Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best Soup this Year

Is what I made the other night from this Christmas present.  She calls it Paris Mushroom Soup.  For me, it had a depth of umami savoriness I haven't gotten elsewhere.  Up until now my mushroom soup has been the Joy of Cooking's, with its bechamel sauce and pureed onions and celery.  I think it helped that the stock I used had been from poaching a whole chicken.  Want the recipe?  It's posted right here.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Recipe for Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

It's right here
And it seems to be working already!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's that time of year

for delicious, warm things.  Here's a favorite of mine.  Take it when you're asked to bring an appetizer, or serve it to your guests.  I think credit goes to Williams-Sonoma--

Preheat oven to 325

In  your blender or food processor whiz together: 8 oz drained, cooked artichoke hearts  (frozen or canned is fine, skip the marinated ones), 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup mayonnaise (are you still with me?) 8 oz cream cheese, 2 cloves garlice, 2 jalapeno peppers (I always skip those, if I don't know the crowd's spice level).  Place into a quiche or pie dish.  Bake 30-40 minutes until lightly browned on top.

Let rest 5-10 minutes, then set it down in front of your  guests, with pita chips or crackers, or calorie-mitigating crudites.  Trust it to disappear quickly, and your once dignified guests will arm wrestle over the last bite.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Short Ribs for a Wintry Weekend

Cold weather and Christmas carols: I'm in heaven!  So, what to cook while the fire crackles?  Something that can get more and more tender, while it bakes in the oven.  
The other day I found boneless short ribs at an incredible price. I found this recipe at Epicurious, and am now a fan.  I'll be popping it in the oven Saturday night, and looking forward to savoring it with a terrific syrah.

Dredge 3lbs boneless ribs (or 5lbs with) in flour.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of bacon fat in your dutch oven. Brown short ribs.

(News flash!  Listened to Shirley Corriher on NPR, and found out that if you put protein on hot fat, let it sit for NINETY SECONDS before turning and the protein will not stick.  Honest!  I've tested this!)

Remove ribs from fat.  Add additional bacon fat if necessary, or reduce to 2 tablespoons.  Add: one pound chopped onions, six carrots scraped and sliced, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary.  Saute until softened, then add four minced garlic cloves.  This will smell like heaven.  Add three cups beef broth, bring to a simmer.  Add the short ribs, cover, and pop into a pre-heated 350 degree oven.  Bake until absolutely tender, 2 hours minimum.  Then invite me over.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Hits, Misses

What are you listening to, as you sip your Mexican hot chocolate, or Tom and Jerry, or coffee spiked
with egg nog?

I'm not a fan, in general terms, of Rufus Wainwright's dead pan delivery, but I find myself loving this album, for a couple of their songs: the wistful, "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" and the bouyant "Spotlight on Christmas."

Each year we buy a new album, and try to incorporate it in with the standards like Christmas in Lake Woebegone, Nat King Cole, Putamayo, Boston Pops.  Some, like the Roches, or the Gypsy Kings, are played just once, and hidden.  Others, like the Chieftains, become favorites. This year we're trying out Annie Lenox's latest, "A Christmas Cornucopia."   What are your faves?

Faithful readers know I tend to stay too long at holiday parties.  Here's a tip:  Put on Celine Dion massacring eardrums in O Holy Night.  I'll be outta there.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sanity Paws

When abandoned golden retriever Denby is rescued by Santa in the Nevada desert on Christmas Eve, he knows he has found the perfect family. But over the months between one Christmas and the next, Denby finds himself again and again doing what he has been told not to. Is it magic? Are his actions somehow tied to the injury he had when Santa found him? Or is he just a bad dog? With the help of a reindeer, some elves, and Santa himself, Denby finds that solving his own mystery could also mean saving Christmas.
Yes, kids, it's an e-book, but you don't need an e-reader to read it. You can download the Kindle for PC or Mac apps here. and read it on your computer. Or use the Droid, iPhone, iPad or Blackberry apps to read it on your phone.

You can see and buy the book here.

I know with all the dog lovers in this crowd, only a Grinch could resist.  I lickin' my chops in anticipation of sitting before the fire, and reading this puppy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Peppermint Mochas for Fuss Pots

It's that time of year where everything is candy cane scented and flavored: ice cream, chocolate, cookies, coffee.  I can't resist, myself.  But instead of popping into a corner coffee pit stop, I mix 'em at home.  I must confess, this is not the recipe for people who are only awake enough to push a button.

Brew your espresso or coffee.  In your coffee mug mix two teaspoons sugar with one teaspoon Barry cocoa (more or less sugar, to taste, of course).  Heat and froth 1/3 cup of milk.
Add coffee. Add 1/8 of a teaspoon of peppermint extract  (a drop or two, any more and it becomes medicinal). Mix in the milk to your desired proportion of liquid and froth.  Turn on the Christmas carols and skip reading the paper this morning.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Okay, this is not a deep, sweet, humane post like my fellow bloggers here, here and here.

This is for those of you who need an escape,  an inexpensive way to wind down this weekend.
Tried to DVR Masterpiece Theater's updated Sherlock Holmes, but  something happened?
First three episodes here, until December 27th. I know what I'll be doing later.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yeah, tradition

You've got your turkey, dressing, gravy whatever tradition, come the fourth Thursday in November.What I'm curious about, is what do you do Thanksgiving eve?  Thanksgiving morn?

Years back in Brea, as a waitress at Alphy's, wearing my comely fall colors (orange skirt, thick brown waistband, white peasanty shirt, and nylons.  Nylons!) I worked Thanksgiving morning.  Who, I asked myself, would go out to breakfast on the morning of the feast day itself?! Our beloved neighbors, that's who,  all five of them filled up the counter I was working, the very same neighbors with whom
we were later feasting.  Yah, they tipped well.

Lately, up until this year we shared Thanksgiving Eve with our friends-- a simple pasta or deli dinner, rounded out by a number of bottles and laughs.  This year, instead, we'll be picking up our daughter at the airport. And now I'm wondering about you.  What do you do before the iconic meal?  I'd love to know.  Btw, have a warm and bounteous Thanksgiving~

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Would you like brine with your meal?

AH, always the provocateur, asks what kind of brine gal am I?

