Tasting fresh organic produce right off the vine — it can't get much better than that! The first Saturday in September, Steve and I participated in a volunteer day at an organic farm in north county where our friend Jonathan works. What an amazing day! We took a tour of the farm and sampled fresh, organic produce all along the way. I've never tasted sweeter strawberries than the ones we picked from the vine that day! The corn, melons and other crops sampled were equally delicious.
Tierra Miguel Farm is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. A CSA allows the community to form a direct relationship with farmers promoting and maintaining sustainable agriculture. CSA members pay an annual fee for weekly or bi-weekly deliveries of fresh, seasonal produce from the farm. Members can visit the farm and actively participate in the farming process.
The culmination of events of the volunteer day was lunch on the farm. Volunteers all brought a covered dish and fresh veggies were provided by the farm. I tried a Watermelon Radish for the first time and loved it. The center is an intense pink, hence the name. It was crisp, peppery and sweet all at once. It was a delight to sit under a big shade tree and enjoy a fresh, simple and delicious meal.
Yesterday I spent the day at the farm helping prepare for a fundraising event coming up on Saturday. The event is called La Tomatina — named after a festival in Spain to commemorate the end of the tomato growing season. Steve and I will be taking part in the event making our grilled eggplant mozzarella stacks. We are both looking forward to the day and to working with the farm on future food and cooking events.
I adore heirloom tomatoes and look forward to this season all year! I came up with a fresh twist on eggplant parm using ripe heirlooms. All you need is the tomatoes, an eggplant, fresh mozzarella cheese and a grill.
First, preheat the grill and adjust to a medium-low heat. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 4–6 slices (depending on the size). Remove the skin from the two outer slices. Brush each slice lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant, turning often to make sure it does not burn. While the eggplant is on the grill, slice and lightly salt the tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and gather a hand full of fresh basil. Set the tomatoes aside. As soon as you pull the eggplant from the grill, layer it in a stack with the fresh mozzarella and some of the basil and allow the cheese to melt for a couple of minutes. Drizzle the stack with a little good extra virgin olive oil and top with the tomatoes and remaining basil! The only thing left to do now is enjoy! Bon Appetito!!
Barbecue. To me, the word alone invokes insatiable hunger for pulled pork in a spicy, not-too-sweet vinegar-based (or tomato-based) sauce topped with fresh coleslaw on a soft round roll. I wasn't always a fan of barbecue, but that all changed once I realized the reason I didn't care for it was that I had never had really good barbecue.
When my husband Steve and I embarked on our cross country journey moving from Philly to our temporary home in Phoenix, we had to come up with some sort of foodie subtext for the trip. All who know us can appreciate this aspect of the trip! We took a southern route to spend time with my family in Houston mid-drive, so we decided to try as many local barbecue joints as we could along the way. We tasted barbecue from Memphis to west Texas. The best that we encountered was a roadside stand in Arkadelphia, AR — Alan's Bar-B-Q. We tried brisket and pulled pork. The pulled pork was so amazing we had to split a second sandwich. Even Allie, our lab/border collie mix, got a nibble and was begging for more. Perfectly spicy and not too sweet — wow!
Since then, we've had some barbecue at restaurants and at home — most recently the barbecue dry rub and companion sauce that I wrote about a couple weeks ago. We had another barbecue encounter in July. We had a few friends over for the 4th and opted for a East Carolina barbecue extravaganza. I roasted a Boston butt pork roast with a few secret ingredients and dressed it with a vinegar based, true Carolina style barbecue sauce that I created based on a combination of recipes in cookbooks and online. Steve made a cool coleslaw to top off the sandwiches. We made collard greens and baked beans to complement the pulled pork — a true East Carolina feast!
I recently got the opportunity to try San Diego's best Barbecue. Apparently Phil's BBQ used to be located in Mission Hills and was constantly jam packed. The were forced to close their doors after a fire and reopened in Point Loma some time later. The new location is all I know and it is fabulous! No table service, just get in line — a long one at peak times — and place your order at the counter. Find a seat at the bar while you wait and have a cold draft beer from their frost coated tap. My friends had beef and chicken. Both were tasty, but I think my pulled pork sandwich stole the show. They pile it so high it is hard to pick it up, but it is worth the sticky fingers. The sauce had the right savory-to-sweet balance for my taste. The sandwich was paired with perfectly crisp french fries that I sprinkled with Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning that was sitting on the bar to give them a perfect kick! Now I just can't wait to take Steve there — Hmmm, maybe dinner tonight!
I alway think of my dear friend Julie when I make my favorite summer salad. Julie is fellow foodie who I met in soon after moving to Hoboken and quickly became friends. I remember so vividly stopping by Julie's apartment in Jersey City one summer evening to visit and have a bite of dinner. The salad she made for me would be my inspiration for a salad I make all the time, especially in summer months. It is a quick, easy and healthy summer dinner that is a delight to prepare and to eat.
I start by pounding out a chicken breast, and marinating it in a simple mixture of lime juice, olive oil, a spoonful of Dijon mustard, Herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. Let that marinate at least 15–20 minutes. In the mean time, fire up the grill, prepare a bed of salad greens (I like the herb salad spring mix), and toast up a handful of walnuts in a dry pan, flipping often and watching carefully.
Once the chicken is on the grill, dress the greens with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of good olive oil. Crumble some goat cheese over the greens. When the chicken is done and has rested, slice it in strips and place it on the salad, topping it with sliced fresh strawberries and the toasted walnuts. Serve with a nice chardonnay or sauvignon blanc for a perfect meal.
