Many changes occurred in the last 6 months, my apologies for the silence. More on that later.
Today, my reason for writing is the Soberanes Fire, which I’m certain many of you are already aware. I’m alarmed to discover this is just one of currently 26 fires burning in California. The Soberanes Fire has engulfed 107 square miles, and continues to burn in spite of thousands of firefighters, many of whom are volunteers, working relentlessly over difficult terrain.
As a result of the fire the community has rallied to assist those who have lost their home and need shelter.
This weekend: Big Sur Vineyards Tasting Room, will be donating 20% of the proceeds to Coast Properties Owners Association until the Soberanes Fires are 100% OUT.
August 13th Saturday
Big Sur Vineyard Tasting Room
40 spots available @ $35.00
To make your booking go here
Big Sur Vineyards Tasting Room.
1 Del Fino Place
93924 Carmel Valley Village
Tel: 831 652 3020
This is just one event in a series BSV are planning, with “Wine pairings” and “Paint & Sip” as a few of the examples.
To stay on track with details and dates go here
Learn more about Big Sur Vineyards here
Find updates & further information on The Soberanes Fire here
Deepest Gratitude to all those working to put out the blaze.
At home supping hot chocolate or Cocoa, has been at the forefront of nightly activities, all in the name of warmth!
We all know or have heard of the health benefits of eating chocolate, albeit raw chocolate or dark chocolate are predominantly the healthiest. Chocolate offers a good dose of Vitamin B's, plus essential minerals and healthy heart fats, (oleic and monounsaturated). So it is official there is NOTHING LEFT TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT.
One girlfriend breakfasts on dark chocolate & coffee every morning, and looks fantastic on it!
So can drinking Cocao be healthy too?
We decided to "Go like Goldilocks" taste test & weigh in the health benefits. On the supermarket isle, there are at least 10 brands offering 30 different types of Cocoa. The three we selected buy in their chocolate from farmers who grow and trade ethically.
We started out with Starbucks Hot Cocoa Cinnamon Dolce. Cinnamon is also known for it heart benefits and can regulate the blood sugar. Notably, StarBucks doesn't add a ton of “Other” things. Though one of us had to step down from sampling because of the 18 grams of sugar. When they say Dolce, they mean it! It was good, but really sweet. The cinnamon registered on the tastebuds, but even though it is known to reduce blood sugar, there probably isn't enough per packet to do the job.
- 2 tablespoons of Cacao nibs
- 2 Soft Dates stones removed
- 300 - 400 ml of Milk of your choice ( we are an almond milk family)
- Ground Cayenne
- Ground cinnamon
Today must be THE busiest Friday of 2015. School is out! Christmas is quite literally beating in time with “The Imperial March” at the door, or is it just my house? Truth be told I am reeling not only at the festivities but at the return of venerable Han Solo coupled with my son's 12th birthday. Christmas could have remained an unfinished project but (yes Im boasting) I've pretty much got it covered and all in my neighborhood too!
Carmel is a haven for beach lovers, dog walker and also shoppers. So for those returning, venturing to or still hunting for the perfect gift, I’m offering a shopping trajectory for three stores I personally hold very dear.
First up, the grand dame of Carmel Valley, family owned and operated Tancredi & Morgen. The store beckons with a ton of good taste and festive cheer. You will find a great selection of books, local and european homeware and a wide selection of personal items to choose from.
Eclectic mix (above) Sweet glistening mercury glass acorns (below)
Serenity spills from the steps of Ami Carmel Beautifully curated by store owner and yoga teacher Kim Theobald, local hand crafted items for the home and the heart. Having problems with “His” gift ? Look no further. Ami is also offering daily discounts on select items up until closure for the holidays. Check Ami's Instagram feed for details here
A cushion for every mother's son & some daughters (above) Sleek sommelier set (below)
Lastly, another new release, the opening of Bee, Bark & Moss, and their brand new stand alone store. Offering a comprehensive collection of their much sought after hand painted, hemp canvas and indigo dyed hemp bags, duffles, cases, purses and bespoke home furnishings. Custom orders are very welcome too, just choose your own color, style and pattern.
You will find designer and creator Minori at her machine in situ, daily between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Closed Tuesday.
Located at: San Carlos Square between 5th and 6th. Mission & San Carlos Street
Bee, Bark & Moss, San Carlos Square. (above) Hand painted zip purses & cases below
With the rush up to the holidays gathering serious speed, here is some unique inspiration for seasonal decorating, gift giving, organizing, and entertaining, straight out of the Adored1 store, giving an old world look and feel to the season. Decorating for us is a family affair, Is it the same for you?