So, I've brined chickens. They're juicy inside, crisp outside, flavorful too.  But you can't stuff 'em, they're waaaay too salty.  And, face it, for some of us turkey is just an excuse for the dressing.  This year spin-the-turkey has singled me out; and, sure I could stay with the tried and successful: steamed turkey, courtesy the bird in the bag from Reynolds (and it works great, just fine, cook it breast side down,  and your turkeys will always be moist and flavorful), but my heart craves adventure.

(Uh, married and monogamous, I'll take my adventure where I can find it).  So, to answer AH, dry brine!  I can't commend it, yet, because the feast is still a few days off.  It promised to be simple:  Use three tablespoons of kosher salt to sprinkle inside and out of a 15 lb turkey.  I hit a glitch on the next step: slip into 2 1/2 gallon bag, and squeeze the air out.  Two bags refused to seal.  By the third bag I sprinkled another teaspoon or two of salt (to make up for all that got left behind in the previous storage bags) and pushed the air out.  And kept pushing.  Apparently I have a less-than-airtight bag.

Thursday morning I will remove it from the bag--stuff it, roast it, and then decide.  Need the details? Courtesy Russ Parsons here.

Or, are you having a panic attack, cuz even though the house is tidy, the plates are washed, the crystal's gleaming,  you've got your priorities straight because there's plenty of booze on hand, but you have no idea what the heck you're feeding those 5-12 guests?  Patina's got you covered.  They'll even deliver. Just let them know, like, NOW!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Count Down

Growing up we ate my grandmother's cranberry relish: grated berries, chopped nuts, bits of orange and peel.
We loved it.   My mother attempts to recreate it, these past few years but, for me at least, it's never quite as I remember it.  As she works on hers for the feast on Thursday, I'll start mine today, giving it three days to mellow into sweet/tart perfection.

Bring 1 1/2 cups sugar mixed with 3/4 cup water, 3 cloves, 3 allspice, 2-3" cinnamon sticks to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Cook until the sugar is dissolved, the syrup clear (three minutes or so).  And the one bag rinsed cranberries and cook until they pop! (five minutes or so).  Remove from heat, add grated zest of one orange.

Too fussy? Use the recipe on the bag.  It's fool proof.
Like a little kick? Try this one at Epicurious.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Four Food Groups of a Random College Student

4. Sushi
3. Butter
2. Ketchup
1. Nutella

Clearly it was something I did.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Soup's on!

There are so many old standards: albondigas, matzoh ball, minestrone, cream of mushroom, split pea.
This past weekend I was browsing through my cookbooks (the actual, not the virtual) one of which I had received as a wedding gift and have been using since.  What I discovered is there are so many recipes I
haven't tried--always going straight to the tried and true.  But this week, I decided to stretch myself, try something new from Diana Kennedy, and pass it on to you.

Besides chicken broth you will absolutely need limes and 2 chiles chipotles.

Bring 6 cups of chicken broth to a simmer.  Add two peeled and diced carrots, 6 ounces trimmed and halved string beans,  (the first time I made this I used the zucchini I had on hand), one diced tomato, and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Now, add the chiles, half a cup of garbanzo beans (already fully cooked, muchisimas gracias) and let simmer for another five minutes. Remove the chiles.

Ladle into a soup bowl.  Sprinkle in a few tablespoons shredded chicken, squeeze in a quarter of lime.Diana recommends garnishing with a few strips of the chiles and cubed avocado.

I anticipate wrinkled noses at the thought of a squeeze of lime.  Think Thai food. Think lemon grass.  Then squeeze.

Warning: this comes with a kick and may be addictive.  I've already made it three times...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Recently Overheard

1) As I run errands the commercial on the radio says, "Did you know, if Proposition 19 passes, people can come to work high?"  The commercial uses the h word about twenty gazillion times.

My husband says, "I'm sure some people already come to work high."

2) Outside of a favorite wine shop, a group of waitresses huddle for their cigarette break.  The manager comes out and says, "By this time next week, you can be lighting up a joint."  One waittress, puffing away, says, "I just don't like drugs, myself.  Never have."  There is no trace of irony.

I load a case of my drug of choice into the trunk of my car and drive off.

Friday, October 29, 2010

More October

In October I'll be host
To witches, goblins and a ghost
I'll serve them chicken soup on toast
Whoopy once, whoopy twice
Whoopy chicken soup with rice

--Maurice Sendak

Quite the generous host.
When my children were younger, I'd paw through their haul and munch happily:  smarties, pixie stix, jolly ranchers, low-ticket items, unlike the king-sized Snickers and Hershey bars they'd never share.  Out of pity, they'd throw miniature Snickers my way, and fobbed off their miniature Milky Ways on their dad.
This year I am wavering between buying bushels of corporate candy, or hiding in my room with all the lights off.

What will you be doing?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Balancing Barn

Let's go.  Four nights in Suffolk, England, just around $1,000.
Sleeps 8.  Are you in?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010


I bought numerous white ramekins.  In my mind's eye, I pictured
creme brulee, elegant puddings, lemon custard.

Well, I got the egg component right.  This morning I was scrounging around in my fridge,
and figured, waste not want not.  A coupla baked eggs on last night's chopped spinach,
stretched out by a bit of dried out goat cheese, garnished with that one remaining slice of
bacon, fried crisp.  Doesn't sound appetizing, right?  The result was worthy
of high falutin' guests.  Provided they eat eggs.

Baked Eggs:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In single serving ramekin  place half a slice of toast.  Or not.
 left over chopped spinach.
Or leftover risotto.
Mix in or grate on top cheese: swiss, cheddar, parmesan or, baaaa, goat!
With the back of your tablespoon press down a concave area (or convex.  I forget.)
Crack an egg.  Salt and pepper it.  Top with a little left over heavy cream.

Bake 14 minutes or so, until desired firmness.  I like my eggs runny.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Smell Like a Monster

Fans of the terribly witty Old Spice commercial must check this link here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What I love about October

I can't resist these triangles of sugar.  Cheerful and evocative of autumn foliage to come.  I particularly enjoy pairing them with walnut pieces.  It's a great combo that somehow makes me feel more virtuous.

Didja enjoy the morning's thunderstorm?  I practically jumped out of my seat from the din.  A delightful omen

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Soda Pop

A faithful reader from NYC recommends this. 
And it's in LA, kids--

Monday, September 27, 2010


In the past week two acquaintances have told me more than I ever wanted to know.
I stress the word, acquaintances.  Family, friends, fellow bloggers, I will listen to--whatever they want to tell me.
But ya gotta draw the line somewheres.

