Gibson says you can substitute canned pineapple rings in pineapple juice—just remember to drain the juice first.
4 1/4-inch-thick slices of fresh, cored pineapple
6 to 8 1/4-inch-thick slices of ripe plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon salted butter, at room temperature
4 slices Hawaiian bread (slightly sweet white bread) or artisanal white bread
4 slices (about 3 ounces) fontina cheese
4 ounces sliced ham
3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Arrange pineapple and tomato slices on prepared baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, or until surfaces appear dry but not yet browned, turning pieces halfway through. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. Heat a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, spread the butter on one side of each bread slice, dividing it evenly. Place two slices, buttered side down, on a clean cutting board. Layer two slices of fontina, half of ham, three or four slices of roasted tomato, two pineapple rings, and half of mozzarella on top of each sandwich. If desired, sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Top with remaining slices of bread, buttered side up.
3. Using a wide spatula, place both sandwiches in pan, cover, and cook until bottom slices are nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until flip sides are browned, cheese is melted, and ingredients are heated through, about 4 minutes more. Cut sandwiches in half and serve immediately.
At the popular Clif Family Bruschetteria food truck, parked on Main Street in St. Helena, executive chef John Mcconnell serves an innovative, Northern Italian–inspired menu of bruschetta, porchetta, rotisserie chicken, and farm-fresh salad—all prepared using organic produce grown at the Clif Family Farm in Napa Valley. “My cooking style is simple, ingredient-driven, and seasonal,” says Mcconnell, who graduated from the New England Culinary Institute and served as the chef de cuisine at Michelin-starred Campton Place Hotel in San Francisco before making his way to Napa. “We’re proud of the fact that we serve farm-to-table food that’s as gourmet as most restaurants out of a tiny food-truck kitchen,” says Mcconnell.
Rustic Wilted Kale & Farm Egg Bruschetta (serves 6 to 8)
Mcconnell knows Californians are seasonally savvy when it comes to their produce. “I think this bruschetta’s successful because we combine sweet, tender kale and radishes from our organic farm with hard-boiled eggs from our own free-range hens,” says Mcconnell. “It’s a great culinary snapshot of what our farm looks like right now.”
6 farm-fresh eggs
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the bruschetta
4 cloves garlic, chopped, plus 1 clove for brushing on bruschetta
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 small jar high-quality anchovies packed in olive oil
2 bunches kale, leaves and stems coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 loaf rustic bread, sliced and left uncovered (slightly stale bread works best for grilling)
1 bunch radishes, such as ‘French Breakfast,’ ‘Easter Egg,’ or ‘Watermelon,’ thinly sliced
Sea salt to taste
1. In a medium pot over high heat, bring water to a boil. Carefully lower eggs into water and cook for exactly nine minutes. Remove from water and transfer to ice bath. Once completely cool, peel eggs. Using an egg slicer or sharp knife, slice egg crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds and set aside.
2. In large sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil, chopped garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is light brown and aromatic. Add anchovy filets to hot oil and break up using a wooden spoon. Once anchovies are incorporated, add kale, raise heat to high, and sauté until wilted. Taste kale, adjust seasonings if needed, then add lemon juice. Keep kale warm in sauté pan until ready to serve.
3. To compose bruschetta: Preheat a grill or grill pan on high. Grill dry bread slices to desired toast level, then rub each side with clove of garlic and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss kale mixture in pan, then top bruschetta with the mixture, allowing oil and cooking juices to absorb into grilled bread. Top with slices of egg and radish and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Serve immediately with a crisp Zinfandel, such as Gary’s Improv Howell Mountain from Clif Family Winery.
A boutique winery located in Southern California’s Temecula Valley, the 40-acre Bel Vino Winery offers more than 30 wine choices (including some of the area’s finest reds), as well as spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. At Bel Vino Bistro, the winery’s on-site restaurant, executive chef Nathaniel Phillips, a California native and a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, offers a casual yet refined lunch menu on weekends. “I love wine, and I work to achieve great pairings between the dishes we create in the kitchen and the wines we produce at Bel Vino,” says Phillips, who incorporates California’s fresh, local ingredients, including the culinary herbs he grows in his home garden, into everything he makes.
