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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Father's Day Deserves a Feast, Start with the Grill

Once again I will be out of town on Father's Day. I'll miss being with my sons on that special day. We already have a bealted-Father's Day date two weeks later when we will all be in town. I can hardly wait!

Since Father's Day coincides with the start of summer, grilling is the best way to celebrate male parenting.
For me, nothing is better than a platter of grilled Italian sausages with sautéed onions, deveined shrimp seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, corn on the cob, charred red peppers mixed with capers and garlic and lobsters split open and doused with pats of sweet butter.  With a tossed arugula and carrot salad, a loaf of freshly baked bread and a fresh fruit salad and I am happy.
The best grilling is the easiest kind. Buy good sausages, seafood and chicken, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt, pepper and any dried herb you fancy, put it on a hot grill, turn diligently to prevent burning and serve when it's done.

When the boys come to the house to celebrate a birthday, mother's day or father's day, they frequently take command of the grill. As my younger son, Michael, reminds me, they are my sons so of course they are good cooks. And that makes me very very happy.

Our other son, Franklin, doesn't regard a meal a proper meal unless there are appetizers. The secret to a great grilled meal is what's served on the side. My contribution to your Father's Day celebration are three of my favorite sides. 

All three are addictive so you may find you'll be eating them all summer long. They are all easy-to-make. The tapenade and lavash crisps can be made a day or two ahead. The grilled corn salsa is best made fresh.


Grilled Corn Salsa

Adding corn caramelized from light grilling gives this salsa it’s distinctive sweetness. When you buy corn from the market, look for plump kernels. Avoid ears with wrinkled or shriveled kernels.
You can use any kind of ripe tomato you enjoy, but I prefer cherry tomatoes because they are sweet and they hold their shape after being cut up. For added color, select a basket with a mix of yellow and red cherry tomatoes.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 ear of corn, husks and silks removed, washed
1 8 oz basket of ripe cherry tomatoes, washed, quartered
1 large shallot, ends and skin removed, washed and roughly chopped
½ cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Lemon juice to taste (optional)

Directions

Pre-heat the grill to medium-hot.

Drizzle the olive oil on a large plate and season with sea salt and black pepper. Roll the ear of corn to coat. Using tongs, place the corn on the grill.  Turn frequently to prevent burning.  Remove the corn when all the sides have light grill marks. Let cool. Cut off the kernels and place in a large mixing bowl.

Use a rubber or silicone spatula to transfer the seasoned olive oil from the plate into the mixing bowl with the corn.

Add the quartered cherry tomatoes, shallot and parsley. Toss well and season with the cayenne. Taste and adjust the flavors with more sea salt, black pepper, olive oil and lemon juice (optional).

Tapenade with Charred Garlic

A secret weapon in last minute cooking, tapenade brightens any meal either as an appetizer or a condiment. If you use pitted, canned olives, making tapenade will take 10-15 minutes.
 
The taste of your tapenade depends on the quality of the olives.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 can pitted olives, drained weight 6 oz., preferably green or kalamata olives
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves with skins
¼ cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes (optional)
Black pepper to taste

Directions

Skewer the garlic cloves on the end of a knife or a metal skewer and hold over a gas flame to burn off the outer skins. Let cool, remove any pieces of charred skin and roughly chop the cloves.

In a small blender or food processer, place the drained olives, olive oil, garlic, parsley and pepper flakes. Pulse until the olives are roughly chopped. Taste and adjust the seasoning with the addition of black pepper, sea salt, pepper flakes and olive oil.

Pulse again until the tapenade achieves the desired texture. Personally I like a tapenade that has a rustic look with the olives coarsely chopped rather than puréed.

Refrigerate until ready to use and serve at room temperature.

Variations

 2 anchovies packed in oil, roughly chopped and added with the olives. If salted, rinse before adding.

1 tablespoon capers added with the olives.

Lavash Crisps

Served in the Middle East, lavash and pita are commonly used instead of bread. Flat, unleavened lavash has a delicious, lightly grilled flavor when fresh. Making crisps makes use of lavash that might otherwise have gotten stale and gone to waste.
Lavash crisps have more flavor and are more flaky than commercially manufactured chips. Serve them with salsa, tapenade, dips or thin slices of cheese.

