placesettingIsn’t it great to be blessed with friends who entertain beautifully, who attend to every detail, artistically, with care and flare? Friends who take pleasure in delighting with beauty and richness?

I am one lucky ducky in this department for sure. Most of my friends enjoy setting a pretty table and “doing the flowers” as I call decorating when having guests over for a meal. A couple of my peeps, though, are off the charts in this department which causes me to spend most of my time wandering around their house saying “wow I love that,” like I haven’t read a newspaper in weeks and have nothing else to say for myself, or like a gal from East Podunk, straight off the farm, who’s never seen a formal place setting before let alone matching salt and pepper shakers. Or someone in awe of people who create beauty and inspire me by the things they think of and do. Please say the latter.

One would expect our friends Heidi and Guy to have a great house. She’s been selling prime LA real estate for 25 years, and he is the proprietor of Ligne Roset Los Angeles, the go-to store for architectural furniture. Ten years ago Heidi and Guy combined tastes, talents and 3 young teens and moved into a sprawling and spacious Spanish, Mission- style house in a canyon with a never ending view of LA’s immense valley. Guy is almost apologetic in sharing in his off the cuff, just between us, way that the style of the house, the architecture, is not really him so much, (like any of us who know him and his exquisite design sense need to be told), but the interior and over all vibe of the house is so him and Heidi in all of their beauty, creativity and warmth; the art, furniture and fabrics, the two gorgeous greyhounds, the family photos taking up a whole wall in the kitchen juxtaposed with the Chanel Houndstooth fabric on the family room couch.

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zucchinichipsZucchini is a favorite of gardeners because it's so impressive. It grows quickly and sometimes to staggering sizes. It's not my favorite for cooking with, because it's fairly bland and watery. I do appreciate that it adds great moisture to cakes and muffins as well as soups. I just find it doesn't add much in terms of flavor.

But I have recently discovered my new favorite way to enjoy zucchini! Yes, enjoy it! Because what's more enjoyable that potato chips? This recipe is the zucchini equivalent of potato chips. Ok they aren't as hearty as potato chips and I wouldn't use them for dipping, but they are very crisp and tasty.

Thin slices of zucchini slowly cook, dehydrate and then crisp up in the oven. The results are very crisp thin chips, that have a mild flavor, similar to toasted pumpkin seeds. That makes sense, since both are squash. You may be surprised at how much the zucchini shrinks in the oven. The slices in the photo were next to each other when I put them in.

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apple-peanut-butter-tartMany projects I work on have a moratorium on sharing. Sometimes by me, other times by the publisher or editor who usually lets me know when I can start blabbing about it. Sometimes the lead times are long (a year or two in advance!), other times I just have to wait a month or two until whatever I photographed has hit the streets.

Of course, most of the time it’s ok to share a little bit via Instagram and Facebook, but I usually err on the side of caution and keep my mouth shut.

Which is painful when there are great recipes I want to talk about. Like this one. Oh my goodness, this one.

I am a peanut butter freak, and combined with an apple or banana it’s my standard sweet snack. I knew I’d love this recipe from Jenny Flake’s The Picky Palate Cookbook when we were reviewing the recipe list, and when Adam and his team began to assemble it I knew that the shape would photograph beautifully, and I knew that the shape would also fit in my stomach perfectly.

I think I ate the whole damn thing.

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watermelonsalsa.jpgHow much watermelon does the average American consume each year? (answer below)

A. 6 pounds
B. 16 pounds
C. 38 pounds
D. 312 pounds

I love eating plain watermelon in its simple, sweet glory, but it’s also fantastic in savory dishes. The key is to pair it with contrasting flavors such as salty cheeses, bitter salad greens, acidic vinegars, or smoky grilled meats to balance the watermelon's sweetness.

In fact, why not try something different for this summer – like my new Grilled Steak Tacos with Watermelon-Mango-Jicama Salsa? For this dish, char-grilled steak is topped with a sweet and tangy watermelon salsa and crumby Mexican cheese. This salsa is so refreshing that you may want to make extra so your guests can dunk their tortilla chips in it while they're waiting for the steak to grill.

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chipotlechickenCanned Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce are simply very ripe jalapeno peppers that have been dried, smoked and packed in a sauce of tomatoes, vinegar, paprika, oregano, garlic and onion. If you’ve never cooked with them before, you’ll be shocked at what a shortcut they can be when wanting to add flavor to loads of recipes.

And, to make sure those flavors, and a couple of other ones in this marinade, really travel to the deepest parts of the chicken, buttermilk is a miracle...

Cooks in the south, like the ones I grew up with, always used buttermilk to tenderize and moisturize fried chicken...The acid in buttermilk helps break down the protein strings, which makes the bird more tender and succulent, while carrying those flavorful spices and herbs into the deepest part of the meat.

And this spicy version of the marinade those smart cooks have used for generations makes this chicken just as delicious and juicy…even though it’s grilled and not fried!

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