During California Restaurant Month, Bel Vino Bistro will be offering a two-course, prix-fixe lunch ($15). Choose from one of the restaurant’s signature sandwiches, like the chicken club with smoked bacon and avocado on a ciabatta bun, or the Bel Vino burger with fries, then enjoy the panna cotta with port-pomegranate sauce for dessert. There will also be live music and dancing on the patio from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Panna Cotta with Port-Pomegranate Sauce (serves 6)
“Many of our guests dine at the bistro as part of their wine-tasting experience at the vineyard,” says Phillips. “This modern take on the classic dessert gives visitors an opportunity to experience Bel Vino Vintner’s Select Prima Port, one of our most special wines, not only by the glass, but as a component of the dish.”
1 tablespoon gelatin
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 cup of port, preferably Bel Vino Vintner’s Select Prima Port
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1. To make panna cotta: In a bowl, add gelatin to milk; set aside and allow gelatin to begin to thicken milk. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat cream and sugar until simmering. Whisk in chocolate, vanilla, and salt. Add reserved gelatin-milk mixture and whisk to combine. Pour custard into six ramekins and transfer to refrigerator to set, about 4 hours.
2. To make port-pomegranate sauce: In a small pot over medium heat, simmer port and sugar until reduced by half. Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool; stir in pomegranate seeds.
3. To serve, use a knife to carefully unmold custards onto individual dessert plates, then pour port-pomegranate sauce on top. Serve immediately.
Bruce Kalman, chef of Union in Pasadena, doesn’t follow the crowd—he does what feels right. “I have a strong commitment to staying local and sustainable, and not because it’s a cool trend. I cook soulful, memorable food that’s approachable,” says Kalman, executive chef of Union and the forthcoming Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market, in downtown L.A.'s Grand Central Market. A James Beard–nominated Rising Star Chef, Kalman might look familiar—he has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay—but he’s best known for his root-to-leaf cooking philosophy and his fresh pastas. (Union was recently named No. 2 in Los Angeles Magazine's list of top 10 Italian restaurants.) When he’s not in the kitchen, Kalman serves as the front man in a chef cover band called Foie Grock, with fellow chef and celebrity baker Duff Goldman.
Santa Barbara Squid with Braised Beans & Meyer Lemon (serves 4)
“This dish exemplifies my cooking philosophy,” says Kalman. “I love the combination of fresh squid and slow-cooked beans, then adding the brightness and big flavors of Meyer lemons and a mix of fresh herbs.”
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig each fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme, tied in a bundle with twine
1/2 medium yellow onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup dried cranberry or cannellini beans, soaked in water overnight, or 2 cups canned beans
2 cups canned, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 cups vegetable broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound squid, beaks removed from tentacles, heads cleaned and sliced into 2-inch-wide rings
Kosher sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced paper-thin
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 small pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
16 Meyer lemon segments
Fresh herb leaves (opal basil, Italian parsley, celery heart leaves) and a drizzle of fruity olive oil for garnish
1. To make beans: Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium oven-safe pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil and cook herbs until crisp, then remove bundle and reserve. Add onion, garlic, and pepper flakes and stir. Reduce heat to medium and cook until onions and garlic are translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Add wine and drained beans to pot and cook until wine is reduced by half. Add tomatoes, vegetable broth, and reserved herb bundle and bring to a boil, then taste and adjust seasoning. Cover with lid and place pot in oven; cook until beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove beans from oven and keep warm. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
2. To prepare squid: With paper towel, dry the squid and season to taste with salt and black pepper. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, heat oil, garlic, thyme, and pepper flakes until thyme is crisp and garlic is lightly toasted. Add squid and stir to coat, then cook for 30 to 45 seconds; add vegetable broth and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Add butter, then remove pan from heat; stir to blend butter and add lemon segments.
3. To plate, spoon 1/2 cup of beans with liquid into four shallow serving bowls and top evenly with the squid. Garnish with fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil and serve immediately.
Instead of gravitating toward traditional fine-dining ingredients, like truffles and foie gras, John Cox, executive chef of Sierra Mar, the restaurant at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, takes culinary pride in discovering unique ingredients and innovative techniques that can only be found along California’s Central Coast.
“My hope is that guests will have an experience at the restaurant that they can’t find anywhere else in the world,” says Cox. At Sierra Mar—winner of the prestigious Wine Spectator Grand Award (there are over 14,000 bottles in the cellar!)—chef Cox relies on the primal flavors of locally sourced ingredients for his innovative menus that change nightly. These include the delicately flavored spot prawns and fragrant indigenous bay leaves used in this elegant seafood dish.
