I recently took a trip to Tomales Bay which is a short drive to the North of San Francisco near wine country to learn all about the oysters they harvest as well as how to make smoked oysters. If you're in town, I highly recommend spending a day driving out there to enjoy the oysters, the spectacular views of the bay. There are lots of little towns on the way, that have great options for food too!Read More
After taking a class at the CIA in NAPA on smoking olives, reading Diana Henry's Salt, Sugar, Smoke (Perhaps one of my all time favorite books by her) and Smoking Hot and Cold by Charlotte Pike , I've been trying different ways to smoke my food. I tried indoors and outdoors, outdoors are honestly, the best because you can let the fumes escape and your furniture won't smell like the aftermath of a fire pit or a dragon lashing. Liquid smoke and smoke guns are good options and a friend of mine, swears by the latter.
I recently got a Traeger smoker/grill which is pretty amazing. It's upped my smoke game up at home by several notches. We've tried steak, pork chops and chicken with a variety of different woods such as cherry to oak to pecan each infusing its own unique perfume on the food it kisses. While, meats are a sure hit when it comes to smoking, you can do a lot more than just that. I recently experimented and smoked young carrots with cherry wood pellets and then served them over a bed of turmeric infused creme fraiche with a little amchur. Amuchur is a tart fruity powder obtained from sundried unripe mangoes, it's also my best friend when it comes to barbecues. While cooking and smoking times, will obviously vary by the type of smoker you use, this method worked rather well for me with my Traeger grill.
And on a related note, if you want to make Kalua Pork at home and also check out my most recent trip to Maui, Hawaii, head over to Taste Cooking!
smoked carrots with turmeric creme fraiche
makes 4 servings as a side
1 lb young carrots, tops trimmed
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup creme fraiche
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes of any kind or color
1 tsp amchur
1 tsp red chili powder
flaky salt such as Maldon
Prepare the smoker as per the manufacturer's instructions. Fill the wood pellet chamber with cherry wood pellets.
Set the heat to 350F. Brush the grates with a little oil.
In a large bowl, toss the carrots with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Then place them on the grate of the preheated grill and let them cook for 45 minutes to 60 minutes, flipping them halfway through cooking using a pair of tongs. The carrots will be done when tender and golden brown.
Once the carrots are cooked, remove and transfer them to a tray.
In a medium bowl, whisk the creme fraiche, lemon juice, turmeric, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
To serve, prepare 4 serving plates, place a generous 1/4 cup of the creme fraiche in the center of a plate. Put 4 to 6 smoked carrots in the center along with 1/4 of the halved tomatoes. Dust with 1/4 tsp of the amchur and 1/4 tsp of the chili powder. Sprinkle with a generous amount of Maldon salt and serve.
(Note these instructions are for the Traeger grill, please adjust the method to work with whatever brand you use)
Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by Traeger. All opinions expressed are solely my own.
A few weeks ago I visited the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in gorgeous Napa valley. It’s a few hours from Oakland and though I’ve been there before and (at one point even considered going to school there) I had never walked through the kitchens or for that matter cooked in them. But all of that was about to change, thankfully through a trip via the folk behind CARipeOlives. The purpose of this trip was to immerse myself in learning about the diverse possibilities in using olives in cooking taught by the chefs at the CIA and Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes.
To be completely honest, I’ve always thought of whole olives as a table snack or of something that you use for texture or for that pop of brininess in a dish but now I was going to learn to do much more than just that with them. We started off our day with a little tasting of various kinds of olives brined or treated in some way just to get a quick taste of how diverse this little fruit is. Among the different tasting samples, two really stood out. A candied black olive concoction and a smoked olive, neither of which I had ever tasted before. I’ve had olives in ice creams and desserts as a topping but never as a candy, the taste and texture reminded me of a sweet dried fruit with a much softer texture. Then came the smoked olives, it is everything you can imagine and more. At the CIA they start out with sawdust as the source for smoke and place it in a hotel pan, over which a perforated hotel plan is placed along with the drained olives (just use a can drained) and then covered with another pan. Then the entire apparatus is kept on the stove and as the heat starts to burn the wood and release the smoke, the olives start to absorb the flavors. The olives are then removed and allowed to cool a little before they can be used in any conceivable way possible.
