Tag Archives: farmers market

i8tonite with Hawaiian Author and Food Writer Sonia R. Martinez & Recipe for Salade Niçoise with fresh ‘ahi

i8tonite with Hawaiian Author and Food Writer Sonia R. Martinez & Recipe for Salade Niçoise with fresh ‘ahiSonia R. Martinez was born in the island of Cuba, and has always been drawn to tropical climes and cuisines. For the last 22 years she has lived on the Island of Hawai’i in a beautiful rain forest where she loves to play in the garden, grow herbs, collect cookbooks, test recipes, visiting farms; learning and reporting about new sustainable growing techniques, read voraciously, and work on crossword puzzles.

Her passion for food and cooking led her to own kitchen/gourmet shops and cooking schools first in Orangeburg, South Carolina and later in the Miami, Florida area. After moving to Hawai’i, she and her son owned Akaka Falls Inn, a B&B, cooking school and gourmet shop in Honomu for several years.

She has been a food writer and columnist since early 1999, writing a monthly column for The Hamakua Times newspaper of Honoka’a. Sonia is also a regular contributor to Ke Ola Magazine as well as many other local publications. I first met Sonia in the early days of Gather, a website that featured great writing and an even greater community. Her recipes, photos of life in Hawai’i, and generous, smiling personality attracted many followers, including myself. Her care and attention is genuine and I consider her decade+ friendship one of the best things coming from the islands to Michigan! She has been a beacon for visitors to visit Hawai’i, promoting the delicious local foods there, as well as encouraging healthy and fresh eating. Her recipes, food photos, and sharing of local farmer’s markets, island food, and the beautiful place she lives in has inspired countless readers.

i8tonite with Hawaiian Chef, Author, and Food Writer Sonia R. Martinez & Recipe for Salade Niçoise with fresh ‘ahiHer cookbook Tropical Taste, published in 2001, is a compilation of three years’ worth of monthly columns published in The Hamakua Times and is now in its second printing after being picked as one of the “Best of the Best” cookbooks in Hawai’i by Quail Ridge Press. Her second cookbook, From Soup to Nuts, was published a year ago .

Sonia has maintained a blog for several years, sharing her adventures in food and gardening and her ongoing love affair with Hawai’i at www.soniatasteshawaii.com

i8tonite with Hawaiian Chef, Author, and Food Writer Sonia R. Martinez & Recipe for Salade Niçoise with fresh ‘ahi

 

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Mainly simple and fresh…but I grew up with the ‘waste not’ concept and love to find creative ways to recycle leftovers so they don’t look or taste like leftovers.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Eggs, butter, cheese…I can live on cheese.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Appreciation and enjoyment of the food.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Inattention to the food or the other extreme, showing off their ‘gourmandise’

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Definitely wine…unless I’m eating a paella or Arroz con Pollo…then I do enjoy a very cold beer. I am not fond of cocktails.

Your favorite cookbook author?
This is a hard one. At one time I owned a collection of well over 3000 cookbooks. Lost them in a fire, but in no time at all, my ‘new’ collection grew by leaps and bounds with gifts from friends who were trying to replace the lost ones, plus the many I added through the years. A couple of years ago, I started going through them and culling them to a manageable 4 shelf units in my office and hallway instead of all over the house. It was a time of hard decisions, but now know exactly what I have and where to find it…No mean feat, since I still own about 500, give or take.

I have an extensive collection of Cuban and Hawaiian cookbooks; a few Spanish & Portuguese, some Italian ones and Tropical Fruit ones, plus several on herbs & spices, a few single topic ones (sushi, dim sum, chocolate) and several of the classics that don’t fit into any of the categories mentioned…and of course, my own two titles, Tropical Taste and From Soup to Nuts.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My Santoku knife…I seem to reach for that one above all other ones.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Tropical, Cuban, Italian.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
I’ll eat anything but am most creative with chicken. I am not fond of tofu.

Favorite vegetable?
Asparagus, any way it can be prepared.

i8tonite with Hawaiian Chef, Author, and Food Writer Sonia R. Martinez & Recipe for Salade Niçoise with fresh ‘ahi

Chef you most admire?
Although I have met a few of the well-known chefs in the culinary world, and admire several of them, I will have to say that there are three ‘local’ chefs I admire the most on this island. Sam Choy of Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai in Kailua-Kona, James Babian of Pueo’s Osteria in Waikoloa, and Diana Soler of Aloha Bayfront Café in Hilo, for their commitment to using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible and their honest approach to food. Simple, fresh, beautifully prepared and presented without ostentation.

Food you like the most to eat?
Any shellfish but love scallops

Food you dislike the most?
Anything that is an imitation of the real thing

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Play in the garden…I love planting edibles among our ornamental landscaping (I even joy weeding!), and am a voracious reader.

i8tonite with Hawaiian Chef, Author, and Food Writer Sonia R. Martinez & Recipe for Salade Niçoise with fresh ‘ahi
View from Sonia’s back yard

Who do you most admire in food?
My mentor and inspiration from way back has always been Shirley O. Corriher, who came to my first cooking school as a guest cooking teacher fairly often in the early 80s. She demystified so many of my preconceived notions in cooking and her enthusiasm and love of all things food served as great encouragement.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
A good sushi or seafood restaurant.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Takenoko’s Sushi in Hilo, is in my opinion the best sushi restaurant anywhere. We’re lucky if we can get reservations since the waiting list is so long, but it is well worth the waiting. I also enjoy dropping by Aloha Bayfront Café in Hilo for lunch. The food is always fresh, delicious, and beautifully presented, the staff is friendly, and you’re never rushed to vacate the table.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos. My mother would have killed me!