“Big Sur is a constant inspiration,” he adds. “No matter how many times I step out of my kitchen onto the coastal ridge, the sweeping views of the Pacific and Santa Lucia Mountains always take my breath away.”
Bay Laurel Roasted Spot Prawns with Bay Fruit Aioli & Meyer Lemon (serves 4)
“This dish illustrates our philosophy of using ingredients in the moment and constantly evolving our menus to reflect the seasonal changes around us,” says Cox. “Bay laurel trees are abundant along the Central Coast of California. While a close relative of the European bay that’s more commonly used in classic recipes, our local bay is quite intense and a small amount goes a long way,” he adds. In this recipe, the chef uses both young bay laurel leaves and bay fruit, a small avocado-like fruit that can be found during the fall and winter. If you don’t have access to fresh California bay leaves, you can substitute European bay leaves for roasting the prawns and omit the bay fruit from the aioli.
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 cup spinach leaves
6 bay fruits, seeds and stems removed (optional)
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more to taste
6 ounces unsalted organic butter, at room temperature
Zest of one Meyer lemon
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Espelette pepper
Fresh bay leaves (the smaller and softer, the better)
8 large spot prawns with roe, cut in half lengthwise
Meyer lemon, very thinly sliced, for garnish
1. To make the bay fruit aioli: In a blender, pulse parsley, spinach, avocado, bay fruits, egg yolks, lemon juice, and garlic until combined. Add cold water, a teaspoon at a time, until mixture forms a smooth paste. With blender on low, slowly add olive oil until mixture emulsifies and thickens. Season aioli with salt to taste and more lemon, as needed. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, mix butter, lemon zest, garlic, sea salt, and Espelette until well combined; reserve at room temperature.
3. Preheat oven to 500°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, set prawns, shell side down, on a bed of bay leaves and roast until prawn meat feels firm to the touch, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon any pan juices back onto prawns. Divide prawns among four dinner plates and top with lemon slices. Serve immediately with bay fruit aioli on the side.
A popular fixture on Melrose Place in West Hollywood, Fig & Olive offers up shareable plates and entrees—think zucchini “carpaccio,” fig-gorgonzola tartlets, and Herbes de Provence–roasted chicken—built on the big flavors of fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables, all chosen for superior taste and seasonality.
With his background in classical French technique and Mediterranean cuisine—and experience working with culinary heavyweights like Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud—executive chef Wilfrid Hocquet strives to create dishes that honor Fig & Olive’s reputation for pairing seasonal produce with distinctive extra-virgin olive oils from France, Italy, and Spain.
“The beauty of California lies with its bright and local ingredients,” says Hocquet. “My interests revolve around the transformation of raw fruits and vegetables, so California’s the perfect place for me to find inspiration.”
More than 300 area restaurants will participate in Los Angeles Restaurant Week, running from January 18 to 31. Sample chef Hocquet’s velvety winter soup as part of Fig & Olive’s three-course, prix-fixe lunch and dinner offerings, priced at $25 and $39, respectively, during the two-week event.
Butternut Squash & Chestnut Soup (serves 6)
“This recipe was inspired by a delectable velouté that Fig & Olive’s founder, Laurent Halasz’s mother, Francine, used to make,” says Hocquet. Taking the extra time to make the flavorful vegetable broth that gives this dish its body is the secret to its exceptional flavor, he points out: “The finished soup has the lightest texture you’ll ever experience. It almost vanishes in the mouth.”
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 pinch salt
4 parsley sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 cup porcini mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 thyme sprig
2 cups diced butternut squash
1/2 cup cooked chestnuts or 1/4 cup sugar-free chestnut paste
1 cup homemade vegetable stock
1/4 cup walnut oil
1 pinch Espelette pepper
Truffle oil (optional)
1. To make the vegetable stock: In a medium pot on medium-low heat, add olive oil and vegetables; season with salt to taste, then cover and sweat gently until vegetables are soft and slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pot with a little water, then add enough water to cover the vegetables. Add parsley, thyme, bay, and peppercorns, and simmer gently until stock tastes rich and full, at least 1 hour. Using a sieve, strain stock; discard vegetable solids. Measure out 1 cup of stock. Refrigerate or freeze remaining stock for another use.
2. To make the soup: In a skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, mushrooms, garlic, thyme, and salt, and sauté until mushrooms are golden and release their liquid. Set aside and retain any cooking liquid.
