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Friday, July 4, 2008

On the Web: the 4th of July, Picnics, Barbecue, and Cole Slaw

On the web there are sites worth checking out for this 4th of July. In the current gathering of essays on oneforthetable, Amy Ephron brings together memories of celebrations past in well-written essays. Mark Bittman has a series of articles about 101 picnic basket recipes and holiday ribs. Eatdrinkordie has recipes and videos to help celebrate the day.

In the Palisades the 5k/10k races finished by 10am. As is the tradition, the night before folding chairs are put out to guarantee a curb-side seat for the parade.

We're home making food for our picnic. Our friends have called to confirm what they are contributing to the pot-luck picnic.

We saw a beautiful cabbage at the farmers' market, so we decided to add cole slaw to the salads we're bringing tonight.

Cole Slaw with Capers

Yield 10-12 servings
Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 cabbage
1 bunch Italian parsley (washed,leaves and some stems, finely chopped)
1 scallion (washed, trimmed, white and green parts finely chopped)
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup capers
Sea salt and pepper
Tabasco (optional)

Method

Cut out the bottom core and discard. Slice into slabs then chop to create 1/2" square pieces.

Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve chilled.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Loteria! Grill Hollywood

Growing up in LA, you eat a lot of Mexican food. For the most part the standard fare of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, toquitos, and quesadillas are enjoyable but not always memorable.

Once in awhile there's a standout. When I first ate at the Loteria! Grill, the mole was a revelation.

Just about everyone we know has eaten at the original Loteria! Grill at the Farmers Market. Located in the geographic center of the Market, there is always a line waiting to order. The lunch time crowd tends to be tourists and people who work in the area. At night families have dinner before they go to the multiplex at the Grove.

For Jimmy Shaw, the chef-owner, Loteria! Grill is a passion project. Born into a family of cooks, trained by his mother in their Mexico City home, Jimmy opened the Grill because so many of his friends missed the taste of authentic Mexican food. An instant success, the Farmers' Market Loteria! Grill was the talk of LA.

Looking to the east Jimmy has opened Loteria! Grill Hollywood, a restaurant-bar in the heart of Hollywood (6627 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood 90028, 323/465-2500) next door to Geisha House.

With an open space and high ceiling, the interior has the feeling of a modern cantina. Jimmy held onto the favorites from the Farmers' Market menu: his incomparable mole sauce, the comforting tortilla soup, the perfectly seasoned black beans...

There are so many great dishes, a first-timer can get an overview by circumnavigating the menu with the Probaditas Sampler and its dozen mini tacos on hand-made tortillas. Sit at the bar, order an ice cold margarita, and you'll be happy for the rest of the evening.

We were part of a lucky group invited to a preview dinner. Served practically every dish on the menu, our favorites were the Mole Poblano con Pollo (of course), the Sopa de Tortilla (ditto), the Champinones con Epazote (mushrooms with Eeazote), the Albondigas En Chipotle (meatballs in a tomato and chipolte Sauce), the Enchiladas de Mole (with chicken), the Summer Salad, the Guacamole y Chips, the Aguas Frescas (watermelon, lemonade, horchata)... I'm probably giving away the fact that we enjoyed every dish.

Jimmy was so generous in letting us sample the menu that we found ourselves with food to spare. Not one to waste food I braved the embarrassment of carrying out to-go containers and took home some of the Carnitas en salsa Morita (pork in a spicy sauce), the black beans, and rice. The next day I was happy to have such terrific ingredients and made a delicious soup. Our friends Ron and Annette came over for our weekly Sunday dinner and we served the soup as the main course. We raised our glasses to toast Jimmy Shaw, to thank his mother for teaching him how to cook, and to our returning to Loteria! Grill Hollywood.

Black Beans, Farmers' Market Vegetables, and Spicy Pork Soup

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup cooked pork
1 small onion, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1 slice of bacon, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 ear of corn, washed, kernels cut off the cob
1 carrot, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup cooked rice
Olive oil
Pepper

Method

In a large sauce pan sauté the onions, garlic, bacon, corn, carrots, and parsley in the olive oil until lightly browned. Shred the meat and add to the sauté. If you are using pork, chicken, or beef that is already seasoned, then you may not need to add any heat. Taste and add Tabasco or taco sauce as needed.

