Summer

From the LA Times

summercocktailsYou know summer's here when your cocktail looks like a snow cone. Or a lassi. Or an ice cream float. Or a fruity soda pop that comes in a glass bottle, complete with bubbles and twist-off cap.

A wave of new cocktails that hew toward the playful not only puts us squarely in summer but also is helping to make L.A.'s cocktail scene uniquely its own.

The snow cones at Son of a Gun on West 3rd Street are tiki-inspired crushed-ice cocktails served in paper cones that rest in julep cups. A new cocktail menu at 1886 Bar at the Raymond in Pasadena features bottled fizzy cocktails. And at Pour Vous, the French-themed bar that opened on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood two months ago, the menu is punctuated with lassis and parfait look-alikes and drinks that resemble something from your favorite juice bar. What's up with all the fun drinks from serious bartenders?

"Our cocktail culture really reflects an evolution," says Lindsay Nader, part of the Pour Vous team that helped realize a novel take on French-inspired drinking. "There are [craft cocktail] pioneers in New York who are still kind of stuck in this rigid way of working and creating. They aren't breaking free of the handlebar-mustache, buttoned-up attitude. In L.A., we're moving out of that era, it's anything goes, we're having fun with cocktails and stripping away some of that seriousness."

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salad.chopped.lascala.jpgGrowing up, eating the perfect chopped salad could only be found at La Scala in Beverly Hills.  I would crave this salad and when I worked as a talent manager in the 80′s, one could find me at lunch time, sitting in one of their big red leather booths, at least once a week.  Other than The Palm, The Grill, Hugos (for breakfast), La Scala was my drug of choice!

It truly is one of the simpliest salads; finely chopped iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced julienne salami, thinly sliced provolone cheese, garbonzos, and one kalamata olive.  If you choose, you could add in sliced turkey, grilled chicken, tomatoes, or basil.  Dressing on the side of course (perfect for dipping their freshly baked bread).  Their salad dressing is distinct, like no other.

When a friend of mine visited from New York, I took her there for that salad.  She put me on a mission to recreate the dressing.  I tried and tried.

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zucchinibreadMy sister has been making zucchini bread for as long as I can remember – and it’s always been a favorite quick bread, especially in the summer. It’s a great way to use up overgrown zucchini from the garden.

The pineapple adds some nice flavor and makes a nice alternative to raisins. I like to serve it sandwiched together with cream cheese and thinly sliced granny smith apples.

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tompolentaAt noon on any summer day, there's a certain silence that sweeps across our pastures. It's a livestock siesta and no better time to enjoy the peacefulness of the sun and swaying pines around us. Dane and I think of a savory snack to bring to the breeziest spot on the farm - under the shade of our oldest oak tree.

This season we've collected cherry tomatoes by the buckets - sauces, sun dried and salsa has been happening a lot in my kitchen, but there's nothing like the smell of roasting a tray of fresh picked tomatoes.

This simple pie has a cheesy polenta base that feeds my love for the taste of southern grits. I top it with bright, tart roasted tomatoes - although a variety of garden vegetables could be roasted or sauteed for a satisfying topping.

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redcurrants.jpg Red currants, the beautiful ruby red berries pictured above, make the perfect tart jelly. Growing in grape-like clusters on small bushes, the fruit has become a rarity in the United States. Mistakenly thought to promote a tree disease, currant bushes across the country were systematically uprooted in the early 1900s, and production was prohibited for many years.

Currants are high in vitamin C and taste tart but pleasant when eaten. Commonly red and black currants are made into jellies. In fact black currant jelly or jam is very popular in England. I remember that while studying abroad in London, no matter how hard I looked, I could not find Concord grape jelly for my peanut butter sandwiches, so black currant jelly became my unusual but greatly liked substitute. Red currant jelly is practically the same color as black currant jelly, so after making this you really won’t tell the difference.

Every year we pick every last red currant berry off the small bushes in my parents’ yard and make jelly. It has been a summer tradition since I can remember. I really appreciate that we have the berries available at our fingertips.

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