Simplicity for Spring

Happy Spring Everyone!

Usually I would start my Giornale with a little story, but since I’m so excited about the upcoming season, I want to start off with the dish of the month…but of course I’ll add a story about it.

Colazione del Contadino

(The Farmer’s Breakfast)

Colazione del Contadino "Before"

There is something so fascinating about simplicity in cooking, especially using classic methods and fresh ingredients. I grew up eating very simple dishes created from the most seasonal ingredients. At the farm we didn’t really know any different, since everything was sourced there. With very few trips to the grocery store, we ate everything that was available that season and there were plenty of choices.

This dish reminds me so much of my Grandmother (Nonna Antonia would have been 100 this year). On early mornings in the Spring, the outdoor temperature would still be a bit low in our area of Italy, and on busy days my father would ask me to go help Nonna Antonia. Like most kids, I would ask, “What do I get to do?” His answer would be, “Get your Nonna to cook you breakfast before we start the day, and you get to pick the ingredients you want.”

Even at that age, I would think, “Cool!” I already knew that I was going to become a chef, so it was a no brainer to take a quick walk around the farm and pick the ingredients.

Stop #1 – Figure out the protein. I would see all our chickens and pick the eggs still warm (No kidding! How much fresher can you get than that.) A couple of times they got kind of mean and started chasing after me.

Stop #2 – Figure out the vegetable part of the meal. I would see a beautiful baby zucchini with a nice little blossom and think “Frittata!” Then I would pick some onions and keep wandering around the garden.

Stop #3 – No breakfast would be served without fruit, so I would pick whatever looked best and would be easiest to reach. As a kid, there were a couple of times when, trying to be helpful, I climbed a fruit tree too high and took a bad fall. After that I always looked for things that could more easily be  accessed, like the little wild strawberries I loved. They were so sweet, one bite was like pure sugar on your tongue.

Once all the ingredients were in my little wicker basket I would go back to the farmhouse and my Nonna would take care of the rest. Colazione del Contadino was one of my very favorite breakfasts, a simple and flavorful frittata accompanied by a couple of pieces of grilled bread with our olive oil and some sugar (a cheap version of French Toast.) Every bite was so good, I can still see the smile on my Nonna’s face. She was so proud of her little grandson, and she always made me feel very special.

Colazione del Contadino "After"

So since it’s springtime, I felt like giving you a very simple dish idea to make for your kids, or better yet, have them help make it and learn how to do it just like I did.

The one thing you may not be able to find is the cheese we used, because back then we would make our own Caciotta, which is a semisoft cheese made from sheep’s milk. I am pretty sure that nobody in this town will have that, so I suggest a great substitute – fresh feta.

Visit the downtown farmer’s market and look for Spring Hill, which is the very best feta product at this moment. While you are at the market, make sure to buy cage-free organic eggs and baby zucchini with blossoms. The dish photos show the kind of fruit I would serve at this time of the year.

Download the Recipe

Enjoy! And let me know if you want to hear more about farm style, simple cooking.

An Ultimate San Diego Wedding

On January 19th, we catered the ULTIMATE San Diego wedding. Actually, it’s not just my opinion – the wedding was the prize for Magic 92.5’s “Ultimate San Diego Wedding” contest, sponsored by Bridal Insider. Over 200 couples entered the contest and the public chose winners, Rachel Stewart and Matthew O’Donovan, to receive the free wedding courtesy of over 30 local vendors. More information about the contest and the winners.

We were asked to be the caterers for Rachel and Matthew, and we had a great time with their theme of “golden winter romance.”  As always, the El Cortez was a gorgeous backdrop for their special day, and as you can see in the pictures, the couple had a wedding they’ll never forget.

Share Your “Best Of”  Opinion

San Diego Magazine's 2011 Best Restaurants Nomination Form

As you’ve seen over the past year, we’ve grown in many ways, and we’ve also recommitted ourselves to the things that are most important to us, like healthy living and sustainable food. So much of what we do is in response to the support and great feedback we get from our clients. We are always deeply grateful, and we hope we’ve given back to our community as much as we’ve gained.

The San Diego Magazine “Best Of” poll is just one way for us to get that all-important feedback, and we hope you would take a moment to vote for us. If we’ve delivered the kind of service this year that you’ve found worthy of mentioning, then all of us at Giuseppe Restaurants and Fine Catering can celebrate a job well done!