Scenario #1: Details regarding the disintegration of  a marriage, the infidelities on both sides, the dirty little details. 
Scenario #2:  Breast augmentation gone awry.
(What? I wanted to ask.  Are we in some kind of outtake from the Real Housewives of New Jersey?)

Now, starving reader, I have pondered the genesis of these two events.  Why?!?!?  Why?!?!
And after much contemplation I realized, because I didn't offer them any food to put in their mouths, to stop the terrible onslaught of overly personal information.

To help you avert similar disaster I recommend:
withdrawing all potent potables.
Offering food that requires concentration and attention.
Like chicken wings.
Or tostadas.
Or nachos, with a very spicy salsa.
I'm just sayin'

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Man of the Moment

 Dear Mr. Colbert:

Thanks for reminding us, "'whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers.'"   I like your brand of Catholicism. Chapeau.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Looking for helpful tips

Faithful readers:

I've got this brilliant kid living in the center of the universe who can do plenty of clever things, but not cook. I'm wondering, what's your favorite little-to-no prep meal?  Really, anything
to add to the repertoire of cereal, sandwiches, quesadillas and ramen.

I look forward to the suggestions!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nuts about Walnut Oil

A dinner party or two ago, a dear friend brought this as a hostess gift.  Normally, I am not a fan of fussy oils or vinegars, so it took me some time before I picked this up to use.  And what a surprise! A toasty, nutty flavor just terrific.

The next dinner my friend attended, I used the recipe right on the bottle for the salad dressing:

4 tbls roasted walnut oil
1 tbls balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
dash of salt. 

Simple and delish.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Local recommendations

Don't you love being in the know? Like visiting a new town and having someone give you the skinny on the best fattening foods?

Our quartet has turned into a trio over the past week.  We dropped off our daughter at the center of the universe, that's right, NYC.  In January I had walked past a place near Grand Central; this past week I walked in, got pizza by the slice for the kids, and a wonderful stuffed spinach calzone, drenched in garlic, crammed with mozzarella, truly a thing of beauty.  Bringing back the slices to the hotel room the elevator fella sniffed at the label on the box.
"You wanna know where to get the best pizza in the city?"
Are you kidding me?! Of COURSE I want to know!
He leaned over to let us in on the secret, pausing, then pronouncing  "California Pizza Kitchen."

Okay.  So maybe the ratings by locals are overrated.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Compounding Your Errors

Richard Feynman gives some interesting advice.  If you don't know how to pronounce a word, pronounce it loudly.  Dr. Laura apparently knows the correct pronunciation, she's just confused about appropriate usage.

Interesting about some personalities who use scorn and humiliation for entertainment purposes:  they turn out to have the thinnest of skins.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Doing things all wrong--

 Sigh.  After another season of New Jersey Housewives, I realize I've been doing everything all wrong!  Yes, I know, I, along with many others, choked when Teresa paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, in cash, for furnishings.  And, no, I don't need a black onyx kitchen counter.  And her husband is a bit of, well, a vulgarian.  But did you see the size of that jewel he gave her on their tenth? The chinchilla jackets the girls wore in their gondola? The size of the cruise ship they sailed out of Venice, Italy?  The size of their bankruptcy?  In case you hadn't heard, $11 million.

I know her Bravo gig isn't going to cover that.  But what slays me, is how did they get to dig themselves so deep?  Some company (ies) was definitely extending an enabling hand (s).  And, what does it feel like to spend so much money?

Fuhgidaboudit Pasta:

Bring salted water to a boil, add a pound of pasta.  I'm keen on fettucine or linguine.

Slick a saucepan with olive oil.  Heat on medium.  Add 4-6 minced anchovies and stir until the anchovies melt away.  Add a coupla minced cloves of garlic.  Let sizzle for half a minute, don't let it discolor.  Add a pound of chopped tomatoes, salt, simmer and stir until soft.   If you feel that's too simple kick it up with minced basil and black olives.   Pour over your drained pasta.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fresh Fish Friday

US farmed rainbow trout is a "best choice" according to the Monterey Aquarium's seafood watch.  I picked up a four pack the other day, dived into a coupla Jamie Oliver recipes, and emerged with this:

Preheat oven to 475 (whaddya complaining about?! This is the coolest So Cal summer on record!)

Mince a bunch of thyme, mix with sea salt and olive oil and use to coat the interior and exterior of the fish.  Lay in a baking dish.

Boil a pound of rinsed and trimmed string beans until tender.  Drain.  Set into another baking dish, coat with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, add cherry tomatoes if they're handy, salt, and pepper.  Set 6-8 anchovy filets on top.

Bake for ten minutes or so.  Half way through I stir up the green beans with tongs, making sure anchovy bits get every where. I turn over the trout, to be sure that both sides get a bit of the heat.

A small miracle: everyone in the family approved.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Full disclosure:  I'm one of those whiny broads who complain when someone whips out their handheld to answer, text, or find information to confirm or deny a passing snippet of conversation.  I will needle the gadget freaks and their partners.  What, we in the flesh aren't good enough to hold your attention? Don't contain enough sparkle or zing or flavor?

And yet, and yet...

I'm the same one who packs three or four books to filter out the noise of the mundane, or to shield myself from unwelcome feelings (boredom, irritation, etc.)  If anything, a book is even more anti-social,  because it creates a worm hole in an alternate universe where the company is either witty, knowledgeable and urbane, or thrilling and entertaining, or emotionally engaging.  How can real life compete with that?

I dunno, but I'm working on it!

Recommended reads: Breakfast with Socrates and Hamlet's Blackberry (which has gotten a lot of attention this past month).  I may even unplug my laptop, close my book, leave my phone behind, and talk to someone, face to face. I'm just having a little problem getting started.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What I'll be doing

with the rest of my summer.  Check it out right  here.
Got any favorites of your own?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chipotle Bacon

Got your attention did I?  Good! Okay, so not precisely bacon, but grab a coupla thin pork chops, with bone for texture and fat for flavor. Flash pan fry them, a minute or so on high each side, then lower the heat. Add a cup or so of canned tomatoes pureed with two chipotles and a little of their sauce. Cover the sauce pan and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes (those dry pork chops will simmer tender, if you let 'em).  Serve with rice and beans and warm tortillas, and let me know how you like it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Don't drink and write!

