Wendy’s Word

Not your mama’s blog….

Julia Had It Right February 3, 2012

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 8:20 am
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That Julia Child really knew what she was talking about.

I love Julia Child.  I love that she cooks high quality, gourmet food without an ounce of pretentiousness.  She believed in good food and making cooking accessible to everyone.  Amen.  But although I revere Julia Child, I don’t often use her recipes anymore.  I find them too complicated, taking three steps to do something that I would do in one.  So when my daughter told me she was making Julia Child’s garlic mashed potatoes for a semester-end project for her culinary arts class, I had mixed feelings.

If I were making garlic mashed potatoes, I would roast the garlic in some foil, make the mashed potatoes and then squeeze the roasted garlic into the potatoes and mix it all together.  Julia said to braise the garlic in butter and then simmer in cream and puree.  This involves peeling all the garlic cloves before you braise, obviously, which seems like way more work than roasting the garlic in the skin.  My version of mashed potatoes involves a masher — which doesn’t give you smooth potatoes, but it’s good enough for me.  Julia prefers a ricer.

Since this was for a school project for a teacher who idolizes Julia Child, my daughter stuck to the recipe.  We don’t have a ricer, but we do have a food mill which gives the same outcome.  It so happens that I bought this food mill specifically for mashed potatoes I was making for a dinner party.  They may even have been garlic mashed potatoes.  She did the garlic braising and pureeing thing, put the potatoes in the food mill, added the garlic mixture to the mashed potatoes, added some warm butter and cream, salt and white pepper, and voila — garlic mashed potatoes.  I have to admit, they were fantastic.  The flavor of garlic, butter, cream, and potatoes with the smooth texture was terrific.  Maybe a little much for a weeknight dinner, but definitely worth the effort for a dinner party or weekend dinner.

I’m sorry that I doubted you, Julia.

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The Kogi Truck September 7, 2011

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 8:32 pm
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I don’t know if the Kogi truck was the first food truck in LA, but it was certainly the first one that I heard about that had people following it on Twitter and waiting in line for two hours for a Korean barbecue taco.  I was intrigued but not intrigued enough to hunt down the truck and wait in a two-hour line.  So imagine my thrill when I found the Kogi truck parked in front of my house!

Actually it was parked in front of my neighbors’ house.  I went to investigate, but the truck workers either ignored me, didn’t speak English, or pretended not to speak English when I tried to question them.  To their great relief, my neighbors came out and explained that they were having a party that evening and the Kogi truck was catering, and would we like some tickets so we could enjoy Kogi fare too?  Yes, we would!

Was the food as good as the hype?  I thought so.  I ordered the tacos – one short rib and one spicy pork.  Both were delicious — intensely flavorful.  The meat was juicy and highly spiced.  It didn’t occur to me that I was eating Korean bbq in a taco until I remembered later that the Kogi truck was a fusion truck.  My tacos didn’t taste Mexican, they didn’t taste Korean — the whole was better than the sum of its parts.  My daughter had a tofu burrito — large chunks of soft tofu in a spicy marinade with cabbage.  I also tasted the sliders — not a patty, but chunks of spicy pork (the same that they use for tacos and burritos) with sesame mayo, cheese and cabbage slaw on a small bun with a shiny top.  The last thing I would have ordered was a quesadilla, since that’s our dinner of last resort at home, until someone mentioned that Kogi’s “blackjack quesadilla” was written up in Food and Wine.  Game on.  I had to taste it.  It was fantastic.  A flour tortilla was filled with caramelized onions, spicy pork, and two kinds of cheese, and topped with a salsa verde.  And it was huge.

Everything was so good, I don’t know what I’d choose next time I encounter the truck.  Would I travel across town and wait in line for two hours for it?  I don’t know if I’d do that for anything, no matter how good.  But if the Kogi truck ever pulls up near your house, it pays to be a nosy neighbor!

