Monthly Archives: December 2008

Mediterranean Appetizers

After buying 4 liters of delicious olive oil in the Valle de Guadalupe last weekend, I figured it was time to start making some food that required good olive oil. So last night I made four small dishes all centered around olive oil (and garlic). I love garlic, when I cook I tell myself “the more garlic the better.” This means my cooking isn’t for everyone (although I try to tone it down at times). A lot of people hate chopping garlic, some even resort to buying minced garlic in a jar. I’m not one of those people. I don’t even use a garlic press, I just really love chopping garlic. Since moving I haven’t had a really good garlic chopping knife, I’ve been getting by with a small knife, that does the job, until recently. Kinsee’s parents recently came back from Alaska and brought her a few things, including this “knife”:

Alaskan Knife

Alaskan Knife

I can’t remember what it’s called. And I think the label said something about cutting caribou meat with it, but seeing as how we’re both vegetarians, I guess it won’t see it’s full potential with us. However it makes for a great garlic mincing utensil. It’s comfortable in your hand and you can just roll it back and forth, chopping as you go.

As for the food I made… I guess they could all be described as appetizers, or at least side dishes. I recently got a food processor and I’ve been wanted to make both hummus and pesto with it, so instead of deciding on one or the other, I made both.

For the hummus I chose to make Kalamata Olive Hummus and with the food processor it was incredibly simple.

  • 1 can cooked chickpeas, drained
  • 1 big spoonful of tahini
  • a couple cloves of minced garlic
  • a few generous dashes of cayenne pepper
  • about a 1/4 or 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • half a cup or so of kalamata olives
  • the juice of one lime
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in the food processor and turn it on. If it looks too chunky just add a little bit of water as it’s going and it’ll get smoother. Usually it’s made with lemon, but all I had was a lime which worked just as well. I would recommend rinsing the olives pretty well and trying to avoid getting much of their juice in there. The hummus is a bit on the vinegary side because I used some of the olive juice instead of water to make it creamier. But it turned out great and is a lot cheaper than buying prepared hummus at the store.

Pesto was the other thing I had really been wanting a food processor to make. It’s surprisingly simple, but this didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, and I’m not sure what I did wrong — however it could have been the way I was eating it… I just put some on toast, rather than using it as a sauce for pasta. Since I have plenty left we’ll see how well it does on some noodles. I was surprised at how good fresh parmesan cheese is, I guess I’m used to the powdered Kraft stuff.

  • basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • a handful of raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pulse the basil and pine nuts in the food processor a few times. Add the garlic and pulse again. With a rubber spatula clean the sides of the bowl and slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is on. Clean the sides again and then add the grated cheese. Pulse a few more times. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The thing I didn’t like about this was that it was sort of mushy, all the ingredients blended together. But on pasta it might be better than spread on toast.

Bruschetta is one of my favorite toppings for toast and so easy to make.

  • 6-8 basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 tomatoes
  • a splash of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh bread
  • another clove of garlic

Chop the basil by hand, then add the minced garlic. Dice the tomatoes and add to the mix. Pour in a splash of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Mix it all around. Toast the dry bread on a hot griddle for a few minutes. While the bread is hot rub the hot side of the bread with the whole clove of garlic and drizzle just a bit of olive oil on each slice of bread. Top with the tomato mixture and it’s ready to serve.

Last was White Asparagus with Olive Oil and Garlic. I had never heard of white asparagus before seeing it at the super market a few weeks ago. Just like the green stuff next to it, both were grown in Peru and both were the same price. I much prefer to grill asparagus, but this way works when there’s no grill around. And it was the first thing I was wondering when I saw it, yes, white asparagus also makes me pee smell funny.

  • white asparagus, rinsed with the bottoms cut off
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • olive oil for sauteing

Heat the oil in a pan to a lower medium heat and then add the asparagus, after a few minutes add the minced garlic. Saute until the asparagus is tender and the garlic is crispy but not burnt. I like to eat the crispy garlic as well. I was disappointed with the flavor of the white asparagus. It seemed to be more bland and dull than the regular green stuff.

I sampled everything and had a plate of appetizers for dinner. To top it all off, earlier at the store I had bought a bottle of Le Freak from Green Flash Brewing Company. The label said it was a combination San Diego Imperial Pale Ale and Belgian Trippel. The Trippel was definitely the dominant taste in the beer, and it was delicious. Below are pictures of the beer and the olive oil that started it all.