3. Place a large pot on medium heat. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil, squash, reserved mushroom mixture, chestnuts, and 1 cup vegetable stock (or enough to cover the vegetables). Cook, covered, until squash is soft, about 30 minutes. Discard garlic and thyme. In a blender or food processor, puree soup, slowly adding walnut oil until mixture is smooth. Stir in Espelette pepper and more salt, if desired. Pass the soup through a chinois or fine-mesh sieve; discard any solids. If soup cools, return to pot and reheat gently on low. Serve immediately with a drizzle of truffle oil, if desired.
“No place in the United States has fresher, more varied produce year-round,” says chef Steven Riemer of Oceana Coastal Kitchen in San Diego. “If you consider that, along with the state’s wealth of seafood and organic meats, it’s no wonder California cooking is all about honoring ingredients in the simplest, most authentic ways.”
After spending eight years as executive sous chef to farm-to-table pioneer Jeff Jackson at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, chef Steven Riemer moved to Oceana Coastal Kitchen in 2011. Part of Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa, the airy, seafood-centric restaurant offers sweeping views of Mission Bay, as well as a menu that makes the most of what the region’s farmers, ranchers, and fishermen have to offer.
At Oceana Coastal Kitchen, Riemer serves up freshly shucked oysters, ceviche, crudo, and sushi at a quartz-topped raw bar, while dishes like shrimp papparadelle and Sea of Cortez scallops pay tribute to the fresh seafood available in the region. The chef’s playful interpretation of classic dishes, including this inventive salad of persimmon, endive, and mint, highlights the purity and flavors of California local produce and a commitment to sustainable ingredients.
From January 17-24, more than 180 of San Diego’s finest restaurants, including Oceana Coastal Kitchen, will participate in the sixth annual California Restaurant Month, offering three-course, prix-fixe dinner menus (starting at $20 per person) along with two-course, prix-fixe lunch menus.
Winter Salad with Persimmon, Endive, & Mint (serves 4)
Squat, pumpkin-colored Fuyu persimmons make this bright, seasonal starter a standout. “I chose this salad to share because it’s easy to make at home and looks fantastic, plus the touch of sweetness from the persimmons offsets the somewhat bitterness of the local winter lettuces,” says Riemer. If you prefer extra dressing, double or triple the recommended amounts of seasoned rice-wine vinegar, mayonnaise, sesame oil, and minced ginger, then toss the greens to taste.
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 each Belgian endive, halved with core removed
2 each Fuyu persimmons
2 small heads curly endive, trimmed and torn into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon seasoned rice-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 fresh mint leaves, torn
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1. In a skillet over medium heat, add vegetable oil. When oil is hot, place endive cut side down in pan and allow to cook, without turning, until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Turn endive and allow second side to brown. Remove pan from heat and allow endive to cool; slice crosswise into strips and reserve.
2. Meanwhile, cut persimmon into very thin slices, using a mandolin if available. In a bowl, combine vinegar, mayonnaise, sesame oil, and ginger to make dressing; season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
3. Right before serving, toss reserved Belgian endive, persimmons, and curly endive with dressing, adjusting seasoning, if desired. Divide between four salad plates. Garnish with mint leaves and pomegranate seeds and serve immediately.
“I love the Marin Farmers' Market in San Rafael. It’s my happy place,” says Megan Smith, the chef-owner of Ironwood American Bistro on Main Street in Suisun City, in the Central Valley about one hour east of San Francisco. Smith, who specializes in American cuisine that relies on classic French techniques, was drawn to cooking because of the intimate connection it creates with people.
“I’ve had customers describe my food as ‘honest’,” says Smith. “I’m committed to the integrity and sourcing of quality ingredients—unbleached flours, fresh vegetables, no hormones or antibiotics in our meats, and sustainable seafood. My staff and I prep everything from premade dressings to sauces to tart dough in-house,” adds Smith. “It adds to the quality and healthfulness of what we serve.”
To share her cooking skills and philosophy with the community, Smith has also begun offering two-hour culinary camps on Saturday mornings, teaching students how to make stocks and sauces, sauté meats and seafood, and whip up sweet and savory pate choux and crème brûlée.
Smith's Chicken & Noodles will be one of two entrees available at Ironwood American Bistro as part of a three-course, prix-fixe dinner menu ($30 per person) during California Restaurant Month, being celebrated at the Suisun Waterfront from January 15 to January 24.
