Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reminiscing on a few summer moments before we head full force into fall. Or Indian Summer no. 2. These are some of the delightful entries at the Orange County Fair.

Pure southern California...

A gorgeous trellis held together by gardening wire and thick string. Very inspiring.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Buena Comida

Eating with strangers should be a mandatory monthly event. It is good to get out of your comfort zone and sit among the folks in your community, eating excellent chow, watching hungry excitement turn into sated bloated satisfaction.

Last Monday I headed to Loteria Grill in Hollywood for a Mexi-Italian feast: my gift for supporting public radio and subscribing to KCRW during the Good Food radio hour. Loteria Grill is a gorgeous spacious place, with oversized Loteria cards hanging above the bar and banquet. I quenched my palate with a prickly pear margarita, hot pink and laced with salt and some chili pepper.

Folks are coming in fast, eyeing the large platters and bowls. Grab a seat then begin the rounds. Chicken mole tacos, zucchini blossom empanadas, carnitas enchiladas. But the star of the night was no doubt Evan Kleinman's butternut squash lasagna with fontina cheese. Sweet, nutty, creamy beyond the depths of cream. I gently reminded my fellow diners to the magic qualities of butter. And the gnocchi... I should have put a few dumplings in my purse to take home and freeze. Just to have them in my presence would create calm. Thyme Gnocchi with an Heirloom tomato sauce. Sort of puzzled by their beautiful rosy pink color. No idea why they would be pink. Don't really care.

The desserts were a city wide collaborative affair. Tres leches cake by Loteria, lemon tiramisu by Evan, caramel chili lollipops from Little Flower Candy Company in Pasadena. After a couple margaritas and all the goodness presented before, desserts were hard to get down, but still worth standing in line for.

My table of course fell into the subject of food quite easily; where to eat creole in LA, comparing good ice cream joints, recommendations for Brazilian food. I steered a couple towards a good BBQ joint in a parking lot in Alta Dena on Lake, then we all reminisced on our experiences at Bulgarini Gelato on Alta Dena Avenue. We got into our favorite treats at Trader Joe's. I am loudly celebrating the return of the almond macaroon, and now am on the lookout for chocolate covered caramels with fleur de sel.

A lovely festive atmosphere. The chefs were followed by cameras and fans, a little manic but worthy of the praise. Nothing too obnoxious. I would have gotten a photo of the chefs as well, but I was too full.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eating Paste

I need a culinary incentive.

Something to lure me away from my usual food haunts, to keep my dollars close, to cook at home and plan menus. A store bought bottle of wine which costs as much as a glass out is a good way to spend the night in, but what can make an unmotivated breakfast palette want to cook in her own kitchen?

A singular ingredient that works morning, noon and night. Something to take pride in, something to spread and dollop and accentuate.

This week's motivator turned out to be pesto.

It started with me recreating my favorite sandwich from the Downbeat Cafe. Mozzarella Pesto on Baguette. Extra-toasted please and add avocado.

I avert my eyes from the cafe and head to market. Fresh mozzarella, a demi-baguette, an overpriced but perfectly ripe avocado from Gelson's. I spot flat leaf parsley and grab a bunch, but refuse to pay the 3 dollars for the measly sprig of basil in the plastic container. The full and lush plant of basil from Trader Joe's still sits on my stoop beckoning.

If you buy jarred pesto, I must insist you stop immediately. At Italian delis there are often containers of frozen or refrigerated pesto that are quite excellent. But jarred pesto reeks of citric acid and cheese by products, remnants of something that was once crisp and green.

I make my pesto in a mini Black and Decker food processor. I grew up on a smoother blended pesto, but have been getting accustomed to a more rustic grandmotherly pesto, where the herbs and texture are more prominent. (My food processor is effective but dinky.)

I add basil but also add Italian parsley, arugula, maybe spinach if it's on hand. And pine nuts are too expensive today, so I do walnuts. A tiny clove of garlic. High quality extra virgin olive oil. Juice of 1/2 a lemon. Too lazy to pick out the seeds that fell in. Blend again. I don't add parmesan only because I don't have any. I am cheap. Or forgetful.