This news flash from the NY Times here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chipotle Mayonnaise

It's been too hot to do anything more demanding than picking up a phone to order pizza.  Really, who wants to grill when the temperature's over 100?  But last night I had a can of crab in the fridge, made a quick batch of crab cakes, with a little chipotle mayonnaise.  Chipotles are those dark smoky chiles; in adobe they acquire a tangy zing of vinegar, which makes their salsas even more memorable.

In your blender for every half cup of mayonnaise add two chiles en adobo, with a teaspoon or so of their juice.  For an added thrill toss in a teaspoon or so of capers.  Puree.  
I guarantee it will knock your socks off.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dark and sweet endings

Do you grill fruit? Marcella Hazan, that goddess Italian, introduced me to the concept.  Half an apricot, peach, or nectarine, a teaspoon of sugar--charred skin, sweet stone fruit.

Wait--stone fruit gone off or just gone, grab a banana.  You heard me!  The embers are dying, or the grill is still hot, throw a banana (unpeeled) on.  Turn once, after a few minutes, and don't panic if the skin is dark brown.  Remove from heat, nip at the tips and peel, slice lengthwise, shower a smattering of brown sugar, garnish with a dollop of crema mexicana, or creme fraiche or sour cream and you are now officially in grilled dessert heaven.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day--

Aux armes! Les citoyens!
Claude Rains, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart.
I'd be shocked! Shocked! If you didn't know which film I meant.
Test your abilities here.

Ah, to be in Paris, watching the fireworks. Sigh.
What?! You need a menu, too? Try here, here and here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The boy next door

Up here in the true boonies known as Altadena live a celebrity or three.  Cobb Estate was once the stomping ground of Harpo Marx; Zane Grey toiled away on his manual typewriter.

But today you can spot a red-head with a forehead riven with deep wrinkles dropping by the Coffee Gallery on Lake.  Not impressed? Check him out in Hard Eight.  I frickin love this movie.  You've never seen Gwyneth Paltrow so gritty.  Watch the trailer here, see the movie, then get back to me.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Poetry in a flute

Inertia: Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest--bodies at parties tend to stay at parties.  I can be one of those terrible guests that you need to shake a broom at to get rid of, or, failing that start hosing down the patio and washing the dishes.  I stay too long because of the wonderful lure of the intimacy that can only be had as the party closes, and the guests have had too much fun, and the hostess offers up something to further stimulate our conversation and jaded palates.

Such was a recent evening, and as a small group gathered round the kitchen table and tried to address humanity's capacity for woe and error,  the hostess popped open another bottle of Prosecco, and poured, but this time added a splash of cointreau and a blackberry.  It was so good I wept over all the unadorned glasses of Prosecco I had ever had; and to scientifically verify the delight of the experience I had to repeat it, um, repeatedly.

My husband tugged at my elbow to leave, I urged him to go on home without me; soon however,  I noticed the hosts had turned off the music and started mopping the kitchen floor in their pajamas.  Definitely my cue to exit, stage left.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Firing up the barbecue

Grilling.  101 recipes, including a final one which chars skewered green olives for your dirty martini.  I think I'll pass on that one, but there are plenty of others--a great 4 minute steak, with grilled red onions, queso fresco and a squirt of lime, as well of grilled fruit, a favorite of mine.  I think I want to try out the lamb chops, as well.  Want to see for yourself?
Check out Mark Bittman's list right here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nicoise Salade Daze

Take an assortment of greens, toss in vinaigrette of your choice, line shallow salad bowl. Boil string beans, or steam or microwave or pan fry skinny asparagus.  Toss in said vinaigrette, scatter over salad bowl.  Cunningly shell two hard boiled eggs, slice into eighths, and decorate said salad bowl.   Slice ripe tomatoes, toss with vinaigrette, scatter throughout dish.  Top tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs with bits of anchovy (yum).  Scatter canned tuna, or deboned and deskinned canned salmon on greens.  Feeling thorough?  Add a huge dollop of potato salad, dressed with same vinaigrette, in center of salade bowl.

Serve with butter, baguette, and bottle of chilled wine.  

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hope and Coke Floats

Was there ever a day that couldn't be improved upon by a scoop of ice cream? Root beer floats, hot fudge sundaes, a Thrifty's ice cream cone are fond memories from childhood.  Somehow I have replaced the root beer in my repertoire with wine--however the other night there was just a dollop of vanilla ice cream left in the container.  Hmmm, what to do?  A moment later I filled half a glass of Coke zero and the last scoop of ice cream. It was the perfect recipe for a summer evening.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Salad days

I was recently at a small family event.  You know the type I mean, the ones you go to through familial obligations, in addition to the knowledge  that the person hosting it is kind-hearted.  Hostess served coldcuts, potato salad and cole slaw from the deli section at her local grocery store, a green salad.  Then she placed four bottles of salad dressings on the table.

Maybe you do too.  If so, may I encourage you to try something else?

Easy vinaigrette:

One part red or white wine or balsamic vinegar.
Salt, pepper, dry mustard, dried tarragon to taste.
Optional: fresh tarragon, thyme, parsley, basil.

Six parts olive oil.   Add everything in a jelly jar (or in our case, a glass peanut butter jar)
Screw the lid back on.  Shake.  Instant dressing.

My current favorite:

In above mentioned jar add a dollop of Dijon, a teaspoon to a tablespoon.  Add a splash of red wine vinegar (about a third of the amount of mustard).  Stir with a fork until well-blended.  Add salt, pepper, more tarragon.  While mixing in with a fork, add four parts olive oil.  Fabulous.

Craving blue cheese?  
Salt and pepper a tablespoon of red wine vinegar in your salad bowl.  Mash 4 ounces of blue cheese into it, and a quarter cup, or more, of your favorite olive oil.  Add greens and mix.
Trust me, between these three you should never have to buy the bottled stuff again.

You're welcome.  And your guests will thank you. (Especially if that guest is me).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dear Restless Des:

I am growing tomatillos for the first time ever. The plant I picked up on a whim has taken off and is loaded with blossoms.

