Local Bounty: October 15
Lobster! The Local Season Begins
Talk about lobster and no doubt you’ve got thoughts of bright red crustaceans sporting an outsized claw. Tempting, of course, but those are the ones local to New Englanders. On our left coast—and truly in the back yard that is our little patch of the Pacific—we have our own native lobsters. These are the California spiny lobster. No, there are no massive claws; they’re pretty much all body and skinny legs. Sweet and tender, usually between one and two pounds, although they can be much larger—as much as 16 pounds.
And, now they’re in season. With the beginning of October, the annual harvest begins. Yes, you can find them served in a variety of restaurants, but you can also buy them live at places like Catalina Offshore Products, who get theirs fresh from local fishermen. This week we celebrate our local lobster—and have a few products you might want to accompany them.
California Spiny Lobster
I’ll be honest., my favorite way to eat lobster is as simple as it gets—even Woody Allen could do it. Think Annie Hall, with Woody and Diane Keaton chasing an errant lobster around a kitchen before its final bath. Bring a huge pot of water to the boil, cover, wait several minutes and dinner is served. I like to dunk the meat in melted butter. While boiling is certainly the go-to method, lobster is also splendid baked, fried, and grilled. Enjoy it as the main course or pull apart the meat and make tacos or burritos or a quesadilla. Add the meat to a salad. Use it in a bisque or chowder. Make lobster tempura. It’s all good. Catalina Offshore Products sells them starting at $17.50 a pound.
Saucing the Lobster
If you go to the farmers markets, you’ve probably seen the booth housing Lilliana’s Delices and thought it was simply importing various Euro-Moroccan delicacies. But owner Ben Abdeljalia, who named the company after his granddaughter, actually makes much of what he sells. I asked him what he’d recommend to accompany lobster and got a big spoonful of rich, spicy pesto, made with basil, garlic, Moroccan olive oil, and three types of nuts: pine, hazelnut, and cashew ($9 a jar). Then he tempted me with sweet homemade aioli, seasoned with fragrant Herbes de Provence and crushed peppercorn ($5 for 8 ounces). Want to stick with butter? Try his garlic butter, white whipped butter blended with hydroponically grown garlic ($6 for 8 ounces). You can find him at the Mira Mesa, Mission Hills, UTC, Carmel Valley, Imperial Beach, La Costa High School, and Leucadia farmers markets.
Sopping Up the Juices (or Making a Sandwich)
Lobster rolls are strictly a New England phenomena but with all that sweet lobster juice and those lovely sauces, I, at least, need something hearty to sop it all up. I adore a good sourdough bread and you can find that at any number of bakeries, including Belen Artisan Bakers of Escondido. They sell a large crusty levain for $5. You could also make a California-style lobster roll sandwich with their garlic ciabatta ($2 apiece), adding slices of avocado for a local touch, or try something different and make a sweet lobster salad with Lilliana’s Delices aioli and chopped celery piled onto slices of brioche ($5). Belen sells at 15 farmers markets in San Diego County, and is located on S. Escondido Blvd.