Category Archives: Food People

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Vineyards Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesA cursory internet search on Los Angeles wineries pulls up lists such as 10 Best Places to Go Within 50 Miles or 18 Spots to Go Wine Tasting. Although we are sure the wines are good, they don’t have the star power of, say, Napa’s Opus One or Santa Barbara’s Au Bon Climat. But, as they say, times are a changin’, and last year Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch purchased Moraga Vineyards in the tony neighborhood of Bel-Air.  Celebrities who have resided in the area include actress Meg Ryan and rocker Avril Lavigne; Star Wars creator George Lucas recently purchased his only Los Angeles home in the wealthy community, according to Variety, at nearly $34 million. Other residents over the years have included Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, and Candy and Aaron Spelling. Therefore, Mr. Murdoch’s winery, once owned by Tom Jones, CEO at Northrup, and the former home of Gone With The Wind and Wizard of Oz director Victor Fleming, is probably one of the most expensive pieces of land in the United States…and possibly wine world.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesEmbedded in the Santa Monica Mountains, winemaker Scott Rich, who started the making the wines under the Jones ownership, spoke to us from his home in Sonoma, where he lives part-time, tending to his vineyards and grapes at Talisman Vineyards. He travels down to the City of Angels once a week, staying three to four nights, crafting Moraga Wines under the new owner. He says, “It’s a unique grape growing area. It’s like a refrigerator at times, as we get cold Pacific Ocean air, which is only 9 miles away. We consider it hot if it reaches more than 85 degrees.”

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

He continues, “Because of that, our wines are soft and elegant, not big and overpowering, as most associate with California.”
Rich also says that the wines they produce are from soils much like that of Bordeaux. However, true to California form, the vines sit on a fault line. “We are bisected by the Benedict Canyon fault. On one side, we have ground that was churned up two plates millions of years ago. On the south side, we have primarily uplifted sea bed. At one time, this was the Santa Monica Bay.”

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesBut at the end of the day, it’s not about the growing region so much as how they taste on the palate. Rich says, “We don’t do lots and lots of things to the fruit. We have perfect grapes, and we try not to mess them up while we craft our delicious wines.”

At the winery, the winemaking team only makes an Estate Red and an Estate Sauvignon Blanc. The white’s aromas are of peaches and nectarines, while the red is soft with currants and tobacco, which is indicative of the limestone soil. Only 10,000 bottles are produced annually, and are generally over a $100 per bottle. Not inexpensive, but it’s definitely more economical to taste the terroir in the bottle than it is to plant your mansion in the multi-million-dollar neighborhood.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Food Questions with Winemaker Scott Rich (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Puffed Pancake with Macerated Strawberries. It’s this beautiful lemony doughy-bottomed, airy-topped steroidal (pan)cake with slightly sweet clouds of ricotta, topped with strawberries from the garden that have been soaked in Meyer lemon and Grand Marnier

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Tortillas. Coffee. Milk (plain and chocolate). Veggies. Fruit. Leftovers.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesWhat marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
A love of food and flavors. The sharing part is important. Curiosity.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Lack of the above.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Do you have to make a choice? There’s a lot of territory to explore in everything.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Christopher Kimball and the whole gang at Cook’s Illustrated. They do a remarkably rigorous job of testing and tweaking recipes to arrive at the best result.

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
A sharp knife and a corkscrew.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian and California/Mediterranean. It’s all about the best, freshest ingredients, rather than the process. I have a pretty decent garden and lots of fresh produce most of the year. My go-to dish during tomato season is caprese – simple preparation, rather than cooking.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Yes.

Favorite vegetable?
Bok choy.

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Daniel Patterson of Coi (and a few other ventures). Daniel is curious, creative, discerning, demanding, humble, and very thoughtful in his pursuits. His interests run the gamut from creating the finest, fussiest, artistic food in San Francisco to providing delicious, wholesome, inexpensive fare in one of L.A.’s poorest communities. Then there are his projects in the East Bay.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Food you like the most to eat?
I’m a sucker for really good French fries. Crunchy outside, soft pillowy innards.

Food you dislike the most?
Mayonnaise.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Play.

Whom do you most admire in food?
See the question four above this one.

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
At home with a bunch of friends.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Coi in San Francisco for something mind-blowingly fancy and beautiful.
Pizza Azzurro in Napa for their margarita pizza and an Anchor Steam beer.
Any number of taco trucks in Sonoma.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food/wine?
No.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

No-Recipe Tuna Wasabi Canapes

• Pound of Ahi Tuna
• Package of won ton wrappers (found in the Asian section of your grocery store, by the tofu)
• ¼ cup of grated fresh wasabi (Japanese markets)
• Vegetable Oil
• Wok or deep skillet
• Alfalfa sprouts
• Freshly made aioli or grated garlic, mayo, and a dash of lemon juice to thin.
• Salt and Pepper

In the center of each wonton wrapper, smear some grated wasabi and alfalfa sprouts. Fold the wontons like a miniature taco and quickly fry them in about a quarter inch of oil. Drain on a paper towel. Salt and pepper the tuna and then sear in a hot pan about two minutes on each side. Cut the tuna into bite size pieces and place on a wonton. Add a dash or two of mayo for a little fat and the perfect appetizer to accompany our Moraga wines.

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe

i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers RecipeThe first thing I noticed, when talking with Oy Vey Vegan Cookbook author Estee Raviv, was her passion for her work. Now in food, you will find passionate people (we all love to eat). Raviv is an artist. Cooking is an outlet for her creativity – and that anyone can relax – and cook – in the kitchen. Cooking is Art!

Cooking is Art. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Raviv’s foray into Vegan cooking and eating came about because of her digestive issues. After being raised in Israel, where cheese and dairy are plentiful and delicious, she experimented with elimination diets – and found that eating vegan changed her life. That change is why she started writing her blog, as well as her new cookbook, Oy Vey Vegan. She was so happy that she felt so good, and wanted to share this with the world.

Raviv noted that, like all of us when faced with changing our way of eating, she found it difficult to change her state of mind, and said, “What am I going to do now?” How could she change her routine – and ways of thinking? Well, we can all learn from her – she created her own menu for every day, and found alternatives that are healthy and not trying to be something else. Raviv avoids processed food – she noted that “you can be vegan and eat junk, so coming to veganism as a healthy aspect of a plant-based diet is helpful. Vegan eating is very healthy for us and, of course, it can prevent all types of cancers and other chronic diseases.” Her own menus sound delicious, starting with oatmeal for breakfast (which she loves), and then whatever healthy snacks she chooses for the day – lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and very creative salads that contain plant-based protein. Eating vegan is a whole new world that is fascinating and creative, and she thrived in it.

cooking segment on TV. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
cooking segment on TV

Appearing on a regular basis with a cooking segment on tv in Oregon and Washington, and teaching cooking classes with From Estee’s Kitchen, Raviv is happy to share the things that she is cooking for her family every day.

i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
My book in store

Her cookbook, Oy Vey Vegan, includes recipes that she uses every single day. It’s an excellent tool for people that want to eat vegan and don’t know how, as it includes simple and accessible global recipes using fresh ingredients. Most recipe ingredients are in the fridge or pantry all the time, and there are also traditional Jewish dishes with a vegan spin. Examples include vegan pate, which is a staple in every Jewish holiday meal, and matzo ball soup, which she recreated into a vegan version (without eggs) and says, “it tastes better than the traditional dish.”

