Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Good Egg

Egg Portraits from last year, taken with my iPhone : )

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Chicken Soup ~ It's Cool

It's cold out-- somewhere. Somewhere there are snowdrifts, frozen lakes, working fireplaces and people wearing hats and scarves, who need them. But here, in sunny Los Angeles, it's just cool. We suffer mild weather and we 'suffer' it well. We tell ourselves that 64 degrees is 'muy frio' and wrap ourselves in shetland sweaters and beanies; all the while wearing flip flops and riding a bike-- to the beach. Rough.

We also like to talk about the winter weather as if it were somehow distinctive from other times of the year. When in fact, it's pretty much the same year round. Sure, we have our "cold snaps", a couple of nights each winter when we dip into the high 30's. But then it's back to the beach with 75 degree weather...

I personally have no complaints.

But we long for that cold snap. We long for hoodies that matter; scarves that are necessary; boots; pants. I know I do. And we long for the cold weather dishes our East Coast friends braise on their stovetops all day: short ribs, pot roasts and hearty soups. So we make them anyway. In the hopes that sentiment alone will change the weather. And finally justify those ugly Uggs. Ugh.

And here's the beauty of such sentiment. A typical wintery soup becomes sunny and light just by location. Much like our beanies and Havianas. It's cool. We have our own style.

A Sort of Chicken Soup Recipe

Grab what you will from your fridge and pantry. Add a chicken or just its parts, and make soup, as follows.

What I found in my fridge and pantry...

kabocha squash
golden yukon potatoes

Here we go...

rinse your chicken and put him in a suitable pot...

flood him with cold water and put him on the stovetop...

clean and chop your veg... I like large bits... do what you want, then tuck into the pot with chicken...

bring your pot to a boil and reduce to a simmer... skim the broth of all its scum and simmer for close to an hour...

remove your chicken from the pot and pull it apart, removing the skin and bones...

return the 'pulled' chicken to the soup and season with salt and black pepper...

add something fresh to the soup... diced tomato and jalapeno with a pinch of za'atar... why not???

warm your bowl...

and serve steaming hot...

and have a happy new year!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mirepoix ~ Do it like the French

Oh, the holy trinity. The sofrito. The refogato. The suppengrun? The soepgroente?  Huh?  Wloszczynza?  The what? 

Wikepedia is clearly messing with me. What I was hoping to find, with my lazy mirepoix-Google-search, was some sort of obscene connection between mirepoix and menage a trois, but no luck. Hello, 3 ingredients: chopped celery, onion, and carrot? You must have been thinking the same thing... Instead, I found a bunch of variations on a theme I cannot pronounce. And to our misfortune, outside of being French, the number 3, and sharing a similar meter and rhyme, the one never met the other. Too bad, would have been a good story...

A little known fact: mirepoix is named after a French duke in the 18th Century, known as Duc de Levis-Mirepoix. Boring!

Hot story, or not, mirepoix still stands as the most ubiquitous flavor-base around the globe: from France to Latin America. I use variations of mirepoix in so many dishes, from lentils vinaigrette, to crab cakes, stuffings, stocks, sauces and soups.

Personally, I'd start with the French recipe. The ratio is simple and well proportioned for a well-balanced flavor. 2 parts onion to 1 part carrot and 1 part celery. The onion and carrot add a savory sweetness, while the celery adds a mildly acidic balance to the sweetness of the carrot and onion. Add more celery and the flavor profile changes. Leave the celery out and it changes again. Remove the carrot and it's another flavor profile. Add leeks, garlic, peppers or other root vegetables, and you will have flavor profiles from different cuisines.

Don't be afraid to experiment and see for yourself what works where. You won't be disappointed.
Ok, get your mind out of the gutter... 

A Mire Poix- Do it like the French

This ratio is best for stocks, and a great foundation for soups. 

Overall, it's a fundamental part of so many loved dishes it can be whatever you make it. Roasted with meats, braised in stews, it is the base of many soups and sauces. Also, it's delish on it's own, with a bowl of rice, or a nice piece of fish. It's its own dish.

2 parts yellow onion and/or leek
1 part carrot 
1 part celery
a few sprigs of thyme 
a couple of bay leaves
butter/olive oil/what have you


a pretty kitchen sink of prep...

a cutting board of heirloom carrots, celery and leeks... small dice

saute the mirepoix over medium to low heat with butter, olive oil, or what ever fat you prefer... add fresh thyme and bay leaf, a clove of garlic, saffron if you like... season well with salt and pepper...

for stuffings, rice or bean dishes, crab cakes or meatballs, cook the vegetables just until tender... and fold into any dish... if you over cook it make it into a soup ; )

this is perfect on it's own, under a piece of roasted fish, folded into a soft omelet, or eaten over rice... it's its own dish.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Zucchini Olive Oil Soup with Lemon Grass and Basil

This past weekend I was struck down by a bout of food poisoning. No bueno. For the first recovery day I consumed nothing but flat ginger ale and saltine crackers. The second day: coconut water and brioche buns. If that sounds decadent it was; remember, I live in Venice, where brioche buns grow on trees and coconut water sells out at gas station convenient stores. I know... The third day, I excitedly added, to my repertoire, a can of Campbell's Chicken and Rice soup, having almost forgotten what it was to eat. I believe they refer to this as a Kate Moss State of Being.

Needless to say, I hydrated and went to work a couple of pounds lighter, only to realize how darned hungry I was at the end of the day, sorry Kate. Unfortunately, cooking all day at the restaurant does not tempt one to fire-up the stove at home, but with so much farmers market veg in my fridge, I found myself guilted into cooking and pulled out the cutting board, turned on my iPod, Otis, thank you... and threw on my favorite ruffled apron for a simple, pleasurable, super fast feast of a zucchini and olive oil soup. I had plump round zucchini and basil; and beautiful stalks of lemon grass a friend had given me to make a pot of tea-- perfect ingredients. Besides, what could be a kinder entree back into the world of eating than a warm bowl of summer squash soup and toast?

Soup's on!

Zucchini Olive Oil Soup with Lemon Grass and Basil

makes two big bowls

4 round zucchini or 3 long zucchini
two inches of lemon grass 
4 basil leaves
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper

The technique is a no-brainer: slice the squash and dice the lemon grass and toss it in a small sauce pan with a few leaves of basil. Add a heavy pour of extra virgin olive oil and a light pour of cold water; and cover over medium heat for ten minutes. Once cooked, pour into a blender, careful to seal the lid tightly with a protective dish towel, and puree. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a warm bowl. 

And don't forget to toast your toast, doused with good olive oil. Scratch it with a garlic clove and you're done.

Here we go...

once you've sliced the zucchini...

split your lemon grass and...

dice the tender part near the stem...

in a heated sauce pan pour in olive oil and toss everything in...

cover and cook for ten minutes...

pour everything into your blender and pureeeeee...

very psychedelic 

what a fine color that is... haha...

and slice your toast thick and douse with olive oil... careful not to start a fire in the toaster(!)

scratch with a clove of garlic...

and set the table...