7955 La Jolla Shores Drive, 11th Floor, La Jolla
Sometimes you don’t know why you do the things you do. Often you do what your parents do. I know for me, cooking was in my family. My mom was a waitress and my dad was a cook at Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank. One grandfather was a farmer in Nebraska and the other was a butcher and a grill cook. We didn’t have a whole lot of money growing up so we had a huge garden so we could grow our food. I was so fortunate and I had a lot of support to be a chef.
When I worked at Citronelle in Carmel, I had a lot of exposure to local farmers. I cooked with the best artichokes in the whole world and had access to amazing local food. Once you see that and you’re part of that, there’s no going back. Either you’re in it or you deny it. For me, it was an awakening. At Cusp, we have the same kinds of relationships with local farmers. We make our own pasta and bread from scratch and use local ingredients to make homemade vinegars.
When I cook at home, I like simple foods. I have a smoker, and the other day I smoked a pork belly for about four hours and got some grapefruit and gin and made cocktails while we cooked. It’s always about family and friends for me. A few weeks ago, I got together with my other chef friends and spent an entire afternoon making pizzas for ourselves. When I cook with family and friends it’s spontaneous and fun. Good food just magically appears.
To poach the pears:
- 4 c. water
- 1 c. white wine
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 2 star anise
- 1 c. sugar
- 3 Anjou pears, peeled, halved, and core removed
- 2 T olive oil
- 6 oz. baby arugula or mixed greens
- 2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
- ¼ c. candied walnut pieces
- To make the vinaigrette
- 1/8 c. apple cider vinegar
- 1 T lemon juice
- 2 shallots, minced
- ½ c. grape seed oil
In a medium saucepan, combine water, white wine, lemon juice, star anise, and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add pears to liquid. Turn heat to low and poach pears for 15 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat and drain liquid.
Add a small amount of oil to a large sauté pan and heat to medium heat. Once hot, add pears flat side down and sear until caramelized, about 3 minutes. Remove pears from heat and cut into slices.
To make the vinaigrette, add the vinegar, lemon juice, and shallots to a small bowl. Whisk together and, while whisking, add the oil. Mix well.
In a bowl, add walnuts, pears, blue cheese, and cranberries. Pour the vinaigrette on top and mix. Add salad greens, season with salt and pepper, and then toss.