Sunday, January 01, 2006


All About Me

I am a 27-year-old Midwestern transplant to Los Angeles, who still can't get over the fact that no one mows his own lawn in Southern California. I have more shoes and books than one apartment can comfortably hold, and a very messy spice cupboard. On Sunday mornings, you can find me either at the Hollywood Farmers' Market, eating brunch at Madame Matisse, or trying to solve the puzzle on NPR's Weekend Edition.

I like to cook and eat and explore food in Los Angeles and beyond. Inspired by the Locavores, Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and my family history, I've started eating as locally as possible. My favorite kitchen tools are my bamboo spoons (thanks Aunt Karla!) and my microplane grater. Also, after a long day, my cocktail shaker or my corkscrew.

I like to eat. I like to explore. I wanted to document my adventures. Also, I like to finish things. My day job, however, doesn't provide a lot of end product satisfaction--instead it's "do it for my (non-existant) children" work. Cooking, on the other hand, allows a start and a finish in a relatively short period of time. You see and enjoy the fruits of your labor, usually making other people happy in the process (unless you greedily eat all the chocolate chip cookies yourself--which is okay every once and awhile).

On my kitchen bookshelf you will find: The Joy of Cooking; Mastering the Art of French Cooking; Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess, Feast, and Forever Summer; The Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traunfeld; The Babbo Cookbook; Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook; Moosewood Restaurant New Classics; The Edible Mushroom; The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook; Cooking for Mr. Latte; Vegetariana; Emma's Tea Room Cookbook; La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange; A Slice of Kentucky; and last bust certainly not least, though I haven't cooked from it, The Clinton Presidential Center Cookbook.

The recipes in the Babbo book are remarkably simple and Chez Panisse's pizza dough and crostata di perella can't be beat; Moosewood has the best basic muffins, while Nigella's dense chocolate loaf cake and flourless chocolate cake wow even a non-chocolate-lover like myself. If you want technique and the "why" behind it all, a combination reading of Joy of Cooking, Julia Child and Madame E. Saint-Ange will give you the scoop.

Best Meal(s) in the past few years?
A tie between dinner at Babbo after getting engaged in Washington Square Park in New York City and our family and friend-filled pre-wedding BBQ in Wisconsin with chicken from the Holmen Locker and apple pie from J's grandma and aunts.

Favorite foods?
Depends on the time of day and my mood. Salty always beats sweet. Pork, particularly in cured form, beats beef and chicken, but not duck. If health were no concern, I'd eat every day at French bistros, always steak frites or moules frites. Any fruit, any cheese, any bread. Any vegetable, except cauliflower, especially asparagus.


Store Review: Thailand Plaza

Looking for kaffir lime leaves and fresh lemon grass in Los Angeles? How about yellow, green, or red Thai curry paste? Need to replace your bamboo steamer? Or hankering for some soy vegan “shrimp”? All this and more can be found at the Thailand Plaza grocery store in the heart of Thai Town on Hollywood Boulevard.

This fairly large supermarket caters to the general public and the proprietors of nearby Thai restaurants. You can explore shelf after shelf of curries, oils and various dried fungi. There is an extensive fresh fish selection, and even more frozen items—including more vegan soy products than you may think possible. Overall, a great place both for exploring new tastes and stocking up on the basics for Asian cooking (sesame oil, soy sauce, rice, noodles) at low prices.

The friendly staff speak English at varying levels—hand gestures and pictures may be necessary if you got a specific request and don’t speak Thai. The credit card minimum is $10, and there is a free parking lot in the back.

Thailand Plaza
5321 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Between Western Ave and Normandie Ave

Product: Tomato Shark

With the first piles of heirloom tomatoes appearing at the market, I can’t stop fantasizing about all the different ways I’m going to use them this summer. Yet nothing takes the fun out of making salsas or sauces more than the messy process of stemming and seeding tomato after tomato after tomato. Fortunately, I've recently discovered that the toothy tomato shark makes this task a breeze.

If you’re only taking out the stem/core, one quick scoop to the top of your tomato does the trick. If you want to get the seeds out as well, first cut the tomato in half, then scoop the bisected core out on each side, taking the seeds with it. You may need a few extra scrapes along the insides to catch a stray seed or two, but the majority will come out in your first try.

The shark can be found at Sur La Table and other kitchen supply stores. As an added bonus, it also does wonders as a strawberry corer.

Cooking Tip: Fresh Garbanzo Beans

“Try a fresh garbanzo bean! Garbanzos—right here!” called the woman at the Flora Bella Farm stand at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market. She popped a green oval pod off the branch and showed customers how to break into it. Bright green, sweet, and crunchy, the fresh bean bares little resemblance to the yellowy soft ones from a can.

Fresh garbanzos come 1-2 per pod, and are usually sold in huge bunches, still on the stalk. Scissors make fast work of removing the pods from the stems. You can eat the beans raw, boil or sauté them. Alternately, you can toss them on the grill. For this method, place as many unpeeled beans you want in a tinfoil packet, sprinkled with salt, pepper and olive oil. Grill for 15-20 minutes over direct heat. Off the grill, open the packet and once cool, pop the beans out of their shells. Mash the cooked beans and use in your favorite hummus recipe, or toss whole in a salad or pasta dish.