Big Sur FoodDreamin' of California Cuisine
Since a trip to Big Sur promises hours spent on outdoor adventures – many of which require exercise (but only the fun kind) – we like to fuel up on food that’s light but delicious, which is exactly what California cuisine is all about. Californians were devoted to organic, local, and seasonal foods long before it was mainstream, and restaurants use the best of the best when it comes to ingredients. This is also the home of fusion, so classic American flavors are combined with Asian, Italian, and Mexican tastes and techniques. Our menu features a sample of the refined but rustic fare of the central coast and is perfect for a picnic featuring great local wines.
A Cheat Sheet to the Flavors of Big Sur...
If you’re not keen on cooking from recipes but still want to whip up a taste of your travels at home, use this list of the region’s key flavors as a guide to freestyling in the kitchen.
Think light and local – go easy on the oil and butter and shop at your nearby farmer’s market, if possible. Vegetables are key, so buy what looks best: asparagus, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, herbs, root vegetables, berries, grass-fed beef, and artisanal cheese are all up for grabs.
This easy, healthy dish is packed with flavor and is gorgeous on the plate. Once you become familiar with the technique, be daring and create your own riff on ceviche – change the fish and type of citrus, and add new flavors like sesame oil and ponzu or blood orange oil and mango.
Yield: 4 servings
4 shallots, sliced thin
Place shallots in a small bowl. In a small sauté pan, add vinegar, sugar, and a 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Add pickling liquid to shallots and set aside for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days refrigerated.
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Brush both sides of baguette slices with oil and season with salt. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment papers and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until light brown and crispy.
In a medium bowl, add avocados, 1/4 cup lemon juice and healthy pinch of salt. Using the back of a spoon, mash avocados together until it’s creamy with large chunks. Add cilantro and stir. Adjust seasoning, cover with saran, and chill.
In a large bowl, add tuna, remaining lemon juice, lime juice, jalapeño, red pepper, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix gently but well. Cover with Saran and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Scoop 2 to 3 tablespoons of avocado mixture on toasted baguette. Dust with sesame seeds and serve with ceviche.
After hiking a dramatic mountain peak or touring the bay in a kayak, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is spending time in a hot kitchen. Whip up this easy lunch or dinner appetizer in the time it takes your partner to find a perfectly chilled bottle of wine and pour two glasses.
Yield: 4 servings
In a small pan, heat oil on medium-low and add garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes, until garlic is just a light golden brown. Remove from heat.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add 1 1/2 cucumbers, basil, chives, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup cold water. Purée until smooth, about 1 minute. Add garlic, lemon juice, and yogurt and puree an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute. Adjust seasoning and chill for at least 6 hours. To serve, spoon soup into 4 individual bowls and garnish with remaining 1/2 cucumber, diced into small pieces.
Beets are one of those ingredients that people either love or hate, but this recipe has a few tricks that might convert even the most ardent beet-hater. First, by roasting them at a high temperature, the natural sweetness of the vegetable comes to the forefront. Then, pairing them with rich goat cheese, a bright vinaigrette, and the spicy bite of chives adds flavors that elevate the entire dish.
Yield: 4 servings
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Drizzle each beet with 1 or 2 teaspoons of olive oil and wrap individually in tinfoil. Place beets on sheet pan and bake until tender but still firm, about 1 hour depending on size of beets. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Using a paper towel, peel skin off beets. (If you have plastic disposable gloves, use them or else color will stain your skin.) Slice each beet into 6 equal pieces, place in a bowl, cover with saran, and chill.
Cut 4 oranges into supremes and place in a small bowl. Wrap with Saran and chill. Cut remaining orange in half and squeeze out juice into small bowl. Add mustard, shallots, and pinch of salt and gradually whisk in olive oil. Set vinaigrette aside.
Place entire goat cheese log on a cutting board or clean work surface. Sprinkle all sides evenly with chives and cut into 1/2-inch slices.
In a medium bowl, mix arugula and frisèe. Add a few tablespoons of vinaigrette and mix greens gently. Season with salt and pepper and divide evenly among 4 serving plates. Drizzle another few tablespoons of vinaigrette to beets, mix, season, and add to serving plates. Add oranges and goat cheese and serve.
One of our favorite aspects of the California lifestyle is its reliance on outdoor living. Luckily, this often means beautiful outdoor kitchens that are fully decked out. Even if you don’t have a fancy outdoor space, however, a normal grill will do the trick for this recipe. Because after enjoying an entire day in the fresh air, who wants to go back inside?
Yield: 4 servings
Make a 3- to 4-inch incision on the side of each chicken breast to form a pouch. Season pouch with salt and pepper. Stuff 1 slice each of prosciutto and cheese into each pouch. Place chicken in a medium bowl with lemon slices, parsley, and olive oil. Mix ingredients, cover bowl with saran, and marinate 30 minutes.
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and season aggressively with salt. Snap end off of one piece of asparagus. Use this piece as a guide to cut off remaining stems. Place in boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds. Remove asparagus and place in ice bath. Drain well.
Preheat grill to 350˚ F. Brush grill with paper towel soaked with olive oil. Remove chicken from marinade, season both sides with salt and pepper, and place on grill. Grill on each side for 6 minutes, until cooked through.
Season asparagus with salt and drizzle with truffle oil or butter. Slice chicken and serve with asparagus.
This is an easy dessert that parents and children will enjoy equally. Cookie dough freezes well, so plan ahead and make twice the recipe so you’ll have a batch to freeze for an emergency dessert shortage. To keep things fresh, feel free to add nuts or use a different kind of chocolate chip.
Yield: 10 to 12 cookie sandwiches
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Cream 2 sticks butter and sugars in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix on medium speed. Scrape down dough and add 1 cup peanut butter. Mix 30 seconds. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Add dry ingredients to dough and mix until just combined. Add 12oz chocolate chips and mix until just combined.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a spoon or ice cream scooper, scoop 2 tablespoons of dough to form 1 cookie. Leave 1 1/2 inches in between each cookie on all sides. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes and allow to cool.
In a double-boiler, melt 4oz chocolate. Allow chocolate to cool to room temperature. In clean bowl of an electric mixer, mix confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons of butter until thoroughly combined. Add cream and chocolate and mix.
Dot the back of a cookie with a tablespoon of icing and place another back of a cookie on top to form a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies and icing. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate overnight.