Recipe: Salade Niçoise with fresh ‘ahi

i8tonite with Hawaiian Chef, Author, and Food Writer Sonia R. Martinez & Recipe for Salade Niçoise with fresh ‘ahi

One of my favorite simple and healthy meals to prepare at home when I can buy fresh ‘ahi (tuna) is my version of a Salade Niçoise.

Season to taste fresh ‘ahi (tuna), sear in avocado oil, serve on a bed of fresh spinach or Manoa lettuce, boiled potato wedges, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, sliced onions, a handful of lightly steamed haricot vert, and asparagus, dressed simply with Honey Wine Vinegar to which I had added a vanilla bean.

 

The End. Go Eat. 

All photos courtesy and copyright Sonia R. Martinez

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario

The famous Stratford Swans on the Avon River. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
The famous Stratford Swans on the Avon River

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare, swans, shopping, and spectacular eats – where are you? You’re in Stratford, Ontario!

This small town is one of the most vibrant arts and food towns I’ve ever visited – and like many who visit, I long to move there. Stratford is known for being a theatre town – it’s the home of the Stratford Festival, one of the best theatre festivals in the world (which runs from April through October each year). There are Shakespearean Gardens to meander through; make time to see the swans along the Avon River – the 24 swans are well-cared for and have an annual parade each spring! Be sure to tour the Costume Warehouse and see the tens of thousands of costumes used in the productions, and stop and shop at Bradshaw’s, a fantastic kitchen store.

Stratford Costume Warehouse. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
Stratford Costume Warehouse

This town is a foodie town. There’s the Stratford Chef School and a plethora of extraordinary restaurants. The prevailing theme is locally grown/sourced, organic, fresh foods – you can see this when you talk with chefs, or shop the weekly farmer’s market. It’s amazing, and progressive, and just lovely.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
A variety of sizes for your fresh eggs at the Stratford Farmer’s Market

 

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
Freshly baked bread at the Stratford Farmer’s Market

Explore the Savour Stratford food trails – Bacon and Ale, Chocolate, Pumpkin, Maple, and other seasonal trails that offer food and food items at stores all throughout town. Purchase trail passes at the Visit Stratford office downtown – it’s a great way to explore local food – and local stores.

I was completely surprised by the quantity of excellent food and great restaurants here – you will be, too. For a small town, Stratford just explodes with art, theatre, museums, and fine dining. The choices overflow – it was hard for me to narrow this down!

Please note all prices are in Canadian dollars.

Breakfast: The Bruce

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
Buttermilk & caramelized apple pancakes with bacon, courtesy of The Bruce

My suggestion: We ate breakfast at our B&B, so I asked my foodie friend Cathy Rehberg, of Visit Stratford, for a suggestion. She made me hungry! Here’s what she recommended: “Chef Arron Carley, who will be featured on Food Network TV’s Chopped Canada, describes the vision for his new menus: “Looking into our past and understanding our roots as well as looking forward into the undiscovered wilderness of our nation we will forge New
Canadian Cuisine.” Now he is offering the Bruce-alicious menu which offers excellent value. Take a look at the fall and winter breakfast menu. Everything I have had there has been so good! And, it comes with a lovely view of the gardens just south of Upper Queen’s Park and a 5 minute walk to the Festival Theatre.”

Price: Bruce Breakfast Sandwich: Perth pork sausage, Avonlea cheddar, duck egg, tomato, awesome sauce, flaxseed bun, crispy spuds – $15
Hours: Restaurant: Thursday-Saturday plus Sunday Brunch; Lounge open every day.
Address: 89 Parkview Drive
Phone Number: 855-708-7100
Website: www.thebruce.ca

 

Second Breakfast: Rheo Thompson Candies

Rheo Thompson Chocolates. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario

I have a soft spot in my heart for Rheo Thompson – not only for their extraordinary chocolates, but for the fact that we both came into this world in 1969. I adore this chocolate shop – and so does everyone who’s been to Stratford. It’s a must-visit. If you go on Savour Stratford’s Chocolate Trail, Rheo Thompson is one of the options.

Rheo Thompson Chocolates. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, OntarioMy suggestion: While all of the chocolates I have ever gotten from Rheo Thompson have been delicious, try to snag some Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallows. They are homemade marshmallow pillows, square, drenched in a thin coating of luscious dark chocolate. Yes, they deserve all of those adjectives.

Price: inexpensive
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9am-5:30pm, closed Sunday
Address: 55 Albert Street
Phone Number: 519-271-6910
Website: https://www.rheothompson.com/

 

Lunch: Mercer Hall

Welcome to Mercer Hall. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, OntarioI absolutely LOVE this restaurant. Chef Ryan O’Donnell is the epitome of a chef that cares about locally grown, sustainable food sources, while being a great mentor and boss, AND bringing his creativity to the table.

Mercer Hall also serves hot tea from Canada’s first tea sommelier, Karen Hartwick (visit her shop, Tea Leaves, while you are in town), so be sure to order a pot.