I've never cooked with them. Ideas?
                                                                           -- super savvy

Super easy, chica--remove the papery skin, boil until soft, drain.  In a small skillet pan roast a few cloves of garlic, until the skin is dark.  Remove skin. In a blender, add cooked tomatillos, charred garlic, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar and a slice of onion, now blend.  You now have a raw green salsa.  Once blended, you can also cook it down in a skillet slicked with a little bit of oil.  There!
I'd serve it with quesadillas.  Top your fish tacos.  Or, if you're ambitious, use it for your enchilada sauce.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More Alligators

Poetry Corner

Alligator Pie

Alligator pie, alligator pie,
If I don't get some I think I'm gonna die.
Give away the green grass, give away the sky,
But don't give away my alligator pie.

Alligator stew, alligator stew,
If I don't get some I don't know what I'll do.
Give away my furry hat, give away my shoe,
But don't give away my alligator stew.

Alligator soup, alligator soup,
If I don't get some I think I'm gonna droop.
Give away my hockey stick, give away my hoop,
But don't give away my alligator soup.

--Dennis Lee

Friday, June 18, 2010

Alligator Pears

According to this article Jamaicans started the name, an approximation of the Aztec ahaucatl

I love a perfectly ripe avocado, don't you?  For those of you counting calories it is perhaps a bit too rich, for those of you cutting out carbs, or blissfully oblivious, it's just right.

We've mentioned guacamole before; I also like slivers of avocado with a little salt or crema, or sandwiched between sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil.  Slather them on your blts, sprinkle in your Caesar salads.  Another great recipe from The City cookbook simply mashes them with equal parts goat cheese, ready to spread on crackers or baguette.  Yum!

Monday, June 14, 2010

All about hidden treasures

Don't you love secrets? I do.  I can't wait to repeat them.  In fact, I blab them all here, as soon as I'm able.   And it occurred to me I had not shared with starving, faithful readers a secret ingredient: Knorr's bouillon.  Look, I know Child, David, Keller, Bourdaine and Hazan will all scold and cajole and wheedle and browbeat you into using homemade stock/broth/boiled bones.  But let's get with the 21st century.  In other words, it's not gonna happen.  Risottos, arroz, paella,  trust me, this instant stuff will do the trick...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bali Hai

"South Pacific" has hit the Music Center to wide and critical acclaim.  What, can't pop for the Gold Star discounted tickets?  Dontcha worry, I got a recipe that will get you there, fast.

Makes one Mai Tai:
one shot dark rum
one shot coconut rum
1/2 cup pineapple/orange juice
a splash of grenadine for color.

Pour over crushed ice in a tall glass, garnish with pineapple spear, a maraschino cherry, or a cocktail umbrella.  A coupla these and you'll be humming "Bali Hai" all night long.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Count down

Fan Girl.  Complete and utter.  I picked up a copy of Lee Child's first Reacher novel Killing Floor years back when he appeared in the flesh at a So Cal Mystery Writer's convention.  That was when I developed my addiction.

The past couple of years he's appeared at Vroman's, and I've done my good duty by paying full price for the hardcover (and in the process, being able to chat with him for about 30 seconds, and getting my name scrawled in his handwriting).  Sigh. Those were the days.  Now, apparently he's spurned Pasadena, and I, long after I should have, have added my name to the long book request list at the library.  Although the novel's been out since May, and the library's got 20 copies of it, it's been sloooow making its way to me.  Today my copy is in transit to my chosen library, and I can't wait.  So it's time to stock up on provisions, because once I get it in my hands, I'm not moving!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Demand two things: dessert and champagne.

My kid, my daughter, my first born, is graduating from high school.  This passing of time is like a torrent rushing by me more than anything else. And so, to alleviate the bittersweet, to sweep away, or at least aside, the sorrow, I will serve bottles of bubbly and three of her favorite desserts : lemon pudding, cocoa cake and mud pie.

Perhaps just a little more sugar to keep away the salty tears---

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Full disclosure:  not my photo!  Click it and it will take you to its source...

 The other day I made a winning Greek salad.   A delightful side dish, refreshing and satisfying with its crunchy cucumber, its contrast against the feta cheese, olives, and a brightly ripe tomato. It got me thinking about Greece, modern and ancient, and the texts I studied long ago, penned by Plato.

Since then, the philosopher known as Cratylus has fascinated me.   A man so moved by the inability of language to communicate that he stopped talking completely.  To me, it seems, trying to communicate by gestures alone might prove even more frustrating.  But what silenced him?  A companion who just didn't get it?   Continuous rejections by editors and publishers?  The agora?  Or his own inchoate, inarticulate self, with its inability to live up to his own expectations?

I dunno.  But here's a recipe for you to chew on:

Peel a firm cucumber, then slice and quarter.  Dice a ripe tomato or two, depending upon your preference.  Add a tablespoon or two of pitted kalamata olives (you might even slice or halve them) a handful of diced or crumbled feta cheese.  Drizzle olive oil sunkissed from the Mediterranean, and scatter coarse salt to taste.  Mix gently, and enjoy in companionable silence. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Pause that Refreshes

Sporadic postings have prompted me to re-evaluate.
Could this be true? What are your thoughts--I'd love to know.
In the mean time, I think I want to read a few books.  Back in a bit,
please don't forget me!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo

Pop quiz time:

Cinco de mayo celebrates:
a) the annexation of Arizona
b) the slipping of the border from north of Tejas to south of Texas
c) beer companies

Need recipes, fast?
For the traditionally minded, click here, here and here.
(salsas, those ubiquitous rice and beans, along with the soul-satisfying ropa vieja)

Tired of the same old hum drum shots of tequila? Go for a paloma, here.
Buy authentic fried chips at a small grocers, and dip them into plenty of Mexican crema.
After a few palomas, ponder the advantages and responsibilities of being born on this side of the border.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Life after John Belushi

Or how the mighty have fallen. 
Dan Ackroyd signs his bottles of skull vodka in Pasadena Friday night.
More info here.
Who knew the ripple effects of an untimely demise?

Monday, April 26, 2010


Braised sauerkraut with smoked meats: delish!  A specialty of Alsace-Lorraine.  Want great meats? Head over to Schreiner's in Montrose. They smoke their own.  This is a riff on Jacques Pepin's recipe. 

Melt 4 tblsp chicken fat or lard in a huge sauce pan. Cook a coarsely chopped onion with 4 cloves of garlic for 10 minutes.  Add three cans/jars/bags of rinsed sauerkraut (6 pounds total).  Stir to coat with the fat.  Add 3 bay leaves, 1 tsp pepper, 20 juniper berries, 1 1/2 cups Riesling,  3 cups stock, one tsp caraway seeds.  bring to a roaring boil, then  bake for 90 minutes at 300 degrees.  Within the sauerkraut bury smoked pork chops ( one per person) high quality franks, brat wurst, half a pound of bacon, a pound or so of kielbasa sliced into two inch thick pieces.  Bake another half hour.  Feeds multitudes.

