If you are planning a Cinco de Mayo feast, you are going to need a satisfying side dish to accompany your meal. A Savory Mexican Cornbread is the perfect canvas for sopping up the sauce. And for those of you who can't have your food touching (you know who you are) it's okay to keep it on a separate plate.
This cornbread does not have a dense, hockey puck-like consistency. Instead it is cakey and very moist. Void of any overwhelming flavor, it makes the perfect sidekick for an already flavorful meal. It melds nicely.
I know lots of people stick with their Jiffy cornbread from a box but this has such a better consistency and does not take much effort to put together. If you are like me and enjoy your cornbread sweet, butter and honey are a stunning addition to each slice. You must try it.
Mother’s Day was always a meaningful day in my life, but not because of my own mother. Because of my father’s mother. She was born on a day in May that fell on or near Mother’s Day. Each year her family celebrated her birthday on Mother’s Day, no matter what the date of her actual birthday. Her large clan would all come to her little house, deep in the Valley, to honor her. Most of them lived nearby, but not us.
We would hop in the back of my dad’s convertible car and head over Coldwater Canyon. He drove with only one hand on the wheel. My dad was handicapped and needed his other hand for the controls that were attached to the steering wheel, both the gas and brake in one. It was very unsteady. Add to that the sharp curves going over the mountain, his cigar smoke filling my lungs, and his spit flying back into our faces that we tried dodging -- well, it was quite the E ticket ride. (For those born after they were discontinued in 1982, E tickets were for Disneyland’s most thrilling attractions.)
Finally, the road would straighten out at the bottom of the mountain for a long straight stretch till we hit Ventura Boulevard. By then, I was fully recovered, though still dodging spit and seeking a good air pocket to escape the smoke. No seat belts in those days either, and I weighed nothing, so I flew around a lot in the back of dad’s car.
On her last visit, my mother brought over a box of things that she’d saved over the course of my childhood: early drawings, high-school term papers, first stories and notes. Looking forward to a trip down memory lane, I began to sort through them. Within moments two things became evident. Firstly, that my mother went through all of my trash (a love letter from my first boyfriend, which includes the depressingly spelled “arection” proves this point). And secondly, she apparently chose only to fish out the things that would most embarrass me.
Where are all the well-executed drawings, the A plus papers, the naive and yet endearing journal entries? They are long gone, and in their place exist all manner of horrors. A grade school essay on Goya (don’t ask) is particularly misinformed, and a drawing from my early years, in which I’ve lovingly adorned a list that my mother herself has written, is earnest enough to break your heart.
The list, entitled “Stuff That Makes Mom Happy”, places “being alone” and “working” in the top slots, and goes on to include fishing, running, and ballet class in consecutive order. (Spending time with her daughter is, needless to say, conveniently missing.) My mother has also contributed her own cartoon horse to the edge of the drawing, and with it’s back to the viewer, the horse is quite obviously running away.
Turmeric is a rhizome or rootstock of a South Asian member of the ginger family. As the major ingredient in curry and a cheaper alternative to saffron, it is commonly used in Indian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern cooking as much it seems, for its color as for its flavor. In fact, in the past turmeric was used for dyeing textiles and fabrics, for making cosmetics, and even for religious and cultural ceremonies, Hindu and other, especially in India. Turmeric is considered to have medicinal uses and is even being studied currently for its potential cancer-fighting properties.
In this dish, the turmeric pairs up with cumin, coriander, and paprika to spice up roasted root vegetables and give them an unexpected and exotic twist. First the vegetables are roasted in a very hot oven, an unorthodox method we first came up with at Lucques. We were having problems when working with baby vegetables, unable to get the sear and caramelization we wanted without overcooking the vegetables. Even with our deck oven cranked to 550°F, the results were either tender and pale or nicely browned and mushy.
My longest-running kitchen employee, Rodolfo Aguado, who started working for me as a surly fifteen-year-old dishwasher at Campanile and now runs our very busy catering department (and has three kids of his own), came up with the brilliant idea of preheating the sheet pans before placing the vegetables on them. It really works wonders: you get a great roasted sear and can control the tenderness-versus-mushiness issue as well.
While things change so fast in this world, there are still places where time stands still. The face of Paris changes faster every year that I visit and not always for the better. There are more and more fast food chains, pasta restaurants, pizza sellers and Asian takeaway because everyone wants to eat quickly and run somewhere...
At L'Ami Jean time has stopped, it is old fashioned, handcrafted French/Basque cuisine. The restaurant has an aged yellowed patina with acorn fed Spanish hams hanging from the rafter with an inviting glow that welcomes you. The menu changes daily and the ingredients could not be better sourced or fresher! Whatever they make is always breathtaking!
