Seaside Supper: A Curated Dinner & Demo in Ventura County

OurLocaltopia headed to Ventura County to cook for an ocean front retreat!

This week, OurLocaltopia was invited to a seaside vacation home in Ventura county to curate a meal for the Sew n’ Sews, a group of avid quilters who take this yearly retreat to work on projects and bond with their friends. We were thrilled to be cooking in a gorgeous kitchen that  had panoramic coastal and ocean views. The menu for the night featured a variety of locally sourced produce, including delicious Ventura County strawberries and included a demonstration of the prep and execution of Fritto Misto. Below is our recap of the evening, including photos and recipes. If you are interested in having a similar event at your next getaway, party or gathering, don’t hesitate to contact us!

~Ventura Retreat Menu & Recipes~

Cheese Plates

We started the evening with several cheese plates, featuring a variety of cheeses, including: Soft Chevre (goat cheese) accented with black pepper and rosemary, gruyere, St. Andre, Humbolt Fog, Goat Gouda and Mt, Tam. Most of these cheese are available at Trader Joe’s, while the Humbolt Fog and Mt. Tam can be found at Surfas Culinary District.     

Lemon-Lime Basil-Ade

This sweet-tart libation is made using fresh basil and lime. Great on its own, or with a little extra kick, it’s the perfect spring refresher. Local lemons were used.

Lemon Lime Basil-Ade Recipe 

Using a Vitamix blender will make this a very smooth beverage, however if you do not have a powerful blender that will pulverize and thoroughly blend the citrus in this drink do not despair! Simply strain the blender’s contents through a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth prior to serving.

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 lemon, peeled, halved, seeded

1 lime, peeled, halved

¼ cup sugar or sweetener of choice

1/8 cup fresh basil leaves

3-4 cups ice cubes

Directions

Place all ingredients into the container of your blender in the order listed.  Secure the lid.

Blend on high for about 4 minutes.  Pour over additional ice or top with seltzer water and blend, if desired.

Marinaded Olives

Savory and aromatic, these marinaded olives are the perfect starter to a large meal. Flavorful, but not filling, your sure to have room for more! Local backyard citrus was used.

Marinated Olives Recipe 

1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives

1 1/2 cups cracked brine-cured green olives

1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup orange juice

6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Combine all ingredients in large heavy-duty resealable plastic bag. Shake bag to blend ingredients. Refrigerate at least 1 day and up to 3 days, turning bag occasionally. Transfer olives and some marinade to bowl. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature before serving.

Fritto Misto

Italian for “mixed fry,” fritto misto is exactly what it sounds like: a variety of edibles battered and quickly fried, served piping hot and crunchy. For this meal, we fried lemons, sage and bell peppers, though the possibilities are nearly endless! Backyard lemons grown in Villa Park were featured in our Fritto Misto.

Fritto Misto Recipe 

Enough Batter to Serve 6

A fritto misto is a mixed fry – anything, from tiny fish to zucchini blossoms, that has been deep-fried.  This thin all-purpose batter is good for dredging everything from delicate parsley or sage leaves to sturdier slices of lemon, mushrooms, or zucchini batons.  The batter should be about the consistency of heavy cream.  If it is too thick (flours differ) add a little more wine.

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup white wine

Whatever you want to fry, see below

Canola, peanut, or corn oil

Salt

For the batter, whisk the flour and salt together in a medium bowl.  Gradually add the wine, whisking until the batter is smooth.  Give it a quick whisk again just before you’re ready to use it.  

Prepare whatever you want to fry by cutting it into pieces of uniform or similar shapes and sizes so that things cook at the same rate.  Make sure everything is dry, as water/moisture will cause the oil to splatter.

Add enough oil to a heavy skillet or wok to reach a depth of 2 inches.  Heat the oil to a temperature of 350 F.

Dip whatever you want to fry into the batter, shake off any excess, and carefully lower into the 350 F oil.  (Be careful not to burn your fingers or splatter the oil!)  Fry in small batches turning frequently for even browning.  Remove the fritto misto when it is golden or pale brown.  (You’ll bet the hang of it as you go.)  Use a slotted spatula to lift the fritto misto out of the oil and drain on paper towels.  Skim any frying debris our of the oil between batches.  

Season the fritto misto with alt while it is still hot.  Serve as you fry and be sure to keep some for yourself.  It’s the cooks job to maintain quality control!

Foods to Dip & Fry

Fresh sage leaves, fresh parsley sprigs, asparagus, shiitake mushroom caps, zucchini batons or blossoms, Japanese eggplant slices, scallions, small whole okra, peeled shrimp, small pieces of fresh fish.

Green Salad Vinaigrette

A simple, light salad of mixed seasonal greens sets the stage for the main courses. Our dressing was made using local, organic lemons.

Green Salad Vinaigrette Recipe

3 tbs. champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

½ tsp. Dijon mustard

½ tsp. minced fresh garlic

1 extra large egg yolk, at room temperature

¾ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

½ cup good olive oil

Salad greens for 6 to 8 people

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, egg yolk, salt, and pepper. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil until the vinaigrette is emulsified.  Toss the greens with enough dressing to moisten and serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Savory Avocado Granita and Pico de Gallo

A bright, savory granita served between courses helps to cleanse the palate. This recipe pairs well with Latin flavors, and was a great precursor to our tequila lime chicken! We used backyard avocados in this dish.