Serve with assorted mustards, boiled potatoes.  And Riesling.  Dry Riesling.

Me, to my brother-in-law, "Do you like Riesling?"
My brother-in-law: "I don't know, I've never Riesled."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Feeling Sour?

Recently a friend of mine celebrated his wedding last year in Peru with a celebration in Pasadena.  Later we moved to the new couple's home in Altadena, where the bride handed out small glasses filled with frothy stuff and topped with a tiny sprinkling of cinnamon.  People  thought, mini Margaritas? Nah, pisco sours.

She blended Peruvian pisco, sugar syrup, lime juice and egg whites with ice, then hovered nearby with a pitcher of the stuff in case we ran low.

Hmm, what is pisco?  After repeated samplings I decided definitely not tequila, but still, the flavor was somehow familiar...Good lord, grappa!  Maybe that's why I can't remember just how many refills I had--

Doing my share for breaking down borders and reaching out to different cultures, one hangover at a time.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Roasted Asparagus

Is crazy easy.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Snap off the woody ends of the vegetable (1-2 inches, depending on how well or poorly cared for they've been at the grocery store), drizzle with olive oil, season with fat chunks of salt.  15 to 20 minutes later you've got a terrific side dish.  Or green spears to dip into your soft boiled egg.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Shall I vaunt the virtues of Eagle Rock's Colorado Wine Company?  Shall I speculate on where my sister and I shall convene for happy hour tonight?  She reminds me she's on a budget, so instead I link to 12 Wines for under $12!

Careful shoppers will notice that a number of those listed can be found for even less than the prices listed.  Some labels are at Trader Joe's; I've seen a few at local grocery stores, again for less than listed at the link.  So, instead of going out, it appears we're staying in.  Hmmm, I still may have to swing by the Colorado Wine Shop to pick up a bottle of their seven dollar viognier.  I promise it doesn't a taste a dollar under 12.

What celebrations do you have planned this weekend?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Opposite of Success

Have you tried vichyssoise? It's a delightful cream soup, leeks and potatoes, butter and heavy cream, pureed, served hot or cold.  Occasionally I add a few oysters, poach them briefly, and it is spectacular.

The other day fresh oysters in the jar were on special.  Why not try another recipe?
How bad could you get?

Well, accidentally boiled the cream which was wrong, wrong, wrong! It separated into its water and milk fat components.  Charming, really, if you like eating cottage cheese soup.
Sigh.  It made for a rather mournful supper.

This got me thinking about failure, this one small terrible batch of soup.   Which got me thinking about rejection, that polysyllabic word that writers particularly despise.  Our inability at times to not help but take it personally.  And at the same time, the implausibility of setting our writing aside for good.  Because, how will we know, whether the soup is any good, or the magazine will publish our work, unless we try it?  Then tweak it and try it again? Kiddos, whether it's baseball bats, ladles or  laptops, let's go out swinging.

Monday, April 12, 2010

An Appoximation of Unattainable Food

For nothing keeps a poet
In his high singing mood
Like unappeasable hunger
For unattainable food.

-Joyce Kilmer

Over at Vroman's the other night Linda Dove dazzled. While I was puzzling over the right menu to perfectly accompany her poetry, with its intellectual foundation and awe-evoking existence, I realized it was not quite possible.

So, here's the almost perfect accompaniment, to be eaten and savored leisurely, just like her poems:

Fig jam
Creamy goat cheese
Crackers of your choice.

Drink rose, merlot or sparkling wine in celebration

Friday, April 9, 2010

Crimes against Crudites

Along with the scents of spring, jasmine, pittosporum undulatum, Burmese honeysuckle, garden-variety honeysuckle, citrus...michelia champaca, osmanthus fragrans, nicotiana alata...
(takk, AH) come cocktail and dinner parties, informal or formal gatherings all fondly accompanied with plates of crudites. Raw vegetables and dip. Usually so weight-conscious people
(read, women) can feign eating.

Upscale parties will decoratively carve out a red cabbage and fill its heart with ranch or blue cheese dressing; aspirational ruling class parties will provide gently blanched spears of asparagus wrapped with delicately thin slices of prosciutto.

I am fond of sliced cucumber, julienned carrots, celery, and red pepper. Raw cauliflower keeps my jaw toned. Even zucchini is palatable. But please please please, don't rinse and slice and serve your broccoli raw. It is inedible.

There. That is my rant for today. I'm off to buy prosciutto and roast some asparagus. See you Monday!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Five things I am delighted to devour, provided someone else does the cooking:

1. Foie gras.
Who wants to deal with the outraged ducks?
2. Macarons
Too hard keeping the pronuncation straight.
3. Shrimp quenelles
Leave it to the French to elevate a cross between gefilte fish and salmon patties into an art form. Bring on the cheese and heavy cream.
4. Doughnuts
I am hopeless with yeast-based foods. And this is a good thing.
5. Red velvet cupcakes with buttercream frosting.
They release my inner Daffy Duck. ("They're mine! All mine!")

And you? What are your favorite foods out?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Eat your greens

Swiss chard is one of those pretty greens that never seem to show up much
on anyone's table. I can understand why not: the stalks are tough and fibrous when
cooked with the leaves. The leaves themselves are rather exuberant, inconveniently poking out of your vegetable baggie.

But I do love greens, and these are easy:

Rinse each leaf. Tear the leaves off of the stalks. Trim the bottom edges of the stalks, then chop, as you would celery, into little half moons. Or dice. Not to worry, either way.
Take a heavy skillet, that has a lid, and slick with olive oil. Mince a clove of garlic (or two)
and heat until the garlic is translucent. Add the Swiss chard stalks, and stir until covered in oil.
Reduce heat, cover, and cook for five-ten minutes. Chops leaves into ribbons. After the stalks have simmered add the green bits, stirring, again, to coat with oil. Salt to taste, cover and steam on low for another 5 minutes.

Your greens will be vibrantly colored, the stalks tender. Add another squirt of olive oil, if you like, a squeeze of lemon and a handful of toasted pine nuts. Or just serve as is.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Chinese green beans

What do you do with those elongated beans? Kinda wild and woody looking, you know what I mean?
Irene Kuo, my favorite Chinese cook book author, makes it simple.

