Sunday, May 30, 2010


I saw my brother early in the year on the East Coast and was fortunate enough to be there when a package arrived for him from the PX and it contained this object which he promptly unpacked and tested in front of me. He was so impressed that I was impressed that he sent me one and it arrived three weeks later here on my coast. I always like useful new technology that does what it is marketed to do, in the kitchen or elsewhere, and this is one such product. Here it is on the right, complete with blue lights and shiny steel surface and as sleekly robotic as any new seventies' Braun invention was in the olden days.

The Foodsaver is marvelous. Left over chili? Create a custom bag from the internal roll roughly fitting the quantity of the chili and heat seal one end. Then pop it into the slit at the front of the machine and sensors allow the machine to pull out the air and then seal the open end. Write "chili"  on the pouch or just throw it into the freezer and open in a month or three with little or no freezer burn and tasting just as good, or better, than when it was freshly cooked. I take a pork loin from Costco and cut it into roasts and cutlets and then vacuum seal them with the Foodsaver and freeze them. Not cheap to run, the pouch rolls and premade bags can be pricy but I have less wasted food and the flavor freshness is preserved over time so the added expense is well worth it. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dinner With a View

Due to troublesome times and a growing sense of panic within, I have accepted very few dinner invitations this year, and also given very few of my own. Last week Tony and Sherrie invited us to a wonderful evening at the house up in the hills of Highland Park which has views toward Elysian park and Downtown making a sparkling picture from the dinner table. They also have the terraced garden planted with all manner of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Tony and I worked together many years ago and it is all too seldom that we are able to get together. This one had been on the books for some time and they are always fun to spend time with, being hip to all the new stuff, the old stuff and what will be happening before it happens, here in LA.

Sherrie prepared a flavorful and peppery lamb ragu on fresh pasta and Tony, grilled brussel sprouts which he allowed to burn slightly and which we all agreed seemed to enhance the delicate sweetness of the dish. There was also a kale salad and creamy buratta on the side, neither of which I had eaten before, despite Buratta being a trendy item in town. Sherrie opened a couple of delicious reds to sip while we laughed, we cried, we ate it all up. The view from the table sparkled in all directions, not least our sparkling hosts who cheered me up immensely.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pictures - with Directions

The ingredients on the left became the pasta dish on the very right - shrimp, shallots, plenty of garlic and abundant flat leaf parsley sauteed in olive oil and pillowed on wholewheat fettucine, then sprinkled with grated parmesan. The bowl on the left of the picture to the right has a wedge of iceberg lettuce with home made blue cheese dressing atop it and a ton of ground pepper. The blue cheese dressing is made of whipped sour cream and buttermilk, garlic powder and crumbled gorgonzola well mixed combined and set in the fridge for at least an hour. Delicious. Restaurant quality!

Friday, May 14, 2010

No Nos

Maybe it's the rebel in me, but  I have recently taken to cooking a forbidden potato or two at dinnertime despite my general adherence to the South Beach Diet. Tonight they were twice-baked, where one bakes the potato, cuts it in half and scoops out the pulp which is then combined with cream, salt and white pepper and butter (which I omitted to assuage my guilt). Meanwhile the skins are baked to a crisp and then refilled with the creamy mixture and toppped with cheese and other things of favor. They are then put in the oven for the second bake. Really it's thrice baked if we are talking all parts and pieces.

They were a great fall off the wagon and as good a one as a great big Devil's Food Cake. I cooked Medallions of Pork Tenderloin with shallots, and roasted sweet corn with assorted peppers and peas to accompany. A budget Pinot Grigio washed it all down. Summer might be here despite the economic depression. Time to hit Phase One again.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Letter From New Zealand #4

My friend Peter Huck, journalist and windswept adventurer, recently moved away from Los Angeles with his other half, the lovely Barbara Drake, to beautiful New Zealand. I asked Peter to write a monthly letter from down under as a kind of mirror to my own efforts and experiences here. This is the fourth letter.

Clay cracks. Note the red cap wellies
standard issue on NZ farms
Autumn is here, although most days you wouldn’t know it. Daylight saving has ended, the days are far shorter and the starry nights notably cooler, but we’re still in drought, despite tantalizing promises of rain; the Southern end of the country has been hit by a weather bomb, with hikers evacuated from the Milford Track and Queenstown on flood alert.  But up on our section at Two Caravan Hill disconcertingly large cracks have zig-zagged over the exposed clay pan near our house site, and previously lush native plants are beginning to look stressed, with some tree ferns starting to die back.

Looking towards the Tuki Tuki River
at dusk. New Zealand's landscape
can veer wildly from the South Pacific
to Montana to Dorset or Scotland,
all within a few hours' drive.

I’ve been in Central Hawke’s Bay, on the eastern side of the North Island, for the past fortnight. This is the countryside that most reminds me of Central California, although at times it looks like the Dorset downs in England. The seismic topography is the same – the 1931 7.8 Napier earthquake was New Zealand's worst disaster, razing towns, killing 256 and lifting the seafloor about 2.7 metres  – and the landscape does a passable likeness of Napa Valley, complete with grapes, olives and a laid-back Mediterranean ambience.