May 13th, 2017

(Coastal View, May 2017

Sour Cherry Deliciousness

 Things are warming up (unsurprisingly) here on the central coast as we head into summer, which means stone fruits are on the way! There’s one elusive little stone fruit I’m hankering to get my hands on for both syrups and pies that I look forward to each year. If you love a pucker-inducing tart flavor, then sour cherries are going to be a taste you’ll fall for. This tiny fruit is hard to find, and with a short growing season I often feel as though I’ve won the lottery ingredient wise when I come across them in a local fruit stall.

As a lover of road trips, I thought I’d take a drive up north last year to one of the only “U-Pick Em” sour cherry farms I could find in the CA bay area of Brentwood. Sour cherries have a brightly colored hue in comparison to the sweeter Bing cherry variety and are typically picked during the months of May and June.  I arrived at the farm spot early in the morning and was offered a 5 lb. wooden bucket and encouraged to pick cherries to my heart’s content. Priced at $3.50 a pound these little guys were abundant on the tree when I arrived and spent an hour or two filling as much of my bin as I could.

I packed up the car and started the drive back home to Carpinteria thinking of the recipes I’d use the two pounds I grabbed, knowing I’d have to use them quickly as they have a short life. Their unique flavor is a cross between a lemon and a sweet juicy Bing cherry varietal that adds a great twist to your favorite baked or savory recipes. Luckily if you can’t find the time for a road trip you can purchase these delicious little guys frozen at your local whole foods to enjoy. Here’s a pie recipe that will have you longing for the stone fruit season each year.


Sour Cherry Pie

Cook Time: 2 hr. 20 minutes

Serving: 8



·         2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

·         1 tablespoon sugar

·         3/4 teaspoon salt

·         1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

·         5 tablespoons (or more) ice water


·         1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

·         3 tablespoons cornstarch

·         1/4 teaspoon salt

·         5 cups whole pitted sour cherries or dark sweet cherries

·         1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

·         1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

·         2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

·         1 tablespoon milk

Baking Process

For crust:

Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until small pea-size clumps form. Add 5 tablespoons ice water; mix lightly with fork until dough holds together when small pieces are pressed between fingertips, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough together; divide into 2 pieces. Form each piece into ball, then flatten into disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly before rolling out.

For filling:

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Whisk 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Stir in cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla; set aside.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch glass pie dish. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Roll out second dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Using large knife or pastry wheel with fluted edge, cut ten 3/4-inch-wide strips from dough round. Transfer filling to dough-lined dish, mounding slightly in center. Dot with butter. Arrange dough strips atop filling, forming lattice; trim dough strip overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold bottom crust up over ends of strips and crimp edges to seal. Brush lattice crust (not edges) with milk. Sprinkle lattice with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake pie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, covering edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour longer. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely. Cut into wedges to serve, Enjoy!



April 13, 2017

(Coastal View, April 2017

Easter Payback

      Growing up an only child I got into a fair bit of mischief. It was all generally innocent, but my high level of curiosity often annoyed my family a great deal. Just for curiosities sake I tended to second guess everything I was told, especially on the eve of a large holiday when I had to leave baked goods out. Here’s the thing … if you tell a five-year-old that they must give up cookies to Santa on Christmas eve, carrot cake for the Easter Bunny and then a candy bar for the tooth fairy we eventually begin to grow suspicious. Many of my friends were told by THEIR parents to leave a raw carrot out, because carrots were the Easter Bunny’s favorite snack – but not my mom! Many of my friends were also instructed to leave only their freshly pulled tooth beneath their pillow so that the tooth fairy would leave them a quarter. My mom told me to include a candy bar beside my tooth because that sweetens the dollar amount the tooth fairy could be bribed to leave behind. I believed mom only because I woke up to find a five dollar bill the next morning, as well as an empty candy bar wrapper. The economic response each holiday showed that the more I left for said holiday figure, the larger the present, basket or dollar amount I would receive in return.

Because of this each year I left a larger piece of carrot cake for the Easter bunny, until I eventually left him an entire carrot cake with a glass of carrot juice on the side to sweeten the deal. To wake up and see that I was only left a single Easter basket left me feeling both entitled and downright gipped!  This occurred when I was the mature age of ten and I thought it best to discuss this with my mother Easter morning. She encouraged me to write a detailed letter of complaint to the Easter bunny so that he could see where I was coming from and why his cake portions would be cut down the following year. I sat down that very morning and in my best hand-writing wrote the Easter bunny my objections, signed sealed and then delivered to my mom who let me know she would make sure he received it. Years later I came to see who had really been lying and snacking on all the desserts I had thoughtfully left out! Though therapy was considered to help me get over such parental hypocrisy, I decided instead to be the bigger person and get past it on my own. 

