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Baked Butternut Squash Chips

Thu Dec 11 2008

Butternut squash chips

Baked Butternut Squash Chips

There are obsessions and then there are cooking obsessions. The first kind can land you in counseling (and occasionally behind bars), the second will blow through your kitchen like a tempest, leaving every pot, pan, knife, cutting board, baking sheet and bowl lying in your sink like debris. I developed my first cooking obsession in the seventh grade after taking Wilton Cake Decorating classes with Debbie, the woman I babysat for. I learned how to make buttercream icing and transform it into pretty pansies and roses, shells and, of course, all of my friends’ names. Every time I made I cake I left icing fingerprints—leafy green and daffodil yellow—to dry on the kitchen drawers, the refrigerator handle, the doorknob and even the mailbox. By eighth grade the obsession had started to lose its sweetness, and I started scraping every inch of that pound of powdered sugar and Crisco off of each cake before I ate it.
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Repeal Day Limoncello!

Wed Dec 3 2008

Limoncello

Celebrate Repeal Day with Homemade Limoncello!

If Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, Repeal Day, which wine-lovers and cocktail hounds alike will be celebrating this Friday, runs a close second. Repeal Day marks the passage of the 21st Amendment to our constitution, effectively overturning the 18th, which banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol in the U.S. for 13 long, dry years. But while everyone is running around Friday, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition by getting appropriately schnockered, I thought I’d pay tribute the creative spirit—the speakeasies, the wine bottles market “for medicinal purposes” and, of course, the moonshine—that helped Americans survive the Noble Experiment by offering up a recipe for some homemade hooch.

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Thanksgiving Warm-Up

Wed Nov 26 2008

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is, hands-down, my favorite holiday. Any day dedicated entirely to eating, drinking, friends and family gets my vote under most circumstances. But Thanksgiving has the added benefit of being about gratitude, and I have a lot to be thankful for.

This will be a special Thanksgiving, the first, I hope, of many with my cousin and her family. It’s long been a dream of mine—complete with long rustic tables piled high with food, kids feeding dogs Brussels sprouts and someone gnawing on a turkey leg under the table—to have a big, family Thanksgiving. Maybe I’ve watched too many romantic comedies, but that’s what I want. Too bad my cousin’s son Max is a self-imposed vegetarian; I can easily imagine his sticky hands wrapped around a turkey leg the size of his head.

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Foodie Heaven: Cookstr Launches

Tue Nov 18 2008

Cookstr Screenshot

Some girls buy shoes. Some buy handbags. I buy cookbooks. Well, at least I used to buy cookbooks. These days, like most people, I’m not buying much of anything. A couple of months ago I took my dear friend Brooke’s suggestion and started borrowing cookbooks from the library. But I am seriously horrible when it comes to returning library books on time. With the money I now owe in fines, I could have easily bought a half dozen used cookbooks.

Fortunately, I just learned about a new website called Cookstr, which is currently is Beta stages. Continue reading

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Hungry for Change: Food Fight Premier This Saturday

Tue Nov 4 2008

“Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.”

—from “Concord Hymn” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are revolutionaries in every generation, individuals who buck the status quo, who take up the mantle of a cause and push—sometimes violently, sometimes just with words—changing the course of our culture irrevocably. Our recent history has a preponderance of them, from Martin Luther King Jr. leading freedom marches through the segregated south to Bobby Kennedy advocating for the poor, from Cesar Chavez organizing farm workers to Mario Savio, standing on a police car in Berkeley, California demanding his right to freedom of speech be protected. Our modern revolutionaries struggled against the prevailing tide, changing how people think, how they act and, sometimes, how they ate.

Food Fight, a new film by Chris Taylor, documents the American food revolution, from family farms to factory food to farmers’ markets. The film is an homage to the revolutionary spirit of Alice Waters, who, by simply seeking out the most tomato-y tomato and the earthiest greens for her restaurant, Chez Panisse, began to revolutionize the discourse about food in our country. The film also focuses on the entire generation of chefs that Waters inspired, from Suzanne Goin (A.O.C., Lucques, Hungry Cat) to Dan Barber (Blue Hill) and other chefs, like Wolfgang Puck (Spago, Cut), who, through his food, helped spread the philosophy that the best ingredients, treated simply, trumped fancy cooking techniques.

But the documentary doesn’t stop there. It also includes conversations with the small farmers who are battling agri-business to bring their communities fresh, healthy produce free from pesticides and herbicides and those who are struggling just to get produce to their neighbors at all. And it talks to the people pushing to get the conversation about our food culture into the mainstream, people like Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food), Marion Nestle (What to Eat, Food Politics) and Russ Parsons (How to Pick a Peach).

Whether you’re already interested in the politics of food or just good eats, see this documentary worth seeing.

Food Fight premiers this Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 3:15 p.m. at the Mann Chinese Theater in Hollywood as part of the AFI Los Angeles Film Festival.

If you don’t live in L.A. or are unable to attend the festival, join Food Fight’s Facebook group to keep apprised of upcoming events.

“Revolution never tasted so good.”

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Vietnamese Cinnamon Ice Cream

Tue Oct 28 2008

Vietnamese Cinnamon

Vietnamese Cinnamon

Share a meal with Diane and Todd from White On Rice Couple and you know you’ll learn something or eat something you’ve never tried before you leave. So when Diane excitedly handed out mottled grey branches at a dinner party a few weeks ago and told us to nibble on them, I went with it. I bit, rabbit-like with my front teeth, slowly breaking down the small, fibrous piece, mixing it with my saliva as instructed. Slowly my mouth filled with a sweet heat. The branch I was eating tasted exactly like the cross between an Atomic Fire Ball and Red Hots. I was struck at first by the spicy, lingering flavor, then by the idea that Fire Balls and Red Hots actually tasted like anything in nature.