The crisps will last for weeks if kept refrigerated in an airtight container. 

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small sheets of lavash
1 cup olive or safflower oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
5-6 paper towel sheets

Directions

Cut the lavash sheets into 2” squares by cutting the sheet in half, placing the halves on top of each other, cutting those in half and doing that again until the pieces are 2” wide. Cut the 2” wide strips into 2” squares and set aside. If not cooked immediately, store in an airtight container.

In a large frying pan or griddle, heat ¼ cup of the oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper and heat on a medium-low flame. Be careful not to burn the oil or cause it to smoke.

Lay a paper towel sheet on a large plate or baking sheet.

Add the lavash squares to the hot oil. Do not overlap. Using tongs, turn over the lavash when they are lightly browned and cook the other side. They cook quickly so watch them closely.

Remove the cooked crisps and place them on the paper towel. Cook another batch. Place a clean paper towel on top of each layer to absorb excess oil.

Replenish the oil in the frying pan as needed and season with sea salt and black pepper. Allow the oil to reach the proper temperature before adding more lavash.

Discard the paper towels when the crisps cool. Store refrigerated in an airtight container. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Grand Central Market's Grand Balancing Act

Recently the Grand Central Market held a media evening to share the changes taking place at the Market. New vendors have set up shop. Free live music is booked on a regular basis and the Market will now be open from 8:00am to 10:00pm seven days a week. 

Summer Nights with Live Music and More

The Market has always been a destination for shoppers and diners but new entertainment programming adds more reasons to stop by in the evening.

Check the Market's web site for the SUMMER EVENT CALENDAR.  

During June and July, the mix of events is designed to be something-for-everyone in a program called Summer Nights.

1st & 3rd Tuesdays, 8:00pm: While you are at the Market you can play games on Trivia Tuesdays.

Wednesdays, 8:00pm: Outdoors on the Horse Thief BBQ patio, watch classic films set in Texas.

1st & 3rd Thursdays, 8:00pm: On Game Night, come for Drag Queen Bingo: Live! to have fun, get lucky and win a prize.

Fridays, 7:30pm-9:30pm: DJs will play their favorites while you eat and shop.
Saturdays, 8:00pm-8:45pm & 9:00pm-9:45pm: Singer/songwriters and self-described indie bands will perform Live at GCM.

Sundays, 7:30pm-9:30pm: Closing out the weekend, at Sunday Soirees artists will perform jazz, Latin, roots and World Music.
The History of the Market

Located on Broadway and Hill between 2nd and 3rd, The Grand Central Market has been an important landmark in downtown Los Angeles since it opened in 1917. Long before farmers markets appeared all over LA, the Grand Central Market provided the downtown community with fresh food at affordable prices.





















In a part of Los Angeles without supermarkets, the shoppers who filled the aisles bought fresh produce, fruit, fish, meat and poultry. Freshly made tortillas traveled down a conveyer belt where they were stacked in plastic bags and sold still warm in the open-air tortilla factory that once stretched along the southern wall close to Broadway .

The Market specialized in health products, fresh fruit juices, herbal teas and homeopathic remedies from around the world. There were stalls (and still are!) selling costume jewelry and Mexican candies.

And where there are shoppers, they will be places to eat. Dozens of stalls sold Mexican tacos, enchiladas, ceviche, whole lobsters, plates of fried fish and shrimp in the shell.
On the Broadway side, you can't walk by Villa Moreliana without being offered a taste of their delicious roast pork inside a freshly made flour tortilla. To the moist meat I add mounds of pickled onions and carrots, chopped raw onions and cilantro and a liberal dousing of green chili sauce, all freshly made.
Anyone who needed an old-school, Chinese-American food fix could have a meal at the China Cafe. Order the house wonton soup that comes with three pieces of fried fish tofu and Rinco, the owner, will happily tell you how much care goes into making the soup.
Everyday he makes soup out of 40 pounds of chicken meat and 40 pounds of chicken bones. The resulting broth is clear and clean tasting, full of subtle flavors and the perfect setting for his plump, pork stuffed wontons. On the side of the plate are 3 rectangles, crunchy outside, moist inside. The fried tofu squares are a delight.