Add the black beans and chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes. Just before serving reheat the rice in a microwave oven. Put 1/4 cup of rice in the bottom of each soup bowl, then ladle in the hot soup.

Variations

For a vegetarian version, don't use the meat, bacon, or chicken stock (use 4 cups water + 1 tablespoon butter instead).

Use cilantro instead of Italian parsley

Substitute cooked chicken or beef for the pork

Add 3 cups of spinach leaves (washed, stems removed, roughly chopped) to the sauté

Add 1 cup chopped raw shrimp (washed, deveined) to the sauté

Add 1 cup grilled sausage rounds

Top with homemade croutons and shredded cheddar cheese when serving

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A 4th of July Picnic, the Perfect Time for Salads and Ribs

We've lived in Pacific Palisades for many years, treasuring its small town qualities as a respite from the congestion of the Los Angeles megalopolis. The 4th of July brings out the best in our community. We celebrate Independence Day by getting together with our neighbors, family, and friends. The celebrations begin in the morning with the 5k/10k run, the parade down Sunset at mid-day, an early evening picnic, and conclude with the night-time fireworks at the high school.

To prepare for the picnic, we shop at the local farmers' market, buying as many fresh vegetables and fruits as we can carry. On the 4th we spend the day cooking for the pot-luck picnic we organize with a dozen of our friends. So we'll have a good spot to watch the fireworks, we meet at 6:30pm at the park opposite the high school. We look forward to the picnic because we can catch up with our friends. Even though the picnic is pot-luck, we make extra just in case... Some of our friends who like to cook bring their specialties, like Lesli's mixed berries, while others make a run to Bay Cities or Gelson's and bring containers of deli treats and rich desserts.

By 9:00pm cars are double-parked on both sides of the street and people have crowded into the park, taking up every square inch of space. Everyone is ready for the fireworks to begin and yet...the sky is not yet completely, definitively dark. In the cool night air we bundle up and pull closer together. Only when all traces of the departing sun have been drained from the sky will the fireworks begin.

And when they do, they are a treat. From the first high-streaking skyrocket that bursts into a hundred points of light to the last crescendo of a dozen overlapping explosions, the crowd oohs and aahs. With the last firework dying in the sky, we get up slowly, feeling the dampness of the ground, hug and kiss our friends goodbye, and make our way back to our cars through the haze of gunpowder smoke still hanging in the air.

4th of July Picnic

In our experience salads work well at the picnic: beet salad, carrot salad, potato salad, egg salad, and corn salad. Finger food is good too: bread & butter pickles, salt-boiled corn on the cob and grilled artichokes. This year we'll also contribute a platter of deliciously salty and sweet Brown Sugar Ribs.

Brown Sugar Pork Ribs

Yield 4 servings
Time Prep (20 minutes) Marinate (overnight) Cook (2 hours)

Ingredients

1 rack of pork ribs
1 pound brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Olive oil
Pepper
6 ounces Italian tomato paste
1 small yellow onion (peeled, finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)

Method

Trim excess fat, the membrane, and flap from the ribs. (Caprial Pence the owner-chef of Caprial's Bistro in Portland, Oregon and a fellow contributor to Eat Drink or Die shows how to prep the ribs with easy-to-follow photographs.) Reserve the flap, trimmed of its membrane, to grill for tacos.

Spread a piece of plastic wrap on the counter 5” longer than the rack. Dust the meat side of the ribs with the cayenne. Mix together the brown sugar and kosher salt. Spread half the dry mix on the plastic wrap. Lay the ribs on top, then cover with the rest of the dry mix. Cover with a second piece of plastic wrap, seal, fold in half and place into a Ziploc or plastic bag. Refrigerate in a pan overnight.

In the morning remove the ribs. The dry mix will have transformed into a slurry. Very alchemical! In a sauce pan sauté the onions and garlic with olive oil until lightly browned, season with pepper. Remove the ribs from the plastic bag. Use a rubber spatula to remove most of the liquid from the ribs and plastic bag and transfer to the sauce pan. Add the tomato paste and simmer the sauce on a low flame for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavor if necessary.

Line a large baking tray with tin foil. Place a wire rack on top of the baking tray, then lay the ribs on the rack. The ribs can either be cooked in a 350 degree oven or on the “cold” side of a covered grill with the heat on high. Cook the ribs 30 minutes on each side, then baste the ribs with the sauce another 30 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from the oven, cut apart the individual ribs, and serve.