My suggestion: House smoked beef dip sandwich, seasonal slaw, fries & jus – I can’t resist a great sandwich. This one was incredible.

lunch at Mercer Hall. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
House smoked beef dip sandwich, seasonal slaw, fries & jus

 

Price: lunch mains $12-$17
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11am-9pm, Friday and Saturda, 11am-10pm, Sunday 11am-8pm
Address: 104 Ontario St
Phone Number: (888) 816-4011
Website: http://www.mercerhall.ca/

 

Coffeeshop: Revel Caffe

Revel Caffe. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, OntarioBecause there are many great coffeeshops in town, it’s hard to recommend just one. But I’ll try. Revel’s tagline notes: “independent coffee for a revolution home of direct trade coffee, delicious pastries & revelers” – indeed, this is the case. We walked into a bustling cafe – the sounds of the crowd were so happy and joyful – like old friends meeting up. Revel offers delicious baked goods and a variety of coffees and teas.

My suggestion: We went for lattes and a chocolate croissant. Heaven.

Revel Caffe. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario

Price: large latte – $4.70
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8am-6pm, Sunday 9am-5pm
Address: 37 Market Place
Phone Number: 519-305-1600
Website: http://www.revelcaffe.com/

 

Happy Hour: Revival House

A restaurant and bar in an old church? It works! You walk in to thisThe bar at Revival House. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario gorgeous space, and immediately want to sit down and cozy in. There is sometimes a band at the front of the hall! Revival House uses fresh, local, seasonal ingredients in their menus. While we were there, we saw large families, couples, mother-daughter teams (us!), and more… This is a fun, upscale place that is hopping.

My suggestion: I don’t drink, so take your pick from their extensive drinks menu. What I will suggest is the charcuterie board ($27, to share) to tide you over until dinner.

Crudite platter at Revival House. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
Just look at that!

Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 11am-1am. Closed Monday and Tuesday
Address: 70 Brunswick Street
Phone Number: 519-273-3424
Website: www.revival.house

Dinner: Pazzo

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, OntarioLocated on the main corner of Stratford’s downtown, this is the perfect place to stop in for dinner. BE SURE to make reservations if it is theatre season. If you’re not going to see a play that evening, make it after 7:30pm, so the theatre rush is done and you can relax in the large, comfy dining room. Chef Yva Santini, in her 9th year at Paazzo, received the Ontario Hostelry Institutes Top 30 under 30 award in 2014. She’s creative, friendly, and a genius in the kitchen. I love how she comes out into the dining room herself, to deliver the mains and chat with customers.

My suggestion: I could eat just off the appetizer menu, honestly. My favorite is the Burrata with balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes and pesto, $13. But there is much to recommend on the mains menu, including the unlimited hand made pasta special – enjoy as much of Chef Yva’s daily pasta as you like, $20, or try the Taverna fondue (!!!).

Burrata at Pazzo. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario
Burrata at Pazzo

Price: $$
Hours: Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30am-10pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30am-12am, closed Monday
Address: 70 Ontario St
Phone: 519-273-6666
Website: www.pazzo.ca

Pazzo Taverna Dinner from One O Six Media on Vimeo.

 

Pin for later:

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Stratford, Ontario

 

 

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Jessie Voigts, except where noted

i8tonite: with Palm Springs’ Workshop Chef Michael Beckman

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Chef Michael Beckman: Photo by Van Roo

Palm Springs is known as a resort town – an enclave for second homes, secret hotel pools, and cocktails. The cocktail culture is the town’s prevailing modus operandi. With a population of a little over 50,000, it’s never really been considered a food haven. Ask a few of the locals who live in the desert year round, and the answer is their private chef does the cooking. Or, they recommend one or two restaurants which are more about an elongated drink menu rather than a superbly pan-roasted fish or braised greens from the surrounding Coachella Valley farmers. There are a few notable exceptions to this observation.  The first that comes to mind is the four-year-old Workshop, owned and cheffed by Michael Beckman, which can be the honest answer to the question: “Where to eat in Palm Springs?”

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Workshop: Photo by Michael Horton

There are two reasons for this. The first is that Mr. Beckman is a classically French-trained chef with stints apprenticing, cooking, and learning in European kitchens, including Burgundy’s three Michelin-starred Lameloise and working under noted German chef Thomas Kellerman at the Ritz-Carlton, Berlin. Beckman maybe the only independent chef in the Southern California desert communities to claim to work in a Michelin-starred dining room.

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael BeckmanSecondly, he’s smart enough to promote his restaurant outside the Palm Springs area, getting the first and the last reservations from area visitors. It’s been a very smart business move to market his talents to the gourmand set, rather than wait for visiting travel media shuffling through for an annual Palm Springs pilgrimage. Instead of getting the backend of travel pieces, Beckman put forth the effort and it’s paid off with stories in Sunset Magazine, Bon Appetit, Eater, and Wall Street Journal. But the question remained: how could someone with Beckman’s background become part of Palm Springs? Truthfully, he stated he was a private chef working with a client based in Rancho Mirage. He grew to love the area’s farmers markets and vendors, as well as the community’s natural beauty, so he stayed, opening Workshop and having a family.

Interestingly, Beckman – though successful — is so dedicated to his

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Workshop: Photo by Michael Horton

craft that he recently completed a several month staaj (cooking apprenticeship) with celebrated New York City’s chefs Dan Barber, Blue Hill Farms and Daniel Hume, Nomad (also of the Michelin-starred Eleven Park Madison). Beckman, as a chef, wants to continue to creatively evolve.

