Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Best Egg Salad You Will Ever Make

My mother and grandmother disagreed about many things as mothers and daughters do. They especially disagreed about the proper way to make egg salad.

Real egg salad, my grandmother said, was made with hardboiled eggs and mayonnaise with a little salt and pepper. My mother used those ingredients as a starting point. To her egg salad she added finely chopped celery and, sometimes, scallions. My grandmother thoroughly disapproved.
As a kid, I often found myself caught between the two of them. Siding one time with my mother, another time with my grandmother.

About egg salad, I definitely agreed with my mother. Chopped hardboiled eggs and mayonnaise cried out for more flavor and texture. The celery and scallions were a good start but, ultimately, I decided there were so many more ingredients that would improve egg salad why not add whatever you wanted, as long as the ingredients did not over power the eggs.

So, I tried lots of ingredients. I tried mango chutney (not good), raisins (not good), pitted green olives (very good) and pepperocini (very good).
Right now I'm happy with adding charred carrots, onions and corn kernels tossed with fresh Italian parsley. The crunch of carrots and corn contrasts with the soft, creamy eggs and mayo. Italian parsley adds a good fresh element. A dusting of cayenne or Korean pepper flakes adds a pleasing heat.

For special occasions, I also like to mix in chopped up charred shrimp, crab or lobster. Using a carbon steel or cast iron pan makes charring the vegetables very easy.

I'm pretty certain my mom would approve. I am as certain, my grandmother would not.

The Best Egg Salad

Yield: 4

Time to prepare: 20 minutes

Ingredients

4 eggs, farm fresh, large or extra large
1/2 cup corn kernels, about 1 ear of corn
1 medium carrot, washed, peeled, ends removed, small diced
1 small yellow onion, washed, peeled, ends removed, small diced
1 small bunch Italian parsley, washed, dried, stems removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise, preferably Best Foods
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon blended oil (70% canola oil, 30% olive oil)
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
Pinch cayenne (optional)

Directions

Put kosher salt into quart sized pot filled with water.
Place eggs into water. Put flame onto medium-high.

After water boils, leave eggs in uncovered pot 5 minutes, then turn off heat and cover for 10 minutes.

Remove cover, pour out hot salted water and fill pot with cold water. Allow eggs to cool.

Peel eggs and reserve.
Place carbon steel or cast iron pan on a high heat. When metal smokes, add blended oil and vegetables. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Cook until vegetables are charred. Remove from stove and cool.

Finely chop hardboiled eggs and place into large bowl.

Add cooled charred vegetables and mix well.
Season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and cayenne (optional). Taste and adjust seasoning.
Add Italian parsley. Mix well.
Add mayonnaise. Mix well. Refrigerate.

Serve with crackers, bread or romaine leaves.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Summer's Best Dishes - Gazpacho and Pork Ribs

Now that summer is in full swing, it's time to enjoy favorite dishes, perfect for a lunch or dinner on the patio. For me, that's pork ribs and any number of dishes made with ripe, delicious tomatoes.

For Zester Daily I wrote a recipe for easy-to-make dry rub pork ribs. Here's how easy: 1) clean the ribs, 2) layer on dry rub, 3) put into a 250 F oven when you go to bed and 4) wake up, remove the ribs and enjoy!
For tomatoes, we go to our favorite farmers market. Ever since it opened, the Pacific Palisades farmers market has been as much a part of our Sundays as the New York Times. This past Sunday the market relocated to a parking lot at the high school because the street used by the market is undergoing a two year long redevelopment. In the new location, the market feels less cozy, but no matter. We love that the market is still part of our Sunday routine.
Last Sunday, we had our pick of ripe, dark red beef steak tomatoes, oblong Roma tomatoes, red and orange cherry tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes in a multitude of shapes and colors.

Our older son's birthday is coming up. For Franklin's birthday lunch, we'll have the ribs, fire up the BBQ to grill vegetables and enjoy a meal on the patio. Shaded by two giant Koelieuterias trees in back, the patio will be the perfect place to have a meal and hang out.

Gazpacho Takes on a Sweet Partner

For lunch we'll enjoy a new version of an old favorite. Growing up in Southern California, I always loved Mexican food, especially gazpacho, the cold tomato-vegetable soup served year round but especially delicious to have during the hot summer months.

On a trip to Switzerland recently, in Zurich I had a tasting at Rive Gauche, the casual dining cafe at the historic and beautiful Baur au Lac Hotel close to Lake Zurich.