 

Books About Food September 4, 2011

Filed under: Books,Food — wendy @ 8:25 pm

Yes, I have read more books about food.  I would hate to disappoint.  Here’s the latest fare:

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, by Anthony Bourdain.  Bourdain is always entertaining, and this book is no exception.  It’s not as good as Kitchen Confidential or A Cook’s Tour, but I still enjoyed it.  The book is a bit of an apologist for Kitchen Confidential, explaining that he was angry when he wrote it.  No need for apologies — Kitchen Confidential was insanely funny and informative.  It gave an insightful look at just how grueling restaurant work is.  Medium Raw seems like Bourdain’s attempt to justify his selling out and becoming a celebrity chef (without the chef part, since he no longer has a restaurant) since he mocked celebrity chefs so mercilessly in Kitchen Confidential.  Medium Raw goes over some of the same ground as A Cook’s Tour — eating around the world — but in less detail.  If you’re only going to read one Bourdain book, I would not recommend Medium Raw, but I enjoyed getting his perspective now that he’s older and had different life experiences.  And like the other books, Medium Raw is funny.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli, by Lisa Abend.  At first, I hated this book.  Probably because I hated the idea of El Bulli.  I love to cook and eat, but I don’t think food is “important.”  I don’t think it should be taken that seriously, or manipulated so intently.  But I got into the book, and I ended up liking it very much.  The book follows several stagieres, or young chefs doing unpaid interships at the restaurant for the season.  Reading about the stagieres’ backgrounds and motivations was interesting, but more interesting was their attitude about El Bulli.  Some revered Ferran Adria, El Bulli’s chef, and wanted to continue making avant garde cuisine.  But others disliked the drudgery and longed to cook, rather than making these high-concept creations that didn’t really involve actual cooking.  The book gives you a sense of what it’s like to be a stagiere — the long, unpaid hours, the sacrifice to the stagieres’ personal life, the constant pressure to be perfect and to get noticed by Adria and his team, the pressure of not wanting to disappoint diners who have traveled to this remote part of Spain to eat the meal of their lives.  After reading the book, I had little desire to eat at El Bulli.  I’d rather not travel to another continent, brave a treacherous mountain road, and pay a fortune to be forced to eat rabbit tongue and other dubious creations.  That’s just too much pressure for me.

Blood, Bones, and Butter: the Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, by Gabrielle Hamilton.   I would have liked this book better if it wasn’t for Anthony Bourdain.  His quote on the front cover said that it was “the best memoir by a chef ever.  EVER.”  Really?  I’ve read alot of chef memoirs – and I mean a lot.  You’ll see many titles listed if you look in this blog’s book index, and those are only the ones I’ve read since I started this blog — I’ve read many other before that.  So I can confidently say that it was NOT the best memoir by a chef ever.  However, it was pretty good.  Hamilton had a tough childhood – her parents’ divorce bounced her around and ultimately left her living on her own too young.  She got into drugs and drifted about — but always maintained a strong work ethic, so she was able to work and support herself throughout.  And then there’s her crazy love life – she’s a lesbian but marries a man with whom she’s having a relationship but who also happens to need a green card.  Although their marriage has problems, he provides her with the loving, effusive family she sometimes longs for.

Ultimately, she became the chef and owner of Prune restaurant in New York.  I enjoyed reading about her rise and respect the fact that she is entirely self-made.  She is also a good writer — she received a masters’ degree in writing along the way.  But I found her unsympathetic and complaining at times, so I didn’t love the book as much as I probably should have — or at least as much as Anthony Bourdain thinks I should have.

 

Eggs for Dinner September 1, 2011

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 8:31 pm
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Sometimes, when I’m stuck on what to make for dinner or I have no groceries, I fall back on the old standby — eggs.

Eggs for dinner used to mean frittatas.  I had a great recipe from Patricia Wells’ book, “Trattoria.”  You don’t need a recipe to know what ingredients to use, but rather for the technique.  Pretty much all frittata recipes have you start the eggs on the stove, add fillings (which have been cooked separately, although I sometimes cheat and cook the filling, remove it to a plate, and cook the eggs in the same pan.  I’m lazy that way.), and finish under the broiler, but Wells gets the timing just right.  A trick I learned from Wells is to run a knife along the sides of the pan to loosen the frittata before putting it in the broiler.

