Yelp's Dia De Los Muertos Chef Salsa Challenge

Yelp dia de los muertos event photos.jpg

I was honored to receive an invitation to participate in Yelp North County's Dia De Los Muertos fundraiser for the California Center of the Arts Children's Programs this week. Within the event, they issued a Chef's Salsa Challenge. I was quite pleased to see the creativity among my competitors, as not one salsa was alike.   

Thanks to everyone who voted for me at the event! I was thrilled to be the Runner Up for my "Secret Ingredient Salsa". It is based on fresh, local ingredients and enhanced with fresh pressed flavored olive oils (that's the "secret ingredient" makes a big difference!!)  Check out the recipe below! Special thanks to the Temecula Olive Oil Company for providing the olive oils.

"Secret Ingredient Salsa"  

2 cups Tomatoes, chopped

¼ cup Red Onion

¼ cup Green Bell Pepper

1 Jalapeño, minced

¼ cup Cilantro, chopped

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

Juice of 1 Lime

¼ cup Jalapeño Infused Olive Oil (I get mine from the Temecula Olive Oil Company)

¼ cup Roasted Garlic Olive Oil (again Temecula)

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 t Chili Powder (I used the Mild Chili Powder from Savory Spice Shop in Encinitas)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.


Dungeness Crab, Clams and Mussels, oh my!

Cioppino is one of my all-time favorite dishes.  Growing up in the Northwest, I spent time crabbing for Dungeness crab, clamming, fishing, getting mussels off the rocks.  This Sunday's Farmer's Market Foodventure is a tribute to my life-long memories.  We still have spots left for this fun-filled afternoon in Solana Beach.  We'll be baking bread, making homemade cheese and eating seafood as fresh as you can get.  Hope you can join us!   Check out the full menu below!

Cook with Jason

Farmer’s Market Foodventure

Sunday, August 9, 2015



The Great Northwest Goes Global

Heirloom Tomato salad w/ Prosciutto-wrapped Avocado, Homemade Mozzarella & Fresh Basil Oil

Homemade Baguette with Compound Herb Butter

Cioppino with Carlsbad Aquafarm Farm-Raised Clams & Mussels, Shrimp, Fish, and Dungeness Crab

Fresh Figs with Homemade Ricotta and Lavender Honey


When I’m developing a recipe, I search and test existing recipes that look interesting and contain flavors & ingredients that I enjoy. One of the many great things about living in 2015 is the accessibility of recipes and reviews on the Internet. When I want to try a new dish, I look for the highest ratings (out of five) along with a large sample size and THEN I make it my own by tinkering with the recipe. 

A while ago, I ran across a gazpacho recipe by Alton Brown. I followed the recipe and it turned out really well. That said, per my personal style, I added a little more toasted cumin and jalapeno. Love that spice! I also cut the amount of olive oil in half, because I wanted to finish the dish with a drizzle of some of my favorite olive oils from the Temecula Olive Oil Company

Thanks to all of you who came out to my launch party and ribbon cutting.  What a beautiful day in Solana Beach! We had a lot of fun doing some giveaways and raffles with Carruth Cellars and Culture Brewing Co

Ribbon Cutting with the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce

Today at The Temecula Olive Oil Tasting Room, I decided to test which oil was better, the Fresh Basil or the Roasted Garlic oil. The jury is still out. Let me know what you think!

Serving gazpacho at Temecula Olive Oil Co

Here is the original recipe for Gazpacho from one of my idols, Alton Brown. 



1 1/2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

Tomato juice

1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (*If you want to replicate my version, cut it in half and finish with drizzling oil on top)

1 lime, juiced

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chiffonade


Fill a 6-quart pot halfway full of water, set over high heat and bring to a boil.

Make an X with a paring knife on the bottom of the tomatoes. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for 15 seconds, remove and transfer to an ice bath and allow to cool until able to handle, approximately 1 minute. Remove and pat dry. Peel, core and seed the tomatoes. When seeding the tomatoes, place the seeds and pulp into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl in order to catch the juice. Press as much of the juice through as possible and then add enough bottled tomato juice to bring the total to 1 cup.

Place the tomatoes and juice into a large mixing bowl. Add the cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, jalapeno, garlic clove, olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, cumin, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the mixture to a blender and puree for 15 to 20 seconds on high speed. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine. Cover and chill for 2 hours and up to overnight. Serve with chiffonade (to cut into thin ribbons) of basil.

Enjoy and make it your own!

What's a Foodventure?

