Polenta Cakes for tapas?


What are your first thoughts when you read the following?

“Polenta Cake and shrimp”
Crispy polenta cake, cajun style shrimp and a Manchego cheese sauce

Well, here is the picture:

Southern hospitality meets the west coast with this tapa.

Southern hospitality meets the west coast with this tapa.










If you are someone who likes seafood, specially shrimp, it’s very likely you will end up ordering this dish at Cueva Bar.
A couple of years ago we had a guest chef cooking with us at Cueva Bar, Chef Chad Kilgore. Chef Kilgore is one of my very good friends whom I’ve collaborated in more than one occasions is the one who introduced me to polenta cakes. The purpose of collaborating in the kitchen, as I see it,  is to create greatness, and so we did during the dinner when I became inspired to create a polenta cake of my own. Chef Kilgore’s polenta cakes have a little firmer consistency than the ones we prepare at Cueva. After learning how my friend makes his recipe, I started experimenting in the kitchen until I came up with the grain/ water ratio I wanted to achieve a polenta cake that’s crispy on the outside, yet as soft as the softest cut of meat you’ll ever have.

I always like to share recipes with anyone who wants to give them a try. So this time, I will leave you with a recipe for our polenta cake. Once you’re happy with your results, the combinations are infinite! So get your apron on, wear your chef’s hat proudly and get cooking!

12 Cs water
4 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3.5 Cs cornmeal
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp minced garlic
May add other spices depending on season.

1. Bring 12 cups of water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan.
2. Add 4 teaspoons of salt, pepper and garlic and mix.
3. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal.
4. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 5-8 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and stir until melted.
6. Spread evenly on a baking sheet size 9 1/2 X 13
7. Allow to cool
8. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for about one hour.
10. Once polenta is firm, portion into 12.
11. In order to achieve an outside crispy texture, place in a convection oven, at 450F on high fan for about 6 minutes. If you don’t have a convection oven, a toaster oven or the broiling feature on a regular stove top oven will do the job. However, using non commercial equipment will change the dynamics of the heat and time. That is something you will need to figure out in order to achieve the consistency you like, but please, do contact me with any questions you have. Happy cookings!




Homeless in San Diego, a reader’s response.


The following is a response to the blog I wrote about homeless people in San Diego:

“What is the Universe telling you Oz, nothing more than you already know – be kind and compassionate. Could be that allowing him to use your bathroom and have a glass of water made an impact on him and he’s shared your location with other homeless as a place where the owner is understanding and cool.

When I went through a terrible divorce in Coronado many years ago, I was homeless for about 15 days. Because of the temporary restraining order (given to me under a false pretense) I had no place to go.

I slept by the beach and used the bathrooms by Glorieta Bay. People I encountered noticed my full backpack and automatically assumed I was homeless. Some wouldn’t even look me in the eye or acknowledge my presence, simply wanting me to “out of their sight – out of their mind”.

There was one person who approached me and asked about my very expensive mountaineering backpack. I told him that I’ve climbed the highest peaks in California, summiting Mt Whitney numerous times. He said that must be hard to do. It was tough, but being homeless is harder both mentally and physically, being homeless you don’t sleep at night due to the fear of being assaulted or having the police asking you to go somewhere else (This is why you see many sleeping during the day).

This person then offered to allow me to camp in his backyard for a couple of days. I was overwhelmed by his kindness and hospitality.

During this period I encountered other homeless people, some lucid some not so lucid. The homeless community shares information on which trash bins get the out-of-date produce, or where the best restaurants toss out the left over’s and at what time, and even who on the island offered them the use of the bathroom.

Now to today:
I’ve been watching a young homeless man in his mid 20’s who comes by Small Bar to chat with friends he’s been homeless I estimate about 1 year now. During that time his health has been going downhill. He is aging rapidly and it’s tough to watch this transformation. Some offer to buy him a pint, others give him a smoke. He always says thank-you.

We should listen to the words in the song “What It’s like” by Everlast:

~We’ve all seen the man at the liquor store beggin’ for your change
The hair on his face is dirty, dreadlocked and full of mange
He asked a man for what he could spare with shame in his eyes
“Get a job, you fuckin’ slob”‘s all he replied

God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to sing the blues
Then you really might know what it’s like~

Be kind – don’t turn a blind eye.”