Rinse beans, chop into 4-5 inch lengths, discarding the tips.
Heat a wok on mega high; drop a tablespoon or two of peanut oil and swirl your wok.
Add a peeled sliver of ginger (always the size of a quarter, in her recipes). Sizzle for 30- seconds. Add two heaping tablespoons of black bean garlic sauce, listen to it sputter for another half minute, then add your green beans, stirring swiftly to coat with sauce. Add a couple of tablespoons of chicken broth or water, then cover wok with lid and lower heat. Let simmer, until the beans are cooked through, and the sauce is sputtering (five to ten minutes).

Terrific as a side dish. Be sure to have that vent on high!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Passed Over--

To some Christians
, Jews are God's Chosen People. Certainly my maternal grandmother believed this, and searched for one willing to marry her. She found herself forced settled for a Baptist minister.

Odd how aspirations are fulfilled after skipping a generation. My mostly non observant Chosen Person and I exchanged vows under a huppah. The marriage is a mash up, but so far a successful one. (Note the 'so far.' Clearly an indicator of my fatalismo mexicano.)

A friend of mine makes fantastic gefilte fish, using salmon poached in salmon stock. Their color is nothing like the flabby damp grey ones you'd find in a bottle of the stuff--but a vivid pink, flecked with bits of bright carrot orange. Delightful, delicious, but too labor-intense for even me.

Aside: if one group is God's chosen people, what are the rest of us? What is the opposite of chosen? A sigh.

I shall console myself with matzoh ball soup and chopped liver. And perhaps a little kosher wine.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring is sprung

the grass is riz
I wonder where
the birdies is


Out of town half the week I returned and everything had burst into color: wisteria, calla lillies, azaleas, more and more, pansies, birds of paradise, on every street I turned. Who says southern California doesn't have seasons? You've got to pay attention. I even love that the camphor trees tend to lose their leaves this time of year, and scatter them across streets and drives. Gorgeous.

(Oh yeah, we've got two seasons: earthquake and fire)

In honor of spring, sprinkle flowers everywhere: especially on your cupcakes, as
revealed here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Green beans

Those Italians have a way with vegetables. In anticipation of your victory garden, or your shopping spree at Super King, here's something to try out:

Slick a saute pan with olive oil. Add two or three sliced cloves of garlic. After they've released their aroma, and are not yet through, add a pound of diced tomatoes (only got canned? That's fine, too). Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes or so. Add a pound of trimmed green beans, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low until the beans are tender. Garnish with minced basil.

According to Marcella Hazan you can use this as a pasta sauce or serve on the side of most roast meats. Or you can just enjoy it as is.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I've got a Meyer lemon tree that's the gift that keeps on giving. One year we had maybe fifteen lemons. This year we've got dozens still after a season of sunshine.

What else to do with lemons, besides the twist for your martinis?


In your blender add: three diced cloves of garlic, three cups of drained garbanzo beans, 2/3 cup of tahini. Blend. Add 3/4 cup lemon juice, 1 tsp salt. Blend. Pour into container. Now add a teaspoon or two (to taste) of sesame oil. Mmmm. I like it best with Trader Joe's pita chips. I just can't get enough.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bloggers and their appetites.

We came, we shmoozed, we devoured.
Pommes frites from this provocative person; pizza from Petrea, sangria from Susan, (we're nothing if not alliterative) The Chieftess made a wonderful broccoli and raisin and peanut salad. A woman brought her home made goat cheese; some one brought an enormous box of Polka Dot mini cupcakes. And then there were the lemon bars. A woman said to me, "Excuse me, but I'm having a moment." That's how much she wanted to concentrate on them.

Need the recipe? Here you go. Hope to see you at the next one.

Apparently the goddess Margaret didn't really forget us. She was too busy getting an essay polished and published. Read it right here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day Jobs

Even the Restless Chef must pay the bills. I love this link here of how revered writers have paid their rent.

What? You were hoping for a seasonal recipe?!
Okay, I LOVE Irish soda bread. I forget the source, but it's a favorite:

Preheat oven to 375
Combine 3 cups flour, 3 tblsp sugar, 1 tsp baking soda, 3/4 tsp salt. Cut in 1 stick butter until fine crumbs form. Mix in 1 tblsp caraway seeds, 1/2 cup golden raisins, 1/3 cup dried currants, and 1 cup buttermilk. Stir until everything's moist. Gather dough and knead (I don't know how to knead, so just wing your 16 turns). Form into a ball, then flatten into a 1 inch thick circle.

Slash an x completely across. Brush with more buttermilk. Bake 30-35 minutes. Slather on the butter, and die happy.

Better get shoppin' for tonight's party--

Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy birthday, mom!

Original art by Simone

Today's the day. Saturday night we ended her celebration with brownies, cupcakes and lemon bars. The lemon bars were so popular the only evidence of their existence was circumstantial: a baking dish with a lemon crust ringing the edges. Long life, and lottsa love, lady!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Danish Delight--

Where have you been all my life?!?
I recently cooked an asparagus havarti omelette for a friend, based on one we had at a restaurant.
Simple: snap off the woody ends of the asparagus, then chop into one inch or so segments. Pan saute briefly in butter, then cover pan and steam until tender.
Make your omelette as you usually would, lay thin slices of havarti over one half, cover with the cooked asparagus, fold over your eggs, then garnish with more asparagus. Heaven!

But the discovery was how wonderful the cheese was all on its own: buttery, soft, creamy, slightly salty. The half pound chunk I bought is now nearly gone. I used it over the steamed broccoli I made along with dinner. Fantabulous!

It's wonderful to discover something new, later in life--

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Rapture and Rex

This just in from Craig Johnson, a terrific Wyoming writer. I enjoyed it so much I had to share with readers. What does it have to do with food? Nothin'. But I know a couple of dog lovers might enjoy the sentiment.

According to various estimates, there are about thirty million people in the US who firmly believe that the Rapture is coming in their lifetime. For the uninitiated, this is the second coming, an event which will result in the righteous being swept away to a far better place, leaving the rest here on earth. This Post-it isn’t so much as to whether this is or isn’t going to happen but more of what’s being done about the details.