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Rosemary Olive Oil Ice Cream

Mon Oct 20 2008

Rosemary Olive Oil Ice Crem

Rosemary Olive Oil Ice Cream

The basil plant was the first to go, its fragrant leaves curling in, then turning yellow and limp. Next it was the mint. I can’t remember who told me that mint grows like a weed and is impossible to kill, but they were wrong. The only thing weed-like about my spearmint plant is the apocalyptic-looking skeleton it left behind when it died, like it was doused by a gallon of Roundup. Now you can count one dead rosemary bush among my summer’s worth of failed gardening achievements. Loved and, perhaps, a bit over-watered, I thought I’d let it dry out a bit. But then I forgot about it altogether. Now my rosemary looks like a tiny Ponderosa pine sapling struck by lightening. So much for developing a green thumb. Mine is black and blue.

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Wine of the Week: 2007 Château Suzeau Côtes du Rhône

Thu Oct 9 2008

Suzeau

On Monday the Dow plunged like Paris Hilton’s neckline. It continued to fall on Tuesday and again yesterday, all the while our national debt has climbed. The economic turmoil might drive you to drink, if you could still afford a quaffable bottle of wine.

Fortunately, affordable wine is my specialty. Working at K&L Wine Merchants, I have the opportunity to taste dozens of wines a week, from the dirt cheap to the “I wish I could afford this.” One recent discovery on the “dirt cheap” end of the spectrum is this delicious, snappy Côtes du Rhône from Château Suzeau. This beauty comes from winemaker Cecile Chassagne’s negociant project, where she buys fruit and occasionally finished wine and helps to get it to market. K&L has done business with Chassagne for years, importing her wines directly and passing the savings on to customers, which is why this incredible little wine only costs $8.99 a bottle!

Surprisingly fresh and approachable for such a young wine, its deep crimson color has a purplish rim, like velvet trimming on a royal robe. Comprised of 80% grenache and 20% syrah, the wine’s black cherry and blackberry aromas mingle with a little garrigue and black pepper spice. On the palate the wine is soft and giving (as in: give me more), with savory herb and black fruit flavors, fresh acidity and barely there tannins. Sure this doesn’t offer the complexity of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but it has enough intrigue to enjoy on its own and the style to enjoy with everything from braised lamb shanks to short ribs with parsnip puree or a even a warm Brussels sprout salad with pancetta and sherry vinegar. Because it’s so young, I recommend decanting for an hour before drinking to full appreciate everything this wine has to offer. And if your belt isn’t too tight, buy a little to stash away. This kind of deal doesn’t come along everyday, but the wine will continue to develop over the next five years.

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Inviting Autumn: Quince Paste

Wed Oct 1 2008

Quince Paste

Fresh bread, gorgonzola and quince paste

Fall is by far my favorite season and, since the trees here refuse to play dress-up in their crimson, persimmon and gold-colored October wardrobe like a stubborn child refusing to have fun, it’s the one I have to work the most to capture. Autumn comes in from the edges in Southern California. It’s most obvious in the morning—when the light is a little more slanted, illuminating the palm trees and mountains to the east with a pumpkin-tinge—and in the evening, when Orion rises in the sky, the stars on his belt sparkling like Paris Hilton’s bling. It creeps in at the farmers’ markets too, with apples and winter squashes peppering the farmers’ tables along with grapes and figs and dates.

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Apple Risotto with Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Apple Salsa

Mon Sep 22 2008

Apple Risotto

The perfect autumn dish and way to use all the varieties of apples you find at the farmers’ market. I used Newton Pippins for the risotto and a combination of Spitzenberg, Red Stripe and Muutsu for the salsa.

Apple Risotto with Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Apple Salsa

Pork Tenderloin
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup coarse kosher salt
1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tbsp peppercorns
5 cardamom pods
1 tsp fennel seed

Combine ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Add whole pork tenderloin and add enough warm water to completely submerge the pork. Shake to dissolve sugar and salt. Refrigerate minimum 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

Heat grill. Brush tenderloin with olive oil and place on grill. Cook about 7 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees for medium rare (the temperature will increase about 10 degrees after you take it off the grill). Let rest 15 minutes before slicing into ¾-inch pieces.

Apple Risotto
adapted from Silver Spoon
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 Newton Pippin apples, diced
4 tbsp butter
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups Arborio rice
5 tbsp dry white wine
2 tbsp parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
salt and pepper to taste

Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a sauté pan. Add apples and lemon zest. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, until apples are beginning to soften.

Bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add rice and stir until coated in oil. Sprinkle with wine and cook until evaporated. Add a ladleful of stock, stirring until it has been absorbed. Continue adding stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until absorbed before adding another. Add apples to the rice mixture about six minutes into cooking the risotto. When the rice is almost tender, stir in the cheese and remaining butter. Season to taste.

Apple Salsa
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp chile flakes
3 apples, cored ad chopped
1 tbsp tarragon

Stir sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add a half of the apples and cook until the apples are soft. Remove from heat. Mash the apples with a potato masher or an immersion blender. Stir in tarragon and the other half of the apples. Chill for 1 hour.

Serve the sliced pork over the risotto topped with the apple salsa.

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