I stayed at the hotel to write a profile for Luxury Travel Magazine. I was eating at Rive Gauche because I was going to do a video cooking demonstration with the chef, Olivier Rais, a delightful, talented chef who is passionate about cooking.
One of the dishes he wanted me to enjoy was his version of gazpacho, one that added watermelon juice to soften the acidity of the ripe uncooked tomato juice that is the basis of traditional gazpacho. I have certainly seen this hybrid dish before.
But I was particularly taken with chef Rais' version, a clarified liquid served in a glass. All the vegetable bits had been strained out with the result that the gazpacho became an exceptionally refreshing, summer beverage.

When I interviewed chef Rais, he had recently returned from Los Angeles where he spent time at Crossroads Kitchen, a well-regarded vegan restaurant, owned by Tal Ronnen.
Invited to a tasting dinner this week at Crossroads Kitchen, I had an opportunity to enjoy chef Ronnen's version of the watermelon gazpacho. Similar in flavors but different, chef Ronnen did not filter out the vegetable bits, giving his gazpacho a deliciously rustic taste.
For my version, I split the difference between the two chefs. I strained the tomato pulp but retained some of the texture.

I hope you have the opportunity to visit Rive Gauche in Zurich and Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles to taste and compare their gazpachos. In the meantime, please try this very easy-to-make recipe.

Watermelon Gazpacho
Ripe tomatoes and a ripe watermelon are essential. Both should be sweet and full of juice.

If any watermelon juice is left over, make watermelon ice by gently heating the juice and reducing the liquid by a quarter. Cool, then pour into ice cube trays or a freezer-proof container. Freeze and use to sweeten vodka cocktails or lemonade. As the ice cubes melt, sweet watermelon juice releases into the drink. Delicious!
Serves 4-6

Total time to prepare: 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, washed, stems removed
2 pounds ripe watermelon, washed
1 ripe avocado
1 cup homemade croutons
1 ripe avocado, washed
5 dried bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch cayenne
Sea salt to taste

Directions

Place a box grater over a non-reactive bowl. Grate the tomatoes and collect all the juice. Or, run the chopped tomatoes through a food mill and collect the juice. Scrape the pulp off the underside of the food mill sieve and add to the juice. Pour into a large container.

Add the dried spices to the tomato juice. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.

Use a sharp knife to cut off the watermelon rind. Press the flesh through a fine mesh sieve or through a food mill and collect all the juice. Pour into a large container and refrigerate.
Just before serving, peel the avocado, remove the pit and chop into dime-sized pieces. Pour the tomato juice through a sieve to remove the dried spices.
Combine equal amounts of seasoned tomato juice and watermelon juice and mix well.

Pour gazpacho into bowls or cups. Top with avocado and croutons. Serve chilled.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

For Manifesta 11, Swans Learn to Duck in Zurich

The world is in turmoil. There is an insane amount of violence. It's difficult to find relief. But when I was in Switzerland I had some great experiences that transported me away from all the stress. 

One particular moment stayed with me. When I was in Zurich, I was walking around the city. 
On the bank of the lake, the guide wanted us to see one of the Manifesta 11 installations. A bienniall European festival of contemporary art, Manifesta this year had as its topic "What People Do For Money." 
Some of the installations were small. Some were large. 
The one on the lake was an intimate amphitheater built onto a floating pier. Short films were screened that documented what people do for work. A small cafe/bar served drinks and snacks. The setting was very pleasant. When we visited, a short film documented firemen demonstrating fire fighting techniques. 
Leaving the amphitheater I noticed that a narrow bridge had been built from the shore to the floating pier. That bridge covered a watery path that water fowl use as they swim from Zurich Lake to the Limmat River. For the swans to pass under the bridge, they had to lower their necks. I know it's silly, but thinking that the swans had to learn how to duck struck me as really funny. 





‪#‎InLoveWithSwitzerland‬
‪#‎VisitZurich‬

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Father's Day Deserves a Feast, Start with the Grill

Once again I will be out of town on Father's Day. I'll miss being with my sons on that special day. We already have a bealted-Father's Day date two weeks later when we will all be in town. I can hardly wait!

Since Father's Day coincides with the start of summer, grilling is the best way to celebrate male parenting.
For me, nothing is better than a platter of grilled Italian sausages with sautéed onions, deveined shrimp seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, corn on the cob, charred red peppers mixed with capers and garlic and lobsters split open and doused with pats of sweet butter.  With a tossed arugula and carrot salad, a loaf of freshly baked bread and a fresh fruit salad and I am happy.
The best grilling is the easiest kind. Buy good sausages, seafood and chicken, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt, pepper and any dried herb you fancy, put it on a hot grill, turn diligently to prevent burning and serve when it's done.

