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Recipe from Chris Idso, executive chef, Pacifica Del Mar

One of my biggest accomplishments as a chef has been to use the local food that grows in San Diego. It was a challenge when I first moved here from the Bay Area. It was a culture shock. As far as the food scene, it was just really different. Number one was finding out what was grown here locally. In San Francisco, most of my ingredients came from a 100-mile radius. In San Diego, there were tons of farms, but all the vendors were from L.A. I couldn’t understand it. There were great farms all along the I-5 and there were mushroom growers in San Marcos. I thought, why can’t we work with the local vendors? But back then the vendors didn’t even live in my area. We used seafood out of L.A. Fish was trucked from Mexico through San Diego but I had to go to L.A. to get it. It was ridiculous. So, a few chefs and I really worked to bring the indigenous products to the table. Now I go to Chino Farms and use Brandt Beef. I’m always trying to provide what’s sustainable and affordable.

I usually have Sundays and Tuesdays off. Monday is my admin day, and I cook that night at home. I have three boys, aged 16, 13, and 11. They’re good eaters. On Mondays I’ll do a salmon dinner or fresh seafood at home. We hang out. My youngest son especially is intrigued by the kitchen. He tells me he wants to be a chef. I practice yoga and go to the beach, too. That’s what my life entails.

I work on the holidays. That’s what my holiday dinners turn into. One of my favorite dinners is a prime rib I do at Christmas at Pacifica. I do a salt cure on the beef for ten days. It cures it and infuses it with herbs and garlic so I have this steak that’s beautifully seasoned throughout. The curing breaks the tissue down so it’s got this tender bite.

At home, one of my traditional dishes is a banana walnut salad with whipped cream, marshmallows, with a vinegar-mustard base. It’s incredible, but it’s good for a few hours only. It’s a family recipe of ours. I finally got the recipe about five years ago. Before that, my mom just handed me the mustard base in a mason jar and wouldn’t tell me how to make it. We just passed the mason jar from house to house with her secret sauce in it. It’s an addicting salad, and we only make it on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

INGREDIENTS

Secret Recipe Dressing

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder

Salad

  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 6 firm, ripe bananas cut into 1/2” squares
  • 1 cup walnut pieces
  • 4 cups large marshmallows, quartered
  • 1/2 cup or more Secret Recipe Dressing

HOW TO DO IT

First make the Secret Recipe Dressing: In a small pot over low heat, combine the sugar, flour, dry mustard, vinegar, and water. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the sauce becomes smooth, thick, and clear. Remove from heat and stir in the turmeric. Cool completely and reserve for later use.

For the salad: Once the dressing has cooled to room temperature, chill a mixing bowl for a few minutes in the refrigerator. Add the whipping cream to the chilled bowl and, using an electric mixer, mix on high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the bananas, walnuts, and marshmallows. Fold the freshly whipped cream with a 1/2 cup or more of the Secret Recipe Dressing to taste (reserve rest for another time, refrigerated) and then add into the banana mixture. Fold gently together until well combined. Serve and enjoy right away, as this salad is best made fresh. (To hold for a few hours, place in refrigerator until ready to serve.) Bon appétit!

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