Sunday, November 9, 2014
Because there's not always time for a full meal…
1.) Where I'm eating - Smoke.Oil.Salt. Somewhere between sucking the meat out of the langoustine-sized prawns, butchering the aromatic whole sea bass with the tongs of my fork, and spearing vinegary florets of wood-oven roasted cauliflower, I realized I was missing something. And it wasn't because of anything lacking in the dishes spread before me at Chef Perfecto Rocher's mid-city tribute to authentic Valencian cuisine. It was because I could see it. Coming out of the oven every two minutes, purposefully charred into caramelization before receiving a baptismal blanket of crushed tomatoes and their jus.
The Catalan Tomato Toast, or "Pa Amb Tomaca" as it reads on the menu, is exactly what you want to be eating the moment you sit down at the bar at Smoke.Oil.Salt. They'll ask if you want three or four pieces in your order, and you'll say, "Four" without hesitation. Even if it's just you. Even if you plan to order the smoked octopus, the wood-fired grilled quail, and fried potatoes. And you'll swear you won't finish the whole thing, but you will, and then immediately contemplate returning the next day to order just that alongside a glass of Tzakolina Rose. 7274 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046, (323) 930-7900, www.smokeoilsalt.com
2.) Current edible obsession - Talenti Alphonso Mango sorbet. I usually think horrible things about people who eat sorbet instead of ice cream, especially when I'm with a friend at an ice cream shop, and I'm like, "Hi, I'll have a scoop of the salted caramel AND double fudge chocolate," and she's like, "Excuse me, is it possible to get a child's size of the melon sorbet even if I'm a grown woman and not a child?" This sort of business will usually end the friendship right then and there.
Of course then I tried Talenti's Alphonso Mango sorbet and it basically ruined this whole anti-sorbet stance in one fell scoop (can't help myself). Intensely mango-flavored and supremely creamy in a way that's almost a little suspect (Seinfeld frozen yogurt episode anyone?), this sorbet seems like it was designed for the two-scoop ice cream set. Aka me. Aka you. Aka everybody who is not an adult woman posturing as a child.
3.) What I'm watching - A to Z. So this has nothing to do with food, unless you count the aforementioned sorbet that I may possibly sometimes eat while watching it, but everyone needs extracurricular activities and this is mine for the fall. If you watch Parenthood, set your DVR for half an hour earlier (that would be Thursday, 9:30 p.m.) to catch this adorable new comedy on NBC starring the mother from How I Met Your Mother and the guardian angel from Drop Dead Diva. (Stop judging me.)
To summarize the voiceover from Katey Segal (who is basically Allison Janney's voiceover doppelgänger), the show tells the entire story of Andrew (Ben Feldman) and Zelda's (Cristin Millioti) seven-month, two-week, two-day and one-hour relationship - "from A to Z." Get it? A to Z? And also their names? Andrew and Zelda? Too cute, right? Maybe for people without souls because it may or may not be cancelled after its 13-episode order. Which means you have seven episodes left to get on this train before it may or may not leave the station.
Saturday, November 1, 2014
So naturally, after making a big fuss about spouting more on real life in this space, I went ahead and did none of the sort for two months.
Can I use the excuse that real life (har har) got in the way? That I was too preoccupied with getting older (31!!!), "cutting a rug" (according to my dad) at my brother and stunning new sister-in-law's wedding in Santa Ynez, and planning my outfit for the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Malibu?
Because obviously the latter (or lattest?) took me a whole two months of INTENSE contemplation. Or, you know, five minutes of standing in my closet looking for the dress with the fewest food stains on it.
The truth is, of course, far less interesting. Yes, preoccupied (you'll notice I did not use the word "busy"), but also, uninspired. By recipes. By the cookbooks that I keep buying and pouring over with grand ambitions and sticky tabs to bookmark all the things I fully intend to make some day, but not that day, because I really just want to eat braised kale and chickpeas topped with a fried egg. Again.
I suppose if I'm going to be completely honest about it, I've actually mostly felt uninspired by myself. There hasn't been something I've wanted to write about, and in the moments where I've felt the inklings of something that I might possibly want to construct a few sentences about, I haven't been able to get the words out of my head and into this text box.