My herb garden. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
My herb garden

Raviv was most passionate about the joy of eating, remarking that “most if not all of the recipes in Oy Vey Vegan are guilt-free – you can eat and feel good about yourself, and don’t worry about quantities. If you put good things in your body, food is medicine, food is good – as long as you eat the right things, you can eat without guilt.”

As a takeaway from her cookbook, tv segments, cooking classes, and blog (i.e., her life’s work!), Raviv hopes that she can help people with health issues, by teaching about using food as preventive medicine. If you eat right, you can prevent so many diseases. Raviv said, “Act now – don’t wait to be sick, but start now – and change your opinion or stigma about veganism…there’s so much more to eat than seeds and lettuce. If you eat a balanced vegan meal that contains protein, you won’t be hungry, and will be super-satisfied. And if I can change other people’s lives, I’ll be very very happy.”

She loves to eat, is passionate about food, and can eat as much as she wants. Delicious food as preventive medicine? Sounds good to me.

Book signing event at New Seasons Market. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
Book signing event at New Seasons Market

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook?
Eggplant, salads, tempeh, quiches. I love to cook mostly everything! I love to cook, period:)

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Fruits, vegetables, tempeh and Almond milk.

What do you cook at home?
Everything vegan, mainly recipes from my book and new recipes that I develop. Today, for example, I made a sprouted lentil salad with orange slices and sunflower seeds, homemade hummus and stuffed eggplants.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
First, I love people that love to eat. People that appreciate good healthy food, and people that are passionate about food in general.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? People that are not open to try new food. People that think that vegan food is not satisfying food or not good food.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex for sure.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Crossroads cookbook author Tal Ronnen

Cooking at my outdoor kitchen. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
Cooking at my outdoor kitchen

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Food processor

Your favorite ingredient?
Love avocado, every day! Year round!

Your least favorite ingredient?
Margarine – does not exist in my kitchen

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean up

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Hard to choose because I love so many but Probably Mediterranean

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Tofu

Favorite vegetable?
Eggplant

Chef you most admire?
Giada de Laurentis

Teaching a cooking class. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
Teaching a cooking class

Food you like the most to eat?
Kale salad with crunchy tempeh on top…and avocado, of course

Food you dislike the most?
Bok choy

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Travel with my family / barre class / hikes with my husband /

Who do you most admire in food?
My mom – she is an amazing and creative cook

Where is your favorite place to eat?
If to be honest, at home but I do like to eat out in an Ethiopian cuisine, or at Jory restaurant at the Allison inn and spa (Oregon wine country)

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None, not my thing

 

Recipe: Vegan Stuffed Peppers

i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Growing up, my mom used to make stuffed peppers all the time. And I loved it! Of course, she used meat and rice in her recipe. I recreated it vegan-style and it turned out so flavorful! No meat is necessary to create an amazing stuffed peppers dish.

Ingredients:

6 colorful bell peppers

Filling:

1 teaspoon olive oil

4 cup celery stalks, chopped

4 green onions – chopped

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 cup pearl barley or brown rice

1/4 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped

salt

pepper

Sauce:

1 1/2 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon no chicken base

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon agave

Salt

Pepper

 

Directions:

For the filling:

In a sauce pan on medium heat add olive oil, celery, green onions, salt and pepper. Saute for a couple of minutes.

Add the spices: turmeric, paprika and onion powder, Saute for a couple more minutes, then add the pearl barley, quinoa, boiling water. Lower the heat and let simmer until all the water have evaporated. Add parsley or cilantro, mix and Set aside.

For the sauce:

Add all the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.

For the peppers:

Cut the top part of the peppers and keep it to cover the peppers after you fill them. (You can remove the green core.)

Scoop out the seeds.

Place the peppers in a wide pan; try to fit the peppers tightly.

Fill the peppers with the filling mixture and cover them with the top part of the pepper.

Pour the sauce over the peppers and let simmer for an hour, or until the peppers are soft.

Every 10-15 minutes, take a spoon and pour some sauce on the peppers, to keep them moist and flavorful.

Be creative and you can always use the filling in any other veggie you like. This specific filling is super light because it has a large content of the celery, and a lesser amount of carbs.

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupThanks to the entertainment industry, the City of Los Angeles creates opportunities arguably better than most cities in the United States. Case in point is the The Lucques Group, headed by chef Suzanne Goin and her business partner Caroline Styne, who has been the sommelier and wine director for the company since its inception.

A scant 20 years ago, there still weren’t many women who owned restaurants. Of course, Josie La Blach had her eponymous Santa Monica eatery. We also can’t forget the Border Grill ladies, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feininger. Nancy Silverton was baking bread and scones at La Brea Bakery, and Joan McNamara, a caterer turned restaurateur, are about a few of the holdovers from the previous century.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Started in 1998, the now legendary Lucques was a success cementing at least the future of the two young women at the helm, Goin, in front of the stove, and Styne, managing the business and front of house and beverage direction.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupFormer Los Angeles Times critic S. Irene Virbilia noted in her 2009 review of their Brentwood Larder, “Styne and Goin are the food world’s equivalent of Lerner and Loewe or Leiber and Stoller. Everything they do just seems to work effortlessly. The two share a certain sensibility and aesthetic. At any of their restaurants, there’s a sense of comfort and sensuality, contemporary rustic cuisine and warm but crisp service, and enticing environment. But most of all, they each have a strong sense of place.”

Ms. Styne, along with Ms. Goin, are native Angelenos, which is as hard to find as needle in a haystack. Both exude the clean living of a California life, but Ms. Styne was the epitome of West Coast style at a recent Hollywood Bowl media event. She appeared nonplussed by the media attention around her and her partner. In LA style, she smiled for the camera in a black and white herringbone frock perfect for the chill air on the stage of the arena. A glass of white swirled in her hand as the lightbulbs burst; she looked elegant and fit.

In her blog, Styne on Wine, she noted, “At my home, I played the role of wine steward and service captain. I would set the table, open the bottles of Bordeaux and pour wine for my guests throughout dinner.”

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupNow as part owner of one of the most thriving restaurant businesses in Los Angeles, with not one but five restaurants, a James Beard nominee, and catering for the Hollywood Bowl, Styne is a quintessential L.A. person living out their California dream in food and wine!

Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I’m the vegetable and grain cook in our home. My husband does the grilling because I’m the least comfortable with that. I love roasting or sautéing vegetables, making salsas and other yummy sauces to spoon over them.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
We always have Greek yogurt, olives, an array of cheeses, and wine!

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I love sharing a meal with people who love food and like trying new things. I don’t necessarily need to discuss each morsel and aspect of the food to death, but I like to know that I’m with someone who appreciates food and the art of cooking.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I don’t love eating with people who are uber picky or don’t love or appreciate food. It makes me feel uptight and uncomfortable. I’d rather just meet that person for coffee.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupBeer, wine, or cocktail?
There is a time and place for all three, but usually cocktails and wine.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Suzanne Goin

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
Breville Citrus juicer

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Indian and Mediterranean

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Chicken and seafood…love pork, too

Favorite vegetable?
Romanesco

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Jose Andres….great chef, great attitude, great humanitarian.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheese – all kinds, from all milks in all shapes and sizes

Food you dislike the most?
Offal…just not into it

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
I’m big on physical fitness. I really like to keep active and actually enjoy walking, jogging, and just moving my body. I also love fashion in too big a way.

Whom do you most admire in food?
Danny Meyer

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
I think Italy is one of the most fun and satisfying places to enjoy food and wine.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupWhat is your favorite restaurant?
If I’m not at home, I really love eating at my restaurants. I obviously love the food and the drinks. Suzanne and I always try to create restaurants that we ourselves would like to patronize, so I guess we’ve succeeded in that respect

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos…I’m boring that way.

Recipe: Asparagus and Proscuitto

Recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. To drink, Styne recommended in a William Sonoma blog post, “You can never wrong with champagne or rosé. I think both say, “Party!” and can take you from appetizers to dessert.”

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Ingredients:
• 1¼ pounds asparagus, pencil-thin variety
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
• ½ cup creme fraiche
• 12 thin slices prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele
• ½ lemon, for juicing
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
Light the grill 30 to 40 minutes before you’re ready to cook.

Snap the ends off the asparagus to remove the tough woody portion. Toss the asparagus on a baking sheet with the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some pepper.

Stir the mustard and crème fraîche together in a small bowl, and set aside.

When the coals are broken down, red, and glowing, drape the prosciutto over a platter. Grill the asparagus 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly charred and tender.

Arrange the asparagus on the prosciutto and drizzle the mustard crème fraîche over the top.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)“I want people to realize that when they walk out their front door,” says Phoenix-based nutritionist Monika Woolsey, “that they have a whole world to choose from not just the same six foods that we always eat.” This statement starts the conversation about how do you define Woolsey, named in 2016 by Phoenix New Times as one of city’s 100 Tastemakers. Unsurprisingly, she was the only registered dietitian on the alt-weekly’s restaurant heavy industry list. By i8tonite’s definition, she is a quintessential food person, making a mark in her community through her work. According to her website, she is the team nutritionist with the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Organization, maintaining the needs of 150 athletes from a dozen countries, keeping their energy so they can reach home plate;  and the Caesar Chavez Leadership Academy Garden Project focusing on hunger relief and blogging on community gardens.

She can be thought of as keeper of “indigenous plants” and foods to eat maintaining healthy diet for all. Woolsey states, “We eat the same foods, but it’s important to eat what you know. Recently, I was working with a young Mexican athlete, who’s food consists of corn. We needed to implement that food into her diet, making it easier for her to sustain a balance.”

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)Woolsey has a degree from the University of Boulder, Colorado in kinesiology,but began nutrition when approached by the Chicago Cubs, who needed someone who knew food and was a fluent Spanish speaker to talk to the team. (Woolsey does both and has traveled throughout Latin America.)

Winding down the conversation, Woolsey says, “I’m making mesquite tea.”

With surprise, I quip, “I’ve never known you could drink mesquite as a tea.”

“Oh yeah. During the Civil War, Texan soldiers didn’t have any coffee so they would drink this (brew). They called it ‘apocalypse’ coffee.”

I know who I’m hanging out with when the last day comes.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Slow cooker meals that get better as they sit: chili, ropa vieja, minestrone soup, sauerbraten.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
At least 8 different seasonal vegetables. Ricotta cheese, milk, and eggs. Sofrito, salsa, Dijon mustard, sriracha, and curry sauce.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Someone who can simply enjoy the meal, and the meal environment, without taking a picture of it, commenting on its nutritional value, or lack thereof.

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Excessive special requests for the host that remove the love and thoughtfulness that went into its creation.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I’m German. It’s going to be beer! Nothing better on a hot Phoenix day than a Weissbier with a spritz of lemon!

Your favorite cookbook author?
Gran Cocina Latina by Marcicel Presilla. The author is a chef with a PhD in Mediieval Spanish History, and her book approaches the entire Latin continent from a historical perspective. I read it cover to cover last summer, and plan to do so again this summer. This book completely launched my confidence in creating healthy recipes for the Latin athletes I work with.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My garlic press! I am constantly pulling it out of the dishes, washing it, and using it for the next project!

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Most of my audience is people new to cooking. I enjoy creating simple renditions of complicated recipes that leave anyone feeling like they can succeed in the kitchen. Recently I’ve been focusing on Latin American cuisine. Not just Mexican, but Caribbean, Venezuelan, Central American, each one is different and each has introduced me to delicious ingredients I take back to my other recipes.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Anything, anything, but tofu!

Favorite vegetable?
With a business named “Hip Veggies,” it’s hard to play favorites. But I suppose it would be homegrown tomatoes. Mine are ripening right now, and they rarely make it inside to the salad. I love snacking on them as I pick them. But then there’s corn. Who doesn’t love a fresh roasted elote? Oh my, I had best move on to the next question before you get a dissertation.

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

Chef you most admire?
Tamara Stanger, of Helio Basin Brewing Company, here in Phoenix. She’s blazing her own trail, daring to use native desert ingredients I have not seen other local chefs know how to use. And every time she steps up, she wins awards. Tammy is very quickly raising the bar for the definition of “local food” in Arizona.

Food you like the most to eat?
I like what’s grown locally, in season. Food that was pulled out of the ground the day I get it. My CSA box has sharpened my awareness of what tastes best at different times of year. And I have learned that when you eat with the seasons, there’s always something coming up, just around the corner, that I haven’t had in awhile. It keeps my kitchen interesting.

Food you dislike the most?
Anything with ingredients piled together in some way that suggests they’re only there because they are trendy. I love kale, quinoa, sweet potatoes, avocado, blueberries, and salmon. But please, don’t pile them together in a Superfood Bowl. Been there, seen it on Instagram a million times.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Anything related to nature. Hiking, photography, biking, visiting a zoo or botanical garden.