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael BeckmanBeckman will have another feather to add to his list of accomplishments – Truss + Twine, a bar serving handcrafted cocktails and small bites; a chef will work in tandem with the bartenders behind the bar in a dedicated cooking area. Palm Spring’s newest watering hole is slated to open fall 2016. Lastly, he also partnered to oversee the food and beverage program for an unnamed independent 44-room hotel concept that that will have a restaurant and rooftop pool area. The hotel’s construction will start at the end of 2016.

Beckman will soon be hailed as Palm Springs’ Emperor to All Things Culinary. Rightly so.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking? 16 years.

Chicken Diavolo. From i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Chicken Diavolo: Photo by Van Roo.

What is your favorite food to cook? Braises are most satisfying for me with deep flavors that develop, and the cozy aromas and feel of a braised dish is somehow emotional for me.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Quesadilla mise en place.  Eggs for omelettes.  A perfectly made omelette is one of my favorite challenges to see a chef’s skill set.

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Lentil salad

What do you cook at home? I love my Weber grill for smoking and grilling fish and meats.  I also get nostalgic for the Lebanese food I cooked as a private chef in Beverly Hills and love those flavors.  Super healthy and super flavorful.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? Someone who puts us in the drivers seat and trusts us.

 

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a

Workshop Burger and Fries. i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Workshop Burger and Fries: Photo by Michael Horta

customer? People who lie at the host stand about their reservation.  People who don’t even read the menu and want to order something they can get anywhere.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? None of the above. Deli cups.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Yes, please.

Your favorite cookbook author? Dan Barber for “The Third Plate

Your favorite kitchen tool? My Chef de Cuisine Max.

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael BeckmanYour favorite ingredient? Eggs.

Your least favorite ingredient? Balsamic reduction.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Cleaning the fryer.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Mediterranean basin.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Beef.

Favorite vegetable? Right now I’m digging parsnips.

Chef you most admire? I like Paul Kahan’s rustic straight-forward style and also how prolific he is with his projects.

The food you like the most to eat? Oysters

i8tonite: with Palm Springs' Workshop Chef Michael Beckman
Outside Workshop: Photo by David A. Lee.

The food you dislike the most? Shitty banquet food.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None yet.  Never could figure out the first one…we’ll see.

 

Recipe: Beet Braised Lentils

Here’s a recipe from Feasting at Home, inspired by Chef Beckman’s dish at Workshop. She notes, “This recipe was inspired by a dish we had at a restaurant in Palm Springs, called Workshop. They topped their Beet braised lentils with a warm, crispy breaded goat cheese “cake”. It was divine. The chef, Michael Beckman, adds browned butter to the finished lentils, which brought it over the top.”

Beet braised lentils, inspired by Chef Beckman, Workshop.
Beet braised lentils, inspired by Chef Beckman, Workshop. Photo & Recipe: Feasting at Home

Beet infused lentils are a healthy side dish, with chicken or fish, or serve it on its own, as a vegetarian meal in a bowl with crumbled goat cheese.

Ingredients
3 T olive oil
1 C diced red onion ( ½ a red onion)
1 C diced carrot
½ C diced celery
1 Cup peeled and diced beet (one large beet, plus 2 more for juicing)
4 cloves roughly chopped garlic
1 T fresh Thyme leaves
1 Bay leaf
1 1/2 C black caviar, beluga, or Puy lentils ( soaked overnight if possible)
4 C chicken or vegetable stock
½ tsp salt
salt and pepper to taste
splash balsamic vinegar
1 Cup fresh beet juice (either purchase from a juice bar, or juice 2 extra large beets)
2- 3 T browned butter (optional but delicious)
crumbled goat cheese (optional)

Directions
In a large heavy bottom pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot, beets and celery, and saute for 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Turn heat to medium, add garlic, lentils and herbs and sauté for 2 more minutes.

Add stock and salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover with lid, and turn heat to low, maintaining a gentle simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the beet juice, taste for salt, add more if necessary, and continue simmering on low for 10-15 more minutes or until tender. If you feel there is too much liquid for your liking, keep the lid off, and increase the heat, letting it reduce. (I like the braise slightly juicy, personally, so I just replace the lid.)

Stir in a generous splash of balsamic vinegar and browned butter (optional) but the brown butter is divine.

Serve in a bowl with crumbled goat cheese, or as a base for fish or chicken.

Read about this recipe – and see more gorgeous photos – here.

 

 

The end. Go eat. 

 

 

 

I8tonite: Gratineed Cauliflower with Parmigiana -Reggiano

20151003_180219I was in a yet to be opened LA restaurant at a friends and family tryout. It’s  a common practice among well-financed restaurants –  a testing of the waters before media reviews and the paying patrons type of thing.  Invited along with some media, local chefs, restaurant bon vivants and a few Los Angeles gadflies my fellow dining compatriot who was actually the invitee. I was along for the ride. We had met over several bottles of Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay, Russian River at the Four Seasons Los Angeles years before.  (One of my favorite — I used to drink it like water back in the day.) As we sat there eating the comped food — testing and trying – I was disappointed. I mean, I know it was free – and had I been paying I would have sent some of it back. (The waitstaff was tipped on the bill that we would have been charged.) There was too much sauce on everything, the squid had been broiled too long and the flatbread – which used to be known as pizza — was a blackboard with artisanal toppings.  Seated at the next deuce to us, were the lovely husband and wife team of one my favorite LA eateries. My dining companion, the unnamed couple and I were talking amongst ourselves about how the best food is sometimes the simplest.  It doesn’t always need the sauce or maybe a little less of the herb; perhaps the watermelon radish pesto needs to evolve into something less. As we chatted about how disenchanted with the food we were, the phrase “keep it simple” kept popping up. Matter of fact, the female half – she was the pastry chef — of the cooking couple said, “Always take one thing away.” (Famed fashion designer Coco Chanel said that about dressing but it works for food just as well.)

