Dinner at Mark’s

There is nothing like being with friends. Then, there’s nothing like being with friends and eating. Lastly, there’s nothing like being with friends, eating and laughing as we like to do when you sit down over homemade Indian dinner of Mulligatawny Stew, Spicy Pan Fried Cauliflower and Eggplant with Red Peppers.

Eggplant with Roasted Peppers
Eggplant with Roasted Peppers

It’s a connection that we don’t find so much as when there is a waitperson hovering around asking you what you want to eat. At someone’s house, after drinks are served, which you normally pour for yourself after inspecting each label, you walk into the kitchen and peer into the savory-smelling pots, asking, “What’s this? It smells so good!”

I’m blessed that I have friends who love to cook and share their food with me. I do think it’s truly a gift. Someone has taken the time out of their schedule to shop, slice and dice, and serve something made by their hands. It’s an emotionally soul-satisfying experience, kicking back and gossiping, talking about our latest trials and tribulations as being in their home or mine. It’s an intimate exchange between people and honestly, I’ve never ever had a bad meal at someone’s house. I really can’t say that about a restaurant.

Oven Roasted Indian Potatoes and Cauliflower
Oven Roasted Indian Potatoes and Cauliflower

Mark’s Indian Oven Roasted, Spiced Cauliflower & Potatoes

1 (or 2 small) cauliflower, cut into florets
lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño, including seeds
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water

TO start: Place a shallow baking pan on rack, while preheating oven to 475°F. You are getting the pan hot to begin roasting the vegetables.

Then, mix: Toss cauliflower and potatoes together in a bowl with 3 tablespoons oil, cumin seeds, and1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread in hot baking pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and browned in spots and potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.

Continue with rest of ingredients: While vegetables are oven-roasting, cook onion, garlic, jalapeño, and ginger in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until very soft and beginning to turn golden. Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes.

Let’s finish this puppy: Stir in water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then stir in roasted vegetables. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Far and Near Markets: Ojai Farmers Market

There are so many great farmers markets or food shopping districts throughout the world. Each one is representational of the community and inhabitants it serves. Whether its Kreta Ayer or Paris’ Rue de Montorgueril home to Bresse chickens and crusty baguettes, they are a slice of everyday life. I love them.

Fresh farmers markets are one of my favorite things on Earth. I get a high from meeting the people who have planted the seeds, toiled the ground and cultivated my heirloom lettuces. I appreciate their hardwork on my behalf and cooking with them. So on my travels, I want to shop and cook what I see but it’s often hard if you are staying in a hotel. Luckily, I’ve visited enough times to several places or lived in areas where I can get around fairly easily on public transportation without a concierge or hotel such as New York’s Union Square or in Turin, home to original Eataly. (Jaw-dropping, if you have never been here, and the city is home to the Slow Food Movement.)

Last year was, strangely, my first time to really visit the farmers market in Ojai, California. One of my best friends, Shelley, had been displaced from her home, and decided to rent a place for two months in the town. We discussed a visit for a couple of nights while I was on my way to Sonoma County for work. And the only thing I wanted to do was to visit the farmers market and cook.

California is home to about 75 % of our nation’s produce and as such this small, hippie-esque town of artists and farmers has access to much of the best organically grown produce in the state, since agricultural country is, essentially, it’s backyard.

Ojai Farmers Market
Ojai Farmers Market

We wound up doing making a Grilled “Surf and Turf” with a Cilantro Pesto. Everything being purchased at the Ojai Farmers Market.

Halibut and Steak with Cilantro Pesto. Served with Heirloom Tomato Salad.
Halibut and Steak with Cilantro Pesto. Served with Heirloom Tomato Salad.

Farmers Market Haul (May 5, 2013)

Beautiful lettuces and assorted items.
Beautiful lettuces and assorted items.
It was strange Spring “Cinco de Mayo”. The southern California Santa Ana winds were blowing making it a little blustery and there was a strange grayness to the day, probably caused by the wildfires near Camarillo. There was a bit of humidity but you still needed a jacket.

Still, it’s Sunday and the Hollywood Farmers Market, so it’s become my favorite day of the week because of it. There is nothing like getting to know the farmers, and in turn, they know you. For me, it gives me a beautiful sense of community, one that I don’t get in a corporate grocery store. Going directly to the source and learning, as I did today, that peaches start early and are small. As the season goes on into summer, they are larger and more of a variety to choose from. (At the market, Reiger Farms had the first peaches and nectarines of the season).