This year I’m in charge of the Easter feast and have decided to cook up some delicious braised rabbit for dinner. I’ll bake up some carrot cake for mom also, but will probably cut her a thin slice this time around as payback. Happy Easter & springtime everyone! Big hugs, Nikki


Braised Rabbit with Spring Vegetables

Cook Time: 1 hr. 20 minutes

Serving: 4


·         1/2 cup Dijon mustard

         2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds

·         One 3-pound rabbit—cut into 2 whole legs, 2 front quarters and 1 whole loin all on the bone

·         Salt and freshly ground pepper

·         2 tablespoons canola oil

·         1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

·         1 fennel bulb, cut into 1/2-inch dice

·         2 thyme sprigs

·         1 rosemary sprig

·         4 sage leaves

·         1/4 cup dry white wine

·         2 cups rabbit or chicken stock or low-sodium broth

Cooking Process:

1.     In a bowl, blend the Dijon mustard and mustard seeds. Season the rabbit parts with salt and pepper. Spread the mustard all over the rabbit pieces. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2.     Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the rabbit pieces and cook over moderate heat until richly browned, about 2 minutes per side; turn the pieces carefully to keep as much mustard crust on the rabbit as possible. Transfer the rabbit to a plate.

3.     Add the onion, fennel, thyme, rosemary and sage to the skillet. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Place the rabbit pieces in the vegetables.

4.     Cover the skillet and braise the rabbit in the upper third of the oven for about 50 minutes, until is tender. Uncover and braise for 10 minutes longer, until the rabbit pieces are glazed.

5.       Transfer the rabbit to a plate. Discard the herbs. Boil the sauce over high heat until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and return the rabbit pieces to the sauce to heat through.


Coastal View - Monthly Article, January 2017'

January 13th, 2016

Coastal View, January 2017

Rare Fruit

 We live in a day and age of the fantastical! When I sit and think of how excited renaissance man Michelangelo and the masterful Thomas Edison would feel to experience all of the ingenuity we get to discover daily it makes me smile. In the animal world when you cross a tiger and a lion you get the mysteriously beautiful liger. In the food world when you cross a plum and an apricot you get a deliciously purple orange Pluot. Only agriculturalists can know the mystery of how these hybrids are specifically cultured through cross-pollination, but the fruits of their labor are 100% worth devouring. Yet, the beautiful climate and soil of CA also allows rare and exotic naturally growing fruit to thrive naturally without any extra help.

This spring when you go to your local farmer’s market you may come across a few curious looking fruits and vegetables. While some fruits are a work of nature, others are cultivated when the pollen from the flower of one plant is transferred to the stigma of another. Unlike a GMO (genetically modified organism), these gorgeous hybrids have never been altered in a lab … though some are so amazing to look at you’d think it was a Dr. Suess drawing brought to life.

In my travels, I had the good luck to taste a Tayberry as well as some Tayberry jam that had just been canned. This tart berry is a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry and perfect for pie making and jamming with a high pectin level. Then you have the Rangpur, a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon, which I love to use in both curry and stir-fry dishes when in season.

Last year I catered a beautiful ranch style wedding at Goleta’s own Goodland Organics farm. I was lucky enough to try out some of their exotic and naturally grown harvest and tasted both a cherimoya as well as a finger lime. Never in my life had I tasted such an exotic combination of flavors, which had me immediately creating new recipes in my head for such cool ingredients. The finger lime, aka the caviar lime, was by far my favorite and I loved hearing how this bushfood native to Australia could find a footing in our soil. While this fruit is not a hybrid and grows wildly in Australia under subtropical weather, once you cut into it and see the acidic pearls hidden inside you’ll be amazed. So, get out of your rut and head to our local markets to try out some amazing new produce that will bring a new zing to your favorite recipes.

