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The Coast News

Lick the Plate’s go-to Summer meals and recipes

David Boylan

El Torito Market for authentic ingredients and Mexican soda
El Torito Market for authentic ingredients and Mexican soda. Photo by David Boylan

I recently interviewed Olivier Bioteau, the Chef and owner of Farmhouse Café in San Diego and his take on cooking was spot on. “I cook with the seasons,” he said. It was such a simple, yet eloquent statement that seems to be catching on among chefs around town. This is not as clearly defined in San Diego where our “seasons” tend to blend together and cold weather is considered anything under 60 degrees, but it’s a guide worth living by nonetheless.

It’s the middle of August now and tomatoes are ripening in the garden and screaming to be included on a BLT sandwich. Everyone has their favorite way to make a BLT and mine includes only ripe tomatoes from a garden, apple wood smoked bacon, iceberg lettuce, and toasted spongy white bread. Yeah, I mix it up a bit with the fancy bacon but everything else is pure old school and how I grew up with them in Michigan.

According to my friends at Suzie’s Farm, they just harvested 1,000 pounds of cucumbers, and not just any cucumbers, but Armenian cukes which are those funky, striped, snake looking ones. Cucumbers are a crisp and refreshing addition to a summer meal. In fact, a nice summer salad is easy to make with cucumbers, onion, salt, white wine vinegar, sugar and fresh dill. The folks at Suzie’s Farm are also sending red and golden raspberries to farmers markets around town along with their wide variety of fresh produce.

My soda consumption tends to pick up in the summer and I get almost daily cravings for something sweet and bubbly to go with my food. I was turned on a few years back to the fact that Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, and Fanta bottled in Mexico are made with cane sugar and not high fructose corn syrup. While I’m not an expert on the nutritional aspects of sugar verses corn syrup, it sure does taste a lot better. They seem to be showing up in more mainstream markets but I still prefer to pop into El Torito Market on Coast Highway 101 just north of Leucadia Boulevard. It’s a Mexican market where Mexicans shop…always a good sign. They have a great meat counter and everything you need for an authentic Mexican feast. I recently picked up a 5 pound pork shoulder that I cubed, seared, and then braised in my crock pot for 4 hours in Mexican coke and orange juice. The resulting carnitas were spectacular.

On the more eclectic side of summer fare, Wade and Kristi Hageman have their fun and tasty lobster corn dogs and their local sweet corn soup. They are also serving local sweet corn with chili butter and roasted jalapenos, all of which are fun twists on traditional seasonal goodness.

Just about anything on the menu at Fish 101 in Leucadia is a good choice in the summer. Nothing like fresh, chilled oysters served on a bed of ice with a glass of Albarino or Sauvignon Blanc to go with it. I’ve always likened this combination to that of a beach experience. Eating an oyster, with its essence of the sea reminds me of paddling out into the lineup to surf and that first duck dive into the salt water. The paring of a grassy Sauvignon Blanc is the post surf beach experience lying amongst the beach grass. It’s a pure summer pairing that works so well together. Solace at the Moonlight Lounge is another good place to go for oysters and another one you can walk right up to after the beach.

While on the topic of fish, I’ve taken to poaching halibut then serving it on a bed of quinoa with a side of your favorite veggie. It’s an easy, quick, light and flavorful summer dish. Simply combine half a cup of white wine, a cup of chicken broth, a shallot, a sprig of thyme or rosemary, and a couple of tablespoons of butter. Season the fish with salt and pepper, bring the other ingredients to a simmer, creating your poaching liquid. Depending on the thickness of your fish, poach it 5-10 minutes, remove the fish, reduce the poaching liquid, and use that as your sauce. Quinoa has been my go to grain of late as it gives me my starch fix without all the carbs. It makes for a nice bed to present fish or meat on.

Here is to summer, warm water, produce from the garden, and seasonal delights from area restaurants.

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