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Showing posts from 2014

2 Great Cookies for New Year's Eve or Any Fun Time

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Planning New Year's Eve with friends, the big question is: celebrate a one of our homes or go out. The question was answered quickly.

None of us wanted to go out to a restaurant or go to a club. So the plan is we'll have a pot luck dinner. We'll hang out. Watch movies. Cook together. Try some new cocktails and a good wine (I was on a press trip to Napa last month and brought back a delicious bottle of Luna Vineyards' Pinot Grigio).
Right now we're putting together a pot luck menu that includes a hard boiled eggs with anchovies, grilled side of salmon, a chicken dumpling dish with lots of shiitake mushrooms and fresh vegetables, a cole slaw recipe I've been working on, assorted salads, maybe a thick cut steak to char on a carbon steel pan and assorted desserts including home made hot fudge sauce and caramelized almond slivers to make hot fudge sundaes.

I'm definitely bringing plates of the cookies I made when I wrote two recipes for Zester Daily. The "m…

DIY Foodie Treats Make Great Last Minute Gifts: Hot Fudge Sauce and Moroccan Preserved Lemons

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Receiving and giving gifts feels good. What doesn't feel so great is shopping during the last week before Christmas. Parking lots are full. People are distracted so their driving is dangerously erratic. A good alternative to shopping in this competitive environment is to stay home, have a cup of coffee, listen to a podcast and make gifts in your kitchen.
I have two favorite recipes I want to share that are easy-to-make gifts guaranteed to bring pleasure to your friends and loved ones: hot fudge sauce and Moroccan preserved lemons. Hot fudge sauce for hot fudge sundaes is a most delicious treat with delicious contrasts of warm rich chocolate, icy cold vanilla ice cream and crunchy almond slivers. 
Moroccan preserved lemons are used to make tagines, the wonderful meat and vegetable dishes that are served in conical dishes. Tagines seem exotic but at their heart they are braises. What gives them their unique flavor is the addition of preserved lemons. During a cooking class on a pres…

A Winter Pick-Me-Up: Roasted Vegetable Salad

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Now that the fall has given way to colder weather, enjoying winter’s chill outdoors requires a well-insulated coat and good gloves. Indoors, the kitchen fights back the cold with a hot oven and good food ready to eat. The best winter food comforts our spirits and nourishes our bodies. Nothing does that better than a roasted vegetable salad.
In summer, a ripe tomato salad mixed with peppery arugula leaves and bits of salty, creamy Bulgarian feta can be a meal in and of itself. When the weather cools and a weakening sun denies farmers the heat they need to grow nature’s leafy wonders, we still hunger for salads but now it’s time to look to hearty greens and root vegetables to satisfy that craving. In winter, walking through the local supermarket’s fresh produce section, it’s easy to believe we live in a one-season world. Vegetables and fruit that require summer’s heat are stacked high in the bins. But one taste and it’s easy to tell, these delectables have been grown out of season or tr…

Thanksgiving Favorites Meet at the Table

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For Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, we'll enjoy the holiday with 18 family members and friends. We know the dinner will be a lot of noisy fun, but until then, there's lots to do so the meal runs smoothly and everyone has what they want to eat.

We began preparing last Sunday when we shopped at the Pacific Palisades farmer market. This morning we picked up the turkey and a few last-minute ingredients at the Santa Monica farmers market. For "fuel" I ran into Starbucks to have a double espresso.
To prepare the turkey I'm consulting my own e-book: 10 Delicious Holiday Recipes.
As important as having good recipes, good planning and sharing the effort makes all the difference: Planning Well Makes for a Better Thanksgiving

Step 1 - invite the guests and see who will bring their favorite Thanksgiving dish
Step 2 - pull out the recipes we want to make
Step 3 - clean the house
Step 4 - borrow extra chairs
Step 5 - pull the extra table out of the garage
Step 6 - shop
Step 7 - …