Chicken & Noodles (serves 4)
“This recipe is my take on chicken and dumplings, a popular dish in the Midwest, where I lived for several years,” says Chef Megan Smith, who makes the noodles, smoked chicken, and chicken stock for this recipe from scratch at Ironwood American Bistro. Home cooks can substitute store-bought pasta and rotisserie chicken, but Chef Megan says fresh-made, free-range chicken stock improves the flavor of the dish exponentially. “Store-bought chicken stock just doesn’t come close,” she cautions.
1 1/2 cups homemade or quality free-range chicken stock
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon garlic confit
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, chives)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sautéed cremini mushrooms
10 ounces homemade or store-bought papparadelle
3/4 pound smoked free-range chicken or rotisserie chicken, chopped or shredded
20 green beans, trimmed and blanched
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine chicken stock, garlic confit, fresh herbs, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by one third. Add heavy cream and sautéed mushrooms to skillet and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook until mixture thickens and is reduced by one third.
2. Cook noodles in salted boiling water, until tender but firm, 3 to 4 minutes if using homemade noodles, or according to package directions for store-bought pasta, then drain. Add noodles, chicken, spinach, and green beans to cream sauce in skillet and stir to combine until all ingredients are heated through. Using tongs, divide noodles between four shallow serving bowls. Layer chicken and vegetables over top and divide any remaining sauce evenly between the bowls. Serve immediately.
Partners in life as well as the kitchen, John Stewart and Duskie Estes opened the original Zazu Kitchen + Farm in Santa Rosa in 2001 before moving the restaurant to its current digs in the Sonoma County town of Sebastopol three years ago. In addition to garnering awards and press for their innovative, farm-to-table cuisine, the couple have continued to expand their culinary horizons by cultivating 12 acres of produce, raising livestock, planting a fruit orchard, and making their own wine—Black Pig Pinot and Pink Pig Sparkling—with Thomas George Estates just north in Healdsburg.
Born and raised in California, Stewart, who studied with Mario Batali as well as at the University of Iowa Meat Lab, is an accomplished salumist who makes the restaurant’s award-winning meats, bacon, and salumi from the pasture-grazed heritage pigs the couple raises along with ducks, chickens, turkeys, goats, rabbits, and sheep on their farm in nearby Forestville.
Visit Zazu Kitchen + Farm from January 20 to 31, when it will be offering a three-course, prix-fixe menu to patrons daily. They’ll also have plenty of Rodeo Jax on hand!
Rodeo Jax (serves 4 to 8)
“We always have bacon fat around at the restaurant,” says chef John Stewart, who along with his wife, Duskie Estes, uses the flavorful fat to enliven many of their favorite recipes, including Rodeo Jax, an addictive snack made with organic popcorn, maple sugar, and smoky applewood bacon crumbles. Although the couple uses the bacon from their Black Pig Meat Co. in the recipe, any quality brand can be substituted. “The popcorn’s irresistible,” says Estes. “It’s salty, sweet, and smoky all at the same time.”
You don’t have to take her word for it: Richard Blais, winner of Bravo’s Top Chef: All-Stars and the chef-owner of Juniper & Ivy in San Diego, nominated the couple’s ingenious bacon-caramel popcorn as one of Food Network’s Guilty Pleasures. “When it arrives, it’s like every dream you’ve ever had,” says Blais.
1/4 pound quality smoked bacon
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels
1/4 cup maple sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Using a food processor, grind the bacon through a meat grinder attachment. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crispy; using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and reserve.
2. Transfer bacon fat in skillet to a large pot with a lid; add popcorn kernels and cook over medium-high heat. When the first kernel pops, add maple sugar and return the lid, moving pot back and forth over eye of stove while kernels pop. As soon as the popping stops, remove pot from heat and transfer popcorn to a large bowl. Toss with reserved bacon and salt and serve.
“I have always been committed to simple, unpretentious food,” says Brady Thomason, the executive chef of Enoteca, a contemporary fusion restaurant at La Bellasera Hotel & Suites in the Central Coast town of Paso Robles, roughly two hours north of Santa Barbara. As diverse as California itself, the chef draws inspiration for his menu from Mexican, Spanish, Italian, French, and Asian cultures, as well as the Central Coast wine country, where the restaurant is located.