What is a Farmer’s Market Foodventure? Well, I guess it is how I think about cooking. Have fun. Experiment. Eat well. Eat fresh. Take a minute to taste, actually taste your food. Cooking is an adventure, right? At least it should be. Foodventure. It’s simple, adventures with food. It’s traveling the world without a passport. It’s exploring flavors, textures, and beauty of the freshest of the fresh.

Is it a farmer’s market tour? Kinda. Is it olive oil sampling? Yup. Is it wine and beer tasting? Absolutely. Is it a cooking class? Definitely. Foodventure is a fun word that I thought embodied a culinary experience that I’ve wanted to do. It’s probably been used before and will again, but this is my version. I’ll start at the beginning…

A few years ago, I was looking for a cool gift for my wife for Christmas. When I asked her what she wanted, her answer was “Some kind of cool experience.” Okaaaay. So I did what any loving husband would do who had absolutely no idea what to get their wife…I Googled it. Since one of our favorite vacation spots is Santa Barbara, I typed in food experiences in Santa Barbara. What I found seemed to be just the thing. It’s called a “Market Foray”. It’s a farmer’s market tour and cooking class in Santa Barbara led by a French woman named Laurence. Her class starts at the marina, wanders through a local farmer’s market, hits the cheese shop, and winds up at her home where the small group cooks lunch. How cool is that?!?

Farmer's Market in Santa Barbara


During the course of making lunch, Laurence noticed that I wasn’t exactly a typical student. I was a little more “experienced” in the kitchen.  I showed her an easier way to get meat out of crab legs. At one point, she told me that I should do my own foray back home where I lived. What? I’m not French. We laughed. But why not? Why couldn’t I do the same thing where I live? As a former teacher and actor, what better than combine the things that make me happy? I love teaching what I’m passionate about, I love cooking, and I love entertaining people. 


I live in Carlsbad, California. Carlsbad is about 40 minutes north of San Diego. It’s beautiful here. We have great year-round farmer’s markets, fresh local ingredients and great weather. Everything I need is here. All I needed was the perfect spot to tie it all together. Enter the Center for a Healthy Lifestyle.

Center for a Healthy Lifestyle


The Center for a Healthy Lifestyle is a fairly new creation of the Boys and Girls Club that promotes a “farm to table” way of thinking and eating. That is MY type of place. There are only two Centers for a Healthy Lifestyle in the country. Their newest location is in Encinitas (just a few minutes from my house). They have a great teaching kitchen, new appliances, and a huge (and I mean HUGE) garden filled with all sorts of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that only the center has access to. It looks and feels like a cooking classroom. The CHL, however, doesn’t only focus on children. Us big kids are welcome too. It is a great place to hold more “traditional” cooking classes.

CHL Kitchen


The original CHL location is in Solana Beach. Now that place has it all! The “Cottage” has a teaching kitchen too. It’s also surrounded by a quaint little garden and a grapevine covered patio with a dining area, including tables and chairs. One look and you feel at home.

Next, I approached the Solana Beach Farmer’s Market. It has a great vibe. It’s comfortable. The market has lots of different types of booths ranging from several fruit and vegetable stands to hand-made soaps to artisan chocolate and everything in between. The people there are friendly, knowledgeable, and passionate about their products. It’s a great place to hang out and listen to live local musicians, eat great food, and pick up the finest and freshest ingredients.  My family really enjoys it.

Solana Beach Farmer's Market


Only a few steps away from the farmer’s market is a cool little olive oil shop.  When you walk into the Temecula Olive Oil Company Solana Beach tasting room it feels like you’ve walked into a shop in Europe. Their olive oils and vinegars are made just down the road in Temecula and are probably the best I’ve tasted. This isn’t your typical tasting either. First, you take a small sip of the various flavored oils. Then, they pair it with the perfect balsamic vinegar that takes it to the next level. It’s surprising how the flavors play off of each other. My favorite? Fresh Blood Orange Olive Oil paired with Vanilla Fig Balsamic Vinegar. Or maybe the Jalapeno or Hatch Chili oil paired with Honey Balsamic? Truffle? So many great combinations.  

Temecula Olive Oil Solana Beach Tasting Room


Next, I approached Carruth Cellars. Instantly, you feel like you’ve hit a destination. Low light, concrete floors, wood accents, and wine barrels stacked to the ceiling. Oh yeah, and the wine is amazing…Award winning, in fact. Could this beach town get any better?!?  If there were only a craft brewery.  What?!?