Whom do you most admire in food?
The farmers who put it on our table. They work so hard for so little credit. If it were not for their love of the land and willingness to be out there 7 days a week, often in brutal conditions, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. We take them for granted. They deserve better.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
Anywhere that is likely to create a memory. On a log while hiking a beautiful trail, with family on a holiday, any environment that encourages savoring the experience as well as the food.

What is your favorite restaurant?
My family has been eating at Casa Molina in Tucson, Arizona for over 40 years. The menu hasn’t changed, the décor is the same. Good things stick around for a reason. Try a carne seca tostada with a margarita on their patio, and you’ll understand.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I have never intentionally tattoed myself. However, food has had a way of tattooing me! I have a nice scar on my left forefinger, a souvenir from a bout with a cantankerous bagel. A few marks from splattering grease, touching hot baking sheets I thought were cool. I wear each one with pride.

Recipe: Grilled Butternut Squash with Mexican Pipián Sauce

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

Serves 2

1 butternut squash
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Salt
1/2 cup 505 Southwestern Green Chile, Tomatillo, Cilantro, and Lime Salsa
¼ cup raw, unsalted peanuts
¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Clean the squash

Peel butternut squash and cut into thin slices; set slices in a small mixing bowl. Set aside the seeds you recover while cleaning and preparing the squash.

Make the pipián sauce

Place reserved squash seeds in a ¼ cup measuring cup. If you do not have ¼ cup of seeds, add enough pumpkin seeds to measure as ¼ cup. Add these seeds and the peanuts to the skillet, and toast them over medium heat. Stir frequently.

When the seeds and peanuts start to pop, turn off the heat and let them continue to cook in the heat remaining in the skillet.

Place seed/peanut mixture in a spice grinder, a coffee grinder, or a food processor and grind thoroughly.

Remove mixture from grinder and set aside.

Cook the squash

Add peanut oil to the squash; toss to evenly coat slices with oil.

Salt lightly.

Place squash slices on a grill (or in a cast iron skillet over medium heat) and cook until both sides are nicely browned. It should take just a few minutes on each side. Remove from heat and set aside in dish.

Assemble the dish

Arrange the squash pieces attractively on a serving plate.

Spoon pipián sauce over the squash slices.

Garnish with cilantro.

Enjoy!

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeNicole Gulotta is a writer, editor, and tea enthusiast. She’s the author of Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry (Roost Books, 2017), and pens a blog by the same name. I first discovered Nicole’s website years ago, when looking for travel guides that encompassed both bookstores and great food. What gems Eat This Poem’s literary city guides are – written by those in the know, so it’s a local’s guide to goodness, when you travel. Nicole’s website is fill of musings on cooking – and life, and is one that I turn to again and again.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeImagine my elation when I saw Nicole’s new book being created, published, and released (next week!). I caught up with Nicole in sunny California, while snowbound in Michigan, and asked her about writing a combination of food and poetry. She noted that while she had been writing the blog for several years, and had felt rooted in the combination of food and poetry, she was approached by an editor about starting the book – and it felt like the right project at the right time. And while the gestation process for Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry was long, she had been writing of these topics for years, had found her footing with it, and was excited to do something more substantial with it – for which I am grateful.

When I delved into her history, I learned that while poetry arrived early in her life, food came much later – and so it wasn’t a natural fit to pair the two. But Nicole noted that when you can step away from your life experiences and look at them, it enables those insightful moments to happen.

The Eat This Poem cookbook features more than 75 new recipes paired alongside verse from 25 of America’s most beloved poets. Forage mushrooms with Mary Oliver, then wander into your kitchen to stir creamy truffle risotto. Study the skin of a pear with Billy Collins while you bake a warm vanilla-pear crumble. And honor the devoted work of farmers with Wendell Berry while snacking on popcorn dusted with rosemary and drizzled with brown butter.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

You know me – when I asked what she hoped readers take away from the book, Nicole said, “The idea of being still in a kitchen, and having food and poetry be an opportunity to do something that takes care of yourself and the people around you as well. Our lives are so rushed and busy and we have all these things to do…and I want people to feel like they can indulge in poetry and food and ENJOY that, even if only for a brief moment.”

And, when I asked about poetry, Nicole (a life-long poetry lover) remarked, “Poetry is so great because it really keeps you rooted in the moment/present, and if you read a poem it might take a short time (or longer), but it is a special, be-present time. You can do this and inspire your day!”

Indeed – food and poetry are the perfect combination for stillness, thoughtfulness, and a good life.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook?
Something Italian, like bolognese that simmers for hours

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Homemade almond milk, Dijon mustard, a wedge of Parmesan, and eggs from the farmers’ market

What do you cook at home?
I keep things simple, especially Monday through Friday, like quick bean tacos, lentil curry, and pasta with whatever fresh vegetables are in season.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
A good appetite

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Chewing with your mouth open

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Nigel Slater’s writing is so welcoming and poetic

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeYour favorite kitchen tool?
My Japanese chef’s knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Garlic. It’s the beginning of everything.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Dried fennel

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Empty the dishwasher

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, Indian, and Mexican. But these days, anything I can get on the table in under 30 minutes.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef, medium rare, with a touch of flaky salt on top

Favorite vegetable?
I know they’re technically a fruit, but tomatoes have my heart every summer. I also love roasted cauliflower.

Chef you most admire?
Suzanne Goin

Food you like the most to eat?
Always pasta, preferably spaghetti with a slice of garlic bread alongside

Food you dislike the most?
A poorly dressed salad

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Spend time with my son

Who do you most admire in food?
Anyone who helps support local farmers, treats animals and the environment with respect, and values seasonal cooking

Where is your favorite place to eat?
My kitchen table, or Bestia, in downtown Los Angeles

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Zero.

Recipe: Energizing Orange Smoothie

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

In a high speed blender, add 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 chopped carrot, 1 banana, 1 cup frozen mango, 1 small piece of peeled ginger (1-inch), ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, and 1 cup ice.

Process until smooth, and garnish with chia seeds, if desired.

 

Find Nicole on social media:

Twitter: twitter.com/nicolegulotta
Instagram: instagram.com/nicolegulotta
Facebook: facebook.com/eatthispoem
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ngulotta/

 

  – The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with New Irish Table’s Leslie Conron Carola & Cod and Octopus Recipe

When we visited Ireland, I fell in love with the food. Not only that famous brown bread, and the smooth, creamy butter, but the seafood chowder that we ordered at almost every meal, and the hearty breakfasts, and the Guinness stew, and the seafood, and…well, you get the picture. But most of all, what I admired and happily ate was the creativity and local ingredients that went into each meal.