Green and black olives are essentially one and the same fruit, the green olives just aren’t exposed to air during the ripening process. The way in which they’re brined affects the color, the ripe green olives from the tree can be made purplish black if you simply bubble oxygen through the liquid during the ripening process. Another fun fact, olives are like sponges, they absorb flavors really well which explains why they take on the salt of the brine in which they’re kept and also helps explain why smoking and candying work well. So even if you don’t want to cook olives in a dish you could do something simple like smoking and create an exciting change to your menu!
We then got the chance to cook in the kitchen and along with my team, we came up this delicious Kumquat Tapenade that we served with grilled shrimp and mushrooms. You can use any type of brined olives but I like the combination of color and flavor that both green and black olives bring to the tapenade. There’s a tiny bit of heat here balanced by the sweet acidity of the kumquats. I’ve shared the recipe here so you can make this easy and interesting citrusy version of this olive dip at home.
Makes approximately 3 cups
1/2 cup chopped kumquats with juice and skin, seeds discarded
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 serrano pepper, deseeded
1 cup black olives, drained
1 cup green olives, drained
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup chopped parsley
1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup [60ml] freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup [120ml] extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients from the kumquats to the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor for a few seconds and pulse until you get a coarse paste. Taste and adjust seasoning. Refrigerate and allow to sit for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve as a dip with bread or roasted shrimp.
I've been very accident prone for the past few weeks. First, I had a bad cold and then I fell into a bush and managed to sprain the tendons on one leg and smash the other on to a rock. Except for the sprain and my ego, nothing was fractured or damaged. And I am so thankful for that as I'm in the last few weeks of working on my book manuscript before I submit it. Gah, all these things are happening now when I really don't need it.
Meyer lemons are not exactly in season right now but the blooms are and every where you walk in Oakland, you can pick up the sweet scent of these gorgeous flowers so I tried to do something different. I've been reading Diana Henry's Salt, Sugar and Smoke and she's got me curious about smoking everything. [This is also one of my favorite books by Diana and it also made me fall in love with everything she writes.] Then I came across this Meyer lemon ice cream basic recipe from other favorite chef, Lindsey Shere's Chez Panisse Desserts and this smoked lemon ice cream was born.
To get the most out of the burning and smoking, I charred the lemons first while smoking them and then stuck them directly into the hot wood chips. The rest of the flavors involve steeping and infusion into the hot milk and cream. Ahh, yes, the Tellicherry peppercorns. I didn't forget about them. They not really there to make things spicy but rather to give a mild hint of the essentials oils inside the peppercorns. Just crack them once gently, don't try to pound them again and again and if all of them don't crack it's okay. You're looking for a very mild flavor.
Off I got to avoid future mishaps and back to writing. Have a lovely week.
smoked meyer lemon ice cream with tellicherry black pepper
[ice cream base adapted from the Chez Panisse Desserts cookbook by Lindsey Shere]
Makes about 1 2/3 quarts
1 cup wood chips /saw dust for smoking [I used cherry wood]
3 Meyer lemons [about 3/4 lb]
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
1 cup [120g] sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
3 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp Tellicherry black peppercorns
6 egg yolks
Fill a small aluminum pan with the wood chips or saw dust. Place it on a hot grill, cover and set the heat to high. Slice the lemons in half and place them cut side on the hot grates and cover for about 8 to 12 minutes until the surface starts to char. Remove and flip them and place them cut side up in the pan containing the wood chips. Cover and allow to smoke for another 6 minutes. Remove the lemons from the grill and extract the juice. Strain the juice and zest two of the lemons. Keep aside.
Add the smoked and fresh lemon zest to a medium-size non-reactive saucepan. Add the milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream along with the sugar. Gently crack the peppercorns once and add them to the milk in a tea ball infuser. Heat the mixture on medium-high till it just starts to boil. Remove from the heat and then let it steep covered for about 10 to 15 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks and add then whisk in 1/4 cup of the warm steeped milk to temper. Transfer the yolk mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove the tea ball infuser with the peppercorns and discard the peppercorns. Let this mixture stand for another 10 minutes. Then whisk the remaining cream and 9 to 10 Tbsp of the extracted lemon juice. Taste and adjust with more lemon juice if needed. Chill completely before adding to your ice cream maker and proceed as per the manufacturer's instructions. Store the prepared ice cream in the freezer.
[Note: Avoid adding too much lemon juice or you might end up with an ice cream that's too hard, if that happens let it sit out for 5 to 6 minutes before serving]