When the boys come to the house to celebrate a birthday, mother's day or father's day, they frequently take command of the grill. As my younger son, Michael, reminds me, they are my sons so of course they are good cooks. And that makes me very very happy.

Our other son, Franklin, doesn't regard a meal a proper meal unless there are appetizers. The secret to a great grilled meal is what's served on the side. My contribution to your Father's Day celebration are three of my favorite sides. 

All three are addictive so you may find you'll be eating them all summer long. They are all easy-to-make. The tapenade and lavash crisps can be made a day or two ahead. The grilled corn salsa is best made fresh.


Grilled Corn Salsa

Adding corn caramelized from light grilling gives this salsa it’s distinctive sweetness. When you buy corn from the market, look for plump kernels. Avoid ears with wrinkled or shriveled kernels.
You can use any kind of ripe tomato you enjoy, but I prefer cherry tomatoes because they are sweet and they hold their shape after being cut up. For added color, select a basket with a mix of yellow and red cherry tomatoes.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 ear of corn, husks and silks removed, washed
1 8 oz basket of ripe cherry tomatoes, washed, quartered
1 large shallot, ends and skin removed, washed and roughly chopped
½ cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Lemon juice to taste (optional)

Directions

Pre-heat the grill to medium-hot.

Drizzle the olive oil on a large plate and season with sea salt and black pepper. Roll the ear of corn to coat. Using tongs, place the corn on the grill.  Turn frequently to prevent burning.  Remove the corn when all the sides have light grill marks. Let cool. Cut off the kernels and place in a large mixing bowl.

Use a rubber or silicone spatula to transfer the seasoned olive oil from the plate into the mixing bowl with the corn.

Add the quartered cherry tomatoes, shallot and parsley. Toss well and season with the cayenne. Taste and adjust the flavors with more sea salt, black pepper, olive oil and lemon juice (optional).

Tapenade with Charred Garlic

A secret weapon in last minute cooking, tapenade brightens any meal either as an appetizer or a condiment. If you use pitted, canned olives, making tapenade will take 10-15 minutes.
The taste of your tapenade depends on the quality of the olives.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 can pitted olives, drained weight 6 oz., preferably green or kalamata olives
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves with skins
¼ cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes (optional)
Black pepper to taste

Directions

Skewer the garlic cloves on the end of a knife or a metal skewer and hold over a gas flame to burn off the outer skins. Let cool, remove any pieces of charred skin and roughly chop the cloves.

In a small blender or food processer, place the drained olives, olive oil, garlic, parsley and pepper flakes. Pulse until the olives are roughly chopped. Taste and adjust the seasoning with the addition of black pepper, sea salt, pepper flakes and olive oil.

Pulse again until the tapenade achieves the desired texture. Personally I like a tapenade that has a rustic look with the olives coarsely chopped rather than puréed.

Refrigerate until ready to use and serve at room temperature.

Variations

 2 anchovies packed in oil, roughly chopped and added with the olives. If salted, rinse before adding.

1 tablespoon capers added with the olives.

Lavash Crisps

Served in the Middle East, lavash and pita are commonly used instead of bread. Flat, unleavened lavash has a delicious, lightly grilled flavor when fresh. Making crisps makes use of lavash that might otherwise have gotten stale and gone to waste.
Lavash crisps have more flavor and are more flaky than commercially manufactured chips. Serve them with salsa, tapenade, dips or thin slices of cheese.

The crisps will last for weeks if kept refrigerated in an airtight container. 

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small sheets of lavash
1 cup olive or safflower oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
5-6 paper towel sheets

Directions

Cut the lavash sheets into 2” squares by cutting the sheet in half, placing the halves on top of each other, cutting those in half and doing that again until the pieces are 2” wide. Cut the 2” wide strips into 2” squares and set aside. If not cooked immediately, store in an airtight container.

In a large frying pan or griddle, heat ¼ cup of the oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper and heat on a medium-low flame. Be careful not to burn the oil or cause it to smoke.

Lay a paper towel sheet on a large plate or baking sheet.

Add the lavash squares to the hot oil. Do not overlap. Using tongs, turn over the lavash when they are lightly browned and cook the other side. They cook quickly so watch them closely.

Remove the cooked crisps and place them on the paper towel. Cook another batch. Place a clean paper towel on top of each layer to absorb excess oil.

Replenish the oil in the frying pan as needed and season with sea salt and black pepper. Allow the oil to reach the proper temperature before adding more lavash.

Discard the paper towels when the crisps cool. Store refrigerated in an airtight container. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Grand Central Market's Grand Balancing Act

Recently the Grand Central Market held a media evening to share the changes taking place at the Market. New vendors have set up shop. Free live music is booked on a regular basis and the Market will now be open from 8:00am to 10:00pm seven days a week. 