These individually hand tooled tin decorations make sweet additions for trees and wreaths. Let the little people choose their favorites, you will find the seven variation here
The silver star ornament pack ( less the pompom) gave our wreath a refreshing update find them here with seven different styles to choose from.
With constant reminders to reduce waste and recycle, the question begs, how often do you reuse wrapping? Adored1’s hand tooled boxes are perfect for eradicating waste. All you need is to add ribbon or paper string and you’re done! They give a unique and instant glossy wrapping which can be used again and again. Find the selection here
Previously, we referenced Marie Kondo’s highly acclaimed book here “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering & Organizing” which has revolutionized the inner workings of many homes globally. Kondo-san is fervently against buying new storage items, insisting one utilize what is already available. So for the expert purger, aside from the contents, beautiful boxes make a perfect gift adding a punch to visible organization.
Kondo San also insists on everything being organized vertically, as the very best method. My bureaux frequently had horizontal stacks of papers and note books, but now looks like this. Definitely “Gift-able” they look super sharp! Click here to view the three sizes available and the deal on buying pairs. Use as stand alone files or book ends.
Hand tool trays have various uses, good for any occasion, from doling out the cookies on a winter afternoon with hot chocolate for the kids to full blown entertaining. Available in three sizes find them here
We've found the trays work brilliantly squaring off the coffee table as constant fixtures.
Tree: Valley Hill Nursery, 7440, Carmel Valley Road (just after Earthbound Farms) Tel: 831 624 3482
A rich variety of eggplants (or aubergines for my European cousins) are making their presence felt at many farmers markets on the Central Coast, California. Usually it is only the robust High Bush Purple Back and their Chinese counterpart that fill the stalls. Recently, I've noticed new Thai varieties and pretty plump variegated Italian eggplants too. The consequence: All I have been able to think about is making, and, of course, eating Baba Ghanoush.
Baba Ghanoush is a super simple dish that has been enjoyed since the Byzantine period 330 AD, or roughly 1200 years ago which gives testament to the dish itself. It is totally more-ish and utterly satisfying. My infatuation with Baba Ghanoush is so great, I use it as a spread instead of butter.
The cheat for this week is… I bought a variety of baby sized “Fairy Tail” and cute tiny heirloom eggplants, this took the whole pre cook preparation of chopping out of the equation.
This recipe makes about 3 cup of the Byzantine gastronomic treasure.
Set your oven to 375ºF or 190ºC
Wash eggplants. If using the large heirloom or long Chinese eggplant, wash and chop into cubes of 4” square. I quartered the shallots leaving the skin on and tossed in the cloves of garlic in their jackets too.
Place eggplant, onion and garlic in oven dish or pan, pour over oil and turn to coat all. Add cumin, coriander seed, salt and pepper and mix again.
Place in over for 20-25 mins.
Now you have 25 mins to sing into your wooden spoons, or extendable faucet and pretend you are on set of “Bandits” (©MGM 2001) as Cate Blanchett in her model kitchen, with panoramic lake view, shaking the foundation of your home while re-enacting Bonnie Tyler’s record hit “I Need a Hero”.
Need a reminder here’s 2.60 mins to jog your memory click here
Deepest Gratitude to MGM & MEGA Thanks to Gary Barber for bringing MGM back from the brink!
And back to the recipe...
After 20 mins your kitchen will fill with the sweet aroma of cumin, coriander and garlic. Those additional 5 mins will have everything sizzling and really browning off. The egg plant must be soft enough to mash with a fork, and the garlic should resemble toffee under a papery skin.
Allow ingredients to cool enough that you can de stalk eggplants by hand, if you took the cheat way in, it is still simpler than chopping. Remove onion and garlic skins. The eggplant stalk and caps should just fall away easily. Place the roasted vegetables into a your blender, and DO include the remaining oil from the oven dish.
Add Tahini ( sesame paste) and juice of two lemons or lemon lime combo, as you wish. For Doterra lovers your Lemon oil works perfectly here. The flavor or the oil draws up on both the creamy attributes and the citrus lemons, it is totally indulgent and delicious aside the health benefits.
Blend for 1-2 mins until all ingredients are combined into a smooth paste with a dropping consistency, with a count of three. If the paste is too thick, add more lemon juice and olive oil or 50 ml of warm water.