Simple. It’s something that the famed chefs Alice Waters references in her cookbook, The Art of Simple Food; Cal Peternell’s Twelve Recipes – a series of cooking instructions for his college-going son on the essential twelve recipes – and Marcella Hazan, the Queen of Italian home-cooking who said, “What you keep out is as significant as what you put in.”

I try and apply this to my everyday life now – what I keep out is as significant as I put in.

(October 1 was Ms. Hazan’s second anniversary of her death. I didn’t know her but I’ve cooked from her books often.  This recipe is adapted from her Essentials of Italian Cooking and is dedicated to her.)

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets. Keep the rest for a vegetable or chicken stock later on.
  • 1 – 2 grated cups really good parmigiana-reggiano.
  • Half stick of unsalted butter
  • (Optional and my suggestion: A clove or two of garlic, several dashes of red chili flakes and parsley).

Let’s make this puppy:

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. While that gets nice and toasty, boil a large pot of salted water. Once the H2O it’s roiling and toiling, throw in the cauliflower and cook al dente – about 10 minutes. (It should have a little bit of a bite.) Drain in a colander.

Take a baking dish which will go from oven to table. Using the butter, grease up the dish liberally. Add the florets packing them in tightly. Dot with more butter and cover with the cheese. (This is where I slide in some garlic and sprinkle lightly with the chili flakes. You don’t have to – it just adds a little to the final product.) Place in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes until the cheese is a browned and beautifully crusted.

Chop some fresh parsley, throw on top and serve.

You can also do this with ramekins so you serve individually. That’s up to you….isn’t it amazing what you can do with three ingredients?

The End. Go Eat.

Brews, Bread and Bumps in Life

Last night, I published a blog item. In it, I was profusely apologizing about my lack of posting for the past two weeks (to my two fans). Life became life and with dinners out, work (which sometimes is about going out), seeing friends, looking for new apartments with Holly (the pitbull), JJ (the Frenchie) and Nick (the Man from Wisconsin) so I wasn’t able to write until this weekend. Once I hit publish, it vanished. Right then and there. Poof. Twilight Zone-like.  I talked to WordPress, “chatting” with “Pam” about where it could have possibly gone. (We both agreed that it went the way a pair of socks in the washer…). So, I have to recreate it which might be a good thing; right? Let’s take the lemons and make lemonade? Still, I hate re-dos.

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And through all of this up-and-down, in-and-out,  I find that I get a little anxious when I can’t eat or cook the way I want. Fresh, sustainable, local. For me, eating and being out is overwhelming at times.  Admittedly, it’s a personal control issue. Hands down. Who doesn’t want to go out? Isn’t that what commercials ask of us? Let’s eat at Applebee’s, Chili’s, MickeyD’s? But I do it frequently and have eaten out often, eating with clients and enjoying their meals…all in the name of work. However, I really like being in my home and cooking. There is such safety and calmness in it. Some people turn to the bottle of wine, videogame or television, I look at recipes and try to cook. It’s inspirational and very meditative. I sometimes think that if I could, I would grow my vegetables, butcher my livestock and sow my own wheatfields just so I can get as close as I can to eating well.  After all, eating well is the only thing I can control. Once, I step out my door, I feel that my life becomes an issue of circumstance.

With all that said, I have eaten some glorious sandwiches at my client Carvery Kitchen. Handmade and house-baked bread, succulent meats piled in innovative ways with dipping sauces. My favorite: Eating the freshly roasted pastrami in a French dip. Clean and lustily juicy.

Banh Mi Porchetta

 

 

Over this past weekend, I attended The Shelton Bros “The Festival” which was hosted at clients Brouwerij West. I’m not a beer geek  but I’m learning a lot about the process of making beer. Sometimes, it a lot about engineering. There is a process to it. Winemakers let the liquid sit and ferment, creating delicious drinks. With beer, it’s a process of taking the grain and extracting the “wort” (sugar water) and turning it into lusty libation.

Many amazing things were said about the event from LA Weekly and The Los Angeles Times famed beer writer, John Verive.  It was from these articles that I truly realized the importance of the craft beer movement. It’s not unlike the Slow Food Movement or artisan winemakers. Truly, craft beer making is an art form.

Besides Brouwerij West, there was a really interesting beer from Treehouse Brewing in Ohio. It’s called “Double Shot”; like the name implies, it’s made with coffee from Oregon’s Stumpton. It’s aroma was powerful with coffee and malt. Not a combination I would ever have thought I would smell together. Coffee and beer. It used to be “Black Coffee“.

Treehouse Brew

Pantry Preferences: Plainly Preferred

As a home cook, I choose my recipes very carefully. I want them to be simple. I don’t need to have toasted fennel seeds, combined with homemade harissa, needing to stir the pot every 30 minutes to make sure the reduction is only reduced by a quarter. I’m sure most of us look at recipes that are easy to make without being unhealthy.