We bought our house in Umbria ten years ago this past summer.
A couple of months after the sale was completed the former owners, Bruno and Mayes, came over for lunch. And as the lunch lingered, as lunches in Umbria do, Bruno interrupted himself in mid-lecture on the glories of Roman pasta.
“Asparagi,” he said calmly. He got up from his chair, crossed over to the wall of our ancient wood-burning oven and snapped off a pencil-thin spear of wild asparagus that was hiding in and among the other grasses.
“It’s all over the place,” he said. “April is the time. You’ll see hundreds of contadini in the fields and by the side of the road, harvesting them. Here, taste.”
I bit off the end of the slender stalk and chewed on it a bit. It was raw, of course, and a little stringy but the taste fairly attacked me with its vibrancy. Wild asparagus is way wilder than tame asparagus.
“Just imagine,” I thought, “how it’ll make my pee smell.”
With that noble scientific quest in mind, I immediately began to search for more. I looked all around the forno, where Bruno found his and then up the hill toward the olive trees, but there were no more spears to be found.
Sometimes it’s all about the cut. Take asparagus. Everyone loves the long, lanky, sexy look of a whole asparagus spear. (Sorry—sounds like I’m describing a brand of Gap jeans). Why would you want to wreck that by cutting it up?
Oh, yeah, there’s that awkward moment when you’re trying to cut those long spears with a fork on your dinner plate.
And the even more awkward moment when you push the woody bottom half of the spears over to the side of your plate because they’re undercooked.
Now consider this—with a few extra seconds of work upfront, you can have a beautiful, evenly cooked, easy-to-eat asparagus side dish that can take on a variety of flavors, too.
So I’m going to ignore my mother (who claims I tend to get a bit fussy about my vegetable cuts), and suggest that you try slicing your asparagus on the diagonal (sharply…at a sharp angle…on the bias…however you want to say it) for a change.
One of the wonderful aspects of living in Southern California is the weather. The weather affords us to be outdoors more than indoors, avoiding heavy boots and jackets, and perusing the local farmers market even on those rare days when there may be a light sprinkle in the air.
Last weekend, I hit up two of my favorite markets; the Saturday, Santa Monica Farmers Market and the Sunday, Brentwood Farmers Market. Saturday I loaded up on fruit (my two boys ate 2 of the 3 baskets of strawberries before we got to the car) and on Sunday my bags were brimming with veggies (and some Pupusa’s from the Pupusa guy – Levi loves them in his lunch box).
I am boring when it comes to artichokes. Either steamed with a bit of lemon rind and some peppercorns or grilled. I decided to mix it up and fry them…yes, fry! Covered in olive oil, some whole garlic cloves and a bundle of fresh oregano (from my garden), I must say, I made a very tasty treat. Sprinkled with a little sea salt as they were draining and then smothered in this shallot vinaigrette – they didn’t make it to the dinner table that night. They were eaten, standing up.
This is what spring looks like. Truly. So why not make a dish that takes the best of those green, grassy, sweet flavors, adds garlic, great olive oil and a hit of salt and serve it up in one dish? The subtle beauty of all these colors of green tangled together help us understand the idea of renewal inherent in the spring holiday celebrations of Easter or Passover.
In Italy it’s called cianfotta, the all purpose dish that changes with the seasons as new vegetables appear and leave the markets. This saute is one of my master recipes. Serve it as a side dish. Or to make it a bit more substantial for vegetarians add a handful of toasted pine nuts or almonds. For a one course dinner add nuts and a bit of soft or aged goat cheese.
This recipe is a template. You can add sliced and trimmed baby artichokes or fava beans. You may omit the mint or use onions instead of leeks. Some folks leave out the lettuce. It’s up to you.
by Susan Russo
Whether you surprise her with reservations at her favorite restaurant or make a romantic dinner for two at home, you've got to make her Seductive Strawberry Zabaglione for dessert. Red, ripe strawberries, velvety custard, and sweet Italian wine are so sexy.
I developed this recipe with men in mind because it's easy to make, allows you to flex...
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Most everyone loves chocolate cake. It's just one of those classic desserts that no one can refuse. A good chocolate cake is moist and tender, sweet but not saccharine, and very chocolaty, of course. Melted chocolate—not cocoa powder—separates an excellent chocolate cake from a mediocre one. The best quality chocolate will always yield...Read more...
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Sometimes I think I should just throw caution to the wind and write a book called “The Blue Cheese Diet: Eating Your Way To Happiness Through Gorgonzola And Roquefort”. I’d take all the photos, test each recipe personally, get it published, then do the TV show talk circuit, answering questions like “How did you come to invent the Blue Cheese...Read more...
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