Friday, September 14, 2012

Guava Jellin'

Originally from Brazil, Feijoa or pineapple guava as its known in southern California, is a cold hardy guava that blooms in May and is covered with tiny pink and crimson blossoms. By Fall, the plum-shaped fruits are ready to eat and are harvested when they fall to the ground. The easiest way to eat them is to simply scoop out the creamy flesh. We use them fresh in all kinds of dishes- they are vegetarian friendly after all- but by far my favorite use is for guava jelly.

Jelly recipes are a little more precise than my usual technique of ratios. Jellies do need more sugar than jams or marmalades. The extra sugar is required to get a proper set- the appropriate “jelly” texture if you will- not to soft and not too hard.

Fortunately the guava is pretty tart so it balances the sugar really well. 

5 pounds of guavas
3 ½ cups of sugar
4 T lemon juice.

Wash your guavas, halve them and cover w/ 2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Your guavas will start to get a little mushy- that’s ok. Let them cool some and refrigerate overnight. Guava skins have a lot of natural pectin in them and this will help to extract all of that goodness. Pectin is a natural thickener- which is handy when it comes to firming up your jams and jellies.
Now its straining time. The easiest way to strain your guava juice is to get a nice thick layer of cheesecloth and line a mesh strainer w/ it and put it over a bowl or pitcher. Gently pour your juicy mix in the strainer and let slowly drain out, This may take a while as the juice has got quite pulpy at this point. When your fully strained, discard the pulp and measure out 6 cups of juice. You’ll have extra juice that you can throw in the freezer for next time. If freezing’s not up your alley you can also use that juice right away -add to smoothies, ice tea, or make a quick vinaigrette w/ it.

Mix your 6 cups of juice w/ your sugar and lemon juice in a large wide pan- the larger the better. This allows for maximum evaporation. Bring to a boil.

At this point your juice will look a little scary- kinda like dirty dishwater- don’t panic! You’ll be amazed at the transformation. Suddenly it will start turning a lovely shade of pinkish amber. As its boiling you’ll get some foamy stuff floating on top-you’ll want to skim this off. A slotted spoon works well.
The jelly should be cooked about 20-30 minutes. It will start to thicken and take on a viscous quality. To test if its’ done, put a small spoonful on a frozen plate.
Run your finger through it. If it is thick and wrinkles around the edges- it’s done.
Remove it from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Carefully pour into clean glass jars and cover. Refrigerate. It will keep for at least 2 months in the fridge. Although it probably won’t last that long.
If you don’t feel inclined to make it yourself- no worries. You can try it here @ Avanti CafĂ©- the best healthy vegetarian restaurant in Costa Mesa  in fact in all of Orange County!

Chef Tanya Fuqua

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Smoking Organic Beets

Beets, like fennel, eggplant, mushrooms and yams are in that category the Japanese refer to as ‘suki/kirai’. You either love them or a big NOT. Personally, I’m out of that loop as I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like. And when beet season is in full swing I cannot get enough of their red radiant gently gelatinous texture and sweet Mother Earth flavors. We decided to smoke a batch of organic red and pink beets freshly picked from the South Coast Farms organic fields in San Juan Capistrano using our preferred simply designed, Camerons smokers.

 Our wood chip of choice these days is the bourbon soaked oak.

We like to add herbs as well, this time tarragon
& the ever favorite chamomile – one of the best smoky fragrances to our nostrils & taste buds.

Ahead of time, the beets were boiled in their skins, in a mixture of coffee and water w/ a pinch each of Sicilian sea salt and organic sugar. Cooled in that liquid, they were removed of their jackets in a process that turns the fingers a glorious pink, and has been known to reduce men in the kitchen to real tears of vanity if forced to pinken their digits w/out the protection of gloves. Side note: Real Men cook w/out gloves & sometimes end up w/ pink cuticles, but that is another blog topic all together. Next the newly and beautifully nude beets in all their glory were cut into sumptuous wedges and marinated in extra virgin olive oil. They were loaded into baking dishes, placed a top the smoking chips and herbs and slowly smoked over a low flame for just a short time. Next the red beets were tossed w/ a bit of warmed Avanti house made Berbere spice and allowed to marinate overnight. For service the red beets were warmed in the oven until just hot through. They were plated w/ organic pink smoked beets, organic citrus miso dressed romaine, slow roasted shishito peppers and garden herb blend of Spanish tarragon, lemon balm & basil.
Banish your fear of beets / be fearless and order new foods & unorthodox preparations / Don’t let words like vegan / vegetarian / organic / healthy frighten you. At Avanti we are always Healthy & Delicious! The year is 2012 & we are valiant citizens of the newest foodie centric location in CA, Orange County. Whether your reside in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, Laguna Beach, Irvine or beyond, make the short trek to 17th St, here in Costa Mesa and taste our Avanti flavors again and again.

As we say, eat w/ us several times a week and it’s likely you’ll become healthier than you already are! And your taste buds will love every minute of it too. How many restaurants can legitimately make that claim !?! mc