Please click here to place your vote. There are several categories, so we are concentrating on the following:

  • Best Chef – Giuseppe Ciuffa
  • Best Catering – Giuseppe Restaurants & Fine Catering
  • Best Outdoor Dining – Museum Cafe at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Thank you so much for supporting us!

Getting Ready for Graduation

Each year as the end of the school year gets close, I see families rushing around, getting ready for more warm weather activities and all the changes that will come with the summer. Students are busy too, concentrating on their final exams, and probably daydreaming a lot about their vacations. I also notice that, since it’s not something that happens every year, graduation parties can get planned at the last minute, with families not realizing the preparation it can take to produce the event they had imagined.

I look at my kids and it seems impossible that they’ll be done with school someday. From the graduation events we’ve catered, I’ve come to see the party as a fun and special way for the whole family to reflect on their achievements and to mark a turning point in their lives.

So here is my reminder that comes at this time each Spring… If you have a soon-to-be graduate in your family, it’s time to party!  For students who’ve reached your goals, whether it’s a diploma or a degree, you deserve some fun. And for parents who’ve given all your support over the years, it’s your celebration too.

For parties of any size, you can choose from our full-service private catering, Specialty Menu drop-off service, or private dinners at our cafes. Just get started soon! Call 858.581.2205 for more information.

Stay Healthy

A couple of times each year, I share my thoughts about health and fitness, since I spend a good amount of time training for my triathlon races. I’m always looking into ways to stay healthy and fit, but sometimes I overlook things and I pay the price.

A perfect example happened right before the holidays. On the evening before Thanksgiving, I was having dinner with Salem, the kids and some other friends and families. It was a great evening. We grilled all night, cooked some serious side dishes and drank some good wine. At one point, we said why not and smoked a couple of cigarettes just for the fun of it. Bad combo for someone who lives a very healthy lifestyle!

The result was an episode in the middle of the night where I woke up, tried to stand and passed out not once, but twice. Luckily Salem was there to help me. Long story short, I ended up in an ambulance and spent the night at the emergency room.

So what happened? Nothing was wrong with me, but they called it a fainting episode that can happen to people sometimes when getting up too quickly. In any case, the doctors asked me to go for a follow up visit to make sure there was nothing wrong with my heart. Being a good stubborn Italian, I waited a few months but did finally get all the tests they ordered.

Thanks to a good friend who recommended the Cushman Wellness Center at Sharp Hospital, I found this unbelievable deal called the Men’s Health Assessment. For the unreal price of $399, I got a full check up that included all blood work, check of my BMI (body mass index), weight and body fat and a stress test for my heart. They even fixed me a great breakfast and finished with a one hour massage to die for….what is there NOT to like!

Doctor Levinson is the man in charge. During the stress test he was right there with me at the treadmill. He would ask, “Go higher? How do you feel?” and I would answer, “Good Doc. Keep going.” Then again, he would ask, “Go higher? Now how do you feel?” and I’d answer the same, “Good Doc. Keep going.” After about 18 minutes of this, the guy looks at me and smiles. “Giuseppe, you have the heart of a professional athlete. Your level of fitness is way above average, and yes there is nothing wrong with you. Happy now?”

You bet I was happy and blown away! Two months before, I was freaking out, concerned that there was something wrong with my health. In one afternoon, I had a doctor reassuring me and telling me I had the heart of a pro athlete. It was such a relief and a self-confidence builder that now I’m recommending  everyone get their health checked.

I got my health report in the mail one week later. Each category was detailed and tailored to my current conditions. More than ever, I know what I need to do to stay healthy, and I’m re-energized about taking good care of myself. I think about all the valuable things that I learned from my health report, and  I encourage all of you to take the time to go there and try it out. Especially if you have a full working schedule with everyday stresses and an active lifestyle. Better safe than sorry! For more information about the Men’s Health Assessment, call 1-800-82-SHARP.

That is it for this Giornale. It really helped me clear my head, and I hope that all the things I mentioned will help you to feel better in life, from food, to health to physical activity. I can’t wait to give you some of the latest and most exciting news, so I will send a special announcement soon. Stay tuned on Facebook and/or Twitter and you’ll find out soon enough!

Until then,

Mangia Bene e Vivi Meglio