This pesto is good enough to eat by the spoonful. I proclaim it a true elixir of health, warding off all diseases and weak minded folks.

This pesto cracks my tired imagination slightly open. Awesome downbeat sandwich gets made (I am even motivated to make my own coffee) but the next day I add it to pasta with sauteed chard and zucchini. Green on green on green.

I make a very thin omelette and spread the pesto, maybe some chopped treviso, now time to add the parmesan that was once forgotten. (Never again, I promise.)

Little toasts with cheese and pesto make the perfect afternoon snack. Mix with a bit of oil and vinegar to make a salad dressing. Folded into rice. Spread on a piece of fish. Use it as a face scrub. Minus the cheese. Lots of basil left. More motivation to come.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Post Summer Mortem

Now that was a great summer.

Mild weather.
Lots of swimming.
Long lazy afternoon lunches.
Twilight dinners.
Old and new friends.
Cooking for 30. Cooking for 1.
Immersed in a river in Eastern Washington with a cup of Sangria made by a dear friend.
The carving of a massive 20 pound slightly perverse zucchini.

Things have changed.
The boy mentioned frequently in my last post is no longer in my life. I will no longer refer to him or his culinary choices. It was a good run while it lasted but consistency is key.

Speaking of consistency, I have sorely neglected this seedling of a blog. I have thought of it often, maybe like one thinks of the mountains of boxes lying in the attic above them. Treasures galore, but the weariness sets in and summer is just outside.

But I can honestly say, I have fallen more in love with food than ever and this summer I cooked with feverish joy and curiosity. With time and space (physical and mental both), inspired by articles, books, moods, friends and boredom.

As we venture into Autumn, my favorite season, I hope to reflect back on some good recipes and good times. This blog currently lives in Los Angeles where seasons are subtle and intricate. A bounty awaits. I want to follow it, pick at it, explore the possibilities.

Back in my small apartment with my clumsy ill-equipped kitchen. My cat lies next me, eyes closed, arms overhead in full surrender. Fall down, fall in. Eat up, eat out. Record these adventures. They come and go so fast.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Learning to Love

In many ways the man I date is my dream dude. Soulful, warm, affectionate, creative, and smart. With a wicked sense of humor and a penchant for late night dancing and grub, he is the bees knees in my book. Sure there are differences; obstacles and annoyances on both our parts. But it seems to get worked out in the midst of a great deal of fun and who can ask for more.

When you have good love, it more than makes up for the fact your lover has an aversion to most vegetables, when you yourself could not live without them. You can let it slide when he expresses his momentary craving for KFC, the mere thought making a gag well up in the back of your throat.

He is not interested in the arduous shopping process of fine picking fruits and veggies from the local farmers market. He finds it ridiculous and time consuming to frequent several different shops for necessities and special ingredients. He is a sucker for bland and meaty, super sweet and saucy, and is wary of anything green and oddly shaped. He loves food, no doubt. But not in the way I love, obsess, and NEED food. He does try to support my habit and attempts to keep me well fed every few hours, so you can see why I stick around.

He has stood by his valid excuse to keep a fridge stocked with packaged items and frozen treats. His kitchen is makeshift in his studio/dark room, consisting of a toaster oven, a one burner camping stove, and a very large sink. One might find this restricting, keeping meals simple, reheat-able and effortless but I find this a welcome challenge and a way to slowly creep in fresh seasonal food that is worth the small extra effort to shop for and prepare. And he has been eager to make a shift and to be healthier.

So I start slow in his hopeful transformation.
Yesterday we made our way to the Saturday market and spent approximately twelve dollars on a good selection of produce. He kept an open mind as we chose ingredients for his favorite standbys; tacos, fajitas, stir fries, pasta. Let's not get too adventurous at the risk of scaring him away.