Green Flash Brewing Company Le Freak

Green Flash Brewing Company Le Freak

L.A. Cetto Olive Oil

L.A. Cetto Olive Oil

Too Late

My friend Ryan is the king of hipster fashion. It seems like every time he changes his style I start to notice more and more hip folks at bars dressed like him.

A few months back he started wearing a watch, kind of rubbery and brightly colored with a small time face. It looked more like one of those “Livestrong” type bracelets everyone was wearing a few years ago than a watch. When asked about it he said they’re all the rage in Italy. He somehow got hooked up with some Italians and became a US distributor for the watches. I didn’t quite believe him that these simple, bright and inexpensive watches were popular in Italy, the land of fashion, but I didn’t really think much of it.

He gave me one of the watches a while back, I’m not a jewelery person but I wore it for a few days, a lot of people commented on how cool it was, then I gave it away to a friend. Now that in itself isn’t really worthy of me writing about it to post up here, but then something funny happened.

One day on the Facebook I got a friend request from “Too Late”. I decided to add them as a friend and didn’t think much of it. One of the ways the Facebook works is that when your friends are tagged in photos it shows up on your newsfeed. A lot of stuff ends up on there, so I don’t pay attention to it most of the time, but I started to notice more and more photos tagged with “Too Late” in them. One day I was bored to I started clicking on them. All of a sudden I was looking at all sorts of photos of Italian hipsters showing off their Too Late watches. They were in cities like Milan, Rome and Bologna. Drinking, dancing and partying, all while wearing one of these watches. The more I looked at it the more I realized these things must actually be really popular in Italy.

So now everyday I get a few pictures of random Italian hipsters posing with their Too Late watches mixed in with info about my actual friends on the Facebook. It’s pretty amusing.

You can see the watches on their English language website.

And if you’re in San Diego and want to be on the cutting edge of Italian-hipster style you should hit up Ryan on Myspace to buy a watch.

And if you’re on the Facebook and want to see all the action for yourself, add Too Late as a friend.

Below are a few of my favorites.

Holiday and Winter Beers

Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-Ø / Stone Special Holiday Ale

Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-Ø / Stone Special Holiday Ale

Most people reading this will probably know that I’m a big fan of good beer. I especially like darker beers which are usually a bit heavier and (sometimes but not always) have more alcohol, which tends to warm you up a bit, so beer companies brew and sell them in the colder winter months. I always look forward to these months when I can go to the liquor store and pick up some good dark seasonal beers. The fact that most of these beers are only available for a few months out of the year makes them that much more special.

Last night I picked up a bottle of the collaboration brew of Jolly Pumpkin, Nøgne-Ø and Stone Brewing Companies, the Special Holiday Ale. Although I’m not too familiar with the other two breweries, this is the first time I can remember stone making a special holiday ale, so I was excited to this. The label said that it was brewed with “Chestnuts, Juniper Berry, White Sage and Caraway Seed.” I wasn’t fooling myself into thinking that my palate is refined enough to notice all those spices, but I did feel like I could smell and taste the sage. The beer was nice and hoppy as I’ve come to expect from Stone. Good, not great, and while I did enjoy it, I probably won’t have it again because there are plenty more holiday brews I want to try.

I’m really hoping I’ll be able to find the Telegraph Brewing Co’s Winter Ale. I don’t think I’ve ever had any of their beers, but their Winter Ale is brewed with cinnamon and sweet ancho chilies among other things.

I’m also hoping to make it down to the PB Ale House to try their new St. Sideburn Holiday Ale, I met the brew master a few weeks ago and he’s a really great guy, and I tasted about a half dozen of their beers and they were all good.

One of my favorite winter beers has always been Butte Creek Brewing Company’s Winter Ale. I’ll admit, it was the label that drew it to me in the first place, but it’s a delicious beer in it’s own right that kept me drinking it. Many of their beers are organic, but I don’t think the Winter Ale was. I haven’t seen it in a few years, and their website is being redesigned, so hopefully this beer isn’t gone for good.