I first visited the Market when I was in college. I bought spices at Valeria's and ready-to-use mole paste at Chiles Secos where I could also buy any one of a dozen different dried beans. I wanted to learn how to make tortillas at home. I came to the Market to buy masa and a tortilla press. My homemade tortillas were good, but, I had to confess, the ones I bought at the Market were better so I kept coming.
In the late 1970's I photographed the Market to use for a TV pilot I was producing for KCOP. I took a hundred photographs of the vendors and customers. I loved the community feeling of the Market. Families with babies in tow shopped for the basics and stopped to have snacks or lunch.
Today families from the neighborhood still do their daily shopping at the Market but they have been joined by a new population, eager to explore the mix of old and new vendors.

Upscale purveyors like DTLA Cheese and Belcampo Meat Co. have stalls with counter seating, selling high quality products previously only available in specialty stores in Beverly Hills or Hancock Park. Customers wait patiently in line for their turn to order at Sticky Rice - Thai Street Food, Eggslut and Wexler's Deli.
For sweet treats, McConnell's Fine Ice Cream attracts long lines. Around the corner, Valerie Confections Bakery & Café offers up savory snacks, cookies and fine dining desserts like the complex dish we were served, a poached apricot with crème fraîche topping on an almond cake crumble with a basil chiffonade.
And new vendors continue to move into the Market.

KNEAD & Co. Pasta Bar + Market and Bar Moruno are part of the next-gen wave. Serving tapas paired with wine by the glass, Bar Moruno gave us samples of classic Spanish bar-food skewers with anchovies, guindilla peppers, pickled garlic cloves and cornichons.

KNEAD sells freshly made pasta from the refrigerated counter and the same pasta can be purchased, cooked-to-order with any of their house made sauces.
Close to Hill Street, the Oyster Gourmet and wine bar serves up small plates featuring freshly shucked oysters  and seafood cocktails along with wine by the glass. We had a glass of a 2014 Château Morgues du Grés Galets Roses with a briny-sweet Sol Azul oyster from Baja California and a seafood ceviche with bay scallops, flying fish eggs and pickled seaweed.

At the Market, the balance of new and old creates a diversity that is unique in Los Angeles. How cool is it to satisfy your love of Mexican street food AND indulge in fine dining all in the same building.



A balancing act

The mash up of new and old reflects what's happening downtown. The mostly Latino population has been joined by a diverse mix of young professionals who have rediscovered the glories of Downtown Los Angeles, rich with history and benefiting from a great collection of buildings that are now being renovated and modernized.
Today, the Market is one of the most frequented downtown destinations. Come during the day and the aisles are packed with families and professionals enjoying a plate from Sarita's Pupuseria and pulled pork at Villa Moreliana on Broadway.

I have my favorites and they are a mix of the old and the new:  the mole at Chiles Secos (ask for a taste and find the one you like), the vegetable curry with shrimp and Crying Tiger beef at Sticky Rice, the roast pork tacos at Villa Moreliana with lots of salsas and pickled vegetables, the wonton soup at China Cafe and the smoky corned beef at Wexler's Deli.

And there is Bento Ya, a legacy vendor where I happily order a bowl of $5.50 pork ramen that, in my opinion, is as good as any of the celebrity-chef bowls on Sawtelle or in Manhattan sold at three times the price and half the portion.

To cook at home, stop at the Belcampo Meat Co. to pick up high quality, humanely raised meat and poultry.
There is so much more to say about the Market, but I'm getting hungry. Happily I brought home a bowl of Bento Ya's ramen and I'm going to have that for breakfast.

Parking

One quick user's-tip about parking. Parking Downtown is very expensive. There is 90 minutes parking inside the Market building for $3.00. The entrance is on the Hill Street side, a few feet south on 2nd street. The entrance to the parking structure is tricky, so approach it carefully. Designed for cars built in the 1920s, the driveway is narrow and curves up precipitously.

On the weekend, the outdoor parking lots to the north of the Market above 2nd Street have reduced, all day rates, so if you are staying for several hours, park there.

Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013 (213/624-2378), open 8:00am-10:00pm.