Place in bowl garnish with the juice of third lemon, black pepper and a sprig or a sprinkle of finely chopped flat leaf parsley.
Share during pre dinner drinks served with a side of chips, be they corn or Falafel, or sticks of your favorite vegetable (we like cucumber because its light flavor and crips bite off sets the creamy full flavors of the Baba Ghanoush). Currently, we have “a thing” about “Flamous Organic Falafel Chips” seriously good and seriously nutritious .And don't forget to try your Baba Ghanoush in turkey sandwiches poste Thanks Giving, go on, give the cranberry sauce a rest!
This dip will last 4 days in normal refrigeration, so you can prepare in advance and store. Bring to room temperature to serve.
Thank you & Enjoy!
Marking the season of the pumpkin, I decided to share one of my own recipes. Spicy warm pumpkin salad. It is smooth and sweet with a hint of chili to warm the blood and set you up for the season change, or not, as the case might be here on the Central Coast, California. There is a wide variety of pumpkin and squash to choose from at this time of year, I find Butternut squash or Kabocha both work great.
I adore elephant garlic. It is my no nonsense, ultimate favorite. Sweeter and once cooked pleasingly stickier. If you can't find it, you will need about 8 pieces of regular garlic to meet the same quantity of two elephant cloves.
Warm sesame oil in frying pan, add chili then a few moments later add garlic. Bring the temperature of the oil down a fraction and let the garlic and chili sizzle gently together. Elephant garlic is more likely to take a little color before loosing any, and caramelizes like an onion. If using regular garlic remove from the heat completely as you see the garlic start to loose its color. The temperature of the oil will continue to cook the chili and the garlic despite it being off the heat.
Using a spatular, move garlic oil and chili into a bowl or pyrex jug. Add 2 more table spoons of roasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, honey a dash of white pepper to taste. Set aside.
Halve & quarter your Kabocha. Scoop out the floss and seeds. Slice into pieces 1/2 inch ( 1 cm) thick and cook until tender but not soft. Takes about 4 mins.
Steaming veg is preferential in our house. The over all flavor of the food is fuller and sweeter and fewer nutrients are lost, compared to boiling. It is not only cleaner and healthier, the texture of the food is more easily maintained, which adds to the appeal of the dish offering a bite.
If you need to cheat, and don't have any chili other than the sweet chili sauce kind? Simply add the sweet chili sauce instead of the honey and chili after removing garlic and oil from pan and add additional oil vinegar and pepper to taste! Boom! Job done!
Other than the punch of color it brings to a meal, and the tangy sweetness, I love how the pumpkin mops up the dressing.
We often enjoy this dish with gyoza ( pot stickers), steamed dumplings and rice. But this salad also adds heaps of flavor when served over a green leafy salad, and sits extremely well with poultry, beef or fish.
More winter warmers coming soon. Sign up for seconds if you haven't already.
A confession: my favorite Friday Fish is oyster breakfast courtesy of Rudy at the Monterey Peninsula College Farmers Market. Just a few of these delightfully briny, creamy mollusks, slurped quickly, is a great way to start my shopping. Rudy’s shellfish are so fresh, I often skip the all the hot sauces, mignonettes–French and Asian, horseradish cocktail sauce, or even a squeeze of lime.
But this seafood snack doesn’t really do the trick for anyone else in my house on a Friday evening.
So how nice that this week’s Real Good Fish share is sixteen live Miyagi Oysters from Pt. Reyes Oyster Company. Of course, Don and I will eat most of them raw, but steaming several, then dressing with grated ginger in ponzu and green onion sounds like a nice variation. And I’ve never steamed oysters before. It’s good to try something new...
I bought this oyster holder and knife a couple of years ago. Shucking is a messy, slightly dangerous experience for me, as we don’t eat oysters often enough for me to get good at opening them. But I ended up with only one minor cut from the sharp edge of a shell.
Before the shucking, I prepare two sauces: mignonette, a shallot and wine vinegar mix for our raw on the half shell, and ginger in ponzu for our steamed. Ponzu is a citrusy vinegar soy sauce-like dressing available in most Asian grocery stores.
1 T minced shallot
3 T white wine vinegar
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
Stir all together, and set aside.