I love frittatas, and so does the rest of my family.  You get your protein and your veggies, and you can cook a frittata for four people in one pan.  But lately, I’ve switched from frittatas to omelets.  Frittatas do have their down side.  They can be difficult to unmold, you have to cook them in a broiler-safe pan, and the pan is often difficult to wash.  Omelets have none of these problems.  The only problem with omelets is that you have to make them individually.  But how delicious they can be!

This omelet is filled with sauteed mushrooms, green onion, and some fresh thyme.  I also threw some fresh thyme in with the eggs, just to gild the lily.  And cooked in butter, of course.  It’s the butter that makes the omelet, in my opinion.

I haven’t thrown over frittatas for good.  But the humble omelet is so satisfying.

 

 

Homegirl Cafe May 14, 2011

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 8:29 pm
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Father Gregory Boyle has been getting alot of press here in L.A. lately, with the recent publication of his memoir, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, and the good sales of Homeboy Industries chips and salsas now appearing in grocery stores.  Homeboy Industries is a social service organization founded by Boyle that works with former gang members, helping them with tattoo removal and mostly by employing them.

This is a good excuse for me to finally blog about Homegirl Cafe, which has been a favorite of mine for the past few years.  Homegirl Cafe, a division of Homeboy Industries, is a training program for girls who are at risk or who have formerly been involved with gangs, teaching them how to cook in and run a restaurant.  They even have their own garden.  But that’s a side benefit for me.  I go to Homegirl because the food is terrific, and I like the atmosphere — brightly painted, original artwork, always bustling.

I’ve only been there for lunch, which features Latin-stye salads, sandwiches, and tacos.  I was once there on a weekend and was pleased to see it just as bustling as on the weekday.  My favorites are roasted corn (sweet, creamy, tangy, and spicy all at the same time), the fruit salad (mango, jicama, orange, and avocado with a hibiscus dressing), Ana’s salad (because it features the roasted corn, along with queso fresco, roasted poblano pepper strips, jicama, and avocado), and I recently tried the tofu salad (soft tofu mixed with mint, red onion, jalapeno, and lime) which has now been added to my list of favorites.  Although the salads are my favorite, the sandwiches and tacos are good too.  I can rarely resist the drink called Angela’s Green Potion, a limeade with spinach and mint.  Very refreshing.  The coffee is good too, made with cinnamon and orange peels.

I am lucky enough to have Homegirl Cafe reasonably close to my office.  It’s one of my “go-to” places when I’m meeting friends for lunch.  I get a delicious lunch that happens to also be healthy, and am supporting a good cause at the same time.  Ideal!

 

Smoothies May 9, 2011

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 8:31 pm

The weather warmed up (temporarily) just when Whole Living magazine published a bunch of smoothie recipes.  Here’s one that I love:

Carrot, Mango, and Herb Smoothie

1 c. carrot juice

1 c. orange juice

2 c. frozen mango chunks

handful of fresh mint

about 4-5 ice cubes

Blend until smooth.  Yum.


 

Hamentaschen 2011 March 26, 2011

Filed under: Food — wendy @ 4:59 pm

The LA Times has redeemed itself.  Over the holidays, I baked (and blogged about) a cookie recipe I got from the Times that was not worth the effort.  But the hamentaschen recipe that was recently published was a different story.  Two years ago, I blogged about my family’s standard hamentaschen recipe that we bake every year, but which is imprecise and difficult to work with.  A friend turned me on to a different recipe, and lo and behold, it was published in the Times this year.  I had to try it.  The results were great.  The dough was easy to make, easy to work with, and was delicious.  Best of all, the hamentaschen didn’t turn soft the next day — they retained their texture better than others I’ve made.