Scallop Ceviche

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serving: 4


o    1/2 pound each Shrimps and Scallops, diced

o    1 cup fresh lime juice

o    1/4 cup, finely diced red onion

o    1/2 cup red pepper, finely chopped

o    5 radishes, thinly sliced

o    1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced

o    1/4 finely chopped cilantro

o    Salt and fresh pepper to taste

o    8 Finger Limes

o    Tortilla chips

Cooking Process:

- Place shrimp and scallops in colander, rinse under cold water and let drain. Place in glass or ceramic bowl and cover with lime juice. Refrigerate 1 hour or until seafood cooks through. Remove bowl from fridge and discard 1/2 cup of the lime juice, stir in the chopped vegetable, cilantro and season with plenty of salt and pepper to taste. To serve, spoon mixture into serving glasses, top each glass with the Finger Lime pulp and serve accompanied with chips. Enjoy!


Coastal View - Monthly Article, December 2016'

December 13th, 2016

Coastal View, December 2016

Cookie Decorating Magic

 Have you ever seen a Christmas cookie so beautifully decorated that it was just too pretty to eat? Yeah, me neither! But knowing the time and detail that that baker had put into it, I did end up feeling a little guilty. Since I was just invited to my first “cookie exchange” I thought I’d practice a bit to up my holiday game! I sat at my desk and quickly turned my laptop on, “clickity clack” I typed into the search bar Behold, the website holy grail of all things crafty and thereby time consuming. Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling … Aha, gingerbread stars with crystallized sugar bling – perfect!

Into the kitchen I marched to locate the ingredients and after my dough was made I rolled it out in between two parchment sheets and placed it in the fridge to chill. A few hours later with star cookie cutters in hand, I cut to my heart’s content and arranged them neatly on a silpat lined baking sheet. My first two trays came out exactly as I hoped, neat edges and looking 100% like the star shape I was going for. This all changed by the time I pulled out my third set of baked cookies, which had oozed into a sort of spiky circle. I finally figured out that this was because my buttery gingerbread dough was no longer chilled upon entering the oven heat. That’s alright though, I’d act like the funky ones were meant to be Christmas tree ornaments and entirely part of my cookie plan. As the hot cookies cooled on a nearby rack, I whipped up some royal icing meant to line, fill and flood to decorated perfection. With the precision of a surgeon, or at least that’s what I told myself, I slowly outlined each of my cookie edges and when set proceeded to flood in the filling. Finally finished and proud of my work I decided to do a taste test to confirm they were as delicious as they looked. Yep, they definitely tasted amazing and suddenly half the tray was gone. Here’s to happy cooking making and eating during the holiday season, big hugs- Chef Nikki


Cook Time: 18 min.

Serving: 20


  • 6 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 3/4 cups Softened Butter
  • 1-1/2 cup Firmly Packed Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Molasses
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon Maple Extract

Cooking Process:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, allspice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. In a mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Drizzle in the molasses, mixing well and scraping the sides of the bowl a couple of times to make sure it's evenly combined. Add the eggs and maple extract and mix. Add the flour mixture in three batches, beating until just combined after each addition. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or more if you have time!
  3. When you're ready to bake the cookies, remove the dough from the fridge and preheat the oven to 350 F. When the dough is soft enough to roll but still firm, divide it in half and roll out each half between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Cut out shapes of your choosing and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a baking mat. Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of cutters used, until the cookies are baked through but still soft. Remove with a spatula and allow to cool completely. Enjoy!!

Coastal View - Monthly Article, November 2016'

November 13th, 2016

Coastal View, November 2016

Deep Fried Turkey Love

Once upon a November a frozen Thanksgiving turkey exploded from a home deep fryer and blew a hole through the roof. Now this wasn’t my deep-fried turkey and this wasn’t my roof … but it happened, every year it inevitably happens. Unfortunately, if you drop a frozen bird into a vat of 500-degree oil incorrectly, you get yourself a turkey bomb.

Reason being that when a frozen turkey encounters boiling oil it immediately produces a considerable amount of steam. The steam, or water, expands to almost 1500 times the waters original volume. This steam displaces the molten hot cooking oil, which causes the oil to overflow and spill into the lit flame below. KABOOM!!

To put it into holiday perspective, imagine your excited family all standing around the outside wooden deck to watch the turkey go into the frying pot. Cameras in hand and smiles on everyone’s faces, Uncle Louie slowly lowers the 20-lb. bird into the oil over a flame lit on high. The oil immediately boils over the pot rim and lightly kisses the beautifully refinished wooden deck. Which then ignites and touches an overhanging tree limb, which ignites and then touches a second tree eventually starting a small forest fire and burning the house as well. Suddenly your new Thanksgiving dinner guests are the local fire department and you’re headed to Denny’s.

So, if you’re still planning a fried turkey extravaganza, here’s how you do it the right way.

