January 2010

Lavender 790 xxx

1.31.10 Laid Out In Lavender

I brought this lavender and rosemary back from LA with me, stuffed into a plastic bag in my suitcase. It seems like they are growing everywhere there. Such a treat when the only living thing in our garden here is the hardy winter rye we planted to help restore our vegetable beds. For the past few days, I've been able to reach out and pinch these lovely sprigs, releasing their sharp-sweet fragrance onto my fingertips. (The smell of lavender has been proven to reduce stress.) Don't you just love having flowers in the house? Their beauty goes through so many phases, even when at last they droop and give up their petals. I especially like it when they come from the fields or my own garden. I'm dreaming even now of those two weeks in June when I'll have all the peonies I can handle. Check out these beauties from last year...
Ghee1 790 xxx

1.31.10 Ghee Whiz

I’ve heard that all kinds of people send you free products when you have a blog. I guess they’re hoping for a good review. I don’t have advertising on this site, but if I did it would have to be for a resource I wholeheartedly endorse. And if you ever see me touting a product or service here, it won’t be because I’m getting any recompense. That said, I recently received a free sample pack from Pure Indian Foods and I am truly impressed with this family-run company. It specializes in organic ghee, a product they have been making for 5 generations—since the great-great-grandfather launched his business in northern India in 1889! In case you aren’t familiar with it, ghee is essentially clarified butter—butter with all the milk solids removed. This takes out the casein and lactose, making it much more tolerable than butter for those with dairy issues.

Ghee is a lovely, clear golden color and has a delicious, nutty flavor. You’ve undoubtedly eaten it in Indian cooking. Because of its low moisture content, ghee is shelf-stable (keep it in the cupboard for 2-3 months, in the fridge for up to a year) and has a higher smoking point than butter. Pure Indian Foods makes its ghee with organic butter from the milk of grass-fed cows produced only during the spring and summer, ensuring that it is full of the nutrients from fresh, green grass. It’s high in fat-soluble vitamins and contains naturally occurring conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and vitamin K2. Made according to the Vedic system, the ghee is produced only on days when the moon is waxing or full! Pure Indians Foods uses only glass jars, no plastic. I love this company! In addition to plain, the ghee comes in 6 delectable flavors and I’ve had some fun coming up with ways to use them.
Citrus 790 xxx

1.30.10 Sweet & Sour

I'm trying to cut back a bit these days. Too much indulgence catches up with me quickly, always manifesting in the body. My pants are tight, my neck hurts, my skin is blotchy. Last night, I slept 12 hours. One minute I was watching "The Baader Meinhof Complex" (boring, or was I just too tired?) and the next I was face down in the pillow. I'm in recovery. This means clean eating, exercise and plenty of rest. A lot of soups, as you've seen, the requisite daily juice and maybe the occasional treat of fresh sorbet. When I was in LA, I swooned over all the citrus. Oranges, satsumas, mandarins, grapefruits, and the lemons, especially the fragrant Meyers, even growing in friends' back yards. So lucky. Shopping at Fairway on our way back from the airport, I picked up armloads of citrus. The result was this intense and refreshing sorbet, a gorgeously concentrated flavor, spiked with spicy ginger.
Carrots1 790 xxx

1.29.10 Stone Soup

At this gastronomically obsessed point in the 21st century, few of us think of food as simply sustenance. Do you eat for pleasure? For energy? For nutrition? Hopefully, these are all factors you consider. What about food as medicine? Some of my best friend are doctors (no, really) and I can see them rolling their eyes already. Look, I afford Western medicine its due; I see my internist and gynecologist for regular check-ups. But they often don't/can't give me the sort of fine-tuning I get from my nutritionist or my cranial-sacral therapist. And, to be perfectly frank, after watching my father, my mother and my husband (before G) die slow and agonizing deaths—all three in the care of very good doctors—I'm just not much of a believer in sticking to that one path. I think what we put in our bodies can have a huge impact (positive and negative) on our health. So I was so happy when my good friend Stephanie, who has recently suffered some painful gallstone attacks, decided to try to avoid the surgery that was immediately prescribed. I was even more thrilled when she went to see Sally Kravich, my wonderful nutritionist, to see how she could manage this condition with diet. And I was flattered when she asked me for some soup recipes to help get her through this period without feeling too deprived.
Bouillabaisse 790 xxx
photo by george billard