Therefore, on a weekday night, after my Sunday farmers market grocery sprees when I get my herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil), garlic and lemons, lettuces, I start thinking about my menus. Planning the proteins, the vegetables, and preparations. I hate wasting food so I try…. it doesn’t always work…. but I try to plan around my work and social calendar. Often, I eat out at least 3 times a week. For me, that’s a lot. If I eat out more than that, I start to not feel so well. Too much rich food and not enough control over my diet. However, food is like medicine for me. I eat more vegetables, simply prepared, feeling great the next day. If I overindulge in sugar, alcohol or fats throughout the week, I start to feel less than stellar. But that’s I me. I’m approaching the mid-century mark….and like a 1950’s well oiled car, my body needs love and care. (Trust me, I danced in-and-on NYC dive bars after imbibing on my share of alcohol for decades…I need love and care! LOL.) I’m getting off topic but I do feel that it’s important to cook at home.  We have complete control over what we eat when we make it ourselves.No one can get it wrong if you do it yourself.

For me, I need to have this following pantry items at all times to make anything taste yummy and for ease throughout my week.

1. Salt and pepper (Gizmodo.com writes a brilliant essay on the pairing and noted use.) Kosher salt is the best for cooking and flavoring.

2. Extra virgin olive oil.

3. Lemons (and sometimes limes, oranges or grapefruit are good to have)….lemons though are at the always in my house.

4. Garlic

5. Fresh herbs

Optional

1. Hard italian cheeses (Parmesan, Reggiano or Asiago)

2. Flour

3. Onions

Clearly, this is based on a Mediterranean diet and I just find it simple. As long as I have the first 5 ingredients, I can make beef, poultry, seafood and vegetables taste amazing. And for me, I’m trying to keep it simple.

Let’s Make Something:

Salad Dressing: Two parts olive oil, 1 part lemon. Twist of Salt, twist of pepper. Boom!

Roasted Fish: Take one lemon and slice into several rounds. Take the fish  (salmon,cod, halibut) and place on bed of the citrus rounds.Take your chosen herbs, rough chop. Stir with some olive oil and garlic, making a think paste. Coat the fish and roast at 350 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes Boom! Pretty too!

Chicken: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put slivers of garlic under chicken skin (breasts, thighs, legs), Heat up a pan that can go directly into oven. With the garlic stuffed chicken, place skin down and sautee until brown. Turn over and do the same. While chicken is browning, create herb paste, like above. Once chicken is browned, place face up squeeze juice of one lemon, and herb mixture onto onto poultry. Season with salt and pepper, and take lemon rind and place in skillet. Depending on the amount of chicken, cook for 30 to 45 minutes. Boom!

An Ode to Summer Tomato Sandwiches

NYC Farmer

As a kid, I didn’t like tomatoes. I found them not only tasteless but mushy or sometimes, hard and inedible. My mother, a good Southern woman, loved them. She was particularly fond of Tomato Sandwiches, which is a predominant lunch staple in the South. Food writer, John Kessler, wrote in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that for ten years, while he lived in Georgia, he had never had one.  One response to his posting on Facebook said, “he should renounce his citizenship”. (I don’t know whether that was to the Confederates or to the Yanks….the writer didn’t qualify.) But my mother, she loved them. It’s a simple process of two pieces of white bread, mayonaise and big beefsteak tomatoes. The kind that when you bite into them, dribble down your chin, almost like a greasy cheeseburger but without the cholesterol and animal fat. Kessler also references Chef Bill Smith, from his blog “Seasoned in the South” who states “that a riot ensued for the sandwiches”.

Ingredients for Gazpacho

Me? Although, I didn’t like them growing up, I began to love them while I lived in New York City and tomatoes in general. I couldn’t have been more than eighteen and was walking leisurely on a hot summer afternoon through Union Square’s Farmers Market. I still remember that there was a young, blondish woman barking out, “Try our heirlooms!!!” In her hand were striated wedges of red tomatoes, flecks of green in some, a couple with purple lines but all were poked with wooden toothpicks, offering the shoppers a chance to try her wares. I was game. I had only moved to the city in September the following year to attend school and I was trying everything. Dance clubs, drinking and decadence. (The things that made NYC in the 80s.) I thought I should give the tomato another try. So I bit into the pretty girl’s heirloom, which I had never had. It was life-changing. Juicy. Sweetly acidic. Warm from the sun. I bought two big red ones, which I couldn’t afford (I was a starving student, after all)  a loaf of white bread,  baked fresh for the market that day and swung by a bodega to pick-up some Hellman’s (throwing in a little urbanity with that down-home goodness.) I now eat them every year, sometimes daily.

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My darling friend, Lulu, and I recently made the perfect tomato sandwich. We went to her backyard garden and pulled a couple of Persimmons and Consoluto Genoveses, two types of the nine varieties she was growing. (She also has grapes, pomegranates, zucchini, arugula, Meyer lemons, cantaloupes, watermelons, blackberries, raspberries, etc. It’s practically a farm.) Still warm from the Southern California sun, we sliced them with her mandoline, not too thick but enough to pile them on the whole grain toasted nut bread. (Truthfully, it should be made with Wonder Bread or Sara Lee.) On one piece of bread, we used some of her freshly made basil pesto with chunks of garlic, on the other, smeared it with Hellman’s (I prefer Hellman’s, less sugary and Duke’s isn’t available in California). With glasses of sweet tea, we sat at her outdoor table, shaded by a big orange umbrella and ate the deliciousness. It was a little bit of crunch from the toasted whole grain bread, the sweetness and balance of the acidic tomatoes, the creaminess of the mayo, with the bite of the garlic and basil. Perfection on a hot day.