Imagine my joy at finding a cookbook, The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland’s Top Chefs , that celebrates new Irish food, by chefs that are leading the charge for creativity in Ireland’s artisanal food movement. They come from all four of Ireland’s provinces (including Northern Ireland), and each shares a menu of recipes.

i8tonite with New Irish Table's Leslie Conron Carola & Cod and Octopus RecipeI learned more about Ireland, and its food, than I imagined gleaning from a book – and am inspired to not only cook these delicious recipes, but to head to Ireland and visit their restaurants.

Luckily for us, I was able to chat with editor Leslie Conron Carola, who is the owner and director of Arena Books Associates, LLC, has produced many illustrated books, including Ireland: A Luminous Beauty; Spectacular Ireland, and Ireland’s Treasure’s with Peter Harbison. The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland’s Top Chefs is published by Charlesbridge.

Food People Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Hmm-that depends on the season for particulars, but it’s always fresh, fresh, fresh and as-local-as-possible. Lots of fresh vegetables and fruit and again as-local-as-possible meat and fish (with exceptions, of course. I love Chilean sea bass, and salmon, and shrimp!).

Quickly sautéed and/or roasted fish or chicken with lightly steamed or grilled fresh vegetables, and/or a lightly-dressed salad. Fresh herbs and lemon and a bit of butter doesn’t hurt!

Carpaccio of Scallops with Chilli, Lemon, and Wood Sorrel Recipe by Chef Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shannagary, Co. Cork. From The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland's Top Chefs
Carpaccio of Scallops with Chilli, Lemon, and Wood Sorrel
Recipe by Chef Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shannagary, Co. Cork.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Chicken broth–homemade when possible; fresh vegetables and cheese, yogurt. A piece of chocolate.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Conversation- sharing ideas and the pleasure of eating a well-prepared meal, a meal engaging our senses. It doesn’t have to be a complex meal.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
No conversation and very quick eating without much enjoyment.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Alice Waters

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Vitamix and sharp knives

Orange, Spinach, and Salmon Salad Recipe by Chef Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House and Cookery School in Glenealy, Ashford, Co. Wicklow. From The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland's Top Chefs
Orange, Spinach, and Salmon Salad
Recipe by Chef Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House and Cookery School in Glenealy, Ashford, Co. Wicklow.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Natural, seasonal, fresh. And Italian and French, and, of course, what the Irish chefs are preparing!

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Chicken and pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Oof, this is difficult, I love many: spinach, broccoli, butternut squash, brussels sprouts, fresh tomatoes and salad vegetables.

Chef you most admire?
Alice Waters. And all these Irish chefs: Darina Allen, Derry Clarke, Kevin Dundon, Martin Bealin, Ian Orr, Ultan Cooke, Noel McMeel, etc.

Food you like the most to eat?
Again, that depends on the season, but hearty soups, stews, and wonderful Italian food are lovely complements to wintry days. And lighter weather suggests lightly prepared fresh vegetables and meat or fish. With fresh berries or other fruit to top it off.

Food you dislike the most?
Heavy meat organs.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Concerts, operas, museums and galleries, and reading

Potato, Prawn, and Lime Soup Recipe by Chef Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody House in Arthurstown, Co. Wexford. From The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland's Top Chefs
Potato, Prawn, and Lime Soup
Recipe by Chef Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody House in Arthurstown, Co. Wexford.

Who do you most admire in food?
In the U.S.: Alice Waters and the late MFK Fisher. In Ireland: Darina Allen, Derry Clarke, Kevin Dundon, Ian Orr, and all the Irish chefs in The New Irish Table.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
A comfortable home dining room or terrace, or a quiet restaurant.

What is your favorite restaurant?
U.S.: Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA; Gramercy Tavern, Le Bernardin, Balthazar (for needed steak frites), and Eataly is a lot of fun in NYC. Lots of choices.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Not a one!

Recipe: Cod, Octopus, Purple Broccoli, Broccoli Puree, and Horseradish Mayonnaise

Recipe by Chef Derry Clarke of l’Ecrivain, Co. Dublin

FOR THE OCTOPUS
2 qts/2 L court bouillon
1 octopus (2 lb/1 kg)

FOR THE BROCCOLI PUREE
2 medium size heads of broccoli, shaved and cleaned

FOR THE HORSERADISH MAYONNAISE
1 egg yolk
1 tsp mustard
1 lemon
2/3 cup/150 ml vegetable oil plus more to sauté the cod
2 tbsp/40 g horseradish, grated

FOR THE COD
4 cod fillets

FOR THE PURPLE BROCCOLI
¼ lb/100 g purple sprouting broccoli

In a deep pot, add the court bouillon and the octopus and simmer for 1 ½ hours until tender. Remove and chill. Portion octopus into 1 ½ in /4 cm pieces.

Place the egg yolk into a small bowl and add the mustard and a squeeze of lemon juice. Slowly whisk in the vegetable oil until thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the grated horseradish.

Bring a pot of water to boil and add a little salt. Cut and blanch the 2 heads of broccoli in the salted water for 2 minutes. Remove and squeeze out the excess water with a kitchen cloth or towel. Discard the water. Place the broccoli in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season and chill to keep a bright green color.

Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper.

Heat a pan with a little oil on a high heat, and place the cod skin side down and turn heat to low. Cook for about 4 minutes until the skin is crispy and golden. Turn the fish over, add butter and lemon juice, and cook for 1 minute.

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the purple broccoli for 1 ½ minutes until tender. Season.

Heat broccoli puree in a pot until warm.

Heat a little butter in a pan and toss the octopus pieces in the butter until warm. Season with salt and pepper, and add a teaspoon of chopped parsley or dill.

To serve, place a few spoons of broccoli puree and some purple broccoli on a plate and arrange a cod fillet on top. Garnish with the octopus and horseradish mayonnaise.

Serves 4
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks
credit Sanna-Mari Jäntt

Few people are experts, but then there are folks, like cookbook author and opera professional Fred Plotkin, who are knowledgeable on many topics. A native New Yorker, Plotkin became a student of opera while in college, working with various classical musicians and mentors, such as late mezzo soprano and director of the Lyric Opera House, Ardis Krainik, and well-known Broadway lighting designer Gilbert Helmsley. Always found in the back or front of the house, Plotkin has never graced the stage but has written compelling articles on the singing subject in books and articles. His bestselling and definitive tome Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera, leads the pack for appreciation on the vocal art form. His literary essays have been published in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and Daily Telegraph, to name but a few.

Apart from being a fount of operatic history and knowledge, Plotkin, who has traveled to Italy since the early 1970s, has become a resource for all edible things in Italy. In the nineties, he wrote arguably the greatest book on eating throughout the peninsula, called Italy for the Gourmet Traveler (Kyle Books), making him a famous food person on this side of the Atlantic.

He recalls, “Italy, being the birthplace of opera, was a must (life experience) for me. Of course, eating and learning about the regional food became another obsession.”