Additionally, today’s purchases included Bloomfield spinach (again, from Windsor Farms), stunning rose-like green and red lead lettuces, radicchio, peaches and nectarines for salads, lemons and onions (always).

I also bought a delicious raw milk cheddar from Spring Hill Farms in Petaluma. It’s not exactly local but better than the Trader Joe’s stuff. It has a slight tanginess, offsetting the rich lushness of the milk.

Let’s see what I comes out the food this week.

Chicken Soup

Homemade Chicken Soup with Store Bought Dumplings, Savoy Cabbage, Carrots and Swiss Chard
Homemade Chicken Soup with Store Bought Dumplings, Savoy Cabbage, Carrots and Swiss Chard

Whatever I’m doing, I’m in that moment and I’m doing it. The rest of the world’s lost. If I’m cooking some food or making soup, I want it to be lovely. If not, what’s the point of doing it? – Sade Adu

When I’m sick, as I have been for the past several days with the flu. I turn the world off. My head is pounding. My body is aching with chills and fever. And the only thing that I want to eat…nothing else….is Chicken Soup. It makes me feel better instantly as I can smell it wafting through the house with rosemary, onions, thyme, garlic, celery and chicken.

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I can't do the canned stuff. Not anymore. It makes me puffy from the salt as a preservative not as a brightener/ enhancer.

I prefer making my own. Even with a fever of 100. I was shaking violently as I cover the chicken with water. Cutting up the vegetables. Slowly. After, throwing everything into the pot to simmer, I go back to bed. There is something nourishing and lovely with aromas perfuming the house so that I when I wake up I feel better instantly. I can't wait to have it coat my sore throat and warm me up.

Plus, I have leftover stock for later for when I'm not sick.

Meatless Monday: April 29, 2013

Asian food is amazing. It’s very complex and a lot of flavors together. I think that’s one reason that I find it’s easy to be vegan with cuisine. Lots of combinations to consider without resorting to meat or diary.

Today’s Meatless Monday is Thai inspired. It’s Pan Seared Tofu with Thai Rice Noodles. It consists of 3 different herbs: coriander, basil and mint.

ImageInteresting Thai Food Fact: In the Thai culture, it’s considered bad luck to dine alone and to waste food which is why in Thailand, they serve smaller portions and you will find large groups dining at one table.

Farmers Market Haul: April 28, 2012

I love food shopping. I find it to be comforting and part of the fabric of living. In Paris, I visit the boulangerie and have a crispy loaf sticking under my arm and Barthélémy, the famous cheese shop on Rue de Bac, for a little mimolette. The sales people bustling about in the pungent store filling the orders. Instantly, I’m French when there. In the heart of Mexico, San Miguel de Allende, I visit the food stalls which smell of roasting chicken and peppers, buying fresh tortillas from the old woman as she rolls out each pancake. At the Cooking School at Jimbaran Bay, Four Seasons Resorts Bali, the chef took us to the local fish market where the catch was fresh and cooked before you. At home, it’s about the farmers market.

ImageToday, was a light load of Cara Cara oranges, sweet onions, first of the season basil (only because mine isn’t ready for picking), cilantro, cauliflower, mint, zucchini, lemons, and Windrose Farms Bloomfield spinach. (This farm is a favorite of Los Angeles area chefs and Barbara, the owner, is there to help with your selection of lettuces, radishes, et al.)

Tomorrow, I will be using the mint, cilantro and basil for a Meatless Monday tofu concotion.

Incidentally, this is the first post of my existing blog, i8tonite. We will see what happens but for now, if I can post three per week, I will be happy. I’ve had a lot of encouragement to do this. Truly, I hope that if I continue to do this blog, it evolves into conversations about eating, cooking, my friends and traveling…these are a few of my favorite things.

Trying something new

I started this blog on September 18, 2012. A little over six months ago. In that period of time, I moved to east of West Hollywood to…well, Hollywood. Make sure you don’t confuse that with real estate jargon of East Hollywood. That’s too far east. Nope, this Hollywood is the center of the entertainment world, not far from the former Kodak Theater to the newly christened Dolby Theater, home of the Academy Awards. (Yep, Oscars = traffic jams.)