Step 1: Thaw turkey completely before frying! 100% thaw, 100%!! For every 5 lb. of turkey plan on defrosting 24 hours. A 20-lb. turkey will need 4 days minimum to defrost.

Step 2: Underfill the fryer pot with oil, remember that your 20-lb. turkey will cause displacement in your oil even when fully thawed.

Step 3: Do NOT heat oil above 400 degrees

Step 4: Turn fryer flame OFF before lowering your turkey into the pot. Use a turkey fryer mechanism to lower it into the pot, don’t use your hands directly and wear protective gear.

Step 5: Plan on frying your turkey outside (not on a wooden deck) and away from your house or anything else that may ignite.

If you follow the steps above you are on the right track to having a delicious deep fried turkey with your family and celebrate the right way, sans explosion.


Coastal View - Monthly Article, September 2016'

September 13th, 2016

Coastal View, September 2016

Breakfast for Every Meal

 I’d be perfectly happy eating breakfast every meal of the day. Maybe it’s just me, but if a local diner offers all-day breakfast then you’d better believe I’m ordering it and returning as a happy customer. Syrup tends to make things taste better, especially when paired with the most important ingredient of all – Butter!! Late night pancakes, on-the-run a.m. breakfast burritos and a lunchtime omelet always satisfy. Yet it was on a trip to Tennessee that I was able to devour an amazing treat that works well for every meal of the day, the griddle cake. This isn’t your average pancake, no sir, it’s a deliciously crispy corn cake that you can enjoy alongside bacon and syrup just as easy as a gravy covered pot roast.

It turns out that griddle cakes are a permanent fixture in southern cooking, and the best part is that you only require a handful of ingredients to whip up a batch. Just mix up five simple ingredients into a “soup-like” consistency and get your cast iron skillet piping hot before adding some oil to fry. Then when the edges are all crispy and brown you flip your griddle cake over once and about a minute later you’re all set. Unlike a traditional pancake, griddle cakes are gluten free and soak up just about any delicious sauce or syrup you serve alongside it. So give these a try as we head into autumn with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar on top. Sweet or savory, griddle cakes are where it’s at.

Coastal View - Monthly Article, June 2016'

June 13th, 2016

Coastal View, June 2016

Campfire Cooking

The campfire is lit, tents are up, sleeping bags are rolled out and everyone is huddled together in a circle around the fire. With hands warming by the flames, hangers are passed out and the coils are unwrapped so each member of the group has a s’more stick ready to go. As luck would have it a few marshmallows are lost in the beginning as they melt into the raging fire. But with a little bit of finesse campers are soon roasting with ease and stuffing their crispy marshmallow in between two graham crackers holding a few squares of chocolatey goodness. Then the ghost stories begin …

Summer camping trips are the best time to relax, get adventurous in the wild outdoors and stretch your cooking abilities to serve up some tasty meals. Even though you may be an amazing cook at home, when you’re home base becomes a campsite you have to resort to different tactics to put out a good meal. Nothing beats the smell of bacon roasting over smoke from a burning oak or pine fire, add some hobo stew or campfire beans to wake your group up with stomachs growling. Here are a few tips to get you ready for a summer camping adventure your guests will remember!

1.)    Grab a large cooler: Line your cooler with cardboard to keep the cold in longer. A simple lining of cardboard acts like insulation and will make sure the food you pack stays fresh. Also be sure not to skimp when loading your cooler up, pack it as full as possible. A full cooler is a cold cooler!

2.)    Pack the right cooking gear: Cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens are amazing to cook in, but super heavy to carry. Be sure to bring along a few lighter stew pots or sauté pans that won’t break your back carrying over to your actual camp site. Add a few mixing bowl, stirring spoons, flame-resistant tongs and a percolator. At the start of your day or after a long afternoon hiking a hot cup of cocoa is an amazing way to warm up the cooler nights.

3.)    Campfire Pack: Simple but efficient, always pack some firewood (dry hardwood), matches or a lighter to ignite and a shovel to clear debris at your site or extinguish an existing fire. The kindling you’ll need to get your fire going can be found at your campsite, make sure to search out some dried smaller branches or have some cardboard on hand to get a small fire started. Then as it grows add a larger log to produce more heat, be sure not to grow your fire too large as you’ll eventually need to get to bed and can’t leave a fire unattended as you get some shut eye.