Carruth Cellars Solana Beach Tasting Room


Unless you live in Solana Beach, you might think I am making this up.  About a hundred yards down Cedros avenue, is the new Culture Brewery Co. The one word I would use to describe Culture is cool, just coooool. All of their 40+ delicious craft beers are brewed on site. Their beer ranges from a very light flavored Blond to several dark Stout beers that you almost want to eat with a spoon and everything in between. The other day, a local gelato shop was there selling a creamy treat made from Culture’s Milk Stout beer. The gelato (as you would expect) was unbelievable, but when they dropped a scoop of the Stout gelato into a glass of the Milk Stout itself, I about fainted.

Culture Brewing Co Solana Beach Tasting Room


That’s it! This is my food adventure…A Foodventure! It’s the freshest ingredients. It’s the best oils and vinegars. It’s great wine and beer in a funky setting. And most of all, it’s great food! Here’s what we’ll do…

Sunday afternoon at 1:30, a small group of between 6-10 people will meet at “The Cottage” at the Center for a Healthy Lifestyle in Solana Beach. Maybe it’s date night, maybe a group event. Next, we’ll drive a few minutes to the Farmer’s Market on Cedros Avenue where we’ll gather the ingredients for my preset menu.


 Here’s a recent menu:

The Wandering Gaucho

Everything Crisps * Shrimp Ceviche with Lime, Orange, and Grapefruit * Grilled Gaucho Tri Tip with red and green Chimichurri Sauce * Grilled Summer Squash * Avocado Fries with Chipotle-Lime Dipping Sauce * Picante Three-Melon Salad * Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream with Fresh Peaches

Shrimp Ceviche

Avocado Fries.jpg

After we wrap up at the Farmer’s Market, it’s next door to experience the most unique and fantastic olive oil tastings you’re ever had.  Then, depending on the menu, it’s amazing wine or beer tasting.  Then, back up to the Cottage for a hands-on cooking class, a little music, some laughs, and a great meal. 

Foodventure Dinner

Who’s in?

Gone Fishing in San Diego

I’m not going to lie. I love to grow, harvest or catch ingredients to experiment with in the kitchen. It makes me giddy. As a kid, I loved camping and hiking to little streams and lakes to catch trout or trap crawdads. My weekend entertainment was crabbing, clamming and picking mussels and oysters from the Oregon and Washington coasts. Sometimes, I went literally every weekend.  As a matter of fact, my first job was at Dart’s Marina in Wheeler, Oregon. By the time I was 10, baiting crab rings and traps with fish heads was second nature. 

Since moving to southern California, I’ve made an effort to connect with people who share my enthusiasm for the sea and its bounty. One of my favorite local haunts is snorkeling for lobster in La Jolla…at night! Although I’ve been SCUBA diving and snorkeling all over the world (Australia, Jamaica, Hawaii, etc.), this is a particularly fun adventure because lobsters are much faster than crab. When you get your hands on one, it feels like you just found gold! I can’t wait for lobster season to try again. I'd love to organize a cooking class only about lobster!  Or a LobsterFest!

Recently, I connected with Carlsbad Aquafarms and was blown away by what they do there. What I knew about them (or thought I knew) was only the tip of the iceberg. Yes, they sustainably farm mussels and oysters, but more than that, they grow Ogo (an edible seaweed) and abalone. Additionally, the steps they take to produce quality products is more than I expected. At the Aquafarm, not only do they go through several steps to clean their product, they even have a hand in making sure they are the perfect shape. Really, shape?!? Awesome. I am excited to see more!

Farm raised oyster at the Carlsbad Aquafarm

Farm raised oyster at the Carlsbad Aquafarm


I also LOVE fresh fish.  Last Friday I boarded the Chubasco II in San Diego. I really, REEAALLY wanted to catch some as my taste buds were calling. Of course, nothing is guaranteed. Fishing with live bait isn’t easy, especially when you are shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of other excited fishermen trying their hardest to catch your fish. That’s right, live bait. No spinning lures like I knew in my youth. Nope, just me, an oversized pole with a tricky reel, a hook, and a skittish sardine. First, you have to balance yourself with the pole trapped between you and the bait tank while the boat rocks back and forth in the waves (Note: it’s bad form to let your pole whack someone on the head, or worse, hook someone’s ear). Next, you have to grab a living fish with your bare hand that obviously doesn’t want to be caught. Then, once captured, you get to skewer this little wiggling guy through the nose and cast him as far away from the boat as you can without turning your reel into an unusable “birds nest”. Then, you hope that your little fishing buddy swims away from the boat into the mouth of a hungry fish. You now get to wrestle a big swimming muscle for the next half an hour or so. Sounds easy, right?