Zucchini goes into our bag, along with a shiny Japanese eggplant, a bright red pepper, and carrots (of which he is not fond but attempting). He bravely chooses a knobby root of ginger on his own. He opted for the baby spinach because the mesclun mix looked "jagged and spiky". To my delight he picked up a fresh head of garlic contemplating throwing his jarred (oh, the horror) garlic out.

We picked up a red onion and cilantro, an herb I am grateful he likes. The pluots were gorgeous but he opted for a honey melon instead.

Then on to Trader Joes, where I wrestled fish sticks and frozen gyoza from his hands, settling on marinated mahi mahi and a veggie burger that was not saturated in corn by-products.

I picked up some organic chicken breasts and marinated it overnight in greek yogurt, cumin, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and lemon.

Searing the chicken in the pan first, I then managed to fit it in the tiny toaster oven on broil setting. I chopped and salted my eggplant, allowing it to drain and prepared a pot of wild brown rice.

Small ceramic colorful bowls are a favorite while I prep, so I filled one with minced garlic, ginger, and red onion and then thinly sliced my other veggies. I cooked the eggplant first, starting with a healthy guzzle of olive oil and stirring till tender and a slightly fried crust.

I throw my garlic, ginger and onion mixture and saute till the onions become translucent. The rest of the veggies get stir fried all together for a few minutes, then I put the lid on to encourage some steaming. Just a splash of soy sauce at the end. I am trying not to over season anything in hopes the taste and texture of fresh veggies influence his sensitive and warped taste buds.

I do some mushrooms in the pan on their own. Just a few minutes to brown slightly, then add the eggplant and vegetables. I fill a bowl with rice, top with veggies and diced chicken and finish with cilantro.

The flavors marry each other well. The salty caramel of the eggplant with miniscule bites of ginger. The earthy mushrooms against chewy nutty rice. The cumin in the chicken is subtle but rounded. I say be generous with the cilantro. I love the contrast of the fresh bitter herb with the cooked veggies. Your basic stir fry in under an hour. Success shows on a satisfied and grateful mans face. Maybe next time, he'll cook.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lazy Lunch

Hunger struck today around 2:30pm while perusing other food blogs for inspiration. Knowing there was little to nothing in the kitchen, I was not sure what I could dredge up.

I love the challenge of making a dish with the meager remnants of my cupboard and fridge. That is when I feel like a celebrated chef, at least on my block.

When lazy afternoon hunger hits, I want instant satisfaction, with a touch of warmth and heartiness, with some hopes of a healthy edge to make up for the night before.

Buckwheat noodles are found in the cupboard. I have become a huge fan of these lately. The bulk bin organic noodles sell for a great price but I also love the ones I find at the Asian market for pennies. Gluten free, tons of minerals, and deeply satisfying.

I pick out the last good fresh leaves of spinach and scrub down a few radishes, slice them both thinly. The secret ingredient is the pickled ginger I buy from the Saturday market. It lasts for a good 6 months in the fridge, and is home made by a sweet older hippie who sells his vegan Korean food at the LA farmers markets. The ginger is excellent for digestion and gives my impromptu dish the needed zest.

A shake of sesame oil, some black sesame seeds ( an excellent source of magnesium), a touch of rice vinegar, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Lunch is served.

Monday, April 27, 2009

a statement of mission

I am presently sitting in a small nondescript inn in the middle of the Coachella Valley, staring at a turquoise pool and overcast sky, attempting to get this blog off the ground. I am seeking inspiration, trying to recount the countless meals I have ingested, witnessed, experienced and savored. It is an early hour to be brainstorming on a gastronomic level, made worse by the fact I have a stomach ache and am only craving tea and a nap in the sun before I head back to LA.

What a perfect way to start a food blog.

No rules yet, no clear vision. Just a heap of memories and an insatiable appetite. A major curiosity and a growing concern. Hopefully a consistent account of what is being eaten, grown, bought, sold and cooked. Not just a culinary adventure but an investigation into why and how we eat, who we eat with and who we don't. A closer look at the politics of food and the local and slow food movements. Informal restaurant reviews and play by plays of late night snack preparation.

Everything. Kitchen sinks and corkscrews included.