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks
credit Lana Bortolot

The book is currently in its fifth edition and, rightly, has become a must for all gourmands traveling to the boot country. Although still known as an expert on classical singing, Plotkin has become a foremost authority on Italian cuisine as well, penning another five bestselling and award-winning books including Recipes from Paradise: Life and Food on the Italian Riviera, The Authentic Pasta Book, and La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. After writing about opera for many papers and magazines, Plotkin now finds himself interviewed about on all things epicurean, appearing in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast, and other leading food publications.

Plotkin can be found discussing his first love — all things opera — on Manhattan’s WQXR. And, in his New York City home, he resides in the kitchen with his mistress – Italian cuisine — making some of the best regional food from the country.

Food People Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Everything Italian

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Parmigiano-Reggiano; Organic eggs; Sweet butter; Greek yogurt; Austrian apricot preserves; Organic Italian cherry nectar; Whole organic milk; Prepared mustard; Still water; Oranges; Lemons; Limes

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
The actual savoring of the food or drink being consumed.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Trendy, faddish foodiness, with no real awareness of what a food or ingredient means.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Carol Field

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Spade for cutting Parmigiano-Reggiano

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian; everything made with fruit.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Fish and seafood!

Favorite vegetable?
Spinach

Chef you most admire?
Michael Romano

Food you like the most to eat?
Pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Sardines

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Opera

Whom do you most admire in food?
Organic farmers; Seed-savers; anyone who provides sustenance to those who need it.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
A tie: Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Liguria, two of Italy’s finest food regions.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Ristorante San Giorgio in Cervo (Liguria), Italy

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None. If I did, it would be of a bunch of cherries

Scrambled Eggs Recipe

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks

One of the most difficult things to prepare, and among the most gratifying when done correctly, are scrambled eggs. Doing it right required LOTS of practice. Here is what I do:

Break two large or extra large eggs into a chilled glass bowl, taking care to not get any shell into the eggs. Beat the eggs only until yolks and whites combine. Do not overbeat. Fold in any added ingredient, such as small dollops of scallion cream cheese or a grated cheese, such as cheddar or gruyere. Do not beat the egg mixture if you are adding ingredients. Instead, give the mixture a quick stir.

Melt 1 tbsp. sweet butter in a non-stick pan over the lowest heat possible. This should be a pan you only use for eggs and nothing else. Add the egg mixture, let it set for about 15 seconds. Then, using a non stick (and non metal) spatula, gently move the eggs about, occasionally stopping for a few seconds to let them set. Keep nudging them and sliding them in the pan. No violence…no intense heat, no flipping, no active stirring. Gradually the eggs will come to the degree of doneness you desire and then slide them out of the pan and onto the plate. By cooking slowly, you allow the flavor of the added ingredients to permeate the eggs and also achieve the same temperature as the eggs.
– The End. Go Eat. –

 

 

i8tonite with Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe’s Cornbread Recipe

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread RecipeWhat do you do when you love BBQ? You learn from the best – and then smoke, cook, and eat well. And, if you’re Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez, you turn that business into a way to give back, teach, and provide great food. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Fernandez, originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, learned how to fire roast meats from Tuscaloosa BBQ legend Moses Day. From there, he founded Moe’s Original Bar B Que out in Vail, Colorado (where he went to culinary school) – and has gone on to grow a business with over 50 franchises in a plethora of states.

Fernandez’s mission is two-fold – to provide a unique and delicious dining experience, and to be a cheerleader for young entrepreneurs by providing opportunities and education.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

The geography of the popularity of southern cuisine, especially BBQ, is interesting to track. When we talked, Fernandez noted, “people love BBQ – it’s unique, and you know what you’re getting into. In Vail, people eat BBQ four times a week; in Maine, once every few weeks…and in the south, everyone is always bbqing!” At Moe’s, people enjoy a meat and 3 – which is an entree, two side dishes, and a beverage. A look at their menu shows me that it would be difficult to choose exactly which, to be honest. But one thing that I always love is cornbread, and so I’m extremely pleased that Fernandez picked that recipe to share with us!

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

What most impressed me, when talking with Fernandez, was his commitment to the growth and development of young entrepreneurs. Having been one himself, he knows how important it is to have a mentor. So most of Moe’s franchises are located in college towns, and hire young adults as staff. When these college students graduate, Fernandez helps them get a store. He said that he has a vested interest in these young people, and is always trying to figure out how to help them. When I remarked on this generosity, Fernandez said he’s humbled by his success, lucky as hell, and happy to teach and share what is important. Indeed.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread RecipeStop by Moe’s, in one of their 50 and growing locations (come to Michigan, Mike, please!), and know you’re not only getting great food, but supporting a business that is a cheerleader for their employees and creating small businesses that serve communities. Win/win!

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
40 years. My mother taught me to cook when I was young. She is from Sicily, Italy, and we cooked together every Sunday.

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fresh fish that I catch myself.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Various pickled vegetables, homemade jams, and homemade cured meats

What do you cook at home?
A lot of Latin food

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
One that knows about food and can tell when something tastes different. I love when they want to learn, because I love to teach.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
When they refuse to try an item I prepared “as it is”

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cocktail

Your favorite cookbook author?
Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn (Charcuterie)

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Kitchen Aid Mixer

Your favorite ingredient?
Cilantro

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

Your least favorite ingredient?
Liquid smoke

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean floor drains.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Latin

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork

Favorite vegetable?
Golden Beets

Chef you most admire?
Frank Stitt and John Currence

Food you like the most to eat?
Fresh fish just caught

Food you dislike the most?
Overcooked Beef

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None – my mom would kill me.

Moe’s Original Bar B Que’s Cornbread Recipe

 

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

Ingredients:
6 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup yellow onions, fine dice
1/4 cup jalapenos, filet and fine dice
3 7-ounce packages Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix

Directions:
Beat eggs, add jalapenos and onions.
Add milk and then mix in 3 packages of cornbread mix.
Spray with Pam heavily (if old pan, add parchment paper to release) onto large 4×10 loaf pan. Pour in cornbread mix.
Preheat to 325. Bake 1 hour. When done, it should be firm to press. Do not overcook.
Using rubber spatula, slice into 12 slices at 3 quarters of inch each. It’s easier to cut cold or bread will crumble.
Brush one side with margarine or butter. Place buttered side down on griddle. Fry til crispy.

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

My Favorite Dishes of 2016

As 2016 began, it was planned that Nick, me and the kids — Holly, the 11-year-old pitbull and our 7-year-old Frenchie, JJ — were moving to Denver from Phoenix. Our intention after twelve months in the Sonoran Desert was to relocate to the Mile High City for his work. Our last stop was the Rocky Mountains. However, after all that, we have found ourselves back in Southern California, where we had originally started. Not in Los Angeles – coming full circle — but in Newport Beach, behind the Orange Curtain. Still for Nick’s work, but with a fluffier job description.