A retired retail executive out of New Hampshire has fired up this service called Eternal-Earth Bound Pets USA that’ll sweep in after you’ve been swept off, to rescue and take care of your pets. Over a hundred people have already ponied (I’m not sure if horses are included in the plan…) up a hundred bucks for a ten-year contract that will insure that their pets are taken care of in a post-Rapture world. Says Mr. Centre, “If you love your pets, I can’t believe you wouldn’t think of this.”

There’s only one problem—well, actually, there are two, but I’ll get to the other one momentarily. First off, aren’t these people leaving their pets to the Godless to take care of? I mean, everybody else is going to be gone, right? So, I guess the atheists are the chosen pet-care providers. Earth Bound has twenty-six rescuers spread across twenty-two states who’ve signed certificates saying they don’t believe in God or have a criminal record. Now I’ve seen the movies about what’s supposed to happen in the apocalypse; it seems like Hollywood does one every three weeks where people turn into zombies, giant insects roam the land, there’s no oil, and the rain melts everybody—so how are we to be sure that Fido’s going to really be cared for? Is someone from EEBP-USA going to convert and check in?

On to number two—in this whole scenario who exactly is going to be left behind? The argument is that animals don’t have souls and therefore won’t be taking part in the great sweep. Really? I want you to look around your home and tell me who’s the kindest, most loyal, ever faithful, comforting, hard-working, uncomplaining, selfless individual in the house?

Seems to me we all better start cozying up to the four-legged and slide them a little cash for a premium...

All the best,


Wait! Here's the food connection, dogs, right here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Keh so, (not kay so). A faithful reader asks, "What gives with the Mexican cheese?"
My favorite brand: Cacique, sold in most supermarkets, even the mainstream ones. So the owner's an exile from Cuba? He's become quite a wealthy guy serving a demand that hadn't been met when he arrived in these parts; he lives in the San Gabriel Valley, and is apparently quite the humanitarian.

Top 3:
Cotija, a hard cheese to grate as a sharp contrast. Use on huevos rancheros, enfrijoladas, grate on top of refried beans, pan fried tacos.
Oaxaca: mellow and melting. Roast and shred a half dozen pasilla chiles. Grate or slice cheese on top, run under broiler. What else do you need?
Crema Mexicana: Sour cream will seem a pitiful imitation after this. Use with discretion, or indiscriminately, depending upon your metabolism.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ropa Vieja

All this rainy, chilly weather you made a pot roast, baked tater tots, and cracked open a bottle of wine. Now you've got leftovers. Such a dilemma!

Mince an onion, and saute over gentle heat. Add a jalapeno or two or three, depending on your spice o'meter. A minced garlic, a coupla tomatoes, fresh or canned. (This is all by guess and by gosh, specific quantities relative to what you've got leftover). Cube or shred the leftover meat. Add. Cube the leftover carrots and potatoes. Add any leftover stock, or some water. Salt to your taste.

Now, you can serve that with a generous grating of cotija cheese, a garnish of cilantro and a side of rice and beans. Or you can heat a few corn tortillas, add a dollop or two of meat, then salsa, seal with a tooth pick then gently fry in skillet. Smother with crisp, shredded cabbage.

Simple recipe, complex flavors.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


When not planning a menu, cooking, or washing up I love to take personality tests.
Like this one, here. Although you have to enter an email address, there's no spam, or follow up nudges. If you take it, let me know how you scored. You show me yours, I'll show you mine--

Monday, March 1, 2010



In case you missed this at Altadena Hiker....among others...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Can you say cassoulet?

(Not my photo!)

Sure, that was easy, but have you ever made one?

The first time I tried this hearty winter dish was many years ago at La Coupole in Paris. Filled with pork, lamb, confit d'oie (preserved goose) sausage, beans, beans, beans, topped with a hot browned bread crumb crust, I was felled with one spoonful.

So I thought I would share the recipe with you all: Julia Child's, strategically trimmed, is better than anything I've had at restaurants out here; but then I paused. Am I crazy? No one I know is going to make the French version of pork and beans. Not a single person. Really.

If you are that anomaly, run out and buy or borrow the Art of French Cooking, and I'll give you a coupla tips. In the mean time, I've got to find some lamb bones to crack and braise in the oven. Because I have a craving for this dish and wonderful red wine, the perfect combination to warm you up on (what here in southern California passes for) a cold, cold winter night.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


A decade back Fox's opened its Backside, serving terrific coffees and cappuccinos that were redolent with the scent of Italy.

Now, even a restless chef gets tired of doing the breakfast dishes. I stopped here recently. I don't mind (too much) the need for re upholstery, the faint sound of tv coming from the kitchen. And it's clear that the Backside is no longer the must stop coffee place it was when the daughter-in-law was running it. But this time when I ordered my double cap, it was mostly milk. Hmmm. (Consistency, people, is the reason people return to Starbucks!) After ten minutes of trying to sip it I asked the waittress for a shot of espresso. "Yeah," she said, "I kinda thought I didn't put enough coffee in the machine." I guess she kinda thought I wouldn't notice? That maybe I deep down really wanted a latte? Minus one dollar off the tip, lady. (I tip large, like most former recovering waitresses. But there were other infractions, trust me!)

To the point, to the point, to the point.

Local people, where in the heck do you go out to breakfast? And get a decent coffee? I mean, when you want something besides a sweet roll or croissant? Help! I mean it, really!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Little bites

This caught my eye, just as the writer says, for those days when you're having lunch at your desk.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Prescription for a Rainy Afternoon

The post here and the ensuing comments got me thinking of the pleasure of classic movies. My daughter has watched over and over again "A Streetcar Name Desire", "The Third Man", and "Night of the Hunter". Soon, very soon, I hope to introduce her to La Dolce Vita, with its marvelous echo of "Marcello, Marcello, Marcello," and its bouyant, bubbling music as it heads towards a somber climax.

Menu recommendations:

For Marlon and Tennessee, the movie set in New Orleans, you must must must whip up Edna Lewis's gumbo.

Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten grapple with moral terpitude and a gorgeous woman. Wait, set in Vienna? Wienerschnitzel. I promise to post a recipe soon.

Game, of course for the only film Charles Laughton directed. Robert Mitchum stalks, and those kids run like a couple of startled rabbits. Lapin a la chausseur.

Ah, La Dolce Vita. Start on your veranda with a small aperitivo. Follow with anything Italian.
Anything at all.

Let me know how your rainy afternoon goes--