Inspired by an episode of Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie on Grass-Fed beef, I created my own amazing barbecue dry rub earlier this summer. As I mentioned in my last blog, it's great on grilled corn with a squeeze of lime and some butter or an nice fruity olive oil. It is also amazing on chicken or beef of course. Simply stated, I combined brown sugar, dry mustard, cumin, cayenne, smoked paprika, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to create a feast for the senses.
This dry rub can easily be turned into a savory barbecue sauce. Start by sauteing a couple of finely chopped or pressed cloves of garlic in olive oil over low heat. Add a small Vidalia onion, roughly chopped and turn the heat up to medium. Once the onion gets nice and soft and caramelized, deglaze the pan with about 1/4 cup of champaign or white wine vinegar. Add about a quarter cup of the dry rub and let it melt down and bubble over a medium-high heat. Now open a can of whole peeled tomatoes, crush them with your hands and add them to the mix. Let it all cook together and reduce for at least 20-30 minutes. The last step it to puree in the food processor or blender to make a smooth sauce. Pair it with a nice Grass-Fed New York strip steak, rubbed with the dry rub and grilled med rare to med, some roasted new potatoes and a green salad simply dressed with a squeeze of lemon and a good fruity olive oil. Bon Appetite!
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Ash from Philly was in town after a whirlwind weekend in Mexico with his buddies. We had a little barbecue at our place to celebrate his visit and grilled some amazing corn on the cob. Steve and I had been at the Farmer's Market that morning. I looked around for something fresh and intriguing, as I usually do at the market, and found some beautiful fresh local corn. I took it home, soaked it in cold water for an hour or so and proceeded to peel away the outer layers of the husk, leaving a couple of layers for insulation. Steve tossed it on a medium-hot gas grill and turned it frequently for about 8 minutes. I set up a fabulous array of toppings — lime wedges, butter, olive oil, sea salt, pepper, cayenne, smoked paprika and my homemade barbecue dry rub! The husks and silks peeled away easily and the toppings were perfection! My dry rub was the hit of the party... more on that another day soon! Until then... Peace, Love and Good Food!
Finally back to my blog! Guess my mind just wasn't with it these last few months since I started it. Hopefully that's all about to change. Lots of formatting changes to make and writing to do!
Regardless, here's my version of the Very Good Taste Omnivore's Hundred. I was not surprised to find that I have tried a cool 67 out of the 100 items. I'll pretty much try anything at least once, so I didn't cross through anything. I am extremely hesitant about the Chitterlings, Whole Insects and Road Kill though.
The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred: 1. Venison 2. Nettle tea 3. Huevos rancheros 4. Steak tartare 5. Crocodile 6. Black pudding 7. Cheese fondue 8. Carp 9. Borscht 10. Baba ghanoush 11. Calamari 12. Pho 13. PB&J sandwich 14. Aloo gobi 15. Hot dog from a street cart 16. Epoisses 17. Black truffle 18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes 19. Steamed pork buns 20. Pistachio ice cream 21. Heirloom tomatoes 22. Fresh wild berries 23. Foie gras 24. Rice and beans 25. Brawn, or head cheese 26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper 27. Dulce de leche 28. Oysters 29. Baklava 30. Bagna cauda 31. Wasabi peas 32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl 33. Salted lassi 34. Sauerkraut 35. Root beer float 36. Cognac with a fat cigar 37. Clotted cream tea 38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O 39. Gumbo 40. Oxtail 41. Curried goat 42. Whole insects 43. Phaal 44. Goat’s milk 45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more 46. Fugu 47. Chicken tikka masala 48. Eel 49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut 50. Sea urchin 51. Prickly pear 52. Umeboshi 53. Abalone 54. Paneer 55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal 56. Spaetzle 57. Dirty gin martini 58. Beer above 8% ABV 59. Poutine 60. Carob chips 61. S’mores 62. Sweetbreads 63. Kaolin 64. Currywurst 65. Durian 66. Frogs’ legs 67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake 68. Haggis 69. Fried plantain 70. Chitterlings, or andouillette 71. Gazpacho 72. Caviar and blini 73. Louche absinthe 74. Gjetost, or brunost 75. Roadkill 76. Baijiu 77. Hostess Fruit Pie 78. Snail 79. Lapsang souchong 80. Bellini 81. Tom yum 82. Eggs Benedict 83. Pocky 84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. 85. Kobe beef 86. Hare 87. Goulash 88. Flowers 89. Horse 90. Criollo chocolate 91. Spam 92. Soft shell crab 93. Rose harissa 94. Catfish 95. Mole poblano 96. Bagel and lox 97. Lobster Thermidor 98. Polenta 99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee 100. Snake
It's late on a random Tuesday and I'm sitting in my apartment in San Diego, California. My intentions to start a food blog have finally become reality and I am sifting through the sandstorm of thoughts and word in my head. I am a freelance graphic designer by profession and a cook and foodie at heart. I specialize in food-centered design—seeking projects with supermarkets, specialty stores, restaurants, food publications and the like. But enough about me, let's get to the heart of this blog—my kitchen.
The world is my kitchen. I love to travel and find my adventures forming a vortex around the food and food culture of my destination. When I am at home, my kitchen is the center of my world. I strategically set my office up near the kitchen—what better location than that!
I hope this blog will help me break further into my passion for food and the food industry. I want to hone my writing skills and in turn, share my love of food with the world.
Welcome to Stephie O's Blog! (Formerly Stephanie's Cucina)
I am a freelance graphic designer and culinary consultant — I write, cook, recipe test, design food related print materials — if it's about food, chances are I'm all about it! I also dabble in photography and and am game to work on other design and writing projects outside the food scene. My full website is under development, but in the meantime, I invite you to enjoy my blog. I love to cook and share my adventures both at home, and on the road! I hope you enjoy! If you like what you read, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org