The authentic Southern sandwich is made with only two pieces of mushy white bread, mayo and tomato slices but if you want to get “all gourmet-like” and mess with the original by all means. It like eating a just a little bit of the summer sun.

Farmers Market Haul, Eating With Friends, & His Creamy Threesome Dip (for lack of a better name)

Farmers Market Haul

The Farmers Market was a light vegetable haul today. Partially, because I haven’t had time to really put my menu together for the week ahead. As noted in a previous post, I burned two dinners. However, I did purchase a lot of lettuces at the market. I love the summer for lettuces. It’s an easy dinner fix to make a simple salad with some form of protein and to turn it into a meal. Keep it simple so I don’t become overwhelmed. I also bought some peppermint to try instead of just regular mint to see what I do with it; other purchases included crispy romaine, peppery arugula, radicchio for the grill, basil (my plant isn’t doing so well this year) and a broccoli crown. Let’s see what the week brings.

Raita

Last night, my friend Mark, an amazing homecook with specialities in Indian and Moroccan, had another dinner. I posted about one a couple of weeks ago. He made the delicious Mulligatawny Stew, Pan Roasted Potatoes and Cauliflower, Cucumber Mint Raita (pictured above) and Dal, the staple of Indian cuisine. Of course, there was basmati rice, naan and poori. Simply yummy and delicious.

He also made an incredible tangy and tasty dip for crudites. His personal creation was delicious with just the right amount of flavors for the raw veggies. With the light tang that only Greek yogurt has, mixed with the cream cheese and Mexican Crema, it was an international trio of dairy creating a beautiful compliment to the crispness of the zucchini, the heat to the radishes and sweetness of the snaps. It was a yummy audition to his Indian meal.

On another note, joining me at Mark’s, where several other friends, Mark and Denise, Lisa, Sue and her girlfriend, Chloe, whom I never met but was sweet and beautiful. It was one of the type of “dining with friends evening” that are becoming incredibly special to me. Since coming back to Los Angeles from Northern California, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream like any major life decision. (Two of my other favorite nights, were with Shelley and Bonnie making pizza and playing Scrabble. Then at David’s, helping him with his housewarming making fresh hummus.) I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it again, eating at a friend’s house, helping to prep, passing the dishes, assisting in the clean-up, laughing, telling stories, petting the animals, voicing aspirations, feeling heartaches, boyfriends, girlfriends, work, …just life…was fun beyond belief. No one was asking us if we needed something else. We weren’t screaming over the din of the music. We found the bathroom without asking a frazzled waitperson. There was a casualness, a meeting of minds, gratefulness that we could be together in the true spirit of friendship. It’s what makes these food occassions special for me. Not necessarily the eating but the process of eating: the cooking, the chopping, playing sous chef and passing food family style. It’s Thanksgiving without any of the family drama. No one was drinking too much or getting too boisterous. It was camaraderie at its best, with cool Southern California evening breezes, carrying the laughter out onto the street.

Now, go make Mark’s dip, with some friends. It’s really good.

Mark's Greek Yogurt Dip

You Will Need:
2 oz. Cream Cheese (softened)
4 oz. Plain Greek Yogurt
3 oz. Crema Mexicana
1 Large or 2 small Shallots
1 Med. Garlic Clove
Chipotle LIme Seasoning (to taste) (I used Chef Tim Love’s sold at Sur la Table)

Let’s Make This Puppy:
1. Let the dairy items sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes.Then, with a fork, combine them in a bowl, trying to get as many of the lumps out of the cream cheese as possible.
2. Mince the shallots and garlic.
3. In a small saucepan over med-high heat, saute 2/3 of the shallots in vegetable oil* for a couple of minutes, until they start becoming soft – at which point add the garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes or so, until everything is pretty soft. Let that cool.
4. Add the room temperature shallot/garlic mixture to the blended dairy mixture, and add the remaining (raw) shallots, mix well. Add about a teaspoon of the Chipotle Lime seasoning and stir well, taste. Keep adding Chipotle Lime until you are happy with the taste. (I tasted it on the raw vegetables that I was serving with the dip, as the flavor will be less intense than it is on the tasting spoon – and you may want to add more seasoning). Chill for at least an hour, then serve!

*Mark used Sunflower Oil.

Farmers Market Haul and Lulu’s Gardening Class

Let’s begin with lovely Lulu’s gardening class before we get to Farmers Market Haul.

Lulu's Gardening Class

Shelley, Lauren, one of Lulu’s co-workers and Lauren’s husband, Chris, along with me, were students in Lulu’s backyard for her first-ever gardening class. Lu has been gardening since she was a child back in her homestate of Pennsylvania. It was always one of her aspirations to create an edible garden where she could cook and share her plantings. Since she purchased her home over 8 years ago in the PicFair District of Los Angeles, she has fashioned a dozen raised beds where many varieties of home-grown edibles have ripened to seasonal perfection. Being an urban/surburban kid and thinking for many years that vegetables came hidden in a supermarket’s underbelly, I’m massively awestruck by her cultivation of cantalopes and watermelons…. along with being supplied gifts from her seasonal harvests which have included lettuces (romaine, red leaf, and green leaf), tomatoes (some which she has used for canning and I used for sauces), cucumbers, artichokes, eggplant, basil, spaghetti squash, raspberries, blueberries, lemons, limes….and on and on. In each one of the approximate 2 1/2 feet by 6 feet areas, the soil has been tilled, rested and loved to reap some of the most deliciously edible gems I’ve had. There is nothing like direct farm to table to do a body good.

