Al fresco dining is a very nice and inviting way of saying outdoor dining, implying a pleasant, comfortable temperature, calm ambiance, and an altogether serene and refreshing atmosphere.
California cuisine can be a cross of many things, but the general idea is fresh, light, healthy items, prepared in way that will satisfy you, yet leave you looking forward to your next meal. Peak season king salmon grilled with a wasabi vinaigrette, served over a salad of avocado, roasted peppers and organic frisee is a great example of ‘classic’ California cuisine. A lot of fusion has been associated with California cuisine due to the influx of Japanese, Chinese, Mexican/Latino and Middle East cultures, which I guess you could say is the ‘cuisine of California’, and not necessarily ‘California cuisine’.
I am making the distinction between the two, because when we (chefs) think of California cuisine, one of the foremost thoughts we have is cuisine that can be enjoyed in an al fresco setting. Pleasant, inviting, relaxed, fresh, delicious, big flavors, low fat, low carb. We employ such cooking methods as grilling, ‘plancha’, or steaming. We think of great flavor combinations and vibrant colors (edible flowers are a large part of the arsenal). We want you to enjoy every aspect of the experience without a pretentious setting, without pretentious food, allowing you to relax and enjoy your wine or cocktail.
Grilled Shrimp with grilled pineapple, avocado, squash ribbons and lime/kaffir vinaigrette
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 portions
24 U-12 Mexican white shrimp, peeled (tail on) and deveined
1 large ripe avocado, cut into cubes
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini squash
juice of 3 limes
zest of 3 limes, very fine chop
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
5 each kaffir lime leaves (if you cant find these, substitute 1 stalk of lemon grass, smashed)
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 pasteurized egg yolk
1 shallot, minced
1 cup olive oil (does not need to be extra virgin)
1/2 ripe pineapple, sliced into thin rectangles
fresh snipped herbs (chives, parsley, dill, tarragon)
2 cups organic rocket arugula
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
In a small non-reactive sauce pot, gently heat the vinegar and lime juice with the kaffir lime leaves and lime zest. Slightly reduce, remove from heat and let come to room temp. This will infuse and concentrate the flavors. Strain. Place the liquid in a bar blender, add the shallot and agave nectar and season with salt and pepper. Add the egg yolk and turn the machine on. Very slowing drizzle the oil. Reseason and reserve for later.
Mix the paprika, garlic powder and cayenne pepper together. Reserve. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash and zucchini into very thin ‘ribbons’ and reserve.
Heat a well oiled grill to high heat. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Lightly season with shrimp and pineapple with salt, pepper and the spice mix. Begin grilling. Quickly blanch the squash ribbons (this will only take about 20 seconds in the boiling water, any longer and they will fall apart!). Transfer the squash and avocado a mixing bowl. Once the pineapple has been charred on both sides, add that to the mixing bowl as well. Add the arugula to the bowl, a few of the snipped herbs and a light drizzle of the vinaigrette. Lightly season with salt and pepper and toss well. Transfer to a serving platter. When the shrimps are done, arrange them on top of the salad. Drizzle a very small amount of the remaining vinaigrette on top and garnish with the remaining snipped herbs.
Best served with crisp white wine, like Pinot Grigio, grilled ciabatta bread with olive oil, hummus and olives.