1.28.10 Food is Love

Friends often suggest I go into the catering business, but the thought makes my skin crawl. I find it hard to imagine feeding people I scarcely know (and possibly don't even like). Yet nothing gives me greater pleasure than cooking for those I love. Cooking is my gift, and sometimes it can make a nice present. My last night in LA, I was lucky enough to be able to celebrate the birthday of a good friend, someone who has known my family for nearly 40 years. She let me into her kitchen (a cook's paradise, amazingly organized and well stocked) and I did my thing. Knowing that Santa Monica Seafood was nearby, I decided to make a dish that would take advantage of all that fresh, gleaming seafood. The result was this warming but relatively light bouillabaisse, the classic French fisherman's stew. It contains a mix of ingredients typical of Provence: seafood, garlic, tomato, saffron and fennel. Although some will say it’s not truly bouillabaisse without the rascasse (scorpion fish), I say hooey. Use whatever firm, white-fleshed fish you like and throw in all manner of shellfish, including scallops, clams, mussels, lobster and shrimp (in the shell, preferably). It’s about what’s fresh, and what you like best, of course.
Mkpottery 790 xxx

1.26.10 The Artist's Way

Among the friends I count myself lucky to have in Los Angeles is Mirena Kim, the woman responsible for this wonderful pottery. She is an artist, whose aesthetic extends to everything she touches. Simple, soulful and subtle, with an underlying warmth, it is also a reflection of her persona. Not only did I get to visit her home studio, but there I was treated to a fantastic lunch. Born in Korea and raised in Los Angeles, Mirena was the person who introduced me to Korean food (and taught me what to order in New York's Korean barbecue restaurants) and first brought me to the huge Asian supermarket (and food court) in downtown L.A. We are kindred spirits who share a love of cooking, art, textiles, domesticity and a good laugh.
Baldy 790 xxx

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.
Glutton 790 xxx
photo by george billard

1.23.10 Fiesta

There's nothing better than celebrating with friends, is there? My favorite part about visiting LA is seeing my old pals, just surrounding myself with a big group of them and basking in their familiar and fabulous auras. I also love to cook for my friends so that's what I did yesterday. Made enchiladas, a dish my mother often served at large dinner parties. Although I love them with red chile sauce, I decided to make the ones with green tomatillo sauce. You can see the recipe here. I bought out all the tomatillos from the Whole Foods on Fairfax.
Gjelina 790 xxx

1.22.10 Who'll Stop the Rain?

It's blustery and cold in Los Angeles. Last week they were crowing about their perfect weather. Temperatures soared into the 80s. I set foot on the tarmac and it starts pissing with rain. But I'm sure it's not personal. LA and I have a longstanding affair. The delicious food and quirky star sightings will do for now. Lisa took me to a great restaurant for lunch on Abbot Kinney in Venice: Gjelina. It's new since I was last here and it was packed to the gills with lanky surfer types (probably working in graphic design) and impossibly thin girls in floaty cardigans and sandals. Gjelina embraces the current reclaimed aesthetic with vintage wood walls and light fixtures cobbled together from old bulbs and pipes. Very steampunk, very Billyburg. The food sits somewhere between AOC and Mozza, with lots of small plates and 14 types of pizza from the wood-burning oven. The menu reads like a who's who of the locavore ingredient elite: burrata, persimmon, sunchokes, housemade chorizo, anaheim chiles. We were hard-pressed to make up our minds. In the end, we started with a lovely, light salad of escarole and sunchokes with preserved lemon, smoked almonds and shaved parmesan.
Kale 790 xxx

1.21.10 City of Angels

Air travel can now be lumped in with some of life's worst experiences, along with root canals and visiting the post office. I think it's safe to say I will never book another ticket on Delta. Not only did we have to pay to check one suitcase apiece, but G got hammered with another $90 because his bag was 7 pounds over their maximum. Imagine how much revenue they could generate if they charged for the excess weight around most of their customers' waistlines instead! In-flight headphones? Another charge. Crappy "snacks" that no one should be eating anyway? Get out your wallet. Sadly, we did not board with our usual stash of tasty treats, so we were forced to make do with a bag of trail mix and some water. This made dinner in LA something to look forward to with relish. Driving through torrential rains to our friend Lisa's fab Spanish-style triplex in West Hollywood, I had AOC on the brain. It's the second restaurant of much-lauded chef Suzanne Goin, a woman with an inspired palate and the face of an elfin angel.