This summer, if I were the sort of person who named their summers, might be called “The Summer of Stone Fruit.” That’s because, for a good part of it, I’d bring home lots of stone fruit (mostly peaches, but also nectarines and plums) from the West Hollywood Farmer’s Market. I’d put these stone fruits into a bowl on our kitchen counter and, inevitably, the stone fruit would get eaten. It was only last week that I decided that I could do more with stone fruit besides just eat it. Which is when I had the idea to use stone fruit in a salad.
Yesterday I crowned Forage my #4 favorite place to eat in Los Angeles. Even if you don’t live in L.A. or don’t plan to visit any time soon, this is relevant, I think, because what I’m praising here isn’t just a restaurant that makes good restaurant food. I’m praising a place that does something instructive: it makes Michael Pollan-ish food that’s not obnoxiously healthy. It’s all seasonal, it’s all colorful, but mostly it still tastes like a treat when you eat it. Compare the chefs at Forage to the chefs who use fat as a crutch and a calling card, who wrap chunks of lard in bacon, deep fry it in duck fat and call it dinner. Sure that’s sensational and will get you written about, but it may also kill you. Forage shows us how to eat in a way that’s exciting and stimulating while still being healthy and sustainable. What follows are photos of my lunches there over the past year.
The farmer’s market can be an intimidating place, especially in summer when there’s just so much to choose from. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, buy a few peaches and tomatoes and leave quickly. Other times, I just buy everything in sight, a strategy that seems wasteful at first but which almost always pays off. When I come home with armfuls of bags and mountains of vegetables, I put them immediately to use and whatever I don’t use I pickle. It’s a win-win.
In January of this year, the good people of Korin, one of the nation’s best knife shops, offered to send me a fancy knife. I stopped them in their tracks. “Good people of Korin!” I said. “I can’t take such a generous gift unless you can offer a similar gift to my readers.” Korin wrote back: “Well try the knife out, see if you like it, and we’ll go from there.”
Fast forward to August: I like the knife. It’s my main knife, I use it all the time. And now I’m giving one away with a little contest….
Here’s the thing about serving a beet salad as your first course at Thanksgiving: it’s nutritious enough (beets are healthy!) to justify all of the hedonism that’s to come AND you can serve it with good cheese which, when you think about it, rarely makes an appearance at Thanksgiving. Where else would you serve cheese? With the turkey? With the pecan pie? So starting with a beet salad makes good sense, especially if you buy a cheese like Humboldt Fog (like I did for this salad) or something even bolder like Roquefort.
I started cooking seven or eight years ago, maybe even a little further back, and it was around the time that people stopped buying whole heads of lettuce and started buying lettuce, pre-washed, in those little plastic tubs. The tubs, which are now omnipresent, have labels like “Spring Salad Mix” and “Herb Salad Mix” and they cost, usually, around $5. And like many of you out there, if I wanted to make a quick lettuce salad, I’d grab one of those tubs, pay my $5, bring it home, dress it up and call it a day.
When food icons have food blogs, you need to read them.
That’s certainly true of Dorie Greenspan’s blog. Her posts, like Dorie herself, are wise, witty and warm. And they’re full of good advice–like where to get pastries in Paris or how to whip up begger’s linguine–but the advice that’s stuck with the most was her advice, last April, to use the last remnants of mustard in the jar to make a vinaigrette.
I make Caesar salads all the time and whenever I do, I forget to take pictures. Maybe it’s because it’s such a loosey-goosey process–how much garlic, how much anchovy, how much Parmesan & lemon is all a matter of taste–but, still, my Caesar salad is very good (as evidenced by this post). So, instead of waiting for the next opportunity to take pictures, I thought I would illustrate the process for you with a program I just downloaded called Paintbrush. Prepare to be amazed by my illustrious illustrating skills!