Some say travel is good for the soul. That rings true with me, I get restless when I feel stuck in one place too long. My first year in California, that what I did. I have been determined to make California living something that works for me, so I stayed put (minus two very short trips) I did not leave the state for almost a year. There were ups and downs to that, I fell in love with the California coastline and did the scenic roadtrip up PCH from Los Angeles to San Francisco and all the places in between. I learned how to deal with the daily commute up the wretched 405 through the Westside of LA. I even got sick of the sunshine — yes there can be too many 80 degree and sunny days. I even started missing rain and that smell in the air during winter when everyone’s heat kicks on.
But I seriously digress, the hardest part about being in California is being far away from family. 3000 miles in a distance. That’s not drop everything, jump in the car and you’ll be home in 4 hours kinda thing. That’s drop everything, get ready to shell out a ridiculous amount in last minute airfare and hope you don’t get stuck in the middle seat on a red eye. So when everything suddenly happened with my grandfather I felt so helpless. There was no way I would make it to say goodbye, and when the funeral plans suddenly changed there was no way to change around flights. Stoically, I still went.
This trip was good for my soul. My time spent in California has felt like a surreal reality where I don’t belong. At my core, I’ve been homesick and missing something that I haven’t quite been able to my finger on. This was it – being surrounded by family on the beautiful island that is Puerto Rico was what I needed. Visiting our family mausoleum and the beach where my grandmother’s ashes were laid to rest gave me some much needed closure and the ability to say goodbye.
And since I like most associate feelings with food, being able to eat the food of my childhood which I have been deprived of from living away from home for so long was the best therapy I could ask for. My mom smuggled in some aji dulce seeds back — so there will be a plant popping up in my apartment soon and I ate enough tostones and mofongo for this decade. Since returning, I’ve still been sad, but determined to stay and make it work. There’s nothing stopping me from throwing a pernil in the oven, or making coquito and pasteles this holiday season to give me that little bit of home I always long for.
…thoughts from my visit to Des Moines, Iowa
At the end of August, I was invited to join Niman Ranch and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs on an educational trip about the raising of commercially available pork. Over the course of the weekend I learned how much Niman Ranch believes in their strict protocols. Everything from the feed to how far a farm can be from an abattoir is strictly adhered to, all in the name of creating the best possible pork product. There’s an additional layer of care that cannot be quantified or written about in a protocol. These ranchers and farmers care about raising their hogs and it shows. You can truly see (and taste) the hard work and dedication that has been put into the product.
I once wrote that I wanted to take this time in my career to learn more about individual products I use in my operation, this was an amazing way to experience first hand one of my great loves – pork. Thanks Niman Ranch and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs for this opportunity!.
The farmers build these individual houses for the gestating sows. The sows are able to build a nest and raise their young. The farmers basically let “pigs be pigs.”
My first hog roast! Pork in its purest form, slow roasted for 16 hours.
Made one of my favorite appetizers yesterday, empanadas. Again, trying to be a responsible omnivore, I decided to make picadillo using cauliflower instead of ground beef. Surprisingly if you closed your eyes and ate the finished product you would honestly not have any idea about the swap.
I’ll never be a vegetarian — I enjoy eating meat too much. However in the past few years I have cut back the amount of meat, making it a component of my plates versus the centerpiece. I’ve studied about humanely raised meats and sustainable seafood but know the only way to make these things work is to shift our way of thinking when it comes to food.
Tonight I’m making braised jackfruit ‘carnitas’. Like most household kitchens, I have a reserve of bacon fat that I don’t want to toss down the drain. Feeling adventurous I decided to braise the jackfruit in that bacon fat and typical seasonings. It smells delicious and is most certainly not vegetarian.
The passing of seasons doesn’t happen in southern California. Fall came and went without feeling right, winter was non existent. I’m not completely against it, going to weekly outdoor farmers markets in the sunshine and having a 90 degree beach day in February aren’t anything to complain about. It’s just difficult putting the sense of seasonality in my food when there are no seasons!
The one season that exists is spring. Even California experiences the mid winter rut of root vegetables. Again, nothing against parsnips or rutabegas. Root vegetables, stews, braised dishes, I love comfort food! But something always draws me to spring. When everything is green again. Everything is fresh again.
This year I might have overdone it a bit with the green. But is fresh and I’m happy.
Salmon with wild mushrooms, marble potatoes, and pea nage.
Spring pea fettucine with pearl onions and fresh ricotta.
Green tomato bisque
Tri tip with chimichurri, grilled spring onions, and corn salad
The charcuterie one! Recently got some love from a guest about my charcuterie board:
Was just debating taking it off the menu since its not really moving but its here to stay. Come try it!