It’s a good location for us. Far from the histrionics of the world’s entertainment capital. Yet, we discuss missing Camelback Mountain rising out of the valley, the vast blue skies and, of course, the food. Phoenix taught me that good eating can be found anywhere if you are looking for it. It doesn’t have to be in one of the anointed culinary islands such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

While living in Phoenix, I discovered deep blended roots of Mexican and Native American food. Indeed, it’s common for local hunters born of Mexican descent to shoot game such as moose or elk during the holiday season. The braised meat is then turned into Christmas tamales and frozen to eat throughout the year. It’s a practice that goes well beyond the area’s 114 years as a state. Originally, Mexican settlers joined with the natives crafting unique food and then in turn, became Americans when the 48th state entered the Union.

I bring this up because I read a well-known restaurant writer’s suggestions of “best food trends”. In her lengthy piece, she proffered gastronomic extravagances in Copenhagen, Paris, and of course, the Big Apple which is where she is based. I can always choose what is great elsewhere, from Singapore to Argentina, France to Greece. However, I think it’s our duty to describe what is “great” in America. Our culinary prowess is the myriad of cultures creating our nation – borrowing from here and there, making our own indigenous taste profiles such as fried chicken, pot roast or apple pie. Derived from other places, but made here crafting American comfort. We need to recognize that we are great, looking only to our dinner tables.

Unlike the writer, who travels often, I didn’t get on a plane this year except a roundtrip to Vegas and Phoenix. After almost two dozen countries and nearly 250 cities, I’m not big about getting on planes anymore; plus, I love the dining scene in smaller cities such as Phoenix, Portland and even in Orange County, California. They aren’t massive but what’s cooking is robust and lively.

As go into the new year, as a nation, we have dreamed up all types of unique food – Mexican-Korean tacos, Japanese sushi with Brazilian flavors, Thai with Texas BBQ– turning it into one melting pot of goodness. The ingredients simmering on the American stove is where we have always been welcoming, tasting little bits of this and adding some of that. Authentic American flavor is made from our fusion of cultures right here at home and it’s always been great.

Hoja Sante stuffed with Mennonite Cheese, Gran Reserva Barrio Café : Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza (Phoenix, Arizona).

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza should be a nationally recognized chef and it’s a shame she’s not. She is a proud Mexican American born in the United States and is un-WASP-like most Food Network stars such as Giada, Rachel or even Paula Deen.  At her five restaurant mini-empire based in Phoenix, her cooking is Mexican but with European techniques. At Gran Reserva Barrio Café, her new restaurant which opened in spring 2016, Esparza’s creativity is evidenced in the simplicity of a melty hunk Mexican Mennonite cheese, wrapped burrito-like in a large hoya sante leaf and served with two smoky chili pastes. Simple. Traditional and yet still other worldly.

Image result for Hoja Santa Gran Reserva Arizona Latinos

The indigenous plant is not commonly found north of the border, and when it is, it’s usually used in stews and braises. Esparza uses it whole, instead of strips, allowing the anise flavor to compliment the queso’s milky texture. The venomous bite of the peppers is nulled by the dairy and leaving only smokiness. Texturally, the crunch of the leaf, emission of creaminess and a nullified heat is eye-opening. As I sat eating the dish, along with interviewing the Phoenix-based chef for Arizona Latinos, she imparted the history of the Mexican Mennonites and how they are still important to the agriculture of the country.

This gooey delicious dish is modest, and that’s what makes it brilliant.

Chicken Liver Pasta, Sotto:  Chef Steve Samson (Los Angeles, CA)

On a media tasting invite, I went through a selection of items chosen by Chef Steve Samson at his almost six-year-old restaurant Sotto. The cozy space is inviting with blue walls, wooden tables and chairs as is Mr. Samson, who is one of the kinder cooks in the culinary world.

Going through his menu, which is all yummy the standout, became the housemade Rigatoni tossed with Chicken Livers, Parmigiana Reggiano and Porcini. It’s a daring dish for Angelenos to embrace. First, there are the carbohydrates but second the livers aren’t normally found on regular menus much less Italian. Having traveled often to Italy, I didn’t recall pasta and innards used in this way and asked Samson where it was based. It was his unique twist on the typical Bolognese ragu. Instead of throwing away something tasty, he invented this earthy and rustic dish. I’m not fond of chicken livers – and I don’t know many people who are – but this I would eat every day for the rest of my life.

 

Jardineros (Garden) Tacos, Taco Maria: Chef Carlos Salgado (Costa Mesa, CA)

Taco Maria is a high-end eating experience much like the Rick Bayless’ chain Red O or even Phoenix’s independent Barrio Café (see above). White tablecloths, waiters with crumbers and sparkling water served in wine glasses, my type of my place, where a diner feels special. Located inside a mall within a mall, it is an indoor-outdoor space which is a good showcase for the unique tastes presented by Chef Carlos Salgado.

Much has been written about Salgado and for good reason, his fusion of California agricultural and Mexican cooking produce, arguably the country’s best tacos. Ordering a la carte during lunch, there are a five varieties of the national south of the border food: chicken, beef, pork,  fish and vegetarian. Exceptional eats every single one, wrapped with the housemade delectable blue corn tortillas found only at Taco Maria. (B.S. Taqueria gets their masa from here too.) The standout is clearly the vegetarian (jardineros) made with shitake mushroom chorizo, a crispy potato and queso fundido. Separately, each one would make a great filling but together, they create something truly different. The minced fungi spiced with traditional south of the border flavorings texturally give the chorizo a meat-like consistency. However, it’s the flavor which is a standout.

Pasta dishes, Tratto: Chef Chris Bianco (Phoenix, AZ)

Legendary chef Chris Bianco is  renowned for Pizza Bianco. Matter of fact, his pizzas have been called the best in the world by former “Vogue” food writer Jeffrey Steingarten. Therefore, when someone invites you to Tratto, his new restaurant which opened in early summer 2016 in the same mall as his world-renowned pizzeria, you go – but not for his pizzas. At his new space, he has opened his creativity to showcase other goodness derived from Arizona farmers; mostly notably, the wheat growers.

Bianco does everything else but pizzas. Old-fashioned, Italian food but a real display of southwestern growers. I don’t mean peppers, tomatoes and cheese but bold pairings such as beets and gorgonzola roasted in a fig leaf. All ingredients are sourced from the 48th state, crafting Italian food. Don’t question it but eat his handmade pastas which are carefully crafted by Bianco. Get off the carb diet and have a bit of heaven.

Beef Tenderloin with Mole Negro, Talavera at Four Seasons Scottsdale: Chef Mel Mecinas (Phoenix, Arizona)

To reiterate, I’ve listed the dishes I’ve eaten over the course of the year which I remember fondly. Eating them, at the restaurant, the conversations around them and how good they are. Nothing comes as close to Chef Mel Mecinas and his mole negro and beef tenderloin.