Summer Nights with Live Music and More

The Market has always been a destination for shoppers and diners but new entertainment programming adds more reasons to stop by in the evening.

Check the Market's web site for the SUMMER EVENT CALENDAR.  

During June and July, the mix of events is designed to be something-for-everyone in a program called Summer Nights.

1st & 3rd Tuesdays, 8:00pm: While you are at the Market you can play games on Trivia Tuesdays.

Wednesdays, 8:00pm: Outdoors on the Horse Thief BBQ patio, watch classic films set in Texas.

1st & 3rd Thursdays, 8:00pm: On Game Night, come for Drag Queen Bingo: Live! to have fun, get lucky and win a prize.

Fridays, 7:30pm-9:30pm: DJs will play their favorites while you eat and shop.
Saturdays, 8:00pm-8:45pm & 9:00pm-9:45pm: Singer/songwriters and self-described indie bands will perform Live at GCM.

Sundays, 7:30pm-9:30pm: Closing out the weekend, at Sunday Soirees artists will perform jazz, Latin, roots and World Music.
The History of the Market

Located on Broadway and Hill between 2nd and 3rd, The Grand Central Market has been an important landmark in downtown Los Angeles since it opened in 1917. Long before farmers markets appeared all over LA, the Grand Central Market provided the downtown community with fresh food at affordable prices.





















In a part of Los Angeles without supermarkets, the shoppers who filled the aisles bought fresh produce, fruit, fish, meat and poultry. Freshly made tortillas traveled down a conveyer belt where they were stacked in plastic bags and sold still warm in the open-air tortilla factory that once stretched along the southern wall close to Broadway .

The Market specialized in health products, fresh fruit juices, herbal teas and homeopathic remedies from around the world. There were stalls (and still are!) selling costume jewelry and Mexican candies.
And where there are shoppers, they will be places to eat. Dozens of stalls sold Mexican tacos, enchiladas, ceviche, whole lobsters, plates of fried fish and shrimp in the shell.
On the Broadway side, you can't walk by Villa Moreliana without being offered a taste of their delicious roast pork inside a freshly made flour tortilla. To the moist meat I add mounds of pickled onions and carrots, chopped raw onions and cilantro and a liberal dousing of green chili sauce, all freshly made.
Anyone who needed an old-school Chinese-American food fix could eat a classic Chinese-American menu at the China Cafe. Order the house wonton soup that comes with three pieces of fried fish tofu and Rinco, the owner, will happily tell you how much care goes into making the soup.
Everyday he makes soup out of 40 pounds of chicken meat and 40 pounds of chicken bones. The resulting broth is clear and clean tasting, full of subtle flavors and the perfect setting for his plump, pork stuffed wontons. On the side of the plate are 3 rectangles, crunchy outside, moist inside. The fried tofu squares are a delight.

I first visited the Market when I was in college. I bought spices at Valeria's and ready-to-use mole paste at Chiles Secos where I could also buy any one of a dozen different dried beans. I wanted to learn how to make tortillas at home. I came to the Market to buy masa and a tortilla press. My homemade tortillas were good, but, I had to confess, the ones I bought at the Market were better so I kept coming.
In the late 1970's I photographed the Market to use for a TV pilot I was producing for KCOP. I took a hundred photographs of the vendors and customers. I loved the community feeling of the Market. Families with babies in tow shopped for the basics and stopped to have snacks or lunch.
Today the market still has families doing their daily shopping but they have been joined by a new population, eager to explore the mix of old and new vendors.
Upscale purveyors like DTLA Cheese and Belcampo Meat Co. have stalls with counter seating, selling high quality products previously only available in specialty stores in Beverly Hills or Hancock Park. Customers wait patiently in line for their turn to order at Sticky Rice - Thai Street FoodEggslut and Wexler's Deli.
For sweet treats, McConnell's Fine Ice Cream attracts long lines. Around the corner, Valerie Confections Bakery & Café offers up savory snacks, cookies and fine dining desserts like the poached apricot-crème fraîche topping on the almond cake crumble with a basil chiffonade.
And new vendors continue to move into the Market.

KNEAD & Co. Pasta Bar + Market and Bar Moruno are part of the next-gen wave. Serving tapas paired with wine by the glass, Bar Moruno gave us samples of classic Spanish bar-food skewers with anchovies, guindilla peppers, pickled garlic cloves and cornichons.