I'm not sure how that happened. How I went from being the girl who could fill 20 pages for history term papers on the coffee trade in Brazil to someone who can't even eke out a measly 750 words on anything that has happened in her life since September 2nd. I say this fully knowing that most of the things that have happened are really not that interesting -- even to me. Do I really need to inform the universe that I've been on another bad date that felt more like a job interview? Or that my stupid heart always wants what it shouldn't want as evidenced by exhibit A, exhibit B and exhibit C? (This may also be a reference to, errr, chocolate.)
But the thing is, at age 31 (!!!), I feel like I've finally started to be slightly less hard on myself. Enough so that I don't care if no one cares that I haven't cared to write anything here as of late. And I'm okay with saying the things that are popping into my head as I sit here, legs mummified in a chunky knit mustard blanket, listening to the wind rustle the blinds. Not because I feel like they are all that particularly earth shattering, but because I finally have the motivation and clear head to say them.
The motivation partly came from reading Molly Wizenberg's second book, Delancey, which I finished earlier this week. Once again I was struck by her fearlessness in sharing the matters of her heart both big and small in a way that's so genuine and relatable that even if you can't personally relate you still kind of can because it's all so… human. I was equally struck by her presentation of the recipes that book-ended each chapter - less recipes and more descriptions of ingredients and processes that the reader might consider for a lazy Saturday or weeknight when the task of cooking feels as insurmountable as writing 750 words.
In a funny way, the "take me as I am" attitude that Molly projects throughout the book took the pressure off. Made me realize that it doesn't always have to be fireworks and giant vibrant rainbows or even a perfectly calibrated and choreographed recipe. So, here I am, sharing a dish that I made countless times over the summer because it's about damn time I stopped waiting for the perfect way to frame and present it.
It's a mishmash of ideas, but a good mishmash. The kind of thing I can enjoy in its simplest form of sauced up green beans and tofu, or embellished with whatever I can conjure up at the farmers' market - a few slices of raw radishes, maybe pickled red onions if I'm feeling particularly ambitious. Sometimes I serve it over just plain brown rice (Kokuho Rose is my favorite), or a combination of both rice and quinoa.
The only thing that's absolutely essential is using a liberal amount of fresh ginger. And the green beans, I suppose, since they are the namesake of the original recipe that spawned this whole thing to begin with. Though if they are already beginning to vacate your market, Brussels sprouts are a perfectly fine, possibly even superior, substitute.
Green Beans and Ginger-Marinated Tofu with Walnut-Miso Sauce
Mashed together from Real Food Daily's Tofu via The Delicious Life (hi!) & Mark Bittman's Green Beans
Ginger Marinated Tofu (adapted)
10 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (I use my microplane to grate it)
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger (I use my microplane again)
Arrange tofu in the base of an airtight container.
In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Pour over the tofu. Seal the container and shake until the marinade coats the tofu. Refrigerate and let marinade for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. (I've found increasing it far beyond that will render it a bit salty, so would recommend using light soy sauce if you are planning to marinate over night).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drain the tofu of most of the marinade, then arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once, halfway through, or until the tofu is nicely browned. Remove from the oven. (Note: You can combine this step with the roasting of the green beans below to simplify the process.)
Green Beans with Walnut-Miso Sauce (also adapted)
12 ounces green beans, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1 inch-long piece ginger, grated with a microplane into ginger pulp
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 1/2 tablespoons walnut oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha (or to taste depending on your spice tolerance)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread green beans and red onions out onto the parchment paper and roast until tender (approximately 15-20 minutes). This is not a mistake - I do like to dry roast my veggies from time to time.
While beans are roasting, in a small bowl combine the ginger, miso, walnut oil, soy sauce, and Sriracha. Stir until smooth.
Raw radishes, sliced thin
Toasted and chopped walnuts
Toss tofu and green beans with walnut-miso sauce, Stir in walnuts and radishes. Divide brown rice/quinoa between bowls. Top with green beans & tofu.