Savory Avocado Granita Recipe

This delicate, frozen creation is related to sorbet, but maintains a more crystalline texture. Savory granita is typically served between meal courses, as a palate cleanser. This recipe is an OurLocaltopia original, and is topped with an ultra-fine pico de gallo. Granita can be served in a small bowl, or, as we did, as a single composed bite, placed on a spoon.

Serves 10 to 20 (depending on portion size)

2 avocados, very ripe

2 tablespoons sugar

Juice from one lime

Cilantro, quarter cup packed leaves, finely chopped

½ cup water

Pinch of salt

Blend ingredients in a blender until very smooth. Pass mixture through a fine mesh sieve as needed to increase smoothness. Pour mixture onto metal baking sheet or into a 9×13 baking dish. Spread mixture on sheet or dish to a depth of about ½ inch. Mixture will not fill whole pan! Place mixture in freezer until it begins to freeze, usually about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from freezer and scrape mixture surface with fork tines to create fluffy flakes and crystals. Return mixture to the freezer and repeat this fluffing process every half hour until all the granita is frozen and flaked.

Pico de Gallo Recipe

This pico de gallo is meant to be very finely chopped and served atop the above savory avocado granita.

Serves 10 to 20 (depending on potion size)

4 Roma tomatoes, finely diced

½ medium shallot, finely diced

¼ jalapeño, seeds removed, finely diced

Juice from one or two limes

Salt to taste, kosher

After finely dicing all ingredients, mix together. The fine texture is important to achieve a successful complement to the granita.

Roasted New Potatoes with Rosemary and Bay

Classic potatoes, with a twist! We suggest using the smallest tubers you can find, and roasting them whole.

Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary & Bay

Serves 4 to 6

New Potatoes

New potatoes are small, immature waxy potatoes with a low starch content.  They are typically available only in the spring and early summer, although they can be found sporadically at other times.  Avoid buying those with cracks, wrinkling, or blemishes.  Store them in a cool, dry place, and use within 2 or 3 days of purchase.

2 lb. (1 kg) waxy potatoes

1 head garlic, cloves separated

5 sprigs rosemary, each 1 inch (2.5 cm) long

1 bay leaf

3 Tbsp olive oil

salt

Preheat the oven to 400.

Put the potatoes in a large piece of aluminum foil or a large shallow baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer.  Add the garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, and olive oil. Season with salt and toss well.  Add a splash of water.

Tightly close up the foil or cover the baking dish with foil and bake until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 40 – 60 minutes.  Serve right away.

Roast Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Brussels sprouts are back and better than ever. Roasting the sprouts brings out amazing flavor and pairing them with a bit of pancetta makes for a hearty dish.

Roast Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta Recipe

2 oz pancetta, visible fat discarded and pancetta minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup water

1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (quartered if large)

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Toss together Brussels sprouts, pancetta, garlic, oil, and salt and pepper to taste in an 11- by 7-inch baking pan and spread in 1 layer.

Roast in upper third of oven, stirring once halfway through roasting, until sprouts are brown on edges and tender, about 25 minutes total. Stir in water, scraping up brown bits. Serve warm.

Tequila Lime Chicken

Marinated over night and grilled on the bbq, this recipe is a proven crowdpleaser perfect for the warmer weather of spring. We used organic, locally blood oranges in this marinade.

Tequila Lime Chicken Recipe

Buy boneless chicken breasts with the skin on if you can; if you can’t get them that way, boneless-skinless is acceptable.

½ cup gold tequila

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon minced fresh jalapeno pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 whole (6 split) boneless chicken breasts, skin on

Combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, jalapeno pepper, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Add the chicken breasts.  Refrigerate overnight.

Heat a grill with coals and brush the rack with oil to prevent the chicken from sticking.  Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill them skin-side down for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned.  Turn the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes, until just cooked through.  Remove from the grill to a plate.  Cover tightly and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

*If you like cilantro, add 1 tablespoon, minced, to the marinade.

Ventura Strawberry Crisp

While the recipe calls for generic “mixed berries,” we altered the plan on the fly to feature the beautiful and renowned Ventura Strawberry. While it took a bit of effort to find, it was well worth it! These large, beautiful berries have a delightful taste and texture. We added a bit of tartness but adding a few diced green apples to the crisp. The recipe works just fine with frozen berries, but feel free experiment with what’s in season or available locally!

Mixed Berry Crisp Recipe

2 12-ounce packages frozen mixed berries

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Vanilla ice cream

Special equipment: 6 4 1/2-inch-diameter crème brûlée dishes with 1-inch-high sides or other 1-cup ramekins, custard cups or mason jars

Preheat oven to 425°. Toss frozen berries and cornstarch in large bowl. Let stand until cornstarch dissolves, tossing occasionally, about 20 minutes. Divide berry mixture among six 4 1/2-inch-diameter crème brûlée dishes with 1-inch-high sides. Toss brown sugar, flour, oats, nuts, cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Add chilled butter; using fingertips, blend butter into mixture until coarse crumbs form. Divide oat mixture among dishes, sprinkle evenly over berry mixture.

Place dishes on rimmed baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking until crisp topping is golden brown and fruit filling is bubbling at edges, about 30 minutes longer. Cool crisps at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Sunset in Ventura
Sunset over the Pacific, as seen from our Ventura County kitchen.

Thanks again to the Sew n’ Sews for having us! It was a wonderful evening!

Good Eating,

~OurLocaltopia

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