Note: There are many recipes online, and I happened to do a quick search just now. My mignonette was created from shallots, champagne wine vinegar (what I happened to have available) and sea salt. Only when slurping, did I realize how sharp the sauce tasted. Sugar would have mellowed the vinegar bite. Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the oysters no matter the intense flavors.
Ginger in Ponzu for Steamed Oysters
¼ t grated ginger—or to taste
3 T ponzu sauce
Thinly sliced green onions—to garnish
Stir grated ginger and ponzu together, and set aside.
Brush and rinse oysters of all seaweed and dirt. Place a single layer in a steamer basket or pan, facing the flatter shell up. Steam oysters for 6-8 minutes, or until shells release. Spoon on a little ponzu sauce, and garnish with green onion.
Another note: I added much more ginger than ¼ teaspoon, which overwhelmed the sauce. Consider starting with even less, adding more as you prefer. Though I didn’t use any type of sugar, sweetening the mix might help balance the sharp ginger and tanginess of the vinegar and citrus.
This sharkskin and wood grater is generally used to grate fresh horseradish root, often served with sashimi. The delicate bamboo ‘spatula’ is actually a brush for the grater. I love using the obscure cooking tools I’ve collected over the years. The aluminum grater is a general purpose hand tool. Both yielded super fine ginger.
As I shuck, Don mixes a cocktail sauce of creamy horseradish and ketchup—very traditional. I mostly managed to retain the liquid in each oyster. Consuming the delicate liquid that surrounds each creature in its shell is one of the primary pleasures of raw oysters. I often sip before saucing and slurping. It’s a taste of how the ocean smells: pungent, fresh, alive.
Our plate of oceany goodness!
My experiment in steamed oysters also looked good.
We sat. We slurped. We finished in 10. Totally satisfying and absolutely delicious!
If you’re curious about where I get my seafood…
I’ve been a member of Real Good Fish, a community supported fishery, since December 2012. Formerly known as Local Catch, Real Good Fish delivers the catch of the week for members to pick up from as far north as Mill Valley in Marin County, down to Carmel Valley Village.
My subscription fee feels on the spendy side at $22 per week. But every Tuesday I pick up a super fresh seafood share—a filet of 1+ lbs or 3-4 lbs as whole fish—that usually feeds all four of us, and often more. The added bonus: I am supporting a local company and many independent fishermen, all who value the ocean as a sustainable resource. Looked at from this point of view, $22 per week is a deal!
Check out their website here or on Instagram @realgoodfish for more information about their CSF and the fisherman who catch it all.
"Friday Fish" is brought to you by Alicia Tao. Model, writer and serious food lover.
Don't forget to sign up for seconds!
This week’s Real Good Fish share is squid—very large and very fresh.
I’m thinking of a quick saute with garlic, fresh tomato and basil over pasta. Or fried calamari is always good...and my boys like anything fried. As Don is willing to master the pan of hot oil, fried calamari it is! The recipe, according to himself, must included a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning mixed into the bread crumbs.
Gently pull the head away from its body, and most of the inner organs will easily release. Pull out the pen, a thin, plastic-like ‘shell’ to de-bone. Cut up one side of the body lengthwise to butterfly— scissors work well—and remove any remaining innards. Peel the skin gently from a cut edge, and it should come off in one piece. From the head, cut the tentacles off, just above the eyes, and discard the head and guts. Push out the beak from the center of the tentacles. Rinse and dry all pieces. Pull off the two small fins from the body. After gutting, cutting, and peeling, their bodies look nothing like themselves anymore.
To cook: Heat oil at medium high in cast iron or enamel frying pan or dutch oven, covering the bottom of the pan with at least 1” of oil. Dredge, dip, dredge each calamari completely in this order: first Wondra flour, then beaten egg, and finish with seasoned Panko bread crumbs. Set aside on a rack or plate. Slide breaded calamari gently into the hot oil, being careful not to drop the calamari abruptly and cause the oil to splatter. The calamari will curl into a tube. Do not crowd the pan with more than 3 or 4 pieces at one time. After one minute, turn the piece and cook one more minute. Cook no more than two minutes total. Remove from oil onto a rack set over paper towels to drain. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
Crunchy on the outside and very tender on the inside, this fried calamari tasted great! I’m guessing the Ranch seasoning and lemon had something to do with it. Other ideas: Don’t butterfly the body, slice into rings and cook, then serve with a spicy aioli.
"Friday Fish" is brought to you by Alicia Tao. Model, writer and serious food lover.
Don't forget to sign up for seconds!