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Monday, August 22, 2011

Chef makes eating fresh, local seem easy

Chef makes eating fresh, local seem easy

Paul Buchanan is one of the city's premier chefs. An educator, culinary consultant and caterer, Buchanan runs Primal Alchemy, which promotes using fresh food, in season, grown locally, whenever possible. You can check it all out on

Q: Growing your own food or buying it at farmers markets is fine for produce, but what if you eat the occasional animal?

A: You can do that locally, too, or at least you can know where it's coming from. We have livestock raised for us by the Buena Park FFA (Future Farmers of America). We recently butchered a 240-pound Red Duroc pig.

Q: You didn't name it, did you?

A: No, of course not. "Pig" is what we called it.

Q: What did you have for breakfast?

A: Let's see ... I had lowfat yogurt with blueberries and granola. I bought the granola from Sconeage Bakery at the farmers market on Sunday. It's a local business.

Q: What's the best farmers market in the area?

A: It used to be the Friday one in downtown, but now it's been taken over by leaps and bounds by the Sunday farmers market at Alamitos Bay Landing behind the Whole Foods.

Q: Do you buy all your produce there?the farmers there. I'm not a health nut, but I want to know where my food comes from.

A: We grow a lot of our produce at gardens around town just for my family - me, my wife and our daughter. But I buy everything that we use in the business mostly at the farmers market. I know and am friends with most of

Q: I've seen some of the tomatoes you grow. They're beautiful, but don't they kind of gang up on you this time of year?

A: They do, but there are things you can do with them when you get too many. I grow about 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and several non-hybrid varieties. You can can them, make sauce, dry them. There's nothing easier than making tomato soup.

Q: Easy for you, or easy for me?

A: You just fill up a blender with tomatoes. Just take the stems out and throw them in to the top. Put in a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of kosher salt, three cloves of garlic and set the blender on high for one or two minutes. And after it's smooth, pour a slow stream of olive oil - two tablespoons at the most - down the center of the funnel. All you do then is pour it through a fine strainer to remove the seeds and the skin and you're done. You can make soup in all different colors - red, yellow, orange, green.

Q: Before I forget: Dogs or cats? I mean as a pet, not an ingredient. Or, you can do it as an ingredient if you'd like, but you're gonna get letters from the cat people.

A: I'm a dog person, definitely, for pets. We have a 13-year-old dachshund, a brindle named Ziggy, and we have another dachshund named Dasher.

Q: Labor Day is coming up. If I wanted you to cater it, what would you make?

A: I'd probably go with barbecued chicken chili. Chicken is good, but sometimes it takes too long to grill, so it's good to go with the chili. I'd serve it with sweet corn pudding; the corn is really good right now. Not too much bread, because it's too filling and not that great, unless it's a killer garlic bread, then it's worth it. I just smear some fresh garlic and butter on a good sourdough and grill it. Then, a big salad, or a big platter of heirloom tomatoes with a little basil and sea salt and balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I go to We Olive on Second Street in Belmont Shore and get their peach white balsamic vinegar. For a salad dressing all you need is that, with olive oil and salt and pepper. Maybe some diced shallots, and that's all you need.

Q: You ever just go out and grab a burger somewhere?

A: I'll eat at In-N-Out about once every three or four months. I have steak maybe about as often. Short ribs a little more often. In general, we try to eat better quality. I pay about twice as much for meat than you would at a grocery store, but I only eat about half as much beef as most people, so it comes out about the same.

Q: Where do you do all your cooking for catering?

A: My kitchen is at 19 39th Place. Anyone can come by. If the curtains are open, we're there.

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