Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Nectarine Blackberry Crisp

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Wow, that’s a mouthful, but you have to admit it sounds good. I got the idea from the New York Times Cooking newsletter; Kim Severson was guest writing it for the day and she mentioned a trick she learned from our mutual friend Bill Addison who learned it from Nancy Silverton (how’s that for a game of telephone?). The trick is this: when making a cobbler or a crisp, brown some butter, scrape in the seeds from a vanilla bean and then stir the whole mixture in with the fruit. As far as ideas go, this is right up there with E = mc2. (How do you get the 2 up there? Where’s Einstein when you need him?)

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Casual Crostata

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If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know I tend to make a huge stink about pie dough. How I can’t roll it out, how I don’t have the magic touch (like Craig’s dad), how even after learning all of the rules–keep things cold, move the dough around as you roll it–it rarely works out for me.

Well, the other day I had a breakthrough. It went something like this: I saw ripe nectarines and plums from my CSA on the counter and realized they were just on the verge of becoming overripe. So I decided to whip up a crostata and I told myself not to think too much about it.

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Chicken with Plums, Zucchini with Almonds

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A few times now I’ve mentioned the technique of searing a chicken breast–skin-on, bone-in–in a skillet with hot olive oil, skin-side down, flipping it over when golden brown, finishing it in the oven, removing it from the pan and making a sauce with the brown bits on the bottom, something to deglaze those brown bits, and a little butter. See: lemon juice and butter, tangerine juice and butter, etc. There’s another technique, though, that I learned from Melissa Clark in writing my cookbook that works very well in this same chicken scenario, even though she taught it to me with duck. That technique is similar to the previous technique only it involves fruit.

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These Grapes Are Crazy! Some Taste Like Cotton Candy, Some Look Like FINGERS

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There’s no denying that L.A. is a strange place–juice bars everywhere, Scientology–but sometimes the strangeness manifests itself in grapes.

This wasn’t something I knew about, but the other day I found myself at Gelson’s (my favorite supermarket here) and a man in the produce department said, “Would you like to try a grape?” Now my mom always warned me not to take candy from strangers, but she never said anything about grapes–even grapes that, according to the man, “taste like Cotton Candy.”

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Cherries in Salad

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You know how people say “pretty please with a cherry on top?” but the visual you get, from that request, is of an ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce and whipped cream? From now on, I want you to think about salad. Because cherries taste really good in salad. No, not cherries from a jar, I’m talking about cherries that show up, in season (like: now) at the farmer’s market. Look at the cherries in the picture above (which I procured from the West Hollywood farmer’s market) and tell me you’re not craving cherries. Well, crave them in salad.

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Vanilla Bean Oatmeal

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If you’ve never purchased a vanilla bean, sliced it open with a paring knife, scraped the seeds out and dropped them, with the pod, into a pot of milk or cream which you then heat for an ice cream base or a custard or a pudding, you’re missing out on a great food moment. The smell is comforting, pure and sweet–the total opposite of what you get when you light one of those synthetic vanilla candles–and there’s a visual spectacle as the black vanilla seeds permeate the white liquid. Having purchased vanilla beans on sale at Penzey’s in Seattle (3 of them for $9), I decided to go for a vanilla bean moment last Sunday morning with a pot of oatmeal.

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My First Persimmons

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I am new to persimmons.

I’d heard of them, Pim once gave me a delicious jam she’d made from them; but purchase them and eat them in the real world? I had not. And then, on a recent trip to the Hollywood farmer’s market, I saw piles of them everywhere.

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