A Celebration of Chefs

This year, in our house, we're cooking our version of Suzanne Goin's succotash.  Of course, Suzanne Goin doesn't call it succotash; in her book Sunday Suppers at Luques, she calls it sweet corn, green cabbage and bacon.  We call it succotash because we throw in some lima beans and way more butter:

Cut 6 thick slices of bacon into small pieces and cook in a casserole until crispy.   Remove and drain.   Melt 1 stick of butter in the remaining bacon grease and add 1 sliced onion and some salt and pepper.   Saute for a few minutes, then add half a small green cabbage, sliced, and cook until wilted.   Add 2 packages of cooked frozen lima beans and 2 packages of frozen corn.   Cook about 5 minutes, stirring, till the corn is done.   You can do this in advance.   Reheat gently and add the bacon bits.   (Of course you might be able to get fresh corn, in which case feel free to overreach.) 


- Recipe courtesy of Nora Ephron


cecilia-chiangMy daughter has the kind of relationship with her grandmother that I envy. I have only one memory of my maternal grandmother; she’s lying in a hospital looking small and old offering me Schrafft’s sourballs out of their clear glass jar. At 55, after birthing 13 children, she died of breast cancer. My paternal grandmother lived with us for a year when I was a girl so I have more memories of her. In each one she is wearing black from head to toe and in all of them, clutching her rosary beads.

Besides the black outfit and the constant Hail Mary’s, I remember my mother describing her as “straight off the boat.” (From Ireland) I also remember the nasty “game” my sisters and I played on her the year she lived with us. We would steal her eyeglasses, hide them and then collect a dollar from her for finding them. That’s it, my pocket full of grandma memories.

My daughter, Siena, though, has a grandmother who, at 93, is very much alive and kicking…and getting awards! Lucky girl, not everyone gets to have the famous recipient of the James Beard Lifetime Achievement award, Cecilia Chiang, for a granny. More of a rock star, Cecilia was never the kind of grandmother who knit booties or baked cookies. She gave gifts of green jade and cooked dim sum!

And I was never the daughter-in-law she could relate to. Back tracking a bit here let me say I’ve had three mother-in-laws and all three have been pretty much the same person only with different cultural backgrounds. A coincidence? In therapy it’s called a pattern!

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chefcooking.jpgIt’s fortunate that the world’s largest atom-smasher shut down in Geneva, Switzerland this past week and had to be repaired after just ten days of operation.  Los Angeles’s own human particle accelerator 2003 Bon Appétit Chef of the Year Alain Giraud was gearing up to teach class at the always stimulating Chefmakers Cooking Academy in Pacific Palisades (Chefmakers.com) last Thursday and there is no way these two powerful kinetic instruments could work at the same time if planet Earth hopes to remain on its axis.  (Chef Giraud has a great new restaurant called Anisette Brasserie in Santa Monica and Alain thought he would take a breather from his 7:30 am to midnight duties and teach a class to 26 drooling citizens.  I’ve been there for breakfast and lunch and I can barely chew because I’m smiling so much after each bite.)

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At first glance, the Hollywood restaurant Kate Mantilini's seems an unusual backdrop for life-sized pictures of Mad Men, a show set in 1960s New York. That is, until owner Marilyn Lewis provides the back story. 

Q: What's the history behind Kate Mantilini's and why did you put up the Mad Men display.

kate_mantellinis.jpg A: It's been 21 years since we opened Kate Mantilini's, which I named after my Uncle Rob's mistress. My mother wouldn't let me speak to her, nobody would allow us to mention her name, but she was a very strong woman and I wanted to name my restaurant after her. My husband was under contract with Warner Brothers, and he did 50 films in the 1940s before we went into the restaurant business.

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annetreasury.jpg There are times when I scrutinize my outfit before I leave the house, and find it absurdly, compulsively over-accessorized.  It’s then, as I grab my keys and prance out with red sneakers, mismatched bracelets, and a brooch shaped like a turnip, that I’ll find myself thinking of her.  Subtlety, in many things, is often advised; but I, heeding Anne of Green Gables, rarely listen.  If at a dinner party, after I’ve gone on and on to someone about a book they’ll probably never read, ignoring every attempt they make to escape me, she’ll just appear in my mind.  And often, when faced with a moral dilemma, like whether to leave the last bite of pie for the person I’m sharing it with, or to request that my upstairs neighbors stop rollerblading on the hardwood floor, I’ll ask myself:   

“What would Anne of Green Gables do?”

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