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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Super Solutions: Cooking for Solutions 2010

Between the green garlic and stinging nettle soup (with creme fraiche) and the grilled quail with kumquats, bacon and wilted greens (with date-walnut glaze), you know the girl is good. And those are just a pair of appetizers at her Lucques Restaurant in L.A.

But it's the Beard that really sets her apart.

Suzanne Goin (above) has taken home the James Beard Foundation honors for best chef in the region and been a finalist for best in the entire U S of A, some of the loftiest praise possible from the organization founded by Julia Child and Peter Kump and one unequalled in epicurean credibility in this country.

This year's she is the Aquarium's Chef of the Year, meaning she will be starring at the most palate-charming and thought-provoking progressive food event on the planet, Cooking for Solutions (May 21-22, 2010), which showcases how tasty good sourcing practices can be on an annual basis.

"Goin's been one of the main voices on sustainability," CFS collaborator and Aquarium spokesman Ken Peterson says. "She's had the message for quite a while. We've very glad we can have her back."

Chef-author-superstar Rick Bayless has also been Bearded for his work at the landmark Frontera in Chicago. This year he's also earned CFS's Educator of the Year, joining the likes of Alton Brown, winner a year ago and a CFS regular.

Foodies flock to the Friday gala with good reason and greater reliability—the thing sells out every year—as the honorees and dozens of other Celebrity Chef Ambassadors prepare sustainable tastes butressed by more hedonistic-but-earth-healthy nibbles from standout local spots (who help host the visiting chefs). Sixty vitners from the region pair wisely raised wines, and folks like Goin and Bayless sign cookbooks. Saturday features a range of "food and wine adventures," cooking demos and an Iron Chef style Sustainable Seafood Challenge where four chefs square off and special host Guy Fieri and the one and only Sam Choy run charismatic commentary. Check out the whole gourmet gamut at the Aquarium's website.

Even more nourishing, perhaps, is the Sustainable Foods Institute that Thursday, when decisionmakers, journalists and industry leaders all gather for an intensive slate of panels, keynotes and presentations on the state of our food systems.

Just the first few hours see entrepreneur-environmentalist-visionary Paul Hawken kick things off followed by powerhouse panels on the future of wild fish and the hopes of doing aquaculture safely and sustainably. I'll plug you into the highlights right here come mid May.

CFS news was part of a message I got the other day from the Aquarium. In a cyber world where we are all blessed/doomed to see a small army e-mails march into our inboxes every half hour, one with a recipe from Goin was a nice reprieve. It also included an interview with Goin and word on the Aquarium's new Super Green List for eating to maximize ocean health.

Sign up to get the Aquarium e-newsletter by punching in your e-mail on the Aquarium's home page on the lower right.

Here's the recipe for Spot Prawns with Tomato Confit, Garlic and Chili (above):
(Serves 6)
  • 24 large prawns* (about 4 ½ pounds)
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced chile de √°rbol
  • 1/2 cup sliced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Yellow tomato confit
  • 1/4 cup sliced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green basil
  • 2 tablespoons sliced opal basil
  • 1 lemon, for juicing


Use kitchen scissors to cut the shells of the spot prawns down their backs, from the base of their heads to the tips of their tails. (Don’t remove the shells.) If the prawns are wet, dry them with paper towels.

Heat two heavy-bottomed sauté pans over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes. (You will need to cook the prawns in batches to avoid overcrowding them.) Swirl 2 tablespoons of olive oil into each pan, and carefully place the prawns in the pans, on their sides.

Season each batch of prawns with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Pour another 2 tablespoons of oil into each pan, and cook about 5 minutes, until the shells get some color and the flesh begins to turn opaque on the first side.

Turn the prawns over, drizzle another 2 tablespoons of oil into each pan, and season the second side of each batch with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Cook another 3 minutes or so, until the prawns are just cooked. (You can peek inside the cut shell to see that the flesh is completely opaque.)

Remove the prawns to a platter and turn the heat under both pans down to medium-low. Divide the shallots, thyme, and sliced chiles between the two pans. Season each pan with 1/4 teaspoon salt and some pepper.

Cook 2 minutes, until the shallots are translucent, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the flavorful shrimp bits. Divide the garlic between the pans and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until the shallots and garlic are soft and just starting to color.

Turn the heat back up to high and add half the cherry tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper to each pan. Taste for seasoning and cook a minute, stirring often.

Add half the prawns, sliced parsley, oregano and the two basils to each pan and roll the prawns in the cherry tomatoes to coat well. This final step really helps coat the prawns in the cherry tomato sauce.

Spoon the hot yellow tomato confit onto a large warm platter.

Arrange the prawns on the platter and squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over them. Spoon the remaining cherry tomato sauce over the top.

Serve with lots of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce and juices.

* Other sustainable shrimp or prawns may be substituted.
Recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table, by Suzanne Goin and Teri Gleber. Reprinted by permission of Knopf, copyright 2005. All rights reserved.