Create California Fusion out of August Freshest Fruits and Veggies
It’s now August: back-to-school season is upon us, the turning of the leaves is just around the corner, and summer feels like it’s gone by far too fast. But all is not lost! Late summer is the peak season for some of the tastiest garden fruits and vegetables; to take advantage of the produce and transport your diners to a place of year-round sunshine, prepare a simple SoCal spread that lets August’s bounty shine.
Let’s start with an obvious star of the late summer harvest: the tomato. By way of the strong Mexican influence on Southern California’s diverse, cultural-fusion cuisine, the tomato is the unsung hero of some of your favorite SoCal flavors. Try this rustic roasted tomato salsa recipe, courtesy of chef Rick Bayless, to add a rich, tomatoey, Mexican flair to any basic protein or tortilla-dish.
2 fresh jalapeno chiles
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
½ finely chopped white onion
3 large heirloom tomatoes
1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon of fresh lime juice
To roast the tomatoes, put them in the oven, under a hot broiler, until blackened and blistered. Flip to do the same to the other side. Peel the tomato skins and chop them separately before adding to the salsa.
Roast the chiles and garlic on the stovetop, in a skillet over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Blend both in a food processor until minced. Add the tomatoes to the food processor. Pour the tomato-chile-garlic concoction into your serving bowl, and add the cilantro, onion and lime juice.
Give the salsa one final mix, and either serve or refrigerate. Use in a classic chips-and-salsa app or use to simmer chicken thighs into a delicious “salsa chicken” dish.
All too often overlooked, a fresh zucchini, well-prepared, is one of summer’s most surprising delights. Combined with some essential Mexican flavors and the best of your local produce, you can easily transform zucchini into a taco dish equally at home on the streets of Oaxaca and the beaches of San Diego. Again with inspiration from Rick Bayless, try this Zucchini-Mushroom Taco with Chorizo as a stunning entrée to follow up your attention-grabbing salsa appetizer.
Remove the casing from the chorizo; cook over medium heat in a large skillet until cooked through.
Pour off excess fat from the pan, leaving enough to sauté the onion. Add the onion till it begins to soften, then add the mushrooms, till they begin to brown.
While things are sizzling, pour the tomatoes, chipotle chile and its canning sauce into a food processor. Blend till smooth.
4 ounces fresh Mexican chorizo sausage
1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
1 medium White onion, sliced ¼ inch thick
3 ounces seasonal mushrooms
1 canned chipotle chile en adobo
1 ½ teaspoons chipotle canning sauce
2 medium zucchini, cubed
½ to 1 cup crumbled queso fresco or your favorite local soft cheese (feta, chevre or the like)
12 warm corn tortillas
Once the mushrooms are nicely browned, add the tomato mixture and stir until the whole concoction has thickened to a tomato soup consistency. Add the zucchini cubes and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the zucchini is how you like it.
Serve family style, in a bowl, with separate bowls for your cheese topping and any other garnish you might want. Let your guests make their own tacos—you’ve done enough work, and this way everyone can feel like a sophisticated chef!
On the cusp of summer and fall, August gets the best of both harvest worlds: summer’s sweetest, final crops and the early pickings of fall’s enormous offering are all available. An early fall crop, fresh, local watermelon is a versatile delicacy not to be missed. To round out your ode to summertime in SoCal, try this light and refreshing watermelon sorbet with the added zip of lime and mint.
Your choice of watermelon, cubed
Simple syrup (sugar dissolved in water over heat)
Freeze the cubed watermelon ahead of time, until solid
Add the chunks to a food processor and commence blending. Fine tune the texture by adding lime juice or more frozen melon, until it’s a smooth, slightly granular ice-cream consistency. Mix in mint leaves and simple syrup to meet your sweet tooth.
Serve heaped in bowls, with mint leaves and lime slices to garnish.
The vibrant flavors that come into season at the end of summer are too wonderful to pass up. Hopefully this menu can help you make use of the best of your local produce and create one-of-a-kind dishes that transport your friends and family to that mecca of bold flavors and fine weather, wedged between Baja and the Bay Area. Of course, all these dishes are totally open to interpretation: swap what you don’t have for what you do, and what you don’t like for what you love. Whatever you do, so long as you scour the best of your local farmer’s market or produce section, it’s hard to go wrong with a few simple, quality ingredients.