My first of two yellowtail caught on the Chubasco II

My first of two yellowtail caught on the Chubasco II

Lucky for me, the Chubasco II also comes with the Chubasco crew! They are fully expecting their boat to be loaded with “flatlanders” with ten thumbs. The deckhands are more than happy to grab you a sardine, bait your hook and even cast you out past the other lines (tip accordingly). Then, when by some miracle, you actually hook a fish and get it close, will help pull that sucker up onto the boat, bag it, tag it, and fillet it for you (again, tip accordingly).  I was thrilled to catch two Yellowtail!! Now, to the kitchen to cook!

The flesh of a Yellowtail is a lot like Ahi tuna. If you’ve never tried Ahi tuna…the texture of raw Ahi (and Yellowtail) is more like a perfectly cooked steak than it is like fish. The more you cook it, the tougher it gets. The best dishes for a fresh fish like Yellowtail or Ahi are either raw or slightly cooked by searing to a medium rare or mixing it with citrus juice (like in ceviche). 

Round 1: Sashimi. Thinly sliced fish, a few scallions, some ponzu (soy sauce with citrus), and some wasabi…Yum!  

Sashimi served with scallions, ponzu & wasabi

Sashimi served with scallions, ponzu & wasabi

Round 2: Ceviche. Fresh veggies from the garden, some cilantro, citrus juice (lime, lemon, and orange), salt and pepper, and a squirt or two of ketchup (yes, I said ketchup)…Delicioso!  



Round 3:  Poke. 

I discovered Poke (Poke-eh) a while back and love it! Poke is a raw seafood salad from Hawaii. Traditionally, Poke is made with Ahi, but I think my version with Yellowtail is just as tasty!  If you have an opportunity to catch fresh fish or purchase it at the dock or your local market, I hope you give Poke a try. Here’s my take on it:

Yellowtail Poke

Yellowtail Poke

Yellowtail Poke

2 lbs. Yellowtail

1 small round onion, julienne cut (Maui Onions preferred)

3 green onions, diced

2-4 finely grated garlic cloves (I use a microplane)

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly grated fresh ginger (Peel and freeze it before grating)

1⁄2 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1⁄2teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon Chinese chili sauce

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Cut Yellowtail into at least 1/2" cubes.

Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl & refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve with fried wonton chips.

I have to say, the Poke won the day! As good as or better than any I’ve had (if I do say so myself). Mission accomplished. Now what??? Time to explore. I can’t wait to get back out there. Keep me posted about what you'd like to see me cook or offer in my cooking classes in Encinitas and Solana Beach. 

Welcome to Cook with Jason

Thanks for visiting the site!  My hope is to share with you my enthusiasm for cooking and learning about food. Cooking is a passion of mine, almost an obsession. My philosophy on cooking is quite simply a culmination of my life and the things I enjoy. Growing up in the Northwest, I was lucky to have many opportunities to spend time at the Oregon coast. My childhood was filled with crabbing, clamming, fishing and the like. Seafood was pulled straight from the water and fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden were the foundation on which my palate was built, and for that, I am grateful. 

Now that my family and I live in southern California, I can't help but feel like a kid again with the wealth of fresh ingredients at my fingertips year around.  Sure, my favorite food (Dungeness crab) is a little harder to come by, but luckily, I can fill the void with fresh tuna off the boat or a spiny lobster or two. 

I've also been very lucky to have traveled around the world. Monaco, Barcelona, Sydney, Vienna (lived for 6 months!), Rome, Amsterdam, Florence, Budapest, Nice, Venice, Auckland, Jamaica. I'm fascinated by the deep relationship between a culture and their cuisine. For me, the best part of traveling is coming home with a little piece of the places I've explored. Because of this, my table spans the globe everyday. Thai. French. German. Italian. Argentinian. Asian. Latin.  

I wanted to create culinary experiences that resemble my daily life...start with fresh, local ingredients (what's in season, what looks good) and build a menu that includes worldly flavors and cooking techniques that save you time and money.  And along the way, taste and sample from local businesses who are focused on their craft.  The Farmer's Market Foodventure is a chance to get together with friends or meet new friends, hear from experts on selecting produce, cooking with oils, vinegars, craft brew or wine and participate in cooking a fabulous meal at the end.

I hope you will join me!