1.25.10 The Empire Strikes Back
I've entered the Inland (aka Evil) Empire, my sister's lair that lies northeast of Los Angeles. Living at the foot of Mount Baldy makes for some impressive scenery. Looking up, your gaze rises from arid, sunny chapparal to snowy peaks. Also known as Mount San Antonio or Old Baldy (so-called for the lack of trees at its summit), the tallest point is at about 10,000 feet above sea level, making it the highest in the San Gabriel mountains. The Tongva Indian tribe call the mountain Yoát or Joat, which means snow. It's splendid and majestic, lording it over this flat plain. Susi and Seth treated us to a delicious dinner of a garlicky stew of root vegetables with fennel-spiked turkey meatballs and a crisp endive salad. For dessert, Seth made a variation on one of my favorite cakes, with whole oranges and almond flour (gluten-free!)—I actually posted the recipe here some months back. His version also includes whole lime. I'll bet you can modify the recipe with all manner of citrus—tangerines, grapefruit, yuzu—to great effect. The inclusion of the whole fruit, rind and all (boiled until soft), contributes an interesting note of bitterness to this dense, not-too-sweet cake.
All this (including a wonderful reunion with my young nephew, all grown up into a handsome man) came on the heels of a delightful visit to Marilee and Reinhard's new house in Agoura Hills. Big sky, hawks circling overhead, horses next door—is this really LA? And they have the ultimate kitchen for entertaining: multiple Sub-Zeros, a built-in espresso maker, a big stone fireplace (I'll be roasting something in there next time). Almost automatically, Marilee has begun to morph into a true domestic goddess. She made this dish for breakfast that I'll have to try to re-create. A puree of butternut squash stirred into polenta, topped with sauteed chard and dandelions greens, and finished with a melty topping of fontina. Eating this is a great way to start the day, especially when you're sitting in a pool of yellow sunshine, dogs underfoot, with the smell of the Meyer lemon tree wafting in through the open window.