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.