New Dishes Added to Thanksgiving Day's Favorites

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My mother loved Thanksgiving. For her the day was the best holiday of the year. A time, she felt, when family would gather around the table and enjoy a meal with so many favorite dishes.
To prepare the meal, she would include my sister and myself as helpers. My father was old school, so his responsibilities involved showing up at the table when the meal was ready. Which was fine with my sister and myself. We enjoyed the time in the kitchen chopping vegetables and stuffing the turkey, which meant my sister and I held the turkey butt-up as my mom spooned in the stuffing.
For dessert, my favorite was her apple pie. My mom tossed peeled and sliced apples with lemon juice and brown sugar mixed with raisins. The combination of sweet and tart was kind of ideal. For this Thanksgiving, I'm going to make an apple dessert but a galette instead of a pie because I like the folded crust on top and it is easier to make.
For a new dish I'm going to make truffle macaroni and cheese, a dish dem…

The Impact of California's Drought on One Farmer - James Birch and Flora Bella Farm

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Much of the time when I'm at the farmers market I'm so intent on what I want to buy I'm focused on  the produce only noticing the farmers behind the flat tables loaded up with fresh leafy greens, stone fruit and root vegetables when I pay.


Years ago I hung out with one of the farmers at the Santa Monica Farmers Market because we were talking about doing a cookbook together (he would talk about the "farm," I would talk about the "table").









James Birch has a farm in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Fresno. The farm has a lovely name: Flora Bella Farm. But these days the farm has a problem. The area where he lives is called Three Rivers. Right now there are no rivers.


For Zester Daily, I wrote a profile of James and the way the drought is threatening agriculture in the West and California in specific. When the Water Runs Out: Farming in the Drought.

Need A Pan That’s Smokin’ Hot? Reach For Carbon Steel

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Originally published  in Zester Daily, I have been very happy to have had so many friends buy the pan. Myself, I now own 10", 12.6" and 14" pans. I put away all my stainless steel frying pans except one I keep to cook bacon. For some reason, the carbon steel pans do not make good bacon.I love their easy clean up and the perfectly charred crust they create on whatever they touch. Of course, they are most effectively used at high heat, so you must be attentive at all times or risk your food incinerating. I hope you'll give it a try as well. Enjoy!Place a carbon steel pan on a stovetop burner on high heat and stand back. In minutes, the surface temperature will reach 600 to 700 F. When hazy smoke floats into the air, it’s time to drizzle a small amount of oil onto the pan. The oil scatters across the surface, looking for a place to hide from the heat. But there’s no escape. The oil accepts its fate, adds a bit more smoke and waits. Drop a piece of marbled meat or a bea…

These Days I Spend As Much Time at Starbucks as I Do at Home

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Right now Starbucks has a "Sweet Receipt" promotion that rewards customers who stop by in the morning and return after 2:00pm. Bring the morning's receipt, choose any of the pastries and pay $1.00 instead of $2.45-3.45.
The promotion has been on-going for several weeks. Starbucks has promotions through out the year. Usually they are advertised with inclusive dates. The baristas I've asked don't know how long the promotion will last. "Sweet Receipts" was on my receipt today, so that means it's still going on. The next time you stop for your morning beverage and breakfast, ask for the receipt and read on the bottom to see if the $1.00 offer is still in effect.
You can have any of the baked goods: the almond croissant blossom, muffins, coffee cakes, sliced loaf cakes, croissants and scones. My personal favorites are the pecan tart and the George Washington Apple pound cake. Ask for them heated, on a plate.

Specialty coffee stores vs. Starbucks
The explo…

Summer’s Last Salad - Charred Corn and Chopped Vegetable Salad

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How can summer be over? Honestly, it seems only a few weeks ago that we were in the park watching 4th of July fireworks. Now every day the sun leaves the sky earlier and earlier. 
Walking through our farmers market, the tell-tale signs that fall is closing in are everywhere. The mounds of corn at our farmers market are smaller. The tomatoes aren’t as acidic-sweet as they were last month. The peaches still look beautiful but they aren't as full of flavor with firm flesh. In these last moments before temperatures plunge and skies cloud over, now is the time to seize the day and celebrate summer before it disappears completely. Dylan Thomas said that we should “rage against the dying of the light” (Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night). Personally I prefer a good chopped salad to ragging against the inevitable.
Charred Corn and Chopped Vegetable Salad
Always examine the ears of corn closely before purchasing. That is always true but at the end of summer, choosing ears carefully is ev…