4.)    Pick your cooking method: For a delicious meal you really have one of three methods to get the job done. You may either pick up a lightweight campfire grill to set over the coals, providing a nice flat surface to heat pots, pans and a percolator. You may also cook directly over the coals with a Dutch oven resting on the incredibly hot embers, using double-wrapped foil packets for yummy vegetables like roasted potatoes. If you’d love to cook up some corn you may roast it in its protective husks right on top of the hot coals. Lastly you may grill your food on a stick, simple food like sausages or fire-roasted chilies work best.

5.)    Perfectly roasted courses: Make sure to set your watch timer for 15-20 increments as a reminder to turn your food over and cook evenly. Your easiest method to know your food is done is a simple knife test. If your main course (roast, fish) is not easily pierced with a knife, you’ve got to plan on an extra turn or two to cook it through, depending upon the thickness.

Wishing you and your camping buddies an amazing summer trip – cheers to delicious food, amazing hikes and scary ghost stories! “It was a dark and stormy night, the wind was howling and a tapping could be heard at the front door …”


Campfire Stew

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serving: 4


·         1 lb. ground beef

·         1 can (15 ounces) mixed vegetables, drained

·         1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed tomato soup, undiluted

·         1 can (10-1/2 ounces) condensed vegetable beef soup, undiluted

·         1/4 cup water

·         1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

·         1/4 teaspoon onion powder

·         1/4 teaspoon salt

·         1/8 teaspoon pepper

Cooking Process:

- In a large saucepan, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until heated through. Enjoy!!

Coastal View - Monthly Article, March 2016'

April 13th, 2016

Coastal View, March 2016


Kids Who Cook

I begged, I pleaded, I even offered to do extra chores … all for a pair of rollerblades when I was twelve. No matter how hard I tried I could never get my mom to give in to my requests. My entire family correctly assumed that if you gifted me wheels of any kind, I’d find a way to get into trouble. I suppose its justified since the Toys R' Us episode of 1989. I may or may not have hijacked a "Little Tykes" wagon when I was six and driven it outside into the store parking lot. After remembering the sound of my mom's screams I figured it was a shot in the dark seven years later asking for any sort of mobility. Yet somehow I awoke one Saturday morning to find a pair of blades sitting at the side of my bed with a big bow on top. Figuring this meant my family approved of my need to travel, I strapped them on and headed outside to streets unknown.

Specifically, our town’s Main Street where a locally famous restaurant was situated. It was early in the morning and I watched as two Chefs checked in the morning shipment. Deftly lifting brightly colored fruits and vegetables, leaning over to smell the freshness of parchment wrapped cheese blocks and grabbing entire bodies of fish out of ice packed crates, the scene was a sight to behold. Curiously I rollerbladed over to one Chefs side and asked what he was holding? He looked down at me, muttered a cuss word I am now familiar with and replied, "acorn squash kid". Looking down at my feet he noticed I could move faster than his Sous Chef and told me to grab the lighter boxes one at a time and roll them inside the main kitchen for five bucks. Much to my families dismay I returned home that Saturday afternoon to announce I was now employed as a prep cook. After hearing a few more of mom's recognizable screams I took off my rollerblades and with a giant smile gave her a kiss and said thank-you.

For parents of similarly reckless children, there are ways to harness this sort of energy. Here are a few obvious signs I showed early on that I had a desire to be in the kitchen.

*Watching hours of culinary television -- Growing up it was either re-runs on PBS of Julia Child showing me how to artfully hack a chicken, the knife wielding skills of Chinese cuisine Chef Martin Yan or watching the culinary art of Chef Jacques Pepin.

*Love of markets -- My favorite place to go with my family was by far the grocery store. I took the lead and traveled down the aisles with ease, grabbing items left and right. Though mom had little knowledge of anything I was buying, she let me and the market became a "chore" I happily took over.

*Open palate -- Is your five-year-old excited to try sea urchin when you go out for sushi? Does your ten-year-old reference how much she prefers the taste of pasta with pesto to the flavors of Ragu? It’s rare for a kid to smell let alone taste "out of the norm" cuisine, encourage that as much as you can!

*Spends a large amount of time in your home kitchen, actually cooking -- I learned to use a Chef's knife early on and my tiny hands grew used to sautéing over the high flames of our home range. Don’t get too worried when your children desires to master recipes and kitchen skills 100% hands-on. Even if your kid decides not to become a Chef when they grow up, the passion to cook is one to definitely allow them to explore. As we approach the summer months when school is out of session and kids have plenty of time to learn, set up your own in-home culinary experience for them to enjoy. Or sign them up for a summer camp where cooking is included. You never know how much a week of in-depth kitchen work may shape your child's life.