Another local brewery, Alesmith has been producing their Yulesmith Holiday Ale twice a year (once at Christmas and once at the Fourth of July). The winter version is an imperial red ale, which I’ve somehow never managed to try. I’ve had plenty other Alesmith beers and have liked everything I’ve tried, so I’m going to make it a point to try it this year.

When I heard about it a few weeks ago, I was really excited to try Alpine Beer Company‘s Ichabod Ale. It’s brewed with pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg, but since it’s from Alpine Beer Co. I’m sure it’s not too sweet, but a good quality beer. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to make it out to the brewery and it seems nearly impossible to find their beers in town. I’m still hoping to be able to find it before it’s all gone.

Sierra Nevada is a brewery that needs no introduction. At the liquor store yesterday I saw both of my favorites from them. Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale is a good strong barleywine. I like barleywine’s and this one is a little on the lower end of the alcohol content, which makes it a bit more enjoyable most of the time. The other Sierra Nevada brew I really like is their Celebration Ale. The last time I had it was a couple years ago and if I remember right it was brewed with cranberries and it was really good and not too sweet.

Alaskan Brewing Company makes two great dark beers in the winter time. Their Winter Ale is brewed with spruce tips which stand out. It’s a good, not too strong, not too dark beer. The Smoked Porter on the other hand is dark. Dark and smokey. It’s made with smoked malts and unpasteurized. The first taste is so smokey and so delicious, but doesn’t come on too strong at all.

As for my favorite beer (not just winter beer, although it happens to be one), it’s back to Stone Brewing Company. Their Imperial Russian Stout is top notch. It’s dark, heavy and full, bitter and too strong for some people, but I love it. Stone releases it every year around February for March, and you can usually find it for a month or two before it’s all gone. I was looking through the beers I’ve been storing for the last few years and found a 2006 and two 2007 bottles of this. I’m excited to do a little taste-test comparison between the two years. Sadly I didn’t manage to save any of the ’08 this year.

This Friday marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. In celebration is the 12th annual Strong Ale Festival at Pizza Port Carlsbad Friday and Saturday. Tasters of 75 beers will be available, it’s sure to be a good time. More info is on their website.

Olive oil and wine

This weekend on the way back from Thanksgiving in Punta Banda, we took a trip up Baja Highway 3, from Ensenada to Tecate.

It was a last minute decision, to go to Tecate rather then up the coast back to Tijuana, but it payed off when we realized we were on the Ruta Del Vino, the highway that goes through the Valle de Guadalupe and past plenty of great wineries.

The first we stopped at was Casa Veija. At first we weren’t sure if it was a winery or someone’s house. We spotted this truck and stopped for a picture:

Casa Vieja

Casa Vieja. Photo by Kinsee Morlan

We were greeted by two friendly dogs and a smiling man. The winery was young, only two years old, only producing one of their own wines, but it was rustic and friendly. The man pouring the wine was born in the house sixty-some-odd years ago, and recently came back to open a winery. We tasted some wine and ended up buying some. There was no label on the bottle, just a peice of masking tape with a name and year.

We stopped at another winery, the name of which slips my mind, it was big, clean, fancy and sterile compared to the first. They had more wines and more pretention. The wine wasn’t bad but we left empty handed.

Driving down the road was like a trip back in time, it felt like what southern California should look like. We stopped at Laja just to check it out. They do fixed price meals, four or seven course I think. We asked about vegetarian meals and he said they could cook vegetarian any night. A little pricey for vegetables but good to know they are willing.

Back on the road we stopped at our last winery, L.A. Cetto, the biggest, most crowded and developed of the three. It was a nice place, with families picnicking outside and plenty of wine tasting inside. After a short wait we started tasting. They didn’t have a straight Malbec, but did have Marques Del Valle, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec blend which was the first I asked to try. In the end it was my favorite. The guy pouring our tastes was really friendly, chatting with us for quite a while. At one point he brought out pictures of himself body boarding in Southern Mexico.

We tasted about 10 different wines, as well as delicious cheese and some of the best olive oil I’ve ever had and were good and tipsy by the end. Thanks to his generous pours we bought a case of wine and a gallon of that delicious olive oil.

The rest of the drive was even more beautiful, driving into the foothills toward Tecate as the sun was setting, casting a beautiful golden hue on the rocks.

Later, while talking to a friend about the olive oil, she mentioned this piece in the New Yorker about counterfeit Italian olive oil, yet another reason to buy local.