'Pacifica Blue Plates' blends the flavors of Mexico and Asia

September 09, 1992|By Gerald Etter | Gerald Etter,Knight-Ridder News Service

"Pacifica Blue Plates" (Ten Speed, $21.95) by Neil Stuart, showcases the types of dishes that result from blending the cooking styles of the American southwest with the principles behind the cuisines of the Pacific Rim.

Mr. Stuart is a Culinary Institute of America grad who worked at a number of notable New York restaurants -- including the Quilted Giraffe -- before moving to San Diego in the mid-1980s.

Mr. Stuart has created a highly imaginative and interesting mix of dishes drawing by combining regional flavors in traditional and innovative ways.

Mexican culinary history is mirrored in the traditional; innovation comes from Asian accents that flavor dishes in a style that reflects what Mr. Stuart believes is San Diego's new position as the crossroads of the Pacific.

Many of the dishes are low-fat as well as flavor-intense and colorful. They are notable for their ease of preparation and simplicity.

Here are some recipes from the book:

Sweet corn salsa

Makes 3 cups

2 cups fresh corn kernels

3 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into pieces

1/4 cup seeded and diced tomatoes

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Cut raw kernels off cobs with a sharp knife. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over high heat and stir while bringing salsa to a boil. When butter has melted completely and takes on the look of a light butter sauce, remove from heat and serve immediately. Use with chicken or lobster.

Braised veal shanks with hot and sour sauce

Makes 6 servings

1/2 cup peanut oil

6 veal shanks (about 1 pound each)

12 cloves garlic

2 cups diced onion

2 cups whole mushroom caps

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

4 cups diced tomatoes

2 cups balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons green peppercorns

1 cup teriyaki sauce (recipe follows)

2 cups water

1/2 cup mirin (a rice wine used in cooking, available at Asian markets)

2 tablespoons chili and garlic paste (available at Asian markets, or in the Asian sections of some supermarkets)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet over high heat, heat half the peanut oil until it begins to smoke and sear veal shanks until they are brown on all sides. Remove shanks from the pan and set aside.

Lower heat to moderate and add the remaining peanut oil. When hot, put in the garlic, onion, mushroom caps and tarragon and cook, while stirring, until the onion is translucent.

Add the tomatoes, vinegar and peppercorns and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the teriyaki sauce, water, mirin, chili and garlic paste, and brown sugar. Bring mixture to a boil.

Return veal shanks to the skillet, cover, place in oven, and cook until the meat is fork tender, approximately 1 1/2 hours.

Skim any fat that accumulates on the surface of the braising sauce; add sesame oil to defatted sauce and serve.

Teriyaki sauce

Makes approximately 1 1/4 cups

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

1 cup soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/2 cup sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

1 cup thinly sliced scallions

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Bring to a boil to allow the sugar to dissolve. Remove from heat and cool before using.

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