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California: One of the World's Healthiest Cuisines
California. The diversity of people, terrain and food can almost guarantee that you will never be bored if you’re willing to travel and explore new places and foods. Because of this fusion of people, we are able to enjoy the many unique food styles that have been created and are typically low in saturated fats and incorporate a large amount of fresh produce and seafood from the Pacific Ocean. When serving this style of food, presentation is taken very seriously, and it’s almost always guaranteed to taste as good as it looks.
 
California cuisine can be described in many ways and some of them include seasonal, local, fresh and sustainable. Many restaurants, especially in the San Francisco area, all share these similar characteristics, but at the same time they are all extremely original. Meals include a combination of small yet delectable portions which are “chef driven” instead of being based on a theme or cuisine “type”. There are, of course, always exceptions to the rule, but the majority of true California cuisine follows these guidelines. Not only are California cuisine style dishes “chef driven”, but they are also ingredient driven. Chefs try to bring out the natural goodness of ingredients by using herbs and seasonings, but only to enhance – never to overpower the natural flavors.

Because California cuisine is a fusion cuisine, it still incorporates the healthful ingredients that Italians and Spaniards brought with them from their home lands. Italian settlers brought grapes, which is one reason why California is now the top wine producer in the United States, producing over 500 million gallons of wine per year! When Spanish missionaries moved to the area, they planted the first olive trees, which now produce heart healthy olive oil. These missionaries are also the inspiration for San Francisco’s mission district cuisine, including Mission style burritos. 


Popular Dishes
California Pizza
California pizza, unlike New York or Chicago style pizza, isn’t unique because of its crust. This pizza is in a league all of its own. California style pizza fuses New York and Italian crust to create a thin crust that is typically made in a personal serving size. This crust is then topped with local ingredients including, but not limited to a variation of chicken, eggs, vegetables, avocado and cheeses.  This style of pizza is more of a complete meal that just happens to top a thin crust than just dough, sauce and cheese. 

When it comes to California style pizza, there are two contributors that we must thank for the widespread popularity – Ed LaDou and Wolfgang Puck. Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant Spago was the beginning of an empire and he hired LaDou as head pizza maker. Later on, LaDou was helping a pair of lawyer – restaurateurs open a business and stepped in at the last minute when their chef quit a month before opening. Little did he know that this startup, California Pizza Kitchen, would go on to be one of the nationally top recognized chains of California pizza.

California Roll and Sushi

Sushi is traditionally a Japanese food made by wrapping rice, vegetables or seafood in a thin seaweed wrap. This seafood can either be raw or cooked depending on preference, but raw seafood was used in the early days of sushi making.
The California Roll, one of the most commonly recognized sushi rolls in the US, comes to us with the California Cuisine philosophy of using fresh, healthy ingredients in this very literal version of fusion cuisine. California sushi rolls contains cucumber, crab meat or imitation crab, avocado and rice. This sushi roll is considered an “inside out” roll because the rice is located on the outside of the seaweed wrap, instead of on the inside. 
 

Specialty Salads
What makes a salad a “California style salad”? Well, California is all about chopped salads. They also love their fresh ingredients, as you already know. Oranges, avocados and seafood are all staples when it comes to California salads, but one specific salad that California can be credited with creating is the Chinese Chicken Salad. This fusion salad includes chicken, deep fried wonton skins and a delicious dressing made from fresh or pickled ginger and sesame oil.


Fish Tacos
Another signature California dish has recently been making its way around the country, the fish taco. This dish is the epitome of fusion cuisine. In 1983, Ralph Rubio was a US college student who took a trip to Baja, Mexico for spring break. When he returned with a recipe for his favorite fish taco from Mexico the fusion began. He put a small spin on the taco and it quickly gained popularity. There continue to be variations as fish taco trucks spring up around the country, but stick to baked or grilled fish (instead of deep fried) for a delicious and healthy snack or meal.

Now that your eyes have been opened to the very intricate yet simple cuisine of California, you can use these simple yet effective ways to eating to enhance your diet with healthy but still delicious food.


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