California cuisine is a cuisine marked by an interest in "fusion"— integrating disparate cooking styles and ingredients— and which, out of respect for the state's health-conscious tradition, tends to produce food which is fresh and/or lean, rather than manufactured and/or fried. 
California cuisine adapts old world and far east cooking techniques to the ingredients available in California. Many dishes include avocado, artichoke, citrus fruits, almonds, and mushrooms. Rice and pasta replace the potatoes and corn more commonly seen as the main starch in American cuisine.
Due to California's long coast with the Pacific Ocean, the use of seafood is quite common, especially abalone, Dungeness crab, squid and Pacific salmon. Beef, turkey, and chicken are the most commonly used meat and poultry, with lamb and pork used with less frequency.
California has a large Asian population, and California cuisine has adopted many ingredients and spices common to East Asian cuisines, such as bok choy, sesame, ginger, tofu; Southeast Asian cuisines, such as lemon grass, galangal, and rice noodles, thin or wide; and South Asian cuisines, such as curry and various kinds of dhal.
Various cities and towns in California are well known for particular agricultural items, such as garlic in Gilroy and artichokes in Castroville, and accordingly, these ingredients are well represented in those locations.
Methods of cookingEdit
Meats, seafood, and vegetables tend to be grilled over direct, high heat for short periods; slower cooking methods such as roasting, and stewing are much less common, while barbecueing food for hours is unheard of. Most fruits and vegetables, and some types of seafood, are eaten raw, while many foods are quickly steamed or blanched.
Sauces are very simple, often the juices released while cooking the main dish are combined with wine or stock and simply reduced. Cooking with vegetable oils, such as olive oil, is common, while the use of butter is less than normal for an American cuisine, and other animal fats, such as lard, are very rare. The appearance of the food is given a high importance, with fresh, brightly colored food almost as important as taste.
Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, is usually credited with originating California cuisine and retains the reputation of offering the ultimate California cuisine experience. Wolfgang Puck, from the Spago restaurants, popularized California cuisine to the rest of the world by catering high profile celebrity parties such as the Oscar after party.
However, California's culinary traditions pre-date Waters and Puck by several centuries. Native Californians used the acorn as the staple of their diet, which was largely abandoned with colonization of the area. However, other common foods, such as salmon remain an important part of the cuisine.
In the Spanish and Mexican colonial periods, the primary industry in Alta California was tallow and leather produced by the large cattle ranchos. A side effect of this was large quantities of beef that would spoil before reaching any potential customers in Mexico. It was used locally, becoming an important part of the diet of even the poor laborers. The Spanish colonists brought many other crops with them to California. From Spain came citrus fruits such as the orange and lime, olives, wheat, and grapes to make wine. From Mexico came avocados and chili peppers.
The influx of immigrants during the California Gold Rush brought many different cultures and cuisines into contact with each other. Sourdough bread, a San Francisco tradition to this day, was so common that sourdough became a general nickname for gold prospectors. The large Chinese population led to first importing rice, then finding locations and varieties that would grow locally. American land barons planted fruit orchards and vinyards to meet the demand in the growing cities and mining camps, while Japanese farmers began the first large scale vegetable farms in the state.
For a list of recipes see the California recipes category.