Mole is probably one of the world’s most difficult sauces to make. Consisting of more than two dozen ingredients ground and simmered into a liquid, resulting in something edible which is complex, luscious and fortifying. Fish is too delicate for the earthiness but lean cuts of meat provide a great experience to taste the Mexico pottage which is what diners get at Talavera under the capable hands of Chef Mecinas.

Unfortunately, he no longer works at the restaurant where he was the Executive Chef for more than a decade. Greener pastures beckoned. However, one day I hope the world gets to eat his extraordinary mole.

 

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast’s Michael Zee and Idli Recipe

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli RecipeWhen I asked Michael Zee, author of the incredibly beautiful cookbook and popular Instagram, SymmetryBreakfast, what inspired him each morning, to create such lovely meals? Well, I bet you won’t be surprised by his answer: “I love to cook a lovely meal for Mark to make breakfast a special moment for both of us.”

SymmetryBreakfast incorporates world cuisines, contemporary design and a story of love over the meal of breakfast. Featured in the Guardian, Washington Post, Telegraph, Bravo, and endorsed by Jamie Oliver, it is also a favourite account of Kevin Systrom, Instagram CEO and co-founder.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Dutch Puff

Michael studied photography at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth in 2003 and later went on to teach Art and Design in secondary schools in London’s East End. He then completed his masters in Museums and Galleries in Education and went to work in public programming at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

He now works on SymmetryBreakfast full time.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Tapioca Pancakes

Michael’s passion for cooking comes from his parents. His mixed English, Scottish and Chinese heritage. Weekends and school holidays would be spent working in his father’s Chinese and English chippies in Liverpool and teaching himself to bake for his mother’s sweet tooth.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Churros y jamon con cajeta–hurros with ham and caramel dipping sauce © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Michael created SymmetryBreakfast for his partner Mark in their Hackney flat in 2013. Mark’s hectic job as a menswear fashion designer means late nights and weekends in the office. Early on in their relationship, breakfast became a sacred moment in the day and Michael started on his mission to make each meal as celebratory as possible. Over 1,000 breakfasts later, Michael still wakes up early to make breakfast for Mark, looking carefully around the world and at home for inspiration, taking a simple idea and making it beautiful.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli RecipeHis new cookbook, SymmetryBreakfast, contains over 100 recipes from around the world. The book takes an anthropological view of how food shapes culture and vice versa and how in the many different ways we break the fast.

The book has been published by Transworld (part of Penguin Random House) in the UK and Commonwealth, by PowerHouse in North America and by Shanghai Insight in mainland China.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Kaiserschmarrn with redcurrants © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was about 5 years old in our family restaurant in Liverpool. It was a Chinese food and English fish and chip takeaway (very popular in Liverpool and probably nowhere else!)

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fresh pasta. It becomes such an event and is so much fun to do with friends, whilst having a glass or bottle of wine, one person turns the handle and the other feeds it through. You get in a huff when it goes wrong, but it’s pure joy when it comes out perfect.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Pastel de nata-Egg custard tarts © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter. If there isn’t any then something is wrong

What do you cook at home?
Absolutely everything from every country and cuisine possible.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Being British, I only have one Pyrex thing in my kitchen and it’s a measuring jug.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All three in that order.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Ernest Matthew Mickler of White Trash Cooking . One of my favourite books ever, too, food with soul and humour.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Magic grits © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My santoku chef knife from Blenheim Forge

Your favorite ingredient?
Tea – its not just a drink! An Earl Grey infused gin or a tea smoked salmon are delicious and add excitement in so many ways. I have over 50 teas from The Rare Tea Company and I love that they can be paired in so many ways

Your least favorite ingredient?
Olives, can’t stand them.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Indian Slapjacks

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Doing the dishes. It’s a luxury to have a dishwasher in London. I’m very happy Mark loves doing the washing up.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I love cooking Middle Eastern food. There are some fantastic shops and markets in East London that you can get fresh pistachios or pomegranate molasses easier than getting white sliced bread.

I also have a soft spot for French country cooking, things like Soupe à L’oignon or Pot-au-feu. I also have a deep love for Comte cheese and particularly love a Tartine au jambon et Comte

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
A Japanese Breakfast Gohan Shoku Salmon With Green Beans And Tofu

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
I’d prefer to say a pig rather than pork. I love crispy belly pork or char sui pork, but lets not forget jamon and a glass of wine.

Favorite vegetable?
Aubergine, or as you might call it, eggplant. Roasted whole on a fire and mashed with some olive oil.

Chef you most admire?
Jamie Oliver – he’s changed the way the majority of people eat in the UK for the better.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheese, in every form

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Cassava Porridge

Food you dislike the most?
Dark chocolate, I also hate it when people pretend to like it because it’s somehow cool. Give me the cheapest milkiest chocolate any day.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None!

Recipe: Idli – South Indian fermented rice pancakes with masala chai spiced tea

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Idli-South Indian fermented rice pancakes with masala chai spiced tea © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Makes about 20 idli

3 cups rice (long–grain is fine)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1⁄2 cup water
1 cup black gram lentils (urad dal)
3 tsp salt
Oil for greasing the pans

Start in the morning of the day before you’d like to eat – as I said, some forward planning is required. In a bowl, mix the rice with the fenugreek seeds and cover with the water. In another bowl, put the urad dal and cover with water. Leave both bowls for a minimum of 5 hours.

The evening of the day before eating, drain the water from the rice but don’t discard it. Put the wet rice in a blender and add 1⁄2 cup of the water. Blend until you have a smooth batter, adding extra water, a little at a time, until it flows easily. Decant this into a large bowl and repeat with the dal (start with 1⁄4 cup of water this second time, as you should have some residual liquid in the blender).

Add the liquid dal to the rice with the salt and mix together using your hands. The bacteria on your skin will help kickstart the fermentation. Leave this covered overnight to ferment in a warm oven; I leave the oven light on. Depending on the time of year, this process will give different results, but you should have a huge, bubbling white mass.

The day of eating, give the batter a good stir. The consistency should be that of thick cream.

Prepare your idli pan by lightly oiling each of the sections with either a brush or a paper towel. Fill the bottom of the pan with water, making sure it doesn’t touch the idli holder. Ladle in enough batter to reach just beneath the edge; you’ll get some rise but not lots.

Steam the idli for 20 minutes with the lid firmly clamped on.

Remove the idli with a wet spoon, running it round the edge of each pancake. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with sambar and coconut chutney.

Leftovers can be transformed into idli fry, a delicious snack of deep fried idli served with a dip, chutney, or sauce of your choosing and a cup of tea.

– The End. Go Eat  –

All photos courtesy and copyright Michael Zee/SymmetryBreakfast