“We strive to feature more and more local ingredients on a daily basis,” says Thomason, whose wintry cheddar soup is flavored with Paso Robles’ Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s English-style ale. “I’m inspired and excited when I bite into a locally grown olallieberry, sample abalone raised in nearby Cayucos, or meet a local vintner or brewer. I know that someone’s blood, sweat, and tears went into making the products, and I respect that immensely.”
Try chef Thomason’s satisfying winter soup during California Restaurant Month, when San Luis Obispo County restaurants, such as Enoteca, will be offering diners the option of daily three-course, prix-fixe dinner menus from January 4 to 29.
Firestone Double Barrel Ale & Cheddar Soup (makes 8 cups)
Made in one pot, this creamy, aromatic soup features Firestone Double Barrel Ale, sharp cheddar, heavy cream, Dijon mustard, fresh herbs, and a dash of Tabasco and Worcestershire. Chef Thomason recommends garnishing the wintry soup with fresh chives, pan-fried onions, or rustic, homemade croutons, which you can make by toasting cubed, day-old bread with a little olive oil in a hot skillet.
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 small leek, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 12-ounce bottles Firestone Double Barrel Ale
4 cups quality chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a heavy pot over medium heat, melt butter and cook onion, leek, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Add beer, then chicken stock to cover vegetables evenly by half an inch. Add bay leaf and thyme and bring soup to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft, about 30 minutes. Turn off heat and remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs; whisk in cheeses, heavy cream, and mustard. Using an immersion blender (or working in batches using a blender or food processor), puree the soup. Add Tabasco and Worcestershire, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Reheat gently on low if necessary.
Known for his unfussy yet inventive California cooking, Travis Lett, the chef-owner of the popular Venice Beach restaurant Gjelina, on the coast west of downtown L.A., serves up rustic, vegetable-centric dishes to everyone from celebrities to families who live down the street. In his new cookbook, Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California (Chronicle Books, 2015), Lett shares 125 of his customer’s favorite recipes, ranging from flavorful condiments and fresh vegetable sides to homemade pastas and pizzas.
“As a cook, I try not to stand in the way of what is beautiful and delicious. I try to capture the fleeting moment when well-cultivated ingredients are at their peak,” says Lett, who always dreamed of Gjelina being the sort of homey, laid-back neighborhood joint we all wish was around the corner from our house.
“I wanted Gjelina to be somewhere you could count on the food, people, and environment having a certain honesty to them,” adds Lett.
Charred Brussels sprouts with bacon & dates (serves 4 to 6 as a side)
Lett sells about 400 orders of this popular dish a week. Choose smaller-than-golf-ball-size sprouts that are firm and tight. Be patient and let them get a good char on the cut side, almost to the point of burning. It brings a toasty, nutty flavor that contrasts with the sweet dates and sharp vinegar. You may have to adjust the cooking time to accommodate smaller sprouts (leave very tiny ones whole), or the larger ones, which may need to be quartered, as they mature throughout the season.
3 ounces bacon, cut into 1/4-inch-wide matchsticks
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved through the stem end
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pitted, soft, fresh dates
1 cup homemade or quality chicken stock
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1. Heat a large, cast iron frying pan over medium-high heat, and cook bacon with the olive oil until bacon has rendered most of its fat but is still juicy, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate, and increase heat to high. If there is excessive fat in the pan, you can drain some, but reserve in case the pan dries out. The sprouts will suck up the fat.
2. Add Brussels sprouts to the pan, turning them over with tongs, if necessary, to make sure that cut sides face down. Sear, without shaking the pan, until sprouts are well charred and beginning to blacken, 5 to 7 minutes. Resist the temptation to meddle with them: The idea is to get a very deep, penetrating sear that nearly blackens sprouts but keeps them relatively green inside. Flip sprouts, and season with salt and pepper.
3. Add dates and reserved bacon to pan, toss well, and cook until sprouts begin to color, 2 to 3 minutes. Add stock to pan, a little bit at a time. With a wooden spoon, smash dates into sauce, breaking them into smaller pieces as pan sauce reduces. Once dates are incorporated into sauce, add vinegar. Continue cooking until sauce is thick enough to coat Brussels sprouts, 2 to 3 minutes. Be careful not to reduce sauce too much, or it will become too sweet and sticky. The sprouts should still be bright green and somewhat firm inside, but tender to the bite. Transfer to a serving platter. Serve warm.