In this class, Lu’s immense knowledge was demonstrated when she dug up her compost turning out a dark, rich and thoroughly alive concoction with do-gooding worms (pictured). The class was a fully active hour and a half experience. For this city slicker, it still shows the difficulties of being a 21st century farmer. Farming is an arduous task. It’s about the right amount of water, sun and nutrients but I can absolutely see it’s rewards for the grower as I was rewarded cuttings from Lulu’s hardwork such as baby kale, zucchini, squash blossoms, and fresh mint.

Lulu's Compost

All of this, on this Memorial Day weekend, brings me to Farmers Market Haul. Today, it was tiny Japanese bell peppers (Yakatori Farms), purple baby artichokes (SunCoast Farms), beautiful frisee, mizuna and baby chard (Windsor Farms), green Zebra Rita’s and baby spinach (McGrath Family Farms), small sweet Maui onions for grilling (Can’t remember the farm…), and rosemary (ABC Rhubarb).

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(It was a small shopping excursion as I had the vegetables Lulu gave me from the class.)

I love the Hollywood Farmers Market. A weekly Sunday ritual like heading to church without the pie bake off at the end. It’s reminiscent of NYC’s Union Square Market. I prefer HFM before 11:00am, before my shins are black and blue from the strollers, wagons and pushcarts but still appreciate that families bring their kids to learn about food and its production. I love the urbanity of it: hipsters with their multiple canvas bags; the mid-thirty parents, who gave their nanny the day off, and are clutching too many children and too many vegetables; the single women holding onto lattes and the bottom of their maxi-dresses; the married gay men, leering over organic zucchini and the street musicians giving the market it’s soundtrack.
There’s no competition between farmers. One of the farmers didn’t have Bloomfield spinach, a fave lovely lettuce, and pointed me to another canvas stall ala “Miracle on 34th Street”/Macy’s vs. Gimble’s sort of way. I feel like this is the way life should be, simple, uncomplicated, free of CNN’s ticker tape, which is located around the corner.

One of the great things at HFM, I get to learn about my food and ask questions of the individual purveyors. I get to know them, they know me. They become a constant. I like that. It’s a small village atmosphere in a metropolitan city. The market is there to serve and keep me, in my mind, safe…that’s why I go. Its one of the few times in my week…when out of my car and out of my apartment… I feel sheltered and we are there to buy nourishment and feel nourished.

And…no matter what I think of war or our politicians, it’s people whom I’ve known such as the farmers who had many children go to war, who help feed the young men and women who have served our country….to both, I salute you.

Farmers Market Haul and Mother’s Day Frittata

Farmers Market Haul for May 12, 2013.
Farmers Market Haul for May 12, 2013.

You know its the beginning of summer with berries, stone fruit and tomatoes at almost every stall in the market. I went to my favorites ABC Rhubarb, Windsor Farms, McGrath, Drakes’ Family Farm for goat cheese, and St. Mortiz Bakery for a crusty French baguette that was a perfect size. I also purchased some asparagus and always a variety of lettuces, lemons, and onions. Lemons are, for me, completely necessary for a marinade, a dressing and just to drizzle on grilled or roasted chicken.

MOTHER’S DAY

“You know what it is, honey, food is love.” – Streisand as Joyce, GUILT TRIP

Last night, my mother and I watched GUILT TRIP with Striesand and Seth Rogen. Interesting. Cute. Not hilarious but some poignant moments especially if you had just spent 5 hours in the car with your mother like I did. I was picking her up from her home two hours away and driving back to Los Angeles, where I live. It wasn’t 8 days, like in the movie, but sometimes 5 hours can seem like infinity especially in stop-n-go traffic. (When I was 7, my mother and I took a road trip across country on Interstate 10. We drove through the Southern states, Arizona, Texas, Georgia….Certainly, one of the greatest memories of my life.)

So the film and it’s theme resonated with me as I went about my weekly Farmers Market shopping excursion. Cooking is about giving back, food is love, etc. My mother wasn’t the most prodigious of homecooks as I was growing up. She was a single, working mother. Hard enough. But, she loves reading my food posts and is an ardent fan of mine. (Surprise.) And I wanted to do something special.

We both aren’t into noisy crowds and she’s not really able to get around as swiftly so I thought the easiest thing to do was to make something at home. Besides, she loves tomatoes and they were everywhere so I wanted to buy some for her. (She loves tomato sandwiches. Mayo, tomato, on white bread.) We could only do that if I cooked. I originally thought of an omelet with Cheddar, Tomato and Asparagus but that would mean two pans. (One for her, one for me.) With a frittata, which as we know, I’m fond of making, it’s one pan clean-up. Ultimately, that’s what she got for Mother’s Day, a frittata but I wound up making a Drake’s Family Farm Goat Cheese & Red and Green Pepper Frittata. Served with a Bloomfield Spinach Salad tossed in a Balsamic Vinagrette with fresh Albion Strawberries.

Made with Drakes' Family Goat Cheese
Made with Drakes’ Family Goat Cheese

The Big Beef Tomato needs it’s own stage and not lost in egg. Besides, my mother worked hard all her life and deserves the first taste of summer lushness simply. So on her birthday tomorrow, as she turns 77, it will be sliced, with a little mayo on a crusty baguette.

Happy Mother’s Day!