KNEAD sells freshly made pasta from the refrigerated counter and the same pasta can be purchased, cooked-to-order with any of their house made sauces.
Close to Hill Street, the Oyster Gourmet and wine bar serves up small plates featuring freshly shucked oysters  and seafood cocktails along with wine by the glass. We had a glass of a 2014 Château Morgues du Grés Galets Roses with a briny-sweet Sol Azul oyster from Baja California and a seafood ceviche with bay scallops, flying fish eggs and pickled seaweed.

At the Market, the balance of new and old creates a diversity that is unique in Los Angeles. How cool is it to satisfy your love of Mexican street food AND indulge in fine dining all in the same building.



A balancing act

The mash up of new and old reflects what's happening downtown. The mostly Latino population has been joined by a diverse mix of young professionals who have rediscovered the glories of Downtown Los Angeles, rich with history and benefiting from a great collection of buildings that are now being renovated and modernized.
Today, the Market is one of the most frequented downtown destinations. Come during the day and the aisles are packed with families and professionals enjoying a plate from Sarita's Pupuseria and pulled pork at Villa Moreliana on Broadway.

I have my favorites and they are a mix of the old and the new:  the mole at Chiles Secos (ask for a taste and find the one you like), the vegetable curry with shrimp and Crying Tiger beef at Sticky Rice, the roast pork tacos at Villa Moreliana with lots of salsas and pickled vegetables, the wonton soup at China Cafe and the smoky corned beef at Wexler's Deli.

And there is Bento Ya, a legacy vendor where I happily order a bowl of $5.50 pork ramen that, in my opinion, is as good as any of the celebrity-chef bowls on Sawtelle or in Manhattan sold at three times the price and half the portion.

To cook at home, stop at the Belcampo Meat Co. to pick up high quality, humanely raised meat and poultry.
There is so much more to say about the Market, but I'm getting hungry. Happily I brought home a bowl of Bento Ya's ramen and I'm going to have that for breakfast.

Parking

One quick user's-tip about parking. Parking Downtown is very expensive. There is 90 minutes parking inside the Market building for $3.00. The entrance is on the Hill Street side, a few feet south on 2nd street. The entrance to the parking structure is tricky, so approach it carefully. Designed for cars built in the 1920s, the driveway is narrow and curves up precipitously.

On the weekend, the outdoor parking lots to the north of the Market above 2nd Street have reduced, all day rates, so if you are staying for several hours, park there.

Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013 (213/624-2378), open 8:00am-10:00pm.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Blasting with Heat Sears in Flavor

A few years ago I convinced a chef to teach me how he made crispy skin on a filet of fish. Chef Taylor Boudreaux said it was easy. I couldn't believe that. For years I had tried to cook a filet of fish with the skin on and the result wasn't good. Either the skin was chewy or burnt to a crisp.
When I ate Boudreaux's salmon filet with mushrooms, the charred skin was crisp as a slice of perfectly cooked bacon. A perfect contrast to the moist, sweet flesh.

He reveals the secret in the video. A carbon steel pan. That's it. The pan takes an incredible amount of heat. Up to 700F. The skin sizzles and in seconds is perfectly seared. A quick flip to char the flesh and then into a 350F oven to cook the filet on the inside.
After I bought a pan and seasoned it and used it successfully on a fish filet, I discovered the pan's other advantage. Easy clean up. Very much like a cut-down wok, the pan needs only a quick cleaning with a soapy sponge to remove the left-over oil, heated again on the stove top to burn off the water and that's it. No strenuously scrubbing to clean the pan the way I had done for years with the stainless steel pans I relied upon. Just a quick clean up and I was done.

A cast iron pan also works well at high heat, but from my experience the carbon steel pan does a better job. Both pans are relatively inexpensive. A carbon steel pan will cost half the price of a comparably sized, quality stainless steel pan. Cast iron pans are easy to find. Carbon steel pan, not so much. In the Los Angeles area, the only source of the pans is Surfas Culinary District. In New York, I have seen them upstairs at Zabar's.

Using the pan exclusively, I discovered the beautiful work it does on steaks. Treated very much in the same way as the fish filets, each side of the dry seasoned steak is charred and then placed into a 350F oven to cook the interior of the steak.
After that, I moved on to tofu, shrimp, octopus and chicken breasts. And then to vegetables. Broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, Japanese eggplant, carrots, asparagus, green beans, English peas and corn kernels. Every firm fleshed vegetable I tried worked perfectly when I applied high heat using the carbon steel pan.

For a Zester Daily article I wrote about creating a charred garbanzo bean salad using a mix of charred vegetables and freshly chopped Italian parsley.
The mix of seared vegetables, lightly caramelized by the high heat, and the freshness of the parsley is really delicious. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Blast the Heat for For A Charred Vegan Salad

Chef Tips For Crispy Skin Pan Seared Salmon Filets